Land Ahoy! We have sailed 3,000 miles and taken 17 days to arrive in Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas part of French Polynesia. Hiva Oa is a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, but it has the virtue of being the first land fall, and port of entry, going west after the Galapagos. It is a strange thing when you finally reach land after such a trip. Part of you is of course, relieved to have arrived safely and pleased to have reached the end; but another part of you is sad that the adventure, the rather splendid isolation and the simple world were small activities can bring much pleasure has finished. Such a trip is not exactly a holiday, but is a very special time and truly unique.
The weather has been kind, and for most of the way we have had good winds from the right direction. For the more technical our best daily run has been 189 NM at an average of 7.9 knots and our trip run is 7.0 knots. All sail plans have been deployed – spinnaker, code zero, poled out jib plus staysail and normal white sails – something for every eventuality. The boat has gone well. We have motored less than ten hours so arrive with a nearly full tank of fuel. This is good news as getting any decent quantities of diesel in Hiva Oa will be challenging.
We can confirm that the Pacific is a huge rolly sea and very empty. We have seen a few birds, ocassionally dolphins and have seen some whales blowing. Most mornings we have cleared the decks of flying fish and small squid. We have seen only two other boats on AIS about 30 miles away so we never saw them physically. The skies, particularly at night are amazing. We have had daily radio contact with our friends on Krabat, and email contact with a Norwegian boat who both left Galapagos at the same time as us. This all makes for rather easy night watches, but the rolly seas have been tiresome.
The fishing has been exceptional thanks to Stuart who takes on his fishing responsibility with some gusto. The grand tally is 4 mahi mahi, 2 tuna, 3 nearly caught and numerous false alarms. One of the tuna was an absolute monster – 1.35m long, depth 0.35m and probably weighed in at 70lbs/30kgs. It took over an hour to land and was too big for our new net, so it was expertly gaffed by Julian. It took another 3 hours to deal with the fish and clean the boat afterwards. We were all absolutely exhausted. Should we ever catch another fish of this size, I think photographic evidence will be sufficient! Following this effort, fishing has had to be suspended as the freezer is full. As always the fish also have it their way, and a rather angry fish took our lure and all the line – we probably did not want that fish, but did it really have to take our equipment? The new, very big catching net has proved a great success and we do not miss the rather bloody, bludgeon affair with the gaff.
Julian has been honing is astronavigation skills and has successfully plotted latitude and longitude to within less than a mile of our GPS position. This is a very time consuming process but at least we can feel assured that if the GPS went down we would still nearly know our position. It does seem to require at least 2 people on tender hooks 3 times a day. We did spend a few minutes considering what it was like for Shackleton in his open boat in the Southern Ocean navigating from Elephant Island to South Georgia. How incredible and tough they were.
New culinary achievements include fruit cake and onion chutney. We are missing good old branston pickle but the onion chutney has proved a suitable substitute. I am no cake baker but three fruit cakes (Moira’s recipe) have disappeared quickly. Top menu items were Mahi mahi in oatmeal with pickled beetroot and black rice, blackened mahi mahi with couscous flavoured with cucumber and coriander, and cappachio of tuna with pickled beetroot and flatbreads. We have just about managed to spin out the fruit and vegetables.
It seems hard to explain where all the time goes on a trip like this but between sail changes, astronavigation, fishing, cooking, cleaning, water making, battery charging and a few extra sleeps we fill the days. We have an hotly contested sweep stake for the daily run. I have managed to draw a blue footed boobie – not so easy on a rolling boat. Stuart has tackled rope work, Julian taking on the supervisory role! and we now have at least a years supply of soft shackles and rope loops. Stuart and I, occasionally joined by Julian, have taken up daily scrabble and the top score between us is 756. Stuart nearly always wins, hence the collective goal! Local rules allow double points for nautical terms.
So, all in good spirits here, looking forward to some french cuisine, catching up with the world, and exploring the Pacific Islands.