Finally arrived at Marquesas
26 August 2012 | Hiva Oa
Voyage: Pedro de Gonzalez, Las Perlas to Hiva Oa island, Las Perlas
Distance: 3886 nm Time: 42 days 9 hours Average: 3.82 knots
We left the very beautiful island at 7h00 on Sunday morning after we filled our water tanks. When we sailed passed the island, a whale was rolling in the water for us to see. We continued in light wind (10 knots) to pass the privately owned island of San Jose on our starboard side and found a .5 knot current. As we reached the island, two whales were calling and put up a bit of a show for us. These animals were fairly big and I do not want to hid any of those with my boat.
The island is quite big and there are beautiful sandy beaches. A good few bocas on the southern entrance to the bay caused waves to break against it. It was the first time in a while that I could "hear" the ocean. It was with mixed feelings that we left the last bit of land behind us. Just image, for the next 40 odd days we will not see land of people. Time to revive the soul.
The evening brought on lighting and thunder again. We caught a current flowing SW at 1 to 1.5 knots. The wind however died down around 23h00, but only for a short while. It started blowing agains from NNW varying between 9 - 15 knots. Moths and butterflies were attracted by the light on the boat, and we were 50 miles offshore. In the morning we saw more moths flying past Ntombi. And you wonder, how do they survive? and what are they doing this far out at sea?
The top batten of the mainsail broke again. Johan removed it and we saw that it was broken behind the previous repair he did at Shelter bay. It was overcast and rained for a good few hours from noon. Pancake weather, so I baked some. We alternated between steering by hand and the autopilot, depending on the strength of the wind. The autopilot are unable to steer the boat when the wind dies down. We also motored through some windless patches. The wind meter stopped working on day 3.
I woke up in the morning with the words "check". At first, I would not figure out what I needed to check. I listened and could hear the boat was sailing well, the sails were fine, the autopilot was functioning.... and then I realised that it must be dolphins playing outside. I rushed outside and what a spectacular view! Calm ocean, mild wind causing the wind charger to make the most beautiful howling sound. Beautiful because you know there is enough wind for Ntombi to move through the water.
There was a very big school of dolphins all round Ntombi. Some were swimming at the bow, others were 10 meters away, practicing their diving skills. Others were swimming in pairs, flapping their tails and anotehr were swiming backstroke. This continued for an hour.
By the time they left us, it was overcast with clouds all around and thunder rumbling in our ears. It rained and then the wind died on us again for 7 hours. It gave us time to do some maintenance work. We took turns to handsteer. Johan even fixed the water leek at the aft cabin. The angle of the wind is uncomfortable. It is variable and prdominantly a north westerly which cause us to either sail to the coast of Columbia, or the west coast of North America, with the wind on the nose. The wind is also shifting the whole time and we had to constantly tack in order to move a bit west towards Marquesas. We did not get wind in a direction that allowed us to sail directly towards Galapagos or Marquesas. This is going to be a very long passage if we do not find the trade winds soon. First day we covered a good 97 miles with 68 miles on day 2, 48 miles on day 3 and a mere 42 miles on day 4.
We caught quite a big tuna. By the time we reeled it in, something else was more hungry than us and ate half the fish. We therefore threw it back in order for the hungry hunter to continue his feast. It was too big for us, anyway.
I had a fresh water shower everyday in the rain and managed to preserve some rainwater for washing later. Day 4 was a bit more challenging because the rain came at 1800 whilst I got used to a late morning shower. It was still very good and I was even able to wash and condition my hari. Wow, this is luxury galore!
The dying wind and the "wrong" direction caused huge frustration to the skipper. We covered a mere 255 miles in the first 8 days whilst sailing 688 miles. The first 8 days we tried to find favorable winds to take us to Galapagos. We started tacking more frequently to go lower to the equator. Reason being to change the angle of the wind on the bow that will allow us to sail west, south west. Up to day 8 we were either sailing NW or SE instead of SW.
The log stopped working again. The first time we took it out whilst sailing, I was almost hysterical. Imagine you open a hole in the bottom of the boat with a 40 mm diameter. Luckily we have a plug that we insert to allow us time to remove the barnicles. After Johan cleaned it, we remove the plug and he inserts the log again. The only inconvenience is the packing and unpacking of the locker and drying the bit of water that do come into the boat.
On one of the less windy days, there was time to service the engine, polish the stainless steel, replace the o-ring on the toilet, etc. All part of the maintenance duties of a yachtie.
We started to get cold at night, looking for a blanket to cover the body whilst sleeping. I realised that the cabin temperature dropped from 32 degrees Celcius to 27 degrees by day 8.
The cold Humboldt current is the cause of the lower temperatures. We were once again almost ran over by a cargo vessel. Luckily we installed AIS that warned us of the danger. Johan kept watch whilst I contacted the skipper of Royal Klipper to change course to avoid a collision with us. He was very friendly and took action immediately to pass at our stern.
Johan reckon that this was the most difficult sea to sail of the whole trip up to now. The most frustrating part was the low wind or no wind. The wind was also changing 180 degrees in 30 minutes. The swells are uncomfortable, looking like boiling water. The hight of the swells is low, but the direction is not consistent with the wind direction. 6 hours or more during a day without any wind became the norm. One night we wat from 19h00 until 7h00 the following morning without wind and the current pushing us back where we came from.
Sailing is a mind cleansing process where you have 24 hours a day withoug outside company. The radio does not even work. We read the Bible, books about the Bible and listen to teaching about the Bible. Johan said he started longing for the 'trees' in his life - people. Those who provided shelter from the wind and shade for the sun. Most of the trees does not exist anymore because they are in the long sleep. The rest is still as tall but drying out and the tree feller will come and visit them shortly. This also made him realise that he became the big tree to provide shelter and shade. Old wood must be chopped out for the younger to grow tall and the tree feller will be looking in his direction soon.
Looking at the stars, you realise how small you are. You realise who you are that God cares about you? A small piece of dust in the Universe and God loves me? We saw a lot of cracks in our lifes and realised there is only one way to mend it. And God said, if you love Me, obey my commandments.
On day 11 Johan caught a sailfish, 1 meter. It looked so majestic and alive. It jumped out of the water, shaked the tail and dived down again. To reel it in was quite a process. The sails does not allow you to slow down the boat and we did not want to loose the fish. When the fish was 10 meters from the boat, it however came loose. We gave a sigh of relief because neither of us wanted to kill such a beautiful fish.
It reminded me of the old testament times when you had to slaghter an animal as offering for your sins. Jesus dies on the cross for our sins and we do not have to offer anymals anymore. It however still cause great turmoil in me to kill even a fish.
Confused seas is a result of the current flowing from east to west and the wind is blowing from the south to the north around day 14. This caused swells within swells and it looked like boiling water in a kettle First 14 days the wind was blowing from SE and only changed on day 14 to a southerly wind. It feels like the most difficult part of our journey until now. It seems as if every leg of the voyage has some challenges and it is never the same. You cannot use the knowledge acquired and are therefore in a constant learning process. No training course can give you the knowledge that you need, it is only through the practical experience that you learn how to manouvre. Each boat is also different and what works on Ntombi might not work on any other boat.
Day 19 was the first really pleasant day on the Pacific Ocean. The water is not as confused as usual and the sun was shining for most of the day with blue skies and clouds only at the horison. The clouds is just as confusing as the sea. What we experienced until today was clear sky with clouds on the horison but 10 minutes later you had clouds all around you and it stayed like that for days. It was therefore a welcome change to see the sun for the whole day.
Day 22 has some "achievements". We ate the last fresh carrots and cabbage. We opened the last of the coconuts picked up at Pedro de Gonzalez island and enjoyed the sweet juice before indulging in the flesh. We crossed the half way mark from a miles perspective. What a pshychological achievement.
On day 29 we saw a fishing vessel at night and the highlight of day 31 was a school of dolphins passing Ntombi.
On day 37, the distance from Balboa equaled the distance that we still need to sail to Whangarei in New Zealand. Half way in the Pacific!
It is also Johan's birthday and he ordered Fray Bentos meat pies (tinned, bought at St Helena), but the ocean was not calm enough to cook them in the stove top oven. We decided to leave it until we get to Hiva Oa. I cooked rice, mixed with the last onion, mixed veggies and some herbs. Johan added some corned beef for his birthday dinner. We had soda cooldrink, chips and fruit cake as well. We enjoyed a simple birthday party like school kids - they say you become like kids when you get older....
Day 42 and we cannot wait for the morning to see the island. We know it is out there somewhere and if it was light we would be able to see it. What a rude awakening at 4h00 when the autopilot stopped working. I started hand steering whilst Johan tried to mend the autopilot. He struggled and eventually found the problem and fixed it, and he fixed the backup that broke sometime during the voyage as well. I had steered until 11h30 with Johan taking over for 30 minutes at a time for me to take short breaks.
We saw the island only around 9h00 due to the cloud covering it, but went through a number of squalls before we eventually arrived at 17h00, anchored in the little harbour with big rollers. We want to spend at least a week before we continue to the next set of islands.