Crossing The Pacific

Sunday 2nd March Day 1

IMG_0688Crossed the start line at 12.00 with full sail and genoa and against a forecast of no wind managed to make 8kts for the first 10 hours. The wind died away following a heavy shower and the clear sky gave a view of the galaxy that needed seeing to believe how many stars are out there. Also had a magical display of  phosphorescence in the boat wake. Early Monday a flurry of activity as one boat reported being harassed by a small boat, It turned out they were part of a fishing party deploying nets just outside the boundary of Galapagos National Park. One of boats managed to catch a net and had to dive to clear it, sustaining jelly fish stings in the process.

Our track is heading South-west to try to intercept some stronger winds around 8 degrees south.

24hr total shows 2780 miles to go.

Monday 3rd March

Same sailing pattern which seems to be taking a slightly higher line to take advantage of the wind during the day and heading a more southerly track when the wind drops off and we are forced to motor at night. On the wildlife list we saw a beautiful Tropic bird and a school of whales passed a few hundred metres from the boat. I also tried my hand at fishing, you should have seen the size of the one that got away.

Tuesday 4th March

Just plodding on with a s/w track with a F3-4 s/e breeze that gave us a constant 7-8kts boat speed. An unstable atmosphere gave us some light showers and a spectacular sunset. 2636 miles to go.

Wednesday 5th March

Another sunny day, wind up to a constant F4 which gives a boat speed on 9 – 10 its. Kaye spotted a pod of about 50 dolphins which cut across the back of the boat. A Nazca Booby has been shadowing the boat for a few hours, it seems to glide around and then dive for fish behind the boat. It certainly has far more success at fishing than me. I did get a bite but it got away which is probably just as well as when the lure was reeled in the barbed hook had been straightened. Visions of Jaws pulling the boat backwards came to mind.

One of the highlights of the day is the 11.00 SSB radio check in when each boat reports their position. Seems incredible that in three days the boats are separated by 150 miles. We seem to be near the front but with a lot of downwind sailing to come and no spinnaker we will be caught.

Another clear night sky and some beautiful shooting stars.

2455 miles to go. No engine needed for the last 2 days, (that will be the kiss of death).

Thursday 6th March

Somewhat relieved that the ship is not relying on my fishing skills to feed the crew, trolling lines increased to three. A good days sailing as the wind is up to F4 and with a long swell the boat makes 9+ knots. Winds backed and eased during the night so after chasing the sailing angle for a while we resorted to the engine and the rhumb line course. A very bright Venus in the night sky, the Pacific must be an astronomers delight.

2076 miles to go.

Friday 7th March

Making good speed towards Hiva Oa, winds S/E F3. The weather forecast comes in each day from the World Arc office and we supplement this by downloading Grib files which show the wind in 40km grid squares all over the world depicting wind direction and speed and are progressive in 6hr steps ahead. These can be used to plan ahead and yesterday showed the winds falling light behind us so it was vital to maintain boat speed and keep ahead of a developing low pressure. The reward was 20kt winds from S/E which allowed to rig a poled out genoa and achieve another day of nearly 200 miles towards our target.

1886 miles to go

Saturday 8th March

Another hot and humid day. I am in despair of catching a fish or even a bite!!, on the fishing front this boat really is “All the gear and no idea”

We are continuing a rhumb line course but a lot of the boats with big spinnakers are catching us and some of the smaller boats are now 300 miles behind. Great excitement as sunset approached and the boys on Brizo had the first bite of the day, with the genoa furled and the boat slowed we managed to reel in the lure from the other line. My evening watch was enjoyed watching the red planet rise and the transit of a very bright Southern Cross, all this while running down wind in 23kts and listening to Pirates of The Carribean on the i-pod, a perfect way to spend Saturday evening.

1704 miles to run

Sunday 9th March

Woke to another sunny day, we are on the north eastern side of a high pressure system and enjoying a favourable wind that is giving us a steady F5 from the port quarter. This wind direction will hopefully be with us all the way to Hiva Oa. Fishing line deployed but the fish will need to be acrobatic to catch our lines in this swell. Kaye is yet again in the horizontal position embalmed in factor 30. A flurry of activity as a Japanese fishing boat had been spotted with tuna nets and a quick fix on the chart plotter   showed they were to the north of our track but highlighted the need to be vigilant.

1513 miles to go

Monday 10th March

Wind has backed a bit more to the east so we are now gull winged with poled out genoa and jib which makes it a smoother point of sail. The long swell is still a bit choppy with a slight stream against us but will hopefully smooth out as we encounter a favourable current. Another gloriously warm, make that hot day means that we live in swim shorts, even at night the temperature rarely dips much.

Not really understanding this fishing lark, without trying I can walk around the deck in the morning and pick up 8 or 9 flying fish which seems an economical deployment of effort but we insist in throwing lots of expensive equipment in the water and wait for some fish to mug you for it. Current count is lures lost = 4, fish caught = 0

Tuesday 11th March

On a broad reach the quartering seas are very rolly, working below deck is a challenge, definitely a day for resting and not much else.

1317 miles to run

Wednesday 12th March

Broad reach and very lumpy seas but still able to maintain almost 200 miles a day. Closest shave with a flying fish to date as one came in to sit with us in the saloon through the open hatch, no such luck with the lines as another lure lost.

We were running close to one of the other ARC boats so able to chat on the VHF and he was telling us that he had passed a small ( 30ft ) sailboat on the same track from Galapagos. He had spoken with the lone sailor whose only technology on board was a VHF radio, he had so far been at sea 18 days and was expecting the journey to take another 2 weeks. He asked if he was still OK for food and water and offered to contact a relative by sat phone to let them know he was all right. The lone sailor accepted the contact offer and his sister was overjoyed to hear he was OK. A simple act of kindness that means so much.

The winds backed and dropped overnight so we are heading further south to keep a sailing angle.

1118 miles to run

Thursday 13th March

The log has just ticked over 2000 miles. As the winds are light we have taken the opportunity to rig the boat for downwind sailing again. Now on a dead run towards our target. Big problem on board this morning as the fridge is playing up and not keeping the beer cold, bit disappointed Stuart does not have a spare one on board, seems to have everything else in triplicate.

936 miles to run

Friday 14th March

The trade winds continue to dominate, generally from an E/SE direction. Highlight of the day is the morning radio net when all the boats give their position, there is much calculating of distances gained and lost against other boats, we keep reminding ourselves we are not in competition but two boats on the same stretch of water equals a race. Fishing certainly has not improved, the score now is fish 0, lures lost 6, even more galling when one of the boats landed a 100lb Blue Marlin. I must be the worst fisherman of all time.

762 miles to run

Saturday 15th March

Overnight the winds were gusty and variable so with a couple of sail plan changes the crew were a bit lethargic on Saturday morning.

An early morning rain shower just to add interest, it is torrential for a minute or two and as quick as it comes it is gone, the winds fall very light behind the shower and the sails flog as the boat rolls and then surfs in the 4m swell, at least we are going in the same direction. Winds have settled to an easterly F4. A fast days sailing and just and we just managed to barbecue the steak for tea before another squall and reefed sails for the night shift ahead.

582 miles to run

Sunday 16th March

Some heavy squalls before the cloud cleared to reveal a very bright full moon. The moon light enhanced the silhouette of the swell as the boat surfed and rolled. With Kaye we did the 3am to 6am watch and with a reefed main and poled out genoa we found a perfect sailing angle for once and enjoyed 3hrs of watching our SOG and VMG exceed 9 kts.  More squalls and rainbows on Sunday morning as a weather trough passes,  the wind backed to the north east. The other breaking news in more ways than one is that the Laurel and Hardy of ocean fishing caught a fish, a Blue Marlin of about 30lb took the bait of a very attractive rubber squid. We managed to bring the Marlin alongside for the obligatory photograph before the line snapped. I was secretly pleased that the beautiful creature escaped.

Kaye is getting worried, I am showing compassion as well as wearing pink tee shirts !!

394 miles to run.

Monday 17th March

Starting to think about arriving at Hiva Oa which could be Tuesday evening.  An E/SE airflow with 20kt winds is giving us a quick sail to our waypoint to the east of Hiva Oa. Cruising at 9.5kts SOG and a loud crack as the genoa tears apart. After furling the broken sail replaced it with a poled out jib to continue our sprint, well dawdle to the line. The 11.00 Radio net shows the last boat is 1000 miles behind.

194 miles to run

Tuesday 18th March

DSC_0028Final day at sea making slow progress but made the finish line at 15.57 having covered 3145 miles in 16 days and what a stunning anchorage. The mountain slopes and trees all around are green, the top of the mountain is covered in cloud and the palm lined beach gives a true feeling of French Polynesia, I can see why Gaugin chose it as home. Went out for a celebratory beer or three.