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Old 03-20-2012, 08:57 AM   #1
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Default Update on 'Blue Bear', Marquesas

Hi,

I'm posting this update here, after some initial posts in the overdue forum. Hope it's interesting and/or informative:

Writing about our pacific crossing I felt would be a difficult one, Benign weather, calm seas, Day after day north of the Equator light northeasterly winds and westerly Currents .south of the Equator light South easterly backing Easterly winds as we sail west again with westerly Currents with a small area the ITCZ separating them how could we get it wrong we could drift across with no bother..........

We Left Panama in December a few weeks into the cyclone season, with no real concern for adverse weather since we could avoid such weather by staying close to the equator or staying North of the Equator. We chose to travel parallel with the Equator at around 3 to 5 degrees north which became a big mistake, for a few reasons the most annoying for us was between Panama and the most western point of the Colon ridge trying to move south even under motor in the area of the ridge was pretty much impossible with Currents running north or north west at speeds greater than 2 1/2 Knots at times.

The ever present south westerly winds also hampered our attempts... after a few attempts under sail and motor to move south to the more favorable winds we were forced to change tactics and follow the currents and sail close to the wind a Magnetic course of around 260 to 280 degrees which was translated to around 270 to 300 degrees over ground.

As the currents got stronger and winds lighter this changed to over 330degrees a tack magnetic Course of around 180 to 190 would give me around 120 to 170 over ground sailing east from our destination, tack for these distances will take for EVER!! worse than Sailing against the Tide in the lower Bristol Channel.

We had to find westerly currents and The Easterly or south Easterly winds mentioned in all Pacific crossing Guides we had read, what is the point of keeping Diesel if we are to run out of food.

We gambled that if we motored to south of the equator we would find more favorable conditions. we motor sailed south in winds that were now slightly more westerly than south westerly a perfect time sometimes giving us more than 7 Knots, but even after getting south of the equator still northerly currents and South westerly winds against us.

We had to keep motoring using all our main tank of Diesel when we were south of the Equator because the currents were now Northerly and winds light pushing us back to the North, after much thought we decided to stop the motor and keep our reserve supply and try to hold Position South of the Equator

Any wind changes would help us further south where we are bound to find South easterly winds after all they are TRADE WINDS but we didn’t we by now were well into our second month and less than half way to our destination.

The food stores were starting to look low there was an obvious risk of a food Shortage, But Hey!!! we will find the Currents and trade winds.

It will only take up to 8 days from a halfway point it is like riding on an Escalator as mentioned in one cruising Guide Start the Engine use the reserve diesel keeping 20 litres back for emergency maneuvering and electricity to get south, again we motored south with no winds until we ran out of diesel.

That’s it now!! If we don’t get the trade winds we’ll be sailing/ Drifting North west or sailing south east, South east which was Much slower No advantage from the still strong currents 1 to 1 1/2 knots but it was more south towards our much needed Trade winds, we tried it until the winds died completely the Northerly current carried us back over the equator to a point sarcastically close to where we had started our engine and used all our Diesel 5 days earlier.......

This was the Point where the serious situation we were in became our dominating thought. check the water food gas etc we had enough for another few weeks the gas was already due to run out I had not stocked up on gas how we would manage with some of our foods such as rice if the gas runs out...........we can still do it......

From Experience, north westerly currents above the equator run at around a Knot or more winds are greater so although it is the wrong direction we will get a much greater GPS closing speed at least for a time but we still had almost 2000miles to go so we headed as close to the wind as Our boat would sail and aided by the currents made speeds of around 4 knots CLOSING speed of around 3 knots less than half of what we needed to arrive before running out of food.

So we reduced the rations we would give ourselves, as we moved North west things slowly got better we picked up speeds and winds Backed so we could now sail South west but still slowly but at least in the right direction until we again ran out of wind, a little madness slipped in.

“NO way” while I had fuel would I drift back as We did a few weeks ago. we used our last 20 litres to motor south west at least if we were pushed north again we would still have gained a westerly advantage stopped the engine when the Needle rested on the E still a little fuel left which would serve no advantage to use here we drifted west with very light southerly winds giving us 0.8 Knots closing speed we had calculated our arrival time at our destination was much more than another month, so we reduced our rations again which were now running out anyway...

Catching fish now became a necessity If we were to eat well, a fish a tin of vegetables and a packet of Spinach soup would last 2 to 3 days greatly improving the expected time our food would last, Couldn’t make it last longer it would begin to taste sour, because of the Gas shortage it was cooked briefly then not re heated, we had to be a little careful no doctors here.

We also still had rice which we could mix with packet soups and curry powder added to make a curry and rice flavoured meal occasionally a fish would also give the meal some substance but fishing was now becoming harder even with steel mono traces we still lost a few lures and the ones we had left were rusting away......

As we moved slowly south things did improve but at around 6 degrees south we still had speeds of less than two Knots then some good steady winds giving us 4 knots by the time we reached 9degrees South the winds which had become constant in speed and Direction soul distroyingly disappeared as we came closer to the land, it took around a day and a half for the last 8 miles to the Harbor leading lights.

A mile offshore I restarted the engine it started and with Sue ready to drop the anchor when the Fuel finally ran out we entered the Harbor in the dark under power 60 days late having literally tacked into a Southwesterly headwind for most of the 4000ish miles.

Still had 1 tin of tuna 4 tins of beans and one cup of rice a few stock cubes and a litre of cooking oil left entering the Harbor we ate the tuna,rice and one can of beans that evening good thing we did not have to spend another 3 days aboard with only beans left It would be Intolerable....

will try to add a few Photos when we have better internet.


Brain Cox, 'Blue Bear', Hiva Oa, yesterday.
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Old 03-26-2012, 12:39 AM   #2
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Quite a story and what an adventure Brian. "There but for God go I" is all I can say. What are the do's and don'ts you distilled out of this?

From my initial read ( on the thread was a mention of algal/barnacle blooms on your hull.. what a surprise!! ) it seems you had quite a forest of them, and it struck me that you had not mentioned attempting to get them scraped off, to improve hull speed with the little wind you had. Was going over the side with a scraper not an option? Sue riding shotgun?

Query two, and this is to everyone really, is does it pay to move to another square of the chance board when the odds there are identical to the ones that you are on? Or is it better to just stick it out where you are until the dice get lucky again? Without "big weather info" (batteries dead?) only your eyeballs and barometer were the tools you had, apart from Pilot Info. El nino and Pacific high are a bit of a crap shoot at best, as are currents, especially around those Islas Encantadas of ill repute. These odds are clearly not working in your favor then.

Last, most puddle jumpers do the Jimmy Cornell thing and plan an Ecuador take-off to arrive at the isles de Frog ( Fr. Marquesas) in April/May only. This is well after your ETA. Did you consider the pros and cons about a Dec. departure and would you do this again or differently? Again, the plans of mice and men. Nature rules but we can and must stack the odds. I'm considering a similar route but have not done much study of the timing, so your experiences and ideas would help me.

BTW: you can never carry enough fuel unless you are on fire. ( Air-pilot dogma!)

Ivo sv Linnupesa
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:53 AM   #3
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Linnupesa,

I also hope we get some more info from these folks. Long trip and good experience to share. I mentioned elsewhere that I believe it was much more common 30 years ago for people to have this sort of delayed passage than it is today. Pretty much because today people try very hard to follow very particular weather "windows" and travel with weather routers etc to help out. In days past, cruisers...well...cruised. And, sometimes it didn't work out perfectly per the best time schedule.

Fair winds,
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Old 03-26-2012, 03:24 AM   #4
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Yes, and these cruisers did travel isle to isle in only 85 days. But our ship of state can't seem to ship aisle to aisle for years already, in fact 30 years ago they were so much better at it than now. :-0 Aaaaargh me hearties!
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Old 03-26-2012, 01:32 PM   #5
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Linnupesa,

Brian and Sue, aboard Blue Bear, are friends of mine, and I posted this on their behalf. I will try and get them to join the forum and tell their own story. They are currently on route to Papeete. I know very little more than what I have posted already.

This all started out when I posted an overdue report in that section of the forum. Apologies for any confusion caused.
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Old 03-26-2012, 04:57 PM   #6
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OK Martcol. See, one good deed just follows another. May they both have following seas and pushing currents on these now much shorter legs of their quest. You keep up your great postings. This info is invaluable for all that wish to follow in the wakes of Brian and Sue. Many thanks!

Ivo sv Linnupesa
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