Passage to Pohnpei, Day 1

Miles traveled day 1: 143
Miles left to Phonpei: 653

Wow, that was a hard island to get away from. It seemed like one thing after another kept popping up to delay us again. Finally we had the entire list checked off, and just needed to recalibrate the compass in our autopilot. I had schlepped it home and shipped it off for repair in November. We finally got it back last week after they repaired something in the brain having to do with the compass module. So we go out and set it in calibration mode and start spinning circles so it can calculate the compass deviation. And we keep spinning circles (of no less than 2 minutes at 2 knots per hour) for about an hour, finally coming to the conclusion that the autopilot is still broken.

So off we are with an autopilot that still has no idea what heading it’s on. Which is fine if we’re using it while we sail and steer a course relative to the wind direction. But not so useful if there’s no wind and we’re motoring, which is when we use our autopilot. Luckily the weather forecast shows constant tradewinds for the duration of this passage, so hopefully we’ll get it shipped back to New England again and this time it won’t sit in the queue waiting to get on the repair bench for another 5 weeks.

The passage began with a very boisterous trip out the pass of the atoll into extremely lumpy seas. The remnants of the massive storm up north, combined with stronger than normal tradewinds, have left behind big and confused waves. Luckily we both had downed a dose of Stugeron before we got to the pass and neither of us felt sick. Last night was tough, with lots of rain squalls packing big winds and seas, keeping the boat bouncing and noisy all night. The first 48 hours are always the toughest on passage for us, and today I’m feeling pretty punky.

But we’re making good time, ticking off 143 miles in our first 24 hours. The wind is blowing 18-24 from behind us, so we’re scooting along nicely making 6 knots with just a reefed main up. We’ve decided to skip the stop at Kosrae and go straight to Pohnpei. We wanted to see Kosrae, but spent too much time getting ready to go. There are some interesting sounding ruins in Pohnpei we’re interested in (the ancient fortress city of Nan Madal), and likely we’ll make it a quick stop and be on our way to Yap shortly after that.

Today on Yohelah we’re getting our sea legs back after a nearly 3 month rest stop.


Passage to Pohnpei, Day 3

Miles traveled day 3: 155
Miles traveled total: 448
Miles left to Pohnpei: 356


Now this is a nice passage. I had nearly forgotten how pleasant passage making could be after all those stinky crossings back and forth through the ITCZ and across the rollicking South Pacific. But this is nice sailing. We’ve got about 18 knots of wind directly behind us. The jib is held out by the spinnaker pole on our starboard side and the main with one reef is out on the port side. The boat really likes this sail configuration and charges along beautifully. We’re averaging 150 mile days, which is terrific for us. And the roll is completely manageable, since the seas have settled down as we’ve traveled further west and the systems up north have stopped affecting us. The windvane is doing all the steering for us, and right now we’re making water at 12 gallons per hour and keeping up exactly even with power because of solar and wind. And the best part is that we’ve had two nights in a row with no squalls or rain. Occasionally we get pooped by a wave in the cockpit and get a little salty, but that’s a small price to pay for such a pleasant trip.

Every night when I check in on the ham net I get to hear Cindy check in as they work their way southwest from Mexico. Every couple of days we get together after the net and chat for a while and it’s such a treat for me to get to talk to her again. They’re making good progress on the way to Kwajalein, last night reporting they are 3/5 of the way there. Funny how we create little milestones to make ourselves happy when the passages are long and/or unpleasant. The wind has settled down for them now and I think they’re having a pretty nice sail also.

We nearly had a huge tragedy yesterday when the refrigeration system died and refused to restart. The compressor gave us some problems in Tonga and Rob did some reading and learned that sometimes the controller needs to be manually restarted in low power. But suddenly yesterday it wouldn’t restart at all. I turn it off when I’m on the HF radio or sending mail via the HF radio because it generates quite a bit of noise (not the audible kind, the power kind) and interference. When it refused to restart yesterday I was totally bummed. I had packed the freezer to the brim when we left Majuro, and hated the thought of throwing all that food overboard. Not only because of the cost of replacing it, but because of the time. Majuro was easy because there was a taxi right at the dock to a huge grocery store, so the schlepping was minimal. Stocking up there left us more time to enjoy the sights along the way and less time to worry about finding food in small towns. This morning on the local HF radio net with the folks back in Majuro, Rob got to talk to a cruiser who had previously been a refrigeration guy, as well as another cruiser who had the exact same system and problems with his coming in to the Marshall Islands. After getting advice about how to bleed off some likely excess charge from the system, he turned it back on one last time to test and of course it’s running just fine now.

After it had died yesterday we were both lamenting about how much time we spend working on the boat. So many people out sailing just can’t stand the constant care and feeding required by a cruising vessel and head home sooner than planned because of it. One thing we’ve learned is that it really doesn’t matter whether your boat is spanky new or 25 years old like ours – systems will break. Of course if you do as some advise and go simple (no refrigeration, no watermaker, minimal instruments) there is less to break and fix. But we like our comforts and have to pay the price.

We’re on schedule right now for a Monday night landfall in Pohnpei. We’ll reduce sail and slow down Monday morning so we can arrive Tuesday morning during daylight. Friends ahead of us report the officials there to be “challenging”, and the check in process to be unnecessarily painful. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed that everyone shows up as required and we get cleared in relatively quickly (it took our friends on Irish Melody 4.5 hours for all the officials to show up when they got there). Then we’ll relax for a day or two and figure out what sights we’re going to see on Pohnpei. We’re both happy to be going to a real island again where we can hike and tour and explore new places. A little advance reading about Yap has us excited about that stop, too, as it’s one of the places in the Pacific where diving with huge Manta Rays is common. I never saw a Manta close up on any of our previous dives, so this is exciting news. But I’m getting ahead of myself now and need to concentrate on Pohnpei.

Today on Yohelah we’re having an excellent sail and are excited about new destinations…..