4 - 27 August 2004 Passage
- Hawaii to Marquesas
Getting out of Hilo was a challenge as the weather was uncooperative.
We had to wait out Hurricane Darby and another tropical depression that
was threatening to get worse. Once they had dissipated their remnants
brought plenty o’ wind and lots of rain to Hilo. We weren’t interested
in starting off in the pouring rain and so delayed departure another day.
On August 4th we seized the weather window and turned our bow away from
The journey did not begin auspiciously as both of us got sea sick!
There’s a first time for everything I guess, but I could’ve lived without
that one. While cleaning and stowing the lines and anchors, we motored
into the wind; this took a couple of hours. Somehow the pounding
into the choppy seas and head winds, with the lurching hobby horse motion
was much worse than the down wind swells we were so annoyed with on our
last passage. Fortunately we were better within 2-3 days (Bjarne
recovered faster than I did) and were never truly incapacitated. Next
passage start, I think I’ll take the bonamine before we leave.
The remnants of those storms continued to bring dark clouds with heavy
winds and rain. In between these clouds, we expected the trade winds
to be 10-20 kts, but to our surprise they were a much higher 30-35, with
even greater gusts. The first couple of nights were very tiring,
with the variable winds necessitating some sail changes, the rain and of
course the occasional need to hang over the railing. We also discovered
that our windows did not like pounding into the seas, and over the next
while all of them began to leak so that cushions were getting wet and the
boat remained sticky and damp. The constant battle of trying to keep water
out of the boat was also wearing, although I was glad I had brought along
a lot of towels. At least we were making good time. By August
7, it seemed the remnants had pretty much passed over, although the winds
were still a good 25 knots (this is when they issue a small craft warning)
with patches up to 30. However, we weren’t done yet.
For the next couple of weeks, I would begin to think we were through
the squalls, and then more would come along. There were a couple
of restful nights with steady winds and clear skies and I enjoyed the luxury
of star gazing immensely. However, more often, as we moved further
south we encountered squall after squall, of increasing strength and duration.
The worst times were at night, because we could only see that a dark cloud
was coming but couldn’t really tell what to expect. When the large
ones hit, we were enveloped in darkness, with only the lights from our instruments
to create a small glowing cocoon. The winds would suddenly increase
dramatically, whistling and howling, and a deluge would begin. If
we tried to look forward, our eyes were battered with the driving rain.
With winds over 40 knots and gusting as high as 49 knots, the boat
hurtled through the darkness at speeds 7-9 knots. All we could
do was hunker down, let the sails out and let the boat go where the weather
dictated, which often was off our course. Talk about feeling like
After a squall passed (probably 5 to 40 minutes), the winds would sometimes
die down completely, leaving us wallowing in choppy, confused seas.
When the winds got too light we would motor, but of course since we have
quite a limited supply of fuel we had to be judicious about this.
It was frustrating to have crazy high winds and then nothing, although we
were always happy to see the sun. On occasion we would be graced with
beautiful rainbows that spanned the sky. After a few days of this
Bjarne figured we must be in the doldrums, even though we thought they
would be further south. We were getting emotionally, mentally and
physically drained as a result of all of these squalls, although overall,
I don’t think we were as sleep deprived as during our first passage.
When they weren’t hitting us, the winds were often still high, and even
when they eased we were still at a high level of alertness, wondering when
the next one was going to pounce. I entertained myself one day through
various bouts of rain by writing new words to a childhood song (see the
‘Clouds Marching’ lyrics, elsewhere
on our web site).
Eventually we got out of the squall zone. Much to our relief, the
winds became more moderate and the skies became clear. Sunny days and
starry nights. Phew! However, this path was not meant to be
a smooth one, as the winds now were coming from exactly where we wanted to
go (South-East), and on top of that, the South Equatorial current began quite
a bit further north than we expected, and was pushing us west at between
1 and 2 knots! This current actually lasted for about 600 miles, although
a shift in wind after a few days helped us get back on course. Thus,
our progress was slow for a few days and I began to feel like we would never
get there. However, we were getting closer gradually and I reminded
myself of my general philosophy in life, which is to focus on and enjoy the
journey, rather than getting too caught up in the destination. The
importance of this reminder became even more clear when I realized just how
much of our time will be spent on long passages over the next two years.
Not withstanding general philosophy, there is no doubt that pleasant
sailing conditions, and an improvement in our course heading had a uplifting
effect and allowed us to recover from the first couple of weeks.
Our time could now be spent doing more reading and puzzles, working on little
projects, writing letters, baking and even playing a few games. Boggle
is the current favorite, although I suspect Bjarne of making up words now
and again. Honestly, how did he know the word for fish sperm (milt)?!
Maybe it’s a guy thing:-)
There has been much less sea-life on this trip, though we were lucky
enough to spot a whale half a km away (couldn't identify what type) and
a pod of 20 or so dolphins. There has also been much less human garbage
floating in the water; I can think of only two bits of flotsam over the
entire trip, as opposed to a piece every hour on the way to Hawaii.
This is really off the beaten path; only two other ships, likely fishing
vessels, have we seen.
At night we’ve been learning new stars and constellations.
Bjarne’s vote for best-named star is Zubenelgenubi, in Libra. When
the moon is down there are an incredible amount of stars. So many,
that it can be hard to find the constellations amidst them, although for
the first time I could see all of Orion and actually see it as a figure with
a sword (and a little pin head that probably suits a warrior). I now
have a better sense of how the stars move across the sky as the night progresses
(don’t they revolve around the earth?). The Big Dipper has essentially
disappeared below the horizon. It’s weird to think we won’t see it
again for almost two years. One of my favorite sights is the moon
reflecting on the water. There is also a planet in the morning bright
enough to reflect on the water as it rises. Another beautiful nighttime sight
is the bioluminescent plankton, which sometimes glows around the boat as
we move through the water.
Nighttime is good for listening to the shortwave radio, and sometimes some
interesting programs help pass the shifts. It does take some patience
to search around for them however, and I can’t imagine doing it at home,
although here in the middle of the ocean it seems okay. We hadn’t had
the radio on for about 2 weeks so I was surprised to learn that the Olympics
were in progress. We rooted for the Canadian men’s softball team, as
they came close to winning gold. It’s a bit of a jolt to suddenly be
connected with the outside world. Unfortunately we haven’t been able
to get Radio Canada so news from home is sparse. We’ve concluded that
it’s a good thing that Canada isn’t making the international news scene,
since that would probably mean bad things were happening.
Passing over the equator was an exciting milestone; we crossed into the
South Pacific on Sunday 22 August. Bjarne pulled out the rum and poured
some for both of us, as well as a bit for Neptune. We then proceeded
to enjoy the lovely equator cake that he had baked that morning. He
had to get creative with the icing in order to mark the equator and the lines
of longitude as we didn’t have any food colouring. Beet juice
worked just fine and didn’t seem to change the flavour. The cake