WHERE ARE THE TRADE WINDS?
Sailing from the Galapagos, the problem is: where to go. The Marquesas are 3000
miles to the west, but also 400 miles more to the south: shall we take the
Usually, that's not a good idea: the Galapagos are almost on the equator, and
here winds tend to be very light! One must sail south, or in any direction with
more south than west in it, to meet the trade winds. usually this means motoring
a lot in the early stages of the voyage, with the risk of running out of fuel
for the last stages of the passage.
The fleet adopted two different strategies: those with a lot of fuel opted for
the rhumb line, going more west than south, while the "normal" guys like us
sailed about south-west. We kept a bit more to the south than most, and this
seems to have been a good idea as we sailed very fast with the help of a strong
current, and we also avoided the worst of a depression that hit the rest of the
Still, we had to recover the penalty of having left one day after the others:
last wednesday, when we were ready to go, our anchor turned out to be stuck to
the bottom! We had to wait until the next morning when, with the help of a diver
from another boat, we were able to free ourselves.
Penalty, but also an advantage as we were able to set our strategy on the basis
of the conditions met by the others.
We still have 2600 miles to go, it's going to be long!
How can you motivate the crew during a month-long passage?
YOU GIVE YOURSELF A TARGET!
And what's better as a target than a dinner on the beach with a pig roasted in
an hole in the ground, in the traditional polinesian style? This dinner is
foreseen for the 31st of March, a date that for us is tough to achieve (we are
one of the slowest boats in the fleet, after all!!).
And that's how the "PIG AVERAGE" was created, meaning the average speed that
would allow us to arrive in Nuku Hiva in time for the pig-roast: so far, thanks
to a strong favourable current, we are well within the average!!
Then maybe the pig will be nothing special, but what counts is the idea!
THE PIG HOLDS!!
For the time being, we are well within the pig-average, despite 24 hours with
light winds that caused the despair of all the fleet!
Still, in the last 24 hour we have run 120 miles (nearly 5 knots in average)
thanks to a strong sub-equatorial current which is pushing us. Now the wind is
back, which should give us some 20 more miles per day: the pig is safe!! (or
rather doomed, depending on the point of view....)
Yesterday our boom took a leave and detached from the mast!... (and obviously
this all happened by night, so we noticed only in the morning).
To put it back, with its own weight plus the sail's, it's been hard work but now
all is back where it belongs.
From here to the Marquesas it's 2000 miles of this boredom: at least two and a
half weeks to spend in the middle of nowhere but, as they say, "at sea boring is
good, exciting is bad"!
10 days at sea, and we are not even halfway-through!
So far we kept very high average speeds, so the trip may take significantly less
than initially foreseen.
This morning, a pod of pink-bellied dolphins made us company for about an hour,
under a lead-colored sky which is not promising anything good.
This was the first time since we left Galapagos!
Nothing, not a bird, a dolphin, anything, not even a ship, really NOTHING.
The events of the day are the two radio-appointments: positions are compared ("here,
we gained on Stagazer" or "yes but Baccus is doing one knot more than us"),
little dramas unfold (Andy of "Spectra" has gone towards "Happy Wanderer" in
mid-ocean to get onboard and fix their autopilot, otherwise they would have had
to hand-steer all the way through the remaining 2500 miles), weather conditions
are compared and analysed, trying to understand whether to head south or not (answer:
it does not change a thing! I stay north because I like it this way!).
Baby kills some time playing solitaire on the computer
At the end, few words are exchanged with other boats ("what are you having for
dinner?" "cawliflower salad" "what kind of cauliflower?" - I swear, I'm not
making it up!).
In short, total boredom!!!! ...and if all goes well, it will take us two more
weeks before the pig-roast.
Is it worth it? Well for a keen sailor a circumnavigation is still a top
achievement, like an 8000 for a climber, if not the ultimate Everest (which for
me is still Cape Horn), but sometimes I wonder if it was not better to fly to
the interesting places and charter a boat there, passages are really boring!
And if you are not careful, a nasty wave will kill you.
Well, we'll see....
Nothing happens since several days...
Much better this way than like onboard "Cayuco", where they are having a new
problem every few days: some days ago, they snapped a chainplate, yesterday
their jib-furler broke, damaging also the genoa, and now they are at the tail of
the fleet so there is nobody nearby who could lend a hand (thankfully, Tony is a
great do-it-yourselfer, but the boat is really falling apart...).
Even communications have become terse, nobody has anything left to say ("all
well?" "yes, all is well", "how's the wind?" "15 knots" "also here", it's hard
to find conversation items!).
There are still 1300 miles to the arrival, if the wind will stay as light as it
is now it will take another 10 days, not too bad.
BIRTHDAYS AND CLOUDS...
No, I do not intend to start again with this "clouds" thing, but last night the
sky was overcast and a short, cross-swell made life uncomfortable.
Now it's just a little better, so we can focus on the celebration for Baby's
birthday: main subject, the lunch menu. For the cake, we are already set: we
have a 10cm.-large rum-cake from Antigua! What we miss are the candles, we will
have to make-do with egg-shaped candles we bought for a past Easter!
Still 999 miles to our destination!! Nothing, it will take us another week to
reach Nuku Hiva, and in the meantime most of the fleet will be there!!
Some forecasts talk of flat calms for the next days, let's hope that's not going
to be the case!!
WHERE ARE THE BUNNIES??!!!
IT'S EASTER, IT'S EASTER!!!!
Right, but where are:
- the traditional "colomba" (an Easter dove-shaped cake)
- the eggs (those we have, but they are just kid's Kinder chocolate eggs!...)
- the Easter bunnies???
BUAAAH, no bunnies!... (unless Baby accepts to wear a bunny costume... no,
Still 800 miles of boredom to reach Nuku-Hiva, and in the meantime the faster
boats have already arrived there; someone even took the luxury of going first to
other islands, in particular Hiva-Oa, where Paul Gaugin and Jacques Brel are
we will arrive just in time for a quick look around, and then off to the
We seem to be sailing forever!!! Still little more than 300 miles, say 2 and a
half days, just enough to arrive by night!!
This in fact assuming the wind will not drop more than it did already, and the
swell does not come from still another direction (there are already waves coming
from 4 different directions, creating a wave pattern that David of "Zipadedoda"
would surely define "interesting").
Talking of "Zipadedoda" (right, like in "Zippadedooda, zippade-eeh": I love it,
the owner is an absolute genius!), yesterday they said by radio that they had an
accidental gybe, suffering "quite some damage" (he is a genius of British
humour, but he goes strong on understatements as well...); just to remind us
that this is no walk in the park, damages and injuries can happen any time...
We are nearly there!!!
Only 140 miles to our destination, and we even have enough fuel to motor, in
case the wind drops!!
Pity for the sky which is overcast, with some powerful squalls passing by; we
missed them just by chance....
We really had enough, although in reality it's not been too bad: 24 days to
cover 3000 miles, about 125 miles per day.
Tomorrow Tahioae, Nuku-Hiva, Marquesas!!
At sunrise, Nuku Hiva looms ahead; the passage is completed!
MARQUESAS, THE ISLANDS OF MEN...
First of all, a geological note: in French Polinesia, we will meet 3 kinds of
islands, all of volcanic origin:
- the "young" islands, which are still just mountains protruding out of the sea,
with little or no coral around them: the Marquesas.
- the "middle aged" islands, where a coral ring has formed around the islands,
which have sunk just a little so to leave room for a ring of water between the
reef and the island: the Society islands (Tahiti, Moorea, etc.) are like that.
- the "old" islands, where the original mountain has sunk, leaving only the
external coral ring and people, if there are any, leave on the coral reef which
at places is large enough to create true islands on their own, while at other
places the barrier may be just flush with the sea and almost impossible to see
if not for the waves crashing on it: folks, these are the Tuamotus, one of the
most tricky places to navigate if you don't want to end up on top of a reef!
So, the Marquesas are indeed mountainous, pretty much so! Basalt pinnacles
jutting out of the ground, with a lush, wavy landscape which can comfortably be
Tahiohae harbour, Nuku Hiva
The people: typical Polinesian looks, the men look like the strong brother of
"The Rock", just to give an idea (then you see them paddling in their pirogues
and understand where they get their muscles!!), often tattooed, both men and
women and also in rather extensive ways (no butterfly on an ankle, here!).
Quite attached to their traditions, which they research and maintain with pride:
their language, which is different from that of the other islands, the tattoos,
the dances, the archeological sites where they hold annual gatherings, the pirogue
Incidentally, "Islands of men" is the Marquesan name of the islands.
Modern world has arrived here, of course: everybody drives SUV's, although they
still love riding on horseback, their pirogues are made in fiberglass and dances
are performed by folklore groups who develop their own choreographies and
costumes (little is actually known of the old dances, which have been forbidden
by missionaries for centuries and long forgotten...).
And, please, do not do like Baby and keep telling them that they are French:
they consider themselves Marquesan, and don't take that all too well!...
If it was not for the high prices (everything here arrives by ship, once every
fortnight), this would be paradise on earth!
Well, actually there IS another problem: the swell!! All harbours are open to
the ocean (as there is no coral reef) and the swell gets in!
A nice experience, but now it is time to go on: next stop, the Tuamotus!