Daysail to Huahine
24 July 2008 | Huahine
We exited the Oponohu pass just as the sun was coming up today. We raised the main but unfortunately the wind was not as far around as it was supposed to be and we were motor sailing with the wind about 20 degrees off the port bow. As the day progressed the wind vacillated between 25 and 45 degrees off the bow. We pulled the jib out a number of times and made as much as 9 knots and as little as 6 depending.
We were making for Passe Farerea, the main east side pass on Huahine. You can supposedly anchor in the bay but we have been liking the water in the lagoons much better. The bay is also rumored to be gusty and the east lagoon should be pretty sheltered with the westerly wind.
The pass is clearly marked and though the sun was in my face we had no difficulty coming in on the transit marks on the big island and clearing all of the lateral marks. We were planning to hook up in the Guide to Tourism and Navigation's H10 anchorage in the elbow of Motu Murimahora, to the south.
The marks led us cleanly down about half way. This area is very dramatic in its bottom changes and there's lots of hard stuff mixed in with the sand. You can go from 80 feet to zero feet quickly. Hideko and Nobu were up on the bow as we worked our way down the motu. When we were in the neighborhood of the anchorage as depicted on the chart we tried to head toward an expanse that looked to be the right depth of sand.
While things were pretty calm and the sun was behind us it was far too low to provide optimal visibility so I was really relying on the sounder as my principal tool after Hideko and Nobu. We were in 25 feet of water and then rapidly came into 10 feet, then 8 and 7. I stopped the boat quickly and Hideko reported too many coral heads to have a prayer of finding a spot. I turned the boat and the wind picked up. We were now off of our entry track. I made for the track watching the bottom as best I could.
We have only one sounder but two hulls 8 meters apart. With the sounder never reading less than 10 feet (we draw 4' 8") the boat bumped with a quiet crunch and then we were back in deep water. Hmmm, something was now wrong with the steering. We made our way back to the small bay (Rate Bay?) on the island side just south of the pass using the engines to steer and anchored up.
I dove in to take a look at things and discovered that the port rudder looked as if it had clipped a peaky coral head. This is odd because the keel which is slightly deeper than the rudder showed no damage, though Nobu discovered a small area missing some bottom paint. The damage was not severe but we would need to haul out to grind it clean and epoxy it back into perfect form.
A nice feature of the Saint Francis 50 is the flexibility of the haydraulic steering system. I opened the loop shutoff on the port side, bypassing the port ram, allowing the boat to be steered with the starboard rudder alone. The boat would not handle quite as well with one rudder but if you didn't know the boat you might not even notice. All the same we would be checking in with the Raiatea Carnage in the morning.
There was much crying in the pretzels about the dinged rudder. Hideko and I had sailed Swingin' on a Star for almost two years and over 6,000 miles through the shoal Bahamas, the poorly charted Dominican Republic and everywhere else from Florida to Trinidad and from Trinidad to Huahine without once touching bottom. I suppose if you want to consistently creep into the best spots away from other boats and choose to do so without waiting for perfect creeping conditions (it was late in the day this time) you run the risk.
There is some scuttlebutt to be found on the net regarding Saint Francis rudders. A number of 44s have lost theirs at sea. Usually two at a time. Every 48 owner I have talked to has had to replace both rudders after losing them in heavy conditions. Losing both rudders would be a worst case scenario. I believe the factory has handled repairs under warranty for all boats so covered (though I hear a few 44s were out of warrantee and not covered). I do not believe all 44s have this problem and I am now very confident that it does not exist in the 50. We have sailed in some nasty stuff, particularly around Barnquilla where a 48 we know lost one of their rudders and suffered enough strain on the other to have it come off on the next leg. Now we have even clipped a rudder on a reef and it is still securely attached.
Would we do it again? Probably. Finding the magical anchorages that you never forget, where your boat floats alone in an idyllic snorkelers paradise, is part of what cruising is all about to us. It was good that we were moving very slowly (always important) but perhaps we could have gone even slower (hard to say without a perfect recollection of the wind and current). Noon sun would have almost surely allowed the bow crew to have guided us around the bump and a sounder in the other hull might have also allowed me to steer around it. I am now more interested than ever to add a forward looking sounder in the port hull.