Astra Blog: Galapagos to Marquesas (Part 1) 10.05.08 - 14.05.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Sat 17 May 2008 03:40

Astra Blog: Galapagos to Marquesas (Part 1) 10.05.08 – 14.05.08



Saturday 10.05.08


We were sad to leave 000o44.886’S  090o18.464’W. I think that we would all have happily spent a lot more time in the Galapagos should time allow. However, onwards and upwards, westwards and southwards we departed to commence the largest ocean crossing of the trip so far. Our next landfall will hopefully be Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia in about 3000 nautical miles as the albatross flies.


Underway and engine on we pottered into a barely perceptible headwind. Not an approach we would be able to sustain: we would run out of fuel about a quarter of the way there! Clearly Neptune enjoyed munching on peanuts and chocolate, drinking rum and his new found hobby of photography as he rewarded us with a bit more breeze and we were able to hoist the sails and achieve 6.3 knots.


Jeremy began what was to become his daily ritual of downloading the weather and making adept tactical adjustments to our route. Rather than aiming straight at the finish line, our course was to take us to 5 degrees south in order to get more wind.


The highlight of the day came mid-afternoon when the ever eagle-eyed Sally spotted a Galapagos shark about 50 yards away. It certainly looked a little bit more menacing circling on the surface than they do when viewed underwater. No volunteers to jump in for a swim with it!


Sunday 11.05.08


George and Ash put Astra’s latest acquisition through its paces; an excellent purchase in the Galapagos, hours of fun were wiled away over the new chess set! Fortunately, the conditions enabled them to play without the pieces being thrown from the board. I am sure that everyone reading this back in the UK will be pleased to here a little more of our weather conditions: if anything a trifle too hot, temperatures have been a pretty consistent 32oC/90oF. In the last three months, we have had no more than six hours of rain – most of this falling in one day in the San Blas! Just enough breeze to keep us cool, these were, all in all, excellent conditions for chess (and sailing).


Jeremy really went to town on “mother watch”: he prepared a potato salad, and a tomato and red onion salad. In addition to this we continued to work our way through the wheel of Manchego purchased in Panama (spare in storage!) and Jeremy shaved another few pounds of Serrano ham off an indestructible lump: despite our daily assaults it is just beginning to show the first signs of waning!   


Monday 12.05.08


By Monday lunchtime we had reached 5 degrees south, heralding a change in course. Bearing away gave us the opportunity to pop the spinnaker up and we were soon stonking along at speeds of up to 11 knots. We soon discovered that it is not overly easy to reel a fish in at 10 knots. Our pink fluffy lure hooked our first mahi mahi about an hour after getting the spinnaker up. Whilst Ash attempted to muscle the fish in, it cart wheeled across our wake. Sighting the boat the fish made one last bid for freedom, diving abruptly. On this occasion it got the better of its aggressor as it managed to pull the rod from Ash’s hands, flipping it into his unmentionables. Ash rolled out of the way letting George take over who approached the fish with respect and caution and decided that it was best to “let him get away” before he did any more damage!


Keen to get their own back, Ash and George soon had two lures back in the water and not soon after another mahi mahi obligingly bit.  This one was not so fortunate and ended up in the galley where it was expertly filleted by George. Not quite large enough to feed four hungry sailors, we landed another one just in time for Sally to prepare mahi mahi in white wine sauce for dinner.


Tuesday 13.05.08


A breathtaking sunrise revealed some stowaways. Not very well stowed stowaways at that. The deck was covered in sea creatures looking for a change in environment. We are used to the sight of flying fish on deck in the morning (three on this occasion) but to find 11 squid was something of a surprise. Some had managed to make it below, through the open hatches; a flying fish in the saloon, another in the heads and a squid as bed-fellow for George. A finch last time, a squid this time – whatever next?!


Jeremy’s latest tool in attempting to divine good winds is the SSB radio. There are two networks, Pan Pacific and Flying Fish on which other yachties (many of whom we know from Colón and Galapagos) give their position, local weather, and other less important tittle-tattle. Hearing stories of people who have gone too far south, or who stayed too far north, and have spent days bobbing around as a result has been of great benefit for our weather routing. That said, we are currently pointing at Hong Kong! The computer informs us that we will be there in just over a month.  


Much of the afternoon was spent watching the flying fish. They have been ever visible in the pacific, in varying degrees – from the occasional leap here and there to periods when the first yard of air above the waves seems thick with them. Astra spooked thousands of the fish airborne as she crashed through the waves and it made for good entertainment to watch them rain back down upon the ocean.  Most, but not all, of these fish managed to leap away from the boat; one disorientated specimen launched itself across the cockpit into George’s neck!


Dinner was a triumph. Ash expertly defrosted and heated up some beef curry.


Wednesday 14.05.08


One or two people tried to convince us that fishing would be hard work in the Pacific. Wednesday’s efforts proved otherwise. We caught three reasonably sized dorado in quick succession. George was two minutes through filleting one before the cry of “FIIISSSSHHH!” rang out. Quickly we assumed our positions: Ash reeling in hard (taking great care over the positioning of the rod); Jeremy at the helm trying to slow us down; George gaff in hand, knife at the ready; Sally reading her book, trying to pretend that a brutal murder was not occurring 15 yards behind her!  


We had to stop fishing as freezer space was quickly becoming unavailable. However, the day’s fishing did not all go our way. Regrettably, we have to report the demise of our must successful lure, “pink fluffy”.  Something rather larger than our normal catches swiped the lure, snapping the 60lb line as if it were a noodle.


Wildlife, sea, sun, sky, and stars aside we had not really seen much for the four days leading up to Wednesday lunchtime. We were, therefore, perhaps disproportionately excited to spot another ship on the AIS. Genmar Orion, a 300m tanker heading to Long Beach, USA provided an interesting distraction.


It was George’s turn to try to find a different way to cook the day’s catch: sautéed steaks in butter and garlic and served with a caper/fresh basil/mustard/chilli sauce. Delicious.


Thursday 15.05.08


Several months ago, back in Gibraltar, Jeremy set George the challenge of learning how to navigate by the sextant. During his land-loving phase away from the boat not a huge amount of progress was made. However, time is now one thing that we have in abundance, and it is time that is required to get to grips with the sextant and astronavigation. Although the principles are relatively straightforward, the books available on the topic from Astra’s extensive library seem to make every effort to obfuscate the issue. After a few hours of study, Jeremy and George thought they understood what was going on well enough to make sense of a reading. Our noon-sight gave us our position to within 6 miles which was not bad for a first attempt and lead to much excitement. Though not quite ready to abandon the GPS, accuracy is improving as we write…


After the rigours of the morning and a substantial lunch assembled by Jeremy, we began to relax.  The wind had strengthened sufficiently to allow us to bear away and conditions onboard were sufficiently calm to allow us to have a bit of a scrabble playing marathon during the afternoon. We accompanied the scrabble with some wine-tasting: the wine was so good that we tasted several bottles.   


Sally came to the rescue again for the evening meal. This time it was Jeremy’s turn to heat up one of Sally’s emergency pre-cooked dinners, a robust Spaghetti Bolognese made from some delectable Panamanian beef.