Galapagos to Marquesas

Week 1

Our trip to Marquesas got off to a flying start. We picked up our hook just before our buddy boat, ‘Matelot’ but before long they could be seen behind us and the race was on!

They were first to catch a fish while we lost one of our two lures with an oversized catch. The next one got away too. But fear not the guys on Matelot promised to share just as soon as they caught us so then the race was really on! We managed to hook ourselves a lovely skipjack tuna in time for dinner just as Matelot sailed up behind us. At least we managed to save face on one score.

After a lovely fish supper we all reefed our sails and continued into the night. I must say it’s nice to have a little navigation light twinkling behind us on this, our longest trip yet.

They say the Pacific is supposed to be the nice, placid calm ocean but the start to our trip has seen some decent winds and larger than expected swell. At least we are making good speed where traditionally many struggle with little to no wind in these parts. The conditions are actually not that bad but on the advice of our weatherman our heading is quite Southerly to avoid the dreaded ITCZ band (or some such thing) which is prone to dead winds and lightening storms. Because of this we are close hauled, running into the wind instead of with it which always feels worse. It’s been challenging conditions though.

The next day was spent just trying to keep on top of the sailing, watermarking and catching some zzzzs whenever possible.  We did have one decent squall and of course it was then that we discovered that the pin had come out of the roller furler so we couldn’t pull the head sail in. Simon had to go up on the foredeck and man-handle it and just in the nick of time. He’s now jury-rigged it with a new bolt so hopefully that holds up.

Matelot have been kind enough to keep with us which is absolutely lovely.

The next morning I awoke so find them just off our stern for a photo opportunity as they sailed by.

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Pippy had been hand-steering all night and has now shamed us into turning off that auto-pilot a lot more which is helping to save our battery power which will hopefully equate to more watermaking and therefore more showers in time. Although we’re still suffering a little from that leak we had on the way from Panama to Las Palmas and it’s taking us time to catch up with our water.

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Day 3 and I was awoken by friendly banter on the radio as Simon took up Richard’s challenge to overtake him. I hope this trend continues as it allowed me time to have a relaxing cup of tea, coffee and bake some bread.

Simon has had less success in the kitchen just lately. First up a bowl of soup slid across the galley spilling half the contents… everywhere! Then the pepper pot that has been dropped a few times decided to explode when he was making omelettes. Funny as mine were both delicious and his took the brunt of it.

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We spent some time waiting for a squall to pass so we could use the rainwater to shower. But after waiting hours for it to arrive it brought only some English style drizzle so it looks like we’ll have to resort to watermaking again.

Grey skies all day so today was all about energy conservation as the solar struggled to keep up. This meant more hand steering and keeping the nav screens turned off as well as keeping lights off whenever possible.

I was on watch this morning and saw some blue skies. Richard suggested there were trade wind clouds so we headed towards them.

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Otherwise not much to report just a day of eat, sleep, sail, repeat.

We’ve been making great progress with some excellent winds and some great speeds. We’ve had a little more sun but it’s mostly cloudy. Simon has solar panel envy. Matelot have adjustable solar panels so they can tilt them in the direction of the sun. This means they have recharged their batteries before the sun has got high enough to shine on ours. Grrrr!

The winds are still good though and we’ve completed a third of our trip in just 6 days! If this continues we’ll be very happy bunnies.

All the hand-steering means doing anything else on watch is hard. Thank goodness for audio books. Simon has the Game of Thrones Series while I have War and Peace. Not sure which is longest but I think they will keep us occupied for a while.

Pizza Friday! We decided to treat ourselves to some home-cooked pizza as we had picked up a couple of blocks of mozzarella cheese in Galapagos. We tried take-out but apparently we’re not in their delivery area. Anyway we didn’t hold much hope for it but it worked out a treat! Not sure if it’s beginners luck though so we’ll have to have another go.

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Week 2

We had a bit of roll today. The three-meter swell that was promised came and went but we had 20 hours or so of rolling around which makes doing anything and everything difficult. It was nothing like the swell we had in the Atlantic so we weren’t worried, it’s just very, very annoying. We’re still getting great winds though.

Week 2 and our average speed is 6.9 which must be a record for us on a long passage – let’s hope it continues. A lot of the time we’ve been sailing at our hull speed of around 8.2knots. Amazing stuff!

A huge pod of huge dolphins came by at morning coffee time. I thought you were supposed to pick-up-a-pick-up-a-penguin but maybe things are different out here. We’ve also seen lot of birdlife.

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Urghh! That ground-hog day has feeling set in… one day feels exactly like the next.

We gave Matelot a bit of a scare tonight. We were playing that game of ‘What appliances are using our amps?’ We inadvertently switched off our nav lights and radio during this process. So Matelot saw us disappear and then couldn’t reach us on the radio. They flashed us with a torch – a sign we’d agreed on earlier and then it was our turn to worry. Finally caught up on the radio to find out it was all a mistake. Good that our system works though, although maybe we should have let them know our plans beforehand! Oops.

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It’s harder and harder to get up for those night watches. Last night I got fully rigged up in my jumper, wet-weather jacket, hat, life-jacket – the whole shebang and bounded on deck only for Simon to tell me I had another two hours of sleeping to go. Either my mind was playing tricks on me or Simon is. Didn’t know whether to be pleased or grumpy – went for grumpy.

The following night we noticed some chaffing on the main halyard (the rope that holds the sail up). So we gave Matelot the heads up before doing some crazy manoeuvres. Took the sail down, chopped off the offending bit of rope, burnt the end to stop fraying, tied the new end back on and hoisted the sail again. It was an old wound so it’s good to get a more permanent fix in place.

On Sunday we started to get some manky, rolly seas and overnight the wind picked up. At first I thought it was a squall the change was so fast, but then a couple of hours later I realised it had really set in. The conditions continued through Monday making us all a bit tired and a little grumpy. Big winds, big waves, big bruises.

In good news we passed our half-way mark. The celebrations are on hold until conditions improve.

We’ve started to plan the rest of our passages back and are pleased to report that all but one passage should be less than five days. Good, we’re well over passages at the moment!

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Another beautiful sunset, another drama. We’ve been rolling around in swelly seas again and trying to keep a nice SW heading which has meant trying to keep as downwind as possible. But every now and then a particularly ferocious wave will send us flying causing the self-tacking jib to smack from one side to the other. It wasn’t too surprising then when the car-slider knocked the end block off the track and went flying into the air. We calmly rolled in the sail, tied off the jib sheet, jury-rigged a new line and continued on our way. At least that’s one less thing banging around.

Today’s drama began early when I switched on the water-maker and it didn’t switch on – great. We got the instruction manual out and after a bit of deliberation decided it was a fuse. So Simon got the spares out and pulled the fuse ready to replace it. Just as he did the boat turned 90 degrees sending the sails flapping and everything flying. Turns out it was the fuse for the autopilot! Oops!

Anyway after a bit more deliberation we couldn’t work out what was wrong so we tried it again and it worked perfectly. Bloody charming! Probably just a bit of air in the pipe from all the swell we’re getting.

We keep trying to head West but the weather is forcing us more and more South making us all scratch our heads. Tomorrow we will have to find a new solution. The angle we’re forced to take as well as this continuous swell is driving us all to our wit’s end. Horrid!

Ok no ideal solution presented itself overnight so Matelot tried the old wing-and-wing but unfortunately we don’t have a pole. They disappeared from site 🙁

After an hour or two fighting the waves we gybed and followed them North to try and find the marginally better conditions. We hit squall after squall, and in between two particularly rainy ones we spotted Matelot in the distance and then we lost them.

And it turns out I turned the radio down and couldn’t hear their hails. We finally caught up via email to find they’ve found a nice Westerly heading while we’re still fighting North. With no sign of any improved conditions we reduced sail and turned West once again. Hopefully we can track them down tomorrow. It sure is lonely out here without their guiding light.

We found them! Or at least they found us. With a bit of back and forth on email we were finally able to catch up on the radio and then eventually we had visual. It’s great to head into another night with their little light ahead again. Turns out they couldn’t hold their wing-and-wing for long either as the swell was bouncing them around also. We’re both just sailing under mains at the moment (and still flying along with just that sail up!).

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Week 3

The last few nights we have been playing frogger with the clouds. There are these huge bands of black clouds streaming across the night sky and the aim of the game is to nip through between them, not under them. It is strangely satisfying when you get it right, when you get it wrong it’s windy and wet 🙁

Another day, another challenge. We’ve been hearing this strange groaning noise at the stern between the steering wheels and Simon has been convinced that it’s the steering cable in the floor below.

‘What would happen if it broke?’ I asked him ‘The steering wheels would stop working.’ Didn’t sound great.

So I was sat on watch this morning and looked up to find the steering wheels weren’t moving. We opened her up and had a look, sure enough the cable had sheered through. I hate it when he’s right. Anyway lucky for us I was using the autopilot which continues to work. We took some time to make sure we could fit the emergency tiller, and then continued under way on the autopilot. No drama for now but it sure is going to make anchoring harder.

We’ve decided to head straight to Hiva Oa as there are rumours of a welder there that might be able to help us with a temporary fix. Also it’s a port of entry so we avoid risking a fine by heading to the nearest island, Fata Hiva as many people do. Hopefully we can back-track and see that island later, it’s supposed to be stunning.

In other news we had the best sunset yet so that made up for a pretty crappy day – almost.

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Finally the wind died down and it was time to hoist to the big sail for the day. That was followed by a night of motoring and another day of the sails flapping. We’ve been waiting for the wind and swell to drop for two weeks and now it’s here we’re fed up of flappy sails and slow speeds. There’s just no pleasing some people. It did give us a chance to do some boat chores so hopefully we’ll head into the anchorage all spick and span, and with a working outboard motor.

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At last! Today ended with less than 100nm to go. Woohoo! Hopefully we will see land tomorrow morning and make landfall tomorrow afternoon.

I love it when you awake to see land! Time to dig out that trusty French flag and get the anchor ready.

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Hiva Oa looks stunning but then what wouldn’t after 19 days at sea. We followed Matelot into the harbour. We were a bit nervous as our usual steering system wasn’t working, however, we had the autopilot on and the emergency tiller rigged and all our fingers and toes crossed.

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Despite all the rumours of this being a rolly anchorage it looked pretty flat so we chose a spot out of the way near the entrance and dropped our anchor. Everyone here has their stern anchor out so we got ready to despatch ours. That’s when our knights in a dinghy turned up from Savannah (who had heard of our plight) and offered to set our stern anchor. So thanks to them we’re perfectly set and taking in the stunning scenery 🙂

Then it was time to celebrate with our buddies – the longest crossing yet!

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