Day 21 to 24 on our way from Galapagos to Tahiti. More miles than expected, some tormenting tunas splashing around the bow, a haiku and the most amazing sunsets.
Tuesday, 7th of April (Day 21)
The boat was heading South West again this morning. During the night the crew had jibed back to the ‘long-way-around course.’ Our skipper has his doubts over yesterday’s weather reports. Via the satellite email he had requested the assistance of ‘Dave’ in New Zealand. Apparently Dave is some weather guru that plans passages for skippers on their way to Tahiti and New Zealand. Dave came back with two waypoints to follow for our path to Tahiti. These waypoints confirmed our skippers plans to go the long way around, past Mururoa. Even though all computer models show the opposite recommendations. But it seems too late now to move more North. Last nights North West bound sail resulted in very poor mileage.
Today we’re crawling along the vast flat Pacific as well, 4 to 5 knots all day long. It looks like we have added a day or two to our estimated arrival in Tahiti.
In the afternoon, a very unpleasant toilet session. The electric macerator toilet in our bathroom couldn’t grind and flush the poo. It did grind it to a very nasty brown poo soup. This made a gruesome mess. Something that everyone on a boat probably has experienced once or twice. Why can’t marine toilets be more like domestic toilets, I mean, how hard can it be? I spent most of the afternoon cleaning up the mess and unclogging the bowl. After e few pitchers of boiling water and some very nasty chemicals, everything got back to working order. The soup went overboard to be enjoyed by the fish. Luckily I could get it all back to work without any disassembling of nasty pipes.
In the late afternoon the diesel tank was topped up with 220 litres from the jerrycans up front in the sail locker. We are preparing for the days of motoring that lie ahead. It is now approximately 950 miles to our destination, following the set route by Dave. In a straight line, or as the crow flies, it’s only around 800 or so. I gave up looking at how many days, maybe we get there before the end of the month.
Our first mate was invited to shoot some video for a segment on the New Zealand TV called ‘show me your bubble’. He will be shooting some video with his GoPro the coming days and plans to send that off to the New Zealand TV when we get to Tahiti. I hope the internet there is capable enough to send the gigabytes of raw footage. If not we’ll take the footage ashore for him and transfer it through a landline for him.
During the afternoon, our first mate pulled a life ring out of the ocean. It was right on our track and an easy pickup with the giant pick-hook. It hasn’t been in the water for too long as there is hardly any marine growth on it. Only two little crabs that made it their floating habitat. We will dispose of the life ring ashore. Other than this ‘waste’ we saw maybe 3 or 4 plastic bottles and some plastic rack in our 21 days at sea. Seems the pollution out here isn’t as bad as has been advertised so far.
The sunset was beautiful again, and on the opposite side we were treated to a super moon. The tranistion between day and night was quite a spectacular sight.
The night was very calm. No clouds to speak of, a calm sea and hardly any wind. My father, who is following every mile from his armchair in Holland, immediately noticed our lack of progress and send me an email. Nice to know someone on the other side of the world is following us with genuine concern.
Wednesday, 8th of April (Day 22)
We woke up to a becalmed boat and the sound of tools rattling. The engine was not taking in water again. This has something to do with the botched plumbing job our skipper had to do previously, to make the generator suck water out of the same through-hull as the engine. Once we get the boat to New Zealand, we will need to arrange for a more permanent and professional solution. For now, feeding the water pump some water from the fresh tanks quickly solved the issue. Lucky, because we were drifting backwards, loosing our hard-fought miles. Even though we only lost a couple of miles, it felt like a defeat.
*Er is geen ruk wind*, that’s the Dutch expression of the situation at hand that I replied to my dad. My father, following every mile from his armchair in Holland, immediately noticed our lack of progress. overnight. The wind was completely gone. No surprise, exactly as per the weather predictions. Our hope that there might be a little wind or that maybe the computer models were wrong were in vain. So the Volvo Penta was put into gear. We were now carving a straight path to Tahiti through the deep blue. Doing 5 to 6 knots at most to conserve precious diesel. We do not have enough diesel aboard to motor the rest of the remaining miles, so I hope we find some wind soon.
I got an email response from Selden about the possible cause and solution of our banging sail in the mast. We would probably need to tension the luff rod. The luff is the part of the sail that’s inside the mast, and the luff rod is the metal tube to which the luff of the sail connects. It runs the full length of the mast, approximately 20 metres. The rod can be tensioned at the bottom of the mast, but the main sail needs to be removed before this can be done. Our skipper reassured me that the mast wouldn’t be damaged by the banging of the sail inside. But me and Linda were not too comfortable with this sudden noise. It never did that before, so there is something not right.
In the afternoon our skipper decided to go up the mast again. This time to check if the luff rod connection up top was not damaged by the actions in the mast last week. Thank goodness the ocean was as calm as it could be, so he could be hoisted up and down without too much drama. Luckily he didn’t find anything structurally wrong up top. After loosening and tightening the halyard, the movement of the sail inside the mast was considerably less.
The sunset watch offered one of the most spectacular sunsets so far. The ocean transformed from a silky oil like substance, smooth and without any ripples, to a mercury like substance. silver and reflective. Reflecting the sunset above, which looked like the sky was on fire. A palette of reds transformed into oranges and pinks. If we have to believe sailors folklore, this would mean delightful winds lie ahead. As a red sky at night is a sailors delight’. The sunset ended with turning the water into an inky black substance. Still without ripple. Reflecting the full moon like it is chasing our boat. The silver light merged into our track behind.
Thursday, 9th of April (Day 23)
The last couple of days we have sightings of tuna jumping around the boat. It is like they are tormenting us. We have been dragging various variations of lure for more than 20 days and thousands of miles of ocean. So far we have only lost lures, and yet have to catch some yummy sashimi. Now the last couple of days they jump around the boat, almost like they’re trying to say, hey you silly humans, throw in another toy for us to play with. As we were motoring along this morning through a windless Pacific I was standing at the bow to enjoy the breeze made by our engine. And there they were again, like playful dolphins, following the pressure wave of the boat.
The afternoon I spent polishing the stainless steel of the hatches. They really needed some love and care as it hadn’t been cleaned since we left Curacao. I managed to do the five up front without get too much of a sunburn, tomorrow I’ll tackle the six on top of the galley.
As we prepared to shut off the engine and drift off for the night, the wind started to pick up a little. A large collection of dark clouds to our port side create some long awaited breeze. We hoist the mighty old Genoa and a bit of the main. This pushes Ah Ma forward with a respectable 6 to 7 knots. Our skipper is a bit nervous about pulling out the full genoa, as he expects it to tear into pieces under too much wind. I don’t share his dark pessimism, but as we agreed that our skipper is in charge of sailing the boat, the sail plan is his call.
And sure enough, after not even an hour of smooth sailing, our skipper and his first mate pop up out of the companionway and start rolling in the canvas. Out comes the little staysail, reducing our speed by a knot or two. Ah well, at least we’re moving by wind, not wasting any more diesel. Keeping an eye on the radar, we sail into a dark cloudy night. I don’t think we’ll keep it dry, but that’s OK, Ah Ma needs a good shower.
When I come up for the night watch I see the big red gennaker out again. The wind must have turned in our favour, making a reaching course possible. A reaching course is a course with the wind in the back quarter of the boat.At this wind angle, the gennaker works best. We are now heading towards the little Islands of Pinake and Nukutavake. We’ll pass them at 6 miles or more so we probably won’t even see them anywhere else than on the chart-plotter.
It is astonishing when you start to think about the size of this place. A piece of water, larger than all landmass combined. When we float around we can see about 5 or 6 miles around us, so roughly 20 square miles. That is less than 0.00003 percent of the total Pacific. And yet what we see seems endless. Our high tech smartphones can tell us more about the night sky above than what lies beneath our keel. All we know is that it is around 4km deep down below, and very very wet.
Friday, 10th of April (Day 24)
We should have been opening a cold beer yesterday, celebrating our arrival at Tahiti. We mustered 2 five litre kegs of Heineken back in Galapagos. Probably the most expensive beer i’ve ever bought. The kegs are still tied up under the saloon table. They should have been in the frosty and cold, up on the cockpit table. Instead we are still 600 miles away from our destination, counting down the days, slowly moving forward. We will have to celebrate Easter aboard Ah Ma.
I do not feel particularly festive though. Far too many worries on my mind. And the occasional antisocial behaviour of our skipper can only be ignored so much before it gets too much. Today I take some distance from everyone again to avoid conflict, just keeping to myself.
The crew was busy shooting video footage for our first mate’s bubble video. The skipper decided to climb into the mast once more, just for fun and to shoot some videos of the boat. Strange, since a few days ago he said that climbing a mast was one of the things he dreaded the most. Maybe he’s gaining an appetite for adrenaline rush activities. It will probably be some great footage of Ah Ma, from up above 25 meters in the sky.
The morning is uneventful, we see a couple of splashes from our tormenting tunas. Wind is little to none, so we crawl ahead towards Tahiti with the gennaker and a tiny bit of mainsail.
For the afternoon entertainment, Linda is watching James May in Japan. A sort of a travelogue of James travelling through the land of the rising sun from North to South. In every episode he writes a haiku to describe the day. A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem to the rhythm of five, seven, five. Linda decided to write her own to pass some time, so here it goes, a haiku by Linda..
Oh Pacific, oh Pacific, oh!
Why are we going so damn slow?
Wind oh wind, please blow!
For dinner, Linda dug out the last two pieces of cooked steak from the freezer. Something that had been hiding in there for quite some time. But they are still juicy, good and yummy. I slice them thin and make fajitas out of them. Just with some sweet onion and cheese, but enough to bring a smile back on my face.
The night passes by like the day, no wind no progress. During Linda’s watch there’s a splash of rain. We pass the tiny atoll of Paroa in the dark.