The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 24. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Thursday, 15 April 2010,
Our position as at 1800 GMT/UTC (1400 NYC; 2000 Ffm):
S 05 degrees 42.32 minutes; W 110 degrees 53.22 minutes;
1741 Nm to Nuku Hiva

We have now accomplished our longest voyage ever, The Galapagos to here
being 1305 Nm. The now-second-longest one was Acapulco to The Galapagos in
the spring of 2006 (1280 Nm), which took 17 or 18 days and which involved
at least half the time motoring to windward. We still have 1741 Nm to sail
to arrive in Niku Hiva. We didn't celebrate beyond simply taking note of
the fact.

For the past couple of days we seem to have left the squally area behind
us and each day is sunny with a wonderful sea breeze of about 10-15 knots
coming across our port quarter and lots of puffy little clouds across the
sky. The wind dies a little at night, but we seem to keep ticking off our
miles. We sail under a staysail and the reefed mainsail with the heavy
wooden boom hanging out to starboard. We could actually probably pick up
speed if we were to use the Yankee or working jib in addition. But, at
this angle to the wind, it would frequently be blocked by the mainsail and
collapses with more wear and tear on the sail. We debate reefing in the
mainsail one more level to allow more wind into the headsails. But as we
are basically running with the waves, such a move would undoubtedly make
for much more rolling. And surely we are already rolling enough! We have
also decided to take in the jib at night anyway, since it is a job that is
always fraught and I hate having to do this in the dark if we are
overtaken by a squall. We are still making about 100 Nm daily; made good'
(i.e., not the actual miles sailed), on average therefore about 4 knots,
and are able to sail more-or-less directly to our waypoint 1741 Nm away
without having to tack back and forth.

Adding another knot or two of speed would certainly get us there faster,
but it is rather too exciting rushing along during the night at 7 knots or
more while the boat rocks violently back and forth. Everything is well
stowed down below and on deck. But the loud crashing shakes the whole boat
when we get a bit far to the right because the mainsail loses some air and
the heavy boom crashes back and forth twice or three times before settling
down again. Except for that noise it is not too bad down below unless you
are out of your berth and trying to prepare a meal, for example. You need
three hands: two to work and one to hang on. On the foredeck it can be
scary too. There is lots of spray as the waves beat against our port side.
Sometimes the spray from a wave coming from the side splashes so high that
it flies down the companionway and gives the galley stove a shower. If you
go into the cockpit to adjust the self-steering, expect to get a wetting.

At night we change watches every three hours starting at 1800 local time
or roughly at dusk. Kathleen and I pass each other like ships in the night
(pardon that): we pass a brief update on the steering; the bearing (about
250-260 degrees magnetic); whether a ship has been spotted (never); if the
bilge has been pumped out (this needs to be done every few hours for some
reason; not sure where the water is coming from); then, "Goodnight! Sleep
tight! See you in three hours!"

During the day we try to stay in our berths as much as possible simply
because there is very little to do and it is the safest and most
comfortable location. We read and nap. When we are both normally awake in
the afternoon we make small talk, try to decide whether we should make our
first landfall at Niku Hiva, as planned, or at Hiva Oa a bit farther
south. It is possible to get from Hiva Oa to Nuka Hiva on the trade winds,
but not the other way around. Fatu Hiva is also an option, the island
where Thor Heyerdahl lived with his wife in remote isolation in 1936. We
only get ninety days all together in French Polynesia, however, and Hiva
Oa is a difficult anchorage (large swells and poor landing facilities). We
want to save time for the Society Islands by arrival at which most
cruisers begin to run out of visa time.

The red-footed booby that accompanied us for several days has finally
left. We have had several birds along the way; they are happy to find a
perch out at sea, I guess. This particular bird looked like it would stay
with us to Nuku Hiva. No problem. But unfortunately, these seabirds make a
terrible mess. Our solar panels were so covered in bird shit that they
were essentially useless at providing energy to the batteries. When it
rode on the bow it made a huge mess of our jibsail, and when we ran before
the wind, their squirts splattered the whole cockpit area. I had to get a
stick and constantly chase it away as otherwise not amount of arm-waving
or noise-making (fog horn) seem to do more than elicit a puzzled look.
They seem totally unafraid of me. Very hard on my ego! Yesterday after it
seemed to have finally disappeared, Kathleen handed up buckets of seawater
so I could wash down the panels and the radar arc while balancing
precariously aft on the lazarette deck.

Nearly all our fresh provisions are used up and we are dipping more and
more into canned goods. That was expected. But there are still plenty of
onions, potatoes, 2 cabbages, a couple of tomatoes and two watermelons. At
this speed we still have about 17 days to go. We can replenish at least
fruits in the Marquesas, though vegetables are hard to find, we hear.
Provisioning, though expensive, is better in Tahiti.

We have been corresponding with son Andrew about his joining us in Tahiti.
He graduates next month and would love to come out and sail to New Zealand
with us. But the costs are fairly prohibitive and perhaps he needs to find
at least temporary employment while he makes up his mind what he is going
to do going forward. It is a worrying time to be entering the workforce
when there have been so many layoffs and where the older workers' 401(k)s
have been depleted so that they cannot retire as planned and therefore
frequently decide to keep working. Perhaps the best thing would be to go
to graduate school. But that means more expenditure, more student loans,
more school. Difficult for young people today! So, maybe he will join us
and maybe he won't.

The tedium of the voyage takes over. Tedium is far better than the kind of
excitement you might otherwise get on the high seas, and therefore
preferable from my point of view. The ship is holding up well; no damage
except for here and there some sail-chafe. Since one hour out of San
Cristobal, of course, we have not had to use the engine at all, that other
possible source of technical problems. We have nearly always had plenty of
wind (neither too much nor too little), though unlike other, impatient
cruisers we are neither of us inclined to throw on the engine even when
there is very little breeze. After all, diesel costs about $7 or $8 a
gallon in French Polynesia and it will be fine with us if we arrive with
full tanks. Sailing teaches patience.

We both read endlessly or snooze while our muscles atrophy. When we reach
1523 Nm to Niku Hiva, we will have reached the halfway mark of the voyage
from San Cristobal in The Galapagos. At that point we shall be farther
away from terra firma than at any other place in the world.

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