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Enroute Tuamotus, redux

July 11, 2011


Date: July 10
Time: 7am, Marquesas (1630UTC)
Position: S10.39.233 W140.49.314
Course: 204t
Speed: 5.7 over ground last hour
Wind: ESE 10 – 13
Cloud: 40%, but full cloud approaching
Sea: 3ft E
Bar 1013, rising

Murre departed Nuku Hiva at 1030 (Marquesas Time) on July 9 and is enroute Makemo Atoll (S16.34.174 by W143.40.969) in the Tuamotu group. Distance to be sailed: 500 miles.

A wind from the east at 16 knots and a high, lumpy sea confused by its impact with the island settled within the hour, and Murre was soon making a steady 5.5 knots and better over the ground. Our knot meter is not functioning. It was grassed up by the foul water of Nuku Hiva, and the generous number of sharks in the bay kept me from diving on the impeller. Certainly they were Black Tipped Reef sharks who have no habit of dining on human flesh. But what is not a habit may be an interesting diversion or even an unintentional foray. The murky water in combination with the shark’s poor eyesight mean mistakes could be made. Why cause the shark such regret?

Sharks. They are not evenly distributed in the bays of the Marquesas. Here they are plentiful. Once Cynthia from COLUMBINE and I were observing a fishing party dress its catch at the head of the wharf. Several Wahoo the length of a grown man; Yellow Fin tuna as fat as pigs; a whole tub of Red Snapper. The trimmings went into the bay and were hoovered by two large sharks thrashing about in the brown water like mad dogs. Cowboy, a Marquesan local wearing a camouflage hat, a boar’s tooth necklace, and a mischievous smile, tied some left over Yellow Fin skin to a piece of rope, made the end of that rope into a lasso and tossed it into the bay. Three tries later and he’d lassoed a 200 pound shark. It nearly pulled him in, but three other men caught hold and soon the shark was tossing about on the cement wharf, the very definition of a fish out of water. One man got out his machete and approached. Another turned to me, I’d edged closer as the drama unfolded, and said, “you want picture?” Did I ever. But the camera was on the boat. When I said as much the life went out of the party. Cowboy tipped the great beast back into the water and walked away.

Another time on my row back to Murre a shark followed in our wake for a full five minutes before deciding COOT was not a dinner plate after all.

And on another occasion I was standing on the bow when two sharks, jaws locked together in bloody combat, flung themselves out of the water close enough that the splash wetted my feet.

So I did not dive on the impeller, please forgive, and our speed on this passage is over-the-ground speed generated by the chart plotter.

We ran all night with wind dead on the port beam and Murre under full working jib and reefed main only. She could have taken more sail for more speed, but was balanced so well with that configuration I did not touch the windvane much after midnight. Speed and course keeping ability must be taken together when one is singlehanding, and there is much to be said for running easy and true even if such is not always fast. I slept in one hour increments starting at 8pm and the rhythm of it came back quickly.

This morning full cloud approaches from the east and winds have decreased to 10 to 13 knots, so I’ve raised a reefed mizzen. The weather forecast is not entirely in our favor on this passage. We should have good wind for the first two days, but then things go very light in this part of the Pacific on the next two. And there is the chance of rain, which I would like to avoid on our actual approach to the atoll.


  1. Cap'n Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    July 11, 2011 4:20 pm

    Another fascinating post, Randall. How are you communicating with us? I would be interested in learning about your radio/e-mail setup out there on the broad Pacific.
    Here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
    –Cap’n Lawrence Killingsworth
    Ta’ Ata Ori

    • July 12, 2011 5:22 am

      Cap’n Lawrence

      This is Randall’s wife and part time blog system administrator. It’s all rather clever stuff. He has an account will Sail Mail a service that allows you to send email through ham radio. It’s a very limited amount of communication that’s allowed due to bandwidth issues. This is why we use the blog to communicate with friends and family. On top of that, Randall has an account with WordPress. WordPress allows you to “email” in your posts. Therefore Sailmail email + WordPress blog updates = updated blog over ham radio. All rather clever stuff. What’s even more impressive is when I get an email mid flight from New York to San Francisco. Computer to Sailmail to Server to Wifi on a plane moving 500+ miles per hour.

      🙂 Joanna

      • Cap'n Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
        July 12, 2011 4:39 pm

        Thanks, BWW. You are right very clever stuff, particularly considering the distances and circumstances involved. All the best to you and Randall from Ta’ Ata Ori’s skipper. (Ta’ Ata Ori is Murre’s Mariner 40 cousin.)

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