A Segue In Life

Port: Toronto
04 January 2015 | Tropical North Pacific
18 November 2014 | Talgula Island, PNG
14 November 2014 | Between Vanuatu and PNG
13 November 2014 | Between Vanuatu and PNG
26 September 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
20 September 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
19 September 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
15 August 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
16 April 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
16 April 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
16 April 2014 | Ha'pai Group, Tonga

Tropical Topics, or, Plan "B"

04 January 2015 | Tropical North Pacific
Colin Dykstra
It was a simple plan. Depart from New Ireland PNG and head towards the Philippines via a couple of remote atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a formal check-in to Palau -- a few days/weeks exploring this reputedly gorgeous country, then off to the Philippines.

Nature had a different idea.

After fighting our way across the equator, through the squally ITCZ and finally getting up into the trade winds of the north pacific (at around 3.5-4 degress north), a routine check of the weather crashed our plans. A nasty little tropical depression was forming up and forecast to exactly coincide with our route through FSM/Palau. A really nasty little system. Our first planned stop was the atoll of Elato at 7N / 146E (we'd be there today if we'd stuck to our plan) will be hit with at least 70 knots in three days and experience a true 180 degree wind shift. That's the forecast today -- and each day the forecast gets stronger and stronger....

So, it's time for plan "B"! We're now heading for Guam.

We're well ahead of the system and there's nothing in the forecast that indicates that making it up to this port will present any issues. It's 385 miles from where we are right now -- but we ARE in the NE trades and the forecast calls for 15-20 knots from the NE. PERFECT close-reaching conditions for Segue.

The real question is -- now -- where next? Lots of options from Guam!

Landfall!

18 November 2014 | Talgula Island, PNG
Colin Dykstra
November 15, 16, 17 enroute from Vanuatu (Espiritu Santo) to PNG (by way of the Luisiades) Days 3,4,5 =======================Did I mention that a boring passage is a good passage? Not much to report. Great sailing conditions all days. No need to motor except to charge-up the batteries. On day 5, we ran with the spinnaker up all day. Took it down at night as the wind picked up a bit and clocked so that we were able to carry the genoa with little loss of speed. LOVE the masthead sail configuration of this boat!

November 18 Landfall - Talgula Island, Luisiades, PNG Day 6 =======================There were some BIG squalls around so we decided not to carry the ¬'chute today. At 11:00 am, because of some strong winds coming off one squall, we dropped the main and motor-sailed under genoa alone. With this combination we were able to make 9-10 knots all day with the wind dead behind us. At this wind angle, the main is REALLY inefficient and causes a LOT of stress on the gooseneck and preventer hardware. It¬'s much easier on the boat (and the nerves!) to use just headsails when running directly downwind.

We made landfall at 15h50 and entered the barrier reef through the Deijei Radi Pass (11 41.4¬'S / 153 30.1¬'E). By chance we arrived at very close to slack high tide and there was less than a knot current through this lovely, wide (1/2 nm) pass.

We made our way to the lee of Vanema Island and at 17h10 had the anchor down at 11 35.59¬'S / 153 30.35¬'E.

In all we sailed a total of 917 nm, at an average speed of 7.25 knots and took 5 days, 6 hours and 35 minutes. Not bad considering the wind was aft of the beam the entire distance and rarely above 15 knots true!

Boring is good

14 November 2014 | Between Vanuatu and PNG
Colin Dykstra
November 14, 2014 enroute from Vanuatu (Espiritu Santo) to PNG (by way of the Luisiades) Day 2 ====================A boring passage is a good passage! So far, it¬'s been pretty uneventful. We continue to be under the influence of late season SE trades ¬-- with the wind at steady 20-25 knots from the SE. The seas have been building and the wind waves are consistently at 2+ meters. Segue loves these conditions and is happily knocking the miles off at a steady 10-11 knots with frequent surfs in the mid teens.

Only 10-11 knots? Yep. The wind is well aft of the beam (the autopilot is set to 125 apparent. We¬'re also HEAVY at the moment. With the 400 litters of fuel we took on in Luganville, plus absolutely stuffed fridges and freezers, added to which are countless trade goods, we¬'re a good 2 tonnes over our ideal cruising weight. It¬'s REALLY noticeable. That said, we¬'ll eat well, trade well when we get to PNG and indo and have fun!

Back to the boring part. My definition of a great passage is one that is truly boring. Boring means keeping a really good eye on the weather. Right now, the forecast indicates that the current trades will stay with us for at least another 24 hours. After that, there is a trough off of the SPCZ forecast to influence us. If we remain right on the rhumb line we¬'ll run right into this stuff. Lots of precipitation, a bit of light rotation, and winds up into the 30s. If, however, we stay south of the rhumb line we should miss this all together. So, that exactly what we¬'ll do ¬-- sail a little extra distance, but avoid potential drama. Boring is GOOD!

Setting off on another great adventure!

13 November 2014 | Between Vanuatu and PNG
Colin Dykstra
November 13, 2014 enroute from Vanuatu (Espiritu Santo) to PNG (by way of the Luisiades) Day 1 ====================It¬'s with truly sad hearts that we leave Vanuatu. This country has truly captured us and we look forward to returning sometime in the not too distant future. The sailing is MAGNIFICENT. The layout of the islands in relation to the prevailing trade winds makes all of the islands accessible. Yes, there might be occasional upwind work, but this can mostly be done in fairly sheltered waters.

Every village we have stopped at have welcomed us with open arms and hearts. The cultural diversity is stunning. The waters are teaming with wildlife of all sorts. And ¬-- when a dose of 1st world comforts is needed, a quick trip to the small but bustling capital of Port Vila is all that is needed ¬-- there to enjoy a freshly baked pain chocolate with a latte. Perfect!

Cyclone season is, however, imminent. Having lived through one season in Fiji last year was enough! So, we're heading to the north coast of Papua New Guinea ¬-- via the Luisiade Archipelago. While the Luisiades ARE in the ¬"unsafe¬" box as far as storm development, there have only been two named storms through here in the past 30 years before January. We will, of course, maintain a close watch on anything developing via regular weather updates and participation in various SSB nets.

Our first day of sailing has been absolutely STUNNING! We¬'ve run over 60 nautical miles over the past 8 hours! The wind is aft of the beam and are classic trade-wind patterns. The forecast shows these holding steady for the next three of four days. One of the primary reasons we¬'ve chosen this path (rather than the more typical Vanuatu/Solomons/Northern Outer PNG Islands) is because of these trades. Most boats that have gone the Solomons route have ended up motorsailing for days on end as the trades utterly disappear once one enters the southern Solomons.

Our basic route plan is to cruise through the Luisiades for a few days, then formally enter the country at the port of Alotua in Milne Bay on the east end of the main island. This is reputed to be a very safe place as there is no way into or out of Milne bay except by sea or plane (due to the geography of PNG). From here, we¬'ll pretty much sail direct off just off the coast to the indonesian port of Jayapura (after a quick stop in Vanimo Harbour where we will check-out of PNG and also get our visas in order for Indo.

Enroute -- Tanna to Efete

26 September 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Colin Dykstra
September 26th, 2014, 20h15 (local time) 19 15.0'S / 169 20.8'E

We're on our way to Port Vila on Efete Island (the National Capitol). We just left Tanna behind and ahead is Erromango Island. We'd like to stop, however a nasty little low with forecast winds of 35 knots+ is in the offing for Sunday so we'll have to forego the pleasures of another island to explore in favour of getting into a nice snug harbour.

Tanna was absolutely AMAZING. Starting from the moment we put our anchor down on Monday, pleasant surprise-after-surprise greeted us. It began with two of the friendliest clearance officials who happened to be in Port Resolution clearing in another couple of boats. We didn't have the hook down for more than 10 minutes before Customs and Immigration were aboard and processed the paperwork with courtesy and complete lack of fuss!

The next day (Tuesday) we organized a wee tour of the island and did the three-hour drive to the main village of Lenekal. Fortunately we had converted some money into the local currency so didn't have to search to find cash. The cruisers that we travelled with had MAJOR issues finding someone that would take a credit card in exchange for money. The bank here does NOT accept credit cards of any form, nor is the an ATM connected to the outside world. If you're coming to Tanna, bring cash. We were able to persuade the Western Union at Nadi Airport to convert FJD$ to VAT$ -- but they insisted on seeing passports as well as Fiji customs paperwork. Bring more cash than you think you'd need. We went through VAT$55,0000 (about US$550) in a couple of days. Everything you'd want to do costs lots. For example, the park fee to go up the volcano was 3,500 each. The transport to and from was another 2,000 each.

In addition to touring Lenekal, we left our fellow cruisers behind on their search for cash and visited a nearby "custom" village -- a village that has chosen to live in the traditional methods. This particular village is where each year all the little guys due for circumcision are sent once a year to prepare for and endure this ritual passage. It's a 30-day stay for the little guys -- including the time to heal after the skin is removed with sharpened bamboo "knives". We had just missed the finale for this year which had concluded the week prior to our arrival. We would have LOVED to be there for the final celebrations! This was Mercedes' first encounter with the more natural "clothing" of this part of the world -- the only item men were is a woven penis sheath -- held in place with a string around the waist!

Enroute from Fiji to Vanuatu, cont'd

20 September 2014 | Pangai Harbour, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Colin Dykstra
September 20, 2014, cont'd (16h00) 18 15.7'S / 175 35.4'E

The wind finally filled in late in the afternoon. While not strong, we were able to make between 5.5 and 6 knots in about 8-10 knots at 60-70 off the port bow (apparent). Over the next hours, the wind slowly built to around 15-17 knots -- remaining a close reach. Just before midnight, a reef was tucked into the main and the genoa rolled-up a bit. It wasn't needed at all -- as Segue was happily clocking 9-11 knots and not in any way overpowered. There were, however, a few small squalls about and I sleep MUCH better knowing that we won't get overpowered....

In the wee hours of Mercedes' watch we had a surprise visitor fly into the cabin through the back window. A flying fish landed on the settee right beside Mercedes where she was quietly reading. I'm sure her shrieks could be heard back in Vuda Point!

On a very positive note, she is trying "Scopoderm" patches to manage her mild initial mal-de-mar. So far the results have been EXCELLENT -- the only notable side affect is that she's complaining of hearing voices once in a while on the radio -- when there are none to be heard.... That could also be caused by the Malarone. We'll see once the patch wears off.

We are both enjoying sailing alone. Mercedes has a lovely all-over tan (well, close to a burn -- she's staying out of the sun today). I'm practicing traditional Melanesian navigation techniques. Early South Pacific travellers in their longboats had a neat navigational method -- jumping out of the canoe and feeling the current against their testicles. While I'm not jumping in the water with a boat that's moving at more than 10 knots, the air-currents feel good ;)

September 21, 2014, 10h20 18 45.9'S / 173 21.2' E

The wind has backed a bit more forward and, sadly, was a bit too close to the wind to carry the genoa. The true wind is 13.2 knots, and even with the much smaller jib, we're still making 6.5 to 7 knots, 'though the apparent wind is now around 50 degrees. While we could still carry the genoa, the true wind is getting up to 17-18 knots and I'm concerned about the load on what is now gettting to be a bit of a tired sail. The genoa is a fairly light "string" sail -- a "membrane" made up of kevlar bands sandwiched between pentax taffeta. Over the many miles put on it, the membrane has begun to delaminate a bit, so I'm to keep it going 'till we get up to Singapore where there are excellent lofts to repair or replace. The jib, however, was made recently down in New Zealand by the team at Evolution Sails and is made of "hydranet". This is a VASTLY tougher sail for offshore conditions. Rather than a "sandwich", kevlar is woven directly into the sail cloth with the same dacron threads as in a pentex sail. With no possibility of delamination, this sail can take a beating!

Anyway, we now have 240nm on the clock -- a VAST improvement over the sad distance made the first day! We have roughly 220 miles to go, so that will put us into Port Resolution on Tuesday morning.

On another technical note, I'm DELIGHTED with the solar-panel installation. We now have a total of eight panels. The original 4 x 135 watts and the 4 x 250 watts we added in New Zealand. Right now, we have a surplus of 47 Amps going into the batteries. This is over and above the approximately 22-24 amps we draw while underway (the notable consumers being the chart plotters and instruments -- around 10 amps, and the hydrolich auto-pilot -- between 4 and 10). And it's only 10:30 in the morning. I had been suspicious that the original controllers weren't maximizing the output of the 4 x 135 panels and while in fiji installed an Outback MPPT controller. What an improvement. Crossing my fingers -- but hopefully we'll rarely, if ever, have to burn fuel to put electrons in the batteries.
Vessel Name: Segue
Vessel Make/Model: Atlantic 55
Hailing Port: Toronto
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Created 16 April 2014

Port: Toronto