Galápagos>Marquesas 16-08-2011 (Day 14, 01:30 UTC (17-08)): DTF 216nm (10:46.1S 135:07.4W)
TWS: 10-20kt (15-20)
TWD: 90-120 (100-110)
TWA: 120-140 (130-140)
AWA: 100-125 (115-120)
HDG: 220-270 (240-250)
COG: 220-2270 (240-250)
Drift: 0-360 at 0.5-0.7kt
The second autopilot is doing great and the oil leakage is minimal, so what was our biggest concern in the previous 24hrs, no longer is. Moreover, I mailed the Simrad guy in the Netherlands, who was such magnificent help when we had our autopilot issue in Panama, and today he already replied, indicating he could likely help out again. His service mindedness is close to unique in the world of cruisers.
Another concern, but not by light years comparable to the autopilot one, is when we should gybe and start our port tack, which due to very light winds from the east last night has become unavoidable. Running with the genoa boomed out over port and the staysail over starboard is another option, but then it becomes a rolly, uncomfortable tack and with the relatively light winds it will be significantly slower. Setting the gennaker for the first time since it exploded during our Atlantic crossing (had it fixed in Antigua, but no real need for it since) with some 21kts of wind (Daph and I debate whether that was apparent or true, which is about an 8kt difference) at the time is not a wise call with the present wind strength of some 15-20kts and occasional higher gusts. Since gybing and sailing a more northerly course with both genoa and main over port side (sb tack) at this final stage of the trip should only add some 50nm to the total, but ensures a relatively smooth ride, it is probably the best call. Tried a gybe this afternoon, when the wind backed to below 90°, but with little wind the TWA is too big and with a COG of 330-340 we would be off to Hawaii. The tactical advice of Weynand and Peter basically boils down to gybing once we can reach our waypoint with one tack and that's what we'll probably be doing. Our estimated time of arrival, provided the winds stay up, could then be somewhere in the early morning of Thursday 18/8, which is fine, as the moon will be there by then until daylight to guide us into the anchorage, which seems to have no real hidden dangers.
Last night our first real encounter in 12 days with a huge fishing boat, well over 50m, lights all over the place, but of course no AIS, like none of them use in order not to make the position of their fishing grounds known. We call them on the VHF over and over again and when we're only some 2nm apart, we get a reply: "Si Amigo, No English, We Chinese" and that repeated some 10 times. Tried to communicate, in particular to find out whether they had floating nets out which our keel could hook behind, but to no avail. Cruising the seas in a 50+m vessel, and not a living sole on board who speaks more than "No English". Ultimately we passed each other safely at some 2nm distance.
BTW, many of our fellow cruisers, who read our blog, sent mails to sympathize with our seemingly ongoing autopilot saga. Thanks, guys! Happy that we have two on board, or should we have another one installed? That'll keep us busy in Tahiti for sure!