05 September 2010
Fiji in less than 24 hours! We are just about to make a crucial turn around Wailangilala Light on the NE edge of the Fiji Islands, Lau Group, a long awaited waypoint on this passage. First we had to slip through two reefs and soon will round another larger reef called, Duff reef, before we can make that turn. We are doing this all the while facing weather that has given us our new personal records of 36 kts, 15 foot plus seas, and an all-time surf down a wave record of 13.2 knots GPS speed.
Theoretically our 33ft boat can travel 8.0 kts (this is calculated using the length at the waterline); realistically, we can travel at 6.5 knots comfortably if the sails are balanced and the seas are at the right angle. So 13.2 is rockin! Our other surfing moments were more like 10 and 11 kts and we had that happen maybe 10 times. At one point in the night we were slammed by a side wave that flipped open our hatch cover and dumped a bunch of water in the cabin. Ooops, we forgot to put the extra clip on the hatch lock. Otherwise, we're surviving the passage thanks again to Eric who is eternally optimistic and incredibly capable. He may even rightly claim single-handing some of this trip to Australia as I shut down when the wave action is too much. Give the kids snack and a book on tape and they can handle anything.
We will be in Fiji instead of back in Vavau awaiting a chart plotter replacement because we simply abandoned that problem and worked out another solution to our overall issue. We've blogged about that before (Eric downloaded software for a very old chartplotter we had in storage and our Fiji chip fired up just fine, albeit ¼ of the screen size we paid so dearly for.) We've also had problems holding our course on this passage because we had to travel 150 miles dead-down wind. Our boat sails best down wind when the wind angle is 120 to 140. We've had to keep it around 180 without gibing the boom just so we can keep our course. We've had to be precise because of the numerous reefs and shoals that dot the area between Tonga and Fiji. Yesterday we realized that we weren't going to be able to keep our course. We toyed with the idea of gibing to track North for a few miles and restart our position on the original course line, but in the end we decided to abandon that problem and plot a new course (not ideal but manageable) and try to keep to that instead. While solving other problems on this trip I find that we've employed a similar strategy to great result: If the problem you are trying to solve becomes to cumbersome, stop trying to solve it and focus on the result you want instead. Reinvent the issue in a way that you can solve it. We've had to cast off so many original plans and create new ones in order to move along. I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on that in a conscious way.