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 time.

Hurricane

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 strech.

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 Jan. 1987

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.

timeline.htm Return to the index page