Thursday, May 24, 2012

Marquesas Bound

See those little things that look like butterflies skimming across the surface of the water? Or sometimes, they look like a flock of small birds: the kind that turn in flight all at the same time so the dark topsides of their wings change synchronistically to the light undersides. Those are actually schools of flying fish. The ones we are seeing are only about three to four inches long. On a trip to Santa Catalina Island (thanks, Mom!), I learned that flying fish don't actually use their wing shaped fins to "fly;" rather, they propel themselves with a rudder-like fin extending below the aft end of their bodies.

You guessed it. We are at sea again, underway for the Marquesas. We are leaving the land of Spanish, chorizo, and blue-footed boobies, and are about to enter the land of Marquesan/French, poisson cru, and fruit doves. It is our fourth day out, and already this voyage has a different flavor than the last passage. We found the wind immediately and have been clipping along at a good 5.0-7.0 knots for the majority of the time. The first couple of days, the average wind speed was only 8-10 knots, but it made a huge difference to have it on our beam instead of on our nose! Last night, I think we found the trade winds with steady winds of 13-16 knots and gusts up to 18 knots. The weather is also cooler on this passage (at least so far), making it a lot more comfortable. I also feel the void a bit more on this passage. On the way to the Galapagos, we always had the land masses of Mexico, Central and South America to the east, even though they were hundreds of miles away. Now, we are surrounded by nothing but water in every direction.

We've also already had our share of unusual occurrences.

We spent the better part of our first night at sea dodging longliners and their gear off the south end of Isla Isabela. Although the longlines had flashing markers on the end of the gear, it was difficult to tell in the dark where the two opposite ends of a longline were---and steer around them---if you could see three or four markers at a time.

Early the next morning, Patrick put our fishing line in the water. He immediately hooked something and called me up from below to assist. What he had hooked was part of a longline. There was no telling how long we had been dragging this piece of longline which, further inspection revealed, was also caught on the bobstay fitting at the bottom of the bow and hung up on something under the boat. We could have snagged it the previous night or just that morning.

I steered the boat up into the wind to slow it down, while Patrick set about trying to free the line from Silhouette. Patrick hauled the line attached to our fishing lure and dragging behind the boat aboard until we saw it come up with floats still attached to it. He had to cut this major portion of the longline free. With the boat hook, he was able to release the portion of line snagged on the bobstay fitting. He freed as much of the line as possible from the fittings on the boat but had to tie off the portion of the line caught under the boat. Since we were under sail, we didn't need to address the problem right away, and the swells were too big to consider going into the water for further investigation just then. However, if the line was also caught on the prop, we didn't want to get into a situation in which we needed to use the engine and couldn't.

Later in the afternoon, as the glare disappeared from the water surface behind the boat, we saw that we were still dragging a long piece of line from behind the boat. This piece seemed to originate further down. We decided to stop the boat in order to get the (polypropylene) line to float. We took down sail, and as the line floated, Patrick was able to grab it using the boat hook. He slacked off the line he had tied off on the stern (also running under the boat), and lo and behold: the two were connected! We could not have been luckier as the line was simply caught under the rudder and not wrapped around the prop or shaft. We were able to pull all the remaining line on board, completing the task of freeing Silhouette from the gear.

We regret that we damaged someone's fishing gear; but it was unintentional, and there was not much we could do to set it right after the fact. We feel for those fishermen who, going to check their line, will find it missing. We count our blessings that our boat was not disabled.

Another unusual encounter occurred when we spotted a panga with two fishermen in it. They were 100 miles from the nearest land in an open boat(a panga)with horsepower attached. We wondered if they needed help, but the men seemed to go about their business unperturbed as Patrick brought Silhouette near. Suddenly, one of the men waved at us, and they changed the panga's course to intersect with ours. The panga went astern of us and drew up along the starboard side. "Tiene algo para comer?" the man in the bow asked, "Tengo hambrecito." ("Do you have something to eat? I am a little hungry.") I asked if they had anything to cook with, and they said no. We were out of bread to make sandwiches, so I tried to think of what I could grab that would be quick yet filling---as the panga was running alongside Silhouette, herself racing along under a full main and headsail. I opened two cans of chili con carne and grabbed a couple of apples from the V-berth. I asked if the men had forks/spoons (yes), and Patrick and I passed the food over. I didn't think of what I could put into a goodie bag for later or to ask if they had enough water before the panga was already pulling away from Silhouette with a shouted "Gracias!"

So begins our journey to French Polynesia.

A personal note about communication and blog posts:

We did not have an internet connection from the harbor on Isla Isabella, our last stop in the Galapagos, and the internet cafe was closed on the day we tried to visit it. I (Kirsten) have not been able to read personal email since around May 13, so if I didn't respond to something you sent, I apologize. I had some blog posts about the Galapagos ready that I will upload from sea, but I will have to add the pictures retroactively the next time I get an internet connection. In general, it is getting harder and harder to connect to the internet. (Even on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands, power outages frequently affected the internet cafes, and there won't be any internet cafes on most of the islands and coral atolls in French Polynesia!) So expect fewer pictures in blog posts from here on out---but we will still post photos when we are able.


  1. What a hazard fishing gear is! Do you think it was just floating along, already diconnected from it's owner? Or , do you think you guys snagged it and broke the line?

    On another note. How much sleep are you getting?

    1. We think we accidentally snagged it on the bobstay fitting on the bow, but we hadn't considered the alternative you mentioned. We think Silhouette would have glided right over it (we were sailing during that time period)if not for that fitting.

      I don't know if I've mentioned that we can't read these comments while at sea---thus the late replies.

      Regarding sleep, never enough! We sleep enough to function and do the basic chores every day, but I seldom have the excess energy to go the extra mile and add a special project on to basic boatkeeping chores. We each get about 7 hours of sleep a day, but it's interrupted sleep (not all in one chunk), so you never feel really rested.