Galapagos- Marquesas Week One
08 August 2019 | On passage S. Pacific
One week completed and 1,000nm sailed, about 2,000 to go. Our average daily mileage has been 151nm at an average speed of 6.3kts. This has wildly exceeded our plan of 120nm per day. Let’s hope it continues. We did motor for four hours at one point but, with the benefit of hindsight, that was completely unnecessary, requiring only a little patience.
Thankfully the passage has been largely uneventful so far. We did have a remarkable encounter one afternoon. I was on watch when I heard a snort on the port side. I looked out to see a very large whale just off our stern quarter. I called Janaki up and we were just looking at the slick created by that whale diving when, with a great snort, a second, larger whale came to the surface right alongside the boat, maybe ten feet from the hull. It rested there a few moments before diving and turning to go right under us. That was a trifle unnerving. It was a fairly light gray on top and white underneath. The skin was very smooth. Longer and slimmer than a humpback, perhaps 45' with a relatively small tail and dorsal fin. Thanks to Kris for the onshore research, we established that it was a Fin Whale. We thought it was huge but it turns out that, at something over forty feet, it was quite a small Fin Whale as they are the second largest whale species after the Blue Whale and get to eighty five feet long. It was a very elegant beast and a real, if slightly scary, privilege to see from so close.
There was a bit of a learning curve using the double genoa but we seem to have tamed that. The Hydrovane was really struggling with the big seas from the stern until we deployed the stern warps, consisting of 100' of anchor rode, 10' of chain and a fender to create some drag. We last used this offshore Colombia and it does a remarkable job of settling down the yawing motion as we drop over the waves. Right now, as long as the wind is above 14kts true we have a good setup of reefed double genoa, the windward sail on the pole and the leeward sail on the swung out boom, the Hydrovane doing the steering, ably assisted by the stern warps. If the wind drops, with the big seas, it all gets a little ugly but, apart from a period around dawn and sunset, that is becoming rarer.
After several days of constant intervention we are now along for the ride. We have been a bit surprised by both the constant variability of the conditions and, more recently, the sea states. We did have a few days of the promised slow rolling swells. Now we have 11ft+ seas with an eight second period which is a lot more robust. We have a few more days of roller coaster then it should settle down again. We hope so because this makes every little task pretty hard work.
We set off with a buddy boat (Kelvin and Caroline, a couple of Kiwis on SV Ondina) with a degree of ambivalence about the concept and, for the first few days, they were no more than an occasional satellite text or incomprehensible noises on the completely useles SSB radio. Now we can see them behind us and talk to them on the VHF radio and we are very thankful to have them there. This is a very big very empty place. We have seen one other vessel in seven days and that was several days ago. We seem well matched for speed and are going the same way so all is good.
As I write this Leela is in the groove, doing seven knots over what feels like flatter seas. The stars are down to the horizon and the Milky Way shines brightly above. It is both beautiful and a little scary. I am suffering a degree of anxiety over potential gear failures and their consequences. Did we do everything we needed to do? Did we miss anything? Much as I am enjoying the experience I will be very relieved when we get to Nuku Hiva.
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