As Susie and I tied Adina up to a mooring buoy in Neiafu, Tonga we were tired but happy that we’d crossed the stretch of Pacific Ocean nicknamed ‘the Dangerous Middle’. We’ve mentioned before we belong to a radio net for yachties called the Isabela Net. We’ve met a lot of the participants but one of the characters of the net, a chap called Harry on his yacht Malua, has always alluded us as he’s been too far ahead. Harry sails passages single-handed and when he crossed the ‘Dangerous Middle’ he had us all glued to the daily radio net to hear his progress. He’s clearly very experienced but had a tough old time being knocked over, tearing his main sail, losing antennas, engine that wouldn’t work properly, various other damaged gear, gigantic waves etc. It was Harry’s experience that made us all look very carefully at the weather and we waited in Bora Bora for two weeks until we had a good weather window.
Susie and I sat tidying the boat and low and behold we saw his yacht coming by. He shouted “Hello Adina!” “Hello Harry, we’ll swing by and come and say hello later.” Fabulous we will get to meet Harry. We settle down and have breakfast. But first priority after scrambled eggs and bacon is that our bilge pump had been running a lot during our passage. A boat typically has alarms, pumps and outlets in the bilge (bottom of the boat) to pump out any water that gets in. When you do get water in the bilge, you taste it. If it’s fresh water, it means you have a leak in one of your fresh water tanks or pipes. If it’s salt water, it means sea water is coming in somewhere and you need to act promptly, start sweating!
During the passage we noticed our fresh water tanks were unexpectedly low and with the pumps going we put two and two together and got five. Now on a mooring buoy we started to explore the reason for the bilge pump going off every five minutes. To further your knowledge of yachts, we have an engine that drives a propeller and the two are connected by a long shaft. The engine is inside the boat, propeller outside the boat, shaft comes through the hull and a seal keeps the water out. Much to our alarm, there was water flowing through our seal! And at the level pretty much like when you have the tap half open at home. Adina is sinking (dramatic effect here)! We rush for the manual and it recommends cleaning the seal. We push the seal back and, with a fountain of water coming in, clean it. No change. Tom decides Harry is an expert – let’s call him. “Harry, do you know anything about shaft seals?” “Sure – what type is it?” “Dripless, in theory” “I’ll pop over.”
A quick inspection and for the technical sailors out there he calmly says it’s the stainless steel disc that has slipped forward. Using some very useful wooden wedges made for us by Susie’s dad, he proceeds to loosen it, hammer it back and tighten it – job done. Off goes Harry. Susie and I are left overwhelmed by our good fortune and what a nice chap he is and in shock that such a potentially serious problem was fixed so quickly. Magnificent – buying that man a beer or two. Sailing people are good people. Relief all round.
Shower, freshen up and off we go to town to secure our whale sightseeing trip recommended by Harry. Return to the Aquarium Café bar on the waterfront where several of the yachts we know are gathering for sundowners. We’re buying a few people drinks and the waitress runs a tab under ‘Adina’. She comes back and says to Susie “You are Adina?” “Yes, that’s the boat name” “And what is your name?” “Susie”, “I have something for you”. She then gives us a slip (see photograph) and it’s two gin and tonics from the utterly lovely Tim and Clare on the yacht Ghost who we had last seen in Grenada in the Caribbean! How kind is that! Tim and Clare are sailing with the World ARC Rally and are now in Australia having been in Tonga a few months back. Just made our day and hope we can repay the thought somewhere down the line. We miss you crazy folk!
Quite some day. We’d met Harry, he’d saved us from sinking and some thoughtful people hundreds of miles away from us bought us gin and tonics. The world is a good place, you know!