The first week of our Marquesas passage

I’ll leave the mileage count and math to Teresa, just a few thoughts on our first week.

We left the Galapagos with fuel tanks bulging and jerry cans topped up – enough fuel to motor 600 miles of the 3100+ to the Marquesas. Sailing around the equator is never a joy since there are no steady winds there, in fact it’s traditionally an area of light winds. We listened with interest to the ‘nets’ on the SSB everyday, listening to each boat check in with their location and wind information. Teresa religiously downloaded the ‘grib’ files of wind information from NOAA for the area we would be traveling. As we left it looked like the best course to wind was to the southwest, so off we went expecting three days of motoring to get to wind. Leaving the same day were friends on the ‘Hello World’ and ‘Carina’.

We sailed most of the first day in local winds around the islands and over the course of the next few days managed to motor very little. We ran the spinnaker in relatively light winds and flat seas for two days, making much needed time south toward the trade winds. The problem with sailing into the trades is a little physics lesson in wind and waves. A 15-18 knot trade wind will produce 6-8 foot seas. When the trades die off toward the north, they do so rather abruptly. Unfortunately, the 6-8 foot seas continue for a very long time. Traveling south in search of the trades it was inevitable that we would have to pass through an area of light winds and big seas. We expected uncomfortable and slow, and it was. Fortunately the trades did us a favor and moved north, reducing our time rolling and pitching uncomfortably.

So here we are on our eighth day and one third of the way there. Expecting to sail the rest of the way, we’ve used 26 gallons of diesel and have 100 left so fuel shouldn’t be a problem as long as the trade winds hold. The sailing has been fabulous. There’s nothing better than sailing along at night under a full moon, sky full of stars, and the wake of the boat glowing in the dark water. Night or day, the flying fish leap from the water in large schools and flee over the waves as our boat approaches. On the rare occasion we’ve seen schools of over a hundred flying fish skimming the waves, rivalling any flock of birds for synchronous flight. Maya has discovered that flying fish make a dandy midnight snack and regularly visits the cockpit at night looking a few. They land on deck and in the cockpit regularly so she is rarely disappointed. A few nights ago a fairly large squid landed on the top of the house, dropping inside the open hatch. I found Maya and it, playing on a cushion. If Maya has a religion, it’s based on seafood falling from the sky in the dark hours of the night.

The fishing has been OK. I had doubts about fishing in 6-8 foot wind waves but the presence of so many flying fish encouraged us to try. Something must be eating them and I doubt if they lose weight when the wind is up. So far we’ve hooked two Dorado, one got away but the other was lucky enough to catch a ride on the boat! This morning we hooked something mid-sized that escaped halfway to the boat. When I pulled the lure up it looked like it had lost a fight with a razor knife.

The boat is doing well. A half day out of the Galapagos the electric auto pilot lost it’s little mind and didn’t know which way was north. It still worked to the wind and now seems to follow a course without wandering, it’s just 150 degrees off or so. A little problem with the compass module, I’ll leave it alone unless it gets worse, especially since the Monitor wind vane is doing the steering now. Aside from a few chafe problems Teresa has mentioned everything else is good with Yohelah.

This is our longest passage to date, both for distance and days. We’re both settled into our routines on board and feel rested and happy. Of course, on any passage the impatience grows as the destination gets closer so we’ll see if it exceeds the usual single day of ‘wishing we were there’ after a 25-30 day passage. There’s always Valium.