Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 30, 2011

NZ to Vanuatu

NO PICTURES IN THIS POST. RAGING OCEANS AND GREY SKIES DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH WELL!

17.5.11 – Tuesday – I woke up in the morning excited and elated. We’re finally going! During the past few days I was mulling over the idea of taking a third person to replace Erez. The idea of a six hours sleep during the night was still appealing. Monday morning there was a lot of talk on the cruisers net regarding “crew”; some people wanted to find a boat, others were looking for crew and all decided to meet at the marina’s Laundromat at 10am. Volkmar went there to represent a Brazilian friend who was delivering a 55 foot catamaran to Tahiti and at the same time put an ad for us. Very quickly we had three young people coming by or calling to try and hitch a ride to the islands. One was a 39 years old Israeli by the name of Guy Haham (the H sounds like the Spanish J) and the other, Guillome, a 23 years old Canadian from Quebec. I also had a text message from a French girl, Melanie. The idea of a young woman on the boat with us two old guys did not seem right, not to mention my wife’s aversion to other women on board when she’s not there, and so was immediately dropped. The other two lads came over to chat. Both have no sailing experience to speak of and the driving force behind them was the romantic idea of “sailing to the islands”. The fact that it could turn out to be pure hell does not enter their minds. I figured that although both were really nice guys they would be a burden rather than effective participants in the voyage and decided to stay with the present crew. I later heard that both found berths on yachts that went out Monday to Fiji; I hope their trips will be good!

So here I am, sitting at the salon table, coffee cup in hand, when I see Volkmar’s frame slowly moving from his side of the boat to the center. “Miki, I have a bad pain in my knee” says he. “I think I should see a doctor” Oh, Oh! In my mind I can see us getting stuck in Opua for yet another indeterminable period, but Volkmar’s health was the priority.

Volkmar phoned an Austrian friend who is a nurse describing the symptoms. The friend advised him that a doctor will not really help and that just time, Voltaren (anti- pain and inflammation cream) and cold compresses will make it pass. I was careful not to influence his decision but was very much relieved when the decision was:”GO!”

I will tell you right now that after only one day his situation improved greatly, the second day it was “91%” and on the third day it was no longer mentioned.

1100 saw us out of the Bay of Islands, wind WNW 15-17 knots that backed to the west and increased in strength. Very quickly we found ourselves deeply reefed against irregular wave pattern. Rough ride!

Volkmar, who took anti sea-sickness pills, the famous “Paihia Bomb”, decided not to eat although he did not feel queasy at all, so I gave up cooking and made do with sandwiches. We started alternating three hours watches. Sleep was not so easy with the boat slamming on every other wave.

18.5.11 – Wednesday – During the night the wind backed to the SW and now, mercifully we had it from behind the beam, which made life easier. In 24 hours we got closer to Vanuatu by 152 miles. We decided to prefer comfort over speed and held the boat reefed a little more than was needed, to make the motion bearable. For lunch I made chicken soup with veggies – a meal that lifted up our spirits. We decided to have the main meal at mid-day, it made the watches arrangement easier. Dolphins came for a short visit, good omen?

At night the wind went back to the south and was cold and we were sailing wing and wing with the jib poled out. The wind-speed dial was jumping between 13 and 33 knots. I don’t remember ever seeing such a thing for such a long time. Started the port engine to charge the batteries and Volkmar said there was no water flow from the exhaust. Shut it down and went investigating. Everything looks good but what is this puddle in the engine room? It seems we have a leak in our hot water tank. Having had the experience in 2007 I knew what to do. I disconnected the water inlet into the tank and plugged it with a bolt I set aside for the task. Cold shower until this is fixed ( as if anybody thinking of taking a shower in these conditions) I start the engine again a check the water outlet – pissing nicely! Got to keep an eye on that one!

19.5.11 – Thursday – Barometer is going up and so is the temperature but it is still cloudy and rough. We are sailing with third reef but the going is good. 166 miles in 24 hours. The full moon is obscured by clouds, depriving us of what would have been a panorama of the wild ocean. Port engine is playing the no water trick again. Will look into it tomorrow. The engines had their water-pumps checked and impellers replaced in Opua, so what the hell?

20.5.11 – Friday – Wind went down to below 25 knots, the clouds dispersed. We are crossing latitude 27 degrees south going towards the equator. The sun is out, the sea is blue, it is warmer and our mood changes accordingly. Again, “Two Oceans” covers 166 miles in the last 24 hours. Checking the port engine it is operating normally! Was I blind last evening? Chili con Carne for lunch.

At 1900 LT – 10 am Israel time, I call my mother and congratulate her on her 97th birthday. She is unbelievable! Never lost her passion for life, her curiosity and caring about the world around us.

As evening turns into night the wind abates even more, now less than 15 knots. I feel ridiculous having the main at second reef and hoist it to the first. The boat glides effortlessly on the now calm sea. This is beautiful! I put out all the cabin lights, waiting for the rising of the moon. It is then that I see a big cloud sneaking on us from behind. Everything is so peaceful and I convince myself that surely this is not a squally one. MIKSTAKE! In seconds the tranquility is shattered, wind rising to 30 knots plus. As I rush to furl the jib I can see the speed dial at over 13 knots. The autopilot is unable to hold course and pipes out in electronic despair.

Slowly, with the help of the engines, I put things in order. Main to second reef then jib reopened and we are sailing again in the right direction. The newly installed third reef line, necessarily very long, gets entangled in one of the mast steps and I have to climb the salon roof to release it. The whole event takes about 20 minutes and all is back to normal when at 2200 Volkmar appears for his watch, oblivious to all the action that just took place around and over his cabin. The man can sleep! He thinks I should have called him out to help and is certainly right. Next time, Volkmar!

21.5.11 – Saturday – Last 24 hours 156 n.m. The passage routine is well established. We keep watches night and day with all crew gathering for lunch between 1300- 1400. Today we had vegetable curry – yummy..

We are still perplexed by the appearance of water, seemingly sweet, in the port engine room. Several ideas are put forward but finally I caught the culprit red handed; It was the hot water tank after all. When checking on the engine which was operating to charge the batteries I actually saw the leak. The reason I didn’t see it before being the fact that I always checked it when it was still cold. The leak started after the engine heated the tank up.

Another squall hits us in the evening. When it’s over we are in third reef. The moment I move in the direction of putting on more sail – the wind goes up again. Is it something personal?

22.5.11 – Sunday – 157 nm in the last 24 hours. Regular day with the regular squalls, watches and trying to rest in between. We can see that we will probably reach Anatom before sunrise, so it makes more sense to go straight to Tanna, some 45 natical miles to the north, which is a port of entry and not risk the authorities wrath. At 1600 I took the watch and Volkmar went to bed. Five minutes later the fishing reel gave the hoped for sound signifying that a fish was on. At that very moment a gust sent “Two Oceans” surging forward at better than 10 knots. I had my hands full trying to slow the boat down by furling the jib and then rushing to fight the fish. I was shouting for Volkmar to come but there was no response! I later found out that he closed the door of his cabin to escape the noises of the boat. Anyway, we finally had fish on board and it took up the rest of my two hours watch to clean, fillet and store my catch.

23.5.11 – Monday – 0450, Passing Anatom was a bit stressful because the radar showed it to our port when the Nav program on the computer put it correctly on starboard. This being a moonlit night I expected to be able to see it with my own two eyes, but the island blended with the clouds background and was invisible. I noticed a message on the radar screen:” no heading pulse” that’s probably the reason for the wrong display.

The last 45 miles of the trip were sailed pleasantly, we even opened the sails to the full! At 1230 we entered Port Resolution in Tanna, so named by the famous Captain Cook, who visited the place long time ago.

We sailed 980 nautical miles in six days and four hours, that’s an average of a bit over 6.6 knots which is quite fast. Again the Pacific did not act according to its name but rather in line with its reputation. Although the weather window looked good we still had a very tough passage.

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