After loading the boat with 50 lb sacks of potatoes, onions and fruit and packing in every spare part we could imagine needing we jumped off from the Panamanian mainland. Our first hop in the Pacific was a day trip to the Perlas Islands. Here we enjoyed a few days of relaxation after two and a half months of boat repairs and preparation for the big voyage. Our next stop was an island 500 miles away called Isla Cocos. Cocos, part of Costa Rica, was the inspiration for Jurassic Park and the site where they filmed the opening scenes. It is a completely uninhabited island with dozens of waterfalls cascading directly into the ocean and it looks foreboding and pre-historic. We were here to scuba dive with the sharks and we weren't disappointed. On each dive we saw dozens of white tip reef sharks and hammerheads. The hammerhead sharks looked like they had not evolved since the dinosaur age and seeing their eyeballs rotating around out on the end of the long grotesque head was enough to make us gulp through the air in our scuba tanks. When the sharks passed on we tried to count the hundreds of lobsters we saw everywhere.
From Isla Cocos it was another 500 mile passage to the Galapagos Islands. In our anchorage here Dee was able to swim with the penguins and we rode horses to a spectacular volcanic crater teeming with all the unique wildlife of these fascinating islands. We also spent time on last minute repairs and bought the last fresh fruits and vegetables we would have for quite some time. Now ready or not it was time to head out across the Pacific.
In the 13 years we have been sailing our longest passage with just the two of us had been about 900 miles in 7 days. Now our next landfall was nearly 3,000 miles away. Depending on the wind Ventana goes from 4-7 miles an hour- for perspective imagine going the distance from NY to LA at the pace of a fast walk or slow jog.
We were hoping to average 150 miles per day and arrive in the Marquesas in 20 days, though many boats in front of us were having slow days with little wind. Fortunately we timed the weather well and got good wind information from other boats ahead of us enabling us to pick a fast and efficient route. The first week fairly flew by as we got into the rhythm of the sea and our alternating watch schedules.
For safety and to keep the boat moving one person is always on watch and scanning the horizon for traffic. With each of us switching on and off sleeping and watching for 4-5 hours at a time we stayed rested and still spent most of the daylight hours together in the cockpit. Good weather and a new moon made the stars spectacular through the night watches. On our starboard side was the big dipper while to port was the Southern Cross. Steady winds allowed us to go most of the first week without even having to adjust the sails.
Each morning and evening we used our ham radio to check in with other boats making the same passage. With each boat giving its latitude, longitude and weather conditions it was possible to get an on-going picture of the weather and pick areas with good wind. We tried to avoid talking about how far we still had to go but before long we were able to have a celebration for crossing the half way point. More days passed with reading books and trolling a fishing line. One morning Dee landed a 20 lb. tuna and we dined on sushi and thick tuna steaks. With meals being an important event Dee made sure each one was a gourmet experience.
Soon the boats that had left before us started announcing they had only a day or two to go and eventually someone shouted words that have moved sailors for thousands of years-- Land Ho! Then one morning after 18 days at sea it was our turn and I woke Dee to watch the sunrise lighting up the high peaks of the Marquesas ahead of us.
Our landfall at Fatu Hiva was as dramatic as one could imagine. The Marquesas islands are lush and green with towering mountains while the anchorage was in a narrow bay that was guarded by huge black volcanic pillars. As we dropped our sails and pulled into the anchorage the other boats greeted us with enough horns, bells and whistles to sound like Times Square on New Years. Our passage was a speedy 18 days and 23 hours and when others staggered in after 30 day passages we were even more grateful for the good winds we had found. Our long trip was behind us and ahead lay the thousands of islands of the South Pacific.
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