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Valdivia, Chile
Isla Robinson Crusoe
Underway to Easter Island
Easter Island (Isla Pascua)
Pitcairn Island and outliers
Gambier Islands
Society Islands
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
American Samoa
New Zealand

Overall guide to cruising in
the South Pacific
Travelogue 1:  Valdivia to Isla Robinson Crusoe
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                             2010 Travelogue 2 – New Zealand, yet again

My last travelogue concluded with us having just checked out of Tauranga, New Zealand and
sailing towards Tonga.  Subsequently that passage to Tonga was interrupted by bad weather,
we were knocked around, and we returned to New Zealand to make repairs to the boat.

The first couple of days out of Tauranga we had little wind and had to motorsail.  Ultimately
the wind filled and we were able turn off the motor (although we have two motors – one in
each hull – we only use one at a time when motorsailing) and we were quite content finally to
be leaving NZ for the tropics under full sail.  Soon the wind shifted from the West to the
Northeast, however, which was the direction we were headed, and built up to a bit over 30
knots, and we began crashing into every larger headseas.  In the cockpit as darkness was
setting in, Glen and I were wearing our wet-weather gear, enjoying the ride, patting one
another on the back, telling one another what a good job we were doing and how well Anna
was cutting through the mounting headseas, and how lucky we were.

Soon thereafter a big wave smashed into the starboard bow and knocked the trampoline net
loose.  On inspection we found the force and weight of the wave had torn the track to which
the tramp attaches completely off the compression spar (which runs fore and aft from the
middle of the crossbeam back to the bridgedeck), but the tramp was still held on three sides.  
We changed course to keep the seas from ripping the tramp away entirely, and based on the
forecast of a reduction in the wind, decided to wait for light the next morning before attempting
repair.  We did not want to lose ground in our passage to Tonga so we hove-to, which is a
method for setting a sail to work against the rudder so that the boat sits fairly still, drifting
slowly backwards, the seas hitting the bow at an angle.  The next morning arrived with still
mounting seas and winds – the forecast was wrong -- and the waves irregular due to the
shifting direction of the wind, but we were able to lace the tramp around the compression spar
without difficulty.  However, because we were comfortable hove-to, we decided just to wait out
the weather and continue as we were until more favorable conditions prevailed.

In case conditions worsened, we got out our sea anchor and determined how best to deploy it,
which we had never done before.  A sea anchor is to use when all else fails and you are at
sea, far from shallows where you can drop steel anchors to stick in the sea floor.  Instead of
metal, a sea anchor is a parachute of reinforced fabric that when opened in the water serves
to hold the nose of the boat into the oncoming waves and allows the boat to hold its position
with a bit of stern way (that is, movement backwards).  Our sea anchor is 21.3 feet (6.5
metres) in diameter, and the entire setup comes in three heavy bags, including 558 feet (170
metres) of 3/4 inch (20mm) line and a 131 feet (40 metres) long bridle that attaches to each

The next day passed comfortably enough for us, lying around in the pilothouse, napping,
reading, but the winds shifted back to the Northwest and built to over 40 knots – the high was
48 knots – and the seas kept getting larger and larger.  It was quite interesting watching them
and observing how well Anna responded, riding gently over the breaking crests and down into
the valleys, with the wind blowing the tops off the waves, spume shooting almost horizontally.  
We congratulated ourselves on how well our boat was handling the conditions, and how
comfortable we were.  Every now and then, however, a big wave would break right on top of
us and crash into Anna beam on, knocking us around, spilling all the books from the
bookshelves, knocking the dinghy off its chocks on the aft deck, and making a huge roar.  It is
always difficult to estimate the height of waves from inside a bobbing boat, but our mast rises
about 75 feet (23 meters) from the waterline, and it appeared from my vantage point in the
pilothouse that the highest waves were approaching half the height of the mast.  They were
the biggest seas I have ever been in, I think, and quite irregular, coming from several

I suppose it must have been one of those big crashing waves that jerked the rudders in such
a way that the steering cables came off, and we were left without steering.  It was getting dark,
around 1700 (5 p.m.) and I had just gotten off watch and was down in my berth when John
informed me that we had no steering, and the rudders were thrashing around madly in the
rudder compartments.  The starboard rudder had broken its safety line and was totally out of
control, even dangerous to try to tame.  We stuck the emergency tiller into the head of the
rudder post, but the force of the seas slapped it against the bulkhead and broke the tiller in
two.  Moreover, working in the confined space of the rudder compartments in the thrashing
seas was making everyone seasick.

With night approaching we determined to deploy the sea anchor and lie safely to it overnight,
and hope for better conditions the following day.  We followed instructions and led all lines
outboard but deployment was made much more difficult because we had no steering and the
deck light did not work (we had just changed the bulb a couple of months earlier).  Somehow
in the course of the boat fetching up on the sea anchor rode, the starboard bridle line went
strongly to port and then in straightening snapped three stanchions.  I don’t know how it
happened – perhaps we fell into the trough of a big wave – but our unfamiliarity with the
deployment of the sea anchor certainly did not make matters any easier.  For our lack of
practice with the sea anchor I, as skipper, take full responsibility.

Things settled down after that and we rode to the sea anchor all night.  The next day the
winds dropped to around 30 knots and we attempted again to get the rudders under control.  
The port one proved no great problem and we were able to lash it to some eye bolts.  The
starboard one, though, had turned almost a full circle and the rudder had become stuck,
wedged against the bottom of the hull.  Try as we might, we could not get it to budge.  We
determined that our only chance of forcing the rudder into its proper fore-and-aft position was
to employ both motors full speed ahead and hope the power of the seas would knock it back
into alignment.  

We first had to retrieve the sea anchor, a process that took about an hour and, because we
could not motor with any accuracy, ultimately required us throwing a grapnel over its retrieval
line and float before we could haul it all aboard.  We found that some of the parachute’s
stitching had come undone and that a shroud had come loose.

With the sea anchor and lines secured on deck, we then put both engine throttles down and
motored away.  Soon the drag of the seawater caused the errant starboard rudder to realign
itself, and we were able to reattach the cables to the quadrants (more precisely, radial drives),
then reattach the autopilot, which we had earlier removed for fear of damage, and the rudder
sensor, which had been ripped from the shelf where it bolts on.

The starboard rudder shivered and made noises but responded to our steering commands,
both manual and through the autopilot, and the port rudder seemed not affected at all.  The
starboard radial drive was damaged, both warped about an inch and a fitting on it broken off
where we attached a line in a vain effort to get it under control.  Several bolts, attachment
rods, and sheave brackets were bent or cracked.  The steering cable was kinked and a
couple of sharp strands now protruded.  The autopilot made new noises and leaked fluid.  
The port radial drive was warped even more seriously than the starboard one.  The cog on
the outside helm in the cockpit was not operating properly.  The trampoline track was still
broken away on one side and only lashed on, the navigational light where the big waves were
hitting no longer worked with rust from it staining the hull, and we had three broken stanchions
and loose lifelines.  With all that damage we determined that we best return to New Zealand,
some 275 nm away, and make repairs there rather than carry on to Tonga where repair would
be many times more difficult, if not impossible.

So over the course of several days we sailed and motored back to Auckland, where Anna had
never been before, checked in again with NZ Customs and Immigration, and began the slow
process of organizing repairs.  We determined early that it would be best to haul Anna to
ensure that the rudder was in good order, and thought hauling in Auckland would be an easy
matter, but it turned out that was our greatest hurdle, with our 28.5 ft. (8.53 metre) beam
being the limiting factor.  There was no travelift wide enough and the one slipway with a trailer
that could take us was closed for repairs for three months.  No one else could handle us,
other than commercial yards that service ships and large fishing boats and they wouldn’t
consider us except in an emergency.  Finally we located a slipway where, about 10 days after
our arrival, we came in at high tide, tied off to pylons, and waited for low tide when a
tractor/trailer rig from a boat hauling company moved into place – carefully keeping its
hydraulic-operated trailer out of the water -- and loaded us, then moved us 100 feet or so up
onto a slab where we were set down and braced.  

I was in contact with my family during the long interim before haulout, and my gutsy daughter,
Emily, eager to see New Zealand but with only a week before the summer term at her
university, impulsively flew over with just 20 hours notice, and she and I toured around as
much as the short time frame allowed.  On the Coromandel Peninsula a few hours to the East
of Auckland, we were stuck an extra day due to the road being closed by flooding as a result
of torrential rains.  But we had a truly wonderful time together, she got to meet some great
Kiwis and see the beautiful scenery, and after a week, she flew back to the States.  I’ve had
several great trips alone with my sons before, but this was the first alone with my daughter.

After hauling onto land, we began the tedious job of deconstructing Anna, removing the
starboard rudder for inspection, taking out the autopilot ram for servicing, untying the
trampoline net and removing both the compression spar and even the main crossbeam so
that new, improved tracks could be attached properly in a shop, rather than in the almost
constantly rainy weather at the boat.  We also disassembled the radial drives, the sheave
brackets and steering cable in the rudder compartments, and the helm in the cockpit

We have not had any major issues with the way the boat itself was built, as Alwoplast in Chile,
the boatbuilder, has done a fantastic job overall.  On the other hand we have had several
issues with the spars (masts and booms, etc.) provided by the sparmaker, King Composites, a
British firm with a factory in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The tramp/net track is a good example:  
the tracks that the boatbuilder built into the hulls are outstanding, but the tracks the
sparmaker built into the compression spar and the crossbeam are poorly designed and built
with the wrong materials and some poor workmanship.  On disassembling the crossbeam and
compression spar, we noticed that there was a good bit of rust around the several stainless
steel fittings (anchor roller, etc.), which is surprising for a boat just a year old.  We removed
the fittings and discovered that, for the most part, the fittings had not been bedded with a
sealant so that water could migrate behind them and begin the rust process.   We have also
suffered the main batt-car track pulling loose from the mast, and severe chafe problems:  two
main halyards, about 8 main reef lines, and both headsail reef lines have all had to be
replaced.  And the wiring for the lights in the mast (deck lamp and steaming light) must be bad
as they have failed now twice in the first year.

We are now awaiting technicians to correct the poorly made trampoline tracks on the two
spars, and finish the metal work on the steering system before we can reassemble. I think that
we will be back in the water in about a week.

14 June 2010
Photos of Anna's haulout
New Zealand again
Ha'apai, Tonga
Anna's capsize