The Great Crossing

French Polynesia - Posted On

Day 1

Once more the anchor’s chain is lifted up, engine running to get us out of the Puerto Ayura’ harbor, we are leaving Galapagos on Tago Mago.

It’s 5pm, temperature is about 29°C, as well as the sea water, hygrometry is 80%, and… who cares? We are not in a plane, but on a boat…

However distances to cross are about the same range. 3000 Nautical miles!

Galapagos - Marquises is the mythic cruise in a world tour sailing. Because of how wide it is, because of how long it can be. 3 to 6 weeks they say. Our captain wants to make it in 22 days, as he is referring to Caredas adventure, another sailboat’s story. He likes sailing fast our captain.

“- When we would take only 22 days or less to cross it, it would justify the choice of this boat.”

Tago Mago seems to be the right choice anyway. A Dehler 41, 41 feets, 12.45m, German made, fiber glass hull, very light: 9 tons, sailed as a sloop, 19m of mats, it’s a beautiful one-mats, thin as a bird… the slightest breeze makes she going forward easily, no matter how light the wind is.

I have talked with my dad, mum was not there.

It was like saying “- Farewell dad, I’ll be out of range for a while!”

It’s not so true however. On board, technology has brought so much to sailors. Satellite phone, emails through same connection, marker showing on the internet where we are on live, some other boat as Jsea has also a long range single band radio to communicate through very large distances and also receive end send emails… we are not very left alone to be true!

But well, talking to my dad before leaving was a must anyway. Not every son cross the Pacific Ocean on sailboat.

Cap 240°, wings are lifted up, motor shuts down, Santa Cruz island is left behind in the dark, I see her disappearing slowly, thinking to all of the beautiful things and people I have met there.

The mountainous Isabela approaches on our port side, we have first to deal with current and wind changes close to the Island.

Night watches had been decided during their first crossing from Panama. As I replace André, I adapt to their team system. From 8pm to 12pm, and from 4am to 8am, I’ll be on watch with Fred. From 12pm to 4am, this will be Laurent and Jean-Pierre. And we skip from one system to the other every night.

Delphine will be out of night watches; Frederic wants to keep her as fresh as possible. But within a few days she will replace one after the other every two days so that each of us have a real night to recharge our batteries.

8 hours of shift in one night versus 4 hours for the other team! It’s the first time I hear about such a team shift system. Apparently this way is usual within the racing sailors, so that maneuvers can be done more quickly.

Changing every night makes it impossible to adapt the brain and body to a stable rhythm. Anyway as a new crew entering I don’t have much to say and this is a good opportunity to learn about a new way of doing. Let’s try!

Our first night is new moon, dark sky. The Milky Way is all above us, a marvel of wonder for every human. No light of any city around pollutes our eyes. Constellations are drawn on the celestial roof and we learn about them while the Southern Cross shows us our direction.

Day 2, we get to see sea wildlife of the Galapagos. Strange animals appears, black color, shaped like dolphins or sharks, blowing like whales, maybe a mix of all this. I think about “Cachalots” in French. Next to them, some big tunas jump out of the water

Kitchen is where people can express themselves on board. When Fred starts with Italian spaghettis or risottos, Laurent replies with some fish in garlic or ginger sauce, Delphine comes with her crepes, Jean-Pierre adds up it mayonnaise homemade, and I try to compete with my milky rice.

Day 11, we were desperate about our high technology system for fishing (sandow, clip and simple line with rapala), but a little bit before sunset, Fred observes the sandow quite tensed. bloc

“- FISH!”

A few minutes of high excitation later, we lay a big meter-and-a-half 20kgs Marlin. With Laurent and Jean-Pierre, we empty it, first time for the whole of us, good way of learning. It meat will length us for 4 days, thank you Big Fish!

Things break on a boat by some time. Here is the attach for the wind propeller, there is the attach of the mats. We learn every day from the experience and try to fix as well as we can.

Life on board gets it own rhythm.

We read a lot, play chess, do stretching and exercises every morning. I write a lot, read about sailing, classical books, stories of any kind… it’s also time to learn about nods.

Living altogether is not easy everyday as tiredness and our different personalities come together on board. Hopefully we are all smart enough not to express too much our disagreement, and day-to-day life comes slowly to be quite nice.

I am lucky enough not to share my cabin, Jean-Pierre and Fred share one while Delphine and Laurent another one. Well to say the truth I share mine with my bike, it’s laying right next to me on my bed. We’ll do the trip together till the end my old friend!

Day 18 - Hook

Again a fish is stupid enough to believe our rapala is a real fish and try to eat it. Of course we catch it back to the boat. But it’s not a fish, but… A SHARK!!!

Small one though, he will not exceed 1m long. As our brave captain try to get the rapala’ hook out of the mouth, he makes a false move and PIK! He got it deep in the finger. He cannot remove it anymore, it’s too deep.

We manage to take the hook out of the shark’s mouth, and we try to think to a way to get the hook out of Fred’s finger. 2cms of metal are deep inside, it’s very very bad!

No bistouris on board, we think about operating with a cutter knife. After a firm rejection from everybody, we try to cut the hook with a massive player. Not a good idea. The trial with the metal bore doesn’t give much result.

At last we calculate how far we are from the Marquises, call them with the satellite phone and wait for the 36 hours to get to Hiva Oa’ hospital. Fred is very brave, not complaining at all. We will now call him Captain Hook!

“-Land! Land!”

On the 2nd of May, day 18, in the darkness of the coming morning comes the awaited announcement. A dark shape comes out of the night, we are seeing Tahuata tiny island, a few hours before Iva Oa Island our destination.

Having something to look at, different than the sea, the sky, the clouds, the sun, the stars or the moon, gives a funny feeling to the brain. My eyes become suddenly very receptive and I observe as if it was the first time I was seeing something!

We approach Traitor Bay, and already we notice a few mats of other sailing vessels that I recognize quickly from Panama.

At 9am we drop the anchor next to 18 days and 18 hours cruising the large ocean.

We made it! Welcome to the beauty of the Marquesas Islands!