08/18/2009, 18 42.0'S:172 15.9'W, 140 miles WNW of Niue
We skipped forward a day today, crossing the International Date Line between Niue and Tonga. A minute ago it was 15:08 on Tuesday, 18-August, now it is 15:09 on Wednesday, 19-August, going from GMT -11 to GMT +13. We're still 4 hours ahead of the west coast, just on a different day.
Otherwise, a pretty uneventful crossing so far. The seas are calmer out here than in the Niue anchorage our last night, so we slept well, sailing all night. Prevailing winds took us a little South overnight, so we motorsailed in light winds this morning to charge the batteries and get us further North. This will set us up for a nice beam reach as the winds move to an expected ENE later tonight. Rina and I are brushing up on Tonga and Vava'u, re-reading the cruising guides and etching the locations of previously uncharted reefs into our minds and chartplotters.
Day 1 Overview: - 140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 116 miles remaining to the anchorage in Neiafu Bay - 4-8 foot seas, much less than expected - 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 23 - 5.8 knot average speed
Gallery has been updated with our pics from Niue...
Rina and I have enjoyed our week on the *very* relaxed island of Niue. We knew we were not in French Polynesia anymore when the customs office was in the same building as the duty free liquor, which they provide an allocation to cruisers upon arrival (one case of beer, 4 bottles of wine, or 2 liters of liquor per person, per week) and then allow unlimited purchase upon departure. The prices are refreshing after French Polynesia, at the grocery store, as well as duty free. There were exceptions of course... a quart jar of best food mayonnaise was $22.50 NZD.
We have been in good company, with Kalalau, Victory Cat, Brick House, Bagheera, Tender Spirit, Wayward Wind and Quiver from our travels in Bora Bora. We also met cruisers from Dosia, Crazy Diamond, Amikuk and others in this small community.
We day-tripped the island in a rental car with Dosia and Honeymoon, seeing the windward side of the island and climbed many a trail into limestone and coral caverns, got swamped with waves in caves, and had lunch 100 feet down a chasm near the shore.
Later in the week Rina and I decided to head to the only hotel on the island (24 rooms) for a rare night off the boat. It has been 8 months since we slept off the boat, and it's a good thing we did as the swell shifted to the South, keeping all the boats rocking back and forth all night. Nobody slept in the anchorage. Our remaining time on the island was filled with local sightseeing, reading, potlucks with Honeymoon and Dosia and just having fun.
Oh... the whales... did I mention the whales? Try sleeping with the whales talking to each other every night, or lazily making their way through the anchorage. We're talking huge humpback whales too. We'll be sitting in the cockpit or down below and hear a huge breath outside, look over the side and see whales not 10 feet from your bow. "They mostly come at night...mostly" (movie reference time) which is why we didn't get a ton of pictures of them, but by the end of the week we were all getting a chuckle about how blasΓ© we had become about the whales around us all the time. We need Donna to slap us back to our senses again!
Weather has been so-so lately, with overcast or significant cloud cover most days. Sunday was non-stop rain. While the air temp was still low 80's, the water temperature has plummeted from 80 to 72, so there's not much swimming or diving going with this fair weather crowd. Those that did dive took quite a while to get their temperatures back up, given the 3-mill suits they have been using.
We're off today to Vava'u, in the Tonga group to find some sun and a non-rolly anchorage. Short 250 mile, 40 hour passage in pretty benign conditions. We'll be hosting brother Phil and his wife Josie in late August. It'll be nice to have visitors again.
08/11/2009, 19 03'S:169 55'W, Niue
Our last 18 hours into Niue was a fast ride, with 30 knot winds and big following seas. We must have learned something from our encounter with big weather on Day 2, as our ride was faster and less stressful on boat and crew. The only difference in the sailplan was more jib and less main, but it made a big difference.
We arrived at 7am, grabbed a mooring ball, enjoyed the calm seas in the lee of Niue, and promptly fell asleep for 4 hours. We awoke to a new sound which at first we could not identify. After ruling out new boat noises, we figured out that it was whales singing beneath our boat. Entering the cockpit we could see whales breaching in the near distance. Cool.
In the afternoon we checked in with customs and immigration, which was very relaxed and unofficial about the whole thing, then hung out at the Niue Yacht club with the crew of about 6 boats, most of which had just arrived, enjoying a steinlager or two.
This ends our daily updates for awhile. We're off to explore Niue with Honeymoon and Dosia and get some hiking in.
08/09/2009, 19 26.9'S:168 13.6'W, 954 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
As the wind clocked around through the west to the southeast last night, squalls with gusts to 30 knots were frequent. Gene, our California-based weather router, called it. After a lull during the early morning, daylight brought very confused seas. a classic potato patch, which slapped us around, making sleeping difficult. Winds, squalls and seas have continued to build today and should peak tonight.
We were able to overhear boats conversing on VHF 16 from Beveridge Reef this morning, and they also had an uncomfortable night. They are all departing for Niue today to get out of the uncomfortable conditions.
We expect to make landfall at Niue around 07:00 and the mooring field by 9am. We are looking forward to a comfortable nights sleep.
Day 7 Overview: -140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 954 miles from Bora Bora, 93 to Niue -8/10 foot confused seas, 20-28 knot winds, gusts to 32 -5.8 knot average speed
08/08/2009, 19 45.2'S:166 01.5'W, 827 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
We have had fun-filled 24 hours after Rina proclaimed "smooth following seas" yesterday. Late in the day the wind stiffened, creating "bumpy following seas", but no real problems. Overnight winds increased further, steady at 18-20 from the ENE, with gusts to 22, which allowed us to move west at 6-7 knots on a starboard tack with reefed main and jib. Winds moderated early in the morning, such that we gradually unfurled both main and jib. Then, this morning as the sun peaked over the eastern horizon, winds spiked quickly to 26 knots, overpowered the autopilot and spun us around broadside. Rina came up from below with cobbwebs still in her eyes and took the helm as I tried to tame the unruly sheets and sails. We turned the engine on, pointed ourselves into the wind, furled the jib and reefed the main to 50%, then fell back off on a broad reach. After gauging the conditions, we slowly let the jib out to 30% and were doing 5 knots in building seas.
We decided to keep her slow for awhile until we understood the changing conditions. As seas continued to build, we would get punched on the beam now and then, showering the coachtop with water. Rina went back down for a nap and about 30 minutes later, we fell off one of the big wind waves, healing the boat 25-30 degrees to port with a shuddering thud. Normally secure books and my jungle drummer wood carving dude went flying. Why? My theory is that by going too slow in these conditions, we open ourselves up to more rocking and action from waves. Instead, I want to increase boat speed to give us more lift, thus negating some of the effects of the wind waves. This counters Rina's "go slow" intuition. We agree to disagree, but "he or she who owns the watch owns the boat"; so as it was my watch, we slowly unfurled sail until moving smartly. Rocking was reduced measurably while Rina good-naturedly smirked at me. I decided to keep my celebration to myself.
Winds are going to clock backwards over the next 24 hours, shifting from their current north, to northwest, then southwest, before returning to normal southeast trades in a couple of days. They never get above 25 knots according to NOAA, but it will make for lots of sail trimming.
Day 6 Overview: -158 miles covered in last 24 hours, 827 miles from Bora Bora, 232 to Niue -6-8 foot seas, 10-22 knot winds, gusts to 26 -6.6 knot average speed -Currently on starboard tack heading south of Beveridge Reef, but will likely tack over as winds continue their transition west -Still might stop at Beveridge Reef on the way to Niue, but winds to 30 knots from the SE are predicted for later next week, in which case we may want to be safely moored at Niue rather than at exposed reef on the hook.
08/07/2009, 19 21.2'S:163 31.2'W, 690 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
After having such exciting days & nights at sea again, I'm finally able to enjoy a smoother sleep and cook in a somewhat upright/straight position. This morning, we enjoyed a great home-style breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs. Also, making some pre-meals for the overnights has been the smart thing to do.SO, as some of you know me.I overcook (easy to do with only the two of us), so there's always something to eat on your watch! We mostly enjoy watching stars when the night skies are clear. Funny thing, I've been listening to old music that I found on my Ipod that wasn't in one of my playlists.fun stuff while at sea and in the quiet of the night. I've finished another book: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter", by Kim Edwards. It's a wonderful, heartbreaking, heart-revealing novel. I loved it. Starting a new book, with the recommendations of both Pep & Alyssa - "The Prodigal Summer", by Barbara Kingsolver.so far, it's GREAT! I totally understand why Pep reads this book every s ummer! Thanks for everyone's posts on our blog, it's really nice to hear from everyone. Enjoy your weekend. -Rina
Day 5 Overview: -151 miles covered in last 24 hours, 690 miles from Bora Bora, 366 to Niue -2-4 foot seas, 8-10 knot winds, gusts to 12 -6.3 knot average speed -Now tracking about 30 miles South of preferred course, winds died, so we are motoring to bring us back closer to the rhumb line. -Might stop at Beveredge Reef on the way to Niue, since it is now on the way. Reportedly lots of sea life and great snorkeling in this reef out in the middle of nowhere.
08/06/2009, 18 29.2'S:161 10.2'W, 550 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
The old adage is true, after 3-4 days, your sea legs return, your broken sleep patterns become tolerable, and you find some semblance of equilibrium out here. Since the big blow a couple of days ago, we have been sailing along our predicted course +/- 10 degrees and making good speed. The weather looks steady for the next couple days, then calms down, hopefully bringing some flatter seas. We are riding 6-10 foot seas on our port stern quarter, sometimes making for a rocky ride. The best seat in the house is the converted settee (dining table) that is right at the center of the boat, and therefore has the least motion. Rigged with a proper lee cloth, it holds you tight even when you get punched by a wave on the side of the boat, which happens now and then. Rina and I hot bunk there, and it's a great feeling jumping into a warm bed at the end of your watch at 2am.especially as the weather has cooled a bit, 82 during the day and mid 70's at night, which is freezing, given our recent experience.
Rina and I celebrated our ships log hitting 10,000 miles last night with a bottle of wine, on an otherwise dry passage. Hard to believe we have put 6000 miles on the log in the last 9 months. Otherwise we spend our time reading, sleeping and looking out for 2 other boats (Kalalau and Wayward Wind) who are within 30 miles of us.
Day 4 Overview: -140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 550 miles from Bora Bora, 504 to Niue -6-10 foot seas, 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 20 -5.8 knot average speed -Now tracking about 20 miles South of the rhumbline course on a beam reach, apparent winds 100-120 degrees to port
08/05/2009, 17 38.4'S:158 26.9'W, 415 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
Sunrise broke today over clear skies and decreasing wind and seas. After 12 solid hours of high seas and winds yesterday, both decreased to fairly standard trade wind conditions. We are catching up on our sleep and making a nice dinner after nothing but tuna sandwiches and miso soup over the past 36 hours. It's even calm enough to read a book.
The boat held up very well in the extreme conditions. With lots of rain and big water on the decks, we found no new leaks, but reopened an old one at the mast compression post. Our watch schedule is 3 on, 3 off, unless one of us needs more or less sleep, in which add or subtract an hour to a shift.
Day 3 Overview: -154 miles covered in last 24 hours, 415 miles from Bora Bora, 635 to Niue -Sailing in 6-10 foot seas, 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 20 -6.4 knot average speed -Now tracking about 11 miles North of the rhumbline course on a beam reach, apparent winds 90-120 degrees to port
08/04/2009, 17 09.0'S:157 17'W, 260 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
It's about half past midnight local time (330am Pacific) and I'm on my 11-2am watch and decide to pull down the latest weather, as we have been experiencing much more rain than expected. Waiting for me were several comments from my last blog post, courtesy of an RSS feed from Sailblogs to Facebook. Each blog entry shows up as a Facebook note, where friends can comment, which drops me an email. Nice way to stay connected out here as we can't see blog comments directly.
Bob, it is in fact a dark and stormy night, dumping several inches of rain on us over the past 5 hours. A steady drizzle punctuated by intense downpours that are very similar to Midwest style thunderstorms that sweep the landscape. With these come very unpredictable winds. In general we have 5-7 knots of winds but when one of these storm cells comes through, it kicks up quickly to 15-20 knots with gusts to 25. We are also running in 8-12 foot following seas, which make for an interesting ride. When a large set comes through, we see a wall of water as high as the top of our bimini behind us, only to watch as it lifts the stern and passes underneath us. Given the conditions we are motorsailing under triple reefed main only. Bonus, we get fully charged batteries and the motor warms the cabin in what otherwise would be cold and clammy weather. I'm hanging out under the dodger that covers the steps to the main cabin and letting the autopilot do most of the work. Radar on both the navstation down below and at the helm warn of incoming storm cells or other boats. I pop down for about 3 minutes every 15 to write a little, before light seasickness pushes me back up to get some air and scan the horizon.
Terry, you asked about trepidations. There have been many, mainly fears of the unknown and the application of previously unproven skills to new and riskier ventures. Would we be able to navigate coral reefs successfully, deal with new and confusing bureaucracies, would we manage the boat systems successfully. While we have not always succeeded (see watermaker posts) we have learned much and now feel comfortable out here. Going forward one of the big unknowns was our ability to manage big weather. Stand by. 12:45 Aug 4 local time update
Well, last night we certainly learned a lot. We saw VERY large seas and winds over 40 knots. While we have seen large seas before, and seen 40 knots before, not like this. I can say that there were a couple of times I was scared. Fear does have a place out here, and if harnessed successfully, can help motivate you to ensure the safety of boat and crew. In our case, just after writing a bit of blog after midnight, a large storm came through that we are still dealing with. I was at the helm for 5 hours straight making sure we were keeping the boat running downwind and across the 20 foot waves correctly. Fear kicked in when I got the boat sideways a couple of times on the backside of one of those 20 footers and we were in danger of getting hit broadside. It never happened as I was able to get the boat pointed down the wave again, but from then on I was properly motivated. The entire night I stood at the helm watching as sets of 4-5 huge waves approached and successfully steered over them, carving a line so as not to punch the bow into the trough at the bottom. After a couple of hours I pretty much had it down, but would still get surprised by a sneak attack now and then. We got pooped several times, with waves coming into the cockpit, filling it with 5-7 inches of water. First time getting pooped for us on this boat.
So there you go, that trepidation that we would be able to handle heavy weather? Put away for the time being until the next big one comes along.
Day 2 Overview: -160 miles covered -20 foot seas, 35 knot sustained winds, gusts to 43 -Currently 24 knots sustained 15 foot seas -6.6 knot average speed -Surfed down one wave hitting 11.5 knots. That's 3 knots faster than theoretical max speed for this boat (8.5 hull speed) -Now tracking about 10 degrees North of the rhumbline course to maintain wind and swells on our stern quarter. -Little sleep, little food over past 12 hours