Finally Underway! (or, Third Time's the Charm)
28 July 2008 | Underway to Rarotonga
We finally departed Bora Bora again yesterday. "Again?" you say? Well, here's the story.
The day after our friends on Blue Plains Drifter headed out (with 6 other boats) for Surrarow in the northern Cook Islands, John and I looked at the weather data (grib files, Buoy Weather, etc.). It looked like a good weather window might be closing if we didn't leave almost immediately. Although the forecast showed winds a bit on the high side of what we like (mid to upper 20's instead of around 15) for that day and the next it also showed the winds getting really light after that, and staying light for several days beyond. We had a couple of days left on our visa, but we didn't want to leave in light wind conditions and have to motorboat it. We've heard reports that diesel fuel in Rarotonga was $11US per gallon so any motoring is a very expensive. Also, we were just ready to GO. You know, itchy feet.
I will state here that John had some misgivings about leaving in the strong winds, but my feeling was we have a strong boat that can easily handle those conditions, and if we don't head out we'll be stuck in Bora beyond our visa for who knows how long?
So we made a mad dash to take on water at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, grab some more duty-free diesel at the fuel dock, check out with the gendarmerie and buy some final groceries. Then we headed out. straight into stronger than forecasted winds and large, bumpy seas. We were immediately UNCOMFORTABLE. Poor Sophie had been watching a movie down below with Maddie. Big mistake. She came up looking a bit green around the gills and feeling quite miserable.
John and I discussed the situation. Maybe this was the stronger wind that was supposed to hit tomorrow? Or maybe this is today's wind, underforecasted by nearly 10 knots? And what if tomorrow's forecast was similarly off? That would mean instead of wind gusting to 30 we might have winds closer to 40. Um, no thank you. We were only about an hour and a half out of Bora and really, we hadn't been kicked out of French Polynesia (yet) so we really needn't rush anything. One more look at Sophie's misery and the prospect of a 5-day passage like this convinced us to turn back to Bora Bora. Listening to the SSB net later that day and for the next few days convinced us we'd made the right call. Blue Plains Drifter and the other boats heading to Surarrow got caught in a "squash zone" with high winds and incredibly rough seas. Three of the boats in their group took significant damage. For more details on their experience check out their website (yes, it's much nicer than ours) at bpdrifter.com. Even the boats that were taking the southerly or a more westerly course were taking a beating. Fortunately no one was hurt and everyone made landfall safely.
So obviously we're glad we turned back. I'm sure Meridian would have handled the seas as well as Blue Plains Drifter, our sistership, and we would have arrived safely. But like Jim and Tiffany we would have arrived exhausted from a very uncomfortable, sleepless and stressful passage.
So we went back to Bora and went back to watching the weather data. Several days later we thought we would head out again. The wind was forecasted to be a bit light, but we figured it might be wrong (often is) and plus we were feeling a bit like scoff-laws as our visa had expired and we'd been checked out of the country for nearly a week.
Once again we said our good-byes to our friends still in the anchorage and motored toward the pass that would lead us out of Bora's lagoon. As we neared the pass we hailed a boat that was just coming in. (The best source of weather info is always from someone who's out in it, or just came in from it.) They told they'd just come all the way from Tahiti and the whole time the wind was less than 5 knots. Well, that's not going to work for us. Okay, back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
So now it's Monday. We headed out of Bora Bora's Teavanui pass, for the third time, yesterday. The wind was stronger than forecast but never more than 21 knots, and often down to 8- so really, all over the place. We're beating into the wind and swell (but, hey at least it's not on the beam) but all in all it's not too bad. We've got a little over 400 miles to go...