July 10 - August 15, 2004
New Zealand to New Caledonia
July 10, 2004
08:55 UTC 29-50 S 169-26 E
Don't make your first sail on your new boat an ocean voyage! We are experiencing "teething" problems. Unfortunately we are at sea and days from parts and professional help.
Two days ago Jeanine woke me from my sleep. "Jim! Alarms are going off!" I jumped clear to the engine room to see it awash in water. Fortunately it was fresh. Water gushed from the fresh water pump where a loose hose clamp had popped off and our fresh water supply was being transferred aft.
After shutting off power to the fresh pump I started the emergency crash pump. Nothing happened. I found the clogged suction end of the bilge pump.
After Jeannie cleaned the strainer the pool drained to reveal another hose clamp, a large bolt and nut. It was easy to find that this was missing from the bracket that adjusted the crash pump belt. When I refitted it I discovered it can only be tightened with a special wrench.
I covered it with lock tight and promised to check it once a day.
After motoring for a short time the wind returned. The mainsail was due to go up but on its way I noticed a loose batten. As the wind built I decided we would not fix that today and put up the trysail. This was a two hour job. It has a special bag "ready bag" that fits like Cinderella's slipper on her stepsister's foot. The wind picked up as Jeannie and I struggled to launch this sail for our first time. Finally it was up and pulling - not bad. We were exhausted.
We were running downwind and so we (I, Jeannie never likes to put up the pole) decided that it would be best to put up the poles and run with it. This is designed to be easy and is if you know what you are doing. I have the concept but not the courage to toss the hundred-plus pound thirty foot long thing overboard and trust the lines to catch it before it crashes through my head and onto the deck. Therefore we did it slowly - twice. Two poles. Just as it all started to work the wind shifted. We put them away.
The wind built to over thirty knots. We were happy to be pole-less and sailing with the staysail and trysail - storm gear.
Yesterday was a hard sailing day. Twenty to thirty knots northwest coming from exactly where we want to go. We beat into it and made some headway but not without beating ourselves and the boat up in the process.
Each day I have been checking in with Des at Russell Radio in New Zealand. At 7:00pm and 7:30am he polls the boats on high frequency radio at 4445 kHz. When we have had a rough day it is comforting to check in and share the misery. Last night we had over thirty knots in squalls. Another boat was hove-to and a third was on a sea anchor.
Des promised us strong southwesterlies - exactly what we need.
The wind was down this morning and so we looked at the mainsail. The batten cars were missing screws. Twelve were gone including one whole car. I redistributed the remaining screws so each car was just one short. All of this was done on a rolling deck. We got it done and swapped the main for the trysail, tying it to the boom.
This morning the southeasterlies arrived. We pushed out the main and the jib. The boat accelerated. I walked to deck to check as the sun came out.
"Yikes!" The nut for the staysail fuller fitting was missing. I grabbed tools and started to unscrew the turnbuckle to take pressure off the screw, hoping to replace the fitting with a bolt. Each turn increased the chance of the turnbuckle coming apart and the whole works swinging around on the pitching deck.
After the third wave broke on my back and filled my pants I lost my nerve. I decided that we would not need the staysail on this trip and lashed it down to hold it until we got to land.
Lunch at three, a shower and a nap. At five I checked course, only to find that we were running twenty degrees off course and that the right one was dead down wind. Time to put the poles up.
"You're kidding," Jeannie responded.
With a stern look she marched out on deck with me and an hour later we had the main down and both remaining headsails poled out. In the process of bringing it down I noticed that the top batten looked funny, but that is something for tomorrow.
With a top wind predicted of twenty knots we would be fine with the two sails out all night. Jeannie went down after dinner at eight. I am up writing this. The boat is racing along between ten and eleven knots. The wind is at twenty seven and does not seem to be coming down. This boat thinks it is racing.
We are exhausted and our bones ache. We have a choice: leave it up and get there faster if everything holds together or take in sail. I know the boat is built to stand up to this. I just don't know if the screws that hold it together are falling out.
Ten o'clock and time to go on deck in high winds to take in some sail.
August 15, 2004
We arrived in Noumea New Caledonia on July 12th. Our rule of thumb is that every day at sea equals one work day in port. This proved accurate. The fresh water system, mainsail, staysail, wind speed, and navigation system all needed attention. This is early in the life of a new boat so one must master the learning curve before things get fixed.
On July 20th we left Noumea and sailed the southern lagoon. We snorkeled, hiked, read and enjoyed the spectacular anchorages of the Isle of Pines.
We had commitments back in Chicago and plane tickets for a two week return departing July 31st. However the Kanacks, the native people, delayed our trip. Their drive for independence from France was bloody in the 80's.
The Kanacks took over the airport, commercial port and one toll booth on the 31st. After three days of negotiations the airport was reopened. We left on the first flight out guarded by unarmed French commandos. No one seemed excited about it.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Jos Archer arrived to "boat watch" for us. They seem to love Onora as much as we do.