Crossing the Pacific

The Pacific ocean covers about 1/3 of the earth surface, this ocean is huge. I mean, all oceans are huge, but the Pacific is a league of its own. To sail from Panama to the Marquesas, the first islands of French Polynesia, is about 3800 Nautical Miles. One can add a stopover in Galapagos, but this leaves still 3000nm. Crossing the Atlantic from the Cape Verdes to the Caribbean is only 2100nm.

We set sail from the La Playita anchorage in Panama City to the Galapagos on 19.April. For a variety of reasons this can be a challenging passage. The winds are often variable, with prolonged periods of calm weather. The equator crossing can bring another set of challenges. There are a high number of thunderstorms with lightning around the equator.

On crossing the equator we also had the traditional equator cruising baptism. The skipper dressed up as king Neptune and everyone was baptized with a bucket of sea water. We followed up with a glas of champagne and homemade cake.

For most of the passage from Panama to the Galapagos we had light head winds and we were making good progress. Leaving Panama bay we were treated with all the wildlife one can wish for. Pelicans flocks flew around Mirabella, Dolphins swam with us and an impressive school of 100+ eagle rays crossed our path.

Squalls

Two days out we sailed into an enormous squall. The wind shifted by more than 180°, torrential rain came down and lightning was all around us. The lightning was a bit scary and this was the first time when we put some of our electronics equipment into the oven to protect it from a potential lightning strike. All went well, Eva Maria took a rainwater shower in the cockpit and we discovered some small leaks on the deck.

For almost all of the passage we sailed close hauled on a port tack. After a few nights we put pillows under the matrasses to neutralize the heeling. This actually worked pretty well.

It was great to see the Galapagos islands show up on the horizon after a bit less than a week.

Leaving Galapagos

After two weeks, in the evening of May 8, we left the beautiful Galapagos Islands. We really loved the Galapagos. The wildlife is unique and plentiful. When Jaël told us before noon what we have already seen today (seals, rays, sharks, pelican, crabs, turtle and tuna (ok, dead on the market) Amina said: Yes, that’s just how it is in the zoo. You have many animals.

To clear out of Galapags was again a bit difficult. The entire crew had to go on shores so we got the necessary stamps. Then all back on the boat and again a boat inspection with 4 officials. All papers were re-checked. The same questions like at the clear-in were asked. Liferaft? Yes, we have. Where? Fire Extinguisher? Yes, we have three. Where? Please show? Radio? Satellite phone? GPS? How much diesel on board? Firearms? Etc, etc.
In Martinique (France) I was able to do this alone on a computer. Duration 30min, costs 5 EUR for the official stamp. In the Galapagos it took 4 hours each, employed 4 officials on the boat and two on land. Costs for Mirabella and crew: USD 1,590!
Well, we booked it on development aid ….

At some point that was over and we left the bay with the beautiful name Ayora, plotted a course to Fatu Hiva, Marquesas and sailed towards the sunset. 3000 miles to go.

The long way

To start with, the Pacific was good to us again. We had very pleasant light to medium winds. Our goal was to cross the Pacific (3000nm) faster than the Atlantic (2700nm). We should be able to do this thanks to two points: a) We should have better winds in the Pacific and b) We finally have a working spinnaker pole for our headsail. So we can pole out the Genoa, the Code Zero or the Gennaker. The boat speed remains about the same but one can sail dead down wind, keeping as close as possible to the rhumbline.

The nights on Pacific were dark. Large parts of the pacific crossing was done with no or little moon. We left about a week before new moon. These were beautiful nights. It’s dark in the night like nowhere else. Lightpollution? Unheard of in the middle of the pacific. Other then our position light, there is no light source within 100km or more. So we can admire the starry sky in all its glory. We saw Milky Way from horizon to horizon. Beautiful. Mars shines strongly orange and outshines almost all. Scorpio, Orion, Southern Cross everything is there.

Nobody else then the stars is there though. The Pacific is absolutely empty. In the Atlantic, we had at least occasionally a sighting. Mostly only electronically on the AIS because here the range wider. But here on the Pacific? Nobody in sight. Since Galapagos only us, fish, birds and stars.

Throughout the pacific we were making great progress. Our daily run ranging from 175nm to 200nm. This is the upper end for a 48ft cruising yacht.

We had good moral on board. Our extra crew, Mauro from Italy and Marine from France were a great help and very good fun. Seasickness was mostly overcome. We played Uno and Princes in the cockpit (with Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, Aladdin, Frog Prince, Cinderella, The Beauty and the Beast and No. 8 I forgot). Amina always finds everything funny anyway. Besides putting on life vests, that always gives drama.

Halyard explodes

The halyard exploded about half an hour before midnight. The wind had increased a bit and we were making good progress. The skipper was in bed when the Code Zero halyard exploded then it was suddenly very quiet, no more pressure in the rig, no more noise from the water. André! The Code Zero is in the water, Eva Maria yelled from the cockpit. So, get out of bed and inspect the damage in underpants. Yes, the Code Zero is in the water. Looks like depressing. In the middle of the night 100m2 sails swam next to our boat. At least no collision, that would be much worse. The halyard broke with aloud bang and all the glory came down. So: ‘All hands on deck’, we get some night action. It took usabout an hour to pull the whole sail out of the water and lash it fairly tight to the deck. Then we continiued under Genoa only, rather slowly, unfortunately.

In daylight, we closly inspected the damage. The halyard probably broke because of a mix of old age and overload. We have two halyards for the Code Zero. Both were the same age and looked a bit doubtful. I replaced one halyard in Martinique. Since the meter price for top quality Dyneema ropes is about 13EUR, I have only replaced one of the 50 meter long halyards. Thought the other will probably have to hold a little longer. Well, it didn’t.

The sail survived the nightly cleaning surprisingly well. We pulled it up again in the morning and it still looks great. Lucky Mirabella! The kids slept through the entire night exercise. That’s good too.

The winds remained stable and mostly moderate throughout our entire passage. It was a dream to sail. We sailed a lot with the poled out Code Zero and the poled out Gennaker. During the day we fished, played cards, baked cakes, cooked and watched videos. Celebrated Aminas birthday!

Arrival

Things were going very well. We arrived after 16.5 days early in the morning in the bay of virgines in Fatu Hiva. 300 miles more and almost 5 days less than across the Atlantic. Looks like we are getting the hang of it.

The bay of virgin in Fatu Hiva is spectacular! The muntains are high, the steep slopes are densely forested and alternate with rugged rock formations. King Kong is probably still living in the forest. We were ready for an unforgettable stay in Fatu Hiva.

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