We saw it fit to do a little trial sail after all the work done during the haul-out and decided to combine it with going to Arue (just E of Papeete)at the N tip of the island to get together with friends and also to do some shopping for ‘boat-bits’ in Papeete before leaving for the Marquesas, so heaved anchor Monday morning and powered out of the Bay against a 6-7 kt contrary wind the first few miles. Set the Main underway and then the genoa once we turned to Starboard to exit the pass. This is the first time Isabelle sees this part of the lagoon, since she had already arrived here by air when I first made landfall last May. Everything appeared just fine with the drive train and with the clean new antifoul we made good speed on a reach W to double the ‘Pointe Maraa’ which makes the westernmost extremity of the island. Smooth, enjoyable sailing, but I had got another concern… I just didn’t feel OK, pain in every muscle after the little ‘work-out’ of cleaning the mud off 60 mtrs of chain is not normal. Slowly I felt I was getting more and more feverish and soon reluctantly realized I had Chikungunya rapidly taking control of my body. Fast and furious tropical fever. Great timing right?
Anyway we kept on planning to go inside the lagoon again some 12 miles south of Papeete to spend the night at anchor off Marina Tahina, where I wanted to buy some pickle for the watermaker. We should be able to make it there just before nightfall, but Eolius had other plans,
Just a couple miles from the pass, the wind suddenly died out. Completely. OK, no worries, fire up the engine and on we go. It did not crank though. Nothing. Not even the little ‘click’ from the solenoid. By now I knew I had high fever, sweating quite profusely, brain no longer functioning normallly. Anyway, when needed we can push our limits, so off the companionway hatch to get at the front end of the engine where the cables are connected to the starter. Connections all looking good, wiggled them and tried again but same discouraging result. I then bypassed the main suspect, the ignition switch but still no success. There is very limited access spacewise around the starter so very difficult to jump the solenoid in place with a screwdriver, but finally managed to do so with my by now quite fumbling hands, but to no avail.
Gave up on that. We’ll wait a while, some little breeze should pick up. A closer look at the chart showed our position 1,5 miles off the reef and GPS suggested a slow (as 0,3-0,5kt) drift toward the reef. Not the best situation to find ourselves in with about 45 minutes of useful daylight left. By now I was shivering and sweating in turns, and was clearly already on ‘reserve power’ and since Isabelle, unlike me, has the terrible experience of losing a boat on a reef, I could see how she was getting seriously scared. Surprisingly little other traffic on the water, not even the local fishing boats. One sailboat less than a mile off motoring south though. Isa put out a call on the VHF for them but no answer. Guess they didn’t have the radio powered up. After a little while I checked our position again, and we were indeed slowly drifting the wrong way. I saw the beginning of terror in the face of Isa, and even my admittedly dimmed mind realized that we were not in a very good position. I knew that I was simply to week physically by now to launch our dinghy -lashed down properly on foredeck- get the outboard on it and then tow us away a couple miles. Normally a simple task, but fever and pain had reduced me to a very week and tired OLD man, so in order to install some plan of action (though still hoping for some zephyrs to allow us to gain sea room under sail in time) I asked Isa to put out a Pan-Pan to inform MRCC of our predicament. So she did. They got back right away, and wondered if we required a tow.
Knowing that would cost a small (?) fortune, we told them to stand-by for half an hour to see if we would be able to get out of trouble by ourselves. They sent out a helicopter (for practice mostly as the told us) that came just a few minutes later, took a couple of circles around us and then scooted back to base..By the next time MRCC called us on 16 some ripples came up on the water and thanks to NANNAs maneuverability in very light airs, and very gentle handling of sheets and the wheel I made the boat steer a WNW course at 0,5-1 kt and so asked them to wait a while longer before sending out a tug or whatever kind of vessel they had in mind. Ripples hanged on and for 20 minutes or so we made 3kts + COG and soon had increased our margin to disaster with a bit over a mile.
From now on and all thru the night, MRCC called us every 2 hrs, for a position and we handsteered in zephyrs and calms all night. Boatspeed 0-1 kt in pretty much every direction of the compass, though we tried heading north as much as possible since we were now determined to keep on going to Arue. Incidentally our friend we wanted to see there is a mechanic and the pass is wide and entrance under sail straight-forward in most wind directions.
This night and the following day I passed in a feverish trance, interspersed with sleep, mostly lying on my back in the cockpit, since I couldn’t sit up, steering with a couple of my toes on a wheel spoke while keeping an eye on the stars for direction. When Isa took her watches I must have been more or less unconscious, at least I do not remember anything except that the 2-hrs invervals between the call-ups often to me seemed to be only 10 minutes apart.
The following day was calm, with clear skies and awfully hot for my fever-ridden body. At 14.00 we found ourselves some 5 miles west of Papeete when very suddenly a fresh NE breeze sprung up and we could make a tack 35 degrees in 14-18 kts apparent followed by another tack that took us right into Arue where Richard, our friend the mechanic, met up in his dingy to make sure we got safely anchored.
Just after that was done I checked my temperature. 39,9 C. Don’t remember I ever was more pleased to be at anchor and needless to say I enjoyed elongating myself in the v-berth!
This above took place Tuesday afternoon, I am writing these lines Friday and the fever was gone yesterday already. It has left me with bad pain in all joints though and a great fatigue.
Later on today I’ll have a look at the starter issue, still suspecting an electrical problem. If I can’t find the culprit, during the weekend Richard can have a look at it. By the way, thru another friend here we just found out that there is a shop in Papeete where they can rewind (or is it rewire?) electrical motors. Like someone said once ‘ You can find just about anything in Papeete, but the problem is to know where!’ Anyway we’ve got a spare starter, and spare brushes too, so that should not normally be needed. Back on this later…
Cheers, Magnusday morning and powered out of the Bay
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