09 January 2009 | Fauro Island
As you can see from the Google Earth plot, we didn't get far today. Our plan was to have a go/no go call on the radio at 5:30AM but folks were already underway at that point. The forecast along the coast of Bouganville was for 18 knots on the nose.
Eighteen on the nose makes for nasty seas when there's no protection. There is a reef system off Bouganville but the area was new to all of us and we had no real idea if it would break the seas down or not. It didn't.
Hideko and I both suggested we stay in lovely Siniasoro Bay for a couple days until the spot showed light wind. Our friends were already off though and we are traveling as a group, so we took the minority position and joined the crew. Things are often light in the morning, and certainly when your behind the protective cover of Fauro island and the Shortland reef system.
As we began to make way up Bouganville, the forecast began to assert itself. We were all motor sailing (mostly motoring) with the wind on the nose. We stayed behind the reef but there's not much reef to speak of and the seas came right in on us. The forecast predicted 1.8 meters and by noon we were all making less than 4 knots, bashing into big steep head seas and generally having no fun. Then I saw the sky closing up.
That was it for us. We hailed our friends on the VHF working channel we had set up and called off the yacht torture session. I don't know why yachties, us included, get so hung up on keeping a schedule, especially when there is no reason to. No harm done of course but it certainly was a waste of diesel.
We had made it half way to Kieta but at a deteriorating speed. Swingin' on a Star was making the best time, but even we were looking at threading the reefy shoals into Kieta at dusk. Tomorrow was the same forecast and so we would likely have had to stay in port tomorrow, and Kieta was the last place we wanted to hang out.
Kieta is down the hill from the Copper Mine that was central to the whole Bouganville revolution, the last ten years running. Lonely Planet says Bouganville is open for tourism now, but many in the area suggest caution still be applied when it comes to floating your home into town.
For ten years young men focused on learning how to use guns and shoot people. Now the war is over and Bouganville is set to gain its brand of independence. I wonder what all of these young gun slingers are doing now? Carving masks for the non existent tourists?
We have been told that short stops are probably alright but not to hang around long in any one place. We plan to arrive late (sunset) and leave early (before dawn) at all Bouganville stops. Unfortunately between the Shortlands and Kieta there are no anchorages in a North to Northwest blow. You make Kieta, you go out to sea, or you go back.
Anyway once the decision was made to abort, I think the other boats were happy to follow suit. Whistler made for the closest safe harbor on a small island northeast of Fauro. We decided to head back to the north bay of Fauro about 6 miles farther on. The allure was that North Bay on Fauro was big, with an easy in and out, deep, well protected and offered a lot of anchoring possibilities. This last bit is important in this area because everything is deep. You need options to ensure that you will find something less than 100 feet to hook up in. We also wanted to make sure that there would be room for all three boats should everyone want to stay close by.
Thunder storms were sparking up all around as well and we didn't want to take the only anchoring hole at the closest spot since we were out front.
We made good time down wind, doing 7-9 knots with a double reefed main and jib. The sea was big and short but comfortable running off. As we got near our exit a TStorm started in on our tail, brewing off the coast of Bouganville. We were 2 miles from the bay and 2 miles from the storm. It was a race!
TStorms are no fun at sea. They change the wind direction, usually in an unpleasant way. They change the wind strength, first no wind and then too much, or vice versa. They dump on you and often white out the whole area so you are sailing blind, in this case amongst shoals and reefs. They also dump huge electrical currents into the ocean, and the occasional boat. We really wanted nothing to do with the thing.
We fired up the starboard engine and got up to 9 knots. This was keeping pace with the storm but we had to make a right turn in front of it to head into the anchorage. On came the port auxiliary. Ten knots, then eleven. Now we were talking. Yes, I could have put up more sail, but it would have taken longer and I would have had to reef it back again when the storm hit us with its 30 knots of angst. If you have read our blog you already know that we cruise for fun and to enjoy the wonderful people and places, not due to any sadistic "sail or die" mantra. We were motoring at top speed and happy for it.
The storm was going to nail us. We would reach the point and maybe get behind, but then it would hit. We got to the point and as the wind came on the beam we shot up to 12 knots. There was a long low swell wrapping around the point and we surfed it for 13, but the CPA (closest point of approach) for the storm was still 0. Then the radar cleared and the storm just dissipated.
What a rush. We did get rained on motoring back into the deep bay but the big hairy storm had vanished. There are several little bays with spur reefs protecting them to choose from in this area. We picked the one with the longest spur reef reaching out to break the swell. It is a lovely little harbor and very calm. We had to anchor in 90 feet as the bottom comes up fast from 80 to 0, but with the Rocna and 300 feet of chain, this is fine.
We set the anchor with 2,000 RPMs, both auxiliaries, and shut down. What a lovely place. I am almost glad we had to turn back. We are a good 5-10 miles farther along than where we started this morning.
As the rain tapered off Angelique motored in. Their Amel has such and awesome cockpit that even though they were right in the middle of the storm we were running from, neither of them were in the least bit wet or ruffled. They dropped in of to port and we toasted another idyllic anchorage across the water.
We have lost VHF contact with Whistler, so hopefully he is happily tucked into the bay on the south point of the little island just around the corner. We'll email him to see.
Hideko and I had a workout with all of the various sail operations, and jibing back down inside the reef. To put a cap on things Hideko made Doria, a yummy Japanese casserole, and we shared a bottle of mead. What a day.