Thursday, 26th of March (Day 9).
Ah, sailing the oceans of the world in a luxury yacht, so romantic. Girls in bikinis on the front deck. A nice espresso and some poached eggs for breakfast in the cockpit. Dolphins playing in the bow wave and Gin and tonic, with a slice of cucumber at sunset.
And then I woke up. A splash of salt water came through the open cabin hatch. The boat is rolling violently and strange noises come from undiscovered places. Breakfast is a coffee and horribly sweet cornflakes, enjoyed in the cockpit whilst staring at a man’s laundry flapping in the wind. Ah sailing..
No, crossing the Pacific is not a romantic nor comfortable journey. It’s simply getting the boat to a place where you can enjoy it. Unfortunately, all Islands ahead of us are closed because of the Corona madness. No one will accept yachts asides from Tahiti. Here we might have the possibility to disembark our Ah Ma. So no place for us to go, other than Westward.
The day fell in to ritual. that horribly sweet cereal breakfast, a morning watch, some rest, make some water, shower with the freshly made water, evening watch, sleep a bit, night watch.
The mood aboard was a bit lighter today. Our skipper seems to be less stressed out. Maybe because he now knows we are leaving the boat in Tahiti, so he can go about his business without having to explain himself. Not that he has been doing that much anyways.
Winds have been good. 17 to 20 knots, pushing us forward at 7 or 8. An occasional splash of salt water reached the cockpit.
The night watch was like the day, wet and windy. A constant chance of a drizzle of rain made opening the hatches impossible. An occasional splash of salt water through the cockpit added to the wetness. Winds picked up to 25 knots making Ah Ma plough through the waves towards the invisible horizon.
During the night watch I nested myself in a dry corner of the cockpit, armed with the boat IPad. From here I can see all that is needed, in the Raycontrol app. I could even adjust the heading with the remote control if necessary. Technically I would not even need to be up in the cockpit unless the sail plan needed changing. But with about 50% of our canvas up, a small staysail and a half furled main, winds would need to get into the 30’s before we would need to do something about that.
Friday 27th of March (Day 10)
Linda was exempted from the morning watch this morning. It was still rainy and windy. We both didn’t get much sleep last night. The constant rolling and the stuffy cabin due to the closed hatches didn’t give us much comfort nor fresh air.
A glamorous front cabin is perfect for anchorages and marinas, and probably also for coastal sailing. But on the big swells of the Pacific it’s far from ideal. Then again, we won’t be crossing the Pacific or do anything close to this distance non-stop sailing any time soon. Our future plans involve leisurely cruising and island hopping.
The boat is beautifully balanced. When I took the autopilot off during my shift there was hardly any weather helm. Weather helm is when there is too much pressure on either the front or the rear sails, causing the boat to be pushed either port or starboard. You feel this in the steering wheel as a constant resistance. But Ah Ma, with her 50% rig was going straight like a knife through the water. Only the waves pushed her about occasionally, asking for a small correction from the wheel. The winds are still in the 20’s, so we’re making good speed and distance.
We are 10 days at sea now, and almost at the point where we are about as far removed from any human as you could possibly be, half way between the Galapagos and the Marquesas islands. Only the four of us aboard, trying to figure out how to tolerate each others existence in a space no larger than a small Hong Kong apartment. I decided just to keep my distance from our skipper. He sees any comment or question about his sailing decisions as an attack on his experience. It’s like walking on eggshells, very unpleasant.
Our first mate however is the complete opposite, he’s a kind and friendly man who’s is just under a whole lot of stress due to situations back home. I can’t understand how these two ended up sailing together, guess opposites attract.
For myself and Linda, we’re used to being together 24/7. We have been since the day we have met. Linda is a remarkably strong woman. When I see how she manoeuvrers herself through the minefield of roller-coaster emotions, always being charming, funny and positive. I’m just so happy that I’ve met her. It’s just a shame that this trip, which should have been a great experience to learn the finer details of sailing, is wasted. We are now just counting down the days until we reach Tahiti, 12 to 14 days according to the chart plotters. But with the current course and weather predictions, I have my doubts. It seems that as we will get near Tahiti we will be running out of wind.
For lunch we heat up the left over curry from yesterday. It is yummy Japanese curry with potatoes and pork and rice. Very filling, so I don’t think we need any dinner tonight. Linda took an afternoon off cooking, so the boys cook for themselves tonight. They have a strange diet of instant noodles with tomato ketchup, or tins of tomato with corn. I don’t see why you would do that to yourself. Diet on passage like this is full of processed sugary and carbohydrate loaded food already. I understand that you need rations for when things go wrong. So you pack a bunch of tins that stay good till the end of time. But I see no need to start eating that grub until absolutely necessary. Lucky for them, Linda cooks up something nice for everyone almost every afternoon. Our freezer is still stacked with frozen pre cooked meals that we made in Panama.
Whilst barrelling down the deep grey waters of the Pacific I dream away about sailing Ah Ma through the turquoise waters of the Andaman sea. Visiting little Islands and bays, going ashore for meals at a little local restaurant. Popping in to beach side resorts for a sundowner, meeting interesting people and make new friends. One day soon.
I was about to finish my evening watch when a flying fish propelled itself through the window in the dodger.. smack! Great aim of the fish, missing all the standing rigging and sails. It came to a halt with a loud bang against the side of the cockpit table. Our first mate grabbed some napkins and threw it back into the ocean. The little bugger was flapping around and hard to catch. They stink like half dead rotten fish. I’m starting to think they are some sort of zombie fish, the last remaining life in the ocean. Jumping out of the water trying to escape the ocean. Silently screaming air, air, air..
Saturday 28th of March (Day 11)
The sun has returned to the sky and the winds calmed down a bit making for a more comfortable sail this morning.
We entered the next time zone, so the clock has been moved forward an hour. Something you would need to do about every 15 degrees of longitude. We keep the ships operational clock with the actual time zone we are in. This makes the day to day rituals easier. The sun rises and sets around the same time. Everyone can keep to their biological rhythm. The difference, an hour adjustment every 7 days or so is easily absorbed. The clock on the bulkhead wall shows GMT, as this is the true ships time.
It now seems like we are having some battery issues. The house bank is not charging as it should, at least our skipper is thinking that. I don’t know for sure if he is right or not, I would need to analyse the issue further and consult some professionals. Ah well, another problem to add to the never ending list. I was thinking about upgrading to lithium batteries anyways, maybe that time has come sooner than anticipated.
For lunch today, our first mate whipped up a tuna pasta salad using some of the last fresh veggies on the boat. It was surprisingly tasty, since I am normally not a processed pasta fan. This was our meal for the day. Over the last couple of days we’ve been eating one of two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. It works out fine as with our watch schedule you would ‘end up sleeping directly after a dinner, which is not desirable for the tummy and the waste.
After the morning watch the skipper pulled down the gennaker for an inspection. There’s a small tear in the upper part. It probably snagged the upper spreaders of the mast in the past. We patched the tear with some duck-tape for the moment. When we get to port I need to have a sail maker patch it up professionally My guess is this that the duck-tape quick fix will fall of in a couple of hours. I don’t understand why he would use duct-tape since we bought some sail repair cloth and cement back in Galapagos.
We also found that the halyard was shaved at the point where it comes out of the mast. Probably because we use a sheet line as halyard, which is just a bit to thin. A halyard is the line that pulls the sail up into the mast. We shortened the halyard and reattached the top of the sail. This time we wrapped the top bit of the halyard with duck-tape as a sacrificial layer, to prevent the shaving. We’ll pull the sail down again in a couple of days to see if the remedy is working.
In the afternoon Linda and I did your watches relaxing in the cockpit listening to some music from our phone. When we put it in the cup holder it acts as a natural amplifier. Something we learned from the you-tube youth. A watch can be really uneventful at sea. When there is no ship in sight, no weather to watch. You start to analyse the clouds surrounding you, looking to predict the wind and weather. Or just see if you can see shapes you recognize in the clouds.
My evening watch is normally around sunset, but today it still seemed to be late afternoon. This is when figured out that the clock was not supposed to go forward, but backward. This meant my evening watch now ended two hours early. Fantastic, we now have full 8 hours of sleep instead of 6, whoohoo!
Sunday 29th of March (day 12)
Another day in the middle of the Pacific. Just another 2000 miles to go. If Ah Ma was in good condition we could run that in about 10 days. But unfortunately we’re running only half the canvas available. Even with the small staysail and half the main we pulled 7 to 8 knots through the night, not bad at all, but not double digits. The morning had lighter winds though, putting a bit of a dent in the daily total.
We have two little shrimp holding on to the back of the boat. The have been there since we left the Galapagos islands. Every time we heel over you see them hanging on for dear life. Those shrimps and the occasional school or flying fish are the only thing alive detectable. Maybe there is more under the dark blue waters, but from up here it looks like one big empty ocean.
Our fishing experiment is still fruitless. We lost a length of line, a lure and a hook to a monster fish a couple of days ago. Proof that there is more under the dark blue waves. Now we moved to a primitive trawling line that our skipper ‘created’. Just some heavy fishing line we picked up in the Galapagos with a lure and hook. I don’t see us catching anything with that, but we’ll see. At least it looks strong enough to hold a whale.
In the afternoon the boat slowed down to a crawl again. Time to put out the gennaker. It does a great job pulling Ah Ma ahead in light winds. But pretty soon after, the winds picked up a bit, so it had to come in again. The trade winds aren’t as constant and predictable at this latitude as I thought they would be.
Another sunset passes us by. Linda and I enjoy the sunset watch listening to some music from the cupholders. Unfortunately no sundowner as we run a dry boat whilst underway. As we enjoy the sunset, the wind dies again and we start to move at a snail’s pace.
Then, suddenly our skipper pops his head out of the companionway. It seems this is now happening every day around sunset. He looks around a bit, stares in the distance, without any form of communication. Then he goes down to wake up our first mate. Poor guy, his watch starts in an hour and he’s probably still vast asleep. We perform the same ritual, take in the staysail and the main, and hoist the big red thing. I don’t see why this could not wait until change of the watch, when everyone is awake and ready.
We sail through the night with the gennaker up. Luckily we sail trough clear skies and there are no signs of squalls on the radar. We make good speed, but I’m not comfortable asleep with this much thin canvas hanging from the mast at night. We’ll just have to trust our skipper that he knows what he’s doing.