The Rose--Until we meet again...
23 June 2015 | Savu Savu to Futuna
The Rose-Mercy 19 June 2015 WananavuAmazing!
The Rose is on the mooring ball at Waitui Marina in Savu Savu waiting for the weather to calm down. The wind is howling but the sun is shining today which is an improvement over the last few days when sheets of rain sporadically dowsed us turning the pristine waters of Savu Savu bay to mucky brown with run off. Perhaps in response to the sunshine today the town is full of life and I noticed many double scoop ice-cream cones dripping down arms and faces despite the cool winter weather. This last week the 1000 foot US Hospital Ship "Mercy" was here like a giant white city anchored in the middle of tropical remoteness surrounded by tenders and a helicopter busy from dawn to dusk transporting patients and supplies to and from shore. Sailors, marines and pilots packed the three blocks of sidewalks and restaurants in the tiny town and the town's people were doing their best to keep up with the demands for home made ice-cream, fresh cooked meals and souvenirs. After weeks of humanitarian work here, the Mercy departed early this morning sailing for Papua New Guinea but two sailboat rallies and the formidable weather are keeping the bay jammed with boats. Every morning the weather like a broken record repeats the reports of 40 knot winds and steep 10 foot swells outside and we all hunker down another day to wait.
It is "Crime Free Festival" week in Savu Savu and the marching band keeps us smiling every day as they strut the street with big brass tubas swaying and the upbeat music making its way out across the water to the boats despite the constant wind. In the evenings the blaring fair music is interrupted by an intermittent pattern of shrieks emanating from the Ferris wheel area the frequency of which is in direct relation to the path of each car as it reaches the apex of its upward journey and commences the drop back into gravity. The entire local population must be packed into the school yard festival area and they do know how to have fun.
We are spending our days visiting long time cruising friends similarly anchored here waiting out the weather and also preparing for our eventual departure to the French island of Futuna approximately 260 miles to our northeast. We foray out in the mornings just to replace our stock of a few fresh things as we consume them or to savor a cappuccino or similar treat. The afternoons are too windy still for our final preparations which require a trip up the mast to replace a light and check rigging so we have finally settled into books and art projects resigning ourselves to relaxation in lieu of struggling over things beyond our control. Perhaps over the weekend the weather will grace us with enough sunshine for a rainforest hike or visit to the waterfall. At this time it looks like Monday will be our earliest possible departure date.
24 June 2015 Sota tale Until we meet again
We departed Fiji Monday as anticipated after an early morning visit to the open air market for a few fresh things and the MH "Supermarket" for whipping cream for our coffees and a painless visit to customs to fill out paperwork and obtain our stamp of approval for departure. The weather calmed some though it has remained grey and squally. The first night was a bash with wind right on our nose all the way and big steep rolling swells lifting The Rose teetering high before dropping her again with a slap. Still we made good time and were able to slow down when the going was rough and enjoy a sparkling show of bio luminescence in the dark of night. That darkness of night was wrapped like a black shroud about us. The stars were obscured by clouds and the horizons blurred from black above to black below. Even calling them black is too light filled. It was the absence of light which was most striking. We traveled north through many reefs partly along tracks we had laid down previously but finally moving into new territory. John had thoroughly checked the route by satellite photo and chart giving us reasonable security that the way was clear but traveling through reef at night without light is still a nervy occupation. The one reef which supports a tiny bit of land called Naqelelevu is supposedly marked with a light but I found no trace of it until we passed the far limit of the reef and I was struck by a huge sustained amber light in the expected region but which in no way matched the marking light description of 2 seconds every 12. This light had more the look of the prism glass encased candles secured to the foremasts of early exploring sailing ships-dark amber and steady. I had heard ghost tales and spirit stories of the area from locals and I was hard pressed to dampen thoughts of ships sunken on the treacherous reefs long ago perhaps still haunting the region on such dark nights as these. The light burned strong and large only a few minutes before completely disappearing suddenly as though only visible at a very specific angle which was also odd since one would expect the reef marking light to be visible from all seaward sides.
I was at a loss to explain the strange occurrence until the second night when a repeat performance along a serendipitously clear horizon proved the amber light to be the setting moon. This night it was a perfect amber sliver formed by the lower aspect of the moon facing upward like a cup or like the hull of a boat completely unoccluded by the deep grey squalls of slanting rain to all sides and it settled gently upon that window of horizon as though the hand of God set it carefully afloat. It touched seeming to rock as the swells heaved and then settled slowly down into the sea until just a corner remained in view-a bright corner like the steady light of the previous evening. There is plenty of magic and spirit in the world but one must be careful to find the real magic unstained by expectations. The real magic lies in the moon itself which is not to be missed and needs no assistance from ghost stories to magnify its majesty. Still it was a playful moment with an old pirate song rattling about the darknessĀ...
Now we have been over 37 hours powering steadily into the wind with only our mainsail up to steady us but providing little assistance and the sky and seas grey by day and darker by night. My body tires of the constant rattle of the engine but it makes us go. The winds are mostly only useful with passing squalls which bring brief episodes of 25 knots from the full compass of directions before passing on and leaving us to chug our way into 8 or 10 knots on the nose. You can't sail dead into the wind and we have no time to make the long tacks required to use that light wind. This crossing though short is notorious for rough and boisterous weather so we are content to plug across as we are. We should arrive at the harbor in Futuna with first light and hopefully before the return of enhanced southeast tradewinds which will quickly make the harbor untenable and our return trip spirited. We hope for a quick glimpse of the island, a peek inside a church or two, a walk on a pristine white sand beach and a taste of French cooking before it's time to sail back.
It is 12:12 at night and I am on watch within my little halo of light crossing the dark sea. I check the horizon for lights, check the sail and wind--(yep eight knots on the nose and five of those by our engine), stare out into the hungry darkness, watch the radar at four, eight and sixteen miles for contacts which might be ships, reefs or squalls, check the engine, check our course on the chart plotter, write a few sentences and start it all over again. We fly back to the States in a mere eight days and before that must get the boat back to the far west side of Fiji, hauled out of the water and stripped bare for cyclone season. These are the thoughts cluttering my mind and juxtaposing the empty night. It is too brief a time for me to feel I have said goodbyes to these lovely islands and their people. All is well, Pat and John s/v The Rose 14 deg 45.38 S, 178 deg 22.76 W.