Rated NFM (Not For Mom)
Days 2 & 3 Fiji to New Zealand
Before we begin we’d like to apologize that there are no pictures with the last couple of posts. Our Iridium Go seems to be giving us some trouble getting them uploaded. We will post a gallery of pics from this passage when we reach New Zealand and have regular internet again.
I awoke from my post watch nap on the second day of our journey to a much different world. There was sunshine,15 knots of wind and nice easy swells between 1.5 and 2 meters. Wow! What a difference a few hours can make out here on the open ocean. It was truly a beautiful day with brochure sailing. We were making 5.5-6 knots and enjoying a wonderful day at sea. It was so nice that I spent most of the day in the cockpit and even stopped to make some chicken salad and Dan & Grape Ape’s favorite meal, Fijoles de la Hoya. That evening when my watch came up I was actually happy to be going on deck. It was simply spectacular out on that moonless night with a crystal clear sky and millions of stars that could be seen from horizon to horizon. Ahhhh! THIS is my idea of sailing!
But, as luck would have it I went to bed after my watch and awoke on the morning of day three to another blustery day with choppy seas and three meter swells, Lord of Lord, would you please make up your heavenly mind?
We were getting tossed around quite a bit and while I was much calmer than I was on the first day out I was still miserable and could think of nothing more than having this trip be over! I just wanted to be back in New Zealand sitting in a pub with a cold pint of ale in front of me. Add to this I had a raging headache which is an ailment that rarely afflicts me.
After giving Dan a couple of hours to take a break and sleep I came back down below and headed for the bunk. Even though it was bouncy and I would literally be lifted off the mattress several inches every few minutes I found a way to sleep and I slept for several hours. I was secretly hoping I wasn’t coming down with something as I’d been sneezing a lot the night before. On passage is no place to get sick. Dan needs me out here. Later I would realize that my headache was caused by dehydration. The first couple of days on a passage are sort of difficult to manage in the best of weather and with the weather we’d been dealing with I simply was forgetting to drink my share of water or even eat well. Two things for which Dan would chastise me for later.
I woke up from my slumber around 1500 because it sounded like holy hell was being unleashed outside. The crashes and booms in the bunk were loud and terribly unsettling. I slowly made my way to the companionway being sure to hold tightly to the hand holds and anything else I could grab to keep from being knocked down. I poked my head outside and Dan said we weren’t making much progress at all. From the looks of the sea I could understand why. We were beating into the swells with the engine hard on it and only making about two knots. Soon after our conversation he decided it wasn’t worth beating us and Dazzler up for so little forward progress so we decided to hove to. That’s like parking in the ocean.
Hoving to is a maneuver that allows sailboats to ride out bad weather and/or slow things down so you can make repairs, cook, sleep or whatever. If you plan to sail the open oceans mastering this skill is a must! When you hove to you place the boat at just the right angle to the swell then lock the wheel and the sail in place. This creates a slick in the water in front of the oncoming swells. This slick actually disrupts the forward motion of the wave and calms it down so the boat glides gently over top of it. You cease making any forward way and move ever so slowly in the direction of the wind and current. It’s actually pretty cool to see and experience it. We’ve done it many times in our travels.
We decided we would hove to until the wind and swell clocked around later that evening. I know this will sound crazy but once we were in position it was literally like being at anchor. The swells were a little over two meters and we just floated over top of them so nicely. Dan and I relaxed below for a bit and then he took a nap while I harvested ice, read a little and started dinner. We actually stayed hove to for six and a half hours!
Around 2230 while I was taking my pre-watch nap Dan decided the weather had changed enough that he fired the engine and we were on our way. The firing of the engine woke me up but it was the crashing into the waves that got me out of bed. I crawled up the companionway stairs and opened the hatch. “I thought we hove to so we didn’t have to get beat up like this.” I blurted out. Dan replied, “It’s better than it was and we are able to maintain five knots.” Not liking the answer I grumbled under my breath and headed back to the bunk to see if I could get a couple more hours of sleep.
I wasn’t in bed a half hour when I heard a sound that made my hair stand on end and caused me to sit straight up. It sounded like the release of steam from an old steam engine. I came flying out of the bunk and as I reached the galley I smelled it. Something was hot…maybe even on fire. I hollered up to the cockpit but by that time Dan was already shutting her down. He came below and I told him what I heard. He could obviously smell the hot engine smell.
He immediately opens the door to the engine. I’m praying nothing is on fire and thankfully we didn’t see any flames but he can’t see enough to determine what’s actually wrong so he has to remove the cowling from the front of the engine. This requires also removing the stairs to the cockpit.
Last year when we sailed to New Zealand from Tonga we had the engine overheat and it was a bad impeller so that’s where Dan went to look first. Before he could take it out he needed to close the seacock so he had to dig into the quarter berth to open the door to the side of the engine. This is when things start getting messy in the cabin because all that stuff has to come out and sit somewhere while he works. It’s a mess with things laying all over the seats and floor and counters. I’m literally having to climb over sails and boxes and stairs to move about the salon. Finally I make a place to sit at the table and plant myself there.
Back to the problem at hand….as he reaches in to the close the seacock he sees a big hole in the engine exhaust thingy. It looked like the outside of a piece of metal that had a bullet pass through it. Aha! This could be our culprit. At least we were fairly certain this is where that steam release sound came from. The big question is how the heck are we going to fix it? At first he decides to use fiberglass but this could take a while to harden and we don’t want to be sitting here for any longer than necessary. Then he remembers this Minute Mend multipurpose putty that he bought in New Zealand earlier this year, This should work perfectly. So he gets the putty out and works it into the hole. It sets up in thirty minutes. While he’s waiting he decides that even though the impeller looked fine he is going to replace it just to be safe. Well, good thing he pulled it out because there were a few veins that had splits in them. Really? We just replaced this a year ago. Arghhh!
Once the new impeller was in and he putty had set up Dan fired up the engine to see if we were back in business. I was below with my head in the quarter berth door checking to be sure the putty was holding and not leaking and Dan was looking out back to see that the engine was peeing over the side. All was good on my end…not on his so he shut her down.
At this point I could no longer help so I went back to the corner I carved out for myself at the table and Dan set about on a process of elimination. He checked several things and finally pulled a hose off the top of the engine. He had me hold it while he fired up the engine to see if water came out of that hose. It did. He reattached it and checked some other things then fired her up and suddenly she was peeing again. Hooray! We’re back in business!
We cleaned up the mess and stowed everything back in its proper place and off we went. We decided that Dan desperately needed some sleep so I’d take the first watch. After all, it’s more important for him to be firing on all four cylinders than it is for me. He went to bed and up to the cockpit I went with my snacks and Coca Cola in hand.
It’s 0330 on Halloween morning. As I sit down and settle in tears begin to fall. I’m not sure why I’ve been so emotional on this trip but I am and I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because of the two different stories we read in the past couple of weeks about boats that sank just outside of New Zealand. On one a man from Tauranga, NZ died while three others on the boat were rescued. On another, a German flagged vessel, they all were rescued after their boat had been demasted. Maybe these stories are sitting in the back of my brain feeding me with thoughts of doom. I don’t know but I do know I’ve been a bit of a wreck and I hate it. I’m not usually this way.
As I sit in the cockpit crying and talking to God I realize I’m being a baby and need to just stop it. I’m much tougher than all this and I know we will get there. These things are just part of the type of sailing we do. So I dry my tears and start reading my book. I could use a little humor at this point.
About a half hour into my watch I get a snout full of diesel fuel fumes. It’s strong, really strong and it’s filling the cockpit. I pull back on the throttle and call Dan. He felt us slow down and was already on his way up. As soon as he opens the doors the fumes smack him right in the face. For crying out loud what is this now? Haven’t we had enough already?
Dan puts on his clothes and foul weather gear and heads out on deck. Within moments he sees that one of our 50 liter fuel jugs has a crack in the side. He we go. We hove to for the third time in less than 12 hours. We will have to siphon the fuel from the jug into the main fuel tank in the dark. Joy oh joy! NOT!
Dan grabs the jiggler siphon doodad and we head to the port deck. The jug in question is heavy and just two days ago the handle broke. He’s going to have to untie and move three other jugs in order to slide this one down to the fuel hole on deck. I’m there to hold those jugs in place and keep them from going overboard, It takes twenty minutes or so just to get things ready and start the process of siphoning. The two of us are sitting there in the pitch black with just a tiny spotlight from his headlamp to light the project. We barely speak a word. I think we both are feeling a little beaten down and this is just the end of the third day. We still have nine more to go.
It took us just over an hour to get the fuel transferred, get the jugs re-secured, clean the fuel from the deck and get ready to get back underway. It’s just before 0500 when Dan heads back down for some much deserved rest. As for me, I hunkered down in the cockpit under the dodger where I sat watching the white ocean foam spill out from under Dazzler and pondered what in the world could happen next.
Until next time…
Jilly & Dan