Sailing downwind in the SE trades at sunset
Morning rain squalls on the radar around the boat.
We are all checked-in and back within our insurance coverage area (April 1st for French Polynesia, outside the cyclone season). I titled this the Marquesas Passage notes, even though we were originally heading 1,900 miles away- to Easter Island. More on the decision to turn right at the end of this blog.
According to our log (distance through the water) we travelled 3,452miles. We sailed approximately 530 miles due south of the Galapagos (on the right), then went 2,725 miles west to Fatu Hiva (on the left). The trip was 4 days south and 19 days west.
Our best noon-to-noon run was 191 miles and our worst day was 76 miles. We basically had good winds for the first 2,000 miles toward the Marquesas, then very light, and trying, winds at the end.
We ran the engine for a total of 39 hours, most of them on the first 2 days leaving trying to get out of the wind hole around the Galapagos, plus the last 50 miles toward Fatu Hiva we motor sailed to get some extra speed so we could get in the anchorage before dark.
We put about 31 hours on the genset re-charging batteries.
We used about 140 gallons of water. This included liberal daily showers for the Admiral and every other day for the lowly mechanic/captain.
The boat did well, with fairly minor breakage. The rudder bolt – she broken man. Lost a dorade vent over while beating toward Easter. A broken shackle on the boom vang and a lost shackle on a running back.
Boom vang shackle metal fatigue.
We started this passage heading toward Easter Island. The plan was to get to Easter toward the end of their summer before the fall weather started to arrive. Easter has no good anchorages and you can be forced to move around the island on very short notice due to changing weather and wind. In addition, you may not be able to get to shore for days at a time because of the swells. Not an optimum cruising destination. Then we were planning to sail to Gambier in French Polynesia. After that the plan was to close reach (or perhaps beat) the 750 miles to the Marquesas.
I watched the weather on the route to Easter for the 6 weeks before we left. The plan was to motor south out of the wind hole around the Galapagos, then stay close hauled and point southerly through the light S-SE winds for another 6 or 700 miles. Then as wind picked up a bit, crack off toward the west to make it more comfortable and eventually end up with the wind behind the beam when it picked up to the stronger SE trades in the 25 kt range.
Well, the wind went from nothing in the Galapagos to 25kts on the nose the second day out. So we were close hauled right at the start. My back was hurting from too many forced tourist walks in the Galapagos and cleaning the boat bottom. It was one of those ‘it hurts just to step’ and I was loading up on green Ibuprofen gel caps. We were both up early in the morning after 2 days of bashing into it and decided to discuss our options. We could continue on for another 12 or 14 days to Easter, arrive and possibly not have a decent anchorage, plus then have to do the haul up from Gambier later to get to the Marquesas. That meant continuing on my green gel cap routine OR hang a right, head downwind, sail fast and smooth. Well you know which one won out.
Unfortunately, this change of plans put us into the Marquesas just before the end of cyclone season. The Marquesas rarely get any tropical storms, but they do come through the Tuamotos on bad years. Our plan was to head north toward the equator (anywhere above 5*S) on the first sign of a storm. That would get us out of known cyclone areas and was reachable by sail or motoring within two days. But we passed the end of the main cyclone season without incident and are now safely enjoying the Marquesas.
All and all it was a pretty easy passage – perhaps a little boring at times, but not as much work as you’d expect for an ocean as large as the South Pacific.