Panama to Nuku Hiva  May-June 2009

May 11

Gulf of Panama:  Monday

0930  Dropped mooring at Balboa Yacht Club.  Entered main shipping channel fifty yards away.  Kept to the east side until a ship passed heading in, then crossed to west.  Very light wind.  Complete overcast.  With current and tide behind me was making 6.5 knots at only 2500 rpm, which normally produces 5.4 knots.

1150  Stopped engine,  I thought I would have to power beyond the anchored ships--at least forty--and the nearby offshore islands before I found wind, and I did.  Making 5.5 knots under main and jib in 7 knots apparent wind on a beam reach.   I like having wind information.  Wonder how long it will last.

Hundreds of birds in and over the waters south of the canal entrance.  As I watched a seemingly endless line of cormorants flying single file across our bow, they abruptly turned into pelicans, following in line behind.

1210  Noon position:  08º 56’ North; 79º 34‘ West.  Run to noon 13 miles.  Nuku Hiva 3773 miles, bearing 254º.  The distance is not accurate because we still have 80 miles to go south before we can turn west.  Probably tomorrow’s noon distance will be accurate.

This will be a passage of longitude rather than latitude.  We will cross 60º of longitude but only 18º of latitude.  And we will do almost two of those degrees of latitude the first day.

I just noticed that my waypoint off Nuku Hiva is exactly as far south as my starting position on the mooring at Balboa Yacht Club is north:  8º 56’.

Sky clearing ahead.  Becoming darker over the land behind.  Two ships in sight heading north.  

1410  At last a cooling breeze.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is making 6.4 knots on a broad reach in 10 knots apparent wind.  The tillerpilot is still steering because I what to hold a compass course until we round the first waypoint off Punta Mala, which doesn’t need translating,  64 miles ahead.  Speed just went above 7.

1700 Wind went behind us, so I lowered the main, which was blanketing the jib.  Wind moved to the beam, so I raised the main.  Wind has gone toward the stern again and is very light.  I’ve left the main up, but altered course to 210º, which won’t clear Punta Mala, to try to keep the sails filled.  SOG down to 3 knots.  Sky covered with high overcast.

An afternoon for the big white spinnaker, but I’ve experienced sudden torrential squalls in the Gulf of Panama before and won’t risk it.

1830  Gray and rather dismal on deck.  No sunset.  Just grey to black.  Wind has swung back and forth behind us.  Jibed jib several times.  Now to starboard with wind slightly east of north.  You do have to work your way out of the Gulf of Panama.  Making 5.5 knots.  Haven’t seen any ships since two around noon.

May 12

North Pacific Ocean:  Tuesday

0600  I am more than twenty miles clear of the Gulf of Panama, but continuing on a course of around 200º a while longer in search of more solid wind before turning for the Marquesas.

I went to sleep first at 1930 hours.  Ships that had been invisible in the haze were revealed by their running lights to the east after dark, but they became more distant through the night as I cut the corner closer to land than they did. 

It was a full moon night, but I hardly saw it, except briefly when it rose, oddly to me on my left after always rising on the right during my long sail up the Atlantic.  The brightest light came from luminescence in the water, through which dolphins left torpedo like streamers, and our own bow wave sparkled.

I was up and down all night, longest at 2300, when the seas became lumpy and almost constant lightning ahead presaged conditions that might be too much for the tiller pilot, so I changed to the Monitor.  We were then ten miles north of Punta Mala and ten miles offshore.

Only very light rain ever fell on us.  It might be falling still.  I have the upper slat in the companionway open and the small main cabin hatch open a few inches as well.  Low grey overcast.  SOG on a port broad reach 5 knots.  Masthead wind until still transmitting all information.

0650  My first cup of coffee inspired me to jibe and see what the sailing was like on the right course.  It is much better.  Almost a beam reach, so I raised the mainsail and we are making 6.8 knots on course for Nuku Hiva.

While I was on deck the rain increased slightly, but is still light.  A tuna boat heading in was to my south, and a container ship heading out to my north.  She crossed a mile ahead of me.  That she was to the north may indicate that I’ve already moved beyond some of the shipping lanes and should be clear of most shipping by this evening.

0810  In full passage mode now that I have removed the key from the ignition and put the spray cover in place.

Sky is starting to clear.  Clouds no longer touching the masthead.  Wind has backed.  Making  an effortless 7.5 to 8 knots on a close reach under main and jib with four rolls.  In all, so far a fine offing from Panama.

1200  I’ve been stalked by a whale.

Making 3 knots close-hauled on port tack on course 300º, which is 40º higher than I want and taking us, albeit very slowly, back toward land.

The early excellent sailing did not last.  When I was on deck re-trimming sails at 0900 a small whale, about half the size of THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, surfaced less than a small whale length away.  And then he, or she, wouldn’t go away.  The whale made no threatening movements, but repeatedly surfaced very close to the boat and I was concerned that it might brush again the rudder or self-steering vane with undesirable consequences to HAWKE if not the whale.

Finally I took the spray cover off the engine control panel and started the engine, thinking that might make it go away.  It didn’t, even though I eventually powered at full speed for a while.  At the end, there it still was, perhaps a lost calf seeking adoption or maybe merely curious.    So I went below and resuming re-reading  Eca de Quieros’ masterpiece, THE MAIAS.  I haven't’ heard or seen the whale for a while and hope it has found something better to do than stalk THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.

At 1100 the wind died completely and we were being flopped around on small waves, so the spray cover still off, I started the engine and powered until just before noon when I thought we could sail.  Speed now 2.3 knots.

Noon position:  06º 56’ North; 80º 31‘ West.  Day’s run;  122, significantly lower than the true distance sailed because of the dogleg caused by jibing this morning.  Nuku Hiva 3688, bearing 255º.  That distance is essentially accurate.  Only Costa Rica’s tiny Cocos Island between us and there.  Although we are not presently pointing ‘there’.

Sky completely overcast again.  

1600  Heading south, close-hauled on port tack, beneath solid overcast and very light wind.  Looks and feels like the doldrums, but isn’t.  Making 3 and 4 knots in the wrong direction, but the other tack would take us back toward land, and I want to get away from it and the shipping.

Have seen one ship this afternoon to the north and heading north.

1730  There are no cheerful colors on deck.  Only gray and grayer. 

We are making five knots on course 200º, which is a mere 50º off the desired course, against a slowly rising wind.  I put four rolls in the jib.  Easy enough to take them out later if the wind decreases.  Rain ahead and off our starboard bow.  The only good thing about this cloud cover is that it has kept the day cooler.

On my two previous passages from Panama out to the Marquesas, RESURGAM had fine sailing with her highest day’s runs ever, more than 200 miles on successive circumnavigations.  She actually sailed at 7 to 7.5 knots and the rest was current.  I hoped that THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, which easily reaches 8 knots, could do the same or even better. 

On both passages I stayed well north of the Galapagos.  If this wind continues I might have to pass east and south.

Hope it is an uneventful night.  Free of squalls, ships and lonely whales.

May 13

North Pacific Ocean:  Wednesday

0610  It was not an uneventful night. 

Just before sunset a ship carrying some sort of liquid cargo, not oil, came over to check out THE HAWKE OF TUONELA and passed close, but safely astern.  As she continued on her course to some South American port, I saw in the gathering darkness six lights of what had to be a fishing fleet spread across the ocean ahead of me.

I continued on for a mile, then tacked away to the northwest.  I was making five knots and all but one of the lights began to fade.  However that one was becoming brighter.  After my experience last year off Java, I may be paranoid; but, as Woody Allen once said, ‘Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t prevent people from persecuting me.‘  I turned off my masthead tricolor light and the other light began immediately to fade.

The night ahead of us was full of lightning and thunder, and the wind soon veered and strengthened.  I tacked to starboard and partially furled the jib.  In wind that never became more than fourteen knots, we sailed at 6 knots on course for most of the night.

At 0330 I woke to what sounded like popcorn popping.  It was rain on the deck and dodger, and with it the wind died.

We are now essentially becalmed.  The main is up and that part of the jib that doesn’t extend back to the shrouds on which I don’t want it chaffing.    Our SOG is 1.4 knots.  COG varying around 240º.  Since noon yesterday we’ve made 64 miles.

0740  Engine on.  Tired of rolling on 2’ swells.  Sky behind still completely covered by high cloud.  Some clearing ahead.

0940  Breath of wind from south.  Engine off.  Sailing at 2.7 knots under main and jib.  Tillerpilot steering.

1000  Boat speed down to 1 knot.  Engine on.

1020  Engine off.  Sailing at 3 knots under jib and main.  Sky everywhere heavy and leaden.

The last time I transited the canal, RESURGAM’s engine died just as we pulled into the Panama YC.  This was seven months after the United States invaded the country to arrest General Noriega, and with the subsequent rioting and looting, there were no Volvo parts in the country, so we rented a 15 horsepower outboard, jury-rigged an outboard bracket on the self-steering vane mount, and, after transiting the canal and returning the outboard, sailed across the Pacific engineless until we finally were able to replace the diesel in Sydney, Australia.  I mention this because I know that in RESURGAM we did this passage quickly and completely under sail.  Obviously had better wind than I’m having now.

1230  Making 3.7 to 4.0 knots, port beam reach.  High cloud cover.  Barometer is rising.  Up to 1016 from a low of 1012 yesterday.

Noon position:  06º 18’ North; 81º 47‘ West.  Day’s run:  84 miles.  Nuku Hiva 3606 miles, bearing 255º.  

1705  I’m getting tired of looking at a gray sky.

All afternoon heavy rain was falling from a dark bank of clouds to the south of us,  but when we finally reached those clouds, there was no rain and the wind increased only to twelve knots and briefly headed us.

In preparation I had furled the jib halfway and moved the Monitor tiller connection one link to port to give it more leverage.  Have already moved the connection back to its original position.

I have felt that our SOG was perhaps a full knot lower than we were sailing.  In twelve knots of wind, our SOG only reached a maximum of 5.5 knots.  We were surely sailing more than 6 knots, so I postulate an adverse current.  SOG now 4.9, which at least better than being becalmed or powering.

Had a salt water shower this afternoon, then cut my hair. 

During the middle part of my life, when I had hair, I cut it myself.  Only during the past decade or so, when I’ve had ever less hair have I for some reason gone to barbers.  Recently Carol has cut it quite well.   I had it last cut in Port Elizabeth, which would have been early February.   So I chopped it back.  Easier to do than it used to be.

Haven’t seen any ships today.  Hope I don’ see any lights tonight.

1930  Dark night, except for lightning ahead of us.  Not sure if the moon is still full.  Certainly haven’t seen much of it the past two nights.  No lights of ships or fishing fleet in sight.

I checked to see what the speed transducer in the instrument system indicates about our speed.   It and the SOG from the chartplotter’s GPS are usually close.  Not now.  A full two knots difference.  SOG 5.0.  Speed from the instrument system 7.0.  While that may be a bit high, I think it confirms the existence of a strong current against us.

May 14

North Pacific Ocean:  Thursday

0445  New time zone, GMT -6.

Once last night I woke startled by a bright light shining through the companionway:  it was the moon.   It in its gibbous waning phase is still visible now to the south, and from where I am sitting I can see the morning star, so the sky is clearer than it has been.  Full light will reveal how clear.

I got up an hour ago to find us heading 325º.  The wind, never strong, had gone light, and I had moved the Monitor chain again one link over for greater leverage before I went to bed.   I moved it back, completely unfurled the jib, re-trimmed the sails, and we are again making 5 knots on course. 

I noticed when I got up during the night that our SOG seemed to be closer to the speed I felt we were sailing.  I even saw a few 6s.  So perhaps we have escaped the worst of the adverse current.

0700  Sailing smoothly toward the Apocalypse.

Hopes that today would bring clearing have not been realized.  Although the overcast is no longer total, huge low clouds filled with rain remain.  One is off our port quarter and another off the port bow.  So far they have not resulted in dramatic increases in wind, but any one of them could.  I’ve eased the main traveler and furled the jib to half.  Making 4.8 knots across a sea of lead.

1200  About all you can say for today is that it is better than yesterday.  There was some blue sky this morning, but it is gone; and we are probably being slowed .5 of a knot by current instead of 1+.  Complete cloud cover again.  Rain to the south and astern.  Looks slightly better ahead. 

This is like an endless mountain range where every time you reach a summit, you find another ahead of you.  Here the lines of low cumulus clouds are endless, as is the distant rumble of thunder.

I checked the current chart in an old copy of REED’S NAUTICAL ALMANAC I keep for reference.  We are being slowed by the Counter Equatorial Current, which runs up to 1.5 knots to the east.  Without a break from this wind and weather, I can’t get out of it without sailing southeast.

Caught a glimpse of a boat, perhaps a fishing trawler, north of us an hour ago, but not since.

We’ve moved beyond Panama.  The land 125 miles north of us and receding is Costa Rica.

Noon position:  06º 17’ North; 83º 42‘ West.  Day’s run:  114 (25 hours).  Nuku Hiva 3495, bearing 255º.

1505  I was wrong.  Today isn’t better than yesterday:  it’s worse.

A thunderstorm caught us two hours ago and has yet to let us go.  It spun us north for a while; south for a while; and killed the wind for a while.  Torrential rain for a while; steady rain since.  I stripped down and had a cool fresh water rinse.  Thunder and lightning closer than I like.  One burst of thunder sounded like a prolonged ripping of the fabric of the sky.  During one brief clear interval to the north, I saw a ship heading southeast, so perhaps the earlier sighting was another ship and not a fishing trawler.

Sky one undifferentiated shade of gray; the sea another.  The sky lighter.

Not the passage I remembered or hoped for.

1630  Still raining. 

When you pit yourself against the sea, some of it is going to be hard. It should be.  This is hard, but in a peculiar way.  Not Cape Horn hard, or Force 12 hard.  This is  slow, frustrating, dismal hard.  There is great beauty out here, but not so far on this passage.  I try to detune myself, as I did in the canal transit.  Simply accept whatever happens, but it is difficult.

We’re sailing more or less west at four knots.  I tell myself that in a week it will be better.

May 15

North Pacific Ocean:  Friday

0515  Rain ended at 2000 and we continued sailing slowly west over a smooth sea.

First light this morning reveals a disappointingly cloudy sky, though I don’t see any thunderheads.

0720  Breakfast for five.

I had mine on deck, which was pleasantly cool.  Three terns, whose calls are like squeaky hinges, and who, unlike other pelagic birds, expend considerable energy flapping their winds frenetically, dove and caught fish nearby.  And something big judging by the size of the surface splash caught something else a hundred yards off the port bow.

I fiddled with the sails.  Moved the mainsheet traveler.  Adjusted sheet tension on both main and jib.  Adjusted the main luff and outhaul.  Mostly I made us go slower.  And so ended up with everything about where I started.  The wind unit is still talking to me and it says we have 5 to 6 knots of wind, which is what I think too.   Making four knots is as good as it is going to get, particularly with the possibility we still have some adverse current.  Would be a very pleasant lazy daysail if I didn’t want to get anywhere.

0900 Blue sky to the south.  Only high cloud over us.  Sunshine.

1205  Although many low cumulus clouds remain, the day continues sunny.  I think we have escaped The Great Dismal Swamp.  A little more wind, and it has backed to the south.   Our SOG is 6.0 knots; COG 231º.  I may ease us off to 240º.

While we have continued west, the coast has trended north and the closest point of the Costa Rican mainland is more than 200 miles distant. 

Noon position:  06º 07‘ North; 85º 09‘ West.  Day’s run:  88 miles.  Nuku Hiva 3409 miles, bearing 255º.    

1430  Amazing that it is Friday and a week ago, given the hour time difference, I was powering around The Flats, waiting for Tito and my adviser, about to start the canal transit.  It seems much more recent than that.  

1615  Did some exercises.  Took a salt water solar shower.   Some clouds to the west.  Didn’t have to ease off to 240º.  Wind backed and headed us off to 255º-260º.  Having a hard time getting south of 06º North.  Only one more mile to go, but at this angle it will take a while.  Going on deck with a glass of wine to listen to music.

1830  Sailed toward rain for the past few hours.  It didn’t look serious and dissipated before we reached it, but the clouds bent the wind and turned us northwest, so I’ve tacked and am heading 210º.  I expect that in time the wind will return to where it was, head us, and I’ll tack back.  Good sailing for a while.   Now down to 4 knots.

1850  That tack lasted about as long as I expected.  Back on port.  SOG 5.4.  COG 254º.  And we still haven’t crossed 06º North.     

May 16

North Pacific Ocean:  Saturday

0550  Worse and worse.  I’ve already tacked four times this morning and haven’t even had a cup of coffee.

Just before 2000 last night we crossed 06º North and our latitude was 05º 59‘ North.  Now it is 06º 19‘ North.  The wind backed and headed us all night, forcing us northwest. 

I saw this as I got up during the night, but there was and is nothing to do about it.

When I woke for good an hour ago, rain was falling from dark clouds just north and east of us.  That is dissipating, but those clouds may be screwing up the wind.  The sky is mostly clear ahead. 

There is more chop; only 2’, but we are pounding a bit and taking water over the deck.  Or rather we were when we were making more than 5 knots.  At the moment we are wallowing under full sail at 4.5 and not taking any spray at all.  

As often happens in the Topics, the afternoon’s clouds and rain disappeared as the air cooled at sunset and by 1900 the sky was clear and starry, until clouds began to form again after midnight.

0715  It is in fact a beautiful morning, sunny, blue sky, except to the northeast; just not for sailing to the Marquesas.

Three more tacks find us heading around 200º.  If the Galapagos weren’t in the way, I’d keep going until I was headed again or reached the southeast trade winds, but they are:  450 miles dead ahead.  Costa Rica’s Cocos Island is only 55 miles ahead.

1020  Two visitors.  One a big sea turtle swimming beside a piece of bamboo.  The other a helicopter that circled high overhead and then flew off to the northwest.

The wind continued to veer and for a while we were sailing 230º, which was perfect.  Unfortunately we come up to a rain cloud that has while I’ve been writing swung us back to 151º.  On deck to tack.

1040  Tacked.  Tacked back.  Sailing 221º at 5.4 knots.  Wish this wind would last.  Can see Cocos, 39 miles distant according to the chartplotter.  

Heeled over enough when tacking to have water sloshing over cabin sole, so I pumped four buckets full from bilge.

1205  Can’t get a break from the wind, which has backed, heading us again, and weakened.  COG 190º.  SOG 5.0.  On this course we will  pass east of Cocos.  Earlier we were easily going to pass west.  And for that matter, if we continue to be headed, I’ll tack.  Now down to 185º. 

Noon position:  06º 00’ North; 86º 48‘ West.  Day’s run 100 miles.  Sailed more, but tacked.  Nuku Hiva  3312 miles, bearing 254º.

Rain behind us.  Sunny with clouds ahead.

This is almost certainly going to be the slowest week of the entire voyage so far.

1410  One miserable four mile long speck of land in hundreds of miles and it is right in my way.  Tried to pass to windward.  Can’t.  Now trying to pass well to leeward.  Wind very light.  Making about 4 knots.  And no matter what course I try to sail, the wind points us right at Cocos.

1700 Five and six knots of wind forever.  Not a white-cap in sight.  We’re eight miles due east of Cocos Island, making 4.8 knots.

What is white and in sight are pieces of plastic.  Ever since I left Panama I’ve seen more plastic in the sea than usual, but this afternoon near Cocos I’ve seen more than I’ve ever seen before anywhere.  Water bottles.  Pieces of styrofoam.  Bags.  Medicine bottles.  Boxes.  Cups.  Almost always one or more in sight.

In the past I’ve thought the Mediterranean was the most polluted sea.  The Med is essentially a closed system.  You throw something in the Med and it is there forever.  I think that Cocos Island is uninhabited.  I’ll check when I next have an Internet connection.  So I have no explanation.  I only report the fact.

Beyond the plastic and slow sailing, it is a beautiful afternoon of gray, blue and white, cloud and sea, shadow and light.

2015  An hour ago, I was sitting on deck, listening to music.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was six miles east of Cocos.  The sun had set.  Darkness was nearly complete, when suddenly a spotlight came on from a small vessel a few hundred yards away in the direction of Cocos Island.  I could not see the boat, but knew it was small because its running lights were near the water.  First i saw the green starboard light.  I had not seen any running lights prior to the spotlight coming on.

I turned impassively toward the light.  It remained steady, then moved astern.

I went below, turned off the music, got a screw driver to remove the spray cover from the engine control, and the key to the engine.

Back on deck, the spot light was still shining.  I removed the spray cover, started the engine, but left it in neutral.

The other boat was two hundred yards away, possibly more.  Now I could see its port red running light.

The spot light continued on me.  I continued to look directly at it.  Then the light went out, and the other vessel’s green running light became visible, and gradually dimmed as it fell astern.  It went out.  I climbed down the companionway and turned off my masthead tricolor, then back into the cockpit where I put the engine in gear and powered at six knots for forty-five minutes.  Now sailing at four knots.  See no lights.  Hear no other engine.

(In Nuku Hiva I met a Swedish couple who had anchored at Cocos Island.  I asked them if it was inhabited, and they said only by park rangers, who patrol the nearby waters for illegal fishing.  Quite probably the boat whose lights I saw was theirs.)

May 17

North Pacific Ocean:  Sunday

0530  No more excitement last night.  I sailed without my tricolor masthead light on.

Fishing boats around Cocos would explain all the plastic I saw in the water there.

Dawn is angrily cloudy and orange.  Heavy rain falling far astern.  Only patch of clear sky ahead. 

Our course has remained a disappointing 195º. 

Near the Equator is the Equatorial Current that runs west.  I had hoped to reach it, but will probably try to tack and see what course I can sail on port.  We’re not getting much closer to Nuku Hiva on this tack.


Just checked the pilot chart information in Visual Passage Planner.  Essentially there is no west wind here, which is what we have.  More than 80% of the wind comes from the southwest or south.  Based on the pilot chart information, the further south I go, the more likely the wind will be from the south, and the current starts to flow west at about 3º North.  So if this unlikely wind persists, I’m going to hold this course for another day.

The percent of calms is not great above 2º North.  Near the Galapagos calms can be expected from 10% to 15% of the time. 

1205  Clouds have caught up with us and now cover all the sky, except for a small patch to the north.  Rain falling in some places, but not yet on us.

Wind continues light and from the west.  When our course fell to 170º a couple of times, I tacked, but ended up tacking back.  Won’t sail east of 180º.  At the moment 185º and 5.2 knots.

Noon position:  04º 16‘ North;  87º 22‘ West.  Day’s run:  110 miles.  But that was mostly south and only shortened our distance to Nuku Hiva by 59 miles.  Nuku Hiva 3253 miles, bearing 256º. 


1445  Tacked a few more times.  Can’t get the boat to sail any course within 45º of the rhumb line to Nuku Hiva.   Scattered showers about.  Very light wind.  Making 3.9 knots course 210º.  Very discouraging.  Very frustrating.  Very depressing.  Enough to drive a man to drink.  So I’m going to have a beer.

May 18

North Pacific Ocean:  Monday

0530  Almost came to a stop several times last night.  Sails slatting.  SOG less than 1 knot.  But a few hours ago the wind filled in from the south and we are presently making 5.7 knots  close reaching on course 250º.  Also being rained on.  Hope the wind doesn’t end when the rain does.

0605  Wind didn’t even last as long as the rain.  Still raining.  Boat speed 0.7.

0815  Terrible morning.  Slow rain.  Low clouds.  Rumble of distant thunder.  Becalmed.  Rolling on swells from somewhere.  Jib furled.  Mainsail still up and slamming around. 

I can see the adverse current on the chartplotter.  Our bow is facing west, but the chartplotter shows us going east at between .6 and .8 of a knot.  That’s the current carrying us backward.

1205  Rain is easing, almost stopped.  Sky has small patch of blue to the south and the overcast is brighter.  A ship crossed a few miles ahead an hour ago, moving northwest to southeast.  Wind is light.  We start our second week sailing at 3.4 knots on course 258º.

Noon position:  03º 49‘ North; 88º 20‘ West.  Day’s run 64 miles.  Week’s run:  682.  Nuku Hiva 3190 miles, bearing 256º.

I was so happy to be back in the Pacific a week ago Saturday, and it has given me the smallest week’s run of the entire voyage by almost a hundred miles.  Next slowest week was 777 miles.  And the day that just ended was the shortest day’s run of the voyage.  Not at all what I remembered or expected.  

1615  Shaved.  Salt water showered.  Changed into clean dry shorts.

We were sailing along at 4 to 5 knots on 250º  until we came up to a band of clouds and rain that have caused the wind to head us.  Now sailing 192º.

The growth on my leg that was frozen in St. Thomas and which the doctor told me I need not worry about for the rest of this voyage has grown back.  It is sensitive and slightly painful to the touch, which is the reason I just thought of it when I rested the computer on top of it.

I’m really beginning to wonder how I’m ever going to get to the Marquesas.

1700 Tacked to 306º.  This statistically unlikely west wind is all we get.

1745  Rain easing.  SOG 2.5 knots.  COG 315º.

1810  Rain continues, but wind has backed to south.  Took off my shorts to keep them dry when I went out to adjust sails.  Easier to dry skin than cloth.  SOG 4.2.  COG 245º.

1840  SOG 2.4.  COG 264º.

May 19

North Pacific Ocean:  Tuesday

0530  Awakened by rain an hour ago.  Sailed at 3 to 5 knots in the right direction most of the night until the rain.  Saw lights of a ship far to the north one of the times I was up.  Steady hard rain continues.  Has killed wind.  SOG .8 of a knot.  The only good news is that from the instruments it appears that the current is taking us west instead of east.  Perhaps we’ve reached the Equatorial Current.

Am two hundred miles north of the Galapagos.  Still have two hundred and fifty miles west to go before I can turn south and try to reach the southeast trades.  If I had this to do over, I would have gone due south from Panama until I reached them and passed south of the Galapagos.  But I had good sailing going this way twice before. 

0600  I was wrong about the current.  It is still taking us backwards.  Rain continues.  SOG .8.  COG 116º, although bow is pointing 242º.  Sails slatting.

0810  Finally a pause in the rain.  I tried to tack.  Failed to come about.  Sailing northwest at 2 knots.  Continued complete low overcast.

We were level enough this morning for me to clear the bilge with the electric bilge pump.  Almost always heeled over too far to use it at sea.  Also pumped a bucket full of water from the engine compartment.

1205  Misty rain from the south, but we are beam reaching west at 5 knots.

Noon position:  03º 22’ North; 89º 23‘ West.  Day’s run 69 miles.  Nuku Hiva 3122 miles, bearing 256º.

1600  Gray on gray on gray.  Lighter shades this afternoon.  Complete low cloud overcast.  Misty rain to the south of us.  Rain off the starboard bow.

We’re 180 miles north of the closest of the Galapagos.  Also less than 6,000 miles from my mooring, which at this rate will take one hundred days.

1900  Went back on deck after dinner to sit and enjoy the sailing.

Two hours ago, after a few minutes of calm, twelve to fourteen knots of wind filled in from the south and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA has been sailing 5.5+ knots.  I’ve even seen a few 6’s.  These are not normally numbers that excite me, but it has been a while.  We still have most of a knot of current against us. 

Clouds have thinned since sunset.  A few stars visible and the shadow of a seabird hunting.

May 20

North Pacific Ocean:  Wednesday

0520   We continued sailing all night on a beam reach.  We’ve crossed 90º Longitude, in fact are almost to 91º, and have finally moved south of 03º South.  As always I woke many times and made a few adjustments to course, but our SOG remained steady at 5.5 knots, until I woke for good a half hour ago.  Everything--the angle of heel, the sounds, the feel of the boat moving through the water--seemed the same, but when I checked the instrument display I found it reading 6.4.  We must at last be out of the counter current.  This is very good news. 

Some clouds behind us, but some stars still visible in the pre-dawn sky.

1210  Good sailing continues.  Close reaching just forward of a beam reach at 6.5 to 7 knots.  Wind of twelve to fourteen knots.  Sky mostly sunny and the few clouds are not the low overcast we’ve been experiencing. 

We are 68 miles north northeast of the closest of the Galapagos, tiny Isla Darwin, and 150 miles north of the main island group.

Noon position:  02º 37’ North; 91º 25’ West.  Day’s run 130 miles.  At last triple digits again.  Nuku Hiva 2993 miles, bearing 257º.    

1330  Finished re-reading Eca de Queiros’ THE MAIAS, a great novel portraying late Nineteenth Century Portuguese society.  The two main characters are a grandfather and his grandson of the wealthy and prominent Maia family.  Great plans, great hopes, dwindle away into dilettantism.  The descriptions of landscape and society are excellent.  The references to sex surprisingly bold for the time, even for a follower of Zola and Flaubert.  A twist of plot that was a surprise the first time I read the book.  And a wonderful final scene in which Carlos, the Maia grandson, now a world weary man in middle age and a friend are walking in Lisbon, agreeing that nothing is worth desiring or striving for or even quickening one’s pace, only to realize that they are late for a dinner appointment and run to catch a tram.


Just changed from the C-Map chart cartridge of South American and the Caribbean, which has detail of the Galapagos, back to the one on which I began this voyage, that of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, which has detail from the Marquesas west.


Mostly sunny.  Wind 14 knots.  Taking some water over the bow.  SOG 7.3.  COG 259º.  Beautiful sailing.

1600  Salt water solar shower, accompanied by sea water rinse.  We are taking some waves over the bow and one ran back to the cockpit while I was bathing.  Almost as warm as the water from the solar shower bag.

Rearranged some supplies.  Topped up the jar of trail mix in the galley for my morning cereal.  Still have nuts and dried fruit from South Africa.

Then went on deck with a beer, drunk standing and leaning against the traveler.  If I had sat down, I would have gotten wet.  Wonderful sailing.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is in a groove, with the jib reduced by six rolls and the full main, steady 7.5 knot SOG across a sea with 2’ to 3’ waves.  World is again blue and white, sky and clouds, sea and white-caps.  Not gray.  This is the sailing from previous passages, but I don’t remember the hassle getting out here.  I hope it lasts.

May 21

North Pacific Ocean:  Thursday

0555  Wind weakened and veered south southwest during the night, causing me to let out more jib and sail close hauled on port tack.  I woke an hour ago when we pounded on a couple of small waves.  Found the wind had backed and we were pointing too high.  Rolled in some of the jib, eased the main, and we are again on a close reach, with an SOG of 8.2 knots at the moment, at least a knot of which is current.

Low clouds covering sky at first light.

I haven’t given barometer readings because it has remained between 1012 and 1015 since the passage began.  Presently 1014.

1010  I just saw the edge of the Equatorial Current, at least that branch of it.

I was on deck to adjust the sails because we had wandered too high of our desired course when I saw ahead and south of us a distinct line of white caps.  Then I noticed that the color and texture of the water was different on each side of the breakers.  Smoother and lighter in color on our side. 

We were sailing at an angle toward this boundary line.  As we neared, it looked like small overfalls.   The disturbed band of water was narrow, and as we entered it I watched our SOG instantly drop from 7.8 knots to 6.2.

Obviously there are many miles to be gained by staying in the current, but it is continuing west parallel to the Equator, and I want to go southwest and find the trade winds.

Losing the current caused a decrease in apparent wind, so I unfurled more jib, and may have to unfurl still more to keep us above 6 knots.

The sun has burned off most of the clouds.  Only white puffs remain in a blue sky. 

1205  Beautiful day.  Finest of the passage so far.  Sunny.  Wind 12 knots.  Close reaching at 6 knots across sparkling sea.

Noon position:  02º 11’ North; 94º 14’ West.  Day’s run 171 miles.  Nuku Hiva 2823 miles, bearing 256º.

1800  Wonderful sailing continues.  SOG 6.5 knots.  Just crossing 02º North.  Dry enough so I could sit on deck this afternoon in shade of the sails.     

Passed within a few yards of a sea turtle, who lifted his old leathery head, which probably is younger than my old leathery head, only briefly to peer at THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, before returning his gaze to more important matters below the water.  He probably felt about me as I feel about fishing boats:  go away and stop cluttering up my ocean.

May 22

North Pacific Ocean:  Friday

0710  Conditions the same, which is to say perfect.  Close reaching smoothly at 7 knots.  I think the increase in boat speed is that we are sailing faster rather than current.   Wind is slightly stronger.  Waves up to 3’, but taking them almost on the beam.  Rolling slightly, but angle of heel and motion are mostly steady.  Sun burning off low clouds.

I was on deck at 0100 making an adjustment to the boom vang.  Under some conditions the mast end fitting rises and falls a fraction of an inch with a loud clank.  A permanent cure for this would be to put more washers on the pin, but that requires some serious disassembly, so I’ve been tying a narrow piece of cord there to act as a shock absorber.  Eventually this wears out.  It had last night, so I got dressed, put on my headlamp, and went on deck to tie a new piece in place.  This requires waiting until the boom vang rises and the gap appears.   I managed to get this done before a wave got me, but then was awake for a while.

Woke briefly at 0430.  I’ve been sleeping on top of my sleeping bag, but  pulled some of it over me and went back to sleep until 0600,

1200  Continues sunny, with scattered high clouds reaching us from the southeast.  SOG 7.0.  COG 248º.  I’d like to sail around 250º and get to the Equator a bit sooner, but have no reason to push harder through the waves.  Already taking too much spray over the deck to sit there.  Will be crossing into new time zone GMT -7 this afternoon.  Will change ship’s time after this post.

Noon position:  01º 32’ North; 96º 47’ West.  Day’s run 158 miles.  Nuku Hiva 2665 miles, bearing 256º.

1700  Deck glistening with water.  We are moving smoothly, but the wind is forward of the beam and spray rises from the bow and flows aft.  I spent some time on deck this afternoon after a salt water solar shower, standing, leaning on the traveler.  Many shoals of flying fish and, I think, a whale spouting a half mile south of us.  Not certain with the white-caps and some larger swells that intermittently obscured the spout.

Just let out a little more jib.  SOG 6.8.  COG 240º.

Sun setting early in the new time zone.  We’re about a thousand miles south of Acapulco, Mexico.

May 23

North Pacific Ocean:  Saturday

0545  A more doldrumesque sky this morning.  Low, fuzzy gray clouds.  For the past few days we’ve had a trade wind sky, but the wind was from the south and I don’t believe the southeast trades extent that far north.

The wind decreased during the night, but every time I got up we were still making at least 6.5 knots, until the last time a half hour ago when we were down to 5.5. 

I went on deck, let out the full jib, re-trimmed the main and the Monitor and got us back up to 6.5+ on a course of around 240º.  I’ll continue to sail high to get south until I’m confident we have reached the southeast trades. 

According to the instrument system the true wind direction is already 136º.  That is a calculation by the system and I’m not sure accurate because the instrument transducer is still reading about .3 of a knot higher than our true SOG, but the wind has definitely backed if not quite that far. 

As I wrote during the crossing of the Equator in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year, the doldrums have seldom held me up--but then they proceeded to do so in the Atlantic.  I hope this time they don’t.

We are forty-five miles north of the Equator.

0745  Coffee on deck with music and flying fish.

I am elated.  Not at the prospect of crossing the Equator as much as that doing so will take me back into the Southern Hemisphere.  I was born as are the vast majority of humanity north, but I am at heart a man of the south, and except for Carol, my mooring off Opua is home.

Sun burning away some of the clouds.   


1205  The sun continued its good work, and all the doldrumesque clouds are gone.  Some scattered white puffs remain.  Not exactly a trade wind sky, but pleasant.  We’re just forward of a beam reach making about 7 knots with full main and two rolls in the jib.

Noon position:  00º 25’ North; 99º 21’ West.  Day’s run 167 miles (25 hours).  Nuku Hiva 2500, bearing 257º.

I am giving thought to bypassing Tahiti if I can.  In the past the rules in French Polynesia have varied considerably depending on nationality.  For Americans, as most non-Europeans, you get a thirty day visa on arrival, but if you want to stay longer you have to go to Papeete, Tahiti, within those thirty days to get an extension.  If this is still the case, I may sail directly from Nuku Hiva to Bora-Bora, spend about two weeks there, and then either sail for New Zealand or to Tonga. 

There have really been only three places I was looking forward to seeing in the South Pacific:  Nuku Hiva out of curiosity about how it has changed; the anchorage on the reef at Moorea; and the anchorage at Bora-Bora where the home photograph of my website was taken. 

If I can skip Papeete, to which I have sailed six times and which has become increasingly congested, inconvenient and unattractive, I’ll also miss nearby and still beautiful Moorea, but I can live with that.


1615  Twelve miles north of the Equator and closing at an oblique angle.  We’ll make it sometime this evening at around 100º West. 

We crossed the Equator heading north in the Atlantic at 1851 hours on March 7 at 31º 19’ West.   

2055  Starry sky, shadowy sea.  The Southern Cross to port.  Ursa Major to starboard.  Scorpio rising.  We are in the Southern Hemisphere.

I crossed the Equator for the thirteenth and possibly the last time at 2045 and 100º 10.876’ West Longitude.  My mooring was at that moment 5251 miles ahead.

I had been on deck for more than an hour, listening to music, watching the running lights of a ship passing south of us, perhaps toward Tahiti or New Zealand or Australia, and sipping a celebratory Laphroaig from a  Dartington crystal glass.  I felt this justifiable cause to open my last bottle of duty free Laphroaig bought in the Virgin Islands, and Laphroaig can’t be drunk from plastic.

I’m heading home.

May 24

South Pacific Ocean:  Sunday

0530  Except for a few hours in the Gulf of Panama, this is the first time on this passage that the wind has been aft of the beam.  The wind is definitely from the southeast, and we are broad reaching at 5.5 knots about half a degree south of the Equator.  We could come to a stop as quickly as the wind began several days ago, so I am going to suspend judgment, but I hope that these are the southeast trades.  The conditions we were enduring last week were certainly like the doldrums.  Maybe they were.  I’ve just never before known them to be anywhere near that far north.

Hatches open.  Breeze pleasantly cool.  Sky light with a few clouds.   Sun still below the horizon.  Taking my coffee on deck.

1000  A lot of work and sweat to no advantage.  Set the big white spinnaker; furled jib; tired to keep main up; lowered main; found a loose track slide on main; fixed it; discovered that we were going slower under spinnaker, although more quietly and smoothly than with main and jib; raised main; furled spinnaker; unfurled jib; furled jib; unfurled spinnaker; furled spinnaker; unfurled jib; lowered and bagged spinnaker;  put preventer on boom.   SOG 3.8 TO 4.1 knots.

Sunny day.

1205  A few clouds near horizon, but overhead completely clear.  Making 4.5 to 5.0 knots around 235º-240º.  Wind light and a 3’ swell is frequently rolling wind from sails, thus the preventer on boom.

Noon position:  00º 40’ South; 101º 21’ West.  Day’s run 137 miles.  Nuku Hiva 2368 miles, bearing 258º.

Everything easier with wind aft of the beam--brushing teeth, shaving, pumping bilge--but in light air boat speed slower.

1610  Confused cross seas, with an occasional set of 5’ swells from the southeast.  Wind the too familiar 6 to 8 knots.  Some scattered fuzzy clouds, but mostly blue sky.  Lurching along at 4.8 to 5.1 knots.

Reed’s world current chart does not show a counter current on this side of the Equator, so whatever current we find should be helping us between 0 and 40 miles a day.  Don’t think there is any yet.

May 25

South Pacific Ocean:  Monday

0610  Clouds at sunset with a brief period of rain disturbed the wind and we flopped and rolled, sails collapsing and filling, until midnight.  Very restful.  We did keep moving, slowly.  Except for backing to the east during the rain and forcing us south, the wind remained in the southeast.  I did get some sleep, but was awake at 0130 for an hour.

This dawn finds the sky partly clear and we are making 5 knots around 230º to 240º.   Not until we are below 03º or 04º will I try to sail the rhumb line to Nuku Hiva.  At 01º 29’ South now. 

0945  Been working for the past hour or so.

Enough wind abruptly came from a cloud behind us to overpower the Monitor and round us up to the south.  I eased the mainsheet without effect, so started to furl the jib.  Halfway in it stuck.  The most likely cause of this is an override on the furling drum, which can happen when the sail is furled in a calm and there is slack in the line.  I saw the override from the cockpit.  If the line is well and truly jammed, the only way to clear it is to unfurl the jib completely removing all pressure on the line, then take the end from the cockpit to the bow and manually unwind it from around the drum until you get to the override, clear it, then thread the line back around the drum the necessary number of times, run it back through its leads to the cockpit.  Which is what I did.

Because the jib had to be out, I lowered the mainsail.  Put on my safety harness and went forward, where I clipped myself onto the bow pulpit, and spent a happy half hour or so with the furling line, as we slashed down and across waves.  Quite exciting.

Then back to the cockpit, where I tested my work by furling and unfurling the jib, left it half furled, re-raised mainsail.

I have been having problems with the Monitor getting enough leverage to prevent us rounding up.  Not sure why.  Have adjusted the control lines.  Now have the chain set two links to windward at the tiller connection, which I seldom do in less than a gale.  Wind instrument says we now have 18 knots true wind, which I think is about right.

Also I think that despite what Reed’s Almanac says, we are encountering a counter current.  Our SOG has been a knot lower than I feel that we have been sailing since yesterday.  It is now 5.7 and in this wind THE HAWKE OF TUONELA should easily be doing 6.5+.  I even looked over the stern to see if we were dragging a piece of net or line. 

1210  Lowered mainsail just before lunch.  Even though our SOG was only 5.5 knots, the boat felt over-canvassed.  SOG now is around 5 knots, and there is no way THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is only sailing at that speed in these conditions.

Noon position:  01º 41’ South; 102º 52’ West.  Day’s run  110 miles.  Week’s run 942.  Nuku Hiva 2266, bearing 259º.

This is a hard passage.  Obviously not in severity of weather, but in hard work and trying sailing.

1610  Raised mainsail.  Tired of seeing SOG in the 4s.  Even with main and full jib SOG only 5,.3.  This is not credible.  Looked over the side again to see if we are dragging something.  Don’t seem to be.  Rudder and the part of the bottom I can see look clean.

Almost completely clear sky.  Just a few clouds scattered about the horizon.  Wind 14-16 knots.  Some real waves.  4’ and 5’.  Lots of white-caps.  Frustrating not to be going faster.  SOG 4.8 knots.  Instrument system speed transducer says 6.5.  At least a knot of the difference is an unknown adverse current.

1810  I haven’ touched a thing and the wind hasn’t changed.  SOG now 6.6 knots. 

This is not a matter of time.  Except for the thing growing on my leg, I have enough time.  It is the quality of the experience.  I want to feel the boat sailing well, not wallowing or gasping for a breath of air.

May 26

South Pacific Ocean:  Tuesday

0600  I went back on deck for a while last evening and was rewarded with the first sliver of moon and a wave.  The only one to come aboard in hours.

Up several times during the night.  Two brief showers spun us off to the south.  Readjusted Monitor and partially furled the jib.  Glad I found the wrap on the furling drum during daylight.  Also had to remove from the cockpit a big, fat, slippery, smelly flying fish.

Predawn clear sky.  Unfurled the jib and we’re making 6+ knots more or less on course for Nuku Hiva.  I’m no longer making an effort to get further south.  I suppose we could still be confronted by the doldrums, but I don’t expect to be.  We’re at 02º 15’ South and there is no sign of them south of us.  3’ and 4’ waves are coming from that direction and the wind, except in showers, has been southeast for days.

The sky two nights ago looked like the doldrums.  Perhaps it was.  As I have said, the doldrums have usually not slowed me much, unless the miserable conditions the first week and a half of this passage were the doldrums, in which case they slowed us considerably.

Now we should have a broad reach to the Marquesas.

1210  Fine sailing.  6.5 knots, under main and partially furled jib.   Mostly clear sky.   Scattered white clouds.  Sparkling dark blue sea.

Did some exercises this morning.  All but push-ups.  Also fell asleep while reading.

Noon position:  02º 23’ South; 104º 55’ West.  Day’s run 130 miles.  Nuku Hiva 2137 miles, bearing 259º.

1840  Went to sit on deck to watch sunset, but noticed that the deck was glistening wet from bow back to where I was sitting.  It was only a matter of time.  Decided it better to stand.  Was standing when flying fish flew from the sea and bounced against my clean shorts.  Threw him back in.  Washed scales and smell from shorts.

THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is in a 7 knot groove.  Wind 16 to 18.  Sky clear.  Seas mostly 2’ to 3’.  Just aft of a beam reach.  Pastel sunset.  Peach to gold. 

May 27

South Pacific Ocean:  Wednesday

0850  We’re past the middle of the time zone, so it was still completely dark when I woke at 0500.  Went to sleep early at 1930.  Up many times, once to reduce the jib, once to increase it again, but always got back to sleep.

Dawn was a repeat of sunset, pastel peach to gold, but then the sky has remained the same almost cloudless blue, as have the wind and seas and good sailing, though more a beam reach than a broad one.

Ate my last orange this morning.  Still have two apples left, though the apple I ate yesterday was half bad.  Nothing more fresh on the boat except for several limes.

1205  Conditions the same.  Thinking about lowering mainsail and seeing how we sail under jib alone.  Two milestones:  less than 2,000 miles to go, and I can see our position and Nuku Hiva on the chartplotter screen at the same time.

Noon position:  02º 58’ South; 107º 34’ West.  Day’s run 163 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1974 miles, bearing 260º.

May 28

South Pacific Ocean:  Thursday

0610  Mostly cloudy sky this morning.  Brief rain around 0100.  Wind a little stronger.  Waves a little higher, up to 6’.  We continue sailing on a beam reach at 7+ knots.  Still thinking about lowering mainsail.  Furled the jib down to storm jib size last night.  Have delayed lowering the main because I’m reluctant to make changes when we’re mostly in a seven knot groove on course and only occasionally get a little overpowered, and because I think we will roll considerably more without the main.  I could, of course, put a reef in the main, but unless the wind were decidedly more forward, I’d rather lower it.   The advantage of sailing with the jib alone is that I have easy control of the amount of sail set, thus the angle of heel, which would help because  I need to run the engine one of these days--the sails shadow the solar panels from noon on--and we would probably still go just as fast.

Also seem to have more water in bilge than we should.  Hope we didn’t spring something when we went aground at Shelter Bay.  I was going very slowly at the time and the bottom was soft, so seems unlikely.  And we are taking a lot of spray over the deck--too much for me to sit there--which somehow finds its way below. 

0640  Three flying fish and a squid on deck.  Drank my first cup of coffee standing, leaning against the traveler.  Some of the clouds have already started to burn off with the first sunlight.

0810  Thickening clouds to the southeast finally caused me to make up my mind and I just lowered mainsail.  Much better.  Still making 7+ knots under jib with two rolls in it, but not feeling over-pressed and less angle of heel.

1200  Some high cloud remaining, but mostly sunny.  Amazing how much more smoothly we are sailing under jib alone.  At times I’ve thought we have almost stopped, only to look at the instrument display and find our speed has dropped to 6.8 knots.

Lots of flying fish in these waters.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA startles great shoals of them.  Saw a big fin off the bow.  Maybe a shark.

Noon position:  03º 20’ South; 110º 23’ West.  Day’s run 170 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1804 miles, bearing 259º.

1800 Lovely sailing.  Wind and waves have decreased.  Still averaging more than 6.5 knots, but able to have hatches open and sit on deck. Perfect.  Exercised.  Swept cabin sole.  Rearranged provisions.  Showered.  Going back up now to watch sunset.  Last day in this time zone. 

May 29

South Pacific Ocean:  Friday

0515  Not quite at new time zone yet, but will be this morning, so have changed ship’s time.  Now GMT -8.  We are 2300 miles south of Phoenix, Arizona.  The Panama Canal is slightly east of Miami, so we’ve sailed across most of America.  Still have California to go.

Very pleasant night.  Kept moving comfortably at 6.5 to 7 knots.  Clear starry night.  Some unexpected dark clouds with rain behind us now.

1200  Finished last apple today.  Still good.  Also finished last volume of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Polish trilogy, FIRE IN THE STEPPE.  May be my favorite, though it is much like the first two.  Fine war scenes after initial Shakespeare like comedy of dual confused courtships.

A little more wind and seas.  Sailing  at 7 knots with two rolls in the jib.  Wind still on beam.  Clouds dissipated this morning with only a few drops of rain on us.

Noon position:  03º 47’ South; 113º 07’ West.  Day’s run 167 miles (25 hours).  Nuku Hiva 1638 miles, bearing 259º. 

1850  Dramatic cloud show this afternoon, with bands of thick cloud passing.  Nothing has happened, except an increase of wind to around 20 knots at intervals.  Sailing now with five or six rolls in jib. 

Ran engine for a half an hour, both to run engine and help charge batteries.  Not much solar charging today with cloud cover, and I’m not getting more than 2 amps at a time anyway.  I’ve checked the panels and they are producing.  May be problem with wiring or with the regulator. 

Dolphin playing follow the leader and leaping from the sea almost every time I was on deck.

May 30

South Pacific Ocean:  Saturday

0520  Going to be a long day.  Awake since 0345 when I went on deck to reduce the jib for the second time during the night.  Wind has increased to 23 knots and backed to the southeast, so we are on a broad reach.  Some waves to 6’ and some slapping into the cockpit.  First light shows it clear to the east and overhead; a dark line of clouds just north of us, and more on the southern horizon.  By no means serious, just the most wind we’ve had on this passage.  We’re rolling more.  Jars and bottles and cans rattling on shelves.  Need to pack more stuff on them so objects have no space to move. 

Still making 6.5 to 7 knots under 1/3 of jib.

0710  Spectacular dawn, with the sun illuminating the tops of a row of big cumulus clouds to the south of us.  Gray where they reached down to the sea and pure white tops exploding into the sky.

Most of those clouds have passed beyond us without rain or a increase in wind and the sky is clearing to the southeast.  Might set a little more jib.

Arrived in Darwin, Australia, a year ago today.

1200  Haven’t increased jib yet, but may soon.  Wind down to 17 knots.  Masses of cumulus cloud still passing overhead, but more blue sky now than earlier.  Dosed off a couple of times while reading this morning.

Noon position:  04º 22’ South; 115º 43’ West.  Day’s run 160 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1479 miles, bearing 259º.

1550  I’ve been shaving, exercising, and showering every other day.  Today was the day, but this morning I didn’t think it was going to happen.  It did.  Wind back in the teens, although still broad reaching.  Sky looks something like an augmented trade wind sky.  Low white clouds are evenly spaced, but more substantial than puffs.

May 31

South Pacific Ocean:  Sunday

0550  An easy night.  Let out all but two rolls of jib and adjusted Monitor first thing this morning.

There are a couple of things, in addition to my leg, which aren’t quite right.  The Monitor is having problems handling increases of wind and I don’t understand why.   I have the chain which connects it to the tiller two links further to windward than usual.  I centered the new lines when I replaced the old ones in Panama. 

And I’m not getting anywhere near full charging from my solar panels, though both the big ones are putting out at full voltage.

Of my leg, the growth is the size of a marble and painful to the slightest touch, such as even clothing or the sleeping bag brushing against it.  My eyes seek it as earlier this year they sought the breaking lower shroud, and it is going to influence my decisions about this voyage. The best places for medical treatment before New Zealand are the French hospital in Tahiti or the American hospital at Pago-Pago, American Samoa, neither of which I want to visit.  I could also press on to New Zealand, but risk a mid-winter gale. We’ll see how it progresses by the time I reach Nuku Hiva.

Despite relatively smooth seas and only 16 knots wind, a wave just came from no where and thudded into the hull.


We are 2200 miles almost due south of San Diego, California.  I know these waters well.  EGREGIOUS broke here twice.

Looking to the north I see her yellow hull slicing toward me in November 1974 on my first attempt at Cape Horn, hesitate, stumble, try to continue, and finally fall off with broken rigging for Tahiti.

And a year later in October 1975 she comes again.  There is no hesitation this time.  She crosses ahead of me and continues south, hard on the southeast trades.  But it is here that I become certain that her hull is cracked.  It will stay cracked for another four months and eighteen thousand miles. 

I watch her sail on, battling toward a distant Cape Horn, become a speck on the southern horizon, disappear, and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is alone again.

1205  Trade wind sky.  Evenly spaced low white puffs of cumulus cloud.  Blue sky.  Wind has veered from an apparent angle of 122º to 100º.  We continue sailing at 6.5 to 7 knots.

Noon position:  04º 52’ South; 118º 19’ West.  Day’s run 158 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1321 miles, bearing 259º.

1810  Some unexpected walls of water passing through at intervals, coming up from the far south.  Also cross seas. which almost seem the norm.  Half moon visible from afternoon on.  Passed a float from a fishing net with a bird sitting on it, who turned and watched us sail by. 

June 1

South Pacific Ocean:  Monday

0615   Another quiet night.  Wind had weakened when I woke an hour ago, so fully unfurled jib.  Lovely dawn, with trade wind clouds lilac and lavender over a silver ocean just before sunrise.

Three weeks out today.  I recall saying when I was a week out that the canal transit seemed much more recent than that, two weeks later it seems ancient.

The first day of June.  It is possible that I could be in New Zealand by the end of next month. but by no means certain that I will even try to be.

We already have a thousand mile week and need a day’s run of 152 miles to have an 1100 mile week.  It looks likely.

1210  Made it, but just.  1102 miles for the week.   If everything holds together, including the wind, we will be in Nuku Hiva a week tomorrow.   3 1/2 degrees of latitude and 19 of longitude to go.

Sunny, almost completely clear blue sky, with only a few white puffs scattered about the horizon.  Wind 12-14 just aft of the beam.  SOG 6.4 knots under jib with two rolls in it. 

Before the passage began I moved the spinnakers to the forward ends of the quarter berths so they would be accessible.  It may not have been necessary.

Noon position:  05º 25’ South; 120º 50’ West.  Day’s run 154 miles.  Week’s run 1102 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1167 miles, bearing 260º.

1900  Clear sky this afternoon and lighter wind.   Looked like high pressure, but in fact barometer is lower than it has been, 1013 millibars.   Down from 1019 yesterday.  Still making 6+ knots.  Maybe I’ll still get to set a spinnaker, but not tonight.  Going on deck with a glass of Laphroaig to celebrate third week at sea.  Half moon.

June 2

South Pacific Ocean:  Tuesday

0800 Beautiful on deck last evening, with the half moon directly overhead illuminating THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s white deck as she slid through the dark sea.  And the Laphroaig tasted wonderful.  This was only my second drink from a one liter bottle.  I’m trying to save it for special occasions and the colder weather near New Zealand.

As has become usual, the wind weakened during the night.  I let the boat continue a bit high of the course, rather than turn and reduce the apparent wind angle and our speed.  Thoughts of setting a spinnaker vanished with the again usual increase of wind with the sun.  Making 6 knots, but we will continue the trend since last Thursday of each day’s run being shorter than the day’s before.

1215  A few minutes of rain from a passing cloud this morning.  Sunny, trade wind sky again at noon.  Distance to Nuku Hiva will be less than 1000 miles in a few hours, but if our runs decrease we won’t be in until a week tomorrow.

Noon position:  06º 09’ South; 123º 07’ West.  Day’s run 144 miles.  Nuku Hiva 1024 miles, bearing 261º.

1900  I set both spinnakers this afternoon.  First the big white one, which is the right sail for the conditions, but too much for the Monitor to control.  It immediately gave us an additional 1.5 knots, and almost as immediately caused a non-serious broach.  Too bad really.  So I furled and lowered it and raised the small blue spinnaker, which as I have noted in the past doesn’t furl as well and went up with a twist, had to be lowered and re-raised twice before it opened fully.  We’ve continued making 5 to 6 knots under it.  Very pleasant sailing with all hatches open, even the one over the v-berth.  Would like to take a glass of Laphroaig on deck to enjoy the moonlight, but will settle for a cup of tea. 

Distance to Nuku Hiva went under 1000 miles at 1630.

June 3

South Pacific Ocean:  Wednesday

0600  Slow night.  Light wind.  Some sloppy sailing when remaining small waves collapsed spinnaker.  Going to wait a little while to see if wind increases with the dawn before deciding whether to set bigger spinnaker.

I fell into deep sleep around 2030, woke up thinking hours had passed and it had only been thirty minutes.  Did this three or four more times before midnight.  Then was awake for an hour.

1220  We continue making about 5 knots smoothly under blue spinnaker with all hatches open.  There are some signs of more wind:  high mare’s tails cloud; 3’ waves; scattered white-caps. 

Although the distance decreases, the estimated time of arrival remains constant at a week or week and a day.

Noon position:  06º 45’ South; 125º 04’ West.  Day’s run:  121 miles.  Nuku Hiva 904 miles, bearing 262º.

June 4

South Pacific Ocean:  Thursday

0620  Pretty pre-dawn sky.  Low clouds like puffs of smoke.  Higher cloud coral streaks against a powder blue sky.  Took some photos, which I haven’t done often on this passage where it has all looked the same as it has on earlier passages. 

Also slightly more wind.  Making 5.5 under blue spinnaker, an increase of .5 over what we have been doing since yesterday.

1210  Wind has increased to 12 to 14 knots and our boat speed sometimes above 6.  Sparkling sea; blue sky.  Closed forward hatch, though with the wind well aft, we aren’t taking water on deck.  Small hatch in main cabin open. 

Cleaned mold from overhead and shelves in head and galley.  Tightened engine shaft stuffing box.  Getting quite easy with new wrench and also being done frequently so parts aren’t frozen in place.  Also tightened alternator fan belt.  Getting at most two amps from solar charging.  Should be more than twice that.  Will check panels again this afternoon.

Noon position:  07º 12’ South; 127º 00’ West.  Day’s run 119 miles.  Nuku Hiva 785 miles, bearing 262º.

1415  New time zone GMT -9.  We’re not quite there yet, but will be before sunset.  This is geographically the time zone for the Marquesas Islands, but to keep them closer to Tahiti, the time is GMT -9 ½ hours.  Always, I think, a bad idea.

We are now only 4 time zones from New Zealand.  I could be there in seven weeks.

Found that the output wire from the new solar panel had chaffed through.  Replaced it.  Third time I’ve rewired that panel.

Wind and seas don’t seem much different from yesterday, but we’re making 6 knots instead of 5.  Opened forward hatch again.

June 5

South Pacific Ocean:  Friday

0530  A rolly night, but no collapsing and filling of the sail.  I heard a distressingly familiar crack about 0400, but thought that it couldn’t be.  It was. 

Checked on deck at first light.  A stand has broken on the port lower diagonal shroud, which is the one to windward.  I had two riggers inspect the rig in the Caribbean and both said all was fine.  I specifically asked about replacing this shroud, but they both said it wasn’t necessary.  Obviously it was and I should have done it as a precaution.  Can’t change that now.   Either the wire used by the Durban riggers was defective, or their swaging machine, or there is something wrong with this boat.  The South African wire showed more rust stain than other wire.   Doubt I can get it replaced in the Marquesas, which are 700 miles away.  I can in the Society Islands, but they are another 800-900.  Complicates everything.  Terrible.

0705  Two jury rigged lines in place around mast at lower spreader as before, but on the other side.  Knowing what I wanted to do made it easier until the various lines got tangled aloft and wouldn’t return to the deck.  Finally jiggled them low enough to reach with a boat hook, which I had to put down to catch the lines and heard it roll overboard.  Have a spare.  I’ve put more tension on lines than before.

Furled spinnaker while I was working.   Boat rolling.   When finished I unfurled the spinnaker and we’re on our way making six knots.

If I reach Nuku Hiva with the rig up, I can go up the mast and either move the new starboard lower to port, which will be to windward to the Society islands, or take the broken shroud down, air freight it to one of the boat yards there, and have them make and air freight me a replacement.

Between this and the possibly cancerous growth on my leg, I wonder when I will ever get to New Zealand. 

Initially very disappointing, but I’ve already accepted it.  No decisions to make.  Nothing more to do except try to reach Nuku Hiva.

0935  Changed down to partially furled jib.  Still making 6 knots relatively smoothly.

Was thinking of past sailing in this boat.  I didn’t even break a shroud during the eight gale passage between Cape Town and Fremantle when we took a masthead in the water knockdown.

1215  Reduced jib slightly.  SOG 5.6 to 6.2.  Hear occasional squeak/groan when tension comes on the jury rigged lines. 

Stood beside the mast to see if it was pumping.  It isn’t.  This rig has running backstays, as well as a fixed backstay.  The runners are only set up to reduce pumping, usually going to windward.

Today is shave, exercise, shower day.  Continuing with that routine.

Disappointed.  Resigned.  Now my eye moves from the failing shroud to the growth on my leg.  Wish this were over and I were on my mooring in Opua.

Noon position: 07º 34’ South; 129º 21‘ West.  Day’s run 141 (25 hours).  Nuku Hiva 644 miles, bearing 263º.  

1810  Full moon through the companionway.  Going to sit on deck, possibly with a glass of Laphroaig.  Hardly celebration.  Consolation.

We’ve been sailing at around 5.5 knots most of the afternoon.  SOG 6.2 at moment.

I am considering bypassing Nuku Hiva and sailing 800 miles farther to Raiatea, upon reaching which I would have completed the fifth circumnavigation, having sailed there from New Zealand a few years ago.  Also a reputably good boatyard is at Raiatea.  I could get a new shroud made, haul the boat out of the water, fly back to the U.S., get this growth on my leg removed, and return to resume the voyage in September.  One problem is that Carol is staying with a friend and I don’t have a home in the U.S.  Only a possibility.  Doesn’t require any action for several more days, by which time something may have happened to make a decision obvious.

June 6

South Pacific Ocean:  Saturday

0850  No change.  Still only one strand broken in shroud.  Sunny.  Making 5.5 to 6.5 knots before trades.  Growth on leg getting larger.  Above the skin a raised dome of what looks like scar tissue.  Painful to touch.  Itches.  Obviously I don’t know what is below the skin; but whatever it is, it is going to require surgery.

Nuku Hiva is 528 miles, which should be four days.  This morning am inclined to stop there.

Lovely on deck last evening sailing beneath a full moon.  I did have a glass of Laphroaig.  Needed something special.  And it was a a glass.  I drink everything else out of Lexan, but Laphroaig deserves and gets the Dartington crystal.

I’ve been sleeping without tying the lee-cloth in place.  Woke abruptly last night when I hit the cabin sole, along with sleeping bag and pillow.  We didn’t seem to be rolling that much.   Maybe I just rolled too far myself.  Found a bloody scratch on my ankle this morning where it must have scraped against the fireplace on the way down.

Re-reading two books fifty pages each per day.  Daniel Boorstin’s THE DISCOVERERS:  A History of Man’s Search to Know Himself and His World; and Patrick White’s A FRINGE OF LEAVES.  Finished my Boorstin for the day; now for Patrick White.

1200  Almost completely clear sky.  Only a few small clouds to the north.  Wind 12-14 knots.  Waves mostly 2’ and 3’, but a few 5’ or 6’ that heel us significantly.  One slopped into the cockpit and another startled me by thudding into the hull.  I am hypersensitive to unexpected noises.

Noon position:  07º 50’ South; 131º 35‘ West.  Day’s run 134 miles.  Nuku Hiva 510 miles, bearing 262º.  

1810  This is so similar to sailing this same course thirty-four years ago in the damaged EGREGIOUS, except that THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s rig is much less compromised.  At least so far.

Full moon in the companionway.  Going on deck.

June 7

South Pacific Ocean:  Sunday

0540  Been awake for an hour.  Another strand has broken on the shroud.  A replay of the Atlantic.  Once one strand breaks, it leaves a gap which changes the spacing between the others and  it is almost inevitable that they will follow.  A little over 400 miles to Nuku Hiva.  1200 to Raiatea.

Light air.  Mostly smooth seas.   Have let out more jib to bring our SOG back above 5.0.  Spinnaker conditions, but won’t set one unless the jib starts to collapse and fill.

Full moon hanging just above the western horizon.  Lovely pre-dawn.

0900 Nuku Hiva 399 miles.

Very tired today.  Dozed off while reading Boorstin’s account of Schliemann’s excavation of Troy.  May be from tension as well as broken sleep.

Sky visible from where I am sitting is cloudless, although there are a few clouds to the north.

1200  Making 5 knots under partially furled jib.  Sailing conservatively.  Just trying to hold rig together.  If boat and I were well would be a perfect day, making 6 or 7 knots under spinnaker.

I know it is because I am tired, but seems so complicated and distant before I can find any real rest.  Nuku Hiva won’t really be the end of this passage; just a pit stop.  Probably will just switch lower shrouds and try to reach the boatyard at Raiatea.

Noon position:  08º 21’ South; 133º 40‘ West.  Day’s run 128 miles.  Nuku Hiva 384 miles, bearing 265º.  

1750  Today was a shave, exercise, shower day.  Also checked bilge.  Negligible water.  Cleaned ports.  Also polished rust from shrouds.. 

Continue to sail at 5 to 5.5 knots.  Have to remember when it starts to seem overwhelming to take one step at a time.  But it would be nice to sail a boat that wasn’t broken. 

June 8

South Pacific Ocean:  Monday

0530  Wind weakened during night.  Fully unfurled jib at midnight to get SOG back to 5, but is now only 4.2 and jib collapsing.  May set small spinnaker after dawn.  Conditions right for the big spinnaker, but that isn’t going to happen.  Would like to get in Wednesday, but with 293 miles to go that isn’t going to happen at less than a 5 knot average.

0710  Blue spinnaker set.  SOG 4.4.  Until just now it was 3.7.  But collapsing and refilling spinnaker jerks rig less than the the jib.

1205  Wind has increased slightly.  SOG 5.5 at present, but varying and often below 5.  Easy motion.  All hatches open.

Noon position:  08º 39’ South; 135º 40‘ West.  Day’s run 120 miles.  Week’s run 907.   Nuku Hiva  264 miles, bearing 266º.

Been out four weeks today.   Seems much longer.  

1800  We continue to average 5 knots, and Nuku Hiva is 234 miles away, which means making it just before dark on Wednesday.  I can speed the process up by powering toward the end if we are close.  Other than that, a pleasant day with easy sailing, always desirable with a compromised rig.

June 9

South Pacific Ocean:  Tuesday

0615  Light wind last night slowed us to less than 4 knots.  SOG now 3.8.  Waypoint off Nuku Hiva is 182 miles away, which at five knots would put us there at sunset tomorrow, but I don’t think that is likely.  Taiohae Bay, the harbor, would not be difficult to enter after dark, particularly with good moonlight, except for anchored boats.  Most likely, unless the wind picks up quickly this morning, I’m going to lower the spinnaker and set a scrap of the jib to keep us around four knots to arrive near dawn on Thursday.

Checked the shroud.  No more broken wires.  Nothing more for me to do if there were.

1205  Not have any difficulty in keeping speed down.  Very light wind from east and blue spinnaker have produced speeds between 3 and 4 knots all morning.  Clear blue sky; gently undulating seas.  I don’t need to go any farther south and probably am going to` jibe to starboard this afternoon.

Noon position:  08º 57’ South; 137º 23‘ West.  Day’s run 104 miles.  Nuku Hiva 162 miles, bearing 270º.  

1845   I jibed the spinnaker to starboard at 1300. 

The light wind-now almost nonexistent--has continued.  At least it removes the possibility of arriving tomorrow.  We still have 142 miles to go and are only making 2.5 knots.  The spinnaker is collapsing and filling, but in such light conditions no stress on rig, and for that matter the broken shroud is now to leeward.  Gently undulating sea.  Maybe I should start worrying about arriving on Thursday.

June 10

South Pacific Ocean:  Wednesday

0600  Another lovely pre-dawn.  Another night of very light wind.  When I woke an hour ago we were making 2.6 knots.  Now 3.2. 

The closest of the Marquesas, Fatu Huku, is 45 away.  15 miles father south is Hiva Oa, where Gauguin died and is buried.  Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva is 105 miles ahead.  At 4 knots I’d be right where I want to be at this time tomorrow, but I haven’t seen 4 knots since yesterday and then only briefly.

0930  Gray silhouette of Fatu Huku visible 35 miles to the southwest.  Just a mountain top sticking out of the sea.

1100 What a hard, hard passage.  I don’t recall a more difficult one where there was no severe weather.  We haven’t had more than 22 or 23 knots of wind, and most of the time less than 14.  Yet it has been and continues to be very wearing and tedious. 

A beautiful day, but lousy sailing.  We are averaging less than 3 knots, and there is more swell to roll the wind out of the spinnaker, which refills sometimes with force.  I really am tired of this.  There is no pleasure in it.

Hiva Oa is now visible south of Fatu Huku.  The main village, Atuona, is a port of entry, but a less good anchorage than Taiohae Bay at Nuku Hiva, which is why I am not going there.

1200  Took advantage of slightly more wind, which has us roaring along at 3.2 knots and not rolling as much, to move the anchor back to the bow.

Noon position:  09º 03’ South; 138º 38‘ West.  Day’s run 75 miles.  Nuku Hiva 87 miles, bearing 274º.

I am letting us ease a little further south to keep away from the wind shadow of Ua Huka, an island east of Nuku Hiva, that we may pass tonight.

Just ate lunch of tuna and crackers and thought that tomorrow I might have lunch ashore.  But with this wind that is by no means certain.   

1430  Switched to tiller pilot steering.  When I raised the Monitor servo-rudder from the water, I found two big goose neck barnacles growing on it.  I’m sure there must be many on the hull.

Perhaps lack of wind has made today the hottest for a while.  93ºF/34ºC in cabin.  SOG 3.3.  If it drops below 3, I’m going to power for a while this afternoon.  Still have 80 miles to go.

1630  Just changed from spinnaker to jib.  Wanted to do this during daylight because of maze of lines on port side of boat holding mast.  Had to reroute the two jury rigged shrouds in order to set and trim jib.  SOG has stayed above 3 this afternoon.  Even has reached 4 as it is now.  So I haven’t turned on engine, but may start powering before dawn tomorrow and didn’t want to have to sort all the lines out then, even with good moonlight.

Three islands in sight:  Fatu Huku and Hiva Oa to the south, and now Ua Huka ahead off the starboard  bow.

72 miles to go.  Even at 3 knots we will be in before sunset tomorrow.

1910  This was a beautiful day, but not for sailing.  Just had dinner on deck.  Not a whitecap in sight, so less than 7 knots of wind.  Probably only five, and we are making 3.5 to 4.  If I didn’t have the jury rigged shrouds, I would set the mainsail as well, or if the rig weren’t compromised, the big spinnaker, either of which might give us another .5 of a knot.  Wouldn’t make much difference.   We will be at anchor this time tomorrow.

I have often read about the quick sunset in the tropics, yet this has not been my experience.  Had dinner on deck.  The sun set at 1800, yet twilight persisted until 1900.  Intense colors.  White puffs of cloud became dark smokey gray.  The sky was blue, darker higher, then yellow and orange, again higher to lower, 

Great  beauty, yet…

I am weary.  Maybe it is cumulative.  I have sailed more than 11,000 miles in little over four months, with broken shrouds and possible cancer.  Real rest is at least another nine hundred miles ahead, and maybe three thousand, or several airplanes flights.  I will press on, but I am weary.

June 11

South Pacific Ocean:  Thursday

0400 Engine on. 

Glassy sea.  Moonlight.  Beautiful.  But not for sailing.  Almost becalmed for the past two hours, making less than 2 knots.

45 miles to go.

0900  Sunny morning.   About 20 miles to harbor entrance.  Light wind has returned from the southeast, but not enough to sail.  Barometer up to 1022 from 1019, which is what it has been for several days.  Without the engine, I don’t think we would have made it in today. 

Nuku Hiva ahead.  We were five miles south of Ua Huku at dawn, which cast long shadows into a valley.  I saw a few lights on shore.

I’ve already re-arranged the cabin, moved stuff from v-berth to quarter berths and made up v-berth.  Might even pump up dinghy, which I moved off the starboard quarter berth and is presently residing on the port settee.

Wearing noise-canceling headphones to reduce sound of engine.

1300  Anchor down in 32’ of water.  Taiohae Bay.  Nuku Hiva.

Position:  08º 55’ South; 140º 06‘ West.  Run since yesterday noon:   87 miles.

Raiatea 811 miles.  My mooring at Opua 2972 miles.

Total distance:  3899 miles.  Time:  31 days, 3.5 hours.

That makes a daily average of around 126 miles.  Pitiful.  No wonder I’m weary.

Passage over.