Day 295, Year 1: On a Roll
Date: Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Weather: Blue Skies and Sunny; E Winds Variable 10-20
Latitude: 17 degrees, 49 minutes S
Longitude: 166 degrees, 04 minutes W
Location: Passage from Rarotonga to American Samoa, Day 4
Miles to Go: 340 (out of 747)

We’re on a roll. We have had two great days of sailing. We are no longer sailing wing and wing. We are on a broad reach with a double-reefed main and a scrap of headsail and even with the reefed sails we are making good progress. We anticipate reaching the harbor in American Samoa on Friday afternoon if things continue has they have for the past 48 hours. The sky has clouded over in the past hour and we’re not sure what that will bring. The weather reports are indicating that we shouldn’t have any major changes in the next few days, but we all know how reliable those weather reports can be.

Last night’s sail was beautiful. Early in the evening the moon looked almost full and it really lit up the sky and the water. I love it when I am on watch and it is that light out. I can just sit in one place and glance around. I don’t have to get up every 15-30 minutes and look out for other traffic. With this leg of mine, that is a real bonus. I was on watch as the full moon dipped below horizon at about 0700 this morning. The sun had not yet come up, but as the moon went down the sky began slowly lightening. There were just a few clouds on the horizon, so it was quite a show. I think tonight the moon is officially full, but if these recent clouds persist, we might not get to see much of the moon.

Yesterday I talked to Dr. Carlin at the World Clinic on the SAT phone and he recommended that I put the cast back on. It was cut off so that I could put in back on and wrap it with an ace bandage to keep it in place. Dr. Carlin thinks that my leg has not fully healed and he suspects that they might recast when I reach American Samoa. I sure hope he is wrong, but it has been almost six weeks now and it just doesn’t feel right. Of course, I’ve never had a broken bone before and have no idea how it should feel. I’m just hoping the American trained medical staff in American Samoa is a little more thorough than the doctors in Rarotonga. I’ll let you know how this goes once we arrive.

The first day out on this trip, Mark returned an e-mail to Jon and Heather Turgeon back at Shipyard Quarters in Charlestown. They will be leaving next fall for the Caribbean and then on around the world. Jon had asked Mark a few questions, and the Captain’s Rambling below is taken from that e-mail reply. It basically addresses some of the recommendations we would have for anyone undertaking long-term cruising.

Captain’s Ramblings #6

It is difficult to relate all that we have learned along the way. We thought we had anticipated just about everything, but that was a very Pollyanna view. There is NO WAY to anticipate all that will happen when you are out here. But you should never let that stop you. You figure it out and go on. In my last “ramblings” I promised an edition addressing engine and transmission issues. That will come, but for now I will just address some of the things we have found indispensable. If anyone reading this has questions, please send those along and we will address them in a later log.

First, we love our Spade anchor. It has held when plows have drug around us. In sand it is superb and I would trust it in a gale. In mud is works very well but sometimes the mud is a soft covering for a very hard (rock?) shelf underneath. It will hold then, but I have had it drag once in those conditions. Lots of chain is our answer, but some of the anchorages out here are 60 to 70 feet deep, so lots of scope is a luxury. We have 300 feet of 3/8 inch chain and that has been enough, though if I were to weather a storm in 60 feet depths I would certainly put out a second anchor and maybe add some rope to the chain rode (or maybe just put to sea). The 300 feet of chain weights 450 pounds and that is as much as we can afford to carry. Incidentally, stern anchors are often necessary either to keep you into the swell or to keep you off your neighbors in tight anchorages. We use a Danforth for this and it has been excellent. Both our spade and our Danforth are galvanized. As for aluminum, I know of one boat that has an aluminum Spade and loves it. The captain does mention a little concern that in changing winds or tides that the shank might bend more easily than with the galvanized one, but we have not heard of this happening.

We finally got a wi-fi booster and it does help. But it is not as great as advertised. We do get a better signal with it so I guess that is what it was for – it’s just not as much of a boost as I had hoped. There are a good number of wi-fi services that cover anchorages so if you would like to surf the internet from your boat, which is a great luxury, then I would definitely get one.

We love our hard bottom dingy. We stay dry and can plane it with only an 8 horse motor (great when the anchorage is a long way from shore access). However, I wouldn’t buy an AB again as the material is delaminating in a few places at the overlap seams. Caribs seem to be a good choice from what I can tell.

We also like our hooka (or “snuba”). This is a battery operated generator that supplies air to hoses that allow diving down to 30 feet. I use it often to clean the bottom. In the Pacific that seems to be mandatory about once a month – sometimes sooner! I would not recommend a gas operated one as the fumes are sucked into the air intake – not great air for breathing. People who have dive equipment seem to rarely use it. It is hard to get bottles filled, cumbersome to use for a quick job on the boat, etc. I have worked under our boat for two to three hours at a time with the hooka. When it comes to recreational diving, dive gear may be better as it gives you more freedom of movement – but everyone we know just snorkels. There is plenty to see that way, and with water clarity in some places you can see clearly 30 to even 60 feet.

We have not used our folding bikes. They are difficult to get out of storage on the boat, into the dingy, onto shore (sometimes the landing spots are barely good enough for us to get ashore), and set up. Then at the end of the day we have to do it all in reverse as there is no place on shore to store them. But then, we weren’t avid bikers before the trip and some folks say that if you bike before then you might use them. When we did finally get the bikes out, we found that the spokes had rusted and they are now unusable. We’ll try to get them repaired thinking that we might use them in New Zealand. We have occasionally rented a car to tour an island. That was expensive in French Polynesia (about $100 per day) but less than half that in the Cook Islands.

A watermaker is indispensable since many places do not have drinkable water. But if you have one, carry spares – especially the expensive membranes as any oil in the water will damage them. We also have a rebuild kit for the pump and have done one rebuild already. It seems that everyone is always working on their watermaker, but it something most cruisers we have met would not want to be without.

Our plastic cockpit enclosure which we had made for Boston winters has proved very useful. It keeps us dry in bad spray or in downpours and on stormy night passages it keeps us out of the wind and keeps us warm. It is winter here in the South Pacific and places like Rarotonga are pretty far south so it can get chilly – same goes for Tonga we hear. But we are now on passage to Samoa – closer to the equator and warmer weather, but a partial enclosure will still help keep us dry.

Good quality headlamps for reading on watch at night are a necessity. And make sure you bring lots of extra rechargeable batteries and a couple of good battery chargers. I should note that some tools and battery chargers do not work well (or even burn out) with a standard inverter. Our inverter produces a modified square wave. Normal electricity (what you have back home) for which tools and small chargers were made is a sine wave. I am no electronics expert but I know that the difference can be damaging to sensitive equipment. True sine wave inverters are very expensive so I would suggest trying your small battery chargers using your inverter before leaving and then stick with the ones that don’t burn out. For us that has been trial and error.

We could stand to have some very long lines for tying to trees ashore or to give us plenty of scope on our sea anchor if we ever have to use it. One or two lines about 600 feet long would be nice. But then we would have the problem of storing them!!! Some people carry a spool of line or strong webbing on the aft deck and that works nicely.

When you leave for long term cruising, you will want to adjust your waterline. We found that though we had painted ours higher, that by the time we added all the stores we needed we should have gone for another several inches. Our design draft is 5′ 10″. Our actual is somewhat over six feet. It is good to have bottom paint extend six inches or so above the waterline so you don’t get growth on the topsides or painted waterline stripe. Even at that, you will still get some. After 3000 nonstop miles on the same tack you do get scum and algae and even barnacles well up on the topsides. And it can be tough to clean off, so bring lots of scrub brushes, “greenies” (Scotch Brite pads) and Clorox Clean-up. We have found spraying that on the growth kills it and makes it easier to clean off.

In the Caribbean the wind generator was our most important supplemental energy source. In the Pacific it is our two 75-watt solar panels. We would go for more solar panels if we had space for them.

Enough for now. It is expensive getting started – and the expenses continue with breakdowns and unexpected costs. But it is certainly worth it.

S/V Windbird