Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 26, 2009

The Crossing

                       
3.05.09 – Sunday – Day 1 – Morning brought mixed feelings; On one hand the anticipation for departure to the Marquesas, 2978 miles away, on the other – the sorrow that Steve will not be on board for a trip he longed to do. At least he did the Cocos trip, crossed the equator and toured the Galapagos. We saw a yacht, an aluminum monohull (an Ovni yacht?) with a Eauropean crew, leaving the bay for Pitcairn island (that’s where the “Bounty” mutineers found refuge, their descendants living there to this day). We were waiting for Xavier, the ship’s agent man, to come with the sailing permit. At 1030 we said goodbye to Steve, who took a water taxi ashore. At 1045  Xavier came with the document and at 1100 we winched the chain and anchor in and set course to French Polynesia.

Huge, open ocean lies ahead and Zvi (vast experience, remember?) says in his quiet, special manner:”Captain, is there any obstruction ahead?” “I better look at the chart” says I and sure enough, the south coast of Isla Isabel and the adjacent Isla Tortuga and Burra rock are right on our projected course. Luckily we get there in daylight and pass between those last two,sailing close to shore, past Puerto Villamil. The C-Map system on the laptop is working perfectly, showing us our exact position. On the way the rod and reel are made to work and in less than ten minutes we have a nice yellow-fin tuna on board. Food for five meals. Night falls, the moon is hiding behind clouds.We are having dinner, waiting to pass the southernmost cape of the island, after which we will be able to sail a direct course to Atuona in Hiva Oa, Marqesas. When we were three on board we devided the night to three hours watches, the first one starting at 2100 and the last ending at 0600. Now, with a crew of two, we decide on 3.5 hours shifts from 2200 to 0500. Let’s see how that works. Initialy we go left of the desired track, to reach the tradewinds quicker. Danny, Zvi’s son, is monitoring the weather for us and this is what he recommended. Not a lot of wind at the begining and we motorsail, making water and charging our batteries as we go along. 

4.05.09 – Monday – Day 2- Wind shifty at night and we are looking for the trades. When wind comes, it is light, about 6 knots, from 120 degrees to our port. Shall we fly a spinnaker? Yes! Zvi is having an early morning nap in the cockpit so I go to the foredeck, harness attached, to prepare the big sail. As I am doing this, a Mahi mahi surfaces near the starboard bow, with the typical, nervous moves through the water of his kind. Zvi wakes up in time, helps me with hoisting the spinnaker and after some adjustments, the boat surges forward, doubling it’s speed. This brings the aparent wind forward quite a bit and I’m surprised to see that we can use this sail up to 85 degrees without it collapsing! In the more than two years we have “Two Oceans” I did not fly the spinnaker more than four times and then for only short periods so I still have much to learn.

Since we left the Galapagos at 1100, we decide to make a log entry at the same hour, by UTC, every day. In the last 24 hours we passed 120 miles, not bad if you recall the dawn hours with speed of less than 3 knots. We see a fishing vessel at our 2 o’clock and sometime afterwards a big panga is overtaking us from astern. There were stories of fishing boats threatening yachts in the area so I’m not happy with the encounter, but when they get closer, one of the four fishermen aboard raises an empty plastic jug. All they want is water. I have a 5 liters jug, full of watermaker product. The panga comes into close formation and I throw the jug into the waiting arms of the marinero. “A donde? Where to?” He asks and nod with appreciation at the answer. Another guy pleads for cigarettes but ours is a no smoking boat, so- sorry! no joy. The fishermen wave and turn away. Another big fishing boat crosses our bows quite close.

Fishing boat

Fishing boat

At 1500 we take the Spi down in order to set a course that will give us more southing and right in time it was, because the wind piped up to 15 knots, perhaps too much for the light, balooning sail. Zvi has a stomach upset, probably brought up by some jam from an old jar he found in the cupboard. He gets Immodium and will be all right. We tried operating the SSB weatherfax but could not get anything. Very disappointing.

5.05.09 – Tuesday – Day 3 – I did the watch from 0130 to 0500. As the moon set I was standing by the wheel when something hit my chest. Welcome to the club of flying fish victims!

Flying fish

Flying fish

This one was cleaned and gutted in a jiffy and put in the freezer. They are supposed to be very tasty. Zvi releaved me at 0500, I slept for an hour, meditated a bit and went out to the cockpit. The wind was up and the boat was going fast.Sometime later, when I looked into my cabin, I saw that the rug ws wet. I then noticed that I left the hatch open and a sneaky wave got in wetting my beddings. Had to take everything out to dry and will sleep in what we now call “Steve’s room”.

Drying

Drying

1700 UTC showed that we did 146 miles in the last 24 hours. Hopefully, when we will reach the trades we’ll be able to do more.

6.05.09 – Wednesday – Day 4 – The 0500 watch was mine this morning and just as I came to the wheel a flying fish landed at my feet. It joined the one that we got the day before and a small squid that I found on deck.

Squid

Squid

Those were fried for breakfast in butter and olive oil and were delicious.

My mattresses dried but salt in the fabric attracts moisture so they look dirty and do not feel dry. With the water-maker working properly (touch wood), I decided to give them a wash. With both the fridge and freezer working full time, I find we need to charge the batteries more often than I planned. We do this by operating an engine at 1500 RPM in gear. We are considering closing the fridge when the eggs stored there are gone, using the freezer for both functions. At 1100 we checked the 24 hours run: 140 miles. Disappointing…

In the late afternoon the wind becomes lighter, 10-12 knots. So this are not the Trade-winds we are waiting for yet. The boat sails itself with minor adjustments from the man on the watch and we pass the time reading, resting, cooking, eating and doing odd jobs. Port head (toilet) needs attention again, YUK.

We are reaching 97 degrees 30 minutes longitude and will have to change our local time by putting the clocks back one hour. We’ll do that tomorrow morning.

7.05.09 – Thursday – Day 5 – Zvi wakes me up at 0130 for my watch with his regular:”No Traffic”. We have not seen any sign of human presence since those fishing boats on day 2 but still keep a good lookout and the navigation lights at night. The day progresses with the regular things we do all the time. Read, swap stories prepare and eat our food and rest. The wind did not stabilize yet and goes up and down all the time. Where are the trade winds? One could argue that we are right inside them. They are from the south east and blow 10-15.

Our 24 hours distance was 132 miles. I wonder whether at some point I will get bored and annoyed by our progress. Right now – no problem. I view this long leg as downloading a big program. You see the percentage loaded and you know that with time you will get to 100%. On the boat it’ll be 21-25 days. So what?

We decide to cut down on our electicity usage; We will put the freezer and fridge on a lower setting, use the nav light only in sight of another vessel and start charging when the batteries reach 12.05 V and not 12.2 as we did before. All this will save diesel fuel. Nightwatch: I have the one that starts at 2200 and at 2030 I go to rest a bit. The sound of the boat through the water gives the impression we are doing over 10 knots, little waves slamming the bridgedeck from time to time. I go out to the cockpit and see that the wind is not more than 19 true, no need to reef, but as I come on later I put the main in first reef. Who need all that stress and noise? Just like Zvi, my stomach started playing tricks on me.

8.05.09 – Friday – Day 6 – Zvi discovered the cause of our stomach problem. He opened a 6 liter water bottle in which we stored the water-maker initial product and it had rotten eggs smell. So this must be the culprit. The manual refer to cases like that and suggesting that the cause is accumulation of decaying organic matter in the prefilter and recommending it’s replacement. Tomorrow. In the meantime I am reduced to eating toast and white rice.

The wind has backed, making it difficult to keep the desired course of 260, mainsail blanketing the jib. We decide to try and stabilize the jib using the spinnaker pole. Normally I do this for going wing and wing (the two sails spread to opposite sides of the boat) and have never tried it with the sails on the same side. In a few minutes the pole is rigged, the boat jumps forward, speed goes up by 1 knot and we can easily make 260! You learn a new thing every day.

24 hours run was 140. We are definitely in the trades now and going faster so I hope for better performance in the next 24. As evening falls, the full moon rises, stars appear in the sky and, hey – what’s this light at 11 o’clock? Radar on and a big echo shows at 5 miles. It is quite a large ship and it passes no more than 1 mile to our port, strong lights blazing on it’s stern. Probably a big fishing operation. So there is human presence here after all.

9.05.09 – Saturday – Day 7 – “Two Oceans” is speeding along nicely,last 24 hours run is 177 miles, averaging a bit over 7 knots. During the day the speed rose even higher, aided by a favourable current adding about one knot. In one of the gusts, surfing down a wave, I saw 10.7 on the GPS and that in only 18 knots of breeze. That is nice! We did some checks on the water-maker, including taking showers and sniffing to see if there was any smell and came to the conclusion that the problem was not in that department. It could be a bug we caught in Puerto Ayora. In the evening Zvi makes pasta and meatballs for dinner.

10.05.09 – Sunday – Day 8 – During Zvi’s watch we passed the 2000 miles to destination mark. On long passages one becomes addicted to the numbers: 24 hours mileage, milestones like halfway etc. Reading other people’s blogs confirm this is a universal phenomenon.  At 1700 UTC we check our position: in the last 24 hours we did 170 miles; We are 1025 miles from our departure point and have 1953 miles to go… That’s about two more weeks, depending, of course, on the wind. The numbers emphasize the enormity of this ocean and this passage. As I dictate the numbers to my daughter, who will update the blog for me on the Iridium, Zvi releases a statement:”The quiet and solitude are relaxing” and I add:”We are enjoying this”. We really do! I will confess that today was the first time I had the feeling of every day resembling the one before and that I miss some variety. The sentiment was heard somewhere and a pod of dolphins appeared ahead, jumping and splashing in pursuit of unseen prey. It is interesting to note that we do not see a lot of life compared to what I used to see in Panama or Costa Rica, where action in the water and above was everywhere. What we do see a lot are the flying fish, fleeing the speeding hulls of “Two Oceans” and skimming the surface in wide arcs trying to escape the menacing two predators that she seems to be.

Later in the evening, as I take the fish portion that will be our dinner out of the freezer and see that there is only one left, I troll the line. Sunsets are supposed to be good for fishing and we do catch a bonito. We did not like the ones near the coast of Central America and used to release or give them away. Let’s see wether this deep oceaninc specimen will be any better. I filleted it, taking the dark red meat off, keeping the best parts only.

11.05.09 – Monday – Day 9 – I come on watch at 0130. A big cloud is right in our path. Such clouds can have strong winds in their vicinity. I am watching it, mentaly preparing to reef the sails. I go inside the cabin for a while, make tea and type what you are reading now. After a few minutes I go out to check on the cloud – it is no longer there! Evaporated completely! Can’t find an explanation for this…The day becomes a calm one, light winds, meaning slow progress. At 1000 local time, 1700 UTC our 24 hour reading is 140 miles. We are 1813 N.M from Hiva Oa. In the afternoon the wind veers and comes from the south. This is funny. “I hope we are not going to have to beat to windward” I say.”Don’t even say it!” says Zvi.

12.05.09 – Tuesday – Day 10 – Right after midnight I wake up to the tone signaling an SMS on the Iridium. Danni sent the forecast: by 1800 UTC wind will be Southerly – 15-20. So if I’m up – let’s reinstal the pole for the jib. This done, I go back to sleep for another 45 minutes, when Zvi extracts me from a deep dreamy slumber. At 0500 Zvi is back on duty, I go to bed, only to be awakened an hour later when a nasty squall approaches. Quick reefing and it passes harmlessly. The rest of the day is caracterized by high speed sailing, max wind 26 knots with the sea giving us some hard time and the boat making noises in protest. Daily run: 125 N.M courtesy of the light winds on the previous day. By the way – the forecast was wrong; the wind was easterly and not from the south.

13.05.09 – Wednesday – Day 11 – Today we passed two milestones: the first was adjusting the clock to local time of UTC-8, having passed 112 degrees 30 minutes west longitude. The second was passing the equidistant point between Puerto Ayora, Galapagos and Atuona in Hiva Oa, Marquesas.

Mid-way

Mid-way

This occured at 2023 UTC.  Zvi refuses to use UTC, being loyal to GMT. “It those bloody French!” he says “They are spoiling everything!”. This mid point is 1489 NM. We are sailing for 10 and a half days and have yet to sail the same distance! Makes you feel how huge this ocean is.

On the maintenance front: We got fed up with the rotten eggs smell emanting from the product of the water-maker. We replace the prefilter and the change in the water quality is dramatic! Strange, though , because the filter we took out was installed less than a month ago. Next item – port toilet. Enough said.

After dinner I started one engine for battery charging and switched the water-maker on, hearing the “chug chug” of it’s pump. The way you operate the water-maker is this: you set valves that will direct the product into a container and let it work for about 10 minutes. You then test, or rather taste the product and if it is good – not salty or smelly – you change the position of the valves so that the produced water will go into the port water tank. I was going to do just that when I noticed that the water-maker was no longer working! Another job for tomorrow.

14.05.09 – Thursday – Day 12 – As I got on my watch at 0130 we were still wing and wing, the wind pushing us 20-25 degrees south of our desired track. At one point it seemed that jibing, changing course to the north and moving the mainsail to port will give us a better angle. So now the mainsail is on port tack after almost two weeks on the other side.

After our regular morning chores we tackled the water-maker problem. Fuse – O.K. Now to the system which is located under my (the port) bed. Zvi was quick to discover that the electrical motor driving the high pressure pump, the one that chug chugs, is working. So the problem is the connection between the two. I had a vague memory of Steve, who after observing the repair of the WM in Cocos, mentioning that this connection was a pin, loosely fit with nothing holding it in place. Just to make sure, we called him up on the Iridium and he confirmed it. Now we were looking for the pin and couldn’t find it! Zvi started taking measures with a caliper with a view to manufacturing one. I went into the water-maker compartment for a desperate last look and bingo! Found it hiding under some foam mattress that is cushioning the HP pump.

Pin

Pin

Now that we had the pin the rest was easy. Zvi finished the job by celebrating in a well deserved sweet water shower. Through all this we also got a forecast from Danni: winds are going to be lighter in the next few days. Actually, we already had light winds, though from the east. Not great. I don’t mind being at sea a day or two more, I only  want to get there early so that there will be enough time to enable Zvi to visit Fatu Hiva and Tahuata. Mouth- watering names, are they not? As the sun set and darkness fell, Zvi suddenly poined to our 2 O’clock position; A barrel with a sea-bird, floating in the middle of nowhere. Good thing we did not hit it!

15.05.09 – Friday – Day 13 – After a night of light winds, the rising sun brought rising winds. The plus side was that they veered by 30 degrees, which allowed us to jibe the main and sail on port tack with no fear of accidental jibes. (for the non sailors: a jibe happens when the wind gets behind the wrong side of the mainsail and flips it forcefully across the boat.This will put severe load on the mast system and may result in damage. In short – a bad, undesirable thing) The wind rose up to 22 knots, gusting 27. With two reefs we sailed on eating up the miles. 1700 UTC position showed a 24 hours run of 125 miles and 1251 miles to go. The day passes with fast sailing on moderately rough seas.

16.05.09 – Saturday – Day 14 – 0130, the start if my watch. The moon is down to half it’s size but still lights the scene brilliantly, painting the sea in itS direction in a bright silvery hue. The boat is sailing at 6.5+ knots and now we have a good current adding almost a knot to our speed. The waves have gone down in size so we are not rocking and rolling as much as we did yesterday. This is tradewind sailing at it’s best. The 24 hour run was 161 n.m. We passed the day in the usual way, taking out the reefs as the wind and waves abated. Dinner was meat-balls with couscus and a treat for dessert – frozen passion fruit. When I came on watch at 2200 we were exactly at two thirds of the leg – 993 n.m – the 1000 miles to destination less than 10 minutes ago. On the whole – good progress.

17.05.09 – Sunday – Day 15 – 1700 UTC, 0900 local time marked two weeks into the passage. 2057 N.M sailed, 921 miles to go. We are well into an established  routine of fixed watches at night, 2200-0130-0500, undefined shifts and resting periods during daylight and three meals. Zvi and I take turns cooking and we eat well. So well that Zvi is afraid he will not shed the two kilograms he promised his wife he will. I had fears of being bored, of having a problem sailing a long time with no immediate satisfying achievements. None of these ever surfaced. What I will remember the most are the magical moments of the boat gliding along at 7 knots, wing and wing, on a moonlit ocean with “time” not being a factor.

18.05.09 – Monday – Day 16 – The forecasted light winds are here. I felt I had to do something and tried raising the spinnaker. The wind was so light that it did not pull as I expected and the only effect was of taking us away from the course to destination. So, down spi and back to wing and wing, giving us 4-5 knots. 24 hours run was 141 n.m and we have 780 miles to go. During night shifts it is acceptable to watch DVDs. We have an external hard disk with a lot of movies, some of which are good. So you see a movie in the same way you watch one at home on TV. Only instead of commercials, you go out every ten minutes or so, check the sails and the horizon and go back inside. It is ten days since we saw a ship. I wonder whether there are any other yachts going in the same direction, invisible to us, just over the horizon.

19.05.09 – Tuesday – Day 17 – During the night the trade-winds went LOCO. Suddenly we had the wind from the north and rain was falling intermittently! Never mind, we’ll take whatever the sea brings about. We also passed 127 degrees 30 minutes longitude, time to put our watches one hour back. We are now UTC – 9.  24 hours run – 117. What can you expect with those light, variable winds? Distance to go 663 n.m. During the day the wind kept changing direction and velocity and we had to follow with sails adjustments – either jibing the main or the jib. This last operation required furling the jib partly, disconnecting the spinnaker pole from the mast, moving it together with the sail to the other side of the forestay, which is a bit of a ballancing act, reconnecting it back again and unfurling the sail.

20.05.09 – Wednesday – Day 18 – In the early hours of the morning the wind and sea stabilized and the man on the watch could relax, boat sailing along at around 5 knots. 24 hours run was 123 n.m, distance to go – 540 n.m. We are starting to think of a possible ETA. Saturday? Sunday? The wind will tell. The day passed calmly, no change in the wind and no need to touch the autopilot for course corrections. Forecast: light winds, 5 knots, willl prevail in the next two days… Today was my mother’s 95th birthday. I caught her in my daughter’s car on the way on the way to dinner with my kids, her grandchildren.  Clear minded, still curious about new things and interested in eveything that happens in the world – what a lady, My Mom!

21.05.09 – Thursday – Day 19 – Calm conditions continued through the night. 24 hours run 117 n.m, distance to go 423 n.m. We are getting to the end of our fresh provisions. Today will see the ceremonial devouring of the last tomato and cucumber. We still have a few potatoes, a cabbage and some onions. On the whole the fresh stuff held well, we were using a product called “Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags” to store it. Those are supposed to absorb the ethylen gas that comes out of the vegetables and by that keep them fresh longer. I don’t know about the scientific part but it did do the job!

Seeing that we had only half a loaf of bread, we baked one – beer bread – and it came out just fine. Winds have gone down to a rediculous 5 knots, so whenever we use the engine for electricity we do it in cruise power and gain speed. Just after lunch, as I went to shut the engine down, the wind instrument showed it changed direction to the south. It didn’t take long and we were sailing close-hauled! That was completely unexpected in this Trade-Wind region. I thought it was the effect of a big rain cloud system on our left, but as it dissipated the wind stayed and we were making good progress. Later in the evening it backed to the south east and died down again.

22.05.09 – Friday – Day 20 – During the night we used one engine to make us move. Morning came and still the wind is very light, at least the sea is flat. We are not losing our patience. We will get there when we get there. 24 hours run 122 n.m, distance to go 301 n.m.

In the afternoon the wind picked up, nothing sensational but at least we are moving. Rain clouds gathered around us and for a while we had some rain, rinsing the boat from what little salt accumulated on deck. A part of our time is being spent reading. With all the preparations for the voyage on my mind, I neglected bringing enough books. I fininished Amos Oz’s new book (oh, well) and some others but at the end found myself reading a collection of Darwin publications that Steve brought along and left on board. Surprisingly it was very interesting, especially his memories of the voyage on the “Beagle”. As befitting an English scholar his writing is full of humour! I read another book of short stories by Jhumpa LahiriI and am now with my last book in English, the latest creation of Salman Rushdi, “The Enchantress of Florence” which, as usual for this author is very rich in everything, to the point of being difficult to swallow…The next man joinig will bring new books.

23.05.09 – Saturday – Day 21 – During the night we got an Iridium SMS from Danni, Zvi’s son, with the forecast: ESE 10-15 for the next two days. If this materializes we just might be able to reach Atuona on Sunday evening. At 1700 UTC (0800 local time) we were 186 miles from it, having done only 115 miles in the last 24 hours. In late morning the wind came, we’re in business! Pleasant sailing at adequate speed, and now the question arises: are we going to get there in daylight? We decide that we can enter after sunset, but it is a dark, moonless night so daylight is much prefered. Late afternoon; We are down to our last portion of fish, which we are going to eat tonight, so trolling again. A Mahi Mahi was caught but escaped close to the transom. Another try brings one aboard, a beautiful 8 lbs. fish putting ten man/meals into the freezer.

Mahi

Mahi

Nightfall bring stronger wind and faster sailing. Without previously intending to we are in a race with daylight.

24.05.09 – Sunday – Day 22 – 24 hours run was 138 n.m leaving 48 miles to go. Still hoping to get to the anchorage in daylight. Signs of approaching land appear: more birds, one of them a frigate, which we did not see since leaving the Galapagos. One brown bird (a brown Noddy? I’m playing with my bird guide) landed of the cabin top to rest. At 0945 I was looking ahead and saw the silluete of Hiva Oa on the horizon. I called Zvi out and we both stood looking at the mountainous, steep lines of the island. You may ask:”Where there any special emotions?” Well, nothing dramatic but I will admit a good feeling of achievement, of realising a dream that was formulated into plans and finally executed successfully. We still had 37 miles to go. The wind cooperated, we continued sailing wing and wing, passed the eastern tip of the island and followed the coast to Atuona. At 1630 local time, 0130 on the 25th UTC, we reached Atuona. 21 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes after leaving the Galapagos.

At destination

At destination

Zvi calculated that we sailed an average of 5.8 knots. At the planning stage I gave the trip 25 days, so anything below that is good! The bay is not big, a ship dock lies on the right as you enter and the rest has quite a few yachts at anchor. Most of the boats are with fore and aft anchors to hold them into the swell and minimize roll. We did the same, mostly in order not to swing and interfere with other yachts. Around the bay the scene is beautiful. There are hills and mountains covered with lush vegetation. Houses look modern and well tended to.

The bay

The bay

Tomorrow we shall go ashore to do the entry procedure, look around, do some shopping and find an internet cafe so I can post all the stuff I accumulated in the last three weeks.

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