Passage to Suwarrow part 1 - sunshine, going fast, and a Fun fact
23 August 2016 | Bora Bora to Suwarrow
We left Bora Bora in the early afternoon on August 13, bound for the coral atoll of Suwarrow, 700 miles away to the northwest.
QTVLM, the routing program that we use, had shown SCOOTS traveling at between 6.5 and 7.5 knots for the entire passage, arriving at Suwarrow in about 4 ½ days. That speed seemed a bit optimistic to us, as the wind was predicted to be dead downwind, not a particularly quick point of sail. So we left in the early afternoon, figuring that if we went slower than predicted, we would arrive early in the morning of the fifth day, which would be fine. We didn't want to arrive in darkness, as we needed daylight in order to navigate the pass into the atoll; if we arrived at night, we'd have to heave-to a few miles offshore and wait for the sun to come up.
Twenty-knots of wind met us as soon as we exited Bora Bora's Teavanui Pass. We put up SCOOTS' main and one of her jibs, wing-on- wing, and she took off. SCOOTS flew along, averaging 7.5-8.5 knots all day and through the night, peaking at 10.5 knots as she surfed down some of the 2-3 meter swells that rolled along under her stern.
The wind blew at least 20 knots from behind us for the next two days and nights. By then it had become clear that if we kept up this pace, we would arrive at Suwarrow after a passage of only four days. This would be great, as we would get to the pass at midday, around the time predicted for slack water, and which allowed good visibility of any coral that might be in our path, once we were in the lagoon. But if we slowed down even a little, we wouldn't arrive until after dark. Our choice became (1) do what we could to keep up the pace for another two days, to arrive in daylight on the fourth day or (2) slow way down and plan to arrive in the morning of the fifth day.
If you've been reading this blog for any time at all, you already know that we are no good at slowing down. And with a boat named SCOOTS, well, you really shouldn't expect us to make that choice easily. So we opted for Choice #1 and went for it.
Which turned out to be a good choice. For three days and three nights, we had fantastic conditions: sunny days and starry nights, with lots of consistent wind to push us along. Then came the fourth night.
Clouds began to gather just after noon, then coalesced into squalls, which gathered into groups, and marched toward us. We went back and forth about whether or not to reef the mainsail, before deciding not to. We based this on the squalls we'd encountered on this passage so far, which had sported no more than 25 knots of wind - not much more than we'd been carrying anyway.
The first squall hit in late afternoon. As soon as it arrived, we decided, yeah, we should reef. It's always more fun to reef a sail in lots of wind and rain, than to do it before the storm hits, right? The squall lasted half an hour and wasn't bad at all: some wind, lots of rain. We were both soaked from the belated sail reefing, but that wasn't so bad either. The rain here in the South Pacific is warm, which can be kind of nice. After the squall passed, we shook the reef out of the sail and continued scooting along.
Fun Fact: You know the smell that you associate with rain? It's known as petrichor, and is the result of aerosols released when rain contacts soil. Out here, hundreds of miles from land, the rain is odorless. You can't smell it coming, and it doesn't smell like anything when it arrives. Thought you might be interested in knowing that.