Samoa to Tonga

Here are some of Moe’s recent logs after one of our trips to Pago Pago in American Samoa.  

Friday October 12, 2018: Destination Tonga

Wind 15-20 knots. Clear w/Intermittent squeals. Latitude; South 514 degrees 16.370’. Longitude; West 170 degrees 41.752’. Engine inoperable. Windless inoperable.

Attempt to raise anchor in moderate wind. Anchor fouled. Decide to wait for next                              morning when winds may be lighter.

Pago Pago has several moorings but are taken by skippers or sailing vessels/boats that have given up the sea. The rest must either anchor or side tie to other vessels. For those of us who anchor, I must say, it is in the most deplorable conditions. Six years ago Samoa was struck by a large sunami that washed, in a large part, the surrounding community into the bay. When raising  the anchor you usually lift to the surface anything from refrigerator parts to automobile parts. Mostly it will be fencing, fishing nets, other anchors, etc. and without a windless (anchor hauling assembly) you must do this by hand or with the mast winch and spare rope. Andiamo has never had a windless until recently and it was damaged in a storm while we were anchored in Tonga.

Unless you own a boat you can’t imagine the amount of maintenance one has to perform.

Saturday October 13, 2018: Destination Tonga.

         Clear w/winds light a variable.

08:30-Start anchor up. Under sail only.

09:45-Anchor, fishing net and fencing up. Tack out of harbor.

11:00-Passed out of harbor between a breaking point and Flower Pot.

Andiamo has been in and out of Pago Pago several times with no problems. This day it was different. We rounded the point and as we slowly began to sail past the small island called the Flower Pot I watched as a very strong current, 5-10 knots began to draw us into the land mass of the island. Because we were “fore-reaching” (sailing into the wind) close hauled we tacked back towards the harbor. When we were a greater distance from the flower pot we tacked again and cleared the island. (Whoo)

12:00-Lat. S14deg.21.48’ Long. W170deg.41.136

         SOG (speed over ground) 3 knots. COG (course over ground) 200degrees.

         Wind E 10 knots. Beam reach. 

13:00-Squall Wind 20-25 knots.

14:00-Wind calm. Sea 2 meters.

14:30-Squall. Wind 25 knots.

15:00-Wind light and variable. Sea 4 meters. COG 180 magnetic.

15:30-Wind out of the East 15 knots. Sea 4 meters. 23 nautical miles since 12:00.

18:00-Lat. S14 deg.43.06’ Long. W170deg.43.06’

        SOG 3.5 knots. COG 200degrees True.

        Wind E 10 knots. Beam reach.

By the log entries it becomes obvious how variable the wind is between Samoa and Tonga. In our experiences this has been the norm rather than the rare. It makes for difficult and rough sailing as the sea swells come at the vessel from different directions. Also, the swell varies in size an direction as they collide and rebound off of each other. If equipment and personal items are not secured below it becomes bedlam which is the norm aboard Andiamo in rough seas. Moe and I have had an agreement since the first day many years ago; I would take care of the top sides, she would take care below. Her pack rat style of collecting everything that strikes her eye has overwhelmed her and our quarters. Andiamo was not built for deep sea cruising. Deep sea sailing yes. More as a fin keeled racer or costal sailor without the convenience of storage. I have made the attempt of adding cabinets and shelves but they are poorly built for securing items. My  fault. Never the less Andiamo is overburdened with articles she does not need. Having said this the vessel rolls, heaves and pitches with everything below clattering about on the floor of the boat. This is rough sailing in Andiamo and I patiently accept the inconvenience. 

Believe me I am no saint. Sometimes the situation overwhelms me.

           Sunday October 14, 2018

 00:30-Distance and heading from Mon. 18:00-Sun. 00:30 23.4 km 196 deg.

          Lat. S15 deg. 05.98’

          Long. W170 deg. 56.52’

          SOG 5 knots.

          COG 195 deg.

 06:00-Course and distance From 00:30 to 06:00 199 deg. 24.2 NM

          Lat. S15 deg. 28.69’

          Long. W171 deg. 04.84’

          SOG 4 knots.

          COG 204 deg. T

          Light wind out of the E.- Seas calm  

12:00-Course-197 deg. and Distance-27.5 nautical miles from 06:00-12:00

         Course to VaVa’u 225 degrees True-210 degrees mag.

18:00-Lat. S16 deg. 16.23 ‘

         Long.W171 deg. 27.85’

         Distance made from 12:00-18:00; 25.5 nautical miles.

         SOG-4 knots COG 212 degrees T.

         Wind out of the East 10 knots. Seas calm.

From 06:00 Sunday we sailed on perfect seas. As Andiamo glided along we put her cabin back together and then I slept the sleep of the dead. You never know when the occasions will come about. When they happen all you can do is rejoice. Never, and I mean never think that it will last. Always get ready for the next stage of ugly weather. Sometimes that means working through the good weather. Never hurry but always work with a sense of purpose on minimum time. A skipper    has the responsibility of the boat and the people aboard her. In order to maintain this responsibility he has to make sure that he takes care of himself. 

           Monday October 15, 2018 Destination Tonga

00:05-25 nautical miles since 18:00 previous day.

         Lat. S16deg.29.20’  

         Long. W171deg.50.07’

         SOG 4.5 knots. 

        COG 240 deg.

        Wind East 15 knots.

01:00-Wind increases to 20 knots out of the east. Swells building to 5 meters.

06:00-Wind out of the S.E. At 30 knots.

         Waves over the bow sweeping for to aft over the boat.

06:40-Waves still sweeping over Andiamo.

Lat S16deg.53.43’

          Long W172deg.12.89’

          SOG 5.5 knots.

          COG 222 deg True

These are the conditions that Moe refuses to share with me outside of the salon. She will occasionally peek at me through the slats of the companion way to make sure that I am clipped in with the safety harness on my personal floating device (PFD). I, most assuredly, am. Not only am I secured to the boat I have also provided safety lines running from stern to bow. I am now sailing solo. Most sailors would consider the conditions intolerable but there is in me something that relishes these wild conditions. Andiamo is down to her first reef and the Jenny is furled down to 75 percent. She runs between a beam reach and a close reach with the water level below the gunnels. She lurches as she punches through the larger swells and the shrouds and stays sing above the groaning of the wind. Nature is reaching out to tap me on the shoulder. She definitely has my attention. 

12:10-SOG 5.5 knots.

         COG 203 degrees True

          Lat S 17 degrees 17.20’

          Long W 172 degrees 23.54’ 

Wind 20 knots out of the SE. Close reach

          Seas very high-pounding us (drenching). Sunny w/tall cumulus clouds.

15:00-SE wind 30 knots 4 meter seas.

16:00-Kayak came loose. Re-secured.

17:00-Winds and seas higher. Lost a lifeline. Dave adds a preventer to the boom.

Moe comes up and into the cockpit. I believe it was the sun that brought her. She is lovely all decked out in her foul weather gear and smiling. Really, cute as button. I go forward to re-secure one of the lashings on the kayak. The boat is pitching like a wild horse. It is always a challenge to brace ones self on the narrow bow while performing tasks. Although it is not difficult as you can see when the boarding waves advance. I am swept against the lifelines that are guided through the stanchions by a large boarding swell and the lifeline snaps. These stanchion lifelines are great for balance but are not to be trusted on their own. That is one reason why sailors run their own heave lines for and aft on the deck of the boat. This is the true lifeline.

Tuesday October 16, 2018

00:04-Lat. S17 deg. 57.92’

         Long. W172 deg. 57.39’

         SOG 4 knots

         COG 213 deg.

         Distance since 18:35-22.4 nautical miles.

         Wind out of the East at 20 knots. Sea-3 meters.

07:05-Lat.-S18 degrees 24.37’

         Long.-W173 degrees 17.64’

         SOG 4.75 knots

         COG 216 degrees

         Distance since 00:04-32.8 nautical miles.

         Finally calmed down early A.M.

         East wind and seas picked up at dawn. Set new course to 250 degrees True 238 M.

13:45-Lat. S 18 degrees 32.25’

         Long. W 173 degrees 53.68’

         COG 257 degrees T

         2 miles of North East corner of VaVa’u.

         Main sail ripped near the top about 45 nautical miles from VaVa’u.

Andiamo had been laid up on the hard for months at the Boat Yard. After hauling out and rebuilding the Perkins diesel the year before the transmission failed to work. It was of to American Samoa once again without an operating iron Jenny. Back in Tonga at the Boat Yard we stripped the sails off of the boat and set it up for the cyclone season. Once again I pulled the engine, removed the transmission and, hopefully, repaired the problem. I won’t go into the problem with the transmission but needless to say that the skipper is no mechanic. I had removed the battens to ease the folding of the main and stored both sails. I worked on the interior replacing bulkheads and cabin ceilings in a futile attempt to stem the leaks that was rotting the wood. Then it was time to leave once again to re-new our visas by traveling to Samoa. I couldn’t find the battens for the main so left with the leach fluttering maidenly in the wind. The main sails shape is cut differently for battens and without them they are weakened unlike main sails without battens. How weak I did not know and even though I reefed the sail the peak shivered constantly. Some time between midnight Tuesday and 07:00 Wednesday the sail split horizontally near the peak and went unnoticed until daylight compounding the damage.

My wife’s log continues.

Dropped main sail. Sailed on Jinny only.

Tacked, tacked, tacked and tacked. Just got into main channel at dark. Could not reach any anchorage. Wind dropped to nothing. Called for help on Channel 26. DJQ talked to Andrew on Ashley G and he came out and found us taking back and forth between Islands and towed us to the dock about 21:30. As we were getting hooked up to Ashley G the furling line broke and Dave had to pull the jinny down onto the deck.

Moe makes it sound so easy when actually the drama far exceeds her succinct log.

The sailed had ripped. I tried to sail with the main any way. It became worse, the rip traversing across the main. I needed that main sail but could not sacrifice it any longer. So down it came. Now we were only sailing with the jib. The entrance into the group of islands was 5 miles west and I found myself having to wear around instead of tacking because without the main sail the jib could not push the bow through the wind. It is called being in irons because at that point you could not push through the wind nor could you back the jib. You would be left helpless to drift with the current until the wind clocked, veered or you slacked the sheet and waited for the bow to drift with the current, hopefully, in the direction you wished.

One other thing. I feel it is necessary to explain wearing of the vessel. When sailing into the wind to change direction you tack into and then through the light wind. There is another way to achieve this change of direction. It is called wearing. When wearing instead of tacking into and through the wind you can fall of the wind and jibe, sheet into a beam reach, sheet further in to a close reach and accomplish the change of direction in this manner. We found ourselves having to wear long before we reached the channel.

It took us from 14:00 hours to 16:00 hours maneuvering west to reach the wide open channel that led to Nuku’alofa. As you near this destination the channel narrow down to short tacks, which of course we are unable to achieve, having to wear the vessel. 

The night descends, cloud covered and moonless. The channel is narrow, the land mass on each side is a blackness that offers no depth. The wind is a breath and the boat moves without purpose. Every time I wear the vessel we come closer and closer to the shoals that precede the tree lined land mass. The darkness is complete, my anxiety nearly. I contemplate dropping the anchor but then I would be blocking the channel entrance that is three hundred meters to the ninety degree entrance. An entrance used frequently at night by small freighters and ferries. Navigation, spreader and steaming lights have been compromised during the rough passage. Andiamo is blacked out and would be nearly invisible at anchor. 

Moe has had enough. I hear her on the VHF below calling for assistance. The wind is barely a whisper, I curse quietly. I would never call for assistance. I would rather be grounded on the shoal. I know that this isn’t about me. It is about us and Moe has made judgements on her own without consulting me. Sensible judgements. 

Moe has contacted Brian at radio station DJQ and Brian has contacted Andrew on the sport fishing boat Ashley G who is now on his way to our location. The breath of wind has disappeared and we drift with the ebb. I have failed.

I was disgusted with myself and my futile efforts in achieving our destination without the engine. A life of frequent failures was unacceptable. It highlights weaknesses that I am unable to confront time and time again. I admit that it was easier when I was single and my life was not open to another in a close relationship. What was to occur next would be worse.

A skipper of a vessel must depend on his own judgement. When an occasion occurs that demands an instant response there still must be time to analyze and set in action correct moves to counteract the occasion. When there are more than one skipper there is confusion. When there are three confusion is supreme.

As soon as I knew that Ashley G was on the way I began preparing for the tow. Andiamo had only one cleat foreword, centered on her bow with the ground tackle cleat hitched taking up all the room. I first had to clear this cleat by securing the anchor to the toe rail that runs aft to bow on both sides of the vessel. Then provide the tow line running from the cleat through the bow and back over the stanchions to be coiled for a clean throw to Ashley G. Next I must furl the jib to provide no obstacles to the operation. The furling line separated at the fuller. I could hardly believe it. The forward fair lead pulley had broken and the furling line had rubbed through on the jagged edge of the metal bracing. Now I had to lower the jib, pulling it of its’ foil and storing it out of the way. Too late. Ashley G had arrived.

The first orders arrived from Ashley G.

“Lower your jib!”

No shit. I thought and wrestled the jib down through her furling bar.

 “Heave your towing line!” Andrew, the skipper, shouted from the distance.

I stumbled around the mass of the jib and attempted and failed to reach Ashley G with my line.

“Remove your sail from the foredeck!” Shouted Ross, a separate skipper of his own boat that was there to help on Ashley G.

I shoved the jib off to the side of the bow and heaved the towing line once more. The towing line reached Ashley G but my end became tangled around my anchor that still hung over the bow.

“Wait.” I yelled, frustrated, and began to untangle the towing line.

“Ready to tow.” I yelled.

We towed for a ways before Andrew decided it would be better if he transported Andiamo tied to his boats side. So we stopped and tied to his side in a confusion of separate commands from Ashley G and made way without the proper use of fenders.

All in all we made the customs dock. Now don’t misunderstand, I cannot tell you how much we appreciate Andrew bringing out his boat at 21:00 to rescue Andiamo. I just got the impression that he and Ross considered me incompetent. Wether that is true or not I really do not know. So if you and Ross are reading this, Andrew, let me thank you two again from the heart of my bottom! Ha, ha.

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