2-4 am, local time, living at UTC +9, crossing 07 22N 135 38E, heading 075, SOG 6+ kts. The moon is setting behind me, so bright I am looking to adjust the rear view mirror, as if I am driving up the hill at night with someone’s headlight trailing along with us. Engine is rumbling nicely and there is nothing on radar, nothing on AIS, nothing in any direction but stars hanging down to the periphery of my vision with a few clouds dotting the horizon.
We will be passing by Yap, one of the interesting and relatively untouched indigenous micronesian cultures that traversed these same waters in their big canoes. Remnants of their visits to Palau were giant stone discs used as money. After hewing the car sized currency, they would sail home a few hundred miles with enough ballast to make you sit right up and shake your head. I think I prefer a credit card.
We can review the steering hydraulic fluid scenario. Look into the lazarette and seeing red stuff is not good. The copper elbow on one side of the steering ram was oozing and my inclination to apply direct pressure to the source did nothing, just more red stuff on the white paint, very clinical in appearance. Now came the greatest aspect of redundancy. Look to the other ram which had been sliding back and forth on bypass for a year or so. It is connected to its own hydraulic tank and autopilot pump, totally independent from the primary system. Within a minute I switched the offensive little bleeder to bypass, fitted the big emergency tiller for Brian to do his mariner act, and turned on the secondary autopilot. Now I could steer with the little twiddle knob on the console, and resume our approach to the west passage. Three hours of winding through the reef, docking at the commercial wharf for customs, and then finally around to Sams tours to pick up a mooring ball. Whew.
Exploratory procedure revealed a crack at the base of a copper tubing flare. No problem, we carry yards of extra tubing in all sizes. But we need to create a 90 bend in a 3 inch length. I can still see the pipe bender I left on the display at Home Depot, thinking I wont need that. Argh. Getting the copper tubing bent was a tour of hardware and air con service shops, because I did not have a 1/2″ pipe bender and neither did the stores. Finally the air con guy had it and bent three 90s for me to try. I did have a flaring tool and pipe cutter, so after a couple lessons in pipe fitting, (always fit one end and work towards the next union), I had it repaired. Bleeding the system took almost 20 liters of ATF, but it is now smooth and the autopilot pump is quieter than ever. Another system investigated and appreciated. Note to self: carry a pipe bender.
So after a few great days at Sams tours, we took on 464 gallons of diesel and cleared out with customs. The east passage was much shorter and within an hour we were out to sea again. 1484 miles to Pohnpei. Anticipated arrival in 10 days and 7 hours. Maybe longer if we stop for a swim near the 20,000 foot deep nearby. All the best to everyone. Captain and crew all ok.