Thursday, April 14, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 15 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 14, 2016
07 deg. 05.964 min. South!
135 degrees 22.963 min. West
Wind East North East AT 17 knots
Sea conditions E swell 7'
Sky condition 100% overcast - occasional rain showers

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 187 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 2425 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 262 nautical miles

We are amazed at how…



As I began to write this post we received an alarm on the auto pilot saying HELM RESPONSE FAILURE. Immediately, Moonshadow, sailing with the wind at her back and a little to the port side, the spinnaker pulling like a horse, romping down the course at 9 knots and surfing up to 10.5 knots in building seas, started rounding up. The spinnaker collapsed making that awful "I'm going to explode whenever I refill, if I don't shred on the spreaders first" sound. After resetting the auto pilot and attempting to power steer back to our course, the warning reappeared, then the circuit breaker went off. I thought I'd turned off the breaker with my knee (nice trick if you can do it - the breaker is behind a plexiglass panel!). I switched the breaker back on powered up the Auto pilot, and CLICK the breaker popped again.

Time to hand steer. After getting Moonshadow back on course, I passed the helm over to Deb and gave her the course to steer. Since we practically NEVER hand steer, especially at sea with no land or other reference but the compass, I stood by and watched her. She nailed it.

Next a quick dive into the lazarette locker where the steering gear lives revealed the problem: The hydraulic ram, which we had removed and overhauled in San Diego, had unscrewed itself from the toggle attachment on the rudder post. The Simrad pilot tried to tell us that with the warning, but it's vocabulary is severely limited. This Simrad is the best auto pilot I've ever had or used, but when you disconnect it from the rudder, that's a real handicap!

A couple of big Crescent wrenches and remarkable little cussing and voila:


The whole episode took less than 10 minutes, but for an instant there, we thought things had taken a really ugly turn aboard Moonshadow. Without the pilot, Deb and I would be sentenced to 12 hours per day at the wheel while the other person did all the cooking, cleaning, admin, navigation, and sleeping.


As I was saying, we are amazed at the fact we sailed 187 miles in the last 24 hours. It seemed like we crawled after the previous 230 mile day. At the beginning of Day 15, we were immediately beset by wind shifts and resultant sail changes from spinnaker to jib, heading changes, etc., then the wind quit, so we motored, the wind returned, we sailed, the wind quit, we motored, the wind built, we hoisted the spinnaker, a squall arrived, we douced the spinnaker, the wind died, we motored. And so on. All this after sailing without touching the spinnaker sheet or the course for hours the previous day. It is like this section of water didn't get the memo that the doldrums ended at 3 degrees South. We grimly watched the ETA climb from 48 hours to something in the eighties!

Finally mid morning today, with Deb asleep off watch, John put up the spinnaker himself, caught the fact the tack and clew were back-asswards, before the chute filled, and sorted that out, hoisted the sock (like a nylon condom that you pull down from the top of the sail to snuff the wind out - do the reverse to set the sail). We've been sailing fast again ever since (except - see news flash above).

We're really anxious to arrive in French Polynesia sometime tomorrow evening. We're pretty sure we can't maintain the 12 or 13 knots it would take to get there mid afternoon, so we'll bypass the town of Atuana on the island of Hiva Oa, and anchor instead for the night in a nearby cove on the island of Tahuata about 10 miles beyond. The tiny harbor at Atuana is jam-packed full of yachts anchored bow and stern - something we won't want to deal with at night. More on those plans with the DAY 16 passage report tomorrow.



Robert Gentry said...

Hah, the adventure of a lifetime continues.....your photo is breathtaking, may have to try to paint that. Good luck on the landfall, will be thinking about you guys.

Capt Judy said...

I have been following your blog for the last couple of years and really enjoying the accounts of your passage. We have never met and I was trying to remember how it was that I got onto your blog to begin with. I think I found you two while searching for a boat named Firebird, a Columbia Kettenburg 52 on which I did my second ocean passage circa 1981. Looks like you may have owned a sister ship, Legacy?? Wondering if you have any knowledge of Firebird, last I heard she was going through a major refit in CA. I loved that boat and hope someone really is bestowing some love and care on her!
Sail on and keep up the awesome and fun blog!
Judy Hildebrand

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