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!
The first 12 boats in the World ARC 2023 transited the Panama Canal on 29 & 30 January 2023. We were divided into four “nests” of three boats each, with Mistral as the starboard boat of Nest 1. After collecting our Panama Canal advisor next to Shelter Bay Marina, we motored down to Gatun Lock which we cleared through in the dark. Next we continued on to Gatun Lake where we moored up for the night.
The next day was a long motor through Gatun Lake to the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Miraflores Lock. Unfortunately our advisors were unable to prevent Nest 1 from colliding with the lock wall as we exited Miraflores – the stanchions are being repaired as I type.
Passing under the Bridge of the Americas marks the transition from the Atlantic to the Pacific – we’ve now sailed our boat from France to the Pacific Ocean!
Tim & Jane have now flown back to the UK and Shirley & David are joining us for the next leg to Las Perlas Islands and Galapagos.
So we’ve finally set off on the grand adventure. For this leg and and the next we have Tim & Jane aboard to help.
The race start went well. Without trying too hard (too risky to challenge hard when you’re in your home!) we were third over the line, but boats 1 & 2 were judged to be over the line at the start so we were officially the first boat across.
After an hour or so, as the boats started to spread out, we took some time to rig the pole and set the sails for the 800 nm of downwind port tack sailing ahead. With that done, we were able to pretty much stay on the rhumb line (direct) for Santa Marta. We did have to gybe to starboard a couple of times but we simply furled the main and sailed on just the genoa until we could gybe back and put the main out again.
The only fly in the ointment was that Jane was poorly for most of the passage. A cold turned chesty then coughy then ear-achey. We called our medical support service and they recommended antibiotics, which we have onboard. She’s now on the mend.
Overall it was a very pleasant passage. No big seas, no bad squalls, winds below 25 kt most of the time, and we had success fishing!
The first fish that took the hook took the whole line and lure as well. Rerigged, the next one just took the lure. Third time lucky – a Mahi Mahi took the bait and Tim and Karen reeled it in. The fish was a beautiful yellow-green colour and it’s now in the freezer ready for our next meal onboard.
We are now in Santa Marta, Colombia, and can’t quite believe we’ve sailed our boat from France to South America! It just doesn’t seem real.
Next are a few days’ R&R and boat maintenance, then World ARC 2023 Leg 2: Santa Marta to the San Blas Islands.