At sea between Bora Bora and the Cook Islands: The trade winds are booming, and the boat's making good time--108 miles in the first 24 hours! Of course the minute I say this, two things will happen: 1) everything will stop, except for 2) the waves, which will still splash us. (As I was reading the draft of this post to Jim, a wave splashed down our companionway--see?) Hatchboards are now blocking any more waves. Sailors consider it bad luck to be superstitious, so you have to come right out with this stuff. Who knows, maybe this will be a nice, fast, not too rough passage. Aitutake atoll, our destination, is in the Southern Cooks, which are administered by New Zealand, which means the default language will be English, not French, which could take some getting used to, n'cest pas? French Polynesia was mighty good to us, and we'll always want to come back.
Last night saw us reefed all the way down to a double reefed main and staysail only, not even a tiny scrap of genoa. But wow did we go! Aitutake's got a tricky entrance channel that keeps boats drawing 6 feet or more out, so we feel the luck of the small-boat sailor in being able to go there.
Our last night in Bora Bora was spent at anchor next to our buddy-boat, Buena Vista, whom we've mentioned in previous posts. (Wait'll you see the photos of snorkeling in the lagoon!) We four friends spent an evening saying goodbye until we meet again (in Tonga, we hope), and yesterday morning it was sad to watch Don and Deb sail over the northwest horizon while we sailed southwest. They're bound for Suvarov and American Samoa, to take delivery of a sail (a genoa) to replace their "old" one which, through no fault of theirs, fell apart in less than 2 years. Some sail misadventures, such as Gato Go's mainsail tear in a 60-knot squall on the crossing are understandable, but other stories of old sails in such poor shape that owners are constantly mending them have a Ground Hog Day look about them. That's not what happened with Don and Deb, however; they did everything right, and that's what's so unfair in this case. Two years ago their sailmaker recommended and built them a big, tri-radial roller-furling genoa from crinkly lightweight cloth as their main headsail for a trans-Pacific voyage. Just north of the Equator it split along a 20-foot vertical seam, which lengthened Buena Vista's passage considerably.
By the time the umpteenth repairs were done on it last week at the Bora Bora yacht club, there were so many seam rips that it became obvious this sail was experiencing a catastrophic failure. I was able to break a piece of sail thread by hand, and a needle poked into the fabric would tear it easily. Dozens of hard spots where fabric tears were beginning could be seen all over the sail, and the overlap workmanship on seams was done so poorly that that the sailcloth's warp and weft were separating along multiple seams, at 5, 10 and 20 foot lengths. It was literally coming apart! We didn't have enough sail tape to cover all the rips, so Deb used white duct tape, which we tacked with stitches over seams after sewing the seams back together as best we could--truly a git 'er home repair. Luckily, Ed and Fran aboard the 39-foot Aka loaned their spare genoa to the 46-foot Buena Vista, and it looked like a Yankee (high-cut headsail), setting well as Don and Deb left Bora Bora. The Epic Fail Sail could still be flown drifter-style if they get becalmed. But it's not to be trusted.
I wouldn't know where to start in describing the emotions such shoddy workmanship can provoke, but try fear when you're a thousand miles at sea, frustration in mending it again and again, and then anger in having to divert hundreds of miles to American Samoa on a borrowed sail because the sailmaker refused to ship the replacement to Tahiti as previously promised. Deb and Don have been models of patience. I, on the other hand, would like to plaster this sailmaker's name in neon after seeing what he put them through, especially the hard time he gave them when they sought redress. But I won't. Suffice that he's not a well known name--I had never heard of him--and you aren't likely to encounter him outside of Southern California.
This is a cautionary tale. Sailmakers are cruising partners with their customers, and the good ones stand by their work. That's because the good ones know what's at stake when you go to sea, because, and this is important, they've been out there and have learned from it.
Sent via Ham radio