Another boat joined us on the sail down from Saipan, and graciously shuttled us to shore for the festival after anchoring in Tinian's semi-protected harbor. We had kayaks tied up to the front, but opted for the inflatable with outboard on offer. I usually swam to shore the last year we came down to the Pika festival. So here we were again on another tiny island in Micronesia, with the festivities just beginning. Pika means hot pepper here and they grow wild all over the island. So once a year they organize a festival to celebrate their beloved hot peppers. The festival has music, dancing and hot pepper eating contests of course. It’s great fun for everyone and definitely a family oriented event. There are plenty of booths selling food and many opt for a bbq on the beach. Free camping can be had on the beach; we stayed on the boat.
While the sail down was uneventful, the sail back up to Saipan was not. Winds were constantly gaining speed ever since we arrived and had reached 20knots+ for our journey home. We had to reef the mainsail and rolled in the jib to working jib size. We opted to huge the coastline to shield the boat from the massive swells that had built up over the last few days. There isn’t any major landmass in the direction of the wind until you hit the west coast of the USA a few thousand miles away! We were being battered even while sailing in the lee of the island. I caught a nice size Wahoo on the trolling setup I brought along. I had to hang off the back of the boat to gaff the thing in the biggest swells I’ve ever sailed in… Once we got in the open passage between the islands, the bottom of the jib tore out of the shackle and was flapping wildly in the wind, which had raised to around 25knots by now. This took some cunning handywork by Captain Ron who cut through the bottom part of the jib and used some spare rope to jerry rig it tied back down. I was impressed with his handywork as I was the first to climb up to the front of the pitching bow to inspect and could see no way to secure the bottom of the jib back to the boat where it belonged (between being soaked by waves breaking over the bow). Meanwhile, our companion boat had decided to head in the straightest direction to Saipan’s harbor entrance and their steel hull was being battered accordingly for being so far offshore in the passage. After the sail, he said that was one of the worst conditions he’d sailed in (which meant a lot as they had originally sailed out from the west coast of the US.
We all made it back safely to port and have a great story tell. Thanks Captain Ron!