Sat Jul 28 21:16:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Still over Planet Deep, Solomon Sea
We left Rabaul on Tuesday evening and motor sailed through the St Georgefs channel. Some times we would turn the engine off and just sail. Unfortunately on Thursday evening when we went to turn it back on it would not start. We found a lot of dirt in the water separator so suspected a clogged fuel line. Cleaned the separator, the fuel line to the fine fuel filter and the fine fuel filter. It still did not start. As evening was approaching and the weather was getting bad we decided to sail through the night and fix it in the morning. As it happens a storm was starting on us.
With the rain and rocking motion we were not able to stop the boat to look at the engine again until Friday afternoon when there was a lull in the storm. Fortunately at that time a hug car carrier was heading toward us on its way to Yokohama. We radioed for assistance and their chief engineer talked us through cleaning the injectors and bleeding them and so forth. Adam has studied diesel engines so the engineers advice was more confirmation that we were following the correct process. This hug carrier called the Cary Rickmare stopped beside and dwarfed us for a few minutes while we worked away. Confident that we understood what to do we thanked them. We could see fuel starting to come through the system again so thought it was a matter of time before it would be running again. They offered us food and water but as we were fine wished them well sharing a few jokes about our situation with the captain. Unfortunately the engine did not start and the storm returned and raged throu gh the night and all Saturday and last night. We tacked back and forth on minimal sail and despite getting good speed could not make headway. A couple of times I would stick my head into the engine room to try different things but nothing I was trying was working. We have had some great advice from Peter and Jason but are now convinced we have another issue aside from clogged fuel. It is also very difficult to work properly on a diesel fuel system in a confined space in a rocking boat so it is possible I am just not getting all the air out or something.
I have not calculated the distances properly yet but it seems we spent to 2.5 days to get only 12 miles closers to our destination. Another way of looking at it, in 4.5 days we crossed over 400 miles of ocean but only got 148 miles or so from Rabaul with the first 136 in the first day and a half. Last night the wind was so unpredictable so we stopped the boat and sat it out checking the AIS every 30 mins for big ships. Adam was great staying on watch through the night so I could catch up on some sleep.
To make things unpleasant on-board everything has been made wet by the storm. THe boat does not leak. The water comes from our clothing or from opening hatches when we get in and out of the cabin. The moisture as well as the terrible fumes from cleaning the engine have turned on the gas detection system shutting off our stove so we have not been able to boil water or cook food too. And the toilet is also not working well. The impellor seems to soon need a change. To save battery we turned off the fridge a few days back but missed throwing out some of the meat given all that was going on. Needless to say, with wet cloths, humidity, a fridge that has had bad meat in it, two blokes who have not had a shower for a while and the diesel remains from working on the engine the cabin stinks!! Fortunately the wind these last few days means our wind generator have fully charged the batteries though - and now blow fresh air in the cabin!
Today is Sunday morning. Given that we have not been able to make headway against the wind since Thursday and donft have a motor and don't seem to be able to to push forward against both the current and the wind, this morning at around 6 am we decided to go back to Rabaul. There are no other ports we can get to easily from here with the wind and currents the way they are now. We can follow the winds back there and be in port in around 34hrs.
Not sure if I blogged about it earily but we met the Mayor of Rabaul and shared some beers with him when Adam arrived. I have contacted him on the sat phone and he was very keen to help us. Enthusiastic even. gNo worries mate, I used to be in shipping, know this stuff and it will be a pleasure to help you and Adamh. He remembered our names! We will call him early tomorrow morning with our ETA and he will arrange for a tow for us for the last couple of miles into the harbour to allow us to anchor or moor safely without the motor. His son Wilson is a marine mechanic and we are in the process of booking some of his time to fix the engine. I am sure a good mechanic working on the engine in port and not at sea will be able to have it running again in no time.
The sun is now out and the wind is behind and we are airing out the cabin. Despite a lumpy sea from more than 2 days of bad weather we are flying along at about 6.5 knots. and if we can keep this speed will be entering Rabaul harbour before midday tomorrow.
After getting the engine fixed I am not sure what we can do. I have work commitments in Tokyo mid August and so probably have run out of time to sail all the way back to Australia. Leaving it in Rabaul also seems risky. Other options could be shipping it to Cairns via Port Moresby but the cost might be prohibitive. But first things first. Get this boat and her crew back to safe anchorage.
PS: Adam and I have now seen some really really big waves!
Sat Jul 28 0:35:55 EDT 2012, Solomon Sea
Posting this on behalf of David,
He called me to advise all was well but strong ESE breezes on the nose had slowed down progress. He did not want to get out the laptop in the wet conditions. Still aiming for Honiara at this point, but may change course if the head winds persist.
A couple of mechanical complications have not made things easier but nothing serious for us to worry about.
Andrew Le Lievre
Wed Jul 25 20:57:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Planet Deep, Solomon Sea
Rough night and rougher morning. For about 4 hours this morning 4 to 5 metre waves with the occasional 6 metre one on the devlinator, but meaning Leaning to 3 to 4. (Private joke with someone). 30 to 34 knots on the nose apparent. These are some of the biggest seas I have seen and to make it feel worse it is all grey and dark. Still we are making good progress and it has eased off a little now. Expect to arrive in Gizo Saturday afternoon.
Tue Jul 24 20:56:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, St George's Channel, PNG
Rough conditions - hard to type. Adam got an intiation on his first night out here sailign in PNG as we tacked up the St Georges Channel. Left Rabaul after a 3 hour wait at the customs house yesterday. Officier left key at home. Then while we waited for the other officer to turn up he remembered he had a stamp and documents in his bag. It is an old stamp he said. He showed us, stamped Adam's arm and we said it looked fine to us. Had to flee a terrible dust storm after that. Strong wind was dumping volcanic ash over us. Anchored on other side of harbour and washed everything down in saltwater leaving at sunset. Just exitig St George's channel now into the Solomon Sea. It seems like all the sea is trying to squeeze through the channel. Steep waves of up to 2 metres, current varying from 1 to 3.3 knots against us. Motor sailed all night with main in 3rd reef. Found pockets where there was no current or little current and tried to stick with them. Not dissimilar to some of the Izu Sailing so not new for the boat or skipper. But is ok for a 5 hour sail to Oshima different when we are cooking and sleeping in it. Adam is a great help. This would be exhausting stuff on my own. We were going to head down the coast of Bouganville - keeping at least 15 miles off as it is a region recovering from a civil war - on way to Gizo and Honiara. But if the coniditons are going to be like this the next 2 to 3 days will go north and around Bouganville. Will make decision later in the day as we get further away from this channel. Lots of thoughts on PNG and hopefully will have time to write them up when sea flattens. David
Mon Jul 23 2:05:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Rabaul outer harbour
We have had a productive day. Finally got the installation of the waste tank complete. Also did oil change, filter changes on the engine, fixed the windlass, installed the new thermostat in the fridge, and repacked the galley for the next passage. Wrote up the sail plan through to Mackay Australia and also notified Australian customs of our impending arrival August 13.
We will head in to town tomorrow to clear the boat and get our passports stamped. Will also pick up some gasoline for the tender and perhaps a couple of the local SP beers for the trip. Should be on our way by 10AM.
We will head first to Gizo in the Solomon's 390 miles or 4 days away. A little against the wind so expect it to be slow. Hopefully buy some nice Solomon Island hardwood carvings and then on to Honiara another 235 miles. After refueling in Honiara we have a 1100 mile trip to Mackay. We will head due south into the Coral sea and at some point will turn south west toward the Hydrographer's Passage and enter the Great Barrier Reef there.
We have had the local radio on all day. The new bulletins are all from Australia's Radio national. The music is everything from western, 70s and 80s which are referred to 'mouldy oldies' and some local music. The ads are for everything from local kaikai rice 'favored by the highlanders and the islanders', maggie chicken noodles, anti-human trafficking, HIV resistant condoms, cheap mobile phones with preloaded facebook settings and cameras. A lot of the adverts are done by familiar Sydney radio voices. Lots of SMS messages going into the radio station congratulating the various candidates who have won in the recent elections too. I need to write some of them down. "You are the sunshine of our beautiful PNG and know you will do us proud" was one I remember.
The boat is a total workshop after the last 3 days so tools are now being put away and when done will run the gauntlet of the little thieving rascals on the dock (in photo) and to go to the Rabaul Yacht club for a well earned drink for Adam. Actually the kids have been a lot of entertainment. But we can't leave the boat on the dock because of they will lift anything - even the flag. Yesterday they almost made it out to the Yarramundi on their own home made sailboat. They raided polystyrene packaging from a fishing vessel, stood up on some wood and held the polystyrene up against the wind and sailed almost into us. White poystyrene was going everywhere. When they go far enough the jumped off their makeshift boat and swam to shore.
Finally, our location as I type is on the outer harbor. We had to move the boat as the wind was blowing vast quantities of ash all over us and the rest of Rabaul. It happened yesterday too.
Sat Jul 21 21:41:00 EDT 2012, 0 N'N:E E'E, Kokobo
Attended a great festival yesterday and made some new friends.