09/04/2011, Closing in on Tonga
We're still out here slogging our way to Tonga. It's 1007 Sunday, Zephyr time, 0907 Monday, Tonga time. It's been a long last 24 hour with Mother Nature just poking fun at us all along the way. We had our schedule all planned out as we made decent time during the afternoon finally getting the sail backup as the wind picked up. We were on a course of about 235 degrees which would take us right to the mark we needed to round the top of Vava'u so we could make our way down the west side of the island and into the hidden harbor of Neiafu. We'd had to motor some since the wind had died off during the afternoon. As the Sun set, we started up sailing again with fair to moderate winds. To make it interesting, Mother Nature changed the direction of the winds to be just about the same course we needed to be on. You can't sail straight down wind easily so we had to head a bit north of our course and then south of the course so we could make way to where we needed to go. By 2300, the winds were back in our favor and we were pumping right along. By 0300, they had changed direction and were now coming out of the north. OK, that's fine, we can adjust to that. By 0400, they moved over to be coming out of the northwest. Since we were trying to head west, we were bashing our way into the waves making maybe 2.5 knots. With that being the case(plus rain was coming on fast) we decided to roll in the genoa and drop the forestaysail, start up the motor and make way as best we could. As I was out on the foredeck taking down the sail, the rains started. On we pushed rain soaking the boat. Got to stop for a bit, more rain is coming and I want to be in the cockpit.
OK, I already typed this before but when I shit the top of the computer, it "Preparing to go into standby" and locked up the computer so I had to reboot so here we go again.
It's a good thing I went on deck and Mother Nature threw a curve ball at us again. The wind shifted from the northwest to the southwest in the blink of an eye as the rains let loose. It poured for hours and after the wind shifted, it grew to the high 30 knot range plus the seas but much bigger to boot. Hey--we were having fun right? So the winds and rain came and on we pushed toward Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga. We were 30 miles out and with the help of our engine, making good progress since the winds were not helping us one bit. We fired up the radar so we could see what was out around us--like land!! We picked up the island on radar long before we could see it since the rain was so intense. We didn't see the island until we were 10 miles off shore!! For sailors that's close. As we rounded the top of the island, I put out a call on VHF channel 16 asking for info on the harbor--wind and sea conditions. We got a response from Papillon--already anchors near the harbor. Winds were gusting in the high 20 but there was very little swell as it is so enclosed. On we pushed finally lowering our reefed mainsail as we headed down the west coast of the island. We entered the pass and headed northeast inside the lagoon toward our destination. We entered the harbor about 1600 and started the search for a mooring buoy. It's a deep harbor with little anchoring spots. There were none available right off the town but some were available on the south side of the harbor. Over we went and found one and tied up nice and neat. Since it was now after 1700, the Immigration Office was closed. We signed in with Baluga Divers that owns the buoy and they advised us to come in the next day and get registered. We spent the rest of the day cleaning up poor Zephyr since we were expecting a visit from the Health Officer while we checked in.
Today, we prepared to head for the docks to get checked in. We disconnected from our buoy leaving a fender attached so no one would take it while we were gone. We got help getting tied off at the dock as we ended up at the main commercial docks as the Immigration docks were full. We hit Customs first and filled out their forms and gave them some of ours. On to the Quarantine Officer--more forms especially when I told her we had two cats on board. On the Immigration--located in the center of town(not near the docks) on the second floor of the bank building. As we walked over, we were approached by a man on a bicycle hawking all sorts of things--from flags, to brown bread, to jewelry to a laundry service at his home. We ordered a Tongan flag as well as a Fiji flag(just changed by the new government) as well as two loaves of brown bread. He met us in town a few minutes later with the Fiji flag as well as the two loaves of bread. He tried again with the jewelry but we declined. He left us to go get the Tongan flag for us. On we pressed to Immigration, picking up some Tongan money as we knew when you deal with a government official, there will always be fees involved. These fees are the number one GNP for Tonga(followed by Tourism). He was quick and efficient with his forms. So far, not a single person had given us any forms for us to keep. On the the Health Department. He was closed. On the way back, we were met by the flag man who had our new Tongan flag. He even climbed on our boat and ran it up the mast for us. As for the laundry, he started at $80.00 Tongan. We said no as that was way too much money. After some haggling, we finally ended up at $50.00 Tongan for all our laundry. He wanted to be paid up front but we declined. We will pay when it's all clean. Off he went--clothes bag under his arm. With the Health Officer at lunch, we did the same. We we returned, he was still gone so we hiked into town and visited Baluga Divers to complete our registration for our buoy. On the way back we met up with several cruisers we have met along our travels. We stopped and chatted for a while. As we hiked back, we were approached by one of the locals asking if the boat at the dock we ours. This was the Health Inspector. He was on his way into town but promised he would be back soon. By the time we got back(stopped at the Regatta Vava'u office to pick up paperwork) he was back. We were first advised to visit the Quarantine Office again. Here we go. Out with the wallet and pay the fee--we at least got some forms(always nice to get some paper work from officials). Back to the Health Officer. We sat down and got asked a few questions as to where we were from and where we planned to go in the future and how long we expected to be here. Normally at this time, he boards the vessel and make sure that everyone is healthy. His fee for such a job--$100 Tongan. That comes out to about $55.00. With us, he didn't bother coming on board. Of course we didn't tell him about the cats. We were finally checked into Tonga!!
Back to Zephyr we went and prepared to get away from the dock. With the wind holding us firmly to it, we consulted to books on the best way to get off it. Once the answer was found(what lines go where)we headed back on deck. Hey--there is a small power boat off our starboard side!! Maybe they will be nice a pull us off the dock. Sure enough, after a quick conversation, we tossed them a line and off we went nice and neat. We were free of the dock!! Back to our mooring buoy and we were in for the night.
We joined the cruisers net later this afternoon as we had been asked by "Two Amigos" to let them know about what the harbor was like and how Customs was. We told them that just about all the mooring buoys were taken. That concerned them as anchoring here can be tricky. We offered to see if we could make reservations on one of the last buoys around us. Boy they snapped up that offer quick. We also got a request from another boat(Dilligaf) for the same service. I switched radios and got a lock on two buoys--30 & 31 right be hind us. We told them we would go out and put fenders on the buoys to mark them for them and get back with them two hours later that the job was done. Well, we launched Puff with Dragon and took off. We found 30 but no 31. We advised Baluga Divers of the missing buoy. They are going to send out divers tomorrow to see if they can find it. When we checked back in with Two Amigos to let them know they were set, Dilligaf wasn't on station to hear from us so we'll let them know about it tomorrow. While we were on line with Two Amigos, "This Side Up"(another cruiser out here) came on line and asked us if we could find them a buoy. They had originally planned anchoring when we first started discussing it on line. I guess the "Admiral" on board changed her husbands mind. A good thing to as they don't expect to be here till late tomorrow. In our search for 31 we did find a buoy owned by the Aquarius Cafe. I switched radios again and locked it in for them. Since it was already dark, we will plop a fender on it tomorrow. We contacted "This Side Up" of the confirmation. They were thrilled as now they don't have to worry about where they will be staying when they get in here tomorrow. This place is full of boats for the Regatta Vava'u. It starts tomorrow with lots of fun and games. I'll let you know how that goes in the next post.
Meanwhile we are safe and sound and all tied up to a nice buoy for a while. It's nice to sleep in the stern bed again!!
09/03/2011, Southwest of Suwarrow Atoll
Well, it's been another 24 hours on this jump to Tonga--Vava'u Islands. We're currently at 17 32.528S 171 52.819W heading 231M making a speed of about 7 knots. The engine is on and that it what is making us move. There is just about no wind though we have had several squalls come through during the last 24 hour period. The winds continued to die as yesterday afternoon wore on till we were only making about 3 to 4 knots after the Sun went down. It was sort of on the course we needed but not quite. That's the way it has been this trip. Well, it's just like the trip to Suwarrow a few weeks ago. We had the perfect wind for the first two days and then Mother Nature got the memo that we had left Suwarrow and she knew it was time to screw up the trip. That's when the wind changed and forced us to make regular course corrections so our track marks on the chart plotter look like lots of boomerangs. Any thing but straight.
We sailed through the night as I said, making darn little speed. The heavens opened up early this morning and Tracy came on deck about 30 minutes early for her 0600 shift on watch. I headed off for the stern berth with Zephyr shifting back and forth in the swells we were left with. Since we were making darn little speed, we rocked back and forth with every passing swell. We didn't change the sails after the squall came through since we were not sure where the wind would come from once it passed. As it turned out, it went from a bit of wind to calm. At 0815, we started the engine, stuck it in gear, took in the sails(other than the main)and headed back on course. We were about 155 miles out and with out the engine, there would be no way to make our landfall when we figured we would--mid day tomorrow. While our calendar says it's Sunday, in Tonga, it will be Monday. We loose a day. Skip right from Saturday to Monday. How weird is that going to be? At least when we head back east, we will gain it back. It works out well for us since the Customs and Immigrations folks charge lots more if you come in on a weekend. Our timing will be perfect.
So here we are, 134 miles to go, the engine purring right along. Our lunch of Ravioli(one of my childhood favorites) finished, reading books and trying to not get a bad sunburn now that the clouds have gone away. With 134 miles to go, when the wind comes back-- hopefully later this afternoon, we will be able to make it in with no problems. We will be rounding the north side of Vavau and heading into Neiafu, a big harbor that is well protected from the hurricanes that frequent the area. With luck, the next post you read will be from the safety of a mooring ball in the harbor.
09/02/2011, Southwest of Suwarrow Atoll
Hopefully this post gets out faster than the last one. We've had a problem getting connected out here in the middle of no where. We might connect, but then the connection is so poor that we get cut off with nothing getting out. So here we go again. Lets get caught up.
We've just finished day 4 out here and all is still well aboard. We're both glad that Tracy made all the meals before we left Suwarrow. It has made meal time much easier. It's either made and just needs reheating or the ingredients are all in one spot ready to be assembled. Both lunches and dinners are all ready to go. Breakfast is cereal with either dried blueberries or raisins on top. Now all we have to do is decide what we want to eat. Not a real problem out here though we tend to eat much less on passage. Snacking during the night is the problem. It's easy to get the munchies as you sit alone in the cockpit at 2300 or 0200 in the morning. Our IPods are the main staple of our entertainment at night. Either music or video or even downloaded podcasts of radio shows from back home in Colorado get us through the night. Tracy is even listening to a book on tape off her IPod.
Day two found us at 15 20.052S 167 06.557W having made 131 miles in the past 24 hours. A nice bit of mileage. Unfortunately, it's gotten less and less as the day progress and the wind dies back some. Many of the boats that we listen to on the nets out here have been motoring just to get anywhere. The winds keep coming from the NE as do the swells so it makes for a rolly passage. That really hasn't stopped since we left. There are supposed to be "prevailing" southeast winds out here but we haven't found them so far.
Day three found us at 16 14.140S 168 55.636W still making headway toward Tonga. With the wind being out of the wrong direction(northeast), our track on our chart plotter looks like a boomerang. Curves to the north and then curves to south all along our passage as going straight is nearly impossible. We did really well for the first 36 hours out here but then the winds got fickle and the boomerangs started. We sometimes have to go 20 miles out of our way to collect the winds needed to then change course and get back to where we need to be on the maps.
I actually took a shower at the start of day three. Our days start and end at 1300 hours as that is the time we started this trip. We left at 1300 on Monday so day one ended at 1300 Tuesday. So I finally got a shower Wednesday afternoon. I still had the salt on me from when I had to dive on the anchor in Suwarrow. My hair was a sticky mess. As it was, with all the rolling Zephyr was doing, I had to stand with my feet braced on the wall and my back against the opposite wall. It's like taking a shower in a room that's on a roller coaster. At least I was finally clean for a change.
We have seen no other boats other than the ship Tracy saw several days ago. It's a vast blank canvas deep blue water out here. Nothing but water, a few birds, flying fish and whales(haven't seen any yet). It can get a bit creepy out here at night as we just had the New Moon on Monday night. When we arrived at Suwarrow, we came on a Full Moon so it made seeing things at night much easier.
We are still forced to run the engine each day as the DuoGen just can't keep up with the small amount of electricity we use each day. It really needs a constant speed of over 6 knots to do anything and getting a constant anything out here is darn near impossible. Our money would have been better spent on solar panels. It's just about always sunny out here with temps in the mid 80's every day. So we use the time with the engine running to get us back closer to the course we need and to make hot water for more showers and wash dishes at the end of the day. It also keeps the IPods and the computers charged.
We moved our clocks back another hour today as the Sun wasn't coming up till 0720 and setting about 1920 at night. We will be crossing the International Date Line on Sunday as we go into Tonga. We will loose Sunday totally. Our clocks will go back another hour so suddenly we will loose a day. That works out well for us as if we got into Tonga on Sunday, we couldn't check in with customs and immigrations till Monday. We'd be quarantined on board for 24 hours. The weather for the rest of the trip looks good with winds getting stronger over the next 24 hours so we can make better time. With only 250 miles to go as of 1200 today, we should arrive about noon on Sunday(actually Monday), Nothing moves in Tonga on Sunday. No work, no tasks are to be performed and all businesses are closed--period!!! It's going to be interesting. Oh, and men are not permitted to be seen with shorts and long pants are a part of the culture. Women must cover their legs and their arms if at all possible. The natives go swimming fully clothed! Visitors to their country are permitted to swim in swimsuits but they can only be worn at the beach. Leave there and you must cover up.
So that's the way it has been out here for the last few days. It has taken us a full three days to get back in the "voyage" mode. the body has to adjust to a very irregular schedule. Undisturbed sleep is a luxury especially if it comes in segments of longer than 4 hours. Last night at 0300 when I came on deck(after my 4 hours nap) I was out on the deck making a sail change so we could get back on course. You do what you have to do to get where you want to go.
Tracy's two cents:
Keeping your mind occupied is the hard thing to do at sea. During the day, you can sit back and watch the water and the flying fish, but at night you fight sleep deprivation. The Ipod is a godsend and I imagine a lot of people out here have the new I Pad. I wish we had internet out here. It does exist, but it costs upwards of $20,000 to get set up then there are the monthly fees....I'm sure the megayachts have it, but we sailboats are barebones in comparison.
The days blend together, I couldn't honestly tell you what day it is or exactly how long we've been on passage. Our lives consist of 4, 3, or two hour segments. I just wish I could drop off to sleep when I lay down for a sleep segment, an hour later, I'm still not asleep. This isn't something new, I've always been that way, so why would it change?
Tonga's culture will be the first drastically different one we will come into contact with. They are deeply religious and Sunday is strictly for family and church activities, no swimming, no working on your boat, no shopping. Hmmm. All stores and restaurants are closed on Sunday, now Sunday isn't exactly my favorite day of the week anyway, so this will make it even more dull. We yachties are allowed to go swimming on Sunday if we are away from a village or town. That shouldn't be too difficult, Tonga has 170 islands and only 40 are inhabited full time. I'm glad we have a lot of books to read and a lot of stitching to be done.
08/24/2011, Southwest of Suwarrow Atoll
Sorry for the delay in posting this. We couldn't get connected through our SSB..
Well, we are on the way again. We started Monday with a trip out to one of the reefs just south of the anchorage to see the manta rays that live in the area. We'd been there shortly after we'd arrived at Suwarrow but didn't see any. As we were leaving in a few hours, now was the time. The reef was only about a half mile south of where we were. As we headed south, we were passed by Warren and Maria off Night Fly. Nice people we had just met while we were anchored in Suwarrow. They had seen 4 manta while they were out there. We clipped Puff to the buoy that is there and dived into the water and started the search. A few minutes later as I swam along, I happened to glance back behind me and there was this HUGE manta just gliding along right behind me. The wing span was at least ten feet, probably more. He(or she) passed right below me. A few minutes later, more showed up gliding in a line or into a circular pattern above the ocean floor gathering what ever came along for food. There were other smaller fish that swam along with them gathering what they could that the manta didn't get. It was an amazing time. I did swim down to touch one just to see what they felt like. It was much the same as running your hand down wet velvet. I think I spooked him(or her) as the wings took a quick pulse and it swam quickly away. We climbed back into Puff and headed back for final preparations to get under way.
We had a nice lunch and discussed the easiest way to get the chain off the coral heads it had gotten snagged on. We finally decided to call Jason off YOLO(You Only Live Once) and asked his help. He came right over and after some discussion as to what was needed, I dove in and started releasing the small buoys we had used to support the chain. Jason gathered them on board all the while using the windlass to pull up the chain. Tracy was at the controls in the cockpit steering Zephyr exactly where Jason told her to go as I directed Jason from the water. A few minutes later, the chain and anchor were all free and I swam back to Zephyr's stern and grabbed the ladder as she slid past me. Tracy put the engine in neutral and I climbed aboard. We both thanked Jason for his help as he made what could have been a tough job easier. He was amazed at the great job Tracy did controlling Zephyr. Jason climbed down the ladder and took off for his boat. With the anchor loose, we stopped for a few minutes so I could get the anchor up, myself dried off and dressed then it was off for the pass to get us out of the lagoon.
We upped the anchor just about 1300 and headed out raising the main sail with a reef in it to keep us steady as we passed through the narrow channel. We made our way north and around Turtle Island, one of the motus that surround the lagoon at Suwarrow. Once there, we pulled out about a third of our head sail and changed course to 230 and headed for Tonga. Winds were about 15 knots and the swells were running about 3 meters so it was a bit rolly. We've stayed on that course ever since we left Suwarrow and have no reason to change it as it will drop us on the north side of the island we are headed for. The winds have continued in the 10 to 15 knot range and the swells are still throwing us around a bit. We will gently roll port to starboard for a while and then get hit by a bigger wave that causes us to roll quite a bit farther on our side. This has gone on ever since we left and is still happening. You hang on to what ever you can any time you move in the boat.
In our first 24 hours, we made it to 14 18.074S 165 11.646W covering 147 miles our first day. That puts our speed at just over 6 knots. Not bad for a big boat like Zephyr. We only have 567 miles to go to get us to Vava'u in Tonga where we expect to spend several months during the hurricane season. If we find we don't like it there, we may head north to the Marshall Islands, well out of the hurricane zone. I guess we will see. Meanwhile, there is a big sailing fest scheduled for Vava'u starting on September 7th that goes through the 15th. We're looking forward to seeing lots of our friends while we are there.
And that's the way the first 24 hours have been since we left. Good wind and a few showers to keep the deck clean of salt that sprays up from the ocean every now a again.
Tracy's two cents:
It felt wonderful being at sea again, no worries about hitting coral heads that were only a few feet away and had the ability to take off at least 6 inches off our keel. The entire lagoon is covered with coral heads, so even if we were in 90 feet of water the anchor would have gotten snagged by a coral head. Where we anchored is was 15 feet deep, so Bill could dive on it every day and check where the chain was and made sure the anchor was still stuck on the coral bommie where it first hooked onto.
I spent all day Sunday cooking passage meals so no matter what the sea state was we wouldn't have to scramble to get a meal together.
Bill told you all about the mantas, they are magnificent beasts. They are so huge with big gapping mouths. They are frightening to see coming straight at you, but they are gentle beasts and are fascinating to watch, but we had to leave the atoll on a falling tide so we had to get back to Zephyr and shove off.
The pass is very straight forward, but there is quite a current, 4.5 kts. outgoing. Warren from Nightfly told us to have our sails up when we went through and be heeled over when exiting and the standing wave will be much easier to glide through instead of getting bucked up and down as you go through, a la Fakarava. We had the mainsail up and getting through was a snap. There were lots of overfalls and eddies, but we managed to maneuver through and got out without a hitch. Atolls are such fun to enter or exit....NOT!
I couldn't sleep the last night in the lagoon and didn't sleep the first night of the passage as it was so rough, but last night I finally started to get into the rhythm and got a few hours of sleep, today I had a nap and feel pretty good. Life on board isn't fun if two people are sleep deprived, Bill has started to sleep also, so we finally are in passage mode and life is fine.
Suwarrow....it is a huge cruiser stopover out in the middle of nowhere. There is more hard live coral there than anywhere we have been to so far. Perfect Reef was exactly that, in my opinion. Lots of fish, lots of pretty hard corals, we got lots of good pictures to put up when we get to civilization. The two park rangers bent over backwards to be helpful. John, the younger ranger took people out fishing twice a day and Bill and John caught a Dogtoothed Tuna. I guess the fun of fishing in the lagoon is getting your catch onboard through the sharks. Bill and John's tuna made it successfully without a munch out of it. We have a couple of fillets in the freezer, the rest went to the rangers. One day, we went on a reef walk with James the head ranger...it felt criminal to be walking on live coral, but it's the only way to get to Whale Island and see the nesting sooty terns. There are thousands of them with nest right on the ground or in low bushes, most with a little hatchling nestled in. The rangers also host pot lucks once a week. Their custom at these dinners, is that the children get their dishes filled first, then the women go through the line and get their food, then the men get theirs. The hosts, I noticed waited until everyone had eaten then they filled their plates. James says a blessing before every outing or event. The Polynesians are very religious. They don't work on Sunday nor do they fish on Sunday. Naps are the order of the day, at least for James. It was an interesting and fun time, but two weeks, the time they allow you to stay, is enough.
We should be in Tonga in another four days, maybe five it depends on the winds. Another boat on their way to Tonga had a rigging failure, their headstay snapped. They thought for a while that the mast was going to come down, but they rigged up a halyard to take the place of the forestay and are continuing on, they left a day before us.
I saw a cargo ship this morning around 0630 about 5 miles to our starboard. That got my blood pressure up a tad, but he came and went in silence...just the way I like it.
08/24/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
John(Park Ranger) showed up yesterday about 1700 and the two of us went out fishing. I'd grabbed our gear and climbed aboard. Well, not quite. I actually fell over board as I was trying to hold the boat for Tracy to get aboard. John backed off and I climbed the Zephyr's ladder to try again. This time, I tossed the fishing equipment(two Pringle tubes with our line wrapped around then and the lure inside the tube. A few more lures in a a bag and we were set. Unfortunately, John's boat as well as Zephyr were bouncing up and down in the swells coming through the anchorage. I got on board but Tracy decided not to go as it was just getting too wicked to climb over. Off John and I went in search of th mysterious fish of Suwarrow Atoll. We headed east along the shore line and out to the reefs that are inside the atoll. Both our lines streaming behind his boat. It started raining. I was already soaked so I didn't care. This at least was fresh water. John's boat took quite a pounding as the swell just grew as we motored along. I figured it was good for a few hemeroids at the least(steel seats in the boat). We circled around out and back to the boats at the anchorage. Nothing. On the second pass, John got a strike. He pulled it in as quickly as possible while I grabbed the handle of the outboard. The trick to fishing at Suwarrow is getting the fish aboard. The fish all live at the bottom. The sharks all live above them. Once caught, you have to get your fish passed all the sharks that lay between you and what you caught. John pulled and pulled and pulled. About a minute later, on came the fish--whole!!! She was a beaut. A "Dog Tooth Tuna about 30 inches long and kicking up a fuss in the boat. She was not happy about getting caught. I finally put my foot down on top of him to hold him still. One problem with these fish is that they will turn on you and try and bite you if they can. Several types of fish will do that. With the fish in he boat, we headed back to Zephyr. Only catch what you can eat is the rule out here. Once back at Zephyr, I tossed Tracy the Pringle tubes and te bag of lures and dived into the water again. It was just easier getting back to Zephyr's ladder that way and since I was still wet from the first time, no problem.
Since I was already wet, I checked out the anchor chain again. All was well. Back to Zephyr for a quick shower to get all the salt water off. While I was gone, Tracy had cleaned out the frig box and made a nice pot of Mac and cheese for dinner. With a beer along side the plate a dinner, it was the perfect way to finish the day(so I thought). John had mentioned that we were having a "King Tide" that night since we were having a "new moon". The tie would be much higher than normal. Tracy looked out at the float that we use to mark our anchor. It was bouncing above the water and then below the water as the swells came through the anchorage. Not a good thing as the buoy could have easily pulled the anchor right out of the coral it was laying against. On went the fins and mask and back in the water I went. This time with a dive light as the Sun had set about an hour before. Over I swam till I got to the float and I tied the line so it would have plenty of room to allow the buoy to go up and down all it wanted without pulling our anchor out. Back to Zephyr's stern and up the ladder. Once aboard, back below decks for a second shower. I'm sure glad we have a water maker. Earlier in the day, we given Kennedy on Far Star 20 gallons for his tanks as he has no water maker an the island is running low on water. I'd given him 20 gallon a couple of days before and other boats had helped him with his water needs. We settled in for another quiet night aboard.
This morning, I finished the hook up of the wires for the bow nav lights that I had started the previous day. It worked out just fine and our light works just fine and with no breaks in the wire, it should burn for a long time with no problems. Tracy startee cooking to get all our meals ready for the next leg of our journey. We figure to be leaving tomorrow for Tonga. It's a good 715 miles away so we figure six days of sailing--weather permitting. The forecast is for good winds and a bit calmer seas than what we came in on so that will be nice. I fired up the generator earlier in the day to charge up the batteries and make more water. Our tanks are still 3/4 full but I like using the power the generator makes to do more than just charging the batteries. We headed ashore to check out but James was taking a Sunday nap so I'll head back again in a few minutes. In the islands, Sunday is a day for rest. John doesn't go out fishing.
Tracy is in the galley making tortillas for the trip. Much easier to handle and eat as we are under way. I was going to make more bread but that will have to wait till we reach Tonga.
We have heard of a second boat being lost out here. Qwest was heading into Savu Savu in Fiji. The light that marks the reef was out and they ran aground. The officials came out and took them off their boat for safely sake. A while later(when the tide went up, the boat re floated but with no one aboard, it floated across the inlet and hit the other reef and sank. It can get dangerous out here. A few days ago i wrote of the anchor breaking here in Suwarrow. The couple on board were just about to board their dingy to come a shore for the Pot Luck when he checked his chart plotter and found he wasn't quite where he thought he was. If they had gotten in their dingy, it's probable that they would have lost their boat also. If the anchor had broken a minute later, all would have been lost.
Well, I'm off for shore to get checked out so we can be off tomorrow.
08/24/2011, Suwarrow Atoll
Let's get caught up. Early yesterday morning, the winds finally let up a bit. It was enough that I felt confident enough to actually climb into the stern bunk after nine days sleeping in the main salon on anchor drag watch. Of course it was at 0430 in the morning, not when I went to bed the previous night. It was strange to wake up and not hear the wind howling in the rigging and feeling Zephyr rock back as the swells came through the anchorage. When we both got up, 0730, we found that one of the snubbers at the bow had come off the anchor chain. With it being so calm, the pressure had been taken off the line and it simply fell off. After breakfast, I jumped in the water and headed for the snubber. As the wind had died, the anchor chain had drooped down toward the bottom getting wrapped around another coral bommie(big coral tower). I dove down and got it dislodged and since we have been using some floats to suspend the chain off the ocean floor(so the chain won't get under the bommies), I repositioned one of our floats so the chain was better kept off the floor. With the snubber reattached, I swam back to Zephyr's stern and came aboard.
Since we had lost the use of our bow navigation light(red and green) we needed to find out what the problem was. Since we were no longer pitching up and down with the wind having died down, we started in on finding out what the problem was and getting it fixed. With our navigation light at the top of the mast also on the fritz, we needed to have one of the two working before we leave for Tonga in a few days. I turned on the power and headed forward to check out the light. With the lens off, the light was still dark. I grabbed my tools and checked the power to the fixture. Just 3.4 volts. No where near the 12.6 volts that the line should have said. I pulled off the connections and checked again. Same voltage. There was a break somewhere on the line bleeding off the volts. I asked Tracy to watch the bulb as I wiggled the wires to see if I could find the break. Before I had even moved one wire, Tracy says "I think the light is already on". I got up and looked at it and low and behold, it was indeed on. Non verbal threats work on electrical fittings I guess. No matter, we could not trust it to continue so we decided to re-sting new wire all the way from the circuit block in the forward head that leads to the fixture. We were going to have to pull new wire through the bow pulpit. Out came the 12 gauge wire I had bought for projects on Zephyr(much larger a gauge than was necessary) and in we went. Off came the fixture and I climbed into the anchor locker(where the wires ran from the deck and undid some of the brackets that held the wire to the fiberglass hull. Out came the wire cutters and snip snip, the line was cut at the deck. We were forced to peel off the outer insulation from the two wires(leaving the insulation that covers the wires) and with electrical tape in hand, we joined the new wire to the old and wrapped them with electrical tape and began to pull the wires through the bow pulpits metal tubes. Tracy pulled while I fed the line into the tubes. In it went and out it came the opposite end. The hard part was done. With my crimper in hand, I crimped on the new fittings and connected them to the fixture at the bow. Back down into the anchor locker to run the rest of the wire. Now normal code for boats is that the wire needs a support clip every 18 inches. The guy who put our original line in must have been paid by the clip as he had screwed them to the fiberglass every 6 inches. I had a lot to unscrew and reattach. To make it that much more fun, every screw had been painted so I had to chip off the paint before I could even get a screwdriver in the head of the screws. This was going to take some time and it did but the job had to be done correctly. About 1530, I'd done all the running of the line even getting it through the bulkhead into the forward head. We were in the final stretch.
We'd noticed during the afternoon that the same snubber had come detached again so I had to get back in the water to redo it as the wind was beginning to come back again. In I went and found that during the lull, the chain had dropped down and wrapped itself back under one of the coral heads. With the wind now blowing, there was no way to get it out from under it. At least not with anything I could do. We were forced to start the engine and motor forward to get it out. With me in the water, Tracy started the engine and motored forward and to starboard and out came the chain from under the bommie. I swam to the surface and signalled Tracy that the job was done. The floats were again supporting the chain in the water. We reattached the port snubber and balanced out the load and I headed for Zephyrs stern.
With these jobs done(sort of) we needed to try and get Dragon(our 7.5HP outboard motor) up and running again. It had refused to start a few days ago(at the start of the blow). I attached the fuel line and engaged the choke and injected some fuel into the engine and pulled the cord. After a couple of pulls, she started right up. With it being our of the water(still hanging on the stern rail), I shut her down quickly. You see, we needed Puff and Dragon up and running as we had made a call to all the boats in the anchorage earlier in the day that there would be a sundowner party on shore starting at 1700 and we didn't want to be late, especially since we had instigated the party. We launched Puff in the wind(about 20 knots by now) and lowered Dragon to the stern . I pulled the cord and varroom she started up just fine. No idea why she refused the other night but she was fine now. We grabbed some snacks and a bottle of wine and a bottle of beer and in we went. Both of us were dressed in swim trunks or suit since we knew we were going to get drenched and with a good 2 foot swell running through the lagoon we did just that on the ride in. In the end, we had over 25 people at the party. Everyone brought snacks and drinks and we all had a great time. It was the first many of us had been off our boats since the blow had started a few days before. We returned to Zephyr about 2000 and yanked Dragon off Puff and then pulled Puff back on board for safe keeping through the night. Much safer and quieter during the night.
This morning, I had planned on completing the wiring as well as a few other tasks but James(Park Ranger) announced that there would be a coral walk to Whale Island at 1030. How could we possibly pass on that. The bread was going to have to wait. We arrived early and brought in some supplies for the rangers. When New Zealand puts them on the island, they have a budget of just $2,000NZ for food to get them through from June 1st to November. They are forced to relay on either what they can forage off the land or the generosity of the cruisers that stop here. We'd already taken in a couple of dozen eggs as well as cans of fruit. This time, we took in canned cheese, a big bag of roast beef(in a shrink bag from Costco), and more cans of pineapple and green beans. We even through in a bottle of rum(for medicinal purposes only). We also took in a 5 gallon propane tank that they can keep. We've lugged it around since we left the US. We've promised them 5 gallons of gasoline as they only have 44 gallons left to take them through November. Since they go out twice a day fishing and have a generator to run every day to keep the freezer cold, there is no way that will be enough. They are such nice guys, we are happy to help. As to the reef walk, 24 cruisers showed up at 1030 and off we went over the coral and through the waves to the island. It was a great trip seeing all the birds on the island. We only walked the perimeter of the island so as not to disturb the nesting fowl. Boy are they noisy and they sure do stink when you are down wind!! We got back to Zephyr about 1400 for a late lunch.
Tonight, John is taking me out fishing in the pass. I'll be taking along what fishing gear we have and see what we can catch. The trick is to get what you catch past the sharks and into the boat before they get to it. Sometimes you win and sometimes they do. I guess we will see what happens later today.