The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 33. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Saturday, 24 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 07 degrees 2.99 minutes; W 121 degrees 54.67 minutes;
834.5 Nm to Hiva Oa


Constant readers of this blog will already have noted that we are now
calculating the remaining distance to Isle Hiva Oa rather than Isle Nuku
Hiva in Isle Marquises. (You will also notice I have started using French.
Voila!). This cuts about 63 Nm off our trip (the new destination, not
using French). Hurrah!

Hiva Oa had not originally appealed to us. But, given the prevailing SE
Trade Winds and the SW ocean swells, it would be difficult to make it
south from Nuku Hiva to Hiva Oa or some of the other islands we should like to
visit as well. So we shall start in the south and work our way north to
visit around five of the islands in the Marquesas before moving west
towards the Society Islands (Tahiti, etc.)

Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa are both check-in ports, which is important.
Especially during the yachting season the gendarmes patrol the islands and
issue fines if you stop somewhere without first checking in. It's the
usual bureaucratic tango if you are on a sailing yacht. We had planned to
give Hiva Oa a pass because the harbour there has a bad reputation as open
to swells and a foul bottom for anchoring. There is a breakwall to provide
some shelter and the yachts anchor fore and aft to keep facing into the
incoming sea swells. But in addition to check-in, there is fresh water,
fruits and some vegetables which rather makes up for the bad parts, we
hope. So we have decided to call there first.

Last night I spotted a masthead light passing parallel to us at perhaps a
mile or two. Compared to us it was moving very rapidly, leading me to
believe it was a catamaran. But I could only see one light and soon it was
gone again over the horizon ahead of us. I tried calling on the VHF radio,
but no reply.

Today was a red letter day in that I finally beat Kathleen at Scrabble. It
was close, though.

The winds have been stronger the last couple of days and we have been
making better speed. We did over 100 Nm in 24 hours yesterday and will
surely do so again today. There are a lot of biggish waves. Vilisar
handles them wonderfully. She has so much buoyancy in her stern thanks to
the engine room and the lazarette hatch, that when one of the big swells
rolls up behind us, she just rides right up and down the back of the
swell. The waves do not feel threatening at all, though at times some of
them look like about 4 metres from top to bottom. There is a little
whitecap on top sometimes, but these are not breaking waves, which would
be another story altogether. I should not like to be sailing into the
waves, however!

At the angle to the waves which we are now sailing, we do tend at times to
corkscrew a bit. And slop from the big waves sometimes hits the boat and
makes a big splash. We have had several down the companionway hatch onto
the galley stove and the chart table. We finally woke up and started
keeping the sliding hatch closed. And we also keep the GPS in a drawer
rather than exposed on the table. A few weeks ago, it decided it did not
want to turn on after a splashing. We have a backup. But it was a
worrisome minute or two till we got it dried off and functioning again.

On Day 30 late afternoon our calm is shattered when we hear a loud crack
and then hear a sail flapping away vigorously. Going on deck, we discover
that one of the lines attaching the jibsail to the jib sheets has parted,
and now the job sail is extended downwind like a stiff flag at right
angles to the boat and threatening to beat itself to shreds. With Kathleen
at the helm we somehow manage to recover the big sail and smother it on
deck though not before I thought at one point that it would pull me
overboard! Then I go looking for a stout piece of line of about the right
length. Amazingly, I find one immediately in the lazarette hatch, a
vindication of my policy never to throw anything away! I go forward again
and replace the broken one whilst sitting on the deck for safety and
getting sprayed occasionally over the bow. Everything works out fine in
the end, but I am sooooo glad this happened in daylight and not at night,
when working forward is much more fraught.

I mentioned that slop sometimes splashes up into the cockpit and
frequently right up over the cabin roof. The windward portholes are often
filled with seawater for a second or two until they drain. The decks are
always wet and often awash. We have learned to keep the portlights dogged
down, and even the skylight is closed tightly on a permanent basis. Or so
we think. We are quietly reading on our main-cabin berths when we hear one
of those loud slaps we hear so often as a wave hits the side of the boat.
I glance up to see a solid amount of water, a small wave actually, coming
under the skylight and heading straight for me. In a second the whole
berth is drenched along with me and some of the rest of the cabin as well.
We spend the next hour mopping up, wringing out bedding and hanging it
outside to get dry. Of course, it will never get totally dry, and it is
now totally salty (instead of just partially salty as heretofore). But,
another small crisis passed.

Not that the saga of the jibsail is over! Last night I go on deck for a
periodic check during my watch and discover that the jibsail is flapping
again. Gently, and nothing like the last event. But still, it does not
appear to be setting properly. We generally have a rule that no one goes
forward of the cockpit at night while alone on watch or on deck. But,
Kathleen is sleeping below and I only want a peek. I go as far as the
mast. Even with a flashlight I can see that for some reason the turnbuckle
at the base of the jibstay where it attaches to the bowsprit (at the
farthest point forward on the boat) is apparently loose. I cannot see if
the turnbuckle has simply come loose (implying that it had not been
properly 'moused' to prevent unscrewing), or whether it is perhaps broken.
The jibsail is flapping gently and does not seem to be in danger or
endangering the boat. I am near the end of my midnight-to-0300 shift, and
decide that there is no way I can work on it in the dark. I shall wait a
few hours until daylight comes.

Crawling out on the bowsprit after a cup of dawn coffee, it appears that
the threaded part of the turnbuckle has simply shorn off. The sail is
attached to the bowsprit by its own line and the sail adheres to the
jibstay by bronze hanks running to the top of the sail. The sail itself is
still attached to the bowsprit and the stainless steel-wire stay itself
seem OK. But of course it is pretty much useless if it is not attached at
the base. I decide to use the jib halyard (three-ply rope) as an ersatz-
jibstay and use the mast winch to tighten everything up as much as
possible. Even if I can dig into my bits and pieces somewhere on board for
a new turnbuckle (I may actually have a couple), there is no way I can sit
out in the swells and try to connect it to the bobstay. The up-tension on
the backstay and the down-tension on the bobstay would in any case make it
impossible without basically loosening the whole rig and retuning it,
something not advisable at sea if it can be avoided. We are not
experiencing heavy weather so my jury rig should last until we get to Hiva
Oa where I can work on the task of how to get everything down without
damage to the sail. As a reward for my ingenuity, the wind is a little
stronger today and we are having a good sail. Kathleen, after at first
being nearly overwhelmed by a perceived danger, goes below in much better
fettle and gets our breakfast. Well done, Captain Ronnie, Boy Spotwelding
King of the World!

The constant wet on the deck and in the cockpit has led to green pond scum
forming here and there. No doubt the whole starboard (i.e., downwind) side
of the boat is green as well. Gooseneck barnacles are another serous
problem. They attach on the painted topside planking above the normal
waterline where there is no anti-fouling paint. Gooseneck barnacles attach
themselves even at sea, and we have a small crop of them right at the bow,
I notice when I am out there repairing the jibstay this morning. But each
day I put out a boat-length piece of floating line from near the bow and
let it caress each side of the boat at water level for about half an hour.
This, I am assured will keep gooseneck barnacles off. When we arrive at
our destination, we have immediately to scrape off any that have actually
taken up abode as they are really tough little beasts to get off once they
have dried for a day or two. I notice in the cockpit that the pond scum
comes off easily with a stiff brush.

We return to reading and loafing. Cruising is said to be an equal mixture
of boredom, excitement and terror.

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