Yahoo! We're here! We've arrived in a tropical paradise!
This morning the sky was dark and menacing. Squall after squall hammered us with high winds and rain. We were worried that it would be too stormy and the visibility too poor to negotiate the pass and cross the lagoon to our anchorage. We soldiered on towards Penrhyn hopeful the weather might improve.
As the atoll came into view, long and low with groves of palm trees and surf pounding on the shore, the sun finally and magically broke through. We arrived at Taruia Passage just past noon in bright sunshine and perfect visibility! Once inside the pass, the next task was to cross the lagoon, dodging the large coral heads. They were clearly visible, large turquoise flat-topped islands, looking like swimming pools floating in a the deep blue sea. Amazing colors!
We anchored in just 12 feet of crystal clear water over a bed of perfectly white sand. The water here is calm, almost like glass, despite the 20 kts of winds blowing hard on the other side of the little motu. The anchorage is just off the village of Te Tautua on the far east side of the atoll. In short order we jumped into the inviting water for a refreshing swim and landfall beers, swigging them back while still in the water! It was awesome. A short while later a group of kids paddled out to meet us, laughing and playing games, jumping off Sarah Jean.
Their visit was followed by a family in a boat who brought us the village guest book for visiting yachts. We are just the third boat to visit so far this season! Beth inquired about the availability of the famous Penrhyn woven hats. The women told us all the hats had all been shipped to Rarotonga but she could make one for Beth for church on Sunday! Now that's hospitality! Then the pastor came by and invited us to church on Sunday. It seems everyone in Penrhyn, including visiting cruisers, is expected to be at church! Our final visitor was a big nurse shark who swam lazily amongst us as we floated about. What a great welcome!
Just a few minutes ago our friends on s/v Long Shot II arrived and dropped anchor beside us. With our encouragement and armed with everyone's names, the village kids abandoned us and swam over to welcome the Long Shot crew. They, like us, are happy to be at last in a calm anchorage, away from the constant rolling of the boat and the constant and unsettling assault of thesqualls. Tonight we will all sleep well!
Our crew did and awesome job dealing with difficult conditions. Our passage was fast and steady - no slowing down to take a break. As before, it was nice to have an extra set of hands aboard. And Sarah Jean, as always was swift and sure footed, all systems working flawlessly throughout the passage. Three cheers for everyone, including SJ!
Tomorrow we will go ashore and met the villagers. More news to follow . . .
It is Thursday afternoon in the South Pacific. The sky is clear except for a few puffballs drifting by high overhead. The sun is scorching. We have all our shade covers in place. The cabin temperature is 34 C and climbing. It's not just hot; it is sticky hot, like a sauna. I don't perspire much but I am dripping. To move is to sweat. Every now and again we spray ourselves with the cockpit hose. The 20 kt breeze across the cockpit instantly evaporates the spray giving momentary relief. Then we are hot again. We are gulping down water at about the same rate the water maker is producing it, working hard at staying hydrated. Such is life in a small boat sailing towards the equator!
All that being said, things aboard Sarah Jean are stellar! We are making excellent progress with strong easterly winds on our beam. We have about 125 miles to go to Penrhyn Atoll. We expect to arrive there around noon tomorrow. We have actually slowed the boat down a little to keep to this noon arrival schedule. We want to arrive at slack water at the pass into the lagoon. We also want the sun to be overhead and behind us as we work our way eastward across the lagoon to the anchorage. There will be lots of coral heads to avoid and we want to be sure to see them.
We are very excited about our imminent arrival in paradise! Our landfall beers are in the fridge chilling!
The subject of today's ramble is the SUBLIME MOMENT. What do I mean by this term? An example will follow but I am talking about a special experience that presents itself to you at a time and in such a way that you can take it all in; fully appreciate it and savor it, like slowly consuming that perfect dish of crème caramel. A SUBLIME MOMENT is joyous and fulfilling; it makes you glad to be alive! It's, like wow! It might come from a warm embrace, the sound of stirring music or the sighting of something beautiful and extraordinary. The funny thing is that the potential for a SUBLIME MOMENT is all around us every day. But the magic only occurs if you have the time and state of mind to reach out and meet the MOMENT half way. On a small boat in the middle of the ocean I've found conditions are ideal for SUBLIME MOMENTS to occur. And that's a very good thing because the more frequently they occur the more fulfilling and satisfying our life becomes!
The other day, after battling squall after squall under slate gray skies, and being knocked about in very lumpy seas, a glimmer of orange light appeared on the western horizon. The sun was trying to peak through. At first this effort appeared to be in vain. But slowly the horizon brightened into pinks and oranges as the determined sun broke through. There was a mystical aura about the sun, a fuzzy glow that cast a pastel pink light across the entire sky. We were suddenly sailing under a pink and mauve dome! As we gazed about we looked to the east, away from the setting sun, and were astonished to see a perfect rainbow behind us, touching the ocean, set against the strange pink sky. It was surreal; like some weird Technicolor event from the Wizard of Oz.
It was now dinnertime. Beth served a delicious lamb stew. With the strange rainbow arcing overhead we sat watching in awe as the sunset transformed into band after band of flaming red and orange. The rainbow quietly vanished behind us. Eventually, about an hour later, the sunset died to a few glowing embers scattered amongst the clouds. It was a breathtaking event. My description does not do it justice. Nor will my photos I'm sure.
At home in the suburbs we probably would have missed it. Even if noticed I doubt we would have taken the time to watch and appreciate the sunset being born, the brilliant radiance of its short life and it's slow but beautiful decay to embers. It was indeed a SUBLIME MOMENT, I think for all of us. The MOMENT was presented; made available to us and we were ready for it, with time and eagerly receptive minds, ready to drink it all in and savor it. It was, for us, a good day to be alive!
We are looking forward to finding more such SUBLIME MOMENTS as we continue our journey home!
Today's update comes to you from David.
Greetings everyone. Sarah Jean II is sailing well today in steady ENE winds. We have a blue sky dotted with harmless cumulous clouds and the sea is its usual vibrant blue. This is a return to normal for us as yesterday was largely overcast with rain coming in the morning. On the upside, yesterday was much cooler than it is at present.
The theme for today is Close Encounters . . . of the Shipping Kind. In the 24 hours since the start of Beth's 2100-0000 watch on Tuesday and the end of my 1900-2100 watch Wednesday, we've had three encounters with boats; boats that were not giving off AIS (Automatic Identification System) nor visible on radar.
When I came up on deck Tuesday morning, Norm asked me if Beth had told me about the non-AIS boat she saw the previous evening. I hadn't seen Beth yet that morning, so no, she hadn't. Beth saw the ship's lights in the distance, checked for an AIS signal, checked on radar, but there was nothing. Two of our electronic safety systems at night had vetted no warning. That was a pretty big deal. When I pondered the encounter we had that night, I was reminded of this "complacency due to technology" effect that occurs. That thought was followed up with the thought: "Well, what are the odds of that happening again?" As it happens, the odds were excellent.
During my 1200-1500 watch Tuesday, we were motoring with only the mainsail up and I sat looking forward on the starboard side reading. Since we were motoring and trailing a tow generator, Norm kept the radar on so we wouldn't over charge the batteries. We had had rain most of the morning and our radar screen showed the yellow 'butterfly' marking of rain taking up most of the screen. I then gave a cursory look around (it was daylight, how much looking do you need?) and sat back down again. Moments later, I looked up and there before us, coming in our direction, was a large white ship. Now, since this blog could reasonably be considered family entertainment, I won't repeat what I said. (I'll give you a hint though: it started with 'f' and ended with 'ck'.) Where did he come from? I just checked the radar! I looked for an AIS signature. Nothing. I looked at the radar again. Rain. If he had AIS, it wasn't turned on. His radar return was being hidden among all the rain being picked up. So where did he come from? He came from behind the trysail bag attached to the mast and storm jib bag on the inner forestay which hindered my view forward. I didn't see him because I didn't scan the horizon forward of the boat. He did see us though as I had noticed his starboard side which meant he had turned and was going to pass in front of us. How close did he come? Probably within a mile. Close enough for us to smile and wave (which was ignored).
Needless to say, I spent more time scanning the horizon by eyeball after that. Just as night had fallen and I began my 1900-2100 watch came our third encounter. I noticed a glow on the horizon. It disappeared behind a swell as we bobbed up and down. When I saw it again, I was sure it was a boat. Binoculars confirmed it, though not visible on AIS nor radar . . . again. It was a fishing boat and remained more or less stationary. The closest we came was two miles, more because it was us advancing towards it and not the other way around. We changed course some and kept a good eye on it. Within an hour, we left it behind us.
The benefit of our electronic warning systems is that we have more reaction time. So if we get no warning and suddenly see a boat in close proximity to us, it is a cause for great concern. For even if all the technology we have shows another boat out there, the question remains: do they see us?
This goes to show that despite all the technology we and others have, if it's not being used properly, not being used at all, or unable to do its thing because of various circumstances such as rain and large swells, it's useless. The fact that basic eyeball technology is the best early warning system for ships and other hazards shouldn't be forgotten. A good lesson re-learned.
I was on the helm last night, watching for squalls on the radar, when all of a sudden I heard a loud thump. I shone my headlamp on the transom but there was nothing there. I thought perhaps a flying fish had landed in the cockpit. It was a mystery . . . until this morning.
I am on the sunrise shift now. David and I switched watches so I now have 9:00 p.m. to midnight and then 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. He took my 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. shift. I think I have the better deal because this morning I watched a spectacular sunrise. The sky was a bright orange and pink behind a curtain of clouds. As daylight unfolded I realized what made the loud thump last night. We had two bunches of bananas tied to the radar arch above our stern. One was missing! What a tragedy! A whole bunch of bananas lost to the sea. I hope we can get more on Penrhyn. Perhaps we can trade some T-shirts, sunglasses or fish hooks. If not, there will be no bananas for us till we get to Hawaii in about one month's time.
We are making good progress with wind mostly on the beam and continued fast sailing. On our first night at sea on this passage we had a beautifully clear star filled night. Last night was a different story. We had one squall after another after another! It kept us busy, reefing the main and genoa to get ready for a squall and then shaking out the reefs to keep our speed up after the squall had passed. We also had lightening and some thunder so we tucked the computer and our satellite phone into the stainless steel oven to protect them. With all the squall activity I hardly had any time to read during my watch! Speaking of reading, I am currently working on a big fat book: "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett. I really enjoyed his "Pillars of the Earth" series; good historical fiction. This new trilogy is set in WWI with lots of juicy characters. It has 1,000 pages so it should keep me entertained for a while. A good book really helps to pass the time on these long passages. Norm is reading "The Light between Oceans" by ML Steadman. It's about a lighthouse keeper and his wife near Perth, Australia who face a moral dilemma when a boat washes up on their beach with a baby on board. David is on his third book by Iain M Banks. This one is called "Inversions". It's a science fiction book involving a bodyguard and a doctor. What are you reading? We should make landfall on Penrhyn in the Northern Cook Islands on Friday, just in time for the Canadian May long weekend! How strange to be on a remote island in the South Pacific on the Victoria Day long weekend instead of at my Mom's on Mayne Island in the Southern Gulf Islands on the west coast of Canada. For 20 years our family would pile in our little power boat and dash across the Strait of Georgia to Mayne to visit my Mom and Dad for the May long weekend. Wonderful memories! I am looking forward to seeing Sarah Jean II on her mooring again out in front of my Mom's place on Mayne. We expect to arrive home in early August. That will be a sweet, sweet day after this long passage from NZ. In the meantime we will enjoy the snorkeling on the coral reef at Penrhyn, something we can't do in the Gulf Islands. This will be our last South Pacific atoll anchorage on our 3 year Pacific sailing adventure.
Bye bye! It's time to reef again. Another squall is coming!
Our first 24 hours at sea have been excellent! We have enjoyed a nice east southeast breeze of 18 kts on the beam. Fast and smooth, this is our favorite point of sail! As the sun set we gobbled down yummy little caramelized onion and spinach quiches that Beth found at the Saturday market. For all of us sleep was illusive, typical of a first night at sea. We are not quite used to the noise and motion of the boat, nor exhausted enough to just crash as soon as our head hits the pillow. Maybe tonight will be better.
The big swells from the southern storm arrived in the night but had little effect other than to give us some extra surfing speed. We were picked up and then sledded down the front sides of the rollers, often at speeds in excess of 9.0 kts! Good fun when swells are behind you and give a boost! We are moving northwards at a good clip with 170 miles racked up in 24 hours since leaving Raro at 1:00 p.m. yesterday. If we can keep our pace up we should be able to make Penrhyn on Friday with time to spare so we can negotiate the pass at slack current and with the sun high overhead.
A few miles to the east of us is our buddy boat, Long Shot II from Victoria. Believe it or not we met them at sea on the passage from NZ to Raro. What a great family! The parents are Doug and Susan and the kids are Charlie, Riley and the cutest little girl ever, Saylor. Yes indeed, a little girl named Saylor who lives on a boat! Gotta love it! She is one tough 6 year old who hiked with us across Rarotonga with great enthusiasm, up mountains and down mountains, chattering nonstop, keeping us greatly entertained!
Their boat is a beautiful 43T Hans Christian Ketch. It was beached and written off in a Florida hurricane. Doug and Susan bought it on EBay for a song, shipped it back to Canada and lovingly restored it over a number of years. Her woodwork now gleams and the dark green hull, which Doug painted himself in Awlgrip, looks stunning set against the bright teak and green canvas work. He also, fixed a monster hole in the hull, rebuilt the engine, totally rewired the boat, repaired all the cabinetry, and built an all new stainless pulpit and new solid stainless steel lifelines. The reborn boat is an impressive testament to what some determination and talent can achieve!
Long Shot is going to Penrhyn Island, Hawaii and then back to Canada so the kids can get back to school. We're looking forward to traveling with them as we both journey towards home.
Until tomorrow . . .
After an action packed week on Rarotonga we departed around noon on Sunday for Penrhyn Island. It lays approximately 740 miles straight north. It is a large atoll about 13 miles long by 8 miles wide with a massive lagoon in the middle. The population of 240 people occupy themselves making the most amazing woven hats, fans inset with mother of pearl and farming pipi pearls that shine with a gold luster. We have heard the villagers are very welcoming and the snorkeling is fabulous. After a busy time in the highly touristy Rarotonga we're looking forward to the more sedate pace of this tiny Pacific atoll.
We did lots of stuff on Raro including a scooter ride around the island which lasted all of 45 minutes including a stop for a banana milk shake. Yup . . . it's a very small island! We explored the shops in town where Beth found a pearl necklace she just had to have. I found some antibiotics for a slightly infected foot. They made it all better. We were both happy with our purchases! We attended a Polynesian song and dance night up a mountain. It was very good - great rhythmic drumming and fabulous costumes. One day we rented a little convertible car, all piled in, and drove around the island, this time clockwise, stopping at Sails Restaurant for lunch followed by a swim and snorkel in a giant aquamarine lagoon with a sandy bottom. It was only a few feet deep - much like a giant swimming pool. Beth spotted eels and an octopus amongst other things!
We hit quite a few places for dinner and beers ashore including Bamboo Jacks and Trader Jacks - popular local watering holes. Yesterday, in the company of a family on a sailboat from Victoria called Long Shot II, we hiked up through the mountains to a spectacular rock pinnacle and then down through the jungle on the other side. We caught the bus back to the harbor. While Beth and I hiked David attende a local rugby match. On Saturday there was a fabulous market nearby - everything you could imagine from fruit and veggies to hand painted cloth to ukuleles. My favorite was the almond croissant stand. We even bought Beth and Sarah Jean a huge bouquet of flowers that are now sitting in a bucket of water in the cockpit strapped to the back stay. This morning, before departure, we attended a church service. The singing was great and the ladies' Sunday hats, as always on the islands, were spectacular.
Sometime during the week we did a bunch of boat maintenance work and also went to sea for an afternoon to make room for the tall ship, Picton Castle, to enter the harbor and tie up. Later in the day the crew took us for an interesting tour.
One other thing. Upon arrival Beth bought about 10 kg of yellow fin tuna from a local fishing guy. It was awesome. We had it for lunch and dinner all week whenever eating on Sarah Jean. Last night it was tuna tacos. Today we finally finished it in a tuna salad for lunch. Whew - what a culinary ordeal! We are not going to fish for a few days!
Our trip north to Penrhyn should take 5-6 days depending on wind. The forecast is for steady winds from the east, hitting us on our beam, so it should be a good sail. The only issue is a big storm south of us is kicking up a significant swell. We should see these 5 meter rollers tomorrow - lumbering north like freight trains. With a period from wave top top wave top of about 12 seconds they should not affect us too much.
We are happy to be out at sea again. It's much more relaxing.
And it's nice to be chatting to YOU again. Thanks for joining us on this short voyage!