18th of November 2016, Southern Pacific Ocean
Sailing on this great blue ocean, halfway between Fiji and Christmas island, I asked captain Brad for an interview. I was interested in his opinion about the effect that the new mizzen sail has on the sailing characteristics of the Kwai.
During our two month refit operation in Fiji we added a mizzen sail of 85 square meters to the existing 275 square meters of main, top and fore sails, and the effort has been worth it. In stead of the usual lee-helm, we now steer a few degrees of weather-helm, resulting in less leeway. In other words, the ship gets blown of its original track less than before. Besides that, thanks to the new sail we can really sail into the weather. In the old days we had to drop the sails and steam-up towards the next destination. And finally, we now manage to reduce even more fossil fuel than before, because every kW of sail power reduces the amount of kW’s that the main engine has to generate. Sailing cargo is our (and your) future!
Because of the large amount of crew members during this leg, I am allowed to work on small projects during the day in stead of standing watch on the wheel. One of my biggest challenges appeared three days into the voyage. Our Navigator Ethan and Mate Megan wanted to test the emergency steering gear on the aft deck and discovered that the emergency tiller could not be attached to the rudder-stock. Why-oh-why? On closer inspection it turned out that the enormous nut on top of the 9 inch rudder-stock was loose! This immediately explained the play on the rudder that we experienced. During the time in dry-dock the rudder-stock had been pulled by specialists on the yard, and after assembly they apparently had forgotten to fully tighten the top-nut. Although we were not running the risk of losing the rudder-blade itself, the matter was alarming and needed immediate intervention. But how to tighten a nut that big, while underway? Sometimes big nuts need small tools. And thus I brought out two bench hammers with punches for Banuera and me, and we started pounding the nut from opposing sides. Six full turns and 48 hours later we managed to tighten the defeated nut.
Against all expectations, the weather during this leg has been very favorable. In stead of being forced to steer North because of the usual prevailing winds, we have been steering East by North-East, making more easterly than we could hope for. For half a day we even had to change the sails to Port-tack because of a Westerly wind! Besides one hour of torrential tropical rain, the sun has been our companion most of the days.
The only downside to sailing straight towards our destination is that we will not be visiting the Phoenix islands. Oh well, I guess we will have to wait until the Kwai goes to dry-dock in Fiji again in two years time.