Bodhran anchored in Hanavave Bay after 25 days at sea:
I haven’t had internet access for a long while now, so this might be kinda a long blog. I left Barra de Navidad Mexico on March 10th and set out on my single-handed passage to the Marquesas. I ended up leaving at a perfect time picking up the afternoon sea breeze and then getting out into Northerlies that were blowing not far off shore. Normally the trades lie between 300 and 600 miles offshore from that part of Mexico, but I only had to motor for an hour to get out of Barra and didn’t have to motor again until I got to the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone.) Now sailing across an ocean doesn’t really leave all that much to write about. For the most part it’s just a matter of reefing and un-reefing the sails and adjusting the windvane to changing conditions. It took me a good 7 days until I got into the NE trades proper when I was able to pole the jib out to windward and sail wing on wing for the next 9 days until I got to 130 degrees West and turns South towards the Equator. I sailed all the way to 130W in order to cross the ITCZ at it’s thinnest and never truly found large areas of no wind. Still I ended up motoring off and on for a total of 30 hours before picking up the SE trades. I crossed the Equator on day 19. I had been running the engine and had turned on the fridge to chill a 22oz bottle of Boundry Bay IPA I had brought along to commemorate the occasion. I crossed reasonably early in the morning, so I went straight from coffee to IPA and then passed out in a hop coma for an hour or so. Of course I offered up some ale for old Neptune, but I don’t think that he’s all that into bitter beer. I ended up getting some nasty weather for the next 3 days after that with squalls coming through every few hours with gusts upwards of 50 knots at their head. So you’d go from sailing along in 5-10 knots with full sail up and then you’d be on your ear trying to spill wind from the sails while reefing down in a deluge. The real problem was the complete lack of rain that I had experienced in two seasons in Mexico hid the fact that one of my solar vents had cracked in about 10 places and was sending water cascading down into the cabin. I ended up with many gallons of water soaking most of my cushions, bookshelves and lockers. When the rain stopped I was able to remove the vent and seal up the 4 inch hole in the cabin top with some epoxy that cures underwater. The patch held for the rest of the trip, but it took a good 3 days to dry out the cabin. Once I picked up the SE trades I had to switch up and sail on a close reach (60 degrees off the wind) for the next 4 days. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that my starboard rail is leaking again, so after clearing everything off that side of the boat I used a bailing sponge to soak up the water. I had to wring out the sponge every 10 minutes or so to keep things dry, but suffered no real damage. The day before landfall at Fatu Hiva I was able to fall off and beam reach the rest of the way in making landfall on the morning of April 4th after 25 days at sea.
My sweet nectar of the gods and my GPS at the equator:
Good sized following seas, but the monitor steers through it all:
Skip this paragraph if you’re not interested in some of the sailing specific details of the crossing. I ended up sailing 2957 nautical miles from Barra de Navidad to Hanavave, Fatu Hiva. I averaged 118 miles a day, sailing 142 miles on my best day and 90 miles on my worst. For the most part the winds were between 10-20 knots. The highest sustained winds were experienced in the NE trades where it blew upwards of 30-35 knots for 24 hours whipping up 15-20 foot seas. The seas were as big as 2 story houses, but were not breaking and Bodhran and my Monitor windvane handled them beautifully. I did end up taking water over the stern quarter from time to time when the boat would heal over just as I was surfing a curling whitecap dipping the stern quarter into the churning water which would shoot up into the cockpit. On a beam reach I would dip a rail from time to time on the face of a wave which would also send water back up into the cockpit. So I kept at least one hatch board in the companionway at all times. At least on my 32 footer, it doesn’t take dangerous sea conditions to send significant amounts of water back into the cockpit. I used my whisker pole about 60% of the trip to sail dead downwind and found that it was a powerful tool in conjunction with a roller furling jib and a good servo pendulum windvane. A number of people damaged their whisker poles on the way over. Whenever I deployed mine, I used a foreguy, afterguy and a topping lift to lock the pole into place. Many people use the working jib sheet to double as an afterguy which allows their poles to swing forward into their headstays when the jib was rolled up. This caused damage on at least a couple of whisker poles and could have damages rigging. One trick that I learned underway was to use the roller furler to pull any slack out of the jib once it was set. This really helps to keep the jib from slatting in rolly seas or light airs. The only really challenging part of the trip was sleeping. For the first 4 days off Mexico I only slept 15 minutes at a time. Once I was far enough off the coast, I extended that out to an hour. This still leaves plenty of time for a freighter to come up and hit me in my sleep, but was a good compromise. I’d see any sailboats or fishing boats in time to make a course correction, but big ships would have to look out for me. Radar sure would have been nice. As it turns out, I saw a fishing boat 2 days out of Mexico, a freighter at 2N and a French Naval vessel at 2S and no other boats until the night before coming into Fatu Hiva. Now that I’m here, I found that many of the European boats just go to bed when the sun goes down trusting to the vastness of the ocean to keep them from hitting anything, even when they have multiple people on board. I don’t think that I could sleep that long without checking on my boat and I fell into a rhythm with my one hour naps that I think I could maintain indefinitely.
Me after 10 days at sea with my normal downwind configuration of a poled out jib and reefed main:
Landfall at Hanavave was about as dramatic as you could hope for. The island of Fatu Hiva is a soaring mass of volcanic rock covered with lush greenery and water flowing everywhere. The anchorage itself is backed by tremendous rock formations, palm trees and a quaint little village right out of some storybook. To make matters better, my old friends Greg and Bonnie from back home were already there on Willow and had an anchoring spot all scouted out for me. Eeylos had also made it into Hanavave before me and Pat tossed me a pampanoose (big green sweet grapefruit) as I passed by. By the time I had the anchor set, everyone from both boats, including 2 year old Daneb, had swum over to welcome me. It was amazing making landfall after such a long trip, but to have friends waiting for me made it truly magical. I didn’t even make it ashore the first day, choosing instead to bust open the liquor cabinet and catch up with everyone. The next day was project day and after sleeping 11 hours cstraight I took care of some of the little things that had broken on the trip and met some of the other folk in the anchorage. Finally on the third day I actually set foot on shore and hiked the 2 miles up to the waterfall/swimming hole and back. My land legs were actually pretty good, no doubt helped by a day and half in a calm anchorage. Hanavave’s scenery was spectacular, but the local were ruthless with their trading wanting premiums for their fruit and not accepting dollars. Still they were friendly and I was able to pick up some fruit from other cruisers. After 3½ weeks at sea, fresh fruit was a real commodity.
Myself, Bonnie and Greg at the waterfall on Fatu Hiva:
After 3 days at Fatu Hiva, Willow, Eeylos and Bodhran all set out for the island of Tahuata, 38 nautical miles to the North. After sailing the trades for so long, the trip between islands was actually pretty taxing. The wind kept fluxuating in direction and velocity all the way across requiring constant attention, where on the passage across the ocean I only really had to change the vane or sail trim a couple of times a day. Eeylos chose to anchor on the north end of the island at Hanamoenoa Bay while Willow and I opted for the southern anchorage at Hanatefau Bay by the little village of Hapatoni. Willow, Eeylos and I had stayed in radio contact on the SSB all the way across the Pacific, so it was no surprise that we all met up in Hanavave, but I was surprised to see Bernie and Michelle on Momo when I pulled into Hanatefau Bay. I hadn’t seen them since last April in the Sea of Cortez. They’d been in the islands a while after an epic 43 day crossing from Mexico. They decided not to use their motor and spent 14 days trying to get through the ITCZ. Cheers to them, but I’ve got no problem running the engine when the wind goes away. We also ran into Fearless, a Hunter 460 out of California with another 30 something couple on board with whom we’d hung out in Hanavave. After a couple of days Gordon and Jeanine on Vari rolled in to finish off the trifecta of Bellingham boats.
Hanatefau Bay with the village of Hapatoni in the background:
We spent a week hanging out in Hanatefau Bay. The village of Hapatoni was renown for it’s friendliness and didn’t disappoint. We met up with Cyril first, a big buff Marquasian guy with tats covering half of his body who would paddle his racing canoe 3 times around the bay each day. The first day he invited us to come in and visit his house. Well we went into town and were first grabbed by Carlino who spoke pretty good english and wanted to show us all his carvings. We told him that we didn’t have any money, but he just wanted to show off his beautiful work. He had some fabulous Marlin bills that he’d carved and attached to rosewood handles to make spears and a lot of great bone work. When we were leaving his place, he took us up the hill and grabed us a bunch of bananas and let us pick a bag full of limes. To harvest the bananas, Carlino just used his machete to cut a notch in the bottom of a banana tree and then pushed it over. Apparently it only takes 2-3 months for a banana tree to grow 15 feet and you have to cut them back to get them to grow again. So we got a nice bunch of bananas and the tree trunk went to the pig that was tied up nearby who was growing more and more agitated as the tree was cut down in anticipation of his treat. The difference between the Marquasian villages and Mexico is amazing. Everything in town is planted with a purpose and kept meticulously neat. There are pampanoose, orange and lime trees in peoples yards and then bananas and mangos on the outskirts of the village. Of course there were lots of pigs and chickens everywhere. From there we went on to Cyril’s house where we saw his carvings. It seems that practically everyone in town is an artist and Cyril is one of the best. He had some amazing pieces made out of antlers, horns, tusks, bone, and shell. It’s amazing to see this rustic cabin of his with a diamond blade saw to cut the brittle shells and a bench mounted super dremel tool he uses to do most of the intricate work. On the way back to the dingys we met the only not boat based tourist I’ve seen in the Marquasas so far. Paul had come in from Massachusetts and was staying with a family in Hapatoni for 2 weeks and wouldn’t you know it he had a banjo. So we came back into town that night to pick tunes with Pual and the locals switching off between country/bluegrass and traditional Tahitian and Marquasian tunes.
Greg and Carlino pickin Bananas:
The music was a hit and we got to know a lot of the locals. We spent the rest of the week collecting mangos, coconut, guava and breadfruit, hiking, snorkeling and playing music. My new favorite food is fried breadfruit fritters with Jeanine’s mango chutney mmmmmm! After a week we decided to sail to Ua Pou to check in, get some money and internet access. We broke up the trip by sailing up to Hanamenu Bay on Hiva Oa first for a night and then set out at sunset to make the 60 mile crossing to Hakahau Bay on Ua Pou. The town of Hakahau has paved roads, a big dock for frieghters and pickups driving around everywhere. It’s quite the contrast from the rest of my Marquasian experience, but that’s the price you pay to find a bank and internet access.
Coming into Hakahau on Ua Pou:
Here’s my daily mileage for the crossing from Mexico if anyone is interested: