Passage Panama to French Polynesia, day 25, Thursday 13- April:
A lot to write about today. So get your coffee, unhook your phone and when you are sitting comfortably …. then I shall begin 😀
At midnight, with just 95nm to go, we were gliding along with spinnaker and mainsail on a very close reach making 6kts in just 5-6kts of wind and on the perfect trajectory: west for Nuku Hiva. After writing the midnight log, I drifted off for rather too long nap. I woke at 2:30am to find Cloudy still perfectly ghosting along but now heading south! As usual on downwind legs we run the autopilot on a set wind angle (095 Stbd in this case) to ensure a wind shift doesn’t make us accidentally gybe (a lesson taken from a very bad previous experience, one that Oana and I won’t forget anytime soon).
While I was snoozing, the wind had steadily swung from NE to NNW, and along with it Cloudy had turned 90 degrees to port. That won’t do, we need to go west! I knew the wind should die in the night, but it was never forecast to have any westerly component in it.
So, sadly, the spinnaker went down the hatch one last time and to get back on course we had to sail hard on the wind, starboard tack, with main and genoa at AWA35 degrees. Now, if there are no waves to stop her, in 5-7kts of wind Cloudy just revels sailing close hauled. I pin the sails in as tight as they will go, then release a little bit (a “gnats-hair”) to give a touch of power in this lighter than light wind. They’re now, perfect, we are sailing 1kt faster than the wind speed, 6kts in 5kts wind. Occasionally, under a puffy cloudy, the wind touches 10kts and I point 1-2degrees higher just to reduce excessive heeling, then back again when the cloud’s effect has passed.
Gliding along with the spinnaker was a pleasure, but also gliding along closed hauled in calm-sea conditions like this is equally so. It must be at least a year since we’ve sailed up wind like this. Yes, it was along the north coast of Cuba about this time last year in fact. Sailing upwind is usually the sort of nonsense us cruisers gladly leave to the racing boys. A smart Cruiser Captain should only go downwind! Or so they say. Oana certainly says this! Upwind usually brings on her sea sickness.
We continued upwind like this till mid-morning. And in that time our log passes the 30,000nm mark (~60,000Km). Another milestone to our circumnavigation progress. Actually, that is only the distance we’ve sailed since our big refit in 2017, when we installed new navigational instruments. Oana and I have actually sailed 2,500nm more than that in 2016, and Cloudy herself a further 2,500nm with her previous owner of 8 years. I wonder which owner Cloudy prefers. I’d best not ask. She is after all a female!
Just after daybreak it’s “Land Ahoy” as the first Marquesas islands come into view, despite that they are still over 30nm away. Little “Moana” mountain tops sticking out the ocean. (~1000m above water, 3000m below water). We have the small island of Fata Huku closest on our port side. Also to port, faintly on the horizon: Hiva Oa. In front of us is Ua-Huka and if we really squint hard, there is Nuku Hiva far on the western horizon. Shortly after this, the wind dies to almost nothing and our speed to nearly the same.
Given the prospect of motoring the last 55nm (forecast is no wind all day) we decide to divert to Ua Huka for a night or 2, currently just 13nm to our north. Then tomorrow or Saturday, when the easterly wind returns, we will have an easy sail to Nuku Hiva, for our check in. We felt it would be a letdown to motor for the last 12 hours of what this far has been epic sailing.
So we turn 60 degrees to starboard and motor directly NNW to Baie d’Hane on the southern shore of Ua Huka. (With all these island names, it helps if you imagine the All Blacks NZ rugby team pronouncing the names, as they do their macho animated pre-match dance 🤣).
On AIS we can already see one catamaran anchored in the same bay. “Pangea” had been a day in front of us these last days. He must have had the same idea of a quick stop-off too.
As we got closer, the stunning green volcanic island loomed ever bigger in front of us, exactly how we imagined a Marquesas island would look like. A very lush green volcanic peak with a white puffy cloud cap and majestic cliffs all around the shoreline. In a way it reminds us of Saba or Eustatius in the Caribbean.
One mile out we are met by a greeting party: a pod of very small dolphins on the bow. One mother had the cutest little baby frantically swimming within inches of her, but perfectly in sync with the mother’s moves in and out the water. Such wonderful creatures.
Soon we are in Hane Bay. As expected of these island anchorages, the ocean swell is surging into the bay. But once anchored with bow facing offshore it wasn’t as bad as we expected.
So we’ve arrived!! Well, sort of. Not to our planned island of Nuku Hiva but a Marquesas island in French Polynesia nonetheless. And a pretty remote one too. We can’t imagine many yachts visit this one. It’s just us and Pangea here right now.
Anchoring at midday, it’s been 23days, 18hrs and 4,009nm (~8,000km) since we left Panama, with a moving average speed of 7.3kts (15km/he). If we subtract the 21hrs we were in Galapagos, the total would be 22days 21hrs. Not bad. We knew it couldn’t possibly be faster than 3 weeks, but we are still pretty chuffed with 23 days.
Now for other stats:
We motored for 73hours (60 before Galapagos and just 13 after) which is 13% of total. The rest was sailing.
The generator ran for 17 hours which was more than we expected but then we lost solar input by 2pm most days because when sailing west the panels became in the shadow of the sails.
We made 2,500ltrs (2.5tons) of fresh water. We had a lot of showers!
As for food, we still arrived with some apples, couple of oranges, two melons, and of course onions and potatoes. The freezer looks almost as full as when we departed (!) but the fridges have lots of room now. We didn’t need to make bread. The bread we bought lasted, but we did make yogurt every 2-3 days. Again, well done Oana for her usual brilliant provisioning. Most importantly, I never ran out of biscuits, mixed nuts, or chocolates! The only disappointment on the food front was that Captain Glen didn’t live up to his promise of catching a yellow fin tuna. Oana was so looking forward to fresh tuna steaks. But we did land a Mahi Mahi, a Skipjack (or Mexican Tunny) and Sailfish.
On entertainment, Oana smoked me on the book reading competition. I got through 1/3 of Master and Commander while Oana stormed through well over 25 full books! Each morning we would fire up the Starlink and gorge ourselves on WhatsApp’s, news feeds, and weather downloads while sipping our coffee. Twice we watched a movie in the cockpit after dusk. And finally we listened to a few podcasts.
Breakages were surprisingly few. One severed spinnaker sheet and a broken turn-around sheave. The AIS antenna gave us issues for a day or two. The generator needed a new impeller. One of our side shades got caught in a winch and ripped. And a few stitch-in-times needed on the spinnaker and its sock. And last but not least we strongly suspect our masthead tricolour doesn’t have its red or green working. The current tricolor light is the 3rd replacement we’ve had from LopoLight. Never again. They are clearly useless quality. But their ridiculously high price tag disproves the saying “you get what you pay for”. All other systems worked flawlessly….. that we know of!!
The rest of the day we relax. Of course, I have to go have a swim. During which I discover a whole new eco system growing on our hull. But that’s a story for tomorrow.
Ashore there are a few houses in the little village of Hane. But we don’t go ashore because we haven’t checked into the county yet and that cannot be done here. Plus, there is only a beach with a lot of rough surf to land the dinghy on. So we observe the landward goings on from the boat as we relax in the cockpit. More about that tomorrow. Now? Sleep, blissful sleep. I wonder if I’m actually capable of sleeping a full night!