7 Days at Sea

The following are excerts from our log starting on January 15th, the day we finally left the Marshall Islands for Pohnpei, FSM. Read on …
Suka's Current and Future Route

 DAY ONE – SHITTY KITTIES

Finally got under way around 9 a.m. The lagoon was windy and our first snag was having the main halyard get hung up outside the shieve. Thank goodness Doug got that sorted out. We double reefed the main and had the headsail reefed as we headed out the pass. We met 10-12 foot seas and 20-25 knot winds. A bit rolly, but doable. The cats were NOT happy. First Miel shit in a cardboard box in the salon (at least it was not on the floor) and then the poor baby had a little accident, kinda like a wet fart, in his box in the cockpit. Next he threw up his breakfast and to complete the obvious voiding he felt the need for spewed bile a couple places. Banger just wailed and went comatose. It was NOT a happy family. 

Doug and I did okay…. At least we had a full day to get a our bearings. Did the 6 p.m. Yokwe net. Was really happy to see we were doing a good 6 knots.

 DAY TWO – WILL BANGER MAKE IT ??

Cats still not happy. Really worried about Banger as he is not eating, nor drinking. He really seems shell-shocked. I am begining to mull over the possibility that he may not come around and that we may have a very sick cat by the time we hit land. And that if he doesn’t get his sea legs we may have to find him a home in Pohnpei. He isn’t interested in water or dry food. I decided to try his favorite… wet food. All I had to do was stick a little of that under his nose and I finally got the first squeak out of him in a day and a half! I fixed him a bowl, and just like in a hospital, brought it to his box where he had entrenched himself, and he slowly ate it. Thank goodness he was finally eating.

 
 
 

Banger in his box (hospital bed)!

 DAY THREE – GOONY BIRD ATTACK

Another wonderfully windy 6 knot day. Only problem is where the wind is coming from. To stay on a course of 269 degrees, or as close as we can to that magic number, we need to wing and wing it. For you landlubbers that means flying the main sail one side of your boat and the head sail on the other… like a pair of wings. Doug poled out the headsail and we made good time. But, our wind steering is not working and hand steering is the name of the game and not a fun game. When you wing and wing it you are placed in a fine slot of steerage where you can’t go off course much either way without fear of gybing. We managed.

To take our minds off the tedious chore of steering we had two goony birds join us in the morning and make us their target for the day, continiously swooping down and around Suka’s masts. It seems like they thought they would like to give a shot at landing on our madly gyrating masts. One of them finally worked up his courage and made a try only to miscalculate  landing on Suka’s deck with a neck at a very odd angle. Miel rallied from his seasickness enough to stand up in his box, look out the dodger window and salute the poor, dead bird with a puffy tail and arched back. Sad to see it dead. Doug gave it a burial at sea. Fish food now. That left one goony bird still circling our masts. I swear… you are probably not going to believe it… but not more than 10 minutes later there is another “thump” from above and down comes hurtling goony bird number two right into the ocean next to us. It makes you wonder …. was this a goony bird suicide pact? Was this a case of I can’t stand to be in this world without you and I’m coming to join you in the afterlife? Just plain weird.

Banger is still struggling with getting his sea legs so I gave him more wet food in the morning, a definite violation to my cat feeding rules (they only get it at night), and he ate that. But, I had still not seen him drink any water and he was still lethargic. Doug was the one to come up with the answer. Catfood gravy! Banger’s next meal, in the afternoon (spoiled cat,) was soupy wet cat food. And he ate it all. He actually perked up a bit and seemed to relax with a quick couple grooming licks and a long stretch. No sea legs yet, but an improvement.

Doug and Deb are doing okay. Never will love passages, but we are adjusting.

Doug at the helm.

DAY FOUR – WHAT’S THAT NOISE?? 

20-25 knot winds again today and a wonderful sail. Gave up the wing and wing and settled on a broad reach. Losing some southing that way but less stressful on the steering. 

The sea gods definitely decided that less stressful was not the order of the day. About midday, while on the helm, I heard a “not” usual noise coming from forward on deck. After getting Doug’s sleepy attention he finally pulled on his life vest, tethered up and hooked off on the jack-lines and went on deck to investigate. When I heard the “OH SHIT” I knew we just might have a serious problem.

A sailboat has a mast, (or 2, like Suka), and to keep that mast upright a sailboat has cables called rigging that connects to various parts of the mast and to the hull of the boat. When one of those cables comes unattached at either end it is NOT a good thing. And that is what happened to us. One of the cables had become “unattached”, that is it had rusted in two, at the hull end. Doug, being the Dudly Do-right to the Rescue that he is, got that loose end temporarily attached back to the hull in record time. Granted, it is not attached to the spot it is suppose to be, but it is at least attached. We were also lucky in that it is one of the cables that attach lower down the mast and so is not one of the majorly critical supports. And, it was on the lee side (non-weather side) and thus has less stress on it. And on we sailed. 

The Banger saga continued and he got his pampering again today with his food mixed with water. He seemed to rally in the afternoon for a bit but still was not his old obnoxious self. He still has me worried. 

The sun goes down and we sail into another moonless night. Not only moonless but actually pitch black. It actually can be very unnerving steering a boat across the pitching ocean with the only light coming from in front of you off your radar, your GPS screen and a gyrating compass. Your only comfort is that the odds of meeting another boat all the way out here hundreds of miles from everywhere are pretty slim.

Our guidance system

DAY FIVE – DID YOU HEAR A SHOT??

Wind died down today. Got the grib files off the ham radio. Grib files are weather files showing atmospheric pressure and wind speed/direction info. What has killed the wind is a low pressure system south of us sucking the wind away from us. Not only does this system screw up the nice NE trade winds we have been riding for 4 days but it will bring unpredicable weather towards us until the system blows past. Which is exactly what it did to us today. Barely enough wind to sail by for most of the day with a switch to a NW wind in the afternoon. As our direction of travel is almost due west any wind with a W attached to it is not our friend. Thank goodness that lasted only a few hours. The wind finally came back around to our stern later in the day…. but very weak. This all lead to our third (fourth? fifth?) trama of the trip. 

Slogging along in messy seas (seas can’t stay neat if the wind keeps confusing it on which way to make waves) and in weak winds our main sail boom (which is like its foot) was doing a lot more swinging than usual. On a particularly violent side-to-side roll I heard what sounded like a gun shot. Again, Debra at the helm yells for sleepy Doug. Into life vest again, etc. etc. This was a really amazed “OH SHIT” coming from on deck this time. Like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Our 18 foot boom had been amputated…. about 3 feet of the end had literally snapped right off. It was so sad to see.

Dudly Do-right to the rescue again. After a quick consultation on our game plan on getting this poor broken member secured Doug went to work. As it was a pretty thorough break he mainly needed to get the hardware and sail still connecting the two parts detached. Once that was done he had to re-rig the topping lift to fit our new shorter boom. Lastly he had to reattach the sheet to secure it back center boat. All done in about an hour. After he climbed back in the cockpit we just sat there shaking our heads in amazement.

Thank goodness we are a ketch rig and have 2 more sails to work with. Up went the mizzen sail and we are now sailing head and tail … a sail at each end with none in the middle.

And the Banger saga continued. This is the third day of cat food gravy and Banger finally decided that was enough of that turning up his nose at the soupy stuff and stumbling away. Miel had no similar objections and cleaned Banger’s bowl (Miel will eat anything) and I dished up a new helping of cat food sans water for Banger who polished it off nicely. He is still not 100% but I think the water in his food has finally brought him around where I don’t feel so worried he is going to expire.

After about 2 hours of no wind and little progress we made a command decision to start the engine and motor for a while. It seemed like a good opportunity to make up some of our southing as we were still way north of our rumb line. With a broken chain plate and a disabled main boom we were handicapped sailing with our wounded side to weather, which we would have to do if we wanted to try to sail back south enough to make our target. Thank goodness the seas have finally settled down and we are not rolling like a corkscrew anymore.

And another night begins switching on and off at the pitch dark helm. What’s in store for tomorrow?

 

First sight of the island....

DAY SIX- FINAL APPROACH 

Still motoring… but, we have put the head sail up and that has added a bit of push. This is good as after doing all the speed/distance calculations we need to keep up the good progress or end up having to wait outside the reef at Pohnpei if we arrive in the dark. Major rule of cruising. NEVER enter an unknown harbor/anchorage in the dark. That is a recipe for disaster. Looks like we will make it by noon tomorrow.

Everything is improving. Our speed is up, the kits are rallying and our spirits are rising with the prospect of finally “getting there”. To not have the deck under your feet constantly pitching will be heaven. It’s exhilarating and scary. A new place. New people to meet.  New challanges.

DAY SEVEN – LANDFALL AT LAST

Last night at sea. Finally arriving in Kolonia, Pohnpei at around 11 a.m. and after a nervous trip through the pass in the reef and through the lagoon down to the commercial dock we tied Suka up to the dock and waited for all the officials to show up. We had radioed the port control while still outside the pass and they had notified immigration, customs and quarintine of our arrival. The only snag was that immigration had not processed our boat permit (which we had faxed to them in October) and that quarantine was busy checking in some fishing boats. Immigration finally got back to us and asked us to come down to their office Monday and hopefully it would be done. That finally left us free to leave the dock and head down to the yacht basin.   

 
Suka at the commercial dock checking in.

 

 As soon as we got there we waved at Phil, on Windswept, who had arrived 2 days before us. That was actually all the contact we had with him while he was here. Ben from the yacht Niye Keema came over and started filling us in on EVERYTHING even before our anchor was down. He and his wife Cindy have been here since October and came from Western Canada, or maybe it was N.W. U.S., I forget, via Kauai. He finally left but returned later to introduce his wife to us. She has a job here teaching English at the college here. 

We did a few chores… what we had energy for, I made a pot of pasta and we collapsed into bed.

 

 

 

 

 

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