Fish Fights and Squally Nights

Oceangybe

Words by Ryan

3am, 21 October 2007

Lat: 18deg 37.3′S

Long: 155deg 14.1′W

250 miles WSW of Bora Bora, en route of Rarotonga (Cook Islands) 300 miles away.

It is a ghostly night. The ocean is like glass, ruffled only with the passing of rain squalls chasing each other around in the moonlight. As an observer, this looks like some tranquil and beautiful meteorological dance from afar, but one that can get quite aqueous if you get too close. It is easy to discern the thickness and density of the clouds in the moonlight, simply by the amount of light that shines through them. The edges are a silvery light, the centers a foreboding black.

Khulula is under power. On windless nights, we have no choice other than to invoke the “iron wind”, an incredibly reliable power source in the form of a 56 hp Yanmar diesel engine. Motoring has its advantages, such as being able to maintain a consistent velocity, and a consistent direction, and thus removing many of the variables of passage planning.

For Khulula, however, it is a devil in disguise:

1) When there is no wind, we cannot use our self-steering wind vane. This ingenious piece of equipment, the “hydrovane” (or to us, “Casper”), uses the power of the wind to steer the boat. No wind and Casper is out of commission. Hence, we need to use the electric autopilot.

2) Casper steers the boat by means of an independent rudder mounted off the back of the boat. When motoring, the prop wash interacts with this rudder and basically shakes the $%#@ out of it. Mechanical devices generally don’t appreciate getting to the $$@@ shaken out of them, so Hydrovane proposes the following solution: Remove the rudder from the shaft. Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you, trying to remove a rudder from the transom of a heaving, pitching boat it not the easiest thing in the world, and you always end up soaked from head to toe.

3) The HF radio is so powerful on transmit that it completely throws of the autopilot compass! This is an interesting one – we use the radio to check into various nets while underway, as well as to receive emails and weather info. As soon as we turn on the radio, Khulula starts acting like she has really been into the booze (stored in her bilges), and starts weaving all over the show, doing 180′s, veering one way then the next.

When there is no wind, we cannot send or receive emails, talk on the radio etc, unless there are two people awake (only at shift change at night). When the wind disappears, the crew is automatically signed up for two dousing – one to remove Casper’s rudder, the other to replace it when the wind comes back. When there is no wind our entire existence is dominated by the rumble (er…, BELLOW), or the diesel. When there is no wind, the boat rocks MUCH more, as there is no pressure on the sails to keep us pinned over.

Wind is good. (but not too much wind please, thanks!)

The other half of this entry is to announce that our fishing prowess has benefited greatly from all our … er… challenges and learnings to date. This morning was the second sunrise (the fish only really hit at sunrise and sunset) of this passage and we landed a 20 lb Tuna! Heck yes! It was quite the fight, man against beast, the conclusion of which was three men with bellies and freezer filled with beast.

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