At least we don’t have to worry about the weather. We don’t have a choice about waiting for a good weather window or avoiding a bad one – the Ecuadorian authorities are the ones setting the date for our departure. Do we feel like we are being thrown out? Well – hell yes! At least a little bit. Fortunately, the 10 day weather prognoses is forecasting reasonable weather, if we stay above latitude 6 degrees south.
Day 1 – June 5 (12:00)
It is Constitution Day in Denmark and virtually everyone will be taking the day off work and enjoying the “big Danish Smorgasbord Table” in the wonderful weather they are having there.
I’m sitting here in the South Pacific, almost right on the equator and have a hard time describing my feelings and thoughts. I ended my last narrative with the words, “I don’t think you can get yourself ready for being at sea for up to 4 weeks in a situation where you don’t have any weather forecasts beyond 10 days and have no possibility of running for a harbor”. Am I afraid or do I feel nervous about the next 3-4 weeks sailing? I’m not sure, but I feel very small and a bit lonely out here on the big and unpredictable ocean. At the same time I’m also looking forward to making the longest non-stop passage we’ll have on our “circumnavigation”.
Why the quotes around “circumnavigation”. Carsten and I will almost certainly never be able to say we truly circumnavigated. We have no plans for sailing south around Africa and we will not sail up through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea (pirates). The trip around Cape Hope would add an extra year to our trip and most of that time we’d see only water. The plan is to put Capri on a freighter from Australia, Thailand or Singapore and have her shipped to the Mediterranean. Purists will say we didn’t complete the circumnavigation.
We’ve finished the final provisioning and are ready to haul anchor. The weather forecast is for light winds 6-8 knots SE, but here in the bay it is blowing 20 knots. We raise the anchor, set sails and are off. Capri flies across the water, taking joy at being loose again, but as we round the corner of San Cristobal, the wind dies – it was only the acceleration winds you typically find at the western end of these islands that we experienced in the bay.
We might as well get used to being patient, the forecast is for light winds the first 3 days and we don’t dare use any of our diesel. The 335 liters (85 gallons) we on board have to last us the next 3000nm or so. We don’t really know for certain when we will be able to buy diesel again. That evening and through the night we make 4 knots, mostly due to 1.7 knots of following current – Thank you Mr. Humboldt (current).
Days sail -90 nm(our log shows less than true because of the current – it is closer to 110nm)
Day 2 – June 6
During my nightwatch I saw “Pantagruel” as an AIS signal on our chartplotter and I’m relieved that we are not the only boat on the way to the Marquesas. It would be nice to follow along with someone else, at least be able to stay in radio contact with someone. Carsten calls them on the VHF and the first 5 tries they don’t answer. They have sailed from Santa Cruz and are therefore just at the outer edge of the range of our VHF. They tack to come further south to gain some wind so after a couple of hours they are out of range and they don’t have a short-wave radio. This will be our last contact on this trip (but we don’t know that yet). We decide to stay above latitude 6 degrees to avoid gale force winds and the 4-5 (12-15 feet) meter waves that are rolling along further south.
After 12 hours of 6 knot winds, they pick up and are now blowing 10 knots. At 10 knots we can hold the wind in our sails. When the winds are less than this and coming from aft, it is impossible to keep the sails spread, they collapse, shake and beat themselves half to death. I feel the hurt all the way down in my soul when Capri’s rig is being brutalized that way. The solution is setting less sail (surprisingly). Less sail means they don’t collapse as easily, the rig is not being tortured and there is less chafe and wear on sails, mast and rigging. Both our mainsail and our genua are in the second reef. This is exactly opposite what we would have done in Denmark. With 6-8 knot winds and typically no swells, we would have dug out our genakker. Out here, we have 2 meter swells, almost no wind and a 2 knot following current – all of which make it impossible to keep that huge sail filled with wind. It would collapse every time a swell pushes Capri forward.
During my night watch I see 3 fishing boats, they are more than 5 nm from us so we should be safe from sailing into their nets. We’re now over 100nm from the most westerly of the Galapagos islands.
Yes, friends – you probably already guessed. I went down to use the head. It is 6:30 a.m. and I couldn’t wait until 7:00 when Carsten would take over the watch. As I come up the companionway, I can feel that something is wrong. Capri is only making 3 knots. I check the sails which are standing just the way they should. I look aft and in the dawn’s twilight I can see that we are dragging a fishing buoy.
God damn it! Not again, this is the 6th time. I go below, wake Carsten and tell him the bad news. The line is around our keel. But this time we get lucky. We manage to get loose without Carsten having to go down with a knife and cut us loose. Our keel has a torpedo shape at the bottom and easily picks up fishing lines. But having the lines around the keel is much better than around the propeller/axle.
During the evening and night the wind picks up to 10-12 knots, but the current disappears and we continue to make 4.5 knots. We can feel that Capri’s bottom is fouled and we’ve lost almost 1 knot because of that fouling. But we have no choice, we have to wait to clean her bottom until we get to the Marquesas. As morning comes the wind picks up to 15 knots and Capri makes 5-6 knots.
Days sail – 103nm (GPS estimate of true distance – 140nm). In two days sailing we’ve only come 210nm closer to the Marquesas because we haven’t been able to sail directly at the target due to the wind direction.
Day 3 – June 7
This time Carsten and I have mounted and gotten our Aries windvane working. I won’t bore you all with the details of all the challenges we faced in Denmark when we tried to mount this windvane and some of the parts had decided to hide themselves underneath the watermaker. We were in the midst of buying a new windvane when Carsten found the missing parts as he was starting up the watermaker. We send our thanks to our good friend Ulrik who, in the middle of the night drove halfway across Denmark with the rest of the windvane that we had put in storage at their house.
On our way across the Atlantic, we tried to get it working but couldn’t, probably due to a lack of wind, so we gave up and used the autopilot. Now the wind is 15 knots from the southwest and we mount it and make some adjustments and Presto! It works. It steers safely through everything, even the nightly squalls.
The great advantage of a windvane is that it uses no electricity. Our autopilot uses 6-12 AH depending on the size of the swells. A windvane steers is giant “S” curves, which means you end up sailing more miles, which doesn’t matter. After all, we’re cruising sailors and one thing we have lots of, is time. Another advantage of the windvane is that the mounting rods make a perfect triangle on our bathing platform and we can stand inside of that when we are taking our shower. Being inside the rods means we don’t have to worry about falling off if an unusual swell comes along. On the other hand – it is in the way if we fish – it is difficult to land the fish when the vane is filling the entire aft end of the boat.
We only mount the vane for long passages. When it is mounted it is very difficult to launch the dinghy and even more difficult to get on and off the boat and into the dinghy. It takes Carsten about a hour to mount it and a half hour to dismount it. But we wouldn’t be without it now that we have it working. Windvanes have gone out of fashion as autopilots have become more reliable, but if you are only 2 on board and your autopilot craps out you’ll be facing a severe challenge. Steering by hand 24/7 for several weeks is enough to strain any crew and if you double-hand, then you almost never get any real rest. Single-handers all either use a windvane or carry an entire autopilot as spare parts.
The Humboldt current has come back – almost 2 knots.
Days sail – 96nm (GPS estimate – 147nm)
Day 4 – June 8
Wind 12 knots SE and 1.5 following current – what wonderful sailing! The mainsail is in the second reef this evening and night and it is smooth sailing under a star strewn sky. The Southern Cross twinkles out to port and I’m enjoying this night watch to no end.
A clear sky has no clouds to hold the warmth of the day. I’ve never imagined that I would be wearing my foulies, a sweater, socks and knitted cap this close to the equator (3 degrees south). I’m beginning to think about going below to find my winter sailing gloves. The guys from the Danish sailing television series, “Havana”, must be made of sterner stuff than me – they sailed in shorts and a thin sweater when they were on night watch and sailed these waters.
I can’t believe it – this morning my throat is aching and I’m beginning to run a fever.
Days sail – 109nm (GPS estimate – 140nm and we are 470nm closer to our goal)
Day 5 – June 9
Last night we could just make out some lights far beyond the horizon – probably the working lights from the big fishing ships, but nothing was visible on the AIS. The AIS reaches out 16nm and we could see the lights from further off. As we close, we begin to see them on the AIS/chartplotter and the closer we come, the more ships appear. Our plotter is now showing more than 30 ships, all with Asian names.
We can’t tell if they are Chinese, Japanese or Korean. They are lying across our course in one long line at least 30nm long. There are probably even more outside our AIS range. We have to pass through them and look for a “hole” in the line. But they are constantly changing direction and speed, probably dragging several kilometers of trawl behind them. Carsten tries to call them on the radio, but they don’t answer – probably because they don’t speak English. We manage to get through the line (after several tries) without catching a net or line.
When I see these huge and ugly fishing ships that are emptying the seas here in the Pacific, I can almost become an opponent of eating sushi, even though I love sushi. I seem to remember reading that the worldwide craze for sushi is what has spawned this vacuuming of the oceans for fish.
It is overcast the whole day. The sea is grey instead of the inviting azure blue of the sunshine days. We end up having to start our engine to charge the batteries.
I now have a fever, ache in my throat and my nose has begun to run. Out here in the middle of the ocean and with only two crew, there is no way I can “call in sick”. There is no one else to take my watches. During the daytime, Carsten gives me some extra time under the covers. I’ve never enjoyed the seabunk more than now and I spend most of my time feverish and sweating. It is damned near impossible for me to crawl out of the bunk for my night watch and I count the minutes until I can wake Carsten and crawl back into the bunk. I eat aspirin like candy in an attempt to knock the fever down, but the bunk is dripping wet every time I get up. Now it is Carsten’s turn to crawl into a damp and uncomfortable bunk.
Carsten does his best to make me feel better. He bakes pizza, but my appetite is simply not there.
In my feverish sleep, I hear Carsten yell he needs help and I jump up, only wearing my panties. In acute situations out here, you go on deck when called – even though you may be wearing less than Adam or Eve.
There is something humorous in coming up the companionway dressed only in a lifevest and carrying a lifeline………………..
A violent squall has managed to surprise Carsten. Usually you can just ease the main and fall off but that is only possible if the wind is coming from windward and stays there even though the squall hits. The biggest challenge with squalls is the wind, not the rain. The wind can suddenly jump, change direction, and come from the lee side, which means you almost certainly end up gybing unintentionally, possibly splitting your mainsail or breaking your boom.
Even experienced sailors can end up being surprised. Sometimes the boom comes across the cockpit with such violent force that crew members are knocked unconscious or killed if they get hit.
Our boom is fixed with a “boom-brake” which will slow the boom down if it starts gybing and we also always rig a “boom-preventer” when sailing downwind. The preventer will stop the boom from gybing and coming across the cockpit. But neither the brake nor the preventer can stop the mainsail from being slammed by the wind and possibly splitting up the middle. Instead of adding another reef (going to 3rd reef) we roll in the genua and start the engine to get Capri back on course. A few minutes later, we douse the engine and continue on through the night on only our mainsail – still on the 2nd reef.
Days sail – 118nm (GPS estimate – 140nm, and we are now 600nm closer to the Marquesas)
Day 6 – June 10
The weather clears during the day and we have winds of 15 knots SE, but only 0.5 knots of following current. We are conservative sailors on these long passages, otherwise we would quickly become exhausted as we are double-handing. We sail wing-on-wing, the mainsail out to starboard and the genua poled out to port, both sails are in the second reef and the sailing is comfortable.
Later that afternoon the seas become unsettled turning into chop. The chop is very irregular and 3-4 meters high. The winds blow harder, 20 knots and we are now sailing on a reach, the choppy swells hitting us midships. I feel very insecure at night. You can’t see the swells height or direction and I fear that Capri might broach (slide sideways down the front of a wave). We change course and go a bit more northerly, now getting the swells and winds more from aft. We try to always choose the more conservative and safe sailing, rather than just plowing on ahead.
Despite my influenza I have a fantastic night watch with a star strewn sky, the Southern Cross and a phosphorescent ocean glowing alongside and aft of Capri. The phosphorescence comes from algae that light up when the moonshine hits them. The Southern Cross stands out completely clear and sharp – totally surrounded by the Milky Way’s clouds of stars. A never to be forgotten sight. Unfortunately, not something you can photograph.
Days sail – 105nm (GPS – 105 nm and we are 700nm closer to the Marquesas)
Day 7 – June 11
Wind still 20 knots and 1 knot following current. Our grib file (weather forecast), says we can expect 20-24 knots of wind and waves of 4 meters from the south. The swells are building up from a gale south of us. This gale is below 8 degrees S and therefore we decide to stay above 5 degrees S. Both sails are still in the second reef and we’re wing-on-wing.
Both crewmembers are now weakened. I’m exhausted due to my fever and flu. Carsten has now gotten a debilitating pain in his back and he can barely crawl up the companionway to the cockpit. In his watches he sits straight up in a chair seat and has to call me if we need to reef the sails.
What a couple of wimps……………..
The on-board chef has decided to call in sick and we end up eating ryekrisp. I think about making a change and getting a new chef………………………
I don’t understand why the flying fish seem to find me an attractive target. Carsten never gets hit. This night I get hit by flying fish twice in one hour. The one is big fish and hits me right in the throat – hard enough that it hurt. The other one hits me on the shoulder and lands on the deck right by the porthole to the aft cabin. I always try to toss them back into the ocean so they can survive, but they are “slippery little suckers” (to quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), and this one squirms like mad. I drop him a couple of times and he almost jumps through the porthole which means Carsten would have had a wet and unpleasant surprise bedmate. Flying fish stink. I can wash my hands, but I will just have to accept that my foulies will stink for the next couple of days from getting hit.
It is overcast these days which means our solar cells can’t completely charge our batteries so we have to start the engine before nightfall to fully load them. The solar cells are working just fine and do charge despite the clouds, just not as much as in sunshine. We’re also sailing towards the west and that means the sails shading the panels most of the afternoon so they charge even less.
Thank goodness we have a watermaker – we haven’t seen any rain since the Pearl islands. We run the watermaker almost every other day, ensuring both our tanks (2 x 170 liters) are completely full. We use a fair bit of water, not for showers because out here we only take a shower every 2nd or 3rd day, but because we have to use fresh water to flush the toilet. Our toilet is on the port side of the boat and when we have the wind coming from the south, the salt water intake is above the waterline, meaning the flushing pump can’t draw seawater, so we use fresh water to flush. Having a watermaker is a real luxury, otherwise we would have to get sea water in a bucket every time we used the toilet and considering the state of our health – that is not on.
Days sail – 108nm (GPS estimate 121nm and 844nm closer)
Day 8 – June 12
Wind 18-20 knots, swells 2-3 meters, nice long and wide rollers, 1.5 knots following current. A very comfortable wing-on-wing sail. Carsten can sit in the lee of the sprayhood, facing aft with his back to the sailing direction. I can’t – if I sit that way I get seasick immediately, so I have to sit out in the wind facing the direction we are sailing. That means Carsten can sit in his bathing trunks while I have to wear sweat pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Carsten tans faster than anyone I’ve ever met – even when it is overcast. I get paler and paler each day – sheeeet!
But there has been a strange change on Carsten. He has always had “hazel brown eyes”. Normally people don’t change eye color after they grow up, but that is exactly what has happened to Carsten. He now has steel blue/grey eyes and is quite proud of it. We wonder if it is due to the light/sunshine out here and if they will change back – otherwise he can end up having problems when he goes through passport control at the airport.
Another gorgeous night – I wish I could capture this on a video, but we don’t have any camera equipment on board good enough.
Every morning we make a round on Capri’s deck and throw the flying fish and squid overboard that have jumped onto the deck during the night. The squid really leave a stain on the deck – guess we will need a lot of elbow grease when we finally make anchor.
Wear and tear and chafe is unbelievable when you sail passage. We can see that our genua sheet is being chafed through at the point where I goes through the spinnaker pole eye. Why does Jeanneau make spinnaker poles with sharp edges where the sheets go through? You really don’t need to be a naval architect to realize that the pole eyes should have rounded edges. Carsten mounts a snatchblock out there to minimize the chafe and it helps.
Days sail – 92nm (GPS – 146nm and we are 1/3 of the way – only 1987nm to go!)
Day 9 – June 13
Wind 14-15 knots SE, less current so we sail a bit more southerly to find the current. Wind picks up to 18-20 knots SE during the afternoon and night.
Carsten still is debilitated by the pain in his back and he is taking morphine tablets. He is virtually immobile and can only either sit completely upright or lie down.
I’ve had the flu for a week now and am exhausted. I’m finding it difficult to take the evening 8-midnight watch and the 4 a.m.- 8a.m. watch, but fair enough. As bad off as Carsten is, he can only handle one watch, so he takes the midnight to 4 a.m. dogwatch. We’re close to the equator so the days and nights are evenly balanced, light for 11-12 hours then dark for 11-12 hours. So the 8p.m. – midnight watch is also a full night watch. In the morning, as I struggle to keep my eyes open, it seems that the sun is very lazy and taking a long time getting up. The further west we sail, it seems to take even longer. I remember an old song:
“Sunny skies sleep in the morning,
It doesn’t know when to rise”
We turn the clocks back an hour every time we have sailed 15 degrees.
During my evening watch I fight with one squall after the other. Under one of these battles, I lose my knitted Sebago cap – now a donation to King Neptune. It was dirty anyway and fortunately, I have another – this one he won’t get. I hope I have gotten all the squalls so Carsten can have a quiet watch, but no, no, no, he sits and holds on for dear life while Capri and our Aries windvane take the brunt of the squalls he gets. We are already in our 3rd reef on the mainsail and the genua is reefed down to just a handkerchief, so Carsten can let Capri handle it and just keep a lookout.
Days sail – 97nm (GPS – 125nm and 1725nm to go)
Day 10 – June 14
Sun, 12 knots wind SE, 2-3 meter swells, 1 knot following current. During the night the wind picked up to 18-20 knots SE and the swells turned into chop. Smaller squalls hit us regularly. Carsten has a terrible watch. I woke up as the mainsail backed and Carsten fought with the helm. He is still in horrible pain and has great difficulty just moving. I jump out of the bunk and go help him. I roll the genua in and Carsten gets Capri back on course. I’ve just gotten back into the bunk when the mainsail backs again. The wind is coming from every direction and changing directions faster than we can keep up. We get Capri back on course and Carsten continues his battles with the squalls alone. Because I gotten out of the bunk twice he feels that he owes me some sleep and gives me 6 hours in the bunk. God only knows how he managed that with his back – I surely don’t.
Next morning, I’m the one who backs the mainsail. Thankfully, we can’t get into an unintentional gybe because of our boom brake and preventer. What the hell is happening now? It seems as if the windvane is not steering the boat. I look everywhere and finally see that the servo-pendulum is out of the water. Carsten comes up and gets it back where it is supposed to be while I helm the boat through the gusting winds. Finally, everything is back as it is supposed to be.
The biggest challenge out here is not the wind – that we can handle by reefing the sails. The biggest danger are the swells, their size and direction. When I see a 5 meter (15 foot) wave rise up behind Capri (it looks like a wall of water coming at us), I pray that Capri will lift her stern and let the wave pass beneath her and not have it break into the cockpit and swamp the boat. Capri does what she is supposed to do and we are now on top of the wave, looking down 7 meters into the valley and now I can start praying that we don’t slide down it and dig into the water, bows first.
Whew! She surfs down the wave. At night you can’t see these waves, of course, you can only hear them. The noise is frightening. As these waves approach Capri they sound like an express train coming right at us and I spend my time hoping that everything will do what it is supposed to. Capri and our Aries windvane do their job admirably and all I have to do is sit tight in the cockpit and keep a lookout.
Days sail – 101nm (GPS – 135 and we’re at the midpoint – only 1450nm to go!)
Day 11 – June 15
The wind drops to 12 knots, swells only 2.5 meters. We’re in the 2nd reef in both sails. Back in Denmark we would have been blasting along for full sails and even with our genakker set, but out here in these swells pushing Capri forwards so hard that the sails bulge backwards, we are reefing hard so the sails will wear less and the rig will also not be beaten to death. This night the wind drops to 8-9 knots, 2 knot following current and we sail through the night with flapping sails, pounding rigging and we both are getting stressed listening to it.
Is this the “calm before the storm”? The grib forecast has said we can expect winds of at least 26-30 knots and swells of 4-5 meters, all coming from the south where there is a giant gale blowing hard.
For the first time in 2 weeks I don’t have a fever and I’m beginning to recover and get my energy back. Hallelujah! This flu has been a bitch and I don’t recall ever having been laid so low by a flu.
We’re in the cockpit having breakfast when I spot something moving through the water 40-50 meters to port. Christ, is it a whale? Carsten – quick get the camera. Now 5-6 of them come to the surface and we can see they are black on their backs and white on their chests. They swim and float quietly past Capri. We don’t see any whale spouts. These aren’t whales because suddenly we can see their fins. They look like huge dolphins. Unfortunately, they are too far away to get a good picture.
Later, we find out that they are the worlds largest dolphins that can reach 6.5 meters in length. They are also known as “killer whales” or Orca. What a sight and I’m happy they were awake and we didn’t sail into them.
It doesn’t happen often but sometimes at night I sit and worry about hitting a sleeping whale or a container that has been lost overboard from one of the big freighters. There is no way to see these at night and one can only hope that one’s luck has not run out. The chances of this happening are slim and there is no reason to worry. But, these night watches can be lonely and if your imagination starts working overtime you can imagine almost anything – especially when you feel lonely and all alone out here in the middle of nowhere. I hope our luck and health hold out – and here I think about Carsten, hoping that he doesn’t get another Atriel- flutter attack. We have lots of medicine that should help stop the attack, but out here there is no help to be gotten. We’ve talked about this before making our decision to sail out into the Pacific, but it is a nagging worry. I’m looking forward to getting to the Marquesas – we’ve made it just over half way.
Days sail – 78nm GPS- 118nm and only 1375 to go
Day 12 – June 16
We don’t see the 25-30 knot winds forecasted, but we do get 20 knots. The forecast was right on target regarding the swells, however, as 4-5 meter waves hits us sideways from the south. We change course to more northerly and get them in from aft. Of course, this means we are sailing diagonally away from the rhumb line, but at sea – Njord, the Norse god of the winds and the sea, has the last word.
By midnight the wind has quieted to only 15 knots and the swells have dropped to 2-3 meters and we can get back on course. The night sky is filled with stars, the Southern Cross showing the way westward. I enjoy every minute of my night watch, sipping tea and reading in my kindle.
Days sail – 82nm GPS- 143nm and we are 1518 closer.
Day 13 – June 17
Wind 14-16 knots, swells 2 meters, 2 knots following current. We’re having a wonderfully quiet sail. Not much is happening and we can sit back and enjoy the quiet and the azure blue ocean. You have to like being in your own company if you are going to sail long passages double-handed. Fortunately, we both like being alone with ourselves.
After the past couple of hard days, we need some rest and relaxation and most of all we need sleep. Carsten somehow has the energy to bake bread and for dinner he makes hash browns and frankfurters – what a luxury out here in the middle of the ocean. About time, because after two weeks at sea, I’m getting tired of spaghetti or chili con carne – sorry about that Carsten – your chili is the best I’ve ever tasted and so is your spaghetti sauce, but after two weeks, I need a change. For lunch, I use the last of our salad and make a tunafish on green salad. Amazing that we have been able to get the salad to stay fresh for over two weeks.
Normally we have 4 hour watches, which is the usual for long range cruisers. But on this passage we’ve started with 5 hour watches which means we get 4.5 hours of sleep – wonderful! We’ve tried 6 hour watches, but we have to fight to stay awake that last hour and that is no fun.
Days sail – 74nm GPS – 132nm and only 1345 nm to go!
Day 14 – June 18
The calm weather continues. As usual the wind picks up at eventide and drops off during the late evening and night. At home we are used to having a sea or land-breeze caused by the temperature difference between the and sea, but there is no land out here – so why the freshening of the wind in the afternoon? We think it has something to do with the temperature difference of the water between east and west – the eastern water cooling off before the western waters do. The winds also usually freshens up in the morning at sunrise.
We also wonder about the birds we meet out here midways between the Galapagos and the Marquesas. Unbelievable that they can sleep on the surface of the water. But why are they all the way out here? There is plenty to eat at the islands?
Carsten’s back has been getting a little better the past couple of days but now it is acting up again and he can barely move. The “morphine” pills help a little and fortunately he doesn’t show any signs of a slipped disc. I shudder to think what would have happened if he had a pinched nerve and needed to be operated on within 6 hours. We’re really on our own out here and I guess I think more about what could happen than Carsten does. Thank god for that. It is not always an advantage to be a nurse and know a lot about what kinds of sicknesses you can get………………….
I’m now completely over my flu, but my hairloss has started up again. When I brush my hair after a shower you’d think I was being treated for cancer. My hair comes out is large tots and I can feel that my former “mane” is getting thinner and thinner. The hairloss occurs mostly when we sail passage and not so much when we are on land or at anchor. I’ve also noticed that when we sail passage I begin to itch in my ears, undoubtedly caused by all the salt air that covers my skin and probably also irritates my scalp. The 3 other Danish women sailors I’ve met on this trip all have the same experience.
But aside from that – our mood is upbeat.
Days sail – 66nm GPS – 128nm, only 1218 to go
Day 15 – June 19
The weather is unchanged from yesterday and our beautiful sail continues – but only until midnight, when Carsten takes over the watch. He gets to “enjoy” hard winds and squalls the entire watch. The squalls are standing in line to attack Capri. Carsten has to roll in the genua and that is not exactly what his back needs. He sails through the night on our mainsail in the second reef, deciding he doesn’t want to disturb my night’s sleep.
I took over the watch and wanted a bit more balance in the boat so I set the genua again, although heavily reefed. But when Carsten wakes up in the morning, it is blowing almost 30 knots and we decide to put in the 3rd reef in the mainsail and reef the genua to just a tiny handkerchief. Capri is now a “happy boat” and the crew can relax again. Despite the heavily fouled bottom, and the small amount of sail we are carrying, Capri is making 6 knots with 2.5 knots of following current.
Days sail – 81nm GPS – 133nm and only 1087nm to go!
Day 16 – June 20
Hard sailing weather again, 25 knot winds SE. We’re happy we stayed up here over 6 degrees S. The weather charts show a major gale blowing south of us, down at 8 degrees S. It throws huge swells our way and they are running 4-5 meters. Exhausting and tiring. Dinner is ryekrisp and cheese. We don’t have the energy for anything else.
Carsten’s condition is unchanged and he continues to take the strongest painkillers we have on board.
Days sail – 82nm GPS 135nm and “only” 958 to go – less than 1000nm – YES!!!
Day 17 – June 21
Still hard weather with gust close to gale force. We wonder if the front is moving northward towards us. Maybe – we hope we can run in front of it and stay between the two frontal systems that are bracketing us.
Carsten’s condition remains the same and I try to give him as many hours as I can, so he can stay lying on his back. This is really hard on both of us. It is terribly unfair. We’re never sick! Our entire lives we’ve never been sick – why are we hit by this when we are sailing this long passage?
Days sail – 82nm GPS – 148nm, only 810nm to go.
Day 18 – June 22
I’m lying in the bunk, beginning to surface from sleep. A couple of extra desperately needed hours after several hard days. We haven’t had baths in almost 5 days because of the hard weather and we can barely stand to smell ourselves. I can hear from the wind and feel from Capri’s movements that it hasn’t gotten any better up top. Should I really go out on the bathing platform and freeze my ass off while taking a bath? It takes me almost a half hour to convince myself that I need to and I crawl up and shower. I’ve never gone 5 days without a bath before and god is it wonderful when it is finally over. I get more energy and am in a better mood after the bath. Carsten waits another day before he bathes.
We’re still in the third reef and only showing 1/3 of the genua. Carsten is now so immobile that I’ve had to take over the galley and surprisingly manage without getting seasick. I get irritated very quickly when I work in the galley. Nothing stays where I put it, I have to hold on with one hand and have a devil of a time keeping my balance – not to mention keeping everything from flying across the salon. I curse up at storm just like a real seaman. Carsten can hear it all the way up in the cockpit and he says I sound like some old sea dog and I should mind my language.
Sorry about that.
I’m really looking forward to dropping anchor and hope that we can find a calm anchorage. We have had enough “rock and roll”. I completely in agreement with those sailors that say that after several weeks sailing, when the hook goes down – you want to be able to lie quietly in your bunk and not have to hold on.
Days sail – 81nm GPS – 138nm Only 670 to go.
Day 19 – June 23
The hard weather continues until midnight when the winds finally die down to 15 knots and swells also die down, becoming more moderate.
Just like the weather is getting better, so is Carsten. He is now able to move around and can walk almost upright.
Today is also the first day I’ve felt completely well. When I thought the flu was over, it came back with a stopped nose and more fever. I didn’t need that just when we ran into hard weather and Carsten was virtually immobile.
We sleep a lot – both of us need it.
I’m just now beginning to have a surplus of energy. I’m tired of standing watch, tired of night watches – just plain tired. I’m get irritated quickly and am a sourpuss most of time. I feel lonely and am bored on my watches. I can’t imagine how Beth and Evans (American cruisers) sailed from Cape Horn non-stop to New Zealand in the southern latitudes where gales are a daily occurrence. That trip took them almost 3 months. I think I would have jumped overboard somewhere along the way. I like sailing passage – but 3 months? – NEVER, EVER!!
Days sail – 75nm. GPS 125nm – 540nm to go
Day 20 – June 24
The wind has dropped off to 12-14 knots, swells are 2-3 meters and we still have 1.5-2 knots of following current. Very comfortable sailing.
I’m still the galleyslave and Carsten must be feeling better after having slept, because now he’s beginning to make demands of the kitchen. He wants fresh baked croissants for breakfast and also some fresh baked bread. I tell him quite calmly that he can take a flying leap or a long walk off a short pier and several other things not suitable for mixed company. If he wants that then he should have purchased a huge catamaran, that doesn’t heel and where there is a complete kitchen including multiple refrigerators etc.
As you can tell from the above, I’m in a better mood today now that I’ve slept a few hours, the sailing is easy and it is getting warmer. We’re sailing out of the Humboldt Current – last night was the first night I didn’t wear my woolen cap.
My mood is also helped by looking at the chartplotter which shows that we are almost there, we’re less than 500nm from Fatu Hiva. Two years ago I thought the 500nm over the Bay of Biscay was almost insurmountable – now 500nm is “almost there”. Your perception of distance changes as you sail longer and longer passages.
Days sail – 75nm GPS- 125nm and only 420nm to go.
Day 21 – June 25
Wind 15-18 knots, 2-3 meter swells and 1.5 knot following current. Quiet, calm sailing but the wind freshens during the evening/night, rising to 20 knots. The swells increase – now 3-4 meters.
Our mood worsen. Carsten is really tired of his back pains and feels that they are getting worse again. I’m tired of seeing water, water, water and lying here in my bunk, I find it hard to get up. I’m listless and for the first time get a bit homesick and start fantasizing about having an apartment and wandering around Copenhagen or just sitting at home in a room that doesn’t constantly rock and roll. When I tell Carsten, he starts talking about eating Fried pork, with new potatoes and parsley sauce (Danish national dish). The wind dies down later that afternoon and I can see that we won’t make landfall on the 28th of June as we had hoped. I have difficulty accepting that we will spend another day at sea.
My mood gets better the next morning when we see another sailboat coming from behind. We haven’t seen anything in 20 days. We’re happy and call each other on the VHF and take pictures of each others boat as we pass. I hate being passed and especially by a boat that is 2 feet shorter than Capri, but they are sailing with full sails and they also have their genakker set. I’m very happy I’m not on board that boat. It is being tossed around by the waves and the boat is yawing every which way. Later that afternoon some squalls come up with winds at gale force and I can see the difficulties they have managing their boat with all those sails set. Earlier that day I had suggested that we shake out 2 reefs and go from our 3rd reef to our first reef. Carsten was not in agreement, because with his back problems he felt there was no way he could help reef the mainsail if we got caught out by a squall. Good thing we did as he wanted, because we have no problems when these squalls hit us. We put safety and comfort ahead of speed. Yes, we are conservative sailors.
The crew on the other boat are a young French couple that came all the way from Panama City with no stop in the Galapagos. They are on their 31 day of sailing and also really looking forward to dropping the hook. It took us 10 days from Panama to Galapagos and 21 days to here – so we are sailing at the same speed – that helps calm my competitive gene a bit.
The wind continues to freshen and hit us all night long, one right after the other. Most of them are throwing gale force winds at us and we spend all our time easing the main and fall off, only to have to get back on course and tauten up the main some minutes later. I’m completely done in after my 5 hour watch. Carsten takes the next 5 hours and I’m impressed that he manages it alone with his bad back in this terrible weather.
Days sail – 81nm, GPS 128nm, 288nm to go
Day 22 – June 26
I get up to a mild trade wind, 15-16 knots, 2-3 meter swells and 1.5 knot following current. Our course was set for Hiva Oa, where we can clear in, but the skipper of the other boat told us yesterday that we could make landfall on Fatu Hiva without running into difficulties. Fatu Hiva is supposed to be the most spectacular landfall on this planet and not something to be missed. So, without further ado, we changed course. Fatu Hiva is also the island where Thor Heyerdahl lived for a year with his girlfriend, Liv back in the 30’s. This island was very, very isolated at that time.
But we can’t wait to see land!
I enjoy the night under a clear sky with millions of stars and a full moon – happy knowing that we will make land tomorrow.
Days sail – 98nm, GPS 152nm and only 120nm to go!!!!!!
Day 23 – June 27
The weather is unchanged from yesterday. The wind dies her in the evening and night to 10-12 knots, the swells also die down and we are plowing along and expect to make landfall sometime tomorrow morning.
Carsten still wants the dogwatch and I have the other two night watches, but now I have nothing against it, because at 5:30 a.m. local time, I can shout “LAND HO!!!!!” as I see Fatu Hiva materializing out of the twilight.
Unbelievable – thank you Capri, thank you Aries windvane, thank you to our chartplotter that we managed to find this tiny island out in the middle of the huge Pacific.
Still 25 nm to go.
Suddenly, out of the twilight behind us another sailboat begins to take shape. Are we going to be passed again? My competitive gene starts getting excited. An older Halberg-Rassey comes rolling along, two genua set out forward. Again, the VHF is fired up and we take pictures of each other. This crew also came directly from Panama City and have been on the water for 33 days. We sail alongside each other the last few nm to Fatu Hiva, round the island and into the fabled Bay of Virgins, which is tucked away between vertical cliffs.
Here we can anchor in lee of the swells, but the winds come roaring out of the valleys and down through the cleft and out across the anchorage. We’re surprised that here, outside the season, there are 15 boats at anchor – we had expected 4 or 5. As we anchor, several other boats round the corner and in total we’ll be 5 new boats all making landfall within a few hours of each other. Two boats leave – so we are now 18 boats at anchor.
It is not easy to find a good anchorage. Everyone wants to be closest to land where the water is only 10-12 meters deep – a little bit further out the water quickly deepens to 30-40 meters. We find a place with 23 meters, run out 80 meters of chain and back down hard on the anchor – 2400 rpm and the Mantus anchor is holding just fine. We can sleep securely. Or so we thought. The next morning we enjoying a cup of coffee in the cockpit and marveling over the scenery when a truly gale force wind comes pumping out of the valleys, through the cleft and across the bay. Our anchor alarm starts going berserk and unfortunately, it isn’t a false alarm. Our anchor has dragged and we need to reanchor. This is the first time it has ever happened to us. “In Mantus we trust”.
Later we are told that the bay is (in)famous for dragging. The bottom is hard granite, just barely covered by a layer of sand. If you find the sand, it probably isn’t deeper than 20-30 cm and under that is pure granite. We’ll end up staying here a week and every day we’ll 3-4 or more boats drag. One of them tells us that if you only drag once here – you can consider yourself to be an expert anchorman. Our Mantus stays hooked this time and sleep like little babies.
Days sail – 66nm GPS 135nm
Total Rhumb line. San Cristobal to Fatu Hiva – 3014nm
Sailed distance (our log – remember the following current that skews this number) 2038nm
GPS distance – 3049nm
All in all, despite the sickness of the crew, it has been a good, safe and comfortable sail. A few days were tough as were a few nights, but it could have been much worse. Would I do it again?
Yes, but not right away.
I believe we made the right decision in not taking any extra crew on board for this passage. It was hard standing watch on watch for 23 days. 23 days is a long time to be together on so few square feet and we can see that most of the other boats, unless they have paying passengers, also sail double-handed.
Now we get to explore the fabled Marquesas Islands.