Friday, March 25, 2016

//WL2K Scared Sh&*(less

Current Position: Hiva-Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific Ocean

I always thought the subject and interesting expression. Not my problem in times of high stress.

We transited the Panama Canal on the 14th and 15th of February. We arrived at the Balboa Yacht Club for fuel. We had intended to spend the night but were totally put off by the facilities. At 0000z (midnight UTC on 16 February) we headed out into the Pacific Ocean - destination Hiva-Oa, French Polynesia. This is a 4,100 nautical mile passage and we expected it to take about 41 days. The first 2,900 nm were normal for a passage: boredom, frustration, boredom, exhaustion, boredom. Wash, rinse, repeat.

On the morning of March 12th I noticed that the port lower shroud was loose. I went to tightened it and discovered that it was almost completely tight. Going over to its partner, the lower starboard shroud I discovered that several of the strands of the 1x19 wire had snapped. I tightened things up. About 3 hours later (March 13 UTC) there was a large pop and the shroud separated, not from the bottom where I had been working but up on the mast. This was, needless to say, an "issue."

We were 1200 nm from the nearest land. The nearest ship that could help us was 5 days away. We have a motoring range of about 150 nm. As the Captain it was my job to stay calm and focused. Difficult when your bowels are suggesting something else. We dropped the sails, bobbed around, and had a "what do we do now" conference. First step was to send a text to Paul (KM4MA) advising him of our situation and asking him to relay a "Pan-Pan" to the US Coast Guard. The idea was that,, just as the first step in fighting a fire is call the fire department our first step was to notify the Coast Guard that we were in trouble.

At that point we decided that we could wrap a high strength low stretch rope around the mast to stabilize it. Now this sounded like a good idea and had we been in port it would not have been much of a problem On the other hand climbing a mast in 20 knot winds and 8 foot seas is not anyone's idea of a good time. Davyd (Cohen) volunteered and we cranked (as he climbed) up the mast. Even in the harness and with safety lines it was a hell of a climb. He did get the line around the mast and we were able to secure the bottom with a loop of rope and a come along.

We put out a little sail and continued to the Marquesas. .As the days passed we felt more confident that we could make it to the Marquesas. On March 20th with 452 nm to go we decided that we would rig a second line. Since we did not want to go up on the mast we rigged a rubber bucket with 10 lbs of sugar, hoisted it up with a halyard, and swung it over the spreader. It was a comedy but it did finally work. We had disconnected the spreader from the deck plate so we were able to use the hook on the come along to hold the bottom of the line

We continued sailing along until the morning of March 24th. Loud bang. We were all in the cockpit and thought we had hit something. No, the port lower spreader had just died from fatigue. At least we knew what to do. With 155 nm to go we rigged a line on the other side and continued on. At this point we where 86 nm from Hiva-Oa. We decided to abandon our attempt to go to Nuka-Hiva and motor direct to Hiva-Oa. Our fixes failed two more times - the hook on one come along shattered and the second come alone worked its way loose. These were minor annoyances by this point.Twenty three hours later we were anchored. And were greatly relieved.

Fair winds and following seas ;0