Not Alone (Passage to the Marquesas)

 

We weren’t alone out there. For the first 10 days or so of the passage, we saw on average, two ships a day. There were a couple of days we saw up to four at once when we got further south, closer to Panama. After that, it was almost always one a day. Often, we’d only see them on radar or AIS (a kind of air traffic control transponder for boats). This one was about 2 miles away. We had a 982 foot tanker pass about a mile in front of us. It looked like an island complete with waves crashing on it’s side. While that tanker was the closest, we were in no danger. We’d talked with the captain on the radio to ensure a safe clearance. -Rich  (May 2012)

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Who Smells Fishier? (Passage to the Marquesas and Hiva Oa, Marquesas)

Him or me? Toss up after the afternoon heat we had (and lack of laundry facilities). This is the mahi mahi (sometimes called dorado or even dolphin fish) that we landed five or six days before we arrived here. It’s gone now but it was good. Today we bought some tuna from a woman who sells fish from the back of her truck near the park. It looks great and was only about five bucks a pound. We’ll put out the line again tomorrow as we sail (or motor maybe) to Fatu Hiva. We’ll see what happens. Buying fish and having plenty seems to be a good way to guarantee a catch. -Rich (May 2012)

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Another Day in Paradise (Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas)

 

This is the bay where we’ve been so far. It’s wonderful. There are about 20 boats anchored here and at first we thought that it was horrifyingly crowded. We’re used to it already and quite comfortable. Everyone is so nice and it’s hard to believe how many great friends we’ve made in just three days. We make a trip into town each day, usually getting a ride from someone and walking the one and a half miles back to the boat. There are about five markets of varying sizes. Some things are a little hard to find, like fruit and vegetables of all things. We thought that would be very abundant but it’s not. We did manage to buy some today and included in our purchase where two “nuclear” carrots that could only grow to their two pound size in some kind of surplus Soviet reactor core.

Tomorrow, we get officially checked in to French Polynesia. We have had to wait until now as we arrived Friday after the check in office closed and today, Monday, was a holiday here as well as in the US. We’re told the procedure is very efficient and simple. We’ll leave in a few days for Fatu Hiva – stop two on the twoatsea tour. If you want to see some pretty pictures, search Google for Fatu Hiva, select images and you should see a bunch. Its Bay of Virgins is one of the most spectacular sailing destinations in the whole world. -Rich  (May 28, 2012)

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Boobie Greeting (Passage to the Marquesas)

Rich: Here we are in Hiva Oa, settling in. We’ll try to start posting more, with pictures, as we know have some internet access. To start with, here’s Cyndi’s account of our excitement on our arrival morning and a picture of the rainbow that welcomed us into Atuona Bay where we are now anchored.

May 25, 2012

Cyndi: I was on watch until 5am boat time (we had only changed our clock by an hour so far and weren’t on Marquesas time yet).  It was dark and we were about 6 miles from the south end of the island where we’d make our turn and sail along the south side of Hiva Oa to to our anchorage. The conditions had magically calmed overnight, the wind dying down to about 10 knots and the swell easing up, slowing the boat so we could make our approach in the daylight. I was excited about getting in and hadn’t slept well earlier, and now I was very tired as I woke Rich up for his watch.

Rich took over the watch, and I went to bed and fell into a fitful sleep.  I kept dreaming that Rich was having trouble starting the boat, and I’d wake up at any strange noise. Finally I was more deeply asleep when I heard Rich yell, “Hey!!!” about as loud as a person can yell that word.  I shot up out of bed to take action on whatever emergency we were having, asking what was going on.  Rich said, “There’s a boobie in our boat.”  “What?”  Then I heard this flopping around like a large, live fish on the floor.  I later found out that Rich heard something in the cockpit, then saw a boobie perched at the companionway looking to come in.  He yelled at it hoping to scare it off, but instead that seemed to encourage it to come on in!  Bobbies have legs and feet and can walk, but this one apparently forgot that as soon as he landed in our boat, flopping around like a dying fish.

I will stop here to say that boobies are large seabirds, about the size of a 12lb turkey, that for whatever reason love hitch rides on boats.  The problem with that is that they can damage delicate equipment if they land on it, foul up your fishing lines, or relieve themselves all over your boat (I’ve heard horror stories about what that’s like).  I had joked to Rich before we left about getting a plastic owl for the boat, just because I liked him and thought he’d make a low-maintenance pet.  They’re typically used, mostly unsuccessfully, to scare away seagulls.  But after an earlier encounter with a persistent boobie who very much wanted to land on our stern, I wondered if it might have been a good idea.  No boobie would ever be frightened of an owl, but maybe if I ran around waving it, hooting like a madwoman, it would confuse it enough so it would leave.  Anyway, you try to avoid having a boobie on your boat.  I had never considered one might come *in* the boat.

Now, Rich asked me to get him the beach towel.   Boobies have large beaks and are not a bird you want to tangle with as those beaks are known to break fingers.  Rich threw the towel over the boobie and got it into the cockpit, then managed to throw it from the cockpit into the water.  The boobie squawked at Rich indignantly, as though we had invaded his home.  I was furiously cleaning the floor below, glad it hadn’t left much of a mess. At this point, I would not be getting any more sleep.

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In Port (Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas)

May 25, 2012

At anchor, Atuona, Hiva Oa. Tired. Tired. Tired. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Must sleep. Long night, long day. Got in about 11AM Marquesas time. A 22 day passage which is kind of fast. Also kind of rough. Write more later, we will. As soon as the will to live returns. -Rich

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Nine Miles Out (Passage to the Marquesas)

May 25, 2012

It’s 5AM and we see land nine miles away, well, see it on radar anyway. It’s still dark. We were hoping to make the waypoint at the east end of the island at 7AM (LDT – Legacy daylight time – one hour earlier than PDT – we changed our clocks once since we left). We’re going about 4 1/2 knots with a reefed mainsail and mostly rolled up headsail to try to keep it that slow. Lets see, 9 divided by 4.5 = 2, two hours until the waypoint. That sounds like we’re right no schedule.

We wanted to get in to our east-end waypoint at this time so that we could sail the 15 miles to the anchorage along the island in the early morning light. It should be beautiful with cliffs rising abruptly out of the water to 3500 feet. We’ll write more after we get in and let you know how it was.

It’s been a hard passage and we’re really glad to have all but the last few miles behind us. The past two or three days have been really rough. There were swells coming from several directions at once and Legacy got thrown around pretty good. It was all we could do to move around the boat the minimally necessary amount to maintain ourselves and seaworthiness. Don’t even get me started about how hard it been to go to the head (that’s restroom on boat-speak)! It’s much better right now. It finally calmed down a few hours ago.

We heard from our friend Dean who was just a little ways ahead of us the whole trip. He’s in the anchorage – he got in yesterday. He says there are lots of boats there – maybe 25 or more at anchor. There’s still room for us to anchor but we’re surprised that there are that many boats still here. Most of them should have been and gone by now. We thought we’d have the place to ourselves. Oh well. More later. -Rich

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Two Days Out (Passage to the Marquesas)

May, 2012

We’re trying to slow down a bit, which goes against our instincts. We need to slow down to try to make it to the east end of Hiva Oa at about 7AM on Friday. We want daylight for what should be a spectacular 20 mile ride to the bay where we’ll anchor. Along the way we should be treated to lush green volcanic peaks, some 3500 feet high. I can’t wait! I’m also sorry to see the passage coming to an end.

Last night was one of our most beautiful at-sea nights.  I woke Cyndi to see an almost perfectly horizontal Cheshire grin of a moon setting with Venus right along side.  The sky was filled with stars and so was the sea.  The stars in the sea were from bio-luminescence, plankton that gives off light when disturbed.  Normally, it’s millions of tiny, tiny lights that form a cloud of green glow.  Last night it was fewer, larger, individual flashes.  Sometimes there was what seemed to be a cluster that would light up Frisbee-sized disk of water off to the side or back of the boat.  These flashes were intensely bright green.  In the distance, small breaking waves would glow with bio-luminescence.  There was a nice warm breeze – the temperature dropped enough to cool us down from the hot day.  Our bellies were full of a great fish dinner.

We caught that fish the day before. It was a nice sized Mahi Mahi – maybe three and a half feet long. We have had fish for every meal since then.  Last night it was grilled fish with canned green beans. This morning, it’ll be fish and eggs, again. We are really hoping to catch one more fish before we head into the anchorage.  It’ll be nice to be able to prepare a few meals on a boat that isn’t rolling like a mechanical bull.  Hey, wouldn’t that make a great cooking channel show?  Iron Chefs on a Bull! “Stephanie, this will be difficult – he’ll prepare crapes while the bull is set at 9. I don’t think it’s been done before.”  Alternatively, how about “Iron Chefs on a 38 Foot Boat.” I’d watch that.

OK, I see I’ve been at sea too long. That’ll change soon enough. -Rich

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Crossing the Equator! (Passage to the Marquesas)

May 20, 2012

Cyndi: As we approached the time of our equator crossing, it had become apparent that it would be a nighttime event, around 9 or 10pm, and I was feeling a little disappointed. All the pictures I have seen of other boats crossing have been taken during the day; so that’s just what I’ve always pictured. Even more concerning was that this would take place during Rich’s watch, at a time when I am asleep. He has been promising “surprises,” the kind of surprises that I might not enjoy. I knew that if this took place on my watch, while he’s asleep, then I could keep an eye on him, waking him up just before the event. But now it would happen during my sleep, leaving him lots of dangerous free time.

Rich: It’s kind of a tradition to torture people as they go across the equator on a boat for the first time. Before you cross, you’re a pollywog. After the crossing, and ensuing “hazing” ceremony, you’re a shellback. Cyndi and I were both pollywogs. I’d been across on a big ship a couple of times, but I ducked out of the ceremony saying something like, “me, oh no, I’ve been across the line lots of times!” I left the rubbing on of the blue goo (that I’m pretty sure included spoiled fish guts) to other suckers. It was our turn now.

Cyndi: I woke up about half an hour before we were to cross and got ready, putting on enough clothes so I could be in pictures and getting the rum out, a special bottle that friends gave us for this occasion (thanks Stacy and Ramiro!) Rich was in the galley, and I had mixed feelings when I spotted the “surprise.” Rich had taken 3 Oreos and topped them with spray cheese (that stuff in a can that squirts through a nozzle). That concoction is an old joke between us stemming from a previous passage where I woke to find Rich having this as a snack and thought he’d lost his mind. He thought it would be fitting for our crossing. I was relieved that this wasn’t a messy kind of surprise that would leave me needing a shower, but I was dreading that I might actually have to eat one of these things.

Rich: OK, so most the hazing turned out to be psychological torture. I’m sure Neptune would approve. And I’ve got to say, those cookies and “cheese” were really pretty bad. Much worse than my memory. Maybe I had gone a little round-the-bend on that previous passage when I thought they were a really neat idea.

Cyndi: We headed into the cockpit with the cookie things, three shots of rum (one for each of us and one for King Neptune) and our empty wine bottle with a note. We had a little time to sit and enjoy the night. It had a tropical feeling, with a warm, light breeze and a zillion stars in the sky above us. I realized that this was the perfect way for us to cross, much nicer than under the afternoon sun. When the time came, we threw the bottle over, toasted our crossing and becoming “Shellbacks,” threw a shot of rum to King Neptune, then proceeded to sip our own rum. Wow, that rum was good; King Neptune should be really happy with us! I was really enjoying this, sipping excellent rum under a starry night sky, when Rich said we now have to eat the cookies. He threw one to poor King Neptune then had one himself. I took a nibble, avoiding the cheese, but I could still smell it and that smell did not go well with Oreos. Rich told me to have another bite, but I told him I distinctly heard King Neptune wishing he could have another and quickly threw it over. Thankfully Rich didn’t object. I figure if King Neptune gets a whole shot of that wonderful rum, he can take care of this cookie thing for me. We lingered outside, finishing our drinks. I could have sat out there for hours, but we needed to run the engine and charge up the boat’s batteries, plus I needed to get some more sleep before my watch. In all, it turned out to be a really nice, mellow crossing.

Rich: This is the first I’m hearing about Cyndi avoiding the cheese topping. I think King Neptune might not be quite done with her after all. We shall see. By the way, the bottle had kind of the traditional “Dropped in the sea at position… by the crew of Legacy…” kind of note. We also included a little money as a gift for who ever might find it. It’s kind of fun for us to think about this bottle with it’s contained cash washing ashore in some small, poor village in South America, but I guess it’s just as likely to be picked up by a overweight, cigar-puffing, speedo-clad Malibu beach-walker and ultimately ending up stuffed in a strippers thong. Oh well, I’m sure she (or he) can use the cash.

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The Big Surprise (Passage to the Marquesas)

May 18, 2012

I was sound asleep and I think I was dreaming, but I don’t exactly remember. I do remember that it was a very good sleep and a fitting reward for how hard I’d worked at falling to sleep. It was about 11AM and I’d gotten off watch at 10. “Rich, Rich, there’s a helicopter, wake up!” A what? I sat up and looked out the companion way door, and there really was a helicopter – about 50 feet behind our boat and about 30 feet above the water. What the heck? I grabbed some shorts and the hand-held VHF radio and ran out into the cockpit.

I tried calling him while he circled our boat about three times. I was so busy looking at the radio and calling I didn’t really see the pilot. Cyndi did, and apparently he’d circled her once before I got out there, pausing behind the boat and waving. We weren’t able to make radio contact and after the circles, he sped off to the south.

I tried calling on the boat’s VHF… “this is the sailing vessel Legacy at position da, da de da, to the ship that launched the helicopter. Come in please.” No reply. I tried about three times, still no reply. What was it? A James Bond super yacht, a secret military settlement out at sea, a huge toy company sparing no expense to get me back to the states to design the next future recycle bin offering? Or maybe a fishing boat with a scout helicopter. Yea, that’s probably it. There are tuna boats in San Diego with helicopters on the back decks. Maybe it was one of those. About 20 minutes later, we heard a radio call but it was weak and we were never able to establish radio communications. (Aviation buffs: it looked like it might have been an R44, but somehow it looked sleeker and more bullet-shaped. It had great big things attached to the skids that I assume inflate in a water landing.)

But how strange. We’re so far from anywhere. It’s well over 2000 miles to Central America, Mexico or even Hawaii. I guess the closest place to us at this point is the Marquesas at only about 865 miles away.

We’re almost across the ITCZ tonight. We’ve only been in it about 24 hours and I expect we’ll come out of it later tonight. It hasn’t been too bad. It was rainy all day today and last night we had dozens of rain squalls. The squalls didn’t have a lot of wind. In fact, they mostly stole what little wind we had. Cyndi thought she saw one lightning flash. I didn’t see any. Sometimes there can be a lot of thunder and lightning in the ITCZ so we count ourselves lucky. Lightning? What could go wrong there with nothing sticking up in the air, save for our 65 foot tall metal mast (and oh yea, an occasional helicopter).

We have about 240 miles to the equator where by the tradition, our current status as polliwogs will change to that of shell-backs. We have an appropriate celebration planned. We’ll tell you about it in a couple of days. Cyndi reads these and I don’t wont to spoil the surprise. -Rich

Cyndi’s Version: I was comfortably settled into the watch chair, the boat motoring along in these rather surreal, gray and humid ITCZ conditions. I had been on watch about an hour and was deep into my book when I heard what sounded like a gas-powered lawn mower come to life in the cockpit. To say I was alarmed would be an understatement, as I rushed to the companionway, fearing that our transmission or engine was in a state of complete self-destruction, a pieces-flying-everywhere sort of catastrophe. I came pretty much face to face with a helicopter, which had come down to what looked like 50 feet behind our boat and about 20 or 30 feet above the water, hovering and looking almost like he might be going for a water landing. To say I was surprised would be another understatement; I don’t think I would have been any more surprised to see a Kraken. I was dumbfounded, probably standing there with my mouth open. Possible reasons for his being here flashed through my mind: does he think we’re a boat in distress and is coming in for a rescue? Is he checking to see if we might be drug runners? Is he coming to warn us of some impending doom up ahead, a freak weather condition or natural disaster? I could see the pilot clearly now as he hovered behind us, and he waved at me. I waved back, still stunned, but realizing if he’s giving me a wave that there’s probably no emergency. I had stayed in the companionway, not wanting to run out in the cockpit as I was only in underwear and a tank top (it’s warm here and we’re not wearing a lot). I decided the next thing to do was to get Rich up, and I was surprised when he sprang out of bed, believing me about the helicopter right away. I was relieved he was up fast enough to see it for himself as I’m not sure he would have believed this otherwise, thinking I’d been at sea too long and was starting to hallucinate. As he tried to radio the helicopter or the ship it came from, I recovered from the shock and thought about the moral of this story: don’t assume people can’t drop in on you out here. Also, when taking showers in the cockpit, keep your ears perked for approaching aircraft and a towel close at hand.

One final note: I’m not very happy to hear about a surprise for the equator crossing. Those kinds of surprises are along the lines of the surprises involved in fraternity hazing rituals. I was hoping to enjoy my rum in peace, without being subjected to an involuntary King Neptune shaving cream beard application or some other indignity. Sigh. -Cyndi

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Sailing Stuff (Passage to the Marquesas)

May 16, 2012

Today is the third day in a row where the conditions have been identical. There’s usually 17 knots of wind from the north-northeast with gusts to about 20 and lulls to about 15 knots. (Though there is some question as to the accuracy of my anemometer. Dean isn’t far away and he’s consistently reading 5 knots more. It also seems to us that the wind is stronger than 17 knots.)

We’ve been sailing a broad reach with a single reefed main sail and just a little bit of head sail unrolled. We’ve had to work to keep the boat from being overpowered in these conditions. We surf down the big swells coming mainly from behind. Once we get to the bottom of the swell, we kind of crash into the back of the next swell and the boat rolls uncontrollably and uncomfortably. We could be going a little faster, but we’re choosing comfort over speed. It’s also easier on the boat.

(It just started raining. Not much – just a sprinkle, but nice.)

Even powered down as we are, it’s a rough ride. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a swell from behind but there’s also a big swell from the east as well. Sometimes these combine just right and we really get knocked around.

We usually count on having to run the engine an hour or two each day when the wind dies out as it often does at night. These conditions have been so consistent that we haven’t need to propulsion. We do need the electricity though so we’ve been running the engine in neutral. Running in gear would again over power the boat and make for a rough ride. We’re doing great on fuel as when we do run the engine, even when it’s in gear, we run it very slowly. It only uses about a half a gallon of diesel fuel an hour at those slow speeds. We’re trying to save most of our fuel in case have to motor through the ITCZ.

We should hit the ITCZ on Friday or so. It’s a moving target, sometimes at 2 degrees north latitude and sometimes as high as 10 degrees. Right now, it’s at about 3 degrees and we’re now at about 7-1/2 degrees north latitude. We’re hoping to be at the equator sometime Sunday. After that, it’s only 625 miles to Hiva Oa. So far, this has been a very fast passage.

Have I bored you to death? Sorry. Here’s the summary: Fast, sloppy, rolly, warm, noisy, long, fun, peaceful, rewarding.

Definitions: (If you’re a sailor, don’t bother with these)

Knot: about 1.1 miles per hour. Sailors use knots as a nautical mile goes into the earths circumference at the equator exactly 24000 times. A nautical mile is 6000 feet, again, about 10% more than a regular mile.

Broad Reach: sailing with the wind coming over the back of the boat at about a 30 degree angle. Sailing directly down wind (running) is difficult on a sail boat, especially when there’s a big swell coming from behind. The sails want to flap around and gybe (switch sides of the boat). A broad reach is both more comfortable and faster.

ITCZ: I think I described this before, but here it is again. It’s an area of unsettled weather between the prevailing northeast trade winds in the North Pacific and the southeast trades in the South Pacific. There are often thunder storms there that can get pretty violent. It can be a very narrow zone, maybe 100 miles, or 600 miles wide. Right now, it seems pretty narrow and we’re hoping that holds up. By the way, if you’re interested in seeing our weather, there’s a great web site called passage weather (www.passageweather.com) that will show it to you. We get similar weather reporting on our boat via email through the HAM radio. -Rich

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