Monday, April 29, 2013

Drifting Along at 3 Knots

After a great first 24 hours, the wind has begun to peter out (as forecast). I've been using all my skills learned while racing Fast Lane to keep this big ol' boat moving in less than 10 knots of wind.

Once the wind got to less than 10 knots, we rolled in the genoa and rolled out our Code Zero. It is a great sail in this wind--it is very light and 20% bigger than our big genoa. However, a minor cloud passing by at dusk reminded us that we probably shouldn't have it out at night, as it is too hard to see the wind coming until it is too late. So we've got the genoa out for the night.

Right now we are doing 3.5 knots in 5 knots of wind--not too bad for a 40,000 lb boat. But we're getting close to the point where we might have to crank up Mr. Perkins (the engine). We were hoping to be able to sail through the night and hold off cranking up the engine until the morning, but we'll need just a little cooperation from the wind.

For the next 200 miles or so, there is a 1-2 knot west setting current, so we can't afford to drift along forever at 3 knots.
At 04/29/2013 7:59 AM (utc) our position was 05°47.09'S 177°55.64'E

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Underway for Tarawa

We got underway this morning for the 700 mile trip to Tarawa, in the Gilberts Group of Kiribati.

Wind is almost on the beam at about 13-15 knots, so we've been having a rousing sail at 6.5-7 knots.

ETA Tarawa approx 6-7 days.

At 04/28/2013 3:05 AM (utc) our position was 08°02.23'S 178°59.91'E


We basically only had 2 days in Funafuti, and so didn't have a lot of time to relax and explore around. But we hit the highlights.

We had planned to rent 2 motor scooters for a day and see the sights together. But when we started walking around on Friday asking for someone to rent us scooters, no one in town had any for rent. Believe me Ulyana and I asked every place we stopped if they would rent us a scooter, and if not, where could we find one to rent. Eventually we learned that a good percentage of people don't own their own scooters, but when the weekend rolls around, they rent one for the weekend. So it's next to impossible to find one on Friday.

Eventually we ended up at "Andrew's". It looked like a mechanic's shop for scooters. But later we found out that Andrew is a dealer for scooters. His mechanics were commissioning a couple of new scooters, and there were 4-5 more in the shop. Ulyana begged Andrew for "just one scooter until tomorrow". He finally relented and rented her his son's scooter.

So, while the guys were back aboard Soggy Paws and Challenger fixing things, Ulyana and I ran up and down the island--to the end of the road to the south, and nearly to the end of the road to the north. Ulyana was driving and I was hanging on for dear life. About 2pm, we met with Jerry back at Immigration, where he managed to get cleared out. By then I had seen all I wanted to see, shopped a little, and hitched a ride with Jerry back to the boat. But Ulyana was just getting started... she connected with a young Tuvalian girl going to the University of the South Pacific, Tuvalu, who had lived in the U.S. for a few years with her parents (who turned out to be the Ambassador to the U.N. for Tuvalu). Ulyana ended up going out partying with her at "The Club". We old folks just went home and enjoyed a quiet moonlit night aboard.

We had dinner out at the one hotel on the water (facing west). This turned out to be an inexpensive but so-so meal. On the west side of the island, it's kind of hot--the easterly wind is pretty much blocked by the hotel. I don't know the name of the hotel, but it's the one right next to the Government Building. We had lunch at Filomena's, the other hotel. It was better and cost $6.50, plus faced the east, so there was a breeze.

Saturday morning, Dave had finished repairing the raw water pump on the engine (it had a small leak), so we borrowed Ulyana's scooter and ran up and down the island again. This time we made it all the way to the north end of the road--where the trash dump is. It's sad to see so much trash dumped right there in such a pretty environment. I know WE generate trash in the U.S., but we have more land to hide it on.

Not all the trash ends up in the dump. We saw some houses that were just disgraceful. Whether they had dumped all that trash in one spot, and it just got washed all over by high water, or whether they just tossed the trash every which way out their back door, we couldn't tell. But there was trash everywhere.

There are only 3 or 4 sights of note in the Lonely Planet. One was the library, another was the Philatetic Society--both of these were closed on Saturday. We found the "earth mover" apparently left over from WWII, and duly took a picture of it. By the time we got to looking for David's Drill, (a drill site from 1898 where Darwin's controversial theory on how atolls are formed was proven true), I was getting sunburnt, thirsty, and tired. Other cruisers had reported finding it after looking for 3 days (but didn't give a waypoint), and said "how uneventful--a concrete base with a small hole in it, surrounded by weeds and bush!" Someone else had told us it was in the middle of a pigsty. So when I was whining about being hot, tired, and thirsty, Dave took a picture of a pigsty somewhere in the general vicinity of its reported location, and called it good enough.

Another thing we were looking for was bananas for sale. We visited 3 or 4 stores but they just laughed at us. No one BUYS bananas in Tuvalu--they grow in everyone's backyard. Apparently we might have found them at the market, but we found out too late that the market runs from 6am-9am and 5pm-??. If we had more time, I am sure we could have procured some bananas, but we'll be banana-less at least until we get to Tarawa.

On the last night, Ulyana was invited to a wake. (and took Jerry along) Jerry said there were about 100 people there, many of them part of the upper crust of Funafuti society. They were introduced to the Prime Minister and several other ranking officials... and treated like royalty themselves. He said it was a good feed, too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

In Funafuti for a Few Days

The wind picked up nicely and stayed steady, so we made it in the Funafuti Atoll by about 12:30pm, and had our anchor down by 1:30, in a nice sandy spot, 35 feet deep, off the "Government Building", next to s/v Proximity.

We found the SE pass to be easy to transit in our conditions--wind about 085T at 14 knots, and an outgoing tide. We were a little worried about coming in against an outgoing tide (the wind against the current problem). We had expected some turbulence with an outgoing tide and a mostly opposing wind, but saw little evidence of it. I guess the pass is wide enough that it doesn't cause a problem. We arrived at the pass at noon with great sun, so entry was easy. It turns out to be wide open and pretty well charted and marked.

Once we had our anchor set, we hustled around to get the dinghy launched and the sail covers on, so we could go to shore and get cleared in. Customs and Immigration close down promptly at 4pm, and we managed to complete 3/4 of our clearance before 4pm. The last step was to drop the "Health Quarantine" form off at the hospital. We decided to do that tomorrow. We also managed to talk the Immigration officer into clearing us OUT for Sunday. Customs wouldn't do that and told us to come back tomorrow.

Since they were nearly 45 miles behind us, Jerry and Ulyana on Challenger couldn't quite make it in before dark. Since the conditions were good, a full moon out, and we had traversed the same route during the day, Jerry decided to come in after dark. The atoll is well charted, mostly 100 feet deep, and the marks and lights are mostly where they are supposed to be (unlike Fiji). They arrived safely and anchored behind us about 9pm.

Friday morning, I went in with Jerry and Ulyana to help them get cleared in, go drop our Quarantine form off at the Hospital, and try to clear out with Customs. A different Customs officer was there, and I showed her the Immigration clearance, and she cleared us right out. Jerry, on the other hand, was told "no" by the (different) Immigration officer. But HE took the Customs clearance back later in the day and got Immigration to clear him out.

They only get about 20 yachts a year stopping through here, and the last boats we know of were here in December. So it's understandable that they're kind of rusty on the procedures. Clearing out on Friday for a weekend departure was our idea, and may not be strictly according to regulations. But only one person mentioned the word "overtime" and suggested they clear us on Sunday. But we managed to smile a lot and ask nicely and got our clearance completed on Friday.

Cost to clear in and out in Tuvalu: Nothing.

We'd really like to stay longer here, but we're on a mission to get to Majuro by May 10th or so, and there's a light patch of wind coming in 2 days. So we plan to hustle on northward tomorrow, to get past the area of light winds before they get here.

Trip Summary - Savusavu to Funafuti: 6 calendar days, 2 overnight stops, 608 NM, 117 Hrs Underway Time, 50 Hrs Engine Time.
(High proportion of engine hours caused by having to motor east against the wind around the east end of Fiji for 2 days in light wind, then one day of squalls and light weather on the way to Funafuti). We made it by Dave's Birthday!!

At 04/25/2013 2:09 AM (utc) our position was 08°31.56'S 179°11.35'E

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blessed Wind

After motoring all night, dodging minor squalls, dawn brought sunshine and a light but sailable wind.

We put out our our Code Zero sail--a 3-ounce roller-furling big headsail, on the new bowsprit that Dave fashioned for it, and sailed all day in about 5-7 knots of true wind at about 4-5 knots. (It is quite a feat to get our heavy boat moving in that light a wind). Once or twice the wind died off, and we started the engine. But as soon as the wind came back, we shut it down again. We were trying to maintain an average of 4.5 knots, to get us in before dark tomorrow.

The wind has finally filled in (as predicted several days ago). We rolled in the Code Zero at dusk as the wind came up to 8-10 knots--too much for that light sail. We are sailing now on a close reach at 5-6 knots in 8-10 knots of wind. If this holds all night, we should be able to make the SE Pass at Funafuti Atoll by mid-afternoon.

Another boat we've been talking to on our "Trans-Equatorial Net" (12359 at 2000Z), Proximity, were supposed to make it in to Funafuti today (see their blog link on the left hand side of our blog). They've come down from the Marshall Islands and are headed for Fiji. We've already scheduled a pot-luck for the 3 boats we know will be there, on Friday night.

Challenger, whom we thought would beat us in to Funafuti, is about 45 miles behind us. When the stuff hit the fan yesterday, I guess their tacking decisions weren't as good as ours. Somehow we managed to wiggle through all the bad weather without getting hit hard again. But Jerry reported to us on the radio that their bad weather continued through the night last night and they made terrible progress. But, on the other hand, they've also been fishing--they reported that they caught a good sized Mahi Mahi this afternoon.

We haven't even put our fishing line in the water, but we will tomorrow. It's a pain to catch a big fish while at sea (no good place to clean it without getting everything all nasty). Dave spent the day of fairly calm weather repairing things, while I spent most of my time tweaking sails, trying to keep our speed up.

We are down to 95 miles to go, and looking forward to landfall tomorrow.
At 04/24/2013 8:08 AM (utc) our position was 10°02.99'S 179°26.86'E

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NW Winds Weren't in the Forecast

.. and neither was 25-30 knots! (Note to non-sailing friends--this will be boring!)

The GRIB files--almost the only thing we can use at sea in this area for a forecast--showed that our wind would peter out and shift to the NE about noon today, and stay "calm" for almost 36 hours. So we have gotten some extra easting, in anticipation of NE winds. And we were mentally prepared for light winds and the possibility for motoring for awhile if it really went dead calm as indicated.

What we WEREN'T prepared for was the "Mother of all Squalls". We had already been through a number of squalls and felt somewhat Monty Python-ish about them ("I laugh at your squalls"). Silly us. Today about noon, after successfully dodging a couple of squally bits, but making good progress still under sail, we got hit with a really big black one.

As it approached, we conservatively rolled in the genoa, and only had a little bit of sail up when the wind started to rise. Normally the wind goes up to 25 knots for about a minute, and then starts to ease off, and in 5 minutes you're sitting there rolling in the swell, your sails slapping, and no wind at all. "Well, wasn't that fun??!!" But today, it hit 25, and then 30, and stayed there for about a half an hour. That's a fairly frightening bit of wind. It was all we could do to keep the boat under control, and under those conditions, you are always wondering what might break. (Thank god nothing did!)

We still had a double-reefed main and about half a staysail out, but we turned on the engine to better be able to control what happened to us. We were in survival mode for quite awhile. The seas built really quickly and soon we were burying the bow in huge waves. Dave, who hates it when a little bit of salt spray gets on his deck, was really cringing with every wave. (Me too, as I know that some of that salty water will find its way below in all kinds of hard-to-reach places).

We struggled with that storm for almost an hour, and then when the winds started to ease off, we tried to fall off and head back NNW toward Funafuti, and found the winds directly on our nose. We assumed that the wind would go back to normal like is usually does after a squall passes. But it never did. Crap! Wind on the nose!!??

We tried both tacks. We tried motor sailing. We tried just sailing. And the waves were like a washing machine--no matter which direction we went, we were still pounding straight into the waves. All we did for most of the afternoon was sail back and forth in bad conditions. We only made 8 miles toward our destination in 4 hours. And there were more big black storms in every direction. It was truly an afternoon from hell.

Fortunately, about 4pm, the wind finally started dying off. It's still on our nose, and it's still a washing machine out here, but we're finally able to motor directly toward Funafuti at about 4 knots. That's big progress, but we spent so much time screwing around this afternoon, that we may not get in to Funafuti for Dave's birthday. :(
At 2013/04/23 8:02 AM (utc) our position was 12°00.69'S 179°47.05'E

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sailing Up the International Dateline

After an overnight at Albert Cove (Rabi, Fiji), we had a great start to our 475 mile trip yesterday. We had wind on our beam for most of the day and averaged over 6 knots. Though our course for Funafuti is 353T, we were "putting a little in the bank" by heading about 005T (a little east of the direct course). The great conditions lasted until about midnight.

Due to wind shifts and some wild weather in a squall last night, we've been all over the place, and have crossed the dateline back and forth about 3 times in the last 6 hours.

Last night's squall started with an abrupt wind shift about 45 degrees, and the wind almost died. I was so busy trying to keep sailing through that without getting "in irons" (stalled out with no control over which way we go), that I barely had time to react to abruptly rising winds immediately following. It went 5kts - 15kts - 25kts in about a minute. We were screaming along heeled over, pouring rain, and sails flogging. Dave was below sleeping, and it took a few minutes for the two of us to get things sorted out. (thank god for (a) our cockpit enclosure and (b) roller furling/reefing genoa and (c) our sturdy rig and staysail).

Of course, right after we rolled in the whole genoa in 25 knots of wind, the wind went to zero. Nil, nada, nuttin'

So we ended up motorsailing from about 1am til dawn, when Dave could see enough to feel confident about putting out more sail.

Sometime during the night, when I was off watch, and Dave was taking a nap (he swears he was taking only 30 minute naps), the autopilot broke, and we turned around and headed south. Between engine noise, and very small sailplan, sheeted in tight, Dave never heard/felt the change. When Dave's alarm went off and he came up to find us going the wrong way, and Jerry on Challenger also woke from HIS nap, we found that we'd passed by Challenger (who was following a few miles behind us) only about 1/4 mile apart, with both guys asleep. (Challenger has AIS receiver and is tracking our transmitter with a snail trail on his chart plotter. His AIS alarm didn't go off, because we are so close, it's always going off, so he's disabled the proximity alarm for our boat).

Dave's already got the autopilot part fixed, but we're sailing on the Monitor wind vane ("Henry") for now.

About 360 miles to go to Funafuti. The weather forecast calls for very light winds starting this afternoon, for about 24 hours. We may end up motorsailing through that. Dave's birthday is Thursday, and we'd like to be at anchor for that. So our approximate ETA is Thursday morning (which is Weds afternoon in the U.S.).
Underway for Funafuti (Tuvalu), Tarawa (Kiribati) and then the Marshall Islands
At 04/21/2013 7:59 PM (utc) our position was 14°32.94'S 179°57.82'W

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Checked Out and On Our Way

We checked out of Savusavu late yesterday, and we're on our way east around the eastern tip of Fiji. Winds are light, so it is a good time to be motoring east. They are supposed to fill in tomorrow, so we are lolly-gagging a bit. Should be out in the open ocean by tomorrow, headed north to Funafuti.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Almost Ready to Leave Fiji

We had a nice weekend in Namena 10 days ago, and a beautiful sail back (another beam reach in 12 knots of wind).

Soggy Paws at Namena

Since then we've been working furiously to get ready to leave Fiji. Dave has been (as usual) completing "projects"... new Bebi Electronics anchor light mounted. New "from the cockpit" mainsail reefing system. Finishing filling holes and painting the deck where we removed the old arch.

The New Arch Finished

The New (Removable) Bow Sprit

Mounting a 2-foot "bow sprit" out the anchor roller tray, to try to get our roller furling Code Zero sail out further away from the Genoa so we can keep them both mounted and use whichever one is appropriate for the winds. (If they are too close together, then tend to bind on each other when furling, which can be a bad thing if you're trying to get the sail in in a hurry because of high winds).

I have (as usual) been working on the computer... getting ready for "almost no internet" for the next 3-4 weeks while we are in transit (and poor overall internet in the Marshall Islands), trying to get our rental condo booked up for the summer, etc.

I have also spent a lot of time researching about the trip through Tuvalu (Funafuti) and Kiribati (Tarawa), and in the Marshall Islands. I have completed a good first draft of "The Fiji to Marshalls Compendium", and am working on a first edition of "The Marshalls Compendium" (see all our Compendiums here) I have also completed a fairly complete set of Google Earth Charts for the Fiji-to-Marshalls trip and the beginnings of the Marshalls charts.

And of course, there's the provisioning... making sure Dave won't go hungry (and I won't go thirsty) for the next 3 weeks is quite a big job. We expect to catch some fish, but our freezer is stocked, we've got tons of tomatoes and other veggies. Plus a bunch of meals pre-cooked for meals underway.

Provisioning the Important Stuff!

We are going to rush a bit through the islands on the 1500 miles to the Marshalls. We have gotten word of a possible dive trip to Bikini Lagoon that some friends based at Kwajalein are arranging. It is possible to visit Bikini on your own boat, but without difficult and expensive arrangements, you can't dive the wrecks there. We are hoping that this expedition friends have arranged will allow us to dive the wrecks. But we have to make it all the way to Bikini by about May 25. So our plan is to make quick stops only in Funifuti and Tarawa and blast on up to Majuro by about May 10. Then we'll have a week in Majuro to get organized and get our "out island" permits before heading out to Bikini (with a planned stop in Kwajalein on the way).

Whoosh!!! here we go again...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Off to Namena for a Weekend of Diving

Wahoo, great weather for a shakedown sail to Namena!

We spent a very short week trying to finish up projects and get the boat put back together for sailing. The arch is pretty much complete. We've got new bright LED cabin lights (twice the light at 20% the power), and for the first time in a year, I have light on my side of the bunk!!

Dave spent the last 2 days doing small things... equalizing batteries, checking out the engine, putting things away. While I worked on catching up with internet and finances (we still haven't filed our taxes...), and provisioning.

Meanwhile, Jerry's new crew, Ulyana, joined Challenger just before Easter, and she spent the last week getting dive certified. Jerry wanted to take her on a little shakedown cruise, and we all wanted to get out and dive Namena one more time before we leave Fiji.

We got the genoa up this morning, pulled out of Savusavu at about 9:30, and are under full sail for the first time since we took the genoa down in September. We are doing almost 7 knots with a about 15 knots on the beam.

We'll be back in to Savusavu on Monday to finish provisioning and preparing for our trip north to the Marshall Islands. No internet for a few days.


At 04/05/2013 10:42 PM (utc) our position was 16°51.65'S 179°14.60'E