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Monday, October 19, 2009

Rays and Rigging - Anaho Bay

It's incredibly frustrating to have such poor visibility in an otherwise very interesting bay. We can't help but wonder if the water clarity wasn't better earlier in the season. But we spent the week watching manta rays swooping around in our little corner of the bay. They were generally visible from the boat, either when their wing tips broke the surface of the water, or as dark shapes with glimpses of their white, wide open mouths, and underbellies. We also usually saw at least one or two while snorkeling, along with the occasional turtle sighting. On Wednesday we tried to snorkel the NE side of the reef out around the little point on the north but it was rush hour on the manta ray freeway. Half a dozen rays were feeding along that stretch of reef. No problem, thought I, I'll just squeeze up against the reef so they can pass me on the outside. No dice - those mantas really like to hug the curves and were passing us too close for comfort. I was kept busy spinning circles in my hunched up "huddle" position, looking left and right for oncoming mantas looming out of the murky darkness, while also watching my back so that my behind didn't end up skewered in a patch of sea urchins on the reef. When mantas were passing each other right along side of us we decided to take the next exit off the freeway back to the boat. Before leaving John did a no-no and touched one of the rays. We were somewhat reassured to confirm that no ray was actually going to run into us after that ray was off like a shot at John's brief contact.

After waiting endlessly for dry (or at least dryer) weather we decided Friday would be the day we braved the muddy hike to Hatiheu. Although we usually swim/snorkel every day we needed to get off the boat to stretch our legs - and we were out of garlic. So, in spite of the fact that it had lightly showered the night before and clouds were threatening that morning, we got an early start up the ridge. It's almost exactly half an hour up/down each side with 10-20 minutes to/from each end of the trail to the beach/village. I had a tough time dealing with the humidity during the first leg up, but we did fine after that. The trail is heavily traveled and we were passed in both directions by guys riding the small horses they have here, or walking barefoot and carrying their flip-flops. I guess it's easier to clean the mud off your feet than digging it out of the tread in our heavy hiking boots, but my feet stayed clean and dry which is how I like them. We were surprised to see the Clipper Odyssey (120 pax cruise ship) anchored with two French sailboats in the bay, and we gawked at the tourists being ferried to Yvonne's restaurant for brunch. After a 10 AM beer accompanied by shrimp chips we were fortified for the return trip. John only slipped once, landing on his rear-end, and I slipped forward onto one hand which I was able to wash under the large rain drops of a tree. Oh, I forgot to mention that it started raining before we headed back to Anaho. Not a downpour, just a steady light NW type of rain which stopped before we got back. The downpour came during the dinghy ride back to Nakia after we stopped to wash the mud off our boots at the beach front water spigot.

One of the jobs we always do before heading out into the big blue is to take a close look at all the wire rigging on NAKIA. It was last replaced in 1997 before our first trip to Canada and replacing it has been an item on the to-do list for some time. You're supposed to be able to get 10 years out of the kind of wire rigging we have and since it's been 12 John is extra careful to check everything so as to catch any small failure before it turns into something bigger.

Well last Friday there was only thing left to do to complete this inspection - go up the mast and look at the tops of all the wires. This is rarely a trouble area because the tops of the wires, being 20-50 feet off the surface of the water tend to get a lot less corrosion-causing salt on them. Also, they point down, letting any dirt or water drain out instead of pooling on them like the lower ends of the wires. That all sounds good, until you take a look at the wire holding up the jib and find that 12 out of the 19 strands are broken right where they enter the top fitting.

No problem, NAKIA carries a spare for just such an emergency. We spent the rest of the afternoon dismantling the roller furling and the next day John was prepared to take the new wire up and swap it with the old one. Then he cut the new wire to length and installed the lower fitting.

Here's where things went wrong. The fittings, called Sta-Lok, are mechanical devices that securely hold the individual strands of the wire. The instructions for the fitting say to assemble it, tighten the nut 'not too tight, just with one hand' and then unscrew and put a blob of silicon sealant inside to seal it up. Then screw it back together and you're done. Well try as he might, John could not get the thing to unscrew. He swears he didn't over-tighten it, which would cause it to bind up and not unscrew, but the thing just wouldn't unscrew. Worse, while he was trying to take it apart, he managed to unscrew half a turn or so. Just enough to loosen the internals of the thing so now maybe it won't hold together when we need it. We really don't know. There is no way to tell for sure, and we can't imagine sailing to Hawaii with something we can't entirely trust to hold together.

We only have one spare, so we're looking into having a replacement wire sent from Tahiti or as a last resort Seattle. Replacing a broken something that you intended to replace anyway is no big deal. Hopefully it won't cost us huge $$ to recover from this hiccup.

Linda (nature) and John (rigging)