Galapagos to Tahiti – part 2

Another 4 days at sea. still a long way to go.

Sunday, 22nd of March (Day 5)

It seems that mother nature also took the lord’s day of rest into account. I woke up to a becalmed boat. No sails up, just drifting on the current, back to whence we came from. Our skipper wanted to save the precious diesel. Over the past couple of days, our skipper has been becoming increasingly paranoid about the Corona situation in the world. He is thinking we might need to float on the oceans for months on end. Maybe even fighting pirates or other yachts for resources. At first I thought he was joking. But it seems to get more and more serious by the day. It is starting to worry me.

Believe it or not, I have a more optimistic view on the world. But it is hard to stay optimistic with the constant doomsday thinking and ridiculous theories that float around on the boat. I don’t know if his paranoia is getting to the skipper or that he is right, but time will tell. It for sure doesn’t help morale though.

It is getting harder and harder for me, accepting these strangers in my “little house on the water”. Small things are starting to annoy me. Constantly cleaning up after people and putting things back to their original spot. The mess that is made after each attempt to make some coffee or lunch. The duct tape and cable tie solutions that are engineered for every possible mechanical issue. On top of that, our skipper is not the easiest guy to get along with. He is a great guy to have a beer and a laugh with on shore. His utter contempt for mankind can sometimes sound amusing, until you realize it’s not a joke. On the water he hardly communicates anything that he does and seems to forget it’s not his own boat he sailing on. His approach to sailing is a one man show. He clearly does not enjoy team work and thinks everyone is stupid and wrong. Any attempt to start a discussion or just simply ask questions is seen as an attack on his judgement and experience. His doomsday thinking is starting to get irritating, always thinking the worst. I’m trying to find some alone space today to regroup.

As the finicky wind picks up a little, we hoist the big red thing again. It barely pushes us along at 4 knots but keeps shape. At least now we move in the right direction. Then we decide to hoist the staysail inside the gennaker, making a cutter rig. This seems to work very well. We pick up pace on the light wind making 6 knots of speed out of 8 knots of wind. This is about 120 percent of the boat’s optimal performance. This is also called POLAR performance. The Polar data is provided by boat builders and incorporated into the Axiom computer. Here the smarty-pants computers calculates your current against your theoretical maximum performance. Fascinating numbers to keep staring at. But the fun isn’t lasting. After about an hour the wind dies down, the canvas is rolled in and we’re becalmed again. 

As we are floating around, we see a target approaching on the AIS at 5 knots. It’s S/Y Therapy again, they are obviously not saving diesel, and happily motoring along towards the trade winds. They are about 20 miles out and approaching fast, straight in our direction. It seems like they want to get close enough to have a chat or something. We tried to contact them on radio channel 16, but no response. Very strange. Maybe our skipper is right, maybe we need to get ready to fight them for resources..

As we’re not going anywhere, and getting ready for battle does seem a bit far fetched, our first mate decides to go for a swim around the boat. There are many strange jellyfish-like creatures in the water, so I decide to sit this one out. Sure enough, when our first mate arises from the water he is stung by a strange tubular shaped jelly-creature. It left a nasty burn like wound.

Later in the day I download the weather reports once more from PredictWind. Something I do every day. It shows exactly what I have been silently thinking all along. We’re not far South enough to get to into the trade winds. We are just on the edge of it, in a pocket of ‘blue’ indicating no wind. Still, when I present the data to our skipper, he doesn’t believe these digital prediction models. He deeply depends on drawing from his experience. Nevertheless, the PredictWind models have been spot on so far.

Based on these PredictWind models, my personal preference would be to take a more Northerly route to cut to the Marquesas. From there I would pass through the top of the atolls and reefs, and then straight West to Tahiti. According to the computer, this track shows far better wind predictions and a shorter duration by days. We could also stop on the Marquesas if necessary, and allowed. It does take us through a slightly denser part of the atolls, but still the islands are miles separated from each other. Our skipper chose another route though, so we will have to stick with that.

After a team discussion we finally decide to hoist the little staysail. There is 6 knots of fickle wind, so at least we are now floating in the right direction again at 2 knots or so. The sail also stops the heavy rolling of the boat while we are drifting around. S/Y Therapy is now rapidly approaching us. She seems to have converged her course, now following us straight from the stern. They still do not respond to any calls on the radio. 

Around the evening, the wind picks up a bit again, so we hoist our fateful red gennaker. Pretty soon we are moving along at 5 knots again, rapidly leaving S/Y Therapy behind who seems to have slowed down for the night.

I’m now on my night watch again. Linda does midnight to 2am, and I do 2 to 4am every night. It is the best time on the boat. There is no one around but Linda. Or just me, myself and I, alone with my thoughts. I start to understand why solo sailing appeals to some people. After this Pacific crossing to Tahiti, I think me and Linda can run this boat together. I do need to pick up some diesel engineering skills though.

Pacific Sunset
Pacific Sunset

Monday, 23rd of March (Day 6)

The boat is still moving at a decent pace. Not the double digits she was built for, but half powered, only by the big red gennaker. our skipper is afraid the main and jib will sustain further damage if we would hoist them in light winds. The flapping about might further delaminate the sails. I wonder if he’s being overly cautious, but we’ll have to depend on his judgement for now. 

While on the move, we’re trying to get a quotation for a set of new sails, but have to find out the right specifications. There is no documentation about the sails on the boat, not even in the ‘fuehrers-handbuch’ (owners manual). A ridiculously small booklet that supposed to have all the critical information about the boat. I’ve contacted the previous owner of the boat whom has always been very helpful. So far he couldn’t find anything in his archives either, other than the chassis number of the boat and the serial number of the mast. I’ve also asked my father to contact Bavaria in Germany with these details, they should have something on file somewhere, I hope. 

The sailing is constant for the rest of the day, winds kept up to 10 knots for most of the day. Around the afternoon it dies down a bit again. I hope we can continue sailing at a decent pace through the night. 

Fishing has proven to be a futile effort so far. We have been dragging a lure behind the boat for 5 days now. The only thing we caught was that delicious little skipjack tuna on the way from Panama to Galapagos. But other than that, nothing. The lure was grabbed once it seemed, as it was a bit mangled once when we reeled it in. I’ve put some led on the lure now to fish a bit deeper, maybe there is some fish down there. 

In the afternoon I noticed a small fresh water leak in the shed. The shed is a converted cabin where we have the tools, water-maker and the generator. A tiny squirt of water was coming out of the high pressure water main that’s connected to the carbon filter. This is used for back flushing the water-maker with fresh water. Back flushing is when you push fresh water from the onboard tanks through the water-maker to remove the salt water from the system. Something you would do every time after you make water to better preserve the membranes.

Anyway, a simple fix. At first I thought it might be a simple O ring. But after inspecting the connection and putting some Vaseline on the O ring, the leak was still there. Our skipper thought the small drip was insignificant and acceptable. But not on my boat. I ended up replacing the bit of hose between the carbon filter and the connector to the water main. This seems to have fixed the problem.

A few days ago our brand new Raymarine Axiom navigation system had some quirky behaviour. When the chart plotter was linked up to the boat IPad, which also runs Navionics amongst other things, it synced the two maps. Meaning that the downloaded updated map sections of the Ipad were transferred into the Axiom. Great you would think, but no. This sync also resulted in the not updated sections loosing important details. 

I’ve managed to send an email to Navionics support through the satellite email. They came with a solution. We had to delete a folder from the sd/card. I tried this this afternoon. At first I just renamed the folder like any good IT geek would. This resulted in the chart plotter continuously rebooting, scary!. But when I removed the (now renamed) folder, voilla, the chart was back to its original glory. The oddities of computers are still not estranged from me. 

But it turned out that the reboots of the chart plotter resulted in radar loosing connection. Something that’s probably easily fixed with a system restart. But our skipper threw a fit, he found this too scary and wanted to wait with this for some reason. So for now, we are sailing blind into the night with a big gennaker up and no radar to check for squalls. We’re making good speed, but this goes against everything I learned so far. Guess we just have to trust our skipper’s experience and keep a hawk eye on the wind’o’meter. 

On Linda’s night watch we were doing 7 to 8 knots on the gennaker alone, the wind occasionally tops up to 15 knots. We pass an oil tanker in the far distance, but in the moonless night, we can clearly see her lights.

Behind us we are now closely followed by the S/Y Therapy. In an ocean bigger than all continents combined they find it necessary to sail right behind us. Deep in the night they are slowly gaining on us. 

During my night watch the wind pushes up to 17 knots. I think enough is enough so I wake our skipper up to see what he wants to do. We finally roll in the big red thing and pull out some of the main and staysail. This has good results, we now barrel along at 8 to 9 knots, leaving S/Y Therapy behind us again. 

Pacific Sunset
Pacific Sunset

Tuesday 24th if March (Day 7)

It has been a full week under way now. This is now officially the longest leg of sailing I have ever done so far. Still, we are not even half way. It has been an emotional roller-coaster. Travel at sea affects you, no matter how strong you think you are.

When I wake up the boat is heavily rolling on the swell hitting the boat on the port (left) side. Making coffee and some cereal in these conditions is a challenge, but after a couple of weeks at sea, you find your rhythm in balancing and preventing things to slide around.

The mood in the cockpit is a bit better than yesterday. Our first mate and Linda are discussing the plan. What to do when we get to Tahiti. We are now in contact with the Chinese consul general in Papeete. He is offering his assistance in any possible way. We might be able to fly to Hong Kong from Tahiti once we arrive. But leaving the boat in Tahiti is not a safe option. Our skipper is prepared to push on to New Zealand providing he finds some crew to join him. Something we’re considering at the moment. It’s still 2850 miles to Tahiti, so plenty of time to think and for things to change.

Our first mate receives some measurements from Bavaria for our new sails. He has connections who works at North sails in New Zealand and can pull some strings to get things done. We verify the measurements by pulling a line up the topping lift and measuring the boom and the foot of the genoa. It all seems to be correct, as far as you can be sure using a piece of string. I’m curious to see what our first mate’s contacts at North Sails can come back with.

After morning measurements exercise, I start to work on my area of expertise, the house electronics. I find a way to reboot both the chart table display as well as the radar, without resetting the whole system. It required opening up the ceiling under the mast, but our skipper was happy that everything is back to working order without a full system reset. And I unravelled some more of the cabling mysteries under the floor boards and ceiling plates of Ah Ma.

After the electronics being fixed, I started to clean up the water leakage under the floor boards. While fiddling with the generator, a lot of seawater, coolant and fresh water was spilled and seeped into the bilge area under the saloon table. I dig out our water hoover from under our bed and start to clean up the wet mess. Something we had done many times before during our air conditioning leaks back on Curacao.

Suddenly our skipper came running down the companionway calling for out first mate. He was watching some TV shows in his cabin. At first we thought something or someone had gone overboard or something worse. But nothing of the kind, it was a fish! We hooked an enormous fish on our lure. She was jumping like a wild stallion far behind the boat. It wasn’t ours to keep though, because soon after, the line snapped and the giant fish took off with a squid lure piercing through its lip. Good to know there is life out there under the grey and blue waves. I was starting to think this fishing effort is futile.

There are a staggering number of flying fish skimming the surface of the ocean. As the boat pierces through the waves, occasionally whole schools jump out of the water, scared by the presence of our freshly painted black hull. Maybe they think we are some sort of big predator fish, out there to catch them. I think it does show the poor state of the ocean we are crossing though. This many bait fish probably means there are very few large predators left around to hunt them.

The night was dark and with good wind, we continued pushing forward at 7 to 8 knots. Only about 70 percent of what the boat is capable of according to the POLAR calculations of the smarty brains Raymarine computer. But still making good time and distance.

Pacific Sunset

Wednesday, 25th of March (Day 8)

The heavy rolling of the boat during the night made for an interrupted night of sleep. It only calmed down a bit in the early morning. I woke up to a quiet boat, asides from the rattling sound of the generator. Only Linda was up in the cockpit, mastering the 17 tonnes of boat through the Pacific Ocean. It was gloomy and overcast and it looked like it was about to rain.

As I took over the watch, suddenly our skipper and first mate popped up from down below. They decided it was time to fill up the diesel tank. I decided to stay out of their way and leave them to it.

After my watch I went down below to try to read a book. Factfulness, some book on how the world isn’t as bad as you’d think, backed by scientific statistics. It’s a highly recommended read by Bill Gates and other prominent figures. I can’t get in to it, and find it quite boring. I bet the writer didn’t forecast the Corona pandemic through his scientific analysis of the world’s health.

As good food is the best medicine for any form of depression, I started preparing some dough for pizza. The cooking classes we took at Rossi, back in Macau, paid off. Back in Panama I bought some proper Italian double zero flower. As our ships oven broke down, I’m going to try to use the Magma barbecue on the back of the boat as an oven. Let’s see how that turns out.

The emails from the iridium brought us news from Rob, my sail maker back in Curacao. He told me his brand ‘Doyle’ was now closed for at least two weeks so he can’t give me a price on the new sails just yet. I’ve also sent the request to UK sails in Hong Kong to see what they can offer. We already got some prices back from our first mates contact at North Sails, but it remains uncertain if they can deliver with most of their sail lofts closed worldwide as well. I see the chances slim that we’ll get new sails on Tahiti, or even in New Zealand for that matter, so we might have to nurture the ones we got for now.

In the afternoon we got some news from the Chinese general consul in Tahiti. Linda is in constant contact with him, and he seems very helpful. He will try to arrange the permits for me and Linda to get ashore and disembark from the boat there. The plan now is for us to wait in Tahiti until we can get a flight back to Hong Kong or Macau. For me and Linda I don’t think another non stop 20 to 30 days to New Zealand would be feasible. The crew, will continue onwards to New Zealand, where we will probably store the boat until the world calms down again and Ah Ma can continue her journey to Asia.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I would love to get off the boat, as sailing with this crew is not particularly fun. Also, we would probably need to wait in Tahiti for weeks, if not months, before we can fly out, I can’t leave Linda alone on this remote Island for that long, now matter how pretty it is. On the other hand, I would need to trust our floating home to the crew. They are very competent sailors, but I would need to accept that certain things will not be done up to my standards.

But I think the comfort of Linda outweighs all discomforts, so I’ve decided to leave the boat when we get to Tahiti if possible. That’s still about 16 days westward at our current pace.

For dinner we juggled between the galley (kitchen) and the Magma barbecue on the back of the boat to make and bake the pizzas. The dough was excellent, but getting the right temperature in the BBQ was a challenge. The first couple of attempts burnt to a crisp.The rolling of the boat in 17 knot winds didn’t make life much easier. We ended up putting a thick bottom pan on top of griddle. This produced some yummy pizza. But it was a nightmare to take the dough in and out of the pan.

Pizza from the Magma

The night watch is gloomy and overcast, good that the radar is working again because I can’t see a thing out there, it’s all pitch black.

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