Monday, May 11, 2009

Second half of passage from New Zealand to Vanuatu

Friday, May 8, was an excellent sailing day! It was a beam reach in WSW winds of 10 to 18 knots. Seas had a very large swell spaced well apart. Often it looked like a wall of water the height of a 2-story house coming straight at us. That swell would extend as far to the left and right as we could see. Then our boat would be quickly moved up the steeper forward side of the swell and when we reached the top it seemed like we could see to infinity. Then our boat would slide comfortably down the more sloped back side of the swell. It was all so peaceful and comfortable. What a difference it makes when there is ample time between the swells. There were no wind waves so this was just a perfect day of sailing.

Of course this did not last longer than one day. You shouldn't expect 2 perfect days in a row. By Saturday the seas had built some wind waves and the swell had decreased substantially. Seemed to have swell from the west and also from the southeast and this disturbance made for an uncomfortable day of sailing in very light winds. Perhaps if the winds had been greater than 5-10 knots we would have been able to sail faster and been more comfortable. This was the first day of our passage that we were not deliberately trying to slow down. For the past 5 days we had triple reefed the sails attempting to slow down the boat. But from Saturday until we arrived on Monday we continued to experience very light winds.

At one point Bill was watching the depth gauge and it suddenly swept up to only 30 meters depth! This was alarming because we were in 4487 meters depth. We checked both charts to verify that there was not an underwater mountain or something in that location. Nope; supposed to be 4487 meters deep. Then the gauge slowly moved to indicate only 20 meters depth! What the heck was going on? This had lasted almost 2 minutes and we didn't know if we were approaching an uncharted reef or what. The ocean surface didn't look any different; we couldn't see any reef. There had been an article in the news several months ago that geologists have determined that New Caledonia and New Zealand had at one time been connected by a series of mountains/volcanos; but that the mountains had sunk back into the sea eons ago. But you would think that all these old submarine mountains and volcanos have been charted by now. Our charts do indicate a line of these but they are all very deep; like the top of an underwater mountain might be 2500 meters deep. Deep is all relative out here in the very deep Pacific Ocean. Then just as suddenly as it changed to the shallow depth readings, the gauge needle swept back to peg straight down, which is what it does anytime we are in depths greater than 200 meters. The only thing we could figure is that a whale or a whale shark or giant squid or something quite large had been swimming directly beneath our boat for several minutes and had decided to veer away.

Saturday afternoon we looked at one another and said "why don't we just turn left and keep on going to Australia?" Each of us had the same idea. The sailing conditions were so nice that why not just go on over to Australia then. But we had not checked weather for a passage farther west so we obviously weren't prepared. Besides, we wanted to see at least one island of Vanuatu. This will be our only stop in Melanesia.

On Sunday we removed the cold-weather cockpit enclosure and put up the bimini extension and side shade panels. Bill had shifted into shorts and tee-shirts on Friday, but I didn't make the change until Sunday afternoon. No more jeans and long-sleeved shirts for a long time. Now we look at the blankets and wonder how we every stood to sleep under those things! This isn't really tropical weather by our Caribbean or Texas standards, but it is so nice to be back in sunny warm weather. Last Christmas our friends Donna and Bruce gave us a couple of snuggle blanket things that zipped up. They had seen the video of me huddled under everything I could find trying to keep warm during our passage from Tonga south to New Zealand last November. Those snuggle blankets really came in handy during this passage back north. We kept one in the cockpit for whoever was on watch and kept the other one in the passage bunk. Thanks again Donna and Bruce; we thought of you every day during this passage.

We arrived at Port Resolution on Tanna Island of Vanuatu at 1330 on Monday, May 11. Total passage was exactly 1000 nautical miles of "miles made good." We don't keep track of any extra sailing miles veering off course due to weather or whatever; we only record the miles traveled directly to our destination. So, 1000 NM sailed in 7 days 3 hours and 45 minutes; for an average boat speed of 5.82 knots. Temperature this afternoon in Vanuatu is 81F. It is a gorgeous sunny day and we are anchored in a small bay looking at volcanos, steaming vents in the jungle and black volcanic sand beaches. Loving it.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your safe arrival. From what Andy and Melissa write, it's good you didn't decide to turn left.


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