|Landfall! Hiva Oa in the background.|
I haven't had a real opportunity to think about my first South Pacific blog but wanted to put up the few posts that I did put together while we were en route from Mexico. These post read in chronological order starting below. Hoping to get the pictures up with the text as well but that might happen in stages.
Monday, 08 April 2013, 13:14 UTC
18° 17’ N 114° 28’ W, 12 miles East of Isla Clarion
Boat Speed = 3.3 knots, Wind Speed = 10.4 knots from the North
Cockpit Temperature = 72° F/22° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 84° F/28° C
|Not all sunrises are colorful.|
With just about everything crossed off of our to do list, we got ready to leave Mexico on 01 April 2013. Immigration was simple and painless and within less than one half hour we had our zarpe in hand. Bob and Joyce of s/v Chara helped us toss of the docklines and took pictures as we slipped out of Paradise Village Marina and headed towards La Cruz de Huanacaxtle to fill up the diesel tank and our two jerry cans prior to leaving Banderas Bay for the South Pacific. Once topped off, we turned the boat west and entered Banderas Bay. We were able to hoist the sails and soon found ourselves sailing out towards the horizon, taking advantage of the thermal winds that formed in the late afternoons on the bay. The afternoon changed to early evening and we watched the first of many sunsets pass below the bow of Osprey.
Our first day out at sea was complete with winds, whales and warm temperatures. The winds began to diminish and the whales disappeared; luckily we still had some warm temperatures (though not as warm as we both had anticipated). After our fourth night out, we decided to stop in at Isla Socorro and drop the anchor for the night. This was a pretty easy decision to make since the island was directly in our intended path and we didn’t have to alter our course that much to make the anchorage.
Upon entering the naval harbor, we were in contact with fellow cruisers aboard s/v Kiapa who instructed us to hail the Mexican navy once we were in the protected cove. Unfortunately, our arrival coincided with the arrival of a naval ship and when we tried to hail the navy on the radio, amidst broken Spanish on our part and limited English on their part, the only thing we really understood was the phrase “You are forbidden to be here!”, uttered a couple of times by the Mexican capitania de Puerto. Hearing that message loud and clear, we exited the naval harbor and went around the corner to a small and “somewhat” protected bay where we found s/v Kiapa and s/v Peregrine anchored.
As soon as we anchored we were hailed on the radio by Maria on s/v Peregrine asking if we wanted to join the crew on her boat for lunch on Kiapa. Despite being overly tired, Richard and I agreed and were picked up by Irene in Kiapa’s dinghy a couple of hours later along with Maria, Bob, and their crew, Francois (the same Francois who helped me out with the French classes) and made our way to Kiapa.
Catamarans were made for entertaining. The main salon of Kiapa is quite spacious with a table set in the port side aft corner. Irene and Lionel of s/v Kiapa had two crew with them, Alan and Elizabeth. Along with the crew of s/v Peregrine and Richard and I, that made nine people, which Kiapa was easily able to accommodate. We had an enjoyable lunch with the other cruisers and Maria even brought out a bottle of champagne so we toasted our early accomplishment of making it several hundred miles offshore. But fatigue soon caught up with Richard and I and we were dinghied back to Osprey for a much needed nap.
Later in the afternoon, s/v Cariba showed up and anchored with the rest of us. We had seen Cariba a few months earlier when we were anchored out in Punta de Mita.
|Approaching Isla Socorro.|
We only ended up staying the one night as the weather forecast showed winds conducive to making good progress west. As we headed out of the naval harbor, we actually had to check in and out before we left Isla Socorro, we noticed Cariba also leaving the anchorage and after hailing them on the radio, we discovered that we would be sailing together towards our next waypoint.
Sidebar regarding s/v Kiapa: We had seen this large, aqua-colored catamaran several times while we were traveling in Mexico. Richard mentioned several times that he thought we had seen this same boat when we were in Hanalei Bay in Kaua’i back in the summer of 2010. Looking at the boat’s home port, I told Richard that the since the boat hailed from Fremantle, Australia, it was unlikely that this was the same boat since we had talked with the owners of the boat while in Hanalei and found out that they were locals from the east side of the island of Kaua’i. Well, as it turns out, Irene and Lionel bought Kiapa in Kaua’I, didn’t change the name and so this was indeed the same catamaran that we had seen a few years back. I was able to dig up some digital pictures of Kiapa in Hanalei Bay and gave them to the new owners.
Tuesday, 09 April 2013, 13:35 UTC
17° 30’ N 115° 42’ W, 2132 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia
Boat Speed = 3.5 knots, Wind Speed = 10.8 knots from the Northeast
Cockpit Temperature = 72° F/22° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 81° F/27° C
After picking up our anchor and heading away from Isla Socorro, we made our way towards a waypoint that our weather router had provided us with in a report the other day. We were hailed by Cariba and they wanted to know if we had thought about stopping at Isla Clarion on our way southwest. To be honest, we hadn’t really thought about it but the idea of stopping in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just to have lunch had some appeal to it. That said, we made an adjustment to our course and followed Cariba towards Isla Clarion.
We could see the crew of Cariba diving off of a volcanic reef on the eastern shore of the island and watched them and a group of about three whales cavorting in the water. The Mexican navy boarded Cariba and spent some time on their boat. When they pulled away from Cariba, I mentioned to Richard that we had better get some fenders out as it looked like the Mexican navy was coming to our boat. As they approached our boat, with somewhat less than the professionalism we have witnessed during other boardings, I overheard the word “cervezas” being thrown around their panga and noticed that the guys were much more interested in watching the female crew from Cariba take off her wetsuit and peel down to her bathing suit, than they were in actually doing any kind of official business at our boat. I guess it was a win-win situation for both Osprey and the Mexican navy that day.
After lunch we picked up our anchor and headed away from isla Clarion. We hailed Cariba and let them know what coordinates we were going to be using and mentioned that we would keep in touch by radio. We set our course directly for the Marquesas, on a heading of 212° by the compass; unfortunately, that heading was a bit uncomfortable due to the swells hitting Osprey on the beam, so we corrected the course to optimize speed gained by the good North-Northwest winds (in the 15-20 knots range) and ended up steering a course of about 235° which was still in keeping with out southwest heading. We ended up keeping that heading through the night as the winds ended switching from a North-Northwest direction to a North-Northeast direction. Right now, the headsail is poled out to port and we are running pretty much downwind with a small triangle of the headsail out to stabilize the boat. Not making the fastest time right now, but we are on course and the winds will probably build towards early afternoon and allow us to make a nice run throughout the afternoon and into the early evening with faster speed under the hull.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013, 13:30 UTC
16° 21’ N 116° 50’ W, 2037 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia Boat Speed = 4.8 knots, Wind Speed = 14.1 knots from the Northeast
Cockpit Temperature = 73° F/23° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 84° F/28° C
|Blue-Footed Booby catching a free ride.|
In any event, our booby friend stayed with us for quite some time. We finally evicted him when he shat in the cockpit. I tried to gently nudge him on his way first by unsuccessfully waving my arms in his general direction and then by spraying him with the washdown hose which was also unsuccessful. Seeing that the bird looked like he thought he was put for the night and knowing that one shat is one too many, I retrieved the boathook and attempted to gently assist him in his flight from the boom. This did not go as planned as the booby simply hopped onto the boat hook like it was a perch and there I stood in the heaving cockpit holding a boat hook on which was perched a substantial and determined booby of the “regular” dusky-colored feet sub-specie.
|Our friend was not pleased about being asked to leave.|
In the end, we learned to live with our booby friend; but the stench of his poop still lingers in the cockpit despite numerous washings with Simple Green.
We have added another waypoint to our course to the South Pacific. This one is labeled “ITCZ” which stands for Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and represents a fluid area that expands and contracts at will, hovering just north of the equator, confining within its boundaries minimal winds and squally conditions. The idea is to cross the ITCZ at its narrowest point thereby minimizing the amount of time spent in the conditions described above. Ideally, crossing the ITCZ at its narrowest point while the ITCZ is flexing/moving north and you are moving south would be the most efficient way to accomplish this, albeit timing this situation which is dependent on many variables is quite the longshot. Most people just look for an opening, hope it’s a narrow part of the ITCZ, turn on the motor and try to plow through it as fast as they can. This scenario is wholly dependent on having conserved enough fuel to motor the hundreds of miles of windless sea that can be expected, even at the narrowest portions.
|Sunset over the pacific.|
Our vegetables are also holding our nicely. We still have a bunch of potatoes, several heads of broccoli and cabbage, onions, green and red peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic that are doing well refrigerated. The freezer is filled with individual portions of chicken, pork, beef, ground beef, hotdogs (I know, but they last indefinitely!), and several kinds of fish (mahi mahi, sierra and snapper), not to mention several containers of egg whites, a frozen banana bread, ice cream, ice cubes, and regular eggs (three eggs, scrambled and portioned into small airtight containers). Richard continues to make bread as we need it, about twice a week, and prior to our leaving Mexico, he made a large quantity of granola. We also made batches of cookies (chocolate chip and ginger snaps) before we left. I had cooked and then portioned out and froze chicken that we use to make chicken salad. Our typical week of lunches includes four days of tuna salad sandwiches, two days of chicken salad sandwiches and one day of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…at least until that gets boring. When that happens, I may have to get creative with things like hummus, TVP patties (textured vegetable protein…thanks Nicole!), and salads made from anything in the fridge that looks like “it’s about to go”. And there’s always ramen noodles! HA!
Friday, 12 April 2013, 13:40 UTC
14° 30’ N 119° 50’ W, 1877 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia Boat Speed = 3.6 knots, Wind Speed = 12.5 knots from the Northeast
Northern Swell at 1.5 meters
Cockpit Temperature = 75° F/24° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 87° F/30.5° C
|Pelagic sea bird.|
As I was reeling in, the line felt as though it had some resistance on it but not much and at first I thought it was just the resistance of the lure being pulled through the swells behind the boat. When the terminal end of the line got close enough to the boat, I could clearly see that a small fish was attached and I thought I had caught a flying fish, because that was the only fish I had seen in the water for the past week or so. But no, it wasn’t a flying fish at all; it was the world’s smallest mahi mahi! Yes folks, I finally caught the elusive mahi mahi only to find out that I had “robbed the cradle” and brought in a 10 inch mahi mahi. It was small enough to put in a bowl and keep as a pet. I wasted no time in getting him off of the line and released him into the ocean in the hopes that this would earn me some good karma and a bigger specimen of the same specie would soon jump on my line.
Luckily at this point in the trip we are not desperate for fresh fish as the freezer and fridge are still quite full of fresh foods. But the time will come and I hope that we do not regret having released this tiny mahi mahi.
Two days ago we were visited by a school of spotted dolphin. There were about 20-30 of them all swimming around the boat. I had gone below to get the video camera and had returned to the bow when all of a sudden Richard yelled, “Fish on!” As I made my way back to the cockpit I arrived just in time to watch as the last of the braided line fed out of the reel and snapped off. At that point I suspected that we might have had a tuna on the line as tuna are known to swim with dolphins and the strike occurred simultaneously with the appearance of the dolphins. Certainly a successful diversion tactic on the fish’s part who now sports some gleaming hardware in the form of a purple and black tuna lure with a hefty hook (I bet all his tuna friends think he looks cool now with his tribal hardware!). Down to my last few expensive tuna lures (don’t want to mention how many I have gone through) and after that it’s back to cheapie spoon lures. At least if I lose those I won’t feel so bad.
Nothing else happened over the past few days if you don’t count seeing endless swells streaming past the boat, hundreds of flying fish “flying” through the air, new noises discovered on the boat, spilled containers (due to the rocking and rolling of the boat), and other high seas adventures.
Monday, 15 April 2013, 14:14 UTC
10° 15’ N 122° 45’ W, 1561 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia Boat Speed = 5.1 knots, Wind Speed = 12.6 knots from the North-Northeast
Cockpit Temperature = 81° F/27° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 91° F/33° C
|My first mahi-mahi.|
|He made excellent mahi-mahi tacos.|
Last night, after listening to the Pacific Puddle Jumpers’ net on the single side band radio, I was standing in the cockpit talking to Richard who was down below when all of a sudden I was bombarded by flying squid! It was dark out so at first I didn’t know what had hit me and initially thought it was a single flying fish until I continued to get hit by more squishy little things. Richard turned on the cockpit light and we discovered about 25 small squid lying about in the cockpit. They were only about 2-4 inches long and most of them had ejected their ink so there was quite a mess to clean up; I used a spatula to carefully scoop them up and toss them overboard. I was momentarily tempted to keep some of them for bait but decided against that remembering all the jack crevalle I have in the freezer for bait.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how a radio net works, here’ the gist: Someone volunteers to be the “net controller”. This person is in charge of controlling the flow of “traffic” (conversation) that is relayed during the net. Our particular net is designed to assist boaters who are making the crossing from North America to the South Pacific with the majority of boats having left Mexico and heading towards French Polynesia. The net controller begins the net by asking if there is any “priority or emergency traffic”; this is an opportunity for anyone with a serious issue to get assistance or for anyone who heard a serious call (i.e., “Mayday”) to relay it to the net. After that, the net controller opens the net by stating his/her latitude/longitude, wind speed/direction, and boat speed/direction. The net controller then goes through a “roll call” and calls for a specific boat, asking whether or not that boat is “on frequency” and if it is, to “come now.” If the boat is on frequency, the typical response is, “This is Osprey, how copy?”; “How copy” is simply a way for one boat to ask whether the reception of its transmission is good, light, or unreadable. Sometimes, the net controller can’t get a good copy but another boat in the fleet can hear the called boat better so that boat ends up providing what is called a “relay”, and takes the information from the called boat and relays it to the net controller.
Once the information is relayed from the called boat to the net controller, the net controller repeats the information back over the net and asks if the information is correct, which the boat verifies or corrects as needed. Once that boat is finished the net controller “breaks” with the previous boat and goes to the next boat on the roll call and repeats this process until all boats on the roll call have “signed in.” At the end of the roll call, the net controller asks if there is any “traffic”; “traffic” is when one boat wants to talk to another boat. Here’s a sample of what a conversation might sound like:
“Is there any traffic for the net, come n
“This is Osprey, over.”
“Osprey, go ahead with your traffic, over.”
“Osprey would like to meet with Cariba after the net on channel 12 alpha, over.” “Cariba, did you copy that, over?”
“This is Cariba, copy that, over.”
Geeky I know, but it’s kind of cool especially when the net controller goes through about 20-30 boats and you’ve been “watching” these boats make their way southwest from Mexico to the South Pacific for the past few weeks. You definitely get a sense of which boats are the fast ones (we’re not) and which ones are travelling together, etc. It has been fun and provides a little entertainment to break up the day after dinner.
|Dozens of these guys bombarded the boat...|
and made a mess!
Monday, 22 April 2013, 15:21 UTC
4° 34’ N 129° 00’ W, 1039 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia Boat Speed = 3.2 knots, Wind Speed = 13.2 knots from the Southeast
Cockpit Temperature = 81° F/27° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 93° F/34° C
So it has been a week since the last time I have written a blog post and honestly, not much has happened. We continue to experience light winds and moderate swells, punctuated by squalls which provide a brief reprieve from the heat and humidity of the day, but usually the squalls occur at night when it is cooler. We are traveling a lot slower than we had hoped and at this rate we are not expecting our landfall in the Marquesas until the beginning of May. As I mentioned, and Richard has blogged about on his blog, we have had exceptionally light winds (in the 2-8 knot range), swells approaching from two directions producing confused seas which in turn makes it harder for the boat to move through the water (further slowing our progress) and a countercurrent that just doesn’t seem to relent. We will occasionally get stronger winds in the 15-20 knots range and think, “Yee ha! Let’s get speed under this boat and put some miles on!” Then you look at the speedometer and see that even though you have 18 knots of wind from a favorable direction, you’re still only doing about 3 knots, which is slow for that much wind. Oh well, it’s only weather and we can’t do anything about it.
|Oddly enough, there is a sunset every night.|
I won’t go into the disaster that was our engine starter getting toasted due to a suspected short somewhere in the wiring except to say that that was a scary experience. Here you are, literally in the middle of the ocean, with no help for thousands of miles around you and something major and bad happens; despite being a sailboat and us going on and on about wanting to sail the boat rather than motor, you need the motor for essential tasks like motoring into a harbor and charging the batteries (solar doesn’t always do the job). Richard was able to problem solve that one quickly and we worked together to figure out what we needed to do, who was responsible for what and just did it. We ended up trying to heave to for the night but that didn’t seem to work out very well so we just dropped all the sails and literally bobbed around overnight. In the morning, I checked our position and in about 8 hours we had only lost about one mile north and gained four miles west; in the end, the one mile north was considered minor and the four miles west were part of our original course anyways. With the starter replaced, we cranked over the engine and started out on our course again.
A couple of days ago, Richard woke me from a nap to point out some pilot whales that were passing close by the boat. We were sailing at the time so we weren’t making much noise which probably accounted for why the whales were so close; and by “so close” I’m actually saying a least 100 feet away. When you are the only object in your entire field of vision and when you look around you, literally do a 360 degree sweep, 100 feet is considered close.
|And the sun rises every day as well.|
This other type of bioluminescence I’ve only seen occasionally and it is different in that it appears to pulsate as it moves along with the boat. It isn’t a long arcing path like the trails behind the dolphins. This is more of a succinct, pulse of bioluminescence. At this point, I’m inclined to believe that this may be larger squid traveling near the surface in a feeding mode. I’ll have to look that up when I get a chance.
We’ve also seen a couple of different kinds of pelagic birds out here that I am still trying to identify.
Last night we actually saw a fishing boat that came within 2.5 miles of our boat. Since our radio-friends on s/v Cariba zoomed past us a few days out of Isla Clarion (and that was about 10 days ago!), we haven’t seen any other vessels out here. You can imagine the excitement then of seeing a boat so close in the middle of the ocean.
|keeping our eyes peeled for ANY vessels near us.|
Wednesday, 01 May 2013, 14:51 UTC
6° 21’ N 136° 01’ W, 281 miles Northeast of Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia Boat Speed = 3.8 knots, Wind Speed = 12.8 knots from the East
Cockpit Temperature = 81° F/27° C
Sea Temperature at Location = 93° F/34° C
Well, a lot has happened since the last time I updated this post. WE have definitely transited the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as we are pretty much no longer plagued by the light winds as described above. The winds have shifted from the southeast to the east as we are definitely in the trade winds that we have been anticipating since getting out of the ITCZ; additionally, the winds are a bit stronger ranging from 12 to 20 at times which is a vast improvement and allows us to make considerable headway towards the South Pacific.
We crossed the equator on 27 April 2013 at around 3:00 PM local Pacific Daylight Time (we decided to leave the clocks on the boat on PDT until we make landfall in the Marquesas, so when I mention local time, at this point, it refers to Seattle time). To mark our becoming “shellbacks”, Richard and I donned silly outfits complete with mardi gras beads, silly hats and capes, I made a fudge marble cake (gotta love boxed cake mixes sometimes) and we opened Mexican bottles of beer to mark the occasion. We offered the obligatory cake and libations to Neptune, and as Captain, Richard made a speech about our thanks to Neptune and asked for favorable conditions to continue. I shook up and opened a Pacifico beer to help Neptune wash down the chocolate cake. Nothing says celebrate quite like chocolate cake and Bohemia beers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. My only disappointment was that there wasn’t a red line marking the equator like in all those Bugs Bunny cartoons I grew up on.
Two days ago I hooked into a really fighting fish and battle this bad boy for a good 15-20 minutes, getting him to the boat and decided to let him tire himself out (and allow myself to rest a bit) before attempting to haul him over the lifelines and into the cockpit. As I was waiting, with plenty of tension on the line, he was overcome by a swell of adrenaline and started thrashing about, ultimately shaking loose the hook and swimming away. Needless to say I was immensely…dare I say it?, yes I will…pissed! I had hooked into a very decent sized yellowtail tuna (the length is currently under debate as I tend to exaggerate in one direction while I believe Richard exaggerates in the other), somewhere between 2 and 4 feet in length, and struggled with him for quite a while. When he jumped off, I swore and then immediately threw my hook back in the water hoping to fool him again into taking the bait but either he had wised up to the situation or was just plain ol’ sore from the tremendous fight he had just engaged in with me. That tuna was going to taste soooo good too, I could just tell. Oh well, next time.
With less than 300 miles to go the excitement on Osprey is definitely mounting. We expect to arrive on Saturday, 04 May 2013, sometime in the afternoon. The immigration office will likely be closed but Richard has been in communication with our hired agent and was told that we can drop our anchor in the bay at Atuona on Hiva Oa, raise our pratique flag (otherwise known as the “Q” flag or quarantine flag) and enjoy the weekend in Atuona before completing customs on Monday. This will actually give us a couple extra days in the country as our visas are only for 90 days and cover the Marquesas, the Tuamotos, and Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc.). It’ll just be nice to stop the boat for the first time in over a month and take the dinghy to shore to walk around on terra firma; I am anxiously awaiting peeing without having to aim at a moving target! The boat needs a good cleaning as do Richard and myself, and I’m sure we’ll run into other “radio buddies” we’ve been hearing on the Pacific Puddle Jumpers’ Net while anchored in Hiva Oa.
Our arrival in French Polynesia also marks the beginning of you, the readers, having to get used to reading some pretty strange names of places. I’ve been looking at our guides books and while there is a bit of French peppered into some of the names in French Polynesia, most of the names still carry the hallmark of Polynesian languages which are characterized by lots of vowels and a paucity of consonants (Can you see a Polynesian version of Wheel of Fortune…I’d like to buy an “A”…as Vanna White moves in to turn 47 A’s. Care to solve the puzzle?). The thing I learned about this language from our experience in Hawai’i, is that every letter, especially every vowel, is pronounced, even if the name is just four vowels (the island of Eiao in the Marquesas, being an example). Have fun!