Friday, April 13, 2012

Galapagos Passage, First Days

April 9, 2012-Day 1

After our 9:00 a.m. appointment with the Port Captain at Nuevo Vallarta, we were told to return with the boat in 20 minutes for our Customs and Immigration inspection. It took us a bit longer than twenty minutes to get back to Paradise Village marina by water taxi, pay our marina bill, and take the boat back across the channel to the Nuevo Vallarta Marina. In the intervening time, Patrick also went to the bank near the marina to exchange our remaining pesos (they would only give us $100 U.S. worth); while I topped off on water and disconnected the shore power. Then, we returned with the boat as requested and tied up at the dock near the Port Captain's office. In the end, the Customs and Immigrations officials took longer completing the paperwork in the Port Captain's office than inspecting the boat, and before long, we had our zarpe (official clearance from the country) in hand, had changed into shorts, and were casting off dock lines for what may be the last time in a very long time!

We motored out of Banderas Bay in the flat calm so Patrick could flush the water maker membranes after they had sat idle for two and a half weeks. Before long, we had put up sail and were tacking our way out of the bay. We made steady progress of just over three knots in the light airs. We entertained ourselves by watching boobies plummet-diving for food. Boobies dive into the water like pelicans, are completely submerged, and then bounce up a second later a foot or two away with their prey. By reaching almost to the Tres Marietas, we were able to clear Cabo Corrientes on the second tack. Once we rounded Cabo Corrientes, we took off on a broad reach under the main and poled-out headsail. At sunset, we took down the main and the pole and ran with just the headsail.

April 10-Day 2

Day two was a very peaceful day chugging along in light air under the asymmetrical spinnaker, our own Little Wind Engine That Could. There was very little wind (under ten knots most of the day), but the spinnaker is a great little sail, pulling the boat along at just about one knot under wind speed. If there are six knots of wind, we can be making five knots with the spinnaker.
One of the great things about being out at sea and away from other boats is that you can dress as the conditions dictate. I started removing my shirt in the afternoons on Day 2. While some of my compañeras have written about the impracticality of nudity on a sailboat at certain times (it is wise to wear a shirt under an abrasive life vest when you have work to do out on deck, for example), I freely admit to reveling in going topless in the cockpit. How nice to be just like a man for a change, and feel free to take off your shirt when you get hot without experiencing uncomfortable stares or social ostracism.

The evening of Day 2 brought a beautiful night watch of lights and drama. I wrote in the logbook that I felt like a celebrity, surrounded by the popping flashbulbs of a multitude of cameras, so many were the shooting stars in the sky and the sudden large pulses of light from bioluminescent squid beneath the waves. "All of this for me? Oh, you shouldn't have!"

When these squid are carried aloft on a wave at night to land on your deck, they make a buzzing noise, sort of like something short-circuiting. If I happen to hear one land near me, I go toward the noise, retrieve the squid and toss it back overboard before it dies. Those whose fates are not so lucky become fishing bait.

The wind picked up later that night, and the accompanying larger swells allowed us to identify some items which hadn't been stowed securely enough, making it difficult for the off-watch person to sleep. Our work for Day 3 was cut out for us.

April 11-Day 3

Sometime during the night, we got away from the murky green-brown water that is found offshore of mainland Mexico and entered blue water. There was a bit more wind, and we were almost dead downwind, so we ran all day and most of the night wing and wing with the main and poled out headsail.

We were visited by a large school of feeding dolphins while simultaneously noting a frenzy of boobie feeding activity off to port, but alas, we didn't catch anything on our trolling line. Later, we passed two sea turtles bobbing in the waves.

At sunset, we put a reef in the main; but the wind was still so light, we decided not to put in two reefs.

We had another beautiful night under stars with some cloud cover. On my first watch, a blow alerted me to the presence of spirit dolphins. It was calm enough to clip in and take my coffee up to the bow, where I spent a half hour or more mesmerized by their luminescent silver trails through the water. When the moon emerged from behind the clouds, it backlit Silhouette's lovely butterfly sails and also splashed a moonbeam across the water. I was visited by more dolphins at the end of my watch.

By Patrick's second watch, around 4:30 a.m., the wind had started lightening. We were also a bit west from our intended course. From my berth, I could hear the sounds of Patrick trying to adjust the course, while the sails flogged. Soon, I heard him furling the headsail and starting the motor: The wind had died. We had planned to run the engine a little bit the next day to charge the batteries and make water, so the start of Day 4 saw us starting that process early.

All in all, it has been a pretty mellow beginning to our passage, leaving swell after swell behind us like pages lazily thumbed through in a book. We are grateful for the chance to get used to the rhythms of sea life without a lot of chaos or heavy weather. We aren't breaking any speed records (and with the forecast for light winds ahead, we probably won't be), but we are making steady progress in the right direction.

(Post sent via Ham Radio)

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Kirsten. I am happy for the mellow beginning to your trip.... I do worry about you.