Passage to Polynesia

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The longest of all ocean passages awaited us, Colin, Camilla, Lesley, Trond and Magnus, as we hoisted anchor in Porto Ayora. 3055 nautical miles as the crows fly of South Pacific ocean. Of cause the Crow cant fly that far, neither can any helicopter. The Atlantic crossing, in comparison, is 2750 from Canary Islands to the Eastern Caribbean. So marginally longer, maybe, but it feels significant. Guess this feeling is also a result of the fact that we sail from one underdeveloped remote island to the next. Not as when crossing the "pond" where you sail from one yachting centre to another, from one marina with shore power on the dock, bar and chandlery to another. The Galapagos is a small remote place, but the Marquiesas is even further away from everything at the western edge of the Polynesian settlements. Marquiesas used to have a substantial population, but that was before the Europeans arrived with all their diseases. Now there is only 2000 left on Nuku Hiva the main island which used to have 80 000.

The route as it was planned

This Pacific crossing is known among sailors as being a pleasant downwind sail. Even hailed as the ultimate ocean crossing. The winds steady and weather fine all the way; "We hoisted the spinnaker and never had to touch the sails before we made our landfall". But not so for us. Maybe we where a bit early in the season. Maybe we where under the influence of "El Ninja", a disturbance of the Humboldt current flowing northwards along South Americas pacific coast. Whatever it was it turned this sail into THE longest crossing we have ever done (and that is quite a few for Lesley and Trond). Thunderstorms, no wind, messy confused seas, rolling from gunnel to gunnel,  sails flapping ...Not good for boat or crew, but sailing conservatively and caring for our boat we avoided ripped sails, motoring generously we avoided prolonged passage times. We ended up using 22 days for the 3075 miles we logged. We flew the spinnaker for two days until it got too rolly, and threatened to rip in the shock loads created by the roll. We ended up with Genoa and working jib both pooled out for nearly two weeks. A stable and robust rig as long as you do watch chafe.

Trond enjoying fine spinnaker sailing  Colin enjoying a rain-shower from the boom

To brighten our day a couple of whales came and entertained us one day. These where Pilot Whales that are slightly larger than Dolphins. Their bodies are long and powerful and their heads larger and more square than the Dolphins. Pilot whales are docile creatures and not the acrobats like their livelier cousins. They swam alongside Coconut and occasionally looked at us.    One day we also managed to catch a Dorado for dinner. This is an excellent eating fish. Its coloration is amazing with vivid yellows, gold and greens. Apart from flying fish on deck and a couple of BIG fish that got away, that was that for marine life. Not much really and much less than we expected. Some say it is caused by higher than average water temperatures, some say it is over fishing.

Pilot whales Camilla and Colin

The SSB radio Net is our lifeline to the shore based world while on passage. Sailing across the pacific about 20 boats called in every morning and reported positions and miles to go, as well as weather observations. The idea being that we look after each other in case something should happen, and it always does. Not anything big mind you, but enough to make it very comforting to know that the net is there;  one boat someone has acute stomach pains, a qualified nurse on another boat was able to diagnose an inflamed muscle. It as not acute appendices, Puh. Another has a technical problem with his engine (it does not run) and another is wondering how to replace a spinnaker halyard after it has parted. It feels nice that someone out there can lend a helping hand. It is also very entertaining. So many boats sailing the same way means there will be rivalries, alliances and all the other aspects of the human dramatic scene. The Catamaran VS Monohull rivalries are in full force. Who is going to make it first across the Pacific? A monohull is far ahead. Is he running his engine? ...(as always on crossings the monohulls are faster with a good margin)

Magnus enjoying (?) Wendy magazines Lesley and Colin sharing an iPod

The kids play, read, watch movies and entertain us adults. They keep our spirit up day in and day out. They are amazing. The monotonous existence on board does not seem to bother them too much. Colin seem to have all he needs and claims he loves passages. Camilla misses friends though, and we do hope to meet up with some kids boats soon. We had ambitions of doing lots of school on the way, but the swell put an end to that. It is hard to learn when you have to use one hand to hold on, and one hand to keep your books from being airborne. Coconuts stern seemed to wag from side to side with each wave. Maybe a sign that she was happy out here on the big ocean? In fact the movements of the boat has been so hefty that we all ended up sleeping in the saloon. Colin and Lesley preferred the saloon floor as it was the calmest place onboard. Poor Magnus kept to his cabin and enjoyed the fan Trond put in for him. There was one problem however; it consumed so much power and made such a noise that  it could not run for more than a few minutes at the time.

Squally weather

Daily life onboard more or less followed a routine dictated by a couple of core activities. The watch cycle with 2 hours on and 4 hours off, day and night, dictated who would be awake at any time. Every morning at 1600 GMT (This universal time is used as reference as it does not change while local time changes as we go west with 1 hour every 15 degrees) there was the radio schedule with Marquiesas cruisers net. The kids would wake up, we would have breakfast and maybe download emails. Then the kids would play until lunch which we would have together. Lesley managed somehow to make something appetising for us every day from what ever was left onboard. No small feat remembering that we only have a very small fridge and no freezer. After lunch Camilla would read books and many many Wendy Magazines. Colin and Trond would read together and did finish Eragon, a 500 page fantasy novel. In the middle of the day it was normally very hot so a deck shower consisting of buckets of sea water was enjoyed. In the afternoons we would watch a movie, play a game or do some other activity together like arranging competitions in "Best designed yacht", "poetry" and "New inventions". The results where hilarious. None of the innovative ideas are in serial production yet but expect them in a shop near you soon. The Self cooking pot, Moustache lifter, Do-it-all robot and the Passage Planner among amazing new developments in yacht design..  After dinner at sunset there was time for bed an the night watch prepared to spend time alone in the cockpit as Coconut grew quiet. The iPod helped us kill many hours.

Inventions displayed   Kids and Lesley making and enjoying Danish Pastries

Colin doing the dishes Magnus getting ready for our daily snacks and drinks

Then after 22 days a shape materialised in the horizon. Our first island slowly grew out of the sea, mountainous and green with a cloud on the top. Everyone is excited. Pictures are taken, harbours discussed, reflections on our travel shared. Then everything returns back to normal. There is another 35 miles to go. The kids resume playing, the adults tidy up and spend a few minutes alone with their thoughts staring at the promising island up ahead. We did it, we have arrived! In a few hours the anchor will be down.

The welcoming committee in Nuku Hiva  Camilla very ready to get ashore and look for horses to ride

This site was last updated 06/12/07