31 March 2010

Day 85: Hiva Oa to Tahuata, Marquesas – 31/03/10

We are up quite early as there is a water tank to be filled and a bit of tidying to be done.  Paul from WCC is joining us for a few days as he has some time off and wants to explore some of the islands.  He calls us from the quay and Mike goes to pick him up, armed with all the water bottles and jerry cans so that we can immediately put him to work filling them.

When they return, Paul empties all the containers into the tank which actually fills it and they return to the quay once more to refill them so that we have spare water to empty into the tank as we use it.  Once all that is stored away into one of the spare cabins, Paul and I set about scrubbing the cockpit using the salt water pump – I cannot believe how filthy it is, but Paul is an excellent and strong scrubber and makes quick work of it.  In the meantime, Mike has been on the computer and has heard some good news from the manufacturer of the pump.  They think it is just some seals which have gone and these are available as spares.  We now need to get them send to someone either in the US or UK who is coming out in the near future.

We set off around noon, heading for the nearby island of Tahuata, literally 10 miles away.  Mike normally doesn’t bother getting the sails out for such a short distance but the wind is quite strong and he fancies a proper sail, so we give Paul a quick lesson on which bit of rope does what and up they go.  It’s a brisk sail over and with winds of up to 30 knots which allows us to sail at 8.5 knots and arrive in just over an hour.

IMGP2678 IMGP2679 IMGP2685 Photos:  A lovely new anchorage

The anchorage is beautiful with crystal clear water and a strong breeze, unlike the anchorage we were in at Hiva Oa.  There are twelve WARC boats including us anchored here, almost half the fleet.  I cook us some lunch, having an argument with the pressure cooker in the process.  The little pressure knob refuses to pop up and lock into position, thus creating the correct pressure to cook, until Mike, in his usual ‘Mr Fixit’ manner, taps it with an empty beer bottle and up it pops.  It about 3.30 by the time we eat!

Some of the crew from Ronja arrive to tell us that they are trying to get everybody together for a beach party in the evening, so we decide to have an afternoon nap (any excuse) beforehand.

While we are napping, Paul goes into the water and starts scrubbing one of the hulls.  I wake up just before 6 pm needing a cup of tea.  Mike shows no sign of moving so I get up and put the kettle on.  The sun just disappears over the horizon and I miss the famous green flash which for once is not hidden by clouds.  As we lunched so late, I just fry some plantains for Mike and Paul to eat with honey and I have a banana.

Mike is concerned about beaching the dinghy at night as the lifting mechanism on the outboard regularly plays up, which is not so dangerous during the day, but a bit dangerous at night – we can’t afford to be without a dinghy, so we decide not to go to the beach after all.  This suits me as I am a bit of a wimp as far as beaches at night as that’s when all the nasty bitey things come and get you, or get me at least.

However, when John and Graham arrive in their dinghy to pick Paul up, they tell me that there were no bitey things last night (so that’s my concern dealt with) and that they will give us a lift in their dinghy (so that’s Mike’s concern dealt with).  We get changed, grab a bottle of wine and hop in with them.

The moon is just coming up when we arrive, and a large wave helpfully pushes the dinghy up the beach a bit.  We walk along the pristine white sand and I suddenly scream and jump into the air as I see what I think are rats running down the beach to the water.  They actually turn out to be very large crabs, scuttling out of their holes and running across the sand.  Coming in the opposite direction are huge hermit crabs, as large as my fist, and desperately looking like they need to find bigger shells to live in.  Mike picks one up and he throws out all his legs in order to try and grab Mike’s fingers but he is put back on the sand before he is successful.

P1040806 Photo:  Huge hermit crabs lumbering up the beach

We reach the roaring fire, and to be fair, there are no bitey things, possibly because the fire is keeping them away.  There are about 18 of us round the fire, and the lads keep it going constantly by bringing dead palm branches over. 

P1040799 Photo:  Keeping the campfire going

Sitting on pieces of driftwood, we sing to accompany Patrick from Ronja on his ukulele, Mike and I swigging Sauvignon Blanc from a bottle – very civilized.

P1040789P1040790 Photos:  Mike and I sharing MY bottle

Suddenly there is a commotion.  One of the other lads has been trying to hack into coconuts with a machete and chops his finger off, right at the base.  The poor lad.  He is immediately taken off the beach to one of the other boats where among the crew are a nurse and doctor who manage to stop the bleeding then Paul helps sail him back to Hiva Oa where there is an infirmary.  How things can change in an instant.  The party breaks up soon after that, and we all go back to our respective boats, a sad end to a lovely evening.

Thanks to Bev for the photos.  I forgot to take my camera.

30 March 2010

Day 84: Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 30/03/10

Firstly, thank you to all of you who have been commenting on the blog over the last months.  I do appreciate the comments.  I started writing it for my friends and family so that they knew where we were and that we were OK, but never dreamed that anyone else would be interested in reading it and that it would end up reaching such a wide audience.  My apologies to people who commented on the blog while we were on passage from the Galapagos.  I published the comments when we arrived, but the internet seems to have eaten them!  I have no idea what went wrong.  Although I still have the comments as e-mails, the system won’t let me publish them again as it says they have already been published.  Bloody computers!

After the lovely day yesterday, today is one of bloody hard work.  I have three weeks’ washing to do (OK none of my clothes but lots of bedding, towels and Mike’s t-shirts) and sod all water to do it in.

Mike needs to get fuel for the boat, and since there is no fuel dock, this has to be done with diesel cans.  First though, we have to empty some into the tanks.  Since we know that the stuff we bought in the Galapagos is dirty fuel (discovered at the cost of another boat’s experience) we need to filter it and we don’t have a fuel filter.  I make do by cutting up my wire sieve and putting layers of the metal mesh into the bottom of the funnel (which luckily is flat) and covering it with a J-cloth.  It works sufficiently well and anyway, Mike doesn’t tip the diesel cans right up so all the crap stays in the bottom.  What is left at the end is a thick, grey-brown sludge.  Disgusting, and of course it means that we have lost some of the fuel.  Tipping all the crud into one can, he goes off and fills the other four.

JB comes over from Eowyn for a chat as they are leaving this morning.  We’ve been trying to get together for a few days now but there has been too much to do.  While he is with us, we make use of his muscle power by getting the stern anchor up.  Mike has been worrying about doing this as his hands are playing up a bit (the arthritis) and my back is a bit twitchy today and I don’t want to aggravate it.  Anyway, they get it up and onto the back step, but it is a struggle.  I think, when we have some time, that we will have to take some of the chain off – it’s just too heavy.  They celebrate their success with a couple of beers.

I start the washing machine off.  To save water, I do the second load in the water I saved from the first load, a bit gross I know, but as they say, needs must.  While the machine is going, we tie all the water bottles together, put them in the dinghy and go over to the quay to fill them  Luckily there is a hose available this morning and filling them is quite quick.  Lugging them back into the dinghy and out again at the other end is a pain, and pouring them into the tank doesn’t do much for my back.  I decide that for this load, I might as well just tip some of them straight into the washing machine – leaving out the middle man so to speak!  Four washing loads later (and using a lot less water to rinse so everything will probably feel horrid but at least, clean) the washing is done but it has taken nearly five hours to do.  I even use the rinsing water to try to wash down the decks which slows the whole process down.

All the time the washer is going, I have to keep an eye on the inverter as we don’t want to use the generator if we don’t have to.  At least with the sun out strongly today, we generate lots of power with the solar panels.

Mike, in the meantime, tries to fathom out what is going wrong with the water maker.  He takes the pump off and when he turns the shaft he can see that the pistons go up and down so he knows it is fundamentally OK.  Maybe it’s just some valves sticking.  He needs to get details from the manufacturer (whose on-line sales blurb doesn’t even mention our model!), so it’s better news (possibly) but not good news.

We go back to shore as the sun starts to go down, to fill the water bottles again.  With each trip we make, we can collect 105 litres.  Our tank holds 530 litres. 

IMGP2670 Photo:  With an arm full of water bottles, and a backdrop of laundry, off we go re-filling!

So that we don’t waste the water we have just collected, we decide to shower under the public tap on the quay.  Now this is something I have never done (St Barts doesn’t count as I only washed my hair).  Standing in a bikini in a semi public place and actually showering is not my idea of fun.  There is no hot water and fluffy towel waiting for me as I stand there in my deck shoes feeling silly.  Anyway, the water does it’s job and we both drip back to the dinghy and take our load of water back to Jeannius, in the knowledge that at least two more trips are required tomorrow.  Fun!

29 March 2010

Day 83: Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 29/03/10

We have a car organised for today so that we can do some exploring.  Although it is waiting for us from 8.30 am we do not end up getting ashore until two hours later as we are waiting for a supply of water cans to be loaned to us by another boat so that we can fill up with water – Mike isn’t hopeful about repairing it tomorrow.

We strike lucky with the car, getting a much bigger one with air conditioning than we have paid for as they didn’t have a smaller one.  First we head off into Atuona to go to the ATM but find it isn’t working.  We queue for ages for the one and only cashier, and as we begin to get near the front of the queue, he calls out to us that if we just want money on our cards there is another ATM at the post office.  How did he know we were tourists???  Anyway, we thank him and find the other one which thankfully is working and we get on our way.  We have a long drive ahead of us along the mountain trail to Puamau.

We head off up into the interior of the island and very quickly find out why nearly every car here is a 4X4.  The road climbs very steeply and we soon find ourselves on a ridge with spectacular views'.


IMGP2609 Photos:  Lush mountains and hills of Hiva Oa

The vegetation is lush and green with vertical peaks that rise suddenly out of nowhere.  There are palm trees, banana trees, beautiful flowering trees (I don’t know what they are but they are vibrant with colour: reds, oranges, yellows and white).  The road is surprisingly good too for the first part, then abruptly it changes and is a shingle strewn unpaved road, and only looks one car wide in lots of places.  Then suddenly it all changes.  We round a corner and are suddenly faced with a landscape that is all rocks and sheer cliffs (and sheer drops with not a barrier in sight but lots of rock falls).  Again we appreciate the 4x4!

IMGP2615 IMGP2618 IMGP2622 IMGP2623 IMGP2631 IMGP2632


Photos:  Barren views of Hiva Oa

IMGP2634 Photo:  An oasis between the peaks

IMGP2640 Photo:  Football pitch with a view

It really is an amazing place.  One minute lush, the next minute barren then a beautiful beach opens up in front of you round the next hairpin bend – and boy do I mean hairpin!  I am terrified that we will meet another car on one of these bends but amazingly we don’t.

IMGP2660 Photo:  Now that’s what I call a hairpin bend!

The beaches are all black sand on this island, and large granite-like pebbles, but they still have waving palm trees on them.  We apparently drive through villages called Hanaiapa, Hananpaaoa and Nahoe but they have no signs so it’s difficult to work out where we are.  The map is half a side of A4 for the whole island!) but somehow, eventually, we arrive at our destination (well we go past the village initially, only realising our mistake when the road ends in someone’s garden!). 

We have been recommended to have lunch with Antoinette, a lovely lady as it turns out, who, if she knows you are coming, cooks you a special Marquesian meal and you eat it in a shed in her garden.  That’s how it was described to us anyway, but it turns out that her pretty little shed can cater for about 20 people.  At 2200 CPF a head (about £18), and she is full today, not a bad little earner

IMGP2643 Photo:  Chez Antoinette

She beams all the time as she brings out bowl after bowl of freshly cooked dishes, seven in all, and fruit juice.  There’s wild pig stew (very tasty), goat cooked with vegetables (even better), rice, raw fish done in citrus (couldn’t cope with this one), a strange brown stuff that was gloopy and cooked in coconut milk (very strange consistency and I couldn’t understand whether this was to go with the mains or whether it was a pudding), fried breadfruit crisps (yummy) and some rather odd, squishy wet breads that were banana and apricot – I think.  There was piles of it.  Thankfully, the Swiss crew from Ariane, another WARC boat arrived at the same time as us and sat behind us – we gave what we left to them.  They turned down the fish too.

We were full when we left, very full.  We are given directions to one of the most important Marquesian archaeological sites – the Me’ae of Lipona – where the biggest ‘tiki’ are found.  This site is an ancient holy site where worship and sacrifices were performed.  The statues are huge and some of the biggest found, over 2.5 metres tall.  Apparently, originally, they had willies to match the size of the statues but the missionaries who arrived to reform the islanders, had them all hacked off.  Ouch!

IMGP2651 IMGP2652 IMGP2653 IMGP2657 IMGP2658 IMGP2659 Photos:  Archaeological site of the Me’ae at Lipona

The way back is just as hairy and again we are grateful not to meet more than a few cars.  Our last stop is the cemetery back at Atuona, to see the graves of Paul Gauguin (artist) and Jacques Brel (singer), both of whom lived and died on the island

IMGP2662 .IMGP2664 Photos:  Graves of Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin

We stop for some shopping on the way back to the boat and spend about £50 on nothing.  In one supermarket, the two tins of coconut milk and two (small) loaves of bread cost £8.  A five litre bottle of water costs about £3.50 here.  Madness.  At least I’ll lose weight here – I can’t afford to eat!

28 March 2010

Day 82: Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 28/03/10

I wake up with a hangover, annoyed with myself for mixing my drinks.  It was all Matt’s fault – just wait until I see him!  Mike has other things on his mind; the generator, water maker and stern anchor.

Jared offers to dive for our anchor again as he has to look for theirs too.  We are anchored next to them and the two boats are swinging around in different directions (and were all night) but luckily we are just far enough away for it not to be a problem.

Many of the boats have to move in the morning as a large supplies ship comes in to the anchorage.  At least this might mean that the supermarkets have more fresh goods tomorrow.  Watching this huge ship enter the narrow anchorage in between all the boats is quite entertaining.

I start to clean the inside of the boat as penance for having a hangover but there are lots of jobs I can’t do as I am loathe to waste water.  There are no facilities for filling the tank up with a hose – you have to do it with jerry cans from a tap on land and bring it back to the boat in the dinghy.  We watch the kids from Ronja do this time and time again.  Where are you Victoria?  This is why one has children!

Mike starts to dismantle the generator cover but then stops as he knows he doesn’t have time to do a proper job today.

In the afternoon, diving for his own anchor, Jared finds ours.  Hurray!  Now all we have to do is reattach the line to the chain and we discover that this is easier said than done.  Tom helps Mike heave a load of the chain into the dinghy so that he can put the shackle on then realises that he has no wire to attach to prevent the screw coming undone again (which is obviously what happened last time) so he comes back to the boat, and this time I am dragged out to help pull some of the chain up again and hold it in place while Mike puts the wire on.  It is bloody heavy.  Neither of us know how we are going to get all the chain up again when we leave.  Still, we are secure for now, no longer swinging around at anchor, and will worry about that when we come to it.

When we get back to the boat I have a good look at the hulls and steps.  The hulls are plastered with tiny, dead flying fish, fish scales and there is a growth of green algae around the stern at the water line and all over the steps.  Mike lifts the swim ladder and even finds three scuttling black crabs, obviously stowaways from the Galapagos.  I decide to do some scrubbing.  We tie the dinghy to the side of the boat and off I go.  However, it is now quite rough and the dinghy is constantly slapping against the side of the boat - I have to keep jerking my hand out to stop it being crushed.

IMGP2596 Photo:  Sprawled across the dinghy, scrubbing Jeannius

After half an hour of vigorous scrubbing and scraping, I have done a very good job ……. to about an eighth of the boat!  I am absolutely knackered.  Mike makes a cup of tea and I crawl out of the dinghy.  The rest can wait for a calmer day.

We comfort ourselves with curry and TV and tuck ourselves into bed early with ibuprofen.  I hope we are both OK tomorrow.

26 March 2010

Day 81: Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 27/03/10

We decide to go shopping as the fridge is bare and although we intend heading off really early, it’s well past 9 am and really hot by the time we start the 40 minute walk into the village.

It’s a lovely walk, although I could do without it being up hill for at least two thirds of it.  After 30 minutes we pass the point where Jeannius is anchored, just 200 yards away, having had to walk all the way round the bay.

IMGP2564Photo:  Jeannius at anchor at Hiva Oa

We arrive at the village a few minutes later.  It’s small, but as the saying goes, perfectly formed.  It is very clean, neat and tidy and the local style of building is generally very attractive.

IMGP2571 Photo:  The local tourist office

IMGP2572Photo:  The Paul Gauguin museum 

We walk into the grounds of the Paul Gauguin museum.  We have no intention of going in as I don’t like his art but the buildings are beautiful.

IMGP2578 IMGP2573 Photos:  Museum buildings

Gauguin lived in Hiva Oa until he died after having to leave France due to his liking for underage teenage girls.  Once in Hiva Oa he carried on in the same vein, constantly upsetting the clergy with his drinking and other unseemly behaviour.  He is buried in the cemetery here.

We walk past the war memorial, built to commemorate the two people from the islands who died in the two World Wars, one in each.  We discover a selection of shops selling a strange mixture of goods and they are all horrifically expensive.  We find an ATM and get some beautifully colourful money out – far too pretty to spend – so now we are solvent for a while.

We find the supermarkets (such as they are) and find a peculiar selection of food.  While you can get nice French cheeses, and fancy tinned goods like duck and pate, the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables is even worse than in the Galapagos, and everything is refrigerated.  We buy a small selection of goods which cost a fortune and leave.  Obviously it is going to be like this until we get to Tahiti, where you can buy anything …… but at a price.

Walking back down the road we spot Jared clambering into the back of a pickup truck and throw our shopping in and climb in with him.  Not something I would ever do in the UK, and not a whiff of a seatbelt.  Ho hum.

We put the water maker on and after it successfully produces 100 gallons of water, it stops, just like that, no warning, no strange noises or rumblings.  Mike goes to investigate and comes back looking worried as he thinks the pump now appears to be knackered.

A short while later he notices that the needles on the generator display are fluctuating wildly – this is not good.  He gets the manuals out and sits down for a read.  He checks all the usual things and nothing seems amiss and finally concludes that it must be the brushes (the things that transmit the electricity from the things that goes round in the generator) as these are supposed to be replaced after 3000 hours and ours has done just over 4000 hours.  They are cheap to replace – but are going to be difficult to get stuck here in the middle of a group of tiny islands.  The nearest place to fly them into is Tahiti, over 800 miles away, then a local flight here.  All this can be arranged by the agent who handled our immigration – again, at a price.

There’s a bit of excitement in the bay later as one of the boats drags it’s anchor and starts to head for another boat and the owners are not on board.  Ed from Skylark goes over to try to sort it but it is obvious he cannot do it alone so I volunteer Mike and go and drag him up from his afternoon nap – aren’t I generous.  I then sit in the shade of the cockpit and watch as another two people arrive to help.  In the end it is all sorted and the loose boat is successfully re-anchored.   The owners are ashore drinking champagne as it is one of their birthdays, quite content to let the others take over!

In the early evening we go over to Crazy Horse to join Rosemary, Bill and Matt for a drink along with the crews from Voyageur, Brown Eyed Girl, Ocean Jasper and Chessie.  It is a really good night, and after drinking a couple of nice glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, it suddenly seems a good idea to try some of the rum punch, lethal stuff as I found out later.

IMGP2589 Photo:  Jared and Bob keeping us entertained

We get back to the boat and Mike notices that Jeannius is swinging at a strange angle, which, given that we have a stern anchor out, should not be happening.  He gives the line a tug, the line which is attached to the anchor chain, and it comes up.  Not good.  It means the line and chain have parted company, so that’s another stern anchor at the bottom of the sea.  I go bed, moaning about the dammed floating money pit – again!

Day 80: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 26/03/10

After another unsuccessful night’s sleep (thank goodness it’s the last one) we finally cross the finish line at just gone 11 am and arrive into the bay at Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa.

IMGP2536 IMGP2537 IMGP2538 IMGP2539

Photos:  Land ho!  Arriving at Hiva Oa, the Marquesas

The anchorage is quite crowded with WARC boats already.  We are the seventeenth boat to cross the finish line and finding a spot to anchor is quite difficult.  Mike motors around the whole of the bay before heading to the outer end of it which is less crowded but more open and rolly.  At least on a cat you don’t heel over at anchor.  We decide to put out the stern anchor just in case as some of the boats are turning 360 degrees, and we don’t want our anchor to pull out.  The new stern anchor is smaller than the one we ‘lost’ in the Galapagos, but the chain that Rolando gave us us much heavier, and it takes the two of us to heave it from the bow locker to the back of the boat and into the dinghy.  At least when it’s down, we are secure.

We go ashore to complete the customs and immigration formalities and it looks like being a ‘near death by dinghy’ experience, but Paul is there to grab my hand as I alight.  We are each presented with a beautiful, scented garland of flowers by one of the local ladies.  How lovely.  I feel like getting onto my knees and kissing the ground.  How wonderful that it doesn’t move!  Mind you, after 19 days at sea, I feel a bit wobbly.

IMGP2545 IMGP2547 Photos:  Adorned by sweet smelling garlands, we have arrived!

The formalities are handled by an agent and he makes a potentially messy and time consuming job a painless one.   After that, we have our orientation and tourist information given to us by Paul.  While we are listening, Marie treats me to a chilled coconut water which is simply delicious.

Back on the boat, Mike catches up on some sleep, and I lie next to him and wriggle, unable to do the same.  We go back on shore in the late afternoon for a fruit tasting session and a demonstration of local singing and dancing.  I loved this.  The Polynesian style is very much like the New Zealand Maories, but without the sticky out tongue business.

IMGP2555IMGP2557 Photos:  Traditional singing and dancing

Mike and I manage to escape the part where they drag the tourists out to join them – we suffered that embarrassment in Panama, thank you!

We arrange to go out to dinner with Susan and David, but once we are back on the boat for a shower, all the energy just leaves us and we long for an early night.  I think it’s better to give up one evening of socialising and get over the passage, so that’s what we do.


Our position is:  09 deg 48 min S, 139 deg 02 min W

Distance so far:  5569  nautical miles

25 March 2010

Day 79: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas - 25/03/10

So today is the last full day of our Pacific crossing.  I have to say that it has been different to what I expected, not better or worse, just definitely different.

I was worried that I would be bored, and there have been whole tracts of time where I have been immeasurably bored but this has actually been acceptable, much to my surprise.

I expected to feel sea sick, and I have done but to a much lesser degree than I was worried about.  I certainly didn’t expect to have so many minor ailments and suspect that these, to a degree, were symptomatic of me stressing about the crossing.  I certainly hadn’t really given any thought about how constantly interrupted sleep would make me feel.  I knew I would be tired, but the exhaustion on some days was something else.

The weather has not been what I expected.  It has certainly been a lot less humid, (until the last couple of days – it is now exceptionally hot and humid) which was very welcome, although I was surprised by the number of grey days, especially in the first half of the journey.  The seas have been far more uncomfortable and rolly, and both Mike and I have found this extremely tiring.

I didn’t expect to have marine life forms strewn all over the boat.  Today I even found fish scales on the bimini (although no actual fish – it must have bounced off and landed elsewhere).  I didn’t expect the sightings of live marine life to stop so abruptly half way across, and am extremely relieved that we were not relying on catching fish on the way otherwise we would be extremely hungry by now.

Wearing clothes again will take a bit of getting used to though.  For 19 days I have gone without a stitch of clothing which has certainly minimized the washing pile down to just bed linen and towels.  The only time I put anything on was in the evenings when sitting watching TV with the air conditioning on.  When the temperature gets down to 75 degrees both Mike and I feel the cold!

I will certainly enjoy sharing a bed with Mike again, as for some reason, I have missed his snoring, and I’m sure he has missed mine (yeah, right!).  For the whole crossing we have seen surprisingly little of each other, as we slept at different times of the day and night.  Some days we felt like we were the proverbial ‘ships that passed in the night’.

I was extremely nervous of many things associated with the crossing.  Now that it is almost complete, I am sort of disappointed that we didn’t have any crises to deal with.  I had hoped that I would feel elated at having to deal with the raw elements, but the fact that we were given nothing to test us as such, means that feeling is somewhat reduced.  Still, I have done something which most people will never do, and Jeannius is one of only a handful of boats in the rally that is being crewed double handed, so maybe I should be proud of myself after all.  Maybe I am that Superwoman!!

And I have to say that Mike deserves a medal for being so sympathetic to my occasional bouts of feebleness and I deserve one for agreeing to live (for now) on a floating money pit!

At long last, when I head off to bed and ask the question that I have asked every day, “are we nearly there yet?” this time, when Mike says “yes”, I believe him.


Our position is:  09 deg 44 min S, 138 deg 11 min W

Distance so far:  5521  nautical miles

24 March 2010

Day 78: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas - 24/03/10

I am very pleased with myself on my second watch.  We have the two genoas goose-winged out and they start to flap around as the wind shifts.  Not wanting to wake Mike I make the decision to change course enough to make the sails fill again.  This is the first time I have ever made such a decision.  Normally I don’t interfere with the ‘raggy bits’ (as one charter guest referred to the sails last year).

Sleep, or rather lack of sleep, continues to be an issue today.  I don’t manage to get back to sleep after my two watches in the night, then when I try in the afternoon, I have just drifted off when Mike comes down and says he needs my help with the sails.  Naturally, when we have finished, I can’t get back again.  Bugger.  At least there are only two more nights of watches then I will be able to sleep uninterrupted all night.  I can’t wait.

I manage at last to talk to Victoria on the satellite phone.  She had a fabulous time in Abu Dhabi and I can’t wait to hear all about it when I last manage to get to land and to use Skype.  The lack of communication with the outside world is the one thing (apart from the sleeping business) which drives me crackers on a long passage.

We play cat and mouse with Ronja and Dreamcatcher all day.  We overtake them, then they overtake us.  All this ocean and there is a little gaggle of boats in a three mile radius.

There are a few squalls today, one of them with quite a lot of rain, but at least it gives the boat a bit of a wash down to remove some of the salt.  Apart from that, it’s a case of same old, same old.

At midnight there are just 189 miles left to Hiva Oa.  Nearly there.  Nearly there.


Our position is:  09 deg 35 min S, 135 deg 50 min W

Distance so far:  5374  nautical miles

23 March 2010

Day 77: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 23/03/10

I’m getting to the point here where there is really nothing to write about.  We eat, drink, sleep, read, watch TV and scan the horizon with breathless anticipation of seeing something other than nothing but, yet again, nothing is all we get. 

Having said that, I do see something in the water today – a huge, brown shape that comes to the surface about 200 yards away, then goes down before I can guess what it is.  After a while of scanning the surface of the sea for the chance of another glimpse, I begin to wonder if I am hallucinating.

Still, the wind and sea are being kind, too kind in fact, as our progress is painfully slow again.  I’m now beginning to wonder if we are even going to get there before Saturday.

Mike optimistically puts the fishing line out again.  We have run out of decent lures and he is now resorting to adding brightly coloured balloons to the lures in an attempt to attract the fish.  It doesn’t work. 

I cut my hair again (must feed the scissor addiction) then colour it.  Interestingly, the colour comes out completely differently from before even though I am using the same stuff.  Mike actually prefers it as it is a darker blonde.  I’m not bothered as I know the sun will bleach it out in a few weeks.


Our position is:  09 deg 25 min S, 133 deg 37 min W

Distance so far:  5271 nautical miles

22 March 2010

Day 76: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 22/03/10

Another lovely day.  OK, we don’t get very far, although we are able to go a little quicker than yesterday.  We are still only averaging just over 5 knots, nothing like the speed we had for the first ten days, but with the mega increase in comfort, we both figure it is better like this.

With the sea so calm, Mike dismantles the stern cabin bed where we have been sleeping to get at the water maker – although it is working, it is not producing as much water as it was and with all the gunk over the filter, he wants to clean it out anyway.  I clean the filter and it is better than it was but not as good as it should be.  Mike now thinks the pump may be on the way out.  Great.  There’s always something.

Mike fancies another cake as there are no ripe plantain for me to fry for his night time treat.  I make another ginger cake, but this time I use the breadmaker to mix and cook it, using the whole of the mixture instead of half of it.  It comes out like a brick, a tasty brick, but a brick none the less.  Next time, I will revert to the original plan.

While Mike is having his afternoon nap, I decide to have a glass of wine.  This is something I do not normally do on a passage, but it is a lovely treat, sitting in the cockpit, looking out over the sea as we gently trundle along.

Looking in the fridge is an ever increasingly sorrowful sight.  Apart from a couple of blocks of dubious, Ecuadorian cheese (one of which is so hard now that it cannot go off and, if it had any flavour, could be mistaken for parmesan), there is nothing fresh at all.  We still have lots of food – plenty of tins, packets and stuff in the freezer – so we won’t go hungry, but the recommended 5 a day went out of the hatches long ago.  What a pity wine doesn’t count.  Thank god for high fibre cereal!


Our position is:  09 deg 20min S, 131 deg 26 min W

Distance so far:  5154 nautical miles

21 March 2010

Day 75: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 21/02/10

I notice on my watch (and have noted this over the past couple of weeks or so) that there is very little phosphorescence in the water at night which could be the reason why we haven’t seen any whales for ages.  Also the absence of little squid is strange (but pleasing as I don’t like having to prise their squishy dead bodies off the deck).  Talking to other boats over the last few days, nobody has managed to catch any fish.  Like with us, they get on the lines but are too big to bring in.

It is a lovely night, a light cool (ish) breeze, and we trundle along at a gentle 5 knots.  The sea is calm and both Mike and I get a good amount of sleep between our respective watches.  Maybe watching ‘Dead Calm’ was not the best of ideas, but I keep a sharp lookout for large, sinking schooners and hitch hikers in dinghies but see neither.

I manage to sleep after my watch, and in fact don’t wake up until gone 9 am so it feels that I am finally catching up with my sleep.  Thank goodness.

Today there is absolutely nothing to see except sea, sky and a few fluffy clouds.  There are no other boats or wildlife of any kind.  I do the death patrol but nothing new has been flung onto the boat although I do at last manage to prise the last of the squid off the bimini – it is now cooked to a cinder, dark brown and solid as a rock.

Both Mike and I manage an afternoon nap, but, as we are both good boat watch people, not at the same time.  I have one of my pretty regular panics about what we are going to do at the end of the rally.  Mike is very good about these, dealing with my tearful episode with his usual calm and comforting manner.  It just feels so insecure, not having a future mapped out the way it always used to be.  I know that for some people (Mike included) that is a wonderful and liberating feeling, but to me it is just too much space to flounder around in, I still need my life boundaries and miss the comfort of familiarity and loved ones.  It’s difficult to explain, and might even be a case of the ‘grass being greener on the other side’.

IMGP2532 Photo:  Mike brings in the line – still no fish

Sitting with a cup of tea in the early evening and watching the sun go down, it’s difficult to imagine why I still yearn for parts of my old life, but I do.  But, like every other time I’ve felt like this, I get over it and sit back to watch the moon rise and the stars appear one by one and again, all is right with the world – until next time.

IMGP2529 Photo:  I get tea and sympathy, Mike gets tea and a sunset


Our position is:  09 deg 09 min S, 129 deg 24 min W

Distance so far:  5030 nautical miles

20 March 2010

Day 74: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 20/03/10

Getting through to the end of my second watch takes Herculean effort and in the final hour I resort to lying down on the sofa and putting the kitchen timer clock on for 15 minutes so that it can wake me up in case I fall asleep, which I do.  Luckily Mike wakes up a bit before the end of my watch and I escape to bed.

Again, I fail to fall asleep once I actually have the freedom to do so and after tea and breakfast, I resort again to drugging myself to sleep.  This time it works well, and Mike wakes me up to eat the lunch that I prepared last night and he has now cooked.

Having had a decent rest at last, I start to feel normal for the first time in days.  It is a lovely sunny day and the sea has rolling, well spaced waves that come directly from behind and gently push us along, which is just as well as the wind is also from behind but light, making our goose-winged genoas flap around quite a lot.  However, it is a smooth, comfortable sail and Mike goes down to sleep.

I do the death patrol again, but only find one little body, which is proof that the seas are so calm.

I take the cake batter out from the fridge and test it to see if it is OK.  By testing it, I mean, eat some of it (yes, I know, revolting habit but it really is very delicious).  I don’t eat very much but it seems to disappear rather suddenly and I realise that there isn’t much to put into the bread maker to make a cake with, so I decide to see what happens if I fry it.

This may sound weird, but it is batter, not unlike pancake batter (only I wouldn’t eat pancake batter – I do have standards) so I dollop small spoonfuls of it into a greased pan and they turn out beautifully.  Mike thinks so anyway, and stands and eats them as they come out of the pan.  In the end I have to refuse to give him any more otherwise he won’t have his treats for tonight’s watches.

We catch no fish.  They obviously are not tempted by our very tatty old lure, much preferring the brand spanking shiny new ones that are straight out of the packet.

I cuddle up to Mike in the cockpit in the early evening watching the sun go down, relieved that I feel normal again, for now.  He is probably far more relieved than me as I must have been a complete misery for the last few days.  Only four and a half days to go, by Mike’s calculations, which is a bit disappointing as I had worked out it was only three and a half, but we have slowed down a lot over the last couple of days, only averaging 6 knots an hour.


Our position is:  08 deg 49 min S, 127 deg 29 min W

Distance so far:  4927 nautical miles

19 March 2010

Day 73: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 19/03/10

I actually manage to go to sleep after my 12 to 4 am watch but unlike a normal person, I wake a few hours later, so still don’t manage to get my full quota.

We crossed another time zone yesterday and so are now eight hours behind UK time.  Getting the right time can be difficult and depends where you look to find it.  The weather reader time displays the local time, the chartplotter/radar displays Galapagos time (position reporting etc is always done by the time of the port you have just left) and our computers display UK time.  For someone who rarely knows what day of the week it is anymore, this can be very confusing.

As the sea is much calmer today both Mike and I do the death patrol, and thirty three little bodies go back into the sea, including three that I find in the cockpit itself.  How I managed not to step on one of these during the night is incredible.  I even find one tucked down behind one of the cockpit cushions by following its trail of discarded scales.  Gross.  At least we are only finding flying fish now, no squid any more which is much better.

While Mike takes a well earned rest in the afternoon I decide to bake a cake.  Mike has been whining for days now that he has no treats in the cupboard for his night watches – sweets, chocolate, crisps, that sort of thing – so I think a cake might do the trick.  Looking through my ‘Ship to Shore’ recipe book (ghastly thing which is full of nasty short cut recipes for the galley slaves of this world) I find a recipe for gingerbread which I can adapt, but what the hell is the Brer Rabbit Molasses it asks for?  I swap strange Ecuadorian salted butter for the stated shortening, fresh ginger for the powdered stuff, ignore the inclusion for cloves and use solid raw cane sugar mixed with hot water for the molasses so it ends up bearing little resemblance to the original recipe which normally suits me just fine.  On top of that I cannot bear to use our ‘warm or burn to a cinder’ oven to bake it so I split the mixture (which is delicious raw by the way) and put half in the bread maker and set it to bake only.  As the cycle only lasts ten minutes, I put it on three times.  And the result?  Delicious ginger cake.  Really.  We’ll cook the other half tomorrow.

Late in the afternoon we get another bite on the fishing line, and again it is something very big and again we end up losing the bloody line and the lure.  I don’t know why Mike persists in this.  The Pacific obviously only grows small flying fish or monsters of the deep.

I have two watches tonight, and in my exhausted state, I don’t know how I am going to get through them.  Mike offers to do two instead of one but that’s not fair so I turn him down.  Just before I am due to finish my first one, I get a call from Jan on Ronja asking me if I can see any more of the flashing yellow buoys that I have just passed.  What flashing yellow buoy?  Am I so tired that I can miss something like this?  I rush out and look all around me but still can’t see anything.  Although I don’t like to do it I wake Mike because now I am really worried, but he can’t see it either.  The upside of this is that it is now not worth him going back to bed so I get to go off watch ten minutes early.


Our position is:  08 deg 26 min S, 124 deg 54 min W

Distance so far:  4773 nautical miles

18 March 2010

Day 72: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 18/03/10

What a ghastly day.  Actually, as far as the weather is concerned, it turns out to be one of the nicest for ages;  clear blue skies and a few white fluffy clouds – the seas is decidedly lively but what’s new?  No, it’s not the weather, it’s lack of sleep.

When Mike gets up at the end of my watch, I go down to catch up on my sleep but it doesn’t come, and I lie there for four hours, wriggling and getting increasingly frustrated.  On top of that the large dose of ibuprofen that I took for the headache has set my stomach pains off again, although it does cure the headache.  I need my sleep and I just don’t cope well without it.  By lunchtime I have gone 36 hours with only 3 hours of sleep.  As I lie in tears of mounting frustration, I begin to understand how sleep deprivation can be used as torture.  I keep apologising to Mike about being weak and pathetic and he is very patient with me.

Eventually I give in and take a tablet to knock me out, although this only lasts a few hours.  Of course, the real down side of me being in bed all day means that poor Mike has to cope alone and he is the one with the double watch tonight.

While I am asleep, Ronja sails close by.  Again all that ocean and here we are, separated by just 50 yards!

IMGP2520 Photo:  Ronja sailing on our port side

Are we nearly there yet?  Not quite.  Just under another 1000 miles to go (5 or 6 days) and it can’t come soon enough.


Our position is:  08 deg 01 min S, 122 deg 25 min W

Distance so far:  4620 nautical miles

17 March 2010

Day 71: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 17/03/10

At least it’s brighter when I wake up although the sea is even livelier than yesterday.

Not much to report today.  Same old sky, same old sea, same nothing to look at, no birds, fish, dolphins or whales, just some flying fish although I am surprised that there are any left in the ocean given the number the have littered about the boat.  The sea has been too rough to risk losing life or limb just to jettison their little bodies overboard.

I look in the fridge at lunchtime and it’s a sobering sight.  We have virtually no fresh food left.  The quality was so poor in the Galapagos that I had to freeze a lot of it because it would have gone off, so we have plenty of actual food, but nothing fresh except some potatoes, onions and tomatoes.  However, mixed in a fry up with chorizo and garlic, this turns into quite a good meal, which is just as well as we will be having this for lunch tomorrow as well.

Today is one of those days when I want to scream “stop the boat, I want to get off!”.  The constant motion, although not making me sea sick, is really getting on my nerves.  You can’t take more than two steps without lurching violently to one side or the other.  Everything has to be done almost one handed, the other clutching at something to stop you crashing into something else.  Cooking is decidedly un-ladylike.  OK, naked except for my M & S apron, I may look like some sort of nautical sex goddess (no full length mirrors on the boat help this self-delusion), but standing braced up against the cooker, one knee and foot jammed up against the galley side in front of me, and the other foot jammed sideways against the other side behind me, it somewhat detracts from the image even in my delusional state!  I do not know how I still have all my fingers intact as chopping food is decidedly hazardous.  When I shower, a resounding thud from the bathroom is usually followed by a scream of “will you keep f***ing STILL”.  Jeannius ignores me.  After all, it’s not her fault.

Aboard Noeluna, it is Ferdinand’s 13th birthday and over the VHF we all sing happy birthday in our various languages.  The poor lad not only has to suffer the singing of four crews in total, but he has the dubious pleasure of listening to me sing (Mike just stands there grinning).  This is not something I would normally inflict on someone so young and impressionable.  I hope he has earplugs to hand.

We get a call from Joe on Brown Eyed Girl to say that Judith has managed to order my camera and is actually arriving into Hiva Oa on 7 April rather than the end of April in Tahiti.  Double hurray!!

The inverter trips itself off in the early evening and Mike goes down into his black hole to flip the switch.  With his bright torch he is also able to see the problem with the watermaker ie why it is running so slowly.  One of the metal mesh filters is entirely clogged with the same thick, brown, fishy oil that the hulls and anchor chain are covered in – courtesy of the bay at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz.  I know what I’ll be scrubbing tomorrow!


Our position is:  07 deg 34 min S, 119 deg 32 min W

Distance so far:  4444 nautical miles

16 March 2010

Day 70: Galapagos to Hiva Oa, Marquesas – 16/03/10

More grey – I can’t believe this!  The sea is still heaving too.  Where are the lovely blue skies and calm seas that I was promised as part of my Pacific crossing?

I look out of the window at the foot of my bed and see two tiny flying fish plastered to it, their transparent wings fanned out.  They are less than one inch long and there are probably hundreds of them stuck to the whole of the outside of the boat.

I try to sleep to catch up on what I missed in the night but I think I fail.  This may seem like a strange thing to say, after all, surely I should know whether I have slept or not, but I feel so unrested afterwards that I’m really not sure.  I don’t know whether we are just not getting enough deep sleep, or whether our sleeping pattern (or the crashing of the boat) means that we are constantly woken when we are in a deep sleep.  Either way, the watches are taking their toll, on me more than Mike because I have always needed more sleep than him.

For the first time we sail within a few metres of another boat, Noeluna.  I call Matthieu on the VHF although we are almost close enough to shout to them.  It’s lovely to have something to photograph as we have seen nothing but sea, sky, clouds, flying fish (ones that are actually flying and the stiff, dead ones littering the decks) and sunsets for days.  I take quite a lot of footage of Noeluna skating over the waves as she comes from our starboard side and across in front of us, and Matthieu does the same for Jeannius.  The realisation that he has his camera trained on us sends me scuttling below to put on some knickers and a sarong (the first clothes I have worn since we left the Galapagos) then our paths separate and they go to our port side and move further away again.

IMGP2503 Photo:  Noeluna passes close by

IMGP2511 Photo:  Noeluna looking like she is about to be swamped by waves

We now have three ripened plantains which I chop up and fry.  We eat them with Ecuadorian cheese and honey.  Delicious.  Unfortunately I cook a bit too much again (I think I am still cooking for Jim as well) but we still eat it all.  I must do something about my portion control otherwise we will end up with as much blubber as those sea lions we saw in the Galapagos.

IMGP2518 Photo:  Fried plantains, cheese and honey – yummy!

The wind is mainly around 20 knots today so our speed averages around 8.5 knots as we skip across the waves.  Walking around the boat is decidedly dodgy as you are sent lurching in all directions every time you have the stupidity to leave either a bed or a seat, but if you are seated in a good vantage point, especially at the wheel, it is a lovely roller coaster ride.  When the huge waves come from behind you (the best ones are from behind) you are lifted up high onto the crest, where you literally hover for a second, speed rapidly reducing, before you skate down the other side.  In sea conditions like we have now, the waves are coming from a more diagonal direction.  This means you get the same lift and pause, but as you come down, the wave pushes the stern of the boat violently to the side and you go into a type of skid, like a car on ice.  If it’s rhythmic, it’s wonderful; if it’s choppy (ie the waves are goo short), it makes you feel sick.

Mike sleeps in the afternoon as he has the two watches tonight.  He is more successful than me.  I go back down when he comes up (ships that pass in the night) and as I am lying there he calls me as we have a bite on the line.  The line screams out despite his attempts to put the clutch on, but by the time he gets into his harness to reel it in, the line goes slack, and guess what, we have lost another line and lure.  What is out there?


Our position is:  06 deg 52 min S, 116 deg 42 min W

Distance so far:  4260 nautical miles