‘Lowered’ to the Occaison: Passage Part 1
After hopping upwind through the atolls little by little, the Marquesas Islands finally sat at a reasonable cross-angle to the prevailing easterlies. With typical trades, Swell would be close-reaching. With anything but northeast wind, and it was likely to take about 4 days to make the 550-mile trip. And with new, able-bodied Tahitian crew aboard, I was less intimidated by the stretch of water ahead. All weather forecasts showed the wind turning east/southeast for the next week, blowing between 10-15 knots…just right! It looked like the moment to head out.
I was getting itchy to see green, fruit-laden mountains rise from the sea after all that time in the atolls! We hauled the dinghy aboard and Swell rode the outgoing tide out of the lagoon’s pass…
The open sea welcomed us with blue skies and 8-9 knots of steady wind. Swell sliced gracefully through the gentle lumps of sea, flaunting all her canvas, and trailing a foamy white swirl among the endless spread of glittering neon blue. Raiarii delighted in hand steering, looking all too comfortable at the helm nearing sundown. A sailor’s dream day!
I finally put the wind vane to work as the air grew cool and crimsons swirled in the west. We ate polenta cakes with lentils and chopped cabbage, munching away as Taurus and Orion greeted us in the east…
A wet, windless squall enveloped Swell around 2 am. I motored through it until the wind returned, but by morning, high horse tail clouds and confused seas revealed change in the weather. The wind increased gradually by early afternoon. We’d shortened sail, but held our course and speed. By afternoon we’d made good progress, but Raiarii wasn’t feeling great. He’d lost his lunch earlier in the day, and wasn’t looking all that excited for our next meal.
Suddenly, Swell rounded up into the wind, sails luffing wildly…I looked around for what had gone wrong??
…Aft of Swell, I noticed something flashing in the water…
The wind vane rudder had sheared off at the post and was dangling behind!! Luckily, it was tied to Swell with a security line. I hauled it up and examined the break. While I searched for the spare parts for the wind vane, Raiarii managed to remove the broken stainless tubing from inside rudder’s shaft. Amazingly, I found the part we needed. We secured it to the rudder, but how were we going to get the rudder back onto the wind vane?
The sun had just set, and the seas were big enough that getting in the water seemed out of the question. Raiarii hadn’t eaten since our first evening meal, and Swell’s movement had turned into drunken lurching with the sails down…
I shimmied over the stern, dangling down toward where we needed to insert the rudder arm, but my arms stopped a full foot short…
“Hold my feet, I’m going down.” He said.
“But…!?” Before I could finish he was dangling headfirst over the stern with the repaired rudder in hand. In less than a minute, the piece was back in place and I passed him the stainless pin. He aligned the holes, pushed the pin through, and secured it with a ring on the exposed end…He came up, red from the blood rush to his head, but soon pale again from Swell’s wretched rolling. But it was fixed! So I put the tools away, and got Swell underway again…
SailFarLiveFreeFebruary 18, 2012
Awesome start to the Marquesas passage. All along I’ve hoped for wind vane self-steering because autopilot reliability makes me anxious. Guess nothing is foolproof, right Liz?
lizzyFebruary 19, 2012
That’s for sure…but I must say that Monitor packs a well-equipped bag of spare parts in their ‘cruising kit’! Every time something has broken on the wind vane (only 3 parts in 6 years), there has been a replacement piece in the kit.
Shel.ley ZurekFebruary 19, 2012
I have been following your journey over the past year+ after I met you and your dad the Buffett concert in Orange County. I am not sure if you recall but my husband and I were in CA just for the concert, we travelled from Omaha, Nebraska for it. Anyway if you do recall, I was just writing to see if you still by anychance keep in contact with those in the Buffett circle. He is coming to Omaha for a concert first time since June 12, 1988 (other than the opening of the Cheeseburger in Paradise private concert) anyway they just announced he is coming to Omaha again in April, with tickets going on sale this Sat 2/25. ….we are sure tickets will sell out within minutes and are just grasping at any chance to secure tickets for us and our girls (ages 16 & 15) …if you have anyone within the Buffett organization that would be able to help us secure some tickets that would be great. Let me know..thanks-