Posted by: catamarantwooceans | May 29, 2017

Sailing from Gambier to the Marquesas

18.5.17 – Thursday – The plan was to leave at 0900, when the sun would be high enough to read the bottom. As we sat waiting for the time to go, the sound of the starboard shower discharge pump was heard. Zulu and Danny, the residents of that hull are accustomed to that phenomenon, because when sailing they keep the head ventilation port open and some water come in at times. But we were stationary so I went to investigate; the bilge was full of water. At the same time Zulu exclaimed that no water came out of the galley tap. We shut down the water pump and looking at the water system components under Zulu’s bunk, found a disconnected pipe. Adding another band to the connection fixed it and luckily we did not lose a lot of water.

Out of the anchorage, this time using the coordinates Pitufa published on their website, we opened full sail and sailed close-hauled towards the exit. The apparent wind was 20 knots and after a few minutes we saw that the jib repair was falling apart. We furled it and lowered the main; I started to return to Rikitea but Zulu had a better idea and suggested we anchor at the lee of the island right where we were at the time. We pondered our options and decided to cut out the weak part of the sail and replace it with some sail cloth that I had on board, strengthening it with webbings. If that repair would not hold we’ll have to use the storm jib as a substitute. The work took from 0930 to 1645 and everybody took part.

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At 1700 we started motoring out with mainsail up and furled jib as there was very light wind on the nose. We continued motoring into the night waiting for the promised easterlies and the test of our repair.

19.5.17 – Friday – At 0230 Danny woke me up. “the wind has come”. It blew 15 knots from the east. Together we unfurled the jib,shut  the engine down and started pure sailing. Clipping my harness to the safety webbing, I went to the front deck to check the jib; it seemed to be all right.

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Not very elegant but it does the job. Note the short webbings; there is also one in the middle on the other side of the sail.

The day continued with the trade-winds blowing 15-18 knots, giving us good boat speed. Worrying about the integrity of the jib, Zulu suggested we use it in first reef, to lessen the strain on it. I wholeheartedly agreed. We passed to the west of Marutea, an atoll belonging to the Tuamotus. With no information about it we were surprised to notice that there was cellular reception, so surely there is a village there. At 1700 we saw we sailed 139 miles in the last 24 hours. After the sun set, the wind started gusting to over 20 knots; we put the main in first reef too, the idea was to have a smooth run, so that we could sleep comfortably during the night.

Twenty minutes to midnight the autopilot disengaged, the boat turned into the wind and the jib started flapping. Although I was quick to turn the boat back on track I saw that another tear appeared just in front of the repair we did. Of course I had no choice but to furl the sail completely and continue under main alone. Tomorrow we’ll put up the storm jib as a replacement.

20.5.17 – Saturday – At 0800 the crew assembled in the cockpit to put the storm jib in place. This sail has never been used in real storm or any other conditions. To the best of my recollections it was only raised once, eight years ago, before my first Pacific crossing, just to check its operation. It is attached to a stay with a sleeve that is closed by hanks; those were now completely seized and instead we used lengths of line to tie it.

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Although very small it added sail area and also contributed to balancing the helm.

The weather was tricky, a line of clouds brought the wind forward and we had to sail 50 degrees to the apparent wind. Around noon its velocity fell below 10 and the engine was used for propulsion and battery charging. That line passed to our stern at 1600 and the wind stabilized, becoming easterly 15-17, letting us sail directly to Fatu Hiva. At 1700 l.t we checked our progress and found out we did 145 miles in the last 24 hours in spite of the reduced sail area. From 1800 to 1930 we were in the vicinity of an island called Reao, which has a cellular system; we used the opportunity to call home,where the local time is 12 hours ahead.

We were still thinking about our jib situation. Zulu expressed the wish of maybe using a bit of jib in spite of the damage to it, saying that the tear would be contained by the Sunbrella U.V cloth. It occurred to me that we might try and repair it, not with the sail repair tape, which was difficult to use and was quite flimsy but with a good quantity of duct tape. I actually saw the tear only at night and we decided to wait until morning to open the jib and take a closer look.

21.5.17 – Sunday – In the morning, with the wind around 12 knots, we opened the jib. The duct tape idea was made a reality, with Zulu, the tallest man on board, applying it to the sail and me giving him the required lengths of tape.

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                                  pic. by Danny

We operated the sail gingerly, furling it when the wind speed increased. In the afternoon, when the crew had their beauty sleep, I figured out I could beef the tape some more. I moved the jib traveller forward and took in the sheet, thus lowering the damaged area and making it easier to work on. During the day the wind became calmer and veered aft. 24 hours mileage was 135.

22.5.17 – Monday – Morning brought a squall line with a bit of rain and stronger winds. fear for the integrity of the jib made us reef it and when a big grey cloud came up from the north-east the main was also reefed. we had a good one hour of speeds up to ten knots after which the sky cleared and the wind went back to 10-12 knots giving the unsatisfactory boat speed of between 4 and 5.  In the afternoon the wind decreased below 10 and we tried hoisting the spinnaker; that was not successful because the boat was accelerating and decelerating on the swells and the light sail didn’t like it and collapsed in protest.

I was on the vigil near the fishing rod when a fish was on, not hearing the reel’s noise as the fish pulled the line out. Luckily Zulu, the only perfect ears on board, alerted me and we brought a medium size black skipjack tuna into the cockpit. Lamb back into the freezer and we planned on sashimi and seared tuna for dinner. At 1700 our position showed we only passed 123 miles in he last 24 hours. The forecast promises 10 knots wind for the next two days; disgusting! I did the nine to midnight watch and was happy when the wind went up to 13 – 15 knots; we were moving!

23.5.1 – Tuesday – Good sailing conditions stayed with us all day long. At 1700 we were closer to our destination by 141 miles.

24.5.17 – Wednesday – At 0245 we were hit by a squall with the wind reaching 29 knots. I decided to reef the main, our damaged jib was already reefed. Zulu was awake and joined me for the maneuver, during which the jib sheet was released by mistake, the sail flapping violently. We returned everything back to normal and continued sailing. Later in the morning I discovered that the jib was again torn big time.

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I rolled it completely understanding that its life was at an end, impossible to repair; I’ll have to order a new one. This jib took me, for the last six years, from Thailand, across the Indian and the South Atlantic oceans and a lot of mileage in the Caribbean; Six years of hard sailing now came to an end.

When I woke up from my after watch rest period we were 18 miles from the Bay of Virgins, our destination and 12 miles from Fatu Hiva itself. The island was visible, shrouded by clouds. As we came closer one of those came over us with heavy rain and wind. Coming closer the yachts in the bay were revealed one by one, two catamarans and three monohulls. We found a spot and dropped two anchors in tandem. The view seen in this bay is fantastic, my photos can only give an idea but not fully capture the magnificence of the place.

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The bay is notorious for the katabatic winds blowing into it from the mountain; as we were having lunch one such gust took us so far back, dragging or just pulling at the chain, that we came too close to the catamaran behind us. We relocated to another corner of the bay and dropped the anchors at a point 8 meters deep. 32 knots gust tested our holding; we could now go ashore without fear.

To be continued!

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