Carsten -Galapagos to Marquesas – sailing into emptyness

We spent the last day on the Galapagos getting our clothes washed, clearing out (pain in the a**), making a couple of gallons of spaghetti sauce and a BIG pot of chili. We rearranged everything below so we got our seabunk ready and made with fresh new sheets.

The rest of the time was spent checking Capri to ensure that she was ready for sea – really ready. We will be at sea for at least 3 weeks, perhaps 4, depending on wind and weather. We checked all the splitters, shrouds, sheets (for signs of beginning chafe), decided that the port side genua sheet needed changing end to end and visually inspected everything else we could think.

Determined that this time we would use our Aries wind vane, I spent an hour and a half assembling and mounting it on the stern.

We were as ready as we could be and the next morning we waved “good-bye” to Wojtek, Elina and Paul, our new friends on Imagine. They will stay in the Galapagos for a couple more weeks before following us westover.

We start out in fine style with 20 knot winds, reefed mainsail and everything is looking just fine with the sun shining from a blue sky. As the afternoon wore on and we got further from land, the wind died and we shook out the reefs in the mainsail. We were still making 6 knots over ground with the current pushing us along at a nice 1.5 knots.

Wonderful.

Vinni went below to catch some sleep before dinner (we had decided that I would take the dog watch tonight and she would take the 8-midnight and 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. watches). Since we were going to be at sea for at least 3 weeks, the first week or so we would eat all our fresh vegetables and save our chili and other foods that would keep for the end of the trip.

No alcohol when we sail and we both missed our evening glass of wine.  But, we were happy to be at sea again – this time heading out for the great adventure – the South Sea Islands. Captains Cook and Bligh, the Bounty, Gaugin, bronzed girls in grass skirts and little else – all my boyhood dreams and fantasies are waiting just over the horizon. How many people get to have their boyhood fantasies come true?

I am reminded of the poem:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

I’m not a poet – but that one says just about everything Vinni and I feel about raising the anchor and setting our sails. There really isn’t anything quite like it when the anchor chain rumbles in – adventure waits, you don’t know what the passage will be like. Will we be beset by squalls? Will dolphins and whales glide by Capri? How starry will the sky be?

Out here, you are truly on your own. There is no help to had for the most part – you’re able really only to rely on yourself and have faith in your sailing partner and your faithful boat (thank you again Capri!). If anything goes wrong, you’ll have to weather the crisis yourself. As an example, we carry two books (amongst many others) – “Where there is no doctor” and “Where there is no dentist”.  Both very necessary (but we hope we never have to open them).

Life on the sea is more intense than life on land. On land, we attempt to even out the low points in our existence by instituting all sort of creature and mental comforts. But in doing so, we do manage to take away many of the lows, but we also cut the top off the high points in our existence. Life on shore is more even, without great fluctuations, but also more boring – to be honest.

Back to our little sail. Once clear of the land, Vinni and I engaged our wind vane, fiddled around with it adjusting first this and then that when suddenly – by golly – the damned thing works! Here are sailing along, the vane is bobbing merrily to and fro and Capri is headed for the Marquesas! Will wonders never cease?

In case you haven’t looked at it on Vinni blog, this is how a windvane works:

As the sun sets, the stars start twinkling and soon it is like Christmas time with twinkling lights from horizon to horizon. I’m enthralled and spend my watch looking at first one part of the sky, then another, trying to decide which is the more magnificent (neither are – both are beyond belief). The Southern Cross lights up each evening just to windward of the boat and we have it in the sky until about 4 am when it sets.  Supposedly, you can see both the Southern Cross and Polaris (North Star) at the same time at this latitude.  I try every night but am unable to make out the North Star, which should be lurking aright at the northern horizon.

Capri shoulders on through the swells, her passage marked by the noise of her hull slipping through the water.

Can anything be better than this? Hard to believe anything can. I stay awake an extra hour, giving Vinni a 5 hour sleep, just so I can enjoy this unbelievable night a little longer. We’ll find on this passage that we are giving each other 5 and even 6 hours of sleep most nights, because we are actually enjoying our night watches.

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Capri – wing-on-wing in the moonlight

Two days out of the Galapagos, we come across a gigantic fishing fleet – 30 or more ships, stretching from one horizon to the other.  We can’t tell if they are Korean or Japanese – we try to call them on the VHF but they don’t respond – probably because they don’t speak English. Getting through the line of ships is now a problem- Are they towing a long array of net?  How close do we dare go to them? The answer of course, is to pass in front of them – but it seems as if they are determined to do everything in their power to annoy us and prevent us from passing. No matter how I change course, they invariably also change course or speed – denying us passage. Finally, we’re forced to take a deep breath, change course radically and go behind one of the ships. We have no idea if we are going to foul our rudder or keel on their net – but there is no choice.

Apparently the nets were being towed deeper than our 7 ½ feet, because we passed through the line without getting tangled. Once again, Vinni and I are forced to admit we really do not like fishing boats or trawlers………

A few days out and we’re happy that we have the windvane.  Our batteries are charging just fine, but they are over 2 years old and we use them 24/7. They don’t quite have the resilience or capacity they used to have. We’ll have to check them when we get to land. In the meantime – the windvane doesn’t use any electricity, so we are ahead of the game. Our hydraulic autopilot uses as much as 10-12 AH per hour in heavy weather and 6-8AH in normal weather.

Here a week out, Vinni starts sneezing and announces – “I have a cold on the way”. Well, we’re at the equator so it is quite natural she should get cold. And it is cold here – especially at night – Vinni is wearing her Scottish bikini again (unbelievable!), later in the voyage she’ll also put on a woolen cap (no – that is not a joke – see the pics). I’m a bit more warm-blooded, but I’m also wearing long pants and a hooded sweatshirt at night.

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Proper daytime attire for sailing near the equator – when it is warm

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For when it is cold at the equator. A shirt, sweater, foulies, socks, boots and blanket – where is my bikini?

I’ve developed a very acute back pain. Apparently from sitting incorrectly in the cockpit while on watch. The pain is so strong that it is almost debilitating. I’m crawling around on the boat and am only able to stand (!) my watches, sitting bolt upright. Every time Capri veers around in the swells, my back feels like someone is sticking knives in it.

I’m trying to dull the pain by eating painkillers- but they aren’t very effective. Meantime, Vinni’s cold is now turned into a really nasty one and she is struggling also with her watches. What a wonderful pair-one can’t stand up straight and one only wants to think about being under the covers.

Are we having fun yet?

Damned right we’re having fun!

Are the last living persons on the face of the earth? 10 days have gone by and with the exception of the fishing fleet; we’ve seen no sign of humans. We also haven’t seen any whales or dolphins.

Life is a bit lonely. The daily routine is mainly sleeping, eating, standing watch and even though we do get some time together, mostly we are alone. Vinni’s cold means that whenever she isn’t on watch all she thinks about is getting under the covers and my back pain is so acute that whenever I’m not on watch all I can think of is getting to lie down where it stops hurting. Vinni had some nasty squalls one of the first nights and I’ve had a few, although mine were only “wind squalls”, meaning there was no rain, just hard winds.

We’ve run into a spell with heavy swells – so heavy that we’re eating cold sandwiches – not cooking. It is simply too difficult. At night the swells come roaring past – most are 3-4 meters – some are closer to five. You sit in the dark, now pitch black because of the clouds, and hear the roar of the approaching waves.

Death approaching.

The winds are howling through the rigging like banshees. The sensory deprivation is complete.  The sense you have that you can use is hearing. It feels like sitting on the railroad tracks hearing and hearing an express train coming. Will Capri lift her stern lightly and glide over it as she is supposed to? Or will she hunker down for some reason and we’ll get pooped – a million gallons or so of water crashing into the cockpit? If it is the latter, will we survive the onslaught?

Capri, mindful of her job, lifts her stern and we glide over the top and down the back side. Now the scenario repeats itself. After 4 hours of this- you’re getting pretty ripe. Occasionally, a freak wave will smash Capri from one side or the other – tossing her several meters to starboard or port. Since it is dark, you have no time to prepare and you’re caught and fly from one side of the cockpit to the other.

This, or course, is just what you want when you are nursing a bad back or a heavy cold. Several times, I get tossed and my back gets wrenched into positions that are horribly painful.

Some people worry about hitting sleeping whales in the dark or running into containers that have fallen off ships. On nights like this – those thoughts are far from your mind.

Did I say something up above about the highs being higher and the lows being lower here at sea??

We notice that the flying fish out here are blue for some reason – quite pretty and one of the morning tasks is a walk around the deck, tossing the dead flying fish and squids into the water.

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The morning inspection revealed this one

The days are rolling by and we’re beginning to think that this will be a 3 ½ week journey. We’re now eating our chili and spaghetti – the fresh vegetables are all gone – no more salads, tomatoes etc. We still have apples for our breakfast cereal and some yoghurt left.

We’re close to Fatu Hiva and as I come up from sleeping, Vinni can proudly announce that she noted “Land Ho!” during her watch. Out in the distance, I can just see the bluish outline of a mountaintop rising out of the sea.

Well damn!  We’re here.

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Well damn – we made it!

Almost 23 days for something like 3400 nautical miles.  Not an impressive passage time, but Vinni and I made a conscious decision not to crack on all the sail we could.  We would rather have a comfortable sail than one where we have to “walk on the walls” for 3 weeks. In general, it has been a comfortable sail and if it took a day or two longer than it could have – that isn’t a problem.  As a side reward – believe it or not I managed to lose 25 pounds during that 3 ½ weeks and Vinni lost 15 pounds or so.

 

Hell, we should have kept sailing for another week or two…………………..

One thought on “Carsten -Galapagos to Marquesas – sailing into emptyness

  1. Hi (or should I say “Hei”)! I liked your recent post in Cruisers’ Forum but got told off for including a few words in Norwegian in my reply!
    Anyway, I did enjoy your post and will keep on following your progress. You are living my dream! Bon Vent!!!

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