Galapagos to Marquesas
Peter and Margie Benziger
Tue 30 Mar 2010 02:18
There is always a flurry of activity going on amongst the fleet whenever we prepare for the next ocean-going leg of our circumnavigation but nothing Peter and I had seen previously compared to the measures that were taken prior to our departure for the Marquesas. Of course, this is understandable given that this would be the longest leg of the entire Rally and we were about to venture out into the Pacific on a course which would take us some 3200 miles before landfall. Our departure date, March 24th, was approaching rapidly and you could feel a change in atmosphere as everyone morphed from casual tourists to ocean voyageurs. You saw fewer Blue Water Rally-ers in the bars and restaurants and met just about everyone at the marine supply stores. Out on Academy Bay, we not only swabbed the decks but also hoisted captains and crew members up the mast to inspect all the rigging and donned scuba or snorkeling equipment to clean the waterline and the bottom of the hull which was
sporting almost a months' worth of slime and barnacles. In this effort, we braved the Galapagos sharks that supposedly patrol the harbor but, luckily, no ugly incidents occurred. Just a few playful fur seal encounters...
Back on shore, the local market experienced a banner day on Tuesday, March 23rd as all the cooks onboard descended en mass at 7am to pick up the last bit of fresh produce that we would encounter for the next three weeks. (More on the timing of the crossing will follow. Suffice it to say that our fleet of 28 boats* ranging from 35-57 feet will cover this distance in approximately 18-25 days subject to weather conditions and any unforeseen mechanical difficulties.)
*Sadly, we are now 28 boats in the fleet as opposed to the 29 who left Panama City. Lorrigray, a 65 foot steel "one-off" built in South Africa for our friends Lorraine and Graham has had to drop out of the Rally due to mechanical issues with their engine and steering hydraulics. Lorrigray left Panama for Las Perlas/Galapagos but had to return to Panama City not once but twice for repairs. When her third attempt to sail to the Galapagos failed, she reluctantly had to give up and withdraw from the Rally. It is a loss for all of us in the BWR family and each one of us feels the pain that Lorraine and Graham are experiencing. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that many of us have been dreaming about all our lives. To come this close and not reach your goal is heartbreaking..
We have also lost one boat temporarily (we hope) as David from Roundabout, a Discovery 55, suffered a stroke while in the Galapagos. David (just 52) and Joanna and their children, Susannah and Eddie, have flown back to England where he will seek medical treatment. The BWR has arranged for a professional captain to bring their boat to Tahiti and, if possible, the family will rejoin us there. Again, this is another wrenching decision for a man whose dream has been shattered. While David's health is the most important issue, as a husband and father of two young children, you could hear the agony in his voice as he announced that he would be turning the boat over to a professional captain and would miss out on, at least, two of the legs of our circumnavigation. In the end, David was incredibly lucky that he had the stroke while we were in port in the Galapagos and not out at sea.
On this subject, we are all prepared for mechanical difficulties. After all, it's a boat and things go wrong all the time. But, problems of a physical nature are really so much more difficult to bear. One of the major justifications for casting our fates to the wind - selling off and setting sail - was the notion that, if we don't do it now, we may not physically be able to do it later. This incident with Roundabout proved that even a relatively young man of 52 can succumb to a catastrophic medical emergency and that there are certainly no guarantees in life and we have to "grab the ring" when we can.
So, with a renewed respect for the vagaries of life and a healthy dose of wanderlust after a truly wonderful visit to the Galapagos, (which included a fabulous week with our daughter, Amy) we picked up our exit documents (Zarpes), paid the Galapagos Port Authority our last set of clearance fees and began to weigh anchor and set sail for the Marquesas.
We left in small groups of 2-3 boats over the course of four days and were guided by Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, downloads from the Grib files and local knowledge. Yet, within 24 hours, everyone had charted their own course; gone their separate ways and it will be a week or two before we will determine whose strategy pays off in the end. Basically, everybody is looking for the Southeast trade winds. Cornell suggests heading south to 3 degrees before picking up Southeasterlies that will provide a beautiful broad reach at 15-20 knots. Others believe that in order to guarantee consistent trade winds, you must head at least 4 or 5 degrees south. Those with naval backgrounds seemed more inclined to follow the Rhumb line. Peter and I have chosen to head to approximately 5 degrees south as we have, thus far, encountered very rolly seas, lots and lots of rain, but no clear sign of consistent southeasterlies as of yet.
I must admit that my vocabulary has changed from using esoteric adjectives to describe this crossing such as "humbling ", "majestic" and "awe-inspiring", to the more explicit "nauseous", "grueling" and "never-ending." We're both sleep-deprived, battered and bruised, seasick and just a little bored but, deep down, we're still having the time of our lives.
Hey, nobody said this was going to be a walk in the park. It's actually more like driving Peregrina across the entire United States at 6 mph (24/7) for approximately 22 days! That's enough to make anyone feel a little queasy.