Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Update from Nuku Hiva

Tues 17 May 2011 1630 Marquesas Time
The short version: it took me 27.5 days to sail the 2821 nautical
miles from San Diego to Nuku Hiva, so I averaged over 100 miles a day
which is what I was hoping for. I caught one fish-a beautiful tuna. It
was tough mentally, physically not too bad. There were some beautiful
sunrises and sunsets and stars. The Eastern Pacific was gentle with me
and didn't throw anything my way I couldn't handle. I crossed the
equator at longitude 132, but didn't have a party as I was sleeping. I
was quite excited when I first spotted land (Ua Huka just east of Nuku
Hiva) after 27 days at sea. Thank you to my friends for your
encouragement, gifts (food, snacks, booze, photos, books, digital
media, blanket, towel, pirate flag, etc) and help—you made it a much
better experience than it would've been without your help. I'd love to
see y'all somewhere along the way. I still plan on stopping at the
same places, but probably going a little slower than I said in my
initial itinerary.
The internet connection is slow here as I had expected (I think it's
all by satellite), so, I'm not posting any photos yet. I may try
tomorrow, but it's slow just to read an email.
The long version:
I am sitting in Twister, anchored in Taiohae Bay, starting a long blog
entry. I just looked out the window and saw a Manta Ray swimming by,
so I had to step outside and admire it for a few minutes. First time
I've seen one. Today I rode my bike around the outskirts of Taiohae. I
had aspirations to bike to Taipivai on the bay just east of this one,
but a month on a small boat does not do wonders for conditioning. This
bay is surrounded by mountains on three sides. To get anywhere from
here by land, you have to climb close to 1000 meters. Tomorrow I will
try again. I spent the first few hours this morning fixing a leaky
window. During the passage from San Diego, water had been dripping in
through the window by the toilet every time a wave hit that spot. It
just rained, and it seems to be more or less water tight. I then
loaded my bicycle onto the dingy and rowed ashore. My poor bike did
not enjoy a month (on the deck) on the ocean, but after a fresh-water
rinse and some lubrication, she was almost good as new. This place is
quite rural. I guess I'd call it a town (one step above village).
There are chickens and horses walking around. And this is the capital
and biggest town in the Marquesas. I had read that the Marquesans are
not very friendly to outsiders, but I have found the opposite to be
true so far. I stopped to have lunch at a van (of which there are
several around town—this one had goat in coconut milk curry and tuna
sashimi; I had both. Another one specializes in crepes) and met some
fellow cruisers. In fact, it seems everyone who is not a local came
here by sailboat. An Italian couple invited me to dinner this evening,
on their boat. They sailed here from Italy, via Panama (There goes the
last bottle of wine, Greg—sorry it didn't last till Fiji). The boat
anchored closest to me also belongs to a singlehander (as they call
folks who sail solo). There are around 35 cruising boats anchored in
the bay with room for many more. Twister is by far the smallest
cruising boat in this bay. Folks were impressed by the amount of stuff
I managed to cram into and onto her—my bicycle, two surfboards, two
guitars, one violin, and most of the rest of my possessions. Like most
of the boats here I have two anchors out—one from the bow, and one
from the stern to keep the boat pointed into the swell that comes into
the bay from the south.
I guess I'll try to go chronologically: I departed around 15:30 local
time, Monday April 18 and had a beautiful sail out of San Diego. There
was a light breeze, just enough to move the boat 3-4 knots. Several
pods of dolphins came to swim on my bow wave and to wish me von
voyage. I chatted with several friends for as long as I had coverage
on my cell phone (my phone number hasn't changed. Call me anytime and
most likely I won't answer, but you can leave a message. It now goes
to my Google Voice account, which is very similar to Skype. I'm also
on Skype: larsperegrino). I felt nervous and ill-prepared. I decided
to motor for a few hours to get some distance between me and coastal
boats before it got dark. The wind picked up from the Northwest and
didn't stop until I hit the doldrums (I don't think it dropped below
10 knots for 16 days). I sailed west of the Coronados (islands off
Tijuana) and could see the lights of TJ in the east and San Diego to
the northeast. At dawn I was out of sight of land and felt nervous
again (hadn't slept more than a few minutes at a time). By the evening
of the 19th, I was pretty tired. I saw the last boat I would see till
I arrived Nuku Hiva. I couldn't get the Cape Horn windvane to keep
Twister on course (I could probably have solved the problem
by reefing the mainsail, but I was tired, it was dark, and I didn't
feel like it, so I put on the electronic autopilot (it's a little
metal rod with a screw and motor on one end, the other end attaches to
the tiller of the boat at a right angle. The autopilot also has a
built-in compass, so simply push a button to set your course. The
autopilot will pull or push the tiller to keep the boat going the
right course) and went to bed. I felt better after some sleep. I saw a
couple of black-footed albatrosses the next week or so, which cheered
me up each time. I also saw what looked to me like a black-browed
albatross (it was considerably bigger than the black-footed ones, so
that is evidence for. Against is that black-browed albatrosses don't
live in the northern hemisphere as far as I know).
The morning of the 21st I awoke to find the house batteries drained. I
had been running the GPS and chartplotter nonstop since I left SD.
That, the nav lights, and the electronic autopilot was too much for
the solar panels to keep up with. Electricity was in poor supply the
next 10-12 days as it was almost completely overcast. That morning I
ran the engine several hours to charge the batteries. I didn't use it
to propel the boat as I was sailing along at around 5.5 knots. That
day I managed to free the whisker pole from its mount on the mast. I
had to saw through the pin that is supposed to close around the jib
sheet but was able to make it work. That was good because I used it
non-stop for weeks at a time, on a broad reach. The best sail
configuration I found (for broad reaching/running) was actually the
jib poled out and the mainsail furled. The most important thing for
any sail setup is of course that the windvane self-steering can steer
the boat, and this setup passed that test. It was also nicer because
the jib was kept full of wind whereas when the mainsail was up it
would block some of the wind and cause the jib to flutter very
annoyingly. After the 21st, Horny (which is what I've nicknamed the
windvane in the great tradition of naming autopilots. It's a Cap Horn
make) sailed the boat almost all the way to Nuku Hiva. I probably
steered a total of 5 hours. I soon learned how to balance the sails so
Horny wouldn't have to fight too much weaher-helm (which is when the
boat tends to turn into the wind)
I passed about 60 miles west of Isla de Guadalupe, known as a good
place to find Great White Sharks. I stopped seeing black-footed
albatrosses somewhere along the Baja coast (well, hundreds of miles
off the coast), and what looked like storm petrels started showing up.
They look to me just like the Wilson's storm petrels (is that the
right name, Mike Force?) we saw in Antarctica. I saw some other
petrels (?) that looked similar to the white-chinned petrels (Mike?).
I felt ill at ease for the first week. It was so surreal, and I was
nervous I'd commit some catastrophic blunder. After one week at sea I
had gone just over 700 nautical miles (from now on, miles = nautical
miles = 1.15 statues miles), and I was feeling more, if not confident,
then at least calmer. I didn't cook anything except water for coffee
or tea the first week. I ate leftovers the first three days and just
snacked the next 3-4 days. I wasn't seasick, but didn't have a big
On the 29th of April I saw the first flying fish of the passage. There
would be lots to come, ending up in every nook and cranny on the deck,
along with squid. The flying fish were rarely big enough to consider
cooking, and even when they were, they were usually well on their way
to decomposing by the time I found them. I did actually witness one
land on the deck and was able to rescue him. This morning when I was
working on the window I had to move my surfboards and found the
largest flying fish I have seen, decomposing on the deck.
Twister sailing in the northeast trades:

I started dragging a fishing line around day 7 when I felt like I
could go for some fish. I didn't catch one till day 19, 2000 miles
from San Diego. It was a beautiful Tuna, about a foot long. Don't ask
me what kind of Tuna. Fortunately I had gone on YouTube to watch how
Tuna are to be filleted. I didn't do a great job, but there was a lot
of meat. I ate some as is. Some I made ceviche with (Sorry, Bridget,
the cilantro plant didn't last that long. Turns out they don't like
salt water). The majority was dried: I made two varieties, one that
was marinated in soy sauce first, the other with teriyaki sauce. I
preferred the latter. Aside from that one tuna, I ate pasta, potatoes,
lentils, quinoa, lots of oranges, some spinach, celery and cilantro
the first week, granola (with dried milk (plus water, of course)) for
breakfast most days, eggs (they lasted three weeks. A couple went bad
a few days earlier, but the last 4 or 5 that I cooked on day 21 were
still good). I ate all the chocolate I was given (thank you, Adrianna
and Bridget). In fact, I ate all the snacks I had—almonds, trail mix
(a couple of varieties), chocolate, beer (that's a snack, right?),
fresh fruit (mangoes, oranges, a water melon, apples, and pears),
dried fruit (prunes), and probably more. I had read that the local
variety of grapefruit and baguettes were among the culinary highlights
here. I can vouch for both. In addition, the poison crue (Polynesian
variety of ceviche in which they use coconut milk), goat curry, and
sashimi I had were all delicious.
I crossed the equator sometime during the night between May 9 and 10
near longitude 132. I was sleeping when I crossed, so I didn't get to
take the obligatory photo of the chartplotter displaying Latitude: 0°
00' or have a party. A few days before that, I passed through the
doldrums, more specifically the ITCZ (intertropical (or is that
intra?) convergence zone), the band of light, variable winds, squalls,
and thunderstorms between the northeast and southeast trade winds. The
wind had been blowing nonstop since I left San Diego when it suddenly
died right around the coordinates that the NOAA weatherfax indicated
the ITCZ should be. I had motored for about ten hours when the wind
picked up, and I started sailing again. I experienced my first
squalls: the winds will probably be light, you may see some dark
clouds in the distance, when suddenly it starts pouring rain and the
wind starts blowing 20-30 knots, most likely laying the boat on its
side since there is a lot of sail area up for the light winds. That is
how it went the first couple of times. It was not fun with the
(assymetrical) spinnaker, but I did learn how to get it under control
quickly—drop it in the ocean. After a few times, I learned what to
look for and was usually able to reef or furl the sails in time.
Sometimes I would see squalls all around, but none would hit me, some
passing in front and others behind. The winds were variable and the
squalls were common for several days after passing the ITCZ (which
made me ask myself is there a difference between doldrums and ITCZ or
are they exactly the same?) They would often happen right around
sunset. The southeast trades were not as strong or consistent as the
northeast trades I had experienced, but I was generally able to keep
the boat moving at 4.5 knots or more.
The marine SSB radio was great to have—it was used to receive weather
forecasts (weather charts that were decoded by my laptop), to listen
to shortwave radio (mostly Radio New Zealand), and to chat with some
other boats. I had been listening to the Pacific Puddle Jump net for a
while and finally decided to check in (as I had told Greg, Mattias,
Brian and a few others that I would) somewhere south of the equator.
The result was that a boat 40-50 miles north of me asked me for some
water, so I made a uturn and passed them two 5 gallon jugs of water
(I'm still working on the 50 gallons in the internal tanks that I
filled in San Diego) in the middle of the night. That was kinda
surreal. It was an old (I think the guy called it a Magellan) ketch
and looked kinda like a pirate ship. It also cost me a day or maybe
two as I had light winds towards the end and was becalmed with 80
miles to go to Nuku HIva. So I motored the last 80 miles (but after
waiting a whole night with no wind and checking the forecasts and
seeing small chance of wind for the next couple of days), OK, big
deal! The guys I passed the water to are still (slowly) making their
way here to Nuku Hiva. Their engine is not working and they sail
slowly, so that's why they were short on water. By now I think they
must be close to day 50 on their passage, leaving from somewhere in
As I said, I was becalmed (ie no wind) about 80 miles from Nuku Hiva.
The wind had been light (5 knots plus or minus a couple, but I had
been moving at least 4 knots) for a day or two (before that I had been
screaming along at over 6 knots, doing over 130 miles for two
consecutive days). However, the wind totally died around sunset on May
14. I left the spinnaker up, but all it did all night was flap around,
keeping me awake. So on the morning of the 15th after checking the
forecasts and seeing more of the same in my future, I started the
engine and motored the rest of the way to Taiohae Bay in Nuku HIva. I
dropped anchor at 1330 GMT (0400 local time—yes, they're 9.5 hours
behind GMT) and fell asleep where I was sitting in the cockpit. I
awoke a couple of hours later to sunrise, roosters crowing, and a
beautiful tropical island. I had already raised the yellow Q (for
quarantine) flag during the night and I rowed ashore to check in with
the authorities. Fortunately they didn't care that my Norwegian
passport was only a month from expiring, so I didn't have pay the bond
that non-Europeans have to pay on entering French Polynesia on a yacht
(you have to deposit money enough to buy an airline ticket back to
where you came from—redeemable when you leave).
I had had aspirations of reaching South Africa by December. I
reevaluated that many times as I was sailing. Now I'm thinking that
Brisbane, Australia is a good place to wait out the southern
hemisphere hurricane season.
Well, I'm off to my first cruising social event (dinner with the Italians).


  1. Lars,

    I just read the post and loved every minute of it! I am going to look forward to your journey! Bill

  2. Great to hear you made it through your first leg. Stay safe and have fun.

  3. Go to daniels bay, great water and lovely hiking not only to the waterfall but to the ocean bluffs too. Lots of sharks there. I am so excited for you. good going Lars, Leslie

  4. Lars -- I have somehow just clued into this blog -- better than most of the sailing accounts I have read and the detail of your account it amazing. Good going!