Galapagos to Marquesas – Days 16

POS: 9 23.4S 137 09.3W

The daily pattern of the wind remains the same – a slight increase after dark, then a slight moderation in the early hours.

Shortly after an increase in the wind there is typically an increase in the sea state. The seas are coming from the quarter – about 30 – 45 degrees from the back of the boat, and they overtake the boat. They pick up the stern sending us on a bit of a sleigh ride (depending on their size), then pass by and we wait for the next one. If they come from exactly behind the boat just pitches and accelerates, whereas if they come from one side, the boat also rolls – sometimes it seems quite violent, especially in the pitch black. Its not harmful, but can be a little unnerving especially for Lesley who much prefers slow and steady to fast and furious. I was greeted in the companionway by a somewhat traumatized face at about 23.30. The movement of the boat had woken Lesley and she was clearly not best pleased with the idea of watch duty in the current conditions! We were being rolled from one side to the other and the rumbling and roar of the water passing down the sides of the boat as we surfed at up to 12 kts down the faces of the waves with the sky so black you couldn’t even see the horizon was not her ideal choice of midnight past time! Of course if necessary she would have taken over, but I was enjoying it so settled in for a long night.

Come 3 am the breeze had died down a little and consequently so had the waves so Lesley appeared and I got some rest and by the morning she was in fine spirits having declared that despite the conditions, she had not had to trim the Parasailor or alter the course once during the watch and it was actually quite fine – she had done some work, watched some recorded TV and read her book. Its all down to familiarity and experience – ocean sailing sometimes pushes the bounds of your comfort zone but the more you do it the more you get used to it and hopefully the less you fear it. Toasted freshly baked bread and Tea saw Lesley retire for a well deserved rest.
Considering just a few years ago even the thought of crossing the Atlantic on a fully crewed boat terrified Lesley, to now be so close to finishing the longest ocean crossing people normally do anywhere in the world just two up, meaning she is basically single handedly sailing the boat whenever I am off watch is an amazing achievement!

For the rest of the day the routing software showed a pretty much straight line to Hiva Oa, our destination, so there was little to be done regarding sailing the boat – a few tweaks to sheet angles and course and enjoy the sunshine and catch up on a bit of sleep. With flatter seas we both managed to do so.

Nothing broke and we made good speed – we took another 193 nm off the distance to go so a successful day all round.

As I write this, somewhat belatedly we have 109 nm to go so with any luck today will be our final day of this journey!

All is good on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Days 15

POS: 8 27.3S 134 48.6W

With a dull thud a spinnaker sheet parted. One of the benefits of Dyneema is it stretches very little so when it snaps there is virtually no recoil and very little noise. Little enough not even to wake Lesley who was about an hour and a half into her off watch period – probably the most frustrating time to be woken. So I wasn’t greeted initially by the biggest smile as I shouted down to say I needed her on deck to help replace the sheet.

The sheets came with the boat and have done a lot of miles. In 2016 when we crossed the Atlantic they took a bit of a hammering and we noticed wear on the splice where the quick release shackle is joined to the end. These are the only sheets that we have joined by metal shackles. They are very expensive shackles that can be ‘spiked’ by ramming a conical rod into a circular hole in them and they will open under full load instantly releasing the spinnaker for a quick drop. However that technique requires a fully crewed boat with a crew out on the end of the spinnaker pole. The race boats do it all the time but short handed its not an option.

For three years we have been watching the splice deteriorate. Unfortunately after several year’s use it becomes virtually impossible to re splice the working end of a rope – the fibres harden and get ingrained with salt etc.. And the rest of the sheet is fine so we keep putting off changing them. So it was of no real surprise that it snapped as the wind had increased and hence the forces. We had hoped it would last this trip but it wasn’t to be. Knowing that it was a possibility we had thought about what we would do if it broke so it was a relatively easy task to re-attach it although it did require dropping the spinnaker pole to re thread it. Such is the joy of the Parasailor though, that throughout the job it kept flying (from the fore guy) and kept driving us onward at over 7 kts. Quite a remarkable sail.

Fishing is somewhat limited when the Parasailor is up because its a bit tricky to slow the boat down to land the fish and if we hook a large one, it can strip the 1000m of line off the reel in just a few minutes if we can’t stop the boat. A little before sunrise yesterday we were going quite slowly in the light winds and the sky was bright enough to make rigging the lure easy, so I took a gamble and threw it in. Less than 2 minutes later,the reel was screaming – even before I had settled back into the cockpit and 10 minutes later a small black fin Tuna was filleted and chilling in the fridge. Lesley made Cerviche as a starter for dinner.

The wind built as the day progressed and the speed picked up, resulting in a daily run of a little over 150nm. Fair, considering that we had been dawdling at about 4 kts for significant periods in the night.

As the distance to go comes down, thoughts are turning towards sleep in periods longer than 3 hours and beds that are relatively stationary rather than rolling and pitching to every wave. We expect to arrive |Wednesday night or Thursday, all depending what the wind does over the next few days so we have a few more nights of short shifts first.

All is good on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Days 13 & 14

POS: 7 42S 132 12.7W

Things break on boats. It doesn’t matter if we are talking dinghies or super yachts, things regularly break on them all. The only difference is the cost to replace or fix them.

We have a lot of ropes and wires supporting and controlling things and inevitably from time to time they wear out. In a post a few days back we mentioned a guardwire snapped. Its made of stainless steel and subjected to cyclic loading every time the boat flexes. One second its tight, the next its just that tiny bit slacker, and stainless steel corrodes. Eventually it had had enough and parted where the flexible wire went into a solid fitting. Not a big issue but a breakage all the same.

We join ropes onto sails and other fittings in a number of different ways. Sometimes we tie them, sometimes they are spliced and sometimes we use shackles. Shackles come in many forms. Standard metal ones that need tools to tighten them and undo them, fancy metal ones with spring plungers allowing them to be fastened and released by hand and Dyneema soft shackles. Metal shackles are heavy and can damage things when they fly around on the loose corners of sails. Dyneema is an amazing material. Weight for weight its something like 9 times stronger than steel. Its like a very light strong rope (which is also very UV resistant). We attach almost all our sheets and guys to the sails with Dyneema shackles. They require no tools, are very light and super strong. They are readily available in chandleries but also easy to make so we make our own.

However like anything, eventually they wear out and snap. We swap them around from one use to another because each different task has different wear points and different loads, and although we do daily inspections of anything and everything that might wear, there are some things that are difficult to inspect under sail. We also double them up in high load, high wear areas (such as genoa sheets), so if one fails the other takes up the role.

Overnight we lost one of the spinnaker guys. The soft shackle wore through where it was attached to the clew of the Parasailor. No drama, the sail flew comfortably without it, just not quite so stable, we carry spares, so at first light we replaced it (safer and easier to do in the light and with both of us on deck). We needed to gybe anyway so we combined the two tasks.

So apart from fixing the water generator (a 5 minute job), that was pretty much the excitement for the last two days. The winds have varied, we have had a little rain, plenty of sun and we are closing in on the Marquesas, albeit frustratingly slowly at times. We hear from friends behind that they have had consistent winds all the way, whereas friends in front and ourselves have had to pick our way around the holes. That’s sailing.

We continue to eat well, we now have cup cakes again, fresh bread and we celebrated the 500 miles to go mark (slightly prematurely as it was going to occur in the small hours) last night.

The nights are starting off very dark now, as the moon is not rising until several hours after sunset, but its still very big and almost full, so we have nights of two parts: After sunset, a pitch black start, where the stars are super bright, but the horizon and approaching waves are not visible, it can be slightly spooky hearing approaching waves but not being able to see them, followed by an amazing moon rise as the yellow circle gradually appears out of the darkness brightening over the next half hour or so to give a dim light making everything around visible. This remains until the eastern sky starts showing a golden glow as the sun nears the horizon, and daylight begins. We do see nature at its best.

All is good on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Day 12

POS: 7 48S 125 44.5W

The sun is out, the breeze is back and we are heading in roughly the right direction. After yesterday’s moonlight gybe we have been sailing in beautiful trade wind conditions, that increased slightly overnight and decreased as the sun came out. Due to the huge deviation in course our daily run of 137 nm doesn’t really do justice to the speed we travelled since that’s the straight line distance and actually we sailed the other two sides of the triangle – probably more like 155 nm in total.

We enjoyed a delicious pressure cooked Beef Bourguignonne last night followed by home made coconut ice cream and passion fruit sorbet.

Our trusty water generator sheered another shaft coupling in the middle of the night, an unfortunate trait it seems to have at regular intervals so that’s currently out of action, but I think we have a replacement or two so it should be back online later today.

We are beginning to see more birds around – small flocks now rather than just intrepid individuals and the flying fish remain entertaining and in many cases suicidal overnight.

With just the Parasailor up for the last few days, noise levels on board have dropped significantly. Snatch blocks rattle occasionally and guy lines tap on the deck but we don’t suffer the continuous creaks and groans of the kicker, reef lines and genoa cars. Which means sleep should be easier and generally is, however not for me last night.

For some reason I never settled and although Lesley did a very long watch somehow I didn’t make the most of it. Our Parasailor is huge and small changes in wind strength give rise to huge changes in boat speed. I could feel the boat’s motion change all the time as I stirred. The gentle quiet rocking in the lulls and calm seas, followed in the gusts by first the slight surge as the transom was picked up by a following wave (its quite surprising how fast the waves build as gusts come through), then the increasing roar as the boat accelerated down the face of the wave only to be slowed again when the bottom of the trough was reached. Then a pause as the boat waited for the next wave to catch up and the cycle to be repeated.

The noise level of the water flowing past the hull is very different at 5 or 6kts in flat seas compared to 10 or 11 kts scooting down aerated waves. You can often judge the boat speed from in the cabin just from the noise of the water – your head is quite close to the hull from the saloon bunk that we use on passage.

We now have 793 nm to go and the routing software suggests winds will drop a little again for a while so our arrival date may slip to Thursday. Not an issue – we will arrive whenever we do!

All is good onboard.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Day 11

POS: 7 29S 122 38.8W

There is something frustrating about sailing on a course that takes you nowhere near your destination. Even more frustrating is doing so slowly! That has been the theme for the day. The weather is constantly changing and over the sort of distances we are sailing it would be very unusual to find that a straight line from start to destination would be the fastest route. Wind strength, wind direction, ocean currents and other factors all come into the equation when determining what is the best route to follow. However we are lucky compared to sailors of even a generation ago. They relied on looking at the skies and plotting the change in air pressure etc. trying to figure out what was going to happen and the best route to follow.

We are fortunate enough to have satellite communications and weather routing software. So on a regular basis (at least once a day and often more frequently) we tell the software our current position and where we are wanting to go, press a few buttons and a little while later we get a load of data back suggesting our optimum route. The software knows how fast we travel in different directions based on the wind strength so looks at the predicted wind and determines the route accordingly. However its all based around predictions of what the weather is going to do over the period of our trip. Our software uses four different weather models so we get four different routes normally! Different models are more or less accurate in different parts of the world so we have to take decisions based on which we think is going to be the most accurate (often a good starting point is to ask ‘which of the models is suggesting that at the current time the forecast conditions match what we actually have?). On the rare occasion that the models agree on a route that’s great because there is a fair chance that they will be accurate, if not its a question of judgement and experience (or rolling a dice if you are more sceptical).

Yesterday all the models vaguely agreed we needed to get north to avoid a big wind hole. How far and on what course was different on each but the theme was the same and the wind was progressively getting lighter.

So we gybed the Parasailor and started heading north west. It was slow. It was forecast to be slow but we managed to keep moving without the use of the engine. Normally light winds mean flattish seas and yesterday was no exception. Washing was done, salt was cleaned off stainless, work was attended to and rest was achieved – we even managed some board games without the pieces sliding around. But the chart plotter showed us heading nowhere near our destination – Hawaii was probably on the cards!

We had expected to pass the 1000 mile to go mark early evening but that didn’t happen. But slowly and surely as the day progressed and we go further north the wind increased from a light zephyr to a steady breeze and the boat picked up a little speed. Nothing ground breaking but a more positive pace, albeit towards Hawaii.

The daily run was just 131 nm, however if you straightened out the track it would have been more like 140 nm we actually sailed.

We did celebrate the 1000 mile to go a little prematurely since it was going to pass in the middle of the night and we counted down the time until we could gybe back and head towards the Marquesas again.

That time came an hour or so before sunrise and we performed a textbook gybe in the light of the moon and the deck lights. So now we are heading in the right direction. The wind is still quite light but is forecast to increase as the day progresses. The sun is out, the seas are pretty calm and the boat is doing its stuff nicely. The routing software suggests we have several days like this to come. Distance to go 978 nm. Happy Easter everyone!

All is well on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Day 10

POS: 8 21S 119 44.9W

A quiet day today with light winds over the quarter. At first light the Parasailor went up and that has given us a lovely stable platform.

Out track today shows us heading in many different directions as we try to keep the boat moving, but also try to get a little north into the better breeze. The 24 hr run shows 151 nm, well down on previous days but could be worse and might still be tomorrow unless we find the wind to the north.

Chocolate cakes have run out but we did have a lovely chicken satay for dinner and a packet of chip cookies did fall out of the cupboard into my hand this afternoon.

1145 nm to go so if we find the breeze, we might be into three figures tomorrow night – I sense another small celebration coming!

All is good on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Day 9

POS: 8 33S 118 18.9W

A relatively quiet 24 hours here in mid ocean. The seas continue to suprise us, even more so as the wind drops. It can be quite flat for an hour then out of nowhere it becomes a bit lumpy for a while, then goes back to being flat again. In general its far more comfortable than it has been so getting some good rest has been easier.

We have seen no boats or wildlife except the occasional bird and many flying fish for days now.

The wind is very broad now and has dropped so speed has dropped off too. The 24 hour run was 171 nm which will probably be about the average for the rest of the trip – it may even drop off below that looking at the forecast, however we do have our Parasailor out of the bag now which should help.

All is well onboard.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Days 7 & 8

POS: 7 50.3S 115 03.1W

The nearest land is a long way away. In fact yesterday we were further from land than we are ever likely to be in our lives again – some 1500 nm. But now we are getting closer again since we have passed the half way mark.

Celebrations were a little muted since we have both been pretty exhausted, but we did share a beer and toast the achievement over dinner last night. It was a very late dinner because Leslay had been sleeping in the afternoon and I left her to sleep well past our normal dinner time, rather allowing her to wake naturally (or more likely to some bang or crash or unusual lurch as is the norm in our small world). Twenty minutes after dinner I was fast asleep and slept solidly until woken for my shift at 2 am.

We can’t complain though, as we have had some pretty decent weather for a few days now, no rain to speak of, warm trade winds coming from further behind every day and deep blue seas with water so clear that you can almost see through the tops of the breaking waves, which are getting fewer and further between. The boat’s motion changes from minute to minute. The waves and swell are now mainly coming from the port quarter and much of the time there is now just a gentle long swell (always difficult to judge its height but our routing software suggests it should be between 2 and 2.5 metres at the moment which is probably about right) with about 10 seconds from peak to peak, overlayed with much shorter steeper smaller waves. As the underlying swell passes underneath the boat its picked up and lowered gently and rolls according to the slope of the water. At times though the combination of the swell and superimposed waves gives rise to a more vicious roll – inevitably when you are pouring tea, or getting something out of the oven, or walking across the cabin, or climbing out of bed. Its a randomly moving world, but luckily we have lots of handholds. Its pretty dry onboard now too – very different from when the wind is coming from in front. Generally the waves pass underneath the boat, but every now and again the combination of swell and wave will result in water slapping the side of the hull, spewing upwards and the resulting spray being caught in the breeze and driven across the deck or into the cockpit. Its not a problem just slightly irritating especially if its 5 minutes since you came out of the shower! Luckily its not a frequent occurrence now.

With dropping, backing winds our daily distances covered are back down a bit, but still reasonable at 183nm and 188nm. Nights are brighter – it will be a full moon on Friday, the daily count of flying fish is reducing and the boat is holding together rather well. I think that’s about it for now.

All is good on board.

Galapagos to Marquesas – Day 6

POS: 6 56.3S 109 54.7W

After a relatively relaxed night with waves decreasing we were treated to a spectacular display from a large pod of dolphins just cruising on past, leaping at time metres from the front of the breaking waves and crashing gently into the back of the ones in front. The nightly delivery of dead (well dead by the morning) flying fish and squid continued with a mix of about 10 around the boat.

The lures went out mid morning (plastic ones), and shortly after lunch a Mahi was spinning line of the reel. Unfortunately a bit of clumsy handling timed perfectly with a big lurch over a wave, released him back to the ocean, but no such luck for his bigger sister a few hours later who is now filleted, partly eaten and the remaining 10 portions in the freezer! Lesley is a happy girl…

With a freezer now full of fish, the rods are away for a while since unless we think it will be eaten we don’t tend to haul them in just for the sake of it.

The rest of the day was spent doing some washing, cleaning salt off the boat and getting some rest which is getting easier since the boat is more stable and its easier to sleep. Boats ahead are reporting very rolly conditions so its important to catch up on sleep while we can.

Despite the wind easing, the daily run was still good, noon to noon was 205nm and 18:00 to 18:00 a little less at 203nm (maybe something to with stopping the boat twice in the afternoon to land fish!)

Wind increased for the evening a little but not enough to make the sea uncomfortable. The moon is getting bigger and setting later so coupled with much clearer skies the nights are much brighter.

This is being written a little later than normal and we have now been at sea for 7 days. We expect to be halfway on Monday night or more likely Tuesday morning, so we probably have another 10 or 11 days to go. The wind dropped further overnight so one of the reefs has come out of the mainsail and we have a full genoa. If it continues to drop we will be back to full sail later today. One of the spinnakers might have to come out to play soon, so even more reason to get some good rest now.

All is well on board.