June 17, 2015 - August 3, 2015
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* Sailing Again
* Alone in Beveridge Reef
June 17 - June 23, 2015
Getting Ready to Leave
By the time we got our projects done, New Zealand was getting cold and dark. Beth bought three more blankets plus a "onesie" -- complete with a hood -- for added warmth. Very comfy, but the tropics were beckoning.
We moved down the river to Marsden Cove Marina for sea trials. After a year in port, and lots of changes, we had to assume things wouldn't work. The tests surfaced a few problems, but fortunately we could deal with them in less than a week.
The views from Marsden can be spectacular.
And now we were ready to head north. We decided to start with Beveridge Reef -- a place we had visited once before, back in 2007.
Beveridge is an uninhabited atoll, about 130 miles from the nearest inhabited island. There are no people there for one very good reason -- at high tide, there's no dry land.
Beveridge is a wild place, way off the beaten track. And this time we would be visiting with good camera gear and a dive compressor.
June 24 - July 2, 2015
Passage to Beveridge Reef
Beveridge lies about 1300nm from New Zealand. But we couldn't sail directly there, because it's more than 800nm east of New Zealand's longitude. If we tried to go directly, we would run into the SE tradewinds, and get stopped cold.
So we had to make our "easting" at about 30 degrees South latitude -- below the latitudes where the trades kick in. It can be cold and stormy at 30 degrees South.
As it worked out, we had a great sailing passage. We motored for only two days out of eight, and we never had sustained winds over 30 knots, although we had some pretty good waves coming up from storms all the way to the south.
But it stayed cold for a LONG time. We kept our long underwear on for the first week of the trip.
We were ready for a break after all our projects, so we were happy to be sailing again. At sea the boat does all the hard work, and life becomes much simpler. You just have to survive.
We had lots of albatrosses (mostly Black-Browed Mollywawks) to keep us company. We loved watching their effortless flight over the waves.
We tried our luck at fishing, but the only fish we caught were the ones that jumped out of the water on their own and landed on the boat!
Our route took us uncomfortably close to this strange object marked "PD (1966)." PD means "position doubtful." In other words, in 1966, some sailor -- operating with sextant navigation -- thought he saw a reef out here. Nobody really knows where it is, or if it even exists.
We kept a watch with binoculars for several hours, reminding both of us of the "Titanic" movie. We both decided not to mention that... We never saw anything.
Stuff Breaks at Sea
There are only two times that things break on a boat: when you're at sea and when you aren't. The stakes are higher when you're at sea...
This passage had the usual list of problems, although a couple were more serious than normal. Here's the list:
(1) The mast chocks loosened up, and the mast started making horrible creaking noises.
Ken had to pound the mast wedges in several times during the trip. He pounded the wedges on the non-load bearing side (depends on the tack we are on). That helped, although it didn't completely stop the noise.
(2) Our two-cylinder Kubota diesel (which we use to make electricity) started making a chattering noise when it ran, and a terrible clanging screech as it stopped. Ken thought the problem might be inside the Kubota, so we stopped using it for the rest of the passage. That meant we had to run the main engine if the solar panels couldn't keep up with our power needs. We hate that.
When we got to Beveridge, Ken figured out the problem. The fan on our 200 Amp Zena alternator had come adrift. He jury-rigged some wedges from aluminum stock (using his spiffy new Milwaukee grinder), and pounded the wedges between the fan and the pulley. (Thanks to Tim Brown for the suggestion.)
We're just hoping those wedges stay tight, since the pulley spins at about 4000 rpm.
(3) A batten escaped from its car on the mast track, and worked halfway out of its pocket, sticking out past the mast above the first spreader.
This was potentially a terrible problem -- we couldn't jibe the boat, or sail properly, and we COULDN'T LOWER THE SAIL because the batten hung up on the spreader. Thank heavens this happened during the day in light conditions -- imagine it at night in a blow.
We had to motor into the wind for hours (taking us back toward New Zealand) while we worked to solve the problem. Beth went up the mast to slide the thing back into its pocket so that we could drop the sail. (This is the first time in all of our years of sailing that we had to send someone up the mast to fix a problem underway.)
Here's Beth hanging on for dear life while she pushes the batten back into the sail pocket.
Beth's grandfather was a high steel worker -- so she actually LIKES heights.
Once we got the sail down, it took Ken a long time to get the batten back into the car and tensioned properly.
While Ken was working at the mast, he accidentally bumped his new MOB (man overboard) device (installed in his life jacket). That triggered a very loud alarm on the radio, and our AIS logged a MOB target. We had tested this system before we left, but at least now we know it works for real!
It took Ken a long time to rewind the little antenna back into its case (we couldn't find the special tool you are supposed to use for this purpose).
(4) During one of Ken's daily on-deck inspections, he discovered the monel seizing wire on the inner forestay had broken cleanly -- potentially allowing the inner forestay to unscrew itself.
Ken replaced the seizing with a heavy ring-ding and some spectra line. He seized the knot with super glue.
(5) The screws on the bottom of the boom vang worked loose, and one went walkabout. Ken replaced the missing screw and put Loctite on both.
We also think the spring of the vang may have broken (we heard a "boing" noise). The vang is still holding, though it allows the boom to sag a bit below
its normal level.
(6) The nut holding our steering wheel to the binnacle shaft worked loose and the wheel started to fall off.
Ken put loctite on the screw and now we check the wheel several times a day.
Things would have gotten VERY exciting if the wheel had fallen off, as our windvane needs the wheel in order to steer the boat.
(7) We used about 50% more fuel than Ken expected, given how much we motored. Probably the propeller pitch still wasn't quite right. Ken dove and adjusted it in Beveridge.
(8) Our ancient Furuno Radar finally packed it in. The screen looks normal, but a big steel tanker passed four miles
in front of us, and the radar showed…. Zip.
We have a bad feeling that the magnetron is shot (we've replaced it once already). We'll probably get a new radar when we get to New Zealand.
AIS has replaced radar as our main anti-collision system, but we still like radar to see squalls, land, and boats that don't have AIS.
(9) Two days into the trip, our satellite email program got corrupted, lost a bunch of emails, and wouldn't run at all on our new Toughbook nav computer. This matters, as we use email to get weather files. And to keep in touch with family and friends...
Beth had to set up a different computer to use for the duration of the passage.. A real pain, but workable.
She was able to solve the problem in Beveridge (by going into the registry --yikes!)
(10) The Toughbook also stopped accepting data from our instruments -- including the GPS. Made navigation kind of difficult. Beth eventually figured out that USB ports just aren't reliable for this kind of data feed. Fortunately the computer also has a serial port.
(11) Three days into the trip, Ken lost his balance and bounced off the edge of the steering wheel. (We've noticed we aren't as agile as we used to be.) Ken can still do stuff -- but the broken ribs will take time to heal.
(12) Our Argonaut remote Display Monitor stopped working. We use the monitor so that the helmsperson can see the navigation screen when we're going through coral passes.
This seems to be a problem with the extension cable that connects it to the nav computer. Beth figured out a temporary work around -- she moved the computer closer to the monitor, taking the extension cable out of the loop. We'll have to look into other options.
(13) The foam in Beth's very nice Dubarry sea boots disintegrated.
We hope Dubarry will give us a discounted replacement.
Trying Out Spinnaker Furling System
We used to fly our spinnaker with a "sock." But it was just too exciting -- the sock could lift Ken right off the deck, and there were lots of lines to get tangled. The past few seasons we didn't even bother carrying the spinnaker.
This year we decided to try the ingenious Spin-Ex spinnaker furling system by Profurl. Unlike a conventional furler, this one furls the sail from the top down, making a neat wrap even with a big, bulky spinnaker.
(This idea was first marketed by Bamar back in 2005, and we bought one then, but it wasn't ready for prime time and we returned it.)
We picked a nice, light-air day to try it.
With the furling system, the spinnaker should be easy to hoist once it's furled -- since it will be a nice tight sausage. Unfortunately, you have to hoist the spinnaker "free" before you can furl it for the first time.
Here Ken gets ready to hoist the torsion line from our forepeak hatch.
It was a bit of a drama getting the sail and torsion line hoisted all at once -- since the free spinnaker will go into the water if you don't hoist it fast enough. Beth was on the winch, and Ken was pulling the sail out of the forepeak, yelling "FASTER, FASTER, FASTER!" Unfortunately Beth only has one speed...
But we got it hoisted.
The sail looked great and gave us a nice boost in speed.
And it furled nice and tight. Here we're starting the furling process.
Ken looks up at the very thin furled spinnaker (which is the forwardmost of the three furled sails).
The sail gets dropped and coiled into the forepeak, using up much less room than the old spinnaker-in-a-sock arrangement.
July 2, 2015
After 8 1/2 days at sea, we got close to Beveridge during the night and hove to until daylight. Nobody in their right mind goes into a place like this at night.
After a few rain squalls passed through, the skies cleared by late morning and we motored through the pass into the lagoon.
No land. All you can see is the breaking surf.
Ken climbed the pilothouse to watch for bommies during our entry.
We were last here in 2007. It sure was great to be back.
July 3 - August 3, 2015
Chilling Out In Beveridge Reef
Two other boats ("Hotlips" and "Apropos") came in over the course of the next two days. They were very early boats sailing west from Panama or the West Coast. They only stayed a day or two, as they were keen to move on to Tonga and Fiji.
We, on the other hand, ended up stayed more than a month -- having the reef to ourselves for 3 1/2 weeks. The weather was spectacular for most of our stay.
We had some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets..
And Beth got to go up the mast again -- this time with a fish-eye lens -- getting some otherworldly pictures of Eagle's Wings in the lagoon.
Really Cold Water
We came to Beveridge to dive -- and we did -- but the water was a bit brisk (70 - 72 degrees F). We had to layer up as much as we could to keep warm.
One complete dive outfit: Fourth Element farmer john, Fourth Element long sleeve top, 3 mm full wetsuit, 3 mm long sleeve shorty wetsuit, 2 mm hood, socks, boots, and gloves.
It takes us about 1/2 hour just to get all of the gear on:
We did lots of snorkeling and diving -- but only inside the reef. Diving outside was just too scary, since there was no good place to anchor the dinghy in the breaking surf and strong currents. We needed another couple to take turns acting as a surface team.
But even inside the reef, we saw over 30 species that were new to us.
And, since we're far away from any nutrients, the water was stunningly clear -- you could see almost as far underwater as on top.
Here is a sampling of what we discovered..
This snake eel moved so fast we only got a picture of its body as he zipped by.
These gray reef sharks have a bit of attitude -- not like the docile white tipped reef sharks. The grays aren't dangerous ... usually... but they always come over for a look at us.
Feather Duster Worms...
Clams and Sea Urchins...
When Ken got close, this guy decided he needed more camouflage. So, he changed his color and grew all sorts of bumps and knobs, to look like the rock.
A master of disguise...
Here's a different octopus, trying to look like the shell in front of him...
But nothing matches this scorpionfish for camouflage. Ken was staring at a rock, waiting for another fish to come out of a hole... and all of a sudden he realized it wasn't a rock.
These guys are poisonous, so you really want to look before you put your hand down.
Fish we couldn't identify...
The fish below is definitely a "Dottyback" of some variety ("Pseudochromis" in science speak), but we can't find him in any of our books. We're calling him "Pseudochromis Eagleswingsus" :-)
Ken picked up a shell (which he thought was abandoned) and brought it back to the boat as present for Beth. But the next day a little crab peeked out.
He could have evicted the crab, but Ken knew that Beth would always feel bad about his present if we did that. So we returned the crab -- with his house -- to the spot we found them.
These low atolls are famously dangerous, because you can't see them until it's too late. Beveridge has traces of at least four shipwrecks.
Everyone got safely off this New Zealand fishing boat, when it went up on the reef over ten years ago.
But the old wooden sailing ship whose anchor lies here was probably a different story. The only thing left besides the anchor is the ship's iron windlass.
There's no dry land in Beveridge. And no EPIRBs, radios or sat phones in those days. And the nearest islanders were cannibals...
It isn't easy to find lobsters at Beveridge. But if you know where to look, and are willing to stick your neck out, you can get dinner. Ken volunteered for the hard job of getting pummeled by the waves (probably not the best thing for his broken rib)...
We only took a few, and none of the big ones. Beth made delicious lobster risotto and lobster bisque, which she served with homemade focaccia bread.
Time to Move On
After five weeks in Beveridge -- including a 25 day stretch of complete solitude, it was time to buy some vegetables. And chocolate. (Actually, chocolate IS a vegetable.)
Next stop, American Samoa.