27 Mar 2019

27/3/2019 : Hiva Oa, French Polynesia

When we checked into French Polynesia the day before yesterday, all the formalities were completed, we were all given a lei to wear and we were able to catch up with some of the other sailors who had equally just arrived and share our experiences. 

Our arrival coincided with a Polynesian night at a local hotel, so we duly signed up for it and then went exploring the nearby town (1 mile away, 40 minutes’ walk). We took a cab as we hadn’t used our legs for weeks and we didn’t know where we were going, and we were dropped off in the centre two minutes later. First stop was the bank to change some dollars into CFP, the local Polynesian Franc. Next stop was La Poste to get a sim card for the mobile phone. That done, we should have been free to connect to the rest of the world. Sadly, not true we can make local calls, but no internet connectivity at all. This sets us back several years in reality, to the days when we were sailing on Pandora and had to find internet cafes to get connected. It’s just the same here, only the cafes are non-existent, and we have to go and eat somewhere to get wifi.

Anyway, we went to the Polynesian evening and were regaled with traditional warrior dancing and a Hakka. We could imagine armies of warriors facing each other to pay their respects before going into battle (I respect you but I’m going to kill you, it’s nothing personal!) and it was an awesome display of raw savagery, softened by the graceful gentleness and delicacy of the female dancers.

Yesterday, we hired a 4WD car and drove around the island – all of it! There are only 3 roads that are considered passable, and you certainly need a 4WD to do it, the roads are partially concrete and mostly dirt track. We managed to negotiate our way to the far end of the island to visit the sacred sites where the Tiki statues are kept. They are obviously very significant sites, and particularly the second one, Ta’Aoa was immense, covering a huge area, all raw stones made into platforms etc.

25/3/2019: Galapagos to Marquesas

24th March 2019: Day Nineteen

Thinking about it, day eighteen doesn’t end and day nineteen doesn’t start until midday, so half of the 24th March is still actually day eighteen and day nineteen doesn’t end until midday on the 25th! An important point for clarifying just how long the passage has taken us.

We’re all watching the miles fall away and trying to work out when we will arrive. It’s looking like it will be after dark given the winds have eased, never an easy proposition for a first-time arrival. Our options are to anchor in the dark, or slow down sufficiently to arrive at first light. A no-brainer really: we have done many arrivals in the dark without incident and so will do the same again this time, especially given we would need to hang around for six of seven hours for daybreak.

My day was very busy. While the men relaxed in the cockpit, notionally steering the boat, I made bread, made lunch from the bread, cleaned up the boat and then made a lasagne and coleslaw for dinner. Phew! Given all my endeavours and our short night tonight I announced I wouldn’t be taking a watch and left them to it! We shared a bottle of wine with dinner in honour of a successful passage, our first glass since we set off. It didn’t taste that great to me and I ended up leaving half. Even Paul and Phil only managed a glass each, but Dan finished it off!

We saw land for the first time just before sunset, some forty-one miles out. It was amazing watching the sun set behinds the mountains. To cap the evening off we caught another tuna. This time a small yellow-fin, perfect for dinner for four people.

At 3am Paul shouted me to say we were approaching the finish line and needed to take big blue down for the last time. We put the deck floodlights on and he and Dan went forward to pull it down while Phil and I controlled the lines from the cockpit. All went smoothly and at 03.45am, 18 days and 15 ¾ hours after leaving Puerto Ayora we crossed the finish line. 3034 nautical miles under our belts, and an average of 6.776 knots. There’ll be no position for us on the winners podium this time but a respectable time and with no damage or injury. Well done Team Tumi!

Rounding the headland into the bay in Atuona, Hiva Oa, Paul picked out the yachts at anchor while I wove our way through them to a safe position to anchor for the remainder of the night. It’s three and a half hours earlier here than our point of departure and so by 00.45am local time we were safely at anchor with a celebratory can of beer for the crew. We’ll move into the inner harbour in the morning to get away from the worst of the swell.

23rd March 2019: Day Eighteen

We feel as though we are on the home straight now. Later in the morning we will pass the 250 miles to go marker, and who knows, we might even spot another boat in the fleet. We haven't seen anything on the horizon but sea and sky for about ten days or more. You would think that we feel isolated, but we don't. Our daily routine keeps us occupied and we are our own microcosm. We steer the boat, we cook, we eat well, we sleep, we occasionally catch fish, we chat, we read, we sleep some more. The only thing we don't do is walk. A quick stride around the deck only takes thirty seconds, and with the deck pitching as it does, it's not recommended.

22nd March 2019: Day Seventeen

We had a bit more wind during the night last night which meant that we had to keep checking on the parasailor to determine whether or not it would have to come down. As it turned out, it was fine, and our progress has been steady at around 7 knots. We passed the milestone of 500miles to go last night, it seems as though the miles are dropping off very quickly now and Team Tumi are looking forward to getting our feet back on solid ground again.

After the beautiful sunset last night we were treated to a spectacular sunrise this morning.

We caught a big tuna (40lbs+) late in the afternoon, our usual time for getting a bite.  After its epic battle to avoid capture we reeled it in but took the decision to throw it back .... it would have filled the freezer completely, and kept us fed for 2 weeks with fish to spare so we let it go.

We had some very sad news this evening: one of our closest friends and keenest supporters of our adventures has passed away. We’re both devastated and will miss her dearly. Rest in Peace, Pat, and thank you for everything over the years.

Less than 300 miles to go to the Marquesas.

21st March 2019: Day Sixteen

It’s the first day of spring today (not that it makes any difference to us out here in the tropics) and I have just heard from our weather man back home (aka our friend Mac) that the weather appears to be settled for the next few days. Good and bad news. Good in that we can probably keep the big blue flying all the way to the Marquesas, bad in that the journey might be a little longer than planned, but hey ho, we are still making steady progress towards the Islands. At least the calmer weather means that Team Tumi all get to enjoy some decent sleep without being thrown across the bunk or cabin several times in the night.

The day proved unfruitful in the fishing stakes once again today. We took a couple of hits on the lure, something very big on the second occasion and whatever it was it bit through the leader, taking the hook, but thankfully leaving the lure behind. A new hook later and a very good blood knot to fix it to the lure and we are up and running again. This is our last lure, so we need to make it count and land that mahi mahi!

This evening we were privileged to have a terrific sunset. It didn t appear to be that spectacular at first, but while we were sitting quietly in the cockpit having a moment to ourselves, it just got better and better. What a privilege to see these sights.

20th March 2019: Day Fifteen

The big blue has been flying for days now, and has been working so well. Clearly a good investment for us and a real boon in light airs. We have been making steady progress, and have probably improved our position in the fleet as a result. Sitting in the cockpit writing this blog, the full moon is behind the sail illuminating it against the backdrop of fluffy cumulus clouds in an otherwise clear sky. It is magical.

We caught a strange looking greenish coloured fish today. None of the books we have enabled us to identify it, so we put it back to live another day. Once again, it wasn't my mahi mahi :( maybe tomorrow will be more fruitful. In the absence of said mahi mahi, we resorted to eating Fray Bentos pies this evening instead. Hmmm. This was an exercise not to be repeated in a hurry!

The radio net was something of a disaster this evening. As net controllers we tried using a higher frequency to try to reach the whole fleet, but it appeared that a lot of the boats weren't able to send/receive on channel 8 bravo. Tomorrow will be interesting as I couldn't  even raise the net controllers (TinTin) to discuss whether or not to change back to channel 6 bravo instead where many of the boats could communicate effectively. Their SSB radio is playing up anyway, so I might have to jump in and run the net again to help them out.

600 miles to go.

19th March 2019: Day Fourteen

The big blue has been up for 36 hours now and is doing sterling work. Our progress is steady with no stress to the rig, and the weather is being kind to us too. George the autohelm hasn't had to work very hard at all today. We have adjusted the sails a bit occasionally to make sure we prevent the likelihood of chafe on the lines, and so far so good. One of the other boats (Peikea) have had a mainsail halyard failure which has resulted in them needing to assemble a jury rig to get them close enough to the Marquesas to motor the rest of the way. We don’t want to be in the same situation if we can help it. The list of equipment failures in the fleet is growing. Some boats have experience issues with their SSB radios and so tomorrow we are stepping in to be radio net controllers ahead of schedule.

The highlight of today was our sighting of a breaching humpback whale (or possibly two humpbacks as we saw it breach twice). Such a splash, but unmistakable as humpbacks as the flipper colour and shape are very distinctive. Phil was desperate to capture a third breach on video but his wishes were thwarted.

The rest of the day passed easily with no more excitement. Still no mahi mahi :(

18th March 2019: Day Thirteen

Unlucky thirteen? No! The day started calmly with good visibility under the waxing gibbous moon and continued in the same vein throughout the day. Good winds propelled us along very nicely, we hoisted the blue at lunchtime and left it up to do its work and keep our speeds up.

Then came the excitement.

In late afternoon at 6pm the fishing reel started to whiz line out at a tremendous rate. It was the radio net time and I was on station waiting to participate but with the line running out so quickly I had to drop the mike and run to retrieve the line. Dan was trying to slow down our boat speed to no avail so we abandoned that idea and started the long haul of bringing in the fish. We had no idea what was on the line but it was big and strong. We took turns reeling it in, being fought all the way and eventually we got it close enough to the boat to be able to see that it was huge, bright blue in colour and still fighting fiercely.

As we pulled it in closer we realised that it was a marlin, and our excitement grew as we looked it up in the book, meanwhile the rod was being bent out of all proportion. Once again, if we had caught this fish on our old rod, the reel simply would not have been able to handle the power coming from the fish on the other end of the line.

Anyway, we got this beast right to the stern and it was a good 5 feet long, weighing in at around 60 lbs. The book said that these were normally catch and release to conserve the stocks, so we decided to cut the line and release it back into the ocean, but what a fight!

Excitement over, having lost yet another lure, I made a new one ready for tomorrow's  angling session. That mahi mahi is still out there waiting for me …. The big blue will stay up through the night as the weather is settled and we should put some miles behind us. It’s nearly a full moon, so we will have good visiblilty for the next several nights, which is a real boon.

We have less than 1000nm to go and the miles are really counting down now. The thrill of reaching the Marquesas is building on board, and Phil has been busy designing his tattoo to mark the voyage. I on the other hand will wait to see what traditional styles might appeal before making any decision.

17th March 2019: Day Twelve

An easy Sunday. The winds weren't too strong, nor too light. They are coming from the port quarter swinging round to the stern, but not enough to get the Parasailor flying. We did try it later in the afternoon but the winds were variable and we were in danger of wrapping the sail around the shrouds, plus we hit a squall unexpectedly,  so we abandoned the idea and stayed with the poled out jib and mainsail. Since then we have made good progress.

We had another big hit on the fishing lure, but once again, the fish took the pretend squid off the lead weight that I use to make it look plumper and more attractive. Tomorrow we will use a different squid, one that doesn't come away so easily.

16th March 2019: Day Eleven

Something of an uneventful day for a change. The fishing line was out all day, apparently not drawing any attention to itself, or so we thought. When we reeled it in at the end of the day, the latex squid lure had been eaten off the rig leaving only the weight and the hook on the end of the line. Some clever fish probably will have a stomach ache now trying to digest the snack. Anyway, I have other latex squids and we are good to go again in the morning. That mahi mahi’s days are numbered!

The winds have uncharacteristically changed around to the east and are gusting at 25-28 knots so we won’t be flying the blue in these variable comditions. Instead of the parasailor we have poled out the jib and put a preventer stay on the main in case of an accidental gybe. With the winds as they are, we can reef in the sails and control our canvas much easier, and that means we sail safer, and actually without losing speed in the process. Some of the fleet boats that are farther south have been complaining that the winds are too light, so much for not taking the rhumb line in search of stronger winds and currents. We prefer the shortest distance between two points, it's simpler.

Phil was the bread maker today. It turned out pretty well. We seem to be having much more success with our baking on this trip. Tuna again for dinner, Dan cooks it really nicely. We still have enough left for 4 more meals. Not bad for one fish!

1230 miles to go.

15th March 2019: Day Ten

Today turned out to be a mixed bag of events. We got the big blue up early in the day and the winds remained steady for most of the day. There is a pattern emerging with the weather that sees an increase in the winds at about 3pm and we have to take the blue down quickly to avoid broaching in the gusts. When we were getting the sail down, two things happened:

The bridle that we use to snuff the sail got caught around the radar dome, and

The fishing line got caught around the propeller.

Neither of these was good.

First things first, we needed to get the parasailor sorted out. Dan and I tried several ways to flick the bridle off the dome to no effect. Then after ten minutes of futile effort, he realised that all we needed to do was untie one end and pull the other part down, Duh! That bit was sorted.

Next, the propeller wrap. The last thing I ever want to do is go swimming under the boat in four and a half miles deep water with all sorts of pelagic critters lurking about, but I had no choice. The 60lb breaking strain line was firmly attached to the prop and wasn't going to untangle itself. So I donned my mask and snorkel, retrieved the rigging knife from its sheath, dropped the bathing platform and ladder, and in I went. Phil, my brother from another mother, bless his cotton socks, came in with me as moral support, and to keep an eye out for stray predators while I tackled the problem. We had dropped lines into the water for us to hang onto in case we were swept away by the current, and under I went. By pure luck, I managed to find just the right place to cut the line, and fortunately, the rest of it untangled itself under pressure. Job done, I was back around the boat to the bathing platform and out of the water as quickly as I could, closely followed by Phil. The adrenaline was certainly flowing after that.

I re-rigged the fishing line and put the lure back out, in the vain hope that we might actually catch something, and wham! We hooked a tuna. Not just a tuna, a big blackfin tuna.  The line on the reel played out for a while, then I put the brake on and started to reel it in. The fish had other ideas and turned the other way. The clutch on the reel wasn't tightened down enough to stop more line being played out, So I tightened it down three times until I had control. Dan and I took turns reeling it in, and Phil also had a go, but this beast was not giving up easily. Eventually we brought it close to the boat, and we saw this big flash of silver in the water. Dan got the gaffe hook ready as I brought the fish close in to the stern and with one deft snatch of the gaffe, it was on the deck, all 25-30lbs of it. Dan and I set to and cut it up straight away. Needless to say, there was a lot of blood and gore, much to Debra’s horror, and it took a while to stop flapping around but we washed everything down thoroughly, including ourselves. We ate some of it this evening, and have frozen the rest, enough to feed us for several days. It's the biggest fish I have ever caught, and I am glad that someone stole my last fishing rod as the reel on that rig would never have managed to land this beast. I still want my mahi mahi though!

We also crossed the half way mark today, and celebrated with a G&T each. We felt we deserved one after sorting out the problems of the day. But the Team Tumi motto of “there’s nothing we can’t undo” still stands. We just need to get better at not causing ourselves the problems that we need to undo!

14th March 2019: Day Nine

Team Tumi let the skipper sleep last night. The watches were shifted and stretched to accommodate my 10pm to 1am slot and I retired to the forward cabin to try and get a whole night’s sleep. Being skipper on board, I just can't seem to switch off. Every creak and groan of the rigging means something to me, and even in sleep I instinctively know if something is not quite right and I get up to sort it out, often to Debra’s exasperation. I know she is capable of doing these things as well as me, but I cannot help it. Anyway, I woke this morning refreshed and ready to go again, and apparently my eyes weren't red and sunken any more, and Debra didn't think I still looked shattered, so something worked. Saying that the night was very fragmented as the forward cabin tends to be somewhat vigorous in its movement as we cut through the water. Several times I find myself airborne as we drop into a trough in the ocean. It doesn't make for restful sleep.

The weather remains very changeable. We got the big blue out this morning and kept it out until late afternoon, when the winds increased quickly as the clouds gathered. That was the signal I needed, and just in time, we pulled down the blue, and unfurled the jib and main. With the increased winds on the beam at between 80 and 100 degrees to port, we sail almost as quickly with our normal sail wardrobe as we do with the big blue, but it is far more easily controlled, and reduces the risk of broaching. A no brainer really.

We still continue to be fishless. We have tried changing the lures every day to no avail, and today we even replaced our proper lures with some live bait - flying fish that had landed and died on the decks. This evening as we were sitting down to watch a movie, a big flying fish decided to join us when it flew through the hatch and into the saloon, bouncing off Debra’s berth on the way. She wasn't impressed!

One of the other boats in the fleet, Chanto, reported having an Orca visit their boat today. Having read the book “survive the savage seas” where the family’s boat was torpedoed by a pod of Orcas and sank within 90 seconds, I have mixed feelings about seeing one, but it would be excitement tinged with apprehension. I personally haven't even seen a whale yet, although Debra and Phil did see a couple of pilot whales the other day.

The half moon is waxing at present, giving a nice amount of light for the night sailing. It will get brighter over the next few days as we head towards a full moon, and should light up our path for the rest of the leg. At the moment, we have 1600 miles to go to Hiva Oa. Tomorrow we will pass the half way mark and really be on the countdown to our arrival. We are currently number 15 in the fleet in terms of distance to go, no prizes on this leg to be expected, especially as we reef the sails down at night time for safety and comfort’s sake. It's easier to manage the setting and trimming of the sails when you can see properly in the daylight.

13th March 2019: Day Eight

The winds shifted again in the early morning back to the east-south-east so it was a case of engine off and re-set the sails onto a port tack. As they are now behind us and are fairly light it’s ideal for flying the big blue again which we just might do once it's daylight and subject to Paul feeling his shoulder is up to it.

Big blue was deployed by 7am and we enjoyed a great 9 hours of sailing with it powering us along at over 8 knots in between 15 and 20 knots of wind. It’s designed to be a downwind sail, that is the wind is coming from behind us, but can be used when the wind is coming from the side as well as was the case today. When it’s flying on one side of the boat however, rather than in front, it can leave us in fear of broaching as the wind strengthens so we took the sensible decision in the late afternoon to take it down and revert to the white sails. We’re going about a knot slower but are still achieving over 7 knots so not so shabby at all!

Bread-making is in full swing on board with Dan giving me a break from it yesterday. I’m hoping we have enough flour on board to get us through but think we should be just about okay. Our food stocks are going well … the more perishable fruit and veg (bananas, pears, lettuce) are finished but we have plenty of longer-lasting produce on board so there will be fresh things to eat even if the variety reduces somewhat!

12th March 2019: Day Seven

Last night as I was trying to sleep in the pitching, rolling forward cabin, I went to throw the sheet over my legs and felt my shoulder give. Ironic isn't it, that I can haul on ropes, hoist sails, drop sails, stow and retrieve them without a problem, yet something as innocuous as getting comfortable in bed causes such a problem? I will need to take it easy for a few days to let it settle down again before doing too much strenuous activity.

We were radio net controllers today (well, just me this time). The roll call went without incident, although some of the boats are finding it difficult to communicate clearly. The SSB radios need long aerials to perform properly,  and some of the catamarans in the fleet do not have backstays that can double up as aerials (as we have), and so their effective range is compromised. We work around this by having some boats in the fleet relay the messages from the remote vessels so we all know what is happening.  I got volunteered to contact the outlying vessels early in the morning to get their positions so that we can report these to the rest of the fleet. It's not too onerous a task, and I quite enjoy the involvement.

This afternoon, the weather closed in on us, the rain started falling and the winds shifted and died. We are now motorsailing again (boo) which is a real shame as we had been bowling along very nicely before that. Yesterday we managed 191 miles in the day, an average speed of a smidge under 8 knots. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination. We have travelled over 1000 nautical miles so far in this leg of the journey, and now have less than 2000 miles to go. If we can maintain 8 knots, we would complete the trip in another 10 days. We can only hope.

No fish again today, time to try a different lure.

11th  March 2019: Day Six  - 2150 miles to go

Last night was a real rock and roll night. The winds had really got up and we were bowling along under reefed jib and main sails. Sleeping in the forward cabin was nigh on impossible as I was airborne as often as I was attached to the bunk. However, dawn soon came around and another day began. We put the fishing lure out early to try to catch the hungry predators that might still be afoot (or should that be atail or afin?) and waited. We waited all day and nothing. Not even a sniff. On the radio net this evening the other boats were boasting about how many tuna and mahi mahi they had caught during the day, just to rub our noses in the dirt. Well, one fine day, our time will come.

The sailing day turned out to be fabulous, we probably averaged in excess of 7 knots which is pretty good. At times as we were surfing the waves we noticed 10.2 knots and even higher, just with our normal sails. The trough that we have been sailing through for the past two days should be coming to an end now, and we may be able to get the big blue out again. Certainly this evening the skies seemed to be breaking up and the barometer is rising again.

We are the radio net controllers tomorrow. Just to be different we will do the roll call backwards, starting with Tumi.

10th March 2019: Day Five

Today was all about finding the trade winds. We managed to do so by heading further south for a while until the winds were consistently in the high teens, then we knew we could take the rhumb line.  Surprisingly, we were also able to fly the big blue, a real bonus, and with the winds on the beam at 90 degrees, we were happily making between 7 and 8 knots.

As the day progressed,  the clouds got thicker and lower, a sign that we were heading into some squalls, and sure enough, we found them. We decided that it would be best to drop the blue before dark and use the normal sails as they are easier to handle in rougher conditions, but we almost left it too late: the winds increased quickly, and snuffing the parasailor became quite a challenge.  We managed it by letting one of the clews fly, a good job I had installed snap shackles for that very reason. A learning curve for us, get the bloody thing down before the winds pick up!

No fish today, a couple of hits on the lure, but whatever it was shook the hook free. Tomorrow  we might be lucky.

9th March 2019: Day Four

Today would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday and we do have his ashes on board as he had always wanted to visit the Sydney Opera House, and so we are fulfilling his wish. The day itself feels sluggish: leaden skies, high humidity, little breeze … we can really tell that we are still in the doldrums! The rally fleet is in two halves: those that headed more to the south in search of the Trade Winds, and those sticking closer to the rhumb line of which we are one. So we are further West than the south-bound boats but they will pick up the trade winds sooner. Some of the larger, faster boats are already down in the trade wind belt, around 6 degrees south, and are now bowling along nicely. The winds at our latitude have turned very light today and so we are now motoring south to reach the desired latitude.

I had a go at making bread again today and it worked out very well indeed … very pleased with the engine of result which we all enjoyed with cheese, pate and dried ham for lunch. Yum, yum … no-one can say we don’t eat well on Tumi!

I think to some extent we have all hit the doldrums in ourselves today … the excitement of setting off has waned and the realisation of how far we still have to go has dawned. The relatively low latitude of the start of the trade winds belt is a bit of a blow: we had expected it at 4 degrees south so the extra 120 miles of motoring isn’t what any of us wanted.

Later in the day we encountered significantly more winds, up to 28 knots coming from the south east. Whether or not these are trade winds we are riding them westwards towards the Marquesas. The angle of the wind is such that we will not, in all likelihood, fly the parasailor much more on this leg of the journey. The winds are on our port beam at around 90 to 120 degrees off our bow, and so we will be using our conventional sails. No matter, we will have  plenty more opportunities to fly the big blue yet.

Phil has been plagued with mal de mer twice in two days, we will have to shift our eating patterns a bit to accommodate his situation. He can keep his lunch down, so we will have to switch to eating our main meal then instead of at dusk until he finds his sea legs.

We got a hit on the fishing lure this afternoon, but nothing took the hook. It shows we are on the right track with it though, and gives us hope that we will land that elusive fish soon!

8th March 2019: Day Three

We spent the whole day sailing along very nicely with the parasailor up and the fishing line out. We all had power naps during the day, Debra made a cake for us to eat while on night duty, and the day passed uneventfully. No fish, but we changed the lure half way through the day and obviously something thought it was tasty because the whole lure had been bitten off. We'll try again for the elusive mahi mahi tomorrow.

This morning the sky was somewhat overcast and consequently the batteries weren't charged much, then we put the generator on to top them up during our morning radio net. We noticed that the charge wasnt increasing even with the generator running, but by that time the skies had cleared somewhat and the solar panels were building up the charge. By this evening’s radio net the batteries would normally be in the 13.5 volt vicinity but they were low. The generator normally boosts the charge very quickly, but not tonight. The charger wasnt doing its job. We unloaded the port side cabin and removed the panel that houses the battery charger to find an error message flashing on the charger - E03. According to the user guide, this error means that the batteries were not connected correctly and so the unit switched itself off. Damn!

We checked all the battery connections, the fuses and power supply to the unit. All OK. We isolated the unit several times, checked the voltage to the charger, still all OK. So we turned off the house batteries as well to reboot the unit. Thankfully, it came back online properly and the issue was solved. We are now charging the battery bank properly, thankfully, but we will keep an eye on the unit to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We would still be able to charge the batteries by running the engine, but that uses more fuel, isn’t great for the engine and is not our preferred option.

The winds have dropped this evening, but with some deft changes to the parasailor lines we are still bowling along very nicely, while much of the rest of the fleet are having to motor. Come on team Tumi!

7th March 2019: Day Two

The stars last night were amazing, filling the ink black sky with tiny sprinkles of light. Paul even saw a shooting star, probably the first of many we will see on this long trip. With dawn came the return of the wind so the parasailor was flown again and we are now merrily bowling along at over 7 knots. Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days we should be in luck and be able to sail much of the time which will be great.

As soon as we cleared the Galapagos marine national park the new fishing rod was deployed but with no joy as yet. We’ve had a bit of a sweepstake on board: how many days to get to the Marquesas and how many fish we will catch! We’ll see who wins!!

At the end of the SSB radio net this morning a discussion opened up about whether or not we should change the 09.00 roll call to a different time as we cross timezones heading west… 09.00 will be effectively 05.30 by the time we reach the Marquesas and people will be asleep. A resolution wsn’t reached and to lighten the atmosphere, one of the rally boats changed the subject to say he had just finished reading Meltdown and had given it five stars on Amazon. The fleet are being very supportive of our writing endeavours and have purchased quite a few copies. We’re very touched by that!

6th March 2019: Departure day for leg 4 (Galapagos to Marquesas)

We woke early this morning as the anchorage was very rolly and sleep didn’t come easily for either of us. Still, it was a big day for us and we had pancakes for breakfast, then Debra set off on a water taxi to get the final provisions and the three boys went to get our last snorkelling fix at Las Grietas. This time the water was very low and swimming between the pools was a bit of a challenge to say the least, but we all made it through and back safely. Dan and Phil called into town to do some last minute communication while I got Tumi ready for departure.

At 12:00 noon precisely, we crossed the start line in second place and the next leg of the race began. We soon got the parasailor up and running, and very quickly the fleet dispersed as the various skippers decided on their course to the Marquesas. As night fell, the winds dropped back to nothing and so we took the parasailor down and put the engine on. Not what we want, but we need to break free of the doldrums to be able to sail properly, so we are heading south westward to approximately 4° south,then we should pick up the trade winds. It’s about 180 miles from here so we will probably be motoring through the night and a deal of tomorrow too.

5 Mar 2019

5th March 2019: We are the champions!

Maybe not of the world but certainly of the third leg (Las Perlas Islands to Galapagos) of the World ARC, division A (the racing division where we are up against far bigger and therfore faster boats). We turned up to the skippers' briefing, followed by the prize giving. We weren't expecting anything, so when the third and second places were announced we had virtually switched off, then Andrew, one of the ARC staff announced "in first place, and very well deserved, is TUMI!" There was a massive cheer in the room, and we were both thrilled! We went on to a celebration dinner with the rest of the fleet, which ended up in something of a bun fight with serviettes flying between the tables much to the amusement of the kids in the group, and most of the adults too. All in all it was a good day!

It started early with some boat maintenance, Phil was helping me clean off the beard that had grown on the waterline of the hull, ironic that the Galapagos authorities insisted that we had a pristine underside (which we did) and then the growth on the boat has gone mad. Anyway, we cleaned it off with a scouring pad, and as we rounded the bow to do the other side, Phil decided to throw himself into the water over the front of the dinghy. He was not happy about being in the water given the tales of sharks in the anchorage, but I couldn't stop laughing at the spectacle. Udo from Endo2 was equally amused as he watched the event unfold. It has made Phil an accepted member of the fleet immediately.

When the work was done, we went back to Las Grietas for another snorkel, and this time we went all the way through the rift. The further we went, the quieter it became, and the fish got larger and more numerous. Speaking to the warden in my best spanish, I asked her how the fish got there. Apparently,  they got through the gaps in the rocks from the ocean as small toddlers, but then they grew too large to get back again, so they stay and get bigger still. We did also see a blue and white spotted moray eel that flitted between two of the pools. Very nice to see.

Today, we are getting the last provisions (fresh fruit and veg) for the long trip. Looking at the Windyty app, it looks as though we will be able to take the rhumb line to the Marquesas! After we got back to the boat I noticed that the dan d
Buoy wasn't sitting properly in its holder and in going across to resit it I noticed that the fishing rod was missing! It turns out that it's been stolen, as has that of another rally boat. Not a nice memory of the Galapagos. Debra broadcast what had happened on the VHF rally channel and asked if anyone had any fishing tackle for sale and we're now the proud owners of some very impressive kit. I'm not sure it will improve our fishing prowess however ....

Our last trip out this afternoon was to Tortuga Bay, a beautiful bay 4km from Puerto Ayora. After the walk there we were ready for a refreshing swim before taking a local boat back.

So now it's time to head back to Tumi in readiness for our departure tomorrow. We'll maintain a blog on our trip but won't be able to upload it until we arrive in the Marquesas in around 3 weeks time.

3rd March 2019: Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Boy, Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz is different from the other two islands we have visited. Welcome to the big city of the Galapagos, home to over 20,000 Ecuadorians and probably as many tourists judging by the number of tour operators, bars, restaurants and gift shops. Quite a culture shock after the laid back tranquillity and beauty of Isabela! Our first impressions wwren’t that favourable to be honest but after a couple of nights here and a bit of exploration we’re more in tune with the place.

Saturday was crew change day: Jackie departed and Phil arrived and in the gap inbetween we gave Tumi a good clean and reconfigured things so that all three cabins can be in use. We also had the diesel we had ordered last week delivered, another step towards the big departure on Wednesday.

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early to head off to Las Grietas, a narrow cleft in the landscape where fresh water from the mountains mixes with sea water to form an interesting bathing pool. The walk there along a trail through salt marshes gave Phil his first taste of Galapagos scenery, flora and fauna. We were all glad of the refreshing swim in Las Grietas by the time we arrived, hot and sweaty after our kilometre walk there.

We headed into the highlands in the afternoon to view some of the volcanic topography … vast sunken craters at Los Gemelos, where the earth’s crust has collapsed in on itself as a result of movement in the crust. Apparently at one time there was a layer of lava at the surface and when volcanic action below opened up an underground bubble, the surface collapsed in on itself creating several acres of pit craters.

We continued to the El Chato giant tortoise reserve where these huge reptiles roam through surprisingly lush countryside. The variety on this island have far higher dome-shaped shells than those on either Isabela or San Cristobal and shorter necks as they don’t have to stretch as far to reach vegetation.

The reserve also has lava tunnels within its boundaries and so we ventured down a steep staircase into the 150metre long tunnel formed by rushing rivers of lava. The outer surface cooled and hardened whereas the inner part continued to flow until it emptied itself onto the earth thereby leaving a hollow tube behind. All very interesting, again demonstrating the power of nature.

Last night was the first ‘World ARC Ladies Night’ when the twenty or so ladies in the fleet headed out for cocktails and dinner in downtown Puerto Ayora! A fun (and late) night indeed!