Monday, March 6, 2017

Neiafu Tonga to Savusavu Fiji 2008

12/05/2008 Leaving Neiafu.

As we left the harbour of Neiafu, Tonga I put the main sail up as we were heading directly into the wind before going out to sea and as we turned to go out of the inlet and turned to sea the sail filled with wind and we picked up speed. We still had the port engine running at this stage. We rolled out the genoa and as soon as we cleared the entrance we shut down the engine and we were sailing around 6.5 knots. This was a surprise as we thought we would be motoring all the way.

Originally we were going to be in the company of two other boats, ‘Promise’ and ‘Blessed B’, but unfortunately through a medical condition the crew of ‘Promise’ had to fly back to America to have things checked out, they may return in a few days if everything turns out OK. ‘Blessed B’ was having some repairs made and was going to be delayed, so we do it alone as we have most the way.

As we got further out to sea we had a few rain squalls some of them hit us and we had to shorten sail then when it cleared up no wind back to motoring. Fortunately before leaving I dived down and cleaned the props so we were moving around 5.5 knots on one engine. Around 1900 hours Nancy spotted a white light behind us on the port side she called me to check it out; it was another sailing vessel he was using his anchor light as a steaming light and no other nav lights on. He called us on the radio, it was Phil we had met a couple of days before, and he came over to see us regarding weather conditions for sailing to Suva, Fiji. He was motoring at 7 knots, I said to him that this is what we had expected was to motor the first two days before we had wind. We wished each other well and said we may catch up in Lautoka. We watched his light ahead all night and it disappeared over the horizon just before dawn.


Today was a slow day we had rain we had wind changing, we had no wind at times, and late at night we had rain squalls. Not a good sailing day we motor sailed, the sea was calm with a SW swell of up to 2 metres, but it was a rolling swell and not uncomfortable. Nancy had good sleep in her time off; she had forgotten to take her anti-histamine tablets before we sailed from Tonga, if she does take the tablets before us sail she gets a little seasick and headaches. She took them after she realised she had forgotten but it was a little late then, however, she is now back on track.


We still had rain most of the time, the wind was changing direction constantly, and we still had sails up to catch whatever wind was available to get a bit more speed. We had reefed down for the night and this also helped in changing side to side when the wind changed. It is quite heavy going for Nancy changing sails so we go for the easy way which makes us a little slower in speed but what’s the hurry?

Nancy woke me up at 0300 hours she said we have a storm, I now think that was an understatement. Its pitch black I was having trouble with the helm steering the right direction we did a 360 a couple of times, I had already rolled in the genoa but still had the reefed main up and that was causing problems. We had winds above 50 knots waves sounding like steam trains coming through. I struggled to get the nose into the wind once I had it settled I put Nancy on the helm made sure she was OK then I had to get out to the mast and get the main sail down. Fortunately all went well, the rain was pouring down. I was in my jocks, T shirt, harness, and raincoat. And drenched to the skin. I got back on the helm feeling the boat wanted to go with the storm so I turned the yacht down wind and rode the waves this was pushing us north as the wind was coming from the south; this was pushing us well off course we wanted to go west. I remembered the rule if the wind is right on your back then the low pressure is to your right therefore I need to head slightly to the left to distance myself from it. I started to ride the waves at a safe angle to try and get away from this monster, you probably would not do this in a monohull but a cat can ride this direction well but this boat felt comfortable in doing what we were. I know I was thinking to myself, I hope I am doing this right? Nancy was scared but she wasn't alone in that, I was crapping myself.  As daybreak came I looked for signs of the storm clearing, no such bloody luck it was here to stay. We still had winds between 40 and 50 knots and waves I would have trouble guessing but I would say well above 4 metres you could barely see the tops of the waves just the rolling white water. I had said to Nancy to go and get some rest as I don’t know how long this will be on for and once we get better conditions when she can take the wheel I would have to stay there until we are safe this turned out to be 1330 hours, I had been going since 0300 hours, I was soaking wet cold. Nancy kept coming to see how I was going and feeding me and making cups of tea and giving me drinking water. This gives the next problem what goes in must come out, when you got to go you got to go. I just had to pee outside the cockpit whilst at the helm, (is that where it got its name); there was enough rain and sea water to wash everything over the side.
Nancy was a little nervous about taking the helm in the conditions we had, but the conditions were better now, we still had a paddock full of white horses white wave caps everywhere but the winds had come down to 20-25 knots with an occasional burst in the high 20’s. I got 2 hours sleep on and off. I went back up to see how things were going and looked at our plan of action.

We had both engines running at low speed to keep in time with the waves, bare-poled all sails stowed away and we made 161 miles in the day shows you what the wind was doing to us without any sails it just pushed us along, any sailor on a normal sailing day would be pleased with that distance in a day.

There was no way we could make it across to the pass in the Lau Group of Islands we were heading for because we would have had to put these monster waves on our beam and catamarans don’t right themselves if you tip over like monohulls do. So we set plan ‘B’ we will try and move across to the next pass a little further north. Something was starting to help as we had been steering to the northwest trying to get further away from the lower pressure we were now getting SE winds and the waves followed that same direction so we were able to steer further to a westerly direction but unfortunately not enough to get to the next pass through the Lau Group above Vanua, so next for plan ‘C’ keep heading NW and steer across the top of the Lau Group cut across the top of Duff Reef  and Welangilala into Nanuku Passage and get some shelter from the reefs and islands of the Lau Group.
(This chart shows the final track we took in red, the blue was the original plan and then plan B the yellow track)
(Me at the helm when things had calmed down a little)

At around 1700 hours we were turning and going passed Jefferys Bank and Alacrity Bank north of the Lau Group and we started to see some settling of the seas  just after. It was enough for me to put two jerry cans of fuel into the port fuel tank as I don’t like running the fuel down passed halfway. Shortly after Nancy made dinner and went for a sleep. I rolled out the genoa as the wind now was coming from the east and we had started sailing west we started to see the moon through the clouds and then some stars, the wind picked up slightly and I was able to shut the engine down. We were under sail again in fairly good conditions; we passed Duff Reef and looked for the light on Welangilala, no light which is not unusual in this area. Once passed this point we entered Nanuku Passage and turned SW direction towards Taveuni’s South Cape. By the morning around 0800 hours the wind disappeared and we started both engines to get into Savusavu before having to pay the overtime fro officials working after 1600 hours.
 (Fijian Vanua Levu coastline just after first light)
(A squall behind us)
(Adjusting the ropes)
 (Nearing Savusavu)
(On auto pilot Nancy's on watch and I am resting)
 (Reef entrance to Savusavu)
(A resort at the mouth of Savusavu)

15/05/2008 Savuuavu, Fiji

We entered Savusavu at 1530 hours and were lead to a mooring by one of the Waitui Marina staff, they also organised the officials and brought them out to us individually, first we had Health Officer, then Customs Officer and finally the Quarantine Officer, they were all very nice people and liked to have a chat and although they all came after 1600 hours they did not charge any overtime rates.

Once cleared in we went ashore and went to the bank to get local money and headed for the sailing club for a coldie, (Beer), well two coldies each, went to the restaurant and had a meal and some wine, then went back on board and went to bed and that was 1930 hours and I did not get up until 0600 hours in the morning.

 (The moorings at Savusavu)

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