Pacific Crossing Day 4

Tuesday 15 March

Finally around 4am there was deemed sufficient wind to put the main up once more. The log showed Temptress had managed a meagre 24nm through the water since we’d dropped all sails at 9pm last night. Kevin during his longer than usual watch, he’d let me sleep below during the calm, had unfurled a bit of the genoa so we’d drifted slightly further than we have otherwise. Then he too had fallen asleep in the cockpit. The silver lining was that we both got a lot of much needed sleep during the seven hours Temptress was drifting.

We were not the only ones in need of sleep. During Monday evening a little bird no bigger than a bluetit came a perched on a wheel spoke. He seemed quite unafraid despite our close presence and though his perch moved up and down as George the autopilot steered us south westward he made himself comfy even to preening his wings. Kevin pointed out that the wheel was probably not moving any more than your average tree bough in a breeze.

Eventually the tiny brown bird fluttered off in somewhere more comfy to roost. He settled on the danbuoy paraphernalia – obviously a bit of canvas scrunched up by a bungie cord made an adequate nest for the night. No idea what sort of bird he was; none of our various bird books and apps had anything quite like his dark brown wings,dark head with a white triangle over his dark slender tit-like beak, chestnut throat and rump and fawn breast.

As the sun rose our tiny lodger came back to life ignoring the little dish of fresh water, refusing some biscuit crumbs; he chirped a bit then had a good preen before flying across the cockpit to pose for photos on the jib halyard under the sprayhood. After that he was off flying a couple of circles just to windward before heading to S America.

Twenty minutes or so later he was back, perched under the bimini on the rolled up sunscreen. More photo’s but he refused a nibble of my early morning biscuit even though he was happy for me to approach so close. Eventually after our own breakfast he finally departed. I’d guess as we’ve seen a few more skirting low through the waves heading south or south east to S America he may well be some American martin on migration perhaps?

The laundry was done and hung across the stern in three rows from the bimini and solar panel framework so “NO FISHING” until it is dry! Our underwear is pegged on one of those circular hanging things suspended under the boom on the mainsheet so we have to remember it’s there before trimming sails otherwise the whole lot is liable to go over the side. The laundry process triggered a whole debate on the thickness and weight of Kevin’s polo shirts and shorts. It is amazing what topics of discussion you end up with in our small disc world!

Meals and the planning of has become another major topic. We roughly know what ingredients we are going to consume as fresh food needs to be eaten before it goes off and there is often some left overs from the previous day to be ingeniously incorporated into today’s menu somehow but what to make with them? Today’s lunch was Red Salad – red cabbage, beetroot, red pepper plus the remainder of a piece of Panamanian cheese (a bit like haloumi) and some cold potatoes with a dressing of mayo, yoghurt and tomato puree seasoned with a little sesame oil and pepper. Very tasty!

What else do we do with our time? The skipper spends part of each day worrying over the state of charge of the batteries vs the amount of diesel we have balancing the need to run the engine to top up after a night of no solar charging with the need to keep fuel usage to a minimum. Then we both read – I have just finished Jack London’s “Cruise of the Snark” in which he recounts amongst other things his voyage to the Marquesas in 1908 (well worth reading but do read Herman Melville’s account of his own 1840’s soujourn there in “Typee” first as London refers to it several times). Became more aware of the possible ailments of the tropics as a result and glad we have stocks of antibiotics and fly repellant aboard.

Today a few short hours took me through Graham Greene’s “Quiet American” which is a wonderful tale of love, secret agents and terrorism in Vietnam under the French. The brief biography of Greene in the introduction made me aware that he served the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Sierra Leone in the 1940’s when my maternal Grandparents were there – must therefore investigate his novel “The Heart of the Matter” that he wrote based on his experiences in West Africa when we next get a good internet connection.

Navigation and ‘planning’ is another occupation, both in terms of scouring the various pilot guides we have on board for details of potential anchorages further down the track in French Polynesia. And in terms of downloading the latest GRIB (weather forecast file) then planning a course to ensure we stay in the wind yet avoid things like seamounts and islands.

Then there is the maths we both engage in. Along the lines of; if we have done x miles then it is y to go to the next way point. We are using Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Route Panama to the Marquesas as this close to the Equator a straight line is as good as a great circle route distance wise and the distances are so great that waypoints are simply markers to measure progress against rather than steer to. Pressure in the sails is a much better hour to hour steering guideline as long as it is roughly the right direction. The waypoint we currently have in the GPS is located on the Equator at 100 deg W, a bearing of roughly 260 degree from us, it represents one third of the way between Panama and the Marquesas. So y divided by 150nm (our ambitious daily target) = z days and three times that figure is approximately the total length of our passage.

Ah the cruelty of this method of reasoning which today’s calculation forecasts a fast twenty day trip; looking at the most recently downloaded GRIB there will be little or no wind along our potential track from Friday through to Monday. So for now we spend no small amount of time working out averages – our speed, distance covered in the past few hours compared to yesterday and of course making the all important noon time plot on the chart that records actual our progress as a series of little dots in a small area on the rightmost side of the quarter of the Admiralty chart “North Pacific Ocean South Eastern Part”. The Marquesas lie over the fold and about half way along that quarter! Kevin attempts each noon to guess both the distance covered through the water and that over the ground that the nearly two knots of west going current gives us as a bonus. It’s a game we started when there were four of us crossing the Atlantic in 2013.

“Are we nearly there yet?” “Oh shut up!”

Noon to Noon*: Through the water: 99nm Over the ground: 131nm Noon position: 03 31.55N 084 11.92W

* Represents 25 hours as the clocks went back an hour yesterday afternoon (cf yesterday’s log)