04/13/2013, Pacific Ocean 3
Hi, Section 3 of the blog on the Pacific Ocean crossing. We left Tahuata Ilse just south of Hiva Oa on Thursday last after a lovely rest and relax in this beautiful anchorage for 5 days. There were a few other boats there including "MUKTUK" , "Pacific High" and "Sophie". The anchorgae is at a small bay called Hanahmoenoa which has an abandoned copra camp just off the beach and an orchard inland full of popplemouse, mangoes, limes, bananas and coconuts. Fish off the back of the boat, fresh fruit and fresh bread from the oven and we have lived well and recovered from the last crossing where going in a straight line was a novelty.
At Hiva Oa we checked into the country, purchased $4.00 beers and immediately regretted not filling the boat with 39c beers in Panama. We tended to move several times a day around the anchorage as boats left and others arrived trying to find a good spot in the small harbour of Atuona away from other boats and the cliff faces. After a few nights of listening to the breakers on the cliffs in the harbour we left for Tahuata Ilse and reckon we have seen the best beach in the Marquises. The beach is very steep so even the dingy got anchored off while we swam ashore and tried unsuccessfully to beat the dumping breakers on the beach. All good fun and interesting to watch others try and actually land their dinks here. The outboard mechanics of the fleet will do a roaring trade........
Once we got the nerve up to actually leave again we picked up a SE 12kt breeze and scooted out of Tahuata heading WSW to enable us pass the Archipel Des Tuamotus to the south (due to our limited steering) and then head SSW into Papeete, the main city of Tahiti where we will get new rudders made to continue our adventures. The wind gradually backed and is now dead astern making life difficult. If it is up to 120 degrees off the bow steering is difficult but manageable. Any greater and it is difficult and tiring with multiple drogues set that need to be reset everytime the wind backs and veers from NE to ESE which appears to happen in these parts with great regularity. We tend to meander 30 degrees either side of our course on autopilot with drogues at present so sail jybes are the norm until we settle down again. A lot better than we can accomplish with hand steering though. I think it would be like trying to navigate a road train through the woolies carpark. Yesterday we had 32 jybes with Code zero and/or genoa so it keeps us busy.
We need to haul in Papeete and construct new rudders as well as a few other jobs. The wire rope seagull striker has now nearly demolished itself. Probably all the jybes do not help and it is also now under emergency repair but will see us to Papeete. The only thing we need to do before hauling is import or quarantine the cat and we have madly tried to contact vets and Agriculture officials while we are underway. It is now day 3 of a 6 day passage so we should be at anchor somewhere in Papeete by next Wednesday and hopefully have it all sorted out before weeks end so we can get to work and stop wasting time.
Kerry Kelly has been researching accommodation for us in Tahiti and it leaves Jo stunned that rooms can cost so much so perhaps we will stay aboard for all but a few days when I have to disconnect the electrics and recable the batteries. I think the French all went to Darwin to learn how to charge. At least they do not have our Australian un-challengeable and impolite bureaucracy.
It is strange but when one thing goes wrong on the boat others follow quickly. First it was the battery isolaters which are now isolated from themselves, then it was the rudder, then the seagull striker, then the fridge which is continually defrosting. This is due to old cabling and loose cables but difficult to completely do at sea so it will have to wait till we get there. This has been brought about by the massive drain on the batteries from the autopilot which works like a trooper trying to use one rudder to keep us in the right direction. It is a voltage issue so when the volts drop below 12.2V the fridge will not cycle so defrosts. Also the old genset exhaust fitting is now leaking so we make water in the starboard hull. Never a dull moment to sit back and drink heavily.
No fishing this trip as it becomes a shambles of wrapped sails and fishing lines around saildrives with poor steering. We have seen whales, dolphins, large tuns and dorado and would dearly love to get a line out. It may go calm on us in a day or so and if it does out go the lines with flying fish for bait. Talking about Flying Fish, Tizer the HoP now waits on the cabin sides all night listening and watching for fish coming aboard and if you need to leave the cockpit he is at your heels and must examine your hands when you return in case you have a fish or two. He has become very demanding and is also in the habit of chewing your ankles in the dead of a night watch. Hard to fall asleep with Tizer the Hop on dual watch.
A small 800nm sail with poor steerage is not too hard on the crew with Gill and Keely becoming avid video fans of "Allo Allo" and "The Big Bang Theory" and watching every movie aboard which now amount to close on 3TB. Gill hopes that his friends from "OneWorld" catch up with us and I guess they will hit Tahiti while we are on the hard. Jo and I do all the night watches at present as Gill's teen hormones are in full swing but he is up for every sail and course change and avidly learning seamanship and manouvering under power at a fast rate. Life at sea here is pleasant besides the constant jybes if we try to keep a course and there are usually several small squalls to keep us on our toes every day. We just tend to alter course instead of jybing at night but this will be a no-no as we approach the northern end of the Tuamotus probably Sunday night and the extensive reef systems there. From there it is a SSW run of about 160nm to Papeete so need to start timing arrivals in a day or so to alert agriculture and other officials.
More French Bread.....mmmmmmmmmmmm
03/25/2013, Pacific Ocean
Decided not to call this article Pacific Crossing 3 due to the recent chain of events we have had while out here in the deep blue. The Pacific Crossing is a long one and the longest sail we will do this trip. It is one of the most isolated (there it is again) stretches of water in the world and you can actually get to a point where there is nothing closer that 1800 nautical miles in any direction. I love ocean passages and could just keep sailing around and around as long as there was beer, rice and an occassional fish to eat but the strain had been telling on Jo and Keely as we entered the third week of our passage. We seemed to have had nothing but bad luck. Halyards jamming, unexpected jybes, furling sails that will not furl, main sails that tear and motors not starting when needed (isolators) flat batteries, leaky hatches, leaky fittings, lack of wind, squall lines every night and basically everything that could go wrong or make the journey difficult has happened.
It is day 23 for us since we left Panama and by all accounts we should have arrived in Hiva Oa in 4 days time but this has been delayed by a further 2 days. Firstly we were headed for the Gambier Islands and Mangareva at the bottom end of the Tuamotus Archipielago when all of a sudden we had no power aboard. The starboard engine would not start and all other batteries except the Port engine starter battery was as flat as a cane toad on a Territory road. This was odd and we put it down to the freezer using all the power. This was real but not the ultimate cause which turned out to be the Battery Isolator Guard on the Starboard Engine is minus a few workable diodes and power has been going all over the place except where it should have gone. We heard on the radio that there were no ATM or CC facilities or cash exchange in Mangareva so we thought we would not be able to make things right so we changed course back to Hiva Oa in the Iles Marquises which was our original destination. Gavin LeSeuer, our good friend and last owner of CH was very helpful in tracking down the isolator issue which is still with us but is now isolated as all good isolators should be. In fact it is so isolated we always forget to de-isolate it when we need the engine.
We finally made it into the Trade winds and life started to look great but then the wind backed to the east from the south east and we had to drop the main and continue on to the west under genoa alone with the wind dead astern. A difficult point of sail and the wind was too strong for the Code Zero at 20 plus knots apparent and an adverse current or so it seemed. At 2300 Jo calls out to me that we have jybed and can I help. Up on deck, lights on and the genoa jybed across to starboard when the wind picked up to 30 knots and we thought we should shorten it but the furling line was jammed. Up gets Gill and we undo the line forward and restack the furler when Jo points out the Spinnaker Halyard is wrapped on top of the genoa as well. More night work in 30 knots on a wet deck with kamikazi flying fish and a crazy cat hell bent on getting them fresh to contend with. All done when we discover that the autopilot cannot hold the new course and that we should be doing 7 knots instead of 6. Engines on and sail furled but still no course for the autopilot nand to make matters worse the engine on the starboard side was working but the propellors did not seem to be working. What the bloody hell had gone wrong now??????
There was a strange banging sound coming from port aft and when we investigated we saw a catastrophic failure had occurred on the starboard rudder and it was swinging wildly and crashing onto the propellor on the saildrive in a crazy manner and potentially damaging the seals and allowing water inboard as well as destroying itself and its fittings allowing us to fill with water. Two ways to flood the boat as well as stress everything. Wow, 1400nm from anywhere and "Houston we have a problem".
The best course of action as we could no longer steer as we just went around in circles was to douse all sail and heave to by lying a hull to the waves and wind. As it was blowing 25 knots with a 2m sea and 3m swell from the East it was a bit bouncy but we decided to wait till morning to see what could be done. At first light we saw the damage that had been done. The rudder shaft had snapped completely, there was no paint on the rudder and the saildrive was coping a real hiding as was the rest of the boat with up to a 5m wave at times swinging us all over the place. We thought we should secure the rudder and tried several times to do this by getting into the water and trying to tie it up. This turned out to be very dangerous and I was swept away a few times, banged against the hulls and caught under the boat when my life line was tangled on the saildrive. We decided to give ourselves 48 hours for a weather improvement and try again but 36 hours later it was still blowing 20 plus and the seas if anything were steeper so plan 2 was enacted after many emails to Gavin to discuss. By this time we were also very despondent and I had contacted the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) in Papeete, Tahiti to report that we were in a precarious situation and although we were safe and well with plenty of food and water if we could not affect repairs we would need assistance.
Plan 2 was to force the rudder and lower half of the snapped shaft out of the boat and just use one rudder as the broken one fell to the ocean floor. We pulled the top section off and realised the shaft had broken within the boat itself and not at the upper or lower seals/bearings. The lower shaft section was jammed but was also scouring the inside of the hull assembly it was seated in and would have worked its way through the watertight bulkhead within a few hours. We realised that this was what had been happening but did not realise how bad it had gotten in such a short time. We needed to punch it out and used a small hammer and an old broom handle greased with several good swear words and to our absolute amazement it fell out and disappeared down into the Pacific Basin. There is a leak through the rubbing and grinding but it is manageable.
This was the first win we had had and it felt good so we continued in all haste to see if we could get away with steering the boat with one rudder. It worked and 50 minutes later we are underway again and monitoring the leak as well as adjusting our course and sail plan to stay under 6.5 knots which is about as much as one rudder seems to be able to handle. So why was all the paint missing from the rudder and why did we think we had an adverse current. We had picked up a heavy net and had trailed it without seeing it astern for a few days. As the wind was so steady it was not a drag on the autopilot but when the wind backed and we jybed all hell broke loose in what should have been a solid stainless shaft but in actuality was a thick tube and sheared it completely. b The net had removed all the lovely antifouling. It was very nice and calming to have so many people email with offers of aid such as Gavin once again using his talents to help us through it and Wes on OneWorld keeping us all sane. The troops on the Pacific Magellan Net talked to us and offered assistance and the MRCC of Peru and of Papeete called on the sat phone several times ready to render a rescue.
We are now due in Hiva Oa Easter Sunday/Monday and look forward to having a break from catastrophes and disasters and to enjoying a cold beer and a good rest unless Murphy arrives again before we get there............ So was there a Plan 3? Yes, and it meant abandoning CH to the oceans as it was a very difficult situation with a family and young kids aboard. This plan would have been enacted immediately if we could not have removed the rudder as it is just a matter of time before were were filled with water.
03/20/2013, Pacific Ocean
Hi, Well it is day 17 of our crossing from Panama to French Polynesia and have traveled about 2500 nautical miles. The total distance is around 4000nm give or take a few hundred and my guess is we will be there early Easter unless the winds pick up a bit. Currently no greater than 12 knots for 2 days now and we have been flying the Code Zero sail (like a spinnaker) to make the most of it. If we had 15 knots from the same direction we would be pulling 9 and 10 knot speeds which would make a pre-Easter arrival.
Today we saw out first ship in 14 days. We did see a sail a few miles away but a ship is a ship and it means lots of people. It was called "Sumi Yushi and was a massive Tuna mothership They did not answer our calls but then again when Tuna are plentiful I wouldn't bother with the radio either. Actually we need to put the lines back out as we have run out of fresh fish and I had to have a steak today. When we bought Chaotic Harmony it had two large fishing reels mounted aft on the guard rails. One was torn off by a massive nuclear submarine type Tuna just south of St Helena Island in the Atlantic and the second one was stripped of its gearing two days ago by a huge something or other. I think we had a Bonito on and then a large sailfish or Marlin attacked it. the seas are bountiful in this part of the world. We feed Tizer plus collect bait fish and squid every morning from the decks. If fresh enough I have some for brekky.
We have been chatting with a few other yachts on a MF/HF radio sked called the Pacific Magellan Net. It is all very formal these days and all the nets operate the same with the same script. No chance of informality in this part of the world but still nice to talk to other humans once in a while. There is a huge fleet of yachts crossing this year and we are one of the first to have left so we can beat the rush. Also there is an Oyster Rally and these boats are literal gold mines so the prices tend to move higher in some ports. We want to miss that hopefully. They will visit Darwin and I think some may have a rude awakening with their toffee accents and demanding attitudes.
Our landfall at Mangareva has been changed once again to Hiva Oa, our original plan. We have had electrical issues aboard and need access to funds and food and beer and diesel fuel so Mangareva out as no bank, no cash, no cards and no beer. Pity really but it will still be there when we come around again.
Last time I said no major problems to date Well, the engine again would not start and it was a flat battery. The house batteries were also dead so something was amiss. After much reading, thinking and playing around I sent Gavin an email or two and between us I think we have it sorted. On each engine electrical system there is a battery "isolator" that allows the flow of electricity one way only. That is from the alternator to the house batteries. It appears that the one on the starboard side is shot and is now manually isolated each time we shut down the engine and needs replacement. We will do both as the other is bound to fail as well and it will leave a spare just in case.
We are nearing 115 degrees west latitude so will need to retard clocks another hour in a couple of days before sunrise is once again at 0800. Funny but every time we retard it always seems to be my watch.
We heard before we left there was to be a Federal election in The Land of Oz. Who won?? (Probably not the people) Be good.
03/16/2013, Pacific Ocean
Hi, we are on day 12 of our crossing from Panama to French Polynesia and have traveled about 1700 nautical miles. The total distance is around 4000nm give or take a few hundred so it looks to be a slow trip but in time we are well over 1/2 way as we have found the trade winds at last at 8 degrees south latitude.
The discrepancy is found in speed/time/distance calculations as we had no wind for about 4 days of the last 12 and averaged overall a fraction of what we are currently accomplishing. We averaged 4.5 knots on the windless days with the lowest daily run ever achieved by us of just 73 nautical miles. We are currently sitting on 8.2 knots which gives us nearly 200 nautical miles a day.
Our first landfall was to be at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Chain but we have decided to head further south to the island of Mangareva in the Gambier Islands. A small detour of 1000 nautical miles. It will be an easier sail and better yet is way off the tourist map which makes it appealing. It is around 23 degrees south latitude while the Marquesas are only about 10 degrees south so we will also be able to check out more islands and reefs as we head north to the Marquesas and then south west for Tahiti and Bora Bora.
No major problems to date Just lots of the usual small issues continue to plague us. The starboard engine would not start yesterday and it looks like water had flooded back in through the exhaust. Everything is going well with it now though after a soul wrenching, gut swirling 1/2 hour of sweating fix. Lets hope it worked. The flap on the outerskin of the exhaust is stuck open and I have to manually close it after we stop that engine so water does not flood back in. Water is seeping back into the starboard aft cabin bunk. It has done this a few times already and happens in a following sea and rain. The water tasted salty so rain ingress dismissed and guess we have a leak somewhere in the hull or where a cable goes through the hull. Check in Mangareva !!
Everyone has settled into the trip well. No seasickness yet except for Tizer the HoP but he makes up for it by pouncing on any poor sea or air creature that manages to fly aboard. The decks are littered every morning with flying fish and squid. Tizer attacks and drags them into the main cabin where he devours all after playing with it all over the settee, floor and any other surface he wishes. Most of us will not go near the cat when he has prey as he growls like a Tiger , hisses and guards his lunch most vigorously. He also has developed a taste for Bonito and whenever the reel starts to scream he stands at my feet waiting patiently, (sometimes tapping the leg ) for his share.
The fishing has been good with a huge Dorado over 5ft long and a very large torpedo Tuna to liven up the days. I fight the fish, Jo manouvers CH like a fishing skipper, Gill swings the gaff, Keely runs around like a mad thing and Tizer bites the back of my legs waiting for his feed. Besides these interludes we have our hands full with sail plan changes and reefing. 2 to 3 sail changes a day while in variable winds tends to tucker us old fellas out and then throw in a dozen reefs and the day is over. It should not be such an issue now that we have made it to the trade winds. ...............We just fly reefed sails and sit on 8 knots..................
We have retarded clocks twice so far this trip and currently the sun still rises at 7am so guess it is time to do it again. Might make morning stars at 0500 just to liven everyone's day up!!!!
03/06/2013, Pacific Ocean
Chaotic Harmony and her crew are about to get back to the Southern Hemisphere after a long voyage through the North. We are currently at 00 degrees 40 minutes North latitude and will cross the line sometime after midnight tonight. We have run out of wind. The seas are flat calm and we are motoring on one engine.
While sitting down this evening discussing what sort of celebration we would have as we are now old hands at this business the port side fishing line began to scream and 19 minutes later we had the biggest dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi or Dorado) I have ever seen alongside. Gill was ready with the gaff, Keely was running around in circles very excited and Jo was steering with the engines as we fought the monster but alas, we did not fight it long enough and it took off with our new 50c lure. It was just as well probably as one side of it would have filled the freezer which is already full so glad it lives to fight another day and eat another 2 ton of Flying Fish.
We have finally gotten used to our Code Zero sail and fly it at every opportunity. We can make 5 to 6 knots in about an 8 knot breeze so this is outstanding and will help us cross the Pacific. We flew it all day in 5 knots of wind for 5 knots of speed but had a 1.5 knot current with us. The sea when flat is amazing. Crystal clear and great to finally get back into an ocean such as the Pacific where I have spent so much sea time.
In about 2 days we will be south of the Galapagos Islands and will head west for the Marquesas of French Polynesia.
03/04/2013, Pacific Ocean
We left Las Perlas Sunday 03rd March into a lovely spinnaker run of 15 knots and ended up in a fresh to strong breeze of 20-30knots giving us a days run of 185nm which seems to be our average. Our course will take us SSW past Isla Malpelo to take advantage of the currents which are favourable to us at this time of year and may even reach 2 knots. Not as much as The Agulas Current but well worth the extra 50nm a day if we can find it.
From Malpelo we will alter course slightly to the SW to pass to the south of the "Archipielago De Galapagos" or Galapagos Islands and at when about 100nm south we will alter course and travel due west for a thousand miles or so and when and if the trades steady then W by SW to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia where we hope to make landfall at Hiva Oa.
Gill had his first night watch last night so he got to see the sunset as well as the sunrise and was amazed at the scenery. Keely then keeps a standing 0800 to 0900 watch with Dad while Jo makes brekky.
All is well aboard and if you have never been to the Las Perlas Islands please do not bother. Total waste of time. Poor water, dieback in the rainforests and dirty beaches with overcrowded anchorages. Bit like the rest of the Caribbean actually.