Wednesday 20 February 2019
We crossed the equator at 06.07 this morning and all got up to watch the momentous event and give our gifts to Neptune and Poseidon.
Our overnight visitors are still on board and as the sun rises are busy preening their feathers presumably in readiness for a day on the wing. There was a bit of squabbling in the night as they jostled for position but they soon quietened down again.
With 60 miles to go there is a big, lazy, slow swell to the ocean now that Tumi glides up and over. Still not much in the way of wind and what there is is on the nose so we continue to motorsail. We should arrive at San Cristobal, the eastern most Galapagos islands and our port of entry, before nightfall all being well but won't be allowed off the boat until customs and immigration formalities are completed tomorrow. Apparently five or so officials will come on board, checking for compliance with the very stringent requirements about bringing in foodstuffs, recycling, eco-friendly detergents etc while divers will inspect the hull for any barnacles or other organisms attached to it. Hopefully we will have a clean bill of health: we had professional divers clean the hull in Panama City (and Paul and Dan also gave it a quick once over before we left Contadora), and we've peeled the onions and garlic, removed the eyes from the potatoes, frozen all meat and cheese, juiced the limes and cleaned out the fridge. Phew!
We arrived at 6.45pm local time (7.45pm Panama time) having averaged 6.843 knots over 129 hours, although 81 of those was motorsailing. Not what we hoped for but hey ho. The last few hours were spent motoring along the coast of San Cristobal, admiring the dramatic geological formations framed by the setting sun.
We're now safely anchored at Baquerizo Moreno and were rather surprised by our welcome committee, a number of rather vocal sealions who all swam over to check us out! We've been advised not to put the bathing platform down as they are rather partial to coming on board!!
Tuesday 19 February 2019
I spoke too soon last night when I was waxing lyrical about the peaceful seas. Not long after I handed the watch over to Dan, we were engulfed by an electrical storm that came out of nowhere and pursued us for hours. Lightning raged all around us, torrential rain certainly washed off the decks, and we were soaked in no time. We put the radar on to see which our optimal path through the storm might be, and it looked as though there was a gap in between two squall cloud formations, but no sooner than we had made our move we were caught in a pincer movement as the two squalls merged above us and we were in the thick of it.
Eventually, we made it out the other side to face high winds on the nose and a current driving us forward which results in steep seas - somewhat bouncy! After a while, things settled down and we have been able to cut the engine and sail again towards the Galapagos islands. Only 200 or so miles to go. Sadly the favourable winds died mid-afternoon and so it was back to motor-sailing once again.
We've got extra crew on board tonight for the overnight passage in the shape of seven red-footed Boobies, two on each of the anchor and port-side pulpit and three on the starboard side pulpit. What a noisy pallaver getting them all settled on board. The early arrivals certainly didn't want to share their roost with any latecomers, extending their sharp beaks skywards at any approach and squawking indignantly. Fortunately calm came with nightfall and the lucky few are now asleep on the bow!
Paul was able to get amazingly close to them … they just looked at him curiously as he studied them.
This will be our last night at sea on this leg of the voyage and it is a beautiful full moon lighting up the sea behind us. With the exception of last night's excitement it's been a benign passage and the crew have handled the watches very well. I do detect a change in spirits today: whether that's to do with the euphoria of the storm, getting into a routine or excitement at our imminent arrival I don't know!
We will cross the equator for the first (and only) time on our own boat tonight. We'll try to capture the moment for posterity!
Monday 18 February 2019
Hurrah! At 7am this morning the wind returned so we gratefully turned the engine off again. Paul was still asleep so I set the genoa and main and we were making a steady 5+ knots with the intention of raising the parasailor as soon as Paul awoke. Now we're sailing along beautifully at approaching 7 knots and keeping everything crossed the wind remains with us as long as possible.
We're the SSB radio net hosts today and have just completed the morning roll call. The further we get away from Panama, the more spread out the fleet becomes but we're doing okay somewhere around the middle. A few of the boats have issues (charging systems, watermaking, sickness) and everyone is helpful with advice and assistance. It's one of the great advantages of being part of the rally. So far all is fine on Tumi but we're not counting our chickens just yet!
This afternoon we sailed (thankfully slowly) through a patch of sea that was literally scattered with flotsam and jetsam, everything from buckets, a hard hat, and flipflops from the plastic side of things to tree trunks, bamboo, coconuts and myriad spars, planks and other bits of wood.
We also spotted a turtle swimming in among the rubbish, maybe picking barnacles off the flotsam to eat, and a small crab on a floating branch heading who knows where. Whether it makes it is another matter but that is one of the ways creatures reached the Galapagos and colonised it. It was also funny to see birds taking a rest on the floating logs.
On this evening's SSB net we discovered that one of the boats with charging problems (batteries overheating and smelling) have turned back for Panama despite being halfway to the Galapagos to get spares/repairs made. Hopefully they will be successful in getting things sorted quickly and be able to rejoin the rally but potentially they could be the third boat to have to drop out so far with problems. It really underlines what a massive undertaking this all is and how readily it can come to an end unexpectedly. We hope that Tumi and her crew cross this massive ocean safely and without incident.
Sitting in the cockpit on watch tonight we are blessed with a full moon to light our path as we head southwest. The seas have turned a magnificent blue colour again, much more in tune with our expectations. The water is warm, and very calm, slight swells lift the boat from time to time, and the whole scene is a delight to behold. The skies are scattered with clouds, it is beautifully warm, and there is just enough of a breeze to power the sails as we motor on through the night. If only engines were silent...
Sunday 17 February 2019
It’s been a mixed bag of a day today, We had to motor for 22 hours yesterday as we are in the doldrums and the winds have been very slight. None of us like motoring, the sound of the engine is intrusive in our otherwise peaceful sailing with just the gentle hiss of the water passing under the boat, and so when the winds kindly picked up for us this morning at 10:30 to a level where we could break out the big blue parasailor, we duly did. The more practice we get, the slicker the sail is set, and within minutes we were able to turn off the engine and get back to the peace and quiet.
We had the fishing line out all day to no avail, so we ate yesterday's catch for lunch which was accompanied by a nice salad nicoise. Who says we don't eat well on passage? Last night during the fleet radio net, we heard that Raid had caught a 185cm 40kg Wahoo and if anyone was in their vicinity they were welcome to a few kilos of fresh fish. We don't want to catch anything near that size, but we keep trying to get that elusive Mahi Mahi. Our time will come!
The winds dropped back to zero at 16:00 hours and we took the parasailor down for the night. Here we are again, motorsailing, trying to find the best favourable current to give us an extra knot or two to get to the Galapagos islands a little quicker.
We are noticing that when the winds die down the temperature rises significantly. Keeping cool is an art form. Thank goodness we have the bimini to shelter us, or we would simply fry.
Saturday 16 February 2019
We've been at sea for 24 hours and have managed to sail 152 miles in the relatively light airs, thanks largely to the Parasailor. Quite pleasing really but the forecast for the next few days as we approach the equator and the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone, formerly referred to as the doldrums) is for almost no wind. We've already decided we'll start to motorsail as soon as our speed over ground drops to below 5 knots. At the moment we are being helped along by almost a knot of current, all for the good!
We've heard in the past that the best time to fish is early morning and evening. Well it looks like there might be some truth in that as hot on the tail of our catch of a tuna yesterday evening, around dusk, lo and behold we caught another this morning before breakfast. Once again Paul reeled it in and Dan got to work despatching it and filleting it.
Having four on board transformed the night watch experience with us all getting a reasonable amount of sleep. Hallelujah! We could see other rally boats throughout the night but the fleet soon disperses and so they will slowly disappear from view.
Sadly we lost the wind at lunchtime so took down the Parasailor and switched the engine on. Having looked at the forecast for the next few days it looks like we'll be motoring the rest of the way which is a real blow … noisy, expensive and boring! Oh well, we're all in the same boat.
Interestingly, not long after we started motoring, we noticed large swathes of the ocean were a rusty brown colour. We need to find out the cause next time we have internet.
Friday 15 February 2019: Bye Bye Las Perlas
Tradition has it that sea voyages shouldn't start on a Friday but here we all are on our way to Galapagos! Maybe this voyage officially started on Saturday 12 January in St Lucia and this leg is just a continuation of the bigger trip. Let's hope so!
Yesterday was a day of preparation … laundry, cleaning, provisioning, food preparation etc … and then a quiet evening watching a movie with a glass of wine. Very well deserved.
The God of winds delivered enough wind for us all to limp over the starting line at 11am this morning. We had decided to hang back and raise the Parasailor to cross the line at the back of the fleet and five hours later that is where we remain, at the back of the pack!! There's still a long way to go so it doesn't really matter but obviously we hope to overtake a few boats along the way.
The Parasailor went up smoothly this time but soon became down again as the wind direction was too tight for the big blousy number so it was back to our regular sails for a few hours until we cleared the southern most Las Perlas island and could turn away a bit. It's now back up and we're starting our big comeback mission, albeit it in very light airs. World ARC fleet watch your backs!!!
This evening we caught a good sized tuna which fed us all very nicely, hopefully there is much more of the same to be had.
The guy controlling the parasailor frayed through this evening, we need to adjust the run of the line to prevent chafe, another little job for the daylight hours tomorrow. In the meantime, we have the (very light) winds behind us and the sail is doing its job well. We have already overtaken several boats and are catching others up too. Maybe another prize awaits?