Neiafu, Tonga to Vuda Point, Fiji October 2013

Day 1
: Dropped the mooring in Neiafu harbour at 0900 after listening to the last morning VHF net and saying goodbye to almost everyone in town.  We had planned to clear out Monday and stop at Lape Island for the evening but by the time official business was done, provisions bought, made the last stops at our favourite places to spend the last of our Tongan Pa’anga it was almost 1400 and we still hadn’t cleaned the dinghy. It was 1800 before everything was stowed, the last meal cooked and the dinghy was on deck to dry out. We were exhausted and so stayed on the mooring for one last quiet night.  We stuck our bow out of the monolithic gates that guard the Vava’U island group and found less wind than predicted but lots of left over swell from the last two weeks of +20kt trade winds. We steered 310* with the head sail poled out and slightly furled. It was rolly but without the pole the head sail popped and pulled too much. We decided to keep that course for the night, putting a little distance between us and the more southern islands of Tonga. I managed to keep down the chicken stew we had for dinner but don’t think I was of much help to Steve. At 1900 I woke up suddenly and heard a strange “Boing” noise from the mast/head. Nothing was amiss with the rigging but as I was about to settle back down into my bunk of the floor I noticed the mirror just above my head was moving slightly, it came totally free of the wall in my hands. Scary to think what would have happened if it fell onto me while I slept. The day was grey and overcast but cleared a little for the 2200 change of watch and the moon rise.

Day 2:
Gybed at 0600 change of watch and were able to hold our course of 235-240* without the pole. Head sail is still reefed. The motion of the boat is slightly better but the floor is still my bunk of choice.  The seas are big and confused and the ride is wet and sloppy. It is drizzling but all the squalls are on the horizon and leaving us to sail into the grey. Our overalls are not much help at keeping us dry, the lining is flaking off and falling out of the bottom, leaving little trails of rubbery snowflakes wherever we go. A couple of surprise waves sneaked into the cockpit this afternoon and now all the cushions are soaked.  We took some water down below when a big wave emptied into the cockpit and over the two boards of the companionway. We are cold. A dark night with no stars and no moon. We had to tighten the bolts of the lower wind vane bracket at 2200 watch change tonight, which had Steve leaning over the transom and me holding a wrench crammed into the compartment behind the wheel. We’ve been able to run both fridges with all the instruments on.  Steve’s been wearing his sou’ wester, a perfect rain hat that keeps his ears warm!

Day3: I finally came around today after gorging on cold rice on my midnight watch. The seas have also settled, so life has resumed its usual pace underway. Still drizzling and grey. Made it to the Bounty Boat Passage at dawn this morning, skirted in between the islands and gybed south and headed to the southern side of Kandavu. The islands really cut down the ocean swell so both Steve and I were about to get some solid sleep this morning, which was needed. No traffic out here and the only marine life has been lots of bird today as we are again close to land. Got a weather update from my brother, Thomas, via the satellite phone, looks like E-NE-N winds that will be diminishing by Sunday.  We will not be making Vuda Point in time to check out Friday so I called the marina to arrange a Monday morning check in.  I am still sleeping on the floor, getting damn uncomfortable. We are both having very strange dreams, I have woken up a couple times not knowing where I am, not as in in which location on the boat but on what boat and where in the world. We discovered today that we are both hearing voices on this trip too, not just words but phrases, as if the VHF is on. This is unusual for us. This is turning out to be a strange trip.

Day 4: The wind generator claimed his second victim at 0200, a tern that must have liked the look of Twirlly or was attracted by his whistling.  I guess the black blades aren’t as easy to see in the dark.  The wind picked up on my midnight watch and we were suddenly doing 8kts!  Light rain all morning, we are both soaked to the bone and I had pruney feet by the time we swapped watch, when it started to brighten up. We poled out the headsail again and scooted under Kandavu. I was able to sneak a couple hours in the good bunk!  Much more energy today.  Chili con Carne for diner, a perfect rainy day hot meal, and it started pouring down as soon as it was put on the stove.

Day 5: Happily swapped watches at 2200 after much clanging and banging and not much sleep. We were being shadowed by Kandavu and Steve was doing all he could but nothing seemed to bring the wind.  Shortly after I came on deck the wind shifted forward of beam and I decided to raise the main for the first time on the trip.  Then we were galloping along, starting to feel out of control as the wind increased. I pulled in some head sail and then some more but with a steady 25kts it was apparent we needed to reef the main. Steve came up on deck, hardly able to sleep below as we rocketed along.  We reefed the main (we remembered how it has been so long!) and even then we are doing 7-8kts. Kate was balanced and happy but it was noisy and wet.  Steve stuck it out in the cockpit, tired but enjoying the boat in her groove, as I tried in vane to sleep on the floor. Another weather update said nothing about this kind of winds. No squalls or any weather related to the winds.  By 0930 the wind had all but died and we were once again struggling to move forward. I decided that we should motor as the batteries were low and with only 40NM to our destination we might make it before night fall, even if we didn’t find wind.  As turned out we didn’t find anything but more grey skies and drizzle but we motored a record 10.5 hours and picked up the mooring ball outside Vuda Point Marina just after dusk, greeted by fireworks, a hot meal and a cold beer.