Tag Archives: South Pacific

Westward Toward the Distant Marquesas

First day out was fantastic. The BPO had a scheduled noon “start,” which I guess was essentially a chance for the shore crew to come out and take photos of the boats. We were anxious to go, and got out to the start at least an hour early. Do we keep going, or wait around? We decided it would be good form to wait, and that gave us a chance to clean most of the crud off our waterline that had accumulated in the dirty Galapagos harbors. But when noon arrived and most of the other boats were still motoring toward the start, up went our sails and off we went. There was a surprisingly pleasant wind, and we made the most of it, staying in front of all but one of the other boats.

It’s not a race, we are frequently reminded, and we remind ourselves. But in fact, for us, it is two races. The most important one is to make the best possible crossing given whatever conditions we encounter. In this race I think we are doing very well. The winds have been unusual/challenging. But we have kept the boat moving nicely, taking advantage of whatever is available, and I can see only minor details (even in retrospect) that we could have done better. Our second race is against the other boats. For starters we want to prove (to ourselves) we are faster under sail than the other catamarans. This is pretty much accomplished already, as they are 60+ miles behind us. But there are two boats ahead of us. Blue Wind is reputed to be a serious racing boat, though I know nothing more about this than seeing how fast they go! Tohawus is a fast cruiser, but is 54 feet long to our 42. We’d like to prove (to ourselves) that we can go faster than they can, in certain conditions. So far we have not found those conditions. We have been going fast, but they have been going equally fast, or slightly faster. They have been about 30 miles ahead of us for the past two days. I think there are conditions (fairly high wind, downwind, where we might be surfing at 13 knots or more) where we could overtake them, but we haven’t had such winds, and I’m not sure if we will on this crossing.

Our second day/night out was more what we expected for the first few hundred miles — very light winds; everybody motoring. Most of the boats go under power at about the same speed, but Tohawus is faster under power, so they pulled ahead. But we stayed in front of the pack, so when the wind came up, we got it before they did. And the wind has gradually increased each day, allowing us to stretch ahead of them (while Tohawus stretched their lead on us). Stay tuned. Check the Cornell Sailing “track the boats” web site to see how we’re doing!

During the day I do a lot of staring at the horizon, half expecting to see something. But there is nothing here but ocean, more ocean, an occasional bird, and lots of flying fish. I did see a whale spout once, but it remained in the distance, taking no interest in us. We haven’t seen another boat since our second day, nor do we expect to at this point. We’ve had a lot of pleasant idle time. I have a book to read, but that feels like a distraction from just sitting and watching the ocean go by.

Life has been pretty smooth aboard. The first days we tend to feel lethargic — just a touch of sea sickness. That is now past, and we have more energy. I started baking bread today, as our bread from the Galapagos has already turned moldy. Mine is a hundred times better than the crap they have there anyway. I don’t understand how such interesting people can put up with such lousy bread!

I’m on my night watch, and it is a black night — no moon, no stars. We are scooting along at 9+ knots with no fuss at all. Very cool that this boat can move like this, though eerie to be speeding into blackness.

I’m very, very happy to be exactly where I am right now! 🙂

Heading South…


Last the Maggie crew and we took a taxi across Panama City in search of a Whole-Foods-like store someone had described to Tim.  No luck.  But we saw a “gourmet delicatessen” along the way, and a nice-looking restaurant next to it.  So that’s where we went, and we had a delightful dinner, and then bought cold cuts, cheese, chocolate and other goodies.  We don’t have much in the fruits and veggies department; oh well.

Got underway this morning.  Sunny, hot and no wind.  Motored for about three hours until a little breeze came up directly behind us.  Put up the big spinnaker and had a delightful day of sailing.  Mid-afternoon the wind picked up and we started zipping along at nine knots.  Almost immediately we got a bite on the fishing lure we were trailing.  It ran all the line out of our reel before we got to it.  Luckily the fish pulled free of the hook rather than taking our gear.

Within minutes we had another strike. This time we reeled it in and gaffed it, but it got free before we could get it safely aboard and sedate it with some rum. It was a big one — two feet long, at least, and probably ten pounds.

Not to worry… within minutes we had another strike, and this time we successfully landed a small tuna. Maybe twenty inches long and five pounds. Tim and I sampled the sashimi as we filleted it. Very good! We made nori rolls with sticky rice, plus empanadas and salsa on the side. Lots of tuna left over for another meal.

It was a beautiful evening, blowing a comfortable (for going downwind) twenty knots, and we continued to fly the spinnaker into the night. Bad idea… Though the night was beautiful, the wind gradually increased, and with it the waves began to build, and by the middle of my watch (Bill and I switched watches, so I have 7 to 11 now) things were getting hairy. Top wind speed reached 28 knots. Top boat speed hit 17 knots, surfing on the waves. We were hitting 15 knots regularly as we surfed. We were overpowered, but I didn’t want to wake the others (if they were able to sleep in the mayhem), so I tried to wait it out. But the waves were pushing the boat off course faster than the autopilot could adjust, and the spinnaker would occasionally collapse as we headed up too far, and then collapse the other way as we would bear off too far. We were risking breaking something (probably the spinnaker), so finally I called, “All hands,” and we got it down. Now we are ambling along under jib alone, at about 6 knots. MUCH more peaceful! I think I’ll be able to sleep in my berth in the bow.

Wonderful day. Glorious night. I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m SO happy to be moving again.


A day of just the sun and the ocean and a few pelagic birds and us. Vast emptiness. Profound aloneness.