Sunday, 28 August 2016

//WL2K - Pihon Prepares to Race

Dear Friends;

Before we go on and tell you more of our adventures, let us just say we are writing from Pihon Island, a large island on the eastern shore of the Ninigo lagoon about 12 nm from where we first anchored. After a trail getting untangled from a coral bommie, we motorsailed on Wednesday against a soft tradewinds, dodging shallows, to come to rest just NW of a reef extending from the island's northern tip. We sent the story of our bommie wrap to our blog at: http://sv-carinablog.blogspot.com/

As we said already, we have been very very busy. Most of the activities that have kept us hopping during our stay have involved the distribution of the supplies we have brought. In addition to specific gifts sent to individuals, donated used clothing, wound care and school supplies, we left a supply of topical meds at the health center at Mal for treatment of such maladies as scabies (yuck, we read cause and the ingredients for treatment!) and head lice - and have packages for outposts up-lagoon. We have dribbled knives, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, elastic bands, sunscreen, bug-dope, books, coloring books, puzzles, games, documentaries and children's movies, and other supplies to individuals as we see needs.

Though islanders still use traditional navigation methods, following wave direction and zenith stars, one supply in hot demand are hand-held GPS units (and compasses). We bought, brought and gave away two used Garmin units and we have had inquiries for about a half a dozen more. Those with wages - primarily the teachers and health-care workers,- have bought them, sometimes at criminal prices, from passing yachts. The need makes sense really, even for the canoes that often cross between islands at night, sometimes across the open sea outside of the lagoon, and who have serious canoe-crunching reefs to contend with.

We gave one of our GPS units to the people of Mal Island for use by whoever might need it; to be shared. To ensure its use, we had an active day aboard Carina with Michael, the ward councillor, setting up waypoints for the entire region and entering them into the GPS. Meanwhile Augustine, his son, and Arnold, his younger brother, scoured the navigation programs on two tablet computers, intent on teaching themselves electronic navigation. We gave the second GPS to Justin, a teacher on Longan Island, for sharing amongst the islanders there. Not too long ago, Justin was in a skiff that flipped over off of the Hermit Islands and he and his companion were adrift for two days after ditching two outboard engines to save the boat. He lost his GPS in that accident.

One project we have enjoyed while here is the Ninigos is the sending and receiving messages for families who are anxious for contact with yachting friends of the past - typing written letters for emailing and writing out long-hand emailed letters back. Through contacts on the outside we have also tried to help a lovely young family of five struggling with the mother's health problems. Thankfully we had the medications aboard that were recommended by the first world doctors in the USA via email intersession efforts of Behan on sv Totem. Behan had met the woman during Totem's visit here and was quite anxious (as we are) to help cure her a condition that makes it difficult for her to manage her small household (three children under five) in a small village far from medical help. Now out of touch with her because of our move, we are waiting on information as to whether the meds we gave her were effective. We hope to get word when we are next anchored off Longan next week where her relatives reside.

The reason we came to Ninigo at this time of the year was to attend the 2016 "Great Ninigo Races" sponsored last year by the national government of Papua New Guinea. When we first arrived we were surprised that there was some hedging during discussions as to the schedule and format for the races. A charter flight of dignitaries including an Australian woman who'd lived here 45 years ago, had been canceled, though this was due to her illness and other extenuating factors. We made frequent inquiries but only got oblique answers; the islanders knew we had come to visit specifically during race time.

As an aside, without the sailing canoes, it is doubtful the islanders could continue to live here; petrol is 200 nm away and prohibitively expensive, and their food is located in the sea among large distant reefs and in gardens that are scattered around on small motus throughout this large lagoon and even surrounding atolls. Kelly Lui, VP of the local level government, has promised to tell us the history of these out-rigger canoes during the races here at Pihon.

So, after many discussions and getting to know the islanders better, Michael shared with us that the funding from the national government never arrived to the local level government; the funding necessary for logistics and cash prizes so sought after. BUT the out-rigger sailing tradition is strong and the will to preserve it is intense here and the race committees were determined that the races would be held. What evolved was that we proposed 28 prizes (places 1-4 for seven race classes) and a whole list of smaller consolation prizes that came to Ninigo aboard Carina, the 10 meter sailing cargo ship. Prizes include: sail-making kits (tarps and a used sail plus needles and heavy hand sew thread), fishing gear packages, rigging gear - lines, blocks and cleats, tools, packages of collared shirts + hats + polarizing sunglasses, copper and stainless steel nails in pkgs of 68 -85 each (poundage), snorkeling gear, knives, LED lights, headlamps, footwear, etc. (What you might describe as humanitarian supplies were of course excluded, health, medical, educational, etc.)

The islanders seemed ecstatic and one - the school headmaster - commented, "The items you propose as prizes are very valuable to us, so yes, we will race to win them." No one really had to tell us of the enthusiasm for the new plan, everywhere we went someone was working on their canoe and the sense of competition was in the air.

At Mal last week, we had the first set of races with almost 30 canoes including a huge contingent sailing over from Pataku, an island outside of the large Ninigo lagoon. These canoes were driven back by intense squalls the morning of the races but in the end all arrived safely and the competition began. Kiribai Papi, the gracious chairman of the local canoe race committee, had our hand held VHF in the committee skiff eight miles away at the starting line (presumably using the community's petrol), and we had Kathy, also of the canoe racing committee, aboard Carina monitoring our VHF for instructions, and a support skiff piloted by Paul shuttling us about. The finish line was between Carina and the big styrofoam float with a flag. What great fun everyone had on boats and ashore! It was chaos of course but in the end the races were well organized and the sailing just beautiful.

When we arrived at Pihon, there were teams here already training for the races, intently buzzing Carina as we shot photos. Teams all waved only briefly and then turned their attention to focus on the next canoe ahead to chase. Friday we went ashore and had a hoot of a visit in the village. Adopted by a merry lady with brown kinky hair naturally highlighted in blond named Wendy and a little beauty named Renita and a whole battalion of munchkins, we got the grand tour of the village that sits on a narrow sandy breezy spit on the north end of the island. Houses here are bigger than at Mal and often with multiple rooms defined by woven panels and with slightly less pitch on their roof, but are also made of the important sago palm fronds. When we asked Wendy how many people lived on the island, she grinned and said, "Too many". That was as much information as we could get!

We also met Silas during our tour - a curly haired salt and pepper grey round-faced man with Japanese blood and a sly grin, clearly a village leader. Silas, Wendy's father, pulled us into his over-water bungalow - for rent for 150 kina per night - and tried to sell us an ancient VHF radio. Still works but it's pretty crude. Seems a yachtie of an ethnicity we will not name sold it to him for 500 kina! About $170) Grrrr. Maybe it's the same boat that sold Chris Omen (headmaster of the Pataku school) a Garmin Etrex handheld for $1,400 kina! Taking advantage of people makes us grumpy.

We later learned that the yacht in question had wrecked about a year ago in the nearby Hermit Islands. The single man aboard had salvaged as much from the yacht as he could and loaded his inflatable dinghy and made it ashore. He then sold the items he was able to salvage to any islander who offered money. Alas, the islanders in some cases paid way more than the items were worth. Word has it that the captain eventually boarded another yacht on Manus Island and sailed away with them. We do not know the wrecked yacht's name but are hoping to find out more information.

Saturday, sabbath here on the SDA island, we wandered again through the village, delivered a new LED module to a lady named Honey whose LED light we had attempted to repair (and who later gave us a treasured gift: five hen's eggs). Honey led us to meet Murry of the race committee, her brother in law. We found his family enjoying a sabbath rest in the shade of a large tree at the water's edge on the breezy eastern shore. We talked of the races and showed photos of the heats at Mal and made plans for today's races. We are to go ashore at 10 am but nothing will happen until the canoes from Catholic Amix Island (a few miles N) arrive after church. More later...

Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake
Pihon Island, Ninigo lagoon, Papua New Guinea

website: www.sv-carina.org



At 8/25/2016 and 6:17 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°17.06'S / 144°20.57'E

p.s. PLEASE, if you wish to respond to our emails, DO NOT hit the "reply" button as it sends our original message back to us.
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Saturday, 27 August 2016

//WL2K - Update on Halokeni, Mal Island and the people

Dear Friends;

Oh my, have we been busy and the last two weeks have just flown by. The people of Ninigo...how should we say it?...are just plain wonderful. Honest, caring, educated, hard working, funny. We have so much more we now want to do for them...now that they're "family".

At this juncture, we realize we haven't given our readers a description of the Ninigo Islands inhabitants. Mal Island, our first stop, is a crescent-moon-shaped atoll a little over 3 nautical miles long by .5 mile wide at its widest point. (Mal means "laugh" in the Seimat language.) Its highest point is barely 2 meters above the sea level. On a king tide coinciding with wind from the "wrong" direction, sea water will flood part of the island. This has happened in the past and some crops in gardens were lost; particularly the important swamp taro. Global warming may be just an abstract concept to most people but it is a very real peril to these islanders. We envisage a time in the not too distant future when the government may force people to move from their ancestral home islands, though we have seen an honest effort by the government to prepare the islanders for rising sea levels.

There is no industry here; there are no stores of any sort. Well, there is a raised metal shack that looks like an historic copra shed on Pihon Island that is a "canteen" but there is no stock. Fuel, when available is pumped from rusty old 55 gallon drums that sit helter-skelter on the beach. Most islanders have out-rigger canoes that have been an important part of their culture for centuries and serve as the family vehicle. Canoe building tools and supplies are treasures to these people.

Islanders are truly living a subsistence livelihood with swamp taro, cassava, sweet potatoes and fish as their staple foods. The Catholic islanders also eat crayfish (lobster) but the SDA villagers do not. Pigs are rare and are only sacrificed for big events such as weddings or funerals. Government workers, such as the well-trained and dedicated teachers who teach here in both the native Seimat language and in English (and who also speak Pidgin), have small amounts of cash to spend. Others have little to none.

The islanders themselves appear to be a mix of Polynesian and Melanesian descent with widely different features. We meet people with distant Japanese, German, Australian or English ancestry. Skin color ranges from a white to milk chocolate to espresso. Hair can be jet black, brown or even blondish, kinky or wavy and facial features that are Asian, African or Caucasian. A good portion of the population is magnificently handsome. Many of the young children are almost androgynous in appearance with fine, almost "pretty" features where it is difficult to tell whether the child is male or female. Most men and women are shorter and slighter than your average American although some of the men appear to have the musculature of a prize fighter. We have not met a truly obese person yet. Most men wear beards and mustaches, probably due to the high cost of razor blades as much as any personal preference. When all these features are put together along with eyes ranging from blue, blue-green, blue-brown or green, the effect can be most striking. Genetics aside, the small population takes pride in having a spouse from the island of Manus or from villages on the "mainland" of New Guinea. A young couple we met with a four year old dimpled prodigy of a dream child, she from a village outside of Wiwak, were anxious for the arrival of a priest (an event that had not occurred for "years") so they could marry in the Catholic faith.

One factor of note is that many of the men, women and (alas) some children chew betel nut. This is the nut from a swamp variety of "palm", planted originally to dry swampy areas. The nut is peeled back and taken along with lime made from incinerated coral, pepper leaves are added and chewed until the inside of the mouth is quite red. Frequent spitting is necessary and, of course, the ground becomes stained with red expectorant. The big problem with betel nut chewing is that the lime begins to break down the enamel of the teeth and, given enough time and usage, the teeth dissolve away. Even before that happens, the teeth, lips and gums become red stained, and unsightly to our western eyes. The islanders don't seem to notice. Philip tried betel nut while we were in the Solomons. He reported the taste to be bitter and quite astringent but he only tried it once, not seeing any appeal to continue the habit. Besides, he has enough bad habits as it is ;-)

Many of you have expressed concern for Halokeni, the boy who had to be evacuated from Mal Island to Lorengau on Manus Island with a bone lodged in his esophagus. He was discharged on Wednesday August 24 and arrived back by skiff on Thursday about midday.

Despite the fact we've left Mal, we know this because we met a skiff en route to the other end of the Ninigo atoll. In the skiff was a waving, smiling, happy Halokeni, flanked by two matronly island ladies. He was looking quite chipper for a young lad who'd had such an experience and who had traveled all night at sea in an open boat for two hundred miles. Michael, Halokeni's father, was at the bow wearing a NYPD ball cap and waving too, while Solomon stood firmly at the controls of the well-aged Yamaha 40 Hp. After a brief chat and some photo opportunities as we motored side by side, Michael's skiff peeled off to head back to Mal and his wife, Lynette and the rest of the family. Michael plans to visit us at Pihon. As soon as we are able to get to Pohnpei and internet service, we will post pictures of the islanders including Halokeni.

And though we still have stories to tell you of Mal Island, we are now anchored off of Pihon Island 12 nm northeast of Mal. Out-rigger canoe races are expected to begin here tomorrow. On our way here and about a mile west of Pihon we caught a nice sized wahoo - a voracious fish which is good eating but destroyed our lure in the process! An elder of the neat little village saw us way off in the distance trying to anchor in the bommie-filled shallows to the west of the village and took pity on us, arriving in a skiff to lead us closer and just off a green coral reef on the island's northern tip. The wind blows over the barrier reef beyond, sailing canoes race about preparing for the upcoming races and the smell of cooking fires mixes with the tradewinds to fill the cabin with lovely scents.

Life is very good. We sleep well here. At dusk, after we've finished our supper, we sit in the cockpit and watch Jupiter and Mercury chasing Venus down to the western horizon.

Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake
website: www.sv-carina.org



At 8/25/2016 and 6:17 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°17.06'S / 144°20.57'E

p.s. PLEASE, if you wish to respond to our emails, DO NOT hit the "reply" button as it sends our original message back to us.
We usually have limited bandwidth that makes it difficult to receive lengthly messages.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Bummer of a Bommie

What's a bommie? It's an underwater colony of coral that can be the size of a Volkswagen or the size of the Volkswagen factory. They maybe visible from the surface or they may not be. Our Mal Island bommie was 30' below the surface, about 25' tall and 6' around and undetectable by the normal means; that is to observe a change in the color of the water.

When we arrived at Mal Island in the Ninigo Group of Papua New Guinea, we dropped our anchor in a spot previously occupied by another sailboat. Such waypoints are usually reliable. This one seemed to be, the bottom looked smooth and sandy, and we fell back, backed down on the anchor to ensure a good set and went about our business for over two weeks. If, and this is a big if, we hadn't had a front come through last week giving us northerly and then westerly winds, we may have been fine. But...

this morning we were stuck. Stuck isn't even a good term, chained to the bottom. Chained to the bommie, which over millennia has been glued to the bottom. We tried our usual methods of motoring up while cranking in and letting Carina bounce in the swell. She did not bounce. Her bow dipped and stayed there. The chain was frighteningly taut, threatening fingers and toes. We let out chain and tried again, again, again, again and just for good measure, again.

Finally, we shut off the engine and our hero came to the rescue...in a bathing suit, fins, mask and snorkel. Down he went, four times...down the chain until his ears nearly burst. The conclusion: it was a big bommie - not just our chain wedged in a crevice - and we were wrapped and wrapped solidly. Probably counterclockwise.

Back aboard, we started the engine again, let out a whole bunch of chain and motored not once, but twice in a wide circle around the bommie, clockwise. We could read the depths and contours on our fishfinder to know when we were outside of it. With alacrity Philip cranked in on the anchored chain, came up short, Carina bowed and then "blam" her bow came up and Leslie motored due east into deeper water as we both wished our chain to be free. And it was.

So, an hour and a half of grunting, groaning, stress, worry, diving, consulting...we were free of the bommie. And finally underway...


At 8/25/2016 and 6:17 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°17.06'S / 144°20.57'E.
We were traveling degrees true at knots.

olon



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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ninigo Islands - Far Out in the Pacific

Almost immediately upon dropping and securing our anchor in the Ninigo Islands of Papua New Guinea, a sailing canoe pushed off from the northwestern shore of Mal Island and headed for Carina. We were to windward of them, so their sail remained furled and two or three strong young men had to paddle. On it were Michael Tahalam (the ward councillor for the islands of Mal, Lau and Ahu); his 3 year-old daughter with an impish gleeful grin, Marianne; Solomon, a visiting family friend of strong dark features; and two young men, Augustine, Michael's handsome son, and Arnold, his younger brother. We soon had their out-rigger canoe secured to Carina's starboard side and invited them into the cockpit where we plied them with tea and coffee and of course, candy for Marianne. We ourselves were somewhat bleary-eyed from lack of sleep but we also high on adrenalin. This usually happens to us on the last day of a passage as we lose sleep as we become a little anxious leaving the sanctuary of the open sea and approaching a strange shore where things can go wrong.

Michael knew we were coming but did not know when; there is one telephone on the island, owned by the government that sits on a crude wooden table at the door of Michael's raised-floor tin house. We had called this telephone a number of months back and had had a difficult discussion with weak signals and much static, though because of it we knew the big annual canoe racing week was scheduled for August 25th. The only other communications Mal Island has with the world outside is via an HF radio in the regional health center, also owned by the government. Michael was repeatedly apologetic as he greeted us for not responding to an email we had promised him (and written). We repeatedly said that we had not expected a reply and were just thrilled to finally be here for the races and to meet him and the other islanders in person.

It seems our timing was good, we arrived on a Tuesday and it had just been Saturday when Michael arrived back from Manus Island. To give you an idea of how isolated these people are; to go to Lorengau, the islanders must take an open boat (skiff if you will), often with a single outboard engine about 200 nm east southeast. The cost of fuel round trip is about 1000 USD (3000 kina); which makes such trips pretty rare. Michael's recent trip had been on official business as a ward councillor and involved with climate change disaster planning. He had returned to the island on a chartered landing craft hired by AusAID to carry with climate change disaster materials - primarily building supplies.

Visits by yachts are rare in these islands and we bore with us, letters and gifts sent to us by previous yachts who jumped at the chance to send their love back to the islands via Carina. It was great fun to see the eyes of visitors to Carina light up as we delivered specially addressed packages and letters to them that we had squirreled carefully away amongst our boatload of supplies. One family, Thomas and Elizabeth Ailis, who also visited immediately, received in their skiff a particularly large stack from us and handed back an enormous lobster! What a wonderful welcome that was after days of one-pot left-overs!

During this initial visit, we explained to our visitors that we needed assistance to distribute our generously-donated supplies as equitably as we could. We wanted them off the boat and into the hands of islanders but we wanted to ensure that everyone felt the generosity of our donors and in our wake we would leave only good feelings and not envy that someone else had received more than they did.

During one of our first visits ashore, we asked the collected and curious islanders gathered on the beach outside of Michael and Lynette's kitchen hut, to allow us to create first, packages of food and clothing for the island's neediest. The gathered group gave us the names of eight families with disabilities of some sort that prevents them from taking care of themselves. It was serious business and everyone took it so, talking in the Seimat language to each other and us in English, as they gave us the names and the particulars of each family necessary for us to choose the donations wisely. For example, one family was an old woman (described to us as "fat") with one 5 YO granddaughter, another a disabled man with wife, son and two grandchildren ages 7 and 10, etc. We spent a long evening unearthing appropriate clothing from our huge pile of bagged items and packing these with a selection of staple foods in custom labeled bags that have now gone ashore.

A disconcerting development occurred on Mal over the weekend, an accident that demonstrates how isolated and vulnerable these communities are. Yesterday while we were ashore, Solomon approached Philip and said simply "can you help this boy"? Halokeni, the twelve year old adopted son of Michael and Lynette had swallowed a fish bone that had gotten firmly stuck far down in his throat. The accident had occurred almost two days earlier. The health services worker had tried to extract it but it was too far down to even see. He had given him only aspirin (!) at his point. Philip tried to examine him but the poor kid couldn't lift his head without tears streaming down his face. We asked him where the bone was, thinking we could possibly bring back surgical forceps and try to remove it. When he pointed so far down on his neck, we knew it was not something we could not help to treat. Poking in the little boy's throat would possibly cause more damage. A Heimlich maneuver would likely have been unsuccessful as the health worker - Vincent - commented that the bone was likely by this time lodged in tissue.

Already, the flesh of the child's neck was swollen; we were afraid the swelling might close down his air passage. Halokeni could only take tiny sips of water but no food. Philip sighed and then explained to the adults waiting for his opinion that the best course of action would be to evacuate him to Lorengau on Manus Island 200 miles away. The islanders assured us that there is a hospital in Lorengau where there were doctors and surgeons who could administer sedation and other meds necessary for extraction. Maybe it was the opinion of a respected outsider but things started to happen quickly at this point. Vincent, the man responsible for the Mal Island Clinic radioed his superiors on Manus - while we watched - and got permission to use clinic-allocated petrol to fuel a boat to evacuate the little boy. He then started an IV drip so Halokeni would stay hydrated. Meanwhile, Michael made arrangements of his skiff to brought from Pihon Island, have the fuel loaded and prepared for a trip to Lorengau first thing in the morning. He was hoping to find a second 40 HP engine, though this was in vain. We provided paracetamol and a bamboo straw and were able to coax the boy to drink a crushed pill in water through the straw. This helped to ease his pain and allowed him to later take a small amount of citrus juice.

Early this morning, Michael drove by Carina. In his skiff was Halokeni resting in the bottom of the skiff on a blue poly tarp, another ill little boy, the boy's mother and aunt, Vincent, and Solomon at the controls of the 40hp outboard, a 55 gallon drum of petrol, two live green turtles laying on their backs, bananas, coconuts and other food and a bouquet of betel nuts. (More on betel nut later!) Michael asked us to send out an email on his behalf, asked for a weather report for today and tomorrow and said he expected to reach Lorengau by 1600 (4 pm) that day. They were using a GPS we had donated to the island for navigation. He would try to call his wife Lynette on the island's phone once he arrived.

Today, we also installed a 12V battery, two solar panels, a charge controller and a voltmeter at the village school under the watchful eye of a cadre of students who carefully watched our every move. Philip, the principal, will use the extra electricity to power a computer and, possibly, an LED light. When we left, the battery, which registered on 12.5V at installation, was zinging along at 14.4V as the solar panels crammed amps into the battery from the equatorial sun.

And so, it was a full day on Mal Island. Tomorrow we hike down to the village at the far end for a visit, hoping to facilitate additional medical help for a family there. We had arranged for transport by skiff today but, alas, that skiff never arrived. Such is the way in the islands...

Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake
website: www.sv-carina.org



At 8/11/2016 and 7:16 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°23.54'S / 144°10.80'E

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Monday, 15 August 2016

//WL2K - Passage: Palau to Ninigo

Dear Friends;

We arrived at Mal Island in the Ninigo Islands, Papua New Guinea, anchor down and set, at 2321 UTC (0921 local time) on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. During our challenging passage from the Republic of Palau we averaged 3.1 knots, about the speed of a brisk walk. Our fastest speed was almost 8.5 knots and our slowest, 0 knots. Our average speed for this passage was well below what we would normally expect, but considering we had days of almost calm conditions and Carina was carrying such a heavy payload, we were pleased we got here mostly under sail, using fewer than eight gallons of diesel.

Of the 12 days and 883 miles at sea, we had about 7 days of light winds where we were sometimes only able to coax Carina to speeds of 1.5 kts or so in the right direction. Our most frustrating 24 hour run found us only 30 nm further along on the trip. Other days we spent in near gale conditions with driving rain that reduced visibility to a point just beyond our bow. We barely squeaked by one approaching squall with roiling black clouds that could have made footage for a movie about Armageddon.

We had a few failures en route, as we always expect, and only a couple of those were of concern. Our mast collar developed a leak - an annoyance, our man-overboard pole flag retainer slipped down the backstay - only a problem for the service life of the flag, our apparent wind indicator appears bent - perhaps by a boobie trying to land on it, though we haven't yet been up the mast to check on it so we really don't know what's up. Three of the four bolts on the fairlead for our starboard main boom preventer failed, and we broke a Monitor windvane steering control line on day two. The last item was the only one that created a stressful repair underway. We solved the preventer fairlead failure by re-rigging both sides with new blocks to the genoa track. This is actually a better configuration than the one we were using.

The Monitor windvane control line failure is our own fault. We DID check the lines before departing, it is on our list to check, but we determined them to be serviceable. In hindsight, a poor judgment. The main problem was when the Monitor Windvane steering control line broke under tension in an intense squall, the line came completely out of the framework of the unit and was dangling in the water astern, and our self-steering was disabled. At the time we had waves of 2 meters or more, confused seas and winds at near gale force.

We immediately rolled in the genoa and hove to, lashing the wheel to windward (rudder to lee). This makes the situation much calmer, though Carina, bow to wind and "parked", still rode up and down the large waves that often buried parts of the windvane. We have a liferaft, anchor and outboard engine stored astern when underway and other bits such as fenders. Moving the movable, we attempted to reach the windvane to snake a new line through. Not. Using a stiffer line of the same size got us almost there, but again, we failed to push the new line out the bottom turning block so we could run it to the paddle. It finally became apparent one of us would have to climb out onto the unit on the stern of the boat, during the storm. Leslie, being more nimble, did so.

Tethered to the boat by her harness, she climbed over the pushpit and wiggled her small self onto the windvane's frame. Squatting on the frame, one hand gripping the pushpit firmly, she could not reach the block where the line was stuck, so she sat down on the frame and hugged it with her right arm, sticking her legs out the other side. As we struggled, Carina's stern was frequently sunk into wave troughs and Leslie's butt was submerged. In what seemed like hours, but was only minutes (with Philip gripping Leslie with white knuckles), she firmly grasped the end of the new line and pulled it through the hole in the frame and into the fitting on the paddle. Handing the line's end to Philip, he pulled it aboard, still gripping Leslie tightly until she came back over the pushpit. Breathing now, we tied a slipknot. The line we had fed through the frame was not the line we needed, so we still had to hand sew and tape-to-smooth the new line to the "messenger" and feed it through. This went smoothly and our new "Amsteel" single braid, stronger than steel, line was installed. We then replaced the undamaged starboard line since it was a twin to the line that had broken. The whole repair took us about 2 hours.

In an area of thousands of square miles of Pacific ocean, you would think that potential collisions would be astronomically rare. But on this journey, we had three huge cargo ships - of the dozen or so we saw - whose reciprocal track was EXACTLY 180 degrees from ours! This meant that, unless one or both vessels altered course, a collision was likely. This is a bit nerve wracking at 0200 on a "dark and stormy night".

It was here where our AIS instrument really shined. For you land lubbers, an AIS (Automatic Identification System) is an electronic device that every deep draft vessel plying international waters, and most pleasure yachts, carry. Many nationally-registered vessels, such as fast ferries in Indonesia do not have an AIS. And, even if an AIS is legally required that doesn't mean the vessel will actually turn the device on. Our buddies on the mega-purse seiners rarely show an AIS signal. But, when a vessel does transmit, and most large vessels we encounter do, they put out an electronic signal that shows the vessel name, flag, port of call, destination and - much more importantly - the speed and course which is translated by our instrument into a closest point of approach (in nautical miles) and a time to the closest point of approach (CPA, TCPA) relative to Carina. Carina's AIS puts out a similar messages, though we are a class B unit appropriate for our size, so we don't have as much power or as many details.

Because of this information, whenever it is necessary, we are able to call the other vessel by name on the VHF radio on the international standby frequency, channel 16, apprise them of our presence if they haven't already seen us, and discuss a possible course change. When we are under sail, we are supposed to be the stand-on vessel, meaning we have more difficulty maneuvering. In this regard, the motor vessel becomes the give way vessel and is supposed to change course. The captains or watch officers we talked with on this trip may all have had heavy accents but all spoke English and all were polite and professional and altered course by a few degrees to pass us at a distance of 1 to 2 nm. Once we realized that our chosen passage almost exactly followed a busy shipping area to Asia, our watch-officer - one or the other of us is on watch during the entire 24 hours - became even more diligent about scanning the horizon frequently.

Our passage from Palau was during a waning moon and we had many nights of inky skies where even the stars were hidden by clouds. It's a bit disconcerting to be rolling along at 5 to 6 knots without being able to see anything ahead of you except for what might show up on radar with the rain gain nearly maxed out (rain return being subtracted in an attempt to see a ship hidden in a squall.) We did see, in the daytime, two FADs (fish accumulating devices) along the way. These are large, metal floating cylinders about three meters long that are tethered to the sea floor sometimes, 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) below. FADs are unlit and won't generally return a signal on radar unless you are just about to hit them. Some fishing vessels with attach themselves to a FAD and have small boats fishing or tending to smaller floats. FADs were a constant worry for us.

Just eighty-some-odd miles from our destination, we paused long enough to toast King Neptune with a healthy tot of rum as we crossed the equator under sail for the 11th time.

Our arrival at Ninigo corresponded with dawn and as we motored against a light southerly wind down the western side of the atoll, its motus began to become visible in the rising sun. Checking and re-checking our position on a satellite photo we pointed Carina's bow towards the pass, ran its rapids and were soon inside the protected lagoon and at anchor. It seemed almost impossible to believe we were finally here at Ninigo after months of planning and our longer-than-expected passage. We were soon enveloped by the island community and it has been a great stay so far...we have much still to do and many stories to tell. Until then...

Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake
website: www.sv-carina.org



At 8/11/2016 and 7:16 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°23.54'S / 144°10.80'E

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Hope Comes with the Wind

The words "Les, it's time" routed me out of the warm cozy rocking bunk into the dim red light of the main salon. It was 2130 and I'd been asleep about 2 and a half hours. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I rummaged around on the opposite bunk looking for the clothing I had deposited there. As the boat rocked beam to beam, I fumbled with dressing. "What's happenin'?, I mumbled" "Winds are shifting and I am having to head northeast. It looks like we're going to get a squall. Why don't you hustle out here and we'll heave to until it goes by." "Ok, sure". Quickly securing my inflatable harness I paused briefly at the companionway to clip onto my tether before continuing to the cockpit. Philip was in the midst of furling the genoa while the boat wallowed in the swell. I took the wheel, released the windvane steering device and took note of our point of sail as Philip pull the mainsheet traveler to the centerline. "Are we ready?" "We just need to get the preventer ready. Ok, got it" "Ready?" "Yep" "Wearing ship! She's coming around, wind abaft, coming over, now" - whomp - the boom moved across the boat onto the other tack in a motion dampened by the grip Philip held on a preventer line, and I kept the wheel to weather to bring her bow towards the wind. Settling in to a hove to stop, Philip handed me a line to secure the wheel to weather, then went below to brew some tea, record our position report and weather conditions, and begin his off-watch.

Standing up and looking around into the night to search for lights of ships, the blackness of the night seemed intimidating, particularly since I was anticipating the approaching squall. Bringing the radar out of standby mode, I studied the squall. A few minutes later, sipping tea, I tidied up the various control lines in the cockpit to kill time and ready us for the deluge. Time ticked ever so slowly. Luckily the squall was not intense and the rain was relatively light, at least by tropical standards.

As the rain tapered off, winds filled in and I was thrilled to determine that they were from the SE or even ESE as we had been given a prediction of southerlies; a wind that would not allow us to sail to Ninigo. Releasing the wheel, I wore ship again and sheeted in and then dropped the mainsheet traveler to lee so we would get a bit of drive and begin to move forward. Adjusting and setting the windvane to steer on our course of 180, or due south, I rolled out the staysail and Carina's speed rose a bit more and steering became more reliable. I then turned my attention to the genoa and sequentially let out furling line and cranked on the winch until I had about 1/3 of the genoa flying. By this time, Carina was zipping along at about 4.5 knots in about 10 knots of breeze, as hard to the wind as she points. She was balanced and heeled only a bit. With the momentum, she began to drive to weather even better and our course was actually east of the rhumb line to our waypoint 6 nm west of the west-most motu at Ninigo, so I eased the sheets a bit and re-adjusted the helm.

Standing up and gripping the dodger handhold, I poked my head up to survey the surroundings and could see nothing except blackness. The uncomfortable feeling of driving hard at unseen hazards made me stain my eyes and sniff the warm night air, though I was thrilled to be sailing after days of excruciatingly slow progress in mere zephyrs of less than five knots. Carina's motion was fluid and she hit each wave with gusto that surprised me given her payload. I was no longer groggy...I was having fun and happily anticipating arrival at Ninigo after almost 12 days at sea.

At 8/9/2016 and 0:56 UTC (GMT) our position was: 01°23.54'S / 144°10.80'E.






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Sunday, 7 August 2016

Wayward Traveler

Saturday, while ghosting along just outrunning the flotsam in the water, a songbird, probably a swallow, landed on our wind generator. It was a pretty little thing with a swallowtail and a lustrous blue sheen to the feathers on its back. We lost track of it with our focus on keeping Carina moving. A few hours later it suddenly appeared - fell really - from the coaming into the cockpit. It looked distressed with its wings spread and head down. Philip gently lifted it and put it on a coil of rope and then offered it some water, After some hesitation, it drank the water, raised its beak to swallow, winked its eyes and rubbed its beak jauntily on the plastic water container. We thought perhaps with rest it might recover from its side-trip here, more than one hundred miles from the nearest land. What hope we had for our little passenger was dashed when it began to convulse and worked its way into the rain gulley on the lazarette. Again, Philip gently picked it up and relocated it this time to the top of our dinghy supplies bag on the stern where it seemed to find some comfort. Within an hour it was dead and we buried the poor little thing at sea.

At 8/7/2016 and 19:41 UTC (GMT) our position was: 00°22.21'S / 144°22.20'E.
We were traveling 197T degrees true at 2.8 knots.





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Target

We have had a surprising number of deep draft vessels passing by us on this passage. Vessels traveling both northbound and southbound, and often from or bound for China. We have had to follow each one and in some cases communicate with the crew, to ensure safe passage of both of our vessels. Our AIS has been a fantastic tool!

At least half of these close encounters occur at night. Last night we had three vessels that passed within 1-1.5 nm of Carina within the span of about an hour. One of these vessels was going to hit us until we alerted its crew to our position and they politely agreed to alter course and pass 1 nm on our starboard side. All three of these vessels appeared on our 12 nm AIS screen simultaneously, surrounding our position. Lest you think these vessels are of minor concern, their statistics show they are generally over 200 meters long and moving at 14 knots. In this same patch of sea, were also two purse seiners, one of which had come right at us at full speed, NOT putting out an AIS signal but trackable on radar. It only passed behind after we cranked up the diesel and fled south at maximum RPMs and put a mile between us.

At 8/7/2016 and 5:45 UTC (GMT) our position was: 00°07.55'S / 144°24.31'E.
We were traveling 214T degrees true at 2.7 knots.





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Energy Wanted

We have been plagued the last few days with light winds, or no wind at all. We have also had swells from more than one direction at the same time, emanating from storms to our north. This situation actually takes more energy from us than a situation with a lot of wind. (Under conditions of fresh to strong winds, we can fly along ticking off miles with only minor adjustments to sheets or the helm or the neutral position of the vane, as long as our sailplan is balanced and appropriate for the conditions.)

When winds are light, there is so little energy, every deviation from the optimal point of sail, every disturbance of the sails - furling or unfurling, sheeting in or out - or every roll with swell disturbs our precarious sailing equilibrium and Carina's forward momentum is diminished. The fluid motion of the boat is suddenly interrupted and she bucks a bit and dumps wind from the sails, flogging the sheets and chafing the cloth. Desperate to continue to move forward, even if at a pace slower than you can walk, we are more attentive than we would be during watches when winds are stronger and the windvane and Carina are working together smoothly. Life seems in slow motion and we must attend to our self steering almost constantly. Thus, we have little time for ourselves and feel less energetic as the days fly by ever so slowly.

At 8/7/2016 and 5:45 UTC (GMT) our position was: 00°07.55'S / 144°24.31'E.
We were traveling 214T degrees true at 2.7 knots.





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Visitors

The day was hot and winds were light; the seas was almost glassy. Philip was off watch. Carina rolled back and forth in the ocean swell and Leslie was steering with her fingertips. Into this sultry day came the sound of a helicopter. "%$#@* purse seiners," she muttered to no one. (Purse seiners use helicopters to locate schools of fish and we knew there were boats in the area.)

First the sound came from the east and then from the west but she could never see anything and seriously considered that she might be hearing things; delusional from the afternoon heat and sleep deprivation. Then the sound got louder and over the western horizon came a helicopter zipping straight at Carina at what seemed to be a gazillion MPH. "Holy-moly, there's a helicopter heading right at us!", she called down the companionway.

It was a big orange 'copter with inflatable pontoons and a callsign RP-#### on its tail. Just before it got to Carina, it backed to the north and went around her stern at just above eye level about a boat-length away, flew up our port side and around her bow so close Les thought for sure they'd slice our forestay in two. They backed off a little and came up our starboard side and two men looked into our cockpit. One held an SLR camera and was apparently shooting our photo. The other, in goggles and ear muffs, held the controls as they hovered frighteningly close. Leslie gave them a big wave and a smile and a thumbs up sign, they smiled back and returned the gesture and were gone in the blink of an eye. The whole scene took place in a couple of terrifying minutes.

At 8/7/2016 and 5:45 UTC (GMT) our position was: 00°07.55'S / 144°24.31'E.
We were traveling 214T degrees true at 2.7 knots.





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