Thanksgiving Day, 1986
San Francisco, California
On to American Samoa
My French visa expired midnight on the 13th of October after a
stay of 4 months. I over stayed my time by 10 hours, clearing
Bora-Bora harbor at 1000 on the 14th. The distance to Pago-Pago was
about 1200 miles, and at the average speed we should take 12 days or
so. However this passage was not average, but indeed proved to be the
worst two week period that I have ever experienced in the twelve
years of on and off cruising.
On the fifth day of a very slow passage the sumlog broke.
While normally this would not be an important failure, I had been
using dead reckoning for the last three days, as the sun had not
shined. Without an accurate measurement of distance my dead reckoning
would get further and further off.
Mentally I was in a very depressed state. Nothing was right
and I found fault with everything on the boat. I would have 'crying
jags' at any hour for no apparent reason. I didn't like what I was
doing and were I was, but was completely frustrated because there was
no way out. For two cents anyone could have bought ODJ at that
On the ninth day, after 4 days of unsettled weather, I was hit
by one of the worst storms that I have ever experienced. The log
shows that at 0700 on the 23th the winds had built up to 40 knots and
the seas were 10 to 12 feet high. All sail was down and the boat was
handling well under 'bare poles'. By noon the winds were over 60
knots and the seas over 20 feet and occasionally breaking aboard. The
boat was now trying to broach (turn sideways) as it slid down the
steep waves. Constant steering was required. The rain was so heavy
that the only way you could breathe was with your head bowed down and
protected by the rain hood. It was like standing under a waterfall,
not a shower mind you, but a full fleged waterfall. The self-bailing
cockpit with four one and a half in drains was filling with water!.
The wind kept building, it went higher that 80 knots as that's when
the wind speed gage left the masthead, blown away like nothing.
For the next 22 hours I remained at the tiller, unable to let
go of the tiller for fear of losing what little control I had. It
remains the longest day of my life. I decieded that if the boat were
to roll over, it would be safer below. I got a couple of hours sleep,
but the motion got so bad that I returned topside, for another 24 hr
During this storm something occurred that was new to me, and
it almost caused me to go from solid fear to pure panic. The waves
were by this time huge (over 40 ft). When they curled over and broke
they left large patches of very light green water. As ODJ sailed into
these green patches, she began to sink! I mean literally to sink!
Water entered the self-draining cockpit through the (normally)
draining scuppers. Water flooded into the sink through the sink drain
and onto the cabin floor. The head overflowed as the boat settled
lower and lower in the sea. The first time it happened I panicked and
left the cockpit headed for the life-raft mounted on the foredeck.
The deck was below the level of the sea, I was wading through water
while walking forward. However,before I could reach the foredeck, the
boat sailed out of the 'green water'. It felt like a jet take-off as
the boat rose at least two feet and was once again sailing on the
normal waterline. After this experience, I tried to avoid sailing
into these patches. However, I was not always successful and each
time the boat 'sank' from one to three feet. Each time the decks were
awash! I have since reasoned that what had happened is that the
breaking waves entrap a lot of air. This entrapped air gives these
patches their light color and also reduces the density of the water.
A crude analogy would be instead of floating on heavy whipping cream
(water), I was now floating on light whipped cream (green patches).
The boat naturally 'sinks' lower in the less dense foam. I wonder if
enough air could be entrapped to allow a boat to completely sink?
The hurricane lasted about 48 hrs. and had driven me almost
200 miles north. This is a speed of almost six knots and it was done
with no sails! When the storm finally quit, it left no wind behind
and I started the engine. After an 18 hour 'nap', I was awaken by the
engine sputtering to a stop. There was no compression, and no way to
fix it at sea. The following 3 days were spent rolling around with no
wind, and no engine. Finally a light breeze allowed me to complete
the run into Pago-Pago harbor in American Samoa. It took 16 days to
complete the nominal 1000 mile passage. We probably sailed 1400 or so
because of the 400 mile detour north then south.
American Samoa..Pago Pago Harbor
By 4:30 on the 28th we were tied to the dock, awaiting the
officials for entry into American Samoa. All of the Samoan islands
had been heavily damaged by the hurricane. Even Pago-Pago the best
hurricane 'hole' in the Pacific lost 30 to 40 boats,hundreds of homes
and many lives lost.
This passage, although not the longest, was both physically
and mentally the toughest to date. But I was safe and sound, and back
on 'American' soil.
It was fun to again use a pay phone (still only a dime) to
phone my mom with a safe arrival message. I told her of my plans to
secure the boat and come 'home' for the holidays. The next two weeks
were spent in fixing the engine, securing the boat , and going on a
shopping spree for American goods at near American prices. It was
strange to again be using dollars and cents, instead of Pesos or
Francs. Pago-Pago was a delight after French Polynesia. The cost of
living was reasonable and the people spoke my language! The schools
in American Samoa have trouble getting teachers, partly because of
low pay and no housing, so each 'yachty' that sails in has a good
chance at a teaching job. I successfully interviewed for teaching
position at the junior college. They wanted me to start teaching
computer programming immediately. Since I really wanted to return for
the holidays, I turned the offer down, but left the 'door' open for
Home again...at least for a while
0n the 14th of November I climbed on a jet, bound for San
Francisco, via Hawaii. It was strange flying over the Pacific at 600+
mph, when the best I could do sailing was only 6 mph. I was greeted
at the airport by the whole family. It sure felt good to be home
again. As much as I enjoyed the sailing and visiting of other
countries. it was good to be back. I knew that ODJ was sitting safe
and sound in Pago Pago waiting my return in the spring.
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