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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 27. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Sunday, 18 April 2010,
Our position as at 1800 GMT/UTC (1400 NYC; 2000 Ffm):
S 06 degrees 42.42 minutes; W 115 degrees 6.05 minutes;
1444 Nm to Nuku Hiva

There we are yesterday towards sundown all unawares. Halfway across the
South Pacific from The Galapagos to the Marquesas with 2300 Nm to go and
farther away from land than anywhere else in the world. We are reclining
contentedly on our berths in the main cabin and just finishing up our
evening meal of delicious vegetable stew (and secretly hankering for a
'Bratwurst'). We are discussing such fascinating dinner topics as the
comparative quality of Costa Rican versus Ecuadorian potatoes, and the
time difference between GMT and the Los Angeles time zone. The evening
watches are also discussed, and whether to put our 'local' clock an hour
behind so that 0600 and 1800 coincide more or less with sunrise and

We had a bout of stiff work in the afternoon as we decided to tuck a
second reef into the mainsail. It seemed that even with a single reef the
mainsail was still so strong that it unbalanced the boat and made life for
the windvane steering impossible. Vilisar was constantly rounding up and
we were constantly having to experiment with bungee cords to compensate.
Sometimes that works but the windvane steering should be doing this on its
own, after all, especially if you do not want to be spending all night in
the cockpit or be darting up the companionway ladder every fifteen
minutes. These damned automatic steering systems have been the bane of our
lives aboard on this trip. Everything else, in fact, works just fine.

We haven't seen a ship or a light in yonks. We haven't heard anything on
our VHF radio either since Easter Sunday when we were passed astern twenty
miles apart by two bulk carriers heading up from South America with loads
of fish meal and iron oar respectively. The skippers were having a bridge
-to-bridge chat. Since then, silence.

Suddenly, we hear a "Hallo!" shouted without any radio procedure into the
radio. Perhaps a child's voice? Surprised, we jump up and make a simple
answer. At the same time I stick my head out of the companionway and there
astern see a white sail about a mile or two away to the ESE. Soon we are
chatting by radio with Oliver the skipper of French catamaran called S/V
Piquott (I think). They are eight days out of San Cristobal and also bound
for The Marquesas. In all this great emptiness, another sailing yacht!

He is going probably double our speed and diverts to pull in behind us.
Eventually, rather quickly, actually, he passes us to starboard. They are
four adults and two small kids on board; they are all sitting out on the
catamaran's foredeck and, as they approach and overtake us, they are
alternatively snapping pictures, waving their arms and yahooing. They all
seem so merry. We shout comments back and forth for a few minutes until
they begin to pull ahead of us. Oliver says on the radio that their USGRIB
weather files forecast unchanged weather for the next few days, with an
eventual more easterly component to the weather. "See you in The
Marquesas!" We watch then as the sun goes down, the new moon appears to
the west, the French boat pulls ever farther out of sight until, at dark
it is over the horizon and gone. We switch on our masthead light. We are
quite cheered to see other people and somewhat let down when they have

Last night's sailing is generally much quieter and the steering seems to
be able to handle things. But we are definitely a lot slower; not
surprising, since we have far less mainsail exposed to the breeze. This
morning I get up at dawn and tweak the sails and steering gear for an hour
or so to encourage more speed. In vain. The wind is light anyway and with
the main reefed down.. When Kathleen wakes up from her off-watch sleep
this morning we discuss whether to shake out the second reef or enjoy the
slow sail and the increased comfort below. Each extra knot of speed knocks
off about 2-3 days from the trip, but we unlikely to get more than 5 knots
on average. We have lots of tinned food aboard, but there is also the
issue of fresh water. We have not broken into our 20 gallons on deck and
have been very frugal otherwise. (I bathe in beer, for example.) For the
moment, we are leaving the second reef tucked in and hoping for a little
stronger wind.

With talk of supplies, Kathleen heads into the larder to pick over the
fruits and vegetables. There was a strong smell coming out of the forepeak
last night. Sure enough, the tasty Galapagos spuds have started to go bad.
They give off a very clear message! The Costa Rican ones, though almost
tasteless, are holding up well. (Maybe they have been radiated. I had not
noticed if they glow in the dark like a Russian submarine.) Looks like a
lot of spuds on the menu for the next few days! The Costa Rican white
onions are holding up terrifically. Six apples are discovered, as well, so
the day is a hit.

Kathleen also organises the reading material anew, stuffing the read books
into baskets for later trading and digging out new ones. I play with the
ship's clocks to get them to agree in time with the atomic clock (?) in
the GPS, and then decide to use the bright sunshine and the fillip it
gives to our house batteries to use the computer to write this blog.


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