Todays Job

Dirt dwellers often have an image of cruisers as hanging out on a beach with a good book and a cool drink. After being locked in the boat with 20 straight hours of rain we finally saw the Sun … and began a new project.

 

The foward galley sink drained awfully slow. Thinking I only needed to remove one hose, clean, and re-install it I set about doing just that. However; few jobs on a boat are exactly as foreseen.

 

I began to remove just the hose I wanted and it wouldn’t budge. I had already flushed with fresh water and closed the hose drain. Salt water in the boat is not what any cruiser wants. I ended up removing the entire drain plumbing, forward and aft sink drain, and the “T”. I jump in the dinghy to clean the hoses. W/ is the goffer making the job run as smoothly as possible. Once clean I begin to reinstall, after W/ cleaned the locker and the small spillage we had.

 

W/ poured fresh water in the sinks while I checked for leaks. Nada. While in the locker we picked up that the main galley filter was changed 10 months ago. Saving the locker empty refill routine I changed that filter too. Pumped and no leaks. All the supplies that live in that locker are put back and we’re both ready for that good book, beautify beach and cool drink. I think we’ll settle for lunch ashore.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Sail

Buca Bay

We sailed around to Buca Bay where our friends have some “sfuff” stored. There we hoped to finish the installation of the humidifier we gave them. It was not to be. Lewis had purchased a used container that was owned by a jeweler. I tried to drill a hole in the floor. No good. Not even with a carbide bit. I needed a hammer drill and we don’t carry that on the boat. Then I tried to drill from the inside out. All I did was make a hole in the inner wall. Oh well. Nothing more to do here.
 

Buca Bay Ferry Dock; Fiji

Buca Bay Ferry Dock; Fiji

Buca Bay is a major jump off point of the ferry to Taveauni; the Third largest island in the Fiji group. Twice a day a car / people ferry arrives and departs. Two times a day a people / supplies only ferry stops. Additionally; there are smaller panga’s that transport up to a dozen people with limited supplies from various villages nearby. Considering we’re 2 hours by car from Savusavu and a days sail by boat, this was a hopping place.

 
And some days it would be more so. A place called the Mission has been build here by some quite successful US physicians and several times / year various physician groups do outreach. Our cruising friend John had considered having his cataract replaced here but the need was so great he choose to wait. Dentist; oral surgeons, Optomitrist, Opthamologists and many other specialties use the world class facility here. Tomorrow; we head back to Viani Bay.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 

Out and About: Fiji

I’m getting so long in the tooth with my blog I’m not sure where to start anymore. I would like to just write short ones but once I get chattering away it seems to go on, and. on…. and on. It’s been 10 years now and truth be told I’m getting a bit tired. To make a normal full length one takes about 5 hours; editing my writing takes a lot of time as well as the thought i put into . Choosing, timing and optimizing pictures so the load fast on the web adds to it to.
In an effort to keep things shorter I’ll begin today.

We spent a week out and about in Fiji. Sailing Fiji seems to be an oxymoronic description. Day one, we headed NE towards Buca Bay. We hoped to get as far a Vianie Bay and we did. But; while I tried on three separate times to put out any sails, not one of those times was a sail out for more than 5 minutes. We motored for almost 10 hours. Yuck.

 

Photo by W Kall. Viani Bay, Fiji.

In the North finger of the bay we found a tolerable place to anchor in 60’ of water. It is quite a pretty bay but very, very deep. As the evening wore on Semele; the care taker of the place kayaked out to chat. We noticed some vegetable aboard and as we were finishing our “chat” he offered them to us. We of course want to be as fair as possible and asked him how much he wished for them. There were a dozen bananas, 4-5 Limes and 4 Papaya. He refused any pay. That is what the Fijians are like.

 


Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

 

Living Well with Pharmaceuticals !

Dirt dwellers often wonder what we do about health care and how we manage it on the boat. For the most part, living on a boat is healthier than on land. We come in contact with few sick people. The demands of the boating life; unlike those of work, does not force us being ill on anyone else nor them upon us.
 
On the rare occasion one of us becomes ill we do have a full medical kit aboard. In the remotest of places we can use the SSB / Ham setup to contact shore side medical personnel on the maritime frequencies. We also carry two excellent medical texts aboard: Your Offshore Doctor by Beilan, and Medicine for Mountaineering by Wilkerson. However, it is quite rare to get anything other than seasick offshore. Injuries can occur, yes, but general sickness not so much.
 
The other factor involved is time. We spend less than 10% of our cruising time actually offshore sailing. Mostly we’re at anchor in some of the world’s most beautiful places. And quite often where those places are there are villages, towns, people, and medical care. There is an excellent Dr. In Savusavu.
 
There maybe more than one Dr. in Savusavu but there is one in the private sector that cruisers use. He is a US certified physician who was the head of medical care at one of the hospitals in Fiji. He’s now eased up his work load and does private care in paradise; oops…. Savusavu.
 
It had been rainy all week and we’ve been cooped up aboard. In general that doesn’t help my mood. I like to get out and about. So for whatever reason, not feeling good about the weather my body decided to mimic that feeling.
 
It started out with a little fever one evening and I started treating it. The following day I noticed a mild soreness in my throat. I was treating the fever and sore throat with over the counter remedies. But; I was having difficulty. I ran out of Aspirin and my throat lozenges were getting low. I was using Saline mist like crazy so I never had a sour drip (sorry if it’s Too Much Info). Day one a temp of 102º F. Yuck. Day two I went in with W/ to town but I hung at a picnic bench and waited for her to complete some shopping. When we returned to the boat my temp was 104º F. Oh-Oh. W/ wet me down good- wet back, cool cloth on forehead, I added another aspirin especially since I had run out. 30 minutes later my temp had dropped 1/2 a degree. I forgot I could have slowly immersed myself into the water around the boat and that would have cooled me down. I don’t know how smart that would have been but it was an option. In Medicine for Mountaineering they suggest sitting in a stream if the body temperature gets too high.
 
We decided the following day to visit the clinic. From our readings of the above books a temperature this high and a sore throat could easily be Strep throat. Streptococcus is not a friendly bacteria to deal with. Even if I made it past this stage the following stages might also be problematic. As instructed in the books we should look for white spots on the back of my throat. W/ didn’t see any. We went to the clinic anyway.
 
There the Dr. found the white spots and showed W/ what to look for. He wrote out a script for the medicines I would need and off we went. Cost of the office visit: $20 Fijian. I waited at Snowy House and had a thick chocolate shake to soothe my sore throat (Cost $9 Fijian) Now I had some more energy. W/ walked to the pharmacy for the drugs and for $45 Fijian we had the weeks worth of antibiotics, Advil, and Sudafed. I was good to go.
 
Back at the boat I started my regime. My throat wasn’t too bad yet but I could tell it would take some time for improvement. That night swallowing was painful. I sipped Sprite, ate salted popcorn and laid around.
 
Day two was a little better body temperature wise, I was down around a 100º F now but my throat was still afire. As the day wore on my throat improved hourly. I’m still laying low. Reading books, playing games, and keeping up with friends on the internet all helped pass the time. And; a few extra naps never hurt. All in all, in 10 years of cruising I think this is my first time I’ve needed to see a physician and only my third time being visibly ill. Life is good!
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 

Project: Boat Power -Results

While in NZ we made a few changes to Elysium. One significant change was in our electrical power system. When we arrived in NZ we needed new batteries. We had been nursing our House and Starter bank for the last year or so. There had not been any place to get high quality batteries while in the Pacific; at a reasonable price. We could have shiped them in to an island but the cost of shipping would far out weigh the cost of the batteries. In NZ the equation would change.
But; and this is rather significant; while in NZ we ran into Phil on Silhouette. He was an electrical engineer in his pre cruising life and had run Lithiums on his boat for the last 2-3 years. He talked about how wonderful they were – all – the – time. And while we were in NZ other cruisers I know; Mark on Reach, Martin on Katie M II, BJ on Evenstar, and Paul on Anticipation  (all knowledgable sailors I respect) had either installed or were installing them. Not that we follow the crowd. 🙂
However; I do love using others as our “guinea pigs”. For the most part they too understand this lifestyle. They have the same experiences managing their electrical needs. On yachts we must blance charging, using, maintaining a battery bank, and the equipment while we keep it all working smoothly. With the guidance of those wiser than I, Elysium set about upgrading her electrical system… to Lithiums.
First was selecting and purchasing the batteries. I could have paid extra and had a local installer do all the work. The cost would almost double what I had hoped to pay. Instead; considering how cheap I am (and a bit concerned that I don’t want anyone else to blame but myself), I planned on doing the work myself.
I ordered them, as per Phil, from the Chinese shop in Taiwan. According to his information; China has spent billions of dollars in making this storage device perfect. The Chinese see the future. For the most part this technology is driving the new generation of electric vehicles. When on a yacht, in the middle of no where I want something that is not on the cutting edge. I learned in the working world that being on the cutting edge one quite often bleeds. Thus, I followed Phil’s advice and went with the China batteries.
The one real issue was that the supplier didn’t take any credit cards. There was no website and once they quoted you the amount; to buy the batteries you needed to make a bank transfer; roughly $3,500 US. After that I held my breath. They provided us confirmation of the receipt of funds but then there was a black hole in communication for a few weeks. Finally, I received a bill of lading for the batteries. And about 2 months later they said the batteries were shipped. I still worried. Four weeks later I received a note that we had some merchandise in Auckland. One would think that because we are a boat in transit this would be easy. In some respects it was; in others not so much. Of course the shipper could take care of everything and ship the batteries to Whangarei. The cost; another $500 NZ or so. With a car we opted to make a day trip to Auckland and run the paper work down ourselves. . We had left Whangarei in the a.m. timing our Auckland arrival to be immediately after rush hour. We arrived at the shipping agent by 11 am and found customs around noon. After completing the paperwork we began looking for the shipping warehouse and by 2 ish had located it. Thirty minutes later we had two boxes of Lithium batteries loaded in the trunk of the car and were heading home. I, was much relieved.
Phil on Silhouette was advising me. He said I didn’t need all the “rig a ma role” to use the Lithiums. And I wanted to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Once we had the batteries on the boat I removed the older gel batteries and we took them to a recycle depot. There we received almost $100 NZ for the batteries I didn’t want and wouldn’t hold a charge. Sweet! I kept one 12 v battery to run the boat with the battery charger.
First order of business was to “Balance” the batteries. Some “experts” say to balance them at the bottom of their charge and others say to balance them at the top. Phil indicated that one really didn’t need to do either as they would balance out anyway once connected. So, in lieu of buying a constant voltage charger or draining them to near the bottom and recharging them I simply connected them in parallel and let them self balance. Before any of you get up in arms about that, since I’ve installed and had them in operation over 6 months no pack voltage has been off by more than 0.01 V. I would say the avg difference is 0.006 V but my instruments don’t read to that minuscule amount and I’m having to interpolate.
Once balanced Phil said I needed two latching relays. We spent a good hour on the internet looking for exactly what he suggested. We needed relays that would handle high amps. What we found was going to cost me close to $500.00. Ouch! There goes simple!
Traveling back in time W/ and I had done a house sit for Scott. who owns EMPower Electrical. He is the “go to guy” for Lithium installs in Northland NZ. While at his office he was telling me / showing me about how their company sets up Lithium installs, the BMS they use and the switches. The cost of the hardware was close to a grand NZ! Ouch. Often during this process I was wondering if we had made the right choice. I had already crossed this bridge and to turn back would not save us any $$$’s. All I could do was barrel on ahead. The question was do we install all the bells and whistles for $1000.00 or do I have a minimal system with hope, a prayer, and $500.00 extra in my pocket. I decided to bite the bullet and get the complete Battery Management System (BMS). I bought the hardware from EMPower and Scott would advise me on what to do. Once I had the work completed he would check it all and bring everything up online. Of course that was more money but I’ve already taken hold of the hook.
A couple of days later he brought me the Orion BMS, wiring harness’, automatic battery switches and some extra battery cable. If I ever thought this was going to be easy; boy was I mistaken. During our first consult he drew a new wiring

Out with the old...

Out with the Old…..

diagram. Our boat is / was mostly old school. All charging and load sources were brought to individual power posts. Whichever battery bank I wanted to use were switched at the panel and run to the power post. That was NOT what I needed to do with the lithiums. ( Side note on Orion:  I’ve needed to communicate with the company via email a couple of times and they have been excellent in responding in a timely manner and answering my questions completely)

Lithiums needed to have the load and charge separately controlled. They die one of two ways: Over charging and being discharged flat. What this process entailed was installing some new wire runs. We have two alternators, one on each engine and an 80 amp battery charger. I needed to run new cables from the alternators to the lithium compartment and from the battery charger to the compartment. I was also going to add some solar panels. (Another blog entry will cover that). Solar too will need another cable feed into the charging post / switch. The Battery Monitoring System will shut off the charging of the batteries when they reach whatever setup point is entered-preventing them from overcharging. From my research Lithiums are 100% charged when they reach 14.4 volts. I set the BMS to shut down the charging a 14.3 volts. Lithiums have no need like other batteries to ever be at 100 % during any part of their life. On our regulator the max charge point is set to 14.2 volts. This ought to keep everything healthy, never really charging the batteries over 95%.
After a brief interlude of cursing from having to re route wiring W/ and I set about completing this job. Any yacht owners having read this far might well listen to the following advice. Anytime you run a water line or power cable through any bulkhead on the boat, double the size of the hole you believe you will need. DOUBLE IT! It NEVER fails that you will need to run more wires or more hose through that same hole. And as any woodworker understands: You can NOT enlarge a hole with an electrical cable or water line running through it. You either need to remove the cable / hose and recut the hole or add another next to it. At times there are several cables passing through the same hole. It would be quite problematic to remove them, enlarge the opening, then reinstall them. I opted to add more holes.
A couple of days later and a 100 wire ties fewer I had the change cables run. The next step was to remove the load from the power post at the panel and move it back to the lithium compartment. Again with a colorful language and W/’s support I set about pulling the load wiring and re routing it to the lithium bank. The idea here is that with an extreme discharge of the bank I could kill the batteries. Near future replacement is not in our budget. I have the minimum capacity of the bank set at 20%. All of this work including the language lapses took a couple of weeks to complete. (I’m retired and don’t work 8 hour days anymore! 🙂 ) I would run out of wire, need another power post, or simply run out of patience and need a break.

Lithium yacht power installation; overwhelmed.

Once completed I called Scott and scheduled a time that we could actually bring the system online. One item I was missing was a cable that connected the Orion BMS to my computer. Well, that and the BMS configuration file. Scott had both. I had ordered the cable from TradeMe; the eBay of NZ and was waiting for it’s arrival. But I still needed / wanted Scott to check everything and have the system functioning right the first time. He checked the wiring, checked that all the connections to the Lithium cells were correct, checked that the load and charge switches worked and then made the final connection. After that we checked to make sure my Ample Power EMON read the same voltage that the battery pack indicated, ran the charger and bingo… we were up and running. He advised us to run the charger up to where we had set the batteries for full and then I would be all good to go.

There was however one other concern I had. While discussing this setup earlier at Scott’s home he said that when running correctly the system will shut down the alternators before it disconnects the charge source. If one shuts down the charge source while running the alternators then you blow the diodes in the alternator. When off shore or in remote locations- that is not good. I was not interested in blowing out any diodes. He has another (yes I know) switch that I could wire into my regulator. Thus when the BMS tells the battery switches they will be shut down in 5 seconds, the system immediately disconnects the power to the regulator thereby shutting off the alternators. As that is a latching relay it will not repower the regulator until the BMS indicates that the batteries can now take more power.
For the most part; this setup is for safety. That and saving me from needing to purchase more batteries in the near future. Safety on a cruising boat is the first priority. And while I am by no means a conservative individual, sailing, when W/ and my life depend on everything working well: I am quite conservative.
As a rough total we have about $6,000.00 US invested in this battery setup. That includes a spare BMS ( I picked it up off of eBay), two new CAN regulators (they will actually talk to the BMS and are not yet installed- maybe this year), the extra cables and switches and the consulting bill from EMPower. In a worse case scenerio this battery bank will reach 2,000 cycles before degrading enough that I will need to replace anything again. Elysium is using about 10 cycles / month which would give us close to 200 months of full time cruising use. That comes out to about $1.00 / day for storage and use of our batteries. Not bad.
Remember I said whilst in the middle of this install I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. No longer. In our old system we had an effective amp hour usage of a maximum 200 amp hours between charging. In a typical lead acid battery for deep cycle use you only get 50% of the rated amp hours. In this current setup we have almost double that. To top it off, the charging of this bank is more efficient. A lead acid charge cycle voltage will taper off the closer you get to a full charge. For lithiums, I am charging at my full capacity for the majority of my cycle. I am getting the full benefit from my solar panels or my alternators all day long. Lithiums have been a good choice for Elysium. W/ and I no longer worry about using too much power. We no longer worry if our battery bank is below 50%. It is all taken care of . Hell, we even bought a Toaster and run it off our Inverter! W/’s happy, I’m happy, life is good…
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

North to the Warmth

Now I’m depressed. Keeping this blog going is not an easy task. Not easy for a cruiser that has no job and no desire to acquire a job. Keeping the boat functional is work enough. I had written this blog only to have somehow deleted it, or saved an empty file or restarted the computer. So… here I go again.

We were tired of waiting. Minerva isn’t our cup of tea. Maybe if we had planned on hanging there for a month and had everything functioning on the boat it may well have been better. Six to ten hours a day of bouncing around was not our concept of comfort. Not having the dinghy inflated and powered up limited our mobility; not that there were many places to go. Thus, daily we were watching the weather.

We download GRIB files twice a day hoping for that magic forecast. We listen to Gulf Harbor Radio (GHR) every am. David is a retired meteorologist that is also a sailor. He broadcasts his take on the sailing conditions in this area of the world from NZ 6 days a week . To date he has not indicated a perfect window for heading where we wanted to go. We wait.

With no great sailing window we began looking for a motoring window. Neither of us love motoring. However we both prefer motoring to sailing in storm conditions. The sky didn’t look great this am. There was a rain mass west of us and a little to the north. The winds were….. ZERO. We knew we would have to motor to Fiji if we left today. Fiji was not where we had intended to go but we loved Fiji, the people, the anchorages, the food, all were to our liking. So we would change plans and head there; then on to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

We pulled anchor and motored out of Minerva. Exiting was a non event. The eddies and currents generally in the pass were not there today. We kept motoring.

We pointed the bow north right into the dark mass of clouds. While dark it wasn’t worrisome. Ahead the rain appeared to come straight down indicating either wind against us, with us, or non existent. It rained some. The wind was nothing. The autopilot that we connect to the wind vane worked flawlessly. Heading north we listened to the iron gennie (diesel) pound away at the break neck speed of 6 kts.

An Unusual Look at the South Pacific

For three days and nights we expected this. Sailboats are not motor boats. We don’t do well when motoring because we roll across the vertical. We lean 5 degrees one way and 3 degrees the other as the waves roll by. Sailing, we heal but the angle stays quite consistent so our bodies adapt quite well. Power boats and especially large powerboats have stabilizers that work to keep the boat from rolling one way and then the other. Our stabilizers are the wind and sails. No wind, no sails, we roll.

It was uncomfortable enough I didn’t drag a fishing line. We motored along, reading, sleeping, keeping the boat on course. All was well in our micro world. Everything worked as it should. Close to Fiji things started to change. The water became bluer, there was more life in the sea and the air. We saw birds and of course every once in awhile trash. Two nights before we arrived in Fiji one large storm cell loomed off to the west. W/ was off watch – asleep. I watched as lightening struck everywhere in the Western sky. For the most part we’ve been lucky or I’ve wired the boat correctly. We’ve not yet been struck but with lightening it is always a gamble. I knew strikes have occurred as far away as 60 miles from the storm center. Even when we are a good bit away from the storm the strikes cause concern. I timed the difference between he lightening strike on the ground and the thunder clap. The nearest strike was 10 miles away. Not a comfortable distance but not the worst. After that close strike the storm moved off behind us and we kept getting further and further away. W/’s off watch was over and I updated her on the situation. I went below to sleep.

The following day we spoke with sv Second Wind. They left a couple hours after we did and were not as lucky. The storm moved right over them. Yet as most often the case they had no damage. Both of us were heading to Fiji. The following day we hoped for a good night’s rest; one without the constant boom, boom, boom of a diesel running. And as in Minerva, offshore I check the wx every day. There was to be a glob of 35 kts of wind between Fiji and Tonga that we wished to avoid. While we had 3 potential landfalls; Denerau, Suva, and Savusavu the nearest safe harbor from this “crap” was Suva. We choose the nearest option.

The day dragged on as we were closing in on Fiji. We could now hear VHF communications and we were too fast. I know that is an oxymoron considering we travel about the speed of an average jogger. But at the speed we were going we would be arriving at Suva in the dark. While Suva is a commercial harbor we don’t want to enter a developing nation’s harbor at night – the first time. Any navigational marker broken would be a problem for us. The smaller fishing boats used by individuals in Fiji often don’t run or even have lights. Given the possibiliity of arriving earlier then we want we try to slow down. When I feel a little puff of air on my face I said “Let’s sail”.

What a joy it is to turn off the engine and let mother nature move our boat. The calm serenity of Elysium moving through the water under the power of the wind is what our soul desires. We weren’t going fast, 3- 4 kts but we were moving. And move we did for about 3 hours. Then the breeze died and the sails hung like the dead. The sails furled we start the engine. We motored slowly towards Fiji but we would still be too early. As night descended and as we closed on Fiji we decided to lay ahull. We shut the engine off and floated for a few hours. I calculated the time we would need to arrive in Suva in light and we waited. We still keep watch even though we are not moving. You never know what can happen out here. I am always amazed at how many times on the open ocean we’ve had to change course to avoid another ship. In many cases we would have the right of way. But, we never play chicken with ships. NEVER. Late night we start up the diesel; again, and motor into Suva Harbor. We arrive at dawn.

Anchored; we call the Suva Yacht club. They provide the service for the officials to come to the boat. They then inspect the boat, check us over (visually), and provide the paperwork for us. We are now legal to be here. Before noon we are legal. Oh do we look forward to a good night’s sleep. Little did we know.

 

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

Anchor and Chain….Found!

It was the third or fourth time we’ve looked for Elysium’s anchor system. The final two times I was invited out to look. I brought my tablet so we wouldn’t repeat any areas we had dragged in. The Royal Suva Yacht Club and Charlie’s Divers have been instrumental in removing the 5 lost anchors. Ours was the last and we were getting worried that it might not be found.
 
One huge issue is that I didn’t have the location where I dropped it. If you read the previous post you know that we had moved an hour before the storm arrived, it was calm and I wasn’t a bit concerned about where were were lat / long wise. Lesson Learned. When moving the boat and anchoring; have the charting program on!
 
So what I had been using was some common sense and the coordinates of other boats effected. What I was missing a bit was that we never dragged anchor. Princess Civa never forced the anchor out while pushing us downwind. I’m not sure the anchor would have come out considering how difficult it was to get out once found. I have a difficult time imagining the damage that might have occurred then!
 
It had been a week and with only one anchor left to be found there didn’t appear to be much impetus in locating it. But like the Bull Dog W/ sometimes becomes, I kept visiting them and asking when they would go looking…again.
 
Finally Friday pm Charlie (the owner) said we would go and I could come. I brought along my tablet with iSailor installed. Based on where the other anchors were found I thought we would be in that area. We dragged for about an hour picking up a another nice mooring line, a fishing net and lots of plastic. Charlie had another dive to do so we headed back and he said about 10 tomorrow we would look again.
 
That evening I sat and thought about where we were. I looked at where we had dragged already. Considering where I now thought it might be we never covered the correct area. It must be about where we anchored. Knowing where I thought we were and where we saw Princess Civa ram right into Sahula I put a new anchor on the chart. You can see it in the image posted.
 
Ten in the morning I was at the Yacht Club and no Charlie. Luckily I found someone that had his personal cell number and called. I didn’t get a hold of him but got his wife who would pass the message on to him. Thankfully he received the message and called back. He suggested a new time 3 pm same day. Ok. I’ll be here and back to the boat I went a little disappointed but glad he called and I wasn’t “stood up”.
 

iSailor instrumental in locating the anchor.

Three o’clock came and he showed up! I was ready. We headed out and I explained my new thinking. I showed Charlie where I thought I was anchored and the way we were when the wind was blowing. We started dragging the grapnel. Overboard the grapnel went and line paid out. We towed it from the bow, slowly moving backwards while iSailor charted where we were. Charlie watched the display and we picked up a couple of chunks of plastic. Stop, haul in the grapnel, clear the flukes and keep going. After we were far enough away we picked it up and moved again to where we could drag across the expected lay of the chain. Our main anchor system has 300’ of 3/8” High Test chain.

 
We’re going along and snag something… again. Stop the boat and haul it in. Francis (a friend of Charlies) was along to help. He’s pulling and it’s not easy. Charlie and I join him and we can’t get it up! Maybe? As we are lifting what ever it is higher and higher it is getting heavier and heavier; like chain would. Charlie decides to buoy it and get his dive gear. Back we go to the shop and 15 minutes later we return to the spot.
 
We pull it up as far as we can on the boat and cleat it off. Charlie is in the water to check. Yep, it’s chain and he’s concerned it’s not shiny. Nope; we don’t have SS chain but galvanized. Ok. He moves the line with the grapnel to the end of the chain and we haul it aboard. It looks like ours.
 
As we pull it aboard I see the white paint I have signaling the end of the chain. I see the line that blew apart when I let it go. I see the markers we added to know how much chain is out. Oh happy day! It’s ours!
 
We get all 260’ aboard and are stuck, the anchor is still set in the bottom. Charlie cleats it off on the work boat and pulls. We almost pull the bow of the boat under trying to break the anchor free. There is the possibility we might have to put the chain back in the water and bring Elysium over to retrieve it. He decided to reverse directions and pull from the opposite side we set the hook. Getting a bit of way on and giving it some hp, before the bow of the workboat swamped, the anchor broke free. Yippee!
 
The three of us haul the rest of the chain and anchor aboard. Luckily as we lift it off the bottom and get more chain in the boat the system gets lighter. We secure the anchor on the bow and the entire setup delivered to Elysium.
 
There we drop the anchor and chain in the water saving the bitter end for Elysium. Francis hands me the end and I drop it over the windlass making sure it doesn’t end up back in the water. W/ and I are aboard and we haul the rest of the chain and anchor up. Yeah! We can now move to get the rest of Elysium put back in order.
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

A Night to Forget!

Prelude: This post is out of sequence. I want to write it while fresh in my mind. As I add the offshore posts I will date them correctly but post in front of this before correcting the dates.

We arrived in Fiji. The GRIB’s showed off shore winds in the 20-30 kt range and we were happy to be here and anchored in Suva. We arrived in the am and by early afternoon we had received 5 individuals to formally complete the paper work. They were, Health, Biosecuirty, Immigration, Yacht Club launch driver, and what seemed like two trainees. All were very professional and all went well.

Second Wind offered to dinghy me to shore. I bought a small amount of petrol for our dinghy engine and disposed of our garbage. Very little of our trash is tossed overboard and we avoid carrying gasoline on passages. Gasoline is highly flammable and it’s one less safety item to worry about . While in harbors or day sailing we store it in proper plastic fuel containers on the aft deck.

Late afternoon we spent some time with Second Wind. We talked about the passage and discussing Fijian formalities. We talked about our trip around Fiji and what we were going. On our list is attending the wedding of friends, massages at our beloved Una, Kakonda (the best in Fiji) at Surf and Turf in Savu Savu, and completing the varnish.

Some of that has now changed.

We heard some thunder off shore and the breeze had increased a bit. Art from Second Wind returned us to Elysium. W/ was concerned about being to close to the super yacht Encore and with her provications and my acquiescence, we moved deeper into the harbor away from the super yacht. We were also in shallower water which improves our anchor scope. We moved, we got settled in for the evening and then the winds picked up.

And the winds increased more than we expected. It was later revealed to us that even Fiji Meteorological services missed this weather event. (A discussion on the event from an Aussie Meteorologists perspective)  W/ wanted to pull down the forward awning. Up we went to the bow and removed it all the while the winds kept increasing.

I began to untie the bow lines and W/ untied one of the side lines of the forward awning. At that time a gust picked up that side of the awning and knocked W/ on her derriere. Luckily she wasn’t hurt and came forward to assist on removing the awning. As we completed the removal I looked out and a 120’ steel ferry (Princess Civa) was being blown sideways by the wind heading

This vessel rammed our sailing yacht on the bow and then the port side.

right for us. My eyes lit up and a rush of adrenaline surged through me.

Scooping the awning up (no folding now) I dumped it in the cockpit and told W/ to start the engine. While she started the engine I went forward to deal with the anchor. The side of the ship was closing in. For a few seconds I thought the ship would slide off to our stern. It appeared that the stern was moving past us and we would escape in front of it. I let the anchor pendent go and W/ was now powering forward to clear the bow of the steel vessel. I am worried and scared. I saw that I needed our anchor and chain go. I let it go! The chain was flying over the pawls. I had a light safety line on the end of the chain so I would loose it to the bottom. The safety line I had attached blew apart when it reached the bitter end. The anchor and chain were gone taking with it two of the teak slats on the bowsprit. We were free from the bottom but the 150’ by 20’ side of the steel boat was now only meters away. I looked behind as the Princess Civa slammed into the bow of Sahula.

Sahula was another steel sailboat and we heard a huge bang. Seconds later the steel boat collided with us. We were about 30 degrees from perpendicular. First mv Princess Civa hit our bow pulpit bending it then collided with the bow sprit turning us immediately sideways. Next our hull was bouncing on the side of the steel motor vessel. We were now side on being pushed towards the shallows. But; we are still moving forward and I screamed above the wind noise to W/ to keep us going forward as fast as possible. We slid along the

Damage to our new paint on the port side.

steel hull ruining our brand new paint job. But; we were saving our boat and ourselves. As we slid along the side of the steel boat our rigging came in to contact with parts of the steel hull and sparks were flying off. I was concerned that if something sticking out of the ship was secured enough our rigging could catch and pull the mast down. 55’ of Aluminum crashing down on us was nothing we needed right now. Not now! Not ever!

Seconds later we cleared the bow of the steel boat. We were lucky they didn’t have a bulbous bow sticking forward underwater that we could run into. We were clear of the worst and now dealing with the winds, waves, and unlit obstructions in the harbor.

This marke passes our stern one to many times.

Attempting to motor into 40 kt winds with gusts of 60 and waves washing over the bow and me, is not an adventure I would wish on anyone. We motored by super yacht Encore who had blown aground by a shallows marker. They had their 800+ hp diesel running in full reverse throwing up water all around and screamed at us to “STAY THE FUCK AWAY’! No duh! Like that was our goal to hang out by them. W/ kept trying to keep our bow pointing in the wind but it would blow off to one side and then the other sometimes pushing her to gybe to gain steerage and the ability to make way. We kept seeing that shallows marker slide by the stern of the boat and we were spending too much time in the same place all the while feeling like we were going forward. I wanted to anchor and W/ wanted to power into the wind until the storm abated. Not knowing how long it would be and fearing that we didn’t have the energy (not accounting for the adrenaline) I wanted to anchor. We tried once to anchor once. I got our secondary anchor to the bottom and we settled down … for a few minutes.

I can’t believe when I see a cursing yacht with only one anchors on the bow. Our primary anchor is a Spade 80 with 300’ of 3/8” HT chain. Our secondary anchor is a 60 lb CQR with 130’ of 3/8” HT chain and 200’ of 3/4” braid on braid line. We were anchored in about 40’ of water and I put out roughly 200 feet of rode.

Our position on the chart plotter didn’t hold. It is still blowing the hair off a dog. I leave the protection of the dodger, W/ takes the helm and I begin the process of retrieving the anchor. 10 minutes later we have it up out of the water and we’re moving again. Not always in a good way. Our new arch and solar was only seconds from being destroyed. I’m trying to watch

In 40 kts of wind at night this is NOT good to run into!

the big picture and W/ is manning the helm. Above the wind I yell “FORWARD AS FAST AS WE CAN”. I see the marker pass feet from our stern. We motor into the wind into deeper water. We pass the bow of another steel vessel anchored and go up wind of Pebbles (the only yacht in our group not effected by the steel ship) We drop the anchor again. After paying out the 200’ of rode I’m afraid we are too close to Pebbles. We watch for a few minutes and I try to gain some rest. In this break from working W/ digs out my foul wx pants. I’m cold. I’m beginning to shiver. Adrenaline is keeping me going. W/ has a moment of being overwhelmed by emotion and starts shaking and crying. We’re safe. I hug her and we’re both thankful that we’re both here and alive; thankful Elysium on the bottom of the bay under the steel hull or pushed way up on the reef. Ten minutes later we decide that we are too close to Pebbles and pick up the anchor again. We’re both frightened enough to keep going.

I have a spot picked out on the charting program we use and we work our way up to it. There I anchor again. We fall back on the anchor, the line stretches and it holds. We begin to swing to the wind. I hide from the wind and rain behind the dodger and watch our track on the electronic chart. Ten minutes or thirty minutes later W/ shuts down the engine. Time hasn’t much meaning here. We go below. I bring up another program on a different device to watch our anchor position. I have two programs running. I watch our track on iSailor and we are filling in an Etch A Sketch area. We are staying in place.

Now almost 4 hours after it all began it appears the winds and seas are slowly abating. The gusts are not coming as frequently nor is the song the rigging is making as high pitched. We seek some solace in the land of dreams. Electrons screaming through our electronics are keeping watch. We sleep the needed sleep from a passage but the uneasy sleep from a night of horrors. Tomorrow we we see the damage not just of us but of our friends who we believe ended up in the shallows on the reef.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Minerva Reef

What a fascinating place. Cruisers everywhere love to talk about it as if they’ve reached Nirvana once there. Nirvana; it is not. Fascinating it is.

We arrived in the early am. The only entrance for boats is on the W side and quite easy to transit. I wouldn’t do it at night, even having a gps track. There are no man made navigational aids in the channel. In daylight you can see the reef shallows. At night not. Further; at night you don’t see any of the eddies from water flowing out of the lagoon.

Waves breaking on the outside of the reef.

And water is always flowing out of the lagoon. Slower during High Tide and faster during Low Tide. That’s because while the volcano rim acts as a fringing reef it is not high enough above the surf break to keep water out. Twenty four hours per day waves are breaking against and over the reef all the way around.

And for us; anchored anywhere in the lagoon provides plenty of slop. Generally there are 2 High Tides and 2 Low Tides per day. With the low tides the wave breaks on the outer rim of the volcano washing over the top. There is constant flow of water over the top but limited wave action gets through. This flow of water reaches the inside lip and there we have a constant 1-2’ water fall. The sounds of the waves against the reef or the water fall is 24/7. Not what one would think of as … peaceful!

During High Tide the waves and seas break against the outer rim still. The main energy is taken away and spread over a larger area. This energy continues with the smaller waves inside the lagoon. The smallish waves create a constant washing machine. The motion wasn’t bad enough to keep us away but it was down right annoying.

Remember – I complained about no shake downs. Three of our items never checked are; the dinghy, the 15hp engine and the 2 1/2 hp engine. There are more items still not checked but here those are the ones important. Besides that; we prefer to not travel off shore with gasoline on board. This left us at the mercy of other cruisers. Fortunately Art and Nancy from sv Second Wind were kind enough to share their dinghy ride to the top of the volcano rim and to do a day’s snorkeling.

They day after we arrived we were lucky. Those in the lagoon were lucky. The Tongan Navy arrived and said they had planned to do some war games here. Every yacht would need to move to S. Minerva. Yuck! They never told us. South Minerva is 30 nm S of where we are and not as well protected from the seas. Moving there requires motoring into the winds and the seas. I said we were lucky. One of the yachts here was a leader in the rally from New Zealand to Tonga. The rally had planned a stop in North Minerva and they had permission from the Tongan King! Whew. When they informed the Navy of the Kings permission they asked the sailors to clear the change with the Tongan King. Wisely the sailors might be in their interest to play the war games at South Minerva. Sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes.

A wide reef top at N. Minerva

The top of the rim was wider than I would have guessed. We arrived; secured the dinghy and stepped up to a river of ocean water flowing into the lagoon. Depth; about 1-2 feet. In reality Lewis (Quizotic Charters) told me to look for lobsters under the coral bommies on the volcano rim. We all were hoping for a nice haul. All were disappointed. I looked, Art looked, W/ looked. Nancy and Keith (sv Sadiqi) were smart enough to not be too enamored with looking. We were snookered. None, Nada, Zip.

We had always heard how abundant lobsters were here. Ha! You could fool me. I guess it’s like land in Arizona or Florida; how wonderful and “cheap” it is. That is …until you try to live there or build there.

Wendy, Keith, Nancy, and Art

We didn’t find lobsters there. What we found was a world of constant motion. Water flowing over the rim as a stream over shallows. At low tide the waves broke on the outside of the volcano rim and wash atop of it. The flow was continuous to the lagoon. During high tide it was rougher and a bit deeper over the rim. Yet the reef broke up the seas to a barely tolerable action such that one could hide inside in relative safety. We’ve friends that have stayed anchored in winds up to about 40 kts. I wouldn’t want to be there then. That however doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Uncomfortable maybe, not unsafe. The winds were changing to the east so we moved from the S lee to the E lee. There we would spend another couple of days watching the weather and looking for passage N.

After returning to the boats another fellow cruiser stopped by. They gifted a HUGE Lobster each to sv Second Wind and us. How sweet it is. They are lobster fishermen from the S. Island in NZ and I guess they mostly have had enough anyway. That evening everyone arrived at our boat to share in the feast. Yum!

Daily we looked for weather window heading to New Cal but Mother Nature was having none of it. Time and again we would think this was it and prepare to go. Time and again, David from Gulf Harbor Radio and the GRIBS would say “oh-oh”. A Low is forming between New Cal and Fiji or there is a mean frontal system that is arriving there in the next couple of days. We waited.

After being in Minerva for over a week, limited on what we could do, looking for a way out, we made a sacrifice. We decided we would burn the diesel if need be and motor to…. Fiji That opportunity to motor came and we left. Fiji it is.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Leaving NZ

Over half way. And it wasn’t an easy half. Sailing in the mid latitudes is not fun. We had been informed by a retired meteorologist that if we made it N of 30 S we would be for the most part on the up and up. Not so. Here too is where not having an adequate shake down enters the equation.
 
We were N of 30. Listening on the SSB that am we were informed that we would have two fronts pass over us. For most of us tropical and sub tropical sailors that means an hour or so of crappy weather and then fair winds. Not here.
 
The first front wasn’t bad at all. I turned down wind, pulled the sails flat and ran with it for an hour. Once it had passed we came back on course. Four hours later a second front crossed our path. And it was nasty. Maybe; I ought to say NASTY !
 
We saw it coming. I reefed the mainsail and we furled some jib. The winds struck and if you ever heard of heavy air; that is what it was. The colder, dense air in the higher latitudes can be more problematic. Less than an hour later I reefed our main again. I couldn’t put the third reef in because I didn’t have the lines run. Remember: shakedown!
 
The winds kept increasing. Without the third reef heaving to in this stuff wouldn’t work. By now we had pulled in the headsail and I had up the staysail. Time to reef that. I went forward to reef it and I didn’t have it rigged right. I needed a snap shackle on the clew instead of a D shackle. I got the clew pulled down but couldn’t get the sail set right. Now this is where memory is sketchy. I didn’t ease the outhaul on the stay sail so getting it down and setting of the reef didn’t work. Frustrated and with the wind speed still increasing I furled the sail. We were moving faster than I wanted to go but with only the main up it was manageable. I’m glad we had the new main built heavier than the last and glad we had full battens. For the most part it was setting pretty and the wind vane was doing all the work steering.
 
I cleaned up around the deck. Some lines had freed themselves from the belaying pins and I secured them. After cleaning up the deck I hid behind the dodger. We don’t have a high latitude boat. We don’t have a “Florida room” as I like to call it. High latitude boats generally have an enclosed cockpit. Most of the NZ boats have enclosed cockpits I call…. “Florida Rooms”.
 
I use to laugh at boats with Florida rooms. Not any more. I understand the need. Th the cold wind, the wind chill can easily be deadly. This front stayed around for about 10 hours. Never in our 35k miles of sailing had we had conditions like that and as is often the case, a good part of it was in the dark. One improvement that worked awesome was our new spreader lights. The forward deck light and spreader lights made deck work quite safer. There was not doubt about where things were; what I could do even in the blowing rain. By midnight things had eased a bit and we pulled out some jib continuing our course N.
 
As a side note; the vessel Second Wind was about 60 nm from us and they didn’t have any of this frontal event. I say didn’t have any; I believe they said they had a slight wind increase but nothing memorable.
 
As the day wore on the winds slowly disappeared. W/ wasn’t happy because if we tried to keep sailing that put Minerva another day away. Once we were below 4 kts it was time to start the engine. Generally neither of us complain about sailing at 3-4 kts. But North and South Minerva can be dangerous sailing near them at night.
 
During high tide nothing above the water is visible. I doubt one would even see the breaking waves. There is a light on each reef but the chart doesn’t say how high it is. At least my three charting programs didn’t. Knowing the height of the light and the placement will guide you in how far away from it you are. After visiting Minerva I would say it is about 15’ above sea level and not all that bright. Tonga is responsible for the lights but I have a feeling they are maintained by the NZ Navy.
 
We needed to pass S Minerva in the day light. At least that was my wish and then enter N Minerva in day light. Attempting a night pass passage was not prudent even if one has a gps track. With the engine running we could manage our speed better and our entry time as well.
 
However; as mentioned in our previous post our engine temp was still a bit problematic. W/ was worried, knowing if we had to sail the arrival could well be dangerous. I started the engine and just as before, it rose to the correct operating temp and then kept climbing. I shut it down and waited 15 minutes. Once the temp fell below the normal operating temp I started it again and viola’ ! The operating temp moved into the correct range and we were off.
 
Now we switched from wind vane steering to our tiller pilot pushing the arm of the vane. We powered for a good half day and finally there was enough breeze to sail. A few hours sail, then back to powering. I ran through the starting method that worked and Minerva was our destination.
 
We passed S Minerva earlier than I wished but I did pick up the light on it. I stayed about 2 miles off the edge; closer than I wanted. By all appearances we were fine. 30 nm further N was N Minerva. Arriving in the late morning we could see some boats anchored. We tried calling Second Wind on the radio. We could barely hear them. We were using our hand held VHF as it seems our mast mounted antenna or the bigger boat VHF isn’t transmitting properly. Did I complain about a lack of a shakedown yet ! 🙂
 
As we got closer the communication was clearer and we could see the entrance and checked our charts for a match. . For the most part it was easier than some of the passes in the Tuamotus. I could see a few eddies as water flowed out of the lagoon but nothing enough to physically move the boat about. W/ powered right on in.
 
We had been told to drag a line entering the lagoon and the fish there will grab anything. Earlier in the day we had a small fish hitch a ride and ran a hook through it. Who ever told us must be a real-estate broker in Florida because it was a tall tale and we didn’t even get a nibble.
 
45 minutes later we were anchored in the lee of the S part of the volcano rim and ready for a good sleep. That was not to be. Art and Nancy offered to make lunch for us; and even to pick us up. W/ couldn’t refuse so we spent lunch with them sharing tall tales. . After, we returned to Elysium with the goal of counting stars from our berth. A great night sleep was honestly earned.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
ps  As mentioned earlier I will move this to the correct date after a day or so. It is out of order so anyone wishing to check up on our blog will see it first. Cheers….