This blog is about planning and preparation for a circumnavigation of the world in a 39-foot sail boat followed, hopefully, by a diary of the actual circumnavigation. You can track the progress of Pachuca by visiting http://www.pangolin.co.nz/xtras/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=VNW5980
Friday, October 31, 2008
- Robert reading his first newspaper (New York Times) in over 3 weeks
- Arnold doing laundry on the jetty. (We bathe there at night with a water hose too.)
- Doing laundry back at Raevave. This was a sort of open community area with a water tank!
- Two ferries approaching the harbour. The island of Moorea is in the background.
- Pachuca berthed less than 500 meters from what we have been told is the centre of Papeete
- A two-day visit by "Tahitian Princess" cruise ship. Down past Pachuca is Claude's Beneteau. On the other side of the jetty opposite Claude's boat is Drew's 37-ft ketch out of South Carolina
Thursday, October 30, 2008
- Brenda enjoying the sun screens at sides of cockpit
- Traditional canoe building
- Boat lifter, Raivavae style
- The faithful responding to the pealing Sunday bell
- Photo of Pachuca and two other yachts at Raivavae anchorage. This was taken from the top of the hill on the track from one side of the island to the other.
21 Oct 2008
We weighed anchor at Rairua Bay, Raivavae at 10.20 AM on 21 October 2008. It was a cloudy and drizzly day, a hangover from two fronts making our previous afternoon the wettest one since departing Fremantle. The wind was from the East, ranging from 9 to 15 kt, which gave us a splendid point of sail for Tahiti, about 350 nm away at 345 degrees true.
Our last full day at Raivavae, 20 October, was a busy and productive one. We were at the wharf just before 7AM to meet the bread supplier who had agreed to drop off 5 loaves for us. We then went to the post office to try to update our circumnavigation blog.
The post office was a bit slow in opening and we had a delightful time chatting across the language barrier with a local islander. I established the contact by saying “good day” to her in her native language, something that I had learned about ten minutes earlier.
The internet session turned out to be a challenge. We had just enough money left for one hour. There was one PC which I had noticed on an earlier visit had a USB port. The keyboard was just enough different to cause irritation: “m”, “a”, “z” and other lettters were in different positions. At the top you had to use the shift key to get a number. The @ symbol was shared with another letter at the bottom half of one of the top keys. Brenda got the reluctant post mistress to show me how to do a lateral shift for the @ character. She also showed me how to access my thumb drive on the USB port. On that thumb drive were several documents that I wanted to publish on the blog, both in MS Word and text in case their machine did not have Word.
Then signing into the blog was an adventure. I kept being thrown into a site called “Manu”. Somehow I got in on the 3rd or 4th try and published about 5 documents on the blog. Unfortunately even though the blog site reported that the publications had been successful they did not appear on the blog. I had just enough time to send the documents out as email attachments to key people. Fortunately Stephen, Brenda's son, reported later that the material had appeared on the blog and we felt very good about that.
We paid a brief visit to the gendarmerie to report our planned departure the next day then retreated to the boat for lunch an what we expected to be an easy afternoon. On the way to Pachuca we visited Noel's boat to tell them goodbye. After lunch the rain started. Arnold strung a tarp across the cockpit and started to collect water. I stripped down to my underwear and had a complete shower using shampoo. Arnold and Brenda did similar, scooping up water from the cockpit awning for rinsing hair. By nightfall we had washed ourselves, some clothes, and collected at least 50 more liters of water for our starboard tank. From the gurgling sound coming out of the vent of the tank we were confident that the water was close to capacity.
That evening the second gas cylinder became empty. I rummaged at the back for the two-burner “Maxi” alcohol stove that Brenda had purchased at a “Treasures of the Bilge” for $20.00. I had taken it home, cleaned it up, replaced the wicking material, tested it, then put it away for the trip. We also carried 4 liters of methylated spirits Its time had come. To our relief and delight both burners came on with no problem so that hot food until we got to Tahiti was assured.
The next day took our time on weighing anchor because at times the wind was gusting to over 20 knots. At 10.25 we lifted the anchor and the motoring out was uneventful with good protection from the island.
We started off with a moderate easterly wind and we were very hopeful of a fast passage. However, before midnight the wind began to back to the NW.
22 Oct 2008
The wind backed to the north at about midnight and we spent the entire day beating against a wind that varied from 9 to 13 kt apparent and taking us up to 70 degrees off our course which forced several tacks. Then the wind abated the helm got really sluggish which was another character-building irritant.
23 Oct 2008
Until mid-afternoon it was the same regime of a wind of varying speed swinging from NE to NW. Somehow we managed to close another 75 nm toward Tahiti from noon to noon. We were still just over 200 nm from our destination. I occupied part of the morning by opening a second coconut. I knew how to open a coconut using a spike from our visit to the Whitsunday's a few hears ago. On Pachuca my tools of choice were a screw driver, a light ball peen hammer, and lots of patience. It worked OK. I used the screw driver to remove the husk one section at a time. Once the nut was exposed the rest of the job was easy. We got close to a half of glass of milk and all of the flesh in bigger pieces than in my first attempt. The weather was warm, and getting downright muggy inside the cabin. We were wearing shorts and tee-shirts by day and long sleeve pullovers at night.
At about 3.15 PM just after I had opened a beer Huey in the Sky threw a switch and all of a sudden we had a strong westerly wind of about 17 kt. Soon we were sailing directly down the rhumb line to Tahiti, full main up, headsail down to a 2.5, doing between 6.5 and 7 kt. ... Good things seem to happen frequently whenever I crack open a beer, and I think that most of them are real.
An hour later we put in a reef in preparation for the night. However, just before dark we noticed that the wind was backing to the south and the mainsail was interfering with the headsail. We dropped the mainsail and sailed down wind with jib only. The wind kept backing to the SE so we gybed The wind kept backing until it settled to a gentle NE wind just strong enough and just east enough to allow us to sail all night. After dawn we hoisted the mainsail and we were able to carry both sails for the entire day at speeds varying from 1.8 kt to 5 kt and always more or less on the rhumb line. We crossed latitude S20 degrees shortly before noon and we were less than 130 nm from the southern edge of Tahiti. Life wasn't bad: clear skies, calm sea, sailing under full sail toward our destination. We were firmly in the tropics and the boat was drying up very well. It was a long long way from sailing the Australian Bight and Bass Strait in winter.
24 Oct 2008
The wind established itself as a moderate easterly and we had a splendid 24 hours of sailing on a starboard beam reach doing about 6 kt.
25 Oct 2008
Spotting a tropical island is not usually a case of knowing the instant when you spot the tip of the mountain at the horizon. These islands tend to be shrouded in clouds and the texture and contour of their hills blend perfectly against the gray cloud background. So it was with Tahiti. We were only 27 nm out when at 9.30 AM Arnold was able to see what he thought was a contour in the cloud amazingly high off the horizon. Then it disappeared. Then it reappeared. Slowly the definition improved. I can quite understand how early square riggers could pass within 20 nm of these islands and not see them.
We had reached Tahiti close to one full day earlier than our estimate of only 48 hours ago. We knew that we would not reach Papeete before nightfall which meant waiting until the next morning before making our entrance. But it was so early in the day that we realized that we could had a chance to spend a peaceful night at anchor rather than a long night at sea stooging around waiting for dawn.
This is where Captain Robert fell victim to vacillation and indecision. I suggested an anchorage on the east side of the island. An hour later we changed course for an anchorage on the southern side of the island hoping to get better shelter from the strong wind. The apparent wind dropped because we were now running downwind, the mainsail blanketed the headsail so we dropped it, then found ourselves crawling at 3.5 kt with at ETA dangerously close to sunset. After an hour with the headsail fretting we changed course again for the original anchorage. We were doing 6.5 kt with the headsail alone. But then the wind got up to 19 kt and rather than face the prospect of entering the anchorage in high winds on a lee shore we altered course once again for the southern anchorage. Then the wind dropped again. We selected a closer anchorage on the southern shore that was not as good and was subject to currents. Our preferred southern anchorage was 14 nm away. Our secondary southern anchorage was 7 nm away. Our original anchorage selection on the east side was 9 nm away. Once again we altered course for the east side and had to use the engine to claw our way around the SE corner of the island. Using the engine was not so bad because we wanted to charge the batteries anyway. Once we were safe we stopped the engine for a while and used our sails and about 5 nm out we restarted the engine in a decreasing wind.
All's well that ends well. We made a textbook entrance using the with the aid of both the chart plotter and C-Map on the laptop. Our investigation during the sail to Tahiti had indicated that the chart plotter would be accurate when dealing with Tahiti. Changing the chart datum from WGS-94 to various US and European datum had not improved the chart plotter accuracy of Raivavae so we knew that that had not been the problem. Anyway, we went in through the leads with the chart plotter, C-Map, and our piloting all consistent. We did a right turn just past the starboard maker motored 0.5 nm up the lagoon, then dropped the anchor on a mound about 100m in diameter with about 20 m depth 4.30 PM. We could not confirm the depth because the depth sounder had quit working. (More on this later.) For anyone interested in the finer details we went through Pass Vaionifa and are anchored at 17S46.266 and 149W07.975.
Anchorages around Tahiti tend to be deep. The lagoon we are in has about 550 meters width and 2 miles length of usable water which can be as deep as 47 meters. On our approach to the anchorage I added the 80 meters of rope to the 38 meters of chain, all to be fed out through the anchor well hatch rather than through the hawse pipe. This worked well. We had a peaceful night at anchor with 38 meters of chain and 40 meters of rope.
The scene was nothing short of stunning. We were anchored directly opposite a series of waterfalls cascading down the high mountain. The entire frontage is a scene of little beaches, modest homes many with jetties, the occasional car, and a church further north. We are the only yacht at the lagoon, though closer to shore was a busy laneway of modern small boats zipping up and down the coast powered by their outboard motors. One of the boats was carrying a mound of many bunches of bananas. We could hear the constant white noise of the reef but the lagoon was extremely calm.
I went for a swim, my first bath since Raivavae, and I reported to the wimpy crew that the temperature of the water was nothing short of perfect. (Still no takers.) After a rinse with about two liters of water that had been used for heating some cans and a shave I felt like a million dollars. We had sundowner drinks at the cockpit.
26 Oct 2008
We woke up to the same splendid view and reaffirmed our plan to spend the day at the anchorage. At midnight the wind had been SE 12 kt and in the morning it was SE 10 kt. Perhaps we were finally in the trade winds. Our plan was to inflate the Zodiac, visit the shore, look around, and bring back fresh water from the waterfall to replenish our empty port tank that services the head. We would then carry the inflated Zodiac on our davits to Papeete.
After quiet morning followed by a leisurely lunch we set off for the shore at about 1 PM. We landed at what was the spectacular back yard of a nice young native couple with two girls frolicking in the water. He gave the OK for us to tie the boat on a steel pen near the shore and his wife filled up our two 10-liter containers with water. We then set off on a trek along the narrow gravel road running along the shore toward the village. About 1 km along the road we came across a stream of water draining into the sea. A local man assured us that it was straight from the mountain and OK to drink. It was delicious. I picked up a small mango that had dropped from a tree. It was not at its prime but it tasted OK. We saw a few bananas on trees but they were green and small. However, there were coconut trees everywhere and we could tell from the huge numbers that had been left on the ground to rot that supply greatly exceeded demand. Nevertheless we were careful to respect the ownership rights of the locals and I came back with three coconuts that were on “public” land.
The island – this section at least – has a much different look and feel than Raivavae. The place is neater. Every property owner seems to take pride in keeping his section of the road clean and tidy and well landscaped. We did not see the litter of discarded plastic and aluminium containers that blighted the landscape and reefs of Raivavae. Also, there were more boats, all modern and mechanized. The other thing that we noticed was that the locals interact with the water much more than they did in Raivavae. As in Raivavae, there seem to be no fly or mosquito problems.
After the leisurely walk of several hours we boarded the Zodiac and returned to Pachuca. I removed the outboard motor from the Zodiac and after a swim Arnold and I hoisted it up on the davits. Our plan was to sail at 6AM and try to make Papeete which is about 45 nm away. I was very skeptical about making Papeete before nightfall sailing downwind with a moderate SE breeze. We selected two alternative anchorages: one only 14 nm up the coast, the other about 10 nm from Papeete.
27 Oct 2008
We woke up at 5 AM for a departure at 6 AM. With good winds we would be able to make Papeete before nightfall. Unfortunately our schedule did not go as planned and I leaned a very hard lesson in anchor management.
We were supposed to be anchored on a mound about 20 m deep. We could not be sure because the depth sounder had stopped working except for a brief display of depth as we were coming though the leads. When paying out the chain after our anchor drop it got so heavy that I had to let it go and gave it another 40 meters of rope. I thought that the strain on the chain was due to movement of the boat. I started to wind in the rope by hand using the winch handle by at 20 meters it was so hard that I switched to the anchor winch. The strain on the brand-new anchor winch must have been too much because it stopped working (and still isn't working). My first thought was that the chain was wrapped around a coral “bommie” as had happened to us in the Whitsundays. At that depth of water we would have had to abandon the anchor, go to Papeete, get some money, then arrange for a diver.
I noticed that no matter how much strain I put on the winch the rope over the fair lead still had play in it, giving us hope that the problem was sheer weight rather than a fouled chain. The next hour was a pattern of using all of my strength for two or three winds of the winch handle with Arnold snubbing the line, then resting for a minute or two. We got the chain up to the winch then made the transition by using the snubber to bring in enough chain wrap around the gypsy. We then used Arnold's suggestion of using a halyard which was a big help because it gave a better angle on the chain. After a few meters I went back to the hand cranking and after 10 meters the anchor alarm went off and we knew that we were drifting. Arnold and Brenda handled the boat, keeping it in deeper water until I could raise the anchor enough to guarantee that it would not bite again. Then they motored out through the leads while I shipped the anchor and set it on the roller.
I've looked up the data and it appears that the 38 m of chain and 35-lb anchor weighed about 250 lb (112 kg) and now I know that this is beyond the practical limit of our equipment. The policy now is to avoid anchoring in depths beyond 15 m. For emergencies I plan to get out the 7 m chain on my spare rode and put it on the 70 me of rope that I had attached to my usual chain. For unavoidable deep water work I'll be using 7 m of 10 mm chain and 70 m of thick white rope. Of course the worry here is that the rope will get cut by coral, so I will avoid this if possible.
We raised sail at about 9.30 AM on a reach from a weak easterly. We tried the mainsail but after an hour or so had to drop it because it was flogging too much, even with a preventer on the boom. We wound the headsail to about a 2.5 to minimize the flogging stress on it. We knew that we would not make Papeete before nightfall and we discussed alternative anchorages and decided that the best option was to enter Papeete harbour in the night. That turned out to be a wise choice.
During the sail I confirmed that the transducer of our depth sounder, which is inside of the hull in a bath of oil, had enough oil; but for good measure I added a cup of olive oil to the bath. We did a lot of work with the display and confirmed that the connections were OK and it ran through its simulation routine just fine. We assumed that the transducer had failed. At sunset the wind started to pick up and we had a splendid night sail with partial jib pulling the boat along at over 3 kt and the lights of Papeete parading before us. By 8.30 PM we had identified our makers and leads and we made a text book entry using the main leads then switching to another pair of leads to take us to the yacht area. We dropped anchor and confirmed the depth at 16 m using a hammer with a knotted line. When I returned to the cockpit I noticed that the depth sounder was working and reporting a depth of 15 m. It appears that we had been anchored beyond the depth range of our sounder.
28 Oct 2008
It's just as well that we were up early because at 6 AM a harbour pilot boat came alongside and asked us to move, like NOW, because that area was required for ship movements. We complied but I was a bit miffed because according to the chart we were in the yacht area and there was no note about prohibited anchorage. We seemed far from the ship jetty and did not think that 15 m was enough depth for a ship. Anyway, we moved and dropped anchor near one of the floating jetties for yachts until we could make proper arrangements.
This was the beginning of a very busy and productive day. Arnold chose to stay on board. Brenda and I went ashore with all of our documentation.
Papeete is a modern city which appears to have all of the services that we will require. The banking services are excellent. There are plenty of shops and the bus system appears to be good and cheap. There are public toilets, water fountains, and rubbish bins. The boat jetty is about 300 m from what I am told is the heart of the city. We found the information centre and got maps and good directions for the immigration and yacht authorities which were only a short distance away. The immigration policeman told us that even though we had been cleared at Raivavae we would now have to either post bonds or produce airline tickets to somewhere else. With some fast decision making and visits to a travel agent and three banks we returned to the immigration office at 1 PM with an airline ticket for Brenda back to Australia on 16 Nov and bonds of a total of about $3300 AUD posted for Arnold and myself. We arranged with Ken, a delightful local official, to put our boat at the jetty. Ken, by the way, said that it is very unusual to see yachts going from NZ to Tahiti then north to Hawaii. I said that we tend to everything the wrong way. He replied that maybe not everything but maybe this one. We then visited the immigration official and got our clearance.
On the way back to the boat Brenda got some 6 cans of Heiniken and a bottle of red wine (for about $70 AUD. Get it? Papeete is VERY EXPENSIVE!), some cool drinks and bread at another store, some fresh fruit and vegetables at a market reminiscent of the Fremantle market, then two cheese burgers and French fries from McDonald's for Arnold.
At the quay we met Drew and his girl friend Margie who sailed in a week ago from Ecuador in a Pearson 37 ketch (home port in South Carolina). He was of great assistance with advice and help with the ropes on tying the boat Mediterranean style. Because there were only two other boats on the jetty we had the luxury of doing it in two stages: (1) tie up side on and (2) use ropes provided to pull the bow of the boat out tie the line off when the stern of the boat is the correct distance from the jetty. There seems to be cables running parallel to each side of the jetty along the ground. To that cable is a series of thick ropes which are tied to thinner lines that are tied off at the jetty. You just grab one of these thin lines and keep pulling until the thick line emerges then use this thick line to secure the bow. No kedging anchors are required.
Drew then came on board Pachuca and his first comment was about the excellent stainless steel cockpit frame. (I've yet to see a better one, Scotty!) While Arnold, Drew, and I were having a beer at the cockpit Brenda brought Claude around. He and his wife are on a beautiful Beneteau out of France. Ours are the only three boats on the this jetty: Claude's and ours on this side, Drew's on the other. Where are the other boats? For one thing, there is a big marina on the other side of the air port which I was told was more expensive than this jetty and is much further away from town. But near the marina is a free anchorage. We were happy where we were: plenty of room at the jetty, water and power, garbage service, and if we were any closer to town the cars would be rolling over us. Having said that, we planned to visit the marina and indeed much of the island by bus.
That night the three of us went to a sort of mobile food court that is set up every night. Brenda and I had a splendid meal of grilled Mai Mai (like a Spanish Mackrel) and vegetables. Arnold went to another van and had something else then saw some pretty good native dancing as part of outdoor entertainment of talking, singing, drumming, and dancing which seems to be put on every evening.
We got back to the boat at 9 PM. Arnold went for a walk and Brenda had a fresh water bath in the cockpit using a bucket of water from the tap at the jetty. This is all with the promenade and road only 20 or 30 meters away, with apartment buildings on the other side. I had mine on the jetty wearing underpants and sitting on a bollard. It was a neat experience: open air bath in Papeete harbour in full view of the city and perfect temperature.
29 Oct 2008
We spent the day consolidating our position. I retrieved the stand and turning handle of our little hand washing machine and fitted it up. We will wash all of our clothes on the jetty and hang them on the boat to dry. I also put the axle and wheels back onto our steel “shopping trolley” which will be very, very useful for general shopping and at least 7 trips for two 10-liter containers of diesel fuel. Next came the water and I was happy to see that the thread size was the same as what we have in Australia. Soon the port tank had been flushed out and both tanks were brimming with water. Brenda took the trolley on a shopping expedition. For lunch on the cockpit I dug out the canvas link sheet connecting our cockpit shelter to the spray dodger so we were able to enjoy lunch at the cockpit table under shade and with a cool breeze. After lunch Arnold and I went out in search of a converter by which we could connect our Aussie electric plug to the European 3-pin 10 amp 220v socket on the jetty. It took two visits to the hardware and some excellent advice from Claude on the Beneteau at the end of the jetty but we got what we needed. I returned from that second trip to the hardware to find that Brenda and Arnold had gone off to take advantage of cases of Heineken bottles on special. I plugged in the electrics to the boat, turned on the Mastervolt charger and bingo! 56 amps started to flow into our batteries. At 10 PM 50 amps were still flowing in. The next morning the input was down to 12 amps and the four house batteries were fully charged at 920 amp hours. Before Arnold and Brenda returned I managed to wash down the boat and hang the Zodiac on a halyard and wash it down too.
That evening Brenda and I went to the mobile food court. Brenda had a stir fry. I tried the raw fish Tahitian style which I found delicious and refreshing. At 9.30 PM we were back on the boat and Brenda had a bath in the cockpit using a bucket of fresh water. I did it the easy way: on the jetty with a towel and soap and wearing just underpants using the water hose. It was marvelous and I was cool as a cucumber the rest of the night.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The Pachuca crew are now enjoying a very scenic vantage point. Palm trees, a waterfall and a very pleasant waterfront. Sunday's sms;
NOON 26 OCT GMT-10. 17S46 149W07. ANCHORED YESTERDAY AFTERNOON NEAR VIONIFA, SE COAST OF TAHITI. WILL VISIT SHORE & LEAVE TOMORROW.
Pic is of Society Islands, french Polynesia;
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Expected to arrive in Tahiti on Monday - my time. Here is the sms;
NOON 24 OCT GMT-10. 19S59 148W55. 128 NM FROM TAHITI. N-N: 83 NM. FINALLY OK WIND--MOVING 4 KT WITH 10 KT E WIND.
Pachuca's location is "near Tahiti" :) or viewable at this link;
Photo is of some 'local tahitians';
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Day 1, 15 Oct 2008
We dropped anchor at 1.30 PM and decided to stay on the boat until the next day. We had our Fr Polynesia courtesy flag and the “Q” quarantine flags off our starboad spreader. The Australian flag was off a flag pole at the stern. As I state elsewhere we got a brief visit from Noel, off a French yacht bound for Chile, and later that night a steel schooner came in. Otherwise we were contented to sort ourselves out, celebrate a little, and go to bed.
Day 2, 16 October
Breaking strict protocol the three of us fronted up to the gendarmerie in the morning. The two officials could not have been more courteous and helpful. Brenda was a great asset with her use of what French she knew, which I am sure was appreciated by the officials. As I expected there was confusion about two passports that appeared to represent the same person. The fellow came back somewhat perplexed but Brenda was prepared with the French phrase for “They are twins”. The senior gendarme gave us a coconut that had dropped down that morning, took our garbage bag, and spent a lot of time to produce an air pump that might work on our Zodiac.
The air pump was a little side drama on Pachuca. We turned the boat over and could not find it. Finally we managed to use the air pump from our Bombard inflatable to get enough air pressure into the dinghy to get us ashore. Later, when we were back on the boat I looked under the starboard bunk and found it. That is the most inaccessible storage area in the boat and we have no idea of why we put the pump there.
The island is a mixture of traditional and modern living. The people look relaxed and happy and are very friendly. The housing that we have seen is simple but modern. There is a mobile telephone network on the island and a big telecommunications dish that provides internet and other services. There is a mixture of modern cars and bicycles for transportation, and traditional outrigger canoes coexist with a few modern boats of various types.
However, the island is not geared for tourism and certain vital services are missing. Exchanging money was a big problem. There is no banking, ATM, or fpos system on the island. Fortunately we had about $120 in US currency and Arnold and Brenda were able to make the 6 km walk to this private business where they exchanged the money for Pacific francs. Australian and New Zealand currency was of no use. Had we not been able to execute that exchange we would not have been able to purchase anything on this island. The currency situation is a lose-lose one. We the tourists lose because we are not able to fully partake of what the island has to offer. The island loses because we have a shorter stay and spend much less money. So our advice to prospective visitors is to arrive with enough Pacific francs for your needs.
There is a small store with basic necessities. We are told that there is a “bread shop” that is actually a private house. There is a modern post office but the young well-groomed lady behind the counter was most unhelpful. Brenda learned elsewhere that she treats customers according to her mood. We were disappointed that there is no produce market. However, there is a fisherman that brings in his catch at about 11 AM each day and we hope to purchase fresh fish. The reef has plenty of fish but they carry the ciguatera toxin that will attack the nervous system and can be fatal in extreme cases.
We were fortunate because this was the day of the monthly visit by the supply ship. At about 3 PM I spotted a white ship on the horizon. A hour later the ship was docked and we were able to witness one of the great commercial/social events of the island because the place seemed to come alive with people and cars. The ship looked like a coastal freighter out of the 1960's. It had a crane forward and a roll on roll off ramp at the stern. The ramp came down and two fork lifts came out with pallets of goods. They did their work while the crane up front did its work. We saw food, building materials,fuel, and private luggage come off.
Day 3, 17 October
We got a fright over water. The gendarme had said that we could purchase water at the store. Fortunately I spotted a water tap next to an old building next to the church. The building looks like it may have once been a school house (it was opposite the school) or a meeting hall of some sort. The water tasted OK so today we returned armed with our two plastic 10l containers, our portable washing machine, and two bags of dirty laundry. We filled our containers and started washing clothes quite openly, ready to address any complaints about using the water. Instead of complaints we got kindness. The lady from the house across the road next to the school came across and gave Brenda a small wash tub that was larger than ours. She looked approvingly at the clothes line that I was stringing up with my spinnaker sheet. Thirty minutes later she returned with a second container. Then while Brenda was away shopping she brought over a bunch of fresh bananas.
Day 4, 18 October
Brenda spotted the returning fishing boat much earlier than we had expected. The three of us made a hasty exit from Pachuca and I took a chance and took the Zodiac over the reef directly to the fishing boat to same time. We were offered a big yellow fin tuna of 27 kg and we would have purchased it but we didn't have enough Pacific francs. The fisherman's wife has been a delight to deal with. She used her pretty good English to give us all sorts of advice assistance. She returned an hour later with some nice fillets of two different kinds of fish and a gift of a bunch of bananas freshly hacked off a tree. Her husband, by the way, is a big strong and good looking man who certainly knows what he is doing. He goes out early in the morning in a fast fiberglass boat and fishes 10 miles out to sea. He returns at 11 AM with whatever catch he thinks is required by the locals. By 11.30 AM his day is done. I wonder what retirement dreams a man with this life could have.
Today I got a lesson on language sensibilities. I said “Bon Jour” to two native women working a garden. They replied with a lesson on how to say it in their language. So we are coping it from two sides: language sensitivities from both the French and the indigenous people. Were I to live here I would learn both languages fast.
Arnold spent the bulk of the day washing his clothes and we managed to plunder another 40 l of water for the boat. During the afternoon we took the Zodiac to a small island on the fringe reef about half a mile from Pachuca. Arnold reported that the water was murky and there were no fish. Brenda and I trekked across the island where I managed to collect three coconuts before being warned off by a coconut crab all 300 mm in span.
Day 5, 19 October
This was Sunday so we got to see this facet of island life. We started the day by walking to the private house that produces the island's bread. The man was very nice and across the language barrier we put in an order for 5 loaves of bread. At 7 AM tomorrow he will do his round around the island and will deliver our loaves at the wharf.
Arnold then went back to the boat and Brenda and I did the same long walk that Arnold had done earlier. We took a road up across the middle of the island to the other side. Before we made our turn into the road across the island two young men in bicycles struck up a conversation. One was very curious about our trip: were there any storms, did we get sea sick, etc. He was on missionary work from his home island near Tahiti, the Jehova's Witnesses doing the rounds. The road across the island gave us a very good insight into the island's flora, fauna, and geology. There were banana and coconut trees everywhere but the bananas were green and the coconuts were high. At the highest point of the road we looked back and saw Pachuca and her two companion boats at anchor in the bay. We then descended to the other side into a small settlement with a beautiful church that was pealing its bell for the faithful. They streamed forth from their homes wearing their Sunday best. We then walked along the perimeter road around the west end of the island back to the wharf. Along the way we visited the very good and modern airport. The terminal was new and the runway was long, wide, with a bitumen surface built on a reef.
10 Oct 2008
We drifted all night with a gentle N breeze. At 7 AM there was some useful wind but was from the NE, exactly the direction that we wanted to travel. However, by 8 AM after we had finished our breakfast the wind had veered to the SE and we resumed sailing with full main and jib. We had lay ahull for 15 hours and lost 8.5 nm miles from our southerly drift.
It was a cloudy and drizzly day. Soon we thought that there was enough precipitation to allow us to collect water so we put in a reef to get a fold in the sail. The first taste of water was very salty but soon the sail was rinsed and we started to collect water. It was a slow process because we were working with drizzle and not rain. But pot by pot we collected 60 liters off good water in about 90 minutes. 50 liters went into the starboard tank and 10 liters went into a portable plastic container for washing. By the time the process was over my clothing were soaked under the wet weather gear so I took advantage of the need to change into fresh dry clothes by having a quick cockpit bath with salt water followed by fresh.
11 Oct 2008
At 1 AM we dropped sail for lack of wind. At that point we were 300 nm from Raivavae.
At 1.30 PM a steady wind and moderate wind sprung up. Unfortunately of all the points on the compass this wind was coming directly from our destination or Raivavae. We spent the rest of the day beating to windward. That was fine at first because the sea was still relatively calm and I was able to lash the tiller to let Pachuca steer herself. However, we were not able to steer within 40 degrees of our destination.
12 Oct 2008
It was another hard day of beating. With the effect of lee drift, the adverse constantly knocking our bow to the side and occasionally stalling the boat, and an adverse current that we estimate to be at least 1 kt our tack-to-tack spread has been a dismal 130 degrees. We have been doing little more than holding our ground until we get a fair wind. As of noon we were about 230 miles from Raivavae.
This is the first serious adverse current that we have encountered so far in our journey. I have looked at the charts and we had favorable currents across the Bight, Bass Strait, the Tasman, and down the east coast of the north island of NZ. We had minor adverse currents around Cape Naturaliste and the leg from Bass Strait to Eden.
The fabled SE trade winds have not materialized even though we are well north of latitude 30 degrees. The procession of low pressure zones south of us and high pressure zones around latitude 30 degrees seem do dominate the wind flows.
13 Oct 2008
This was a third day of beating against that stubborn N/NE wind. Beating is not the proper word because from before dawn the wind was so weak that he had trouble maintaining steerage – the slightest correction required a full lock of the helm. At lunch time I hove to because I figured that with a speed of just over 2 kt steering over 30 degrees from Raivavae we would not lose much. After lunch we found that the wind had dropped even more. I used the lull to track down a leak over the galley stove. I removed the ceiling over the stove and put controlled amounts of water over various parts of the deck. From these experiments I concluded that the leak was from underneath the dorade vent over the galley. I removed the dorade, cleaned it up, removed the old Sikaflex from the deck, cleaned everything up, and let it dry for a few hours. I then reinstated it with fresh Sikaflex. After that little job there was still no wind so I figured that we must all make the best of it. I went for a leisurely swim and thoroughly enjoyed the water which was at just the right temperature. I then rinsed with a tiny bit of fresh water, went and had a shave, and emerged feeling like a million dollars. There were hints of an easterly wind which we had predicted from our reading of the weather chart but they were just hints. We had drinks at the cockpit at sundown (neat brandy for Brenda and myself, Bacardi and coke for Arnold) then a nice dinner over white wine and The Eagles on the sound system.
We were all set for a game of scrabble but became aware of a steady easterly breeze. This was a big deal to us because it represented the first significant shift in wind direction in three days. We scrubbed the scrabble game and hosted sail at 8 PM after laying ahull for about 8 hours. Soon we were sailing under a full moon on a starboard beam reach doing over 5 kt in a gentle sea with Raivavae directly ahead of us. Life started looking real good.
14 Oct 2008
But it wasn't to be. By the time I took over the watch at 1AM the wind had backed to the north and we were sailing close hauled to the west of Raivavae. The wind was brisk so we decided to put in a reef and roll out some jib. Unfortunately the wind started to die and at 4 AM I was forced to drop all sail. This little interlude of wind had gotten us 30 nm closer to Raivavae, but now we were back in the same dismal situation of a 5 kt wind head on. At about 6 AM Brenda woke me with the announcement of a new weak wind. The wind was now from the east which though weak provided a good point of sail. I nursed the fretting jib for several hours doing 1-1.5 kt with a 5-6 kt east wind on the beam. After Arnold woke up we motored for an hour to charge our batteries and to get 5 precious km closer to Raivavae.
My biggest worries regarding provisions were water and diesel. So far our fresh water supplies had held up well. We expected the starboard tank, which supplies the galley, to empty first. At that time we would plumb the port tank go take good stock of our water supplies. We also had a 10 liter container of emergency water on hand. Fortunately we had managed to collect about 100 l of rain water on the way and the water supply was holding.
I did some rough and conservative calculations and concluded that we could safely motor another 20 hours, or about 100 nm. If the tanks went dry we would fall back on our two 10-liter containers of emergency diesel to get us through the reef into the Raivavae anchorage – after bleeding the system, which we had never done before.
But in truth the water, diesel, and other supplies had held up remarkably well. Brenda had been providing us with a fresh loaf a bread each day. We were still having good lunches of bread, cheese, pickled onions and great thick soup. Evening meals were still substantial, varied, and interesting with pasta, rice, beans, various meats, and vegetables. We still had fresh onions, sweet potato, a “surprise” vegetable that Brenda would not reveal, garlic and 8 eggs with bacon! Our cask wine was almost gone – a bit of white left – but there was still enough beer for 1 bottle a day per person, and plenty of hard liquor (e.g. brandy, rum, scotch)
After our hour of motoring we found that the breeze was stronger and cooler after a squall had passed south of us. We unfurled the jib and raised the mainsail trying to get as much benefit from this fresh wind that was probably associated with the squall and would die soon. However, our luck and the wind held. I took to my bunk after lunch leaving Arnold to cope with a marginal wind of 7-8 kt which was already causing some thrashing of the sails or rigging. However I was delighted to wake up at 3 PM to the sound of the wind charger humming and water rushing around the hull. Pachuca was doing over 5 kt directly toward Raivavae with all of her sail up on a beam reach with a 10-11 kt east wind. At 3.20 PM we crossed the 100 nm threshold and we had begun our final run to Raivavae. The wind held up and got stronger and stronger. At dusk we put in the first reef in the mainsail. By midnight Arnold was experiencing winds in the high 20's and we put in the second reef before I took over the watch. It was a boisterous night of clouds, squalls, high seas, winds varying from 17 kt to 29 kt, a lot of weather helm, and constant working of the wheel to keep the boat on track.
At 5.30 AM we made landfall. I could just make out Mt Hiro which rises to 1433 ft against the cloud and mist. Initially the island looked fuzzy and camouflaged against the background of cloud and mist. As we got closer and the sun got higher we could see a jagged “mountain” line rather than a peak, with the upper parts of the mountain in in granite and the lower parts covered in green vegetation. To my untrained eye it said “volcano” and “relatively new”.
We sailed until we were NW of the island and only 5 nm from the turn into the harbour at which time we started the engine and downed sails. The sea eased because of the protection of the island from the easterly winds and big southerly swell. This gave me the opportunity to set up the anchor and our courtesy and Q flags.
The entry taught us a valuable lesson on the use of GPS and chart plotters. After some confusion we realised that there was a discrepancy between the chart on the plotter and the reality of navigation markers in the channel. The chart plotter was in the order of .2 nm out of true. We checked the C-map chart later and discovered that it was accurate. Lesson for all: never ever go into a new anchorage in poor visibility and rely completely on the chart plotter. In the final analysis there is no substitute for a good pair of eyeballs looking at terrain and navigation markers.
We dropped anchor at 1.30 PM at Rairua bay in 12 m of water. It is a superb natural anchorage, with the hills of the island protecting us from the North and East, and the fringe reef acting as a natural breakwater. We could see buildings, few in number but modern. The chart marks “gendamerie”, “Temple”, “Hopital”, and “Rairua (Village)”. We know from Noel (see below) that there is a post office, a store, and that we are very lucky because the supply ship will arrive in about two days.
There was only one other yacht in the harbor, a French boat. The skipper of the boat, Noel, paid us a visit and we exchanged information on our movements. He arrived from Papeete a few days ago and in two or three days they will set sail for Chile where they plan to spend a few years. Then at last light Brenda noticed sails on the horizon. It was a schooner working its way through the rough weather to the anchorage. The story of a boat trying to get to safe haven resonates with all yachties. We all felt concern from the comfort of our dry, warm, and secure haven and were glad to see it arrive and drop anchor between us and the settlement.
1 Oct 08
We had a good sail until daylight then the winds became light and variable. We took advantage of the uncertain wind conditions to motor for two hours to charge the batteries. When we run the engine to charge the batteries we like to put it under load by using it to drive the boat. Immediately after the engine run I squirted 5 shots of grease into the grease nipple of the stuffing box (packing gland) on the propeller shaft near the stern tube. I was pleased to see that it was barely warm after the two-hour engine run. I spent an hour cleaning the ice box and refrigerator compartments. Their drains had been blocked so there was some pretty yucky water at the bottom, and some mold in the ice box. Brenda then wiped the fruit and vegetables with a weak solution of bleach. The wind had settled down and we sailed reasonably well into the late afternoon when the wind dropped off and backed to the west forcing us to drop the mainsail and rely on the jib. The night sail was difficult with a light variable wind from various points of the west, a reduced and flapping jib, and boat speed down to about 3 kt.
2 Oct 08
Another milestone: at 1.30 AM we were exactly half way between Opua NZ and Raivavai Fr Polynesia – 1062 nm from each.
Mid-morning we were caught unprepared by a line squall associated with a cold front. Brenda and I had concluded that it was a cold front because the wind change had preceded the advent of rain clouds. The three of us were inside the cabin when the rain started. Arnold started to climb into the cockpit and I started to change into my wet weather gear. Before Arnold reached the companionway step the wind slammed into our reefed main and half-jib broadside and for the next 30 minutes the boat was in chaos. Arnold fought his way to the steering wheel. I knew that I had no time to don my wet weather gear and there was no way that I would allow my precious dry clothes to get wet so I stripped everything off but my underpants and joined him in the cockpit. I didn't even have gloves or shoes on. The boom had flown out unwinding the mainsheet from its blocks. I managed to grab it just in time and haul in the mainsail and cleat it off with the few turns around the blocks still remaining.
We tried to roll in the jib and let it out too fast in the high wind and it got all jammed up. A big fold of the sail had wound the wrong way in the howling wind and now things were bound up so that we could not roll the jib in or out. The big problem was that the sail was flogging frantically and putting a lot of strain on itself and the rigging. Too much of this and something was going to break. By standing on the first rail of the pulpit I could just reach the bottom of the fold but could not budge it. I then figured out that we had to get the wind to do the work. We started the engine and Arnold turned the boat so that the wind would unwind the fold. Even with the help of the wind I barely managed to get the sail untangled by stretching out and using the finger tips of one hand. I shudder to think what would have happened had that effort failed. Fortunately there was no apparent damage to the boat (but plenty to our nerves) and I set up the mainsheet through the blocks with a figure-of-eight knot at the end.
By then I was starting to shiver so I put on my driest wet clothes in stock and felt warmer.
We decided to keep running the engine for two hours to charge the batteries and after about 90 minutes the engine stopped. This was most unusual. Fuel? Couldn't be! We restarted it and Arnold noted that there was no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. We shut the engine down immediately. Then Brenda reported that she could here water cascading into the bilge. I confirmed that and immediately found the through-hull fitting of the engine cooling water intake and shut the valve off. Mercifully the sound of the falling water ceased. I slid back the engine cover and found that a raw water inlet hose had parted from the primary rough water filter. Presumably the clamp had slid down the hose but I didn't bother to look for it. The hose itself was OK so soon I had it back in position with a spare clamp. The engine was very hot so decided to leave it alone to cool off.
Over lunch we had a discussion about the power consumption on the boat. Sure, we have a bank of 920 amp hours and an alternator that can put out 160 amps. The problem was that we were consuming over 250 amps of power a day, meaning that we were being forced to run the engine up to two hours a day. I produced some calculations on our diesel fuel consumption which indicated that unless we curbed our power usage we would have barely enough fuel to make it to Raivavae. Bruce and his mob at Seapower in Opua have done a superb job of transforming the power system of this boat and this is as far as I will take it with Pachuca. (Otherwise what else? Four more large batteries? Another 160-amp alternator?) We've got to live withing our means. For medium-distance coastal cruising we've got enough resources to use all of the power that we want. However, this is a 2000-mile ocean crossing and just about everything must be rationed. Although the autopilot performs superbly the fact is that over 24 hours it does consume a lot of power and we must accept that we must reduce its use on these long crossings. The other area of conservation is the laptop computers, which consume 4 or 5 amps each. We will in future use them judiciously for weather faxes, blogging, etc but certainly not for playing computer games to pass the time.
3 Oct 2008
Since yesterday morning we have been running before a strong wind, often gale force, and big seas. We have been steering the boat by hand almost continuously for more than 24 hours and of course our power consumption has gone down dramatically. The downwind sailing is painful but it is yielding progress of120 miles per day.
4 Oct 2008
Last night we got two weather faxes: the current situation and the prediction for 30 hours from now in the South Pacific. We are now at the leading edge of a giant double High that has been working its way east for days. We had good southerly winds last night and this morning they weakened as expected. However, we have still managing to make over 5 kt with the rolled out jib on a beam reach. The sea is calming down. This morning we are 1300 nm from Opua and 800 nm from Raivavae (or “Ravioli”, as Arnold calls it). We've been making some good times recently: 129 nm on the 27th of Shep, 105 nm on the 28th, 119 nm on the 30th, 137 nm on the 1st of Oct, 85 nm on the 2nd, 127 nm on the 3rd, and 107 nm on the 4th, today. These are noon-to-noon distances. We had one dismal day of 50 nm and I think that may have been on the 29th of Sept
We started the engine at 1400 today for the first time since the overheating episode. We got a scare when Arnold reported no cooling water exiting through the exhaust. I could see activity in the rough water filter. I asked him to kick up the revs and Arnold then saw to blurps of coffee-colored water come out. Thereafter the cooling system seemed to be working as normal. After watching the engine run for a few minutes we slid the cover back on and let the engine run to charge up our batteries.
In Opua we had discussed with Bruce the possibility of replacing the engine water temperature sender. He confirmed that the gauge was working OK but he could not make a definitive statement on the sender until we got the engine temperature right up. Well we got the engine temperature right up OK and still nothing is registering on the gauge. It is no big deal and at least we know for sure now. We'll fix this probably in Seattle – and keep a closer eye on the engine exhaust to make sure that there is cooling water.
We had a scare when we discovered lots of bilge water after the engine run – lots. We would pump out 20 strokes until we were sucking air then 10 minutes later pump out another 20 strokes. We slid back the engine cover and exposed the stern tube and packing gland and to my relief saw no problem. We then restarted the engine and although there was a bit more water dripping from the packing gland than I would like there was no visible evidence of leak to explain the volume of water that we pumped out. Eventually we did manage to pump the bilge dry and confirm that no more water was coming it, so we knew that the boat was safe. Our tentative conclusion is that water had built up in the bilge during our 2 or 3 days of heavy sailing. The water builds up in various sub-floor compartments throughout the boat and takes time to work its way to the main bilge -sort of like the flood plains of a river. Before the next engine run we will pump the bilge as dry as we can and expose the engine and packing gland and watch closely what happens.
We've been having trouble with the Dorade vent over the galley. Well, actually we've been having trouble with all three Dorade vents on the boat and have been forced to cover their air inlets with plastic sheeting and tape. However, we got big gushes down the inlet over the galley during our recent blow and the water traveled up and down the starboard side of the boat along the ceiling and made a nuisance of itself. I had a look today and saw that our plastic and tape measure was still in place. What I think happened is that the aft-pointing inlet of the Dorade acted as a scoop when we got those big boarding seas from our starboard quarter. Allow me to declare to the world in the most unequivocal way that I regard those white plastic “Sea Bird” Dorade vents that can be found on many if not most boats at Fremantle as TOYS THAT HAVE NO PLACE ON A SERIOUS CRUISING BOAT. If I cannot replace these vents with real ones that work or better yet with ones that you can block off with a proper fitting then I will remove the toys and fill in the holes with fiberglass. Too much is at stake here. For example, the port starboard Dorade is almost directly above the Kenwood HF tuner. (grumble ... growl ... grrr ....)
In the late afternoon the wind eased and we dropped all sail at 6 PM. We took advantage of the lull to relax and rest. At about 11.30 PM Arnold woke me up with the news that we had some wind. It wasn't much but we thought that it was enough to sail with so at midnight we rolled out the jib.
5 Oct 2008
Throughout the night the wind got stronger, steadier, and veered toward the West giving us a more comfortable point of sailing. Because we were now almost at longitude 157 degrees West we made our turn from East to NE and are now proceeding as directly for Raivavae as the wind will permit. The sailing was good all morning, running with a full jib on a port tack with a wind of about 20 kt and boat speed 5.5-6.3 kt. The sky has cleared up and the solar panels are delivering a steady 8 amps with the wind charger averaging another amp. We are looking forward to clearer skies in the tropic and equatorial regions and hope to reap 50 amps or more per day from our solar panels and wind charger.
Brenda produced a fine loaf of fresh-backed bread in the morning. The previous day she had baked a yummy cake. And now she has her sprouts factory in full production so that we are getting regular sprinklings of mung bean and radish sprouts with our meals. Very healthy boat.
6 Oct 2008
On this day we advanced the clock one hour to Tahiti time (UT – 10). As planned we exposed the engine and stern tube before our battery-charging run in the morning. During the run I detected water trickling from aft of the stern tube, from the area under the cockpit. I had looked in this area before and knew that the rudder stock did not leak and could not think of another possible cause. Then I came up with the very frightening possibility that the lead was somehow associated with a problem where the skeg (just in front of the rudder, to support the propeller shaft) joined the hull. We shut the engine down and I revisited the sub-cockpit area. Then I saw the cooling water exhaust system which involves hosing, clamps, and a large fiberglass muffler. We restarted the engine and as soon as I opened the door leading to the sub-cockpit area I heard the hiss of steam. A closer look revealed steam and water leaking from the system. Tightening the two hose clamps that I could see did not solve the problem. Fortunately it means that there is no major structural problem putting the boat in peril. As soon as the engine stops running the leak stops. I have a stop cock to the water intake hose. The water exhaust hose has no stop cock but it is above the water line. We cannot get into the exhaust area to do any serious work because now houses two more large batteries from the work in Opua. I'll try to fit a stop cock at the through-hull fitting of the exhaust hose in Tahiti and we will try to hold out until Seattle to do a proper fix.
At noon I was at the navigation station gathering the date for our noon report and I notice a ship on our chart plotter. It was a cargo (container) ship named “Josephine Maersk” bound for Auckland. I hailed it on our VHF radio and explained that this was the first vessel that we had seen in over two weeks at sea and we could not resist the chance to make contact. I asked him where he had come from and he replied Balboa, Panama. I told him that we were bound for Tahiti and after wishing each other good sailing we signed off.
After the benign outcome of our water leak crisis and our human contact I celebrated with a cold beer on deck.
At 1 PM we were 1525 nm from Opua, NZ and 612 nm from Raivavae, Fr Polynesia. At 11PM we were lying ahull due to lack of wind. We knew that we were near the center of a high pressure system and we had been expecting it.
7 Oct 2008
We lay ahull for most of the day. Fortunately we were drifting N/NE at about 1.8 kt in the fair breeze and gently following sea. There may also be a current involved. Somehow Pachuca lays ahull and heaves to broadside to the wind. It was a bright sunny day and the crew took advantage of the day for relaxation and some minor tasks. Arnold did the delicate job of tightening the wiring connections to our electric power monitor, which had been unstable for days. I sealed the cockpit engine instrument displays with silicone sealant. I then went up the mast and replaced the deck light and also managed to lose our only steaming light globe. (Don't ask.) I then went to the top of the mast (while Brenda wasn't looking) and tried to calibrate the wind instrument by manually turning the wind indicator two full revolutions in a slow and controlled manner. That did not work. We will need professional advice on this. The manual is hopeless.
While I was above the second cross tree I heard the chuff of a breathing animal. I yelled down to Arnold “Biological off the starboard bow!” It was a pair of whales about 60 meters from the boat. They were on the surface for only a few seconds then returned to the depths. Arnold saw one of the whales. Brenda was at a critical stage of bread making and unfortunately got to the cockpit too late to see anything.
That night Brenda presented us with the best fillet steak that I've had in years and started to watch “The Bourne Identity” over Cointreau and chocolate. During a break we detected wind and decided that it was promising enough to warrant the hoisting of sail which we did at 11 PM. We had lay ahull exactly 24 hours.
It was a difficult sailing night for Arnold, who took the first watch. The winds were light and variable and the helm was slow to respond. Also, there were dark clouds in the darkness that complicated things.
8 Oct 2008
The wind picked up and shifted at about 3 AM and I came on deck to help Arnold put in the second reef and reduce the jib. The wind kept shifting and we tacked several times because it was generally from the NE, our destination. An hour later we had gone back to the first reef and Arnold retired. I did an accidental tack an hour later and left it at that because I could just manage to sail due East. At dawn I shook out the last reef and we were under full mainsail and no. 2 jib. The wind strengthened and backed slightly and by late morning we were traveling ENE at about 5 kt Brenda relieved me at 7 AM and several hours later I heard Arnold tell Brenda that we were now less than 500 nm from Raivavae.
We lay ahull becalmed for about two hours in the early afternoon. Then a Northerly breeze sprung up that was to gain in strength and maintain a steady direction well into the night.
9 Oct 2008
At midnight I woke up to a heavily heeled boat punching through the water a bit too fast. I could hear winches clacking as Arnold rolled in the jib. I looked at the chart plotter and could see that we were still running close hauled on a port tack at about 80 degrees true. When I got on deck Arnold said that the wind had been picking up to 18 and 20 knots. I rolled in more jib from no. 2 to something like a no. 3. After some discussion we agreed that the prudent thing to do was to put in a reef.
Putting a reef when going to windward is relatively easy. Arnold concentrated on steering the boat as close to the wind as possible. I eased the mainsheet so that the mainsail was more or less aligned with the wind and there was little wind pressure on the sail. The strong headwind prevented the boom from jumping around. I then let the clutch off the main halyard and let out three lengths of rope. The idea is to let down just enough sail so that the reefing ring reaches the hook where the boom meets the mast. I then went to the mast to find that the mainsail had dropped by itself and the reefing ring was in position. I slipped the ring on the hook then returned to the cockpit where I manually hauled in the first reefing line then brought it in tighter with one turn of the winch. Then I used the main sheet to bring the boom back toward the center of the boat. I then got a short piece of line and used it as a supplementary reefing line by feeding through a saddle on one side of the boom, inside the stack pack sail cover, over the sail, then down the other side through another saddle. Then I pulled the rope down tight and tied what else but a reefing knot. I then released enough tension off the permanent reefing line that I had over tightened with the winch so that the load was now shared between the two lines. Since I've employed this measure I have had no problems with parting (i.e. Breaking) reefing lines, and if a line does part there will be the second one to take the load.
Down below Arnold discussed the power situation. We had decided not to fire up the engine this day and try to get through the night on 12.2 volts, which became12.1 volts at 8 PM. But because we were going to windward and the apparent wind was over 15 kt the wind charger had managed to not only support our running lights, instruments, and gas sniffer, but also put surplus charge into the batteries. Arnold saw the voltage go to 12.3 volts but had retreated to12.2 volts. We decided to turn the refrigerator back on.
I went back to the wheel, disengaged the autopilot and after a bit of manual steering noticed that there was a tiny bit of weather helm. With a bit of fiddling I managed to lash the wheel in the correct position and Pachuca steered herself.
An hour later I was comfortably stretched across the steering seat, coffee in hand, watching Pachuca punch her own way through the moderate seas at 5 kt, and occasionally looking up at Orion rising over the port bow.
Going to windward in an S&S 39 isn't so bad.
The great sailing lasted until about 5 PM when the wind started to die. Just before dark we dropped all sail, had a pleasant dinner, and took to our bunks for a “normal” night's sleep.
24 Sep 08
It has been a day of quiet sailing with a moderate to light W/SW breeze. For most of the day we sailed with about 2/3 of the jib on a starboard tack. We have found that we can reduce flogging of the sail whenever the boat rolls heavily with a light wind by reducing sail. We went into the night with winds in the 6-10 kt range. All night long the boat ambled along at 1.9 – 2.5 kt with the jib down to about 25 %. Fortunately there has been enough steerage for the autopilot to do its work so that the three of us have been able to spend our time on various sailing and recreational activities. In the evening we watched an old British navy square rigger movie titled “Defiance” which we found entertaining.
During the day we ran the engine for three hours. At the beginning the charge rate was 135 amps and soon it settled to 100 amps. The preliminary indication is that three hours of charging will provide us with about two days of electrical power. The charging and battery system is working fine but the fact is that with the autopilot running continuously and the refrigerator running 20 hours per day we are consuming about 150 amp hours per day.
25 Sep 08
Arnold was able to get a good weather fax with his system during his long watch last night. It looks like we will be under the influence of this High for at least another two days and can expect more light winds.
We are making a slow though comfortable passage that could take more than 25 days. As of 5 AM Pachuca was 470 nm from Opua and 1670 nm from Raivavae. We will have enough diesel fuel but I am concerned about the water supply. We started out with 280 liters of water, not counting our reserve of 20 liters. This suggests an average of 11.2 liters per day for the boat, or 3.7 liters per person per day. We have been consuming at more than that rate. It is very important that we verify that the water maker will work OK because if it does not we will have to impose a severe drinking water regime.
Early in the watch I finished the baby oil treatment of the plumbing. The hand water pump in the head had been getting extremely stiff. I coated the shaft with baby oil and poured about 20 ml of it into the toilet bowl. The effect was almost miraculous – the pumping actions are now smooth and light. This morning before dawn I gave the same treatment to the two hand water pumps in the galley.
At mid morning we moved the water maker from the forecastle to the foredeck and prepared it for its first deployment. The water maker is a “Waterlog 200” designed to be towed behind the boat at a speed of at least 4 kt. Because the wind was very light we expected to make very efficient use of an engine run: moving Pachuca toward its destination, charging the batteries, and providing power to the water maker. We took the water maker to the cockpit, shackled it to its anchor point on the stern rail, stopped the boat, lowered the unit into the water, waited 5 minutes to allow the unit to fill up with water, then proceeded under engine at 1400 RPM and 5.5 kt. Twenty minutes later Brenda was delighted to see the first drops of water to come out of the small tube. It tasted fresh but like plastic. The instructions said to discard the first few liters of water to clear out any remnants of the manufacturing process. However, the output of water turned to be little more than a few small spurts every few minutes. The unit was in a cycle of going below the water, then coming back up and breaking the surface, then going back down. The instructions suggested that this would lead to ingestion of air and reduced output of water. Its suggestions were to (1) connect the towing line as low as possible and failing that (2) attach a 2 or 3 kg weight at the front of the unit (the “tow tube”). We stopped the boat, moved the attachment point to the second rung of the boarding ladder, then took off again with the boarding ladder down and the attachment point only half a meter above the water. Still the unit surfaced. I stood on the ladder and forced the attachment point to below the surface of the water and we definitely noticed more water coming out, though the water maker was still breaking the surface. We finished the trial with a few milliliters of water and a plan to find a compact weight of 2-3 kg to attach to the front of the unit for the next sea trial.
The three-hour engine run left us with all batteries 100% charged. The “house” batteries were at 920 amp hours.
In the afternoon we launched the spinnaker. The hoist went well. However, the wind was too gentle for even that very light spinnaker to remain constantly filled. We proceeded with an apparent wind of about 3 kt and a speed over the ground (SOG) of 2.5 kt. An hour before sunset we dropped the kite. The wind was too light for sailing so we tidied up the deck and lay ahull. Brenda and I then spent 30 minutes looking into the still water at the amazing amount of life near the surface of the ocean. There was an assortment of many thread-like creatures, tiny jelly fish, and the occasional sea cucumber. After a pleasant dinner accompanied by white wine for Arnold and red wine for Brenda and myself we watched “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, an enchanting 1947 film starring Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, and George Sanders, while munching on dark chocolate and sipping port. The cruising life can be very tough.
We spent a little time in the cockpit savoring the experience the silence of a windless and calm ocean under a moonless and cloudy sky, 500 miles from the nearest land. There was a pathway across the water from the reflection of Venus, and phosphorescence sparkling and flashing below the surface. We all retired.
26 Sep 2008
... Or so I thought. At dawn I woke up and Arnold had the boat sailing. The wind had come up from the N/NW and we were headed East on a port tack with the full jib. He had been up all night and got some excellent weather faxes. I got another hour or two of sleep while Brenda took the helm as she frequently does early in the morning. After coffee and toast with Brenda I went up on deck and I was determined to raise the mainsail without getting Arnold out of bed.
Raising the main has been a pain principally because the lazy jacks (coarse netting of cord on each side of the sail to keep the main sail on the boom whenever it is lowered), even when loosened, tend to catch the end of the battens. Because of this raising the main has been either a 2-man job or a 1-man job with the engine running and the boat dead to wind. I decided to manage the lazy jacks as I had on my previous boat Angie. I added an extension to the pull cord of the starboard (downwind) lazy jack then dropped it so that it was entirely below the level of the boom. While Brenda pointed the boat into the wind I moved the traveler to the starboard side, loosened the mainsheet, then brought up the mainsail with no no problem: raised it 2/3 by hand and the rest by winch. I then raised the lazy jack again and removed the extension. I left the lazy jack extension cord on the mast because this will be our technique from now on.
At 8.30 AM we were sailing East at over 5 kt with full main and jib on beam reach. After three days of difficult downwind sailing in light airs it was good to be seriously moving again. We were just over 500 nm from NZ and 1620 nm from Raivavae.
After lunch we had another go with the water maker. I had spent over an hour cobbling together a collection of shackles that I bolted through the end of the towing tube at the very front of the unit. This added less than 1 kg of weight to the front instead of the prescribed 2-3 kg but it was better than nothing. We stopped the boat, lowered the water maker, gave it a few minutes to fill up with water, then started sailing. There was great improvement, with the front of the unit breaking water only occasionally. I stood on the ladder to lower tow line angle. With the water maker completely submerged and being towed at 6 kt we figured that we were giving the unit the best chance possible to perform. However, the result was dismal: a few drops of water every minute, and lots of air bubbles. I re-read the instructions and decided to have one last attempt. I removed the tow tube, inserted, inserted the plug designed to keep the innards moist, then stowed it. This was the first time that I had dismantled the tow tube since late 2007 in Fremantle. On the next trial I will first drain the water out of the unit by undoing a small screw. Then I will replace the screw, assemble the tow tube, then try again. The instruction states that it is very important that the water be drained before use. If the trial produces results, fine. If not I will give up until I have consulted with the company via telephone. In the meantime we have discussed methods of capturing rain water. Arnold will try capturing it in the cockpit using a bran new blue tarp under his mattress. I'll explore using ropes along the gunwale to direct deck water directly to the water inlet. Brenda talked about capturing water in a bucket as it ran from the mainsail. For this we will need a serious rain shower to first cleanse the boat surfaces of salt and then provide a sufficient amount of useful water.
The moderate (12-14 kt) northerly wind was to be with us until almost dawn the next day and we sailed into the night doing about 6 kt. After dinner the three of us played scrabble and Brenda won again.
27 Sep 08
I woke up at about 4 AM to the sound of the boom banging as it swung back and forth. The wind had suddenly died and Arnold was sheeting hard the mainsail and jib. Arnold retired after showing us his latest set of weather faxes and I nursed the boom until dawn by keeping a hand on the mainsheet and restraining the boom when it wanted to swing. Shortly after dawn Brenda was on deck at the wheel while I dropped the mainsail. We had a reasonable run of about two hours with jib only with a light wind that had backed to the NW. By 7.30 AM the wind was up again and back on our port beam and we raised the mainsail and soon were traveling at over 6 kt.
During the day we had another go at the water maker. This time we removed the tow tube, drained the water out as instructed, replaced the tow tube, then hove the boat to, lowered into the water, gave it a chance to fill up with water, then resumed sailing. The shackles that I had attached to the front of the tow tube were working and there was no problem with the water maker breaking the surface of the water. We needed to charge the batteries so we also ran the engine for an hour and achieved a speed of 6 kt. Unfortunately the results were as bad as before: a few drops of water but nothing serious. However, we noticed one big and two smaller compressions of the tow cable that we think that may have been caused by kinking when we lowered the unit into the water. It is highly likely that the plastic tube inside the tow cable that conveys the water to the boat has been pinched. This represents carelessness on our part. However, having said that, the instructions are appalling: Dry turgid typewritten paragraphs on both sides of a waterproof card with no warnings along the line of “WARNING: It is most important that there be no loops in the cable when you lower the watermaker into the water because ...” Anyway, I'll put the issue aside for now and telephone the company from Fr. Polynesia.
We put in a reef one hour before sunset because of the strengthening northerly wind. Just after dark we put in the second reef because we like to keep our boat speed between 5.5 and 6.2 kt at night and we were edging closer to 7 kt.
28 Sep 08
Arnold woke me at about 3 AM with concern about the rising boat speed. Almost immediately we got the first drops of rain and I had just enough time to put on my wet weather gear before the front hit us, with its high winds, rain, and distant lightning. We got through that OK with rolled up jib and double reefed main almost luffed into the wind. The front passed quickly and we were left with a weakened wind that had backed 30 degrees to the NW. To avoid risk of gibing we dropped the mainsail and ran before the wind with partial jib only. By dawn the wind had died and we were running before a light wind at just over 2 kt. We had a reasonable sail that day but at 7PM we were becalmed again and dropped all sails and lay ahull for the night. That night we discovered that the deck light has stopped working. This happened going into Adelaide and it turned out to be a blown globe. I hope that this is the case again because I have spares.
29 Sep 08
We resumed sailing at 7AM after 12 hours ahull. It was a gentle wind from a new direction, SE, but steadily gained strength and backed to East. After several tacks where we tried to sail to best advantage we settled on starboard tack taking us ESE. We have been sailing at about latitude S34 and we want to sail directly East until we reach longtitude W160 at which time we will begin a gentle swing north looking for the SE trade wind. The book states that we should be below S40 in the “roaring forties” before swinging north but the weather down there looks too rough, with low pressure after low pressure. On the other hand, if we were to stray too far north we would tend to be at the wrong side of the high pressure systems and encounter head winds. At this latitude we are experiencing relatively good conditions with the benefit of reasonably good winds from the interesting weather systems further south.
We were to stay close hauled on a starboard tack and heading east for the entire day. I took advantage of the weather helm to let the boat steer itself with the wheel lashed. This gave our autopilot and battery system a rest. With the contribution of the solar panels and wind charger we ran the entire day using a net 1-3 amps. By mid morning we were rocketing along at over 6.5 kt so we put in the first reef and rolled in the headsail to about a 1.5.
In the afternoon we discussed our water supply. I managed to make a dip stick out of a broom stick (the broomstick was too wide for the aperture) and we measured about 150 mm (6 inches) of water in the starboard tank, which services the galley. We estimated that in nine days the three of us had used about 100 liters of water with 40 liters remaining. We estimate (to be confirmed by the dip stick) that the port tank, which services the head, is 90% full, with about 125 liters remaining. We agreed to implement a regime of 6 liters a day total. Very little fresh water will be used for bathing, and none for washing dishes or clothes, etc. That would give us another 27 days of sailing, with an emergency container of 10 liters and a good supply of fruit and drinks.
As night approached Brenda prevailed on Arnold and myself to put in the second reef. With reluctance we did and found that that the boat speed jumped from 4.5 kt to over 5 kt. Unfortunately that yielded an almost perfectly balanced helm which meant that I was forced to turn on the autopilot. It is just as well that we took Brenda's advice because the wind strengthened to over 17 kt apparent.
We listened to the news and “PM” from Radio Australia on the HF radio and got good information on the latest development in the global financial crisis. This is historic stuff.
At about 10 PM Arnold announced rain! Before long the three of us were doing whatever we could to capture whatever rainwater we could from the light shower. We tried a tarp spread out at the cockpit but this required two people to control it in the high wind with relatively poor results. I then tried my luck with a bucket under the end of the folds of our reefed mainsail which turned out to be amazingly productive in such a light rain. We only captured only about 9 liters of water, but the water was very drinkable and now we know that we can capture rain water and have an idea of how to go about it.
30 Sep 08
It is 2 AM and Arnold has been on watch since dark. He is not fussed about whether I relieve him or not but I say that I feel OK and he agrees to get some sleep which he well deserves. He says that all has been going well. Pachuca has been rocketing along at over 6 kt with her double reefed mainsail and no. 2 jib configuration. The skies are clear, house batteries at 12.2 volts, and he's been pumping 20 or 25 strokes every 45 minutes. I go topside expecting what I see but am nevertheless amazed at how the boat, if her sails are correctly set and her course properly managed, will sail hour after hour after hour like a machine which I suppose she is.
I go below and we discuss the disappointing amount of water that we are still shipping when we sail hard into the wind. We agree that we will have to wait until I get a chance to fiberglass the anchor well. If that does not work then I will have to get some professional advice. Brenda wakes up and asks me to turn the refrigerator back on (We shut it down for a few hours every night.) and dozes off again.
Arnold puts away his laptop and retires. I put on the kettle then fetch my laptop and set it up. Because the boat is heeled to starboard I tie the laptop to a rail with shock cord to keep it from falling off of the navigation table. I start writing this blog entry with a big cup of strong coffee within reach. I'm now on watch for a few hours. I'll stay mostly in the cabin. Every 30-45 minutes I will don my waterproof sailing jacket, climb up to the companion way, reach over to the end of the cockpit life line that is hooked on a cleat, clip on the life line which is attached to a Spectra line rated at 1000 kg running along the side of the cockpit, then step into the cockpit to the steering station where I will look around and do some pumping.
Just before noon a front passed us and gave us a good rain shower. We had a reef in the mainsail which left a big fold of sail at the boom. Before long all three of us were pitching in to collect as much water as we could. I would ladle the water out of the fold in the sail with a plastic saucepan and drop it into a plastic bucket held by Brenda. When the bucket was 2/3 full (about 6 l) I would pass it to Arnold who was on the side deck with a big funnel in the inlet to the starboard tank. While Arnold poured that water in I would be loading up a second bucket. I was too busy and excited to count the buckets of water that we collected but Arnold said that the starboard tank was almost full because he could hear gurgling from the vent. We must have collected at least 50 liters of water, and probably more. Had the shower lasted another 15 minutes we could have topped up both tanks and had enough left over for bathing. However, that was not to be and we were left grateful and satisfied with what we had managed to collect. Pachuca's fresh water crisis on the leg to Tahiti was now over.
At mid-afternoon I had my first bath in about 5 days in the cockpit of the boat under a bright sun. I went to the steering station with a plastic bucket on a rope and bottle of shampoo. I hauled in a half a bucket of salt water and had a good wash. Then I rinsed with two more buckets of salt water. Then I went to the forward part of the cockpit, in front of the companionway, and poured about 3 liters of fresh water that we had just collected into the bucket. I rinsed as best I could by hand, letting as much of the water as possible dribble back into the bucket. I then used the electric pump and shower that I had previously connected to the 12 V socket at the navigation station to give myself a final overall fresh water rinse. I then dried off, walked to the forecastle with the towel around me, and put on underclothes. From there it was into the head for my first shave in days then out again to put on fresh dry clothes. I felt like a million dollars. An hour later Brenda had her bath behind the door separating the main cabin from the forecastle section of the boat. I sneered when she heated water in the kettle for the bath.
A second front (a warm front, we think) passed over us just before nightfall. This left us with a strong (15-22 kt) NE wind. We decided to go into the night with the same single reef that we had been running most of the day. It was a good call. When I took over the watch at midnight the wind had backed to N and Pachuca was sailing at over 6 kt on a port reach. Arnold had been rolling the head sail in and out to modulate our speed to the 5.5 – 6.5 kt range. The sailing was about as good as it gets: comfortable point of sail, good control of the speed, Autohelm doing the steering, and Pachuca doing over 6 kt with amazing smoothness under a crystal clear night sky.
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