Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Rough Passage

We left Tin Can Island and had a nice sail for about 4 hours.  We had a picture perfect frontal passage as the winds went from Northwest to West to South, we had to start turning more to the East.  The winds followed us to the East, we tacked, and were heading directly for Fiji.  This all happened in about a half hour.

One problem was that we were now being pressed toward 2 underwater mountains covering 500 square miles, the Zephyr Reef and the Rochambeau Seamount that rise to within 50 feet of the surface.  There is no danger of us hitting one but there would be breaking waves.  We had no moon on this passage so the night time scary factor was amplified.

The seas were very uncomfortable.  Short period, 6-9 feet, hitting the side of Tortuguita.  Normally we would turn more downwind to make it more comfortable at night but couldn’t because of the seamounts.  Neither of us slept.  By morning we passed them and eased a little to the west.  That put the pounding seas on our beam but at lease we were moving.  That afternoon we entered the trough, at least that’s what the weather service called it.  This is the same one that gave us a day of rain in Savaii.  However, it wasn’t a trough, it was a front with a good 15 degree temperature difference.  So in addition to a day of rain, we had near gale force winds that just kept on.

By that night we had had it.  No sleep, slamming waves, pitching boat.  Probably out 2nd worse passage ever.   The 1st being Bahamas to Hatteras in 2009.  Booker was ready to mutiny.  So we heaved-to, essentially parking the boat, and slept.  While hove-to, the boat drifts 1 Nautical Mile per hour.  The next morning, we were 12 miles further west and the conditions hadn’t changed.  So we pressed on hoping for things to calm down. 

Something interesting was that there were streams of cold and warm air as we sailed.  We would get 2-3 minutes of warm air and the wind and seas would be gentle.  Then a cold blast for 2-3 minutes would give us cranking winds and smashing waves.  Then it would get warm again.

We reached the Nanuk Passage that evening and saw the mountains of Taveuni at sunset.  It was calming down, finally.  By morning we were south of Taveuni and made our turn toward Savusavu.  By 1 PM we were in calm water on a mooring ball.  What a difference a day can make.

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