After a week in Rapa Nui we’ve settled in and it’s time to reflect on the passage from Galapagos – our most exiting and eventful so far. Actually, we prefer boring.
The start was calm and slow, as expected, so we used the time to run the watermaker and fill our tanks, as well as finish some minor passage preparations we didn’t get done while at anchor. Like scraping the nasty algae off “Pakia tea’s” bottom that flourished in the warm and fertile harbor water of Puerto Ayora.
Close to Galapagos there's still a lot of life in the ocean. Like the large pod of Rissos Dolphins hunting all around Pakia tea and offering a great show. Later on, the water will get incredibly clear an blue - this region is known as an open ocean "desert" with very little nutrients and few large animals.
The sky was overcast and the house battery got pretty low before the night so we decided to run the generator for a bit. Only, it wouldn’t start, although it had been serviced not long ago in Mexico and was running fine before. Tom changed the filters which seemed pretty clogged with some black sludge. Seems like the new additive we used for the Diesel had dissolved some dirt in the tank. No big deal, we thought. However, after venting the fuel lines and several more unsuccessful attempts to start, the starter batteries were pretty low on power, too. No worries – we’d just wait for the next day and the sun to recharge them (for this we use our AC charger, run off the inverters).
This meant, we had to shut off the Inverters. The standby power consumption would have been too much for the already drained house battery during the night.
Looking forward to hot coffee and tea in the morning, we switched the inverters back on – or at least tried to. All we got was an error message, something about over voltage at the AC cabling. Which was weird, when we tested both AC in and AC out there was no voltage on either.
So – no AC power.
On most boats that’s no big deal but “Pakia tea” is different. Without AC power there’s only one fridge instead of two, no cooking, no baking, no desalinating water and no recharging starter batteries. Also, no fishing because, what would we do with the delicious Mahi Mahi? However, no emergency situation yet. We just have to resort to our backup systems. This means, only a small camping stove with three small gas cartridges. Enough for cooking one quick meal each day, no fresh bread, no tea, no coffee (!!!). We also dug out the small Honda Generator for the first time in 7 years, but didn’t start it just then.
Fast forward three days of unsuccessful attempts to switch on the inverters and countless emails to the Austrian representative of our inverter company (very fast responding, motivated and friendly) – we’ve resigned to rice with tomato sauce, couscous with egg and tomato sauce, rice and tomato sauce, couscous, rice,… until Rapa Nui. Sonja decides to give the inverters one last chance and – tadaaaaaaaa – we’ve got power! Oh what bliss, delightful sailing conditions, the smell of coffee and fresh bread and fresh water showers again.
A couple of days later, with full starter batteries, Sonja also decides to try and start the Generator again. One slight stutter and – it’s running! Big relieve, all is well on “Pakia tea” and we’re looking forward to a relaxed second half of our passage.
It’s nice and sunny, 12 knots of breeze right on our port beam, live is good. After 6 years of full time cruising we are familiar with all the specific sounds of our boat, so an unexpected “Gazong!” leads to a sudden rush of Adrenalin. Sonja has just gone down below and Tom jumps out of the cockpit to check if she has fallen down the ladder or dropped the heavy hatch on her head. Then he hears a suspicious “Krrrkkrrk – krrrrkrrk” and realizes that the forward port shroud of the main mast is extremely loose. Hard to starboard and a quick jibe safe the mast. Then down with the main sail and it’s time to assess the situation.
First thing is to stabilize the mast. It is getting dark but tightening both halyards of our gaff-rigged sail to the deadeye of the broken shroud is a quick fix. The night is forecast to be calm so we leave it at that. We don’t feel confident about the stainless steel shackles of the halyards in the mast top, though. They are probably not up to the jerking movement of the mast in rougher seas. So we put a bight of rope with chafe protection around the mast and use the throat halyard to pull it all the way to the top. Then we use a pulley to tighten the ends to the deadeye. This should do the job until we arrive. Tom doesn’t really feel like climbing up – the idea of being chained to the top by the climbing harness while the mast slowly tilts overboard isn’t very appealing.
Fortunately the wind has backed into the east so we’re making good progress under foresail and jib alone.
Pakia tea has a simple low tension rig without spreaders, rather short masts and solid mast bases. We’re pretty sure that under offshore conditions a broken shroud would have caused most other yachts to lose the mast.
Our shrouds are 10mm flexible stainless steel wire, formed into loops and crimped with copper sleeves in an industrial hydraulic press. The top sleeve failed, we have no idea, why. Tom climbed both masts in Mexico to do a visual inspection and didn’t find anything unusual. Maybe a magnifying glass would have been a good idea. The rigging is 6 years old and we had expected it to last at least another 4 years.
For the last 24 hours of our passage, the wind picked up to 25 knots, gusting 35. Good thing we had changed the course to south the day before to get a better angle. This way we took the mounting seas slightly aft of the beam and only occasionally one of the 4-5m waves slammed directly into “Pakia tea’s” side. Just 40 miles out of Hanga Roa, a shackle of the peak halyard failed and the block came down (without doing any harm). Good thing we pulled up that rope! Still, it’s rough and we want to have double safety so we pull up another rope, using a spare halyard that’s usually reserved for our SSB Antenna. That way we sail into the lee of Rapa Nui and race on towards the Bay of Hanga Roa, in strong gusts off the mountains, under storm jb and double reefed foresail.
Dropping anchor after a long passage is always a wonderful feeling, especially at such a magic place. This time the inviting green volcanic hills and fragrant breeze off the land have got a certain extra something.
Add: finally managed to climb the mast in reasonable “calm”conditions. It wasn’t actually the copper sleeve that failed, the shroud broke just adjacent to the crimping ...