Archive for 'Galapagos to French Polynesia'

Lat: 9 28.973′ S
Lon: 137 26.799′ W

94 miles to go…

We are almost there. It’s almost hard to imagine being on land at this point, but we spend a lot of time trying. We will undoubtedly be thrilled to glimpse the volcanic island of Hiva Oa emerging from the sea, and we are curious as to who will be on watch at the time to make the announcement. After clearing in with the local gendarme, the fun will begin! Needless to say, we can’t wait to take in some sights, sounds, smells, and tastes other than those that we have grown accustomed to over the last three weeks. We are especially excited to try to communicate with the Marquesans, sample the local cuisine (especially the fresh produce), and have a COLD drink.

It has been slightly more challenging over the last few days to come up with unique activities, foods, and topics of conversation, but we are getting it done. We had a really good time the other night playing Taboo, and I think I will break out the playing cards tonight. Also, Tiff and I have been using her power-conserving computer to watch movies at night on our respective watches, which we then discuss the next morning. In terms of foods, I dug out a box of chocolates that we’d been carrying around since the states, making for a surprise treat. Also, Tiff popped some popcorn yesterday which I have a feeling will become a common boat snack.

Today’s highlight (thus far) has been documenting the gradual removal of Dallas’ facial hair. Those of you who know him will be surprised to learn that he has managed to grow a fairly full (minus the patchy spots) beard over the last few weeks, and we have the pictures to prove it! In fact, we have pictures at various stages of the removal process including the goatee and, my personal favorite, the mustache. With any luck we’ll be able to post the pics online from the Marquesas.

The sailing has been consistent since our last blog except that we put the spinnaker back up early this morning when the wind died. Today the wind clocked around to the north. This is very uncommon in this area according to the pilot charts, but I would guess that the odds are pretty good that one will experience more statistically uncommon events during three weeks at sea.

I just did the weekly check of the water tanks. The method is simple. It’s a long shoe string with a clevis pin on the end that is dropped down into the tank until it hits bottom. It is not so scientific in that we have yet to mark the levels on the string that correspond to specific measurements, but it allows us to estimate water consumption and determine if we should be concerned. I was surprised at the result of today’s check. It looks as though we only consumed about 10 gallons over the last week and have over 30 left in the tanks, not to mention the 12 or so gallons left in the jerry jugs. We were joking that we should just skip the Marquesas and head on to Tahiti…you should have seen the look on Tiffany’s face! Just for her, I guess we will go ahead and stop. At our current speed, we should be there sometime tomorrow afternoon!

Lat: 8 10.203′ S
Lon: 131 10.317′ W

475 miles to go…

The days are definitely blending together now. Some days the wind is a little stronger or the seas bigger, but it’s generally more of the same every day. It’s hard to remember whether something happened yesterday or a few days ago. The one change over the last few nights is that the moon is now full, which makes an incredible difference at sea in terms of the ambient light. It seems as though you can see for miles with just the moonlight. When we left the Galapagos there was a waning moon, but I was glad to notice that we should have a good amount of moonlight when we approach the Marquesas. We’ve been running with just the jib most of the time and making close to 6 knots. Sail and autopilot adjustments are generally twice a day at the most and today we didn’t need to adjust either.

We decided on a traditional 4th of July celebration, at least as traditional as you can come up with on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Lauren made bread and we fried hot dogs & potatoes, using the bread like buns, with ketchup, pickle relish, onion, & mustard. After eating, we were ready for “fireworks”. We pulled out some extra, expired flares and each had a go with the 12-gauge flare revolver that has a break-open breech like a shotgun. Only one of the expired flares was a dud. Lauren and Tiffany then tried a couple of expired handheld flares, which are like big, red, 3-minute sparklers.

The boat has been pretty quiet the last few days as everyone has their nose in a book. We thought we had a lot of books when we left, but if anything I wish we’d picked up some more good non-fiction. There was an incredible used book store in Jacksonville near our sailmaker, West Marine, and the Yanmar distributor. The maze of bookshelves from floor to ceiling was so big that Lauren actually got lost in it, and we’ve enjoyed the results of our visits there. Almost all the yacht clubs, marinas, or boating places where sailors stop have a book exchange where sailors leave books they’ve finished and are free to pick up the books left by others, but so far we haven’t been that impressed with the selection. I’m not sure we’re going to find very many good exchanges in the Pacific. Maybe we can trade with other boats if we start to run out of good material. Luckily that shouldn’t be anytime soon, as I still have at least a several thousand pages worth on my to-read list on-board.

If the things we’ve heard about the South Pacific islands turn out to be true, it’s sort of fitting that the distance to get here is so great. It certainly contributes to the cost and difficultly of reaching the them, which can be the only thing responsible for them still retaining the character they’re reputed to have. The time spent on the passage also does a good job of distancing you from the hustle and bustle of the US and Panama and readying you for a new experience and culture.

Lat: 7 02.818′ S
Lon: 124 11.592′ W

896 miles to go…

That’s the question I’ve been asking the last couple of days. It’s hard to imagine we’re only 2/3 of the way there. Two weeks at sea is a long time and we still have another week to go. It’s hard to imagine the early explorers spending months at sea and years of no communication with home.

Last night the wind really started blowing and the seas built up to a pretty good size, so we dropped the spinnaker and went with the jib. Our average speed was down to 5-6 kts, but that’s better than surfing down big waves at 10+ kts with the full spinnaker set. From the sound of the wind generator, I’d guess we’re getting 25+ consistently, which is fairly strong for the trades. We’ve been in and out of small rain showers since yesterday afternoon as well. The rain is light and short, and the small squalls look much more ominous on the skyline than they actually are when you pass under one.

Because of the motion, especially in these heavier seas, we spend a lot of time laying down in our bunk or on the salon settees. Standing requires constantly moving your weight and using a hand to hold onto something, and we’re on a catamaran. I can’t imagine the rolling motion in a monohull. Our arms are starting to feel a little atrophied (odd-feeling soreness at times), so we’re going to start exercising more. No, we’re not getting scurvy. We have a good diet and we take multi-vitamins as well when we’re on long passages.

Speaking of our good diet, the night before last we had some incredible burritos. After living in southern California, Lauren and I have come to appreciate the art of the burrito as it is practiced there in the small Mexican taco stands and restaurants. The burritos we had the other night could definitely stand up to them. They featured refried black beans, the rest of the Cheez Whiz, onions, homemade flour tortillas (getting better every time), rice, tomatillo salsa, and mung bean sprouts. Jose on S/V Stravaig had given Lauren some mung beans to use for sprouts so we can have some fresh roughage at sea, and they were great. Believe it or not, we haven’t had the same lunch or dinner twice since we left the Galapagos. That’s some impressive galley work. If only I did as well keeping the halyards up. (I’m almost done with my rope-wire splice that I’m hoping will keep the main up from the Marquesas to Tahiti where I can do something a little more permanent.)

I’ve been trying to spend a little more time on deck. After all, you don’t want to show up after a 3 week South Pacific voyage looking pasty from laying inside and reading all day. Yesterday the schools of flying fish were especially thick. They are scared up by the boat (even more so when we’re going fast like we have been lately) and fly out of the water on each side of the boat and away from it. At times yesterday, there were so many breaking out of the water in flight, wings flapping, that it looked like a shotgun had been fired into the water beside the boat. Some schools must have had 50-100 fish in the air at the same time. This morning, just after dawn, a pod of a dozen or so dolphins came to swim in the bow for a while. They’re the first we’ve seen since leaving the Galapagos and were definitely a welcome sight as they swam back and forth in front of the boat’s path. I went to watch them from the bow, and they’re definitely a happy contrast to the big swells rolling down on us. There were times you could look into the side of the wave and see two or three of them seeming to surf down the wavefront, but just under the water instead of on top.

We shared an exciting but somewhat embarrassing event with the rest of the civilized world last night — we listened to some NEWS on the BBC (Williams sisters in the finals at Wimbledon, Obama & Putin, shuffling troops in Iraq, Burmese Nobel laureate/dissident/prisoner, etc.)! The exciting part was hearing the news, which we really enjoy. The embarrassing part was that with two electrical engineers on board, we still haven’t rigged a decent antenna. We have a couple of portable shortwave radios, but we can’t pick up much with the built-in antennas. Of course we’d thought of this and bought a $100 SSB antenna and wired the feed into the salon, but it’s performance was mediocre to start with and now seems to be no better than the built-in antennas. We’ve known since before we left that we could build a simple wire antenna that would probably do just fine, but hadn’t given it a shot. Yesterday I used some wires with banana clips to clip the radio antenna to the mast, and wow! We could pick up all kinds of stuff much, much better. It seems like no matter where we’ve been we can pick up Radio China and the Voice of Russia in English. Although it’s great to hear English and fun to listen to, their news is shall we say “from a different perspective”? There’s plenty of it, but not much in the way of multi-sided discussion or analysis. As bad as our news is at times, it’s definitely better than state-censored propaganda. With China’s media freedoms inching forward at an almost imperceptible pace and Russia’s in full retreat, it will be interesting to compare them as we travel.

Today I started work on a crude antenna to add the “modernity” of news and music via the ether to the boat. We’ve pulled in stations from all over the world, including an afternoon discussion on Botox from New Zealand, conspiracy theorist talk radio from the States, the BBC, Radio Havana, and of course the ubiquitous Radio China.

Cheez Whiz

Lat: 6 09.850′ S
Lon: 119 27.072′ W

1184 miles to go…

First, we’ll have the sailing summary for the last couple of days. One slow-moderate day with the jib and one moderate-fast day with the spinnaker. The winds have been a little in and out in terms of strength, but the seas have really been up the last couple of days. We’re glad to be going with them.

Things have gotten a little slow when the highlights of your day are what I’m actually going to mention in this paragraph. First, Lauren and I saw an orange buoy or large fender yesterday that had apparently been lost by someone. It was the first sign of human existence we’ve seen since the Galapagos and if we didn’t have the spinnaker up in some good sized swells, I think we might have gone to have a look at it (that’s the highlight from yesterday). Today’s first notable event was a bug sprayer shower, which was much appreciated. Finally, and the most exciting of all: Cheez Whiz! I’m not sure what’s in “cheese food” (maybe some sort of artificially-flavored plastic with a low melting point), but when Lauren finished cleaning out the fridge, she found a partial jar that was first purchased and opened in Ft. Pierce. In another fortuitous twist of fate, we had also found a partial bag of nacho chips and we still happen to have some jalapenos. You guessed it — ballpark-style nachos with melted cheese food and jalapenos. Wow. Not what I thought I’d be writing out here, but it was good.

We’ve been enjoying reading Earl Hinz’s cruising guide for Oceania and thinking about our route after Hiva Oa. The challenge is going to be to take advantage of the few months we have left this season to cross the 2nd half of the Pacific, see some of the sights, and still manage to spend enough time off the beaten path to become at least a little bit familiar with some of the amazing people and cultures friends have told us about.

I also wanted to note that in June we covered almost exactly 10% of the earth’s longitude and still managed 10 days in the Galapagos. Not a bad month.


Lat: 5 34.729′ S
Lon: 114 41.751′ W

1469 miles to go..

Today we reached the halfway point of our passage to the Marquesas. It’s a little anti-climactic; we’ve settled into a routine, the sailing is great, the weather is nice, and the miles keep going by. We’re running on just the spinnaker now and are making our best time ever. The current is definitely helping us, as we’re averaging well over 6 kts. In fact, our average over the last 24 hours is more like 7+. Last night the trades picked up and we were really flying, surfing down the following seas and averaging 8 knots or more. Even with bigger seas, it’s more peaceful today but we’re still in the 7 knot range. Over the last couple of days the wind has moved more to the ESE and freshened a bit — pretty consistent with the June pilot chart for the South Pacific.

Today we may try an experiment with making a podcast. We made up some questions for each other and we’re going to try to record the “interviews/podcast” and post it on the website when we get to the Marquesas. It will give those of you who haven’t met us a chance to hear what we sound like and maybe give some additional perspective that doesn’t make it into the blog.

After several skirmishes, this morning marked the beginning of all-out hostilities between the Pura Vida crew and the fruit flies. We seemed to have picked them up in the Galapagos and they had started attempts to colonize the galley, which of course we are engaged in resisting. There were many rounds of hand-to-wing combat this morning, and although the flies win the majority of battles, we have noticed their numbers dwindling, while we still have our full compliment of 8 hands at the ready.

This afternoon we had an interesting bird sighting. Birds had become less frequent over the last few days, but I saw a couple small ones mid-morning, and a few minutes later, I saw a flock of over 100 birds flying together, gradually moving northeast while apparently diving for fish.

Just before sunset, the wind had really piped up again, probably around 20 knots consistent, with gusts to 25 or more and the seas had built as well. With the spinnaker up, we were typically doing more than 9 knots, with periods above 10 knots. As cool at that is, it’s a pretty lively ride and puts a lot of strain on the boat. The last couple of nights the wind has picked up at night, so to make sure everyone gets some good sleep, we doused the spinnaker and went with just the jib, which still had us moving along at over 6 knots. Dropping the spinnaker went reasonably smoothly, and last time we dropped it Tiff and I did it by ourselves with no problems. We’re finally getting better at it! Lauren gets the credit for dropping the spinnaker at a great time.