Day 273, Year 1: Squalls Slamming Windbird

Day 273, Year 1: Squalls Slamming Windbird
Date: Monday, July 17, 2006
Weather: NNW 20-25 with Gusts to 35; Seas 6-8 feet; Overcast
Air Temperature: 79 degrees F
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F
Latitude: 20 degrees 43 minutes South
Longitude: 157 degrees 56 minutes West
Location: Transit from Raiatea to Rarotonga, Day 4
Miles to Go: 106

Okay. I now believe there is no such thing as a “weather window”. Every time we hear that and take off, we have absolutely nasty weather. Last night on my 2230 to 0130 watch, we had pouring rain, lightening, and high winds. Things settled down with sunrise, but at about 1500 this afternoon, Mark went down for a nap. I read for a few minutes and then opened my computer to start this log. And then all of a sudden, all hell broke lose. Another squall . . . and this one was building steam. I did my best to handle things, but the commotion woke Mark and he came up to help. We had to bring in the headsail and let out the main sheet. We were being slammed with rain and strong winds and no sail change is easy in that kind of weather. Things have settled down again and hopefully he can get a little sleep before his watch starts at 1900.

Everyday the weather reports from New Zealand change. Of course, that is because the weather changes daily. Yesterday it looked like we would go through the front and come out on the other side with very little wind, and a good chance to get into the harbor in Rarotonga. This morning things got much more complicated. The low headed south but is dragging a cold front with it. That cold front is going to cause north winds to persist in the Rarotonga area until maybe Wednesday. So the advice this morning was to get as close to Rarotonga as we can and then hove to (just stop in the water) and wait for the front to pass. You just can’t enter the Rarotonga harbor with strong north winds, so you have to wait. If, and that is a very big IF, the cold front does pass sometime between now and Wednesday, we will then be able to head in.

So, it is all about the weather. The boats back in Bora Bora (Endangered Species being one of those) that were planning to leave to head this way have stayed put and will wait for the next ‘window”. My thought on that is that this year “windows” just don’t exist. I’m really not sure what is happening, and maybe this kind of weather is normal here, but that is not what we have read. Something seems amiss, just not sure what. The bottom line is that all is well onboard. We are getting rest and Mark is working hard to make sure we are eating well. Thank goodness we had some things in the freezer ready to pull out and heat up. In this kind of weather, cooking is truly arduous, and just not possible on one leg.

We’ll probably reach Rarotonga tomorrow afternoon and if the weather is still unsettled, we will heave to about 20 miles off. Hopefully, we will be able to make landfall on Wednesday.

Day 272, Year 1: The Squash Zone

Day 272, Year 1: The Squash Zone
Date: Sunday, July 16, 2006
Weather: E 25-35; Seas 10-12 feet; Blue Skies and Sunny
Air and Water Temperature: 77 degrees F (cooling down)
Latitude: 19 degrees 32 minutes South
Longitude: 155 degrees 55 minutes West
Location: Transit from Raiatea to Rarotonga, Day 3
Miles to Go: 233

As I predicted, last night was boisterous. The morning light always seems to calm the waters, but as the day progressed, so did the wind and the waves. We are in what is called a “squash zone”. There is a strong ridge of high pressure to our east and a trough associated with a low pressure system moving toward us from the west. The low was supposed to move SE, but it didn’t. As we go further southwest our winds should start clocking to the north and then to the northwest. And once we go through the weather system, the winds will drop to almost nothing. Right now, it doesn’t look like that will happen until late tomorrow. We can’t enter the only harbor on the island of Rarotonga when there are north winds, so we sure hope we are through this by the time we arrive there on Tuesday morning.

We have adjusted our course a little to the south so that the strong winds are behind us. We rock and roll a bit, but it has been very comfortable. Moving about for me is not easy, but I am hanging in there.

I think I mentioned in an earlier log that our destination, Rarotonga, is in the Cook Islands. Captain Cook never set foot on Rarotonga, but he did visit Atiu, just north of Rarotonga, and called the islands “detached parts of the earth”. The Pitcairn-bound ship, Bounty, is thought to be the first European visitor to Rarotonga in 1779. The mutineers brought the first orange tree seeds to this part of the world. Rarotonga is a high island and is sometimes compared to Moorea in the Society Islands, although it is only half the size. It is only 32 kilometers all the way around. Most of the islanders speak English, as well as their form of Polynesian. They have a relationship with New Zealand and NZ currency is used there. We have much to learn about this island and can’t wait to start exploring. We know the local greeting is kia orana (may you live on), thank you is meitaki (may-ee-tock-ee), cheers! is kia manuia! (kee-uh mon-wee-ah), and goodbye is aere ra (ah-ay-ray rah).

Day 271, Year 1: Moody Ocean

Day 271, Year 1: Moody Ocean
Date: Saturday, July 15, 2006
Weather: ESE Tradewinds 18-20 During the Day, Blue Skies with Puffy White Clouds
Latitude: 18 degrees 07 minutes
Longitude: 154 degrees 01 minutes
Location: Transit from Raiatea to Rarotonga, Day 2
Miles to Go: 373 (out of 550 total)

The ocean has a personality like a very moody person. It can sometimes be peaceful and placid, and then can change quickly to an angry sea. Even with all of the weather information you receive, it is very difficult to know just what a passage will be like. Last night was lumpy with confused seas throwing us this way and that-not what we expected. As the sun rose this morning, however, the seas and winds calmed down a bit and we have had a delightful day. We have had 18 to 20 knot winds on a broad reach and the seas have rolled comfortably under aft port side of the boat and out the forward starboard side. It is a bit like a dance. Unfortunately, our moody sea is deciding to become rowdy again at the end of the day. We will probably have another boisterous night, but at least we are making good time toward our destination. I am finding moving about a bit challenging with this cast on my leg, but so far, so good. Unfortunately, Mark is left with most of the sailing responsibilities as well as providing the meals. Balancing on one foot in rolly seas is not my expertise, so I have to do most things from a sitting position. He is doing a great job and might decide that single-handing is easier than he thought. Could I lose my valuable position as first mate?

Last night when I was on watch, I was so grateful that the auto pilot is repaired. I could sit in place and use our remote control device to adjust direction. In these seas, it is impossible for me to stand at the helm. I tried this morning, just to get a compass reading, and immediately fell. Not something I will try again. But at least with the auto pilot and remote control, I can do my watches and keep the boat on track as the winds shift. Richard, the guy we first met via radio in Raiatea, was a wonderful help and we will be forever grateful.

As you travel around the world like this, there is no way to see and experience everything you would like. As we are sailing on from French Polynesia, I keep hearing the lyrics to a song, “We may never pass this way again.” Did we see everything we wanted? No. Did we have a wonderful experience? Yes. Do we have regrets? Not really. We are actually excited to be moving on to the see the next part of the world. Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, is our next destination. It is a place I had really never heard of before planning this trip. And this comes from someone who started out as a history and geography teacher at the high school level. I think my “next career” when we return home will be to work with children to help them expand their knowledge of the small world we live in.

One last thing. We started this passage with no other boats going our way. We checked into the Net this morning, however, and found that Vol (pronounced Yawl) had started out yesterday from Bora Bora for Aitutaki, just north of Rarotonga. Also, Endangered Species checked in as starting out his morning from Bora Bora, but before the end of the Net, they reported that they had oil pressure problems and were returning to port. It was a bit lonely last night to think that no one else was out here with us, but thanks to the Net that is run by cruisers, we connected this morning. French Polynesia is a decision point. Some boats are headed through the north Cook Islands to Samoa, some are heading directly to Tonga, and a few are heading to the south Cook’s as we are. Many of the boats we have traveled with previously are still back in Tahiti. I guess we are just on the fast track. Some things never change.

Day 270, Year 1: Leaving on a Friday–Not a Good Idea

Day 270, Year 1: Leaving on a Friday–Not a Good Idea
Date: Friday, July 14, 2006
Weather: Squally Day
Latitude: Not Recorded
Longitude: Not Recorded
Location: Transit from Raiatea to Rarotonga, Day 1
Miles to Go:

Well, we broke our cardinal rule of never starting a transit on a Friday, and here we are with weather that was not what the weatherman predicted. Somehow it didn’t dawn on us that today was Friday until I typed the date in this log. It’s not terrible weather out here by any means, but it is a little challenging. We had hoped for calm seas with this leg of mine in a cast, but you don’t always get what you wish for. If it doesn’t get any worse than this, I’ll be happy.

We have changed our sail pattern a few times today, but as night is settling in we are sailing in 20 to 25 knot winds on the beam with a double-reefed main and the staysail out. The winds were out of the southeast but are moving more and more east as the day progresses which could mean that the trades are settling in once again. We had to roll in the headsail as it was just too lumpy. We are able to be right on course with this current combination. I feel like we are moving through a front and we once we exit on the other side, the winds might subside some. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

We called Dr. Carlin of the World Clinic this morning to let him know about my broken leg and to give him the result of the blood tests and get his okay for the transit. We hadn’t called him previously as we were getting local care, but I wanted his take on the blood test results just to make sure all is well. Also, if there should be complications, he will be aware of the situation. He confirmed what we have been told at the hospital here-the blood tests are all in the normal range and we will continue with the daily blood thinner shots. Mark is getting quite skilled with a needle.

We said our goodbyes to the cruisers at the dock and took off around 10:30 this morning. We should arrive in Rarotonga on Tuesday or Wednesday. We called the Stuarts this afternoon and they are leaving in the morning. They will arrive in Rarotonga on Monday. They are staying at a place called Kura’s Kabana until Friday and will then move aboard the Windbird Resort. We can’t wait.

The French flag came down this afternoon. It is hard to believe that we are traveling on from French Polynesia after two wonderful months. We arrived in Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas on May 14 and left Raiatea in the Society Islands today on July 14. We didn’t get to do everything that we wanted, but we had an absolutely fabulous time. We carry with us so many wonderful memories.