Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 8, 2011

Surprise! We’re back in NZ!

Two days before departure I met Gill, a Swiss French yachtie and told him we were planning to leave on Friday. His face turned serious:”No, you can’t sail on a Friday, it’s bad luck!” Here he went on to tell me of some of the woes that came his way when he disregarded that old sailors belief.

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Gill

Oh well, we do not have superstitions, apart from that of no whistling on a sailing boat, so we decided to leave as planned.

By the header of the post you already know that Gill’s warning materialized. This is how it all transpired.

6.5.11 – Friday – the morning dawned with clouds, rain and strong wind. There were some warnings regarding the coastal areas but we figured that once we get away from land all will be well.

We filled up with duty-free fuel, went to Customs for a quick departure procedure and at 1100, as the sky cleared and the rain stopped we were on our way. The boat felt heavy with all the fuel, water and provisions and I thought that the new old props could also be a reason. Even under sail I felt as if we had some weight tied to my cat.

Strangely enough my crew felt seasick, especially Erez, who was not able to eat or participate in the operation of the boat. Frankly, the sea WAS moderate to rough. Hopefully tomorrow everybody will feel better. Meanwhile Volkmar and myself did three hours watches to cover the long night.

I was awaken by Volkmar at 2230 with the words: “Miki, there is 40 knots wind on the nose!” I rushed out barely clothed into the torrential pour and shrieking wind. The boat was moving backwards with the sails flapping wildly. I started the engines, made the boat go slowly against the wind and arranged for the main to be lowered and the jib furled. The boat was facing southwestwards instead of the desired course of northeast. We then reset the sails in deeper reefs and went on sailing. The only damage was a chaffed 1st leach reef line which came out of place. This was a typical squall, sneaking on the man on the watch unawares. It actually happened later on my watch too and this time the max wind indication was 44.4! The barometer went down to 998 mb. That’s low.

7.5.11 – Saturday – The wind kept blowing from the northwest, straight on the nose if we wanted to point at our destination. Trying to point as close to the desired track made the boat go slow, so consulting the weather charts we decided to free the course to about 60 degrees to the wind, which will bring us to an area with easier winds from a better direction.

All that time Erez was feeling real bad and was not able to hold anything he drank. Eating was out of the question. He spent the time supine in his cabin with the bucket near him at all times. Having had the experience of a dehydrated crew member once I was really concerned and even considered turning back and other options of evacuation.

As we sailed along the rod and reel went into operation but alas, did not give the hoped for results. Instead of landing a Tuna or a Mahi mahi we caught a bird…One of those big low level fliers got it’s wind ensnared in our fishing line. Volkmar brought the flapping, angry bird to the stern and the local DR. Doolittle, the notorious barracuda dentist, yours truly, disentangled the bird and sent her on her way.

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Catching a bird

At 1300 Volkmar called me with another bad problem. Most catamarans have escape hatches, one in each hull. The idea is that in the improbable and unthinkable event of a capsize, any crew caught inside will be able to exit safely as the hatches will be over the water in the floating, inverted cat. People will be also able to go back inside for food, or whatever they will need. On “Two Oceans” there is just one hatch and it is situated on the salon’s floor, thus very close to the water on the low bridgedeck and very close to the large entry door which actually makes it completely redundant. The hatch is held closed by turning handles that have a plastic “tongue” going into a groove in the boat’s structure and can be opened both from the inside as well as from the outside. The water passing under the bridgedeck, that’s the part connecting the two hulls, is hitting the hatch whenever the sea is not smooth and some water always find a way in.

Now what Volkmar is saying is :”One of the handles of the hatch broke and the hatch is partially open, water is coming in!”

We snapped into action, Tying the broken handle to the decorative panel covering the hatch with a line. At 2300 the second chapter of the story opened with Volkmar shouting:”Both handles are broken! Water is coming in!”  He was holding the hatch, trying to keep it closed against the flow. Again we sprang into action, this time securing what was left of the handles by knotting them with good 6 mm ropes  to a strong point near the door and the salon table.

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Problem temporarily solved but I recognized the need for a permanent, solution. We could not go on safely to Vanuatu, more than 800 miles away, like this. I immediately decided to turn back to NZ and the decision had the side benefit of alleviating my concerns for Erez, who should get back on land quickly, perhaps even see a doctor. We turned the boat in the direction of Opua, a little over 120 n.m away.

I also called the NZ coast guard by Iridium sat phone to let them know of the situation and to ask them to advise the Customs that we were coming back.

8.5.11 – Sunday – Sailing with the wind from behind made all the difference in the world. The motion was easier on boat and crew and we were going fast. As we got closer to North Island the wind abated and I started and engine to get better speed.

A little after sundown we entered the Bay of Islands. In the calm of the bay Erez could leave his cabin and join us in the cockpit. We motored to the the quarantine dock near the Opua marina, securing the boat and shutting the engines down at 2020.

Bad experience, that with the hatch! Right now I think I will simply plug it and not have the safety of the boat depend on two pieces of cheap plastic.

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Note the tongue above the screw and the groove to the right. This is a typical  Lewmar hatch, good above water – not intended to work underwater!  Strangely enough, Erez, when first seeing this hatch commented on it’s vulnerability…

And the trip to Vanuatu? Erez will stay home, but Volkmar and myself – after fixing that hatch we’ll check the weather and GO!

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