A day full of havoc! This is a continuation of the previous blog titled “Sorry Charlie – Yellow Fin Tuna” where we were under passage from Mangareva, Gambier to Hao, Tuamotus.
Hao Pass – ABORT!
We approached the pass at 5:10am and saw the standing waves inside the pass. We approached again at 5:30am and decided not yet. At 6:10am we saw an opening where we could enter. Marie Alice was hot on our tail which was not ideal. It would have been best if they gave us more lead time.
Matt was able to maneuver around the first set of standing waves that break at the opening of the pass. We made it in about a ¼ of the way before the 2nd set of breaking waves measuring at 3-4 meters (that is 9’-12’) started pushing us around. Matt had both Volvo 50hp engines running full throttle at 2400rpm and we were not moving forward.
I rolled out the jib to give us more horse power along with the engines and still nothing. We literally stayed in one place for over an hour trying to make forward progression. In the meantime, the waves are at our stern pounding and threatening to overtake us. The current was so strong 7-8kts of outgoing current that it was preventing us from moving. Look at our SOG compared to our boat speed. It means at the time of the photo we had 5kts of outgoing current. I was too scared to have my camera out when we had 8 kts of outgoing current as I was helping Matt with the boat.
Marie Alice had it worse as they are a monohull. The waves wreaked havoc tossing them around like a toothpick in a washer machine! I felt so bad for them as they took on so much water. Wave after wave after wave crashed over them. They later took out their jib as well but they could not move forward either.
Abort! Abandon! Exit Now!
Matt made the decision to abort after an hour of heart stopping attempts to move through the pass. It felt like everything was causing havoc to our boat! On the one hand I was relieved because this terrified me not being able move forward and having the huge waves at our back. On the other hand, the thought of turning around in these wave conditions with another sail boat on our stern was even more terrifying. And in order to turn around we had to roll the jib up which takes some of our power away.
No choice. We rolled the jib and Matt waited for enough space to avoid hitting Marie Alice, avoid the waves as much as possible, and certainly avoid the reef. It was dicey, scary, and challenging. It seemed like there was havoc everywhere! But Matt’s expert skills at maneuvering the boat got us out. Marie Alice was able to turn their boat around as well once we left.
These photos show our track into the pass. The red line shows zig zags right and left where we tried for over an hour to move forward and couldn’t. The right photo shows you how narrow the pass is with reefs on either side of us.
Regrouping In the Chop
Once we were outside the pass we went back to the Pacific’s choppy, uncomfortable, but safe waves. Everyone regrouped and tried to make a decision. We could either wait until the next “slack tide” which was predicted at 11:35am 4+ hours awa; we could go to Amanu which was 17nm away into the wind; or we could go to Fakarava a 2.5-day sail. Pros and cons for each decision.
Fakarava has great internet and provisioning but we would have to sail in the upcoming weather system which was predicted with 30kts of wind. Not fun or safe. Amanu would be a 4-hr motor sail into the wind and waves, but we would have better protection waiting for slack tide. The pass is “easier” and the lagoon not as crowded. But no provisions and 2g internet. Hao had a lot of our cruising friends waiting for us and hoping for some of the yellow fin tuna. But we would have to wait for 4-5 hours in $hity conditions for the next slack tide. We have a love hate relationship with Hao – see previous posts.
As we were “deciding” we got a call from Marie Alice. He told me that the waves had soaked their instruments and they no longer had navigation or GPS. Oh $hit! They could not go anywhere safely without help. Why don’t they have backups? Gesh, we have the ship’s navigation, a hand held GPS, and navigation on Matt’s iPad and computer. Yes, we run it all while underway.
Danger! Alerts! Alarms!
Alarms starting going off as we are contemplating the best thing to do for Sugar Shack and Marie Alice. We both go running inside to see what is going on. The starboard fresh water tank alarm was going off telling us that it was low. What? We just filled the entire tank with fresh water less than 24 hours ago.
In addition, the starboard bilge alarm is sounding. This tells us that there is water in the bilge, inside the boat (NEVER a good thing). We lift the starboard floor boards and then the false floor and see water sloshing around. Fuckity, fuck, fuck. It is one bilge that flows under from the head (front of the boat), under the hall floor, to under the bed (back of the boat). Well that sucks. What other havoc can bestow our day?
Decision made. We will go to Amanu to help Marie Alice get somewhere safe and to deal with our water issue. They did not want to wait in the horrible sea conditions for another chance at the Hao pass either.
Water Inside the Boat – Never Good
We set course and Matt gets to work trying to evacuate the water. No need to find the source yet as we know the fresh water tank emptied into the bilge. Matt has several pumps that he tries to use. The issue is trying to evacuate it while underway in big seas. You can’t exactly open a hatch and our hoses are not long enough to reach the cockpit from the starboard hull.
We tried sending the water outside the bathroom hatch as one of them is high above the water. But the crashing waves kept sending water inside. We also tried stretching the hose from the bilge, up the stairs, across the salon into the cockpit. This finally worked with both of us holding and stretching for the hose. Eventually we got enough water out where it would not slosh onto the floor boards.
We are still underway, heading into the wind and the seas. It is uncomfortable at best. Poor Matt is a$$ up and head down into the bilge. This is a recipe for disaster for someone like me who gets sea sick. So I focused on helming the boat and getting us to Amanu.
A few trial and error experiments and we discover that the leak is coming from a fresh water hose on the toilet. Matt takes it apart and finds the culprit. A hose ruptured during the bouncing in the Hao pass and leaked all our fresh water from the starboard water tank into the bilge.
We Arrive Amano
Four hours later, we get to Amanu and get in the lee of the island. The waves are down to .5-1 meter and the winds are blowing 18-20kts. We wait for 4 hours for slack tide as we slowly make circles so that each hour, we can check the pass.
Marie Alice calls to tell us they are taking on water. They cannot find the leak. We continually check back with them for a few hours. Finally, they tell us that they think the water came from the Hao pass as they took on so much water. It must have entered through their companion way. They had so much water that it flooded the interior. They will have a mess on their hands but at least they are not taking on water.
Matt fixes the leaking hose on the toilet and then we continue to evac the water while we wait and circle. Matt also determined the reason why the bilge pump did not do its job of evacuating the water. Evidently the bilge filter had a clog (most likely my hair and dirt) which prevented the water from leaving the boat which caused it to fill up the bilge. Havoc upon havoc. By the time slack tide rolls around 2:15pm we have most of the water out of the bilge.
Entering this short pass is fairly easy except it is really narrow which makes the water rip through and there is a dog-leg at the end where you have to maneuver quickly to the right. We try to explain to the French boat that they must follow us exactly to avoid the reef and they do.
Both boats enter with about 3 kts of incoming current, but no problems. We motor across the lagoon for an hour to a safe anchorage away from the upcoming SE weather system. The hook is dropped and we both look relieved.
A nice hot shower, our last pork chops for dinner and a bottle of rosé! We both pass out early.
The owner, a 20-year seasoned sailor had never seen a situation such as that and had never had his boat in such a dangerous situation. He said he truly thought he was going to lose his boat and his wife has decided she is done sailing. They had a hatch blow out which caused loads of water to come into the main salon and cabins. They have lots of damage including navigation and auto pilot which are critical to sailing. His current thoughts are to file a claim with insurance, fix the boat and sell it. They are done.
Sailing is not for the weak that is for sure. Havoc can be upon you within moments. It requires quick thinking, a jack of all trades captain, knowledge of weather and all systems, and patience. It is sad that they are ending their sailing adventure on a sad note.
Despite the havoc showered upon Sugar Shack we were able to repair all damaged areas and are now smoothly continuing out our sailing journey.
Events from this blog post occurred during the first week May, 2021. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.