The Difficult Task of Leaving Penrhyn

Lewis and I are on our way to Manihiki, a 200nm sail downwind from Penrhyn.
It was a rough day yesterday while getting ready to leave. First we woke up around sunrise to finish readying the boat and pull up our 3 anchors (yes, we had 3 anchors out! Two on our bow and one on our stern so we wouldn’t swing into shallow water or hit the coral heads on either side of us). Then we had to motor across the atoll which takes a few hours with me on the bow looking out for pinnacle coral heads in the lagoon. Clouds and squalls kept taking away our sunlight, making the water turn black and impossible to read the depth, so we kept stalling until sun came back. When we finally got to the other side, a town called Omoka, which is of course a lee shore (where if your anchor drags, you are pushed onto shore instead of safely out to sea), we couldn’t find this so called “sand patch” to drop our anchor in to get a good hold. Instead, we anchored in 50′ of coral so our anchors and chain drag and scratch, making a terrible, terrible noise until one of the anchor prongs finally catches under a bommy. I stayed on the boat to keep anchor watch while Lewis went to shore in search of diesel and to check us out of Penrhyn. Oh, and I forgot to tell you, our dingy outboard prop broke while we were motoring back and forth to Te Autua village on the windward side of Penrhyn. There is this stupid rubber ring on the inside of the prop that absorbs shock in case you hit something so it won’t ruin the engine or gears (makes sense), but it wears out over time (ours crumbled to little pieces) so the prop would no longer turn. We didn’t know about this lovely feature and didn’t bring a spare. Our friend Bruce on Skabenga told us that we NEED a spare prop but somehow it never made it onto our spares list of stuff to buy. DOH! SOOO long story short, Lewis took my inflatable paddleboard in to the harbor. Did I mention it was blowing 20kts and squalling with huge chop because we’re on a lee shore? Inflatable paddleboards don’t like those conditions because they’re so light with all of that thick windage above the water, the nose gets blown downwind. When Lewis returned a couple hours later with 2 jugs of diesel and a case of beer, he said he, with the case of beer in his waterproof backpack, and the two jugs tied just in front of him on top of the paddleboard, flipped over like 3 times! He was acting as ballast to the inflatable paddleboard! I have a great pic of him almost back to the boat, drenched with a smile on his face for negotiating a proper NZ exchange rate so we could afford a case of beer!
Our transmission on the boat is slipping too and sometimes doesn’t go into forward unless we kind of jam it quick and forcefully. I had to empty our huge lazarette full of dive and kite gear to get to the engine in case we had to manually put it in gear. Thankfully it worked when we went to pull our two anchors up. The second anchor was extremely difficult to bring up because it was caught on coral. Imagine this, Lewis is at the helm, I’m on the bow with the anchor remote, drenched because it just poured. I get the signal to start bringing in the chain so I point in the direction I want him to drive so it takes the stress of the chain as I am bringing up 200′ of chain. A couple times, the chain yanks the boat when the wind catches our bow, forcing our bow one side or another, as the chain drags and catches on some kind of coralhead that is too deep to see. We finally get it with about 85′ to go when, yank!, our bow is pulled hard down as the chain stops coming free. Then the wind catches the bow, throwing us the other way. The chain slacks for a couple seconds and then, yank!, it pulls the bow hard the other way. I let more chain out hoping that the extra slack would let it free from under whatever it is caught on. I directed Lewis to drive the left as I drop a little more, hoping that’s the way it is snagged. YANK! Nope, wrong way. We tried to the right as I let out a little more, yank! grind! grind! pop! Lewis yells not to break the windlass (the heavy duty chain puller-upper lol), adding that he might need to dive on it. I start pulling some up, then yank! grind! grind! grind! I see more slack so I pull a little more up. Pop! grind! grind! grind! Lewis yells, “just let it out! I’ll have to dive on it!” I respond saying “I got it up to 75′, more than we had it before. I think it’s dragging!” A very good sign. I keep bringing up more chain, “50 feet left!…25 feet!.. I see the first anchor!” The second anchor is about 12′ behind that on more chain. After securing our primary anchor, I have to reach over the bow with a boat hook to grab the chain, hand over hand I wrestle the chain up with a 55lb fortress anchor on the end. I have to lift it over the lifelines and on deck so I can undo the shackle and disassemble the anchor for storage. I’m getting pretty strong on this boat;) While Lewis was at customs, I tried lifting out our dive compressor out of the bottom of the lazarette a few times and couldn’t get it for the life of me. I could really use a massage on my lower back. haha Lewis said it was pretty difficult to juggle a case of beer on the back of a couple scooters going to and from the customs office in Omoka. And he thinks that the guy driving smelled like an Irish pub and may have been drunk. I’m hoping that the unpaved roads meant that he was going under 10mph with this guy!
Our friend Levi gave us 3 kites and a couple harnesses when he switched boats. He said he had too much stuff and Lewis was happy to accommodate the gifts. (Many thanks again, Levi!) Levi was a kite boarding instructor in Honolulu so he gave me lessons in Penrhyn. I love it! I already know how to control the kite, so I’m hoping to practice with the board in Suwarrow.
The wind died and I am now motoring towards Manihiki, a closed coral atoll with no entrance to the lagoon. We plan to anchor off in the lee of the island. If it’s too rolly or too dangerous, we’ll figure out a new plan. Lewis started taking over my half of the night shift because he knows how much I hate sailing in the dark. He says he was going to singlehand before we met, so he should be able to do it and sleep in the morning. We’ll be there by tomorrow morning and will stay a couple days. Then 2 nights to Suwarrow, max 2 weeks there, and then 3 or 4 days to Pago Pago in American Samoa.
I’m dreaming of open air markets, grocery stores, fresh laundered clothes, good wine and restaurants. I’m out of eggs, fresh produce (except 2 butternut squash), mayo, and only have 1 small container of powdered milk. The cargo ship came to Penrhyn while we were there, but apparently there was some kind of mix up and the only thing they brought was juice and beer. All of the islanders are pretty upset as they are in need of fresh supplies. A woman’s husband came to our boat as we were pulling anchor just to ask for a tube of toothpaste. They said they have enough rice and grow bananas and have plenty of coconuts and fish, but the rest won’t be there for another month, maybe two. My body is screaming for a green machine juice or a shot of wheatgrass! I still surprise myself every now and then with what I can make out of pretty much nothing on the boat.
As my new friend Ruby says, “Hunger is the best sauce.”

Cheers from the rolly South Pacific,
Alyssa & Lewis

10 03.60S
159 44.75W
5.6kt, motoring in 8kt wind

Thank You

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