I started this yesterday evening, but didn't send it, so now you get two days in one :)
After a lumpy first couple of days, conditions were mostly much nicer on Tuesday - this improved everyone's spirits! The big news of Max's night watch Monday night was NO SQUALLS! This is the first night in recent memory that he hasn't been battling wind and rain throughout much of his watch.
We caught our daily fish as Max was trying to go down for his off-watch on Tuesday. Our skipjack tuna was quickly filleted and bagged, and Max was off to sleep. The kids and I had a relaxing morning - the weather had calmed enough that I could finally venture out of the cockpit to retrieve the poor load of laundry that had been bravely trying to dry itself since Sunday afternoon. I will rinse it and re-peg it in Suwarrow. Late in the morning, while we were enjoying the "forecast" winds of 13-14 kts (finally...) I was also keeping my eyes on a bank of black clouds off our port side. At one point, Victoria looked out and said, "Mom, we need to reef". As usual, she was right :) Most of the black band was going to pass in front of us, but the tail end was going to hit us. Johnathan held Benjamin, Victoria winched in the genoa, and I eased the sheet to her. We put in about the equivalent of two reefs, then we waited to see what would happen. Within a couple of minutes, we had gone from a peaceful 13-14 kts to having the wind alarm start beeping (wind > 30kts). So it goes. Knowing that the noise would wake him anyway, I sent one of the kids to get Max. We turned a little further downwind, reefed the genoa even more, switched the autopilot from wind-navigate to wind-hold (120 apparent), and waited for the wind and rain to calm down. It was nasty, grey squally time, but it passed surprisingly quickly (less than 10 min). Now we know what 30 kts feels like!
We kept up our fast progress throughout the day - the winds were generally in the 18-20 kt range, rather than the forecast 13-14; the seas were less than previous days, but they remained unsettled until we arrived. That being said, the nights were clear and starry, with shooting stars and bioluminescence to be enjoyed. Orion rises in the middle of the night, and we can see all his stars. It is good the boat sails fast, because once the speed decreased to 5 kts or less, the seas took over and we really wallowed. Last night, it was my turn for the squalls; I had just taken over for Max when the rain started. Johnathan was still sleeping across the back of the cockpit, so I put a folding chair on top of him like a roof, and he stayed there til morning. He is rather robust :) The squalls weren't bad, but they kept me busy, which is why you aren't getting this email until now!
We arrived near the entrance to Suwarrow pass just after dawn, so we had a few hours to practice our heaving-to techniques (it was necessary to come through the pass with good visibility at mid day in the sunshine). Since our staysail still needs a bit of fine tuning (rusty shackle and twisted pennant that need attending to), we used just the smallest amount of genoa to hold the boat facing into the wind. We timed our entrance to the pass for slack water, and had a reasonably uneventful trip; however, the sight of the boat that was lost on the reefs here in August was humbling as we approached the atoll. I guess that these are the moments that make the calm anchorages so sweet, but it is always a bit daunting to come through a new reef.
Suwarrow is often talked about as a place where big groups of cruisers socialize and enjoy each others' company (it is a tiny anchorage and there are sometimes dozens of boats here). We will have to socialize with each other and the rangers, as we are the only boat here! The only other boat in the anchorage as we arrived was actually leaving! It is getting towards the end of the season, so it is hard to say whether anyone else will join us. We went ashore to meet the rangers (a husband and wife who are here from Rarotonga for six months each year), and they checked our paperwork from Penrhyn; it seems good on many levels that we stopped there. Surwarrow is a national park, so there are quite a number of rules that are now being applied in order to preserve the natural habitat, including a moratorium on catching coconut crabs (fish are ok; in fact the ranger may take Max and the kids out with him), and a directive against visiting the other motus. We will ask tomorrow whether Johnathan can harvest any coconuts... It was surreal to walk through a place we have seen in so many pictures, and to see tokens from other boats we know or have heard of hanging in the "yacht club".
Back on the boat, dinners at sea have been simple - cold rice, cold fish, cold smoked turkey (bought a turkey breast in Mexico, and it is very popular from the freezer). It will be nice to cook again now that my galley is not flinging my pots on the floor!
We found out the hard way on our passage that our Kobos are not salt-water-proof: an out-of-the-blue wave came through the cockpit, and one of our Kobos ended up the worse for the experience. There is something to be said for old-fashioned books that get soggy but can still be read (but on the other hand, we don't have enough bookshelf space for all the reading material that we would now need to carry!). It is a toss-up either way. Perhaps this is why we bought two of them in the spring.
Benjamin has really been enjoying some fancy baby toys - a mason jar, some clothes pins, and a bucket ... he has discovered the joy of putting things in and taking things out, and putting things on and taking things off :)
Anyway, all is well aboard Fluenta. We are glad to be safely at anchor, and plan to stay here for about a week (depending on the weather).
Love to everyone,
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
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