SUVA-TONGA
May13-18th, 2013

Day 1: 

After a delayed departure due to weather we check out this morning.  The FRCA (Fiji Revenue and Customs Agency) officer was able to process both our vessel clearance and our personal immigration clearance so no need to go hopping around offices just to get permission to leave the country. And not a day too soon as our VISA’s are up tomorrow.  We picked up a few last veggies, eggs and a loaves of bread then back to the Royal Suva Yacht Club to collect the laundry and top the water and gasoline tanks. I secured the cabin for sailing while Steve cleaned and packed up the dinghy.  We raised the anchor around 1300 and to my surprise there was a lot less garbage and slick primordial muck that is the hallmark dirty Suva Harbour.  Since it was fairly calm we motored out of the long harbour channel and once clear of the point found a some good wind and were able to steer 130*T, a perfect heading but directly to windward, and the choppy swell left over from the high swell advisory of a few days ago had me feeling pretty ill.  I tried to lay down for a few hours to acclimatize but by dusk I was still feeling sick and unable to stand below to cook dinner.  Steve fought with the pressure cooker (something he has yet to make friends with) and finally had dinner ready around 1800.  We hadn’t noticed the days getting so short but it was dark by the time we sat in the cockpit to eat. I managed a half a dozen spoons of rice before I retreated to the stern to vomit it all back up again over the rail. Poor Steve trying to eat while I retched a few meters away.  I quickly ate some more rice before immediately retreating to my bunk in hopes I can keep it down by falling asleep. Thankfully we are on port tack so I don’t have to camp out on the floor.  We are following the low pressure system that kept us in Suva so the hope is that the winds will stay from the north for a while, then back through the west and south before returning to the seasonal easterlies. If we can make good speed going south east for a few days we will be in a good position when the winds swing around and start pushing us north.  The heading to Vava’U is 084*T to Tongatapu it is 116*T, either are towns that we can check into.

Day 2

The wind stayed in all night and picked up during my 2200-0200 watch.  We rolled some head sail away and were still making 6.5-7kts, bashing into it the whole time.  I managed ok for a couple hours after coming up on deck. I ate some cold rice and by midnight was vomiting again, holding onto the railing and really giving it a good effort, much more violent than at dinner time.  I struggle for the rest of my watch to stay awake, so drained from being sick, and again ate a handful crackers just before heading to bed.  By morning the wind died off just before dawn but I managed to get a few hours sleep and woke up hungry. Steve made me a pot of tea and Rice Krispies and soya milk, just perfect, cold and crunchy exactly what I crave when I am feeling sick to my stomach.  It was as beautiful sunny day, seems like the first one we’ve had in weeks. The winds were variable all day, lots of clanging in the rigging, but we both got some sleep and I am on the mend. I was a little worried I would be on the Windward Weight Lose Plan for the whole trip and just shy of useless to Steve so this is very good. We were able to steer almost due east all day and passed back over the 180th meridian around 1130. I tried to send a position report this afternoon (when I felt like I could concentrate on the little screen on the phone for more than three seconds without feeling sick again) but the Iridium system seems to be down, I keep getting a “ ONLY EMERGENCY CALLS ALLOWED” message. Which is confusing as the reason we have the phone is to make emergency calls and yet it won’t let me dial out.  Things were back to normal by 2200.  Winds tonight are W-SW and we should be clear of the Lau Group, the last of the Fijian islands, by noon tomorrow. Sunset was 1731 but we managed dinner before it got dark today and I was the one cooking.  We had to run the engine for an hour today to top up the batteries, the freezer is using more power than expected.  The granola bars I concocted are a hit and the bananas are ripe,  Steve tells me the two are a winning combination.

Day 3

I woke up to perfectly glassy seas, not a whisper of wind and just a small rolling swell. Steve had to down all the sails sometime after 0300 when the wind died. He drifted until I woke up then we started the engine to both motor and charge the batteries, the damn fridge is really bring down the batteries, especially with the instruments and running lights on all night.  The wind did not fill in at all and so we continued to motor until noon, can you believe it?  We haven’t had the motor running for that many consecutive hours in years! I guess all the work on the engine and the engine bed can be called successful.  I thoroughly disturbed Steve trying to sleep down below by furling and unfurling the head sail a few times trying to will the wind before it finally filled in at 1500 and I was able to get us moving again.  We were on a good heading and still had good boat speed so I sailed under just the head sail for the afternoon, letting Steve rest then we raised the main at dusk.  It clouded over and drizzled on Steve’s first night watch and at 1900 there was a tremendous bang against the port side-log, coconut? We didn’t see anything but it sounded to solid to be a wave, no damage done.  We had to tack to stay on course so I am now sleeping on the floor.  Looks like it we will stay on this tack and make Vava’U in a day or so.

Day 4

Great day of sailing, clear sky and calm seas all day had us covering some good miles comfortable.  We had at least a dozen tuna on the starboard size swimming close to boat all day. I first spotted them during my morning watch, darting and playing in the push and wake of the boat.  They would disappear for a while, and the depth sounder would flash 10M while they were gone so they were obviously under the boat, then they’d reappear again.  All afternoon they leaped and hunted beside us. We lost sight of them when the light faded at sunset. Yesterday we had three playing in the bow wave like dolphins. I wonder if they were there all night?  We had clear skies until midnight then the squalls started and continued on and off all night, just short bursts of drizzle not much rain.  We are still on a starboard and making way directly to our way point but have been able to bear off a little so we not close hauled. We have a gentle rolling swell and 10-15kts, very little wind chop.  Dare I say it is a comfortable sail to windward.  We had 200NM to go this morning and have been making 5.5-6kts all day so possible arrival  in Vava’U tomorrow, although late in the day. It is Friday so we will not be able to check in until after the weekend.  Asian Pork Patties for dinner were a hit, glad I wrote down the recipe. The running lights are not working tonight, looks like a nick in the wiring up forward.  There is not much boat traffic, if any, but it makes me feel especially lost without their comforting green and red glow on the bow.

Day 5

The night off squalls turned into a beautiful rainbow morning, after I got wet that is.  The sky cleared and Late Island came into view on my morning watch.  We were making good time and were on a perfect course when the last squall powered through and took the wind with it, when, shortly after, it filled in it was coming directly from the east and was light.  So, with just 60 miles to go our perfect sail turned into a typical beat to windward, hard on the breeze and not really going in the right direction. Suddenly the possibility of being on anchor before dark was squashed. We spent the rest of the day dealing with variable winds.  At 1600 we hooked up and I reeled in a fair sized tuna, our first fish in a long time.  We intended to throw him back, not wanting to deal with the blood and guts at dusk, but by the time we unhooked him he wasn’t swimming anymore. We spent the night tacking and bashing towards the entrance to the Vava’U island group. Since we had sailed through these islands before we decided a night entrance was possible. At 0400 we doused the sails and motored through the islands with Steve at the helm navigating by radar.  There are no underwater obstructions or reefs to worry about but the charts can be off by almost a mile and there is no telling if a beacon will be lit or there at all. So, it was still a little nerve wracking, at least for me.  We pulled into our favourite little bay and dropped the anchor at twilight, only one other boat in sight.  I am not sure that I will ever tired of watching the sunrise against the outline of the palm fronds, especially after being at sea.  There were goats on the adjacent islands and birds singing in the trees. The water is aqua blue and you can see the bottom easily at 20M. It finally feels like we have found paradise again.