Home run to the Tuamotus

Rumpelteazer Pacific Crossing
Robert Holbrook
Sun 16 Mar 2008 22:47




Since leaving Balboa on the Panama coast on 19th February, we have now been at sea for what seems to us an incredible 26 days, including a brief refuelling stop in the Galapagos.  We are now 461 miles from Rangiroa in the Tuamotus, at current speeds,  two and a half days away.  We have to enter the lagoon at slack or incoming water so may need to slow up and go through the Avatoru or Tiputa pass early on Wednesday morning – Peter is already there, and we look forward to seeing him waving from the shore.


We seem to have settled into our new life, with constantly strong winds - 18 to 30 knots from the East – and boat speeds of up to 13 knots.  For safety reasons, we are now goose-winging only during daylight hours and heading up slightly to a broad reach during the night.  Our average boat speed for the past two 24 hour periods was 8.4 knots for each, and our 24 hour run was 202 and 203 miles respectively. 


The weather has been patchy with 50% cloud cover for the past two days, and occasional bursts of rain under big clouds.  After weeks of seeing nothing, we have seen three ships in the past two days – two ‘rust-bucket’ freighters heading north, and a super-tanker heading towards Cape Horn.


For the fourth day running we have had large rolling seas coming at us from the port quarter and disappearing under us, making Rumpelteazer follow a somewhat erratic course as she gets buffeted from astern and lurches at an angle and great speed down a big wave.  Cooking is a major test of balance and of juggling as we, pans and ingredients slide from one side of the saloon to the other, and we are not currently getting a lot of sleep.   It’s all quite exhiliarating during daylight, and hand-steering is a great test of our sailing skills, but as night falls, some of us of less brave disposition (ie Pippa) get filled with trepidation.

Not being able to see the horizon, or the seas around us – the half-moon appeared briefly last night to give us more light – can be seriously disorienting when travelling at such speeds, so we are hugely dependent on ‘George’ for keeping us safe during the night.  Whoever is on watch spends a lot of time at the wheel, giving him moral support and helping him out of his most serious lurches by pressing his 1° to port or 1° to starboard buttons as required.  We are constantly watching the wind direction, wind strength and the Radar screen warning us of those ominous black clouds coming up behind us requiring us to reef. 


But there are also the better moments on night watches, spotting the shooting stars, watching Max’s Southern Cross move across the sky, seeing the sun rise and enjoying the phosphorescence, some of it as big as dinner plates, as we rush through it and leave it behind us, flashing in our twin wakes.  We are also still collecting lots of tiny flying fish which collide with us during the night and get stuck to the windows and hulls.  Their larger relatives get thrown back into the sea in the morning.


On Friday night Andy was on the midnight to 3am watch and spotted a menacing black cloud pursuing us.  Single-handedly he shortened the genoa and put the 2nd reef into the main as the wind indicator rose rapidly to 36knots. Captain Robert, alerted by the noises on deck, rushed up too late to assist, but was able to bestow on Andy the ship’s award for heroism.  During his watch Andy also recorded a GPS boat speed of 25.1knots – we are not sure whether this was real or a blip on the GPS but we were travelling very fast.


Kepa II, the cataraman a day or so behind us, has found the going very tough (with only two crew) and texted us to say they were detouring further north to Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas for an unscheduled stop to recover and re-provision.  Had we stuck with our original plan we would be arriving in the Marquesas today, 20 days after leaving the Galapagos.  Instead, we are three days from the Tuamotus.