Wednesday, 18 May 2016

NZ to Fiji Day 3-4: A little bit of everything

16-17 May 2016

Greetings :)

We have seen a little of everything in the last couple of days, from winds too light for our spinnaker and a 12-hour motorboat trip to 20 kts with agitated seas that had us hanging on and enduring. Our current state is that we are running downwind with our genoa poled out, and the seas have settled considerably. This point of sail is known for being rolly; it is certainly living up to its reputation, but it is not a terribly uncomfortable motion.

Yesterday morning, I ended my night watch with dropping wind, and woke Max to hoist the spinnaker in the daylight. It is always a tough call for me between waking the off-watch and keeping the boat moving, but when the wind reduced from 8 kts to 6 kts, I decided that it was time. Ironically, we went through the exercise of hoisting the spinnaker, only to douse it again a few minutes later when we went down to 2 kts of wind. Soon we had under a knot, and the surface of the ocean was glassy. This was the beginning of a motorboating day.

The upside of motoring in a millpond is that it generates hot water, so we had early-in-the-passage showers to take advantage of the calm conditions. While I was enjoying a long off-watch sleep, Max and the kids repaired some tiny holes in the spinnaker (in Victoria's words, "we just acetoned it and stuck sail-repair tape on it" - I am sure that this is a typical area of expertise for a 12-year-old!), Max optimized our new alternator-regulator setup, and he transferred the diesel from our jerry cans into the internal fuel tanks. This is much easier without the boat pitching and rolling!! We had also planned to make water with all the engine power we were generating, but this will be a job for another day: the filter was pretty nasty after we filled our tank in Auckland harbour, and somehow the usual introduction of air caused by changing it took longer to clear than usual. Once we got it sorted, it was evening, the wind had come back up, and there was no longer an excess of power to use. Oh well.

We concluded our motoryacht day with "Mexican Night" in the cockpit: we used the last of our Kawahai to make ceviche and we used some of the chicken that Victoria and Miriam had canned to make burritos. I didn't manage to get it served by sunset (5:30) but even in the dark it was tasty!

As I came on watch last night after dinner, the wind was building in one of my favourite configurations - we were on a fast close-reach in a minimal sea. It feels like Fluenta is a horse galloping towards a favourite stable. Throughout my watch, the winds backed and built, so that by the time Max and Miriam came on in the middle of the night, we were broad reaching, and the seas were growing. They saw winds into the low 20's. The motion was safe but not comfortable: we had had our holiday, and now we were back at sea!!

This afternoon, we did one of those jobs that shouldn't be a challenge, but it still feels like it will be: we hoisted our spinnaker pole so we could pole out our genoa (ie the sail was flapping and flogging because it was in the wind shadow of the main sail, and we used the pole to hold it out straight on the windward side of the boat so it could fly in clean air; this is sometimes called sailing wing-on-wing). The reason I find this daunting is that the pole is big and heavy, it takes four lines being rigged to get it into position, and I have a fear (based on inexperience, not necessarily on reality) that it is going to fall on someone's head or knock someone (Max) over at any moment). With Miriam as an extra pair of hands at the mast, myself at the helm, Max at the bow, Victoria on lines in the cockpit, and Johnathan below with Benjamin, it went incredibly smoothly. One of my goals for this season is for this to become an easy, second-nature type of job that we just do when it is the right thing to do, without having to convince ourselves that it is worth the bother. Hoisting and launching our outboard engine used to be similarly daunting, and now we just get on with it when we need to :) Like any new habit, it will just take time and practice. Hoisting the spinnaker pole was certainly worth the effort: it only took us a few minutes, and soon both sails were filled and driving the boat. Despite the lumpy seas, we were sailing comfortably in about 12-17 kts, and basically pointing towards Minerva Reef.

The last couple of nights (with or without ideal sailing conditions) have been beautiful for the chance to sail under the moonlight again. The moon is waxing, the sky is clear, and there is so much light that it just seems like a bright, gray day (each one longer than the last). We are seeing bioluminescence again, too, so all in all, it is nice to be back out on passage. Of course, I suspect that part of my enjoyment of these windy, clear evenings comes from the fact that we can lower our new "clears" to block the wind, rain, and spray, leaving us in cozy comfort in the cockpit. Believe it or not, I haven't even been cold!!! We still marvel each day at how glad we are to have had them done on Opua this season. (On a funny note - we have had to incorporate jibing our clears into the routine for jibing the mainsail: we have been enclose the upwind side, and leaving the down wind side open so we can access the deck and adjust lines, so now we have to roll up the panels before we jibe.

Evening watches have also provided the opportunity for some neat conversations with Victoria and Johnathan. Max & Miriam have gone off-watch after supper, leaving the kids and me on watch. Benjamin has been falling asleep in my lap much earlier than usual, so the big kids and I have just been chatting for a few hours. I never know what to expect; last night the topic was university, and what it would be like to go, what programmes are offered, etc. (Of course, they were asking about the relative merits of the two schools that Max and I went to so I have to put my biases aside and try to answer fairly!) We have friends with kids who are already at the school-choosing stage, but it seems surreal that we are already having these conversations as well.

As for Benjamin, university is a long way off, but he is talking up a storm now, and even Miriam, who translates from baby-talk to English to German can generally understand what he wants. It is especially funny to hear him throw some of the more coloquial phrases into his speech (eg "whatever!", "no problem", "I'm fine"). He likes to look for "gnomes in the tunnel" (ie the mysterious drivers of Fluenta who hide in the aft lazarette aka the autopilot), and he is very possessive of my lap: "do 'way 'Toria" or "do 'way Johnny" (go away Victoria/Johnny) when one of them is encroaching on his space! He is always repeating what we say to one another, but with a hard "a" in "says": Johnny says it; Daddy says it. One of his favourite games on passage is to pretend to spray water. When he is 'sprayed' we have to watch behind him, as he will collapse as if he has been knocked over, regardless of what he is going to fall on! Needless to say, it is a lot of work keeping him entertained, but he also entertains us!

On that note, it is (Wednesday morning and) time to raise the spinnaker again, so I will sign off for now.

Love to all,

At 2016-05-14 10:38 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 29°08.14'S 178°47.79'E
At 2016-05-14 10:49 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 29°07.68'S 178°48.11'E

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