Oops, there is no shortcut through the, windward, eastern reef of Erikub Atoll
The normal parting question is, "Where are you going after leaving Kwajalein?" There are intentions then there is the reality offered up by the winds. Rebecca spent one night aboard the boat at the dock before departing, while I soaked up one more night of air-conditioning and the amenities of our shore side residence. The next evening at 5:30 we departed after having dinner with friends sharing a last dinner at the chow hall, and untying our dock lines and waving goodbye till we couldn't see them anymore.
Our first night away from the dock, now officially outsiders, was on our mooring ¼ mile from the dock. The next morning, we hoisted sail and pointed Brick House to the familiar protected anchorage of Bigej island 7 miles north of Kwajalein Island. Adjacent to Begej is a wide deep pass eastward through the reefs. Upon wakening the following morning, the settled wind we only hoped for, in fact did come. The wind shifts allowed us to set full sails including the little stay sail. I like the looks and aerodynamic shape of that little storm sail especially when it is pulled close hauled and drawing parallel with the genoa.
This was a good transition from our comfortable terrestrial dwelling to the rocking, and at times wet, life on a long range cruising sailboat. Rather than heading north for Rongerik, our original intention, we took advantage of the perfect 15 knot winds, gentle seas and let the wind draw us north east. We need easting before turning south for Fiji, but we hoped to first stop in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands for supplies.
The fair weather lasted only 24 hours then grew to wave washing 20 to 30 knots, and in squalls, up to 40 knots. The bow of Brick House smashed into the ocean swells sending spray and waves flooding over the decks. The fair weather sails were rolled in to a fraction of their full dimensions. It wasn't just the wind, the large waves slowed our boat speed to a sluggish 4 knots. This put Rebecca into the aft bunk where she wedged herself in and swallowed seasick medication. Since loosing the hearing in my right ear and some of the balance associated with it, I don't get sea sick.
At Erikub, there is only a little sand patch to drop the hook then settle back over deep lagoon water, and hope the wind does not shift.
Living on a peaceful mooring in Kwajalein, this boat had not experienced such weather for nearly a year and a half. Once dry hatches and port lights now leaked. A scupper on the port deck was dribbling sea water down behind the galley wall to pool at our feet in front of the stove. Although the mast boot was well sealed, a leak developed at the deck area dripping water from the ceiling onto cushions as the boat rocked to starboard then flung water onto the other cushions as it rolled to port. Too much was getting wet inside of the boat. We needed calm weather or a place to anchor so repairs could be made. Tacking to the south, the large atoll of Wotje was dead ahead. In Kwajalein, I worked with landowners who's homes are in Wotje. We would be well received but the complication in tactics was that we would be sailing down the west side of the atoll and the entrance through the reef is on the south east corner which to eventually get there would make for a 15 mile beat directly into the wind. That would be far too difficult.
We continued south past Wotje to the uninhabited Erikub Atoll. Sailing and gyrating from the open tumultuous ocean between Wotje and Erikub we flattened out in the protection of the long shallow western reef of Erikub. Defying the prevailing wind from the east, waves wrapped around the north end of the atoll and rolled to rumble, crumble and fall apart in the shallows. From inside the lagoon, waves had built up in the long fetch to smash headlong onto the same reef. But all became less violent as we continued south gaining greater protection. We were looking for the charted entrance into Erikub.