Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 9, 2017

Sailing From Ecuador To Easter Island

6.4.17 – Thursday – At 1800 I took a beer to one of the tables in the marina’s restaurant, facing the entrance in wait for my crew. Danny and Zulu landed in Quito on Wednesday and today boarded the bus for a 7.5 hour trip to Bahia. I only had one sip when I saw the guys entering the marina.

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Danny is a seasoned Two Oceans sailor having sailed with me three times in the past: Palau to Thailand, South Africa to Grenada and Panama to Florida. Zulu, whose official name is Raanan Herzl Shapiro, nicknamed Zulu due to his South Africa origin, is a very experienced seaman; he has an Amel Super Maramu yacht, on which he circumnavigated the world with his wife Miri. I had the pleasure of joining them as crew from Cape Town to Brazil in the beginning of 2010, when my boat was on the hard in French Polynesia during the hurricane season there.

7.4.17 – Friday – A shopping day. If I thought I had already did most of the non-perishables purchase we would require, the guys found more things we needed. We also bought 17 six liters water bottles, having decided that the tap water at the marina, despite my bleach purification, had a funny taste and anyway we wanted to have more than the regular 500 liters tanks quantity. In the evening our passports and international zarpe (cruising permit) came back, one more step towards departure. Zulu prepared dinner of grilled meat and potatoes.

8.4.17 – Saturday – High Water would be at 1420 so we planned to shop for the perishables this morning. Before that and before the tidal current would kick in, I went into the water to check the propellers and clean the speed transducer prop. The river water was so murky that it was impossible to see anything;  I felt the fouled props by touch and scraped whatever growth was on them. I could not clean the speed prop and was sure it was fouled too; once we were outside I could anchor for a few minutes and do it in clearer waters.

We were three boats waiting to go out, the other two were “Solace” with a Kiwi couple on board and Joanne and Garry on “Cheers” a Beneteau First 35, both going straight to the Marquesas. At 1330 the panga brought Ariosto and we set out in a convoy to negotiate the river’s bar. I knew that Solace had 1.8 meters draft and was a bit worried for them when my depth gauge showed 1.6 but we all went out with no mishap, said goodbye to our pilot and were on our way. I went down to clean the speed prop and it started showing a speed that was lower than the actual; I may have to calibrate it. People in the know may ask why I did not take the transducer out from inside the boat and the answer is that the plug I have on board is leaking and I did not fancy going under the starboard forward cabin bed and then sponging the seawater that would inescapably enter.

The forecast was for light and variable wind and I was content motoring along on a single engine, giving the house batteries a good charge. A bank of nimbus stratus clouds brought unexpected wind from the north and for four hours we ran at good speed under sail. I could even show Zulu the operation of the jib poling out and pole jibing. After dinner we started our watch system, mentally assuming the routine of long-range voyaging.

9.4.17 – Sunday – Alternating between motorsailing and pure sailing on the calm seas we logged 134 n.m in the first 24 hours. The speed instrument froze again so we had to make do with the GPS SOG values, good enough. No fish caught so Zulu made a lure using the outer cover of a 14 mm rope. “This is what worked best for me in the Pacific” he said. Danny kept recording the manufacturing process with his phone’s camera.

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The lure was in the water until sunset and had the very same success as its predecessor. I’ll try a different one tomorrow.

10.4.17 – Monday – We knew that the Trade Winds would only be reached around 5 degrees south of the Equator. Again did a lot of motoring with some sailing thrown in. A friend of Zulu’s is sending weather information via the Inreach but I also wanted to get a fuller picture through the Iridium; bad surprise as some computer glitch stopped the connection before I could get the weather grib file. 24 hours run – 140 miles. Still no joy at fishing.

11.4.17 – Tuesday – I came on watch at midnight, had a cup of coffee and started tinkering with the computer trying to fix the Iridium connection. Something I did made it work and I got the weather. It showed south easterly wind of ten knots but during the early morning it backed to the east and blew 15 to 20 and the sea rose accordingly. When I started the starboard engine to charge the batteries, no water came out of the exhaust; looked into the the engine room and found the pump’s pulley stuck. This is a refurbished pump that I put on the engine less than two months ago! I went in there and replaced the pump.  Zulu took it apart, greased it and said it was OK. We could not figure out the reason for it becoming stuck. During my work, I inadvertently touched two of the alternator leads and got an unpleasant spark. I spent about two hours in that engine room and came out tired and very dirty. A fish took the lure but by the time Danny got to the rod the fish disappeared. At least we heard the sound of the reel which was music to our ears. With speeds of seven and eight knots I decided to give up fishing for the time.

Our 24 hours run was 146 miles. Later, as a bank of clouds moved away, the wind veered to the SE the seas calmed and the running was good. We saw a fishing boat maneuvering not far but other than that no human presence around us. In the evening I started the starboard engine to charge the batteries and saw that there was a problem with the alternator. I used the port engine and delayed the troubleshooting for the next day.

12.4.17 – Wednesday – Great sailing! wind from the beam at 15-20 knots and the sea relatively calm; boat speed around 7 knots. I went into the starboard engine room to check the alternator. I tightened the exciter wire, started the engine and immediately felt the smell of electrical fire. Shut the engine pronto understanding that there was nothing we, with our non professional knowledge, could do. I took the belts off the alternator and took out the exciter wire. Let’s hope that there is an electrician who knows alternators in Easter island. At 2000 u.t.c we saw we sailed 162 n.m in the last 24 hours; good progress.

We continued our fishing efforts (that’s sitting in the cockpit waiting for the sound of the reel) and were rewarded with a small Mahi Mahi.

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We are hoping for more as there are a lot of flying fish around us, which mean the Mahi are there too.

13.4.17 – Thursday – Morning brought two more Mahis. We now have two meals for the crew so we stopped fishing for a while. last 24 hours run – a respectable 167 nautical miles. As evening approached the wind became stronger and for the first time on this trip we put in the first reef. We already covered a third of the way, which is great, but we still have more than 1500 miles to go.                                              The highlight of the the day was the dinner Zulu prepared: oven grilled Mahi with a side of white carrot puree wrapped in cooked cabbage leaves. Yummy!

14.4.17 – Friday – At the end of my watch, just before waking Zulu up, I wanted to put the kettle on for him and found a big eyed small squid lying on the floor. How did it get there with the hatches closed? Big mystery.

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In the morning we reset our watches one hour back, to U.T.C minus 6. Had we gone by the book we should have changed it when crossing 82.5 degrees west, but we waited until the sunrise would occur at about 0600 and the sunset around 1800. The day was a calm, uneventful one ; the wind was lighter than the day before and after our pizza lunch we even started an engine – for speed and batteries charge. Our daily progress check showed 156 miles. At 1600 the wind strengthened a bit and again we were doing more than 6 knots.

After all my years at sea I should have known better; less than half an hour after I have written the words:”uneventful day” the “un” became unreal. It was not more than twenty minutes to sunset when I came up to check the mainsail trim and to my surprise and consternation saw that the lower batten came out of its leach receptacle and was in danger of parting company with the sail and the boat. We brought the traveller to the center, lowered the main to first reef and I went up to the end of the boom to see whether I could fix it. With light diminishing, the best I could do was pushing the batten back into its pocket, tie its end with a line to the mast and leave the project for next morning. With the wind becoming stronger we still did about 7 knots. Another “event” was the discovery that we had depleted our starboard water tank; we would have to be more carful about how we use fresh water. Less (or no?) showers, washing plastic crockery with sea water only etc.

15.4.17  – Saturday – In the morning the crew turned into a committee debating the right way to resolve the batten problem. It was clear we needed to make the batten longer and it was done by connecting a piece of batten material with a PVC pipe to the main batten. The difficulty lay in the fact that the sail was not stretched enough laterally so that pushing the now longer batten into the position was not easy. As I was dangling at the end of the boom, the autopilot disengaged and the boat turned into the wind giving me a bit of a jolt. Once under control I succeeded finishing the project and we took the sail all the way up. Our 24 hours distance was 157 miles, not bad considering the fact we were reefed the whole night. Fast ride continued as the trade-winds blew 17-22 knots from the beam. As night came we lowered the main to first reef position, wishing for smooth ride.

After dinner, as I started my my night watch, I did something that was long overdue and that was researching the plotter – autopilot interaction. When I bought the new Raymarine A 65 plotter years ago I downloaded its manual, all 330 pages of it. That was too long for digestion and I just printed and read the parts I considered important, namely those which dealt with waypoints and routes. A lot was learnt by trial and error and I thought I more or less mastered its operation. However, the recurring autopilot disengagements necessitated action. I remembered seeing, on one of my forays into the system settings of the plotter, something named “autopilot control” which was off, since my preference was operating the AP by its own switches. I now put it to the “on” position, advancing carefully until I had the autopilot follow our track to the Easter Island anchorage waypoint. Results: no more unintentional disengagements and no need to make corrections in order to stay on track. Do I feel stupid for not finding this from the manual earlier? Not really! Had they made the manual simpler and shorter, including just the type I have and not three types of plotter in the one manual, I would have probably made the effort.

16.4.17 – Sunday – Zulu took over the watch at midnight and at 0201 LT recorded the passing of the voyage’s mid point, 1153.5 n.m to destination.                                  In the morning another small Mahi Mahi was taken; Dr. Zulu was the one to clean and  fillet it in the cockpit, Danny standing by with the hose, a scene not unlike the one you see in an operating room (scalpel! suction!).

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Another “medical” situation arose when a sea bird dived and caught our fishing lure. Miki, AKA Dr. Doolittle, brought the squawking and terrified bird to the stern, extracted the hook and released it unharmed.

There was also a bit of maintenance. Yesterday evening Zulu discovered that the starboard hull’s bilge and shower discharge pumps were not working. Their wires are located in a very humid area and corrosion finds its way into the connections; once renewed – pumps work O.K.

24 hours check: 165 n.m. First reef for the night and still fast enough.

17.4.17  – Monday – Back to full sail in the morning and a quiet day followed. At 2000 u.t.c – 168 miles sailed in 24 hours. We had a disappointment when the autopilot – after working perfectly for two days – disengaged twice; we’ll have to be alert, especially during the night.

18.4.17 – Tuesday – Morning started with a line of dark grey clouds converging on our route and messing with the wind direction. Later, under blue skies we had good wind angle but less velocity. 24 hours run – 149 miles. As evening came, another bank of clouds sneaked on us from behind with 25 knots of wind and soon we were in first reef on both main and jib and still doing 8-9 knots. As we sat for dinner the wind went back to 15 knots from the stern, making it necessary to steer 20 degrees to port of our desired course. I decided to leave the main at first reef for the night; if the wind does not back until daylight we will change to sailing wing and wing in the right direction.

19.4.17 – Wednesday – A grey morning turned into a beautiful day but not enough wind. 24 hours run – 126 n.m. At least the sea is calm. No birds or flying fish seen and of course no fish caught.

20.4.17 – Thursday – Same as yesterday.  The forecast is for winds from ENE at 10 knots for the next two days, which means slow progress. At 2000 u.t.c, 1300 local time, we were 503 miles from Easter Island; 24 hours run 132 n.m. Reaching the island on Monday is not assured. a mild squall, 24 knots max, gives us a push for 45 minutes and then it is a combination of sailing, motoring, jib pole setting and removing. The sea is still calm so we are not complaining. I am reading “The Robber Bride” a 1993 book by Margaret Atwood; this author never ceases to amaze me with her imaginative, beautiful writing.

In the evening we have dinner of grilled pork fillet with potatoes and string beans in tomato sauce. As I stand in the galley scrubbing the steak pan I feel the boat accelerate; Zulu comes from the cockpit saying calmly:”It’s 30 knots true”. I rush out and we reef the sails. The boat is flying for a while but then goes back to the forecast values. Checking the wind instrument I find that the maximum wind velocity was 38.8 knots.

21.4.17 – Friday – During the night we had some more of those mild squalls, some calm periods where the engine is turned on and even some close-hauled sailing. As the day progresses the wind stabilizes at about 15 knots and we have nice sailing. 24 hours run was 126 n.m and we had 377 miles to destination. If we do three more days at 126 miles per – we’ll get there by Monday.

We treated a chaffed section of the main halyard by sliding the cover of a bigger diameter rope and seizing it in place; its test came when we reefed the main before starting the watch system and it had to pass through the spinlock, which was a bit difficult but doable. I had the 9 p.m to midnight watch, during which the wind backed so much, we could only sail at 45 degrees to the desired track. I jibed to the starboard tack but then lost the wind and started an engine.

22.4.17 – Saturday – At 0300, when Danny came to replace Zulu, the wind veered and became stronger, enabling the guys to shut the engine down, jibe to port and sail straight to destination. At 0400 I came for a visit, Danny pointed at the clear, starry skies and we opened full sail. The good conditions continued all day, with the exception of one short duration squall during which we kept full sails and attained some exhilarating speeds. We are perplexed by the lack of sea life on the last few days; no birds and no flying fish, is it something to do with the “El Nino” phenomenon?

The forecast, sent daily through the Delorme Inreach by Zulu’s friend, sea captain Amale Yasur, predicts the continuation of the good winds for the next two days.It now seems we may have to slow down Sunday night in order to arrive in daylight on Monday. Our 24 hours run was 137 miles. As the sun set, we could see some dark clouds heading our way and as a precaution put the main in first reef.

23.4.17 – Sunday – In the morning it was obvious that we were going a bit too fast to reach the island at daylight. We left the sails at first reef and monitored the progress continuously. Our position at 2000 u.t.c showed that we did 146 miles in the last 24 hours in spite of trying to slow down. In the afternoon we reduced sail even more, getting down to third reef.

24.4.17 – Monday – Danny woke me up at 0130, showed me that the wind changed direction, necessitating a jibe. Right after we did it the wind started playing tricks, velocity and direction unstable. At one point we even had to start an engine to get reasonable boat speed. At 0300, when I came on watch condition became better and we resumed sailing, initially with second reef and then up to first. At first light the island came into view. We approached Hanga Roa, the main settlement of the island and anchored according to the instruction of the Chilean Navy near a line of red buoys, where three other yachts were at anchor. It was just before nine o’clock Easter Island time, which is u.t.c minus 5. We had to advance our watches by two hours. On shore we could see a small line of the famous statues that Easter Island is famous for; a preview for a land trip.

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The trip took 15 days and 18 hours; we sailed 2307 miles in an average speed of 6.1 knots, not bad considering the slowdown for getting there in daylight. We were lucky to have good winds and relatively calm seas. Let’s hope the next leg, to Pitcairn Island will be similar!


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