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passage log to the marquesas

At last we are ready to puddle jump to the Marquesas. The generator is installed and working, Joel has arrived, and final provisioning is complete. We have our Zarpe (Mexico exit papers) in hand.

The boom truck picks up the new genset.

And gently drops it into Baraka.

Final provisioning is done. Here's the beer and wine to stow! Looks like a lot, but we hear anything imported to French Polynesia will be pricey.

Final provisioning in Puerto Vallarta.

April 8 - 2028.907 N - 10544.791

Underway!!! We cast off about 11 am from Marina Vallarta, and are presently motoring past Cabo Corrientes out of Banderas Bay. The next land we will see will be the Marquesas, either Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa. I spent the last pesos this morning at the pastry shop, we have given away our Mexico charts, and taken down the Mexican courtesy flag.

It feels great to be finally underway. Everything on the boat is working (Steve from Kavenga told me a good day is one where more things get fixed than break). Jacklines are run, and mooring lines and fenders stowed. We worked out the watch schedule, which pivots around when Dave plans to be on the Ham radio checking in to the Puddlejump and Pacific Seafarer's nets. The latter maintains a roster at www.pacsea.org.

If we fail to check in, friends and family should assume we are ok. There are many reasons, including variation in radio propagation, that may prevent our checking in to the nets, or updating this blog. If we are in real trouble, we will set off our emergency radio transponder, and family will be notified. But we really don't expect any serious problems - so far the weather this year has been benign, and winds favorable, and with Joel as 3rd crew we will be rested and comfortable.

As we motor out of the bay, birds, mostly boobies, are diving into boils of baitfish, which are apparently being driven to the surface by larger game fish.

We soon lose sight of land. This is the view for 22 days.

On the way we see only 4 ships.

April 9 - 1936.503 N - 10711.576

130 miles since we left yesterday, Saw 4 freighters but not much else. We mostly motored in calm, but are sailing now, a lovely 5 knots in 8-10 of wind.

Had our first equipment failure last night. On Joel's watch the engine overheated, though raw water was pumping nicely. Joel shut the engine down and woke us. Handy Man (Dave) quickly found the culprit - the alternator/fresh water belt had shredded. After replacement, we were again underway.

We are comfortable - good appetite, getting good rest, and no seasickness. Opal, ship's cat, has found her sea legs too.

April 10 - 1823 N - 10913

135 miles noon to noon. Dave saw the green flash at sunset first night out, but now sky is a little hazy. We only see it on clear evenings, and rarely at that. Yesterday we had a couple hitch-hiking boobies on the bow. Opal is annoyed at being catnapped and taken to sea. She shows this by whining for food, then not eating. Dave is making me give her good albacore tuna!

We shower in the cockpit to keep the boat dry inside. The past day we have been sailing, a beat working now a little more abeam, doing better than 6 knots much of the time under full gib and main, excellent. The seas are building a little and now it is more difficult to do things that take two hands, like cooking and dishes. But the boat is handling very well, windvane is steering, and we are making good time and using less fuel than we thought we would have to. All is well!

April 11 - 1716.8 N - 11116.2 W

134 miles noon to noon. Sailing non-stop. The windvane is steering, but had a minor failure, a knot to the steering paddle came undone. Dave jury rigged a fix on his watch, and I re-tied the line on mine. Few boats this far out, except one fish boat south of Socorro last night. Two boobies hitch-hiked overnight on the bow.

Seas are just a little lumpy, but decks are dry and we are tooting along nicely. We haven't been running the engine. Dave fires up the generator twice a day for the refrigeration and batteries.

We are settled into a routine. Dave has 6:30 to 10:30 watches for the radio schedule, PV time. I follow 10:30-2:30, then Joel 2:30-6:30. Two watches a day. Pretty nice having Joel along. This would be a different trip without his cheerful help. Dave had a spell of queasiness, headache, but is fine now.

The boat tells us what's wrong with new noises. If unfamiliar, we track it down and find out what's working or wearing. Now I just hear the creak of the rigging and sea sloshing along the hull - very peaceful, happy sounds.

April 12 - 1716.8 N - 11116.2 W

120 miles noon to noon. Some motoring in light winds last night, sailing now. Dave has been ordering grib files that show the wind direction and speed over the next 4 days. It will continue steady and light, clocking more aft of the beam. Soon we will hoist the spinnaker.

This morning we made "Julius eggs". My friend Mary told me how to cut a hole in a piece of bread with a Pam cap, butter the bread and fry it with an egg in the hole. Voila, toast and egg, easy sea meal.

Dave says we are 18 percent of the way there and have used 16 percent of our fuel. There are stronger winds ahead, so we are in very good shape, pleased with our progress.

April 13 - 1501N - 11457 W

A pokey 106 miles noon to noon, about the pace of a brisk walk. We flew the spinnaker in light winds until late evening, then motored overnight in calm. Now we are ambling along under a poled out jib, at an easy 4 1/2 knots. Joel is on watch, reading in the cockpit while Dave snoozes and I read below.

Joel brought movies and games and books for us, and we have time to play. Dave installed a switch so he can use the radio without tripping the propane stove alarm. I did laundry, hung to dry on the lifelines, and the three of us transferred 100 liters of fuel into the main tank. Dave has a spreadsheet that shows engine and generator hours and estimated fuel used and remaining. Plus watermaker usage. First fresh food casualties - some bread went moldy and carrots turned to mush. Every other day I turn the eggs over. They should keep without refrigeration all the way to the Marquesas, so long as I keep turning them.

All is well. Winds continue too light but look like they will build slightly over the next 4 days. Dave pulls weather reports every day over the radio. A NOAA report shows the location of the ITCZ and where the squalls are bunched. We are using the radar at night to watch for squalls but so far nothing. At night we talk to a boat 150 miles behind us, our closest company out here.

Joel on watch, spinaker working, Joel reading.

Laundry day underway.

April 14 - 1427 N - 11603 W

A even pokier 96 miles noon to noon, despite the help of the Iron Wind for 4 hours. We roll along under poled-out 130 jib, with a reef in the main to keep it from blanketing the jib, as the 8-10 knot wind is now off the starboard quarter. In the light air, the boats rolls and sails slat, noisy and slightly miserable, but then the wind picks up and we toot along again.

Flying fish are now coming aboard, the first on Joel's watch. They land on the deck and buzz their fins, desperate to reach water. Joel is keeping the tongs in the cockpit for rescue/eviction. Opal is pretty interested. Her job on Moulin Rouge was to locate them before they smelled.

On Dave's watch, while he was listening to an audio book, he heard the weird loud buzz. Then it stopped. By flashlight he located the flying fish. He got the tongs and was reaching for it when it started flopping wildly, right to the open deck hatch above our bed, where I was sleeping. He yelled "Don't do that!!" and caught it at the edge. Would have landed on my face, ugh.

Dave says he's never heard me scream. Might have been first time.

April 15 - 1330 N - 11747 W

A bit better, 106 miles noon to noon. But we had a rolly, noisy night. This morning we took down the pole and jib, and put up the spinaker again, better speed and much nicer motion, with most of the roll and noise gone. The winds are constant and steady, still on the light side but we aren't complaining. New equipment casualties - my flip flop is delaminating, and a small bail on the pole is chafing through, both easily fixed. If these are our worse problems, you can see things are great.

We are going to head a little more west, maybe to 130 W at 10 N before making our first turn. Since PV we have been on a rhumb line toward 128 W and 7 N, but after hearing the boats ahead it sounds like we can avoid some of the squally ITCZ by going further west. If interested you can probably google the NOAA report PYFA97 and see the ITCZ and squall zones. Dave is watching this daily. When we turn, we will head due south through the ITCZ until the southern trades fill in, usually near the equator, then set a beeline course for Fatu Hiva.

April 16 - 1245 N - 11947 W

Another rolly, noisy night, but we made 118 miles. Dave says we are 1/3 way there!

It is now challenging to get enough sleep. Good thing we have 3rd crew! Dave and I fully appreciate the difference Joel makes. We eat well, no seasickness, but the motion makes simple chores awkward. Now we mostly find a good place to wedge and read or rest as the boat lurches its way to our turning waypoint. We are running under reefed jib and main in 20-22 knots and following seas. So far no squalls or rain, though every day is partly cloudy. We are enjoying the books we all have plenty of, and Dave has made his way through 2 audio books. I have watched 7 Hetty films, BBC series that were a gift from brother Rolfe. And Joel has munched through quite a few books, including a great comic saga, Bone, which I enjoyed too. Joel has also managed to do a fair amount of work/research in prep for his new job that will be waiting when he flies home.

Radio propagation is starting to get a little spotty, but so far Dave has made the daily check-in to the Pacific Puddlejumpers net.

All continues well - the boat is hanging together and crew in cheerful spirits.

April 17 - 1157 N - 12241 W

Plenty of wind - 20-25 knots - and gnarly seas now, dead astern. We are flying wing-on-wing, reefed gib poled out to port, reefed main secured starboard. The constant motion is wearing on us. Now it is hard to get more than a catnap. Joel has moved to the quarterberth where he can wedge himself to try to sleep.

I'm starting to think a better option for reaching the Marquesas might be at 40,000 feet in a 747. The boat is riding fine, decks continue dry, but it's a bumpy, rolly, noisy ride. Passages are our least favorite part of the cruising life, though you do get a chance to discover the depths of your patience and endurance.

The very good news is that we made 150 miles yesterday, our best day. And this one may be the same. We are now 4 days out from turning the first corner if this holds, as expected. Last night Joel and I watched the first squall clusters show up on radar, but none came close.

April 18 - 1044 N - 12410 W

Haven't touched the rig now for two days, except to roll up the gib when squalls approach from astern, Still wing-on-wing in lumpy moderate seas.

This morning's walkabout produced 6 flying fish on deck, and no problems with the gear. We watch for chafing and wear, especially when running downwind under load.

Dave says we made 136 miles yesterday, good progress, though the knotmeter often read 8 knots as we surfed down the following seas. We migrate from bunk to bunk, trying to find one that will permit actual sleep. None of us feel much like eating, good thing for the cook who doesn't feel like cooking. Last night, Glenda on Our Country Home, 200 miles back, told me she was making a pudding under red cabin lights (we use red lights to not affect night vision for the watchman). The bowl dumped over, spilling eggs on the counter, but in the dim light it took her awhile to realize what had happened. My own culinary efforts right now extend to handing a bag of turkey jerky or an apple to the crew. If we can stand this another 3 days we will be at the first turn.

None of this is a surprise - we do hate passages. We've met people who claim to enjoy them, but we assume them to be either masochists or liars. But after we enjoy indescribable luxuries - the first entire night asleep at anchor, the first shower standing up with unlimited hot water. Sweet! And an exciting new landfall. It's worth it (I remind myself). That's the yin and yang of the cruising life - misery and delight. Joel used to tell us the bad parts are really bad, and the good parts really good. That captures it.

April 19 - 951 N - 12620 W

Night watch. I relieve Dave, who says, 10:30 already? He is listening to Tipping Point on Joel's Nano, and the time flies. Dave reports a large school of small dolphins, leaping high out of the water, crossed our path. He brushes teeth, feeds Opal who is whining, and hops into bed. Joel is asleep forward, so I have the watch to myself. It is tank top/shorts warm at night, lovely breeze from astern, water gurgling happily against the hull. The moon has been keeping us company, today just starting to wane. By its light we can see the dark clouds of squalls coming. I turn on the radar and see a dozen pockets of rain, all small, within a 36 mile radius. None are headed our way.

The boat's motion is much kinder today - still rolly but not snapping over in horrible jerks. Seas are down a bit and the interval is longer. I was able to cook a simple dinner - chicken baked in TJ's Thai soup over rice. I think Joel is missing Nina's vegetables. Too much motion to have both a main course and salad.

I will spend most of my watch in the cockpit, listening to music on headphones and watching one of Rolfe's Hetty series. A moment ago the gib started flogging, signalling a wind shift. I shaved 5 degrees off the autopilot, and the boat is quieter again. Going dead downwind, the autopilot steers better than the windvane, but both have been doing their share of steering. We spend very little time at the helm. Baraka is making a steady 6+ knots in 16-18 of true wind, dead on course, excellent. We are comfortable again, catching up on sleep, and life is good.

April 20 - 804 N - 12753 W

Dave says we made 138 miles yesterday, and passed the halfway mark, as measured by total distance. On his morning watch, Dave checked weather reports one more time and decided to turn south, so we are headed now directly at the ITCZ and equator, which we should pass in the next couple days, then make our third and final turn toward the Marquesas, another week away after that.

The motion is considerable. We are on a broad reach in 20-25 knots, reefed main and gib. Although we are not rolling side to side as much, the boat is bouncing around pretty lively in 8-9 foot seas. So far they are not breaking, though if you sit long enough in the cockpit you'll be splashed with spray. A few minutes ago the breakfast dishes in the drainer went airborne, and 2 plates committed hari kari. We are now on a port side tack and need to secure the boat differently.

Dave brought up news on the radio briefly, but our entire horizon now is this watery one. It is hard to imagine a dry, still world. We vaguely hear bits of news about Obama and Hillary, but it seems irrelevant out here.

The vane is steering, we are making good time. In another day the wind will lighten, then die, and we'll be wishing we had more of what we have now.

April 21 - 600 N - 12825 W

We are in the ITCZ and it is living up to its reputation, hurling squalls and lumpy seas and heavy rain at us. We are belowdecks, boat buttoned up. A starboard window leaks in the heavy rain, something we didn't know in sunny Mexico. Joel and I rigged a funnel contraption that would make Rube Goldberg proud - small dustpan duct-taped in place, feeding a vacuum cleaner hose that runs to a bucket. This seems to be catching most of the torrent.

We are sailing due south, reefed main, autopilot steering, in 25-30 knots, gusting 35. When the wind dies, we put out a reefed gib, then pull it in for the next squall.

All this is not particularly scary, though it is uncomfortable. I can hardly wait for this part of the passage to be a memory.

Update 4pm, winds down, seas down, rain only a sprinkle. We are motoring. As Tristan Jones wrote, going to sea is up and down, up and down.

April 22 - 410 N - 12842 W

Motoring toward the equator, 2 days away. We were able to sail in odd east winds and calmer seas yesterday and through much of the night, making slow but decent progress in more comfortable conditions. When the light wind clocked onto our nose, Joel started the engine on his watch. Dave is concerned about engine hours and fuel consumption, but the motoring is a welcome change for the crew. We are again getting caught up on sleep, and I will be able to cook a meal today, and maybe even wash some of the soggy clothes and towels from monsoon day.

In news from home, brother Brian and his Karen have picked a day for their wedding, yippee! We will try to attend. And Joel's Nina reports having difficulty finding him an air ticket from Hiva Oa to Papeete in time to make his connecting flight home. She and we are working on a solution, possibly Joel must fly from Nuku Hiva, but that is the most leeward of the Marquesas and would make it hard for us to beat back upwind to visit the rest of them.

Watermaker is running, batteries charging, autopilot steering, Dave and Joel sleeping. All is well.

April 23 - 153 N - 12910 W

Motoring in saran-wrap-smooth deep blue seas. There's a slow swell coming from the SE, hint of wind to come, the southern trades, but they are still a day or more away. Beautiful clear day, with puffy clouds fringing the horizon. The cloud formations near the equator are lovely and varied.

It is hot now, day and night. We are happy to have good shade cover for the cockpit, and fans below to let us sleep off-watch. I'm also happy we took down ceiling panels and added a lining of foil-backed foam (car window shade covers found for us by Niki Wiki). We are rested, enjoying the calm for a change. It is again possible to do things with 2 hands - I could knead pizza dough last night! Yesterday was also hot and sunny so we dried out wet cushions, including Joel's berth. Joel never complains, is always willing and cheerful. We couldn't have better crew.

April 24 - 002 S - 13000 W

Equator crossing!!! This morning we officially passed from Pollywog to Shellback status. Dave, who gets excited when the car odometer passes a 10K mark, rigged the radar to display the zero latitude, and drew a line where the equator would be, so he could take a photo to record the event. I cooked a baby dutchman pancake to celebrate. We had chilled a bottle of Uncle Dan's Cold Duck, gift from our Bon Voyage party in August 2006, and poured a celebratory libation, not forgetting to offer the traditional sip to Neptune to bring us safe passage. To mark the event, Joel cut off Dave's ponytail.

We are motoring, calm seas, clear skies above, horizon fringed with distant fluffy clouds. The swells continue to hint of coming tradewinds. We have a good reserve of fuel but are hoping the light breeze will build to something that can fill our sails. Landfall, Fatu Hiva, is still a week away. Joel's Nina found him a flight from Nuku Hiva to Papeete on May 9, a relief to know he can make the connecting flight home. All is very well!

The latitude starts reading SOUTH!!!.

We toast our transtion from pollywog to shellback with Uncle Dan's Cold Duck, saved from our Bon Voyage party for this moment.

Dave's ponytail.

Joel does the honors.

April 25 - 137 S - 13053 W

After motoring several days, we were happy to have wind find us. Since late yesterday we have enjoyed a steady 8-10 knots just forward of the beam. All sails up, and we are making avg 5 knots. More of the same is forecast all the way to our landfall. Excellent!

We are settled into our routine now, having an easy and comfortable ride. This ocean is the same body of water, but seems somehow bluer. Maybe from the contrast of those fluffy white clouds. We read an interesting article on squalls, how heated water evaporates and rapidly spirals high, building a nubbly vertical cumulus. The high cloud then rapidly cools and condenses, spawning heavy rain and a blast of outward winds. We watch these things form and disperse on the radar. Most occur far away, and we dodge the ones that come close.

April 26 - 302 S - 13210W

Squally night! We were blasted by gusty winds and monsoon heavy rain. The boat clocked 8+ knots for over an hour, fast for us. None of the crew slept well - too rowdy. Today it is hard to imagine, somewhat rolly seas, but winds steady on the beam. We are tooting along very nicely under full main and jib.

We are reading up about the Marquesas in several cruising guides and getting excited. All of us are ready for this long passage to be over! But we have another 4 days to go.

We still have cabbage, eggs, bread, apples. Stores have held up well, but we are starting to miss fresh vegetables. No scurvy though - I have enough limes left to make a key lime pie if seas flatten out a bit.

April 27 - 425 S - 13346W

The few squalls last night passed us astern and missed us. We are sailing steadily now, 5-6 knots in about 10 of breeze and comfortable seas. Haven't run the motor for days, only the generator for power and refrigeration. Joel asks how much of the tradewinds can be attributed to the spin of the earth? We usually think of winds as being generated by air heating and cooling, like the diurinal winds we see on the Mexico coast, onshore during the day and offshore at night as the land mass heats and cools. Bet he is right though, when you look at the major wind and current patterns of the oceans.

3 more days to go. Looks like we may arrive midday, yippee! If at night we would have to slow down to make sure we arrive in daylight at a new landfall.

April 28 - 554 S - 13551W

Making good progress in comfortable seas, 10 knots on the beam, giving us 5-6 knots. Made 135 miles yesterday. Our average day's run has been 125. Dodged a few squalls last night, but none hit. We reef the main at sunset just in case.

We are thinking of heading to Nuku Hiva, where Joel will fly out. We can clear in there, get diesel, and rent a car to explore the island and get him to the airport. Apparently you need a 4 wheel drive to make the 18 km in 2 hours! Our original plan was to land at Fatu Hiva, then work our way downwind to Hiva Oa, then Nuku Hiva, but for some reason Joel is not excited to add another 2 days sailing to this long passage. We are all interested in standing on land again.

April 29 - 77 S - 13718 W

Dave and Joel siphon 50 liters of diesel into the main tank after motoring through the doldrums.

Opal hopes Jan is cooking fish.

Reaching in 18-20 knots, a bit rowdy ride again but making good time at 6 knots under reefed main and jib. We dodged the squalls overnight, a good thing as when we have to close the boat up it feels like a sauna. We will make landfall tomorrow night. Sounds like Nuku Hiva is the one island that offers an easy night approach, though our final GPS waypoint has us anchoring on land. Another case where the GPS is more precise than the old surveyed charts. We will use the radar to nose our way in. Only 3 more watches each, hooray. We are almost there. Starting to see land signs - shore birds fishing and the occasional boat on radar.

April 30 -807 S - 13850 W

Our last day at sea, none too soon. We are all heartily tired of the rolling motion. And bored. And restless to walk normally, sleep normally and eat normally. I have to wonder why we do this voluntarily!

We will arrive at Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva, sometime during the night, nosing our way in by radar. Dave talked to Warm Rain, who arrived yesterday. It's a large bay, open to the south and unobstructed. We'll put up our yellow "Q" (for quarantine) flag and get a real sleep. In the morning we will re-anchor, bow and stern, and start the clearing in process. We have arranged to use Polynesian Yacht Services. They can get us a duty-free fuel permit, and arrange the extended 90 day visa without our having to post the bond. Otherwise we would have to hand over about 12K to a bank, to be held until we leave French Polynesia.

We will plan to spend a month in the Marquesas, a month in the Tuamotus, and a month in the Societies. The passages between these island groups are maybe 3 days. French Polynesia is huge when you consider the spread of its 5 island groups, though tiny if you only count the dirt.

Couple more gear fatalities: our US flag has been shredded by the passage (we have spares), and last night a pin broke on the boom preventer. Dave found all the pieces except the pin, which we can replace. The boat has worked hard, and done well for us, and the small short list of problems reflect just how very well it has gone.

LAND HO!!! Joel spies Ua Huka on the horizon. We will pass by and go on to Nuku Hiva.

May 1 -LANDFALL!!!

Land HO!!! After 22 days of blue water.

We arrive at midnight and nose our way in. Baraka lies safely at anchor, and our passage is done.

Baraka is anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva. Dave carefully motored in, in pitch black moonless night, guided by the radar and Joel on the bow with our big spotlight (thanks, Rolfe!). We dropped the hook, drank a shot of Mexican cream tequilla to celebrate, and slept like babes.

This morning we awoke to find ourselves in paradise - beautiful steep-to green hills with granite cliffs. Today we start the clearing in process.

Overall we had a great trip - 2900 miles in 22 1/2 days, very good. We are very very glad to have it over, and be safely anchored in this lovely spot.

Beautiful Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.

First priority after setting the anchor: raising the wi-fi antenna. Is there internet here?

Next: Our Marquesas journal.

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