Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sailing from Rarotonga, Cook Islands to Tonga

Rarotonga to Neiafu at the Vavau Group Tonga

Hi all, we have been at sea for a few days now and we have had a few tough times.

We left Rarotonga at around 1330 hours on Saturday 12 April 08, as we were preparing to leave we had people that wanted to stop and talk including a young  Aussie couple who has plans to do what we are doing, they work overseas and are working in the Cook Islands at the moment saving for their dream. Good luck to them they will not be disappointed. Wish I could have done this earlier. We had been the attraction all week locals were driving or walking down to see us in the harbour.

I think I forgot to mention two other nice blokes that we met, Alberto and Cameron, they are partners in business they have a multihull that they run charters and was attracted to our yacht as they would like to upgrade. Alberto is Swiss was sailing and intended to go to Queensland, that was 16 years ago and he has been in the Cooks all that time. Cameron is from Scotland another nice bloke, thanks for the avocados Cameron. He bought a large bag down for us before we sailed. Thanks to Alberto for the help loading the water and the weather information.

We finally got underway following the leads out of the harbour and passed the Tahitian Princess Passenger liner turned west and rolled out the Genoa, yes the wind was going to be in its usual place right behind us so it will probably be Genoa all the way. Once we were out of the protection of the island we were hit by the 3 metre swell and winds of around 15 knots yes from behind. We picked up the wind and were sailing 5 – 6 knots; we are pretty well loaded so I do not expect great speed. We loaded up with spare fuel an extra 300 litres, water and stores. We are now carrying an extra 70 metres of anchor chain since Raiatea; it is very deep anchoring from now on.
(Goodbye Cook Islands)

Getting back into watch keeping 4 on 4 off will take some settling in after the short break we will suffer sleep degradation for the first few days, the body has to get used to going to sleep on demand this is the tough part only having the 2 crew.

The first night was slow, sea was choppy and we were down to 3 knots, we could be sailing against the current we should be moving faster across the ground with the wind that we have. Sunday (13/04) we noticed it was getting a little cool. We did the radio sched with the group and Suni informs us that we have headed into a cold front that is due over the next 3 days. The day was quite good not a great deal of speed but we did cover 129 Nms for the 24 hours.

Monday 14/04/08 – Around 0100 hours the wind had dropped right off then in the next few hours it started to change all over the place good sign of something going to happen. I came on shift at 0400 hours everything was quiet we are doing about 5 knots, I looked down the starboard side and saw this glow at first I thought I was seeing things then I saw a few more, I think it was those large squid they glow as a warning or to attract a mate. I’ll take it that it was a warning.

The 0800 hour radio sched brought bad news, Suni told us that Charlie was suffering from the bends from diving and had lost the feelings in his legs and has to be flown to Papeete to be treated in the re-compression chamber. Charlie and Suni on Cosmos are still in Bora Bora and Charlie has been doing a lot of diving repairing the moorings. We hoped that it was not too serious.

The group is pretty well spread at the moment they being at Bora Bora, ‘Contigo’ at Morpelie, ‘Promise’ is at Aitutaki along with other Aussie boat ‘Blessed B’  and ‘Nataphe’ is sailing from Bora Bora. I went to bed after the sched and breakfast. Nancy called out at 1010 hours we were being hit by a storm, she had not noticed the warning signs, and it was on us fast. The wind was howling in the rigging and I had too much sail out. I turned the boat down wind and got the wind out of the sail, I was barking orders at poor Nancy, and we got the Genoa rolled so it was only about an eighth rolled out and I started riding the massive swell. The small amount of Genoa we had out kept the bows in the right direction as the waves were trying to turn us to the side.

 (Unfortunately photo's do not show the true waves as being two dimensional, but this photo gives some idea.)

Nancy was now in the saloon watching as I steered at the helm getting soaked by the rain the waves were around 4 to 5 metres, they looked a lot larger, and I don’t really want to know if they were. There was this one wave and as it came up from behind lifting us we then surfed down it, Nancy’s eyes were fixed looking at the water spraying from the bows through the saloon port holes, she turned to me as we hit the bottom ,I looked at her and said you don’t want to know. We were going down that wave at 16.6 knots. We rode the storm for nearly 4 hours. I don’t mind admitting that I was rather scared through the whole ordeal. However, it did give me additional confidence in the boat and our capabilities in tackling such conditions.

We remained sailing with just the quarter of Genoa as squalls became frequent this still kept us moving along at 5 to 10 knots the squalls continued into the night hours but no where near the force of the earlier storm. The seas were still quite large and the occasional monster would lift us up in the air and we would speed up going down it and then it would pass underneath us and we would slow right down on the back of the wave bows pointing to the sky.


Nancy’s first comment in the log was big seas high winds, we are on the edge of a low, and a trough, the low pressure is forming to the NE of us. This pressure system will make it uncomfortable for a couple of days.

At 1000 hours I was just about waking from an hours rest when Nancy called out storm coming, I tried to move as fast as I could to get up there and it is not that fast these days, the leg joints and arms need to wake a little slower creaks and groans from the joints. Once they got in order I got to the cockpit and took the helm turned the boat downwind to ride out another one of Mother Natures wonders. This one was not as bad as yesterdays and not as long, winds were in the high 30’s seas were still very rough and we gauged the wave height up to 5 metres at times that was measured on the elevation on the GPS.

The day continued to have squall after squall and again continued into the night, we were being pushed well off our planned course, we were 12 nms north of our line, we were not concerned the only consequence is that we will eventually pass Niue island on the north tip rather than the southern tip and by going north we could run into calm areas where there won’t be any wind.

(Storms come and go)

During the radio sched we learned that Charlie was in good health and was flying back to Bora Bora tonight to rejoin Suni on their yacht. ‘Nataphe’ was drifting at a rate of 0.2 knots with no wind whatsoever. Some sailors choose not to motor sail this can be to conserve fuel for the long trip ahead so they will not use it at the beginning of the trip, in some cases some prefer to use the wind only and use engines for entering and leaving port and in some cases it depends on the budget fuel is not cheap. ‘Nataphe’ I believe prefer to use the natural elements of the wind and are in no rush to get places.

“Nataphe’ and us are the only ones on the move at the moment so our friends that are at anchor at the different locations are keeping an eye on us to ensure we are safe, they are also providing vital weather information each radio sched to assist us in our decision making of which course to take. Thank you people, special thanks to Chris and Suni; they have done a good job. I did the weather for a few boats last year whilst I sat at Raiatea, I now know how they appreciated the help, and it is great having not only the weather map but the interpretation of what they see.

The evening hours remained the same with rough seas and squalls but we were still moving along quite well under half the Genoa.


Today we changed the time back one hour the next time change will be the date line where we lose a full day. Suni gave us the bad weather news on the sched this morning and said keep moving north there is a gale south of you. We did just that heading now for the northern tip of Niue, the seas continued to make it uncomfortable but that’s life we have wind that is moving us in roughly the right direction.

The day was a normal day at sea nothing happened; we are now in the sea routine and getting some sleep. ‘Nataphe’ has increased speed they are now drifting at 0.5 knots but they are going in the right direction not backwards.


The guys at the different anchorages got it quite rough over the last night period and it is still rough this morning. Suni warns us that there is a gale warning to the south of us but we are well away from that. ‘Nataphe’ informs us that they are now sailing at 5 knots and should be at their destination by Saturday 200 Nms to go. ‘Contigo’ is going to try and sail today at the moment the pass is too rough and they cannot get out, ‘Promise’ hopes to be sailing tomorrow, ‘Traveler’ hopes to be sailing from Raiatea on Sunday. ‘Cosmos’ is staying at Bora Bora whilst Charlie gets well after the bends.

Today we have very little wind and we are motoring and have been since 0600 hours this morning, we have passed Niue, it was daylight before we could see it, it is not a spectacular sight like Rarotonga the shape of the island is rounded and not very high.  We slowly passed the island without visiting, there isn’t a harbour at this island, they have set up some moorings for visitors, but it is very uncomfortable with the rocking and rolling of the sea. The dinghy dock there has an electric crane so that you can lift your dinghy out of the water when going ashore to stop it bashing against the dock with the swell.

We rang my dear mother Joan for her birthday 87 years young, I told her if she was with us she could miss out on this one as today is 17th her and 18th in Oz, tomorrow we cross the date line and go straight to the 19th missing the 18th completely. Love ya Mum.

Had a couple of messages on the satellite phone they were from Dusty, the House House and Rick. We did have the phone on but with the noise of the sea we did not hear it ring, we will catch up with you when we get to port.

 (Seas calmer and little wind)
 (Nancy taking advantage of the better conditions)
(Good helps hard to find)

We have motored all day hardly any wind but the seas were calm a good day to catch up on rest. On the afternoon sched we heard ‘Nataphe’ had lost the wind again and was drifting 0.5knots after a day of doing 5 knots under 10 knots of wind. ‘Contigo’ did not sail so they will not leave until Saturday now, we do not start passages on Fridays old superstition however we did once and copped a hiding at sea many a story from other sailors tell the same. Why push your luck.

18/04/08 no it’s 19/04/08 whichever!

We do cross the dateline today but we are not there yet we probably will not change our time until Tonga tomorrow. That will be plus 13 hours on GMT/UTC at the moment we are minus 11 hours GMT/UTC.

I got up for the morning shift 0400 hours it was nearly a full moon dead ahead of us it made for great photos if we had not been on a moving platform, I took some photos and I will see what I can produce out of them.

Looking at the GPS we have now completed 6,500 Nms since the Panama and 7,920 Nms since the start of this voyage in St Lucia. It also shows that the average speed over the whole voyage was 4.5 knots, the highest speed that we have reached is 21.2 knots that must have happened in the storm the other day when I was not looking at the GPS, it may have been one of those moments I closed my eyes saying OH S—T!!! I do remember seeing the 16.6 knots I think I said the same thing.

It’s incredible what we do to stay awake on shift I have resorted to statistics, boring.

We have just found out that we do not have a Tongan curtesy flag and we have no photo to make one up, will have to buy one as soon as we land. When entering a country the protocol is to show that countries flag set higher than the ships flag, our Australian red ensign is flown from the HF antenna on the transom, we usually put the courtesy flag up the mast.

We are motoring again today, we have some wind but with the roll of the sea it knocks the wind out of the sails and we move very slowly. We believe it is at our advantage to get moving with the weather that’s predicted. Suni gave us the weather and surprisingly the cyclone season is still active with a cyclone being near Vanuatu (north), the Madden Julian Oscillation index shows that it should be over as far as cyclones. Just goes to show that Mother Nature has the last word, just when you think you worked her out she throws a curve ball. The cyclone will not affect us but there are other low pressure systems and troughs that will.

Well the last 24 hours has been a bit of the same no bloody wind, we had a bit of sail up just for the odd gust that lifted the speed a little, and we did average 4.5 knots on a tail wind. I had the one engine at around 2000 rpm just plodding along. At around 0630 hours this morning we saw landfall, Tonga, Vavau Group, we needed to enter in daylight so when we had 20 nms to go I started the second engine put them both on 2500 rpm cruising speed 7.5 knots, I left the Genoa out a little just in case we got a little wind and at times we did and it boosted us to 9 knots, that was until we started the inlets to Neiafu Harbour and lost wind or got head on wind, I rolled the Genoa in.

 (Nearing Tonga, Vava'u Group of Islands)
 (Nancy enjoying the view)

 (There are many islands in this group)

When we neared the harbour we called the officials on radio, no response and we did not expect any, it’s Sunday and no one works on Sunday, this is a very religious place, you could hear the church bells as we arrived. Nancy then called one of the local yacht services on the radio still no answer. Next thing the radio squawked it was an American named Baker has a boat named ‘Lighten Up’, he asked if he could assist. We explained we were entering the harbour and he said to come alongside and wait for the officials in the morning, he also mentioned that we would not be able to go ashore until we had cleared in, we already new that was the case and had no problem. Fact of the matter is that all I need is a cold beer and a good sleep.

We entered the harbour and Baker was there to assist us we had to tie up port side to which meant that I had to approach the wharf and spin the yacht around and reverse in, easy only the wind is pushing the stern out. Bugger! Well it was not an approach that I would brag about, but with the aid of Baker on the ropes we got there.
(Alongside and putting sails to bed)

 (Yachts moored in the harbour, it is not safe to anchor there only way over the other side of the harbour well away from the town)
 (People came to talk to us, they told us that these boats are the school children from the islands, they stay at the school housing during the week and go home weekends)
(Some of Alana Rose's sisters at the Moorings charter company)

Baker also informed us that they have passed a law that the authorities require 24 hours notice prior to arrival. OOPS! He said it will be OK no one is aware of it at the moment. We will find out tomorrow. Baker did go and inform the Police that we were here.

Tonight we have a full night sleep, (Together), that wont make much difference we are both too tired. Never thought I would ever have said that.


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