Just when you think you are prepared
for anything, Wham!, something completely unexpected happens.
I was finally living up to my name, Long
Passages, as we left Academy Bay in the Galapagos Islands for a
3,000 mile non-stop journey across the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesa
Islands in French Polynesia. Bob and Judi were still talking about
their fabulous 10-day stop in these beautiful islands, which included a
4-day tour on a luxury motor launch swimming with sea lions and visiting
many islands. I was left safely anchored with two anchors and under
the watchful eye of our cruising friends on Solitaire. I guess
they were trying to let me rest for the long journey ahead.
We were motoring along, since there was no wind, when suddenly a swarm
of hundreds of wasps, trying to fly upwind of the fires on Isabella Island, decided to
take refuge on ME! They coated the rigging and decks and after some
tense moments, Bob and Judi realized that they were exhausted and were
looking for a place to rest. By the next morning they were gone or
Later in the next day, a breath of wind came up and the skipper called
for the light-air sail to be flown, so he and his best mate went forward
to put it up. False alarm - so back on with the engine and they
again went forward to take the sail down. As they were doing this, I got
very excited and upset since I noticed that SMOKE! was coming out of my
companionway - definitely not a normal occurrence! I kept wondering
what the hell they were doing up there and what was taking so long, but
they continued to dawdle, fold sails, look at dolphins and
chit-chat. Finally, when they did get back to the cockpit - panic
ensued as one of the sailor's and boat's worst nightmare is a fire at
sea. Bob yelled for Judi to turn off the engine as he raced below to
find out what was happening.
The smoke seemed to be coming from the engine compartment and once
opened, Bob found the source - a burned-out starter. He had noticed
some time back that there was corrosion on the engine ignition switch in
the cockpit and had sprayed it with lubricant - that fixed it temporarily
but it was not enough. So, when he turned on the ignition key, it
stuck in the start position and caused the starter to remain engaged,
overheat and melt. Fortunately, there was no fire and no other
damage. We were now faced with a decision as to what to do.
Should we try to sail the 150 miles against the prevailing winds and
currents back to the Galapagos to make repairs, or continue to sail the
3,000 miles to the Marquesas? After some consultation (I was not
included), they finally realized that - Hey!- I'm a sailboat, so they
decided to go for it. Yeah!
This decision called for some real energy-saving measures, as they were
not able to start the engine to charge the batteries. Fortunately,
they had decided not to use the refrigeration for this leg of the trip, so
they did not have to worry about that. Bob had provided me with
several alternative energy sources, though, in the way of 2 solar panels
and an Ampair wind generator, so we were all confident that this would be
enough. Boy, were we wrong! It turns out that when you are
sailing west, solar panels only get exposed to the sun for half of the day
before the sun moves across the horizon in front of the headsail. So
we have the wind generator; but when you are sailing downwind in light
airs, as I was, there is no apparent wind to turn the generator, so we
were totally reliant on the solar panels and my crew had to continually
move them around to catch the most sun possible.
|The energy saving techniques we
- Turned off all instruments, except wind instrument.
- Left GPS off until we made a log entry.
- Turned off all navigation lights at night and kept a really
- Used windvane for steering
- Radio was used only once a day to check in with our friends
- Interior lights were used sparingly
- Compass light kept off and the course was checked using a flashlight
- Used Walker Log for speed and distance.
|So, day after day, mile after mile, we sailed on for 30
days. I performed flawlessly as my double headsails picked up any
zephyr to push us along. I averaged 100 nautical miles a day in no
more than 8-10 knots of wind and my slowest day was 50 nm, but there was
less than 5 kts of wind that day. On May 29, 1994, we made landfall
at Ua Pou island. I was ready to keep going, but the crew
would have mutinied, so I relented and let Don, skipper of my sailing
buddy, Solitaire, tie their inflatable dingy alongside my hull and power
me into a nice secure spot behind the breakwater. My crew dropped
our anchor and the crew of my other pal, La Chaumeire, took out my stern
anchor and there we were in French Polynesia. We had sailed all the
way and still had enough residual power left to run the radar and
radio! So, Bob and Judi popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and
toasted themselves for all the work I did.
- Have mechanical windvane unless you want to hand-steer for
- Have alternate sources of energy such as solar panels and
- When sailing downwind, the apparent wind can be very light or
- When sailing west, the boat loses the sunlight once it moves
low on the horizon and in front of the headsail.
- Always keep a good watch at night, especially if you have to
turn off navigation lights. We saw several ships and fishing
fleets at night on this passage.
- If you have an integrated instrument arrangement, make sure that you
can disconnect or turn off instruments that are not needed and
keep on those (eg. wind instrument and/or knotmeter) that are needed.
- Fix problems when you first see them. We had noticed the
corrosion on the ignition switch, but, other than spraying it with WD40,
did not correct the real problem: the ignition key is a different type
of metal than the switch and we had left the key in the ignition all
the time, and saltwater set up electrolysis between them. We have since completely
enclosed the instrument panel in a weather-proof housing.
- We were happy that we chose not to use refrigeration, because we
would have had throw a lot of food overboard. It was very easy
to do without and the only thing we missed were cold drinks.
Instead we used the "fridge" for dry storage of canned food
- Perhaps carry a Walker Log - we did and used it to determine
distance traveled and speed through the water.
[This next story was a real