Posted by: williekp | May 13, 2012

The Final Chapter of this Blog (for now anyhow)

Well we made it across over 3000 miles of deserted ocean. It took us 23 days and we travelled about 3300 miles through the water when you account for all the zig-zagging. This was something that I wanted to do and which I have thoroughly enjoyed. The picture below is for the record: me with the island of Nuka Hiva in the background. Fortunately it was my watch so I had the pleasure of sailing into the anchorage and dropping the hook.

I hope some of you will have noticed that I will have a bit less to drag around the squash court when I get back. We celebrated with a bottle of bubbly, then some wine and then we went ashore to celebrate some more. Despite all the frustrations, I am very grateful to the owners for allowing me to share in their adventure. It has been a unique experience. Nuka Hiva is a very beautiful island.

The anchorage in Nuka Hiva

I have decided, however, not to do the last leg to Tahiti and to fly there instead. If I ever come this way again it will be in my own boat.The call of home is strong and I hope to be having a pint in the squash club sometime from Wednesday onwards next week. Thanks to everyone who shared the adventure by reading my ramblings. Thanks in particular to all of you who commented on various of the entries. Everyone should dream of their adventure and have a go at it. I will have to start work now dreaming up my next one.

Till then thanks everyone.

Willie

Posted by: williekp | May 4, 2012

At last a proper fish

Well, I am pleased to report that at last I got things right. While putting out my line today, I noticed a tiny snag in the braid. It was just enough to weaken it, so it all came back in and I went back down the line until I found the weak point and cut it off there. Out it went and sure enough, just after dinner with the light fading, my reel started screaming again, even though it had the new heavier drag setting. I leapt up to see the last of the braid disappear and the monofilament backing race off after the fish. I inched up the drag with no effect. Still line flying out. I shouted for them to stop the boat which they were trying to do. I went through the gate on the reel to access maximum drag and just before that setting he fish stopped running. It s about half a kilometres away by now. I slowly gained line only for the fish to run again. I don’t know how long the fight was but eventually I saw the shape of the fish emerge from the depths. It was an enormous yellowfin tuna.

 

At this point as I got it to the surface, I had to give the rod to the skipper as I had to climb out onto the transom to try to gaff it and haul it on board. That was tricky but we succeeded and landed it. I estimate it at between 30 and 35 kilos. I found it hard to lift for the photo. Easily my best sea fish and pleasing after a few false starts. I. Still think the one the day before was half as big again. We have a lot of very prime tuna fresh for the next couple of days and frozen for the rest of the trip. Over to you Marigold.

Posted by: williekp | May 2, 2012

Progress on both the sailing and fishing fronts

We continue to limp along in light winds. Even the skipper must be becoming frustrated as surprise, surprise we left the pole up last night and no tempest or sea monster came along to do us damage. He started muttering about taking it in again tonight. I just stay out of it now, however, the ‘admiral’ who was on watch would have none of it and told him to leave things alone. So we still have the pole out at least until the admiral goes to bed. I am sure that in years to come, perhaps even weeks to come I will talk proudly about sailing across the pacific. However, right now with 570 miles to go to landfall and making just over 4 knots the sums tell me we are looking at another five and a half days. Factor on a bit more for zig zagging and a bit because sods law says we will arrive in darkness and have to go in circles for a few more hours and a week today is a likely step ashore. That will be plenty of long crossings for me. The only possibility of it happening again will be if I return in my own boat.

I have not been fishing recently. This is because the next time I hook something big, I plan to get it to the boat. This means I don’t fish when Marigold is out and about and I don’t fish when the sailing rig makes it hard to stop the boat quickly. This means that Marigold mk 3a has been having the field to herself for the last couple of days. Mk 3a modifications meant better hooks as the rubbish ones got straightened or rusted within days. I offered mine which were turned down and some reasonably respectable Mustad 5 o’s were fitted. Well Marigold got hit today with the boat hardly moving and sure enough came back empty handed with another straight hook. The same hook would deal with most fish it is possible to catch around the UK. So later today we moved to Marigold Mk 4, equipped with a strong circle hook and a size 8 o stainless. So far no further enquiries. If the sail plan changes, I will wet a line tomorrow. There are some very big fish out there and currently they are laughing at us.

 

Posted by: williekp | May 1, 2012

Final goodbye to Dad

Tuesday 1st May. My dad was cremated today in Belfast. May he rest in peace and my thanks to everyone who organised the funeral and who showed their respect for him by attending. My night watch coincided with the time of the funeral and although I couldn’t be there, I could quietly think about dad sitting under the stars and under a brilliant moon that made the calm ocean seem like daylight.

The photo is of Dad when we went fishing on Lough Neagh in Ulster on his 90th birthday. It was a lovely day out together before the party with the family and all his friends later that day. RIP.

 

 

Posted by: williekp | April 30, 2012

Frustration in the middle of a long passage

 

It is Monday 30th today. We have been at sea for 18 days now. The wind has died and sailing straight downwind with two poled out headsails we are making about 4 knots. This is acceptable but tedious. What is currently driving me up the pole (sic) is that each evening our skipper still insists in taking the poles in. This means we can’t point at the target and head off about 60 degrees in the wrong direction at an even slower speed with just one sail out. By doing this we can extend the passage almost indefinitely. My latest estimates are a further 8 days.Β  It isΒ  a general issue is that every time we do anything with the boat or sails, the level of angst rises for no apparent reason. I have avoided getting involved at all a couple of times and the same thing happens.

It kind of reminds me of the Army regiment who, every day, have breakfast standing up. No chairs in the dining room at breakfast. This isΒ  because they were ambushed in Zulu land in eighteen hundred and something while they were sitting to have breakfast. They are never going to get caught off guard like that again. I hope that wasn’t your regiment Mr Monson.Β  Our poor skipper had an unfortunate experience in another ocean with different weather and a different crew and hasn’t put it behind him. It is however his toy box so that is that. It does worry me though because the next piece to Tahiti is actually much more difficult with many reefs and narrow entrance passages to lagoons. I am concerned that the angst level will rise to unbearable heights and that we will just not enter the best places.

 

 

Posted by: williekp | April 29, 2012

Fishing, fishing, fishing…..

Tonight just after dinner and just before it got dark my fishing rod started screaming and line poured off the reel. I jumped up to grab it and pushed the drag full on. The drag applies a force stopping the line from going out. I have it set to about 60 lbs or to put it another way, if you hung 25 bags of sugar off it the line would not budge. Well budge it did. I have at least 600 meters of line on the reel and whatever was on the end had already got 500 of those. It would take something the size of a small pony to pull that much line out under that amount of drag pressure. Next thing that happened was that the fish swam across the other trailing line which was a smart thing to do, because the lines ran down each other until mine reached the hooks on the other. They then cleanly cut my braid and the fish was lost. Definitely the biggest thing I have ever been connected to by a fishing rod. I would give up my daily beer allowance just to have caught a glimpse of it. That’s why it is called fishing and not catching. I have moved to alternate day fishing (only one line in the water) and tightened up the drag further in the hope of engaging the next zoo creature for longer. War on fish…..

Posted by: williekp | April 28, 2012

Whatever you do… DON’T TALK ABOUT THE WAR!

It is a long way across here. We currently have been at sea 15 days and have just under 1000 miles left to run. That is going to take around 8 more days. I am actually really enjoying the sailing, especially my own watches. We want to stay as far north as possible but the wind is forcing us south. This can add two days to the time. On my watch today, I managed to alter course and head northwest much to everyone’s surprise. I took over from the skipper who could only make southwest. I don’t think he understood when I explained how it was done. My flying background seems to help a lot analysing what is happening to the sails and whether they are working efficiently or not. This is a bit of an on-going issue for me. I like to sail the boat efficiently and a lot of the time, in my opinion, this is just not happening. Sometimes it is just that people seem unaware of how to trim the sails and balance the boat. Sometimes it is a sort of ‘policy’ issue. An example of such a case is to do with using the poles. In light winds you need these to help the boat sail. Several times we have sailed very well with the poles out all day to be told to change the sail plan and put the poles away at night. The weather is forecast as good, we will go slower on a worse course. If squalls are the issue we can see them approaching on the radar from 10 miles away. In the end , it is not my toybox, so we slow down and meander off . In respect of my relationship with Herman, peace has sort of broken out but only on condition that we don’t talk about the war.

 

Things have gone downhill. For several days we have had an unhappy boat. I haven’t previously disclosed that I decided to leave the boat in the Galapagos. There were issues from virtually day one in Panama. The skipper threatened at least three times in the first three days after my arrival to put the German off the boat.This was mainly because Herman the German was unbearable. Very self centered, obsessive about cleanliness. I mean truely obsessive to the point of intruding into other people’s space and criticise their ( perfectly normal) habits. He also refused to do anything if it didn’t suit him in that moment. This extended to important things to do with the boat like helping to hunt down spare parts. I put up with it, hoping it would improve, however, it blew up again in the Galapagos and I told the owners that I was leaving. The wife was in tears and I felt pretty small that in some way my leaving was impacting on their enjoyment of their adventure. After a long day of everyone chasing me around town in San Cristobal, Herman apologised and the owners asked me to accept that and stay as they wanted me to continue. Anyhow, Herman hasn’t changed his spots. He doesn’t understand anything about balancing the boat and making it sail without wild rocking. After days of me sailing smoothly and helping the others set up the boat to sail smoothly I got fed up of coming off my watch to handover to Herman. Before I could get into bed, he changes everything and I am bouncing off the walls as if on Blackpool roller coaster. It came to a head one morning when we were all up and preparing to do a simple manoeuvre to alter course called a jibe. It was his watch so he is in charge. He goes into order giving mode in his best German accent. This is another of his annoying traits. He wants to start the engine which is totally unnecessary. He wants to put the sails away and motor around on to the new course and then put the sails out again. This is not the stuff of ‘Yot Meister’ Anyhow he barks me a command to release the sheet. I think he might have meant ease the sheet but that isn’t what he said so I let said sheet fly which seemed to upset him. I shrugged and told him I had done precisely what he had asked. Anyhow, he got it back under control, motored around onto his new course and put the sail out on the other side. The boat is rolling all over the place and we are still motoring so it is impossible to assess how it is sailing. A very important part of the rig of a ketch is the little sail at the back called the mizzen. It acts a bit like the flight on an arrow and stabilises the motion. It was still out in the position it was on the other tack, so the boat is never going to settle. We are motoring on for minutes in 3 meter swells with the boat rolling violently from side to side. Eventually I suggest stopping the engine and looking at the mizzen. This is met with ‘don’t tell me how to sail, I am Yot Meister’. I respond ‘try telling the boat that then because it doesn’t seem to know yet’. You get the picture. I explain that I won’t be taking any further orders or instructions from him. When he goes on watch and I am bouncing off the walls I go on deck and wait for the Skipper to come and save his boat. Skipper then asks me to settle the boat down which I do. Herman has another fit. After a couple of days of this Herman realises that it is better to learn something rather than stay in denial and we start to be civil again. I have had two nights sleep which has improved my demeanour which was not good in any case after my dad’s death. The atmosphere though is still poor.

 

Posted by: williekp | April 23, 2012

A very very sad day

Sad sad news today. My Dad had a heart attack and after a short time in hospital died around 11.30 UK time on Monday 23rd of April aged 93. RIP.. By the magic of satellite phone I managed a few words with him around 1000. I will miss him and remember him as he was. The attached photo captures a lot of the essence of him.

Dad. You will be sadly missed.

It is quicker to get back from the moon, than from where I am now, so I shall miss his funeral. Thanks to Sarah and the kids for representing me and thanks to the rest of the family for organising things. Dad wanted me to do this trip and enjoyed hearing what it was like when I phoned him from the satellite phone. He had a long and happy life and died relatively peacefully. We will all miss him.

Posted by: williekp | April 22, 2012

Galapagos to Marquesas is a very long way!

We are 10 days into our passage now and still making very good time. As I write, we have 1765 of our 3055 miles left to do. The good news is that, although we are not half way by distance , we are more or less half way by time because the first couple of days did not take us towards our destination, but towards the wind that would get us to our destination. Since picking up the wind we have averaged about 175 miles per day and latest estimates get us there around 2nd or 3rd of May, which is on time with my master plan of catching a flight home on 21st June. After this big jump, all the sailing to Tahiti will be a maximum of a couple of days between stops. We are continuing now to catch fish. They have all been Mahi Mahi, so we are pretty Mahi Mahi’ ed out. Since leaving the Galapagos we have only cooked two meals that have not been fish we caught. I took a picture today of one of the flying fish we find every day. They are the most amazing of creatures. Tomorrow we will pass the half way point. I am planning to release a message in a bottle.

Launching the Message in a Bottle

As an incentive to any finder, I am putting $5 in with the message with an incentive of another $50 if the finder sends me back the original message with some extra info. For the record this is what it says: Congratulations on finding this message and enjoy your $5 as a gift from me. My name is Willie Kirkpatrick. I released this message in the Pacific Ocean halfway between the Galapagos Islands and the Marquesas Islands. You can contact me by phone on +441494 680702 or +44 7778613923, or e-mail on w.kirkpatrick549@ btinternet.com or by letter at Wilconnel House, Finch Lane, Beaconsfield, Bucks, HP 9 2 TL. Tell me , who you are, where you live, where and when you found my message and I will send you another $50. Greetings from me and I look forward to hearing from you. Willie. By the way Trevor, and all the rest of you looking for a quick $50, there is a secret mark at the bottom of the note that you will need to describe to get the $50. Sorry!

We had a rough night last night Saturday 21st. The wind picked up to 35 knots at times in rain squalls and the seas are 2.5 to 3 meter swells. The boat is fantastic however. With just a heavily reefed headsail and a tiny scrap of mizzen, we ran on a broad reach and maintained about 7.5 knots over the ground. You need to hang on and chips are off the menu. We have radar on the boat which is very useful for seeing the squalls in the dark and gives the opportunity to alter course to avoid the worst of them. My watch was 3am to 6 am and I actually spotted another ship 5 miles away which I could confirm and track by radar. Boys toys and all that. We have proper cooked breakfast on Sunday, which is settling as I write.

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