Dois and I motored Ashika, our Fuji45 ketch out of Funifuti, Tuvalu on a Friday. Superstitious sailors would say that was our first mistake... leaving on Friday. But our later experience would speak to a different problem entirely. We were also traveling with a jury-rigged boom with a topping lift from the mizzen to the boom to compensate for our damaged boom vang and we also still had a kluged genset running cooling water with our air conditioner pump. We were seeking a wind line and found it about two days out, thankfully. Our engine had started surging and we shut it down thinking we had a fan belt problem. Dois tightened it up best he could and then we set the sails in 10 to 12 knots of wind. We were eager to get the windvane in service because our autopilot had been making us hand steer the last 24 hours and that is enough to send a sane man overboard. Dois calls it riding the needle because you sit and stare at a glowing wind meter trying to keep the needle in a good place for the sails. I call it Hell. Ashika took well to the wind and seas and soon we were at ease with the quiet rhythm of wind in the sails on lovely purple seas.
We knew this trip was a journey that would be sailed “hard to weather”. But sailing against a head wind can be some pretty fun sailing. Pointing the boat slightly off the wind can turn a 30,000 lb. cruising boat into a sailing machine and I caught cowboy Dois whooping it up several times. But this kind of sailing also heels the boat over, sometimes dramatically and because we forgot to close the valves that isolate the water tanks from one another, most of our onboard water had poured out of the air vent located on the top of the low side tank. D@MN.
We were reduced to scooping water that was left with a small pitcher and because it was water left from the bottom of the tanks, it was a lovely shade of terracotta. We added a filtering system to our daily chores that utilized cheese cloth and a Brita filtering pitcher. The resulting water was clear, tasted ok and we didn’t get sick. I rigged a solar shower up over the galley sink for washing dishes and hands.
The weather was perking up again and after 6 days we were ready for a break and headed for the pass at Tarawa in the island nation of Kiribati (would you believe this is pronounced gi-ti-bis?). Atolls islands are coral that used to surround volcanic islands. The volcanos are too heavy for the ocean floor from whence they emerged from about a few million years or so and the volcano sinks below the water leaving coral rings with beautiful blue lagoons. Many of these islets have passes that boats can traverse, some can even accommodate huge freighters or cruise ships.
Any pass arrived at in the dark is not a great plan unless you know the area well, but we decided our satellite maps and charts were excellent here and the boating community inside affirmed the ease of the pass. We dropped the sails and started the engine and put her into gear. I turned the wheel towards the entrance and Dois yelled to me from the bow where he was working on the sails "Go ahead Lauri!". But Ashika did not respond. "I'm givin her all she's got Scotty (I didn't really say that but it's funnier than the panicked response that I did yell). Dois jumped below to find an oil pan full of fresh red ATF fluid, our transmission had failed again. Our mission aborted, we raised the sails up again as fast as we could to keep clear of the reef and headed back out into the dark and stormy seas.
More to come... Keep an eye out for the second part of this journey:
Hard on the Wind to the Marshalls - Part 2
Our current book recommendation:
The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. It's an historical novel based on the life of the author's long-lost relative and based in Northern Mexico, not far from the Sea of Cortez (one of my favorite places). It is simply a beautiful read. Both Dois and I loved it.