Under Way to Minerva Reef
03 November 2009
It's been a hectic few days. I arrived in Nuku'alofa on Saturday night after my longest ever connection in Nadi, Fiji --- from 4:30am to 6:00pm. Because the connection wait was over 5 hours, I had to leave the secure area, collect my bags and pass through customs, then wait around in the general terminal area. It was a long day after a long flight. I finally boarded Wasabi at around 8pm, after taking a taxi and a water taxi.
Brian on Wasabi has injured his back, and was lying on the cabin sole for a number of days before he was lifted onto a bed. He and Isabelle asked for our (Tane's and my) help in arranging to get Wasabi to New Zealand. After thinking about it for a while, and asking around, I decided to cancel my flight from Tongatapu to Vava'u, ask Tane to fly down to Tongatapu, and ask cousin Alan (who had arrived in Vava'u a few days earlier to accompany us on the passage to New Zealand) and Tomas to sail Kena south to meet us. Tane arrived a day before me, and was already helping Isabelle with arrangements. He was also receiving instructions from Brian about the systems on Wasabi. Brian has been steadily improving, and in the last couple of days he has been able to walk around a little, albeit unsteadily.
I also asked Bruce McLelland (who visited us on Kena from the Marquesas through the Tuamotos to Tahiti) if he would fly up to help us bring both boats to New Zealand together and he graciously agreed (he had to make a major effort to be able to come, as Gabrielle has an event on in a few days that required a great deal of preparation).
We all converged at the anchorage off Pangaimotu Island, the home of Big Mama's establishment. Alan and Tomas arrived early on Monday morning, complete with a full complement of fish: a large bull Mahi Mahi, a yellowfin tuna, a large wahoo, and a rainbow runner. The refrigerator on Kena was totally full, so we immediately set up for a feast on Wasabi. Isabelle is a great host, and she made us feel very welcome, preparing meals and generally looking after us. Tane and I continued our crash course on Wasabi's systems, and Brian and Isabelle arranged to fly out to New Zealand on Wednesday morning.
Wasabi, an Oyster 56, has hydraulically operated furling for the jib and mainsail, which furls in the mast. Brian showed us how to unfurl the main, but in the process of furling it again, Tane yelled, "Stop! Stop!" and when the furler stopped, we heard the sound of Torlon ball bearings rattling onto the deck --- they were falling down inside the mast and bouncing out through a wide opening just above the gooseneck. Clearly, something major had failed. We assumed that it was the upper bearing of the in-mast roller furler, but an email to Oyster in the UK put us straight. The problem is the main halyard swivel. Although much less serious, it could still easily jam, leaving us with the sail half way out and with no way to get it out further or to furl it. We spent considerable time thinking about what to do about the problem. Parts could be couriered Tonga, but overnight packages have been known to take six weeks to get through the system. Also, in attempting to unfurl the sail in order to lower it for the repair, it could jam and there are no facilities here to deal with that problem. In the end, we decided to sail to New Zealand on the jib, staysail, and engine.
Tane and I will do the first leg to Minerva reef on Wasabi, and Alan, Bruce, and Tomas will take Kena. Tane has more direct experience with Wasabi's systems, although we have both been operating the boat for the several days, in preparation for the passage. At North Minerva, we will probably change to have me and Bruce on Wasabi, and Tane will captain Kena with the able assistance of Admiral Alan and Ensign Tomas.
Brian and Isabelle left on the water taxi a little after 8am this morning, and we prepared both boats, finally getting under way at 10:40am. It's now just dark, and we're doing 5-6 knots on furled jib and staysail. Kena has been keeping with us all the way, but they've just reefed down for the night so we've reduced sail somewhat to keep with them.
They've just caught two yellowfin tuna... and we haven't. They also report that one of the large hooks was snapped off, so they have had something quite large chomping on the lures.
We're at 21 29'S 175 54'W, 210 nautical miles from Minerva North. We had rain until mid afternoon, but that has stopped and we had a great sunset.