Adventures on the Ocean - Catamaran IMPI, October 2015

Tue 20 Oct 2015 02:05
<div id="google_translate_element"></div><script type="text/_javascript_">
function googleTranslateElementInit() {
  new google.translate.TranslateElement({pageLanguage: 'en', includedLanguages: 'de,en,fr', multilanguagePage: true}, 'google_translate_element');
</script><script type="text/_javascript_" src=""></script>

Adventures on the Ocean - Catamaran IMPI:

Hello New Zealand !!!

We arrived in Opua ‘The Bay Of Islands’ Sunday am around 09:00 local time, after what I can only describe as one of our most uncomfortable passages since Panama to Galapagos.

In New Caledonia we had our rig thoroughly examined and reset for this passage knowing we were in for strong winds and rough seas for the first part of our journey. The angles from New Caledonia to New Zealand are fairly tight in the SE winds and the first part of our journey saw us in upwards of 30 knots and unstable seas. The thing with sailing to New Zealand from NC, is that unless one is lucky, typically one is going to be in at least one storm so it’s kinda like ‘choosing which one to take on’ … the theory being that it is best to take a storm north of 30*S.

Anyway, forgetting all the theoretical scenarios for passage planning to New Zealand from New Caledonia let’s get on with our story and say that after the first night at sea we were hit by a terrific squall which ‘popped’ the shroud thread (Stay wire holding up the mast) – the same one that had just been adjusted. In a harness and with a flashlight ploughing through waves and rain it became evident that the rigger had cross threaded the adjustment lock nut and bottle thread which now was impossible for me to get threaded and locked down. I had managed to spin the bolt down just enough to ‘grab the remaining thread of the bottle’ but it was not a comfortable feeling knowing the mast could down at any moment. So, our only option was to lash the shroud down with rope which we managed to do successfully.

We also managed to have some failures to other parts on the boat during the squall and this meant for the rest of the journey we would have to nurse Impi along for the long haul. With the main sail and genoa both well reefed we worked hard to keep pressure off the mast shroud and also required the use of our engines.

Here starts another whole story – diesel! We were in trouble and required the continuous use of our engines to manage the ‘precarious mast situation’ – however we were not sure we would have enough diesel for the journey given we had planned to sail the route.

Ana and I discussed the situation and wondered if we should turn around or divert our route to Australia instead as this would place the wind from astern. As we were discussing our options we noticed a large cargo ship called Madinah passing not far from us – we saw this on the AIS instrumentation, something we believe every sailing vessel should carry.

I looked at Ana and said ‘we should call that vessel and ask if they have diesel for us, perhaps some ice cream and Champaign too’ …

Before I knew it, Ana was on the VHF calling the operator: ‘Madinah, Madinah, Madinah … this is Impi, Impi, Impi – over’.

I started considering how on earth I was going to get the diesel drums on-board Impi from a cargo ship in these seas … the seas had calmed somewhat but there was quite a swell and current running in the vicinity …

‘Impi, Impi, Impi – this is Madinah – how can we help you?’

‘Madinah, thank you for responding – we are a sailing vessel bound for Opua in New Zealand – we were taken by a violent squall and sustained damage to our rig necessitating the use of our engines. We wonder if at all possible you could assist us with some diesel – over’.

‘Impi – roger,roger, we receive you – how much diesel do you require?’

Ana looked over at me and I said, ’ask him for 150 litres – that will get us there’.

‘Madinah, we require 150 liters – over’.

The concerned operator hesitated a while then said, ‘ Impi, you stand by one second please – I will check with the captain’.

Moments went by and he returned – ‘Impi, the captain says we must provide you with 200 liters. We need to manoeuvre the ship to your direction and it will take a while for us to come to a stop’.

Ana handed the VHF to me – ‘Thank you Madinah’, I replied, ‘could you advise how much money we need to prepare as payment to you?’

‘It’s ok’ he replied, ‘No need’.

I called him again, ‘Madinah, I think I misunderstood you, could you please repeat?’

‘No need Impi, it is for us a pleasure to provide you with the diesel. The captain says you are not to be charged. We will provide 8 plastic containers with diesel 25L each. We will need to lower them to your deck – we have not done this before so we need to figure this out along the way’.

So I got back to the operator saying we would place fenders down the side of the boat and would pull alongside.

Oh boy, I am not sure how many sailors out there have pulled up alongside a cargo ship in the ocean to do a transfer of goods, but let me assure you the task was going to be more difficult by far than I had ever imagined.

The first mistake I made was to assume the ship was completely at rest when in fact it was moving steadily.

I looked at the bull nose which sits in the water ahead of the ships bow to break the waves – just that piece of the ship alone was twice the size of Impi – and then as I attempted to come alongside I felt Impi being sucked toward the stern in a violent current – I hit both engines at full throttle and feared we had not enough power to pull free. It frightened me as I looked back and saw the rush of water which pulls around the stern – the back of the ship rises up out of the water at an angle and one can see part of the rudder gear there – I feared we would be swept under the overhang – kept the throttles full ahead and then veered off and successfully away from the ship.

I spoke with the operator – ‘I think your ship is not at standstill’ – he said to try again.

I asked if he would move the diesel and his crew forward of amidship as this would give me more room to work with in the strong current being forced along its side – he agreed.

The entire crew moved forward – they had cameras and were taking video – would love to get my hands on that …

Anyway, Ana positioned herself – all fenders were in place as protection to our sides as we came against the huge wall of steel – I looked up and saw the men up there – they seemed so small and far away at such height …

Finally I managed to make contact – the swell running down the side of the ship was around 3 meters – it felt insane – up 3 m then down 3 meters and so it continued … the fenders were scrunching and squealing and we thought they would burst any minute …

Working hard on the throttles I managed to keep Impi against the wall of steel … allowed the fenders to knock us off about a meter or two before bringing her against again for another run … and so it went on until I managed to find a rhythm that worked.

I looked up at the operator – signalled the ‘NOW’ sign at him and the first barrel of diesel descended toward Ana standing on Impi below – ‘Watch out’ I yelled, ‘stand to one side – if that drum falls …’ – I was interrupted, ‘understood’ she yelled back …

At our position against this wall of steel I could see these lines painted down the side – they measure the ships depth when loaded from the surface of the water – watched these as a background to Ana standing on the deck … up, up and up the numbers raced past her little body and then down, down and down again … Impi in the meanwhile would come against and then bounce off – I struggled with the motors fighting to keep things as steady as possible … I feared for Ana standing there at the shrouds – stood there clinging at the position where the ships sides engaged … not only engaged but raced up rapidly at around 3m before descending again … it was as if we were in an action movie or something – it just did not feel real to us.

Anyway, Ana reached out and pulled at the rope holding the diesel just as Impi started climbing the next swell – pulled the drum inward as the very skilled crew above dropped just enough rope to provide the necessary slack for the drum to reach the deck – Ana falling back sat on her butt as she swiftly worked at untying the knot – yes – we had the first drum on-board. And so it went on – 8 drums in all – I was so proud of her – what an amazing job she did as she tackled these drums to the decks in what I can only describe as being a dramatic and frightening experience.

As we left the ships side the Captain congratulated us on our seamanship – we rather congratulated them for their exceptional skill in line handling and the manner in which they ‘managed the drums to our decks’ – not one drum had reached us with impact – every drum had been pulled across by Ana and lowered in exceptional fashion to the deck – I was seriously impressed!

We even tried to give them a bottle of whisky – but they declined.

I managed to provide our details to them – ‘google Catamaran Impi’, I said and they all agreed waving as we left with our 200 extra liters of diesel on-board.

So – this is already too long a story – we won’t bore you with further details except to say we were fortunate to make the right decisions on which side of the rhum line to be on to take advantage of the weather … we sailed steadily assisted by the engines and in the company of friends on Catamaran Shenanigans and also crossed paths now and again with SV Vegas …

We had a great end to the journey reaching Opua in delightful conditions – and yeah – New Zealand – you are beautiful man – what a wonderful country – friendly people and we so look forward to being here for a while … cruising up through the Bay Of Islands is incredibly picturesque – We have much to explore. To all our family and friends – to our great mates Eva and Jean Luc who kept sending us weather updates to our satellite phone – to the New Zealand Martime recuse services who monitored our progress from 600NM offshore and said ‘we will come and get you – just say the word’ – a huge thank you – you guys are amazing – already love you New Zealand !!!