The ups and downs of sailing
S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Tuesday, May 19th, 5:30 p.m.
Position 15.38S 178.00E Wind 12 ESE, course 175, boat speed 5-6 knots Distance to Bligh Water entrance 55 miles Bearing 190
Up and down, zig and zag. I think that is the theme for this passage. A year and a half ago, Wayne and I first met face to face when I flew in to Fiji on December 19th. Very soon, we took off to sail up to Majuro. Now we are sailing back down to Fiji, and we have been traveling up and down the seas, winds have been up and down, our spirits have been up and down, and finally tonight we see the end of this passage in sight — or at least on the chart plotter.
When the weather was grand on Sunday, I was feeling down from lack of sleep. On Monday, the winds really picked up on us, and we had 30 knots, gusting to 35. The skies were gray from horizon to horizo,n and the winds were blowing the tops off the waves in the higher gusts. It looked really ugly.
We decided to furl up the headsail completely, and we spent the day motorsailing due east taking the seas on the forward quarter. We were actually traveling away from our final destination, but that’s part of the zig-zag of sailing. The seas were these 12-15 foot steep growlers, and once in the afternoon when I was sleeping in the aft cabin with the hatch cracked a bit for air, the boat went straight up the face of a wave, then plunged right into the next one. The bow picked up the wave and water rolled up the deck, and up and over the house and the cockpit enclosure, and dumped right on top of the aft hatch, awaking me and the dogs with a start. We had to move our foam mattress topper into the aft head that adjoins the engine room to dry it out.
The funny thing was when the weather turned ugly like that, my spirits improved. It’s okay to be grumpy when the weather is good, but when it turns bad, you can’t let it get you down. The dogs get frightened, and they have a very difficult time going to do their business on the mat on the aft deck when the motion is so extreme. They need cuddling and comforting, and the people do too.I do remember one moment of looking at Wayne and seeing the worry lines in his face and saying to him, “I wish I could wave a magic wand and make this go away.”
But like everything else in this passage, the wind that had gone up, eventually came down. We got our change in the weather last night. Instead of seeing the winds always 28-35 knots, we started seeing them dip under 20. We turned off the engine and began sailing southwest around 7:00 p.m. We still had a reefed genoa and double reefed main with sloppy seas and frequent gusts in the 30’s but as the night wore on it began to ease. Sometime in the night, the headsail furling line parted and the full sail unfurled. It probably happened one of the times the sail luffed at the same time the boat rolled. It often sounded like all hell was breaking loose anyway. I didn’t notice it until dawn because the wind had moderated somewhat, but we were still over-canvassed. When Wayne got up, he went on the very wet foredeck, poor guy, and it took a couple of hours to get a knot tied in the furling line and then try to get the sail furled in using a winch on the mast. Then he was able to replace the line.
By noon, the winds were under 20 and now the strength has come down so much, we’ve decided to motorsail and run the watermaker. We’ll enter Bligh Water in the dark and plan to make our way over to the coast of Vanua Levu and anchor tomorrow afternoon. Then on to Savusavu on the 21st. Winds will be on the nose, so we’re hoping they stay light and we can motorsail.
Up and down and over and out.