After hopping upwind through the atolls little by little, the Marquesas Islands finally sat at a reasonable cross-angle to the prevailing easterlies. With typical trades, Swell would be close-reaching. With anything but northeast wind, and it was likely to take about 4 days to make the 550-mile trip. And with new, able-bodied Tahitian crew aboard, I was less intimidated by the stretch of water ahead. All weather forecasts showed the wind turning east/southeast for the next week, blowing between 10-15 knotsâ¦just right! It looked like the moment to head out.
I was getting itchy to see green, fruit-laden mountains rise from the sea after all that time in the atolls! We hauled the dinghy aboard and Swell rode the outgoing tide out of the lagoonâs passâ¦
The open sea welcomed us with blue skies and 8-9 knots of steady wind. Swell sliced gracefully through the gentle lumps of sea, flaunting all her canvas, and trailing a foamy white swirl among the endless spread of glittering neon blue. Raiarii delighted in hand steering, looking all too comfortable at the helm nearing sundown. A sailorâs dream day!
I finally put the wind vane to work as the air grew cool and crimsons swirled in the west. We ate polenta cakes with lentils and chopped cabbage, munching away as Taurus and Orion greeted us in the eastâ¦
A wet, windless squall enveloped Swell around 2 am.Â I motored through it until the wind returned, but by morning, high horse tail clouds and confused seas revealed change in the weather. The wind increased gradually by early afternoon. Weâd shortened sail, but held our course and speed. By afternoon weâd made good progress, but Raiarii wasnât feeling great. Heâd lost his lunch earlier in the day, and wasnât looking all that excited for our next meal.
Suddenly, Swell rounded up into the wind, sails luffing wildlyâ¦I looked around for what had gone wrong??
…Aft of Swell, I noticed something flashing in the waterâ¦
The wind vane rudder had sheared off at the post and was dangling behind!! Luckily, it was tied to Swell with a security line. I hauled it up and examined the break. While I searched for the spare parts for the wind vane, Raiarii managed to remove the broken stainless tubing from inside rudderâs shaft. Amazingly, I found the part we needed. We secured it to the rudder, but how were we going to get the rudder back onto the wind vane?
The sun had just set, and the seas were big enough that getting in the water seemed out of the question. Raiarii hadnât eaten since our first evening meal, and Swellâs movement had turned into drunken lurching with the sails downâ¦
I shimmied over the stern, dangling down toward where we needed to insert the rudder arm, but my arms stopped a full foot short…
âHold my feet, Iâm going down.â He said.
âButâ¦!?â Before I could finish he was dangling headfirst over the stern with the repaired rudder in hand. In less than a minute, the piece was back in place and I passed him the stainless pin. He aligned the holes, pushed the pin through, and secured it with a ring on the exposed endâ¦He came up, red from the blood rush to his head, but soon pale again from Swellâs wretched rolling. But it was fixed! So I put the tools away, and got Swell underway againâ¦