Sailing to Kapingamarangi
21 January 2009 | South Pacific
My alarm when off at 4:20AM just as a rain shower hit. Nice, another half hour of sleep. Once the squall passed Hideko and I got the boat ready to sail, then back tracked our way out the pass. The pass exit was no problem but other morning squalls were brewing in the neighborhood. We had to decide whether to exit to the North, by lots of poorly charted reef and a pass between Nuguria and the adjacent atoll, or south around the fairly easy to see Pao Pao, but out of the way a good 10 miles. We started off to the south due to squall activity to the north. Poor vis, and reef scouting don't go well together.
After a short bit of southing we decided to do a 180 and head back north. The sun was coming on strong and clearing things up. We got rained on a bit but not too bad. We discovered that the extent of the Nuguria lagoon and reef was far beyond that charted and that even the shape was quite a bit different. In particular the reef runs north keeping the lagoon narrow in the vicinity of the Akani islands and Wreck island. Then, fairly suddenly, the reef heads due west, running right across the unsuspecting yacht's path (that would be us).
We picked up a bottom in the rain and headed off to port. After a 90 degree turn we began to make out the reef again. The southwest side of the reef often does not break in calm conditions. You can see it with good light though and the large bulb at the end of the lagoon is fairly shallow as well, so the bright greens and light blues of the sandy shallows come out nicely in the sunlight. After legging around to the west we finally cleared the lagoon and made way through the passage between Nuguria and the adjacent atoll. This passage was about one fifth the charted width, but still plenty wide.
In summary, I would suggest staying 5 miles off of this area unless you are planning to make landfall, in which case I would suggest doing so with good light and knowledge of the poorly charted nature of the vicinity.
Once through the passage between atolls and into open water, we hailed Whistler and Angelique. Both were still at anchor, so we gave them the new exit waypoint for the pass between the atolls. We had left early in the day in the hopes that we could make Kaping by afternoon tomorrow. If we can keep 8 knots on we'll do it. The wind was forecast 10-15 from 115 degrees, which is on the beam apparent for us. If the forecast comes true we'll have no problem. That is a big "if" though. If not we'll be standing off over night. We were motor sailing with full jib and main at 8 knots early in the day with 5 knots of true wind.
Angelique and Whistler made their way out of the lagoon at around 8:30AM. They are both committed to a 2 day passage. I am discovering a big catamaran drawback of late, we are always the ones calling back the safe entry waypoints after transiting the hairy passes.
We hailed Angelique prior to losing VHF contact and set up a chat frequency on 4.045MHz USB should we end up out of range, which we quickly were. We checked in with each other every two hours just for fun.
Various squalls were wandering about in the light, doldrum like conditions. We got a lift from a couple squalls but never long enough to shut down the motor. Then in the late afternoon we crossed a line of clouds (several of them raining) and boom, there were the NE trades. We had 15-18 knots from 50 apparent. Off went the motor and we started making 8.5 knots under sail. I hope it holds, things are lightening up after sunset.
As much as I hated to do it, we tucked a reef in the main at sundown. There are just too many squalls about to have to deal with reefing in the middle of the night. We'll fire up a diesel if we need to in order to keep pace. At present we can probably make the pass if we arrive by 3PM, which means high 7 knots for the rest of the way in. We shall see.
170 miles to Kapingamarangi
P.S. Jordan, if you're out there, drop us a line via sail mail (wdd4278).