April & May 2023
Funny old thing, fishing. We weren’t sure we’d do any on this trip, never having fished before, but we inherited a rod and reel with the boat and Martin passed it fit for duty. He promptly proved it by catching a decent-sized wahoo.
So when we arrived in Gran Canaria off we went to a fishing shop where we bought a new rod & reel, some spare line and a selection of lures, mostly pink plastic squids. We also popped into the off-licence for a cheap bottle of vodka, a splash of which which sends them to fish heaven almost instantly.
So each morning, assuming the seas are not too rough, the rain not continuous and enough crew awake to be able to deal with a catch, we set two lures two or three boat-lengths behind the boat. We then go back to our normal activities e.g. navigating, boat repair, boat maintenance, sleeping, radio net calls, cooking, reading, writing blog posts, FaceTiming family etc.
A few indeterminate hours or days later, we are startled into action by the sound of one of the lines running out as a fish takes the lure. At this stage, five things can happen:
- The fish immediately rejects the lure and disappears.
- The fish bites the line and takes the lure to the deep.
- We are too slow to get to the reel, the line runs all the way out, breaks, and the fish gets the lure and 150 ft of line.
- We battle the fish to the side of the boat whereupon it thrashes up and jumps the hook.
- We successfully gaff and land the fish. Note this only has a 20% probability…
Assuming we land the fish, we then give it a dash of vodka, bleed it (increases flavour), gut it and fillet it. Sounds easy but probably takes 40 min or so.
Yesterday we heard the lines running out and both lures had been taken! The fish on the starboard line took option 1 and vanished but we managed to land the other one, which was a magnificent tuna.
Oh, I’ve missed a sixth possibility after a bite: the fish becomes bait for a bigger fish. Nice work, Tim!
We continued on to Tikehau in company with Matt and Fiona on Matilda. Tikehau – another stunning atoll. From there it was a 24 hr passage to Moorea, close to Tahiti, where we anchored in Cook Bay.
In Tahiti we took the oportunity to get some maintenance done, mostly routine – engine & generator service, rigging inspection and tune-up, but also an instrument needed repair and the aircon needed a new capacitor. All the work was carried out efficiently, a bit of an unusual occurence in sailing.
Then it was on to Tahaa for a couple of days including the stunning Coral Garden snorkeling area.
Sailing from Ua-Pou, in the Marquesas, to Ahe, in the Tuamotus and on to Rangoria.
From the Marquesas to Bora Bora is “free sailing” on the World ARC. That means we can go where we like as long as we all meet up in Bora Bora on 11 May, to prepare for Leg 5. It’s about 1000 nm from Ua-Pou to Bora Bora with lots of atolls in between – the Tuamotu Islands and the Society Islands being the main groups.
With Patrick and Janie leaving us in Nuku Hiva (thanks for all your hard work!) Karen and I decided to sail to Ahe in the Tuamotu group on our own. 480 nm is three days and three nights of sailing. We ran a three hour on, three hour off watch system and although tiring, not too bad and definitely possible for short passages.
The highlight was catching a tuna on day 2. We think it may have swallowed the hook completely as it was already dead when we landed it. Karen gutted and filleted it – there’s probably enough for 16 servings!
Arriving in Ahe posed a new challenge – the atoll. Only one way in and always a current dragging you one way or the other. The advice is to enter on slack tide, which in the South Pacific is six hours after moonset or moonrise, that would be 1220 local for us. Our ETA was 1400 which we thought might be too late, so we motored for the last few hours and arrived outside the pass at 1315. It didn’t look too bad so, with life jackets on and the boat buttoned up, we motored though the pass. All good, but definitely not something to do at night or in bad weather.
The anchorage is by the “Village” – we’re surrounded by shoals, “boombies” and reefs. Again, day VFR only!
Three weeks at sea – this is the longest passage of the whole circumnavigation, 2980 nautical miles in a straight line.
But you can’t go in a straight line because you need to go south to pick up the Trade Winds. How far south? Good question.
In our case, we missed the official start because we couldn’t raise the anchor. The chain was snagged on something but it magically freed itself an hour later. Once we were on our way we went a little further west and a little less south than most of the fleet. It still took three days of motoring to find the wind, and even then the wind was less strong and more variable than we’d experienced in the Atlantic.
Some of the hightlights of the 21-day passage: a midnight rescue of Raindancer, a non-ARC boat which hit a whale and sank within 15 minutes. Eight ARC boats diverted to the last known position of the liferaft but another non-ARC boat, Rolling Stones, got there first and effected the rescue. Fishing: we threw three fish back which we decided were too small to eat, but landed a tuna and a small mahi mahi. Sun shots: Patrick was keen to use the sextant so between us we took quite a lot of sun shots. Our fixes were usually within 5-10 nm of our GPS position – good enough! Fixing the boat (not really a highlight): the generator played up on this leg. By trial and error and some advice from other boats, I narrowed the problem down to the fuel feed, so we eventually found a way to keep the genny running. Losing the generator means we have to charge the batteries by running the engine, but it also means we can’t run the water-maker.
As we finally anchored in the small bay of Hiva Oa, I recorded our total distance as 3080 nm. Here’s to some shorter passages over the next few weeks!
855 nautical miles, 5 days, but unfortunately, after the first day, there was no wind. We motored at reduced speed so we had a better chance of catching fish (not many fish that you want on board can swim at 8 kt).
At least, motoring, you don’t have to worry about a night-time squall requiring a sail-plan change, but we used 670 litres of fuel which won’t be cheap in Galapagos.
At midnight on the 12th of February we crossed the equator. I woke up the crew (fast asleep, as usual) and Karen came on deck with a bottle of champagne and an “Equator Cake”. After a suitable celebration I retired in order to be compos mentis for the Galapagos arrival.
We’re now on San Cristobal island, Galapagos, preparing for inspection so we can continue to stay. Fingers crossed they don’t find my stack of Cheesey Puffs!
It took two to reel it in. Couldn’t weigh it but measured at 130cm. Very happy!
We completed the ARC+ Leg 1 in five days and eleven hours. With all the handicaps applied our final position was 22nd out of the 92 boats, and fifth in our division of nineteen – a great result!
After very calm winds at the start, the weather was perfect for the passage – 15-20 knots of wind generally from behind. We poled out the genoa, put a preventer on the main, and let her fly. Even the swell wasn’t too bad.
We’ve now had a few days in Cape Verde. There were surprisingly few snags on the boat so we’ve done some tourism, driving around the island of St Vicente and yesterday visiting the neighbouring island of Santo Antào. Spectacular scenery!
On Friday we start leg 2 – 2000nm to Grenada – wish us luck!