The Practice Passage
08 May 2020 | Enroute Gambiers to Tahiti
We are into day five of our 900nm (1,800km) passage from the Gambiers to Tahiti. The weather window seems to have worked out well so far, with 15-25kts on the stern allowing us to keep up a respectable average pace of 6.1kts, using the same double genoa and trailing warps configuration we used crossing from the GalÃ¡pagos. We have had a few squalls but nothing scary and only the seas have been a little challenging.
With some trepidation we departed the calm of the Gambiers into a forecast 5m sea. It was indeed 5m but on the stern quarter and with a very long period. Leela gently lifted up and down as if on a slow elevator. The change in horizon was very interesting, down in the wave trough the whole world only extended to the next wave, towering over us. As we rose up more and more waves came into view until the horizon seemed vast. Then it all happened again and again and again.....
Day three was completely different. The seas had come down to under 4m but the period had come down a lot more. The waves were short and steep with a confused cross sea. The gentle elevator became a bucking bronco, throwing us around quite violently at times. Getting around the boat became pretty tricky and even staying in a seat was hard work. Fortunately those seas have moderated. They are still more than 2.5m but again with a longer period and it looks like they will moderate further over the remaining two days. The wind is down to less than 15kts true and the warps are in. Hopefully the forecast is accurate and it will not go any lower. The double headsail is very efficient but they are heavy sails and an apparent wind of less than 8kts will not keep them full.
We have enjoyed having a full moon for the trip. The amount of light it provides is remarkable and it can be quite beautiful. Janaki took this picture during her long watch last night. This is a VERY empty piece of ocean. All we have seen since we departed is a couple of pelagic seabirds, no land, no boats, no planes. It is a strange feeling being so alone. Our charts show that we are moving relative to unseen land masses but it could be a blue continuum otherwise, a little unnerving if dwelt upon too long.
It looks like we are going to arrive at night. We could slow down but that goes against the grain and going slowly downwind makes for a wallowy and uncomfortable ride. Fortunately there is a very easy anchorage at Point Venus, on the northern tip of Tahiti so we will be able to get in there after dark and get some real rest before dealing with the complexities of Papeete Harbor. Point Venus is so named because it was there that Captain Cook set up his observatory to record the transit of Venus across the sun in 1769.
As always it took three tiring days to settle into the passage-making routine. We use a two/five/five/two night watch. We have dinner and check in on the SSB (short wave radio) net at 6pm. I get my head down until 8pm then go on watch until 1am. Janaki does 1am to 6am then gets her head down again until 8am. We have meals together and follow an informal one on, one off routine during the day. This works well as long as the conditions are OK. Sometimes we both need to be on deck and catch up later. We managed this routine in pretty lively conditions for nineteen days on the big crossing so we are reasonably confident we will be able to do it for the thirty to thirty five day crossing from Tahiti to Australia. There is nowhere we can stop enroute but there are a number of emergency bailouts if things go really pear shaped.
We are not sure how long we will spend in Tahiti. We have talked to our buddy boat, Kris and David on Taipan, about being ready to go on the 15th but that feels a little fast. We have a strange problem with the regulator we use to charge the batteries from the main engine and that needs to be resolved before we go. We don't know how much sunshine we will get enroute and we definitely cannot be without some power.