Monday 30 March 2015

Marquesas, Hiva Oa

On a long ocean passage reality is suspended. As the days roll by, our mental image of land is framed by our previous destination; the endless vista of sea and waves suspends that picture in our minds, making landfall all the more dramatic when it appears. Whether the palm trees and beaches of the Caribbean after an Atlantic crossing or the soaring peaks and lush jungle of the Marquesas, our senses are heightened, the impact greater. We are moored in the bay of Tahauku on the island of Hiva Oa, our port of entry to the Marquesas where generations of sailors have dropped anchor after the long pacific crossing.  It is a spectacular setting in the shadow of the brooding Mount Temetiu, its steep sides swathed in thick jungle, plunging down to the murky green sea below.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, Landfall

Dark shapes appear ahead out of the night, suddenly very close; a rich aroma of earth and vegetation is carried on the air towards us, pungent after the pure neutral air of the ocean.  A faint light blinks on, then disappears.  The wind has died and we are motoring towards land, wholly reliant on our charts until daybreak when the veil of darkness will be lifted and our landfall will be revealed.  After 3,000 miles and sixteen days at sea we are approaching the Islas de Marquesas, named after their chance discovery by Alvaro de Mendana on a voyage financed by the Viceroy of Peru, Marquis Hurtado de Mendoza.

Three men in a boat, by Caroline

There is something very comforting and friendly about three men in a boat particularly if you are the girl lucky enough to share it with them.

We are hours away from completing our Pacific Crossing and again it has proven an uneventful journey. I say this not that because it was in any way boring but it was ‘event free’ which in sailing terms means no major (or even minor) disasters.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, approach to Marquesas

A dusty trail of magical luminous powder has been scattered softly in an arc across the night sky, studded with bright pinpricks of light from the stars and planets of our solar system. The light at the top of the mast swings through millions of miles of space like a giant pendulum as Juno rolls to the rhythm of the southern swell. The moon is still below the horizon and without its radiance the stars are brighter, more intense, the contrast with the dark sky more vivid and the effect even more spellbinding. I am on the evening night watch and it’s a glorious place to be, sitting on the aft deck cushions, gazing up, the only ambient light for thousands of miles is the red glow from the compass.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, mid passage

Our bright red spinnaker is flying, drawing us smoothly and swiftly towards Polynesia. Two fishing lines stream off the stern of the boat, each with a lure occasionally flirting on the surface before diving under the waves, its colourful skirt aping the tentacles of a squid, tempting a big pacific Dorado to bite. The wind has eased and the swell is lazier, the motion drowsy, and I sit alone in the cockpit after lunch, writing to keep myself awake as Juno rocks us gently. 

Sunday 15 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, guest written by Paulus

We have just passed the 2,000 mile mark since leaving The Galapagos Islands and contrary to our expectation we have been on a broad reach with wind consistently blowing from a south easterly direction and a fairly big swell from the south, for the last 11 days. This means that we have been heeled over to starboard  on a lively sea for almost a week and a half. Apart from the resultant lean to port that we have all developed, there are various sensitive items of equipment, notably thermo and our refrigerator, that are struggling to keep up normal working duties under these conditions.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, the southeast trades

It is the hottest part of the day in the South Pacific and the air is thick and heavy below decks. In the cockpit it is cool in the shade of the bimini, but still warm enough to prove the dough that seems to expand before my eyes, ready for the oven in time for supper.  The sky is a washed out pale blue; bunches of towering white cumulus cloud gather on the southern horizon, greedily consuming the warm evaporating sea water that will transform them from harmless white cotton-wool balls into demonic black squalls.

Monday 9 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, in the Doldrums again

There is a long swell running from the south, four metres high at the crests, rolling in under our beam and lifting us high before we slide down into the trough as it pulses north. Angry black squalls march overhead, bringing heavy rain that bounces off our decks and drips into the cockpit off the bimini. There is little wind; the engine is running and we roll drunkenly in the swell, the mast creaking, the boom snatching at the mainsheet as it swings from side to side. We are back in the Doldrums.

Friday 6 March 2015

Galapagos to Marquesas, the start

The full moon rises early in the sky behind us, a faint silver disc in the blistering afternoon sun, glowing brighter as the sun fades, then rising high in the cloudless night sky and casting a shimmering light over the surface of the sea.  This is the first night of our Pacific crossing and it will take some time to adjust being back on the ocean.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Santa Cruz, Galapagos

We anchor behind the reef, where the long swell from the south bursts against the black rocks in clouds of spray, sharp white in the intense equator sun.  A water taxi takes us across the aquamarine waters of the lagoon, through the mangroves to the deserted wooden dock where an eagle ray glides through the shallows in slow-motion acrobatics.  We walk past a big fat iguana basking un the sun, down an unmade track into the sandy streets of Puerto Vilamil on Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago of Galapagos.