Well, here we are a month in the Marquesas already and nearly time to move on. It has gone so fast and so slow at the same time. I am coming to realize how incredible the way of life is here, so much slower than what I have known. The days on shore are filled with fruits falling from trees and people spending time together, maybe a pig hunt or two thrown in. Our reality is watching the sun set surrounded by mountains, while on shore a truck drives past, followed by a man galloping by on horseback, and it is no longer that strange. The smells of fire from cooking breadfruit/goat/pig etc, of earth and fish. Being thankful for a cloudy sky because you won’t die of heat but also praying for sun to charge our battery bank.
We have seen so many islands now and have had such an amazing time here, it is hard to believe it is time to move on but it was a month since we first made landfall yesterday. So, what has happened since that first day in Fatu hiva,
Well here we go…
Our time in Fatu Hiva was beautiful, the bay was surrounded by these dramatic somewhat scary peaks of rock that have been described as looking like tikis and I could see why! Hanavave the town seemed to make most of its money on the cruisers that anchored there, while we were there we were one of 16 boats in an anchorage described as comfortable for 4-5, crowded! The nice thing was that a lot of the boats were people we had already met, so it was like a tiny reunion! Including watching the local kids steal Carl and Cristina’s kayak!
The town itself was tiny, a small slipway where they would launch aluminum boats filled with dogs to go hunt pigs on other parts of the island complete with a Tiki bollard, a basketball court, church, school and one shop. The shop had nothing fresh in it, just canned or frozen things. The baguettes were in the ladies freezer next door. Because you really couldn’t even buy new things, the economy wasn’t focussed only on money, the people there did a lot of exchanging, trade your old things for something they have made and they made some beautiful things. The most unique were the tapas, cloth made from the bark of a tree and hammered until it was soft and supple and then painted, they were beautiful! The tikis carved of stone or wood were beautiful too, really cool to walk past a workshop with a guy and his chainsaw and then to go back and see these polished pieces of art!
I went to church there, a bit nerve wracking as everyone was gathering near the dock where we landed, as Phil dropped me off the whole community turned to look! But what a service, they started by singing with ukuleles as they walked to the church and as they entered the sound was incredible. It was the most joyful service I’ve ever been to. After church my Phil came back to get me and we decided to check out town with Carl and Cristina, keeping in mind that I was wearing my church clothes! We started walking and ended up scrambling up to a waterfall outside of town, it was beautiful and violent, the winds were howling and it had rained a lot so the water was pouring over, bringing small rocks with it sometimes. Just standing close to it was like having a shower and we were all soaked! I went barefoot part of the way back because the mud was so slippery I was skating around inside my flip-flops! Then we decided to take the short cut home and ended up fording a chest deep river!
Our days went by in a blur, other highlights were the kids asking us for bon bons, flutes, yoyos and crayons or to come and see the boat. We finally brought Felix, the quietest and politest kid out for a few cookies and to check it out, no idea if he had fun but it was a cool kayak ride at least!
We hiked up the road to the top of the hill, a hard walk and impressive view! We went on a tiki tour, being taken from one home to the next (you have to see my brother’s work or my aunts tapas) and got two small tapas to remember. We were taken to the police officers house to try to fix his trucks horn and after an hour of trying decided that they had installed the new horn wrong and blown a relay, I am convinced that he will bring yet another cruiser over to try to fix what can’t be fixed! And we went to a local dinner, which was delicious! It was the first time I saw Phil actually eat and enjoy banana. They were mashed up and cooked with cornstarch and coconut milk over the fire for hours. Desire our host woke up at 4 am to prepare everything and it was all done outside over an open fire. The cochon (pig) still had some hair on it, but was incredible despite that, the chicken was not cut into pieces you would recognize but hacked into bits with lots of bone and stewed in coconut milk and she apologized for the pamplemousse, the only thing that wasn’t grown or collected on her land (it came from her sister’s tree!).
It was a great time there and a beautiful place, but at the end we were ready to go and explore more. We decided to head back to Hiva Oa to check out some tikis and also to visit our friends on La Luz, who had made the passage on their 26 foot boat and unfortunately had some rigging problems so they couldn’t keep going until they got their parts. This time in Atuona was a lot better, a better and bigger hole to anchor in, good friends and we had a fabulous visit! I finally got caught up with the laundry, washing it by hand with Zuleyka using the water that came down the mountains. Lots of fresh water showers in the showers by the dock. The most delicious pizza of our lives I think for a special dinner out! We rented a car and drove all around the island seeing incredible tikis and more incredible roads, 2 hours to go 20 km mostly in first gear. Up and down mountains, incredible bays. It was spectacular. We went to a small village called Taaoha and saw the tikis there, unfortunately Doug slipped and cut his head so thankfully we had the car and I got to practice my French at the l’hopital while he was stitched back together! The next day we hiked up the mountain, but on the way picked up 3 followers, a 9 year old girl named Sandrine, 8 year old David and 4 year old Takanui (wearing pjs and David’s flip flops). We of course were decked out in hiking boots and then promptly put to shame by the kids running up the mountainside! What a way to see Atuona, the pride with which they showed us all of their treasured places, the plants, the birds and watching them secretly confer as they choice the best place to reveal the beautiful waterfall on the other mountain. It was awesome in every sense of the word. Surrounded by cliffs, valleys, trees. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
The next day I begged Phil to climb the rest of the mountain, we figured we had made it about half way the day before and had heard some great things about the top. So up we went, and up and up and up. The path was definitely less than easy but we made it to the top, a real accomplishment and had lunch with the clouds swirling around us. That night was our pizza night and the effort of the day may have had something to do with how delicious it was.
Our last day in Atuona Zuleyka and I went to town to get the provisions for our next few islands and saw a huge party in the main square. There isn’t a lot to do here so any excuse to party is looked upon favourably. This one was mother’s day. We decided to go and tell the boys we should leave in the morning and check out the party that night. We got back close to 4 pm when they said the dancing would start again, and sat around, a great place to relax. Fo Fo, one of the locals took us home with him with the idea that Phil would climb the grapefruit tree. Unfortunately or luckily depending on how you look at it the younger brother was home and they ended up throwing about 10 head sized pamplemousse down to us! A load to carry home. Back to the park and the dancing started, what an incredible show. They were doing war dances with drums and the atmosphere was electric. After the dancing was the mother’s day part. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. 2 teams, sack races, arm wrestling, tug of war and not a smiling face because it was for money! One of the cruiser mom’s got sucked in and did and incredible job of representing, even winning the arm wrestling contest! What a way to celebrate mother’s day!
The next morning we headed out back to tahuata, a beautiful afternoon sail and when we got there we had the most delicious bbq in the world, in heaven. Ocean, blue sky, calm water and good friends. I think we all ate too much meat, but then went over to La Luz for a party with 7 people on board (not bad for a little 26 foot boat). Phil and I snorkelled all the way to shore the next day and that was my 5 shark day! The water was the clearest I had ever seen in the Marquesas and the snorkelling was beautiful. The most amazing part was the manta rays with 5 foot wing spans. They would swim right up to you and check you out, even upside down to see you better. What incredible creatures! That was our day for cleaning the boats and getting ready to move on. We decided to spend one more day there and I was successful in heading to shore in the kayak with Zuleyka (not getting drenched on our beaching which was an accomplishment) and opening a coconut to drink with only a stick, I’m getting skilled! We didn’t stop by the party on the other boat (later described as a Marquesian dance party though everyone was sitting down) and that evening we headed off into the sunset for Ua Pou.
What a sight, the sun rising and the peaks of what was the inside of a volcano coming into view.
And with that tempting sentence I am going to finish writing! It is the day after my birthday and we are off to the Tuamotus. Looking forward to getting the rest written down so I don’t forget it all!
Nothing is happening in chronological order any more. I am sitting on the boat, sunset, blue sky and clouds rolling by. A coconut beach and mountains covered in green trees. They are so sharp that I can hardly tell you how dramatic and how real they are. Gentle winds, lots of sun today, I managed to get sunburned inside washing dishes! Tomorrow we’ll have been here a week. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone already.
We made landfall last Monday morning, we had to try our best to slow the sails down as we were coming in, a great wind for sailing but if we had let our little seamonkey do what she wanted we would have arrived in Atuona around midnight. As it was we started to converge with other boats around 2 am, Vulcan Spirit, Mawari, Calusa, just lights in the distance. A great hulking shape f an island and then the squalls started to kick in. Phil was soaked, I put on all of my foul weather gear and by the time I had finished my watch I was still dry and had had to strip it all off. I woke Phil up around 4:30 am as we were getting close and there was the faintest of lights on the horizon, the sun was coming. Phil had no luck that day, as soon as he was up the rain set in, I was sent (thankfully) down below to hide and it poured for a solid 20 minutes. In that time we made gains on the other boats and by proper sunrise we were first in the queue to make it into the harbour, Oh what sunrise brought us, soaring mountains, the greenest green we had ever seen. The smells coming into land changed, first the scent of decay and mold, then of fresh rain, and finally sweet flowers and dirt, so strange to have one of your senses going in overdrive all of the sudden. I am glad we made it in when we did, Atuona bay was completely packed, boats everywhere. We had to anchor with both a bow and stern anchor so that you didn’t spin with the wind that was fine until the wind switched directions and started coming from the side (I’ll get back to that in a bit). Sail covers on, instruments turned off, and it was still before 8 am. We saw lots of boats we recognized from Panama and Galapagos, funny to start having familiar faces on the other side of the world. I finally changed my watch from Galapagos time to Marquesas time a 3.5 hour time difference, maybe the only cruiser to sail 3000 miles and still manage to be jet lagged. Phil closed his eyes, 3 hours of sleep just wasn’t enough, and I started to tackle the mold. A month at sea, and not a lot of fresh water meant not a lot of cleaning, and man, did the mold ever take advantage of that. By 10 am I was wiped out and I closed my eyes. We decided to head into town after lunch to check in. A tin of Marks and Spencer’s 3 bean chili (even Phil the hater of beans declared it the most delicious ever and might see if we can get caseloads of M and S stuff sent to New Zealand! We slowly came back to life and then the Belgians came, a huge catamaran parked right on top of us. Of course I was worried, I hate when boats park too close (although if I had known what we had to look forward to the next day I think I would have relaxed a bit). The guy came over and told us it was a French holiday, from what I understand about France is there are more holidays than working days! Maybe I should try to live there sometime! Anyway, then the entire family promptly left their very closely parked, but still moving vehicle and went to shore. We kept an eye on things for a bit and decided it was time for us to go to shore too. Inflated our lovely Beagle (the inflatable kayak) which has been getting a lot of use since Galap and headed to shore. Passed some amazing Polynesian outrigger canoes on the way in, very fit men, beautiful brown skin and incredible tattoos flying through the water. The on shore “shower” was a pipe heading up the hillside When you open the taps a little bit, a little water comes through, a lot and it comes out of lots of tiny holes, a cold freshwater shower, what a treat. We were going to collect some to drink, but when we put it in our white bucket the water was decidedly brown. So although all the local canooers were doing it we decided that my belly might not be able to handle the shock to the system. The rain showers collected on the hillsides and swept down the valley to where we were anchored so we were able to catch some of that, but other than a few gallons of that caught water, we have used less than 40 gallons of fresh water in a month! Our other explorations on land went past the gas station (closed) and out onto the point where the bigger (or less ballsy) boats had anchored. We went past a beautiful family. I am in love with Polynesians, their skin, their facial features, eyes, curly dark hair. There was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen playing in a stream coming out of the hillside. Then back to the boat, dinner (I can’t even remember what it was, probably fish because at this point after all of the fish we caught all we eat is fish!) and by 7 pm Phil was in bed. Normally we don’t sleep that well after a passage, but I can say that he slept like a baby until the next morning. I only woke up twice, all in all the best sleep in the world!
We set off bright and early the next morning, along the road to the first turn off, down to the black sand beach, across the fresh water stream (very cold!) and then up the secret path, unfortunately it had been raining, so walking up the path in flip flops was tres challenging! We got to the top and I had literally an inch of mud on the bottom of each flipflop and my feet were sliding around so much that I couldn’t really walk, so off came the shoes and I sauntered away towards the town barefoot on the concrete road (delightful to walk on). Phil told me to be careful of the mud, obviously too late so by the time we got into town I was covered! The 2 mile walk didn’t take very long and the scenery was beautiful Not as many birds as I had gotten used to seeing in Galapagos and not as many flowers but such pretty hills and mountains. At this point I was desperate to find a bathroom, covered in mud and had to go to customs to check in. We decided to bite the bullet and went to the Gendarme dirty and hot and not looking like the respectable people we try to pretend to be every time we go through the rigmarole. They sent me thankfully to wash my hands and then to pay my bond. It only took us 10 minutes at the Socredo (the bank) but what a lot of work for one man to do. I was paid for in full by Phil (only feeling slightly like his property now) and have enough money invested in this country to fly back to Canada if I wanted to. Then back to the Gendarme, It was around 9 am by this time of the day and it was no longer the quiet office we had left, it was stuffed full of cruisers, asking all kinds of questions to the poor small French man with no English. Luckily we managed to get all of our paperwork sorted and I learned my new French word of the day (Duane – customs) and then we were cleared in. No Zarpe required (so the running around to get them to change the boat registration from American to Bermuda in Galapagos was a wasted 30 minutes). Then it was off to the shops. There were probably 5 little grocery store/ bakeries around the town, each having most of the staples but a few different things. The most delicious discovery was the French pastries, a pan au chocolat, a fresh hot spring roll and a baguette for $4.00 or 400 CFA still warm and delicious, now I am starting to understand why there are so many big people around! Some pareaus (sarongs) and a few other knickknacks, the prices were high but not so bad as expected, except a few things, the paper towels $8.00, and the can opener ($15.00 – thank you for our spare one grandma, it is still working!). But they had some lovely things to, like tinned butter, which we had heard all about from Adventure Bound and a coconut grater that I didn’t buy but should have. We walked into every single store. Then headed back to the trucks parked beside the stage to buy our vegetables. I love that the fresh veggies are sold directly out of the back of a pickup. Pamplemousse (grapefruits) green and the size of my head (not kidding), fresh green peppers, cucumbers, aubergine, we missed the tomatoes (but got them the next day) and also splurged on a few pineapples. Lugged everything with us and we walked up the side of the hill to sit near Gaugin’s grave in the beautiful cemetery and have lunch of bread and a strange processed cheese that didn’t need refrigerating! It was a beautiful view of the bay and much easier to walk down then up. Afterwards we decided that we deserved a beer and headed to Snack Make Make (we think, it had no name on it), kind of a screened in porch restaurant where all the other cruisers in the world had ended up. It was like a big reunion. The girls from Flow (Norway), Axel and Elizabeth from Goodrun (who came to our rescue later that night and gave us a beautiful inverter which is why I am able to type on the computer now!) and Moin (parked beside us in Galapagos), Venus and Sunrunner. Some of these people I have seen naked (actually most of them it seems, I think the Europeans aren’t nearly as prudish as me! But despite (or because of that) it was still fabulous to catch up. 2 miles back home, back down the death path, which had dried out, and that was our day. The evenings are short. The sun is going down around 5:40 pm and it is pitch black by 6:30, leads to early nights heading to bed, especially while still recovering from our passage. Meanwhile when we got back to the boat we realized that Robin (on Katydid) had anchored right on top of us, literally overlapping a bit close for comfort but the poor guy had been single handing from Panama and had been at sea for the last 48 days, I can understand just wanting to get parked and get to sleep.
Woke up a bit less early the next morning, otherwise known as provisioning day, First stop, the ladies in the trucks, actually first stop was the bakery, second stop was vegetables. Then we went to see the church. It was a beautiful building, carved doors and open windows in stone all the way around, funny to lock the doors when you could so easily climb in the windows. We sat and waited a little rain shower out. Then to the big grocery store, 4 baguettes, a tin of butter (but not as big as the other lady bought!), some super expensive cheese (which comes in little containers like cat food), some pate (which I actually think is mislabelled cat food) and a few other bits and pieces. I always get overwhelmed in a shop, especially when we haven’t been in one for a while, so Phil had to be very patient and tried to get me out of there as soon as possible! The walk home was a bit slower and a bit sad when we saw the cruisers with the wheely bag in a taxi getting a lift back, but beautiful. However, as we got the the overlook for the bay we saw that Robin and our boat were really close. I think the wind had changed and everyone’s stern anchors had dragged a bit, so a jog/walk back to the boat, engine on and we had to re-anchor. Too scary for me, and yet another reason I love anchoring on our own. It wasn’t the last of our anchoring worries, the next morning when I woke up I looked behind us and Shantianna had dragged their stern anchor. The only reason they hadn’t hit us is their whole keel was sitting on our stern line, managed to get moved but it reinforced my desire to get outta there! We got our most expensive laundry in the world (but I couldn’t face doing it all by hand) and had our anchor up by 11 am.
We sailed through some crazy fast winds between tahoiata and Hiva Oa and dropped our anchor in our new favourite bay Itai oa???? By 1:30 pm literally just as the grey clouds rolled in. An afternoon of water collection and pouring rain was just what the doctor ordered, holed up down below, not another boat in sight and nothing to do except for relax, heaven. We are old fogies it seems, it is pitch black by 6:15 pm and we are often in bed by 8, still recovering from the crossing and it is lovely because I can get up before 6 feeling completely rested and happy! We spent the next morning cleaning the bottom of the boat, a much required job in the clearest water imaginable, I decided to take advantage of the incredible visibility and had a snorkel over to the other side of the bay. The schools of fish were huge and beautiful, lots of friends I had never seen before and then duh du, duh du, duh du duh du duh du, a black tipped shark!!!!!!! I swam so fast towards our boat which was forever away but tried to slow down and then tried to snorkel backwards, craziness I know, I spent the entire time trying not to attract the damn thing. They are beautiful creatures but after that I decided not to try to snorkel on my own (although what poor phil would have done to have to save me is anyone’s guess). Anchor up again and then we went to the beautiful Hanamenu bay… oh Hanamenu, the memories. It was a strange sail, good wind at the start which dropped out, a pod of dolphins, about 25-30 amazing creatures, flapping tails and fins, leaping up to 15’ out of the water, playing in the bow wave of the boat, really magical, (although at first I thought it was a huge bunch of sharks, of course!). Wind dropped out and motor on and then we rounded the corner into huge seas and swells, realized we weren’t exactly ship shape (although we were close) and lost the breadcrumbs onto the floor (talk about a sad moment) and then we were there, in the swell and the wind, anchors down, 3 boats in the bay and us, We had lunch (always important and then headed to shore. Landed on the far side of the beach, with a triumphant landing although I got completely drenched, guess I didn’t manage to paddle quite quickly enough! Walked through a stream and made it to a lovely new friends house, Boia (as in beautiful boia we explained). He has been building his house since july and it is beautiful. The bay is described incorrectly as abandoned and I hope people pay it the respect it is due, not stealing the fruit using the houses etc. I worry that a lot of the other cruisers aren’t as bothered about details like that. Oh well, that as just the start of our worrying. Just behind Boia’s house was a beautiful pool, when I say beautiful I mean beyond anything imaginable, fresh water gurgling out of the side of the mountain, amazing plants and trees, incredible. We wandered through the village, a garden of Eden if there ever was one, lemons fallen all over the ground, the smell of ripe fruit everywhere, I will admit I did steal a lime (off the ground) and then we ended up back at Boia’s house where we were sent home with a bunch of bananas and 2 coconuts (which was all we would let him give us). Dinner that night was a delicious concoction of cashew and cranberry covered mahi mahi and a bottle of wine. Then the craziness began. Just after sunset Phil saw a fishing boat motoring around the bay, they came over to shoot the Sh*t with us, not really saying anything, then drifted off to the sound of their engine not starting, The unfortunate thing is that Phil called the whole thing before it had happened. Low and behold Clovis and David were back asking to tie on to us while they tried the motor and of course it wouldn’t start. At this point both phil and I were decidedly uncomfortable; who were these strange men come to our boat in the night? Why didn’t they go to the catamaran to ask for a cell phone (to call their mechanic friend) or ask for a lift to land where apparently they had a holiday house? You could tell they wanted to be invited into the boat and I was too worried so the poor guys slept outside, I didn’t feel that bad (okay I did) because they were planning on fishing at night, so how could they not have jackets, an anchor a cell phone and wouldn’t go to the other boat to ask for any of it…. But we did feel bad. Anyway, after a restless night of wondering if they were poor stranded men, or cannibals or robbers we woke up and they managed to get to shore to Boia and call for help. By 9 am they were off. Oh the sleepless night. Back to land we went. Another walk to the stone stages, another bathe in the pool, what heaven and another armload of fruits from Boia, this time limes, guava, a watermelon, mint and a huge handful of watercress picked from the side of the pool! Lunch was watercress, local tomato, cucumber, and guava salad with a lime vinaigrette! Eating local isn’t so much a choice here as just how things are.
It was time to move on, the rain set in and the cloud of murk and mud was moving towards the outside of the harbour. Almost ship shape, this time we lost a delicious bottle of juice that we had saved from Panama, what a mess! A lovely sail back to our Tahoata bay, no one there, although there were 8 yachts in the bay right next door, less likely to swim this time but we had a wonderful day just getting jobs done on the boat. The saddest thing that happened was one of the pillows I was sunning went overboard. Even though they are covered in mold it was still a loss. Doubt we’ll be able to get another new one until New Zealand. Good thing we have 2 left! We managed to get the rig tuned up, the ceilings scrubbed (stupid liner, I have to do each inch with a brush and really scrub), dishes caught up, and generally felt better about having the boat in shape. I managed to get a decent sunburn, the funniest thing is that I hadn’t spent any time outside; it was through the hatches and windows! Thank heavens for sunscreen.
4:30 am (instead of 3:15 am as was planned) phil and I had the anchor up and heading down the coast towards Fatu Hiva. A glorious beautiful upwind sail. Of course I managed to feel a bit seasick, but it was beautiful out there, wind in the hair, waves crashing over the deck. Our boat was once again so nearly shipshape, this time it was the kitchen table, whose screw we hadn’t tightened up enough that came crashing down on my knee, between this and the cut that is infected on my other knee getting around the boat has gotten a lot harder!
What a bay to arrive in, it was originally called Phallus bay and now the Bay of Virgins (renamed after the missionaries arrived)). Huge tiki shaped cliffs surrounding the bay, crowded but not as bad as atuona. Clear water, fresh air and the mountains… lots of boats we know, Bamboleiro came over for drinks last night, Katydid has anchored a distance away, Aelaris stopped for a quick chat. Nice to start seeing familiar faces. We haven’t made it to shore yet and we’ve been here 24 hours. Apparently there is lovely fresh water on shore so Phil and I have both splurged with a delicious shower indoors, I’m making lunch, clouds are coming and going, inverter from Goodrun is charging all of our stuff, cup of tea (with real milk) cooling down so I can drink it. Lovely. Well, I’m sure in the next day or two we will have lots more adventures and I will keep typing on this. What a lot for you to read!!!
This was it, the big passage, the scariest, most impressive 3000 miles I have ever travelled. How can I begin to explain the challenge of leaving, the fear of not having enough fuel, food and water and the realization that we had so much more than we needed it was ridiculous! Leaving Galapagos was hard, as it always is for me to leave a place I have come to love. The last few days we went to provision, unfortunately the supply ship hadn’t been in for a while, and the bakery with the delicious croissants was closed so we didn’t have any packaged bread, only 2 packs of crumbly tortillas and had to head to the market the morning we were leaving for our fresh fruits and vegetables. It was a fun shop, and ended with a fresh donut, the first I’ve had in ages, a most delicious treat.
We managed to get packed up by lunch time, Bamboleiro heading out about 30 minutes before we left. And with a grey cloud moving in we took the sail cover off, fired up the engine, had a lovely last visit from “happy guy” our favourite water taxi man who spent 5 minutes explaining lots of things in Spanish, asked if I had Facebook and sent us off with hugs and handshakes, a lovely send off. We cleared the harbour and but our sails up, the wind picked up and we were off, Bamboleiro in the distance and with that goal we hoisted first our little spinnaker and then our big one and set out to catch up. We sailed quite close and then we were off, into the sunset.
That first night the sun set around 6 pm, and with the setting sun, Phil went down for his first sleep of the night and I set out to do my first watch. 7-10 or 11 pm, then Phil was on until 3 am, and then I was up until he woke again usually between 7 and 10 am. The sun rose around 6 am and it was a beautiful day at sea. The first few days had a bit of wind, and so it took a while (but no medicine) for my stomach to settle in. We talked briefly about putting out the lines but really our fridge was so stuffed we focussed mostly on eating our way through our supplies. The first day and a bit we sailed through the Galapagos, looking at Isabella a huge mountainous island covered in rain clouds, followed by Galapagos petrels and boobies, even visited by a family of sea lions about 4 miles away from shore. The Galapagos petrels were beautiful, tiny little birds that would flit right over the waves. When it was calm they would dangle their long spindly legs down and wiggle their toes in the water (to attract fish?) it looked like they were dancing.
We lost sight of land by the third day and that was it, we were out in the pacific. The days drifted into a regular rhythm and within a few days the seas had calmed down enough that I felt pretty good and was actually managing to do things around the boat, cook lunch, do dishes, tidy up, just bits and pieces but more than I had managed on past passages. We had so much food we could barely see into the fridge and getting what you wanted out became a cross between a mission and a joke. Sunscreen every day and I still managed to get burned. Gave up on exercises the rolling was a trial enough. Our typical day felt like it started in the evening when we both had dinner, then we just rolled into the events of the day, setting sails, checking sail trim and making sure we didn’t run into anyone. Some boats didn’t use a watch system, terrifying because we knew they were out there somewhere and we managed to spot two large fishing boats that didn’t appear on our AIS about 1100 miles away from Galapagos and 1800 to go to Marquesas, literally in the middle of nowhere. We were often surrounded by mother carey’s chickens otherwise known as Galapagos storm petrels, really cool little birds that would dangle their feet in the water so they looked like they were dancing on it. We also took great pride in our boat pets, drosophila (fruit flies) that mainly lived in the bathroom and started to mutate (lots of albino ones) and our crab, which lives in the drain in the back of the cockpit, he has molted at least 2 times and I just saw him looking gloriously happy. He would always come out when we caught a fish to check out what was happening.
Our water maker didn’t work for the duration of the passage (we figure the airlocks in the system just weren’t budging) so we were on a pretty tight water restriction while still drinking absolutely as much as we wanted, we ended up using about 30 gallons over 22 days (not including the rain water I collected for “showering”). Pretty good, used it mostly for drinking, teeth and rinsing the glasses, for some reason salty plates and bowls weren’t so bad (because of washing them in salt water) but salty glasses were terrible). Of course our fresh water washes were a highlight of the trip, to feel less salty and sticky and sunscreening, and to finally get to wash my hair which was feeling way too long! Phil had the same problem, but in 25 kts of wind I managed to give him a haircut on the back of the boat! (only went too short once and it has mostly grown out now!).
The first few days were tough to get up to do my watch but as the days turned to weeks we stopped needing alarm clocks and started to just wake up after about 3 ½ hours. Of course some days were harder than others, on those whoevers was feeling stronger would manage to do a longer watch, much to the relief of the sleepy one.
This was such an incredibly different passage compared to the Caribbean, we only had a few waves that managed to slop into the boat (as opposed to the majority of waves finding a way of getting us wet) and the winds were more variable. The nice treat was the boat was way less salty than usual, although because we had the hatches closed it got really humid inside and the mold won more than one battle.
I wish we had been able to say (as some of the boats did) that we never turned on our engine. But, when it was too calm to move and the swell was slamming our boom (or just our sail) back and forth shuddering the whole rig we both decided that our incredibly expensive diesel from Galapagos was worth it (especially when we got to the Marquesas and realized that diesel is in such short supply that some boats were waiting at least 2 weeks before they could get enough fuel to move on, I’m glad that we actually manage to sail our sail boat!).
How did we pass the time? I had all of these visions of writing and drawing and reading. I did manage to do some of those things, and also to sleep, lots of sleeping. Watch at night was a cross between trying to do things by flashlight and managing to just watch the stars and the ocean, the fish jumping, the phosphorescence, the moon. The nights were magical and I wish I knew my constellations better. During the day our watch system was less set out, have breakfast, try to sleep (that was my hardest thing, trying to fall asleep after the sun came up for my second 4 hour sleep of the night I often didn’t manage which led to some very sleepy days). Then it was lunch time, do the dishes, sit, daydream, and maybe after we had eaten enough out of the fridge put the fishing line over.
We managed to catch 3 fish (and 1 that got away). The first was a small Dorado/mahi-mahi or dolphin fish whichever you like, DELICIOUS! We landed it at sunset and Phil decided he wanted second dinner at 9 pm, a ludicrously late time at night for some reason when you are at sea! It was the most delicious and freshest pan fried fish in the world. The second night we had fish sticks! A few days later we saw another sailboat on the horizon, Robin who had sailed directly from Panama to Marquesas; he was on day 40 of his passage (yikes) and told us about a radio net we could listen to with some good info on the latest formalities. We were contemplating making landfall at Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island which wasn’t exactly a port of entry. We decided that neither of us would be comfortable watching to make sure people didn’t ask for our papers so we ended up heading straight for Hiva Oa. BUT the point of this was for the next 3 days every time Phil hooked up the radio to listen to his net about 15 minutes in we would catch a fish. The first one was a seamonster that landed on our tiny spinning reel with the smallest lure available. Phil fought with it for a solid 15 minutes before it escaped; it was like a fishing show on tv! The next night we caught another fish on that reel. I only found out because as I went outside to chop vegetables for dinner I saw that all the line was gone and the reel was bending over. That time it was a skipjack tuna (for about 3 blissful seconds we thought it was a Bluefin, oh well! The sucker was about 25 lbs and after making dinner with him the first night Phil and I decided that from now on that kind of fish would be known as the chicken of the sea. The next afternoon I decided to try my luck one more time and this time I landed a 3 foot dorado!!! He was so big that we couldn’t even lay him out in our cockpit for filleting and had to do it in stages instead! Little did we know those two fish would feed us for the next 2 weeks (every night, day in day out over and over and over, how many ways to cook a fish!).
To make the most of the wind Racer Phil took advantage of all of the sails we had, changing them up and down and hoisting our spinnaker at regular intervals. We flew our big symmetrical spinnaker for over 48 hours and our smaller a sail for 56 hours, they both suffered a bit, our small asymmetrical spinnaker chafing through its stitching and tearing a bit (we have yet to fix it). It was so good to be flying along though, and at night, ghosting through the water with the spinnaker happily catching as much wind as it could.
As the trip drew to a close we seriously considered turning around for 100 Nm just to have another few days at sea. The lifestyle, the simplicity, the joy of seeing dolphins playing around the boat was incredible. I forgot to tell you about the dolphins, we were surrounded by 50 or more! Playing in the waves, playing with the boat, I didn’t hear them squeaking but the most incredible thing was watching a mother and a tiny copy, her baby mirroring each other exactly as they flew through the waves. It was a moment I will never forget.
Finally as we came in ever closer to land we started to see other boats, Mawari who we had crossed a few days earlier at sea complimenting us on our spinnaker flying, Vulcan Spirit, Calusa. We managed to go from a second place spot to a first place by manoeuvring and as we came through one of the showers to the sun rising, a rainbow and the green beyond green of the land. And that was it, the end of our passage and the beginning of the south pacific. That is all I can remember now, not bad for finally getting around to writing this nearly 2 weeks after the fact. Stay tuned, heading off to write about the Marquesas now!