Day 386, Year 1: Passage to N Minerva Reef, Day 2—Downwind Again

Day 386, Year 1: Passage to N Minerva Reef, Day 2—Downwind Again
Date: Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Weather: Overcast Day, ENE Winds 18 Knots
Latitude: 22 degrees 32 minutes S
Longitude: 177 degrees 30 minutes W
Location: Passage from Tonga to N Minerva Reef
Miles to Go: 104 to Minerva Reef

We have great winds, but from the wrong direction. They are still dead behind us and we are motor sailing most of the time in order to get to North Minerva Reef tomorrow. The seas are fairly calm so today has been a smooth ride. Late last night, things got a little boisterous with winds ranging from 20 to 30 knots. It was one of those old time rock and roll nights. We motor sailed all night and then when the winds settled a little this morning, we were able to sail for a few hours. Then the winds settled a little too much and the engine went back on. So it goes with sailing. Our daughter Heather wrote that she and her husband Jed are having a hard time finding the right weather window to get their little 19-foot Cape Dory moved around to the place it will be hauled out for the winter. Whether on Cape Cod or out here in the South Pacific, sailing is all about those weather windows.

Mark and Doug on Windcastle drove me nuts today analyzing the weather on the VHF radio and in another half-hour they are going to do it again along with Paddy on Zafarse and Ray on Nereid. These are two other boats that are close to us. They have been reviewing all of the weather data to see if we should push on to New Zealand without stopping in Minerva. My analysis says we should stop, but I will report tomorrow on the conclusion.

Day 385, Year 1: Passage to N Minerva Reef, Day 1—Crappy Beginning, Great Ending

Day 385, Year 1: Passage to N Minerva Reef, Day 1—Crappy Beginning, Great Ending
Date: Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Weather: Sunny Morning, Partly Cloudy Afternoon, Winds Just N of E 18 Knots
Latitude: 175 degrees 32 minutes S
Longitude: 21 degrees 03 minutes W
Location: Passage from Tonga to N Minerva Reef
Miles to Go: 235 to Minerva Reef

We did it! We left Tonga today, but not as early as planned. That was due to the crappy beginning of our day (pun intended). When I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I was not able to flush the head. I woke Mark up to warn him. He got up early and started to work. He found that the “exit” hose was indeed blocked. Calcium deposits had built up gradually and finally blocked the flow. It took him more than two hours, but he was successful. The clean-up process was one of those experiences one could live without, but once it was done we were on our way by 1030. Mark definitely gets the “Captain of the Day” award. If you are not a handyman, I have no idea how you could be a cruiser because there is always something to fix.

Gdansk did not leave with us, but Windcastle is traveling close by. There are two other boats that have been in sight most of the day. One is Nereid, a boat out of Anchorage, Alaska, and the other, we think, is Pleite from Germany. They were next to us when we were Med-moored in the inner harbor in Nuku’alofa and the boat we see through the binoculars looks like Pleite.. The boat from Alaska is captained by the father of another boat captained by his son. This is the first time we have run into a father and son duo. The son and his wife left for Minerva yesterday, so they will be there when we arrive. Right now, Windcastle is still in sight to our starboard. Mark just finished checking us into the Pacific Seafarer’s Net and we heard Paddy of Zafarse check in. Evidently he left Pangaimotu this morning a little ahead of us and right now he is twelve miles in front of us. His girlfriend from Australia just flew into Nuku’alofa last night, so he surely didn’t waste anytime heading south. I’ll look forward to meeting his girlfriend in Minerva. There are also a number of boats that left yesterday, so there is no shortage of company out here. North Minerva Reef has a big anchorage area, and I think it is going to be crowded.

I left Tonga wearing a bathing suit. I refuse to let go of the tropics until I am forced into long underwear! It is only 74 degrees F out here, but with the sun shining brightly it is comfortably warm in the cockpit. Of course, we do have some of our plastic side curtains down to keep out the wind, and as night approaches, I’ll bet we put up even more side curtains. It is really nice to be able to easily raise and lower these plastic curtains. I don’t think I would enjoy cruising half so much without them. Many do not have this luxury, but I surely appreciate the fact that we do.

The best news of the day is that the new auto pilot seems to be working great. Never again will I take the auto pilot for granted. From now on, we will give thanks and praises for each and every hour that it is working. Mark also loosened our steering considerably and that seems to be working as well. We have to sail about 1,000 miles from here to New Zealand, so let’s just hope everything keeps working until then.

061107 Day 385 Tonga, Pangaimotu Island–Leaving for NZ