From the Marshall Islands not to Canton
Repairs before our departure
So there we were, in Majuro on the Marshall Islands, waiting for the new stay and the freshwater pump for our motor. We ordered the pump from Vetus in the Netherlands and it will be shipped by DHL. It cost a pretty penny, but it arrives after ten days, along with the other parts we ordered. Replacing the pump turns out to be a piece of cake, just like we expected, and our motor seems to be perfectly alright again. Or does it? Where does that drop of water come from? Is it coolant or salt water? It turns out to be salt water and it’s from the saltwater pump. Not again! Fortunately, it is only a tiny little drop and it stops as soon as we keep the motor running for a while. The pump has probably been dry for too long.
A couple of days later, the parts for the stay arrive. Ken, a friendly American from the boat “Moonbird”, has offered his help. He has a lot of experience with Stalok products and teaches us all the tips and tricks, and he shows us how simple it is to assemble a stay. If we had known this back in the Netherlands, we would have chosen this system. This way, you can repair or replace the stay wherever you are, even on the most remote island, because you no longer need a rigger.
As soon as the boat is in shipshape condition, we stock up on fresh vegetables again, as far as they are available. We wrap the carrots in paper towels and put them in a bag in the fridge, and we put vaseline on the eggs to make them last longer. We will have to eat the cabbage, onions, tomatoes, spring onions and peppers first. From other sailors we receive information about lots of strong wind and rough seas, and a torn mainsail. One boat even ended up with a broken mast. So we decide to wait for a couple of days and as soon as we notice that the wind is subsiding, we can depart. The day has come: we are finally leaving the Marshall Islands. It is a kind of relief.
Back at sea
North of the equator there’s an area where the collision of warm and cold layers of air causes bad weather. This area is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ. In the normal course of events, this zone moves to the south in winter and it is dry here, but this year things are different.The ITZC remained off the Marshall Islands, and as a result we had a lot of rain. At the start of our trip we have two conflicting objectives: we want to sail as far east as possible to reach Canton, but we also want to sail as far south as possible to escape the effects of the ITCZ. In addition, the further south you go, the more difficult it is to go east, because of a strong countercurrent. Are you still following me?
We decide on a set course close to the wind, which mainly heads southward and slightly eastward. The first three days we sail beautifully, we have a good wind and slowly but surely we overcome our seasickness. Then the wind subsides and both our course and the direction to our destination, Canton, become useless. For a couple of days we still manage to sail around fifty miles a day to our destination, but on the seventh day it is absolutely impossible to make any more progress. Even the storm jib, which we have hoisted to catch more wind, no longer helps. We are even floating backwards and our worst result is only ten miles in 24 hours in the direction of our destination. According to the weather forecast, the wind will return in approximately two days, so we have to be patient for a little bit longer.
On the second windless day we are both a little bit sad, it just doesn’t feel good to float around like this and the sound of the flapping sail is not very pleasant. While Hans is walking along the deck to check everything, Dory suddenly hears him shout “WOW!”. She runs outside to see what has happened.Then she sees what has caused him to cry out. There’s a shark, what’s it called, a whale shark?, right next to the boat. The water is very flat and it is really close to the surface, so it is clearly visible. Its dorsal fin continually sticks out of the water. It keeps swimming around the boat and we can see the little white pilot fish that accompany it. We try to detect its eyes, but they are very well hidden. After the first lap around the boat we grab our cameras and take pictures and film it. At least it has improved our mood. After four or five laps it disappears again. It was a small one, only about three metres long, and it has probably gone back to its mother, which we haven’t seen. Today was Friday the thirteenth, but it doesn’t feel as if we had any bad luck. The wind picks up and we can start sailing again.
Repairs during our trip
After the windless period we experience quite a strong wind and we follow a course close to the wind with two reefs in the sail. One evening, just before the watches start, we notice that the foresail has two tiny rips. We take it down and repair the sail in the same way we have repaired our old mainsails before, using glue. When we hoist it again, everything seems okay, but the next morning it looks as if it is not going to hold up. We repair it again, this time more meticulously, and make sure that the sail is dry, but after a couple of hours this does not seem sufficient. We have no other option but to dig into the forward deck and to get out the genoa. We hoist the enormous headsail and realise we have forgotten how well we are able to sail close to the wind with it. We create a tool with a block of wood and a needle from a sewing machine to repair the foresail, and this seems to be going really well, but we give up because the genoa is doing great. We will just have to ask a sailmaker in Fiji to repair the sail with a machine. It will be a lot faster and easier than sewing on a wobbly boat.
The problems are solved. At least, that’s what we thought. Despite the fact that the sun is shining all the time, the solar panel on the forward deck is no longer providing electricity. Hans uses a multimeter to measure it in different places and has to conclude that the panel is no longer working. At the back of the panel is a small box and when we open the lid, we find that the contents are completely corroded. It’s a miracle that it has worked for so long. We carry the whole thing inside and manage to reconnect the vital parts with a soldering iron. It’s not exactly a professional job, but at least it’s working again. Having learned from this experience we tie the panel to a dry place on top of the dinghy instead of on the forward deck. Later we will see if we can make the box more watertight.
Not to Canton
Every day we make reasonable progress to the east and once we are south of the equator, the weather starts improving. We have now been sailing for more than two weeks and we shouldn’t really go any further south if we want to go to Canton. We need to go further east, but the wind is slowly turning in the wrong direction and is growing stronger, and it is getting more and more difficult to follow the right course. With 20 knots of wind we’re pounding laboriously against the wind and the waves with a speed of just 1 to 1.5 knots. The trip to our destination is becoming more and more unpleasant. We have to make a choice: sailing against the wind for nine days to cover the 280 miles to Canton, or sailing an easy course for nine days to cover the almost 900 miles to Fiji. With regrets we decide to choose the easy way: it’s better for our boat and easier for us. Eight days later we arrive safely in Savusavu on Fiji. After having seen only flat atolls for the past six months, the green hills of beautiful Fiji are a joy to behold. The people here are so friendly and we are very happy to find a market filled with fresh vegetables and fruit, and especially lots of pineapples.
Here we prepare out trip to Port Denarau, where we want to hoist Happy Monster out of the water at the beginning of July to finally have the much needed repairs done.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)