Two weeks at sea now. It’s an emotional roller-coaster. The days glide by as we plough through the Pacific, heading further West to eventually go East. In the process, we almost lost the gennaker halyard..
Monday, 30th of March (Day 13)
The daily rituals start to sink in and the days flow into a rhythm. To ease my frustrations, I stopped cleaning up after the crew. I’ll just have to accept that with guests on board things just won’t be up to our standard.
After breakfast I download the weather report Grib files and weather route models as usual. It’s shows the same it had been showing for a couple of days now. We are again heading too far south, straying from our course to Tahiti, adding unnecessary time to our journey. This has been bothering me for some days now. But I think it is better to keep the fragile peace and not question the decisions of our skipper. He was hired to bring us across the Pacific so we have to trust his judgement on the route and appreciation of the weather. If it was me personally, I’d follow the computer models and jibe to move up North East for a day. We would probably catch better winds and would save a day or two. I show the weather reports to our first mate, hoping he that he would see the same and have a chat with the skipper.
Linda made some bolognese spaghetti for lunch and prepared a Portuguese stew for the guys for dinner. She is remarkably well adapted to cooking up a meal in a rocking galley, quite amazing. We are lucky to have a chef like Linda on board, every day is a feast.
After lunch my ‘wicked’ plan came sort of came through. As Linda and I were relaxing down below, our first mate came to ask for some assistance on deck. He needed some help in putting up the pole for the gennaker as we would be changing course to a downwind run. By doing this we hope to go more Westerly and less Southerly. Putting up the pole is putting in place a big pole that runs from the mast to the foot (bottom) of the gennaker sail. This prevents the sail from collapsing if there is not enough wind to keep it filled. It forces the foot of the sail to be in one fixed position.
The first couple of hours on the new course were extremely rolley due to the swells coming from the side. As we have been on a starboard (right side) tack for days now, everything in the boat is kind of stowed in position to accommodate the starboard heeling. The new direction of the swells made the boat heel as much to starboard as it did to port, shaking things up down below.
As the night fell, the swells reduced and the rolling became less. It made for a comfortable ride into the night. Again with a full gennaker up in the air, this time attached to a pole, scary.. Luckily with the radar showing clear skies and somewhat of a moon poking over the horizon we can see ahead.
During the night watch it was a constant struggle to keep the sail filled with air in the light wind, preventing it from excessive flapping. The wind was turning again, pushing the boat more South. If only we’d jibed, we would have been very happy with these winds and head into the direction we are supposed to be going. Ah well, that’s sailing, pointing the bow of the boat towards the direction you do not want to go.
Tuesday, 31st of March, (Day 14)
Emails came back from UK sail makers in Hong Kong. Their offer looks promising. More importantly, the Hong Kong sail loft is open for business. Hong Kong has been hit by the corona madness weeks before the rest of the world started to panic and lock down. And with the experience from SARS back in 2003, the government is a lot better prepared to deal with a situation like this. As a result, it’s business as usual for Hong Kong based UK sails.
The morning was filled with another session of sail maintenance. During my morning watch, again, without any form of communication, the skipper popped up from the companionway and suddenly decided to fill up the diesel tanks some more. We lugged about six jerrycans from the sail locker up front and syphoned these into the dark abyss of the tank.
After that, he and the first mate start taking down the gennaker to patch the sail, again. As predicted the duck-tape solution from earlier lasted for about 20 minutes. This time our skipper decides to use the cement glue and the bit of sail repair fabric that I bought for this purpose back in the Galapagos. It’s a two man show again. Both of them fiddling around on the front deck, first with glue and scissors to patch the sail and then with garden hoses to make some sort of shave protector for the halyard. The duck-tape wrapping of the halyard lasts for about two days. Our skipper thought it would be a good idea to chop up some garden hose and stitch that to the line as a shave protector. He mentioned this plan yesterday, and I asked him to check the mast documentation for the dimensions of the blocks up top. But it seems they went ahead guided by experience and good hope, I just hope there will be no damage to the….
Just as I was about to finish this sentence, our first mate came down to the cockpit and asked me if I could help pull a line as I’m a bit stronger than the two of them.
As it happened, the makeshift garden hose anti shaving solution was stuck in the block at the top of the mast. The very thing I was afraid that would happen. I pulled the lead line as hard as I could, but to no avail. Now what? The only solution now is that someone has to go up into the mast at open sea, not fun at all!. I dug up the boson chair from below our bed. This is a device in which a person is hoisted up into the mast.
Our first mate was the lucky one that got hoisted 20 meters above the deck. But for this to happen we needed to take down the Genoa sail as we needed it’s halyard to connect to the boson chair. Now we have two sails lying on the deck and just about every line available to us unwound and used for something. Our first mate was slowly elevated to the top of the mast. The roll of the boat is awful up there. On just a 15 degree rocking angle, the top of the mast would swing 5 meters from side to side. The Genoa halyard runs from a block just about a meter below the top of the mast. He couldn’t reach the block in the top, in which the piece of hose was stuck. We quickly brought him down again, just 5 minutes up top had shaken him to his core.
Next our skipper valiantly went up the mast himself to attempt to undo his handy work. It took the better part of the day, and three more trips up and down the mast, but finally we managed to attach a long end of very strong dynema line to the bit up in the mast with the garden hose stuck on. We attached this to the anchor winch and managed to pull it loose with brute force. Of course I was not too happy about this course of events, but I bit my lip and tried to help best I could.
We could now finally restore the boat to working order. Hoist the sails back up, and clean up the mess that was created.
Everyone was knackered and a bit sunburnt from spending the day on the deck. Especially our skipper and first mate, who worked through what’s normally their sleeping time.
After all the commotion and the sunburn, I didn’t have much of an appetite. I whipped up a small Caprese salad with one of our last fresh tomatoes. No fresh basil leaves, so just some dried basil, pepper, salt, olive oil, balsamic and some fresh cheese I picked up at the Deli in Panama.
Our sunset watch was peaceful, another glorious sunset and lights winds pushing us into the night. Our course is now due West, hoping to find some better winds in our path.
During the night we got a better breeze, bringing the boat back to an acceptable speed. But the whole day can be written off as a loss of progress. During all the ‘repair’ activities up top we were slowly motoring at 4 knots to keep the boat as stable as possible.
Wednesday, 1st of April (Day 15)
Cereal for breakfast again, ugh. But it will have to do for about 12 more days. Then the paradise island of Tahiti lies before us, with all the things you’d desire laid out on the shelves of the Carrefour supermarket. At least I hope so. We managed to secure an AirBNB type accommodation in Tahiti next to a Carrefour. Our agent in Tahiti provided a couple of options and our dear friend in Macau arranged for the booking. The Iridium satellite internet phone thing has proven to be one of the most useful gadgets we’ve brought along on this journey. Without it we would have been in a void of information. Then again, maybe that would have been a good thing, as all the information that comes and our limited capability to act upon them adds to the stresses aboard.
After breakfast I created a new lure tackle for the fishing rod using one of the spare squid lures. Our first mate had thought me some finishing tricks. We briefly hooked a monster fish on a similar lure a couple of days ago, so maybe we will get lucky with this creation.
In the afternoon we gybed the boat to go South West again. Gybing is changing the direction of the boat, moving the sails to the opposite side. This is quite an exercise when the gennaker sail is out on a pole. But this time it was a three man effort. Craig and our skipper furled in the gennaker, hauled in the pole and moved it to the opposite side of the boat. I was back in the cockpit managing the sheet lines and the direction of the boat.
Nothing much happening after this, the boat makes acceptable speed running in this direction. We probably need to gybe a couple times more the coming days to keep close to our planned track. The winds are due East, making a straight course Westward hard to maintain.
For our meal we prepared a ham and cheese panini out of 15 day old bread. This must have been some weird McDonald’s bread recipe, as I don’t know of any normal bread that stays edible for so long. Some cheese ham and Thai sweet chilly sauce made up the filling. To press down the bread we filled a pan with tins and put it on top. Finally some good use for these tins. The panini turned out pretty yummy.
Around my sunset watch the boat always springs into action. The generator starts humming, our first made starts cooking or reheating a meal for him and the skipper. Linda is taking a shower. The water-maker running at full throttle. Everybody preparing for another run into the night with the gennaker on a pole. It’s easy to get complacent at sea. The same rituals every day, the weather seemingly predictable. But then suddenly it’s not, and then you better be ready. So far the forecast looks good, the sky clear aside from those typical trade-wind fluffy clouds.
During the night the clouds around us started forming rain. A big patch of black clouds followed us from the side. These rain patches show as red blobs on the radar screen, so they are easy to track and trace. The winds picked up gusting to 20ish and the radar now showed a red patch about 4 miles out, straight on our path. At our current speed, 4 miles is about half an hour away. If it was up to me I’d roll in the gennaker, start the engine and head out the way of this ominous patch. I woke up our skipper to ask what he wanted to do. He rolled the dice and figured the rain squall would disappear in time. Luckily he was right. By the time my shift was over the skies were clear again, no trace of the rain to be found on the radar screen, it all dissipated as quickly as it came.
Thursday, 2nd of April (Day 16)
This morning I didn’t want to get out of our cabin. I was feeling a bit depressed and frustrated about the situation. I don’t know what will happen with the boat once our crew takes off with her to New Zealand. The sail from Tahiti down to North Island is normally not a calm as the sail across the Pacific. Weather can be relentless and you would need to make wise decisions on timing and track. We also don’t have a plan yet for the care and maintenance once it gets there. I probably can’t fly to New Zealand to take care of it myself due to all the corona lockdowns. So I have to depend on a marina or the crew. I know I can’t count on our skipper as he just wants to get to the Philippines as quickly as possible and sees our boat as his only way to get there. Luckily our first mate is a helpful and friendly guy, but I’ve got no idea if he’d be able or would be willing to take care of Ah Ma whilst I’m not there. I’m not counting on it.
Eventually I dragged myself out of the room to do my watch. It was uneventful and calm. Wind at the back quarter, pushing us along at 6 to 7 knots, only 20 degrees of target, not a bad heading so far.
In the afternoon I decided to distract myself with some cooking. I haven’t eaten anything yet today because I couldn’t stomach another bowl of cereal. So I whipped up a simple focaccia with the leftover pizza flour and some cherry tomatoes. Whilst the dough was rising, Linda made us some dry noodles for lunch with some left over sausage from the crews’ dinner last night.
The Magma did a great job in cooking the focaccia, 30 minutes on low heat, in a pan on top of the rack. The result was great, a bit of comfort food to rest the soul.
The rest of the day was uneventful, almost boring. The winds turned a bit in our favour, so we’re now heading straight to Tahiti. About 9 days the plotters estimate, that is if we keep up this pace. But the weather reports show light winds a couple of days ahead.
The night was same as the day, uneventful, good winds, very tired.