Saturday, May 15, 2010

Crossing to the Marquesas

Crossing to the Marguesas

Submitted by Bill

Our passage was uneventful, which is the way we like it, though both Kathy and I were a little uncomfortable from the heat and motion for much of the trip.

We were joined for the passage by Steve Froebe, one of my former co-workers from Avtech. As with everyone who comes to visit, Steve also lugged a large bag of boat supplies down for us. We departed La Cruz Marina at 8:30 pm on Friday, April 9th after our last dinner ashore. By the time we took off, the afternoon sea breeze had died and we motored for about 5 hours before there was enough wind to sail.

Our first night out of Puerto Vallarta we saw seven freighters. The next day, we saw one more and passed close to a fishing boat. On the 14th we saw another boat that we knew was nearby from listening to the position reports on the Pacific Puddle Jump marine radio net. On the 16th we saw the lights of a fishing boat way off in the distance. We didn't see another boat (or even a contrail) for two weeks until just before we arrived in Atuona. After the first few days, it starts to dawn on you that the Pacific Ocean is REALLY BIG and it just seems to get bigger and bigger every day.

By the Friday we left, the weather forecasts had changed and it was looking like we would have good wind for the first few days. By the evening on April 12th we had pulled off a 178 mile day. The next day we were joined by a large pod of dolphins. We would continue to see dolphins on the crossing, but only every few days.

On April 21st, we arrived at the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) at about 5 degrees N. We motored along for about 19 hours in total before coming out the other side. It was very hot and humid crossing the ITCZ, with frequent squalls in and on both sides. Fortunately, none of these squalls packed much wind, though there was plenty of rain.

On April 24th, we crossed the equator at about 0430 at 129d 42m west longitude.

On April 25th we made our best 24 hour run of 197.6 NM. I was really hoping that we'd get to 200, but didn't quite make it. We'd been on a pace to make landfall on April 28th, but the wind started tapering off.

On the evening of April 28th we spotted Hiva Oa and Motane Islands off in the distance. What a glorious site to finally see land. I speculated that we would have trouble moving about on an unmoving level surface while standing in a strange upright position with nothing to hang onto or lean against. By this time we were all greatly looking forward to some time on terra firma. As we approached the island, you could smell the earth and the vegetation. Some have said that land can really stink after weeks at sea, but this island was sweet smelling to me.

We arrived in Atuona on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands on the morning of April 29. We motored in the last 10 miles or so as the wind had died to almost nothing. By the time I got ashore and made the 45 minute walk to town, the gendarmarie was closed for the day (at 11:00 am!?), so we were stuck on the boat for an extra day. We finally got checked in the next day. Our passage was relatively fast. In total, it took 19 days and 16.5 hours. To us, it seemed like forever, but we really can't complain after talking to the couple on Lilith that took 55 days from Costa Rica!

Crewman Steve was a joy to have aboard, always pitched in, and never seemed to have a bad day or even a bad moment. He left the boat a few days after we arrived and headed back to his family and work in Seattle. His presence will be missed.

Casualties

We had a few things go wrong with the boat, but nothing that couldn't be easily dealt with:

Before we even got out of Banderas Bay, we took a splash in the galley port. The igniter for the stove subsequently quit working.

We flew the spinnaker for half a day before we discovered a large tear in it, so down it came. I hope to patch it up before we start the passage to the Tuamotus.

By the ITCZ our brand new main halyard was showing a lot of chafe right above the shackle and I reluctantly cut off the splice I had just done right before we left. We tied it to the shackle with a bowline and it seemed to hold up after that.

The autopilot quit working somewhere after the ITCZ, but we didn't really need it with the wind vane. In Atuona, I discovered that the vent fitting for the second fuel tank (which had been professionally installed in Seattle last summer) was not properly sealed, and saltwater was leaking right onto the brain box for the autopilot. Somehow, after a few days to dry out, the autopilot started working again though I should probably try to clean out the salt. The leak has been fixed.

Sea Flyer

On the Pacific Puddle Jump radio net, we've been monitoring the progress of the boat "Sea Flyer" making the crossing who has had nothing but trouble. First, he had three lower shrouds and a chain plate fail (these hold up the mast). He was able to put together a jury rig to keep the mast from coming down. He then got going under power only to have the engine overheat and ended up having to swim under the boat to clean mussels out of the raw water intake. He rendezvoused with a freighter to take on extra fuel. It turned out the fuel was bad and had to change his fuel filters four times, before he gave up on the fuel. He then took a fuel drop from another freighter. He has since managed to repair his rig so that he can sail again, but the repair isn't nearly as strong as the original shrouds should have been. Like I said, our passage was uneventful!

KATHI:
The passage was really fatiguing, from heat, constant and irregular motion, interrupted sleep, and just the effort required to move anywhere on the boat. Sometimes, I felt best at the wheel in a stiff breeze in a driving rainstorm... really! Otherwise, sometimes, there just didn't seem any point to getting out of bed, at least it was dry. Conditions that are fun sailing for a few days or hours, just lose their appeal after a while.

Steve was super crew to have with us. He sure made things better for sure. What a great guy!

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