Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Passage to Fakarava.

Hello from the nav table of our little sailing vessel,

It feels good to be writing to you from a vessel under way. We are having a lovely, quiet passage, which is a nice surprise, because the forecast suggested that we would be living with engine noise the entire way. We have had between 3-10 kts of wind, placid seas, clear skies, and few squalls. The full moon adds its own dose of cheerfulness to this night watch. These are the images from the "South Pacific Brochure" that we all have in our minds!

This passage almost started yesterday (12 Jul); we spent the morning preparing for sea (lashing Trickle on the foredeck, hoisting the outboard engine up to its position on the "pushpit" (the metal railing around the stern), lifting the dinghy onto its davits on the stern, securing everything above and stowing everything down below (a bigger job in this anchorage than in Nuku Hiva because the calmness let us leave more things out on tables & counters ...), and cooking soup for dinner). Our scheduled departure through the pass was around 3:30, so we weighed anchor just after 2:30 to be sure of plenty of time in hand (we don't know til we lift our anchor that it is going to come up easily through the coral, despite two buoys keeping the chain off the ground, and we also never know when Benjamin is going to need attention...). It was a short transit to the pass, but that is where our plan changed.

Our Belgian friends were leaving just ahead of us, and as they went through the pass, we could see them pitching significantly, and their boat seemed to disappear as they went through the troughs of the waves. Thus, when we got to the "go/no-go" point, we considered our options and elected to return to the anchorage. Pass exits & entrances need to be coordinated carefully with the tidal currents, and in addition there are conditions where the wind/tide/swell combine to make it a boiling, choppy mess - such was the case yesterday. When we radioed our friends to let them know we were staying another night, they said that it had been like a "washing machine" for them; I was glad to be safely at anchor! We were especially glad when we watched two French boats leave a while later; by then, the pass was really a mess, and they pitched violently as they went through.

Since dinner was already sitting in a pot on the stove, Victoria & I made the muffins that I hadn't had time to make during the day, then we had early dinner/bedtime, and did the pass-exit "take 2" this morning (13 Jul). Today, all we had to do was have breakfast and leave; all the preparations were done yesterday :)

The result of this minor change in plan was that we had a beautiful day sail instead of an just an overnight passage, and we had more time to transit (24 hrs instead of 18 hrs) in order to be at the next pass at slack tide, so we have elected to go to the north pass of Fakarava rather than the south pass (about 30 nm further). There is a small village there, so we will (hopefully) be able to buy some fruit & veg (depending on when the supply ship comes this week!) but we won't do any major shopping until Papeete, which is our next destination after we explore this atoll.

There is such a difference in the enjoyment factor when the seas are lovely instead of short and choppy! Last night's passage would have been a bit faster & bouncier. Today, we had pretty much perfect conditions: light winds (but enough to sail), and seas mostly calm with some wide ocean swells. We sailed with no reefs all day/night. The kids love to point out how we are doing; like the old salt that she is becoming, Victoria takes note each time she goes by the companionway instruments: "Doing well. 4.5 kts in 6 kts of wind. Very good."

We had a little bit of excitement as we changed watches around midnight - lights on the horizon for the first time in ages! Traffic! It was a big ship on a steady bearing that didn't answer us on the radio, so we altered course to be sure of keeping our distance (the first rule of the road being collision avoidance, regardless of who has official "right of way"). It is always reassuring to see lights moving across our bow instead of remaining at a steady angle. We are now moving placidly through the night, with about 15nm to go before the pass; the winds are lighter, and we have time to spare, so we are just ghosting along at about 2-3 kts. Since the earlier we get to the entrance, the longer we will have to loiter (bobbing in place, hove-to, or motoring in big donuts ...) we are not in a rush. On many levels, it feels good to have plenty of time.

On the homefront, both kids continue to be nose-deep in their books (Victoria is now reading Black Beauty, and Johnathan is working on Huckleberry Finn; we continue to read The Lord of the Rings aloud). Benjamin is getting more mobile each day. He loves to stand at the foot of the companionway; the vertical bars are just his size to grip, and the steps seem to be a tasty diversion in his diet!) He has also started staying asleep when I lay him down ... this means that he is taking the odd nap on a bunk instead of in the carrier, so I am feeling a bit more independent :)

So... we are well, we are underway, and we are looking forward to exploring a new atoll. Fakarava is one of the larger atolls, so it has more traffic (tourists come here for dive holidays). It also has pearl farms and the possibility of pass diving with a group (for Max). We will keep you posted :)

Much love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 7/14/2014 1:37 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°39.66'S 145°02.07'W
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At 7/14/2014 2:58 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 15°58.00'S 145°30.00'W

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