Weather: [Sunny, Humid.. Pretty miserable inside the boat but fine if we are outside in the breeze.]
Sailing conditions: [Great sailing for the last day, seas are still a bit bouncy but much easier, mostly close hauled but still need plenty of sail tending as winds swing about.]
Food: [Breakfast: Parfait, Lunch: Chocolate cake!, Dinner: Thai Curry]
General Comments: [What a day. Since leaving Galapagos, and then losing one of the rudders we've been a bit down (about so many lost plans) and anxious (about how the other rudder will fair/survive the journey ahead). Yesterday we both lightened up - it was a very happy day aboard. We got to sail really close by to Clipperton Island, and the timing was perfect, it was daylight and we were both up as it was around morning/breakfast time. When we initially set off we'd expected to be no where near the island. The island looks like a fairy tail desert island, beautiful beaches, pounding waves of amazing white and turquoise, and smatterings of palm trees. We were also led about by too many dolphins to count. As we approached we saw a 2nd boat (Royal Polaris) already at the island (we saw them on the AIS). We attempted to hail them on the radio but got no reply. As we got closer we were surprised to see it looked like some kind of large motor boat from a distance, we'd expected a cruising sail boat this far out from land (over 600nm). The birds (boobies) also entertained us by diving and flying close by but were impossible to photograph (oh, our 'good' camera has broken too).
We decided to take the time to sail around the island a bit more rather than just sail by - it was just too magical (unfortunately there is no safe way to land). Eventually this other boat hailed us on the radio and we had a nice chat about the dolphins and the island. They were a large sport fishing boat based in San Diego and made regular trips to the island with paying passengers. Just before signing off they asked if we had a Satellite phone aboard; apparently their long range radio and their sat phone were not working, and they asked if we'd notify their office that all was well. We *were* low on minutes but figured this was important so we made the call and confirmed that the message was received. They got on with their fishing and we got on with enjoying the dolphins, the birds and the island. An hour or so later, as we turned to leave, Royal Polaris called us again on the radio... they thanked us again for the sat. phone call and asked if there was anything We needed. Thinking as quickly as I could I suggested if they had any eggs or onions to spare that would be very welcome! Next thing we know we have a giant boat approaching us with passengers and crew to deliver grocery supplies to Begonia. Along with a tray of eggs and a huge bag of onions they also gave us some apples and oranges. Wow, I was so happy I was practically dancing on the boat. Kyle was grinning too, knowing I had been rationing my onions in dishes and was down to just one more for perhaps another 3 weeks at sea. As we left the island, Kyle went to sleep and I baked a cake in celebration of my new supply of provisions. Life is good.]
Progress: so far we've made nm on this passage and have nm to go. Last 24 hours we made nm through the water nm direct from start to end point.
Additional updates after the fact
On day 13 it rained and was cloudy most of the day. Once it cleared, we had partly cloudy skies and consistent winds for the next 3,000 miles.
It was kind of a shame, we could have had full sail, or possibly a single reef in the jib, and spent most of the trip sailing 10 or 11 knots. I’d imagined making the whole passage in as little as 22 days. We were too concerned for the remaining rudder to be willing to risk a big rudder at such high speeds, so we spent most of the time with reduce sail, holding back the boat. If the rudder deflection got above 10° or the speed started creeping into the 9kt level, we’d take in another reef and slow down.
We had more than enough water and food aboard, there was no need to push too hard and make things any worse.
The days continue to pass at sea.
On day 14, it was clear that our course would pass nearby to Clipperton Island. We had noticed it before, during the planning stage, lying near the great circle route between Panamá and Hawaii. It intrigued me, but I assumed the trade winds would allow us nowhere near it on the southern route we’d expected to take. On our new more northerly route, we would pass within 30 miles of it. I knew that it was uninhabited and that it had no safe anchorage or landing point for us, so we planned to sail by leaving it over the horizon. To get the best wind angle, and hedging against a forecast direction change we had been slowly drifting north of our great circle course. Our closest approach to Clipperton would now be less than 10 miles, and it would be in daylight. Maryanne persuaded me we HAD to take a look and we made the slight course adjustment..
Our first sign of land came from the air, with small groups of maybe half a dozen Brown and Nazca Boobies (birds) that had accompanied us from the Galápagos turned into flocks of 20, then 50. Shortly behind them were a few sentinel dolphins, joined later by bigger and bigger pods. By the time we spotted the island, only four miles out, we felt like the center of an aquatic motorcade. We alternated time at the bows with our heads on a swivel, not knowing if to look at the cavorting dolphins, the acrobatics of the birds, or the palm tree covered island. All were impressive in their own way.
Clipperton is an atoll, in the shape of a diamond ring. There is a circle of white sand surrounding a central lagoon. To one side is a giant outcrop of rock covered in white guano. The sandy beach was scattered with coconut palms and was completely deserted. Everywhere along the island, turquoise breakers crashed along the blinding white sand. It was a desert island postcard.
We so desperately wanted to drop anchor and take a walk along that beach for a few hours, but the swells striking the NE side of the island were wrapping around all the way to the opposite side and making large breakers around the entire perimeter. On a calm-ish day it would be possible to leave someone on the boat while the others dinghy or snorkel ashore, but we were not that motivated (nor did we have any legal permission to occupy a French owned island in such a way).
Our AIS (shipping traffic display system) picked up another boat loitering on the opposite side of the island. We could see it’s name (The Royal Polaris) but were not able to spot it using binoculars yet. I tried several times to hail them on the VHF but got no reply. Later when I was on the trampoline, watching the dolphins and birds they called us. Maryanne had a brief exchange with them about our respective voyages – they were a fishing charter out of San Diego, milling around Clipperton for a week.
He then asked Maryanne if she would be willing to do him a favor. His single sideband radio and his satellite phone were not working correctly. He asked if we had the ability to contact his office and let them know that everything is okay and that they’ll most likely be out of contact for another week. This would save them worrying about him and his passengers. Maryanne made a one-minute call on our satellite phone and called him back on the VHF to let him know that she got through to a woman named Rhonda. Rhonda had been very efficient at taking such a rapid message (thanks Rhonda!), and was presumably happy to hear the news.
We didn’t have the best charts of the island, so we hugged the shore as closely as we could while keeping the depth at about 100 meters. Oh, the deserted, blinding white beach looked so tempting.
We went almost completely around the island until we had curved around as far into the trade winds as we could sail. We tacked through the eye of the wind, and then bore off for Hawai’i. We were both so glad that we had made the detour.
A couple of minutes later, Royal Polaris called us to thank us again, and asked if there was anything we needed.
“Well, as a matter of fact,” Maryanne said, “We could use some eggs and onions if you have any extra aboard.” We had meant to pick up some of these in the Galápagos, but, uh, never got the chance.
“Yeah, I think we could do that.” He replied. “We’ll be right over.”
Whoo hoo! I pulled all of the sails down. Royal Polaris approached, its decks lined with possibly 100's of fishing rods and a few over-tanned men who looked like they had been out of the softening influence of women for a while (there was also at least one female fisherman out there with the pack. The Captain gingerly maneuvered his bow over our decks and Maryanne was handed several well-wrapped packages with a long fishing net. One was a WHOLE FLAT of eggs, one had about fifteen onions, and there was a bonus bag of apples and oranges. It was basically the same few things we were going to pick up in Isabela, only three times the quantity. AND it was delivered right to our boat! We seemed to be a highlight for the paying guests aboard too, as they busily snapped their photos of us, we did the same of them.
A welcome delivery of supplies - thank you Royal Polaris
You should have seen Maryanne’s face. Wait a minute, you have! It’s the same exact face the woman gets on those pre-Christmas jewelry ads when she opens the tiny box. By the way, I’ve given Maryanne jewelry and she did not make that face then, but give her fifteen onions and she won’t stop smiling and squeaking with joy all day. I took a nap and when I came back on for my afternoon watch, she greeted me with a chocolate cake freshly made with her new eggs. She was still smiling.