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!