So we are sailing away from Galapagos after 3 islands and 3 weeks.
Most cruising boats sail straight past the Galapagos these days, on their
way to the Marquesas.
The Galapagos are not particularly welcoming to yachts. The permits are
expensive and there are lots of restrictions on what you can (and mainly
But for us it was so worth it. The islands are completely unique. Very
entertaining wildlife, plus good fun Ecuadorian hospitality, there was no
way I could sail past and not stop for a look around.
Dawn flew out this morning on her way home to Guernsey for a few weeks.
Jemima and I are adjusting to life without her.
There are certain aspects of the management of this ship which are really
Dawn’s domain. All things electronic, for example. And the precise
location of any useful thing stowed somewhere on board. How will we manage
without her? Don’t panic, we have 2 satellite phones and she has preset all
her numbers on speed dial..
This morning we jumped through the final bureaucratic hoops to get our
Zarpe. We have permission to leave! All we need now is some wind.
Up with the anchor and off we go, trying to get away from the large
volcanoes of Isabela with associated cloud, drizzle and light wind. Giant
manta rays come by to see us off.
At dusk we sight a dismasted catamaran coming the other way, motoring in to
Isabela with the broken rig on her deck. A bit ominous!
It’s Liberation Day on Guernsey, I raise a glass to the island. Dawn should
be there later today.
Meanwhile we have been liberated from the Doldrums. Today I felt some real
wind on my face for the first time in weeks. Whitecaps! Escapade is buzzing
along at 8 knots, feels good.
Our code zero headsail has a nominal upper wind limit of 15 kts apparent.
Dawn is a stickler for these things and we always furl in good time. But
Dawn’s not here! So we were romping along at 10 knots on a close reach and
the sail seemed quite comfortable in the freshening breeze, shame to slow
down. I think that 15 knot limit is not actually about whether the sail can
handle it, it’s about whether you’ll be able to furl the thing. It can be a
bit of a handful, somehow we managed to get it wrapped into a mess and it
had to be dropped and stuffed untidily back into its locker. We shut the
hatch on that and skulked back to the cockpit. That won’t be coming out
again until we are becalmed! We are short handed but that was not our best
bit of sail handling and frankly, it would never have happened had my wife
been on board.
I hand over to J and I’m asleep by 0130. Woken at 4ish by very bumpy ride
over disorganised seas. We pull down the first reef. Back to bed. At 0500 I seem
to be hovering above my mattress whenever the boat launches off a ramp. We
steer downwind to find an easier path across the seascape. It was a rough
We are still 1500 miles from Easter Island. At our 0600 watch change we
seriously discussed the idea of just bearing away for the Marquesas
instead! Had enough already?
Let’s see how wind and sea are today.
More flying food:
16 little squid and 4 flying fish collected from the trampoline and
scheduled for the sundowner tapas slot.
The new GRIB weather file tells me the wind will back to a much better
angle, and soon. I’m immediately happier. When I see a forecast I like, I
accept it as certain fact. If I’m not so keen on it I will question its
accuracy. Well I’m banking this one, getting ready to ease the sheets
My forecast hasn’t come true yet, we are hard on the wind with two reefs in
Worse things happen at sea.
Jemima wakes me at 0230 to say the jib halyard has failed. We put a deck
light on, the top of the jib is dangling down and the rest of the sail
looks like a sack of potatoes. It’s dark, rough and windy. The sail is not
usable but we don’t want to be working on the bow right now. Thankfully it
is still furlable, so we roll it up without leaving the cockpit and I go
back to bed. Deal with that tomorrow.
Daylight reveals that the head shackle failed, the top 4 metres of the bolt
rope have torn away from the sail, and the top swivel seems to be stuck up
This jib is our only working headsail in stronger winds. We can’t really
get to windward without it, and we don’t have a spare.
We pull the wounded sail down and think about our options. First idea was
to re-hoist it on a spare halyard, without using the foil track.
It actually set quite well, but would never get close to the wind with a
loose luff, and we were concerned about problems dropping and retrieving it
if the breeze piped up.
We really need a sailmaker to stitch up that length of bolt rope, an easy
repair for any sail loft. Where is the nearest one? Ok lets’s see, we could
turn left for Peru, must be a sailmaker in Lima? That’s 1200 miles. Turn right for Tahiti? 3000 miles.
Any sailmakers left on Easter Island or Pitcairn? Don’t think so. We call Dawn on the satellite phone to get her to check online. No.
We are on our own out here.
There are some needles and thread on board. Start sewing!
We pick our moment between black clouds, drop the jib to the deck, bundle
it in to the cabin and start work on the dining table, trying a variety of
prototype repair methods and materials.
The other problem is that top swivel. Even if we can repair the jib we
won’t be able to hoist it without one of us going aloft to bring that back
down. This is no weather to be climbing a mast.
A long night pushing a needle through sail cloth, very tired, worried that
the repair may not work, just needing to sleep.
Oh well it’s only a sail. I’m happy it’s not one of us that needs to be
stitched up, because out here, the answer would be the same.
On the plus side, Escapade carries on regardless. Still humming away on a
close reach at 8 knots with just the double-reefed mainsail.
Feeling much better after some sleep. Sail cloth all over the cabin. Keep
Sewing. The needles are breaking, not many left.
By the end of the day the repair is nearly done. Another dark and bumpy
Repair completed this morning. More good news: that top swivel has worked
its way down – no mast climb required!
We are ready to hoist our needlework and a bit nervous, will it hold?
First things first, it’s Sunday morning, which means Jemima is making
OK it’s now or never, quick test hoist to check our repair will all fit up
the track, it’s a tight fit, but so far so good.
We replace the shackles and clew lashing and up she goes…looks fine. We
have a jib again.
On the chart this trip is 1,930 miles. (As the albatross flies.)
This evening we will be 965 miles from Galapagos and 965 miles from Easter
Island, so it’s our Halfway Party.
Plus Jemima is thirty-and-a-half years old today, so it will be a
We found some potatoes to serve with this morning’s flying fish. Fish and
That jib still seems to be up..
This morning’s GRIB file promises lighter winds and more favourable
direction. Well we’ve heard that before, but it does sound good.
On the water with my daughter.
Jemima and I made our first passage together when she was 8 years old. We
sailed an 18 foot bilge-keeler from Itchenor to the Isle of Wight. Pausing
for a few hours to run aground on a sandbar off East Head, finally arriving
in Bembridge harbour in the dark with Jemima asleep on my lap. We spent the
night at anchor, cooked breakfast, went ashore to explore the sand dunes,
then sailed back to Chichester Harbour the next day. It was an epic voyage
for us, perhaps 25 miles all told.
A few years later she stood her first night watch on our Biscay crossing,
whilst Dawn and I slept soundly below. Since then Jemima has covered many
thousands of ocean miles, she loves it out here. I still sleep well while
she’s at the helm.
We’ve been at sea for a week now and are settled in to the daily and
nightly routine. We don’t see much of each other!
The 10 hours of darkness between dinner and sunrise are split into two 5
hour watches. We can set our clocks to any timezone we like, right now the
sun sets at about 7pm down here, we eat dinner and Jemima retires at 8pm
while I take the first 5 hour watch. She re-appears at 1am, we have a quick
chat at handover, then I sleep until my alarm wakes me at 6am.
Another quick chat, then J goes to top up on sleep for another few hours,
leaving me to drink tea, watch day break, read, write, work out, eat
breakfast and potter around until 10ish.
Then we spend a few hours together, drink coffee, and plan the lunch menu.
We have a daily sort through the Galapagos fruit and veg and decide what
needs to be eaten most urgently. (controlled avocado ripening going
particularly well on this trip.) The fishing line only goes out when we are
both awake as it can get a bit hectic if there’s a strike when the boat is
After lunch I’ll snooze for an hour or more, then we are together again at
4pm for tea and cake. Jemima is often busy in the galley during my siesta,
I wake to the smell of freshly baked goodies. She brings a whole new
repertoire to Escapade’s offshore cuisine, turning out all sorts of
delicious and interesting new creations.
So then we have a couple of hours to chat, cook dinner, play music,
continue the Scrabble marathon and celebrate another sunset.
It’s our world, the next nearest human is a long, long way away.
A change in the weather at last. We have sailed out of the SE trades and
into the Horse Latitudes, an area of high pressure between us and the
The skies are blue, the wind is light and the sailing is easy. We shake out
the reefs, hoist the code zero and enjoy the ride. Gliding easily over the
smooth south swell.
Finally, a peaceful ocean. This is the ‘Mar Pacifico’ as it was named by
Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. Must have been on a day like this.
It really is different down here, we are now 20 degrees south of the
equator. The sea is a new bright blue, J says sapphire blue. No more flying
fish, and it’s getting colder. Socks and hats on for night watches and
blankets on our beds.
I have started turning off all the lights at night to enjoy the sky. The
stars demand my attention, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to see
our nav lights anyway. We haven’t seen a ship or a plane for a week, so I
can turn off my own light pollution for a whileand really let my eyes
adjust to the show.
The boat leaves two phosphorescent wakes across the blackness, while above
us stars and planets rise and set, great balls of fire streak across the
sky and galaxies shine like white clouds. Tonight a new moon appeared
briefly, setting soon after the sun.
After 10 days on port tack, the wind backed around this afternoon and we
gybed. The big red gennaker is hauling us south, breeze is building.
Now we’re really travelling, up and over the big blue hills of the south
swell, getting a bit of a surf on the way down. If we keep this pace
tonight we could make landfall in daylight
J calls me on deck at 0400 to help furl the gennaker. Boat speed up in the
teens, lightning all around, we press on with the embroidered jib and
At 0800 we emerge from a thick raincloud, surfing down a swell, and there
in front of me are the green sunlit slopes of Easter Island, with a
welcoming rainbow for good measure.
I call up the Capitan del Puerto who tells me it is not possible to anchor at the main port of Hanga Roa in this weather. He directs me to Hotu Iti on the south coast to find shelter. We gybe onto the new course, reel in a good size mahi-mahi and sprint round the last headland. Up into the cove, we drop the hook in 16m of water and Escapade finally comes to rest after her 2000 mile romp.
Hotu Iti takes a bit of getting used to.
First there is a large south swell. The waves lift us a couple of metres on
their way to the reef where they explode a few boat lengths ahead of us.
Then there are the large barreling waves peeling towards us down the
western side of the bay, pounding the volcanic rocks, uncomfortably close.
It’s cold, grey and still super windy. All feels a bit mad!
This is really the best anchorage? Anywhere else in the world I think you
would look for an alternative.
Welcome to Easter Island. A row of giant carved Moai heads line the shore
just in front of us.
We are happy to be here. Tidy up the sails, fillet the fish, fry a few
chunks for lunch, celebratory beer, siesta.
Anchor alarm on, no night watches tonight!