Letter from the Marquesas

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

Pacific O, Galapagos to Marquesas Isles, 28th June 82

Dear mum + Mar,

I’m now overdue in writing to you, having missed out last week’s chapter, so I’ll have to try to make up for it now.  One of the surprising things Chris and I have found is that although there are no outside activities to occupy our time while sailing, as there are on land, we still find that there isn’t enough time each day to complete the things we want to do.

First of all, I’ll start where my last letter finished, in the Galapagos.  We only visited one island, (although we sailed more or less through the middle of the rest) and then we didn’t get the chance to leave the port town as we were so busy on the boat and were only allowed three days stay in the port.  The main thing that occupied our time was the patching of our main sail – a rip 5 foot long had to be mended very carefully; the tear had occurred 3 or 4 days before we arrived in the Galapagos.  This repair took two of us almost 3 days hard work, leaving us with aching backs and sore fingers.  Meanwhile, we spent many hours taking on fuel and water – not an easy or speedy task, as the Latino people in charge don’t rush themselves, unless paid handsomely, and they often don’t even turn up when planned.  We also had an added complication – our captain filled the water tank with diesel instead of putting it into the fuel tank.  A very silly mistake, yes, although the inlet caps are side by side.  We then had to pump soapy water through the tanks for about 24 hours non-stop to try to get rid of the diesel.  Eventually we were ship-shape again after much cleaning + scrubbing (including ourselves) and after taking on some stores we left for one of the other islands.

The island we were heading for has a small inlet called Post Office bay.  The ships of the last century used to pass by here on their way across the Pacific, and they set up a barrel where they would leave letters, and at the same time they would pick any letters up that they could deliver on their journey.  Thus, they had their own postal system.  However, on the way there, we got lost, and when we found out where we were, it was too late to get to the bay before dark, so we did the safest thing and headed away from the islands and then set a course for the Marquesas Islands 3000 miles away.  It is a shame that we didn’t get there because we had some post-cards to put into the Post Box to see if anyone passing on the way to England might stop to pick them up.

Anyway, here we are, halfway from the Galapagos to the Marquesas and at least twelve or thirteen days from the nearest land.  We seem to be making up a little for the dreadful length of time it took us on our last leg.  Our record day’s sailing was 182 miles in one day and although the wind has dropped a little, we are still making well over 100 miles per day.  So we should reach land in less than the average time for this stretch of our journey.

Chris and I spend quite a lot of time reading.  As the captain’s wife is sea-sick most of the time, I end up doing a good deal of the cooking and Chris and I do virtually all of the washing-up.  However, one of the advantages of my cooking is that I manage to slip Chris extra dainty morsels of food, as he is usually hungry.  The food is not exactly plentiful, and most things (including bread, much to Chris’s horror) are rationed to us, although not to our captain, who manages to get through the day on extra sandwiches, biscuits, etc.  At least I am losing a bit of my unwanted midriff – I think.

A lot of my time lately has been taken up making bracelets and necklaces of a South American style macramé.  I bought… (ugh, a big wave came along and splashed over the side of the boat and all over me, I’ll have to dry off a minute)… some wool in the Galapagos to make these with, and also I am crocheting some small purses with the hope that I might be able to sell them in Tahiti.  When we enter French Polynesia we have to put up enough money for our air-fare home, which the authorities there keep until we leave.  This is a considerable sum and will leave us with very little to live on, so every little bit will help.

Not much has happened on our trip, although I’m pleased to say that we are catching some beautiful fish now; we discovered that the instrument which we were trailing behind the boat which spins to record the number of miles we travel was frightening the fish away.  Since we took the spinner in, we’ve hauled in some whoppers, so it’s fried fish, baked fish, fish pie, and tonight I’m making fish cakes, I think.

The usual sort of incompetence prevented us from even visiting the one island we could have done, so our final opportunity to get something from the trip to the Galapagos was wasted. Still, some contradictions to my memory of the trip – the abundance and variety of fish meals, good daily progress…

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