Arrived San Cristobal airport early afternoon on Sunday 26th February 2018 after a fairly uneventful trip out from Heathrow via Miami and Guayaquil, Ecuador despite the fact that I had contracted the worst man-flu ever experienced by man nor beast just before I left home and have now probably infected half of Florida and South America. I was so dosed up on various cough and cold medicines I was seeing double! A short hop over to San Cristobal was followed by a two minute taxi ride to the port before jumping on a fast "ferry", a past its sale-by-date launch with three 200 cc Mercury outboards designed to shake the living daylights out of you. Two hours later we arrived in Academy Bay Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz where I met Dave and Trevor from Mischief on the landing stage (avoiding the very fat and unfriendly Sea Lion sunning itself) before properly re-hydrating in the local pub where Wendy was saving our table for happy hour.
Two days spent eating, drinking, provisioning and fixing shredded generator impellers saw us lining up for the start of the next leg of Mischief's world tour:
Galapagos Islands to Hiva Oa, French Polynesia's 2,950 nm
Day 1: Wednesday 28 February 2018. The Start and first night at sea.
1030 saw us weigh anchor and head out into the bay for a 1200 start. The weather was lovely and with just enough breeze to ensure a sailing start rather than the expected motoring race into the Doldrums. We were rigged with the Code 0 ready to go and without too much drama the start time came and off we all went headed West away from the Galapagos and towards new adventures. It was not long before we set the spinnaker under sunny and bright skies and doing 6 kts. Although still in National park waters Trevor had all the fishing gear hanging over the stern in no time, on the basis that there are more likely to have fish in these inshore waters rather than further out, but you can't have too many fish so on we trawled. Needless to say, we had chicken curry for tea!
Day 2: Thursday 1 March 2018: A new look week; a new leap year and it's dangers; Rachel Riley fantasies; unidentifiable lights.
Fantastic full moon last night - it appeared even before the sun had gone down and stayed bright in the sky until at least 0600, just as the sun rose. There are yachts all around us as the fleet has not yet had chance to dissipate. The AIS screen looks particularly crowded; there is no privacy out here! Everyone is heading route 1 at present as there is wind along the track whereas the initial grib files had suggested the wind was going to be light along the rhumb line to start, filling in around 5degs S, so the strategy is to edge down to that latitude and hopefully pick up the trade winds that blow consistently at 15-20 kts from a SE direction, just what we want. We are sailing with the sun canopy over which is essential during the day as the sun is very powerful, but at night it is quite claustrophobic as you can't see the stars nor the sails clearly.
We have agreed that we should have a boat cleaning day whereby everyone has a specific cleaning job and that day is to be Friday. But given that day is tomorrow Skipper has already changed the day to Mondays; as we have full control of our own time zones and calendar on board it is not clear if he means to swap Fridays with Mondays as no-one likes a wet and windy Monday, much better to have a Monday on a Friday, no? No more Monday morning blues! In addition, Wendy would also like to get to Hiva Oa in 17 days so by careful manipulation of the number of hours in our day, we think this should be manageable.
1200 Position 02 degs 23'S 092 deg 20'W - noon to noon run 160 nm.
I noticed that Skipper Dave had entered the official log book with our 1200 position as on the 29th February. Taking a risk in my book as introducing a new leap year into our imaginary calendar invites the lady in your life to propose does it not? I wonder if Wendy will notice too.
We won the SSB maths challenge today which was to take six vital statistics of the boat and multiply/divide/add/subtract to reach a sum total of 2018. Where is Rachel Riley when you need her (indeed where is Rachel Riley... er, where was I), so after consideration of the problem and Rachel noticeable by her absence I calculated that displacement less sail number less keel weight less(3 tanks x fuel capacity)plus mast height gives 2,018.5 so Dave cheated and knocked 0.5m off mast height. Simples!
1800 dropped spinnaker and set Code 0 for the night; still doing 7+ kts as lots of squalls about which we have mostly avoided all day but more difficult to spot at night. Lovely sun set. Fishing lines retrieved: nothing!
2100 drama with yacht Spirit of Catherine: we were trying to work out what a series of lights represented a couple of miles ahead but were having difficulty. Transpired it was a yacht caught up in fishing lines from until then unlit fishing boats, no more than dinghies with long lines out pair fishing. Apparently, they were demanding of cigarettes and beer for freeing her! Luckily no damage but a keener watch was recommended for everyone in the area.
Day 3: Friday 2 March 2018: Squalls; Trevor encouraged; broach!; we lose the spinnaker; Trade winds!\
0615 wind still SE 10 kts. Trevor religiously set the fishing lines again, more in hope than expectation I fear. Amazingly, we still have a full moon even though the sun is coming up on the opposite horizon.
0730 S/Y Christine came up behind us with set cruising chute doing 2 kts faster than us and whilst alongside a large fishing trawler was passing at speed in the other direction, not on AIS of course! Suddenly it was crowded in our little world. Flying fish started to jump, several ducks appeared but no fish as yet. It was the first wildlife we had seen so far which is bizarre.
0745: Squalls, loads of them coming from all over the place seemingly which show up very clearly on radar as bright coloured patches but even more clearly and menacingly as pitch black clouds with rain bands off to port and behind. We rolled away the Code 0 and set the genoa just in case of strong winds under the clouds. As it happens, only 20 kts of breeze but a ton of rain for two hours, yuk! Looks like much of the same all day.
The 0900 SSB radio net again warned of several yachts having run-ins with these small fishing boats and long lines so again warned to keep a close eye.
The squalls having passed through, the wind dropped as if sucked away by the rain clouds, so we set the spinnaker in 8-10 kts.
1200 Position: 03 degs 53'S 094 degs 14'W. Noon/noon run 148 nm. C: 230 W: SE 12 kts SOG: 6 kts
1300 Whizz!! The rod line shot off at a rate of knots but was short lived as a fish leapt out of the water, did a triple salco and jumped off the line. Oh well, at least we have had a bite so Trevor much encouraged. Needless to say, by the time dusk fell we still had nothing.
1600 we had a change in wind strength and direction with the spinnaker still set and the boat went into a slow broach which was quite alarming. It took a little sorting out but we were soon back on our way. However, no more than 20 minutes later the spinnaker, in only 12 kts of wind, gave up the ghost and split from the luff most of the way across. We jumped on deck and retrieved the sail without further damage, but it was completely beyond any onboard repair so will have to wait arrival in Tahiti where there is a decent sail maker apparently. With a predominantly downwind leg this could be a significant blow; we set the Code 0 instead and resolved to look after it as it is our only remaining downwind option, or we get into much stronger trade winds.
We endured a squally night and at one point the wind dropped right away and started going around in circles with menacing black clouds which we thought were passed us were now very much looming large with northerly winds. So we put the engine on and motored for an hour after which the winds filled in again from the SE and got up to 15 knts or so. We had arrived in the trade winds so it seemed at 04degs 26' S!
Day 4 Saturday 3 March 2018: Rain and more rain; Trevor becoming despondent; beer sausages; soggy bottoms.
Trade winds have featured all morning: blue skies, puffy cumulus clouds and sunny. Trevor dutifully set the fishing lines at 0545 before light but so far not a sniff. The sailing though has been sparkling with boomed out genoa and now directly on the rhumb line.
1200 Position: 05 degs 02' S 096 degs 39' W. C: 260 ? W: SE 15 kts SOG 7knts. Noon to noon run 165 nm.
We did have some fish on board but only three flying fish that had committed suicide and landed on deck. However, we had had a bite but whatever it was had bitten straight through the heavy trace line and run off with the lure!
The weather didn't play ball either - it clouded over and rained again and Trevor complained, "I'm not booking these two weeks off next year, I'm going to Butlins!"
In the absence of fish we had sausage and mash for tea - very filling. One pack of sausages were made from beer so it made up in some way for us being a dry boat at sea (not really!). After dinner Trevor wound in the fishing lines forlornly, quoting Steve and Lynne on Nina the previous year whom went the entire crossing without catching even a cold.
And before midnight it rained again and another night of soggy bottoms.