Category Archives: Fanning to Suwarrow

Finally Anchored in Suwarrow After an Insane Storm

Holy sh!t. So much for an easy SPCZ crossing! After I wrote that last blog we caught a 60lb yellow fin tuna, processed it and then after Lyss went to sleep all hell broke loose. The SPCZ was insane with 20ft breaking seas and 40 knots of wind. We got into the ‘lee’ of Suwarrow but it was anything but and we got our ass handed to us hove-to for the night. We were both sick and huddled in the cockpit holding eachother with a look of despair in our eyes as the huge waves crashed over the boat and rushed into the cockpit. In the morning we had to bash 12 miles back to windward against the huge wind and seas and we both got terribly sick, cold, beaten, and poor Ellie is a damn mess with salt water everywhere, new laptop I am typing on is toast and 1/4 of the screen is damaged from salt water. I even managed to take a wave over my head and down my foulies. We are still crusted with salt. We are anchored but it’s exposed here and we have four foot waves bouncing our bow up and down over the wind chop. We have our oversized tandem anchor setup deployed with 200ft of chain in only 15 feet of water so if we move I will be amazed. It’s still howling 28 knots sustained across four miles of lagoon. We are still anxiety-ridden and I’m sure our blood pressure is through the roof. I haven’t slept in two days and my head is pounding. The most important thing is that we got through this together and were an incredible team. I couldn’t have pulled this off without Alyssa and would probably be running from the storm. She was her resolve and she had us push on to reach Suwarrow, a place I have dreamed about for years. This island is only visited by sailors, and hardcore sailor/divers at that. You can’t fly here and the price of admission is being a sailor and getting your ass kicked to get here. The water is gorgeous and this place amazing. It’s a divers paradise with mooring balls scattered about for tying the dinghy to. Can’t wait to explore. But for now: celebration, showers, rest and cleaning. What a F**king ride!

Cheers,
LEwis & The Tough-as-Nails Mermaid

June 20, 2015

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

13 14.905 S
163 06 467 W

Running Away from a Storm – Now Trying to Make Penrhyn

We have sailed 650 miles since leaving Fanning 5 days ago and are 425 miles NE of Suwarrow. A storm system called the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) has decided to park itself right over Suwarrow and prevent us from sailing directly there unless we have some sick desire to play chicken with thunder and lightning…which we don’t. The SPCZ is similar to the ITCZ on the equator – lot’s of heavy up-drafting and convection with thunder and lightning, confused seas and big wind. In short, everything we try to avoid.

We find ourselves in a predicament. We can’t continue on to Suwarrow or we’ll enter the SPCZ. We could stall in place here or sail back north to kill a day or two and then continue on once the SPCZ dissipates, but it’s painful to sail the wrong direction or bob around in these seas with little to no wind. Manihiki is 230 miles south but we can’t go there in unsettled weather because you are forced to anchor on a coral shelf and if a squall hits and brings N or NW wind you are on the reef. That leaves Penrhyn atoll, 215 miles SE of our position; problem is that we would need to motor up-wind and up-current to get there. We haven’t taken on diesel since Hawaii so we are down to about 20 gallons in the main tank and only 10 in jugs, 30 total. That is enough fuel to reach Penrhyn but if we can’t buy fuel in Penrhyn (an atoll of less than 200 people) then we’ll be dry all the way to Samoa, 800 miles downwind.

Given the considerations above, we have decided to try and make Penrhyn and wait out the SPCZ. If we can’t get fuel…well it’s all downwind to Samoa anyway and we should be able to wait for good wind and sail. So tonight we are motoring SE towards Penrhyn, directly into the light wind. There are also huge squalls tonight with intimidating lightning all around. Sure makes me wish my mast wasn’t the tallest thing around for over 1,000 miles. I just knocked on wood and would appreciate if you all could do the same.

I pulled a muscle or something in my back a couple days ago. I was pulling in the jib right before a squall hit and tore it pretty bad. It was excruciating and debilitating. I could barely move and it took a while for me to loosen it up enough to get out of bed. It started getting better over the past couple days but today when Alyssa was sleeping I had to reef the main. When I was pulling the reefing point down I tore the same muscle again and this time the pain was much worse. I could barely get back into the cockpit. Alyssa heard my yelps and came up to finish reefing the sail. I was so pissed it tore again. I was being careful and barely put any strain on it. It was more the way I was pulling with my left arm then how much force. I’m now in a lot of pain and have been finding very creative ways of running blocks so I don’t have to use my left arm. I’m sure the medical advice is to rest and not exert any pressure on the back muscles – well, that’s just not an option on a short-handed sail boat 200+ miles from land. Every movement the boat makes hurts my back, even the simple task of keeping my head steady is painful.

Here comes another heavy squall. Have to pull in sail. The last one hit 36 knots and I can already feel the seas kicking up from the one approaching, still 8 miles to windward.

L&A

06 30 S
160 31 W
100 T
4.5 KTS

Fanning to Suwarrow – Halfway Point

We have sailed 500 miles since leaving Fanning Island four days ago and we have 550 to go until we reach Suwarrow. Still thinking of putting in to Manihiki, 370 miles south, if the wind dies or the weather deteriorates.

Conditions have been idyllic, the seas calm, and the sailing great. We covered 144 miles in the past 24 hours, all close on the wind at about 55 degrees off the port bow. We have been flying almost full canvas and Ellie is in her groove. It’s been beautiful to watch her slice her way to windward. The sunset was magnificent this evening and a reminder of why I sail.

Batteries are still giving me trouble. The bank is functioning now but voltage is at 11.8 and they were fully charged at sunset. They should be between 12.4 – 12.8 when the amp hour (ah) deficit is only 30ah and the load only 3 amps. I think there is a bad cell because when I combine the two banks (440ah with my 220ah bank) the voltage still drops rapidly into the 11 range. I disconnected the batteries this evening to try and test each group to identify any potential bad cells but was unsuccessful. I need a way to put a larger load on each bank, my fan just wasn’t doing it. I may disconnect half the bank and see how it does overnight versus the other – that should identify the bad half of the bank. I plan to do that tomorrow in the daylight. We’ll see how it goes.

Back to star gazing and watching the green phosphorescence in our wake. I’ve already seen three shooting stars tonight. My southern cross is shining brightly – we made it back.

Manuia from the middle of the vast South Pacific Ocean –
Lewis

May 19, 2015
12:24 Z
04 17 S
160 17 W
190 T
5.5 KTS

Fanning to Penrhyn or Manihiki or Suwarrow…. We’re Back in the South Pacific!!

We are in the southern hemisphere again! Early this morning we crossed the equator for the fourth time in less than two years. We’re back in the south pacific!

Ellie is in her groove and tearing away the miles. We are two days out of Fanning and have covered 250 miles since departing on Friday. Conditions are very pleasant with some periods of uncomfortable heavy squall activity. We are on the equator, the hottest place on earth, so as you can imagine we’re pretty much drenched in sweat 20 hours a day. It’s impossible to sleep unless you have one of our tornado fans cranking.

We are not sure where we are headed yet. The wind forecast keeps changing and the latest has the wind dying in a few days so we may have to head to a closer destination since we don’t have a lot of fuel aboard. Penrhyn is only 530 miles SSE of our location, 4 days away, but slightly up wind and up current.  Manihiki is 600 miles SSW of us, 5 days away, and slightly downwind. Suwarrow is 800 miles SW of our location, 6-7 days away, and the most favorable wind angle. Our current plan to to try to sail for Penrhyn but if we fall short head for Manihiki. We’ll see what the wind does.

We are currently sailing relatively close on the wind, 57 degrees off the port bow, and falling short of Penrhyn. We’ll see where we end up in a few days.

We are passing Jarvis Island right now, a tiny bird sh!t-covered rock owned by the USA. It’s 10 miles to starboard according to my charts but it must be very low-lying because I can’t get it on radar. Anyone want to send me the height? Has anyone anchored in it’s lee? Now I’m curious.

Need to make water today. Showers will be had by all! I built a nice little canvas ‘fort’ for the generator so it doesn’t get splashed by rogue waves. I tried to fire it up to charge the batteries – that are at the end of their useful life and need replaced – but conveniently our Prosine charger/inverter decided to trip some internal software breaker and won’t let me charge the batteries. Murphy’s Law. I’m dreading emptying out the lazarette to get to the charger and reset it. Hopefully the solar panels keep up until we get to an anchorage.

Wish us steady wind and calm seas as we sail south. If the conditions deteriorate I think the Mermaid may call for a helicopter – she is very ready to be done with these long, hot passages.

Cheers from the sweltering equator,
Lewis & The Exhausted Princess and the Pea

May 17, 2015
00 24.6 SOUTH!
159 50.7 W
166T
6.0 KTS
10 KTS E WIND
1.3 METER SEAS

Fanning to Suwarrow – 1,000 miles – 8 Days

We sailed out of Fanning at 11:00 UTC today, 5/15, bound for Suwarrow Island, 1,000 miles SSW of here. Expecting 8 days under way at 125 miles per day. Not overdue until 5/28.

We are motor sailing into light SE wind. Expecting it to strengthen to 10-12 knots by tomorrow and it will continue to clock more easterly and eventually be on the beam. Wind may lighten or die before we reach Suwarrow and we only have enough fuel to motor for 48 hours so there is a chance we may be becalmed for a day or two.

All is well and the conditions are extremely pleasant. Hatches open pleasant.

Talk to you all later. Have a great weekend!

L&A

5/15/2015
23:30 Z
03 39.9 N
159 25.6 W
195 T
5.0 KTS SOG
4.0 KTS WIND ESE
1.5 METER SEAS