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Date: 30 May 2012 08:25:49
Title: The Si-Oui's Crossing: 3000 miles across the Pacific

If someone had told me that one day I'd choose to travel 3000 miles across an ocean at 6 miles per hour, I never would have believed them. But here we are, now 18 days into our crossing from the Galapagos islands to the Marquesas. One of the longest crossings you can do to certainly some of the most remote islands in the world. Our destination is now only 420 miles away - tantalisingly close!

Our progress has been good and we left the Galapagos at a good time. When we arrived in Galapagos the wind for the passage looked pretty light, and the tradewinds didn't look like they'd kicked in properly. However by the time we'd seen enough marine iguanas, tortoises and sea lions to last a lifetime, we were seeing a wide band of good wind across the whole passage. The wind has been consistently between 10-20 knots since we left, and every day until yesterday has been sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. The swell has also been kind, and although we've had some very rolly days, especially before we were aligned with the swell, it has never been above 3 metres. It has been a very pleasant surprise to find that such a vast expanse of ocean could be so accommodating to our little boat! We are averaging 6.3 knots and about 150 miles a day which is what we were hoping for. We've only had the engine on once and that was on the first night leaving the Galapagos. We are surrounded by a continuous expanse of blue sky and bluer ocean, the only thing indicating that we are actually moving is the little boat icon on the ipad gps, telling us we are actually moving West. The 360 horizon has looked the same for 18 days.

Leaving land behind us - bye bye Galapagos!

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So what are we doing with our time? That's actually quite a good question. The days seem to roll past very quickly and blend into each other now we have got into a routine. It's amazing how the time passes when you're doing nothing. A normal day consists of breakfast, reading, check the sat phone for weather updates, lunch, reading, maybe a little fishing, a game of cards, dinner, more cards, bed. If we're feeling really energetic there might be a sail change or 3, and in the last week the spinnaker has been up and down at least once a day. Archie celebrated his birthday on Thursday (35-eeek) and I made him a chocolate cake with a little help from Betty Crocker (what a rip off she is for some flour and cocoa powder in a box) and some Mini Eggs supplied from the UK! Geoff is winning the beard growing competition - having not shaved since 7th April he is starting to resemble Captain Birds Eye and almost has more hair on his face than his head. Geoff has also won the baking prize for the best loaf of bread. "It's all in the kneading."

Cake for the birthday boy

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The boys' fishing during the first week was so successful that we had to place an embargo on catching fish until we had room in the freezer for more! We have caught Tuna, Bonito and Mahi Mahi fairly easily. 5 days of fishing added to the 7kg lump of beef that we bought on our last day in Galapagos means that our freezer was jam packed and we have more food than we could eat. Of course now, on day 18, we have room but the fish aren't biting. Luckily the beef is still going strong, although it is rather chewy unless cut up very small. And we still have a few bits of fish left from our earlier haul.

Trying out our celestial navigation skills

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We haven't seen that much marine life other than what we've caught, but I guess we have been so far from land that not much lives out here. A few days out of Galapagos we saw a few sea lions a bit far from home, a lone turtle, and there are still birds around who must fly thousands of miles to nest on land. About a week ago we saw a 7 foot shark a few metres from the boat removing any ideas we had about swimming behind the boat! There have been occasional birds, maybe one a day, so far from land you feel like they must be lost. The one thing we have seen plenty of is flying fish. By the thousands. They look especially cool in the early morning sun, as shoals of 200 of them leap from the water at the same time and skim across the water. A few of the poor buggers have ended up on our boat overnight and consequently on the end of the fishing line as bait for something bigger. About 6 days in we saw a large fishing boat with a helicopter on the back - unbelievably we passed it within half a mile - in this huge ocean of nothing. Until today we saw no other boats for the entire crossing, then at 6am Jamie saw another fishing boat out to port and then at 11am we saw another sailing yacht a couple of miles away. We couldn't identify if it was one of the boats we knew - no doubt we'll find out who it was in due course - it was with much pleasure that we left them in our wake!

One of many amazing sunsets

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Everyone except Archie suffered from sea sickness for the first 3 days, and the stomach bug that we thought Archie had contracted from eating too many guava's on the tortoise farm also took Jo and then Jamie as it's victims for 24 hours. Maybe it wasn't guava related after all. Scopaderm has been our saviour - magic little patches that you stick behind your ear to combat seasickness. I can't decide whether we all look like cigarette addicts or some kind of alien race. Either way I am eternally grateful to Jamie for bringing them with him - much better than having to pop anti-nausea pills every few hours.

Given the competitive nature of certain male members of the crew it is only natural that we should have a bet on how long the crossing will take and a rather geeky spreadsheet that gets updated daily with our progress, average speed, VMG calculations and a revised estimate of our arrival date. The bets are as follows:
Jamie 18 days
Archie 19 days
Jo 23 days
Geoff 25 days

In the plan we had always expected it to take 21 days and the current estimation is 20 days - hopefully only 2.5 days to go! Jamie and Archie have been reading the Kon-tiki Expedition about 6 Norwegian guys who made the same crossing as we are doing now in 1956. The small difference being that they did it on a wooden raft made of tree trunks. It took them 100 days. Puts our "expedition" into perspective. We are all very much looking forward to a meal in a restaurant with a decent bottle of French red, some good cheese that doesn't taste like rubber and fresh baguettes. Mmm cheese.

We are also looking forward to getting back in touch with the real world. It kind of gets put to the back of your mind when you know you won't hear anything for 3 weeks, but now we are close, our heads are full of the thoughts of emails and facebook and gathering news from friends and family. Certainly baby Lawson has arrived (girl or boy?!), Dad has become a dog owner with the arrival of Bronte, Boris is hopefully still mayor of London, the Olympics countdown is a little bit closer and all our worldly goods that we sent home from Bondi have hopefully arrived safe and sound in Dorsington.

I should also probably explain the title of this blog - the passage between Galapagos and the Marquesas is known as the "Si-Oui's" because of the struggle cruisers face arriving in French Polynesia and switching to conversing in French rather than Spanish, which has been the language we have spoken in Panama and Galapagos for the past 3 months.

Right, my turn to cook dinner so will have to go and reinvent Spag Bol again. Next update from an island called Hiva Oa! Hopefully in a couple of days!
xxxx

p.s some fishy tales for those of you bored in the office...
One night, as the moon was casting beams of light across the undulating water, somewhere deep in the Pacific Ocean the wind suddenly shifted and picked up speed. The crew onboard the good ship Mystic, were about to retire to bed, but the force of this new wind meant that before they could rest their weary eyes, they had to drop the spinnaker, to prevent the boat from getting out of control. The crew took their positions, as they had many times before - Jamie fastened his harness and moved forwards onto the foredeck, Archie and Geoff manned the winches and the wheel in the cockpit, and Jo ventured downstairs into the forward cabin, ready to help Jamie pull the spinnaker into the boat. As all stations were preparing the drop the kite, there was a loud scream from the forward cabin. The boys rushed forward to see what was going on. Whilst opening the forward hatch, knelt on the bed, a sudden flapping on the bedsheet next to her caught her attention, and when she saw what it was, she recoiled and screamed. For there on the bedsheet, still alive and flapping its wings hopelessly, was a large flying fish! It had jumped out of the water over the topsides of the boat and through the narrow opening of the hatch! As it flapped away, it's body twitching and it's wings flapping, the boys arrived and brave crew member Geoff grabbed it in one hand and removed it from the cabin, walking it to the cockpit and tossing it into the ocean. Upon closer inspection it appeared that the fish, in all it's angst, had pooed at least twice on the bed, and Jo and Archie's cabin now stank of fish. Jamie felt sick from the smell but managed to get a photo before the offending fish was removed! Archie and Jo slept kept the front hatch closed forever more, and the fish swam back to his shoal and recounted his adventure to his disbelieving fishy friends.

The offending flying-fish-in-the-bed

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The next day, indeed the final day before the good ship Mystic arrived into port in the Marquesas, Archie and Jamie had reeled the fishing line out early in the day, for an attempt at catching something fresh for our last dinner whilst on passage. Around four o'clock, whilst Archie and Jamie were sleeping, and Geoff and Jo were talking about Christmas, suddenly the fishing line whizzed out at high speed. "Fish" we cried out, to wake up the boys. Archie came running up the stairs and positioned himself in the port stern quarter to reel in the enormous sea monster that was undoubtedly on the line. The mighty beast swam left, then right, then seemed to tire and then dived down to try and escape the hook that was caught in its jaws. Finally the fish was in view, and although not quite the six metre shark the boys were expecting, it was the largest fish we have caught since the voyage began. Another Mahi Mahi, or Dolphinfish, or Dorado, whatever you like to call it, was on the end of the line, dashing around the back of the transom. Geoff, who had proven himself the bravest fisherman in the Pacific with his previous beast catching abilities, took hold of the gaff and stalked his prey from the scoop deck. A gaff, for those of you not accustomed to catching large sea monsters is essentially a large metal hook on the end of a pole, in the shape of a "u" with an extremely sharp point on the end of it. Geoff leant over the back of the boat and swiped the gaff through the body of the fish. With it speared, the fish went into all kinds of spasms, desperately trying to escape, which it did, twice, while Geoff was trying to force it into a bucket, but the food chain worked as it should and the humans were successful in the end. The fish was about 4 foot long, and beautiful to look at, with a yellow body covered in electric blue spots and a wonderful sail fin across the top of it's spine. Geoff volunteered to gut the beast and prepare it for dinner, which he had done many times in the past. However on this occasion, as he was removing the rather more putrid parts of the fish and returning them to the ocean, what should he find inside the big Mahi Mahi, but another flying fish swallowed whole by the big beast! It seemed like a fishier version of that children's nursery rhyme, 'The woman who swallowed a fly' or a Russian doll where inside every fish was a smaller fish. Intrigued, Geoff also gutted the flying fish but he didn't find anything recognisable as another meal. Archie filleted the beast, and Jamie cooked it up for dinner as part of a pasta bake which was delicious. The crew of the good ship Mystic were sent to bed with their bellies full, and the sweet promise of reaching land in the morning.

Archie with the sea monster

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