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@ 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.

Posted by: williekp | April 21, 2012

Galapagos to the Marquesas continued

I have just finished a great night watch. The boat is sailing brilliantly on a beam reach at 7.5 kts, we are making great progress towards the Marquesas where we expect to arrive in the first few days of May. We currently have about 2000 miles left to run to get there. I am pleased to report that fishing operations are on the up. I was allowed to play center forward yesterday whilst Marigold was rested after her exploits of the day before. We have a surfeit of Mahi Mahi. I was feeling despondent come 6 pm. Nothing, not even any flying fish to be seen. Then, just to save the day a Mahi Mahi jumped on my line. Today, roles reversed. Marigold was launched early in the center forward position 150 meters behind the boat and I took up position in a tangle free zone about 15 meters behind the boat. Well, lo and behold, two obliging Mahi Mahi decided to attack my lure and will make an appearance in the fish curry tomorrow. Sadly, Marigold failed to attract any attention, despite poaching in the penalty box all day. There is a strong rumour that she is being retired for a younger ‘ Marigold mark 3’ version to be constructed tomorrow.

Ours was that size, too small for me to want to be in the picture

Life on the boat is currently good. Time passes without boredom, at the expense of lengthy debate. The recent one got going when I pointed out that we had made a further 15 degrees of longditude. This should mean that we have crossed a time zone and alter ship’s time by putting the clock back one hour. I had a small ulterior motive. Ship’s rules allow two cans of beer a day plus a glass of wine with dinner. This is very civilised and very welcome. A sub rule is that the first beer can’t be taken until the sun is above the yard arm, i.e. after 12 noon. By altering ship’s time, that would mean that we could legitimately argue that 1200 was the same as 1100 and have the beer at 1100. This proposal encountered what I would classify as a religious objection from one member of the crew who doesn’t drink beer and who is sometimes referred to as ‘the Admiral’. To defend this undefendable position, the Admiral pointed out that when you go on your holidays, you only alter your watch 15 minutes before you land and by that reasoning we should alter ship’s time 15 minutes before we get off in the Marquesas. I built on this suggestion by reasoning that you may as well not change ship’s time until the end of the circumnavigation and ignore the International date line into the bargain. After a minor impasse, the issue was resolved by agreeing to alter ship’s time at 1300 back to 1200, so beer was delayed one hour today giving satisfaction to the Admiral. Every other day the beer comes an hour earlier. Honours even? We have one more time alteration before the Marquesas.

Posted by: williekp | April 20, 2012

Galapagos to Marquesas Sarahs birthday

We organise ourselves and the work of sailing the boat around what is called a ‘watch’ system. There are four of us so we take turns at being in charge. When we are on passage like this, the boat never stops and needs to be sailed 24×7. Our watch system starts at 0900 till 1300, 1300 to 1700, 1700 to 2100. At 2100 we change to 3 hour watches for the hours of darkness so it goes 2100 to 0000, 0000 to 0300, 0300 to 0600 and 0600 to 0900. That means each one of us does a night watch and we each lose as little sleep as possible. Because there are only 3 four hour day watches, you don’t end up doing the same watch every day.

Last night I had the 2100 to midnight watch. Normally the boat sails itself. In fact, the boat doesn’t know that it is dark. It gets trickier when things don’t stay stable. Last night nothing stayed stable. The wind was from nothing to 20 kts and the direction from east round to southwest. Add to that no moon and torrential rain. The net effect is that you can’t see a thing, are getting soaked and the boat won’t stay doing what you want it to do. Fortunately it is a very clever boat and now that I have gotten used to it, putting up and down the sails and making them larger or smaller is genuinely just the press of a button. No more Hosey knots. It all reminds me of night flying where you couldn’t see anything and just had to trust that you knew what you were doing. At least night flying the aeroplane didn’t pitch and buck about, which is he other small problem. Anyhow, I am on 0000 to 0300 tonight. Let’s hope for an easier time!

Well today we had a very happy boat. The wind behaved very well last night and my watch was a lot simpler. I listened to music and tried to phone home on the satellite phone. No one picking up but granny , who is coming to live with us. The winds continued to be kind today and not only have we made very good progress, but we have also caught fish, which is a certain morale booster. On the progress front, my i- pad tells me that we are averaging about 8.2 knots . This is very good and the wind is forecast to stay about the same. We are pointed more or less where we want to go so in 24 hours we will cover 8.2 x 24 nautical miles which is about 196 nm. That is very fast and will bring us to Hiva Oa well before my previous estimate of 10 th May. We are showing 2444 nm to run which comes out as a further 12.5 days meaning we arrive on 30th April 10 days earlier than previous estimates. All in all I expect we will arrive somewhere between the two having taken around 24 days from leaving the Galapagos on 12th April.

On to the fishing. Marigold is getting a bit annoying. We are not really set up properly to troll two lines, so like a good crew, I rig up Marigold and let her fish where she wants to and I then fit in , depending on the conditions, where I think that I can avoid any tangles. This is akin to wanting to score goals but having to play as the goalkeeper. Today has been the first day that there have been fish around. Marigold caught 3 and lost one mahi mahi. I am the idiot standing on the transom at the back with the gaff, swinging wildly on my lifeline trying to get the fish in and not fall in or hook myself. So far a 100% record. I caught a mahi mahi too which happened to be hanging around my goal area. As I reeled it in, it took a dive and then something else much heavier grabbed it, bust my line and took my lure. Not a happy Willie. To add further insult to injury, I am doing the washing up in the galley after a not to be beaten dinner of lightly battered mahi mahi and fried potatoes. The galley has a small porthole which was open. A suicidal 6 inch long flying fish, flew through the window and clunked me on the head. I had no idea what had hit me until I heard flapping at my feet. This was the luckiest flying fish as I chucked him back overboard. His wingman missed the window and died of head injuries on the deck.

A flying fish like the one that hit me on the head while I was cooking

My watch tonight is 3 am to 6am so fishing operations will commence early ahead of Marigold who undergoes some sort of secret fish attracting ritual in the back cabin each day. Ceviche for lunch tomorrow. Mahi mahi marinated in lemon juice with garlic onion and ginger, served with chopped tomatoes and anything else green we can find. P.s. we are eating a lot of potatoes because they are going off. Headline…. Potato famine on paddy boat crossing pacific.

Today is 20th April and it is a special day because it is Sarah’s birthday. For the strangers out there Sarah is my wife. I couldn’t be having this great experience without Sarah’s support and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank her and the rest of my family. Have a really happy birthday Sarah and I am looking forward to getting back home to you.Thanks also to those of you who are supporting Sarah and keeping her involved while I am gone.

more later …

Posted by: williekp | April 13, 2012

Galapagos to the Marquesas, 3000 miles of open ocean

I had a great time in the Galapagos and really enjoyed the people we met and the wildlife but we have to move on if I am to get back to Beaconsfield. The next leg to the Marquesas should not be too challenging in a sailing sense, but it’s duration and remoteness mean it deserves respect and one must be conscious of the effect the distance and relative boredom can have on the others around. We pulled up the anchor and set sail at 1400 local time on Thursday 12th April. The Galapagos is a half a degree south of the equator and our next port of call is eight and a half degrees south. Because of the southern doldrums, we can’t just point there and go in a straight line. Most people head off south or south west and try to take a direct line out of the doldrums, even though it means that you are not getting any nearer your planned destination. The reward is that after about 300 nm you start to pick up the steady south easterly trade winds that blow at 15 to 20 miles an hour.

Our rough route from Galapagos to Marquesas

That was our plan and since there was not much wind we sailed south on the engine. Motoring always raises the tension on the boat. On a full tank plus our reserves we can motor about 1000 miles. The skipper is reluctant to motor as we also need fuel to generate electricity and make water. Fortunately, we found enough wind that motoring was reduced to about 18 hours and we are safely through the doldrums and in the trade winds. Here, the wind is coming over the rear left hand side of the boat ( port quarter for the sailors). That means that we are sailing with just the large headsail out and the little sail on the rear mast called the mizzen. We saw some wonderful sights in the first day leaving San Cristobal. The sea was calm but about a mile away we could see big splashes. We motored over that way and it turned out to be a huge school of dolphins. There were several hundred all racing through the water and jumping. They were very big compared to others we have seen. I bought a laminated card with descriptions of all the whales and dolphins and my guess was that they were common bottle nosed dolphins. I was truly staggered by the scale of it all and how this huge group had literally taken over this part of the ocean.

More later….

Posted by: williekp | April 12, 2012

Last Post from the Galapagos

This will be the last post from the Galapagos as tomorrow we are setting off on the longest passage of our journey. We will have been in the Galapagos for just less than two weeks which is good.We are about a week behind my schedule but it allowed for almost 3 weeks in the Galapagos. That means that with luck, I will have caught up the lost time.

I went diving on Easter Monday. I have always wanted to dive here and booked a two dive package to dive Kicker Rock. It turned into a three dive package because, as my last dive was 5 years ago, I had to do a qualifying dive to prove I still knew how to do things. For anyone reading this that can’t dive, I would encourage you to learn at the first opportunity. The world under the waves is absolutely stunning and you really can’t take it all in because there is just so much to see. It is a pretty spectacular dive site as you can see from the photo. The rock itself rises from unfathomable depths. Where it is split, there is a channel that is about 55 feet deep. We went through that channel and then did what is called a wall dive at about 60 feet around the outside. You are suspended there and when you look down there is no bottom.

Kicker Rock

Both dives were pretty similar and the list of what I saw is as follows:

Sharks, black tip and white tip reef sharks plus a new one for me , hammerhead sharks up to two meters long! Fortunately, the sharks are pretty shy and do not come close up. When you see them, they tend to veer off into the shadows and disappear. You kind of have to believe that they are not out to eat you or else you would freak out.

Turtles. Lots of different species. On the two dives I must have seen about 30 in total. I have never been anywhere where there has been so many turtles. At one point I could see 5 at the same time. They are quite tame and you can swim up close and even touch them.

Giant spotted eagle rays. These things are enormous, about 2 meters across and fly in a leisurely way through the water. I only saw one but it was fantastic.

Sea lions. Yes, one came swimming past right beside me 70 feet down. Probably the same one that released my tuna last week!

There were tons of other slightly less spectacular things to see, like moray eels, parrot fish, groupers, napoleon wrasse, big big clown fish etc etc. It was truly fantastic and despite being only half a degree south of the equator we had to were wetsuits because of the cold currents that bring all the food that attracts all the wildlife. You could really feel the different temperature layers.

There probably will not be any posts for a while now. It takes about one month to sail to our next stop. Wish me luck. More later….

Posted by: williekp | April 8, 2012

Exploring the Galapagos

Well we got here in the early hours of Sun 1st April after an 8 day sail. We did pretty well . All the others we have talked to motored for at least two days and took  about the same length of time. We still  have most of our diesel apart from the stuff we use to recharge the batteries and make fresh water. We were greeted on the way in by the most magnificent sunrise. It is true, red sky at morn, look out. It chucked it down later in the day.

This is what the street looked like later in the day.

Checking in in a place like this is pretty convoluted. You have to use an agent, be taken to immigration, register with the Port Captain, register to get fuel, have your boat inspected, have it fumigated etc etc. It is pretty much the same process to get out. That, plus fixing a few things on the boat, and getting some replacement provisions means that the days slip past pretty quickly. As I write this, we have been here seven days and are hoping to leave in the next few days.

The thing that impresses most about these islands is how much wildlife there is and how tame it all is. The port is literally littered with sea lions. You have to pick your way between them. There are millions of crabs on the rocks, giant tortoises, blue footed boobies and giant marine iguanas. I have included a few shots of them so you get the idea.

The iguanas are fearless and don’t move no matter how close you get. The sea lions threaten to bite you.




I managed a fishing trip for tuna and wahoo. I hooked and lost three very big tuna and finally managed to get the wahoo below into the boat. We also had a tuna later so we have lots of lovely fish to eat again.

Tomorrow I am going diving with turtles, sharks and sea lions. Wish me luck. More later…

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