Friday, November 30, 2012

Sea Shepard Conservation Society ships visit America Samoa

November 30, 2012
Pago Pago, American Samoa

Just this past week the Sea Shepard Conservation Society Steve Irwin 77 pictured above was in Pago Pago harbor.   Today the Sea Shepard Conservation Society's 33 meter power trimaran Brigitte Bardot arrived as well.

Last Friday night we ran in to a few of the crew at 'Sadie's by the Sea' and bought the crew a few beers.  These guys and gals are walking the talk and putting their lives on the line for cause they truly believe in.  It's not often you get to meet folks who are so passionate about their beliefs.    Few of the 44 crew of the Steve Irwin are paid and they may at sea for months battling with the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean trying to stop the slaughter of whales.   For more info check out 

Today Sea Shepard Conservation Society's 33 meter Brigitte Bardot enters Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa.  Listening on vhf channel 16 the harbor master called the Brigitte Bardot and asked why he should welcome the ship into the harbor while the Brigitte Bardot was flying the pirate flag.  The skipper of the Brigitte Bardot responded that the flag was not meant to cause disrespect and would be taken down immediately.  Sort of a funny radio conversation .   Having met and chatted with the harbor master I can say he is really cool.  Perhaps we'll get a chance to meet some of the crew this week.and inquire about a tour of the 33 meter power tri Brigitte Bardot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Constructing a concrete mooring

 Temporary shade tarp helps beat the 'real feel' temps over 100F as we construct a 4000 pound concrete mooring.
 The actual concrete mooring will be 4'x6'x14" thick.  The plywood box in the middle creates a space to shackle a chain to a 3/4' piece of rebar and a 1" stainless steel propeller shaft.
 3-1/2" nails driven through the walls of the 1/2" plywood forms will embed in the concrete to secure the forms to the concrete while the form act as the side of a boat with concrete bottom.  The idea is the flotation of the formwork will support the concrete until the mooring is positioned and scuttled.
 Mixing a cubic yard of concrete requires lots of hard work, especially in these hot humid conditions   Shane and Fred were instrumental to getting all the concrete mixed in one day.  It took the three of us about 7 hours total to construct the forms, cut rebar and mix the concrete.  
 Taking a break while the water soaks into the 'volcano' of sand and cement.   We aimed for a ratio  84 pound bag of  TypeII cement to 32-36 shovels of sand to around 6 gallons of water.   Mixing this much concrete by hand is rough.  We'd have preferred to use gravel as well as it make the final result stronger, but the sand was free and should yield a healthy 3000psi which is more than enough for this project.
 Some of the concrete placed in the forms with a few pieces of 1/2" rebar in place.  Lots more rebar was added to yield a one foot on center layout with a minimum cover of 3"
 1" stainless steel propeller shaft  will take the load and wear while a second piece of 3/4" rebar is there to share the strain.  10"x10" block out provides access to the attachment point from the top or bottom side of the slab as a hedge against the worst case scenario that the mooring lands upside down.
 Lots of bits of random steel were added to the mix to increase the deadweight.
 Only one more bag of cement to mix as we pose for a picture before lunch.
Shane, Fred and Dave mixing cement.

4000 pound Mooring Calculations

Height (feet) 4
Length (feet) 6
Width (feet) 4
Concrete Thickness (feet) 1.12
Concrete Volume (cubic feet) 26.88
Concrete Weight lbs ( @ 150lb/cuft) 4032
Displacement (seawater =64 lbs/cuft) 63.00
Total buoyancy 96.00
Reserve buoyancy (cuft) 33.00
Reserve buoyancy in pounds 2112.00
Free board in Inches 16.50

Mooring Costs

Qty Item $/Unit Total
1 #6 (¾”) $21 $21

Cut: (1) 5'-6” and (1) 3-6”

3 #4 (½”) $7 $22

Cut: (4) 5'-6” and (6) 3'-6”

7 Portland Cement (typeII) 84lb bags $7 $52

2 Shovels $21 $43

3 16d Nails (3-1/2”) $2 $5

2 8d Nails (2-1/2”) $2 $4

3 Plywood 1/2” Formply $25 $75

1 Tarp 8'X8' $11 $11

6 2”X2”X16' $6 $35

1 Delivery $5 $5

1 Crane $125 $125

10 Labor $10 $100

1 Lunch and beers for helpers $40 $40

2 Shackle ( 1 very large and one to suit 5/8” chain) $35 $70

1 Swivel $75 $75

2 Slice eye $6 $12

40' 3 strand rope for pennant (from spare line aboard) $0 Free

55' Used 5/8” Chain from Tuna Purse seiner $0 Free

20' Used 1” stud link ships chain $0 Free

2   Floats found beach combing $0 Free

Total cost of mooring

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building a yacht mooring

There are plenty of resources on the internet to help sort out the specific design criteria of the mooring system, the real problem is how to cost effectively place the mooring.    In a area with a sufficient tidal range the possibility exists to building the mooring at low water and use lift bags at high water to float the mooring into position.  In areas without a sufficient tidal range the task of moving a 4200 lbs mooring block might require the very expensive services of a crane mounted barge.

On possible approach is to build a crude boat integral to the mooring and then scuttle the boat at the desired location.  One such design would consist of plywood formwork/boat 4' wide x 6' long x 4' tall with a 14" reinforced concrete slab poured in the bottom.  If concrete weighs 150 pounds per cubic foot and sea water 64 pounds per cubic foot then it's pretty simple math to determine that the 4200lbs of concrete will displace 67 cubic feet of sea water while the 4'x6'x4' box would displace 96 cubic feet of water.  So a properly reinforce the plywood box/boat would easily float the mooring with a reserve buoyancy of 30 cubic feet or 1900 lbs resulting in 15" of freeboard.  

Design critera

Dave aloft

Sixty two feet above sea level.  Dave at the top of s/v LightSpeeds 62' mast to make.  Pago Pago, American Samoa.  Below you can see the deck of a Chris White Atlantic 42 catamaran with 4 Kyocera 135 solar panels.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Wreath

 Shell checks out out new Holiday wreath from Port.
 Then she gives it a sniff from Starboard
So we were at the local phone company office here in American Samoa 'Blue Sky' to buy a sim card for our cell phone.  A few of the 'Blue Sky' guys were working on setting a holiday tree in the stand and I asked if I could have the a few of the branches they trimmed off.  Back on s/v LightSpeed I crafted a holiday wreath.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

 Shane of s/v Clover and Eric of s/v Sidetrack aboard s/v LightSpeed.
 Fred and Cinda of s/v Songline row over in their 8' Fatty knees rowing dinghy with Doug of s/v Windcastle aboard.
 Kathy heading back to s/v LightSpeed on particularly calm and rain free evening in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
A view of the anchorage of Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa from the 62' above the water at the top of s/v LightSpeed's mast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More election day photos

Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa

 LightSpeed anchored in Pago Pago, American Samoa in the shadow of the aptly named 'Rainmaker' mountain.   Rainmaker located on the East end of the Pago Pago anchorage forces the moisture landed trade winds aloft where they promptly unleash a deluge of rain.  A transition from bright sunshine to pouring rain is hard to predict and every trip ashore holds a solid chance of a soaking,
 Looking west into the terminus of Pago Pago harbor.  Grey skies and light rain at the moment.
A view from the Port Captians office looking toward the West where the yachts anchor at the head of the bay.

Outside Pago Pago harbor the scenery quickly improves.
Crystal clear waters and nice reef flank the Pago Pago harbor entrance with Rainmaker to the NE.

Party Affiliations. Election time in American Samoa

Got to love how the locals get out the vote here in American  Samoa.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mahi Mahi... American Samoa

46 pound Mahi Mahi caught about 50 miles from American Samoa.  We safely anchored in American Samoa.

Friday, November 16, 2012

46 pound Mahi Mahi

Landed a 46 pound Mahi Mahi today after a 25 minute battle!

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Almost to Samoa

TIME: 2012/11/16 20:53 (10:53AM local)
LATITUDE: 14-50.52S
LONGITUDE: 169-18.15W

About 85 nautical miles to Pago Pago, American Samoa and we are set to arrive around 1AM on Saturday morning. Pago Pago is a major port with good navigational aids and if the weather looks reasonable we'll go for it. The tough part will be anchoring in the dark. I understand the anchor situation is worse than it was in 2006 when at one point we had a rust 55 gallon drum stuck on the anchor. After the Tsunami in 2009 it now possible to foul your anchor with ever more interesting bits of debris like a kiddy swimming pool or Lazy Boy recliner.

The weather has been squally and it's getting hot, I suspect this is just a warm up for the real HOT that will come later in the tropical summer.

That's it for now.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Midnight Squall...

TIME: 2012/11/15 11:14 UTC (1:14AM local)
LATITUDE: 16-08.68S
LONGITUDE: 165-57.73W

Midnight Squall

At midnight it was my watch, our position 294 nautical miles SE of Pago Pago, American Samoa. Half awake I made my way to the cockpit where the cool night air helped wash the grogginess away. Our biggest spinnaker was pulling nicely and LightSpeed, our Chris White designed Atlantic 42 catamaran, was slicing through the inky black seas at 8 knots. The night sky was filled with brilliant stars and within a few minutes I enjoyed not one, but two shooting stars. Being a bit superstitious, I cast a wish for a safe voyage as the meteors streaked across the sky. LightSpeed was in her element accelerating down the bigger waves, catching a surf up to 10 knots at times. A 2 meter quartering sea was a little annoying and the large spinnaker snapped and cracked as LightSpeed shrugged off the seas.

The cooler temperatures were a welcome reprieve from the sauna like daytime conditions. My middle of the night drowsiness was abating as I moved into the pilot house and plopped in front of the navigation desk. I checked the course and looked for ship traffic on the collision avoidance AIS display. All was good so I toggled the Furuno radar from standby to active and the familiar green glow of the screen began to sweep the darkness. I wasn't too worried to see the signature of a squall looming in the distance. We'd seen plenty of squalls on this voyage, but they'd all lacked much punch. The day before I'd even commented to Kathy that such menacing looking clouds were only delivering a few rain drops and little extra wind.

However, with each sweep of the radar this midnight squall grew noticeably. I went back on deck and peered into the night trying to size up the situation. Without a moon to light the clouds, all I could see was a large dark area several miles wide that was blotting out the otherwise star filled sky. I was starting to feel a bit concerned, but convinced myself this squall would be just like the 20 others that had passed over us in the last few days. I'd need Kathy's help to douse the big spinnaker if the wind got up , but I decided to hold off rousing her from her slumber.

A steady 15 knot breeze was filling the sail, but any increase in wind from a squall would translate to increased boat speed up to a point where it could get scary fast and potentially blow our spinnaker to shreds. I headed back in the pilot house to evaluate the track of the squall on the glowing radar screen. What looked like a small squall on the radar earlier had now grown to a large blotch 4 miles wide on my screen. Worse the blotch was tracking directly down on our position.

Back out on deck I felt the air temperature drop a few degrees. This is a sure sign that there is major convection going on in the cloud and solid indication that the squall would be packing plenty of wind and heavy rain. The wind was just starting to build and the boat speed was now touching 12 knots. For a moment I thought we might just enjoy the ride as long as the wind didn't kick up much more. I altered course 20 degrees to keep the spinnaker solidly set and within a moment the lines began to creak in complaint as the wind increased and the speedo bumped 14 knots. It was now or never if I wanted off this ride.

In hindsight, I'd already waited too long and now it was fire drill time if the spinnaker was coming down in one piece. I gave the emergency knock on the cabin top to rouse Kathy and she stumbled into the cockpit, but not as quickly as I would have liked as the wind was still building and the speedo was now reading 15 knots of boat speed. I had Kathy blow the port sheet and guy to de-power the sail while I hauled on the dousing sock. It wasn't a second too soon as the wind really started to howl and I struggled to hold on to the spinnaker sock as I tied it to the deck.

Our anemometer had failed about a week previous from the apparent cause of seized bearings in the mast head transducer. Now with the wind blasting at gale force the friction was overcome and the wind instrument was reading 34 knots. Our squall was now 6 miles wide by 3 miles deep and the skies had opened, lashing the decks with a heavy monsoon rain.

At this point Kathy having seen enough took the frazzled cat and went back to bed. I had my night watch ahead of me and a small mess to sort out. The spinnaker which was still hoisted in it's dousing sock was shaking furiously and lines were a tangled mess. The cockpit was puddled with water and needed a squeegee.

As the squall eventually passed I was faced with the decision to relaunch the spinnaker or not. Back to the radar I found squalls splotched plentifully across the screen. So, I called it a night and dropped the soggy mess of spinnaker into the forward hatch. I was happy to sail lazy, under jib alone for the remainder of the night.

That's it for now.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 2 underway from Aitutaki to American Samoa.

TIME: 2012/11/15 01:59 GMT (4PM local on Nov 14)
LATITUDE: 16-32.96S
LONGITUDE: 164-51.05W
SPEED: 7.9

We're sailing just along the edge of the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) on a 700 nm passage from Aitutaki, Cook Islands to American Samoa. The SPCZ is famous for both a lack of wind and extreme wind. The last few days it's delivered the first accompanied by temperatures touching 90F and 100% humidity in torrential rain storms. The 'real feel' aboard s/v LightSpeed is just plain HOT. Even the water is getting pretty warm at 84F.

For the past two days at sea we've been nearly becalmed with only a very light 5 knot breeze and have been doing some motoring. Our super efficient motoring speed is 5.7 knots with just one of our Yanmar 3YM30 engines turning 2500 revolutions per minute and burning about 2.5 L/hr. I hate motoring, especially early in a voyage...

This morning the wind filled in a bit and we've been flying our biggest spinnaker, a symmetrical kite measuring about 1200 square feet. With quartering 2 meter swell the main sail would just slam around, so we're running just the spinnaker. For the last 50nm we've averaged 7.7 knots, a nice improvement over the first 324 nautical miles where we averaged just 6.0 knots. As I write we're half way there and we sure hope the wind sticks around to both speed up the voyage and keep us a bit cooler.

Our heart goes out to Shane on s/v Clover as he recently lost his much loved sailing companion, a beautiful black cat named 'Bearcat'. Shane is currently in American Samoa and where we will catch up with him soon enough.

That's it for now.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Underway for Samoa

TIME: 2012/11/13 16:20 UTC (6:20AM local)
LATITUDE: 18-02.60S
LONGITUDE: 161-27.83W
SPEED: 5.3

We've decided the grass is greener somewhere else, so we're moving there. Lately, we've been casually evaluating the liability of each new place we've visited. Looking at things like immigration, cost of living, social fabric and business potential. The Cook Islands are very attractive on many counts rate highly. But, the grass is always greener so we'er enjoying the ability to move our house to a new yard. At the moment we're underway heading Northwest toward the Samoa(s), American and Western Samoa.

That's it for now.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baby on a bike

On a small island with a 40km speed limit and almost zero traffic this works.  So much for strapping on a helmet.  This 8 month old baby is tied to mamma with a bit of cloth.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Tropical Cyclone notes for the South Pacific

On a daily basis Kathy and I independently make an exhaustive study of the weather forecast by looking at 10 day high resolution GFS GRIB models, but now that cyclone season is upon us we need to take our study to a higher level. I found the following web pages and links helpful in the ongoing study.

Goal:  To understand the factors that contribute to the day to day formation of a Tropical Cyclone.  I quickly found that Tropical Cyclones are more likely to develop in association with Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), so this has become a major point of study.

                                                         Cyclone tracks from 1985-2005

Tropical Carcinogenesis 

Madden-Julian Oscillation:

Every Sunday

Bob McDavit Weathergram

Every Monday  

Weekly tropical climate note  (MJO) and ENSO

MJO monitoring

MJO Update 

Global Tropical Hazard outlook

ENSO wrap up

Links leading to more questions

Improved version of above and even more questions

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Aitutaki Vaitau school visit.

Ingrid Stewart is doing great things as the principal of the Vaitau primary school here in Aitutaki.   As you might recall Ingrid's husband Greg recently sailed with us to Rarotonga, it's Ingrid and Greg that have really helped up make a connection here in the Cook Islands.

Arriving back in Aitutaki we invited Ingrid over for dinner since Greg is now off sailing on a boat named s/v TabbyCat which is currently underway for New Zealand.  But, mostly we wanted to catch up with Ingrid and share some of the wahoo we recently caught.  Over dinner Ingrid regaled us with stories of living in the Cook islands and taking over the role of Principal at Vaitau, one of the three primary schools here on Aitutaki.  Due to drought conditions and some sketchy plumbing Ingrid had to close the school on several occasions as they had no water to flush toilets. After describing the problems I offered to take a look.  So today Kathy and I headed up to Vaitau school to work on a few projects. 

My first project of the day was to head up a team of future mechanics to tune up some bikes that had been donated from overseas, along with the flash new sunnies.  I brought the tools and in short order the boys were at it tightening handlebars and making all sorts of adjustments.  Nice work guys.

Next on Ingrids list was to assemble some new dry erase boards.  For this I enlisted some of the 'Mechanics' and before long we had plenty of hands on the job.

Next the kids jumped on computers and we pulled up our blog. 

Then Ingrid and I got down to the dirty work of sorting out the plumbing for the toilet block.  Water supply on the island is unpredictable and the pressure is always low.  Most homes have a large header tank that fills as water is available and then by either gravity or pump is supplied to it's intended use.  The toilet block had a header tank, but it was in poor repair with a broken float switch and the pressure was so low it wasn't getting filled very often.  The good news is that a new pressure pump had just been installed to drive water from rain water collection tank through sediment filters and then made safe for drinking with a UV treatment.  So, looking at the system we decided to tap the toilet blocks plumbing into the new pressue system and then run the island water supply to the rain water tank which was twenty times bigger than the exisiting header tank.  The beauty of the modification was it only required one 'T' fitting and just a few minutes to retrofit.  The bigger battle was hunting down tools from Greg's work shop then finding the local plumber to buy a fitting.  In the end it worked great. 

 Dave and Ingrid discuss the merits of several possible water soulutions.  The large tanks in the back ground are rain water catchment.

 A special message from the class on the new dry erase boards.
 After school Kathy got a tour of the schools' fruit and vegetable garden with Driver; the young man from Puka Puka, who showed how to chop a coconut to feed the schools two prize pigs.

 Driver delivers dinner.
 Due to this significant dry spell the grass is looking pretty parched for a tropical island. 
Kathy gets a tour of the resource room as the boys pick out some books for Kathy's hour of reading tutoring.

Our thougths with Yachts caught in Storm

A big scary tropical low hammered yachts bound toward New Zealand over the last few days.  Our thought go out to those who are still battling the storm. 

GFS GRIB for at of November 8, 2012.
It looks like the worst has passed, but big seas and head winds remain.
Here's the report from a yacht that was lucky enough to still be anchored in Tonga.

Yacht Windigo was capsized by 10 meter swells and likely 45 knot winds.  A link to the breaking news

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Coconut break

 Find a short coconut tree and a long stick.

 Twist the stem a few times before trying to knock the coconut loose. 

Cut the bottom off the coconut.  Avoid chopping off fingers as there are no doctors around to sew them back on.

Expose the end of the nut and chop off just enough to expose the coconut flesh within.  
 Cut open the flesh to allow access to the coconut water within.  Then hand the coconut to your wife.

 Now, repeat the process and then enjoy the fruits of your labor.