ADOPTING PLAN ‘C’ – HEADING TO TONGA

Another lovely night.  This time though the wind deserted us in the early hours and has been missing since.  For the last twelve hours we have rolled around the ocean and just managed to keep moving at between two and three knots.  Such a contrast to the previous days when we have been striding along effortlessly at between six and seven knots.

Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific
Jessica Sailing in The South Pacific

The wind is expected to fill in again this evening and we will welcome some breeze through the boat – its very hot today.  I poled out the jib this morning to reduce the sail flogging, we are moving slowly south east, downwind.

We keep scanning astern looking and hoping for signs of a breeze.  Its been a slow day today, only one hundred and eighteen miles noon to noon.

Last night we downloaded another weather file and found the winds forecast for Suwarrow had not diminished – in fact they had become slightly stronger, thirty knots.  There is no point in us arriving in such weather, the anchorage will be neither relaxing or conducive to exploring ashore or by Kayak.  We will just be stuck onboard, much like during our call at Christmas Island.

We have reluctantly made the decision to skip Suwarrow and head direct for Tonga.  If we had been on an easier schedule we could have easily held back arriving in Suwarrow for a couple of days and then enjoyed some calm condition inside the lagoon.  We don’t have that luxury so will head direct to Neiafu in the Vava’u group to check in with customs and immigration.  It will probably take us another ten days to get to Neiafu, arriving around Monday 21st August.

The time that we have missed at Penrhyn and Suwarrow we will spend sailing down the Tonga chain of islands.  We have been reading some good stuff about Humpback whales breeding at this time of year – hopefully we will catch up with some.  Total voyage distance 540 miles.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND / KIRITIMATI TO PENRHYN

I awoke early this morning, it was too quiet.  On deck all was peaceful, the anchor cable was lying soundlessly in the water.  After days of wind this was a pleasant surprise.  I was now too awake to go back to sleep and it was too early to wake Jessica.

For the next hour I pottered about, putting in some waypoints to the GPS, reading some old news clippings and getting the ships papers’ ready for clearing out from Kiritimati.  Then I made toast and marmalade for breakfast and woke Jessica – who couldn’t complain too much about the time as she was presented with breakfast.

After breakfast we launched the pig and headed into London to clear out with customs and immigration.  This was an easy and pleasant affair and cost us AU$20.  With clearance in hand we set off to do some final provisioning.  We discovered poor quality oranges cost $3.5 each and water was $3 a bottle.  Other items were similarly expensive and we ended up getting not much at all.  I will need to start fishing again.

I found that there are chickens on Christmas Island, I saw a whole bunch running around a yard.  No doubt some enterprising local doesn’t like paying $1.50 for each egg.

When we returned to Truce the wind and sea had picked up again and we had a wet ride.  Once back on board we made ready for sea, lashing and stowing everything in its place.  At eleven o’clock I started the engine and began hauling up the anchor.  By midday we had cleared Cooks Passage and started out voyage south to Penrhyn.

The first hour we sped south on a beam reach at over seven knots.  However, as soon as we cleared the Island the wind went around to the south east and we are back with the wind on the port bow.  Beating into the wind, crashing and banging, salt spray everywhere (thank goodness for the hard dodger) and a strong feeling of Déjà vu.  At the moment we can’t lay the course south and are getting pushed to the west.

Predict Wind weather routing has the wind coming from the east and further down the track from north of east.  That will be perfect.  I hope the wind comes around in the next few hours because I don’t fancy five more days going to windward.  We both had enough of that coming from Honolulu to Kiritimati.  Sailing should be fun, a little bit of going to windward occasionally is OK, but not for days on end.  In the back of my mind I have the option of missing Penrhyn and going direct to Suwarrow if the wind stays south of east.

Apart from my moaning about the wind everything is fine, clear skies with fluffy clouds, fifteen knots of wind and we are making reasonable speed in the general direction of south.  The biggest problems we have now is deciding what to eat for dinner.

PUBLIC HOLIDAY ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND

Last night I slept in the cockpit under the stars.  I started off in the forward cabin but the noise of the waves against the bow and the anchor chain drove me out.  It’s quite cool here at night and a long sleeved shirt, sarong and socks was the comfortable attire for sleeping outside.

Fortunately, the wind subsided this morning to around fifteen knots and we were able to head ashore in the pig.  It was a wet ride into the dock.  Jessica took most of the spray as she was sitting at the bow and I arrived quite dry.

Christmas Island Church. Photo Ray Penson
Christmas Island Church. Photo Ray Penson

Today was a public holiday on Christmas Island, but I didn’t notice any difference.  I was told that everything would be shut, but all the little stores were open as usual.  There is an ANZ bank here and we walked up to get some cash from the ATM.  Cash is needed to buy anything here.

We topped up a jerry can of diesel and bought some eggs.  The eggs come in from Hawaii, apparently there are no hens on Christmas Island.  I find this hard to believe – all remote communities visited previously have hens running about.  The eggs came in a tray which proved a challenge to get back to Truce without breakage – but surprisingly we did it.

The weather is still not settled enough for me to be comfortable away from Truce.  The four times dragged anchor of yesterday still on my mind – we headed back out to the anchorage.  The trip back was even wetter as the wind had picked up again.  I was steering the outboard with one hand and bailing with the other, Jessica was holding onto the tray of eggs with grim determination.  Fortunately, the bailing rate exceeded the water inflow and we arrived alongside Truce with buoyancy intact.  The first item discharged to the deck of Truce was a tray of intact eggs.

Tomorrow we will be going ashore to clear out of Christmas Island before heading south to Penrhyn.  I would’ve liked to explore Christmas Island further.  The locals have told us of many interesting spots.  Unfortunately, the open anchorage, poor holding for the anchor and strong trade winds and seas coming across the lagoon have prevented us from venturing far from Truce.  Next week may be perfect weather but we don’t have time to linger.