As you know, the Pacific is one big ocean. And on most days we haven't sighted another boat. But around 0300 on Sunday, there was a fishing boat lit up on the horizon. And over the next hour it got closer and closer. It got close enough that we would be on a collision course with them or at least their trailing nets (because that's what we think they were doing). We were smartly moving along with our headsail poled out. Under this sail set, it is hard to simply go in another direction. Remember – we're in a big ocean there is plenty of room for more than one boat! But this fishing boat was determined to make us change course. We called them on the radio several times and finally reached them but there was a major language issue. We could not understand them and they could not understand us. All they kept saying was they were on a due north course of 000 degrees. We asked if they had nets out or if they could go to port a few degrees – but they couldn't understand or chose not to help out. So we started the engine (remember every gallon of fuel is precious), pulled in our head sail, put up our mainsail and moved to get away from them.
When we were clear, we wanted to go back to the poled out head sail. Only now, the steering wouldn't work. It broke – we had no steerage. It is around 5 am. The seas are still very rocky and rolly. We took down the sail and drifted. We got tossed around quite a bit as we couldn't control where the seas hit the boat. We slowly unloaded a very full lazarette to get to the emergency tiller. That meant piece by piece getting the stuff from the aft to the cockpit or tied to the rails or below in the cabin. Then we got the tiller out and it took some banging, filing and body language to get it to fit. That done,now we at least had steerage. We put the sail back up and could get the boat back moving through the water. Michael then got our electric autopilot to work again (with steerage) so we didn't have to hand steer the boat but could let "Nigel" handle it.
We took a break (it's now about 8 am) and made some coffee, breakfast and determined what the next steps were. The boat was back doing 5 knots in the right direction.
It was an all day project – and Michael did a terrific job of trouble-shooting the problem from one end to the other and then fixed it. It meant taking apart the pedestal (that was a challenge) and climbing in the engine room and lazarette again. But in the end, he fixed it. By 1700 (5 pm local time), we had wheel steering again. We will keep the tiller out and not re-stock the lazarette until tomorrow to be certain it is indeed a permanent (or as permanent as boat things can be) fix.
It was a full day of hard work. Barbara has been up since she came on watch at 0300. Michael got up at 0400 (after just finishing his 3-hour shift) so it has been one very long day.
But it was Easter and in between all the repairs, we managed a nice ham dinner and chocolates (thanks Dave and Lorna).
Yup, we live the life everyone dreams about!!!!!
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