Passage to Polynesia


Entr’acte departed the Galapagos ­on A­pril 16, 2008, set a course to the West and began the three thousand mile passage to the Marquesas and French Polynesia.  For the first two days we were plagued with light winds but thanks to our light air sails we managed to squeeze out 60 miles per day.  Although we have made many long ocean crossings this one was different.  This was the big one!  For years we had been reading about the Pacific crossing and how it was so different from the Atlantic.  We were excited and determined to enjoy every mile.  This crossing was exciting also because unlike the other passages, for the first time in many years we were not backtracking but were voyaging to places we had never been.    

After several days we cleared the Galapagos weather system and the breeze began to fill in and we started to move in earnest.   There was indeed a different feeling to the Pacific.  The swell was much longer and more regular than the Atlantic.  These Pacific Trade Winds, if that is what they were, lacked the boisterous fury of the Caribbean winds.  Most days we sailed with open hatches, lounged in the cockpit and generally enjoyed the day.  Because of the gentle motion we could sleep in the aft cabin which allowed the watch full reign of the rest of the boat.  

By day ten we finally found the groove.  It seemed as if King Neptune himself had tied a line to our bow and was quietly towing us along in a straight line down a long road.  We have never experienced a feeling quite like it.  The days blended together into one long downhill slide. We were making daily runs of 125 miles per day under beautiful blue skies.  We had no significant rain throughout the entire passage.  The high point of our day was the daily check in with two radio nets, the Pacific Seafarers net and our own personal net that we shared with several German and Austrian yachts Golden Tilla, Kurtisane, Sapho and Aquila.   Our sail drills were confined to an occasional first reef, never more than that and only for a few hours overnight. 

The best way to spice up a trip is with the meals.  We had planned several fun meals to help pass the time while the miles melted away.  A picnic in the cockpit with veggie burgers, potato chips and salad is one example.  Of course no passage is ever without problems.  On the third day while lowering our light air mainsail, the release line on the halyard snap shackle caught on something and opened resulting in loss of the halyard at the top of the mast.  Since it was a spare halyard we decided to wait before we made the trip aloft.

Our biggest disappointment was that Max our self steering gear was still sick.    In Costa Rica we replaced his two main bevel gears.  Max steered so well in the light winds of the Galapagos passage that we pronounced him cured but with the stronger trade winds the problem re-surfaced.  Although it looked as though we had aligned the gears properly, with real wind it became obvious that I had once again misaligned them by one tooth.  Just as before Max would only correct for lee helm and not at all for weather helm which was far more important.  There was absolutely no way to disassemble the unit and re-align the gears at sea.  If we were to drop anything overboard it would mean the loss of the entire unit and we had a very long way to go.  With a flash of brilliance we re-string the steering lines in reverse, turned the wind paddle 180 degrees and tricked Max into steering backwards.  He was now steering again and although a bit sluggish, he continued to steer us 2500 miles to our landfall. 

We had several break downs along the way but none too serious.  Our galley water pump developed a leak and had to be rebuilt.   More problematic was the toilet pump that refused to prime.  Between the mess, the smell and the rolling of the boat, it made for a delightful afternoon! Then there was the glasses repair after Ed took a direct hit from “A-Tiller the Hun” at 03:00 one morning!  Some West Epoxy and filler did the trick. His glasses didn’t look good but they worked. 

We found the Pacific to be much more biologically active than the Atlantic as our wake glowed brightly throughout the night and algae continued to grow all the way up the top-sides of the boat.   Night watches with books and radio shows on mp3 were a treat. The comfortable conditions and opened boat made it pleasant for both of us. Our weather forecasts promised much of the same as did Mr. John who managed to send us regular e-mails from Mexico filled with much weather advice for our area.  How he found the time to do that and explore Mexico was a puzzle.

We checked in with the German radio net every day. This net consisted of our friends Wolfgang and Uli on Golden Tilla along with new friends Kurtisane, Sapho and Aquilla.  It was a fun group of sailors sharing weather and other information but mostly in German.  The fleet had a one week head start on us and the larger boats pulled steadily ahead but we managed to maintain our 150 miles distance from Kurtisane.  They all promise to hold the celebrations until we arrived.

Our laundry bag was surprisingly small this trip until this one little wave found its way through out spray cloths to land on the Captain’s head while he was asleep in the aft cabin.  He was NOT HAPPY!   Now we also had cushion covers and sheets to wash.

.At last, 11:30 AM on May 12 we were anchor down in Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva, Marquesas after 27 days at sea.  Average days run of 112 nm per day.  Not bad at all!  Wolfgang, ULi, Kurtisane and Sapho were immediately along side with  Champagne and caviar to celebrate and then we were off to Happy Hour for everyone in the anchorage hosted by catamaran Que Barbara.   Good thing we were well rested and ready to go. The fleet had been here a week and they had our shore side social calendar filled well in advance.

The calm of the village, spectacular scenery and lack of other yachts made this a wonderful conclusion to a perfect ocean voyage.

Galapagos astern
2600 miles to go
Mainster and drifter
a great combo
Land Ho! Fatu Hiva
Landfall after 27 days at sea
Kurtisan and Sapho
Welcomeus to Polynesia
Wolfgang and Uli from
Golden Tila
Boston to Polynesia
and no engine!
Francisco From Vanuatu
Lots of growth after
the long passage
French Baguettes At Last!
Hanamenu Bay, Fatu Hiva