Over the Equator and Landfall in the Marquesas

Over the Equator and Landfall in the Marquesas

Find below our "weekly" journal and the puddle jumping photos here:
We left La Paz last Sunday, after the port re-opened. There was a bit too much wind out there on Friday/Saturday, therefore the port captain decided to close the port - you may go out, but you may get a steep fine and if something happens, the insurance probably would not care about it. So we spent Saturday hunting for spare parts on the internet, so that our next visitor, Dani, can take them along. Unfortunately we needed answers from the shops, so we decided to go to Cabo San Lucas, get in touch with the shops and order the parts - it worked out perfectly. Tuesday morning we pressed the payment button on the web site, confirmed all is ready and raised anchor.

The first days were quick sailing "half wind" as German speaking people would say. We made nice progress thanks to the new anti-fouling. The growth on the hull really slowed us down before that - well, now it's time to clean every so often, as growth is said to be heavy in the tropics. But before we get there, we now have to sail downwind for a few days - Jade Akka is not a downwind beast, so we have to take our time. Did you know the ship is 45t? Yep, that needs some wind to be moved ... forecast is around 15kts, so we hope to make 5kts consistently towards target.

Life on board has settled in. Isa is munching book after book, digesting it faster than we can eat our fish we catch. That leaves Tom to exactly that: fishing. Food wise we are excellently stocked, having Isa's Mini Market located in our "Adventure Cabin". Well disguised under the settee's seats are all the wine & beer bottles we are looking forward to drink with our visitors and friends that already made it to the Marquesas.

Talking of other ships: While Marrion has reached the Marquesas by now most likely, we have another ship close to us. The Aiki helped us in La Paz o find a way across shallows and by accident we found them at the port captain checking out the same hour as we did. However, they managed to get out before the port closed but in turn had to wait a little south of La Paz for better conditions. While we crossed them that day, they went forward again while we were internetting in Los Cabos. So we are now approximately a day behind them, trying to catch up :-)

Our position at the time of writing:
19deg31.369min N
1117deg31.238min W
Course over ground 213
How could it be, travelling on a sail ship accross an ocean? We for sure did not know nor expect how it can be. It's boating life compressed and intensified: relaxing one minute, taking all your attention the next one, doing routine interrupted by ad-hoc and urgent challenges. It's the routine of the unexpected. The horizon of endingness of things. The clear night sky with it's millions of stars hinting at the impossible probabilities and unexpected oportunities. It's as beautiful as challenging, as lonely as intimate. It's not another day at the office.

We had easy first days, Aiolos sending us on a half wind course with waves easy to handle for Jade Akka. So we settled in. We thought we did. Soon after Neptun convinced us to go downwind we saw our whiskerpole damaged. Not a big issue, but robbed us a great option to set the ideal course. Of course a repair the next day should bring us back on track. Nothing spectacular, just another boating day.

But some things need to break. Boating on a budget just is about managing stuff that may or may not work a very long long time anymore. Spend the budget where it is crucial, where you see or expect something going the wrong way or where you simply like something. Know the options if you do not spend money on something. And be very aware: even new things may break immediately, break soon or do not work as required - nothing is just safe, so proven items on board are often still the best option. However, it seems our whiskerpole had seen a lot and decided to break beyond repair. First the extension blocker failed. We worked around that. Then the whole pole snapped in half. Ok, it's the option without whisker pole now, most likely.

So a few challenges began: get the broken thing down, check for other damage. Find the best way to sail a 45t ship as straight downwind in swells as quick as possible without slatting sails. Get a rest. Eat something. Have a few relaxing seconds together. Enjoy the wideness, the burning light, the night sky, the freedom. Think of what to do with a knicked whisker pole. Maybe have a pretty short one? Whatever, we set sail on a new course, ensured to have a rest, a very nice shower, continue reading books and enjoying the pilot house view.

The guidebooks on Pacific sailing are written in Typewriter - not because of style, but lack of other means. What a different generation, and no new publishings yet. Great looks and sophisticated layouts are standard today for any print, here we are back in the 1970ties with charts sometimes even from the previous century. Captain Cook comes to mind. But no comparison to what we are doing - especially with Jade Akka it's the luxurious stay aboard. Showers are mostly exempt from cruising plans. With the water we carry, this is the treat we have when things work our way. Like the third whiskerpole repair.

DIY and boating are not synonimous, but cruising without DIY is not cruising. So this evening we have a shower again. And a beer. And the genoa poled out pretty nicely above Jade Akka's bow! Saw & drill with big bolts combined made the whiskerpole usable - even though a little shorter than usual. As temperature and humidity have risen considerably by now, both beer and shower turned necessities, not only comfort. While La Paz was dry but hot, basically frying oneself in sun lotion, we now feel the tropics approaching. And with it, substantial humidity since probably 4 to 5 months.

The night tested the whiskerpole with up to 26kts windspeed - and it still flies! Hope is great it will last for long. So we celebrate and sacrifice a chocolate to the gods, a.k.a. crew. This day passes with minimum activity, even celebrating our whiskerpole is tough in the by now 29 deg celsius and 74% humidity.

However, Isa is baking an Tom doing the super small boat projects. The daily inspection tour reveals a loose main sheet car, so a little climb to the base of the sail is needed to fix and secure the pin that got loose. The other improvements are new springs for the door latches. Spirits are high, stomachs full, the vegetables slowly expiring - except for the cabagge. All well aboard as we sink into cruising mode: following the ship's motions, having it steer down the wind, wonder at the big blue and checking for chafe.

So, a week into the blue, we are happy to report "all good", even one dolphin showed up and we start to plan the passage through the ITCZ.

Our position:
With more than a week underway and sail setup stable, good winds push us south west. The challenge now is to hit the right spot to cross the low-wind ITCZ. With the latest weather info, a.k.a. GRIB file, we check out options. Surprisingly, it's straight ahead. It looks as there is a brief window where winds are steady down to the equator. Right now a low-wind zone ahead seems to be disolving. If we are too early, we may head a bit more west. It looks like we are super lucky with the winds!

Not only the winds were right today, also food: fresh tuna steaks aboard. Isa made a wonderful Poke(?). This recipe we learned from our fellow cruisers on Merrion. Delicious! It's the fish marinated in sesame oil and few spices. With the last cucumber salad a healthy and tasty meal - could have been right from the trendiest eateries in town.

However, the last night downwind in before the ITCZ turns out unrestful. We get stuck under a thunderstorm - first a nice gust, then weak wind and swells that throw the ship around. As soon as we have 10-15kts apparent wind, the ship motion is stabilized by the sails. Below that windspeed, the mast movement creates more wind than there actually is and the sails start slatting - and get worn out too soon. So we motor away from that cell, after having been well shaken in 4-5kts wind.

Fortunately the wind shifts the next morning from north east to south east: welcome in the ITCZ. We change from down- to upwind sailing accordingly and check the weather forecast. If the luck continues, we will have mostly half wind to the Marquesas. That's the fastest and stable sailing. Yeah, no more downwind shaking! That gives us time to invest more in good food and small boat projects.

The ITCZ proves good for us: a current going south-south-east helps us in the 9-13kts wind to push forward. Even though the wind turns northerly again, we make approx. 2deg south each day. We need to use some apparent wind to keep the sails stable, so we sail a south-south-easterly course, too. This adds up to 5.7-7.4kts speed over ground. More than expected! Still, the big shift from northerly induced wind to southerlies is still ahead and the transition zone might slow us down again. So we wait patiently in 75% humidity, 30deg temperature and bright sunshine interrupted by rainy cumulus clouds.

A little surprise the next day: 30kts for two hours! The clouds were easily visible and we were prepared for a short burst. But it took much longer. It blew us even quicker south with up to 9kts boat speed. As expected, after the "autumn style squall" the skies cleared and the sun dried the freshly washed Jade Akka. Wind turns to ESE today after the little squall. With astonishing 18kts true wind and 7 to 8kts boat speed we wonder if we have the weak winds already left north of us. That would mean half wind to the Ms! Fingers crossed.

Birds and flying fish. Our only constant fellowship out here. Wonderful fliers, both of them. And always close. Specifically in strong winds the birds impress with their agile manoevers, the wings just a breath over the water, steep turns across the wind and awsome speed. And some individuals clearly check out whats going on aboard.

A last squall shakes Jade Akka. We decide to motor away as winds drop to 2kts. While we leave the rain, the wind from south-east kicks in. It is so southerly that we struggle to get south. We will have to fight for every degree towards the equator. It will be an upwind battle, not half wind as assumed. At least until the equator. That means 15-20deg heeling, burrying the bow into a wave at times and constantly walking upwards. On the slippery floors, inside from condensation, outside from spray, this ask for care and attention. Good thing with heavy Jade Akka is that the motion is stable. She has enough apparent wind to build up speed and momentum and sails beautifully along the cloudy seas.

Galley work is not easy in the heeling ship. But at least it's a predictable setting. As vegetables and fruits get scarce, we decide to deploy the fishing gear more often. So far we had two tuna, not too big but tasty, and hope for one or two more until the Marquesas. The setup is easy: bungee cords attached to long lines with a lure. Pink squiddies seem to be the yellowfins' favoreds. One of our lures got bitten badly, loosing half of it's "feathers", now being half the original size. However, still managed to get a fish with it. The key seems the right tension on the line depending on the fish attacking: the hook needs to settle, so not too tense and not too loose. One hit we had was heavy, and the hook did not hold. So we are happy the lure was still on - even though clearly bitten!

While beating upwind - still very comfy with Jade Akka - we wonder if we are patient enough to be sailors. Used to go by schedule and being in control - or at least feeling so - makes us urge to turn more southern right away, but no, the wind dictates the course. So we occupy ourselfes with cooking, reading and small, very small, boat work. While Isa is making an amazing mid-Pacific-pizza the wind turns stronger and just a bit more easterly. We run with 8-9kts towards the equator and the Ms.

Current Position:
01deg 59min n
128deg 22min w
All good on board
Who is re-filling the Pacific? Jade Akka got another nice shower, warm fresh water, right after the equator. So much blue around. A re-fill seems hardly necessary. We re-filled our spirits with the crossing to the southern half of our blue planet. After unsteady winds between the ITCZ and now we currently head straight to the Ms at 7kts and hope the wind keeps up above 15kts - that's where sailing downwind or a broad reach starts to be fun.

Celebrations aboard are high as close to a year ago we said "see you soon" to our Swiss friends and family in the Waldh¸tte M‰nnedorf. Did we expect it to go this route? Probably a little hope was there, but we were far from confident. Now we are looking forward with high spirit to our onward journey - with the intention to reach New Zealand by fall. Btw: 1200 Baja Sur time we crossed and at the same time celebrated 43 years in the life of Tom. Yiiippiieeeee!!!

The yacht Aiki sailing approx. 150nm west of us celebrated the crossing, too. On the radio net we follow 5 yachts heading to the Ms. It seems we are the later ones as we have no contact to following yachts. Under way we had a brief chat with a French vessel sailing from Panama to Hawaii. Big freighters seem to take others routes. No signals of such a vessel since we left the Mexican vicinity. Probably the main trade routes do not go that far south today.

At night it feels like the weather accelerates. Sometimes this may be the perception in the dark, only. This first night on the southern hemisphere it for sure was. While we had "all year in one day" weather during the day already, the gusts increased at night. One hour moonshine. The next dark clouds above us. Then some nice sea state and building seas in the gusty hours. The mix changes every hour it feels - or even quicker. So watchman Tom furls the genoa one time, unfurls it the next, furls it again etc. The main sail is in it's first reef since the evening, as we decided that in the unstable conditions we might would have to reef at night. Not impossible, but easier if the two of us can do it together. Conditions then vary at night from "keep the sails stable and not slatting" with 14kts to "get wind out of the sails, we make 8.5kts already" at 30kts. Fortunately we are flexible to set course from half wind to slightly upwind or broad reaching. We will have to compensate the next few days, if the average course goes to far off our desired 220deg. The morning is calm, of course. The ghosts of the night seem to have vanished. Let's see.

Current position:
04deg 27min s
133deg 39min w
All good on board
It's far more than two weeks with just blue around us now. With shades of grey every now and then we pushed south through the ITCZ. A few squalls and windless hours lay behind us. But since the equator crossing we had steady weather, sunshine and quick progress. With more than 7kts average a day, sometimes close to 8kts, we glide south west towards the islands.

We wonder how polynesians have found these places. And how Cook could find Hawaii in this blue endlessness. How sophisticated our sailing machine is. And how it must have been in the explorers' time to go to sea - motivations and options in life may have differed big time for some, and may be not so much for the lucky ones.

Jade Akka is sailing super nicely in around 18kts of wind. So we get down to more boat work, like re-installing fire prevention materials in the engine room and such completing this line of defense again. The previous owner must have removed that part for unknown reasons. We find time to watch a movie, even. And we organize our "wet room" a bit better. Then a running light needs re-wiring. Hanging over the railing, holding on to the light getting the connections back in place is an extra challenge for electronics engineer Tom.

Food is changing: from what would we like to what do we need to eat - or what do we have to eat. Still delicious, but the choice is a different one. Unfortunately the watermaker membrane shows wear of age rapidly. So we fill our huge tanks while the sun provides the energy. Besides "crew maintenance" we are glad to talk to other boats by shortwave radio. It just feels good to know we are not the only white speckle on the vast blue canvas.

However, the closer we get to the islands the more the wind drops. We get stuck. We get more wash downs, i.e. squalls. We hear our sails slatting in 3-4kts of wind just after squalls. But we also see great sunsets. Wonderful cloud formations. Rainbows that reach into the sea. And then more coastal birds appear. Dolphins join in. And more dolphins surf in front of our bow. Another squall, another dramatic sunset and we discover a steep island on the horizon: Fat Huku. We are close to Hiva Oa now, our first destination in Polynesia.

Unfortunately our e-mail provider for the sattelite mail has blocked our account. So we use work arounds to keep in touch with our next guest. He joins us in Hiva Oa and has landed today. Our landfall will be tomorrow morning. What a strange place to meet people from home - 3 weeks into the blue. Flying does not induce this sensation of space and vastness. It feels more like "just around the corner". So we celebrate this sight of land. A little like the explorers a few hundred years ago.

Is it easy to sail today? Is it relaxing? No, but yes at times. It's intense. Intense across all domains - as it was on the first days, but with the outlook to arrive soon!

Our current location:
A few miles off Hiva Oa
We made landfall on May 7 - very close to the time planned.
All good on board.
Our next guest steps on board the same day.