Day 1: We upped anchor about 9 am after a good breakfast and running the generator. We wanted to be out of the pass before the tide switched; better to wash out than fight the current getting out. While we waved to the residents of Tetautua I don’t think any were up and about or they just weren’t watching. Understandable but too a little disappointing.
We tooled across the harbor listening to our engine. The click we had started to hear was becoming more noticeable and I counted 2 / second at about 1,200 rpms. So I emailed that info to our shore support team and received a cryptic reply from one that he could not believe; since I’m an iPhone guy, that I didn’t have the strobe on the phone and did not have the tach set accurately. Damn! I never thought to look in the App store but now I will add that to my list.
Even if the engine would have quit here we could have sailed out and if the winds are to do what history tells us we could sail all the way to Pago Pago, American Samoa and into the harbor and anchor; all under sail.
We did make is successfully across the lagoon under diesel power and leaving the pass a pod of dolphins waved good bye to us. Fish here were in a feeding frenzy and had we been up to it we could have dragged a line and caught at least something. But we were most concerned with getting our sea legs and setting the boat right for the trip South and West. Too as we exited the lagoon the water was swirling about on the ocean side of the pass, boiling and turning over as if at the base of a waterfall. The lagoon water must be a bit higher than the ocean to create this effect. That happens because the wind driven waves are pushed into the lagoon over various shallow places in the atoll and the exit points are smaller than all the entrance points leaving the water level in the lagoon a tad higher than the ocean. When you are talking about trillions of liters of water pouring out a few small openings you end up with the whirlpools full of small fish just outside the door, a smorgasbord for lunching by the larger fish.
We set the Yankee, adjusted the wind vane and laid back with our books. It was looking like a fine day as we sailed on we looked up every so often to see our home of 5 months disappear below the horizon. We will miss our friends and life on the atoll.
Day 2: Yesterday we clocked close to 100 nm and while it’s not near our best day we were satisfied with the results. The sailing was easy and the ride a little uncomfortable. The seas as usual were not our friend and with the lighter than expected winds combined with left over swells from what looked like 3 different directions we were pushed around a bit. The movement of the boat necessitated always using one hand to hold on to the boat as we moved about below. The winds dropped off today and our second days run was in the low 80 miles. W/’s been warming up the meals she had planned and the brownies I’m trying to stretch out for as long as I can. We’re feeling more normal and our sea legs are sprouting but I’ve not yet felt like putting a fishing line into the water. I hope maybe to tomorrow. Progress!
Day 3: In the am I usually fire up the SSB and using the Pactor to connect with either Sailmail or Airmail to get the new Gribs. I’m not sure why I do this as they are computer predictions of the weather and they are so often missing what is going on locally that the whole situation frustrates me, but I still do it. W/ turned on the SSB for me as we started the day and her first words were “Oh-Oh”. The Icom 802 didn’t switch on. Time to see what the issue is. I’ve never had occur before but for most of our years cruising we had the SSB connected to a circuit breaker (against what the manual says), and on the trip from the Galapagos I figured to follow the manual. In the Galapagos I made the change and connected the radio directly to the hot power post. So I start to investigate; I check the connections and they all seem solid, I check the fuse and it tests good. I put the fuse back in and hit the switch – Boom! the radio has power. In one of my emails to my shore support team both Mike and Dirk tell me they have had their radios lock up too and had to depower the connections and then connect them back up. Oh well, something new to keep in mind. Fortunately for the rest of the trip we had no more issues with the Icom.
Today I gave in and drug a lure about 50 nm+ and nothing, not even a bite, nor nibble. There just doesn’t seem to be any fish here. We’ve not even seen any other boats around. None, Nada, Zip!
Day 4: Last night W/ thought the generator sounded noisier than usual. Well; since we were beginning our night watch and there was no immediate need to start a project that could be saved till we are both rested and there is light out I would look at it in the am. With first light I found the adjustable bracket for the alternator had broken. Just @$#%^^@#$ amazing! The belt was still on and had a bit o’ tension I figured we could run it under reduced load and since the only thing we really used power for last night was the sailing light (1 amp) and the iPad (another amp or less) the batteries wouldn’t have been drawn down much. First I pulled off the bracket so it wouldn’t rattle back and forth then we charged the batteries and ran the refrigeration compressor. That done I set about to create a Willy Wonka – Rube
Aquagen Broken Bracket ready to reinstall
Goldberg repair. I had enough play in the bracket I could shorten it a bit and put it back on. W/ and I set about to drill a hole in each piece and then I would pin it with a bolt. And that we did, while the boat rocked and rolled, W/ held the plastic cutting board over the bucket (I didn’t want to drill into the boat) and I balanced as well as possible and we drilled. I drilled a bit; W/ added a small amount of oil to the bit tip. What seemed like an hour later we had two holes drilled in the SS bracket. I then inserted the bolt and a locking nut. Later in the day when the generator had cooled down I would put the bracket back on.
We weren’t flying along but we were making progress to our destination. Today I dragged two lures in the water and had no strikes. However; when I retrieve the lures some of the plastic fringe was missing on one of them with my only conclusion being that one pescado had decided to taste test before swallowing the whole thing and after said test decided this was not the fare he wished. Again a day without a nice fish.
Day 5: I have the bracket replaced and it’s doing its job. I still have the generator turned down because when we tried to run the alternator at greater power the belt was screaming at us. Neither of us love to hear that talk from the system and more so I don’t like the belt dust that a slipping belt creates.
About an hour after sunrise I hear my fishing real zing! A fish. I grab the rod and yell at W/ to get my fishing belt. I get the rod out of the holder and look for what we have hooked! Wow! A bill fish. This will be fun. As we’re only traveling about 3 kts I just hoped to stop the fish and then drag it through the water eventually killing it so I can bring it aboard. But stopping the fish was never in his future. He jumped several times all the while my line was still ripping off the real. I was getting close to the end and yet the entire time I was increasing the tension on the real trying to stop the loss of line. I had it cranked up as far as it would go and then the line reached the end where everything sat in stasis for a few seconds only to reward the fish with a “Ping”. He just snapped a 100 lb test line. As Dirk says, “You don’t really want a fish that big anyway” and ironically fate decided the same thing. No fish, just a fish story.
Day 6: The winds have really, I mean really died. We are now floating. All sails are down, the helm is tied off and the only movement we have is from the waves and currents. Unfortunately the seas have not died near as fast and so we are bobbing around much more than either of us would wish. Today we make all 20 some miles. We attempt to sail 3
No Puffs even in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean
times and have a grand ol’ speed of about 2-3 kts at the best of times. During the second try sailing I noticed I could see a small patch of blue where red should be in our drifter. A part of the seam either chafed or let go. When the sail is down I will stitch it back together. I download a very large area GRIB and discover that 300 miles south of us the trough that had run to Samoa from the higher latitudes has formed into a L pressure system. Fortunately it’s 300 miles S. Unfortunately it has cut off our winds. Fortunately it is 300 miles S. Unfortunately it throws up squalls and sometimes
Fixing a seam on the Drifter
thunderstorms. For the last couple of nights we’ve been watching a wonderful lightening show south of us. Now we know the cause. And it was wonderful because it was 300 nm S of us.
Day 7: Becalmed again. With the drifter back 100% we’re able to fly it again without concern. We look forward to moving again. Some might ask why we don’t motor and had the engine been running perfect and we had adequate fuel we would have. We have about 40 gallons of diesel saved for the main engine and since I don’t know exactly what the tick, tick, ticking is I want to save the engine for the final entrance to Pago Pago. Today, trying to move in the direction we need to go we made 8 sail changes. Our boat is not set up for the fast easy sailing like some boats where you push a button and roll up a sail or roll it out. I believe in the KISS method of cruising (Keep It Simple Stupid). I’ve seen too many in mast furling problems to have a system like that in as remote a place as the Pacific. I reef the main, I throw the reef out, we hoist the drifter, set the pole, douse the drifter and store it below deck. We put up the staysail and reef the main; all the while trying to find the right sails to keep moving. Early afternoon we again sit, sails down, going nowhere. By now however the seas had dropped to nothing matching the winds and Neptune was undulating like a giant breathing while sleeping on it’s back. We rolled slightly but moving on the boat was close to being anchored in the lagoon. By evening we had some breaths of air and were sailing again.
Day 8: Sailing in light air is magical. Sailing at night too has it’s own magic and if you combine them you have one of the rare moments we all love. We were making about 3 kts on a flat sea with stars shining brightly framing the Milky Way. For 5 hours we were in Heaven. By early am we were again becalmed and this would be our last time. We have now crossed the line to the last 100 miles to go. I’m thinking that if we get within 50 miles of Pago Pago and there is still no wind we will fire up the ol’ Perkins and take the risk.
Day 9: Much like the earlier days we were making progress but it was in the 2-3 kt range. My fishing wasn’t going all
Even the Birds liked the Lures
that well but I did drag two lines and one spinner on a sinking rig. Somewhere in the late am we hooked a white fish only to be surprised when we pulled it in it was a beautiful Tropic Bird. The good thing about Neptune is nothing goes to waste out here so we gave her back to the sea. Damn. Lures out again later in the am I got another strike. This fish I never saw. By the time I reached the rod the line was ripping out like a marathon runner had grabbed it. I again tried to increase the drag stopping the fish but he would have none of that. Out the line ripped and at the end I could see the line stretch and then “Ping”, it parted. Damn! Only one lure left. And to my chagrin while the line had paused at one point and I stupidly put my thumb on the real, the fish had decided to make another run at freedom leaving me with a nice friction burn on my thumb. Now I’m down to only one lure and one good thumb. The blue and white lure had to be the one to catch something. It hasn’t received much notice and I’ve not used that color much but since it’s my last lure I’m trying it. Mid afternoon we get another hit. Since we now only have one line to worry about I go to grab the rod and W/ is watching the end seeing what fish we might have. She later reports it as some wide bodied silver fish. But as in my other scenarios this one too rips off all my line even as I tighten down the drag on the real. I am afraid I have both reals now burned up and will have to check them in port. Af the end of the day, I have 4 lures now in Neptune’s hands and no fish. Some exciting fishing but nothing to take pictures of.
Day 10: After the squall last night and clicking off quite a few miles while the stars passed slowly overhead we were both up in the am contemplating our arrival. We had two options; if the winds stayed we could go for it and if it became to dark we could heave to offshore. If we were close enough to dusk we could motor in. Dirk (part of our shore support) had indicated that the harbor is safe to enter at night -he however did not, and the author of a cruising guide said that he had entered the harbor at night when the power was actually out. But night entrances are often fraught with dangers and if we could we would like to enter while the Sun still lit the way. We decided to go for it. We shook out one reef in the main (we still had one in. We pulled out the Yankee and added the staysail. We were making 6+ kts for a good part of the am with the winds slowly dying out. But; we were closing in. Early pm we saw the mountains of American Samoa and we felt we could make it in and anchored while it was light yet. About 3 miles out the winds had lightened enough that we started up the engine and I began furling the sails. Passing through the outer reef we were greeted by another pod of Dolphins. Either they beat us here or their cousins told them of our impending arrival. The site of them swimming near the boat, surfacing and diving filled us with the joy that comes when when you have shared your time on the ocean with them. We cleared the outer reef and both of us were quite relieved. We still had light, the sails were furled, and we were motoring towards a good night’s rest. We entered the harbor proper and moved to the back where the small boats (like us) were anchored. There we dropped 200′ of chain with our trusty CQR in about 35′ of water and sat down elated and exhausted. One of the best things about any passage is the first night’s sleep. I’m reminded of how I slept in high school or college. Like a baby!