Oyster 56; Amanzi; Santa Cruz, Galapagos – Hiva OA, Marquesas, March 2023

Wednesday, March 1st, position 01:28.049S 090:56.735W

At 1 pm we slipped the lines for the longest passage of the whole trip. Over 3000Nm to Hiva-Oa, Marquesas Islands. There was the finish line and we have to clear through customs.

We left with a friendly wind. That was nice as the forecast wasn’t that good, little to no wind until we got south enough to pick up trade winds.

It was an impressive sight. 25 boats setting of, heading for the Marquesas. Everyone was also ready and eager to get out to sea again. And it was super that we could leave under sail.

Spinnakers were hoisted all around us. Marc had meanwhile notified the rally committee that we’d also gonna to use our Gennaker. That resulted in a significantly less favorable rating but oh well, we had had our line honors.

What Marc hadn’t thought of was to get the gennaker out of the sail locker before leaving. That was a pity because when we decided to set the gennaker, it took an hour to dig it up from down under the sail locker. Then the sheets also had to come out from down under the lazaret somewhere.

Anyway after more than 1.5 hours the gennaker was up and running super. Over 7kts on an almost flat ocean.

I had the first  and last watch from 7-10 pm and from 4-7 am. However, around 8 pm I had to call Marc to drop the gennaker. The wind had dropped considerably. At first we tried to motor-sail with the mainsail amidships but half an hour later that too was just flapping so we dropped the mainsail also. Too bad.

However, we did have a nice start under sail and a nice sail in the afternoon as well.

Friday, March 3rd, position 05:01.795S 94:34.274W

In the afternoon I went to sleep for a while. When I woke up around 4pm, we actually had some wind again. Mainsail hoisted and both headsails unfurled and when we changed course a bit we were able to kill the engine. We were sailing again! we weren’t going very fast, 4.5-5 kts but we made the same speed  as we did running the engine. It was just beautiful calm, an almost flat ocean, only the sound of the water and all the squalls we could nicely avoid

It didn’t last very long, the wind dropped to almost zip and we had to start the engine again. Still it was a beautiful and serene sight, a mirror-flat ocean making the horizon almost invisible. the night too was amazing, so many stars. Unfortunately, without a tripod you can’t really take good pictures and a tripod on a moving boat doesn’t really work.

Sunday, March 5th, position 06:64.287S 017:15.964W

The past two days have been a continuous alternation between motoring and sailing. Every time we had a little bit off wind we furled out the genoa and tried to sail as long as possible. Sometimes that lasted only 30 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours. Then the wind died again and we’d be back to motoring.

The weather was also mostly rainy. So far, we managed to avoid the really heavy showers. Last night, however, it rained (drizzled) all the time. I am very happy with my Musto BR2 shorts, at least then my underwear stays dry.

Now, however, we seem to be getting clear of the ITCZ. The weather has cleared and from early this morning around 04:00 we have been sailing continuously. The wind is fairly steady, around 15kts and we are now averaging 6kts SOG.

The wind instrument showed some glitches yesterday. Regularly we had no direction and then the wind strength dropped out as well but it seems to be doing normal again now.

The first reefline broke. Not a big deal but inconvenient. Fortunately, the line is still in the boom and we can easily put a new line through.

The starlink still works. Which is quite surprising. According to what we’ve been told, it was supposed to provide service up to 300Nm offshore but we are now 450Nm on the way.

Anyway, things are looking a bit brighter with a mostly blue sky and sailing is going very well. Just one more degree south and then we hopefully can sail due west riding the trade winds.

Tuesday, March 7th, position 09:11.530S 102:33.241W

When I updated the log early this morning at the end of my watch, we had sailed exactly 800Nm. Not too bad, but less than what Marc counted on. I think we are not going to meet his ETA of March 19th.

I don’t care much. It has been a wonderful trip so far. We had to motor a couple of times when the wind died. On the other hand, we also had times of fantastic sailing. Usually on a beam reach. We’re steering somewhat south of the rhumb line to avoid some large lulls that showed on the weather forecast. At a beam reach the gennaker worked really great.

For some reason, sailing on the Pacific feels different from sailing on the Atlantic. No idea why. obviously we sail on a different tack but I don’t think that’s really it. The wind is much less steady than on the Atlantic, so we sometimes have to change sail plan during the day. I think the big difference is because of the  calmness of the water. The ocean seems way flatter. It’s just a different vibe.

The nights are just beautiful. We had a few cloudy nights as well as some rain. So far we have been able to avoid the real squalls quite well. The squalls are mainly heavy showers. No heavy gusts or anything so far.

During the day, it is mostly light to partly clouded. we don’t mind because now we’re at a latitude where the sun is directly overhead.

Despite the two lines we set, we haven’t been able to catch any fish yet. Today, we did have one good bite but the hook apparently didn’t catch because very soon it was loose and gone.

Yesterday evening, just after dinner, we were visited by a couple of pilot whales. I had never seen those before. At first we thought they were dolphins but they were impressively big for a dolphin. However, because of the blunt head and their dorsal fin, I knew they were pilot whales. By the way, when I looked that up later, it turned out that they are a dolphin species and not a whale species. Oh well, what’s in the name. Anyway, it was a nice end to the day.

Thursday, March 9th, position 10:27.790S 107:07.097W

For the past few days we have been able to sail all the time. The only noise comes from the generator we use to charge the batteries, especially at night. During the day, the solar panels keeps it up, incl the starlink.

The wind varies between 10-25 kts. from the south-east-ish. it’s an estimate because since a few days the windex no longer works. Initially, we still had apparent wind but that too died later.

Oh well, we still have a windex on the mast. That is a bit of a nuisance, especially during the day when the sun is high. Around noon, it is now right above us. If the boat wouldn’t be rolling, the mast wouldn’t give any shade.

At night, the windex is easier to see because of the reflection of the tricolor.

We’re sailing a beam to broad reach. On that course, we have now had all kind of sail plans. Gennaker, genoa, genoa on the boom twin headsails. The mainsail with 1st, 2nd, 3rd or no reef.

Sometimes, changing sails is quite a job. Especially the 2nd genoa. That is the old genoa, very big and weighing around 50kg.

When we got up the 2nd genoa, something went wrong. we got a false loop in the halyard and the feeder of the electric winch at the got bent and broke the self-tailing part. Apparently there was too much force and the breaker/overload protection didn’t trip. When we took the winch apart, the damage was even worse. The thread of the cap on the core rod of the winch had broken off. That’s not just a part, it’s the body of the winch. Without the self-tailing, we still can use the winch but it might not be easy to get new parts.

Eventually we got to sail with double headsails and a 3rd reefed mainsail so as not to cover the genoa too much. We also set the staysail amidships as a damper against rolling.

In itself a fine sail plan and we also made a nice speed but the damping effect of the staysail was limited. The 2nd genoa also turned out to be too heavy for these light winds and was flapping most of the time. So in the end we decided to drop it.

The rest of the day we flew just the mainsail and genoa and steered a more beam reach course. At the end of the day, we went into the night with the same sail plan as we started in the morning.

Monday, March 13th, position 12:13.996S 115:25.040W

Early yesterday morning we hit the halfway mark. Too early to celebrate but very much in time to put the champagne on ice.

The past few days we’ve been sailing very nicely. We weren’t going super fast but very steady. With around 10-15 kts of wind we did 6-7 kts SOG on average. A very friendly breeze and a calm swell. We now leave the gennaker up at night and it is going very well.

Very nice days, beautiful sunrises, sunsets, wonderful nights with beautiful starry skies, some high clouds during the day, not too hot and hardly any rain. In short, a fantastic trip so far.

Fish we just haven’t caught yet. Well,… you can’t have everything.

The weather forecast for the next few days is basically the same. The wind should veer a little more to the NE. That’s when we’ll point more north. We are now steering about 10-15 degrees to much south but if the wind veers as predicted we will make up for it.

I think the 19 days Marc had estimated for the whole trip was a little too optimistic. It’ll be more like three weeks. But hey, on a trip like this…. that’s just great!

The starlink is still working. Video calling is a bit hard and occasionally a normal call drop too, but WA is fine and I can also update my website very well. I am a little behind but today I almost made it to Shelter Bay. A few more days and I’ll be pretty much up to date again. Videos I still need to add from St Lucia onwards… That’ll be a job for later I’m afraid. I’m running out of disk space on my phone as well as on my laptop.

Monday, March 13th, 5:05hr, position 12:06.410S 117:14.638W

Three hours ago we received a mayday. Raindancer, a yacht also heading to the Marquesas had collided with a (dead?) whale and sunk. Luckily non of the crew was hurt and they all managed to get in the liferaft safely. Along with 5 other yachts that were close by’, we immediately changed course and we’re now all sailing directly towards the last known location. Fur us that’s about 65Nm north of us. In order to sail as fast as possible, we got the gennaker back up and now we’re doing 8kts SOG.  The whole rescue operation is being coordinated by a tanker.

Just after 22:00hr we got word that Rolling Stones another yacht that was a little closer by had located the liferaft and had taken the crew on board, safe and sound.

We and the other yachts that had changed course are free to resume our original course and continue our way.

Well, that was some action! Super also that so many boats responded immediately. Anyway, that’s what you do when you receive a mayday call.

Finding a liferaft in the middle of the Pacific in pitch dark is not that easy. That’s why you all change course and keep searching until they’ve actually been picked up safe and sound. Anyway, except for the loss of the yacht, this time all well ends well fortunately.

Read the full story: 4 people on sunken boat Sv Raindancer in pacific safely aboard SV Rolling Stone after 10 hrs in a lifeboat.

Wednesday, March 15th, position 12:33.707S 120:26.039W

Catching up on sleep worked out fine for me yesterday. I laid down for an hour after lunch and didn’t wake up until a quarter past 5.

I would do the 01-04 watch, so I could’ve go back to bed two hrs. later, but Marc suggested that we could swap watches. Haha yes, I can understand that. The 01-04 watch is perhaps the most tedious but the best in terms of sleeping. Since Marc also had a short night when we had the mayday call, I agreed.

When I handed over the helm to Clare at 22:00 and updated the log I saw that we had reached the 2000Nm mark. According to the plotter still 1160Nm to go. So today we’ll also reach the 2/3 milestone. A double celebration that we can also enjoy even an hour longer because we are now over 120 degrees west so the clock can go back one hour.

A day of milestones so to speak. Let’s hope for one more milestone: catching our first fish. Since that small barracuda just when we were gybing off Aruba, we have caught zero fish. That’s a bit disappointing, the more because of all the pictures we get from other boats….

Thursday, March 16th, position 11:52.269S 122:39.955W

We met all the milestones except catching a fish unfortunately. I guess must be doing something wrong, I just have no idea what.

When I woke up we again gybed. Sailing directly to Hiva Oa is a bit tricky. It is dead downwind and with the light winds we have, the sails are constantly flapping. We therefore sail a more broad reach course. The course we steered so far has been about 30 degrees too much off the rhumb line and last night even 40 degrees. On the other tack we should be able to sail a more direct course.

That turned out to be only partly true. The wind dropped some more and as a result the sails started flapping again. By steering a little more upwind, generating a little bit more apparent wind we got some more pressure in the sails but at the same time obviously our VMG dropped accordingly.

Well, it is what it is, the trip will take a day or so longer but that is by no means a punishment. It is wonderful to sail here.

I am very sorry that Marc and especially Clare cannot enjoy this trip in this way.

Friday, March 17th, position 11:42.872S 125:04.607W

Yesterday morning we gybed again. The wind dropped even more and also changed a bit so that we had to point north more and more to keep some speed in the boat. Our VMG dropped to only 3kts as a result.

After the gybe that got a lot better. The wind also picked up a bit and veered also a bit. We still couldn’t steer directly to Hiva Ao. But at least we are heading in a better  direction with a VMG of 5-6 kts.

On the Atlantic we could sail wing on wing dead down wind. Then we had an average of 20kts of wind. Here on the Pacific we have winds averaging 10-12kts. That is just too little to keep the mainsail full when we are sailing that deep. It flaps with just about every wave. Irritating and also bad for the (new!) sails. With the gennaker instead of the genoa on a slightly more broad course we’re doing fine.

Meanwhile, we are counting down the days. It seems to be going faster now for some reason. We’ve only just had the day with all the milestones (except the fish), and now it’s suddenly “only” 800 more miles to go. That’s however, as the crow flies, we’re still not pointing directly toward Hiva Oa, so it will more like 1000Nm still to go. I wonder how many miles we’ll have finally sailed when we get there.

The weather continues to be beautiful. The nights in particular are very nice. Every night we can enjoy a sky that is also literally brilliant. Especially with the waning moon rising later and later. It is also nice to see how the stars move. Marc and I alternate the sunset/sunrise watch and the dog watch and then the different positions are easy to see. Clare every night does the watch from 22:00-01:00. She sleeps much better on a regular rhythm.

Sometimes it is a little more cloudy. During the day that’s very nice. Otherwise it gets very hot very quickly. At night the clouds can look very threatening. Even the white clouds seem very dark then. Every now and then I check the radar to see if there’s no real squall forming. So far it has not been too bad. We’ve only seen squalls a few times this entire trip and fortunately we haven’t been hit by any.

Saturday, March 18th, position 12:19.869S 127:30.857W

We are sailing steadily to Hiva OA. DTW is now 690Nm, another 5 days or so to my estimation.

Yesterday we received a 2nd mayday over the app. Ebo, aboard at Cepa previously requested medication to lower his blood pressure. It was way too high and in consultation with his cardiologist it was decided that he had to take medication to get it down. He was offered various medications from different boats. One of the people aboard Lover of the light is a pharmacist and happened to be closest to Cepa. With the medication, things seemed under control again. However, it was imperative that Ebo be taken to a hospital as soon as possible for further examination.

Cepa therefore also decided to rev up the engine but by no means had enough diesel for the over 1000Nm they still had to go. That resulted in a diesel action as we had organized earlier on the Atlantic when Take Off lost her mast.

The organization of the diesel action was still in full swing when word came that Ebo had had a stroke. The situation became precarious.

It was decided that Paladin, a 120-ft motor yacht, which was already en route to give diesel, take Ebo aboard and then course for Tahiti asap. A doctor aboard one of the other ARC boats would also transfer to Paladin and accompany Ebo. Possibly Ebo would be disembarked by helicopter later when they were within helicopter range.

In the meantime, it is another beautiful night with an even more beautiful starry sky than last night. The squall that I saw on the radar passed just in front of us. I hope that the thundercloud for Ebo would similarly blow over and that these beautiful stars are a good sign.

Sunday March 19th, position 11:52.713S 130:15.496W 

Yesterday we gybed again and we are now pointing a more northerly course again.

According to the forecast, there is a big lull east of the Marquesas and we want to stay away from that.

What’s also helpful was that towards the end of my watch the wind picked up a bit. That had happened before but this time it felt different. I even thought about dropping the gennaker. I was worried the gennaker might not hold. It is a bit older and it would be a shame if we were to lose it. We don’t have a spare one.

I know, when I’m thinking about doing something, I actually have to do it. So I woke up Marc and he totally agreed. Taking it down was a smooth operation. It was really dark but with the spreader lights we had enough light. We weren’t doing it for the first time either.

To maintain the speed we poled out  the genoa instead. With this sail plan we can also sail a bit more down wind and thus a more direct course. The only downside to this is that it is quite rolling now.

Today is Yentl’s birthday, my bonus daughter. She is turning 16. Even though we knew all along that I wouldn’t be home, it made me feel a bit sad. She has been living with me for 11 years now. And of course a 16th birthday is something special. I was able to score a pair of handmade silver earrings in Panama City. I’ll have a nice present when I get home in May.

Tuesday March 21st, position 09:58.216S 135:39.940W

In the mean time we’re already motoring for a day and a half.

Last night, at the end of my watch I had to steer quite south to keep a bit of pressure in the gennaker. That’s a sail that cannot withstand flapping very well. All it takes is one serious lash and it’s torn.

Our VMG also dropped to less than 3kts. Namely Clare wasn’t happy about that at all. She’s done with this crossing.

Well, to each his own I guess. For me it feels a little sad that it’s almost over.  A fantastic trip is coming to an end. I don’t really care about the duration.  Whether it takes 2, 4 or 6 weeks to me is irrelevant. I enjoy every day and the specialness of every night. With a few exceptions, all nights were clear with the most beautiful starry skies.

The wind did not pick up again all day and at the end of the day there was no wind at all.

When we crossed the 135th degree of longitude we set the clock back again. This time not an hour but an hour and a half for some reason.

You would think every 15 degrees is an hour because 360/15 = 24 and in 24 hours the earth does one full rotation. 135/15 = 9 so we are 9 hours behind UTC and not 9 1/2 hours. But then again, this was also invented at some point. Anyway, the ocean doesn’t care.

We now have about 120Nm still to go. Doing 6kts VMG, we’ll get there in just 20 more hours.

Wednesday March 22nd, position 09:51.970S 138:10.994W

13:30 land in sight. This is really the end of the journey. Fortunately, we can  sail again. The wind has picked up just enough to set the mainsail and the gennaker. We now sailing as fast as when we were doing on engine.

The bay we are heading for is still over 50Nm, ETA is now about 11:00

At about 3 o’clock I went to bed for a nap. Not long after I woke up because Marc had decided to drop gennaker after all. The wind had dropped again and the VMG was no more than 3kts. Motor sailing with the mainsail wasn’t possible either, so unfortunately the last bit we had to motor again.

We crossed the finish line at 11:09 am and not much later we dropped anchor at Taha Uku in the Baie d’Atuona. According to yellow brick we had covered 3216 Nm. The longest trip I have ever made and what a trip it was, in one word: fantastic!!