We arrived in Nuka Hiva, Marqueses Thurs May 23, hook down at 3pm.
Having just completed the longest open water passage between two points of land....we were ready for a break and it was ....well it was almost a perfect passage. Here's the story...
We departed the Galapagos in nearly perfect conditions and a reasonable weather forecast for the next few days.
Our transmission repairs enabled us to motor south and around the remaining Galapagos and all seemed well in our world.
As dusk approached that first nightfal we noticed a large suspicious boat following in our wake. We were further alarmed as they came closer and we saw behind them no less than a 8 additional boats.
We were a wee bit spooked and took measures to insure that no uninvited guests would step foot aboard without our express invitation. (please don’t ask what the measures are...they might be illegal, (ya think?)... but suffice to say we took them).
We were flying our big ‘all black’ spinnaker and were making good time but with this large downwind sail full and flying, that’s the good news...the bad news is it ain’t real easy changing direction and made for difficult evasive manoeuvring.
Kaija & I took up our assigned positions and waited. With engine in gear we were ready to evade or repel as needed. ‘Otto’ was steering the boat leaving me to man the defenses including the whale stopper (just an expression, I have no idea what it could possible refer to, but I assure you ... it works!).
|Fishing Trawler with congo line of fishing boats...WHAT ARE THEY'RE INTENTIONS????|
...they closed in on us...and just when we thought boarding was imminent...they bore off...changed course then continued to motor up on the same course with sufficient sea room...and they started waving and cheering....and it appears after receiving all the salutations and happy smiling faced waves, they just wanted a closer look at at our nice boat and the big black sail. They motored off over the horizon and we shut down the engine and sailed into the sunset. A perfect end to a first perfect day.
The next few days were quite uneventful, pleasant enough getting used to the motion of the ocean and the ‘new’ concept of actually nonstop sailing which we had not done for a long time.
Everything was great...until...day 7...the tranny stopped working. The transmission repair work we had done in Galapagos failed. As a practice we would run the engine every second day for a couple of hours to charge things up and also to make slight course adjustments to keep our cross track to a minimum.
It's was on about the 13th hour...once again, the forward gear of our transmission failed to engage. We were already 850 miles away from the Galapagos and the thought of turning back was only briefly considered...and so we sailed on...
After all, we are a sailboat...duh!
The passage planning taught us that sailing Rumbline (as the crow flies) would be approx 3000 miles, would take 21 - 25 days. ..but turned out to be 3709.7 miles and 26 days. Our best travel day was 174 miles...our worst 54 miles...ouch!...but the real ouch happened on day 25...
For 24 days it was so incredibly glorious...hours of Bliss...what we
termed the Magic Carpet Ride...when the person off watch was trying to sleep and motion mattered...where you had no sense of the waves or of the boat moving...it felt like gliding, at night with no lights, just the stars...a true sensation of floating, like flying, incredible!
Strangely we did not experience much in the way of sea life...no birds flying...no fish jumping...3700 miles and no fish???...about the only thing we could count on was that there were be a scattered few dead flying fish...so something must be out there chasing them.
|Deck Squid....mmm maybe not so tasty???|
....Then there were the long hours with light winds when you were drifting miles off course and couldn't do anything about it... we would face that problem when it happened. All in all so far so good in fact it was terrific...we had managed to make safe passage, always finding a little breeze to keep things moving, because, if we stopped and got turned sideways to the large ocean swells, running 8 - 12 ft and then that elusive wave that doesn't fit...it's bigger and badder than the rest and catches you unaware...so keep the boat moving at all costs...and we had managed to do so....
so...on the afternoon of day 25...our second to last day, being at mile 111.1 away from our destination with light winds...but sailing at 5 kts...with our final destination within reach for a next day early morning arrival, good light excellent visibility...I could almost taste my first baguette.
Then the wind DIED!!!
I mean dead...no a puff...a whisper of air...but we were still in those big lumpy seas...12 to 15 foot swells...no real wave action, just lump and confused seas. With no way to maneuver the boat we got turned sideways quickly and for three hours we were tossed and thrown every which way but loose...oops...and I mean Kaija and I were just holding on, there was stuff flying everywhere...so just when you think it can't get much worse...and we were praying for some wind to sail by...(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again...when you pray...BE SPECIFIC)
Ol Man Murphy decided to join the crew and have his way...the skies blackened and we could see the line of squalls coming...and then came the first hint of a breeze...
...did I say breeze...what I mean is it started to blow...and blow...and blow....and within moments it was blowing 30kts...30
KNOTS!!!!!!...YES...LET'S GO SAILING...why isn't ‘OTTO’ holding course????... I had turned the Auto pilot off during this unpleasant tossing and turning with no wind episode as it was just making the drive computer crazy and being the generous Captain I am...said...ok...it's been working flawlessly for 25 days...let's give it a rest....so I shut it off....and now when the wind hits...and we started moving...I turned AUTO on but it wouldn't hold course...after a half dozen attempts it just shut down....
so keeping in mind...we had 24 days of wonderful weather...not always as much wind as we needed or too much wind from the wrong direction...and it was taking longer than we had planned...
but we were safe, the boat was easily managed and nothing was
damaged...all in all a great trip... and then Day 25... it's mid afternoon on May 22...the wind is now howling 30 to 40 knots...for 9 hrs...it blew and blew and blew some more...and it continued throughout the nite till the early light of dawn. Obscuring what should have been an idyllic sail under a full moon it was the longest period we have ever been in heavy weather in all my years of sailing. It was a very humbling experience.
Thankfully we prepared early by reducing sail with a double reef in the main...so when the wind hit...I felt comfortable with the
canvas...however, at about hr 7 of this storm...Kaija looks up and
says..."that's a new crease in the main" referring to the mainsail....I
looked up and said "honey, that ain't no crease ..that's a rent sail...
it was blown from luff to leach ...in other words...the sail was RIPPED INTO TWO PIECES...THE TOP HALF AND THE BOTTOM HALF....
sooooo...after having an almost perfect sail of 24 days...avoiding any real storms and damage...with only 111.1 miles to go...
We have no Autopilot...no mainsail...no forward gear on the tranny...it's blowin 30 kts...dark as Toby"s Arse (is that a word) and we are tired and grumpy...oh boy oh joy can you imagine the fun we were havin now?
I am driving in total darkness...no stars, no moon, no external reference to steer the boat, it's blowin steady 30 and gustin a whole lot higher, totally confused seas 15 - 20 ft. I'm driving like like a blind man...it’s pitch black and I’m trying to navigate by instrument like flying IFR (Instrument Flight rules)...diving after the wind gauge...and digital compass trying not to luff up or load up too much pressure and further damage the rig, or worst case...broach in heavy seas.
Oh and did I mention...that at one point during the night, I had been on the helm for a number of hours (as someone doesn't like to steer at night)(but is excellent in soooo many other ways)...so....I am hand steering with no mainsail and reefed headsail...30 kts...and big nasty lumpy seas...and the WHEEL CAME OFF IN MY HANDS...YUP YOU READ THAT RIGHT!...OFF TOTALLY OFF IN MY HANDS (thank you Beneteau?)
...this is a large 40" destroyer wheel on a 1 X 10 inch steel keyed and sprocketted shaft I'm talkin about...I thought I was delirious...at first it didn't make any sense....you talk about SURPRISE SURPISE SURPISE... and I felt just like good ol Gomer Pyle...(am I dating myself...does anyone remember the Andy Griffin show?)
having the steering wheel come off in your hands while you are blasting along at 8 kts in 30 kts of breeze..is not quite as serious as it happening to you in your car doing 60...but it ain't ideal!...what did you do? you ask??? haha...for those of you who know the boat you know we have 2 steering wheels...a his and hers...a backup plan...redundancy...who knows why it’s there?...but I was sure glad that other wheel was over there looking back at me (thank you Beneteau)
...don't ask...I don't know why it came off...the whole shaft just came out of the pedestal...I turned to Kaija and said...’here take this’...and handed her the steering wheel...(you gotta find humor when you can!)...then hopped over to the other wheel and kept driving.
suffice to say...we landed, well not quite yet...
just as we were approaching the anchorage of Taiohae Bay ...we were blessed with yet another squall and the entrance thru the rocks into the inlet ...
the entrance was a complete white out...no problem..., I've got a good 'GPS fix' to guide me thru the rocks...then the wind shifted on to the nose...
let's see...no forward gear on the tranny...and can't sail into the
wind...mmmmm...PROBLEM!!!...can’t see the entrance...TIME TO CALL KEVIN!
Kevin & Princess Esmarelda
...lucky for us...along come Kevin of Nuku Hiva Yacht Services. (thx to John & Cathy of Mystic Moon)...we have been communicating him regarding getting parts and service for our transmission...lucky for us...he is also the agent here and we were able to raise him on the vhf radio and he came out and towed us in...and the good news was as we were being towed into the bay...we were surrounded by a pod Melon Headed whales, bottle nose dolphins, and off to the one side were three giant mantas...how great is that.