Passage to the Marquesas: Days 1-3

Friday night I decided to use the last $5 of our (tortoise slow) SIM credit to attempt to download the offshore weather app that had given us huge problems since an update caused it to get stuck (unusable) almost a month ago. So I connected the iPad and the phone on the chart table and left them there overnight and amazingly, it actually downloaded! So we can access satellite weather and routing on the iPad again. Woo hoo.
After final checks, we picked up anchor at 9.00 am on Saturday 22 April and enjoyed the sight of a huge square rigger as we left the harbour of Santa Cruz bound for the Marquesas. We had mixed feelings – sadness at leaving the Galapagos; excitement at returning to sea; combined with some trepidation over what we might face during this passage. Our longest by far – period. To put it into context for our UK sailing friends this is the equivalent of five Fastnet races back-to-back!
We motored beyond the harbour and we pulled out the main. We turned towards our first waypoint and set the genoa. The forecast had been for no wind at all for the first few days….but we had 10 knots….on a beam reach. We turned the engine off and thoroughly enjoyed the sensation of sailing again while we ate breakfast.
We continued sailing well throughout the day with only minor tweaks to the sail configuration…including poling out the genoa as the wind dropped and installing a preventer to stop the boom from accidentally gybing as the wind moved behind us. As we sailed between the islands of Isabela and Santa Maria we had a huge pod of dolphins come to visit and play. They were jumping and frolicking and taking it in turns to play at the bow. We had so much fun. And about an hour later we had a visit from another huge pod…. Was a lovely farewell from the Galapagos. Unusually there were no seal or turtle sightings but that was probably because of the lumpy seas.
The sailing was going much better than anticipated as we were boosted by a strong current and were managing 6-7 knots of boat speed in only 9 knots of breeze! We had dinner together before settling into our shift pattern and, as the wind was now very light, we furled the main away relying on the poled-out genoa only overnight. The wind dropped to 5-6 knots and our speed suffered but overall we were pretty happy with our first day at sea. After a lovely sunset we experienced a very dark moonless night but there was lots of phosphorescent activity in the water to captivate us.
By Sunday morning (Day 2) we had rain in the air, grey gloomy skies laden with threatening clouds which came with an increase in wind speed too, hovering around the 12 knot mark. The sea was building and we started rolling around a bit with the sails snatching as we surfed off the top of waves in different directions – so we put a reef in the genoa and pulled out a reefed main too. We were not wallowing so much as a result and had 7-8 knot boat speeds. Fantastic!
By 9am we had covered 131 miles on our first 24 hours at sea and the weather had deteriorated… was grey and raining with a swelly sea. The wind stabilised around 10 knots and our speed was 6 knots. To start with we didn’t mind the rain as it cleaned the salt off of Morphie. But it rained all day….the seas became more confused….and it was difficult to do anything because of the movement of the boat…it was all a bit tedious. There was no sunset either. The highlight of the day was seeing two seals relaxing on their backs, riding the current, 160 miles offshore from the Galapagos….. Didn’t realise they ventured this far from land!
For the first time I tried to take part in the Pacific Puddle Jump radio net. The timing of this net – at 7 / 7.30 pm local time – isn’t great for us as it always falls when Richard is off watch and he needs to sleep. But that’s fine as I’m the long-range radio operator on board anyway. However when I tried to connect there was lots of interference which was caused by the autopilot. I can’t hand steer and talk on the radio at the same time as the SSB is located down below at the chart table. So I gave up and returned to the cockpit to continue my watch. Will have to ponder alternatives.
During the night the rain persisted but the wind died so much we had to motor sail for a while. Finally at 4am this morning, Monday (Day 3) we were able to turn the engine off and get sailing again. By 6am the wind had filled in enough to get the main out and, although it looks like another gloomy rainy day ahead at least the seas are flatter, so the movement isn’t as bad as the uncomfortable conditions of the day before.
The significant downside to low wind and cloudy conditions is that the batteries start struggling without the input from the solar panels or the wind generator so we have been running the Honda generator intermittently to boost them.
At 9am we had completed another 128 miles in the second 24 hours – so still doing quite well overall. However, the wind direction has shifted southerly so, with the current as well, we are being pushed away from the rhumb line and the position of the wind according to the latest weather download. So we have just furled the genoa in and put the pole away – we are motor sailing with main alone towards our rhumb line directly into the light winds and we intend to cross the line and get back into the wind zone. Hopefully we’ll then see a switch back to the normal easterly trade winds to give us more reaching / downwind sailing going forward.
Bye for now Jan