Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nothing serious

The rigger was supposed to come on Monday,but came on Tuesday - to say he was busy till Wednesday, yesterday. So Ive been hanging about waiting most of the week to get an answer, and now have it: there are some issues with the rigging but they aren’t what I thought they were and the movement of the mast that surprised me last week is not something to be concerned about. It happens!  So, I should have carried on! Damn!

Instead, as I had arranged to meet some of my children in Vanuatu this weekend, I will fly across and stay with them as planned, then return and start again!

But the return will not have been wasted entirely because the riggers inspection of the ageing shrouds showed they are reaching their use-by date, with broken strands on most of them. I had looked for broken wires, and never found any, but thats because I wasn’t looking for the right thing - I thought I would find a broken end of a strand but what one looked  for are strands that are sitting out a bit from their normal tightly bound position in the wire. Finding these yesterday the rigger recommend replacing all of them - they are at least ten years old. The stays however are much newer and don’t need replacement, and the furler drum needed a clean and spray with CRC to be turning freely again.
A Broken wire
So while I am in Vanuatu, these jobs will get done, and it will be a lot cheaper than it would have cost in Australia or New Zealand.

Theres another job to do as well. On my long motor back to Fiji last week a problem occurred that that had developed then disappeared in 2011 on my sail to the Austral Isles : leaking around the propellor shaft. It was worse this time, and again is easily controlled with a hose clip, but not when motoring! So I pumped a bucket full of water out of the bilge every few hours. It wasn’t a major leak. But when I get back from Vanuatu I will replace the leaking propellor shaft fitting. Cant think why I didnt do this a long time ago.

Friday, July 10, 2015

One fact that I didnt have...

A Japanese Trawler passes astern
Sunset at Momi Bay
Shortly after writing my last post, I decided it might help to put the Pole out to stop the headsail from flapping about in the light wind and the rolly seas. Light wind and a swell is a real pain out on the ocean - you’re not going anywhere, and the sails are banging about in an annoying way.  On the other hand  no wind and a calm sea out on the ocean is an amazing experience,  to be floating on a massive plain that moves gently up and down makes me think the ocean is a living thing itself, slowly and quietly breathing in and out, up and down, its hard to believe it can be so quiet and so benign when its usually boisterous and active, even threatening and ...but this was not last wednesday.

I went forward with my harness on as usual and sat next to the base of the mast to undo some sheets and prepare the pole...and beside me  suddenly I noticed the mast moving, the rubber mast boot being squashed this way and that as the mast moved a few centimetres side to side and back to front with each jerk of the boom as the main filled and collapsed, filled and collapsed....what the hell was this?

I went below to see what was happening where the base of the mast sat on a metal plate at the level of the cabin sole..and it all looked normal, but again, looking up where the mast disappeared through the cabin roof, this dramatic movement was still was the top of the mast swaying wildly?

I went out and looked up, and pushed and pulled on the stays and the shrouds - they seemed OK...what the hell was this I kept asking...the mast was flexing and bending like a banana...well not quite but there was movement and flexing that I had never ever seen before.

I remembered the stay that had  come adrift - had that caused some other problem, or was that a symptom of some other problem? I remembered vaguely feeling something wasn’t quite right last time I rolled the headsail up...was something wrong? Or was this normal behaviour for a long thin metal pole fixed at each end with something pulling and pushing at it in the middle...

I sat there for ages going over the possibilities in my mind and knowing that all I lacked at that moment was a single vital fact - was this normal behaviour for a mast? Yes or no? Many, perhaps most experienced yachties would know the answer to that question right away, but right then, I didnt. But then if it was normal how come I had NEVER noticed it before? I had visions of the forestay giving way and the whole mast falling back...

Well, in the end I decided the safest thing to do was to go back! I could hardly believe I was contemplating this, yet again, going back - I had gone back to Lord Howe, I had gone back to Whangarei, I had gone back to Raiatea...and now, 110 nm out and 330 from Tanna, in other words a quarter of the way there, I turned back to Fiji, still not knowing if it was even necessary.

Before turning round I reattached the inner forestay and dropped the main and rolled up the headsail - it didnt make sense to be worried about the rigging and then keep sailing! But then, at that time there was no wind to sail with in any direction so I turned on the motor and drove back to Fiji, all the while  convincing myself firstly it was a sensible safe decision and the right thing to do, and then convincing myself I was an idiot, nothing was wrong. After an hour, I put the boat into neutral and thought about it all again...and then carried on.

My small wheel pilot has never been able to cope with the demands of keeping the boat going straight in the ocean, so I had to hand steer the whole way, 24 hours of hand steering at 5 knots. The minutes dragged so slowly by but my first spell was for ten hours. I then stopped the boat - it was 9pm - and lay down for a quick sleep. At 11pm I was off again and didnt stop till we were inside Navula Pass once more, just after noon Thursday. It was another three hours motoring up to Check In at the marina, but I just went straight across into Momi Bay, dropped the anchor and went to sleep.By then I was dropping off at the wheel every few minutes. A few hours later when I awoke, I had a nice meal of coleslaw and tinned tuna sandwiches, bananas, oranges and a pawpaw..and then went back to sleep.

Today I cleared back in to Vuda Marina. I haven’t seen a rigging guy yet but will do so on Monday and he will be able to tell me if Ive just wasted my time. Some of you probably already know!

Better safe than sorry I guess!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Day Two

I fixed it quite easily with a left over bolt from the Hydrovane attachments, and decided I must keep going. In the morning it was calm, I raised sail and then the anchor and sailed out of the bay in nlight wind but I had a reef in the main exoecting strong wind once out of the lee of the land. Sue enough thats bwhat happened and before long we were at 6 knots out through Navula Pass for the last time.

There was a light cloud cover and the swell were 2m some 3 or 4 and Fiji slowly disappeared behind. Unusally I felt quite nauseated whenever I went below, and I threw up twice. It was horrible feeling likehat but today, Wednesday mornning feel normal again.

The wind stayed strong, around 22 knots but in the afternoon it started to ease off. A Japanese trawler went by at 2pm . By evening I had all sail out and the wind was down to 14 knots from SSE. Once it got dark I had my dinner which was bread and a tin of Dahl soup that I bought in a Fiji supermarket - I had bought a test tin to see if I liked it. It was good. I had also been eating bananas before they went overripe and drinkling lots of water. I started my sleeping, had amazing vivd dreams - I remember in one I was on enormous stilts walking like a giant through a park and jumped over a lake! I saw a guy in a cool red car listening to cuban music...weird!

This morning the wind is still only 10 knots and we are making 3 to 4, rolling a bit and the sails inclined to flap.

Will have pawpaw and then weeties and coffee for breakfast. I am doing this now because the reception is good and who nows what it will be like later.

My poition now is 18.29South and 175.25East. Ive sailed 110 miles and Tanna is 340 in front. Could be a slow day today..

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Quite a Day

A helpful development at Vuda Marina has been the ability to check out from Customs and Immiugration right there, instead of going 5 nm up the coast to Lautoka, going ashore for the formalities and then headiung back down past Vuda Marina to Navula Pass about 15 miles south. Whats unhelpful is th office at bthe Marina doesnt open till 10am, and when I got there at ten to ten there was already someone waiting so I was second in the queue. Whats even more unhelpful is the Official didnt turn up till qurter to eleven, he had lost his key and well I didnt get out of there till 12.

The wonderful Marina staff came to the boat with a guitar and sang a loveley song to farewell me as I backed out of the berth, left Vuda marina for the last tiume, even Bharos was there waving as I headed out into the Bay to pull up sail , bring in the fenders and tidy all the lines away.

The wind was strong and gusty, and naurally comng straight at me from Navula pass so I was close hauled and tacking into gusts up to 27 knots and short sharp seas with lots of water everywhere and a reef in the main and few rolls off the headsail. Bashing down slowly to the Pass hoping to get out by sunset hard work and the boat getting a serious work out. Shortly after 4.30 with 3 miles to go I suddenly noticed the inner of the two stays holding the mast up from the Port side was swinging freely i8n the breeze...and we were on port tack so the port side stays were doing all the work but now there was only one instead of two....I could lose the mast at any minute...
I dropped the main, rolled up the headsail and motored into the lee of the land where the gusts were only 18 knots. I continued south to Momo Bay right opposite Navula Pass and dropped the anchor in 5m just as the sun set. The wind was still gusting to 20 knots on occasion. There was one other yacht already at anchor.Its an isolated place with no sign of life around the shores.It appears that the bolt holding the stay to the deck fitting has either snapped or unscrewed itself. Nothing seems to be broken. I will stay here tonight even though after clearing customs one is supposed to leave the country forthwith an hopefully in daylight will be ale to fix the stay with a new bolt, then continue on my way to Tanna. Once through the pass the course should be closer to a beam reach tomorrow, much more comfortable sailing.

Now lets see if Sail Mail is receving us here...

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Time to move on.

Ive been back in Fiji for nearly three weeks. As you can see in the Photo, Sapphire Breeze was sitting in her Cyclone Pit looking out to sea, waiting, and the wait is nearly over. My Fiji adventure is almost over as well, because in a couple of days we are leaving for Vanuatu, 550 or so miles to the west.

The Instructions I had left for Bharos
Since getting back Ive done all the usual checks and fixed a few things that I could, and decided to ignore  a few things that I couldn’t, or that weren’t a priority such as cabin lights, only one of which is still working. But with the help of a very friendly Kiwi neighbour John, in Fancy Free I have finally reversed all the damage that BaoBab Marine did when they removed the motor last year. You will remember they took weeks and weeks to decide they didnt  know how to repair the broken end of the cam shaft so I sent it to Sydney and had it repaired in no time at Witchard marine. BaoBab then put the motor back in but left a hose so long that it was touching a v-belt, which then snapped as we motored north, creating a minor drama for me drifting without  wind or power near a reef as I fixed it. The other problem they left was to incorrectly reattach wires to the Alternator so that my battery wasn’t being charged when the motor was running. Ive ignored that till now because the solar panel does such a good job of topping up the batteries, and because to get at the wires one has to remove the alternator, a job which is incredibly fiddly, having to reach around  behind it and free a bolt that is almost inaccessible. But I decided to go ahead and remove it, and after much testing and fiddling with Johns help, taking the alternator to Lautoka to get bench tested to see that it still worked ( For $10 !! ) and threading an entire new wire from the alternator back to the Control Panel in the cockpit, its all working again. I also got new covers made for the storage compartments under the seats in the cabin as they were all broken and split, had a cupboard door reattached and the swing-down side to a bunk reattached - all their hinges had rusted through or seized. There was of course the usual total internal scrub down, but Bharos had kept the boat well aired and dry, so the mould was minimal.

I also went to the nearby Health Center and got the Doc there to excise a skin cancer from my right arm. He said it would be no problem to do it, sounded confident but when I looked at what he was doing, using a tiny sterile blade without a scalpel handle, and doing it all wrong I had to use my free left arm to show him exactly what he needed to do. Fortunately he had made the area very numb! Unfortuantely, a few days later I had to dive under the boat to free a mass of plastic sheeting that was tightly wrapped around the prop, and in doing so I tore all the stitches out! However its healing up OK now.

That unscheduled dive happened out at Musket Cove,  a beautiful island with a Marina and some resorts on it  12 miles out near the reefs edge. I sailed there in gusts up to 27 knots to test that I hadn’t forgotten too much about how to sail the boat - it was an exciting sail using the tall thin Hydrovane instead of the stubby one that I have been using till now, the change happening because I don’t use the noisy Air Breeze wind generator on the stern - its blades would hit the tall thin Hydrovane but not the stubby one. I got to really dislike the noise it made, and found the increasing  pitch as the wind speed increased added to my stress. Again, the wonderful Solar Panel made it redundant anyway.

Out at Musket Cove I was greeted by someone I had first met in 2009 at Lord Howe Island, Alan on Cool Change. He and Tony had provided me with moral support, and Beer when I had returned there after losing the headsail on my first night out. Their encouragement was what made me decide not to give up but to keep heading for NZ...and all the wonderful adventures I have had since. Tony did a lot of talking at Lord Howe, and had great  sailing stories to tell, but Alan was the skipper of the yacht, a rather smart Catamaran that Tony was helping him take to New Zealand. So I got the impression that Alan was a bit of a novice like me. Out at Musket I heard Alans stories and he turns out to be a wonderfully accomplished, but very modest sailor who has sailed many ocean races including Sydney to Hobart more than once, and done his own sailing all round the Pacific and across the Atlantic. He told a story of being rolled between NZ and Tonga in the 1970’s, making Tonga on Jury rig. I stayed at Musket a couple of nights then returned in the strong winds that have been persisting for weeks out here, but which are now finally abating.

Today I will go on the bus to the Markets in Lautoka and get my fresh fruit and veges, tidy everything up on Sunday and hopefully clear Customs for Tanna Island on Monday . Tanna is  famous for its active Volcano. To clear in there you have to get special Permisson from Vanuatu Customs - and that arrived by email today.

Sailmail still works but the reception of late has been poor. As usual I will try to Post to the Blog from the Ocean but if the Sailmail connection is bad it may not always be successful. I expect it will take five days to get to Tanna.

I will miss Fiji. Though poor, its people are warm and friendly, the lifestyle laid back and easy, and they love Rugby.