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SV Taipan: 2000nm Detour

by SV Taipan 30 Jun 2019 12:53 UTC
Puerto Aroya Santa Cruz Galapagos © SV Taipan

Wednesday 12th June
Great news! On passage again. 800nm to go! Champagne sailing with a nice 10 to 12 knots on the beam, clear star-filled skies, beautiful phosphorescence and a moon.

There are, of course, the inevitable formalities to be worked through before departures like passport stamps and Zarpe. That's foreign-lingo for "port clearance". Three officers, one Navy, one Police and one National Park official, filled the cockpit with big boots and clipboards. Pages of Spanish later and several signatures by the captain, then they checked we hadn't smuggled any tortoises aboard and that we had the appropriate life-saving equipment and we were declared clear to leave Galapagos. A yacht tried to smuggle out 100 baby tortoises recently so they're pretty down on boaters.

What started as a muggy overcast day developed into bright clear skies and a pleasant 10 to 12 knots of breeze on the starboard side. Most of our adventures on Galapagos were undertaken in company with Michael and Corinne and since they flew out it's was mostly preparation for the very long 3000nm passage west to Marquesas. The whole fridge and freezer had been emptied to pass the biosecurity check-in and that took several trips to markets and supermarket to replenish.

Fortunately, there is a very good farmers market in town on Saturday mornings complete with a massive food hall experience. Meats were a little tricky as it's local and just the one or two animals, so getting a decent cut of beef or pork wasn't happening. Lots of good chickens the size of emu, and loads of fruits and avocado by the thousands. It seems almost anything will grow here tropical and temperate.

It's heavy work carting all that stuff, haggling with stall holders in Spanish and then getting the whole shebang into a taxi to the port, lugged to the water taxi and our to the boat, then all prepared and stowed. But we did it!! Weaving our way between the wildlife.

Monday night we dined out for our last evening in Galapagos, arrived back to Taipan around nine for the regulation liquor and chocolate and were shocked to discover very depleted house batteries.

After some battery sleuthing and amp checking, swearing and cussing, we discovered another battery has collapsed. Batteries are integral to our survival on Taipan. Remember that big shopping? It's all in the fridge and freezer and that requires batteries! Not to mention, pumps, water maker, navigation equipment, lights and more.

Let me explain our battery system for the couch sailors out there. We've 800+AH in 4 x 6v batteries. So if we lose one battery that's half our system down! If we lose 3 batteries our whole system collapses. You need 2 x 6v batteries to make 1 x 12v battery. So now we had just half our battery bank.

In hindsight, we should have guessed we had a problem when one suddenly failed in Shelter Bay. We managed to replace it, thinking it was just a faulty battery. In truth, it now seems they're all on the way out. At four years old and after careful testing in Panama we thought they would make it to Australia, a mere five months away. Wrong!!

There is absolutely not a single deep cycle battery anywhere on Galapagos! Alternatives were risk trying to sail on to Marquesas and hope our remaining battery holds together AND, that it's even possible to replace them there! (Getting an anchor organised was enough of a headache) or.... head back to Panama and abandon plans to be in Australia by end of October !!! (A very ugly thought)

After careful analysis, even given that we have a new generator which should be up to the job, we decided it would be verging on foolhardy at worst and at best be very demanding on us to endeavour that 3000 nm passage in the circumstances.

So we headed East, back into wet, stormy Panama to lick our wounds, get replacement batteries and an anchor and maybe look for Rodolfo! (if you read my previous blog you'll get that). We will get a Long Stay French visa (read..jump through hoops of fire) for French Polynesia. This will mean we won't be forced to head into potentially cyclone infested waters because we have a visa problem. (Without it we can only stay for 90 days.)

So after all that hard slogging out to Galapagos it turns out it was just a 2000nm detour!!

What have we learned about batteries?? Eggs and baskets!! More is better and not 6-volt monsters!

Thursday 13th June
We crossed the equator again at 4.30am back in the Northern Hemisphere where the days continued to lengthen for another couple of weeks. Red-Footed boobies were clinging to the top rail leaving calling cards all over the deck while hitching a free ride all night. As the wind piped we were doing reasonable speeds in 15knots just forward of the beam. Whitecaps and ugly looking if you were going the other direction, which reminds me, we'll be doing that AGAIN in a few weeks. Birds came and went but it seems the word was out. The Taipan Preening Lounge and Salt Spar was open for business. A very pretty Swallow-Tailed Gull took up residence on the dingy for most of one day so extensive bucket and broom work was required there too.

Friday 14th June
Nine Brown Boobies on the Bow! They're silly young things all fluffy and with that look of surprised innocence when you walk right up to them. Like kid s, they can't help fiddling with stuff. A couple of them set to work untying a small line on the furler and were indignant when I went to retie it. They moved off only when I gave one's tail feather a small tug!

Soon they were back at it though. A Frigate bird attempted to land on the masthead occasionally because they wouldn't share the pulpit with him. They even colonised the lower rail. Two story boobies! There was one near crash when an incoming Boobie missed his landing on the solar panel and had to abort, landing instead in an ungainly heap on the seat next to David in the cockpit where he sat to put to rights his dishevelled feathers. Then there was an equally ungainly take off through the jack lines and over the side before becoming airborne again.

With 560nm to go, it was a far cry from the east-west leg thank goodness. Our new Autopilot, Jack. (in honour of Jack Baxter) was very pleased with the new wiring to the old drive motor and we didn't interfere with him for two days.

Saturday, June 15th Those fluffy little hitchhikers were still there. Still messing up the decks and scratching their fleas. There was a bit of drizzle around early then it fined up and the wind blew and the seas went ugly and dark with white caps. Thank goodness we were not heading into that shit!! (Saving it for a few weeks time) sigh!

We had a Venezuelan fishing boat two miles off for about four hours. They eventually pulled away ahead. I was a bit anxious for a while as Venezuela's economy has crashed, with inflation running at around a million per cent and some piracy incidents on the Caribbean side. But this one was properly lit and with AIS That's actually a change for fishing boats. Most of them don't display AIS. (Automatic Identification System. It shows us the name and call-sign of the boat, it's size, speed, course and any potential collision)

We were poled out for most of the day, making decent time but then the wind died. Thank god for technology! Then we had the pitter patter of little pistons ringing in our ears with 400nm to go. At least the water was full, the freezer was frozen and what batteries we had functioning, were full. Jack hadn't dropped the ball once. He's a great navigator and helmsman.

Sunday 16th June
Blue Footed Boobie!! Up front and centre. Spectacular day blending into a spectacular night. There was a beautiful moon and clear skies over calm seas. This, of course, means no wind but hey... we've diesel!

The beautiful white Blue Footed Boobie joined is in the night and stayed all day.

I had to go onto the bow at midnight to check that furling line the red-footed adolescents had been tinkering with and they were all asleep, crouched on the rail with red webbed feet wrapped around it and heads tucked under their wings. They woke and blinked bleary-eyed at me several times, then tucked back in under their wings right off back to sleep. Later I popped back up there to see if I could tempt any of them to dried up flying fish but apart from a quack and a sniff I didn't get much interest.

With roughly 250 nm to go we hoped to be in on Tuesday.

Monday 18th June
8nm offshore with 70nm to go, David got two big tuna but lost both and 2 lures! First one was at the boat. He went to get a camera and line chaffed through! doh!! The second one was eaten by something bigger on the way in. I'm not that partial to tuna but I did like those lures!

Lots of fish action and dolphins, also a shark or two cruising by. Boobies left at sunrise and we were down to one. We had a dark one with white feet and a white underbelly for a few hours. There was no wind from every direction and a full moon. We crossed the shipping lane with only one ship in sight.

Arrived Vista Mar Marina Panama Tuesday 5.30pm. Just when we thought it was all over the sea gods chucked 18 hours of strong bumpy counter conditions at us. The boobies abandoned ship sometime during the bad last few hours!

Now we try to unravel the web of bureaucracy for clearance back into Panama. Prepare paperwork for the French Embassy application for a Visa for French Polynesia. Our appointment is in one week. Batteries are ordered. There's a new anchor to order and get delivered from the USA and there are a million other little jobs.

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