Beating to weather and beaten up
25 November 2019
We have started our journey back into the Tuamotus from the Leeward Islands (Bora Bora, Huahine, Raitea, Tahaa). Many cruisers migrate east during typhoon season where it is considered to be safer from tropical storms.
Leeward means downwind. Traveling east is decidedly upwind. Uproar is a good boat for sailing upwind with her racing design. She even seems to enjoy beating (term for sailing upwind). But for her passengers it is a different story. Beating is an appropriate term. Waves and wind are against us and we have to claw through, often with waves washing over the deck.
Since we have left the Leewards we have had three upwind beats of over 100 miles. From Huahine to Moorea, our forestay pulled out of the deck. As previously blogged, we were extremely lucky to not have lost the mast. I flew to LA to bring back the necessary parts and spent about $7,000 on the repairs. We enjoyed a month in Tahiti making repairs but our confidence was surely shaken!
This made leaving our protected anchorage in Tahiti difficult but several weeks ago, we departed for Maketea, the nearest Tuamotu. Yes, it was another beat. The seas were confused which made for yet another uncomfortable ride. We left in the afternoon, beat through the night and arrived in the morning. When we arrived, the anchorage was so rolly, we didn't even launch the dinghy to go ashore.
“Let's try to sleep and leave at 3am for Tikehau.” said Lisa. We were beat from the beat so actually slept on the constantly rocking Uproar. Fortunately, the 80 miles to Tikehau were not too bad, more of a close reach than a beat. But the anchorage that first night was again rolly. We moved around Tikehau and found some quite spots to anchor and loved the place. We were there almost two weeks.
Two days ago, we anchored near the Tikehau pass preparing to exit the next day. It was so windy (and rolly) that we couldn't even lift our dinghy on deck. The next morning, still windy, we decided to wait another day. Neither of us slept well the night before. That day, the wind laid down, we stowed the Houdinky on deck, grilled steaks and had a good night sleep. Weather looked good for departure the following day.
Yesterday we motored through the pass and had to continue motoring north before we could round the tip of Tikehau and head ENE to Ahe, 130 miles distant. Weather forecast said it would be a close reach, not a beat! But we would have to motor directly into the wind for 10 miles or so to round the north end of the atoll. As they say, the wind blew and the sea flew! We finally could raise sail but it was a beat, once again.
I yelled, “I've had enough of this!” Lisa was disgusted and uncomfortable too. An hour later, the wind settled down. We were finally sailing in some decent conditions. After a big squall, wind and seas settled down again. Our last 110 miles were a beat, but in smooth, rolling seas and only 10 knots of wind. This was perfect for Uproar and us. She showed us just what a great sailboat she is by averaging over 6 knots with reefed main straight at Ahe.
We entered the Ahe pass to a very tranquil lagoon and proceeded to a quiet anchorage. Looking at our tentative plans, this should be the last of beating upwind we will do for the season. After reaching up and down the western Tuamotus, we will sail downwind to Tahiti, Moorea and the Leeward Islands for our last cruising in French Polynesia.
For now we are done beating and being beaten up. But we know well, we will visit those conditions again in our travels. It's just part of the cruising lifestyle.
PS. The picture is Uproar beating to weather in the Tahiti Pearl Regatta in ideal conditions, quite the opposite of what we experienced.