Week 12 - Turning Up The Heat in Tahiti
Pacific Crossing Stats
Distance: 4,410 Nautical Miles Days: 21 Average Speed: 8.56 Knots Fuel Remaining on arrival: 4,410 Litres per one thousand NM: 8,210 litres.
Pacific crossing felt great in 21 days! The Pacific crossing is the longest leg on the circumnavigation (by one thousand miles). The next longest leg, at 3,400 miles, will be from Fremantle/Perth (Western Australia) to Mauritius. After a steady start from Valparaiso, with the long-range forecast indicating a reasonably clear run to Tahiti we were able to increase speed in increments while carefully monitoring fuel consumption. This allowed us to achieve speeds of over 9.75knots on the final 5 days before Tahiti and in excess of 8 knots in the week prior to that. (Hmmmmm, I wonder why they needed to save that day for Tahiti.....Ed)
Considering the challenge that Lanzarote to Saint Helena was, taking us 20 days as we headed into the NE Tradewinds, we wouldn’t have believed that this leg, which is 1.5x that distance, would be completed in 21 days. Iain had calculated the crossing based on arriving with a reserve of 4,000 litres onboard and we arrived with 4,410 litres of fuel onboard!
Maintenance in Tahiti
Luke (Chief Engineer) re-joined us in Tahiti after 6 weeks on vacation and Paul departs for his leave. Switching between them in this way is absolutely essential as spending days in the engine room of Astra is hard, noisy and hot work.
Tahiti had been identified as a major engine servicing port where our own engineers would see to the necessary work and having them both there for 48 hours was extremely helpful.
**********ENGINE NERD ALERT*********
They undertook the following during the stay in Tahiti:
Main Engine Oil Change
Astra’s main engine uses lubricating oil of spec 15W/40, the same as a motor vehicle. However, it takes 370 litres to fill the engine sump to the level on our dipstick! It uses approximately 2 – 2.8 litres per day to lubricate cylinder liners and piston rings and as this occurs, the lubricating oil then gets burnt off. On a typical week at sea, we top the engine oil up with a full 20 litre drum to keep on top of the daily consumption as it can be hard to accurately read the dipstick at sea. Our main engine oil is changed every 1,500 hours, after we have had the results of a laboratory oil analysis at 500 hour intervals that confirm there is no issue of any concern. We had just completed 1,000hrs of straight engine running since Montevideo, with no opportunity to return oil samples, and so decided to change the oil in Tahiti (with the next planned oil change being in Mauritius or Durban) while we have both engineers onboard.
On arrival into Tahiti on Saturday afternoon, with the engine still hot, the engine oil sump was pumped out using a dedicated oil extraction connection from the main engine oil sump to the waste oil tank. The waste oil tank is 1,290 Litres and also had the contents of the last oil change and the oil waste/purifier sealing water built up over the last 3 months at sea.
The additional time in port allowed us to pump ashore all of our waste and used engine oil, leaving us with empty waste oil tanks and bilges for the next stage.
Main Engine Filters
There are 4 large lubricating oil filters at the forward end of the engine that were also changed. Their function is to stop any contaminants being carried through to the engine where they could do damage.
These filters are, typically, just removed and changed out. However, if we had received the results of our last oil analysis to indicate that there was a concern due to metal particles in the lubricating oil, such as from bearings, this would direct us to urgently investigate to find the cause, which would likely involve changing the lubricating oil and the lub oil filters. In such a case a curious (or very experienced) engineer may wish to open up the lub oil filter to check for any particles that can be sighted trapped in the fibre. (This was not the case as we did not have such a report) During the process, Iain spent time talking to both Paul and Luke about such situations and can see that the whole topic is a canned filter of worms.!
On larger motor boats that are kept in Class with a Classification Society, surveyors will insist on a continuous record of oil survey analysis.
The fuel rack adjusts the quantity of fuel from the fuel pumps to the injectors in response to the speed setting of the governor on the main engine. Valve clearance adjustments – clearances have to be checked periodically between the rocker arm that is mounted on top of the cylinder head and the top of the inlet and outlet valve stems.
Too much of a clearance causes wear on the rocker gear and valve stem, allowing too much movement that could result in high stresses on the rocker gear and camshaft.
Too little clearance is okay until it reaches the point where there is no clearance and then you get exhaust gases passing over the valve seat and valve face, which would burn them away.
Luke listening to the valves opening and closing on our main engine. For those of you who have seen Das Boot, that is what Johan (engineer) is doing.
Between our main engine and the propeller there is a 3:1 reduction gearbox, meaning that when our engine is at 600 RPM, our propeller shaft is at 200 RPM. The oil change interval on the gearbox is stipulated as 1,500 hour. However, oil analysis checks are all proving satisfactory so we have now changed this oil after 3,000 hrs.
On our Pacific crossing, we had noticed a drop in gearbox oil pressure from 19.4 to 18.6 Bar, which perhaps indicated some degradation in the gearbox oil. On pumping out the used gearbox oil we noticed a quantity of sludge in the bottom of the gearbox, which perhaps supports that suspicion. This oil is SAE 100 spec and the volume of oil replaced in the gearbox was 100 litres. On starting up, the gearbox oil pressure returned back to 19.5 Bar.
The breather filter was checked to confirm it was clean and breathing freely to atmosphere. This wire gauze filter catches any small oil droplets and traps them so as they are not exhausted to atmosphere and then returns them back to the main engine crankcase (ie the engine oil sump).
**********END OF NERD ALERT*********
We eat well on Astra - trying not to rely on overly processed food and ensuring balance to the diet and to give you a sense , we recorded the meals we had on board over the last week:
Dan comes off watch at 05:00 and doubles up as baker, so over the last week we have had: pancakes, Polynesian french toast and porridge. For treats he made blueberry muffin loaf and lemon drizzle cake. Iain makes smoothies for 09:00 with frozen bananas as a base and with two other fruits such as frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries or fresh avocados. These are all mixed together with 250g of Greek yoghurt and almond milk to make a smoothie with an almost frozen yoghurt texture that is refreshing in the tropics.
Soup is the staple here and Mikey sets up the Thermomix at 11:00. We have had soups such as steak & noodle, lentil & pea, lamb & barley and tomato over the last week - using up leftovers from the evening before to create a chunky soup. We had risotto as a break from soup on one day and on another we shredded the leftover pork to have with tortilla wraps and the last remnants of the salad.
In the week before Tahiti we dined on:
Friday: 300g steak from Montevideo, with chips and salad
Thursday: Yellowfin Tuna steak from Valparaiso with Orzo and vegetables
Wednesday: Spaghetti Bolognaise with fresh bread (Dutch oven style)
Tuesday: Chicken Korma (Thai style) with rice followed by ice cream
Monday: Sausage Casserole
Sunday: Pork Rump (Valparaiso) with Roast Potatoes and vegetables followed by apple crumble with custard.
Saturday: Chile Con Carne and rice.
What is clear from our overall food consumption is that the diet does change with the weather. We see a drop off in soup as it gets warmer and evening meals naturally move a little later when the weather is good. When it gets colder, we eat a lot more comfort food, snacking on bagels, toast etc.
Tahiti has allowed us to pick up some French food with the stores and we now have croissants, madeleines and macarons!
A Run Ashore in Tahiti The first order of business, as soon as immigration cleared us, was for the four crew members who were remaining onboard to find the only open hairdressers in Papeete, otherwise it was back to Carlos and a No.1 over the top! The remainder of Saturday afternoon through to Saturday evening saw us getting ahead on the job list. Sunday allowed some time to explore the island and Dan, Mikey & Carlos did the reconnaissance on Sunday morning with a hire car while Luke and Iain were able to join late afternoon to enjoy the final hour of sun and a spectacular sunset looking west from Tahiti, looking across to the island of Moorea-Maiao. Paul has the benefit of two nights layover at a beach hotel before he flies back!
Tahiti did not disappoint. Iain and Kat had some friends visit Bora Bora last year to celebrate a special wedding anniversary and so Iain was already very intrigued with Tahiti. Sounds like there is plenty of scope for adventures in French Polynesia in the future. (There had better be!.....Ed)
Of course, Tahiti is very French and a welcome return to a European feel with French efficiency. The fun fact of the week comes from Camille, the young French lady back in Witherby’s office in Scotland, who was able to inform Iain that the International Organisation of La Francophonie has 54 member states, the exact same number as the British Commonwealth. Iain's maritime fact in reply is that France’s overseas territories are in every ocean, which actually gives France the largest Economic Exclusive Zone in the world.
Chief Mate Mikey took the opportunity to get a feel for ship-handling Astra in port. We were pretty heavily laden at 180,000 kgs and, at 16:50, the Captain of the Port came down to see us off.
Mikey swiftly called for all ropes to be released and used Astra’s 135HP hydraulic bow thruster to bring us off the berth before clutching in the main engine and proceeding into the outbound channel. At this point he had to deal with two inbound ferries, one of which was coming in over the bar* at about 15-20 knots. In addition, 5 canoes were out for an early evening paddle and, of course, they all wanted to see if they could paddle immediately ahead of us. At this point Mikey had to build up speed to ensure we safely crossed the bar outbound ourselves , negotiating the cross currents acting in opposite directions either side of ‘the bar’.
All a bit un-nerving when you can see the locals on their surfboards riding the rolling waves at about 100 metres from the entry buoy. Of course, he was calm and unfazed....although somewhat relieved once past it all!
*The bar is a shallow area typically at the entrance of a port or the mouth of a bay or river, where the outward flow from the port or river slows down to meet the ocean. In the case of the port of Papeete the ocean rises from over 1000m outside of the port, where the 100m contour is less than 100 metres from the channel entry buoys, hence the great surfing and rollers. ETAs
We are now settled into a body of SW current and looking at an ETA into Wellington, New Zealand on Sat 05 March 2022.
Boating Tip – Mobile Phones Spare phone leads are an easy addition to any boat checklist. However, some of the newer phones are very sensitive to humidity and you might find that the charging port does not work and indicates there is moisture, shutting down even when the phone appears to be completely dry and does not work even with a new charging lead. Therefore, an induction charging mat is a valuable addition onboard if sailing in the tropics.
PS for those of you on the ball and reading this Blog as soon as it was posted - yes, there was an editorial dispute on the title ...... 450nm to go to half way!!
Incident at Cape Horn to Trimaran ‘Use It Again’ As we returned to communications early last week after the Pacific Communications black-hole, we became aware of an incident that occurred to a trimaran that rounded Cape Horn two weeks after us. To recap, on 22 Jan 2022 Astra encountered winds of 35-45 knots with gusts over 55-60 knots in a position 150’ WNW of Cape Horn as we battered our way north up the Chilean coast to get ahead of a series of deep low pressure systems of 960mb, which were lining up some 4-7 days SW of Cape Horn.
We were unaware of a trimaran two weeks behind us that was also undertaking a westbound circumnavigation and looking to set their own record. The trimaran ‘Use it Again’ skippered by French Navigator Romain Pilliard and his Spanish teammate Alex Pella was originally built in 2003 for Ellen MacArthur and it set the Eastbound solo circumnavigation record in 2005. However, it was considered obsolete in 2011 and was abandoned in Brittany, France. In 2016 it was renamed ‘Use it Again’ following the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle.
As the storms we we were getting ahead of passed Tierra Del Fuego, ‘Use it Again’ encountered them on Argentina’s east coast, forcing them to take shelter for a few days to repair their mainsail and wait for more favourable conditions before making their move on ‘the Horn’.
By 30 January 2022, they had reached Tierra del Fuego. However, with winds consistently above 40 knots, gusting over 50 knots, they took shelter in the lee of Isla de los Estados in the Lemaire Strait rather than attempt a rounding.
As that weather system passed they tacked upwind for 36 hours and finally rounded Cape Horn on 3 February 2022 with 30-40 knot headwinds, rough seas, and freezing temperatures.
However, after rounding the Cape they spent several days looking for a place of refuge to allow another storm to pass and opted to shelter in Cook Bay, at the Pacific entrance to the Beagle Channel before continuing their journey across the Pacific Ocean.
On 9th February 2022 at 01:00 hrs LT, the trimaran ran aground in Cook Bay. They had been over one month at sea with only the two of them to share the watches and their levels of fatigue had accumulated to such an extent that Pella, who was on watch at the time, is reported to have fallen asleep.
Both of them donned their their survival suits and secured the trimaran and contacted the Chilean Navy, seeking assistance before the next ow pressure system arrived. They were assisted by a Chiliean Navy vessel and proceeded to Puerto Williams.
Pilliard and Pella were not injured and are now resting and will inspect the damage to see if they can continue, although their record attempt has ended.