Crossing the Pacific – Galapagos to Marquesas
04 June 2018
Photo: Pacific sunset
We lifted the anchor off the bottom of Santa Cruz harbour, Galapagos just before 10:00, 17th April and headed out for the longest passage we will do. It is just over 3000nm to the Marquesas Islands and would probably take us about 21 days. The breeze for the first couple of days was predicted to be light, so it was on with the motor at low revs to conserve fuel. The next few days were a mix of gennaker sailing and motoring as we headed south to pick up the breeze and favourable current, hopefully leaving the Intra Tropical Convergent Zone, ITCZ behind us. The ITCZ is an area of light winds and rain squalls, sometimes with thunder and lightning, something to avoid or negotiate as quickly as possible. We finally had the motor off and were sailing by day three.
As we sailed along we trailed our trusty two pieces of string, well almost thick cord, with a luer on each and in one day managed to hook 4 fish, one yellow fin tuna, too small he went back, a wahoo and 2 mahi mahi, unfortunately we lost them all before managing to get them on board. It was only later we remembered we had the fishing gaff in the cupboard which helped when we again caught 2 mahi mahi several days later. They were both landed and thoroughly enjoyed as sashimi, marinated in lime juice and coconut milk and just pan fried for dinner. In total for the crossing we caught 9 fish, released or lost 6 and kept 3, not bad for non-fishing people.
We left Galapagos in company with 5 other boats and kept in touch via iridium email twice a day. It was great hearing what they were doing, where they were and what they had seen. I think we all saw whales at some point in the crossing, humpbacks, pilots and another type not identified. Of course there were plenty of dolphins leaping and swimming along with the boats, giant sea turtles, what do they eat out here, and everyone caught fish. Christian off Shawnigan managed to get a tuna with a spear gun off the bow, pretty impressive. To help pass the time for the kids on the other boats, 11 kids in total, we organised a weekly challenge for them, for the older kids this was a brain teaser and questions relevant to where we had been and were going. For the younger kids it was an activity, e.g a treasure hunt where they had to find certain items on their boat and some easy questions. The winner of each challenge would receive an ice cream the next time we saw them ashore, from the feedback we had, it was a great success and all the kids participated.
For us the days merged into each other as the miles clicked by, we celebrated each 500nm with a magnum ice cream, read and played card games. The watch system worked well and we both seemed to get sufficient sleep. With the wind behind us most of the way, cooking was also relatively easy, and we seemed to eat quite well, although Brian does not want any more fish for a while.
We sighted several fishing boats and tracked them on AIS as they went past us, except one who was not fishing, must have been relocating to another fishing ground. He had not seen us and was quite surprised when we called him on the radio, he quickly altered course and went around our stern. We also saw one other yacht on AIS but did not see them. We found the range of our AIS pick up was less during the crossing, must have been something to do with the lack of land and repeater stations. Quite often we would see the lights of the boat before they came up on AIS which is not the usual way it happens.
We had very few issues with the boat, the sail track on the roller furler Yankee loosened, but we quickly established this was not a major issue and could be fixed when reached Papeete. On day 18 one of the batons in the main popped through the baton pocket meaning Brian had to go up the mast to remove it or we could not get the main down or gybe. This was safely done. Interesting on the same day Pelizeno, another kiwi boat with a leisure furl main reported the same problem.
Finally at 11:30 on Sunday 6th May we dropped the anchor in Takauku harbour, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, 19 days, almost to the hour and 3108nm after we left the Marquesas. Tired but happy to have arrived.