Pacific crossing

In Voyages on 19/07/2010 at 21:01

On Wednesday June 30th, we began the Pacific crossing. We are planning on a 1 month passage, but are hoping for 3 weeks on the ocean. The wind is looking great and the currents will be from behind, so we should make a good passage.

Sunday, July 18

We did it!!! Just crossed half the pacific in 18 days! We’ve dropped anchor 2 hours ago (16.00 local time or 01.00 UTC) in the bay of virgins or Baie Hanavave and it’s truly an amazing place to be. With breathtaking views of the mountain and beautiful rock formations all around us and the wind gushing through the valley. We did it and we did it well! The calm waters are already making us tired (probably something to do with the beers we had) but we’re gonna take the BBQ, food, champagne and beers to the beach anyway so we may fall asleep on the beach tonight.

As is the tradition, here is a small summary of everything we didn’t tell you folks along the way. Within the first week the motor for the autopilot completely broke down on us, but luckily we had a backup hydrolic one that was newly installed on St Maarten. Pfew. However, it started leaking oil as soon as we started using it so we ended up with salvaging oil, filtering it and refilling the same oil into the hydrolic ram until all of a sudden it stopped leaking. For the rest we didn’t tell you about the jokes we made and the cool stakes I made. Seriously, this was a pretty good passage with no significant problems whatsoever.

Saturday, July 17

We’re cheating again!!! It’s a race against the clock. If we’re sailing on the wind alone we’ll be arriving just after sunset, so we’re keeping the ship well above the 7.5 knots with the help of our iron soldier. Yes, I know, it’s not really sporty, but lingering about for a night in front of an anchorage seems a bit silly to us as well, so we’re going for it at the moment.

We’re already planning our landfall with the magnum bottle of champagne on a bed of beers in the fridge. Tomorrow at our arrival we intent to light up the BBQ on the beach with steaks, potatoes and lots of goodies and all that also accompanied with loads of beers, rum and more champagne.

Friday, July 16

We’re running for it… Downwind with the Genoa on port side and the mainsail on starboard we’ve been running down the waves with much violence and the bow is crashing through the waves. It’s a spectacular ride today. The wind is going to increase further tomorrow to 25-30 knots and we’re expecting some good speeds out of that as well. We are still aiming for a daylight arrival but even with the cheating from yesterday, it’s gonna be tight so we’re all hoping for the best. If we can’t make it, we’ll have to slow down the ship to prevent a night time arrival. Since the charts are reportedly inaccurate it would be too risky for a night time approach in a small rocky bay.

We are all more and more excited since the countdown on the plotter is getting closer and closer to manageble proportions. Instead of hundreds of hours we’re now down to somewhere in the fourties. Tomorrow we’ll probably have to start a project of emptying out one of the fridges in order to cool down the massive bottle of champagne that we’ve got on board for our arrival. Well, that is assuming that everything goes as planned though.

Oh yeah, we’ve adjusted the clock again a few days ago and we’re gonna do it again tomorrow. The local time at our destination should be UTC-10. That means a 12 hour time difference with Holland and a different difference with anywhere else.

Thursday, July 15

We’ve been cheating all day. We’ve had good sailing weather today, but we’ve been motorsailing anyway. Last night we calculated that we would probably be arriving somewhere after midnight July 18-19. We figured that since we have a schedule to keep because we want to be on Tahiti on august 4th to pick up Boukje, we would rather have an extra day to rest on Fatu Hiva.  So we’re putting all in it to arrive during daytime with the sun high in the sky on the 18th. Sun high in the sky because this area is not very well charted and we want to be able to see the shallows from above the water.

Therefore we’ve been running very very fast today upto a maximum of 10 knots a few minutes ago. We just switched off the engine and are now sailing with a good 8 knots since the wind has increased dramatically to 20 knots. We expect this to increase further to 25-30 knots by tomorrow but the wind should shift to the east as well and that should become a fast ride too.

So all and all we’re getting closer pretty fast now! Our landfall is still somewhat of 500 miles away so we’re really getting closer. With the increase in wind the ocean is getting more confused though. We’ve been rolling again and that meant that we didn’t get much sleep last night.

Wednesday, July 14

This was the coolest sailing day so far!!! This morning the wind died down again to about 8 knots, but this time the ocean was very calm and the wind shifted in such a way that we could put up all the light-wind sails we’ve got! With a course of 110 degrees to the wind, we had put up the big ballooner up front, the main sail, the mizzen ballooner and the mizzen and we were going almost as fast as the wind!!! With about 8 knots wind speed we were doing 7! That was truly brilliant and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Right now we have taken the ballooners down again for the night so we had to start the engine. We expect to be motoring throughout the night and tomorrow we may be able to do some ballooning again! The rest of the day was very calm and we’ve been fantasizing about our landfall. Because of the lack of wind and therefore a good pressure in the sails, we’re rolling a bit again. It’s not that bad, but enough to keep us from sleeping really well, so everyone is a bit tired throughout the day and looking forward to sleeping in on a steady anchorage.

Matty had a visitor during his watch. A large bird collided with us (we had clearly right of way since we’re sailing and he was flying) and got stuck in the Genoa sheet. Luckily for the poor bird, Arent was coming up to relief Matty from his watch, so that gave them an opportunity to go on deck to liberate this bird. The bird loved us so much after that that he stayed with us for several hours before Marie scared him away with breadcrumbs. He simply walked to the stern and hopped overboard to sit on the water instead. Apparently the solid deck was not moving enough for him.

Tuesday, July 13

It’s been a very nice day again out here. Sun was shining and the ocean is calm. Sadly enough the wind died down on us so we were motoring to keep up the speed and stability. However, the wind has just picked up again so we’re sailing again now. The calm ocean did provide us with an opportunity to have a big cleaning day. Yes, it was laundry day!!! With the amount of laundry after two weeks, we tried to compensate the lack of wind with hanging up our clean clothing and it was a really pretty sight with all sorts of colors that were trying to catch the wind.

There is a special request today for the daily update since I’ve been getting complaints on board by the guys that I’m telling too much about them and not enough about Marie. So here it goes… I would like to make sure that everyone back home knows that she is not always in the kitchen or doing laundry… Marie is a great dancer! She loves playing the DJ on board and dances all over the deck while making all of us look boring since we don’t move around that much. She also makes some really funky cookies with bananas, jam and peanut butter. On top of that she is also the one that is adamant about having a good sailtrim so she keeps working the winches and the course until she is satisfied that she will win the poll. Again, we guys are too lazy for all of this hard work so it is really great that she’s doing all that. I hope that I’ve set the record straight here by making sure everyone knows that she’s running a very tight ship.

Monday, July 12

We have set our course to Fatu Hiva! The way it looks now is that we will be arriving on the 18th. That means just 6 more days to go!!! We’re all getting excited and are already setting up polls about the amount of boats that are already there, day or night arrival and the amount of drinks we can cope with without passing out… It looks like Marie will be winning the original arrival poll with July 18 at 16:00 hours local time. This is starting to look more and more realistic now!

In the mean time we’re having a blast with deep frying stuff. Ever since the bitterballen we have had the oil out and we’ve been making lots of goodies and there are more to come. Yesterday we had Shrimp and mushroom tempura, last night fries with kroketten and tonight we were supposed to do fish and chips, but the Mahimahi didn’t want to defrost fast enough so we’re having spaghetti tonight. Tomorrow we will pick up again with the deep frying and make sausages tempura and fish and chips. Seriously, you can make anything deepfrying. All you have to do is add the word “tempura” to it and it becomes an exotic dish somehow. Brilliant.

It also seems that the whales have finally left us. We haven’t seen any around for a while, but Larabeck reports a pod of dolphins so we’ll keep our eyes out for those. For the rest we’re dealing with really good sunny weather, starlit skies and a beautiful calm ocean.

Sunday, July 11

We’re all crying today since Holland lost from the Spanish. Anyway, over here we will keep pretending that the Dutch are the best. For the rest everything is going as usual over here and today we have planned to make landfall in Fatu Hiva. After Fatu Hiva we plan to head for Hiva Oa for clearance and preparations to go straight on to Tahiti.

Today we managed to find a snackbar on the ocean with kroketten and fries “war” (also a Dutch thing: war is translated from the word “oorlog” and means you eat it with mayonnaise, peanut sauce and onions). Oh my, what a meal. It’s like we’re back in Holland, but without Holland. Peter, thanks again!!!

The rest of the day went by without much interference. Marie is still working on her tan (she may turn into chocolate soon) and the rest of the time we are still solving all the world problems.

Saturday, July 10

We’re still doing good. With the wind decreasing a bit we’ve slowed down to 6.5 to 7.5 knots today. However, it is still a very relaxed ride for us. This morning we started with a freshly baked Banana bread with walnuts and chocolate and it was goooooood. During the rest of the day Matty and Rolf have been very busy experimenting in the kitchen.

With thanks to Peter we have made bitterballen and kroketten today!!! Sorry folks, that’s a Dutch thing, but I can really recommend it. Since the making of kroketten and bitterballen is a time consuming job, Arent took on the task of supervising from the stern deck, Marie decided to supervise from her bed and Matty and Rolf spent their time playing Backgammon.

Anyway, the whales came back today during the oorlam with bitterballen for a quick peek at what the good stuff was that we were eating. They disappeared immediately again though. We found out that they are Minke whales.

Friday, July 9

Beautiful… Just beautiful. Sun shining, steady wind, gentle swell, a lot of relaxing and a stable ship. It was another brilliant day on Helena! In that regard it was a bit of a boring day, but we’re not complaining! We have spent the day sunbathing, reading, playing backgammon and listening to Arent’s stories about weird stuff that happens around his restaurant on St Maarten.

The weather is still looking good and Larabeck is following our trail. They are offering us some of their butter (since we have almost run out of it)if we would be willing to wait for them. Hmmm, I may sabotage something to slow us down since that would also work in my advantage with our poll. Now I just have to think about getting Marie off my back in speeding up the ship. Well, I will have to devise a cunning plan. Larabeck, I may keep you to your promise.

Thursday, July 8

I was wrong… The wind is perfect for Helena and a bit stronger than expected. We’re racing today!!! With a steady 8-9 knots throughout the night and day we’re blazing our way to the center of the Pacific ocean where we’re going to make our landfall. The pounding swell is gone now, but the ocean is still quite rough with large steep waves that are pushing us along.

This morning on Matty’s watch the whales were back! With a vengeance… They stayed with Matty for a full hour and were so desperate for attention that they apparently jumped out of the water. And I’m talking about clearing the water completely!!! Yes, he’s got the pictures to prove it. According to Matty they were even tap dancing. However, since he didn’t wake us up for this we’ll have to drop him off somewhere mid-ocean I guess. Hmm, We’ll think about this a bit more… Maybe the whales will come back for another sequel and start flying around the ship or something.

We also found out something else about these whales. We’ve got a poster from Portugal with all kinds of whales on it and apparently these whales are called “Balea Alibranca”. So, we’ve figured that out. Now all we have to do is figure out what that means… All we know is that “branca” means “white”. Wasn’t Moby Dick chasing a white whale? Ah well, we’ll probably sort that out as well some day. Maybe the whales will tell us themselves when they fly over the ship during their next performance.

Wednesday, July 7

Another beautiful day on Helena!!! The day has started really really well with a nice sleep-in. When everybody finally came on deck with a fresh pot of coffee, we were pleasantly surprised by several splashes of water next to the ship. Looking more carefully we saw large white surfaces under water and all of a sudden there were about 6 whales alongside the ship!!! We don’t know much about the different types of whales, but they were around 10 meters long, white bellies and a dorselfin that was very curved backwards like a hook. They stayed with us for a few hours before they set off again. Of course we have made several pictures of this event and one of them came with the head above the water. I can tell you that it is pretty cool looking in the eye of a whale… They played around the ship as if they were dolphins. Several times we thought that their tail would hit the bow, but as soon as the ship came too close they swung their tail and were on the other side of the ship. Seriously, that was amazing.

All the rest is great as well. This morning we were still being smashed around quite a bit by a very steep ocean swell, but right now the ocean seems a bit friendlier, even though still a bit confused. After the whales left we even set up the tradewind set with the full genoa and a halfwinder on either side. This was very very nice since we rigged it all up on St Maarten without being able to use the whole set until today. Sadly the wind is going to shift back to the southeast so the tradewind set will have to wait again until later in this passage.

We don’t expect to make a lot of speed these days since the windangle is not wide enough for the big tradewind sails and too wide to use the mainsail with the Genoa… But well, we’re enjoying the passage anyway so we’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 6

We’re still in the wind, however the downwind passage is made more difficult with the ever continuing confused swells. The wind is still to variable with wind speeds between 10 and 20 knots to put up the full tradewind rig. However, we are having good hopes for tomorrow. We already had a small taste for it today by putting up the mizzen ballooner. It is down for the night now, but tomorrow we might be able to make up for it.

The atmosphere is good and we’re slowly eating our way through the fresh provisioning. With a bit of luck we’ll be eating the last fresh stuff as an arrival dinner. Tonight Marie is making sausages with potatoes and beets. Not really a traditional Canadian dinner, but that doesn’t matter. Who doesn’t want to have sausages.

For the rest, we have changed the clock today so we all are starting out watches an hour later today.

Monday, July 5

We found the wind!!! We’re cruising high speed with only the mizzen and the full genoa out. The main sail is furled up and we’re pretty steady. Can’t really say that we’re missing the rock’n roll, but it’s good to be well underway now. The wind speed is still varying between 12 and 20 knots with several squalls coming over, but at least we can keep up sailing steadily now.

Another piece of very good news is that we have caught our second Mahimahi today! Yippee! After we lost an entire line yesterday we didn’t think we would be able to rig up another line, but with some old lines Matty managed to catch one again. I believe that he will be growing into a proper fisherman now. Mahi is in the freezer now for whenever we want to start feasting on him.

Sunday, July 4

We’re practicing our rock’n roll at the moment with a very confused ocean. We’ve tried some psychology on it, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. A big swell is still coming in from the south, but now there is also a smaller swell running through that follows the wind direction. This means that we’re rocking and rolling all day. In a few days however these conditions should improve. Right now we’re having the engine running with a furled up Genoa to keep the ship steady and to prevent too much strain from a flapping sail.

In the meantime we’re trying to ignore this rocking and rolling by having pancake festivals and traditional food from our home countries. Matty started by making his Shepard Pie which we all gave a very high score. We’ll see what’s up for dinner tomorrow and by who…

Saturday, July 3

It’s still nice and calm out here, but the wind has picked up a bit and we’re going steady between 6,5 and 7,5 knots today. The wind should remain like this for the next day and it should pick up a bit more. We’ve changed course slightly more west, but with the wind shifting more to the east in the next day, we should be going further south soon to pick up the stronger winds.

We’ve started playing backgammon and we’re all addicted to Sudokus by now. For the rest the days are very uneventful, except for amazing sunsets, clear starlit skies and a beautiful ocean that keeps creating amazing landscapes around us. We’ve passed most of the cloud coverage so we’ve had a blue sunny sky all day. Last night the wind dropped away again so we had to motor again. Hopefully we won’t need to burn any more diesel in at least the next few days.

We’re also in touch with Sharon and Michael on SY Larabeck. They left 36 hours after us and are following somewhat the same trajectory. We are both sending daily updates to each other and it is nice to hear the experiences from other ships in the area.

Friday, July 2

It was another quiet day on Helena today. The ocean with some massive swells has transformed in a spectacular mountain landscape that is easily rolling under the ship. Tomorrow we should be getting some slightly better winds again, but so far we have not much to complain about. In the evening the wind dies out completely so we spend the nights motoring and in the morning the wind slowly picks up a bit so during the day we slowly make some way with the sails towards the west.

We’ve been visited by a large school of pilot whales today. We tried to get closer to them, but they were too fast for us. It is quite an impressive sight to see those massive animals jump out of the water, even if it is from a distance. Matty had his own conversation with a giant turtle that we apparently barely missed. In the evenings we have video night with the laptop in the cockpit playing BBC’s South Pacific. Yes, we’re getting the warm-up for it!

At this moment we’re motoring again, but that shouldn’t happen much more after tonight.

Thursday , July 1

Sun, blue ocean, swell rolling underneath us and soft music playing on the radio. It was a perfect day. Last night we had to motor a bit, but in the morning we could start sailing again with 12 knots of wind. We expect to have light conditions for the next 2 or 3 days after which the wind will pick up and bring us to the Marquesas with high speeds, so we’re enjoying this calm weather as much as we can. No fish, no problems and a lot of relaxation. It’s a really nice start.

We have started a poll for our arrival and as with the Atlantic crossing, the prize is the opening of the champagne on arrival. Marie is the fastest with july 18, Matty believes July 20 is more likely, Rolf believes July 21 is better and Arent is the most pessimistic one of all with July 22. I guess we’ll see what happens along the way. For now we’ll keep on enjoying the calm weather and we’ll be looking forward to the 25 knots winds that are waiting for us further south.

Wednesday, June 30

With tears in our eyes we have said goodbye to all of our new friends on the Galapagos. All those friendly sea lions that spent all those nights with us, the blue footed boobies that never showed themselves, the Galapagos reef sharks, the giant land- and sea turtles, the leguanas and bonnie the watertaxi driver.

We have enjoyed a great holiday here and are now on our way to the Marquesas.

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