Archive for April, 2008

Fun with Engines

Monday, April 28th, 2008

My 25hp Isuzu in place:

The fun just never ends while out cruising. I’m just minding my own business doing a little routine maintenance changing Bodhran’s oil when what do I notice? A bolt hanging askew right back behind the oil filter. Well that’s not good I think to myself. I pull out the bolt, and sure enough it’s sheared off and the rest of the bolt is stuck in the engine block. Well no bid deal it’s just one of the bolts that attach the aft starboard engine mount to the engine. Ok, so actually it is a big deal, now what am I going to do about it. My engine compartment only leaves about 4 inches of space on the outside of the engine to get to that area, so there’s no way I can get a drill in there to drill the broken off bolt out of the block. I tried to think of some other way to support the engine while I wait to get to civilization (Papeete) and fix the problem. Nope, I can’t think of anything, so my only option is to pull the engine so that I can get to the side of it and hopefully get the broken bolt out. It’s Saturday and we’ve got plans to go to the soccer game again and then play music with a bunch of the locals afterwards, so I spray a liberal amount of Kroil (penetrating oil) on all the bolts needed to remove the engine, go out, play a bunch of music, get drunk and put off my problems until tomorrow.

So I get up Sunday morning, drink a pot of coffee, and tear into my engine. It only took a couple hours to get everything disconnected (fuel systems, morse cables, alternator, starter, waterpump, exhaust and shaft coupler.) Then Greg from Willow skiffs over with his come-along and some nice sharp drill bits. As it turns out pulling an engine isn’t all that hard. We rigged up some webbing over the boom to attach the come-along to, added a safety line run through a block on the boom down to a winch and lifter her out. The engine sits at an angle so we had to mess around with the bridle a bit to get it to lift evenly off the motor mounts, then we lashed it to a padeye in the galley to turn it and keep it from swinging and shimmed it up with a couple of boards. As we lifted the engine off it’s mounts, we found that both the bolts on the offending brackets had sheared and that the starboard aft motor mount wasn’t actually doing anything at all.

Come-along rigged to the boom to lift the engine:

My Isuzu pulled out and ready to work on:

Sheared off bolts on the side of the block:

From there the plan was drill holes into the sheared off bolts and then try to back them out with an easy-out. Now in the past I’ve found that this works maybe half the time. Of course normally you’re drilling out stainless, it’s incredibly hard to get a hole started dead center and it’s fused to it’s surrounding metal. In this case both the bolts were hardened steel, cut like butter with the drill and came loose a healthy dose of Kroil and almost no pressure on the easy-out. It couldn’t have gone more smoothly. So about 4 hours after I first started pulling the engine, we had the bracket back on the engine with new bolts and were lowering it back on it’s mounts. As we were pulling the engine, Greg noticed one of my raw water lines almost chaffed through, and the exhaust mixing elbow gasket was trashed so I had to make a new one, but other than that there were no complications with the entire job. I got the engine mostly back installed last night and then fixed the raw water hose and made a new gasket this morning. The motor mounts were left at their original positions and the engine alignment seems to be fine. I don’t know how long those bolt have been sheared off, possibly for years, but I started the engine this afternoon, ran it for an hour and all is well. It seems to be vibrating a lot less at low rpm, I guess that it’s actually better to have all the motor mounts attached after all.

Greg with my Isuzu pulled out:

A big thanks to Greg for his help. I’m pretty proud of this particular project. I’d never pulled my engine before. To be able to do it without any glitches in a rolly anchorage in one of the most remote island chains in the world feels pretty damn good!

More fun on Ua Pou

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Paul, Greg and Bonnie above Hakahau Bay:

So I’ve definitely fallen into this routine while cruising where I find a place that I like, meet some good people and end up staying there a lot longer than I anticipated. There are a lot of boats that got to the Marquesas the same time I did that are already off to the Tuamotus including Vari who’s on their way to Faku Rava right now. I’ve only been to 4 spots in 3 weeks and still fell like I’m breezing through places. With that in mind, I’m still here in Hakahau with Greg and Bonnie. We’ve got two reasonable excuses for being here. One, my Dad sent me a new belt for my autopilot which was supposed to get here a week ago, at least that’s what the US postal service said. The locals laughed at the thought of something getting here from the States in 8 days and said that 15 was more like it. Fortunately my Monitor windvane does most of my steering so having the electric autopilot out of service isn’t that big a deal, but I’m not going to leave here before the belt gets here. Here’s hoping that it’s here today. The second reason that we’ve been sticking around is Greg’s quest to find himself a Va’a ( outrigger racing canoe ). There’s a great open air palapa style Va’a builder here in the bay and Greg’s been trying to find a Va’a for sale for a week now. After having to pass on the beautiful brand new one that the guy was trying to sell him, he finally picked up an old one with a few patches on it yesterday. Now the fun part begins, trying to figure out how to fit a 24′ Va’a on a 34′ sailboat. Greg’s plan is to cut it in half, glass bulkheads in at the cut and then bolt them together when it’s time to go paddling. Good thing that Willow’s junk rig doesn’t require Greg and Bonnie to go forward while underway, cuase that canoe is going to take up most of their rather spacious deck.

Greg, Bonnie and their big red Va’a:

Driving on the red clay roads around Ua Pou:

Also yesterday, Pual gave us a driving tour of the island. It’s all dirt road once you get out of town and we eventually had to turn back because he was driving a borrowed car which was too nice to take down the rapidly deteriorating road. It was nice to get inland a bit to see the dry side of the island. There are wild horses and goats everywhere along the road and apparently a good population of boar up in the woods. They hunt all three, but the horses and goat don’t look like there’s much sport in hunting them. We also got a good look at the airport which looks like it might be a bit of a harrowing experience flying into. The strip starts right at the beach, goes up a steep valley and then ends at a mountain. Apparently they regularly have to make several attempts at landing due to the swirling winds coming off the mountains and the pilot’s desire not to hit said mountain.

Ua Pou airport:

Wild horses on the dry side of Ua Pou:

Yet another reason that we’ve been hanging around is the surf break right next to the anchorage. As I said before it’s a bit unnerving with your ride ending on some nasty rocks or a big stone bulkhead depending on the tide. Well I bucked up and have been out there a few times now. The waves here always have a lot of wind chop on them and are a lot harder to catch than the ones back in Mexico, but it’s pretty damn great just sitting out there in the lineup, hanging out with all the local surf kids and taking in the amazing surroundings. I did catch one wave yesterday, but I saw those rocks coming for me while I was standing up and decided to just ride it out of the way on my belly. I’ll keep trying the waves out there if only to keep working on my paddling, but this spot is a bit out of my league. There should be some great breaks in the Tuamotus and I need to get into shape.

Surf break in Hakahau Bay:

Video from the crossing

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Here’s a little video I took about halfway across the Pacific. I keep meaning to take more videos, I’ll try harder in the future.

Crossing Video

Hakahau, Ua Pou

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Bodhran and Willow anchored in Hakahau Bay:

Greg and Bonnie say Hi to everyone.  I think they’re just referring people to my page as long as we’re buddy boating together.  Willow and I have been here in a Hakahau for a little while now and are settling in nicely. The local Gendarmes are super friendly and clearing into the country was a piece of cake. We’d heard that the Gendarmes in Atuona on Hiva Oa were pretty difficult to deal with. So between how poor the anchorage in Atuona is and the difficulties in checking in, I’m glad we delayed making a landfall at an official port of call until now. The town of Hakahau is much bigger than the other villages that we’ve been to in the Marquesas, maybe close to 1000 people. So there’s a bank, a school, a post office, airport, a couple of restaurants and 6 or 7 little markets. On Fatu Hiva and Tahuata all the school age children are shipped off island to school, so it’s different seeing kids around here. First thing upon hitting town, we went to the ATM and got our first Pacific Francs. From there we checked in with the Gendarmes to find out what we needed to do and then went to the first market we found and had our first truly cold beers in over a month. Hinano is the local beer brewed in Tahiti. Like most lagers, I find they taste best when they’re cold and it’s hot outside. Fortunately it’s always hot here, so Hinano always goes down well. Oh yeah and you gotta love the Tahitian girl on the label. Then it was down to the post office to pick up our visa stamps (about $40 ) and then the bank to post our bonds. The bond is basically the price of a plane ticket to fly you out of here. They don’t want anyone sticking around past their visas, so the bond is to ensure you have the means to get yourself out of here. It’s mostly refundable, but it comes out to close to $1600 which definitely puts a damper on the cruising budget.

Our first Hinano beers:

This is what $28 buys you in the Marquesas, it’ll be cheaper in Tahiti, but I’ve got to buy enough groceries to get there:

There’s a little surf break on the other side of the bay, easily within paddling distance from the boats and Greg has been out there a few times. I’m a bit leary with my underdeveloped surf skills and highly unmaneuverable long board as the break ends in shallow rocky water if you’re lucky on straight into a concrete bulkhead if you’re not. Still it’s where most of the locals hangout each morning and afternoon, so it’s a good way to meet people. Then there was the soccer game on Saturday. Like most non-American countries, soccer is huge here and everyone in town was out for the match between two of the towns on the island. That’s where we met Sebastian, a French expat photographer living in Hakahau. We had our instruments with us and he invited us over to his place after the game to play some music. Of course a great time was had by all. A few of the soccer players came over and we sat around trading off songs well into the night. After we left them, we ran into the surfers Greg had been hanging out on a corner down by the bay and somehow we ended up playing with them even later into the night. So now that we’ve made lots of friends and have the lay of the town, we’re probably going to be leaving in the next few days for other anchorages on the west side of Ua Pou. Then we’ll head up to Nuku Hiva where I should have internet access again.

Soccer match in Hakahau:

Pickin at Sebastian’s house:

Bodhran, Jason and friends on the Far Side of the World

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Bodhran anchored in Hanavave Bay after 25 days at sea:

I haven’t had internet access for a long while now, so this might be kinda a long blog. I left Barra de Navidad Mexico on March 10th and set out on my single-handed passage to the Marquesas. I ended up leaving at a perfect time picking up the afternoon sea breeze and then getting out into Northerlies that were blowing not far off shore. Normally the trades lie between 300 and 600 miles offshore from that part of Mexico, but I only had to motor for an hour to get out of Barra and didn’t have to motor again until I got to the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone.) Now sailing across an ocean doesn’t really leave all that much to write about. For the most part it’s just a matter of reefing and un-reefing the sails and adjusting the windvane to changing conditions. It took me a good 7 days until I got into the NE trades proper when I was able to pole the jib out to windward and sail wing on wing for the next 9 days until I got to 130 degrees West and turns South towards the Equator. I sailed all the way to 130W in order to cross the ITCZ at it’s thinnest and never truly found large areas of no wind. Still I ended up motoring off and on for a total of 30 hours before picking up the SE trades. I crossed the Equator on day 19. I had been running the engine and had turned on the fridge to chill a 22oz bottle of Boundry Bay IPA I had brought along to commemorate the occasion. I crossed reasonably early in the morning, so I went straight from coffee to IPA and then passed out in a hop coma for an hour or so. Of course I offered up some ale for old Neptune, but I don’t think that he’s all that into bitter beer. I ended up getting some nasty weather for the next 3 days after that with squalls coming through every few hours with gusts upwards of 50 knots at their head. So you’d go from sailing along in 5-10 knots with full sail up and then you’d be on your ear trying to spill wind from the sails while reefing down in a deluge. The real problem was the complete lack of rain that I had experienced in two seasons in Mexico hid the fact that one of my solar vents had cracked in about 10 places and was sending water cascading down into the cabin. I ended up with many gallons of water soaking most of my cushions, bookshelves and lockers. When the rain stopped I was able to remove the vent and seal up the 4 inch hole in the cabin top with some epoxy that cures underwater. The patch held for the rest of the trip, but it took a good 3 days to dry out the cabin. Once I picked up the SE trades I had to switch up and sail on a close reach (60 degrees off the wind) for the next 4 days. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that my starboard rail is leaking again, so after clearing everything off that side of the boat I used a bailing sponge to soak up the water. I had to wring out the sponge every 10 minutes or so to keep things dry, but suffered no real damage. The day before landfall at Fatu Hiva I was able to fall off and beam reach the rest of the way in making landfall on the morning of April 4th after 25 days at sea.

My sweet nectar of the gods and my GPS at the equator:

Good sized following seas, but the monitor steers through it all:

Skip this paragraph if you’re not interested in some of the sailing specific details of the crossing. I ended up sailing 2957 nautical miles from Barra de Navidad to Hanavave, Fatu Hiva. I averaged 118 miles a day, sailing 142 miles on my best day and 90 miles on my worst. For the most part the winds were between 10-20 knots. The highest sustained winds were experienced in the NE trades where it blew upwards of 30-35 knots for 24 hours whipping up 15-20 foot seas. The seas were as big as 2 story houses, but were not breaking and Bodhran and my Monitor windvane handled them beautifully. I did end up taking water over the stern quarter from time to time when the boat would heal over just as I was surfing a curling whitecap dipping the stern quarter into the churning water which would shoot up into the cockpit. On a beam reach I would dip a rail from time to time on the face of a wave which would also send water back up into the cockpit. So I kept at least one hatch board in the companionway at all times. At least on my 32 footer, it doesn’t take dangerous sea conditions to send significant amounts of water back into the cockpit. I used my whisker pole about 60% of the trip to sail dead downwind and found that it was a powerful tool in conjunction with a roller furling jib and a good servo pendulum windvane. A number of people damaged their whisker poles on the way over. Whenever I deployed mine, I used a foreguy, afterguy and a topping lift to lock the pole into place. Many people use the working jib sheet to double as an afterguy which allows their poles to swing forward into their headstays when the jib was rolled up. This caused damage on at least a couple of whisker poles and could have damages rigging. One trick that I learned underway was to use the roller furler to pull any slack out of the jib once it was set. This really helps to keep the jib from slatting in rolly seas or light airs. The only really challenging part of the trip was sleeping. For the first 4 days off Mexico I only slept 15 minutes at a time. Once I was far enough off the coast, I extended that out to an hour. This still leaves plenty of time for a freighter to come up and hit me in my sleep, but was a good compromise. I’d see any sailboats or fishing boats in time to make a course correction, but big ships would have to look out for me. Radar sure would have been nice. As it turns out, I saw a fishing boat 2 days out of Mexico, a freighter at 2N and a French Naval vessel at 2S and no other boats until the night before coming into Fatu Hiva. Now that I’m here, I found that many of the European boats just go to bed when the sun goes down trusting to the vastness of the ocean to keep them from hitting anything, even when they have multiple people on board. I don’t think that I could sleep that long without checking on my boat and I fell into a rhythm with my one hour naps that I think I could maintain indefinitely.

Me after 10 days at sea with my normal downwind configuration of a poled out jib and reefed main:

Landfall at Hanavave was about as dramatic as you could hope for. The island of Fatu Hiva is a soaring mass of volcanic rock covered with lush greenery and water flowing everywhere. The anchorage itself is backed by tremendous rock formations, palm trees and a quaint little village right out of some storybook. To make matters better, my old friends Greg and Bonnie from back home were already there on Willow and had an anchoring spot all scouted out for me. Eeylos had also made it into Hanavave before me and Pat tossed me a pampanoose (big green sweet grapefruit) as I passed by. By the time I had the anchor set, everyone from both boats, including 2 year old Daneb, had swum over to welcome me. It was amazing making landfall after such a long trip, but to have friends waiting for me made it truly magical. I didn’t even make it ashore the first day, choosing instead to bust open the liquor cabinet and catch up with everyone. The next day was project day and after sleeping 11 hours cstraight I took care of some of the little things that had broken on the trip and met some of the other folk in the anchorage. Finally on the third day I actually set foot on shore and hiked the 2 miles up to the waterfall/swimming hole and back. My land legs were actually pretty good, no doubt helped by a day and half in a calm anchorage. Hanavave’s scenery was spectacular, but the local were ruthless with their trading wanting premiums for their fruit and not accepting dollars. Still they were friendly and I was able to pick up some fruit from other cruisers. After 3½ weeks at sea, fresh fruit was a real commodity.

Myself, Bonnie and Greg at the waterfall on Fatu Hiva:

After 3 days at Fatu Hiva, Willow, Eeylos and Bodhran all set out for the island of Tahuata, 38 nautical miles to the North. After sailing the trades for so long, the trip between islands was actually pretty taxing. The wind kept fluxuating in direction and velocity all the way across requiring constant attention, where on the passage across the ocean I only really had to change the vane or sail trim a couple of times a day. Eeylos chose to anchor on the north end of the island at Hanamoenoa Bay while Willow and I opted for the southern anchorage at Hanatefau Bay by the little village of Hapatoni. Willow, Eeylos and I had stayed in radio contact on the SSB all the way across the Pacific, so it was no surprise that we all met up in Hanavave, but I was surprised to see Bernie and Michelle on Momo when I pulled into Hanatefau Bay. I hadn’t seen them since last April in the Sea of Cortez. They’d been in the islands a while after an epic 43 day crossing from Mexico. They decided not to use their motor and spent 14 days trying to get through the ITCZ. Cheers to them, but I’ve got no problem running the engine when the wind goes away. We also ran into Fearless, a Hunter 460 out of California with another 30 something couple on board with whom we’d hung out in Hanavave. After a couple of days Gordon and Jeanine on Vari rolled in to finish off the trifecta of Bellingham boats.

Hanatefau Bay with the village of Hapatoni in the background:

We spent a week hanging out in Hanatefau Bay. The village of Hapatoni was renown for it’s friendliness and didn’t disappoint. We met up with Cyril first, a big buff Marquasian guy with tats covering half of his body who would paddle his racing canoe 3 times around the bay each day. The first day he invited us to come in and visit his house. Well we went into town and were first grabbed by Carlino who spoke pretty good english and wanted to show us all his carvings. We told him that we didn’t have any money, but he just wanted to show off his beautiful work. He had some fabulous Marlin bills that he’d carved and attached to rosewood handles to make spears and a lot of great bone work. When we were leaving his place, he took us up the hill and grabed us a bunch of bananas and let us pick a bag full of limes. To harvest the bananas, Carlino just used his machete to cut a notch in the bottom of a banana tree and then pushed it over. Apparently it only takes 2-3 months for a banana tree to grow 15 feet and you have to cut them back to get them to grow again. So we got a nice bunch of bananas and the tree trunk went to the pig that was tied up nearby who was growing more and more agitated as the tree was cut down in anticipation of his treat. The difference between the Marquasian villages and Mexico is amazing. Everything in town is planted with a purpose and kept meticulously neat. There are pampanoose, orange and lime trees in peoples yards and then bananas and mangos on the outskirts of the village. Of course there were lots of pigs and chickens everywhere. From there we went on to Cyril’s house where we saw his carvings. It seems that practically everyone in town is an artist and Cyril is one of the best. He had some amazing pieces made out of antlers, horns, tusks, bone, and shell. It’s amazing to see this rustic cabin of his with a diamond blade saw to cut the brittle shells and a bench mounted super dremel tool he uses to do most of the intricate work. On the way back to the dingys we met the only not boat based tourist I’ve seen in the Marquasas so far. Paul had come in from Massachusetts and was staying with a family in Hapatoni for 2 weeks and wouldn’t you know it he had a banjo. So we came back into town that night to pick tunes with Pual and the locals switching off between country/bluegrass and traditional Tahitian and Marquasian tunes.

Greg and Carlino pickin Bananas:

The music was a hit and we got to know a lot of the locals. We spent the rest of the week collecting mangos, coconut, guava and breadfruit, hiking, snorkeling and playing music. My new favorite food is fried breadfruit fritters with Jeanine’s mango chutney mmmmmm! After a week we decided to sail to Ua Pou to check in, get some money and internet access. We broke up the trip by sailing up to Hanamenu Bay on Hiva Oa first for a night and then set out at sunset to make the 60 mile crossing to Hakahau Bay on Ua Pou. The town of Hakahau has paved roads, a big dock for frieghters and pickups driving around everywhere. It’s quite the contrast from the rest of my Marquasian experience, but that’s the price you pay to find a bank and internet access.

Coming into Hakahau on Ua Pou:

Here’s my daily mileage for the crossing from Mexico if anyone is interested:

Day Mileage
1 123
2 138
3 105
4 107
5 100
6 96
7 131
8 104
9 142
10 125
11 136
12 142
13 126
14 110
15 116
16 101
17 129
18 97
19 99
20 90
21 108
22 125
23 131
24 142
25 134