On the way to Ogasawara
01 April 2012
It is in the afternoon of the forth day of our passage to Chichijima from Hachijojima. Hachijojima, despite being part of Tokyo feels more like Okinawa and parts of Kyushu with it's flat rooftop buildings and use of stone in walls and so forth. However there were some reminders of Honshu with wild sakura blooming in the forest on the south side of one of the volcanoes. The softness looked out of place against the volcano and black rock.
We have covered about 310 miles (nautical) and have another 70 or so to go. By the time this entry is up on the blog we will have arrived. Andrew and I have gotten into a very good rhythm of 3hour watches starting from 4pm through till 9am and seem to both be surviving quite well on the broken sleep pattern. In fact I feel completely fine. We have various rules to keep safe - such as never being on deck at night or alone without being tethered to the boat. The time has been passing surprisingly quickly - especially for me as I am cooking all meals and doing the washing up - not to mention navigating and making sure the boat keeps safe. Andrew apparently gets sea sick if he stays in the galley for too long?! Cooking and doing the washing up on a small moving boat takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than in a kitchen on land. Especially if you don't want to have it on the galley floor. The stove is gimbled - that is it is on a rocking device, and I strap myself into a harness so to stay steady and not fall. I think I've done alright so far on the cooking front. Each meal has been different and varied, and nothing has been returned to the galley yet!
The evening we left Hachijojima we saw dolphins 3 times. The most spectacular show though was late in the evening when I was on watch. Two of them were darting from the side across the bow of the boat. I assume this is what they usually do but normally they can not been seen except for when they jump. Due to the phosphorescence visible only at night I could see them quite clearly as they streaked through the water leaving a glowing wake behind them. I've never seen anything like it. They actually resembled the mermaids in scene in one of the Pirates of the Carribean movies.
The following day we caught some sort of mackerel. The first fish for us to land. Neither of us wanted to bludgen it but it kindly died for us as we discussed the matter. As it stunk so much after gutting it and was really bony, it still remains frozen in the fridge. Might go down with some beer in Chichijima. We have not put the lure out since. Pathetic - I know.
For most of this passage we have had both head winds and a current against us. This has meant we have had to motor around 50 hours directly into the weather. We estimate that the current has been from 0.8 knots to 2.1 knots. The boats maximum speed is about 7 knots so every knot counts! We noticed that when it is strongest it was warmest at 20degrees C, other times going down to as low as 16 degrees C.
Last night (Saturday) the wind, still coming from the south picked up to 30knots and we were making almost no progress at all. I decided to cut the engine and sail to toward the east as close hauled as we could. We were getting some good speed at 6.5 knots but not exactly in the right direction. After some time Andrew became uneasy that the weather would get worse so we called Aaron for a weather report. We got his voice mail so called George our 2nd point man. George then proceeded to send several text messages to the satphone. The messages are limited by no more than 160 charators per message. Every one of George's emails read 'This message has been scanned by symantec.....'. (George came good in the end though - and Aaron picked up our voice mail so we got his forecast too - Thanks guys!).
With the weather worsening and at Andrew's request I turned the engine back on and we headed south again straight into the wind for a second night. Some time after, all our navigation lights and compass light went out. We took the strobe from the dan bouy (a stick you throw someone if they fall in the water) and hoisted and turned it on so we could be seen by other ships - though we had seen none in over 2 days. We then discovered our AIS system was also not working and to make matters worse the fuel in the tank was running very low. We had 100 litres spare in jerry cans but in the conditions could not transfer it. Also, because we were getting to the bottom of the fuel tank, water and debris was being picked up in the water filter and filling it up. When I cleared it I accidentally let in some air which stalled the engine. Fortunately we were able to get it started after not too much effort.
The weather as forecasted started to shift and amazingly within an hour had turned from the south to the north north west. I cut the engine again and sailed jybbing the boat 3 times in a short period. It turned out that the electronic windex which I was using to set and adjust the sails failed - it was suddenly out by 50 degrees but not consistently. So with no navigation light except a stobe that made us look more like a plane than a boat, a broken electronic windex, an AIS system not functioning, little fuel and dirty filters we sailed the rest of the evening relying on the old fashioned windex at the top of the mast and our head lamps to see it and the compass. I could not help feel it was a bit like running a company. Potentially disastrous things happen, you deal with them and just keep going.
When day broke this morning we found strange lines of rust coming from all the stanchions and other stainless steal fittings at the front and along the side of the boat. The weather had calmed significantly so we stopped the boat went about making repairs and filling the fuel tank. We found the navigation lights at the front of the boat had both flooded from the many hours of being bombarded by the oncoming weather. The bulbs inside had fused themselves to their fittings. We can only conclude that once the seawater entered the lights it help conduct an electrical current all around the place and caused them to fuse and in turn shorted the system. It seems then that electrical current escaped along the wire lifelines and stanchions and from some sort of electrolysis caused the over night rusting and possibly also effecting the electronic windex and AIS system. We've got the AIS system working again but not the windex. We will do a thorough inspection and carryout the necessary repairs in Chichijima. And Andrew can use his elbow grease to clean off the rust to make up for all the cleaning I've been doing in the galley! Ironic that for all the sophisiticated electronic equipment on board that the most simple and one would think tested technology - the navigation lights - failed and then caused a series of subsequent problems.
Well we must be coming close to Chichi now as I just popped up top to see a couple of brown booby birds and a school of spinner dolphins. A small swallow also rested on the bimney - will load up pictures tomorrow.
We have called the coast guard to tell them of our arrival and they have asked us to anchor for the night so they and customs can clear us in the morning. Yarramundi has a bit of an identity crisis right now. Still a Japanese registered boat but not registered for off shore sailing. Registered as an Australian ocean going vessel with all the safety equipment required by the Australian maritime authorities but never been to Australia. How they will deal with us tomorrow will be interesting - Will we get in trouble for sailing a coastal registered Japanese boat off-shore and past Hachijojima? How will they deal with a boat which became Australian in Japanese waters? Just hoping that as we are leaving the country they will just wish us well and agree to stamp our passports when we leave - nothing more and nothing less.
Both Andrew and I have friends in Chichijima and we also have another sailing friend arriving on Tuesday. Hirose San - skipper of Magellan Major. It should be a couple of fun days. We will leave when the weather is right for our passage to Saipan.
Few hours later...
It is now 11pm and we are about 3 hours away. A slight breeze is behind us and so is the swell at about 1.5 to 2 metres. I've been sitting on the bow of the boat facing back toward the cockpit watching Yarramundi surf the waves in the moonlight. Now this is sailing! After all the years of prep and setup and continuous repairs since leaving I finally feel I am free and sailing the oceans.