Thursday, January 11, 2018

American Samoa to Fiji, Nov 12-20

Andy was instrumental in our departure
Onwards to Fiji 

12th - Finally got out of American Samoa!  Got pulled off the dock at 1025 this morning, getting a tow from Andy Wearing with one of his charter fishing boats.  We are now about to pass the outer marker (Buoy 1).  We 4.2 miles closer to Fiji!
The "Rock"

Pago Pago behind us
13th - Well, after we retrieved the tow line, we've ambled along with just staysail and mizzen sails up.  Took awhile to remove the bimini from the dodger, as well as the stainless support bar, so that the main sail boom had clearance to operate effectively.  Finally got main raised, providing  additional speed.  Had one more to go, and after another 45 minutes or so, raised our heavily modified jib sail, which looks like a small kite now, at about 1/3rd its original size.  It added speed but looks kind of funny.

"Safe Water" Buoy 1.  
We started moving along quite nicely, but our wind indicator crapped out again, so we don't have the normal wind speed and direction read outs on the chart plotter.  Need to get it fixed.  Got through yesterday and overnight quite nicely.  This morning's sunrise gave us pause, as we could see a 360 degree vision of thunder heads.  At 1030 this morning, it seem they ALL decided to visit us, one right after another.  This procession lasted until 1220!  We have never seen this much water fall from the sky for so long, ever.
And to top it all off, after the initial surge of high wind gusts, it left us with zero wind!
Our "kite" hanging way up there

So here we sit, rocking on waves, all the sails creating a ruckus as a result, and we're not happy.  We did, however manage a 24 hour total of 98 miles to this point.  Drying out....

14th - Late yesterday afternoon was much better after the storm and doldrums.  Wind finally picked up some, we dried the boat, towels, etc.  New generator (Yamaha 2600) got a few hours break-in time.  Sun set, stars came out, moon rose at 0250 this morning, and the sky was crystal clear.  Our Sayes Rig steered the boat from end of storms through noon today, and will continue on until we are close to land or need course change.

15th - Surprisingly enough, the past 24 hours has been a calm, good-weather sailing experience.  The only complaint is not enough wind to get is to our destination in time before the wind is totally gone.  We still have some 370 miles to go, and can't go fast enough to get to Savusavu by Friday as we'd hoped for.  So we'll just have to see how it goes in the meantime.

We're still trying to keep ourselves amused/busy while we're on our scheduled four-hour watches, which USED to be hand steering the boat.....A beautiful sunny morning.  Dried some towels, made 25 gal. water, heating water heater for noonish showers.

16th - Yesterday was about as good as we've ever seen.  Steady breeze, sunshine, stars at night....we both had plenty of opportunity to sleep and rest, as the steering vane took the steering off our agendas.  We sailed lazily at a 3.5 - 4 knots.

Data feed from our wind indicator on top of Main Mast,
which is supposed to get translated by our Chart Plotter
We were in touch (texting) with our friends Trevor and Kimi on Slow Flight.  They left Fiji about the same time we left Am. Samoa.  They were about 565 miles north of New Zealand.  They informed us they were in high winds, their rail in the water (heeled over pretty far) and were doing 7-8.5 knots, and bad weather was coming up.  We asked them to share their wind.  They informed us they had begun blowing some northwards.

The old adage, "Be careful what you wish for", slapped us aside the head.  At 0645 this morning, we had to disengage the steering rig.  It just couldn't handle the wind.  For the next five hours, WE were heeled over dramatically, and making 7-8 knots while fighting with the wheel to level off.  Then another gust came and over we'd go, repeating the level-off fight....and so on...

About noon, things calmed down somewhat, but the waves created by this wind will continue to rock us fairly violently for the rest of the day.  We did make our best 24 hour distance yet this trip, logging 116 nautical miles.  About 250 miles to go, with 390 behind us....

17th - Yesterday afternoon started deteriorating about dinner time.  Not going to build up on it, but by 2210, we were up the proverbial shit creek.  I had just gone to bed an hour and a half earlier.  Nancy woke me up by ringing the ship's bell and screaming "All hands on deck!!!!", and I realized we were hard over to port and the sayes rig was engaged but not holding course.  I disengaged the rig and relieved Nancy at the helm while she scrambled around below decks to deal with the leaks.  It was pitch black.  I was pulling the rudder to port as hard as I could to get the boat back on even keel.  Wasn't happening!  The wind just kept increasing, the gusts getting stronger.

Now I was getting worried about any additional increases in wind speed.  Our port side decks had disappeared and the cap rails were not visible behind the racing water.  Heard a few things crashing below and was awaiting our wind fate. The wait was short.  We got broadsided from starboard with ferocious wall of wind.  I couldn't believe that the boat could tip over further without us being knocked down.  So many things flew from their respective storage spaces, it sounded like a small house being turned upside down!  Nancy, hanging on for dear life in the galley announced water was rising in the galley sink...coming up from the drain...

Results of milk crate full of tools flying through our
 port side window and into the sea
In the cockpit, lots of stuff went flying, but it wasn't until the wind eased off just a little and flashlight was located, that I noticed a milk crate containing some electric tools and various parts jumped its barrier, flew across the cockpit, right through the strataglass "window" and over the side.  Looking back at "the wall" event, I could stand by the wheel, hanging on for life, and look straight down into the sea.  Pretty amazing stuff.
Tool box also took a hit, being dumped over "retaining
wall" at right

Anyway, fought this storm for just shy of six hours.  The prevailing westerly trade winds had started blowing down from the north.  This storm literally drove us 20 miles south to the beginning of Fiji outer islands.  It had the markings of a mini cyclone...a big entrance, a period of quiet, lightning, and a big exit.  

This morning we were forced to turn around and sail 20 miles north to get into Nanuku Passage, heading into the teeth of the winds that brought us down there, albeit, only 20 to 26 knots on our nose....

Just before we got to our turning point, we got slammed by a similar storm, and then a trainload of smaller ones.  Went through two as I was trying to write this...

Well, we have logged 605 miles now.  Hopefully we'll be at rest at a dock.  The good news is that, having expected doldrum conditions, these storms are giving us a boost....whoopie, huh?.....

First sighting of Fiji (outer islands)

18th - Just in case you were wondering why our track stopped, it's 
because at 2230, right after the last of a jillion squalls attacked us, the wind keeled over and just died...completely.

At 0745 this morning we're trying to struggle along with 6-7 knot breeze, squeezing out about 1-1.5 knots of boat speed.  Hope wind improves during the day or we might miss Thanksgiving in Savusavu....

The flying milk crate was formerly located next
to red box 
Some wind finally showed up at 1830, so got to point the boat in the right direction, trim the sails, and engage the Sayes Rig by 1855.  We've got about 13-14 knot winds from the SE and we be making 3-3.5 knots boat speed.  Got another 55 miles or so to go.  Just hope this wind hangs around long enough to get that far.

(19th disappeared!  We crossed over...!)

Clear postal packing tape did the trick buttoning
up the hole in the "window".  Hope it lasts awhile...
20th - Got nailed by three more storms during the night.  But they pushed us forward in 25+ knots for about 14 miles before leaving us stranded with zero wind.  So we took the slow train backwards with the current.  A couple of hours later some positive wind, 10 kt came along.  Sun rose, wind a bit stronger.

We are now about 4 hours from out pickup point where dinghies will tie up along side and escort us under power to the dock.  More later.  By the way, we've crossed the International Dateline.  It is Monday here, GMT +12!   We sent a message via our Iridium  email to the nice folks at Savusavu Marina:

"A good Sunday morning to you all, 

As of 0800 local time, we are located 20 miles southeast of entrance to Suvasuva Bay.  Barring any further assasination attempts by relatives of this morning's (0030) three squalls, and wind/breeze holds up, we might be able to get to dock by sunset today, with your assist....

Was wondering if folks worked today....?

Our position at this time is S 16 58.996, W 179 33.681
Course 296T
Speed 2 knots (+/- .5 kt)
Wind 6-8 knots

Will provide further updates via text...

We managed to get enough wind to get into Savusavu Bay, and with Curly's help with dinghy propulsion and navigation, we tied up at the Marina dock a little before dark.  We have landed!!!

"Q" flag is hoisted.  Have to stay aboard until tomorrow, when all the officials climb aboard and inspect and check us onto the country.  Then we will be able to jump ship and find some beer to drink.  We also found out that yes, it is GMT + 12 here, but it's also daylight savings, so now, GMT+13.  But it is the end of day, Monday.

We were treated to a beer by our new neighbor, Cookie.  We're tired and looking for an entire night of restful sleep.....

Tomorrow, we wake up in Fiji, securely tied to a dock.....

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