12 October 2017
Sent October 12th
Greetings from 14 degrees, 01' S and 167 degrees 37 W - well that is where we are at this moment in time - now it is gone, changed forever more.
We are about 22 hours (give or take a few, depending on the wind) out of Pago Pago, American Samoa. This will be a utility stop, pick up parts and necessities shipped in from the USA for the boat, re-provision our very depleted stores (food etc) and do the repairs we can, before making a bee line to get out of the hurricane zone by Nov.15, the cut off date for insurance purposes.
We listen to the nets, and cruisers are all busy making their changes for the upcoming season. Some wrap up their boats on the hard, in a place designated as a hurricane hole, head somewhere else and then come back. Others find an "in the water" hurricane hole to start from, and then spend the season dodging the weather.
In our world, this little speck at approximately the above point, we are reevaluating our options. So, to make a long story short, we are not exactly sure what lies ahead for various and sundry reasons. More on that at a later date once, we have analyzed options when we get to Pago Pago.
Since Raiatea, we hit Bora Bora, spent a lot of time getting various things sorted on the boat, finding and ordering parts for delivery into American Samoa. Bora was just as beautiful as all the other Pacific Islands. They are all different and to say which one I like most so far would be impossible. I must say that after months of mediocre restaurant food, Bloody Mary's in Bora Bora was a highlight, right up there in quality with my favourites I have had the pleasure of experiencing.
Oh, by the way, Amelie Patterson did win Alternative Album of the Year at the Calgary Music Awards. Remember how I was saying go buy her album? Well, this proves I am not totally biased. ROLL HONEY ROLL will soon be followed by another, apparently. YEAH!
The sun is coming up and the blast into my half open eyes is now a bit of a shock. I am counting the minutes until I can cook some breakfast, eggs, sausage, cheese, onion omelet is the plan. What a difference a day makes, or two days. Maybe I will pull out the frozen pancakes I made for this passage. Break, while I go do that! A real breakfast is on my horizon and some of you know how much I love my breakfasts.
The last 2 days did not qualify. Mother Nature put us on a diet of snacks. Did mange last night to heat up lazy cabbage rolls so that was yummy.
Have you heard of Suwarrow? It is a tiny Atoll in the northern Cook Islands. The Cooks have a relationship with New Zealand. Suwarrow is a protected park. No one lives there except for two rangers that manage the park and protect it from June to November 1st. The main island in the atoll is Anchorage Island. It is thick mahogany trees, and lush palm trees inhabited with an abundance of hermit crabs that at times are so thick you have to pick your way through them. These little pink creatures wear shells on their backs and are wonderfully athletic. They walk in all directions, climb rocks and even climb into the huge mahogany trees. I am not sure why they do that, they would not say. They have duels with each other with their antennae and claws. It is quite amusing to watch them. The loser then often goes to pick a fight with a much smaller, less protected individual.
Sound familiar? There are also HUGE coconut crabs. Some of their claws were bigger than my forearm. I have to admit that I really wish I could have seen one in a pot of boiling water with a large dish of melted butter waiting on the side. The colours of these crab were amazing. I saw everything from vibrant yellow, to purple, red, blues and greens and mostly a combination of the above with a pair of beady eyes. The highlight of this time was playing with two young boys on the beach! Fantasy island could be another name for my experience . We tromped through the jungle, had a beach bbq, played soccer and "shark in the water". I learned my running speed is pretty much down to that of a 7-year-old and the 3-year-old's change of direction kept me on my toes.! Missing those two little cruisers and their parents.
It is now 0211 on Oct.12,2017. We have less than 50 miles to go to Pago Pago and the last day has been a dream sailing day. Wind on the stern quarter, heading about 150 degrees off the wind with the wind vane steering and barely a readjustment needed. The swells were up to 3 metres and what a ride the Katie G is giving us. As the wave comes up from the rear it lifts her 20 tons, carries her forward, she dances a bit as the next swell comes through before dropping her bow down for the ride and the next one comes again to lift her back up. She loves it. She is a Cadillac, a sailor's boat. No being tossed around, she rides the waves like she was born into them. This is the best part of sailing. She does this effortlessly it seems, proudly, heading towards her chosen destination. She is like us, a bit worn on the outside, the cosmetics have altered with the sun and wind. She could use a month or two in the spa to freshen up.
The moon has risen, and has an orangey glow. She lights the wispy clouds around her and sends a shimmering path of silver down onto the water. Around us, the water appears like an undulating cauldron, black as oil. The 42% of exposure to the sun gives enough light that the dreaded blackness of night is lifted. She shares the heavens with the blanket of stars, no longer overpowering them. I sit in the cockpit, a rectangle of blue cushions gives me four vantage points. The seat of preference for most nights is beside the chart plotter and radar. Every 15 minutes, I lift the covers from their faces, looking for the information that will confirm our safety, direction and distance to go.
No AIS targets in sight, PHEW! It seems the big ships usually need a wake-up call. Once hailed, they check and confirm the speck they see on their radar matches our Lat and Long.
The fishing boats most often respond but if they are fishing illegally, they do not call back. I hate that! Then, it is turn on your spreader lights, put on the anchor light with the tri-light - it strobes (apparently illegal but who cares at this point). Keep calling and watch them change course. Splendid! You have the desired effect.
One thing you may be wondering is whether or not we are the only boat plagued with issues. Cruising brings new meaning to the old saying that " misery often has company". Our problems seem minor compared with the few that were shared this past week. One boat outside Tahiti harbour was lost to fire. We helped a boat that had lost steering bleed their system (hydraulic) and when that did not work, sought help with various sources through email contact to find the problem (THANKS Deny!). The same boat broke their furling line and had to jury rig a system to get the jib back in. Another boat also broke a furling line. We also had furling issues on our Tahiti and Bora passages. Different issues but we installed a new furling line that we had onboard when in port. It makes for intense and physically demanding work when these issues happen. Another boat had a fire, this one was a solar controller that caused the ignition(electrical). This morning, a single-hander was on the net; his furling line had broken and he could not get the jib in. His engine had also been giving him issues and he was not sure it would start. He was turning around and heading beck to Papeete. He also had vertigo. Can't imagine dealing with all that and being on your own out here! He called back on the evening net and had gotten everything under control. One of the cruisers in Tahiti was going to meet him in their Dinghy and help him into the anchorage.
For the most part, people do not talk about all the things that break while underway. Make no mistake. You can be as prepared as you can be and something will break. It is always a surprise, well, usually a surprise. For us, when we get to Pago Pago, we have a list of things to fix and a list of things to change that we are preventative. "Boat maintenance in exotic places" is a phrase that is shared, laughed about and known as fact. I am looking forward to handling the new jib lines we have been carrying for the past two years. It is time to change them. We have logged 7878 (just looked) nautical miles since Oct 1st of 2016. Time to change them. We had to chop about a foot off the spare jib halyard as it was almost chafed through (new splice and she is good as new). As our friend Pam said, you will get chafe where you never thought possible.
A daily inspection of the boat usually adds a point or two to the Wunderlist (Chuck's friend and my curse). He is trying to train me to make lists and I have finally succumbed. List making is a skill. Like anything, to be useful there's are tricks. First off, you have to make them. Second, you have to use them. Those are fundamental. The rest is , as they say, "beyond the scope of this paper". Love that line!
Those who always ask about Katie can celebrate with her ( and us) on her successful application of a 3 year performance artist visa for the USA. She is over the moon happy and excited. She is going to be very busy fulfilling commitments to those who supported her in her application for this work visa. In the time waiting she applied and was accepted to the advanced study of UCB ( stand-up comedy). She also is enrolled in a course at Stella Adler and started another at UCB. That's our girl!
Well, it is now very close to my turn to head off watch for the welcome two-hour rest. It is different steering with the vane in changeable winds, more intense. With the autopilot, we usually go 3-5 hours but with the wind vane, 2 hours is a max. It feels like heaven compared to the 1 hour watches of hand steering! We did that the first night out, maybe I am repeating myself.
Well, time to shut this down and wish you all a most pleasant day and life. As always, you are in our thoughts. I have had some very cheery moments remembering some of the times I have spent with each of you on this email list. Of course we each have a few friends the other has not met but most of our paths have crossed.
Once again, many thanks to my brother Gregory, a Saint, as Riyad called him, for sending this out to all of you. You know we love the replies and you can email us directly. You all have the address but I am no longer putting it in the update as these all will eventually go on our blog and that is too public to put the cherished advert-free email onto that site. So till the next time, "keep your stick on the ice."
Much love, Karen
PS: We arrived safely in Pago Pago, hook down and so happy to be here. Exhausted and ready for the next episode.