Funny thing about weather forecasting – sometimes it’s wrong. And funny thing about tradewinds – sometimes they disappear. We have absolutely no idea why, but around 5:00 on the last night of our passage the wind completely died and the skies became covered with a low level, lumpy looking cloud deck. Becoming nervous that we were in for an awful last night, I grabbed my meteorology book and started looking for a picture to match up the clouds and see what we had (not that we could have done anything about it – it’s just nice have some clue about what’s going on weather-wise). Happily I learned that the clouds were stratocumulus, which meant they weren’t packing big rain or wind. So we turned on the engine and motored the last 17 hours into Pohnpei.

Since we had two independent reports of difficult officials here, we accepted that it might be painful and adopted the best possible attitudes. When we called Port Control on the VHF radio they advised us to tie to the large concrete wall of the commercial dock between two of the huge Asian fishing boats. As we approached, a panga zoomed ahead of us and dropped two men off at the dock who were waiting to take our lines and help us tie off (which was handy because the bollards on the dock were about 7′ above our deck). This didn’t seem difficult so far – actually it seemed downright friendly. So we put on our biggest smiles and thanked them as they welcomed us to Pohnpei.

We had a total of 10 people come to the boat to check us in. The first two officials were from the EPA, and were on the boat within 10 minutes. Right behind them were two officials from Customs. By the time they were done, the officers from Quarantine arrived, and while they were filling out more paperwork the officials from the Port Captain’s office arrived. So far so good. Then it was time for Immigration. So we waited. And the port security officer called them and we waited some more. And he called again and we continued to wait. Three hours later one of the least personable people on the entire planed arrived at our boat with his helpers. At one point he actually scolded us for not filling out our forms fast enough and keeping him waiting!

In the end it took 3.5 hours and there were 10 people filling out paperwork to allow us to stay in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Of all the officials we met, based on a scale of 1 to 5 we would rate nine of them a 5 and one of them a 0. During the three hour wait for Mr. Personality we managed to get the boat all cleaned up and switched from passage making mode to anchoring mode. All in all it has cost us $25 so far for Quarantine. We need to go back to Immigration today and pick up our cruising permit, which I think will cost another $75, but it covers us for all of the islands in the FSM.


What we’ve seen of Pohnpei so far is absolutely lovely. The people are exceedingly friendly and gracious (except that one). The town is much cleaner than most Pacific islands, and the lush jungle vegetation and abundant tropical flowers produce an exceptionally pleasant odor. It’s so funny how one’s cup can be so half full and another’s so half empty at the same spot. The SSCA Port Guide says “Pohnpei has nothing to offer, so don’t stop unless it’s an emergency”. We couldn’t disagree more. We just had one quick spin around town yesterday and are fussing around on the boat today. Rob’s gone back into town now to pick up our cruising permit while I catch up on internet chores. Tomorrow we plan to go on a hike around the island you see on the left side of the picture of the harbor. It’s about 6 level miles around, which should be a nice hike.

Today on Yohelah we’re enjoying the beautiful Federated States of Micronesia…..


Pohnpei is here.

How Many Ways Can You Chafe A Halyard?

When we arrived at Majuro in November we noticed that our main halyard had two major chafe spots in it – one where it came out of the mast at the top and one where it came out of the mast at the bottom. Not a happy sight at all. Luckily both spots were only chafed through the cover, and the line we used for our halyards is a very high tech line whose strength is primarily in the core. So I swapped out the halyard we use for the mainsail, which is on the port side, for the halyard we use for the storm trysail, which is on the starboard side. The two aren’t interchangeable as is because we have no winch on the starboard side to hoist and tension the halyard with. When we hoist the trysail (our small storm sail that goes up the mast in a separate track) we tension it with a multiple part block and tackle on the bottom.

We’ve had problems in the past with chafe on the halyard and have learned that if we keep the line very tight it doesn’t chafe. On the passage through the ITCZ into Majuro we had significant squalls packing 40+ knots of wind for hours at a time, putting pressure on the sail and halyard. We thought that’s why it had chafed. Unfortunately when we got to Pohnpei we found chafe again on the other main halyard after carefully watching the tension and experiencing only one brief squall the first night out. Well rats.


So Rob went aloft today to inspect the sheaves at the masthead, thinking there must be some problem with the hardware. What he found was a complete surprise and is going to be very hard to explain. What we have is an insert in the track where our mainsail hoists called Strongtrack. It’s made of UHMW plastic, and gives a nice frictionless surface for the sail slugs to hoist and drop. When it’s time for our mainsail to come down it literally just falls nearly as fast as gravity will take it. What had happened over the years is that the Strongtrack had worn down on the port side far enough to expose the pin at the top, which was now rubbing on the halyard when we sail on starboard tack. Who’d have guessed that would happen?

He pulled the pin out, believing it’s there to act as a stop for the mainsail slug, preventing it from coming out the top of the track. Having measured the distance to the top, he believes our sail can’t physically hoist that far. Besides which, I think we’ve hoisted without a reef only one day in the last year or two. We are emailing our sailmaker who recommended the Strongtrack to make sure that’s the only job the pin is doing and that we can just leave it out. If not, we’re going to have to pull the sail and the boom off, drop the Strongtrack down some and cut it off at the bottom. That may be a worse answer, though, because then we won’t get a full hoist on the sail.

The second chafe point where the halyard came out the bottom of the mast is even more interesting. When we were in the Galapagos we found a tiny little stainless pin with a weld spot at each end laying on the deck. We searched and searched (as did Brit from Hello World) to find where it came out of. Believing that it was nothing important enough to cause our mast to fall down, we hung on to it and waited to see what we figured out. Rob went sailing one day in Majuro while I was home and when he got done there was another of those pins on the deck. Putting the pieces together (halyard chafed at mast exit and unattached pins), he realized that the little pins that were on the deck had previously been welded to the inside of the plates for the mast exits. Where the halyards come out of the mast at the bottom, a hole is cut and a plate is riveted in. The pin at the top of the inside of the plate keeps the halyard from rubbing against the sharp edge of the plate. He drilled the rivets out of the two plates, took them and the pins to a stainless welder in Majuro and re-riveted them back on the mast.

So there you go. Two ways we never dreamed that you could chafe a halyard. And just for the record, halyards are not optional equipment on a sailboat. For people who have been cruising forever these things probably don’t seem that strange, but to me I just find it fascinating how many ways things can chafe.

Today on Yohelah we’re happy the two recent mysteries of halyard chafe are solved and wondering what the next will be…..