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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

24 hours in Hell

Everyone loves "champagne sailing" - its what we all imagine its ever going to be. But when its crap its bloody hell - like the last 24 hours - smashing into a 1 -2m swell, really rough sea and the wind crept up to 27 knots at about 1am, at wgich time I was stuiffed and ready to call for a taxi to get me the hell out of here. I took down sail and took down sail till there was a scrap of headsail only.and that was a mistake becasuse now the boat headed offwest rather than south but at least the boat wasnt crashing and banging and shrieking and rocking. I lay on the bunk in the hot wild oppressive dark and imagined the worst. I cursed so many things, most especially the Givernment officials who forced me out, who dealayd my departure, the wind that went from infront to infront when I turned around at Futuna, the GRIB that forecast 20 maybe, the guy who warned me about light winds and said "take all the diesel you can"...I imagined having to sail over the top of Fiji and try to enter from the other side, or maybe I would end up in Vanuatu...

The wind eased off to 22 by dawn and I reset sail and I am more or less back on track. The rain went and the sky is clear, we have all the 110 Jib out and two reefs in the main. Our heading is 180 but we are moving west of that and just managed to slide in under Cikobia Island to the north of me now, and its tail of reefs that looked like were inour path in our path are two more reefs. one is Cooks Shoal, might pass to the north of the first then motor sail into the wind pass b ewteen nit and Cooks then turn back southy and pass Cook Shoal ntto its south.

Then theres a long stretch of open water that we will bash through overnight towards Somo Somo strait, a narrow passage between Vanua Levu and Taveuni. Should be daytime by then..

Bruised and battered, till tomorrow

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Three hours in Futuna

Arrived after dark last night so hove to and slept very intermittently, even thou7gh we were 8 miles off we slowly got closer and by sunrise we were 3 miles out so I motored in. Dropped anchor at 7am and pumnped up the dinghy and was ashore at 8am. Walked along the road of a tiny town with a couple of shops and found the Gendarmerie - he stamped my Passport : ARRIVE a Fuutuna July 4 then stamped it agin DEPART July 4. Next I walked back to the Customs Office on the wharf where a small ship was being unloaded of a few containers, gave them my papers and they issued my customs declaration in by 9am I was back on the boat, deflating the dingfhy and stowing it. By 10 I was heading out, I put up all sail, set the Hydrovane, we are close hauled ( of bloody course ) heading is 208M wind is SE about 16-18 knots , sea about 1 meter, mostly sunny with some high cloud and I havaenty had to do anything else except have food - bloody ants are ruining everything - and have some rest. Sun just setting so will have tinned fish and crackers for dinner then start sleepimg. Should be staying on this course for most of the way back. AT least we are laying our destination this time,

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Heaving to

As is usual with sailing, the wind is playing funny buggers. On the nose whichever way we were heading, or else very light, or from a perfect direction and strong once its too late to make landfall before dark..which was what happened yesetrday afternoon . So we arrived off Futuna just after sunset and too late to go into the Port so we hove to - sort of - 8 miles off and have been waiting for the sun to return before heading in. Very broken re4stless sleeping...if it was sleeping at all.

Once in I go ashore, get my passport stamped IN and OUT then head back to the boat and sail back to Fiji. Hope to be back SUnday evening or Monday am.

No dramas getting here - except for the wind - but one can never be sure what's around the corner.

Sunrise is in one hour.

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