Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 8, 2011

Sailing To and From Nauru

24.9.11 – Saturday – The forecast is for easterly winds 10 knot or less for the next two days and we are going north to Nauru. Nauru is one of the smallest country on earth, total population less than 10 thousand and land area of eight square miles. Distance from Santa Cruz is 617 n.m. We exit the bay at 0600, get squally weather and have to put in the first reef. Is this how the next four days will pass? Mercifully after 1000 the forecast becomes true with blue sea and sky dotted with fair weather clouds.

This goes on into the night. I have to confess that our fishing is fruitless. I noticed that we stopped seeing flying fish and there was very little phosphorescence in our wake during the night. This is very frustrating; we will be reduced to eating tinned meat soon!

I tried baking bread. The flour we have on board is from France and has in it something they call “Bleu-noir”. The dough did get a little Noir, black, and did not rise enough. I went through the procedure and later we ate it. Only Zvi, with his positive look on people and the world in general, and after buttering and marmalading it, said it was “Not bad”.

badbread

25.9.11 – Sunday – We did 132 n.m in the last 24 hours and today will not be better. Wind backed somewhat so we are sailing close-hauled at less than 5 knots, sometimes less than 4. The good news is that we finally caught a small skipjack tuna and devoured it for dinner.

26.9.11 – Monday – 24 hours run (measured from 6 to 6) was a low 115 n.m. Stronger and better angled wind is in today’s forecast, so we hope for higher mileage. Just after sunset we sighted a ship, carrying big white light. That’s typical of fishing vessels. She was at 6 miles according to our radar and was very slowly converging on our course. It did not answer our calls on the VHF and only appeared on the A.I.S after passing astern. Did they activate it at that time or is the location of my newly installed antenna limiting reception? Time and experience will tell.

The wind became stronger and the ride rough so we fixed the main at second reef and the jib at first.

27.9.11 – Tuesday – 147 miles in the last 24 hours. Distance to destination is 219 n.m We need to go fast in order to reach Nauru in daylight. Weather cooperated by wind blowing almost from abeam at 18 – 22 knots. Israel noticed that the freezer has and stopped working. That’s bad news! We’ll try and fix it in our short sojourn in Nauru. It’s a small island but surely there will be some refrigeration technician in the country!

Night falls. Main at first reef, jib full and we are doing a little over 6 knots towards Nauru. Oh, the plankton is back.

28.9.11 – The squall hit us at 0415. Zvi, who was on watch, called me to help him reduce sail. I went out in my underwear – no time for formal dress – right into the maelstrom; it RAINED so hard it felt like being pricked by needles. We had to turn down wind in order to furl the jib, and then the wind blew even stronger. I saw 36 knots on the dial, not sure whether it was true or apparent. (Apparent wind is what the boat feels as it moves, so if it sails with the wind the value will be true wind minus  boat speed; in this case the real, true wind is even stronger).

We still had our mainsail in first reef, which was too much sail area for the conditions, running with the wind in the opposite direction to that we wanted to sail, past caring about being drenched and unable to turn into the wind to lower the main. Suddenly the wind changed direction and as I was fighting the wheel to keep the boat jibed, the boom flew over to the right, fortunately held by the traveller from going all the way so it was not all that violent. I waited for a lull and when it came I turned gently into the wind, tacked back to the desired direction and put the main in the third reef.

The squall lasted about 40 minutes and disappeared like a bad dream. After resetting the auto-pilot and sails we reentered the cabin to dry ourselves and change clothes (undies in my case). Decision: Check radar at least every hour and try to anticipate those squalls!

At 0600 we were 70 miles to Nauru. To get there in daylight we had to sail at no less than 6.5 knots and to achieve this we had to use one engine in addition to the sails.

On the way I reread the scant material we had about Nauru and wandered what was the dominant reason for my decision to sail there. Obviously it was the thought of splitting the distance to Kosrae in Micronesia into two acceptable parts and not sail more than a thousand miles nonstop. Now we were looking forward to getting there, resting for a day, buying some food, some fuel and taking on water. I was also hoping to find a refrigeration technician to fix our freezer.

When passing 20 miles to the island I started calling port control on VHF. I also asked my daughter to find the harbor master phone number on the internet and tried to call numerous times, getting a mechanical voice message saying:”Your call cannot be completed at this time, try again later”. According to the information we have you cannot anchor anywhere as it is too deep and your only options are getting a free ship’s mooring or entering a small barge basin that is narrow and shallow.

As we came closer we saw the moorings. They were out in the swell, huge round things that looked more of a menace than refuge. We found the entrance to the barge basin and very slowly entered, seeing 1.5 meters depth at one point, and tied to one of the barges.

bargebasin

What happened next was simply unbelievable, almost surreal!

There we were, night quickly falling, local people coming to gawk at the strange and unexpected apparition that just came in. We asked for customs and immigration and presently a custom officer arrived. He was a nice fellow, checked our papers and said he had to take our passports for immigration. Two other guys came by, one from the health department and the other a security guy. The one from health wanted to see the particulars of the boat, was satisfied with the owners manual and asked me to copy the measurements for him.

They then said that they needed to search the boat forbidding me to accompany them. This was strange but we had to acquiesce, feeling uncomfortable with the fact that we could not keep an eye on the valuables in our cabins. Search finished we sat waiting for the chief of immigrations. After a while they called me ashore. I followed them to a hangar near the basin where a group of men waited.

I was lead to a figure in the center, a European looking gentleman who introduced himself as the immigration chief. The attack started immediately.

“Are you aware that by entering this place you broke at least three laws?”  I explained that I called the port many times getting no response and that the safe thing to do in my judgment was to go in after which we immediately sought the authorities. What followed was a combination of a field court-martial and child lecturing performance that included phrases like:”Ignorance of the law will not exempt you from  punishment” etc. He also stated that even if our VHF calls were answered it is doubtful that they would have given us permission to come into the country.

I felt that there was no sense in arguing and just pointed out that we were innocent yachties presenting no danger neither to Nauru nor to its people and that all we wanted is to rest a day, do some shopping, as we were low on food and water, and depart. This was when the bombshell exploded…

“You cannot stay here, the harbor master will not allow it. If you do stay, I will have to prosecute you”.

“So, can I talk to the harbor master myself?”

A local man stepped forward. I tried to reason with him but he, like an automaton, without giving any explanation, kept repeating: ” You cannot stay here”. He insisted that we go out and wait outside, call him back in the morning and then he will decide whether to let us in. I suggested that maybe we could do it in the morning or even at the present time hoping this will satisfy his desire for control but nothing helped. “You have to go out right now”.

All this was the pinnacle of heartless, inflexible bureaucracy I ever came across.

“You understand that by sending us out through the dark channel with all those unlit ship buoys lying around, you are endangering us?” The man just shrugged.

I was furious though in control of myself. “You know, out there information flows freely. This will be on the internet tomorrow. Is this the way you want to present Nauru to the world?” Nobody seemed to be impressed and I walked back to my friends with the bad news.

Taking stock of the situation, we had 421 miles to sail to Kosrae in Micronesia, that will take three days. We had about 200 liters of water which was enough although I would have liked more. Food was more of an issue. Since the freezer died and fishing was unsuccessful we had just two tins of corned beef but sufficient quantity of rice, pasta couscous, and taro; but no bread or eggs. There will be no gourmet dinners but we will not suffer hunger…

Slowly and cautiously, with Israel and Zvi standing lookout on the bows, we exited the basin and took up the course to Micronesia. None of us wanted to wait all night and go back to a place that gave us such a rude welcome.

29.9.11 – Thursday – We were so disturbed and angered by what went on in Nauru so that none of us paid attention to the passing of the Equator. We planned to have a celebration for Israel, who crossed the line for the first time. He’ll have to wait for another opportunity.

Fishing now took on special importance. We needed the protein! Around noon, as I was napping in my cabin, I heard the guys shout:”Fish” and the familiar sound of the line being pulled off the reel. I rushed there as fast as I could only to see the line come to its end, the rod bending and then snapping back as the line broke. That must have been a big one! Not long after that I spotted a great school of dolphins but they did not come to play.

By 1930, 24 hours after we left Nauru we covered 144 n.m.

30.8.11 – Friday – During the night the wind fell to 3 knots, making it necessary to motor. When I came on my watch at 0300 the wind came back and so did the rain. Very quickly I had to reef as the wind went up to 25 knots from the SE instead of the forecasted 10 knots easterly. Later in the morning we were hit by another squall and the rain became heavier, sometimes reducing visibility to just a few meters.

Another try at fishing gave a similar experience to that of the day before. This time I was able to reach the rod in time, started tightening the friction wheel to stop the fish from pulling out all the line and bang! The line broke. This is an 80 pound test monofilament. I took a 23 pound tuna on 50 pound test. What kind of monsters have they got here?

Slowly the heavy rain gave way to overcast skies and good wind. Come 1930 the 24 hours mileage showed 158 n.m.

Our meals became what Gili would have called:”Survival meals”. Tuna salad and pasta for lunch, rice with sautéed onions and sweet corn plus what was left from lunch for dinner… As long as the boat goes fast – morale is high. We hope to reach Kosrae tomorrow afternoon.

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Responses

  1. Hi chevre,
    Shana tova and may you have fewer squalls and make good distances in all your forthcoming legs. Your experiences in that part of the ocean seems so different from the good regular rough sail of the Atlantic. Day after day the same high speed and the same pitching sea.
    Your descriptions give a good insight to the sailing and are enjoyable to read.
    What has Nauru got to hide I wonder? definitely spread the word onthe internet. wish you good winds and seas. Regards Ziona

  2. Just one question: How would you be treated if you dropped into New York the same way – “OK there’s no reply, and we don’t have visas, but we’ll go in anyway”? Why not plan your destination and arrange the permissions ahead of time like the rest of us? If you’ve got good enough communications to blog, you’ve probably got good enough communications to get in touch with a Nauru consulate.

    I would however be sympathetic If you did have visas and had warned the Ports Authority in advance that you were coming.

    • Dear Timonroad,
      Thank you for your comment. Boats don’t “drop” into places, they sail in. I entered U.S teritory in the U.S Virgin islands as well as Puerto Rico more than once and the system was go in, anchor or use their dock and find immigration immediately. This procedure is the norm all over the world. In any case – do you think that sending a sailing boat out at night with no sufficient lights on the entrance and obstacles was the right thing to do? One could have thought of a more inteligent solution.
      Yours,
      Miki, Two Oceans
      P.S – You must be the immigration guy, aren’t you?

  3. No, I’m not the immigration guy.


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