Wreck Bay – Atuona (island of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia)

Day two

Checking out on Tuesday was not too bad.  There were no new agent fees, just fees for the port captain, and had to take my passport to the police station to get stamped out by immigration. In the evening we went eat out with the little cruising community: Strummer, Mister Percival and Peggy West.  Peggy West was leaving Wednesday morning as well, they were going to Academy Bay for repairs on their radar.  Normally you can only stay in one port in the Galapagos, but they had an emergency zarpe because of the repair.

We had a good time, and for the first time in weeks I did not wake up before 6.  It was already a quarter to 7 by the time I was up.  Peggy West went by at 7:15, they had their anchor up and were taking off.  I took it easy getting the boat ready.  No reason to hurry with 3000 miles ahead.  Plus the wind would normally pick up a little during the day.

The anchor chain had gotten some serious growth on it, I had already pulled up the first 10 meters the day before.  That way the green stuff could die before it was going into the locker.   By 8:20 the anchor was up, and by 8:30 the sails were up, the wind was from the south, light, but enough to get sailing without the engine.

The wind stayed quite steady during most of the day, went just south of Isla Santa Fe (uninhabited rock), and a little further south of Isla Santa Cruz.  Was not able to see Academy Bay, it was covered by rain clouds the whole time.

Then I altered course a little more south to stay clear of Isla Isabella.  Crossed the path of a number of charter boats, I think they were coming from Isla Santa Maria and were heading back to Academy Bay.

The wind increased during the night, and by 3 in the morning I decided to put a reef in.  Still on a beam reach, but Arie was pushing against some weather helm, and with so many days of sailing ahead, I thought it wiser to take it easy.

This morning it was dark and overcast, really did not look like the tropics at all.  We got a little rained on, but during the morning it started to clear up.  Just took the reef out, the wind is getting lighter.  But, can’t complain, have been making good progress, steering a south-west course, south of the rhumb line since south is where the trade winds are supposed to be.

Day Four

The wind has stayed there for the past two days.   Mostly a little east from south.  Yesterday morning started out as a dready day.  It was drizzling and dark.  For a moment I even felt like making hot chocolate, it felt cold, but a check on the thermometer (26 C) made that seem a little too rediculous.  Later in the day it started to clear up, and in the afternoon I decided it looked clear enough (no more dark clouds on the horizon) to get the spinaker up.  This time not from the boom, but from the stainless reinforcements on the bow.  Was a little bit of a puzzle to find how to run the tack line without it rubbing on the pulpit.  What is missing there is a winch, so while attempting to tighten the tack line around the cleat it slipped through my finger tips, giving me some burnt fingers.

After making pan cakes for supper the wind picked up a little, giving lots of weather helm so I put a reef in the main.

After midnight I woke up, and something appeared to be different with the motion of the boat. Less heel.  But, there was water on the cabin sole, quite a bit actually, and I went on a hunt to see where it came from.  Well, never figured out where it came from, maybe it comes from the bilge when the boat heels a lot and it sloshes up?  Then I finally had a look outside and see why things were so calm.  It wasn’t because the wind had disappeared, the main was looking ok.  Then I get behind the main, and,…… no spinaker.  Nothing.  Where did that thing go.  If anything would break, I expected it to be flogging in the wind, wildly flapping.  Then, I followed the sheet, it went over the side: <i>straight down into the water</i>.  Something must have broken at the top (later I learned the halyard had broken) and the sail simply fell into the water.

Did and attempt to pull it on board, starting at the sheet, but the drag was way too strong.  Got a little bit done, and then I would almost pull me into the water.  Realized that we were still moving forward at about 4 knots.  So, the main had to come down, to slow down and minimize the drag.  Bringing the main down on a more or less downward leg is not easy. Well, it was a lot harder this time, the topping lift had tangled itself around the top of the main sail.  The sail would come down a little until the topping lift was tight, and that was it.  So, had to undo the topping lift to untangle, and finally the sail came down.  Now we were just floating, still doing 2 knots, and of course the boat started rolling wildly.

The spinach had now floated underneath the boat and surface on the windward side.  Had my doubts about just letting it go, but it did still appear to be in good shape and wasn’t going to give up that soon.  First attempt to pull the sail on board from the top of the sail was a little better,  got quite a good length on board, but then it would become too strong.  The only thing I could think about doing is to let the tack and clew go, leaving the sail completely go underneath the boat.  So, did this, was not able to untie the sheet, so had to let the whole sheet into the water (always tricky, loose hanging lines under your boat).  Went back to pulling, and much to my surprise it was on board within five minutes.

Now I hoisted the stay sail to at least get some steering and maybe steady the boat a bit.  Then I went back to sort out the mess of the topping lift, and put a second reef in the main.  It was hard to get the sail up, since just on the stay sail it is very hard to turn the bow into the wind. But, after some good grinding on the winch the sail came up, and we were back moving.  Actually at a pretty good speed of about 5 knots.  Decided that was enough for the night.  Had been up working on this mess for at least 2 1/2 hours, and went to sleep.

This morning I slept in till 7.  After breakfast I went around the boat.  Turned out that a turnbuckle on a life line is bent, where the sail had been dragging under the boat with the tack line going over the life line.  There are some rips in the spinaker, but it mostly looks ok.  It is in a mess in the cockpit, hoping it will dry up a little bit.

The gally floor is freshly oiled, a bottle of soy oil was left on the kitchen counter, and the cap came off.  Was a full bottle, now almost empty.  Luckily I bought another bottle of oil in the Galapagos.

Judging from the wind I would say we are in the area of the trade winds.  The wind is between 15 and 20 knots.  The boat is rolling a lot, but it is not too bad.  Partly unfurled the genoa this morning, bringing the boat speed to over 6 knots.  That should do for a while.

Day six

Another two days have gone by.  No further excited.  But, some news from the fishing front.  Friday afternoon I put the line out, with the little plastic colorful strings that resemble a small squid.  A few hours later the line tightened, I started to bring it in, and suddenly the tension left.  Brought the whole line in and the squid had come partly apart and the hook was bent out of shape.  Put things back together and another hour later the line tensioned again.  Saw a fish jump out the water, went to the line, but there was no tension.  The line had broken and hook and lure were gone.

Yesterday morning I put a new hook and lure on the line and started towing it again. When I checked it at 11:30 it felt heavy, so I started to bring the line in. As it got closer I could see a fish at the end, think it had been there for a while, it was giving a little struggle, but no too fiercefull.  Turned out to be a small Mahi Mahi (or Dorade).  Cleaned it and had it for lunch and supper.  I am still working on my fish cooking skills, hadn’t prepared fished (and never gutted fish at all) in 18 years.  It is a nice change in menu.

Yesterday night was a busy one, after midnight there were a few squalls, which came with some gusty conditions that required me to take the wheel for a while.  Apart from the squalls, the wind varies between 10 – 15 knots, a little aft of quarted beam.  When the wind is light I have to alter the course a little to keep the head sails filled up.  Main is still double reefed, the speed is fine, and it prevents having to much weather helm when the wind freshens.  Progress has been good, still doing better than 100 miles a day.  The waves don’t seem to want to settle, every now and then they smoothen out, but most of the time they are steep and it is almost like there is a current running across them or there are two waves patterns interfering.

There is not much to see around, have not seen a single boat since I the charters crossed my path near the Galapagos.  There are still some birds around, only of one kind: black and white smaller bird that likes to fly just above the waves.  There are plenty of flying fish, when I go around the deck I find a lot of small ones.  Few days back, when it was raining, a big group of dolphins went by.  They crossed the bow, but none of them stuck around to provide a little distraction.

Day eight

Have been underway for over a week now, and still plenty of miles to go.  But, progress has been made, a lot more than anticipated: 900 miles in 7 days.

Monday night I saw a beatiful falling star, it was bright green, and was low on the sky, for a split second I thought it was a plane.  It went almost horizontal and then disappeared on the horizon.

Last night the wind start to dwindle, and there was little left this morning.  The boat was rolling, no really heading in the right direction and not going very fast. Tried different strategies, with little to no luck.  But slowly the wind came back, and right now we are pretty much under the same sail configuration with the same speed as yesterday. Before tomorrow morning we will have covered 1/3 of the distance: 2000 miles to go.

Not having much luck with food: the peppers, onions and tomatoes are starting to rot fast than anticipated.  And many of the eggs seem to have their shell broken.  So, before cooking it is a matter of going through the supplies, toss the bad ones over board and use what is still good enough.  Don’t think there will be any fresh vegetables left at the end of the trip (well, maybe except for some onions).

Day nine

Last night around 9 o’clock I got the admire the dolphin show at night.  I was just walking around deck when I noticed a lot of ligthing up in the water aroud the boat.  In the Pacific the boat’s wash lights up a lot brighter, but now the water away from the boat was lighting up as well.  When I watched a little closer I could see the paths of the dolphins around the boat.  It is a wonderful sight, meandering paths lid up in the water, and when you follow them, every now and then you can see the dolphin jump out the water.  What makes it even better is that there are some bigger glowing creatures here as well.  Can’t see them, but they light up like the are about the size of a jelly fish, and then it stays lid for a couple of seconds.  In the paths of the dolphins they look like lots of small underwater explosions.

This morning when I came on deck with my coffee I sat down on the coach roof, just staring at the horizon.  And. suprise: a set of sails on the horizon.  It was far away, just on the edge of the horizon, probably over, and it was hard to tell what kind of boat it was, or what direction they were sailing.  Called on the VHF radio, heart one confused reply once, but never established radio contact.  No less than 15 minutes later the boat was lost over the horizon.

Day eleven

Days go by, waves come and go, and the miles are just clicking away.  Not much else happening.  Sometimes the waves are smooth, at other times the waves seem to be square.  Litlte or no work on setting sails or setting the course.  Just reading books, having meals and scanning the horizon for other signs of life.  If all goes well, should be at the halfway mark tomorrow.  Something around the rudder stock seems to make a noise, but I can’t find anything.

Day fifteen

Didn’t write for a while, but it wasn’t because I was too busy. Once I passed the half way point a couple of days back, someone flipped a switch and turned the trade winds for the southern pacific off.  For about two days I tried to keep sailing, but this morning I had enough of it and started the engine. Don’t really know how much sense that makes, there is another 1200 miles to go, and by no means can I motor all the way (not enought fuel).  But, I just lost patience in sitting around, adjusting steering to keep some sort of wind in the sails, but when the wind goes under 2 knots, what can you do.  So, now we are motoring, at least the batteries will be charged and the fridge will be cooled.  In a way, the sea is beautiful when there is no wind, a real long swell, absolute silence.  No animal life around here either, no birds, no flying fish.  Do have the fishing line in the water, but don’t expect any catch out here.

I am wondering how long this will last.  Think I am in the center of a high pressure system, but, is it moving at all?  And, which way is it moving?  Maybe I am motoring the same direction as the system and just making it last longer before it passes.  Oh well, we will see.

Day seventeen

Not getting anywhere… Problem with a sailboat is: you need wind.  Decided that motoring wasn’t getting me anywhere, so just waiting here for some wind.  Yesterday there was barely any progress, a day of just floating around with the sails up.  Got  tired of the banging this morning wat 3 and took the sails down.  Tied to sail after sunset, but it wasn’t worth it.  Then at one this afternoon it looked like the wind was picking up.  Even saw 9 knots on the anemometer, but, it was a temporary thing.  Sails are still up, but the wind is almost gone.

In the mean time, supplies are getting thin: no more bread, no more fresh vegetables (of any kind) and even the onions are getting sparse (mostly because of poor quality).  But, there are still plenty of cans to go.  And if I can stay ahead of the weevils (more about them another time) I have plenty of pasta on board.  With all the floating around, we are now 1060 miles from Hiva Oa.  At this speed that could take forever, but, one day the trade winds should be back.  Just to be sure, I checked the pilot charts for this area.  And, sure enough, for the area I am in, and for hunders of miles around, the percentage of occurence of calms is 0 percent.  Sure!

Day nineteen

Yesterday I had another look at the pilot charts, and much to my astonishment, there was a cell with 10% chance of calms, and we are right in it.  Not sure what I had been looking at before, but, at least statistically, the weather is less unlikely.  Not that it helps at this point, or at least, well, it makes it more acceptable somehow.  Dit some motoring yesterday afternoon, and, for grind, I decided to aim north, guessing that it would get me out of this system.  It appeared to worked, had some good winds yesterday evening, but overnight it went back to zero wind. Motored some this morning until I hit a patch of wind, that didn’t last long, but I keep trying.  The wind has changed about 180 degrees on me since then.  The skye has become overcast and there were some showers on the horizon.  Keep hoping that they will bring a change in weather.

Day twenty one

Since yesterday morning we are moving again.  First there were some dark clouds around, had a few showers, and then, suddenly the wind was back: from the trade wind direction, the south east.  Within a few hours the seas build up as well, and things were pretty much back to normal.  It is not the most perfect course: broad reaching where we just make the course to our destination, but hey, can’t complain about that after about a week of floating around.

Couple of days back had another fishing experience.  It was one of those days with no wind, beautiful blue water, flat calm, with that real slow swell.  Saw a big fish behind the boat, and it stayed near the boat.  Within an hour there were about 6 of them.  Wasn’t sure if I wanted to catch one, they looked too pretty.  But, there was little else to do, so I put the fishing line out anyway.  Couple of hours later I heard something, the line tightens, and when I look behind the boat I see a fish jump out of the water.  So I started to slowly real it in, looked like a pretty big fish (say 30-40cm?) but didn’t really give a big fight.  When I got the fish reeled in closer I saw it light up.  Really, it was changing between bright gold and bright green.  That is when I realized it had to be a Wahoo (something I learned from another cruiser: Wahoo’s change colors when in distress).  It was a great sight.  Then I had it right behind the boat, it made a big jump out of the water, and go off the hook!  I wasn’t even that disappointed, those fish were too beautiful to kill.  But it was a great experience seeing it change colors.

Day twenty four

That days are going by, but the miles aren’t really.  The wind started to lie down two nights ago and no sign of it coming back yet.  This morning I did some more fixing up on the spinaker and that is flying now.  With an apparent wind of 2 knots it creates a lot less flogging and banging than main and/or genoa.  Seen a few birds around, and the flying fishes seem to be rare, but the ones that are there appear to be bigger.  Few days back, just when I was on deck, one jumped out of a wave on the fore deck.  It was flapping helplessly, managed to grab it and threw it back in the water. Guess that was my good deed for the day.  About 550 miles to go.  Have been sailing more of a north west bound tack, in theoery, when the winds comes back and is from the south east (normal for the trade winds) that would give the best angle for a direct sail to Atuona.  Could be done in 4 days, once there is wind.

Day twenty six

After a day of almost no wind (yesterday) but some decent use of the spinaker (up to the point where the spare jib halyard used as spinaker halyard started to chafe through) the wind died out late in the afternoon.  Then it turned to the south, and slowly increased over night.  This morning I was strong enough to be able to run straight down wind (wing at wing).  The boat is rolling quite some, but doing better than 4.5 knots and going in the right direction makes that acceptable.

Cooking is a bit of a new improvisation for me: having to rely on canned foods only.  Another disadvantage is that most cans are sized for at least two persons, add to that the lack of refrigeration, and it means I have basically the same ingredients for two days in a row.  I try to be inventive and make one dish with pasta and the other with rice.  But, not all ingredients combine well with both.

Unread books are getting thinner as well, there are still some left, but I do hope to find some boats in the Marquesas for some good book swapping.

Not much news from the fishing front: no catches.  I have some doubts about the quality of my fish hooks, had one where the hook simply broke in two.  They are supposed to be stainless steel, but they show plenty of rust after a day in the water.

Day twenty eight

Getting closer, mile after mile after mile.  Just over 200 miles to go.  Sunday afternoon I caught another fish, looks very much like my first catch, so lets say it is another Albacore Tuna.  Had it for supper that night and last night, think my fish cooking skills are improving. Or, probably more important, stayed away from the liver tasting parts of the tuna.  Yesterday we sailed mostly staight down wind, probably a little too long.  The waves were increasing in size and knocking the wind out of the genoa, late in the afternoon I noticed some wear at the bottom of the genoa.  Will need to find a way to repair that.  Gibed the genoa and started broad reaching, a way more comfortable course.  Overnight the wind decreased some, not sure if it is going to hold up all the way.  Starting to plan ahead to be able to make a daytime arrival.  If I can keep the speed around 4 knots (speed made good that is, not necessary the speed through the water) we should be there on Thursday.  If I can’t keep enough wind in the genoa, I might have to take it down, before the tear becomes to big of a repair.

Day twenty nine

The horse seems to smell the stable.  Overnight the wind has been picking up, and eventually I might have to slow things down to avoid arriving in the dark.  Yesterday afternoon I decided that I should stop the wear on the genoa, took it down and put up the small yankee.  Did the sail repair in the afternoon, and was wondering about putting the genoa back on or not.  Decided to just leave things as they were, which seems to be my luck today.  One of the windier days so far, but with the small yankee up that keeps things going pretty smooth.  There are less than 100 miles to go, and I keep nervously checking the position on the electronic chart. Not that there are any close hazards, not at all, but have not had any land that near by in more than three weeks.  I can imagine that this would be a lot harder when you have to do your positioning on celestial navigation.  With GPS there is no uncertainty.  Found more unread books on the second book shelf!  Seems like Maria provided me with a bottom less supply of books.

Day thirty

After the strongest winds of the whole trip late Wednesday afternoon until later in the evening it was a rough night.  Double reefed main kept things within control, but the seas, almost from abrest, made for quite some movement.  Not the right circumstances for an extensive last meal at sea. With some zigging and zagging I managed to stay away from the destination and the islands around it until the sun came up and we could sail in.  The sights were great, all islands have hight powering peaks, you would almost expect snow caps on top, that high.  The anchorage is in a narrow bay, not very big, and found a spot all the way in the back.  The neighbor came by to say he would be back to help set a stern anchor (anchorage is known to get rolly).  After a great cup of coffee went to work on putting the sails up and tidying up the deck.  Then the customs came by, three friendly gentlemen, one speaking very good English.  Not too much trouble, and I was told to do the checking in with the gendarmerie in town.  Once the boat was all rounded up, the stern anchor set, I kayaked to shore.  It is a good walk into town, because you have to walk all the way around the bay.  But not even 10 minutes into it I got a ride from a friendly local who dropped me off at the gendarmerie.  Formalities there were quite minimal as well, and I ended up with a folded paper that I was to mail into the customs offices in Papaeete.  Had a little walk around town and found the post office, bought the stamp (the only cost of checking in: 55 Pacific Francs, still clueless on what the exchange rate is though).  Missed the grocery stored (sort of walked in a large loop around it) and went for a walk back to the boat.  Caught another ride, I think the only gas station of the island is near the anchorage, and had a lazy afternoon on board.

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