Night Watch Day 6:
Here we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s quite a surreal feeling knowing you’re so far away from anyone or any land. I try not to think about it too much, or it makes me stress a little. This is when I put my trust in God and pray for his protection to keep us safe.
It’s night and things always seem a little more scary at night, though all is great. Stu is asleep and will change over at 0100, kids asleep too. So have some time for me, while watching the boat of course. We are sailing downwind I’m watching the wind angle doesn’t get too far behind us, our apparent wind angle is around 130-140 degrees but the swells move us around a bit – don’t want to do an accidental gybe!
Last night Stu got me up at 0100 – we had a problem, Stu went outside to do a watch, he thought “there is something wrong, what is it, there are so many stars out,” then he clicked – the Gennaker was missing! He said it took him a minute to figure out why there were so many stars out! There was no sail blocking the view, it is only a 100 m sail at the bow of the boat! After slowing the boat down, we found it trailing under the bow and off to the port side, after about 2 hours we had it on the trampoline and safely tied down- phew. It seems like it’s NOT ripped ….we hope, and rudder and props seem ok – double phew. Luckily we have 2 furling head sails, so we used the smaller genoa. The D shackle at the head of the sail was broken, so Stu thinks it may have come undone, not cool. We even had the rigging, especially the Gennaker checked by a rigger before we left St Martin, as we weren’t sure whether the wobble in it was ok or not. Anyways it could have been much worse, so we will sort it out when we get to Hiva Oa.
In Galapagos, I was surprised to find the Port Captain and an army officer boarding Neverland. Neither of us spoke each others language, through google translate we figured out that they apparently told our agent we should have been off the island days ago, and they had come to rectify the situation. This was a surprise to us as we were told by our agent that we needed to go by Thursday which was the following day, and we were getting ready to go with provisions, etc. So of course they wanted more money from us, Stu said via google translate that our agent can pay as we have done all we have been told. Stu hurt his leg and we got an extension to stay in Galapagos with a certificate from the hospital. Though the port captain only gave us 5 days, when most people get 20 days, even though we paid $1400 just to anchor.
So we left Galapagos slightly earlier than planned and during the day as we had to go straight after we checked out, so hence we didn’t get to sail past the island called Tortuga. I think it would have been ace to see this half sunken volcano, and the other volcanos on the nearby islands. I was fine up until we hit open seas then I gradually went down. I was quite sea sick, I was beginning to worry a little when I couldn’t keep water down, but after 4 days it sorted itself out and now I feel fine, thank god. I went from having my head in a bucket and it being difficult to do anything, to getting the kids to do school (which is 100% hands on for me), to doing all I normally do. It’s very good to feel better! Stu was amazing when I was sick, he did extra long shifts making me stay in bed so I could recover, and it seemed to work. I spent a whole night in bed and by the next day I was much better and by that pm almost back to normal. During this time, Jake did some watches for me, Stu did pretty much everything. He was shattered the days after, so very glad it’s all over with. But the upside is, I lost some weight, great.
Our tally so far is 4 Mahi Mahi, so were so stoked to get these fish. Our first Dolphin fish catch ever! They are such a pretty fish a golden yellow with blue spots, it’s a shame to kill it. Though they do taste amazing. The kids even tried and liked (minus Jake) Sashimi, yum. Mum you would love these fish, better than or as good as blue bone groper! Kids were very excited to have finally caught one of these legendary fish.
In the mornings Stu and I pick off dead squid and flying fish off the decks. We’ve seen a whale and a massive pod of spinner dolphins, little dolphins that looked like tuna at first. We try to send an email each day via our satellite phone to the parents to show our position.
We provisioned up big with food. We have almost polished off all the bananas that came ripe at the same time. The kids are loving the all you can eat banana fest. We probably started with around 60 bananas.
Night watch day 7:
Stu is very tired today. I’m trying to be extra nice as I know he’s just tired, as I am too but the long watches he did when I was sick are catching up. He seems to be able to only sleep for 2-3 hours at a time then he’s up, I suggest he goes back to bed but he says he’s awake, though he did go back to bed last night as totally shattered. We are trying to follow a watch system where we do 6 hours on 6 hours off from 0600 -1200 – 1800 – 2400. I have the first shift in the night, then I get the am with the kids to do school. Stu has got up numerous times to help with school after a few hours sleep, which is great as by the end of it I’m usually getting pretty frustrated. Stu gets the graveyard shift (midnight to 0600) then sleeps when I get up. I sleep again in early afternoon and up for shower/splash, cook dinner and up until midnight. It seems to work except when dinner is late and Stu gets to bed later, so I say to him get up at 0100, which he may or may not do. He is pretty great like that, he knows I tend to need more sleep than him (so he says, and I agree) and he is proactive in assuring I get some kip.
We caught another Dolphin fish today, it’s great to see fish in the ocean, in the Caribbean we didn’t catch a lot as it seemed fished out. Every time we trawl we get a Dolphin fish then reel the lines in until the following day. So I thought we need something different, we have had Mahi Mahi (Dolphin fish) every night (except the first) of our passage. I was flicking through the boat galley recipes book, and stumbled on pizza that you cook on a skillet! So that’s what we had, much to the kids absolute delight. Pizza was a Friday night tradition at home, often with our parents. It was a mission and took a long time, but was delicious. Mahi Mahi Pizza, fresh from the ocean on the ocean- pretty cool.
Day 2 into our passage the wind sensor died…..again. So annoying, but it’s not something absolutely vital, so we will sort it out later. Though I must say it makes it a whole lot easier to sail with it, it works sporadically, Stu thinks water may be getting into it.
Night Watch Day 9:
Well today was a bit full on, there is a big cold front down south (like around 25 degrees south), we are at 4 degrees south Latitude. We are guessing we are getting some of the front from down south as we have had lots of squalls with top wind of 35 knots. The biggest squall was when I just started school with kids and Stu went to bed, poor guy hasn’t had much sleep again today. We are both pretty worn out and grumpy. It is so so so noisy in the cabins to sleep, along with the swells tossing the boat around, the sounds you hear are the loud bridge slap from waves bashing on the area under the boat between the hulls, the whole table jumps along with the bang! When an electric winch is used on your side of the hull, it’s also super loud along with the wind, ropes banging on the deck, the auto pilot is really loud and the dagger boards wobbling in their housings.
So a squall hit and it got up to 35 knots, I reefed the Genoa sail and turned downwind (the main sail was already on 2nd reef) but we were still doing speeds up to 11knots, max was 13.5 knots boat speed – too fast. So I reluctantly got Jake to get Stu up, and we sailed the boat for a while. After that squall we heard a sound you don’t want to hear coming from the rudder area, we only heard it 3 times but Stu thinks the auto pilot may have stripped a cog or 2 off during the squall (even though the autopilot is only 11 months old). So Captain Stu Poo ordered me to hand steer for an hour to give the auto pilot a break (well he asked me nicely if I wouldn’t mind). I wasn’t really jumping out of my skin to do this, but I reluctantly did. I was bored so started praying and asked God to send a whale to entertain me! I know this may sound a little weird but a few minutes later I spotted one, yay. BUT, it was on a collision course with us!! I was trying to figure out if we were on a collision course with it, I turned up wind it was getting closer and closer, it wasn’t diving or changing course!!! I called to Stu, I needed some support here as I was feeling a little stressed. You hear of boats colliding into whales so I wasn’t sure whether it would move out of our way or not. Well it certainly DID NOT!! I turned hard upwind and just missed it! It was a supurb Sperm Whale that we just got in front of by a whisker, it was on our starboard hind quarter and it even came up for air 2 m from us, right where we were at the helm, with our mouths open looking down on this monstrous animal right there!!! We saw its big eye. WOW it was AMAZING!!! I have been spinning out ever since as I was sure it would have changed course or dived or slowed down or something to avoid hitting us – but no, nothing at all!!! Far Out, not real comforting.
Another spun out thing is I saw today was a little bird, skimming the water hunting flying fish. It’s a long long way from land!
The kids ended up doing some school on their own, awesome. I ended up doing some with them later on in the day. We put the 3rd reef in the main sail for the night as the sky looks cloudy with grey squall clouds. At present I am very happy we did, as earlier in the day it was very difficult to slow the boat down, at present we are doing 7-8 knots which is perfect. As the wind sensor died again just at the start of my shift, I don’t know the angle of the wind or how strong it is! Not great, but I will just have to look at the boat speed and clouds for squalls (very happy to have the moon shining) and check how the head sail is set for the wind angle. Stu says we may need to hand steer thorough any more squalls to try and preserve the autopilot, I’m coming to terms with the idea. We do have a spare autopilot but this one is fine still so I guess we will play it by ear till we get to Marquesas. Another 9 days to go!
So I thought I had better get some practice hand steering at night with no instruments i.e. AWA (apparent wind angle) and AWS (apparent wind speed) to help me stop doing an accidental gybe, which can be very bad for a boats rigging.
Stu just got up as he got flung across the bed, which isn’t normal in a catamaran. The swells are building with all this wind and the front down south (but it seems the swells haven’t reached us yet according to the forecast). The swells are around 3.5m Stu reckons. The swells are hitting our port hind quarter, so at the top of them we turn up wind a bit until the rudder gets a good grip again and turns us back, like fish tailing, the bigger the swell the more we turn. Even though it seems a little wild it’s ok, boat speed is 7-8 knots (great) we do surf a little down some swells and get a little faster but it seems ok. I am getting better at tuning into the sounds of the boat, any new sound needs to be investigated. Jake is excellent at this, he is very observant and tells me of any little change even before I notice sometimes (like the head sail flapping the other day meaning we are going too far downwind).
We will send sat pone email messages tonight if we get reception as it’s Carleens birthday on the 5th of September and Father’s day tomorrow. We wish Royston and Carleen loads of spoils on your special days. We will have to spoil you when you come to visit us on Neverland – hurry up, or as Abby would say “hurry up and come here……I’m waiting”. Abby sent a very funny message (via Ange as she is 5 years old), to Sienna that the kids love watching, Abby is telling Sienna to “come home at once young lady!”.
Night watch Day 13:
Well almost 2 weeks and it seems surreal still, though we have a good routine going on now and Stu and I aren’t so tired and getting used to it. I do school with kids and sail the boat in am (if wind is up they do some school independently, they are getting better at this) while Stu gets some sleep, I rest in the pm sometime then get up to do dinner usually (or Stu does) and then my shift on again till 0100.
Last night was wild with 35 knots at some stages upon which Stu and I decided to reef the main sail from 2nd to 3rd reef to slow the boat down a bit (Jake and I couldn’t sleep). At night the swells seem so much bigger and the wind and boat noises seem super noisier. So Stu and I were out in the howling rain and wind reducing the mainsail size (I did it all by my little lonesome with Stus direction). As soon as it was finished the wind dropped off to 10-15 knots – BIG Grrrrr. But not all bad as we still have the 3rd reef in for tonight and we can relax a little bit more, there has been enough wind now.
Everything is going fine there is just a few little things to fix or replace – a big fish stripped our fishing wheel, I was reeling it in then Jake offered to continue. We were reeling it in as it made a noise as though a fish was on, so we thought we would pull it in and see if the lure was still on, as it seemed like the fish was gone. Then a fish striked and the whole wheel went nuts spinning out of control and the whole bar it was fastened on to was wobbling way too much making it impossible to slow down! At the end of the line the lure snapped off and we lost the lure and the reel is broken. The sea monster got away!
The auto pilot has been working well, we just need to run the engines once a day to keep the volts up to power it, it uses a lot of electricity. A bilge pump was running continuously, so it works but we had to turn it off. So Stu checks the bilges regularly to make sure we aren’t taking on sea water, another thing to replace. The wind sensor is still working on and off, we plug it in until we get ridiculous readings that are false then Stu unplugs it for a while.
Night watch Day 15:
We only have 3 days to go, yay. At the moment we are shooting along with 20-26 knots true wind behind us and some swells helping us to reach around 10 knots boat speed, we even had a 12 knot down swell ride. We are still on 3rd reef for the main sail and on 2nd reef for the genoa, I can reef down further on the genoa foresail if our boat speed gets higher. It sounds wild outside, so noisy. The boat feels good and not too fast.
Starting from last night we saw our first boat, I saw it last night with lights blazing in the distance, they had no AIS. AIS is where we can see other boats on a screen if they have Automatic Identification System (AIS) installed and turned on. There were no red or green lights only 2 white, so I couldn’t tell which direction it was heading, I turned the radar on and voila I tracked it and figured out where it was heading, it is so great to have radar. We have seen quite a few fishing boats now (Chinese we think as the boat names on AIS are Chinese). On my shift this am we were on a collision with one, within 0.5 nm it would have been (too close) but I changed course and when it was within eye sight of us it did too. Amazing to be on a collision course with the only other boat out here.
There is an amazing full moon out tonight, I do like a moon to see the swells and sky at night. It’s great to be able to see any potential squalls and it just feels nicer than pitch black. I’m also grateful the the wind sensor is working for my shift so far, every night it has not worked but tonight there’s a bit more wind so very happy.
Poor Stu was kicking himself today after he landed a Sailfish!! Huh? I hear you say….. story to follow. I was woken by 3 excited yelling kids. Stu pulled the Sailfish in, killed it, took a picture then just as he was about to figure out where to fillet it without making a bloody mess on our deck, it just slipped off the 2nd back step into the water! Stu slid down 2 steps and landed on the bottom step to try and get it but ALAS…… it was gone. Not good, we all felt so bad wasting this beautiful fish. Sienna ran off into the saloon crying (she may have also been scared as dad appeared to have almost fallen off the back). I felt so sad as I hate seeing fish killed especially something as majestic as a Sailfish, then to loose it. It took Stu a while to get over it, especially as he has caught many a large fish before. I tried to console him by pointing out the facts that he landed a 4-5 foot Sailfish without a reel by himself (I as was in bed), the boat was doing 8 knots, the seas were rough with big swells with 23 knots of wind also – sometimes you just can’t be superman all the time! We certainly have learned what to do and what not to do in case we land another big fish again. We call it the ‘Sailfish incident’, and its rarely spoken about as it’s still a sore point 😦 😲🍌😱💩😡🌭 (Jake had been at this, can you tell?)
Stu had the kids doing push ups and sit ups in the saloon today, very cute. The kids spend pretty much the whole time in the saloon, it’s quite rough so going up front outside isn’t really an option, and we haven’t bought the cockpit cushions out as it seems too windy. I know they are safe and I can relax when they are inside so I’m fine with it. Alex and Sienna go off into their cabin when they want to mess around (well I strongly encourage it!), otherwise they are all around the table doing things. Today they were making up a game and battling with these cards they made up, excitedly showing me what the cards were and the powers they possess. They really are doing well on this passage, yes there are moments of craziness but I honestly thought there would be more.
We have been sending position reports to our parents most nights, but haven’t heard back from any of them. I hope they are receiving them as they will be very worried by now, and hopefully nothing is wrong back home either.
Night watch Day 17:
I’m really tired tonight, not sure why just am. I’m going to write a little in this blog then put the rest of the movie on from last night – yay. The wind is nice tonight so far, 15-20 knots true wind, we are going around 6-9 knots. The kids and I did school again today, then they played Monopoly while I read/zoned out. Stu got up and I hit the sack for a few hours. I woke up to Sienna being very sweet. She came into our cabin and told me about this book her and Jake made with a secret page in it, she’s not allowed to tell about the secret page as it’s just a secret between her, Jake and Alex (they are making up a language between themselves that is top secret, no parents allowed). I could so tell she was absolutely busting to tell me about the secret page, it is well known in our family that she can’t keep a secret for anything!! So off she went to secretly show me the secret page that Jake must not know about or she will be in deep trouble!! He he he, she is such a sweetie pie. She was so excited about this secret she was showing me, but I promised I would keep it a secret so no telling from me!! 🙂
I am so proud that our children are doing so well on this trip, they do fight but they also play really great. They were playing Ninja/Jedi with light sabres and when it got too rowdy Jake takes control and tells them to calm down and they did, otherwise they are allowed to go nuts in their cabin, Sienna and Alex usually take themselves off to do just that after school most days. Alex is really growing up too, such an intelligent little guy. He ended up playing Monopoly for everyone by the end of the game, loving the maths in it! He has come a long way, he comes up and just cuddles me around once a day out of the blue, so nice.
We have 211nm to go, hooray. I can’t believe we have almost done the 3000nm trip from Galapagos to Marquesas one of the longest no land passages in the world I believe. In total we have done 6180 nm since we got Neverland!!! Can you believe, sounds like so much! I guess we certainly have learnt a thing of 2 since the start, but I know this sailing is a continual learning curve.
Stu and I can’t believe just how many Chinese fishing boats there are out here, from around 5 days out from Marquesas we have seen so many. They have a mother cargo ship that’s around 100m long, then they have smaller fishing vessels and buoys (with long lines I guess) that all feed the mother ship with fish. We see them on the AIS which has a range of around 24nm max, so we think this whole area is littered with fishing vessels, just like the ones they caught within the Galapagos waters with 1000 hammerhead sharks killed aboard plus more fish also. It really isn’t right, in fact it’s really sad. There was a large demonstration in the street against such fishing when we were in the Galapagos.
Night Watch day 18:
We make landfall in the morning, yipeeeee. I was really really tired today. I don’t know how Stu does it, he gets less sleep than me and seems to keep on going, yes we both get grumpy at times. The weather is much warmer and tonight is lovely and calm, it doesn’t sound like its roaring outside, just gentle sounds of water swishing past our hulls. Stu caught a Dolphin fish, the largest so far. So Mahi Mahi again for dinner, mums you’ve gotta get out here and visit us, who knows we may catch one when your here. It was Aunty Carleen’s birthday a few days ago and to celebrate I made her Carlzi slice, we finished it tonight – yum.
It’s Stu and my anniversary today – 12 years ago we tied the knot! Wow, time has sure flown and we can’t quite believe where we are. I still get feelings of far out look what we are doing and where we are! With feelings of both excitement and intimidation, but mainly amazement.
Looking at the time zones yesterday we have crossed 3 time zones since Galapagos. Stu and I are still on Galapagos times on our watches and for the log, but its obvious that we have gained time. During the whole passage we caught a great eating fish everyday, except when we didn’t fish as we had no room left in the freezer, we mainly caught Dolphin fish, a few Wahoo, one Sailfish and one sea monster! We ate Mahi Mahi all possible ways – raw, fried, pizzaed, sandwiched, omelleted, spagettied, curried, stir fried and pastaed.
The kids are very happy to be arriving tomorrow, and so are we. They fill their time with school in the am, well I make them! Then they play board games, their own card game, Jake reads, they listen to ebooks, watch movie or iPad time. sienna has now grown up enough to discover Minecraft, and they all play in each others world, but it often ends in fights with Alex stealing from jakes house, or Jake getting fed up and killing Alex, or Alex filling up Sienna’s room with pigs. It’s very cute to hear them play, until they start fighting of course!
Jake – l built Alex a huge mansion, but under the house it’s filled with TNT!! After exploding Alex into smitherseengs, l laughed my evil laugh, muuuahahahahahahaaa!!!!
Landfall day 18 (well 17 days and 22 hours to be exact!):
We had rounded the headland for sunrise, and how happy were we to see land. We were all excited to see the tall towering peak reaching up to the clouds. The deep dark waters with no contrast in the waters at all reflecting the depth so close to the island. Stu and Jake were busy setting up the new bridle for the bow anchor, while I was doing things like sorting out the Q flag (a yellow flag you should fly upon arrival to a new island group that you have not yet checked into customs and immigration yet, the courtesy French flag and of course our Aussie flag.
We needed to set up the stern anchor. We are aware that this anchorage is small and swells make it rolly at times, so most if not all boats use a stern anchor. The extra anchor at the back is used to stop the boat swinging into other boats and to point the bow into the swells making it more comfortable at anchor. We have not used a stern anchor before, so it took a lot of sorting and carrying heavy long chain with all hands on deck. Finally, we felt ready to enter the bay after drifting for at least an hour.
We spotted an anchor spot furthest in to shore behind all the other boats, the bay looked pretty full of boats and we were also aware that a ship comes every three weeks and all boats have to be out of its way, so we figured best at the back. I dropped the stern anchor in after some careful maneuvering by Stu, and forward we came between two other boats to drop the bow anchor. As we were dropping the bow the boat in front told us we were dropping the anchor on top of his stern anchor (did not have a buoy on it so difficult to know this). So we were going great up until this point as we had to start all over again and in the meantime we almost drifted into his little boat. The problem was I had to pull up the bow anchor while Stu and Jake were making sure the stern anchor rope was tight and not getting trapped around the prop or rudder. So Stu was steering the boat and sorting the stern anchor. Anyway after a nail biting moment, Stu used the stern anchor to swing off to not hit the other boat (though I was ready with a fender and so was the other guy, also he was ready to push us off). So with the stern anchor rope under control we tried again and all went well. Man what a relief to finally stop sailing, yay. Stu and I were incredibly tired, we slept and vegged the rest of the day.
Thanks for reading our adventures – the good and the bad.