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Pacific Crossing

26 April 2006

We made it! Fatu Hiva Arriving at Fatu Hiva We arrived at Fatu Hiva!!! The radar could see the island for most of the night but it was just before sunrise when I could just make out the shape of the island. There was a lot of rain and thick cloud this morning. I could not sleep yesterday as I was so excited about arriving. We insisted that Lady in White  sail in first as they have been watching our stern for days now. Jim from Cheyenne  was here too. There were about seven boats in the little anchorage so we had to anchor in over 20m. That was ok though as the anchor bit well. Shortly after anchoring, Richard, Barry and Jim came over and we polished off a bottle of rum to celebrate our arrival. This was the first chance we had all had to really meet though we seem to have been through a lot together. It seems to me that these three men really demonstrate the very best of what the sailing community should be about. The support they offered us was invaluable and Richard and Barrie added days onto what was already a long passage by staying with us. During the afternoon Kev was very busy and even paid a visit to Lady in White. I on the other hand slept for three hours and only woke when Kev shook me. The beauty of this anchorage is hard to describe. It is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The vegetation is bright green with palm trees and dark rock. This is exactly as I imagined a Polynesian paradise to be.

24 April 2006

Lady in White  are still with us. We are more or less drifting for a lot of the time. Kev has had many conversations with both Oyster and Selden. At this stage, Selden are offering to replace all three pairs of shrouds and the spreader tips. They will fly a rigger and a surveyor out from Tahiti to make the repairs. It is so hot especially when we motor without the sail as this is the only source of shade. We have about 145 miles to go. Don Anderson the weather man has been forecasting a tropical cyclone near the Gambier Islands. Our friend Phillipe from the yacht Tiva  is due to arrive there tomorrow so we are hoping he makes it in before the storm arrives. He was reporting 40 kts from the north west last night.

22 April 2006

Sailing under jury rig Still creeping towards Fatu Hiva. Our guardian angels on Lady in White  are shadowing us closely. The weather has eased and they have made a few sail pasts for us to take what I hope will be good photos. The rig is holding up ok since we hoisted the genny. Our latest problem is that the wind has dropped so much that the genoa keeps collapsing and refillling with a bang which shakes the whole rig. We are having to motor and are very low on fuel. We may have to take diesel from Lady in White  though if possible we want to avoid doing this at sea. I spoke to Irishman  (a 92 ft yacht) last night, they were in our area and offering fuel.

19 April 2006

Lady in White arriving Emergency pack Transferring a parcel at sea We rendezvoused with Lady in White  today. Richard very kindly offered to lend us his Iridium phone so that we could speak to Selden directly for advice. We towed a waterproof bag behind us on a long line. In the seaway the line wrapped around his prop but his rope cutter made short work of it. Richard put the phone in the bag and dropped it back to us on a line. When we opened the bag we found that he and Barrie had prepared an emergency kit for us! Kevin spoke to Selden several times during the night to see how best we can proceed from here - we still have a long way to go. Selden are adamant that we should have no mainsail up. Up to this point we had been sailing with about 10% of the main up. They wanted us to use the genoa as this will put most of the load onto the backstay, not the mast. We had been unwilling to do this without knowing the condition of the cap shrouds. Selden seem confident that those shrouds ought to be fine. On their advice we gingerly unfurled part of the genoa and the boat seems to be handling that fine. We are still going very slowly.

18 April 2006

jury repair Richard had emailed Oyster and Selden yesterday (via Kev's Dad) to ask for advice on how best to stabilise the mast. We had to go up the mast today. I tried first and only got a little way past the first spreaders. I wore a partially inflated life jacked as padding though this was a mistake. Wearing the jacket did cushion the impact of the mast but meant that my arms and legs could not reach around the mast to keep me steady in the swell. Kev tried next and made it to the upper spreaders. This was really difficult as the boat was still rolling gunwhale to gunwhale. He managed to take a lifting strop and to wrap this around the front of the mast and cross it over at the back of the mast. He attached two spinnaker sheets to the ends of this strop and brought them down hard to the toerail. At one stage he needed to unclip his harness which was holding him close to the mast. A wave chose that moment to belt into our side and Kev went flying on his halyard out past the shrouds and spreaders. Luckily he managed to grab the shroud on the way back in to prevent himself crashing into the mast. By the time we made it back to the deck he was covered in a collection of bruises. (He also informed me that a cricket box would have been useful..) On the advice of Jim and Selden we brought the lines from the spinnaker uphaul box down to the centreline of the boat. The mast seems significantly more stable now.

17 April 2006

Onion throwing With the help of lots of good advice and moral support from Lady in White , Cheyenne  and Cheshire Cat  we managed to stabilise the rig further yesterday. We also managed to get the first couple of hours sleep in two days. Today we decanted the fuel from our cans into the tank. That was a horrible job as the boat was rolling so heavily that both gunwhales were underwater. The heavens chose that moment to open with yet another squall just to put the icing on the cake. We were not having fun. Kev (through gritted teeth) kept telling me that "Remember it is only a hobby". Jim suggested that we secure a line around the upper spreaders and bring this down to either side of the deck to take some of the load off the spinnaker sheave box. In this swell, either of us going up the mast is not going to happen so Kev formulated a cunning plan. He wanted to throw our lead line over the spreaders to the front of the boat and back through the other side of the spreaders to the back of the boat, and use that line as a messenger line to take stronger rope up. I pointed out that flinging a lump of lead up into the rigging to have it come crashing back onto the windows was probably not wise. We needed another sort of weight. After searching the boat for something suitable, we decided that our onions were the right size and weight. Our portable drill never expected to find itself drilling holes in onions but was pressed into service. As it happened, the onion throwing was not a success and now our damaged rigging smells like pizza thanks to little bits of mashed onion. We reduced the tension in all halyards to relieve any strain at the top of the mast as we have no idea how sound the cap shrouds are. If they fail we will be in huge trouble. Richard from Lady in White  has been in email contact with Kevin's parents and we were galled to hear that they received a letter from Oyster on the 6th of April. Selden had warned Oyster that exactly this sort of rig failure had been spotted previously and consequently had changed the design of their spreaders. The failure was due to wear - a design fault. We did not receive this news in time as we left on the 2nd and our Sat C ( and therefore email) stopped working on the 3rd.

16 April 2006

Broken Shroud Kev shouted, "Theresa on deck!" at 0200 and I just felt sick. I knew this was something bad. Our port intermediate shroud had failed in exactly the same manner as the starboard one had failed yesterday. Immediately we furled the main away and set spare halyards to help support the mast. We checked into the radio net at 0800 and reported our situation. We were in a bit of trouble as we could not sail with the mast like this. The seas were 2-3 metres and with nearly 1000 miles to go before the first possible landfall at Fatu Hiva, we did not have enough fuel to motor that distance. Jim from the yacht Cheyenne  who also checks into the net knew a lot about rigging and suggested that we take two lines from the toerail on either side of the boat up to the spinnaker pole uphaul and winch them tight. Though this mast fitting is not designed for that load this might buy us some time and help stabilise the mast which at this stage was flexing drastically from side to side as we wallowed in the swell. We did this straight away and the amount by which the mid section of the mast was moving from side to side reduced from several feet to several inches. Richard and Barrie from the yacht Lady in White  were only a few hundred miles behind us and they offered to meet us and transfer fuel. These two boats agreed to keep a four hourly radio schedule with us as we were not at all conviced that the mast would remain intact. The biggest strain on the rig at this stage is the swell - without being able to sail we are pretty helpless in the toughs. The waves are too big for us even to motor effectively as the propellor cannot grip the water properly and just cavitates. I never thought we would be looking at this sort of failure on this boat.

15 April 2006

A very disappointing start to the day. When I came on watch at 0300 Kev suggested setting the sails to goose wing. This means that we have the mainsail pulled out to one side of the boat and the genoa on the spinnaker pole to the other side of the boat. With the wind directly behind us this is the best way for us to sail. The rolling was atrocious as the seas were big, maybe 2-3 metres. At first light we decided to bring the towed generator in as we were moving so slowly. As we brought the sails in (we need to almost stop to retrieve the generator) we looked up and noticed that our intermediate shroud on the starboard side had failed immediately above the lower spreaders. We could not believe it. We immediately gybed the main over to a port tack and furled the genoa. The crazed and frayed ends of the snapped wire shroud were slapping against the mast and radar. We cannot understand how this has happened. The rigging is only four years old and we checked for corrosion before leaving Iquique. At least we expect for the wind to remain on our port side until Tahiti so we should be alright though this will cost us dearly in terms of speed and time. At this stage we plan still to call at Fatu Hiva as it is on the way but I think that our plans to cruise the Marquesas and Tuamotus might have been scuppered.

13 April 2006

We are making slow progress today though overall our passage has not been particularly slow. I think this is because we have headed for a more southerly route where there is on average more wind. Though the wind direction is regular we expected the trades to be a little more consistent in strength. Still it is not hard work and is comfortable. I spoke with Don Anderson over the radio today. He is based in California and gives weather information to cruising yachts. He seems very knowledgeable and shed some light on the effect La Nina conditions might have on this passage. On his advice we intend to carry on south until we reach 10 degrees, then we will turn more towards the Marquesas Islands. Kev and I are trying to decide how best to spend our time in French Polynesia. There is so much to see but we will only have a three month permit.

10 April 2006

We are at about 8 degrees south and seem to have found steady tradewinds. We are sailing well and catching up on some sleep. We saw another group of pilot whales majestically swimming past the boat, these guys were not intereseted in us at all. Last night I saw the most impressive meteor I have ever seen. It had a huge orange flaming tail and I watched it shoot across most of the sky before it went behind the clouds. Usually I only see them for a second or two but this one I watched for much longer. It was brilliant. I have been taking a lot of star sights and sun sights as I hope to use this passage as my Ocean Yachtmaster qualifying passage. I quite enjoy the astro navigation aspect of this.

8 April 2006

squall drink Yesterday was very tedious. Most of the day was just squall after squall. Though not particularly violent they succeed in producing a very confused sea state and between the squalls there is no wind. This means that we rock around going nowhere for a lot of the day. We are both getting tired.

5 April 2006

Pilot Whales Pilot Whale It is very hot and difficult to sleep during the day. We saw a huge pod of pilot whales. They seemed to be very interested in our towed generator but fortunately did not touch it. They swam in our bow wave like dolphins. Each day Kev checks in to the radio net. There are a lot of boats all relatively close together. I saw a red footed boobie yesterday, he tried to land on our mast but failed. We have been very lucky in so far as we have been able to sail without difficulty since the first day. Usually there is very little if any wind here at this time of the year but we have had 10-15 kts all of the time, this is from the SSE and we are heading SW so the direction is good for this small amount of wind.

2 April 2006

We were off today at 0900. We saw a lot of sharks close to the coast. Yesterday I saw a lot of sharks and golden sting rays swimming past us at anchor.