Astra Blog: Galapagos to Marquesas (Part 4) 20.05.08 - 22.05.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Fri 23 May 2008 21:19

Astra Blog: Galapagos to Marquesas (Part 4) 20.05.08 – 22.05.08


Tuesday 20.05.08


First of all, our thanks to Norah, Ben, Oli, Milo, and Paul for sending the 2 letter Scrabble words. We would like to say that it has put an end to all our Scrabble problems, but we are still working on the definitive list of words for Astra Scrabble Competition as there are discrepancies between the lists! It is probably fair to say that we have enough for the time being so there is no need for any more lists of two letter words at present!


We passed Strummer in the night, very much, if not exactly like two ships passing in the night. We had hoped to be in visual range of her but diverging gybes resulted in not being within 25 miles of one another. All the while we have been gaining on Adventure and hope that maybe we will pass in sight of her.


Ash was convinced that the tricolor was periodically turning itself off during the night. No-one else bore witness to this irregularity and we started to fear that Ash’s eyes were on the blink. When it turned off altogether we had to acknowledge that Ash might have been right. As a reward for his perspicacity, Ash got to go up to the top of the mast to replace the bulb in the tricolor. It was a professional job: a rapid ascent, a quick bit of aerial photography, a replaced bulb, and down again within 10 minutes.


While the climbing harness was rigged up and ready to use, George decided that he would go up to the (lower) spreaders. He has been threatening to do this for about three months but it has not quite happened, partly because George is not overly keen about heights and partly because Ash has been too lazy to winch him! He managed the feat without incident and, only feeling mildly vertiginous, is threatening to go up to the upper set of spreaders in the near future – that is when Ash can be bothered to winch him.


After enormous quantities of food yesterday Jeremy decided that a day of fasting and abstinence was in order. This thinly veiled attempt to wriggle out of his mother watch duties was rebuked by all quarters. In the end he cooked two excellent meals: a pasta salad for lunch and, another interesting and tasty presentation of the mahi mahi, a Thai fish curry for dinner.


We thought that we would pass a fair amount watching some of the 150 films on George’s ipod. Surprisingly there always seems to be something more important to do, or at least daylight not to squander. Today, day 11, saw the first film viewing of the voyage: Sally and Ash watched “Hannibal”. The film was selected to fill perfectly the duration of Ash’s watch. Nice to know that we were in safe hands. Fortunately there’s not too much to hit out here.


Wednesday 21.05.08


In the middle of the night the wind came north of east which was un-forecast and unexpected. We were required to gybe onto starboard so Jeremy called Ash and George on deck to affect this. A starboard gybe is preferable for Jeremy and George (they stay in their bunks) and less so for Sally (she ends up on the sole). Ash doesn’t care as he has his palatial playpen in the forepeak and couldn’t fall out if he tried.


Ash was the only person on deck at 7AM and was therefore the sole recipient of the wake-up call: a pod of dolphins came to cackle and frolic around the cockpit.


George was slightly distressed to find his ipod unresponsive in the morning, exhausted from playing a film. No amount of charging or pressing the ‘on’ button has brought it to life which is rather worrying as it is the boat’s unofficial entertainment system. It has happened once before (again immediately after playing a film) but fortunately, after a few days it revived itself on that occasion. Should you find yourself with an excess of time and a shortage of ideas when surfing the ’net then a bit of research in this direction would be greatly appreciated: Why should an Ipod go doolally after playing a film through a video-out cable? Can we do anything to resuscitate it?


Knowing no way to bring his ipod back to life George made some bread in order to vent his displeasure! Needless to say that it was thoroughly kneaded!


The day’s fishing resulted in another victory for the fish. Only a week after we were forced to say our hurried farewells to “Pink Fluffy” we lost another favourite lure, “Jet Head”. (Sally finds it slightly sad that we have names for our lures!) This time we didn’t even have a chance. The line was being stripped off our reel at a rate that made it smell like a bonfire! Then all of a sudden the lure was gone, the leader wire having been chomped through a good yard from the lure. We speculate that we might have caught a large fish which, unable to evade predation, was taken out, lure, leader and all, by a shark.


Dinner was a pork risotto cooked by Ash under Sally’s tutelage. A fantastic first effort at a risotto.


Thursday 22.05.08


The wind having dwindled from 10 knots at twilight, to a paltry 7 knots for most of the night, finally petered out to a very unhelpful 1 knot at about 0500. Our choices were to either drift around and hope that the wind would get up or to motor the rhumb line. We decided to do the latter and fortunately only had to motor for five hours before the wind returned and we were, once again, making 6 knots under main and kite.


Our AIS system has been taking a rest since being overworked by the myriad vessels around the Panama Canal. At 1320 today it awoke from its slumbers to identify the second boat we have passed within 25 miles of on this passage. World Swan 2, a 200m long cargo ship was shown as having a CPA (closest point of approach) of less than 2Nm. While Sally and Jeremy took an early siesta, George and Ash scrutinized the vessel through the binoculars and were in the middle of discussing whether they would have a bored radio operator who would contact us when we heard:


White hulled sailing vessel on my starboard side, come in please”

Ash, first to the VHF:

“World Swan 2, World Swan 2. Astra, Astra.”

“Hi Astra, I am just radioing to find out your destination. Over.”

“We are heading to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. Over.”

Radio operator, clearly bored and wanting a chat:

“We are going to Chile. Over”

Ash, not keen on pointless radio tittle-tattle and already having all the information he wanted on the AIS in front of him:

 “That’s nice…um…excellent. Out”


They wished each other a pleasant trip and signed off.  The poor chap was probably hoping for a bit of a natter…no chance!


Shortly after dark we were visited by another pod of dolphins – the third visitation in 48 hours. Still no sign of a whale though, more’s the pity.


It was a day of insufficient wind and slow progress. Relief came in the form of a gentle squall and then in the wake of this the wind sorted itself out, Astra doing a SOG of 7.3 knots and a COG of 250 degrees, towards Marquesas.


At 2152 Ship’s Time we passed another “seamark”: less than 1000Nm to go to Hiva Oa. At this rate we should get there in about 6 days. To mark the occasion George cooked the blackfin tuna that we caught between San Blas and Colón. A prize-winning meal; probably the best meal served for miles around!