Yeee haw! Making 9 knots with the big bright yellow spinnaker up! And in the right direction!
After yesterday’s update we raised full sail and put the wind and seas on the beam. It was rough but fast and we made good progress to the NE. The seas were still big and sloppy and we were slamming pretty hard. Also every time we went up and over a steep crest the sails would flog and the rig would shutter and my heart would skip a beat. This passage has been really hard on the boat and now her rig is getting put through her paces. Good thing we replaced those chainplates because some of these violent rig shutters most certainly would have brought the entire rig crashing down with those cracked chainplates!
We have sailed about 185 miles in the past 24 hours but only made 165 on the rhumb line due to our course changes overnight. We are 700 miles from Whangarei and 491 from Savusavu. If we can keep this pace up we are hopeful to reach Savusavu by Saturday in time to clear in with Customs/Immigration/
Here’s an update from the Mermaid about her eventful night shift:
Blonde Mermaid’s Shift:
Last night started off lovely. The wind finally picked up from the South enough that we could put up full sail with wind off the starboard quarter. We were making 7.5kts directly towards Fiji. With the southern wind, it got chilly, so I decided to make chicken tortilla soup for dinner which I haven’t made for at least a year. It was so comforting to have a spicy bowl of hot meaty soup in the wind chill with the rough slamming of the waves against our bridge deck. It was exactly what we needed for a good nights sleep. After sunset I cleaned up as Lewis went to bed. We had tucked in a single reef for the night but still had full jib out. Over the next hour and a half, the usually starry and clear skies turned pitch black. The moon wasn’t set to rise for another hour and I couldn’t see anything. At night, we keep the radar on nonstop, so I could easily see that squall lines were approaching us on all sides. I considered tucking in another reef, but the winds had died to only 10kts apparent. I was forced to turn upwind, with a heading more south of Minerva that I wanted to go. I didn’t want to turn on the engines just yet. We have enough fuel to motor another day and a half, but the winds are expected to lessen on our approach to Fiji, so we have to conserve the last of it for then. The last squall I was in had little to no wind effect and just a lot of rain. I was hopeful that this squall line would bring a little more so I could turn back downwind and ride it in the right direction. I wish I had been more conservative. As I kept adjusting the wind angle to keep the sails full, all of a sudden the wind hit. As each second passed, the wind meter increased by a knot, the wind rose from 15 to 20 to 25 to 30 inside of a minute! The autopilot couldn’t adjust fast enough and brought the wind quickly on the beam. The boat rocketed forward bringing the wind forward of the beam as I quickly hit standby and threw the wheel over to port. With so much sail up, the resistance was high but I was able to get the wind behind. I still couldn’t see anything but the instruments and the compass so I had to focus on which way the boat was facing, making sure I didn’t cross through the wind and accidentally jibe the nearly full main. I turned on the engines to make sure they were warm if I needed them, plus once the squall passed I knew the wind would die. I heard the jib flogging and turned on my headlamp onto the red light to see that it was being completely shadowed by the enormous main, even in the 30kts we were sailing. I tried to put the autopilot set on a wind angle so I could quickly furl in the jib but kept having to run back every few seconds to take over as it was getting overpowered. Did I mention that it started dumping rain as soon as the wind hit? I was drenched. I had my Marmot windbreaker/rain jacket on, but it has been so used over the past 4 years of cruising the tropics, that the seams have disintegrated and is no longer waterproof. My fleece underneath, soaked, my comfortable yoga pants that I cannot live without on passage, drenched. I brought the engines up to try and bring down the apparent wind. This squall was the first of the long line aiming right at us and I wanted to get the main down. The jib is much easier to manage and furl in high winds and the main is, in my opinion, unnecessary when going downwind. It was extremely difficult to get the main down with wind in the sail. I briefly put the wind on the beam to get some slack in the halyard enough to drop it sloppily over the side of the boat. I then centered the boom, tied the preventer tight so it couldn’t jerk from side to side and throw my balance. I clipped in to the jacklines, and climbed up the cabin top to tuck everything into the sail cover. My red light started to flicker then change to bright white light, blinding me, then red, then flashing white. This thing is supposed to be water resistant, right? It’s brand new! I wrapped the headlamp inside in a towel, I’m dripping and am in no state to open up the electronics right now. The wind all of a sudden died to 3 knots, swirling around the mast. For the next hour and a half it was more rain but zero wind. The moon finally rose and I could see the dark patches of clouds surrounding us. The wind slowly came back and I sailed much more conservatively, making 6 knots under full jib in 15kts of wind. I woke Lewis up for his shift, gave him a debrief, told him where the squalls were and turned in, totally exhausted!
Wish us fair winds and CALM(ing) seas!
24 56.698 S, 179 10.188 E
Wind: 15 SE
Seas: 7-11 FT mixed wind waves/swell
Water temp: 76
Clothes: Almost optional. But Board Shorts and T-shirt prevail for now