Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 9, 2017

Sailing from Easter Island to Pitcairn

29.4.17 – Saturday – During the night the wind backed to the south west and heavy rain fell; we were still protected by land but swells coming into the bay caused quite a bit of roll. I did not sleep very well. In the morning the V.H.F channel came to life; Pasqua radio wanted to know what were the intentions of each yacht in the anchorage. The radio operator read the forecast and added that Anakena bay would be “very bad” today. Pakia Tea and Kalibu said they were leaving towards the Gambier group in French Polynesia, going anticlockwise around Easter island, a longer way to go west but perhaps less arduous considering the southwest swell. “Explorer” did not come on the radio, her dinghy still in the water, she was not ready to join the the fleet yet but we knew they planned to go to Pitcairn too. On Two Oceans the skipper and crew had a strategic discussion after which it was decided to leave and go straight west to Pitcairn island.

The wind was SSW 18 knots and we were going up and down the waves against it. The moment we cleared the southwestern tip of the island with its off lying two rocky islets, we could set a course very close to the one needed to go to Pitcairn with good SOG. In the afternoon the wind backed even more and we could go directly to our destination. The forecast was for the wind to go down from 25 to 15 knots but in reality it just grew stronger, the seas getting bigger. In the fading light we could discern a line of dark clouds and as they approached it started raining cats and dogs, wind going up by the minute. We reefed and reefed some more, until the third reef was set and still the ride became pretty wild. Each time a squall hit we tried to console ourselves that it was the last and that after passing the cloud conditions will abate. That did not happen. The decision was hard to arrive at but finally I decided to take down the mainsail and proceed under a handkerchief rolled jib so that the crew could pass the night restfully. I later checked and found that the maximum wind was 36.7. Not that we did not experience that sort of wind before, but combined with the sea state it was too much. 

30.4.17 – Sunday – Morning came with much better conditions and we could put on full sails and go with the SE wind straight to Pitcairn; beautiful sailing! As we sat down for lunch a fish was on and after a short fight we had a nice 10 pound yellow-fin tuna on board.

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In the afternoon we received the forecast from two friends in Israel; both sources said that on Tuesday we would have winds with a northwesterly slant. It seemed that the best course of action would be to go north of the direct track to avoid headwinds. We jibed, set the jib on the pole and continued north west.

1.5.17 – Monday – During the night we got another forecast with the advice to go south… We compromised by going straight to Pitcairn. The northerly deviation cost us quite a few miles and at 1545 u.t.c we found ourselves 896 miles from destination having advanced a mere 119 miles towards it in the last 24 hours. The wind became light easterly and for most of the day we had to run an engine to get reasonable speed, the good aspect of that was that the sea was calm. Later in the evening it backed to the north and blew 10-15 knots. Today is the eve of Israel Independence day, it is also Gili’s birthday which, again, I missed; we had a long talk on the Iridium and I told her of my firm decision to be together on that day from now on.

2.5.17 – Tuesday – I had the 0300-0600 watch; wind NNW 10-17, sea state – slight. Then light rain, wind back to 10 minus. The daily run, which is checked at 0845 local time was again a disappointing 119 miles. Most of the day we had to motor, it rained from time to time, the wind became westerly and we sailed or motor-sailed to the SW in the hope of getting the SE wind. At least the sea was calm. Our “routers” had sent confusing reports and suggestions so we ended up dealing with anything that came along as we saw fit at the time. I had the 2100 to midnight watch and had to deal with unstable wind direction, furling and opening the jib, a squall that brought 26 knots wind and left leaving 6 knots behind, frustrating!

3.5.17 – Wednesday – When Danny took the watch from Zulu at 0300, the wind stabilized and came from the south, blowing 15-20 knots. Finally we could go in the right direction at good speed. With first light it went down to 12. Later in the morning, it was even lower and we started the starboard engine for more speed. Suddenly a sound like a faint whistle was heard and a few seconds later the engine stopped. Fouled prop? I tried starting it out of gear but could not hear the starter turning. We opened the engine room and found out that the engine was seized; speculations about the reason abounded but clearly it was a matter for a professional mechanic, which we’ll probably only find in Hiva Oa.

4.5.17 – Thursday – At 0300 Zulu took over the watch and I went to bed. around 0400 I was dreaming we were sailing or flying our boat in strong turbulence, Zulu explaining to a flight crew that it was no problem at all – I woke up to realize that conditions has worsened considerably. We gradually went through all reef points to the third reef with wind piping up to over 30 knots from behind. The sea quickly built up, big waves forming and Two Oceans started surfing down them at speeds exceeding 10 knots. All this was accompanied by heavy rain; we had to close the salon door so as not to have water come in and still everything became damp. Mindful of the cases of autopilot disengagement we experienced lately I decided that we would have one man at the wheel at all times.

This was rather stressful and thoughts of taking down the main completely came up. I was at the helm when a really big one lifted the boat to an incredible height from which we surfed down at 14 knots on the GPS. That dispelled any doubts we might have had. I called for taking the main down, which is never an easy task when the wind is from behind and the sail is leaning against the stays and the lazy jacks. I had to go up the salon roof to the mast to pull it down. Once we were left with just the reefed jib on the pole the going was much calmer but we still sailed fast, 6 – 8 knots. We could all now huddle inside, out of the rain and spray. I checked the wind instrument and found out that the maximum value showed 47.8 knots; Wow…

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In the late afternoon the wind abated, still gusting to over 30 from time to time and big clouds threatened from behind; we decided to keep sailing with just the reefed jib until assured of lighter conditions. Considering our arrival to Pitcairn, about 480 miles away, necessary to be done in good daylight, an average of 120 n.m days would bring us there on Monday, so there is no rush. Sailing faster might mean a night arrival, which is out of the question.

Zulu cooked a good dinner and we started our night shifts; having been awake since very early in the morning I was lucky to have the 0300 watch and more than six hours to sleep.

5.5.17 – Friday – When I came to relieve Danny at 0300, the conditions called for more sail. He already opened the jib fully and we raised the main to first reef. I found out that at some point the upper batten pocket chaffed against a rope holding the lazy-bag to the mast and was separated from the sail for about 20 centimeters. I will sew it at the first opportunity. When Zulu took my place at 0600, we opened full sail; a beautiful day seemed to be ahead.

In contrast to the forecast (ENE 15) the wind was very light and we had to use the engine. When Danny came to the cockpit he noticed that the first batten, the one closest to the sail’s foot was out of its receptacle. We started working on that, which took quite a lot of time and when we finished and commenced hoisting the sail up I saw that there were some tears in my new main! It took a while to understand the cause of the tears; when we took the sail down at the time of the high winds the sail-bag and sail rested, without any of us noticing, on the starboard solar panels, which have sharp edges. The movement of the boat was enough to chaff through the lazy-bag and tear the sail. I took out the sail repair tape and the three of us worked at taping both sides of each of those tears.

Finishing that I noticed that the water flow from the engine exhaust was less than I was accustomed to. I thought the problem lay at the salt water filter and we took it out to clean. As much as we tried, we could not open the filter and left it immersed in vinegar in the hope it would clean the element inside it. After lunch we succeeded opening the filter and renewed the element. I installed the filter, the guys started up – and water flow was now good. Our happiness was short lived as suddenly the engine lost power and stopped. A quick survey of the engine room found the culprit; during my work there I inadvertently closed the fuel cock! End of story? Not quite! As I was cleaning the engine room, I saw to my chagrin, that the filter cover had a small crack and was leaking. Here Zulu did a marvelous thing; using the electrical soldering iron, he heat welded the plastic cover!

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You learn a new thing every day… I put the filter back in place and seeing it was not leaking was a high point of an otherwise dismal day. We all took saltwater showers finished with a sweet-water rinse and I had a beer to celebrate. The fishing line, out since morning and almost forgotten, suddenly gave the coveted sound of a fish caught. I fought it all the way to the stern but before we could gaff the lovely, four foot wahoo, it swam forward and released itself. Ouch! For dinner we had chef Zulu’s special Corned Beef (canned) and spaghetti.

6.5.17 – Saturday – At 0600 I came into the cockpit and found Danny enjoying the calm morning. “ It’s time for fishing” I said and we put the lure in the water. In less than ten minutes a fish was on. It was a black skipjack tuna, which, after getting rid of the typical red spongy tissues, we had four three man meals. Freezer nicely stocked, I asked Danny to reel back the line and as he started doing it another skipjack was caught, brought to the stern and released. After all the mishaps that occurred yesterday, which necessitated sailing with reefed sails, plus the longish periods of light wind, it was not surprising to see that we only did 112 miles in the last 24 hours. Distance to Pitcairn at 0745 local time (we changed to u.t.c minus 8, Pitcairn time) was 288 n.m; Monday arrival (fingers crossed) seems assured.

A beautiful day was finished by a meal of grilled tuna with potatoes fried in butter and olive oil, coleslaw on the side, washed down (as the standard expression goes) by Chilean out of the box wine.

7.5.17 – Sunday – At 0745 we were 148 miles from Pitcairn, having sailed 140 miles in 24 hours. As the day progressed the wind became lighter and backed to the NW, our speed decreasing by the hour. At 1530 we made some calculations. We were 108 miles from Pitcairn and if we wanted to get there by 1300, we needed about five knots of speed. The only way to do it was by motoring. Jib furled, we motor-sailed at 30 degrees to the apparent wind straight to destination.

8.5.17 – Monday – I was to start my watch at 0300. At one point during the night I woke up to the absence of the engine noise, there was only the sound of the boat slicing through the water. That was a good feeling but it did not last… Danny woke me up at 0250; a cloud brought the wind forward and the boat was dead in the water. We started the engine up and pointed the boat in the right direction. Once the clouds went away the wind came back to the north and we could sail directly towards Pitcairn. Land was seen at about 20 miles.

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With 15 miles to go, I called the Island on V.H.F and got an immediate answer. At 1100 local time we entered Bounty Bay, Danny and Zulu standing up front to look for a sandy patch on which we could anchor.

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The lady operating the V.H.F also gave us some directions and at 1120 we dropped two anchors in tandem. We arranged with our shore connection to meet at the ship landing place to which we would come with our dinghy.

Our Easter to Pitcairn leg took us nine days, we had two storms, one out of Easter and the other on Thursday; we had frustrating calms and some glorious sailing days. Pitcairn is a dream come true; we were looking forward to our visit on shore.

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