Galapagos to Marquises the long Pacific leg.
This is the leg I have been looking forward to. The start of our pacific cruise. 3000 miles away lie the Marquises Islands, part of French Polynesia and our next landfall
I had looked at the weather and the trade winds seemed to be steady but light, some 300 miles south of the Galapagos. Between them and us lay the ITCZ, a band of squally weather with little wind. My opening plan was to motor to where the wind was and pick up the trade winds as early as possible. This meant a course with plenty of south and not so much west. The only issue was that Jimmy Cornell’s “World Cruising Routes, a sort of bible for ocean passage making, stated that the course out of the Galapagos should avoid an area where we wanted to go to pick up the wind. This was due to unsettled seas having been reported in the area., I guess from some sort of current/wind convergence. However, we were going nowhere fast without wind so we headed out SSW in search of the wind.
Pegasus can be a fast boat, but motoring is not fast for us as we only have two blade folding props and generally run only one engine when motoring. The first 48 hours we had little wind some 2-6kts SSW, so on the nose, not good for our daily run. We found the wind at 1900 on day 3 at 4.36 south…quite a long way as we had thought that we should find it at 2 degrees south. We were off and could start making west.
The marque from Galapagos to Marquises is 20 days. Within that your doing pretty well, another week your still doing well. I thought we should be able to do it in 18 days if we had wind and we were lucky. Day 3 and we were off, lets go.
We were sailing well and clocking off some mileage. The wind generally had been around 10-15 kts with some patches of lighter airs. As the wind came round to a more steady easterly we have been using the spinnaker all day and most nights. This is a great light wind sail and I can get her rigged so that she stays up without constant attention, which is a relief. We have been doing some god daily mileage, nothing spectacular for lack of wind, but constant.
One thing that strikes you about this place is just how big it is. We saw a purse sein Tuna boat on day one some 100 miles south of the Galapagos. Since then, 18 days, we have seen no other sign of man. No boats, no planes, no vapour trails in the sky. Just Orion on the forestay and the southern cross aft the port shrouds.
The stars are just brilliant, in the true sense of the word, and you feel you can just reach out and touch them, its remarkable just how many there are. I guess this is one of the places in the world with the least atmospheric and light pollution. We have also seen no rubbish, nets or buoys in the water which is a pleasant change from the garbage floating around the Atlantic. Saying that, on day 2 we did pick up a long line with our fishing gear but that was soon cleared and I suspect it was from a coastal fishing boat as we were only 5-600 miles off the Ecuadorian coast..
These longer passages are sometimes easier for family life than the 1000 mile / week passages. The boys get into a rhythm after a few days and life continues. They get up at dawn, go to bed at dusk, and eat and drink there way through the middle bit. They watch DVD’s, do jigsaws, paint, play with their toys and play doe, and chase each other from one part of the boat to another making a mess. When Amanda is in the starboard hull cleaning up after them, they are in the port hull messing it up. I hope someday they will learn to put their stuff away. I’m sure I was never like that!!! No really they just get on with life and accept each day as it happens, and mess is just part of it. Ok there’s a certain amount of destruction…this week, the light fitting in our bunk has been twisted off the wall, and one of the table hinges has been bent. (I couldn’t have done that if I had tried!) But I can fix most things so its not too bad. I guess were asking a lot of them and so allowances have to be made.
We spice it up a bit with the occasional party, where they make party food with Amanda and we all wear hats and eat cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks,... which they seem to love. The boys really enjoy cooking and always help Amanda making bread, cakes and biscuits. Poor Amanda really has her work cut out, as they are pretty demanding…banana pancakes in the morning, Louis’ shaped like dinosaurs, or Mickey Mouse (which is a bit easier) Jean-Jaque’s like batman!? We’ve had a lot of banana everything. The stem we bought in the Galapagos all came good at the same time so anything you can make with Bananas we’ve had. It’s a bit like that offshore; we’ve had our fill of Tuna as well.
At the end of the first week it was my birthday. Amanda decorated the pilothouse so when I woke there were balloons and a big Happy Birthday Daddy on the wall. The boys really enjoyed it, as did I. Amanda had bought presents and we opened those in the morning and had a party at lunch time. I’m looking forward to using the hammock Amanda bought in Cartagena, but somehow I don’t think I’m going to be top of the list using that present. It was great fun and a special day. My last birthday was in Nassau, Bahamas, 17000 miles ago. Its amazing to think we have been on board more than a year now…ok we did have 3 months in England in the middle, but even so time seems to be ripping on. If it keeps going like this I’m going to get old very quickly.
Fishing has been interesting. We have lost some big fish, some seen, others not. I had a good stainless hook straightened and Amanda had hers broken…I guess a large bill fish. We caught a beautiful Dorado, but it just slipped off the hook as I was bringing lifting it aboard, great shame, but have landed 4 good Tuna which has put 30kg of fish in the freezer. Not much other wildlife seen, which is a surprise as were back in the warm water at 28 degrees centigrade. A few dolphins, but only once. Just thousands of flying fish,. Squadrons of them. Occasionally a squadron of kamikaze will fly straight into the boat…just a wrong turn, ding ding ding ding, and a load of scales in the morning as evidence of their suicide pact. One day we saw 20 fish flying right over the boat, through the rigging, quite remarkable. They really are incredible. We seem to attract them and can have 20 odd fish on the nets and around the boat in a morning. I know of some cruisers who eat their road kill, but not us. On occasion I will throw them to passing bird, but generally they go straight over the side as a free breakfast for something. We went through a patch where we were getting a lot of squid on the boat. I really never knew that they could fly, but they must be able to as we have had them hitting us in the cockpit…makes you jump!
For the first time we have been really using the HF radio for some social and information. There is a radio net established and we check in every day giving our position and weather data. Like wise we get other boat positions and their weather data. We met quite a few Aussies in the Galapagos and so know most of the boats checking in. I guess we are spread over a 1000 miles or so, and our closest boat is now some 400 miles behind us. Quite satisfying as they left before us and were 100 miles ahead. (55ft monohull). I enjoy talking on the radio and think I may try and get my Ham radio licence in due course, which will open up new channels and enhance the experience. It’s a bit of black magic really, bouncing radio waves off the ionosphere and talking with people 100’s or 1000’s of miles away. We also use it for E mail and weather data (Grib files, Weather faxes, forecasts etc.)
There is the usual run of ongoing maintenance and thing that will need doing when we stop. I’ve mended the hinges on 4 hatches (they all seem to go at the same time, unsurprisingly), the compass light, heads, children’s toys, etc. During the second week I marked our entire anchor rode every 5 meters so that we know how much we have let out. This took forever as I was marking with a cross-stitch whip, 2 colours and 200 meters of line. But its now done and you only need to do it once. The new chain (stainless steel, quite extravagant) purchased in Panama is now fitted so we will test the new rig when we arrive..
We’ve had a few breakages on board. At one point we thought the fridge compressor had broken as it started making a terrible noise and then stripped the drive belt. Oh dear ( or words to that effect!). I replaced the belt and managed to get it going although its not right. It seems to be that if I hold the DC motor with a firm grip when it starts to cool the plates it doesn’t make the worrying clicking noises and then seems to settle so I can leave it to cool the plates down. I don’t know why it does, but it seems to work. Using the same logic, I may try talking to it as well to see if that helps. It would have been a disaster if it had broken. All our stores for the next month or two out of the window. I don’t mind throwing out the bolognaise, it’s the sides of fillet I couldn’t bear to see wasted, and you can only eat so much before its no longer appetising. I don’t know how many cows they have in French Polynesia, but I bet its not many!.
We have also had a bit of a disaster with our spinnaker. This was an old sail and I guess with it being in the intense sun for days on end and with the strain of wave and wind action it had just had enough. It’s totally destroyed. I was just getting ready to take it down, thinking that we had had a good run, when crack, and the kite exploded from the middle out to the taped sides and down each side 4 feet. It’s a big job and we will just have to see if it can be fixed. One of the chaps on the radio net is a sail maker and has a sewing machine, so I will take his advice. If its not repairable then were going to have to buy another…where I don’t know, as there’s nowhere for that sort of thing for at least a thousand miles, Tahiti, we’ll just have to see. Whatever happens were going to need a light wind sail as we should have light airs for the next few thousand miles. Got to say we were just lucky it happened on day 16 not day 5, otherwise we would be at least a week behind. As it is, it has cost us a day in lost mileage over the last 2 days. Great shame, but that’s what happens. There’s a lot of wear and tear on a trip like this. My jobs list is quite extensive
Amazingly Ben the cameraman has got to Hiva Oa to film our arrival. The production company wants some footage of us in the pacific, and so he will be waiting for us when we arrive.. He only left us 5 weeks ago in Panama. It’s a tough life!
Its now Saturday night 9/5/09 and we have 50 miles to go. We decided to turn the engine off so were making 3-5 kts and should arrive at first light. We’ve pretty much made it. There’s no real wind, perhaps 6kts from astern and were goosewinged, just rising on the swell and taking a gentle glide forward. I think more pleasant than feeling round a strange anchorage in the dark
It feel odd to be going so slowly. For the past 18 days we have been pushing the boat at speed through the vastness that is the pacific. There’s nothing out there, only sun , stars, wind and water….. and us, and our solitary pursuit of that distant point” beyond the west horizon” In a few hours that point will be reached and so the longest of the pacific passages will be over and some of the dreamtime lived. I think we will stay here a week or two and cruise the 7 odd islands. Then well carry on chasing Venus and look for the Tuamotoes
Daily mileage, 123, 100, 179, 192, 190, 197, 185, 193, 177, 169, 192, 187, 164, 163, 186, 203, 181, 140 and about 110 to go
Should be 18 days plus 14 hours
See our photographs of the Galapagos to Marquesas the long Pacific leg at