Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
At least things started well on the voyage to New Caledonia. We got the ship all prepared, we cleared Customs and Immigration, and the good Fijian folks at the Vuda Point Marina came out to sing the lovely Fijian song of farewell, “Isa Lei”.
We went out through the channel by Momi Bay. I hadn’t been through it since the time that I wrote about in Old Bill Rises From The Dead, and that was at night, so it was great to go through it again in the daylight.
I found a good spot to mount my thermometer to measure air temperatures, well shielded from the sun under the awning (red arrow) but fully exposed to the wind. I’ll discuss my results in a future post.
However, day was turning to night when the first sign of trouble appeared. The diesel engine started “loping”, meaning it would speed up and slow down, speed up and slow down … grrr. Now. I’m a decent diesel mechanic, as are many commercial fishermen. However, we were fortunate to have an Australian “diesel fitter” among the crew, and he knew his stuff. After a long battle with the engine, he figured out that it was drawing air into the fuel from … well, somewhere. Here are the possible options, the red lines are fuel lines, any one of which could be leaking air …
As time went on, the problem got worse, and efforts to find the leak failed. At about thirty hours into the voyage, since it was just about twice as far to New Caledonia as back to Fiji, the prudent mariners decided to turn around. Discretion is almost always the better part of valor on the ocean, and a bad engine on an ocean crossing is no joke.
However, there were still temperatures to take, a trip back to make, and more awesome weather than a man could hope for. Outbound it was calm, but on the way back, we saw lots of thunderstorms.
I got to thinking about “virga” on this trip. Virga is rain that falls from clouds but evaporates before it hits the surface. I saw lots of it, and I wonder how much of it is captured by the climate models. In fact, how much of it is captured by observations? How would you even measure it when it doesn’t hit the ground? Gotta love the settled science …
In the night, a half-dozen flying fish flew on board, attracted by the lights. We also got a couple of flying squid on the deck, which is about a metre and a half (5’) off the water … amazing creatures. The one in the photo is about 200 mm (8″) long.
So … that was our trip. Great fun, but far too short. We got in an hour before sunset, tied up to the Quarantine Buoy outside the Marina, and put up the yellow “Q” flag that signifies we’re waiting for Customs and Immigration to board the boat and check our papers.
Now, it’s the next morning, the “Q” flag is still flying, and we can’t leave the boat. The Customs folks will get here … sometime. It’s Fiji. Meanwhile, the trip is delayed indefinitely, so I’m going to fly on to Australia. I started out to go there, and by gum, I’m gonna make it. Am I upset about the trip evaporating? Nope. As the poet said, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley”. Or as the swabbies say, “God is my co-pilot, but Murphy is my engineer” …
Besides, one thing I’ve learned in my voyages is that Bokonon was right when he said, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Me, I just dance it as best I know how. Plus which, I want to meet Tu the tattoo god …
So the beat goes on. Of course, I’ll continue the story of my meanderings, more to come.
My best wishes to all, fair seas and fair winds to everyone,