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.

ANCHORED AT NORTH MINERVA REEF -WITH GREEN FLASH

If the previous night was a magical sailing night – one to remember, last evenings fare was from the other end of the spectrum and easily forgettable.  From six in the evening to nine I struggled to get Truce to hold a course, the wind and sea were all over the place.  In the dark I just couldn’t figure out what was going on.  We were moving about so much the heading reading from the GPS was going wild and I had to use the magnetic compass as reference.  Eventually everything sorted itself out, settled down and we continued slowly towards North Minerva Reef – to arrive in the morning.

North Minerva reef
North Minerva reef

I didn’t cover much distance overnight, I chose slow sailing comfort setting to have a good rest – we were in no hurry.  In the morning the weather was sparkling and an easy sail to Minerva reef, to be anchored for lunch time.  Minerva Reef is a strange place, a circular reef in the middle of nowhere with a large lagoon in its centre.  The surrounding reef protects the lagoon from the ocean swells bringing comparative calm inside the lagoon.

It’s quite surreal to be anchored in what appears to be the middle of the Ocean.  Truce is the only boat in the lagoon and it feels very lonely and desolate.  For some reason I don’t feel very comfortable here and will be happy to move on.

The reason I am at Minerva is of course the poor weather conditions further south, preventing me from sailing to New Zealand direct.  I decided to stop at Minerva and assess the conditions as it’s on the way from Tonga.  Unfortunately, there is a big low on its way to the top of New Zealand on the eighteenth / nineteenth bringing strong southerly winds and large swells on my route – that will persist for some days.

Bob McDavitt has suggested an alternative route to the west, almost as far as Norfolk Island.  This route adds considerable distance to my voyage but has the advantage of being something I can start on tomorrow if the forecast is good overnight.  Apparently, another yacht departed Minerva reef earlier today to sail the westerly route to NZ.  Anyway, as suggested, I will sleep on it and decide tomorrow.

This evening I took a rum and coke for sundowners in the cockpit.  I watched the sun go down and thought the conditions were ideal for a green flash event.  I picked up my phone to be ready to take a shot.  Bingo, there was a green flash and I took a burst of photos at the same time.  But the green flash can’t be seen on the photos – I wonder why.  That’s the second green flash I have seen since leaving Honolulu – very lucky.

GREEN FLASH

The days and nights continue to be pleasant with good sailing conditions.  So far the South Pacific has provided the conditions we wanted and could not find in the North Pacific.

Last night we had sundowners in the cockpit as the sun set.  Both Jessica and I watched for the green flash as the sun dips down below the horizon.  It happened.  I saw the green flash – it was more like a green bloom.  Somehow Jessica managed to miss it completely.  Its quite unusual for the green flash conditions to be just right – I am happy to have seen another one.

Ngozi has completed our application for clearance into Suwarrow.  Hopefully we will have it early next week.  Our ETA is on the 15th August and the weather is still looking a bit dodgy for arrival with strong easterly winds.  However, the forecast today is a little bit better than yesterday, maybe the declining wind trend will continue.

Otherwise its all routine on board, reading, relaxing, fishing (without success today), baking and odd jobs.  The sun I hot now and finding shade in the cockpit is a priority on watch during the day.  A rain shower would be welcome to wash the salt off the boat.  After that a bit more rain is needed to fill up our water tanks that are running down rapidly in this hot weather.  Both Jessica and I could also do with a shower when we get some rain.  Total voyage distance 422 miles.

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.