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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Day 16 to the Marquisas
06/23/2008, South Pacific

Day 15 (24 hour day) wrapped up at noon with a meager 135 miles made good. It may have been a fair bit more over ground but we were 20 degrees off our mark jibing back and forth losing around a half knot of way in the VMG. The day was nice but with a nasty chop making it tough to walk around the boat and relax. The chop faded over the day though and by midnight we were sailing in very calm conditions. We actually ran wing and wing for several hours, making 6 knots of way with 8 knots of wind in the cockpit. As boat speed dropped to around 3 knots and the wind began to come from everywhere and nowhere the starboard aux cam up and we switched into trawler mode again.

We're running the motor at about 1,700 rpm which is peak torque. This hopefully provides optimal way per liter of fuel. We are doing 6.5 to 7 knots at present and computations show consumption of about 0.6 gallons per hour. We also need to avoid going any faster so as to arrive after sunrise.

Arrival? Oh yeah we are actually going somewhere. It will be strange to see land again. We are timing things for a 8AM arrival in the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia. This will make our crossing come to 15 days and some odd hours. We'll fly the Q flag for the day and stay aboard, making way for Nuka Hiva and inbound clearance the next morning. It is supposed to be calm for a few days so we'll see.

Nobu says: "Almost there"

Hideko says: "After studying French Cuisine I decided to start studying the language as well. My first phase is ou sont les toilettes?"

92 nm to Fatu Hiva

French Polynesia
Day 15 to the Marquisas
06/22/2008, South Pacific

We wrapped up our 14th day with a 175 mile run. We had hoped that the 1,460 miles we did in week one would follow through and place us at anchor on day 14/15. The light wind and calms a couple days back and the moderate winds this whole week have made that tough. We have not run the engine more than 18 hours or so in the calms middle of last week but it has been tempting.

We flew the spinnaker all afternoon but were still lucky to see 7 knots of SOG given the apparent wind speed of 6-9 knots. Even though things are supposed to get even lighter we are still too chicken to leave it up at night. It is not hard to get down but if something goes wrong you would be unhappy at night. Also the weather man never says anything about squalls. A nice little 30 knoter would tear our kite apart.

We are in a celestial navigation routine also. We are doing a 5 star shot at civil twilight near dawn or sunset, morning sun and afternoon sun lines, and a noon site. We have shot the moon a few times but it has been full and the moon lines have no cut with the sun lines when you shoot them together so it is not really helpful.

We are now back to Fatu Hiva as our first landfall. We will probably just fly the Q flag and stay aboard to observe the regulations. It will be nice to sleep at anchor and at least see Fatu Hiva. From there we will likely head out to Nuku Hiva to check in. After looking at the guides we will probably spend most of our time in the northern Marquesas.

We could tell we were getting close to land as we actually saw other life forms not native to the ocean. A freighter lookin' thing and what was probably a tuna boat passed at some distance. We have seen three other cruising boats as we passed them and talked to four or five on the VHF as we crossed out of sight but in radio range the whole rest of the trip.

We probably can't go fast enough in the ever decreasing wind to make landfall before dusk tomorrow so we will just float along targeting anchor down the next morning. This will make our transit 15 days and change. Not bad all things considered.

Nobu says: "We are going to shoot stars tonight!"

Hideko says: "I love flying the spinnaker, the seas are calm but the boat still moves well"

226 nm to the dirt

French Polynesia
Day 14 to the Marquisas
06/21/2008, South Pacific

We managed 180 miles under sail for day 13. If we can hold this pace we will arrive in Fatu Hiva the day after tomorrow, late in the day. We plan to anchor there for the night and then depart for Nuku Hiva, the port of entry, early in the morning the next day. We are sailing as fast as we can because the day after tomorrow the wind is supposed to die.

The sailing last night and today has been wonderful. Only 7 or 8 knots of boat speed in the light wind (10-15 true) but beautiful blue skies and a breeze that is just cool enough to keep things comfortable in the sun. The swell out here this time of year is often (always for us) mixed with some coming from the direction of the wind (which is fine) and some from the SW, right on the beam (which is really obnoxious). It comes and it goes though.

Dinner was a yummy macadamia nut crusted tuna. We have been eating a lot of tuna. We took the day off for fishing. It was a relaxing day spent mostly on celestial navigation and preparing for landfall.

Nobu says: "I am progressing in my celestial navigation skills, little by little"

Hideko says: "I read the French Laundry Cookbook from cover to cover today"

383 nm to go... (back to Fatu Hiva now)

French Polynesia
Day 13 to the Marquisas
06/20/2008, South Pacific

Day 12, for the second day in a row, saw a meager 160 miles under the keel. The two days with very light wind from the east impacted our VMG (velocity made good) heavily. Not only did we proceed slowly but we have had to jibe along the track line due to the wind angle. We sail nicely at 135 degrees off the wind. Anything much deeper and we lose too much boat speed to make up for with the better angle. The evening closed in with showers in the neighborhood. None hit us but they were playing with the wind in the area as the night went by.

Early in the morning the wind came up and we began to post hours in the high 8 knots. The average came down throughout the day but we are still turning out a good 7 knots in lighter winds at sunset. We have a mixed swell which makes things a little rolly in the boat but not too bad. The day was beautiful and we all enjoyed it. Blue sky with fair weather cumulus here and there.

I was determined to catch some dinner today. We were trawling at 8-9 knots and I hooked something big with a pink squid lure (famous for Mahi Mahi). In the excitement the instructions to the helm got confused and we sped up! Well the line broke in short order as we approached 10 knots. Undaunted we put out one of our last squid lures (we lost the other pink squid yesterday due to what appears to be a bad knot at the swivel). Within 30 minutes we had a strike. As I tried to reel it in I was constantly concerned that the line would break. It was a big sucker and he was pulling hard.

After a 20 minute fight we finally got him to the boat. Nobu snagged him with the boat hook and we had a flopping 30 pound tuna on the deck. This is our biggest fish yet. Probably about as big as we ever need to catch. It will take three days of tuna breakfast, lunch and dinner to finish this guy off.

Nobu and I shot two sun lines today as well as a noon sight. We're getting much more accurate with practice.

Nobu says: "Celestial navigation is complicated but very interesting"

Hideko says: "zzzz (sleeping before her watch)"

615 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 12 to the Marquisas
06/19/2008, South Pacific

Day 11 saw 160 miles under the keel. Still well off our prior average. We were a trawler for the better part of the day with winds as low as 2 knots apparent. It was a beautiful day though and everyone aboard had fun doing celestial navigation, napping, reading and studying French. We are back under full sail now with maybe 10 knots apparent, 7 knots of way and a COG that is 20 degrees south of the mark. We're all hoping the wind backs tomorrow as it is supposed to.

Nobu says: "I'm getting used to no wind..."

Hideko says: "The Marquesas are getting more beautiful in my mind every day"

780 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 11 to the Marquisas
06/18/2008, South Pacific

As expected day 10 ended at noon today and turned in only 150 miles, and we had to burn dinosaurs to make that. Shortly after sunset the weather went bad and we had squalls coming in from all quarters. Most missed us but we took glancing blows from three or four and at least two direct hits. They we not severe and had no more than 25 to 30 knots of wind in them at the edge and then gradually faded back to the obligatory light and variable. Hideko was very happy to have her new cockpit enclosure up.

We motored all night with the main, then the main and jib and then finally in the morning the wind became consistent enough to sail so we killed the Yanmar. After an hour or two working out way west on starboard tack with a little north in the heading the wind quit. We started up the diesel again and motor sailed for a bit, then put away the flogging jib, and finally dropped the flogging main it got so bad.

Normally we would leave the main up and just sheet it in tight to keep it from beating around too much. Unfortunately our rig check today (we do one every day with binoculars) turned up a problem. Our top two battens are broken on the main. At first it was hard to figure because these battens are above all of the shrouds and we've been very careful this trip to ensure the main stays off the shrouds. This hurts our performance of course because we're trying to sail a deep broad reach most of the time.

Of course the battens were broken when the first reef was in. We dropped the main and checked the alignment on the way down and it was a match. I think they may have been mostly broken some time ago and just finally came unhinged. Perhaps the 50 knot bit coming into Bonaire or the all day thrashing on the way to Baraquilla. The top batten is barely noticeable but if you look close when the sail is limp (plenty of opportunity for that today) you can tell it has a break. The second batten down is also hard to see a problem with when the wind is up but there is a tear in the batten pocket forming on the break which you can see and it flogs more noticeably than the top batten in flaky wind. Although something we will fix at first opportunity neither are immediate concerns. We will just be very careful about securing the main when there is not enough wind to keep it set.

This mornings net has had us rethinking our landfall plans. We have friends, Pablo and Louise, coming in to French Polynesia (with our new prop!) the 3rd of July. We need to be somewhere that they can fly to from Papeete and that means Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa. Fatu Hiva is the closest landfall and a beautiful place from what we hear. Many cruisers have been targeting the Bay of Virgins as their first landfall. We were as well. However we are getting reports on the morning SSB nets that boats there are getting fined if they are not check in. In the past boats would arrive at Fatu Hiva, stay a couple days and then head to Hiva Oa to check in. This is because Fatu Hiva is closest to the Galapagos and also to windward (thus hard to sail back to once passed).

Well it seems the authorities are no longer welcoming this minor bending of the rules. Thus we have decided to revise our track to Nuku Hiva. Nuku Hiva is a beautiful island from all accounts, a check in destination, and complete with a few restaurants and shops as well as an airport. Our current thinking is that we will anchor here and await our friend and new prop. This does add 60 nautical miles or so to the journey (not to mention the poor tracking we've been keeping with the east wind).

While running the motor all day is noisy it does have some advantages. First you have all the power you need. Use computers, watch movies, heat up with the microwave, make espresso, whatever. Second if you are running the motor the seas are flat, nice for a break from the big days in week one. Perhaps best of all, critters come to see what the noise is about. For the first time since the Galapagos we had a big pack of Pacific White Sided dolphins come and play on the bow for an hour or two at sunset. We never get tired of laying on the trampoline watching the dolphins play.

Nobu says: "After our rig check today I realize how important it is to stay in touch with the boat"

Hideko says: "I saw the most amazing shooting stars last night, they were so big and brilliant crashing into the atmosphere they looked like fireworks"

923 nm to go... (less than 1,000, even with the new waypoints!!)

French Polynesia
Day 10 to the Marquisas
06/17/2008, South Pacific

After the most enjoyable 24 hours on the water, our 9th period turned in only 195 miles. I suppose the modest progress goes with the smooth sailing territory.

As the sailor's proverb goes, too much wind or not enough. Today we were in the latter category. Yesterday's mellow wind was followed by no wind. Today the wind turned east and light, making it impossible for us to sail the rhumb line to Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva bears 261 degrees true presently and the wind is coming just about due east. Sailing a deep broad reach (wind 135 degrees to port, traveler tight on the main and jib hooked to the rail with a 4 part purchase) we made 215 true. This not only ran us south of Fatu Hiva but the rest of French Polynesia as well. Pitcairn anyone? And not soon at 6-7 knots with 6 apparent.

We thought we had it in the bag. Two weeks under sail to the Marquesas. Two hundred mile days plus. All of that. At 13:00 local time we killed the dream and engaged the Auxiliary Apparent Wind Angle Improvement Device. We are now motor sailing dead down wind a bit high of the mark in hopes of sailing when the wind backs over the next day or so. Best guess is now 15 days at sea and arrival on the 23rd, six days from now. This will be our lowest mileage day yet. :-(

A few squalls in the area brought slight wind shifts and maybe 5 knots of additional breeze. We rode one lift for an hour and rinsed a little salt off of the decks. Nobu and I took noon sights. Longitude, good, latitude not so good. The sun was behind the clouds and we were riding a pretty sharp mixed SW/SE 3 meter swell, but hey if Shackelton's guy could get within a mile in a long boat during a gale in Antarctica, we can certainly do better.

Nobu says: "Randy is teaching me celestial navigation, I am confused"

Hideko says: "I wish we could have sailed the whole way"

1,020 nm to go...

French Polynesia

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