REST, RECUPERATION AND TIDY UP IN OPUA

Today was dedicated to clean up and chores on board Truce and taking it easy.  In beautiful calm sunny weather, I set about tidying the boat.  Stowing all the bits and bobs that I had been using on passage and stashed in the quarter berth for convenience and ease of access from the cockpit.

On the passage from Tonga we used the engine far more than usual to get through the extensive calm patches.  All the running meant that the scheduled one-hundred-and-fifty-hour oil change became due sooner than expected.  Changing the oil isn’t a job I like, it’s always messy sucking the old oil out of the dipstick hole.  With a bag full of rags, the job was accomplished and Mr Yanmar now has clean oil and a new oil filter to keep him happy for a while.

Another session at the laundry means that we have fresh bed linen and towels on board.  The last laundry session was in Honolulu and the supply of clean sheets and towels had been exhausted – laundry was definitely due.

I don’t know where the day went, time flies when your having fun, but soon it was happy hour and time for some refreshment.  I got myself cleaned up and headed down to the Opua Yacht Club – just a short walk away.  Nice to sit out on the deck overlooking the harbour as the sun goes down.  The sand-flies also enjoyed dining out on my body.

I was back on-board Truce in the early evening as I plan to sail south tomorrow.  I checked the weather, tides and put a course on the chart, with a list of available stops and shelters on the way.  Not sure yet where I will go tomorrow.  I am heading south down the coast towards Auckland, first I need to get around Cape Brett and then have an idea I may stop in Whangarei.  We shall see tomorrow how it plays out.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Last night at midnight we passed through a weather front.  As we approached the front we were becalmed and motored in windless conditions for an hour before picking up the wind from the south east.  When the wind filled in it had some force, we had a boisterous sail to mid-day with more benign conditions since.  There was some heavy spray over the boat which has helped wash the dust and grime from Nuku’alofa away.  The topsides are sparkling now.

The weather forecast is firming up, looks like we continue heading west for three more days until making the turn for the south.  I can see light at the end of the tunnel now and can start thinking of an ETA into Opua.

After lunch, I had an afternoon siesta.  It was so good I went back and had another one.  Well it is Sunday, the day of rest.  Sunday is also the designated day for personal grooming, shower, shave, haircut and scrub down.  I have not had a hot shower since leaving Honolulu – I am looking forward to that luxury.

For sundowners this afternoon I changed back into long sleeved shirt and track pants.  It’s cool in the cockpit when the sun goes down.  It feels like the south-east breeze is bringing cold air up from the Antarctic.  For the cool weather I have switched to whisky and water.  Very nice, I could have taken another one but resisted as I need to stay alert.

WAITING FOR A WEATHER WINDOW IN NUKU’ALOFA

Today has been a flat day.  I have not done anything meaningful.  I am feeling a bit down now that Jessica has gone and I am alone again. I stayed on board most of the day reading a book and doing small odd jobs, just pottering about really.

I want to get going to New Zealand but the weather is not right yet.  It looks like next Monday will be the earliest opportunity to depart.  Very frustrating as I want to be on my way, but you can’t hurry the weather.  So, I will be waiting on weather and going slightly crazy if I can’t find some distraction.

This morning I was reflecting on our trip from Honolulu to Tonga.  The route planned was Honolulu, Christmas Island, Penrhyn, Suwarrow, Niue and Tonga.  In the end, we went direct from Honolulu to Tonga with only a stop at Christmas Island.  The weather on route and at the destinations of Both Penrhyn and Suwarrow being nasty.

In the Vava’u group we met up with a lady who had planned the identical trip, leaving Honolulu a month before us.  She made Christmas Island, after having similar weather on the bow as we did.  She then could not make Penrhyn or Suwarrow and missed them, she left out Niue as we did and headed direct to Tonga, all due to the weather.  What a coincidence that we both had identical itineraries and both made the same route decisions – and then both met up in the same small bay.

Tonight, I will stay on board again and cook some supper.  I have plantain and some fresh veg – it will be a healthy meal.  Then maybe watch a movie.  After a good rest tonight I will be ready for some exploration tomorrow.

ENJOYING TONGA

This morning we headed into Neiafu to clear into Tonga, arriving at the main wharf at eight.  Customs opened thirty minutes later and we started the clearing in process.  This consists of completing around ten forms, answering the same questions multiple times.  The whole process took a while, there was a flight arriving and available manpower had been diverted to the airport.  Finally, at one in the afternoon the last check, Sanitation, was complete and we headed off to find an anchorage.

The anchorage turned out to be a mooring buoy just off the dinghy dock at the moorings, a convenient spot.  Without delay we were moored and the pig in the water.  By two in the afternoon we were sitting on the Mango Café deck snacking and drinking cold beer.  A fitting end to a long voyage from Christmas Island of 1,648 miles over 13 days.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around town and soaking up the Island pace of life.  In the morning, when getting cash for the clearance, I left my credit card in the ATM.  In the afternoon I went back to the bank and retrieved the card which had been handed in.  Honest people here. 

WiFi access was on our shore list as we haven’t had any connection since leaving Honolulu a month ago.  We found WiFi at a price but it was so slow we couldn’t download the information we wanted.  Priority tomorrow will be to find decent WiFi and book Jessica’s flight back to Melbourne.

In the evening we came across a good café overlooking the harbour.  The fresh fish looked good so we went that way.  Jessica tried the Ota Ika (raw fish in coconut with veggies), it was superb.  I had pan seared tuna, also excellent but too much to finish in one go.  We both felt very relaxed as the sun went down over the harbour.  I am sure we will sleep well tonight, securely tied up to a mooring.  Total voyage distance from Kiritimati to Neiafu 1,648 miles.

LIGHT WINDS CONTINUE TO TAUNT US

Another day of light winds.  Nothing we can do about that – just sail as best we can and enjoy the trip.  I had hoped to arrive in Neiafu early afternoon Monday and clear customs.  Now it looks like we will arrive late evening.  If that is the case I will hang back so we arrive in daylight on the 22nd.

Most of the last twenty-four hours has been spent with the jib poled out to port and the mainsail boomed out to starboard.  A very comfortable way of sailing, we managed to make some progress this way overnight.  This morning we sailed west to find some more wind as promised by the weather prediction.  So far, we have found a couple of small squalls, a refreshing shower, but no wind yet, just slating sails in the sunshine.

At lunch time we passed over an area indicated in the chart as having volcanic activity.  We were hoping to see some bubbles, pumice, volcanic stuff, smell rotten eggs – but nothing, just sea like the surrounding area.

Now that Tonga is just a weekend away we really want to get into port.  This has been a long trip from Honolulu, made longer I think because we couldn’t get a real break in Christmas Island.  We both wanted to get off the boat there and explore ashore, the strong trade winds and exposed anchorage prevented us from getting that break.  So, it almost feels like we have been sailing nonstop since Honolulu.

Last nights movie was ‘Once were Warriors’.  An iconic New Zealand movie.  I only saw it myself last year and it was Jessica’s first time.  Well worth watching once – even if its to see what the Auckland southern motorway looks like with light traffic.  Total Voyage distance 1,241 miles.

HEADING TO SUWARROW

Another wonderful sailing day and night.  We have the wind on our beam and are being pushed along nicely at six knots towards Suwarrow.  Its almost too good to be true, this is the first constant weather we have experienced since departing from Honolulu.  The wind went light for a couple of hours in the early morning but we managed to keep sailing until it picked up again.

Last night we caught a couple of fish.  I don’t know what type of fish they were.  They didn’t look appetising, long slender things with very large eyes.  I suspect because of the big eyes they are night time feeders – anyway, they went back over the side.  We are looking for dolphin fish, we know they taste good.

Last night we had a new take on Thai Chick Pea Curry – concocted by Jessica.  A slightly unconventional dish that tasted excellent.  Despite our pledging not to – we made rice.  Cleaning up was easy really and I suppose we can’t live without rice.

I got a bit bored this afternoon and started rooting around the lockers under the salon settee.  Happily, I came up with six tins of fruit salad that I had completely forgotten about.  Now I know how the squirrel feels when he finds a new stash of nuts.

We have spent the day just relaxing and enjoying the perfect sailing conditions.  Snacking, playing guitar, playing cards, watching movies, reading books.  Nice to catch up on simple activities.  I have not heard any news since leaving Hawaii, I don’t even know who won the Tour de France.  It doesn’t matter at the moment.

As we have missed out our stop at Penrhyn we don’t have clearance into Suwarrow.  I have asked Ngozi to ask the Cook Customs to grant us a clearance on arrival.  Hopefully that will come through before we arrive.

The advance weather forecast for our arrival at Suwarrow does not look too flash.  There is a bit of difference between forecasts, one has twenty knot winds the other 35 knot winds.  We will monitor it daily as we get closer and hope it dissipates before we arrive.  Total voyage distance 270 miles.

A DAY OUT ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND

This morning we had a run ashore, in fact by the time we had ourselves ready it was almost lunchtime.  The wind and waves at the anchorage are too much for the small rubber duck so we had to launch the pig which has been languishing on the foredeck for months undisturbed.

Jessica bailing a full boat load of water
Jessica bailing a full boat load of water

This is Jessica’s first experience with the pig and she seemed to take my warnings to be careful a bit too lightly.  Together, we could just manage to lift the pig and sling it over the side.  The best way to launch even if it does mean there will be a bit of water to bail out.

The trip ashore was very wet, the twenty knot trade winds coming uninterrupted across the lagoon whip up a small sea.  Luckily the water is warm and its no hardship.

When we arrived at the dock a surprising event occurred.  I asked Jessica to hop onto the dock first.  As she proceeded to alight she performed an uncoordinated pirouette followed by a squeal, some small boat gymnastics (that I have only seen surpassed by her mother) and then a large splash.  I found myself sitting bin a boat full of water and quickly rescued the valuables and myself to the safety of the wharf.  From the wharf, I looked down at a boat full of water and Jessica clinging to the side.  Quite how this happened I am a loss to explain.  Anyway, based on the you caused it – you fix it philosophy, Jessica started bailing.

Just then a guy called Rab, wearing a NZ Rugby Sevens shirt turns up and we get chatting.  He tells me a few interesting things about the Island, where to get cold beer and offers to find us some fresh local fruit on Sunday.  He also gives us a large papaya that he happens to have in his truck.  Then he offers to fill our diesel jerry can and bring it back for us.  Wonderful.

By this time Jessica has clambered out of the water and is now complaining about jelly fish stings.  We set off into town – as Rab says you can’t get lost.  The main street has tarmac between the pot holes, soft tarmac that squashes as you walk on it.  We visited most of the shops in town and bought a little something at each one.   Finally, I found full crème powdered milk – no non-fat rubbish for these people, they understand the value of full fat.

After the shopping, we headed towards some loud music and found the Lady Wheel Bar.  I drank an almost cold Heineken and Jess had a warm coke.  I wondered why they needed chicken wire over the bar – reminded me of the Blues Brothers film.

When leaving Truce at an exposed anchorage I can never really relax ashore so we headed back out for another soaking in the pig.  Boarding Truce in the seas was a bruising affair – I now have bruises on bruises.  Jessica has had her first experience with the pig – now she understands its malevolent attitude if not treated with the utmost respect.

There are no other cruising boats here.  Not many boats come here, the customs man reckons there have been ten in total for 2017.  I suppose the lack of a protected anchorage is a big drawback, although catamarans could easily assess the protected lagoon by the town which would be perfect.  There is a weekly flight here now from Fiji and Honolulu, tourism is being developed – I would say they have a long way to go but the potential is there.

I was thinking about all the remote places I have been and think Christmas Island must be the remotest I have been to in terms of distance from major cities.  The people we have met here are all very genuinely friendly and helpful.

INTER TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE (ITCZ) TRANSIT

Another day of slow but steady progress.  So far, we have been fortunate with the weather in the ITCZ and have even managed to make ground to the east.  We are now positioned to the east and upwind of Christmas Island.  Hopefully, that will put us in a good safe upwind position for the final run in.

Sailing in this place is a challenge.  Constantly shifting and variable winds mean that each mile gained is earned.

A couple of dolphins came to visit today, they stayed about thirty minutes.  I am not sure what type they were, both were quite small and seemed to stay under water for longer than normal before coming up for air.  They obviously enjoyed our company as we did theirs.

This evening I took a rum and coke for sundowners.  Then realised we hadn’t bought any limes or lemons before departing Honolulu.  I think that after we had our clearance out of Honolulu Jessica and I were so ready to depart that we didn’t pay much attention to the last-minute vegetable or fresh fruit shopping.  But never mind, Rum can be drink without fruit perfectly well.

The movie this evening was ‘Whiplash’.  Once again viewed in the cockpit under starlight.  Another beautiful sunset and night.  Voyage distance 914 miles.

FIVE HUNDRED MILES FROM KIRITIMATI

We are now five hundred miles from Kiritimati.  A large area of calms is showing up in front of us and appears to be growing by the day.  This is the ITCZ, an area of calms, thunderstorms and variable winds we need to cross before Christmas Island.  The current weather is overcast with rain, the winds are getting lighter as each hour passes.

The wind is still on the port bow, aa it has been since the first day out of Honolulu.  Truce is still moving along nicely as we continue to work our way to the south with an allowance to the east.  I think that by this evening the wind will be very light and the fun starts.

Once again the solar panels are not putting out enough charge to keep us topped up.  I have switched off some non-essential items to conserve power until we can get a nice sunny day.  The combination of short tropical days and continuous overcast skies is something I hadn’t counted on.

Last night’s fresh Dolphinfish Thai fish curry was excellent.  Jessica did a fantastic job of cooking in a galley that was jumping around – not chef friendly.  We decided not to have rice with the curry and cooked pasta instead.  Neither Jessica or I like cooking rice without a rice cooker (one of mans great inventions) – it always sticks to the pan and needs cleaning off.  I am sure the Thai’s and Italians wouldn’t approve the mix, but there are not here.  It was good.  Voyage distance 695 miles.

MAKING GOOD TIME SOUTH

We have found some clear wind and are now making good time to the south.  The wind prediction and forecast is for easterly wind, we have been experiencing winds between south east and east south east.  This has meant that we continue to sail on a close reach as we try and make some easting.  Over the last 24 hours we have only achieved a gain of three miles to the east.

Although its not the most comfortable point of sailing we have become accustomed to dropping into and crashing off waves.  But, it would be nice for the wind to move around to the east and let us have some freedom to bear off onto a reach.  The pilot chart shows a ninety percent chance of winds from the east or north east for this time of year so I am banking on the law of averages to deliver some easterly wind in the next couple of days.

No fish have taken our lure since the near miss yesterday.  In fact, we haven’t seen much aquatic activity, no flying fish have landed on deck since sailing from Honolulu.

Jessica and I are doing six-hour watches, with me doing the midnight to six in the morning watch.  Very nice to have company and share the sailing load.  Spare time is taken up with books and movies.  Unfortunately, it’s too bouncy on board for the guitar.

The weather is getting hot now.  We rigged an additional shade over the cockpit yesterday which helps as the sun is always from astern on the trip south.  Everybody is healthy on board after the camembert episode.  Of course, there is considerable discussion about the menu and what concoction we are going to serve up next.

One luxury we still have on board is cold beer.  I topped up the ice chest before leaving the Waikiki Yacht Club.  We also have a couple of bottles of cold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on board courtesy of Richard.  I reckon another two or three days maximum before the ice is gone.  Voyage distance 343 miles.