South Pacific

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Wed 14 Jun 2017 02:48

3000 miles and 21 days was our longest passage yet. There are two routes to French Polynesia from Panama, either go north of the rhum line (the straight line drawn on a chart) and then come south across the trade winds or head south west to 5S 100W to find the trades and then head just south of west to the Marquises. As we were already in Galapagos and the weather looked more settled to the south that is the route we planned to take. This route was confirmed by the crew of Whisper an Australian yacht who had asked a weather guru on line for routing advice.


We set out from Santa Crus about 0900 and sailed our best course to clear Isla Isabella and calms that occur near her, motoring in total about 90 minutes, then set the sails to take whatever comes. We are not total purists trying to sail all the way but we are limited in the amount of fuel carried and we couldn’t top up again till Hiva Oa.

We made excellent progress with speeds of 6-7 knots and Serenity powering through the seas it was as if this was what she had been waiting for, and with the Hydrovane steering, the wind generator, solar panels and towed generator keeping the batteries topped up and the watermaker (desalinator) keeping the tanks full we could keep watch and adjust the sails.


Hydrovane self steering guided us most of the way.


The towed generator, bought secondhand on ebay and gives about 5amp charge while sailing.


Watermaker which desalinates about 4 litres an hour.


During the first week with starlit nights and sunny days we made excellent progress. The moon was setting in the early morning during that week and getting progressively later so our nights were becoming more moonlit until as we approached Hiva Oa it was setting around daybreak. This was helpful as it enabled us to see the dark clouds which warned of rain and squalls. Squalls were to become more frequent during the second and third weeks and we had some heavy rain and on one occasion winds over 30 knots. Radar is useful here as you can use it to track the showers and possibly avoid them.


Radar shows the rain showers where the squalls are and helps us avoid some of them. You can see the wiggles in our track where we have taken avoiding action.


Once we had picked up the trade winds and with the south equatorial current we were making daily runs of up to 150 miles, later on as the winds became lighter we only did 100 on a couple of days, disappointing but acceptable as that is our planned average speed. Frequently we were running before the wind with the mainsail reefed and the partly furled genoa poled out and set goose winged, occasionally we had the cruising chute out instead of the genoa and on one occasion the cruising chute and triple reefed mainsail which was set in tight to control the rolling (Technical talk for those who understand). We motored for 12 hours one night to keep Serenity moving and give us a break from the slatting and banging of the mainsail, which shakes the whole boat in light winds and confused seas when you are making little progress.


Goose winged, with reefed sails.


We were surprised by the lack of sealife that we saw, no whales or dolphins, just one turtle in the first day and sea birds at either end of the passage.

We saw Hiva Oa early in the morning from about 36 miles and then made our way to the harbour in Toahuku Bay. The harbour was hiding under a rain shower all the time we were approaching so we couldn’t really see it until we arrived. This is the Marquises rainy season but hopefully the lighter end of it.


Land becomes visible.


But the harbour hides in a rain shower


Inge from Saga came on board and helped set the stern anchor to stop us swinging with the tide and wind and also to hold us into the swell. She and Thomas came back later for a beer bearing gifts of Baguette and a grapefruit you could have played football with ( the normal size here).


Tired, but pleased to have got here so quickly