Monday, July 7, 2014

Circuit Completed

3 hours in Futuna

Futuna from 10 miles out : the white spot on the right is a church at the Port
The last day of sailing brought me safely back to Savu Savu.  Once I had negotiated Scatterbreak Channel,  a sort of s-bend between the reef  named Cakau Vucovuco to port and  Cooks Shoal to starboard we were in sea that was much smoother because of other reefs to the south but not that far away. It was dark by then, about 9pm but even in the daytime they aren’t all visible, some are never exposed even at low tides, and its disconcerting to look across what seems like normal deep ocean but to realize lurking perhaps only half a mile away is doom for any unwary traveller. One assumes of course that the GPS and the navigation software that provides this information is correct – and it is well known, and there are warnings aplenty that this isn’t always the case – but in fact, when it indicates there should be things visible in certain places, they usually are, so in general, I for one assume the reefs are more or less where they are said to be. Never- the-less one always gives such structures a wide berth, as the PRECISE location may be off by  meters, hundreds of meters even.
Uninhabited except for coconut trees : Vetaaua Island
So, now in smoother water but still with 22 knots and our course altered to something less than a close haul, Sapphire moved faster and steadier as we tracked direct to Somo Somo pass , 40 miles up a long corridor 5 miles wide and flanked by  reefs and islets and obstacles to either side . In a straight line though there was nothing in the way. I reset the hydrovane to have us tracking up the middle and had a sleep. An hour and a half later I woke and checked : we were right on track, nearest obstacles was at last two hours away, so I had another sleep.

This time I woke from a deep sleep with a start – I just knew I had been asleep much too long – I felt a terrible sense of doom and panic as I fumbled for the light and the watch – my GOD I had been asleep for four hours, so tired I was from all the broken sleep and hard work of sailing – I had NEVER slept for four hours while sailing before - but here we were still going at six knots up a narrow channel.  Turning on the chart plotter, remarkably we were well up the channel, further than I had expected and still in the middle, exactly where we had been planning to be but of course the slightest  change in wind direction, or current…it didn’t bear thinking about…but I did, and imagined the sickening crash that could have woken me as we slammed into a reef, hard aground and in need of rescue, or salvage…I felt my heart racing as I contemplated the near miss. I knew I had just dodged a bullet. Tiredness – no, exhaustion - is the great enemy of the solo sailor. I remembered Jean Socrates a remarkable older American woman who went to sleep less than a hundred miles form competing a solo circumnavigation and woke when the boat ran onto the shore and was wrecked!

So I blessed my little yacht – a friend at Vuda Marina had called my little yacht a “Honey” – and the Hydrovane for keeping us on course, and of course the wind Gods that I had been cursing day and night long. Next, Coffee and some very early breakfast – it was about 2.30 – and I stayed awake to look at the stars and listen to the sound of the boat surging forward and watched as the sky lightened and as the sun rose I saw Taveuni, and Rabi, islands I had passed in the dark on the way out.  

Approaching SomoSomo Passge at Daybreak, Taveuni on Port
We had to motor through the pass as it was completely in the wind shadow of Taveuni, but once through and beyond the shadow, the wind picked up to 22 knots again and we reached westward, bouncing over a slow swell. I through the troll line out the back and for only the third time ever, caught a fish, and for the firsttime ever, actually landed it on the boat : a 1 meter long Spanish mackerel, a long dark blue ish with vertical stripes and a very pointy head and nasty sharp teeth. I felt sorry for it to start with, and then remembered that it attacked my lure thinking it was a smaller fish that it could kill, and decided it would be a nice present to give Aseri, the lovely Fijian man from the Waitui marina who looked after me in Savu Savu. Finally we went round Point Passage, and the wind was in front of us again but I unrolled the Jib and we sped back to a mooring at Savu Savu just before dark.  It had been one of those great days of sailing.
The First Fish landed on Sapphire

In the morning , I will clear customs.

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