Coconut Milk Run
to the
MARQUESAS ISLANDS
 

 
May 7, 2002

Log: Vilimill Isabella Island Galapagos to Fatu Hiva Marquesas Islands
Lat. 0 58 S & Long. 90 58 W
Heading 230
Wind S 10-12kts.T (all True wind)
Sea long rolling swells

4:00PM anchors away. 4:15 Discovered anchor was still dangling in front of the bow in the water. Good start! The captain gets out his miniature cannon, straps it to a shroud and fires it off as we depart. It spins around as Ariel comes about and fires directly at an Ecuadorian Navy ship at anchor. Even better start. 4:35PM Ariel is being escorted out to sea by a 30 foot Orca whale. Fantastic start!! 4:45PM VHF calls coming in from fellow cruisers still at anchor in Isabella, wishing us fair winds and calm seas. S/v Eros left 5 days ago, Odyssey 2 days ago, Scott Free yesterday and several ahead of us are on their way reporting fantastic sailing. It is a bit daunting knowing we are headed out to sea maybe for weeks before seeing land again but this is what we have been preparing for. There will be no way to rescue at sea if anything goes wrong. We must depend on other cruisers. A net is set up and named the Isabella/Marquesas net. 6:45PM wind drops, engine on, motoring. This is not good. Fuel tanks are topped off but not enough to motor all the way to the Marquesas. We watch a gorgeous sunset and pray for wind.


May 8, 2002

Log: Day 1 (from 4PM yesterday to 7PM ) 180 nautical miles
Lat. 01 21 S & Long. 91 37 W
Heading 225
Wind 8kts SSE
Sea calm

Watches are set up for the night. Steve - 7PM to 9PM. Georgiana - 9PM to 12 midnight. Gayla - midnight to 3AM. Everett - 3AM to 6AM. Captain chooses to take a second early AM watch from 6AM. He is up often in the night checking that everything is ok. He changes sails twice on Everetts watch since he does not go on deck at night, then draws a picture for Georgiana to explain the position of the wind to the sails. She is a bit apprehensive not understanding the concept but anxious to learn. A radar blip on the screen shows we are not alone. We can not identify who it is as they are not reporting into the Net. There are several European boats also making the crossing which connect to other Nets. S/V Ventana, Djarrka, and catamaran Lady Starlight with two children aboard left today. 10:23 AM rain squall with a bit of wind so sails up for brief time. Motored off and on, mostly on all day. Long rolling seas late in day give more comfortable ride. Everyone tired and trying to adjust to new routine and sleep patterns.


May 9, 2002

Log: Day 2 (reset from 7AM to & 7AM) 214 nautical miles
Lat. 02 18S & Long. 93 46W
Heading 235
Wind 12.9 kts. SSE
Seas 4 - 6ft long, rolling

The trade winds have kicked in. Chilly in cockpit at night. Sails changed often to catch wind. 2:00AM wind comes up from 6kts. to 18kts in 6 minutes. Engine off, sails up, sailing. Captain up off and on all night trimming sails. Gayla keeping eye on him from cabin hatch from 3AM on. Sleep patterns are making everyone tired and cranky. Feeling drowsy with no mental energy. It is important for the captain to get his sleep. Daylight comes and with the wind, long, rolling, uncomfortable seas. Tired and groggy we all feel the need to sleep. Day 2 is always one of the hardest as not quite adjusted to the motion of the boat or changing sleep routines. No one talks much but we do call s/v Hesperine a New Zealand boat on VHF as they are 10 miles off our stern. A big container ship appears off our stern also. S/vs Eros, Odyssey, and Scott Free are out in front. With a 1 1/2kt current in our favor, sailing with speeds up to 11kts, Ariel makes a record run of 214 nautical miles, the most for her in one day.


May 10, 2002

Log: Day 3 203 nautical miles
Lat. 03 18S & Long. 96 56W
Heading 245
Wind 10-12kts SE
Seas 4 - 6ft from stern

At 7AM we reset our clocks up one hour. Overcast in AM but sunny in afternoon and more comfortable ride with waves more off our stern. Captain decides to put out the whisker pole. It is a heavy pole that holds the jib out further to catch more wind. Steve and Gayla harness up in safety gear as the foredeck is rolling with the sea swells. The captain is on the bow busy with the confusion of lines that must be tied. Gayla is at the mast confused as to where to hook on, being the first time for this procedure with safety gear. The wind is howling so we can not communicate without shouting. The pole gets raised but not without misunderstandings. It is a matter of not having proper instruction on how the captain wants it done, not fear or inability.   The Captain has always advocated, there are many right ways of doing things but on Ariel this is the way it must be done. He expects crew to know the procedure and do it without being told. It is up to crew to ask how it is done if not sure but by all means get it done. Pole is out sailing wing and wing.


May 11, 2002

Log: Day 4 194 nautical miles
Lat. 04 19S Long. 100 39W
Heading 253
Wind 15.7 SSE
Seas 4 - 6 feet

 The net starts off with the dilemma of everyone finding squid on their decks. Scott Free finds one in their fruit bowl after a day of searching for the smell. But they have been cooking them in garlic and butter and pass the recipe on to everyone. S/v Odyssey is about 300 miles ahead but further south in rough seas. We decide to stay close to the rhumb line taking advantage of the information from cruiser positions ahead. This is often the best source for weather. The captain collects some backup weather faxes, despite the protest from Everett. He feels the radio noise is disturbing and should be done during daylight hours only but the captain is adamant about getting this information when he needs it no matter what the time. We are all on different time schedules so pertinent information is a priority to the safety of the crew and Ariel. The water is a deep blue color. Flying fish skim across the water like flying snowflakes glistening in the sun. As darkness falls we have a school of dolphins on our bow wake glimmering in phosphorescence.


May 12, 2002

Log: Day 5 200 1/2 nautical miles
Lat. 04 59S Long. 103 49 W
Heading 262
Wind 18.5
Seas 4 - 6 feet

Captain is up in the night instructing Georgianna on wind direction and keeping the boat angled correctly for getting the maximum speed.  We are using the GPS and adjusting the auto pilot from below during the night. It is often easier to take the helm to feel the movement to understand. Steve suggests we all take an hour a day at the helm and insists a 15 minute check top side at night is imperative. Everett says on his boat they set the GPS and radar alarm and go to sleep. We have heard of people doing this but Steve is from the old school before GPS so it is not accepted on Ariel. Adjusting the GPS with the increase or decrease of wind can be fascinating. On my watch I discover the trade winds are coming in waves and with proper adjusting got an average of 8 -10 kts. It is a sunny nice day with 2 to 3 foot seas. The whisker pole still out sailing wing and wing. There are small brown and white birds flying around. We question how they can be so far from land. At 3PM we see a sailboat on our port beam. It is Kia Orana a Swiss boat the first we have seen. They report news from the German net that El Nino heavy winds of 40kts. and torrential rain are hitting the Tuamotu Islands. Georgianna informs us she will disembark if the weather turns bad. We are disheartened to know we can not depend on help when it may be needed most. We are 300 miles behind Eros and Odyssey who are nearing the half way point.


May 13, 2002

Log: Day 6 207 nautical miles
Lat. 05 14S Long. 107 05W
Heading 257
Wind 20kts. SSE
Seas 4 - 6 feet

We are lulled into a sense of contentment by the continual nice sunny days, clear nights, 2 to 4 foot seas, and over 20 boats all around us yet out of sight. Of them all we talk to mostly to Eros who is out in front, Odyssey, Scott Free, Hesperine, Djarrka, Ventana, Lady Starlight. Whimsey and Gypsy Soul are ahead of Eros so we catch two Nets in the morning to make the best decision on course. We all agree that staying on the rhumb line is giving us the best wind and seas. But the two Captains disagree on a 15 degree difference in sail configuration. Steve knows his boat and explains it is not a cutter but a schooner and the difference could cause the pole to break off the mast. He was beginning to feel like Capt. Bligh when he gets an email from Lady Starlight. They explained it might be a bit strange but they felt he should know that of all the cruisers they had met this year he was the nicest. With that Steve happily goes to work below on finding where our voltage use is going, discovers it is my video editing on the computer. He remedies it by turning the generator on for me and recaptures a video I lost. We all agree, Steve is a pretty good captain.


May 14, 2002

Log: Day 7 201 nautical miles
Lat. 05 27S Long.110 33W
Heading 260
Wind 15kts. SSE
Seas 4 - 6 feet

Boat speed drops to 7kts with the wind down to 15kts. Shook out the main sail we had reefed earlier in anticipation of high winds which we have been getting regularly in the night. With the slower speed Ariel is rolling more but the seas are also down to 2 feet and much calmer. It is much easier to cook underway when the boat is not rolling so much. We selected wisely our food and prepare and eat the vegetables that go off the quickest. We have 5 heads of cabbage which holds up well but with so many we must eat it almost every night. We try to provision with a wider variety rather than quantity but with 4 people onboard we must take their tastes into consideration and compromise. So we eat cabbage with potatoes, cabbage as a salad, cabbage rolls etc. Our stalk of bananas are also getting ripe all at the same time. We start off with an entire stalk of green bananas and end up a week out cooking banana bread, banana muffins, banana cake and finally hit on banana bread pudding. We find adding an extra touch of Rum is just enough to make it special without resorting to evening cocktails. The captain requests no drinking under sail, only at anchor and only perhaps a bottle of wine with a meal if weather and seas are calm. Several boats are fishing and catching an abundance of tuna. We have so many provisions aboard we do not even throw in a line.


May 15, 2002

Log: Half Way Day 8 158 nautical miles
Lat. 05 41S Long. 113 53W
Heading 254
Wind SE 14.3
Seas 4 - 6 feet

Keeping track of time has been a difficult and confusing process.
It has become quite amusing listening to the Nets out here in the middle of the S. Pacific. There are 5 time zones we will pass between Ecuador and the Marquesas. The last time zone will be only 1/2 an hour, one of the few places in the world on half time. We are in contact with over 20 boats all with different departure times and dates reporting in daily as they pass time zones and changing clocks. It is no wonder we often miss a net time then wonder where our comrades are or if we have fallen off the edge of the earth when the radio is silent. Now what is the date today? That is an entirely different confusion. Time has been swifted away from us. We wake up with the sun and go to bed when it disappears only to arise when our individual watch alarms go off for our three hour watches. It is better to stay on GMT or UTC time but better yet, Island Time. The nut will fall when it is ripe. Wind died down today so moving only 5 to 7 knots it feels hotter. Seas still rolling along in big swells but comfortable. Had special meals today and a sit down dinner in evening to celebrate the half way.


May 16, 2002

Log: Day 9 169 nautical miles
Lat. 06 19S 116 36 W
Heading 258
Seas 4 - 6 feet

We have gone 1091 nautical miles and still heading down the rhumb line. By listening to the coordinates of the other boats on the net we have passed Scott Free and now 20 nautical miles behind Odyssey the other English boat. Had a small rain shower in the night which was refreshing but we are loosing wind as are the boats ahead and behind. Trying to keep from using the engine if possible by adjusting the sails. Turned engine on through the rain to stay on course but back sailing with pole out all day. It is sunny and nice, big rolling seas but waves off our port stern, so comfortable. There are many projects to do aboard when times are quiet. In the past we have been able to catch up on chores that are beyond the usual daily upkeep. It is difficult to work around people aboard who are reading or content to stay below. We have resolved ourselves to only the necessary maintenance projects and leave the larger projects for a time when we will not disturb others or work on smaller, personal projects that can be done unobtrusively. Having four aboard is not always easier as it is still twice the work, twice the cooking, twice the laundry and more usage of equipment that is constantly braking down in half the time. It seems we are finding our personal space just a bit cramped out here in this place where there is so much space beyond our perimeters.


May 17, 2002

Log: Day 10 168 nautical miles
Lat. 06 51S Long. 119 35W
Heading 248
Wind 14.3 SE
Seas 4 - 6 feet

The seas are still long rolling from the port stern. It gives a comfortable ride aboard Ariel as she does well in these conditions. The currents have been favorable all the way for us on the rhumb line. We are already over 2000 miles into our passage and in a couple days will pass the three quarter mark. We find that much of the anxiety of a long passage is nothing more than the fear of the unknown. Once out here it is so peaceful, the deep blue of the sea mesmerizing, the swaying of the boat in the waves tranquilizing. Time frames are meaningless. There is nothing to set our time to other than the rising and setting of the sun or the moon and stars coming out at night. We have no where to be other than our destination to reach in whatever time it takes to get there. There is very little conversation. Everyone is steeped in there own thoughts.

May 18, 2002

Log: Day 11 177.2 nautical miles
Lat. 07 20S Long 122 09W
Heading 257
Wind 15 ESE
Seas 4 - 6 feet

Wind is gusting and then dropping. Midnight there is a large black cloud overhead but clear elsewhere. It is still imperative to be monitoring the GPS to keep Ariel with the wind angle between 140 - 160 degrees. Captain keeps a close eye on how each crew monitors as this is essential in sailing efficiently. On 6AM watch the engine is turned on as wind had shifted to ENE but eventually came back around. Spotted a container ship 4 miles away but no response to our call on VHF channel 16. This is the greatest danger of sailing yachts on the open ocean, to be run down by a passing ship in the night. Fortunately this one was spotted by the captain when beginning his early morning watch and all precautions taken as without a response on the radio it is possible no one was on watch and the speed of a huge ship can overtake a small sailing vessel quickly. The ship passed quietly across Ariels bow in the gray early morning light. The fleet of cruisers has seen a total of five ships so far. The day went by just as quietly with a refreshing breeze coming down the companionway as the wind comes up on the stern. Jib to port side on a reach in afternoon as wind so light . Necessary to pay attention all day as Ariel does not sail well in light air, so must steer close to the wind. Time seems to move more quickly now, the days skimming by.

May 19, 2002

Log: Day 12 170 nautical miles
Lat: 07 48S Long: 125 01W
Wind ESE 22 kts T
Heading 250 straight down rhumb line
Seas long and rolling 8 - 10 feet

Far south of the rhumb line, but at our same latitude, are Whimsey, Gypsy Soul and Catalpa. Now somewhere off to our starboard we are passing Odyssey as the winds have picked up and we are sailing wing and wing 8 knots. Sounds like a freight train coming up on our stern after the days of light air. The auto pilot is taking the brunt of the heavy waves rolling in on the stern but with careful watch and continual slight variations we sail along. The Net informs us also of a fishing boat up ahead with a mile long fishing net. There is also caution to be taken of a rock near where we will make landfall. We are starting to feel the excitement of reaching land although we still have another quarter of the way to go.

May 20, 2002

Log: Day 13 161 nautical miles
Lat: 08 38S Long: 127 52W
Wind ESE 12 kts T
Heading 250
Seas 6 - 8 feet

Winds are shifting up and down so must come up or fall off least the jib back winds and makes a horrible thump. On Georgiannas shift we are down to a 238 heading so correct the angle staying between 120 and 160 degrees getting back to the rhumb line. From 3AM to 6AM we are rocking and rolling all over and difficult to sleep. The wind picked up to 16 knots and the dawn greeted us with a rain squall. It is a rough ride during the day so unable to do much. Dinner time it smoothes out but by nightfall back to the nasty rolling. These are the days you want to just sleep away but these are the times we need to be attentive. Good news is a boat ahead of us on the rhumb line is now getting NE winds.

May 21, 2002

Log: Day 14 141 nautical miles
Lat: 9 24S Long: 130 23W
Wind ESE 12 - 14 kts.
Heading 250
Seas choppy

Clear night but wind coming at 110 degrees so boat speed is 6.4kts but at least we are sailing and not motoring. The waves are huge, big rollers. We notice the wind is from the ESE during the day but at night it came from the NE. Early AM is strongest wind. Around 1:00PM (2100 Zulu) the winds die down. Steve and I go forward and jibbed the jib, the main and the mizzen. Steve stubs his toe and it bleeds all over the lower deck. We are tired and bored today so a bit of excitement snapped us all awake. Or at least mentally. My body is not responding to normal routines and has decided to give up on breakfast and lunch, have a huge dinner then wake starving in the night. Popcorn, the comfort food, at 2AM is good but a craving for soft foods never ceases and a gallon of applesauce now would be most appreciated. Seems our bodies get confused and begin to retaliate or go back to a primordial state. The lovely sunset and bright moon pacify as a calm evening engulfs us.


May 22, 2002

Log: Day 15 168 nautical miles
Lat. 09 52S 133 06W
Heading 260
Wind 3 kts apparent
Seas long rolling

Motored 5.7 knots all day as virtually no wind at all. This makes for a more comfortable ride in the long rolling swells. The boat is much steadier so able to get many different chores done. A light is installed in the aft head to indicate when the shower drain is on as with the engine on it is sometimes forgotten to turn off. Also replaced a clothes bar in the closest, cockpit grate removed and cleaned as well as assorted chores sorting clothes and cleaning aft cabin. In the night a conversation between Georgianna and s/v Wind Rose ensues as Wind Rose is sailing without lights to conserve batteries. They have hailed anyone listening on VHF 16 which are within a 20 mile range. Geoorgianna is so happy to talk to another boat she forgets to get their position to know if we are anywhere near. A call back finds them 14 miles away. It is a beautiful black night after the bright moon of last night so motor along into the void with the comforting fact that we are not alone.


May 23, 2002

Log: Day 16 137 nautical miles
Lat. 10 04S Long. 135 11W
Wind 12.2kts T
Heading 254
Seas calmer

Wind is up in the night so Steve and I are up on Everetts shift to shake out the reefs in sails. It dies before long so we are back up taking them down and turning on the engine again. Not getting much sleep on our off watch times is taking its toll and we are getting cranky. It is a calm, hot, sunny day. A can of soda springs a leak on the counter and the guys are mesmerized by the rainbow it makes as it sprays all over the main saloon floor. The girls are not impressed as it is the girls who do all the cleaning. Everett makes no qualms in being catered to as he later informs us his comfort is his priority. This brings up a discussion over dinner about suffering. He feels it is a form of suffering to not have a watermaker on board or plenty of space etc. We are flattered that he has chosen Ariel to accomplish his dream of sailing across the Pacific but we are not comfortable in the fact that should we have to resort to survival measures at sea in a tiny life raft and rationing water we would be with someone not willing to adapt or be part of a team. With that in mind we are even more anxious to reach our landfall which we now predict to be sometime tomorrow.


 May 24, 2002

Log: Day 17 32 nautical miles 2,930 nm total from Galapagos to Fatu Hiva Marquesas
Lat. 10 17S Long. 137 21W
Wind 8.8kts.
Heading 258
Seas calm

At 3AM the wind is up to 12 knots. We put the jib back out on the pole taking over the perch of a red footed booby who has roosted there. We nominate him as mascot to lead us on our first landfall which we anticipate later today. It is a calm, beautiful, moon lit night. A path of light shines off across the water from Ariels starboard bow. It has been basically an uneventful easy trip which is probably why it has earned the name The Coconut Milk Run.
6AM As morning dawns we see Fatu Hiva off in the distance, a low gray shadow on the horizon. There is the smell of earth in the air.
8:50AM we are at Lat. 10 21S 138 35W, 37 miles away but the shadow is growing closer. As we come to make our first landfall we see towering spires of rock engulfed in lush green vegetation. The green is overwhelming after so much blue at sea. A wisp of cloud encircles the highest peaks and gives it a magical look. Curtains of green fold into valleys and fall to the waters edge. It is a site to behold.
12:52PM (22:24 UTC) we drop anchor in Hanavave Bay after 17 days 24 minutes at sea and offer a toast to the Neptune Gods with a glass of champagne slowly poured into the sea.
 


Capt. Steve with 17 day old beard!

 

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