08/24/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
I started writing this post several hours ago and then hit the shrink button at the top right of the screen. Instead of shrinking it, it deleted it. So here we go for take two.
As I wrote in the last post, I started up the bread bakery as we had run out of bread from Bora Bora a few days ago. As it takes 30 minutes to preheat the oven for the bread, it uses lots of our limited supply of propane so we decided to make two loaves instead of one. One was done in the normal loaf pan and I made the second in a round casserole dish. The loaf pan loaf raised so high that when I attempted to rotate the loaf for more uniform doneness, it tore the top off the back third of the loaf. It had risen so much that it ran into the broiler unit on the top of oven. Even with the torn top of the loaf, both loaves came out fine. We are set for sandwich bread for at least a week.
One of the boats in the anchorage(YOLO--You Only Live Once) made the suggestion that we hold a class on diesel engines. As he entered the lagoon few days ago, his port engine(he's on a catamaran)quit. He's done lots of testing and tried difference fixes but wasn't sure h had actually fixed the problem and he wanted to pick the brains of other out here that may have had the same problem. In all, seven of us showed up as well as John, one of the Park Rangers. We traded stories as well as made suggestions as to what we thought might be wrong. The "class" was so successful that we have scheduled a follow up class on Marine Refrigeration for tomorrow.
Once "class" was over, Tracy and I took off for "Perfect Reef, about 3.8 miles south of here. Several boats(dingies) had planned to make the trip and since ours was one of the slower dingies, we left first, about 1145. The other took chase and two of the four that were following us, passed us. Three of us tied up to the buoy at the reef while the last two dropped small anchors in the sand so as not to hurt the coral. In all, there were about 15 people snorkeling at the reef. While I was in class, Tracy had made a nice picnic lunch for us. So while others had snacks to eat, we had a nice lunch. We decided to stay for one last snorkel into the afternoon but told the group that was heading back that if we didn't show up by 1600, to send out a rescue party. We finished our dive and got back just after 1600 safe and sound. We wanted to make sure we were back at a reasonable hour as a party had been scheduled for the beach at 1700. We along with 20 others of other boats, plus the two Park Rangers showed up for a gathering that lasted till 2000. It was nice to talk to others like ourselves and swap stories.
Before we went in, I dove on anchors(bow and stern) to make sure they were well set. Both were set fine but we wanted to make sure all was well as some strong winds were scheduled for last night. At 0315, the anchor alarm went off in the cockpit. We both went running to see what the problem. Tracy had joined me in the main salon as Zephyr was rocking so badly in the rough weather and wind. We took a look around and figured we would be fine for the rest of the night. We had deployed the stern anchor several days ago to help us avoid coming anywhere near large tall block of coral that lies about 40 feet off our port side. Sometime during the night, the stern anchor had come loose and we were swinging around with only the bow anchor holding us in place. Twice more during the night, the alarm went off but we were still a ways away from the coral head. It was a restless night. We made plans to either redeploy the stern anchor or let out more chain off the bow. With more chain out, if we did swing, we would pass behind the coral instead of hitting it. Early this afternoon, we let out more chain and balanced our rope snubbers(rope that connect to cleats at the bow and go down and hook to the anchor chain) so that it had a nice even pull on them from side to side.
Early this morning, James(Park Ranger) gave lessons on how to make "coconut fritters". Five of us(I was the only man in the group) showed up and off we went. We had to collect coconuts that had already gone to seed and had the start of coconut trees sprouting out of the top. We were advised that we should only collect coconuts that had three leaves growing out of them as those with four were too stringy to be used and those with two were not yet ready to be harvested for the fritters. We all got lessons on how to get the outer shell off the coconut to expose only the hard shelled center nut that you see in grocery stores. James showed us how to crack them open. Once they had reached this stage of maturation, the "milk" that is normally found in the center of the nut had turned to a somewhat solid mass that had to be grated up into smaller pieces. All was placed in a bowl and then flour, sugar, and water were added till it become a thick paste. It was all ready for frying up for tonights pot luck dinner. I'd seen them at the last pot luck but had no idea what they were. When cooked, they look like breaded chicken patties that you see at Mc Donalds. Not knowing what they were when I took some during the last dinner, it was hard to say exactly what they were but they tasted just fine to me.
Sherry, off Soggy Paws stopped by to give me some computer help with some of the navigation programs I have on board that aren't working as well as they should. After a couple of hours, all was much better. Earlier in the afternoon, I'd made water for another boat here in the anchorage(Far Star). His water maker doesn't work and he was out of water. About four of us that can make water are helping him try and fill his tanks. Once of the boats here in the anchorage(Saviah) had decided to move in the anchorage(to far out) but found that their anchor chain was wrapped around several coral heads and they couldn't get it free so they could move. A diver off one of the other boats came out and helped get their anchor free. He(the diver) even spotted a place for them to drop their anchor. About 1700, as the wind was gaining speed, their anchor broke!!! It didn't pull out, it snapped along the shaft of the anchor. They were suddenly adrift in the anchorage. Since they were near the back of the anchorage, they were very close to a large shallow coral reef that enclosed the south section of the anchorage. We were in the process of bringing Puff and Dragon(our dingy and outboard) on to the deck for storage(Dragon had refused to start) since the wind was growing and swells were already at 3 feet and getting larger. I put out a radio call to the Park Rangers about the situation(not knowing that their anchor had broken) and asked for some help. The Rangers were away from their station but others came on line and offered help including offering an anchor and line so the could be safe through the night. One of the dingies took it over to them and they got anchored on the west side of the anchorage, out of some of the swells. It's the first time we have heard of a CQR anchor breaking. We carry two and it will be interesting to see it when one of the divers retrieves it tomorrow.
It's now blowing in the mid 20 knot range(we think as our wind gauge is broken and the swells are still coming though the anchorage so it will probably be another rocky night tonight. Sure hope I get a better night sleep than I did last night. With it being so rough, I really sort of doubt it. I'll let you know in the morning
08/17/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
Yesterday was another day of projects and checking the anchor lines all over again. Tracy did more laundry as the wind blew through the anchorage. We looked quite colorful with shirts blowing in the wind. I dove on the anchors again after lunch to make sure all was well. The stern anchor was set tight. I'd dove on the bow anchor several days ago and attached small floats to the chain to keep it a bit afloat. Unfortunately, the chain still got wrapped around a coral head but with the wind the way it is(20+ knots) there is no way to get it off till it eases up. I just got back from attaching a second line to our stern anchor. The winds keep shifting from the east to the east southeast so we want to make sure that we don't swing any where even close to the tall coral head that is about 50 feet from our port side.
As I started typing this, the anchorage got an emergency call from a boat called "Night Fly". They had just rounded the south reef inside the lagoon when their engine stopped working and the were requesting assistance. Since they were coing from the east, they put out just a very small section of their head sail and drifted downwind toward the anchorage. Four dingies were on the way to help them get set up for dropping their anchor. There is a big(60 foot) catamaran that has a dingy with a 40 horse power outboard. they lead the way to Night Fly. Fifteen minutes later and she was all set at the anchorage. That's the way it is out here. When someone needs help, everyone lends a hand. Some day we might need the help.
This afternoon, I'll be starting up the bakery and turning out some more bread. We've eaten all we had when we left Bora Bora and there is none insight unless we make it ourselves. We'll be running the generator for another three hours this afternoon to refill the batteries. Even with the wind blowing, our DuoGen can't keep up with what we need..
08/17/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
Yesterday was a busy day with it starting out with Tracy washing the sheets and getting them hung from the shrouds(wires that hold the mast up) of the boat in wind in the teens. It looked like we had surrendered some battle with white sheets flying in the wind. We started the generator again as volts were getting low and the batteries needed topping off and we needed to make more water since Tracy was doing the wash. It's been so dry here that the rangers no longer allow people to fill their tanks from their supplies ashore.
Earlier in the morning, we hauled out our stern anchor(looks just like our bow anchor)and with me in the water and Tracy in Puff, we took it to a safe distance off our tern and dropped it in about 25 feet of water. While Tracy motored Puff over toward Zephyr's stern, I dove on the anchor and positioned it next to a coral head where it wouldn't chafe the anchor line. Tracy climbed aboard, ran the anchor line through to one of our winches in the cockpit and reeled in the line till it was nice and tight. There is a coral head about 40 feet to our port side(left) that is only about 6 feet deep and with the wind coming and allowing for a change in direction, we didn't want to swing over anywhere near it. So now, our bow anchor has floats supporting the chain(along with two snubber lines lead to cleats on deck) so it won't snag any of the coral heads(still did darn it) and we have our stern anchor keeping us from swinging at random in the anchorage. We are nice and safe. Of course, I will still be diving on both anchors early in the afternoon when the Sun is overhead (paranoia is my friend). It makes it much easier to see in the clear water.
In the early afternoon, we took off in our dingy along with 4 other dingys and headed for a small motu(island) that has a nice reef made for snorkeling about a mile southwest of the anchorage. We dropped our small anchor and dove into the 80 degree water. Fish were everywhere and tons of live coral. Many time we only find dead coral when we go down, but not here. It was alive with tons of hard coral and fish we have never seen before. We also came across a "Crown of Thorns". It's a star fish that eats coral and lots of it. It can destroy a reef once it latches onto it. Google it for more info. It looks like a star fish with thorns all over it allowing for great protection against any fish(and human a the spines are toxic) that think it may make a good meal. The only way to stop it is to go down and pry it off the reef, put it in a small bucket of some sort and take it ashore where it will die. If not, the reef will be dead in short order. One of the other divers is planning on doing that this afternoon.
Starting at 1730, there was a shark feeding on the north side of the island outside the lagoon. James and John, the Park Rangers collect fish innards to feed them and once they have enough it's party time for the sharks. It's all part of the entertainment for us cruisers. The water was boiling with a good 30 to 50 sharks, all from 2 feet to 6 feet in length. Black Tipped, White Tipped, and Grey Reef sharks(they are the biggest). James just stood out in the shallow water of the reef and tossed out the entrails. One shark came in a bit too close and James just kicked him away. Once fed, we all headed back for the base camp and prepared for the "pot luck" . There were 17 boats in the anchorage and everyone brought at least one dish to share while the rangers barbecued fish that they had caught over a fire made of coconut shells for a different flavor. It was a huge spread with people from the US, Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. It's truly a multi cultural world out here. I will admit that it's nice to hear officials talking in English for a change.
Today, 7 boats are leaving and heading out for Nuie, American Samoa, or Tonga from what we have heard. So far, three boats have entered and dropped anchor. They all spent the night sitting off shore waiting for the Sun to rise. They started coming in just about 0730 arriving at the anchorage just after 0800. More are on their way so we will fill back up again. After I did the dishes, Tracy has started in on more laundry. It's shirts this time so we will have more to wear. We were both starting to run low. It will be nice to have some more to choose from when we make our fashion statement on shore.
The wind is beginning to get stronger as the weather folks had said it would. The folks that headed out will have great winds to take them toward their destination. The three boats that just came in had to motor for several days till they got better wind yesterday. At least our DuoGen is spinning nicely on the stern making free volts for the battery. It might not keep up with our usage, but it will at least take some of the time we have to run the generator in a day or so when it dies off.
So that's the way it's been yesterday. A few more projects and sit here waiting out the wind storm that is coming. At least Tracy is feeling better and is no longer hacking up her lungs in coughing fits.
08/17/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
As with most cruisers, odd jobs crop up as you sail along. Hopefully not big jobs but things that need attending to. Tracy had noticed that the navigation lights at the top of the mast no longer were lit when we were underway. The nav light at the bow that we normally use has a short some where in the line that I haven't found yet so we rely on the LED light we have at the top of the mast to let other boats know we are out here. It also functions as our anchor light and a flashing strobe if we are needing assistance. Last night, we looked up at the top of the mast after dark and saw no illumination. Tracy got in Puff and motored off a bit just to make sure it wasn't working. I went below and flicked the switch that switches between functions and still no light. I pulled open the cabinet door to check the back of the switch panel and found that the 2 amp fuse had blown sometime in the last few days. Out came my "spares" box and I pulled out a replacement fuse(I have 5 of them) and once installed, we now have a nice bright light at the top of the mast. Problem solved(easy one).
During our trip to Suwarrow, we had a slight malfunction in the rigging that holds the mast up. The "running" backstay for our forestaysail came off the mast as I was about to hoist the sail. This is a piece of high tech line(rope) that is as strong or stronger than steel that our rigger had installed while we were replacing the rigging in Port Townsend almost three years ago. The end of the stay had come out of the slot in the mast that keeps it attached. This morning, I put on a safety harness and started climbing the mast. When we were in Puerto Vallarta, I'd installed 32 folding mast steps to make it "easier" to get up the mast. So far, every time I tried to use them, Zephyr was rocking so badly that it was just about impossible to unfold and hang on the mast at the same time. Today, being at anchor in a nice lagoon totally surrounded by a coral reef, it is like being on a lake in the mountains. At least a calm lake. I put on a safety harness and with it attached to the main halyard(pulls the main sail to the top of the mast), up I went. Step by step. The fitting goes into the mast just above the top spreader so it took a while to get up there. Tracy tightened the halyard safety line as I went up. If I should fall, at least the harness would keep me from going to far. Once there, the end that had slipped out fit nicely right back where it belonged and I slowly came back down, inspecting the rigging as I came. I've been up the mast numerous times in the last few years so it's not as terrifying as it used to be but it still gets the adrenalin running.
With the two jobs done and with Tracy feeling better, we checked in with the Park Rangers and paid our fees and got the lay of the land as far as what is allowed and what is not. You are NEVER to dump food scraps over the side of your boat. In the times that I have dove down to check the anchor, I have been greeted by numerous black tipped sharks. All about 2 to 5 feet in length. They aren't aggressive but I don't want to encourage them. Yesterday when we put Puff in the water, we were immediately surrounded by about 8 sharks all looking to see what we had for them One cruiser, while trying to get a fish out of the water that he had caught, had the inflated tube of his dingy bitten by one of the sharks!!
This afternoon we are taking off in Puff to one of the reefs around the atoll to snorkel to see what it's like here at Suwarrow. From what James(Park Ranger)told us, any reef at the atoll is great for snorkeling and diving. I guess we will see this afternoon. We can also fish all we want as there is no problem eating any of the fish in the lagoon.
While Tracy was sick, she sat at the table in the main salon and did one of the jigsaw puzzles we have on board. It didn't take long and once done, we offered it to one of the boats in the anchorage that has kids on board to give them something to do when the weather gets rotten. And they will pass it on to another boat once they are done with it I'm sure. That's the way it is out here. We swap books, magazines, dvds, games, what ever you have on board. When we went in to get checked in by the rangers, we took them some eggs as well as several cans of fruits. We will also be giving them 5 gallons of gasoline to help them run their out boards and generator. They rely on cruisers to bring them what ever they can. We asked one of our friends(Periclees) what they needed as they were here at the time(we were still in Bora Bora) so we stocked up on some of the thing they needed. Soggy Paws, another boat, is bringing some potatoes and Dream Away is bringing some mayonnaise. Apparently, John makes a great potato salad and needs these ingredients to make it. If we are going to any small island that get supplies at long intervals we always try and find out what we can bring to help the folks on the island out.
We'll let you know how the snorkeling goes this afternoon.
08/16/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
It's another day here at anchor. The only difference is that we are staying aboard for a few days to make sure Tracy gets over her cold. We don't want to infect other cruisers with it. They, in turn, are staying away from our boat. Last night was a party night with many people visiting other boats around the anchorage. We stayed in and I cooked dinner while Tracy rested.
I dove on the anchor again to make sure it was still alright and it was. I added a "trip line" to it to make it easier to pull up when we are ready to leave. I snorkeled down to the anchor and ran a nice bid heavy line through a hole near the back of the anchor and then back up to the water surface where I attached it to a buoy. When we are ready to go, all we have to do(if the anchor refuses to come up) is to pull up on the "trip line" and that will pull up the anchor from the back instead of from the front. We should have no problems getting out of here. Strangely, we are the only people that have done the anchors that way in this anchorage. Not sure why but will ask around when we finally make face to face contact when Tracy is well. I called the ranger station in the late morning to introduce myself to them and advise them of the reason why we had not come ashore to check in. There was no problem as the ranger I was speaking to is also the Chief Quarantine officer for the island. Now since there are only two rangers on the island, I figure the man that has been here the longest gets to be the Quarantine Officer. He understood and said we could check in when ever we wanted to. He appreciated the fact that we were keeping Tracy aboard. No reason to spread the bug around if we can avoid it. I figure to go in myself this afternoon and do the necessary paperwork. Tracy is having another day of rest. One of the draw backs of the cruising life style is that unless you are in a port, you are never exposed to any of the local bugs that are going around. Most times, when ever we arrive in a port, one of us comes down with some sort of bug. It happened to me last year when I went back to Colorado.
We have the generator running on the stern as our voltage had dropped over the last two days where we needed to recharge our electrical storage system(batteries). While it is running, I'm making water, charging the computer as well as both our IPods and the batteries for our VHF radios. While we filled our water tanks when we were in Bora Bora, we hadn't made water since and our machine requires that it be run every 5 to 7 days or it might stop making water. They recommend that it be run regularly to keep it in good shape. We'd used a bit of water on the trip over to Suwarrow (yes, we even took showers during the calm days) and that all needs to be replaced. Since the machine uses 8 to 10 amps while running, there is no better time to run it than when the generator is in use. At about 8 gallons per hour, we should come away with about another 20 gallons.
Yesterday, 6 boats left the anchorage headed for Nuie or Tonga or American Samoa(two more left today). Most go to American Samoa to get restocked as it is part of the US and having parts sent in from the US is much easier. We've heard that there is a Costco there yet Costco denies it. I'll be emailing one of our friends that just left there to see if it is or isn't there. The biggest problem with American Samoa is anchoring in the bay as it got fouled a few years ago when a hurricane came through and lots of thing from shore were blown or flooded into the harbor. We've heard of tires and a small kids swimming pool being pulled up on other cruisers anchors. Rutea(one of our friends) took five tries to get their anchor to set properly.
I misspelled the name of the boat yesterday that sank at Palmerston. The correct spelling is RiRi. As the story goes(so far) they were attached to a mooring ball in the anchorage and the winds blew them onto a reef near shore. The buoys have been put there by the residents of the island for cruisers to use($10US per night) instead of anchoring though anchoring is allowed. As the story goes at this time, they were pushed onto the reef but got pulled off later. Unfortunately, they continued to sink and it is now a total loss. Many items were recovered and the crew are safe but they have lost the boat. It will be interesting to see what comes of the liability for the mooring buoy that they were using. Being part of New Zealand, I guess it will be discussed in the courts there. Time will tell. It really shakes you to the core when you hear of one of your fellow cruisers boats being lost like that. Every years, several sink our here. Many hit reefs and some have equipment malfunctions that cause it. One boat was almost lost when water flooded into the boat from around their propeller shaft. The owner had just had work done at one of the local boat yards and the workers had failed to put back on all the hose clamps around the seal on the shaft. Luckily, he got the leak stopped and saved his boat. Many cruisers do all their own work not trusting anyone else on their boats. I can understand why.
08/16/2011, Into Suwarrow
The race is over and we made it in!!! We gybed our sails about 0700 and headed almost straight west for Suwarrow Atoll. The winds had shifted a bit and were now coming out of the southeast so we could make some good time. I tried to start the engine to give us a bit of an extra boost and the electrical system to start it had failed again. You could hear the selenoid spinning in the starter with the power turned on but that was all. There was smoke coming out of the "on-off"switch under the nav station. I quickly turned off the power and went in search of the problem. After working on the wires that go to the starter, when I turned on the power at the switch again, the smoke no longer appeared. Apparently there was a short between two posts on the starter and it had drained off some of the power from the batteries. The batteries were to low to properly crank the engine to get her started. Up on deck I went and hauled the Honda generator out and tied it down a midships and cranked her up. She doesn't like to run if we are rolling and that was just what we were doing. She started anyway and I rushed below to get the circuits on and power flowing as quickly as possible. After a short time, the generator quit(as expected)but had put in enough power to allow us to get the engine started. We ran it the entire rest of the way to the atoll. The winds had risen to the mid 20 knot range and swells were growing toward 10 feet or taller. They loomed over Zephyr as we moved along quickly passing under our hull. Up and down we went with speeds varying from 5 knots at the bottom of the swells to 12 knots as we raced down the opposite side. It's a bit strange to be on top of a swell one minute and the next being in a valley with water looming over your heads and the waves breaking all around you. Up and down all day long. We were constantly at the wheel making corrections when necessary. Amazingly, "James", our Hydrovane steering system that hangs off the stern steered Zephyr just about perfectly for us. We only had to make minor corrections along the way. We were 63 miles from Suwarrow and needed to make good time to get in by 1700 hours while the Sun was still up. Our speed just kept on going up and down but we were making some of the fastest speeds we've ever made on Zephyr and that was with just the main sail up and it had two reefs in it. At 1600, we entered the rim of the atoll and slowly made our way past two or three reefs that lie within the lagoon of the atoll. Luckily, our charts were spot on again. As we entered the anchorage(just off Anchorage Island) we found 23 other boats at anchor!! It's a busy spot. We were directed to a spot by one of the other boats and dropped our anchor amidst a bunch of coral heads. We were told that the bottom was hard but that we would stop when the anchor hit one of the rocks along the bottom and that was just what happened. The bad thing is that as we were dropping back(at an angle to the chain) Zephyr snapped to a stop and swung the bow around cracking one of the teak pieces that make up the cap rail on deck. Chain has no give to it and when the anchor hit the rock, we stopped with a sudden jerk. Now I get to epoxy the cap rail back together. So far today, four boats have left and more are scheduled to go as the weather is shifting again and people want to get out between fronts while the winds are good and the seas a bit calmer. We know of only one boat that is headed toward Suwarrow and they won't be here for a few days. We heard on the net this morning of a sailboat called "ReRe"being lost on the reef at Palmerston Atoll yesterday. We have no particulars to the sinking but as we get more info we'll pass it along. We do know that most boats that go there are required to use one of the buoys in the anchorage west of the atoll. We do know that the crew are all safe and sound on shore. For the full story on Palmerston Island (and it's interesting) Google Palmerston Atoll. Tracy is under the weather with a nasty cold or flu or something so she will be resting for a few days taking lots of different medications to try and fight this thing. It'd been coming along for the last few days but she is now officially under the weather. Suwarrow is one of the National Parks for New Zealand so we will be checking in with the park rangers sometime today and paying our $50.00 fee for the park. It allows us to anchor here for up to two weeks. The Park Rangers(James and John) take visitors around the atoll and on excursions to snorkel sights. They also have pot lucks twice a week on the beach as well as having "Happy Hour" on the beach regularly with other cruisers bringing snacks and drinks to the shore to share. We look forward to participating in a few days once Tracy is all well. The "kids", Snowshoe and Blue are doing well. They get a bit seasick during the first few hours when we leave an anchorage but once that phase passes, they do just fine. Blue spend the evenings(they both sleep all day) up on deck when we are underway touring the decks as we move along(unless it is too rollie for safety). She just sits on the back deck staring out over the water. Snowshoe, on the other hand, never comes out on deck. He prefers to sleep in the stern bunk but gets banned from it for the first few days out as he has left us some "presents"some times when he gets to stressed to try and make it to the cat pan. After a few days out, we let him in and he is much happier. The hairy slug just sleeps around the clock --unless he gets hungry and then he jumps down, noshes a bit and returns to the bunk for more sleep. It is a rarity that he ever comes up on deck as we sail or motor. Sleep is his priority. So now that we are here, we will probably spend a week or so enjoying the atoll and attending the parties(once Tracy is well) and meeting up with friends we have made along the passage. We're currently at 13 14.925S 163 06.559W having traveled 738 miles from Bora Bora.