Galapagos to Marquesas, we made it!
15 May 2018
The days ran together, all 18 of them. But my impression of our passage from Galapagos to Marquesas is that we didn't sail this passage, we rode there. Uproar did the work, we just set her up for fast sailing and she did the rest. Lisa and I spent our days reading, watching “Breaking Bad,” cooking, eating, watching the horizon, watching the stars, and riding Uproar swiftly west toward Marquesas.
The start from Galapagos took us through the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) or doldrums. We expected long swells of glassy seas, no wind, and hot sun. This does not describe the doldrums. Two air masses converge, causing vertical air movement or convection. Convection equals squalls, gray skies and mixed winds from varying directions. Sailing directions are to motor/sail SW for two or more days until in the trade winds fill in.
We did fill the tank and extra cans of fuel in anticipation of having to motor through the doldrums. But Uproar is a sailboat and does not like to motor. We gave her, her own way and only motored 18 hours during the first three days. Ahhhh, the trade winds. Our weather prediction programs said we would have ESE winds around 15 knots the entire way. The wind was predicted to back to east for the last few days. For once weather predictions were right on the money. There were times when we had under 10 knots of wind but Uproar sailed well in those winds too. We encountered a few squalls but these were very mild compared to the Caribbean squalls and did not cause us any concern.
Since we were sailing west, the wind gave us a broad reach. This means the wind direction was over our port, stern quarter. This is ideal sailing. There was plenty of pressure in the sails, minimal heeling over and good speed. Uproar was a happy girl indeed. For days on end, we made no changes to sail trim or steering. The autopilot was our friend. But after the first week, I noticed Uproar was wandering around the prescribed heading. The autopilot should be able to steer a tighter course. There was also a curious sound in the steering gear area. An inspection revealed the autopilot steering arm was working loose on the rudder shaft. I spent all night devising a solution.
The next day I had tools and materials at hand. Lisa hand steered while I crawled down into the compartment, loosened the steering arm, shimmed it with Mylar shims, and tightened the bolts back down. This took only a few minutes and Lisa easily steered while I facilitated the repairs. There were no further mechanical or other problems the entire way.
Prior to departure we purchased an IridiumGo, satellite link. This enables us to make phone calls, send and receive simple emails, text messages, and emergency communication service. A group of boats leaving Galapagos arranged to keep in touch via email. The M (Marquesas) Fleet was organized with Panache as the fleet captain. They received daily reports from about 15 yachts' positions and sent a report to the entire fleet. They even devised a spreadsheet to plot everyone's position. The report also had highlights from boats who had caught fish, had whale sightings, and mechanical problems. One boat lost their rudder with 800 miles to go to Marquesas another M Fleet boat towed them the entire way!
When Panache arrived in Marquesas, they turned M Fleet over to Lungta, a boat we knew well from Panama. Lungta is the name for Buddhist prayer flags. The perfect boat to watch over the fleet. We are still monitoring M Fleet to see where our virtual friends end up. It will be fun meeting them in person.
Speaking of fishing, Lisa caught a 10 pound Yellowfin Tuna the first day. We caught a pair of Mahi-Mahi and 3 more tunas. We could have relied on fishing alone for our protein but of course we had a freezer full before we left. It was just as full when we arrived in Marquesas. We lost three big fish too with snapped line or leaders. One fish hit hard and was taking out line. Lisa grabbed the rod and said, “We lost it.” I told her to keep hanging on. The fish was swimming hard at the boat. Then it took another dive and the rod bent double. Unfortunately the line had become twisted around the end of the rod. It couldn't pay out the drag so the line snapped. It was good adrenaline rush. Must have been a Marlin.
With just the two of us on board, watches had to be kept throughout the night. On other passages we set loose watches, 3 to 4 hours long. On this passage we again kept watches loose but they tended to be 5 or 6 hours long. OK, we did watch some episodes of “Breaking Bad” together with Uproar tending herself. When visibility is 20 miles or more and AIS warns of commercial ships up to 50 miles, we are pretty safe to spend 45 minutes below together. The routine comes naturally, I would take the watch after dinner until midnight or 1:00 am. Lisa would let me sleep until dawn. Then she would nap until a big breakfast a few hours later. I would nap in the afternoon. We ate only two meals/day and small portions. Riding a boat is not that physical taxing so we don't need much food. But with Uproar rolling in the waves, my upper body sways with each wave. My core muscles became sore after the first week. When we arrived, I had definition between my lats and abs but certainly no six pack.
The most difficult part of the passage were the waves. We expected long, slow swells. But there was a wind chop along with the swells. This made for a rolly ride. At times it was uncomfortable to do any cooking or moving around on the boat. But uncomfortable is easily overcome when you get used to it. The last week became flatter and quite comfortable. Wind during the last week veered to the east. We were now sailing dead downwind. This required us to fly the spinnaker or put the jib out to weather, wing-on-wing. Steering became a bit more critical and speed dropped some. But we were able to surf on the waves and achieved 11.8 knots a few times. That is an Uproar record.
With two days to go, it appeared we would land in Nuku Hiva after dark. We started motoring to try to arrive in daylight. But it just didn't feel right. After a few hours of motoring we made the decision to make landfall at Fatu Hiva, an island closer and further south. Uproar was broad reaching again, fast and with glee. She certainly approved of our change of plan.
We pulled into Fatu Hiva after 18 days and 1 hour of sailing from Galapagos. Lisa dropped the anchor in one of the most beautiful bays we have ever seen. We literally pinched each other and opened the traditional anchor beer. We arrived!
We covered over 3,200 miles at an average speed of 7.33 knots. This was one of our fastest passages to date. We could not have asked for more ideal sailing conditions. Sure we could have done with flatter seas but we sure had a great ride and more importantly, we arrived in the South Pacific, our ultimate destination when we planned our cruise years ago.
Some say it's the journey, not the destination. I say, both!