Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nuku Hiva to American Samoa, 22 more days

What a trip!

After we finally knocked off enough sealife (barnacles) off the anchor chain, started hauling aboard about 50 feet at a time on order to arrange the chain down in the chain locker.  The overcast skies were thwarting our efforts at every turn, it seemed.  Finally, got to wthin 100 feet of anchor still out.  Got NJ into dinghy that I had previously tied both ends to port side of the boat.  She would control power and tiller operations.  Rain showers continued but during a lull, anchor finally released its grip of bottom some 55 feet below Shakedown and we were free.  Nancy put the idling Tohatsu 8hp outboard in gear and gave it some throttle.  We were underway on temporary power! (since our main engine lies dormant/kaput in the engine room).

The plan, after consultations with local knowledge, was to get the boat out to the edge of the bay, right before crossing over into the ocean, stop and pull motor off dinghy and get dinghy aboard the boat.  Then raise a sail or two to get us out into ocean and start our journey.

Always expect the unexpected...there was no wind to carry out that last part of the plan.  So if we stopped and completed the first part, we would be sitting there with no power and potentially drift into the rocks a few hundred yards to either side...

But all of a sudden, a breeze popped up going generally in the direction we needed.  So, having previously rigged the stay sail for the possibility of this maneuver, I scurried out to the foredeck, jumped up to the main mast, grabbed the correct halyard, and started handpulling the sail up.  Got it to the top, cleated the halyard to the mast, and stood back looking at my quick handiwork.

The aforementioned breeze popped up again, nicely filling the sail....until I noticed...the halyards were racing out to meet up with the sails.  They weren't supposed to do that!  During the hectic morning, I had failed to secure these(two) lines to their respective winches,  AND, forgot to tie stopper knots at the end of each, which would have stopped them at a pulley.  Needless to say, there was a lot of activity gathering in the partially wet sail that dropped into the bay when I released the halyard.  Spent the next 10 minutes or so untangling the sheets (rope) from themselves, the sail, and various appendages around the foredeck, finally re-routing them back to the cockpit winches and securing them.  All this was done while constantly checking our location relative to the rocks.  We slowly sailed a few hundred yards and the wind died again.  Still hesitant to be totally without ANY propulsion, I elected to leave the dinghy where it was....another mistake...

Nancy climbed aboard, I dropped into the dinghy to remove fuel line from the outboard so it could burn up the fuel in the carb.  It seemed to take a very long time.  Later it dawned on me that I should have disengaged the fuel line from the engine instead of gas tank...ended up burning all the fuel in fuel line, including the primer bulb!  

So now we were sailing cautiously out of the bay between the "Sentries"  Big rocks. The wind kept dropping down to zero, so we were alternating between drifting and sailing, and didn't want to lose the option that the dinghy could provide.  So on we went....until suddenly, the wind shifts, has increased speed to over 20 knots with associated waves of 6 to 8 feet high.  Now we have a problem....

The dinghy is smashing against the side of the boat's hull, the boat is rocking left to right.  How will we the dinghy around the back and get the outboard off in THIS crap?!?  So the boarding ladder goes over the side for Cap'n Hal to climb into the dinghy.  Almost gets tossed out of it.  With two long lines and a short one to use, Cap'n manages to use the lines to get around back after more than 20 minutes had gone by.  Nancy has to bring him the forgotten adjustable wrench to unscrew the broken transom mounting screw, whose handle had broken off upon arrival in Nuku Hiva.  Got that one loose, attempted the other using the installed handle...handle broke off.  Attempted the 8" wrench to no avail.  NJ had to go get the 14" adj. wrench, which, after a lot of coaxing managed to loosen this screw.

Now the tricky part...getting the lifting rig mated with the hoisting straps while there two boats are lifting and rolling next to each other in a most uncoordinated manner.  Having tied a safety line to the outboard, we were pretty much insured of loss should something go amiss....after numerous tries, hoisting rig and lifting straps were joined.  NJ started hoisting, the boat started rolling, the motor started flying and crashing numerous times into the side of Shakedown.  Cap'n grabbed blade area in attempt to reduce swing and get motor up on its mounting bracket.  But he couldn't hang on due to boat separations from wave action.  NJ managed to use safety line to get motor to sit fast against the railing.  She was exhausted.  Meanwhile, an exhausted skipper still had to make the return trip in the dinghy to the boarding ladder and...get out.  Not only were wind and waves involved, but the boat had picked up a little speed, the lone stay sail providing it (unattended).  With a literary license here, it was an "epic struggle - man against the sea".  The skipper finally got aboard after some 35 minutes effort.  He completed making the motor fast where it was, then joined Nancy in a brief rest period.  

No additional sails were to be raised today, so we just sauntered along the southwest coast of the island, watching the dinghy following along side awaiting its fate.  The fuel tank and the large wrench were still in it.  Almost impossible to board it.  Time to rig a new hoisting rig.  Decided to just tie painter to hoisting halyard and just lift the dinghy and everything in it, since the fuel tank was secure and the wrench can be replaced.  Up it came and was secured to aft coach roof just before sun went down....we sat and watch night come on.  We did not lose wrench, but we did lose the seat board.  By midnight, we had only managed to travel 22.1 nautical miles...the wind had died and we were once again adrift floating with the 1 knot current.  (As a side note, during our 2-1/2 months at anchor, the boat travelled 440 nautical miles!)

This morning we were still with no wind.  It picked up around 0800, and we had gained 5.6 miles of floating in current during the night.  We spent entire night with all electricity off.  Neither of the generators wanted to start and I was too pooped to care.  Took a look this morning...start batt for diesel was low but didn't have enough house battery power left to charge it.  Decided we could use Honda generator to provide charging power.  Found water in the carb (again) and some piece of crud in spark plug gap.  Went to pull starter rope and noticed rope cover had torn and there were only a few interior strands left.  Told Nancy hopefully it'll start before it breaks.  It didn't and it did!

Pulled fully charged main engine start battery, swapped it with genset battery.  Started genset and let it push a full 20 Amps out to electrical consumers for three hours.  Spent rest of day standing watch and trying to rest sore muscles and frizzled brains.  

At 1755 we reached 50 nm since anchor up....the rest of the journey, all 2,111 nautical miles of it was just more of the same.  This time, instead of losing the port side kayak, as was the case in the voyage from Mexico to Marquesas, the starboard kayak got ripped off during one of many storms, but it only bent the chainplate about 45 degrees instead of ripping it off.  That was a good thing.

Sunrise over Nuku Hiva on Day 2 of our journey.

Yes, we even got a bit of sunshine at the beginning.

Honda generator had to be dismembered to get to the
starter rope assembly.

Our "route" as depicted on the chart plotter

The sunrise, when we could see it was nice, but brought
nasty stuff along with it.

This is what was left of the Jib
sail after we cut off the bottom half,
but, although MUCH smaller, helped.

Our AIS showing a fleet of apparent fishing vessels
in the middle of the night.  But none of them had lights
on, so we couldn't see them.  Think they might have been
fishing illegally. 

Another sunrise.  Awaiting the surprise weather.

This is our self-steering apparatus.
We've owned it since 2007.
We decided to see if it worked.
It did!
Wondering what was wrong with us to
wait this long to stop this silly hand steering...

The mizzen sail track slides separated from the sail and
finally had to be dropped, as it wasn't helping by just flapping
around in the breeze....

One of the big wind storms caught up
with us one morning, pushing us along
at quite a good clip at about the half-way point

Example of the winds we were dealing with on a
continuous basis.

We managed to keep ourselves amused by reading books or just watching the scenery (which gets old when all one sees is the ocean).  We did have to disengage the Sayes Rig numerous times during squalls, because it just couldn't handle the sudden shifts and intensity of the winds. 

The last nine days were to prove the worst of the trip.  Nancy had fallen very ill, resulting in a bedridden existence until we got to port.  The worst of the storms caught up to us with about 2 days left to go, giving the Captain an opportunity to hand steer for the last 19 or so hours in 35-45 knot winds.  

Luckily, we were in contact with sailing friends who were awaiting our arrival in American Samoa, and they (with four dinghies), met us on arrival in Pago Pago harbor to help us limp in to a safe place to drop anchor.  We had finally stopped.