Epilogue: What Caused the Cable to Snap?

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As I mentioned yesterday, we broke the cable that connects the bowsprit to the starboard hull. In this photo, you can see how the cable on the port side looks.

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Here is a photo that shows how the end of the cable attaches to the starboard hull. This fitting is called a swage, and it is intact. Please accept our apologies for the moss growing on Sophie’s waterline, it was totally clean 2 weeks ago. (Thanks for the muck, Jayapura!)

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Here is a photo of the  swage after I removed it from the fitting on the starboard hull. It is hard to tell in this photo, but there is a slight bend to the swage.

Now let’s get to the money shots.

20141130_110357Here is a photo of the inside of the swage. You can see the cable has snapped off at the end of the swage. The three inner strands of the cable are rusty.

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Here is the other end of the cable. The strands did not break off uniformly. There is no fraying. The three inner strands are rusty.

So …what happened? Do you think it broke due to minor corrosion combined with ongoing wave action? Or do you think we hit something like a log? Or was the cable a victim of a shark attack?

We welcome your thoughts…

Is That a Barn I Smell? Quick, Let’s Run!

Sophie covered 130 miles in the last 24 hours, a period of time during which we experienced loud thumping noises against the hull, swimming, sharks, zig zagging, a massive thunder and lightning storm, pounding directly into 20+ knot winds, and a potential collision. We are currently motoring at 8.5 knots into a very light headwind with both engines running @ 2800 RPMs. Sorong is 20 miles away, and it’s only noontime here. Our baby smells the barn and is heading for home. Sophie’s current position is 00.38.186 South, 131.30.872 East. After four nights at sea, we WILL sleep at anchor tonight. I might even let my wife buy me a beer.

How do I begin to describe the events of yesterday?

Let’s start with the thumping.

It was early afternoon, and Jenna went down below for a nap. We’re both pretty tired from night watches. We had Sophie running upwind in light air with the full main, the jib, and one engine running when I decided to turn on the watermaker. We want to have both water tanks full when we pull into Sorong in the event that the harbor there is as polluted as the harbor in Jayapura. Anyway, as soon as I turned on the genset and the (loud) watermaker, I started to hear a thumping noise coming from the port engine room. I thought it was weird, because the genset is located forward and the watermaker is located in the starboard engine room. The thumping noise was intermittent: I could hear it for a minute and then it would go away for 5 minutes. I turned off the port engine, and you could still hear the thumping. I turned off the genset and watermaker, and you could still hear the thumping. We must have snagged a rope or fishing line at some point that morning. There was only one thing to do: jump in the water to check it out.

Unfortunately I had to go downstairs and wake up Jenna, who was in a deep sleep. We dropped the main, rolled up the jib, and as a precaution turned on both engines and left them in neutral. I grabbed my mask and fins. Jenna asked if I wanted a rope tied around me. I said no, with my fins I can easily swim back to Sophie. Besides, I hate the idea of being dragged through the water. So I jump in, look up and see that Sophie is already 15 feet away from me and moving quickly. I swim as hard as I can and grab hold of Sophie’s transom, letting the boat drag me through the water. I look under the surface and see that there is nothing on the propeller, keel, or rudder on either hull. We are in 8,000 feet of water. Whatever we were dragging must have fallen off the boat when we stopped.

So we put the sails back up, switched to just one motor, and continued on our way. Jenna wasn’t going back to sleep, so we hung out together up on the flying bridge. 5 minutes later, we both saw something black and menacing in the water 10 feet away from Sophie. It looked like a big shark.

I’m sure glad I survived my quick jump and drag through the water.

A little later, the wind picked up and shifted to the northwest, and the current turned against us. We were motorsailing at four knots on a course that would drive us into the island. We were concerned about having shifting winds and currents near Papua, so we decided to turn due north and sail away from the island for a few hours. Per Ardua, still over 100 miles behind us, made a similar decision and had actually sailed into the northern hemisphere!

Once again, our timing was perfect. As we started sailing away from Papua, a wall of squalls formed along the entire coastline of the island. One of them broke away and chased us north. It was a dense black wall with bolts of lightning and booming thunder, just 5 miles behind us. The wind picked up to 25 knots apparent, and we had one reef in the main as we raced north for 20 miles. At sunset, Jenna came up and helped me put a second reef in the main, then we continued heading north.

We ate our pizza, which Leo and Hazel prepared while we were underway in heavy seas. They made the dough from scratch, grated the cheese, and sliced the olives. Jenna helped with the oven, but the kiddies did everything else. It was delicious.

When Jenna came on watch at 7:30 we tacked back towards land, hoping we had made enough northing to sail clear of the north coast of Papua.

We didn’t. The wind shifted back to the south and the currents were fluky. When I came up on watch at 10:00, Jenna had the boat back near the coast. Unfortunately we had sailed 35 miles over the 2 tacks but had advanced only 20 miles towards our destination over a 6 hour period. At this rate there was no way we were going to make Sorong by Saturday. “To heck with tacking.” I rolled up the jib, cranked up both engines to 2000 RPM, and started to motor straight into the wind. We were making 6 knots, but within an hour we picked up another weird current and started going 10-11 knots directly into the wind!

We continued this way for the next 5 hours, making good progress. But towards the end of Jenna’s next shift, the current had died down and the wind picked up so we were back down to 4-5 knots. Unfortunately for Jenna, she experienced none of the 10 knot action during her shift.

Some guys get all the luck.

When I came back on watch at 4:00 AM, we still had almost 100 miles to go. But we also had plenty of diesel left. Back in Seattle, Sophie’s “normal” motoring mode involved running both engines @ 2,800 RPMs. We decided to relive the past and opened her up. At 6:30 this morning we finally rounded Amsterdam Island, the northwest tip of Papua New Guinea. At this point we were motoring at 8 knots into a 20 knot (true) headwind. The boat and I were covered in spray, but the waves weren’t THAT big. There was no green water and no boat-stopping hull pounding. I assumed (and hoped) we were dealing with the type of local phenomenon that occurs on the extremities of 1,200 mile long islands.

It was.

For the last 5 hours we’ve been motoring into a light headwind at 8.5 knots, making up for ALL of our slow going over the last 2 days. The skies are sunny, the water is flat, and our beloved boat is covered with salt.

And that potential collision? This morning, Jenna — who, for the record, is also covered in salt — noticed that one of the support cables that connects our bowsprit to a hull was dragging in the water. It looks like the cable popped out of its swage, the fitting that allows the end of a cable to attach to a shackle. The swage and shackle are still attached to the hull. We’ll find out for sure in a couple of hours. Maybe we hit a log. Stay tuned …

It does mean that our code zero is out of action until we can sort it out. The cable doesn’t support the mast or our other sails, so we can get by without it.

Its always a good feeling when you enter a new harbor in bright sunshine after four nights at sea. We are grateful that this long passage is coming to an end on such a happy note. And Leo is grateful that he has finally figured out how to operate our can opener.

16 miles from the Equator

Our friends on Per Ardua threw us for a bit of a loop during our daily radio check-in this morning when they reported their latitude at 00 degrees, 31 minutes South. That means they were only 31 miles south of the equator. I looked at our position and realized we were only 42 miles south of the equator. We are continuing to motor sail northwest, and our course will bring us to within 18 miles of the equator when we round the lighthouse at Amsterdam Island at the northernmost point on Papua New Guinea early tomorrow morning. We then turn southwest for the final run into our destination of Sorong.

18 miles from the equator sounds pretty cool to us. It’s a better way to celebrate Black Friday than going to a store. We’re pretty sure there won’t be any other sailboats up here, let alone minivans or SUVs. We won’t be this far north again until we approach Singapore in 2015.

Sophie’s noontime position is 00.33.013 South, 133.40.384 East. We covered 126 miles as measured on a straight line in the last 24 hours, but actually sailed closer to 140 miles because we tacked to the south of Numfoor Island in order to increase our boat speed. Sorong is 160 miles away, and we are planning to turn on both engines tonight in order to make sure we get there by mid-day tomorrow. That is in the event of not getting a favorable wind or current.

We’ve covered about 1,200 miles since we last filled up our diesel tanks in Kavieng, and we still have about one third of our diesel left. We are trying to maintain a boat speed over 6 knots, and we have an 8 knot breeze on the nose so we are tacking. The wind is supposed to shift more to the northwest later today, which will give us a better sailing angle.

Last night was slow and frustrating. We had wind and current against us and averaged 4-5 knots for most of the night. Right now is much better, with Sophie rocking along at 6-8 knots in bright sparkling sunshine. The mountains on this big peninsula we are circling reach 8,000 feet in height. There is no snow on them, but I can see the tip of the peninsula 60 miles away.

There are a lot of fishing boats out here. I missed an unlit one by 100 meters at sunrise this morning while I was on the satphone talking to my daughter Sara. It was a 20 foot long open boat, just sitting out in the water 7 miles from shore. We passed by another pair of small fishing boats right now. They were tied to a buoy 10 miles from shore in 8,000 feet of water. I hope we don’t hit one. We definitely need to keep our eyes open. A lot of people live in Indonesia.

Last night’s Thanksgiving dinner was a great success. I even made a sandwich from the leftovers during my sunrise shift this morning. We used our satphone to connect with family and friends today, which was a nice thing for us being so far away from home. Tonight Leo is making pizza for everyone, and he will make the dough from scratch. Can’t wait. #Lucky.

Hazel’s Thanksgiving Letter to Her Cousin Birgit

Hazel had a school assignment this week to write a friendly letter to someone. She decided to write a letter to her cousin Birgit, who joined us for a very short visit back in September. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here it is. Enjoy.

“Dear Birgit,

In Fiji we met a boat named Per Ardua with three children on it. Their names are Sam, Isla, and Erin. They live on a monohull with their parents. They went to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Hermit Islands, and Jayapura. Now we are sailing to Sorong. We play trampoline tag with Per Ardua, it is tag on the trampoline. There is only one more day ’til Thanksgiving.

Love,

Hazel

P.S. I can’t wait ’til Thanksgiving!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s the fourth Thursday of November here in the Selat Sorenarwa, which means it’s time for Sophie to celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday. Our noontime position is 01.11.212 South, 135.40.423 East. We covered 147 miles in the last 24 hours and over 320 miles since we left Jayapura on Tuesday morning. Sorong is 270 miles away, and if we continue at this speed we will get there on Saturday morning. Per Ardua is 75 miles behind us.

We are still chugging along running one engine at a time @ 2,000 RPM. We now realize we can achieve over 1,000 miles range using this motoring approach.

There is not too much to report since yesterday. The water here is as flat as the water back home in Puget Sound on a day without much wind. We had no squalls last night. We passed to the south of the island of Biak in the hope of picking up some internet coverage from the town of Biak as we motored by. We did, and I was able to post a photo of the sunrise onto Facebook. A minute later we passed right by a floating log that was 100 feet long and 5 feet wide. It could have done some considerable damage to Sophie if we hit it while motoring along at 6 knots. Lord only knows what we pass by at night. There is a lot of wood in the water here, and so far we’ve been able to avoid it. We’ve also passed a fleet of open fishing boats, a tugboat slowly towing a barge, and a military airfield where some C-130s were taking off and landing. We can see islands on either side of us. Unfortunately we have a current running against us right now, and we are hopeful we will pick up the northwest-setting current once we get out of this bay.

Dinner last night was grilled yellowfin belly, grilled eggplant, and wok-fried green beans. It took about four minutes to cook, and it was delicious. We now seem to be using our little panini press for every meal.

We are dealing with a couple of constraints that limit our ability to prepare a proper Thanksgiving meal today. For starters, we have no turkey. The general manager of one of the hotels in Jayapura offered to source one for us, but we would have had to wait for a week for it to be flown up from Java. Jenna and I are both pretty tired from night watches and Sophie school, so that rules out things like baking pies even though we have a pumpkin and some granny smith apples on board. Maybe Sunday for the baking? However, we will make due today with a small beef roast, a small yellowfin roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, onions, and carrots. We’ll then have some fresh pineapple for dessert. It’s probably just what the pilgrims ate, minus the tuna and pineapple.

Also, I was able to connect to some sports websites this morning and got my fill of football news. I wasn’t able to stream the video of that catch, though.

We are thankful for everything in our lives and would like to extend warm Sophie Thanksgiving wishes to all of our friends and family back home. We think of you all the time and wish you were with us, especially next week when we begin our stay in Raja Ampat. The books say it has the broadest diversity of coral and fish in the entire world, and we plan to spend a month there. We even have an empty cabin available if anyone is feeling a little spontaneous …

Happy Thanksgiving!

Molucca Sea

Sophie left Jayapura at 6:00 AM yesterday morning after clearing out of the Harbormaster and Customs Office the night before. Our noontime position is 01.22.977 South, 138.07.016 East, which means we covered about 175 miles in the last 30 hours. Most of this involved motoring with one engine on a constant westerly course just 7 miles off the Papua coast. We are still getting a 1 knot current that contributes to our speed.

We did a radio call with Per Ardua at 8:00 this morning. They are 50 miles behind us and are motoring along quite nicely.

Our original destination were the Padaido Isands, which are 86 miles ahead of us. We’ve heard it is a lovely coral atoll and would make an ideal rest stop halfway between Jayapura and Sorong/Raja Ampat. But we downloaded some new weather files today, and it now appears that some fresh westerlies will develop in 30 hours and then last for over a week. So I think we are going to skip Padaido and try to go straight to Sorong with hopefully little motoring directly into the wind. We still have a lot of fuel. It does mean that we will celebrate the US Thanksgiving Holiday at sea, with no internet access to stream football games. Sort of the tropical circumnavigation equivalent of O’Hare closing due to a snowstorm.

In this part of the world, October and November is a transition period from the Southeast Monsoon to the Northwest Monsoon. Based on the weather forecast, it looks like the Northwest Monsoon, with its winds and currents coming from the northwest, is starting to kick in. Our main reason for traveling so fast through the Solomons and PNG was to make it up here before the wind starts blowing in our face every day. That makes for uncomfortable travel. Once we get to Sorong, we get back into cruising mode where we only have to cover short distances between harbors. We will then spend a month exploring Raja Ampat. Based on the weather it looks like we are just barely going to make it.

Or maybe not. 🙂

As I write this, we just entered into a wall of brown water, the outflow from the Mamberamo River, whose entrance is 9 miles away. My chart shows that the river goes over 100 miles into the interior of Papua, and obviously takes a good chunk of it out to sea every day, because we just passed over this perfectly defined line in the ocean, turquoise on one side, mud brown on the other and stretching from the shore to the horizon. Our speed also just dropped a knot. I sure hope we get this current back when we are on the other side of this river delta.

We are certainly not going to catch any tuna in this mud. Maybe we’ll see a crocodile.

We passed a couple of feeding frenzies in the water yesterday afternoon. One of them involved 500 birds working low on the surface, with big splashes coming from the fish. Given the wind angle, we couldn’t directly sail into the frenzy. But we did see a marlin swimming along past Sophie, 50 feet away from us. At one point we were also joined by a school of 50 small dolphins who came over to play. Three or four of them would leap through the water at a time. It was all obviously choreographed. Jenna got some photos. The kiddies enjoyed the brief break from school.

It’s sunny and hot. The seas are flat. We have plenty of fuel and water and food. We are in constant sight of land. Now that Lauren is gone, it’s just me and Jenna doing night watches, the first time that’s happened on a passage since we sailed from Tonga to Fiji 15 months ago. Leo and Hazel are now doing an afternoon watch together, and that actually helps us a lot in the sleep department.

Pretty happy out here. No complaints. None at all. Except we miss our friends back home. And family. And football. Go Pats!

We Have Left the South Pacific and Are Now in Asia

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It is amazing how a relatively short passage of 260 miles results in a complete transition from one area of the world to another. We’ve been in Jayapura for almost 2 days now, and it definitely feels like we have left the rural South Pacific and have entered Southeast Asia. This is a bustling city of 350,000 people, and 340,000 of them don’t speak English. There is a completely different vibe here compared to the islands, and so far we like it a lot.

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As I mentioned earlier, checking into Customs here was quick and professional. Customs is located in an air conditioned two story building right on the main wharf. They spent 5 minutes reviewing our paperwork there and then requested a ride out to Sophie to inspect the boat. They were quite friendly and took many photos of the boat and of themselves. They also did a quick and thorough search. Only 20 cruising yachts have entered Jayapura in 2014, but only 2 of them came from the US.

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Afterwards they insisted on taking a picture with our family. How’s this for a potential Christmas card photo?

Clearing Immigration took longer, almost 4 hours. This was mainly because their photocopying machine was broken. We also had to travel to the national bank to pay the fee for Lauren’s Visa on Arrival.

We eventually got it all sorted it out and capped off the day by going to what Customs told us was the fanciest, most expensive restaurant in town, B-One. We shared 7 plates of Indonesian and Chinese food, plus some beers and fresh squeezed fruit juices, all for US$60. And this was the most expensive place in town! It’s one thing to hear that eating in restaurants in Indonesia is less expensive than cooking on your own, but to actually experience it is wonderful. From an eating perspective, we are going to be so happy here.

Yesterday, Jenna and the kiddies started off with Sophie school while Lauren and I went into town to sort out cell phone coverage and Internet access.

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This sign is right on the main drag in Jayapura. I know in my heart that the further west we travel, the closer we are getting to our home, including our family near Boston. Here is a sign that proves it. I wonder if I can get a regular with egg nog to go with my half dozen honey dipped.

When school was over, I collected Jenna and the kiddies and we all had lunch at the Jayapura Mall. It’s a 4 storied, air conditioned retail palace, bigger than anything we’ve seen since Auckland.

Afterwards, everyone else went in hunt of an English-Indonesian phrase book while I returned to Sophie for a scheduled SSB radio call with Per Ardua.

When I dinghied out to the boat, I saw that my friends from Customs, Police, and now the Navy were waiting to search Sophie again.

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The Navy officer, pictured in the plaid shirt above, led the search. He wanted to see our spear gun and asked if I was ex-military. They also did a very quick search of our bilges. They took many photos with their cameras, including more selfies. When I pointed out that if an Indonesian sailboat had entered a US port, the government officers would all be carrying many guns. They laughed, held up their phones, and said “We don’t need guns, we have these!”

I like this country.

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Afterwards, they once again requested to take photos with me. Here is one with me and the policeman who is the master of this patrol boat. He lets us dock our dinghy on their dock and has promised to bring me a proper Indonesian flag later today. We couldn’t find an Indonesian flag to purchase anywhere between here and Auckland, so Jenna made a temporary one from a bit of white t-shirt and a red Sharpie.

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Before they left, they wanted to know if I was planning to go into town to drink beer later that night, and if they could join us. I think we had a bit of a language barrier, because the Sophie crew went to a waterfront place called the Blue Café, which had ridiculously good food but like most restaurants in Indonesia does not serve alcohol. They never showed up.

Sophie has traveled over 2,500 miles since we left Fiji 10 weeks ago. When we left, we were concerned about heading off the beaten track and visiting countries like the Solomons and Papua New Guinea where there was the risk of encountering “raskols.” We were told that the political tension on the Indonesian side of Papua made the police paranoid and hostile. We were even told by some cruisers that two American journalists were beheaded here in June. (Not true).

What we have instead found are that almost all of the people we encounter on this leg of the adventure have greeted us with warmth and kindness. We need to lock the boat up at night in cities where there are young men who don’t have enough to do. But we’d lock our boat up at night if we were docked at Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle. So there is not much of a difference between here and home.

People are inherently good. We are welcomed wherever we go, and I hope every day that my family on Sophie can live up to the standards of the people who welcome us into their communities. This next year in southeast Asia will be the best years of our lives.