Passage to the Marquesas: Days 12-15

Wednesday afternoon and the winds remained constant about 15 knots with some 20 knot gusts. The seas picked up and there were growlers about with the occasional wave breaking on our port quarter sending us hurtling down the waves and rolling side to side. But thankfully Richard’s temporary fix of the autopilot shelf appears to have worked as the grinding noise has diminished significantly. Fingers crossed…..
These speedy sailing conditions continued all night although the wind backed easterly giving us more of a downwind run. At midnight there was a storm raging – with lightning – to starboard but thankfully was a long way away. The moon did come up for about 5 hours which was the longest we’d seen so far and it made a nice change to see some reflection on the water rather than just being enclosed by an all-encompassing black curtain!
Thursday (Day 13) and there was only a faint glow behind us so wasn’t expecting a sunrise – then suddenly the sun popped up out of the gloom and gave the most gorgeous display. And the grey skies cleared to another blue sky, blue sea with wispy cloud kind of day. The storm to the side of us carried on until later in the morning – glad it was a decent distance from us!
We made good progress and passed our half way mark with our latest 24 hour tally being 141, our highest to date. The wind remains steady at 12-16 knots with the occasional gust to 20 and we enjoyed a broad reach running parallel with our rhumb love.
Richard has just filled the cockpit with sawdust as he is cutting wood to use to reinforce the autopilot shelf more permanently. He is also running the generator to make life easier so he can run power tools. But a way into the project he got thwarted by the drill – whose battery decided it would not take another charge, ever! So he had to abandon the project for now – I feel a few more hardware store visits coming on when we reach land LOL.
Interestingly since we changed our sailing angle the autopilot is under less pressure and has stopped groaning and grinding – so we do believe it is an alignment issue when the shelf flexes as we heel over. We’ll see…. But if the worst happens we do actually have a spare autopilot on board that we could swap out if necessary. Just prefer not to have to do that at sea in a 3m swell! So all is good.
At 6pm the sun was a long way from going down so it looks like we’ll have to change our time zone again at some point. The wind remained steady at around 12 knots until about midnight when it started to ease dramatically which of course slowed us down again. By 3am on Friday (Day 14) our speed had fallen to 4 knots or less. Not too happy about that but what can we do? We are too far away from our destination to just motor sail to keep the average speed up because we may still have no wind days ahead that we need to conserve fuel for.
At 6.30 am the sun tried to break through the cloud cover to wish us a good morning. The clouds were building….and the wind picked up. By 8.30 we had 12-15 knots and were moving through the water nicely at 5-6+ knots again. And, wonders will never cease, we have just seen a tuna fishing boat. The first sign of life in a fortnight!
Lunchtime and we continued going along steadily – not excitingly fast – but in the right direction at least. Come 6pm and the wind started to ease so we deployed the pole for the night.
It was quite a nice moonlit evening and I was sitting minding my own business when thump, something hit me hard on the thigh. I screamed and grabbed the head torch to find a decent-sized flying fish gasping for air on the cockpit cushion. So I grabbed him – he wriggled and slimed – and I dropped him. He was still alive though and finally I managed to throw back into the sea, hoping he survived our encounter.
Then about 2 am (Saturday Day 15) there were suddenly very bright lights over to my starboard side. A boat! I got Richard to turn on the VHF / AIS receiver – we’ve been running with minimum equipment overnight to conserve energy – and we picked up his signal. Likewise we also shone a powerful torch on our sails so he could see us, if he wasn’t paying attention to his AIS receiver. He was a huge fishing boat (39m) called Katoshiromaru No.58. His signal said he was engaged in fishing activity and was moving at only 1 knot. Not knowing what type of deep sea fishing he was doing – dragging nets or long lines behind his stern – we decided to put the engine on, speed up, and cross his bow. All the time trying to make radio contact to inform him of our plans. When he was 3 miles away the f@#%@r decided to power up and was now on a collision course with us.
We both tried to make contact on the radio but to no avail. So we had no choice but to drop off to cross his stern at the farthest distance we could possibly be away from him in the time available. Eventually he crossed our bow and we passed behind him anxious about propping his gear. Of course we were fine. Thinking about it logically later – when the drama was over – what fishing boat would cross our bow if they had lines / nets deployed? So we did wonder whether it might be a Japanese whaler? Perhaps that’s why whales in this area are known to attack boats?!? Just a thought…..
Anyway, excitement over, and we continued our shifts but sleeping was impossible with the pounding Morphie was taking from the big waves….it is horrendously loud crashing and banging and the movement was horrible running dead down wind rolling side to side. So, at sunrise, we took down the pole and cracked off our course to have a smoother, albeit slower, ride.
It is now 9 am on Saturday (Day 15) and we are 1797 miles into our passage with just over 1200 to go. We are finding the going a bit tedious because of the Pacific swell. When we are going along at speed we ride the waves and both us and Morphie have fun. When our speed drops off the waves knock us off our feet, the sails flog, and it takes a while to recover. After the incident with the Japanese fishing boat and the bad conditions we are both sleep deprived so will probably sleep a lot during the day today to catch up. Tomorrow is another day….
Bye for now Jan