28 November 2011
I'm excited. We are 700 miles away from Opua, the conditions are beautiful, we are putting good miles in. We have really noticed a difference in our boat speed now we have a clean hull and hardly any provisions left! We received an update from the weather man in NZ, who said leave at noon on Sunday and don't dilly dally. If possible leave earlier. So, we were all ready to leave at 10am, when another boat returned to the reef with autopilot problems. So we put the motor back on the dinghy and Mark went over to see if he could fix it for them. He found out the problem, but it wasn't a loose wire or a dodgy connection unfortunately. The motor was knackered and he couldn't do anything about that. Luckily, they have other means of steering so hopefully they got those sorted. We had to leave. Bob had said. Three hours later and we were off. We've caught up time nicely though, even passing another yacht (unheard of!!) And whilst I was waiting for Mark to get back, I cleaned the bilges, made some soup and some bread and the boat has never looked so tidy, so all was not in vain!
25 November 2011
It might be absolutely beautiful here and a paradise for our nature loving kids but the toilet still needs seeing to!
The kids and I spent the morning on school work whilst Mark cooked the fresh meat before it starts to go off. He's now made a few meals for our trip which will make it easier for us when we are underway.
At low tide we went back over to the reef, this time exploring the outer edge, where the ocean meets the reef. It feels incredible to be standing on the very edge of the reef (which took us about 30 minutes to walk across) with the waves crashing and then just stopping there in front of you. At the edge of the reef are deep crevices, a couple of metres wide with sea carved shapes cut into the rock. Mia finds a perfect ring - the Minerva toilet, and takes the opportunity to have a wee - timing her evacuation, so that the next wave in gives her a nice wash as it flushes through!
Then it's back to the inner reef for the kids to have a snorkel in the calm shallow, warm waters - even so, it's getting decidedly chillier, the further South we head - even Mia has taken to wearing clothes at times. Mia finds a perfect sea urchin skeleton and they both see a lion fish. Later Lochy tells me that he's glad it didn't bite him as it's highly venomous, according to his SAS survival guide. He's inspired enough to draw it in his school book and write a few lines about it.
There are now 6 boats in the lagoon - all the others are German speaking, which makes it much more difficult to eavesdrop on the radio chat about the weather! But amongst the chat comes 'nein vind' which I think means no wind so we'll probably wait until tomorrow afternoon or even Sunday before leaving.
And talking of toilets, Mark has finally found the cause of the mystery of the non-flushing toilet - and fixed it, giving him great jobbie satisfaction.
24 November 2011
Before I start, I just want to say Heartbeat were able to find a solution for their forestay and have actually continued on to NZ without stopping at Minerva reef - they must have given a wrong position yesterday as their current position put them to the South East of Minerva.
We arrived in Minerva at lunchtime. What an amazing place. I was quite nervous about heading to a reef in the middle of the ocean, but as it was day time, we could see the other 3 boats anchored and then the turquoise patch of water in the middle of the deep dark blue.
The pass into the reef was wide enough not to be a problem and we joined the others in the South East corner of the reef. As the rocks were uncovered, we dinghied over to the reef and had a little walk. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean! What a zoologist's paradise. As soon as we arrived at the reef, then a white tipped reef shark came to say hello, then we saw octopus, sea cucumbers, sea slugs, large clam shells; one of which squirted Mia in the fave with sea water, perhaps the funniest thing we have seen together as a family! (Although the Gibraltar ape peeing on Mark's bag came a close second!)
It seemed quite amusing to see the other crew also on the reef and to stop for a chat. Apparently the snorkelling here is amazing, but the sea was so clear we didn't need to snorkel, but the kids had a swim off the back of the boat in the afternoon. Mark and I caught up on sleep whilst the kids did their school work by themselves and now we're just planning what to have for dinner and then take a look at the weather. I'm very pleased we stopped off here. What an experience. Current position: 23.38S 178.53W
23 November 2011
A lively sail
Well, the winds lessened to 25 knots for a while but they're back up to 30 again so it's been a lively sail all day at about 7 knots. We still have 3 reefs in the main but are due to arrive in Minerva at first light tomorrow to join the other boats that left the day before us.
When Heartbeat left (a day ahead of us), we gave them our satellite phone to use as they did not have any way of getting weather info or updating their current position. Given that Sophie is pregnant, we wanted to be reassured that they had a way of contacting land if they needed. Jacolette from Goody back in South Africa kindly agreed to be our shore support, receiving texts from Heartbeat and sending them to us in e mails and vice versa. Last night was quite rough, so I did not check my e mails for a while as I was feeling quite sick, so we were surprised to receive an update from Jacolette to say Heartbeat had lost their forestay and what was our position, would we be near them soon? Unfortunately, some time had lapsed before we got the message, and when we got an update as to their position, they were now further North from us, so it appears they are heading back to Tonga. We are waiting for good news that they have arrived back in Tonga safely. This morning on the Southern Cross SSB net, I was able to relay their situation, so other boats in the area can be alert. This is the one leg where there are other boats around as New Zealand becomes a bit of a bottle neck for yachts escaping the cyclone season of the South Pacific. I think we'll get another position update at 6pm local time, so am checking my e mails regularly. Otherwise, all well onboard Pegasus. We're really pleased we are stopping at Minerva now to wait for good winds to take us down to Opua. Curr position: 22.42S 177.36W
22 November 2011
About 5 boats left the anchorage yesterday, but we were happy to wait one more day. Just as we were about to leave, the winds picked up to about 30 knots in the anchorage, so we weren't sure whether to leave right away. The question was answered by the kids' toilet becoming blocked and so Mark spent some time trying to work out the problem. He even went in to the water to see if he could unblock it from the outside. Unfortunately, it seems to be more a pump issue than a big log issue, so for now we'll all be using the same head!
The winds did lessen, so we left at midday; if we had left any later, we thought we might risk getting in after dark. When you're heading to a reef in the middle of the ocean you don't really want that. And now, conditions are best described as lively - the wind is 30 knots SE true on our beam, swell about 2-3 metres in the same direction. We have 3 reefs in the sails and are still going 6.7 knots. SO now we might be getting in at dark, though it will be the night before! Mia is asleep - her remedy for seasickness and we're all feeling a bit queasy - we should get our sea legs just as we arrive in Minerva! Curr position: 21.16S 175.43W
11/20/2011, Pangaimotu, Tongatapu, Tonga
We're leaving Tuesday. Or maybe tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday. Having said we're not going to Minerva reef, we've decided we possibly will. Or probably. But maybe not. If you've not gathered already, sailing can never be a definite art. There are just too many variables to consider. However, having decided and told other boats that we are going to leave tomorrow (Monday) and we are going to stop off at Minerva for 3 nights, we've just come back to the boat and asked ourselves why would we want to be in the middle of a reef in the middle of the ocean for three nights? So, if we leave Tuesday, we can get there Thursday and then leave on Saturday for Opua, hopefully getting in around 2nd December. This way, we can avoid the patch of no wind for two days (by being at Minerva reef) and avoid the patch of high winds that should be in NZ around the 4th December. Bob McDavitt, NZ's weather ambassador, has recommended leaving Mond/Tues if stopping off at the reef, or Thursday if going straight there. But we're chomping at the bit now, so Tuesday it is.