Tonight is our second night at sea on the longest passage any circumnavigating cruising sailor normally makes – crossing the Pacific. We shortened it somewhat but calling in at the Galapagos Islands, which were amazing, whereas many people make the crossing in one from Panama or the USA. To say ‘crossing the Pacific’ is slightly misleading too since our destination is the Marquesas which are far from ‘the other side’, however there are many stop off points after the Marquesas, so this trip, which is expected to take between 18 and 21 days should be by far the longest.
I was musing this afternoon whilst alone on watch as to our preparation and departure. Having crossed the Atlantic twice I recall the build up to both trips very clearly – both were part of a rally, both had a specific departure time and although on one I was just one of five crew, the build up was intense. And rightly so, no ocean is to be messed with, and the Atlantic can throw in its challenges as much as any other. That being said, on the rhumb line (the shortest distance from start to finish) its a significantly shorter trip, from memory about 2400 nm – 600nm less than this Pacific crossing.
So what was different this time? On Thursday we decided to leave on Sunday morning – the weather looked ok, with the chance of some wind to start with, we had done some exploring on all three islands we were allowed to sail to in the Galapagos and we were ready to leave. But there was none of the intensity we experienced previously. Knowing I would be out of direct connectivity for a while (no browsing, no uploading or downloading of anything larger than a few bytes of data) I was busy with work for the last few days. Additionally we did some last minute food shopping, tidied up the boat, some friends arrived on their boat so we went into town for dinner with them on Saturday night, went to bed, got up Sunday mnorning, did some more work, had a cup of tea, pulled up the anchor and left!
We left as if we were just about to sail round to the next bay, as if it was our daily commute, not a 3000nm ocean crossing, completely relaxed, no drama, no last minute panic – we were ready so we left!
I sat here comparing the contrast and wondering how we could be so relaxed. Were we really prepared? Was the boat thoroughly checked and ready for sea? Had we missed anything? What was different? I concluded that yes we were prepared – better than ever before, the boat was thoroughly checked and yes most likely we will have missed something – hopefully trivial but boats are complex and however thorough you can be there will always be surprises around the corner but we have learnt to expect them and deal with them. The reality is we have been sub-consciously preparing for a long time, we now know better than before what is needed for this type of trip. We know how we cope in ourselves with watches, we know the boat better, the boat itself is pretty much ocean ready all the time since the trips we have been doing for the last few months have not been trivial. We were good to go!
We did have some wind – from about an hour out of Santa Cruz the engine was off and we were sailing. Fine reaching in a light breeze – the first few days is all about working south into the SE trade winds whilst trying to still get westing towards the Marquesas. With the wind forward of the beam we opted to hoist the asymmetric spinnaker rather than our normal downwind choice the Parasailor. Either would have done the job but I figured it would be coming down at night and the asymmetric can be furled from the cockpit single handed so would be less hassle. As it transpired the wind dropped late afternoon and we were motoring before dark! After dinner we decided film night would be Pearl Harbour (an unusual choice for Lesley but the logic was that we are in the Pacific), and there was no one to disturb so the volume was on high. I think its a great film so I was happy!
The wind was up and down overnight but we have been sailing since about 6 am and we covered about 165nm in the 24 hrs from 18:00 Sunday to 18:00 Monday. Not great but not bad either considering the light winds and for much of the time we have had a current against us. As we work south that will change and we should get a decent push most if not all the way.
We have seen no boats, but we have been lucky enough to see several whales, a few birds, some flying fish and jumping rays.
The temperature has dropped a bit, I am actually wearing a sweatshirt for the first time in a long while, though it is nearly 3 am. There is very little moon, but beautiful stars, the sky is mainly clear and the sea state quite pleasant. As I have been writing this the wind has been dropping but hopefully it is just temporary.
We briefly spoke to our friends on Larus on the SSB (Single Side Band Radio) last night who are about 1500nm closer to the Marquesas. They seem to be doing well, though the transmission was not great so hopefully we will get to chat more later today.
The fishing line went out for a few hours yesterday but no bites, everything seems to be functioning well onboard, the batteries are fully charged from the sun, wind and sea, we had a lovely sausage casserole for dinner, so all is well onboard.