Passage to the Marquesas: Days 15-19

Saturday afternoon (Day 15) the wind remained constant and although we weren’t speeding along we enjoyed the smoother ride and took the chance to catch up on some sleep.
Saturday night started well…..then the wind died….then the squalls came…..and the wind swung north…..and the squalls continued. Richard had to run and get wet weather gear out as we have little protection in the cockpit when the rain comes at us horizontally from behind.
When I started my shift at 6 am it was still very dark and the squalls were playing havoc with the wind direction and making it difficult to hold a course or even sail. I motor sailed for a while until the wind switched back to the south / south east and set the sails again. The seas were huge – the gusts were 23 knots – and we were being thrown around like a cork.
Finally it got lightish (Sunday Day 16) and all around were rain squalls. Richard came up to relieve me and thought the conditions reminded him of being in a bowling alley with the squalls queuing up behind us: some go down the right-hand gutter; some go down the left-hand gutter; and then they get a strike! The wind picks up and shifts making our sails flog….so we quickly adapt our course…..then the sea picks us up and throws us down. Great stuff – not!
I went down for a sleep but was called up by Richard half an hour later as he had spotted another large tuna fishing boat. It was moving so slow it wasn’t apparent which way he was going but eventually we sussed it and changed our course accordingly. I went back down again but gave up after an hour of being thrown around – imagine sleeping on a whirlitzer!
We had breakfast of freshly-baked blueberry muffins – and Richard thought I was nuts to attempt that in these conditions – and despite their strange shapes they were pretty good and I didn’t spill anything or burn myself, which is always a bonus. Sunday dinner will definitely be a one-pot pressure cooker meal….had enough excitement in the galley for one day.
The last 24 hours were our slowest ever…we only made 111 miles….but at least it’s in the right direction. But the latest weather forecast is for very strong weather to our south so we decided to get back up to our rhumb line – we were 10 miles south of it – and try to stay close all the way. So we gybed to put that plan into practice and were relieved that the rolling motion was also lessened on that tack.
Again, to align our clocks with the setting and rising of the sun we put our boat clocks back another hour…. We’ll probably need to do this one more time as we get closer to our destination.
We crossed our rhumb line just before 3pm and come 6pm the wind swung north! The trades here are easterly / south easterly so not expected at all. So we took the opportunity to run parallel with our rhumb line on a reach…. Then it got squally again, oh well, never mind. By 9pm the wind had clocked to the north west so we were now running slowly – in ever decreasing winds – but couldn’t hold the parallel course any more so were running away from our destination again.
It was really slow going…the wind was totally flaky but we continued to sail until 3 am (Monday Day 17) ….when we had to admit defeat, put away the gib and motor sail. We downloaded the updated weather and the pattern had changed yet again. This is so frustrating. So we headed back south to find some wind. All this backwards and forwards means, of course, that we are adding miles to our passage. Sigh…..
Funnily enough Richard and I were both playing the same game independently watching the miles tick over…….I had the 1960s – shooting of President Kennedy, the Beatles, Congratulations by Cliff Richard, Puppet on a String by Sandie Shaw and of course England winning The World Cup in 1966. Then Richard had the 1970s – our first female Prime Minister, Maggie Thatcher, the three day week, the coal miners strike and the very hot summer of 1976. Then it was our wedding in 1996 and the millennium in 2000… Finally it was 2012 the year when we both retired and went cruising…. Was fun for a little while and kept crew spirits up although very soon we were in the future LOL.
At 6am we were running back towards the rhumb line and crossed over heading south. We found the squall bowling alley again and some wind….so we were running downwind on a poled-out genoa hoping to pick up speed and make up for the time we lost over the last couple of days. The wind reverted to east / south east and long may it continue.
By noon we were heading towards our destination again and then the squalls intensified and there were more strikes than not. And of course with the strong winds comes this damn awful rolling movement. The interesting thing is that, between squalls, there is very little wind at all… you tear along at 8-9 knots temporarily then drop back to 2-3 knots until the next time. And Morphie doesn’t really settle down from the pitching and the rolling. A bit like a roller coaster ride.
Feeling frustrated by the conditions we decided to get out of this area and head back closer to our rhumb line. The wind here is lighter at about 12 knots but enough to sail with a poled out genoa. And at least we have better conditions on board…..
By 4 am on Tuesday (Day 18) the wind was light and variable but we enjoyed am almost full moon to show us the way. Was a lovely night.
And then the sun came up, the seas were blue, the sky was blue and we had puffy white clouds and, the best bit, is that the swell had reduced to 1m and was largely spaced so we were sailing along much flatter. Bliss! The wind remained light but still enough to sail by, although comes with the price of a reduced boat speed.
We have decided to continue on this course and will take whatever the wind throws at us. The weather routing package is encouraging us to head further south for strong winds (ie a faster passage) but we would rather add a few days and enjoy more comfortable conditions than beat ourselves or Morphie up any more.
We had an uneventful night apart from two visits by a school of pilot whales. In the calmness of the night you could hear them puffing and surfing alongside us. Oh yes and we had almost a full moon all night to show us the way.
It is now 7am on Wednesday (Day 19) and Happy 60th Birthday to my big brother Dave! Nothing much has changed and the crew are feeling more relaxed with the better living conditions on board – although, saying that, we did just get tumbled around by a growler LOL.
Bye for now Jan