Friday 07 June 1620, Saipan
We made it to Saipan. It was a rough ride. We shredded several of our lines on the way up. The wind was stronger than forecast. We made good time but the conditions were far from comfortable. We left Guam at 1530 on Tuesday and sailed toward Rota. We were making really good time along Guam. Then the channel between Guam and Rota was pretty rough but not much worse than other times we have made the same trip. We were getting close to Rota by midnight and decided to keep going on to Saipan. We wanted to stop in Rota and rest but we also thought it would be nice to get to Pagan as soon as we could. The windvane steering was doing a good job and Jackie took over to monitor the boat while I got some rest. I tried to sleep for a couple hours and got up around 0200 to see how we were doing. Jackie was tired so I took over and she laid down to get some rest. I checked our heading and realized the wind had shifted a bit and we were heading more west than I wanted so I went to adjust the windvane and cut my finger on something sharp and jagged. I turned my headlamp on the check what was going on and the problem was immediately apparent. One of the mounting supports for the windvane had broken. When I bought the used wind vane gear the supports had been bent to fit a larger boat with a sloped transom. In trying to un-bend the supports, we broke them. So, we cut the bend out, fitted the aluminum tubes with a solid aluminum plug and welded them back together to make straight tube sections. The tube had broken right at the weld and, luckily, the solid plug saved us from catastrophic failure. I woke Jackie up and we decided to turn around and sail back to Rota since we didn’t want to have to manually steer the rest of the way to Saipan without the wind vane. It took us four hours to tack back in to Rota since we were way west and already North of the marina. We arrived in Rota at 0630 or so and there were already people around the marina. We had to clear customs since we stopped and needed to stay awake until they arrived. Since we had to be awake anyway we started on repairs immediately. We just drilled holes through the solid aluminum plug and used stainless bolts to pin the two sections of the tube together. This should hold up for the rest of the trip until we get back and can make more permanent repairs. We took a nap once we cleared customs and fixed the windvane and got underway again by 1530.
The wind was still strong and the waves really choppy on the way to Saipan from Rota. We had one gust early on which healed the boat over more than we are comfortable. We are OK riding with the boat heeled and water right at the gunwales but this particular wind/wave/sail combination had water pouring into the cockpit over our the rail. I was at the helm but Aries, the wind vane, was driving. I went to disengage the windvane and take control of the boat at the same time but yanked the wheel first. This caused excessive force on the windvane system and ripped the block from the aft toe rail, rendering the steering gear, once again, inoperable…
A storm had blown up and our sails were completely overpowered. The windvane steering was broken again and we needed to adjust quickly. We pulled in the jib and Jackie donned the harness and tether and went forward to reef the mainsail. She yelled that she wanted to put the second reef in and I said we should be OK with one. The boat was tossing and pitching in the high winds and high frequency waves which makes the foredeck pretty uncomfortable. She got the sail reefed and and came back to the cock pit. I sailed the boat until the storm passed. I felt like some sort of salty sea captain as we crashed through the waves with rain pouring down and waves crashing over the deck. Then I wondered what I was doing there, soaking wet and a little bit miserable. I thought of a song that reminded me of my Mom and my Great Grandfather and it gave me a strange sense of peace and calm and I felt a little weird sailing through the worst weather of the trip with a big smile on my face, singing, “How Great thou Art”…
So, in the worst weather of the trip so far, on an upwind, beating into the waves as the sun was going down, I decided to try to re-secure the block to fix the windvane, again. Jackie took the helm and I went below to collect the drill, screws, a screw driver, etc. In trying to focus on the screws and drill bits to get the right size of each and trying to balance while we tossed around in the hot cabin, I got pretty sea sick. Then I drilled and screwed the block into place and had the wrong size drill bit. Then I got another drill bit. It was working out until it fell out of the chuck and into the ocean. I decided it was good enough and I could fix it later. I went below deck a third time to put everything away. By that point I was the most sea sick I have ever been and was pretty much worthless for several hours. Jackie was also seasick and puking over the rails. Luckily, we didn’t get any more really rough weather until after sunup the next day.
We were approaching Goat Island south of Tinian when Jackie woke me up at about 0300. We had to have both of us awake to monitor the boat and plot our position on the charts to make sure we weren’t too close to any reefs until sunup. We had strong winds the whole way and a couple of storms during the day on Thursday. We got to Smiling Cove Marina at 1330, 22 hours after leaving Rota. The last time we made that trip it took us 36 hours to get to Saipan not including having to sail up and down the coast all night and spend three hours sailing into the channel in the morning. We made the whole trip in record time for us because of the strong winds. It wasn’t comfortable but we made really good time. Last time we went to Rota it took us 18 hours. If we hadn’t had to back track for 4 hours this time, it would have taken us about 12. Last time we came to Saipan from Rota, it took us 56 hours total and this time it took us 22.
Today, our friend, Yousef, drove us around to run errands finding rope and ice. We replaced the jib sheet and furling line that we shredded in the melee yesterday. We did some laundry and cleaned up the boat a little. Yesterday we both had moments when we wondered what we were doing sailing around in a little boat and might have been ready, given the chance, to give up the whole endeavor. But now after some rest, good food, and visiting with some good friends, we are re-energized and excited to get underway again for new adventures on Pagan.