Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Passage from Bora Bora to Nuie, August 2008

This log covers 2008-08-12 to 8/19 Tuesday to Tuesday
We departed Bora Bora at 0830 Tuesday morning, August 12; still undecided whether we would stop at Niue or go straight to Tonga. We set course for Niue because it would be easy enough to change slightly to make landfall in Tonga at Vava’U if that appealed to us later in the trip. Winds were from the ESE at 20-plus knots and seas were 3 to 4 meters and very confused. The barometer was 1016.2 and air temperature 78F. Conditions were quite lively to say the least.

The image at right is of Palmerston atoll, part of the Cook Islands.  The red line shows our route as we passed just north of Palmerston.  One of the Marsters clan hailed us on the VHF radio and invited us to stop and visit, but the sailing conditions were so perfect that we opted to continue on to Niue.  In hindsight, we probably should have stopped at Palmerston as it is a very unique place with a very unique history.  William Marsters arrived at Palmerston in 1863 and settled with his Cook Islander wife.  Later he added her 2 cousins from a northern Cook Island as additional wives.  They eventually settled on 3 different small islands comprising this atoll.  Marsters laid down strong rules prohibiting intermarriage between his 3 families.   By the time his youngest daughter Titana Tangi died in 1973, there were over a thousand Marsters descendants living in Raratonga and New Zealand.  Though only some fifty family members remain on Palmerston, all Marsters descendants consider the island their ancestral home.  In 1954 the family was granted full ownership of the island.  Three branches of the family remain on Palmerston, each branch being descended from one of Williams 'three wives'.  Marriage within a family group is still prohibited. Palmerston is now administered by the Cook Islands government in association with New Zealand.

The Palmerston Marsters invite cruising yachts to visit.  When a boat arrives, that boat is assigned to a family host and made to feel very welcome.  Visiting Palmerston Atoll on a cruising yacht is a special experience and others tell us it was the highlight of their South Pacific experience.  Sorry that we skipped on this, but we wanted to get on to Niue.

Location at 0830 Wednesday 8/13
Latitude 17° 03.8679 S
Longitude 154° 50.8126 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 181 NM
Barometer 1016.4
Air Temp 78.6F
Wind ESE 16 knots
Seas 3-4 meter
Conditions all day yesterday and all night were indeed quite lively. Winds remained higher than 20 knots and gusting to 33 knots until slightly after daybreak this morning, when the wind began to moderate. By 8:30 a.m. the winds were down to only 16 knots and gusting 20. GRIB files indicate that seas will moderate through today. We set sails wing-on-wing for today. As soon as seas are calm enough we will change to dual headsails.

Location at 0830 Thursday 8/14
Latitude 17° 26.0687 S
Longitude 157° 33.2651 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 158 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 339 NM
Barometer 1014.8
Air Temp 83.7F
Wind due East at 8-10 knots
Seas 2-3 meter
Conditions continued to moderate all day yesterday. We were rolling quite a bit in the large seas and it was not comfortable. Nothing to do except curl ourselves up in a corner of the cockpit and not try to move around the boat. I had baked chicken before we left and it was great to be able to just grab a piece and eat it in the cockpit with a chunk of baguette and then toss the bones overboard. Cannot imagine having to cook in all the motion of rolling back and forth. This morning we changed sails to dual headsails poled out on each side. Seas are much calmer and the motion of the boat is now comfortable. A couple of other boats who left Bora Bora on same day we did have changed course to Raratonga. Neither of those boats had twin headsails and dual poles and could not sail directly downwind like we can.

Location at 0830 Friday 8/15
Latitude 17° 46.2679 S
Longitude 160° 07.5050 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 150 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 489 NM
Barometer 1017.7
Air Temp 85.57F
Wind due East at 5-9 knots
Seas 1-2 meter
We have not touched a sail or sheet since setting the dual headsails yesterday morning. Motion is a tiny bit rolly but not at all uncomfortable. We can walk around the boat without having to hold on now. Motion is so comfortable that I am back to reading for hours on end; my favorite passage entertainment. Others watch DVDs while underway but we haven’t gotten into that routine yet. We read a lot.

We heard a rescue story on the SSB this morning. The story was told by the owner of a boat named TRAVELER (not Traveler from Texas or Traveler from Maryland, both of whom we met in the Caribbean; this Traveler is from US West Coast somewhere). Seems that TRAVELER was sailing towards Niue from the southeast when they caught a glimmer of something on the water well off to the west. Even with binoculars they could not be certain that something was really there, but they decided to check it out anyway. As they got closer they realized that it was a small fishing boat with several men inside. The men had been drifting a day and had given up hope of being rescued. Their little boat would have drifted a very long distance before reaching any land and they would not have survived that long without water and food. The fishermen had ripped up the covering of the inside bottom of their boat and attached it to an oar which they soaked in gasoline and set afire and waved in the air. That fire is what attracted TRAVELER’s attention. The fishermen had given up hope of being rescued and had already performed their Acts of Contrition and said their goodbyes and left notes for their loved ones. So you can imagine the emotion and celebration when TRAVELER came to their rescue. TRAVELER brought them back to their home island of Niue and celebrated with their families. Quite the story.

Location at 0830 Saturday 8/16
Latitude 17° 52.6510 S
Longitude 162° 43.7628 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 147 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 636 NM
Barometer 1016.7
Air Temp 83.8F
Wind due East at 8-18 knots
Seas 1-2 meter
Still sailing dead-downwind with the dual headsails poled out and have not yet needed to adjust sail or sheets. This is great sailing. We passed Palmerston today but did not stop. Probably will regret not stopping there but the sailing was still so perfect that we wanted to continue onward before the winds and seas changed. There was a brilliant green flash at sunset yesterday. It was the brightest green that I have ever seen. As we passed Palmerston one of the Marsters men hailed us on the VHF and invited us to stop. He would have been our host family during our stay at Palmerston if we had chosen to visit. This is a very unusual place and you can Google for more information and history. Note that there are moorings there now, but the moorings are still there on the outside of the reef on the open sea. (NOTE ADDED: Friends did stop there a few days later and then were caught in Palmerston for more than a week in very high winds and 5 meter seas. A couple boats broke off their moorings and went onto the reef. If you stop at Palmerston be prepared to head out to sea at a moments notice if conditions turn bad. Better to be at sea in rough weather than be on an unsecure mooring right there on the reef.)

Location at 0830 Sunday 8/17
Latitude 18° 20.5851 S
Longitude 165° 20.7861 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 150 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 786 NM
Barometer 1014.4
Air Temp 79.9F
Wind due East at 5-7 knots
Seas 1-2 meter
Still sailing perfectly dead-downwind and still have not touched sails. This will not last because conditions are predicted to change later today.

Location at 0830 Monday 8/18
Latitude 18° 37.4243 S
Longitude 167° 31.5840 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 120 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 906 NM
Barometer 1016.5
Air Temp 83F
Wind due West at 0-3 knots
Seas glassy flat
Mid-morning yesterday the wind began to clock northward, so we took down the dual headsails and changed to poled genoa to port. This worked fine until late afternoon when the wind clocked farther around to the west --- right on our nose. So we took in the genoa and motor sailed all night. By daylight this morning we had also taken in the mainsail and were going under motor alone.

Around 2 o’clock this morning we passed another sailboat.  I noticed what appeared to be a strange star ahead of us; it was not changing position like all the other stars.  When Bill came up around 02:00 I pointed it out to him.  We watched it for awhile and finally realized that it was not a star but was a white light on top of a mast. This is the first boat we have seen since leaving Bora Bora. Really funny that we sailed 900 miles without seeing another boat and then come up on one from astern.  Had we not diverted course 10 degrees we would have run straight up his stern!  This boat had no sails up and no engine running, but they did have their anchor light on (lights on the top of the mast). Bill hailed them to notify them that we would pass close on their starboard side. After the second hail the boat answered. It was obvious from the guy’s voice that he had been asleep. He said they were just waiting for a breeze. How do you like that! Just stopped out in the middle of a flat ocean; turned on his anchor light and went to bed. He might be rolling around out there for a few days as the GRIB files do not show any wind returning today or tomorrow. We, on the other hand, just start our engine and motor onward. That guy will probably spend $5 in diesel getting from Bora Bora to Tonga and we will spend more like $350 for diesel. Neither Bill nor I want to stop and roll around while waiting for wind to pick up. That is why these boats are built with engines.

We also heard this morning on the SSB from friends in Niue. All the moorings in Niue are filled as of yesterday. Since we are already so close we will continue on towards Niue and will try to raise Niue Port Control tomorrow morning to confirm the situation on moorings. Hopefully someone will leave today or early tomorrow. Anchoring at Niue is dangerous and not something we want to attempt.

Location at 0700 Tuesday 8/19 (time zone change to GMT minus 11)
Latitude 18.53.208 S
Longitude 169.31.675 W
Distance Made Good during prior 24 hours: 125.7 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 1031.7 NM
Barometer 1018.0
Air Temp 81.8
Wind S to SE at 5 to 12 knots
Seas 1-2 meters, swell from south
We motored until sunset and the wind picked up to barely enough to sail. But we were not in a hurry because wanted to arrive around mid-day in hopes that a mooring would be free by then. Winds were very light all night and clocked farther to the east. During this passage we have seen the wind go from SE to E for days and then to NE. Then winds clocked to W and were directly on our nose; then S and finally overnight the winds moved back to SE where it was a week ago when we departed Bora Bora. The Pacific requires quite a bit of adjustment for those of us who are accustomed to the consistent trade winds of the Atlantic and Caribbean. The trades in the Pacific are not consistent and not as strong as the Atlantic and Caribbean trades. Wind in the Pacific clocks all the way around the compass fairly frequently. This makes long passage planning problematic. One cannot forecast the weather far enough in advance so towards the end of a long passage the weather can be quite different than what had been forecasted when you departed.

Bill spoke on the SSB radio early this morning to another boat moored at Niue and learned that 2 boats would be leaving sometime this morning. That was very good news as we were now assured of being able to moor and would not be forced to skip Niue and go on to Tonga today.

Arrived Alofi, Niue at noon local time on Tuesday 8/19
Latitude 19.03.31 S
Longitude 169.55.54 W
Distance Made Good since morning position: 25.4 NM
Total Distance Made Good for passage: 1057.1 NM
Arrived at noon and picked up a mooring from the Niue Yacht Club. Water depth is very deep all the way to the island shore; there are no beaches. We are moored in 110 feet depth. We have not yet officially cleared in because there is some kind of political meeting in Niue today and the local officials are busy with the visiting dignitaries. So maybe our clearance might have to wait until tomorrow. At least we are here and the passage is over. This passage went very smooth; however, we would not recommend the direct passage from Bora Bora to Niue unless a boat is rigged with dual head sails.

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