Posted by: powellpjc | May 29, 2010

Sailing the Sun Down. Chile-French Polynesia.

My GPS track as I approached Mangareva. Each red X represents one day's noon position.

When you head west every day…'re bound to sail the sun down.


The longest haul I’ve ever done. Thirty-one years ago we did the Victoria-Honolulu passage on the good old ‘idiot wind’ of 28 days. This beauty was 35 days and 3600 nautical miles. I could have stopped along the way at Easter Island but I’m not confident in my anchoring techniques with this boat. I have only anchored in shallow, protected waters and I’ve got an unfamiliar-to-me anchor. It’s called a Bruce anchor and people in Oregon swear by it. It’s an old generation anchor, though and the anchorages on Easter are said to be tenuous. As is turned out the winds swept me by 350 miles to the north so I had little inclination to go out of my way. I did turn south to make Pitcairn Island, though, until I saw some bad weather about to rendezvous with the island of the Bounty mutineer’s descendents and that changed my mind. Not the mutineering factor, but the 50 knot winds forecast. Fishing was poor. I hooked two fish. One was a nice mahi-mahi of 4 pounds. I beat him soundly about the head until he was dead. Almost. I took some pictures and then put him on the gunnel.

He looked dead. He played dead. He was acting.

 He was bleeding you see. I went below to sharpen my filleting knife and heard these horrible flopping noises. With his last heel drumming he flipped himself over the side. Gone forever. The other fish was a big one. Too big to land and he wrapped himself around my wind vane rudder so I had to cut him loose. I don’t know what he was.

I was fishin', just not catchin'.

For the first week or so I had a lot of white belly storm petrels around the boat. The ‘foot-draggers’ I called them. They were fishing or farming by swooping across the water top and dipping one leg into the water. I’m thinking they were collecting plankton/algae/or insects with their webbed foot for later dining, but what do I know. Here they are in action.

The 'White Bellied Storm Petrel'.

He lowers one landing gear...

...and then does the foot-dragging thing.

The one-legged water skater at work. Never saw him dine on anything.


No whales to be seen. No dolphins. No birds for 2 weeks and then only a lonely shearwater or two. This part of the Pacific should be called the ‘Empty Quarter’. I crossed 2 shipping lanes. The first was the track from Valparaiso-Panama and the second was the track for the supertankers rounding Cape Horn and heading for Japan. I saw one ship. The winds were generally fair and my day’s average miles was good for me. I am a lazy sailor and prefer to sleep rather than trim sails.

This is what happens to your track when the wind shifts while you sleep.

The morning’s light of May 21 raised the peaks of Mangareva in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia. There is a funky little village called Rikitea where I’m anchored now. Not much in the way of fresh veggies but there is frozen meat and I bought a lovely leg of New Zealand lamb for my passage celebration dinner. Potatoes and onions around the roast and a couple of wedges of green cabbage, boiled. I somehow managed to have one bottle of Chilean red to go with it.

I went to church the first Sunday after arrival. Not for salvation (too late) but to hear the voices. I remember the church singing from 31 years ago and I had to hear it again. It remains as sweet.

The town of Rikitea on Mangareva Island. Population 500 souls.

Main Street, Rikitea style.


Possible retirement home away from all. Actually, a cultured pearl operation.


The choirs here are truly glorious. Half of the songs are in French, the other half in Polynesian.

Local colour after church.

Pacifico colour after rain.


Squall coming, boss. Big squall. They almost always come at night and always from behind.



  1. Thank you.

  2. Congratulations. Good to hear from you again as it means you have arrived safe and sound. I am enjoying your blog.
    Helen Boggett

  3. Hey Pete,

    Pity about Rapa Nui and Pitcairn. Good to hear you’re safe in Rikitea. We’re in Tahiti. You chasing us west? Or what?

    Send us an email!

  4. Pink

    Wow you made it congrats. Awesome Job. Looking forward to Terra Firma and chilllaxtion l’ll bet. Have a Gin Session for me my man. Chat with you soon looking forward to the Sept to Oct visit

    Well Done indeed.


  5. Storm-petrels dance on the surface pushing off as they feed on small fish and squid. This one might have been using its foot to anchor in a wind gust.

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