06 June 2011 | Sixty miles south east of Fiji
I woke up this morning, and after ten days at sea, I finally saw land again. The passage has been a bit longer than anticipated, as the winds were a bit light when we first left New Zealand, and again now near the end, but uneventful is what we were hoping for. The passage will have taken eleven days instead of the nine that we had planned on, but it really doesn't matter. I don't have anything pressing that I need to get to, other than maybe a bit of stainless steel polishing with a cold beer in my hand.
After being landlubbers for the last 7 months in New Zealand, we wanted to ease back into the sailing part again, and calmer weather and seas was just what we wanted. Setting sail into gale force winds, with squalls all around, was not what we were looking for right out of the gate, although we did get that soon enough. After about 3 days at sea, the weather started to change. We knew that there was a low- pressure system building, well to the north west of us, somewhere near Norfolk Island, so we were ready for it. It never got too bad though, as we skirted to the east of it's associated front, in anticipation of the southeast course it was suppose to take. A little weather dance, have you. Daily weather faxes and grib files allowed us to track the system nicely, and we slowed down to let the worst of it pass, then speed up a bit to get ahead of the next bit that was following behind. The seas never got to be much more that 4-5 meters and winds not gusting too much higher than 30 knots. We can take, and have taken, a lot more than that, but squalls at sea can still be a drag. They are sudden and powerful and can be very humbling. We are mere ants on the sea. As the fronts were developing, so were the lightning storms associated with them in the distance. We kept a close eye on them to ensure they didn't get too close. They can do incredible damage to a boat at sea. Mother Nature can sure put on an amazing light show. For two nights the incredible flashes or orange and white danced in the night sky around us.
We tended to be beating to wind a lot of the time, and with constant changes in the weather, sail changes seemed to be a consistent thing. Not that we are lazy, well maybe a bit, but letting sail out, then racing to bring some back in, while a squall is starting to rage, over and over again, is never our preference. It is least favourable at night, when the other person is sleeping and has to be awakened quickly to help bring in sail. After a couple nights of that, we start to get a bit tired from lack of sleep. Nerves can start to chafe a bit. So in the end we just left less sail out most of the time. It makes for a slower passage, but it also makes for an easier and far less stressful passage. And I am all about lowering stress.
Once north of about 25 degrees south latitude (about halfway between New Zealand and Fiji), we left the lows, fronts, highs, and general mess of subtropical weather behind us. We finally started getting the steady trade winds that we were waiting for. What a difference. The skies were clear and the winds were steady at 10-15 knots on the beam again. And even better than that, the temperatures were becoming a steady 26 degrees or so. It is great to see the incredible night sky at sea again. There are so many stars. It's amazing!
Lately, we have been joined along the way by a couple of boobies. They have just been flying around the boat. Watching. Sometimes one would show up, sometimes both. Just flying around; never landing on the boat. Maybe they are looking for a meal from a wayward flying fish that found its fate on Pursuit's deck during the night. The dead flying fish always have such a surprised look on their face when I find then all dried up on the deck in the morning. The two boobies reminded me of a blue-footed boobie that showed up once in the middle of our passage from the Galapagos to Easter Island. It must have been exhausted, so far from land. It showed up one day, just at dusk, circling the boat for a while and then landing on the top rail of the bow pulpit. We expected it to fly off shortly, but that evening we could still see it sitting up there, just resting in the red glow of the navigation light. The next morning it was still there. For the next day or so it just stayed there. Sometimes taking off, flying around the boat a little, but then returning to the same spot. Maybe it was refueling during the night on the flying fish that landed on the deck. I don't know, but one morning we woke up and it was gone. Rested and probably well fed. After being in New Zealand for so long, I almost forgot how much I missed these tropical passages. Amazing what a difference ten days at sea and a thousand miles can make.