Remasting in Majuro
20 October 2011 | Marshall Islands
This is a news item that appeared in the 27 October issue of The Island Voice, one of two Majuro, Marshall Islands news papers.
4 years ago, Patrick and Rebecca Childress sailed away from their home in the state of Rhode Island to explore the Pacific. They had visited Majuro but were not anxious to return even after catastrophe struck their 40 foot sailboat near the Kirabati atolls, 640 miles south of Majuro. When a localized rain/wind storm slammed their boat, a vital stainless steel fitting broke allowing the mast to fold in half. What was a few moments before the tallest part of the boat suddenly became the lowest, washing through ocean waves. The Childress's were able to turn on their engine and make their way 25 miles to the protection amongst the reefs of Tabituea in southern Kirabati. After stabilizing the broken mast, they sailed under jury-rig to Tarawa. In Tarawa, it would have taken a year for a replacement mast to arrive from the U.S.. What they needed was a place that has good shipping and mail from the U.S., a place to lay out a new mast and a crane to lift it. Majuro offered all these things plus machine shops and hardware stores. But months before, when Brick House was in Majuro, thieves had vandalized many yachts moored in the harbor and twice tried to break in to Brick House. Word had spread amongst world cruisers that Majuro harbor was not a safe place.
The decision was made to carry on and hope things had changed in Majuro. After refueling in Tarawa, using the makeshift sails to assist the engine, it was a slow passage north. With tremendous luck, the seasonal weather shift had eased the wind and lowered the seas. What should have been a miserable, difficult trip was one of waiting for the sea miles to pass under the keel.
At anchor in Majuro, it took months of hard work to prepare the boat for the new mast which was being fabricated in California. On schedule, the new mast arrived in a Matson container. The mast had been sawed in half to fit into the container. The problem now was, where to assemble the mast and then lift it onto the boat. Like true brothers of the sea, the men at OIFMC (Outer Island Fish Market Center) helped with this emergency and offered a dock space for Brick House and an area on shore to assemble the new mast. Under a broiling cloudless sun and through rain showers, the Childress's worked as quickly as possible, with help from other cruisers and locals, to assemble the mast and new rigging. In 10 days the mast was ready to be lifted onto the boat.
A 57' long aluminum mast is delicate and easily damaged until it is set in a boat and all the supporting wires are attached. The crane operator, Lee, from DAR was a true expert. He gingerly lifted the mast then threaded it through a small hole in the deck and continued down 7' to set the mast on the keel. Temporary supporting ropes were tied from the lower half of the mast to the deck so the crane could detach itself and move away.
Disaster nearly struck again. Before the ropes from the top of the mast could be secured, a rain squall drenched the 5 men working to secure the mast and high winds sent the top half of the mast whipping like a palm tree. But just as the high winds and rain subsided, the situation grew worse. A launch from the tuna fishing boat "Lomato", came barreling into the small cove sending out a tsunami size series of waves. Despite yells and frantic arm waving from people on all sides of the Uliga dock, the launch operator continued his charge into the marina. When the waves struck, Fisheries boats and other craft were slammed against the concrete docks. Brick House too was smashed against the dock and the new mast was sent flailing in even wilder large circles. To any ones eye, the mast would soon fold in half. Again, the bucket of luck Brick House carries had been tapped. The mast survived the thrashing and the topmost supporting ropes were finally secured.
The work to complete the new mast installation continued for days. It was important for the owners of Brick House to quickly complete the work and inconvenience the good people of OIFMC as little as possible.
Patrick Childress commented "I can't imagine how we would have repaired our floating home without the good hearts of Fred and the other people at OIFMC. Those people became friends that we looked forward to seeing each morning and sharing stories with. Thank you to all our brothers of the sea at OIFMC for your tremendous help with our emergency."
And the harbor thieves? There have been no incidences for the past 7 months. This is good news for the world cruisers who would like to visit Majuro and the out islands. Patrick and Rebecca will do what they can to spread the word about the good people of Majuro.