Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Landfall in French Polynesia

By Nicole

Stars were fading, and the sky was just beginning to lighten to the east when I saw it. Land! Still some 35 miles off in the distance, the island of Hiva Oa rose from the sea. We'd made it to French Polynesia! At that moment, smiling to myself, I felt absolutely fantastic, and I held back my urge to scream, "Land ho!" so as not to wake Aaron. When it was time for his watch, though, I clanged our bronze bell and yelled the words I'd been holding back for hours. It all felt a little silly, but so what. We just sailed our boat across the Pacific Ocean.

We're anchored in the tiny bay of Taahuku on the island of Hiva Oa. There's a buzz of excitement and a feeling of camaraderie among the 20 or so sailboats who are anchored here like sardines. Whether we came from Mexico, Panama or Ecuador, we all completed this epic journey and are reveling in the awesomeness of that feat together.

At this moment, a giant peak, lush and green, looms over the hills surrounding the bay. Palm trees and other exotic tropical plants sway in the gentle breeze flowing down the valley. Roosters cock-a-doodle-doo their morning greetings. And a brilliant blue sky hangs above it all. It's magical and wonderful and everything I thought it would be.

PASSAGE FACTS (Galapagos, Ecuador to Marquesas, French Polynesia):
Total nautical miles traveled: 3,302
Number of days at sea: 25
Fastest 24 hours: 171 nm (average speed 7.1 knots)
Slowest 24 hours: 113 nm (average speed 4.7 knots)
Number of flying fish on deck: oodles and oodles

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week 3: Galapagos to Marquesas

By Nicole

Wow, another week down already? For some reason, I thought time would move by sluggishly out here, where the scenery never changes (sea + sky) and one day is pretty much like the next. Maybe it's because we're fully entrenched in our watch schedules and routine, or maybe all the reading we're doing is sucking down the time. Either way, the last week zipped by.

As we inch closer to our destination, we're starting to feel a twinge of excitement. Not only because we're going to see land for the first time in a month, but because of what else awaits us in French Polynesia. No, not mai tais. Old friends.

Back when we were still dreaming about cruising, Aaron and I took a marine diesel engine class one dark, rainy Seattle winter. Twice a week for a few months, we slogged to class, held aboard an old Alaskan ferry, where we became friends with another aspiring cruiser named Richard. Two years ago, Richard and Brian came to our bon voyage party at the Sloop Tavern where we hugged goodbye and joked that we should all meet up in the South Pacific. Well guess what? Their boat, s/v Osprey, is enroute to the Marquesas from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at this very moment!

Remember our good friend Erlin from s/v Ventured? Of Belvenache fame? Well, he hopped aboard a speedy catamaran and is barreling toward Hiva Oa right now too. We sadly parted ways back in Manzanillo, Mexico 14 months ago, and we can't wait to break out the rum for a reunion toast. The boat Nyon, who we met in La Cruz, Mexico, is on its way across the Pacific as well.

S/V Estrellita, who you'll remember we cruised with in Canada, San Diego and the Baja, are waiting (patiently?) for us in the Tuamotus (the next stop after the Marquesas). Eeeeeee! I am absolutely giddy about spending time with them again (maybe challenging them to another onboard ping-pong match?). You have no idea. Although we email a couple times a week, we haven't seen each other since our teary goodbye in the Sea of Cortez back in December 2011.

As of right now, we are about 400 miles east of the island of Hiva Oa, our first stop in the Marquesas. With any luck (fair winds and favorable seas, please), we'll be clinking Hinano beers with friends old and new very soon. Until then, I hope the next week flies by like the last (although counting down the days is probably like watching a pot while it boils).

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Week 2: Galapagos to Marquesas

By Nicole

It's amazing what a little sunshine will do for morale. After a week of donning foul weather gear (still damp from last shift) and getting drenched on every watch, we were getting a tad cranky. But this week it's been nothing but blue skies. That means stargazing on night watches, hanging out in the cockpit during the day and getting to wear dry underwear all day long.

Last week we crushed 171- and 163-mile days, which for a heavy, little boat like ours is crazy! But we were burning miles, and the speed felt good. After shearing a pin on the autopilot arm, though, we started hearing a familiar Scottish voice in our heads saying, "She can't take much more of this, Captain! She's giving it all she's got!". We wisely decided to throttle back, and promptly installed the spare autopilot pin. Reefing the main and jib settled things down, and as the boat mellowed, so did life aboard.

The halfway mark is now hundreds of miles in our wake, and being on the backside of the passage hill feels good. We certainly have a long way to go still, but we're starting to see the faintest bit of light at the end of the long tunnel. A few boats in our Galapagos armada have fewer than 900 miles to go and will be anchored under the lush, green spires of the Marquesas before much longer. Hopefully they can get the Hinano beer chilling for the rest of us!

Cleaning out the clogged head pump (toilet)
Eating the last farm-fresh pineapple
Worrying about the autopilot (and hand-steering in heavy weather to give it a break)
Rolling and bucking in lumpy seas for days (still)

Seeing sunshine and blue skies
Finally having dry undies
Playing games in the cockpit
Nailing the halfway mark

On to week 3! Au revoir! (I'm trying to learn some French, but my Spanish is confusing matters. Ou est el bano?)

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