Friday, May 20, 2011

Tonga to Fiji

I'm a third of the way, just motoring and with a night of headwind it's been very uncomfortable, but settled down now and I'm surrounded by small tuna again! Leaping out of the water, cutting lines through, attracting a variety of sea-birds including... white terns and noddys (thanks Philip!) They don't like any of the lures I've offered them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Waking to birdsong! Caught a nice fish while washing up, then made my way over to the commercial harbor to be cleared in. I'd read about bribery and corruption with the officials here so was a bit nervous.
As it turned out only one of the four demanded anything, Mr Immigration. It's all done with smiles and entrapment, but I've arrived needing help and you don't know how hard this guy can make life, so I gave him his wine, hope he drowns in it! I said it was for my wife and I'm disappointed, he said no problem I can buy more at the duty free when I leave.
Apart from that people were very friendly and helpful, I ordered my diesel for the next morning and stocked up on fruit and veg. Talked to a few people about my rigging problem and how to deal with it. Tongans eat too much! Some of them ate continually behind their office desks. Would have made some great photos if I were brash enough to take them.
Diesel came in a huge tanker, filled up and then the rest of the day was taken up with clearing out again. Many papers and stamps and quite a bit of money later I set off into the sunset for Fiji.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Broken Stay to Tonga

that was a day and a half I could have done without, apart from the excitement of going over a 9.5 km hole! I sailed without motor when there was enough wind, so did 2.5kn through the night. I spent a lot of time poking sticks into the lower fuel tanks, measuring and doing maths. The motor stopped earlier than I'd hoped, the way the tanks and pipes are set up means the motor can't actually get the last of the fuel unless you are on a completely even keel, which is rare for a boat on the water. I set the header tank for the genset up to feed the main motor then pumped fuel from the bottom of the tanks with a hand bulb. The header holds five litres so I could always be sure of at least two hours motoring when I had it full. The maths were saying oh-oh so I cut the motor and sailed in the afternoon, but light wind and a more northerly direction meant that a lot of the sailing was just taking me closer to the breaking reefs on the north of Vava'u. Ended up only clearing the island by one mile instead of the three or five I planned, but the weather was calm and I had five litres in the header. All the slow sailing meant entering the channels to the harbor at night, but I had a full moon in front, GPS showing where I was on the chart and the radar. luckily the radar worked almost all the way in, and confirmed that the charts are some 200 yards out, so my track went across quite a bit of land. (This is quite common with charts, they were made before GPS, so cartographers were not always quite sure where they were. Now they could easily correct all the charts, but it would cost money.) Neiafu has very clear channel markers as you go into the harbor, so although it's a very narrow entrance I had no trouble finding my way, then dropped anchor in totally calm water for the first time in three weeks. The last of the fuel was up in the header tank and I arrived with less then half a litre! Apart from all the maths, I was making plans B,C and so on all day but luckily plan A worked out. Beautiful smells in the air, frangipani, some sort of burned flour smell and other flowers.

Monday, May 16, 2011


here's a jumble of pics, just got a quick internet in Tonga...
Taaha, a goatfish, the village, some vanilla plants.
Me setting out alone.
more fish, coconut grater, canoe training at Manihi
more fish, killer squid, Palmerston Attol and one more fish!
sorry it's a mess....
diesel comes at 10 tomorrow, and I'll be off to Suva...


Saturday, May 14, 2011

No Stay Niue

Well it wasn't as bad as the forecast, first two days were a bit difficult but no squalls, just variable direction and moderate seas, however the rain did continue. Apart from the day ashore on Palmerston it rained almost without a break for ten days! Some was just rain, some was buckets full. Water had been pouring into the cockpit and everything it flowed over was slimy, mildew was growing everywhere and on the last day of rain the white paint on the topsides blistered with tiny bubbles all over. Then the forecast continued to be wrong as instead of the promised 7 and 3kn I had two days of 20 from the SE, so I really flew along. I arrived at Niue in the middle of the night and rather than wait around for the sun, and taking the future forecasts into account, it seemed wiser to keep going. So another nation passed by! I saw some lights, that's all.
The next night in the early hours of the morning the forestay chose to leave the mast. This results in a mighty bang followed by a lot of flapping noises! I'm so lucky it happened in a light breeze and not in a squall. It was a pretty scary job, pole waving up and down (this pole, by the way, is the scariest thing on the boat, it's heavy and under the right conditions, see above, it can get up a lot of momentum), one of the remaining pieces of the furler reefing swinging at head height on the halyard, genoa flying and swimming free...
So the new plan is to motor to Tonga, just 100 miles on and perhaps do repairs there, or just fill up with diesel and motor on to Fiji. There's a slight catch, in that I just poked a stick in the lower fuel tank to see how much there really was, and as expected there is just enough to get to Neiafu Harbour on Vav'u. Just enough isn't really enough as running out by a breaking reef for example would be a shame. So despite a sudden lack of interest in sails, I've put the staysail and fully reefed main up to save fuel. The mast has an inner forestay so this light load should be ok and I've braced the top with a halyard to the bow.
Weather has turned beautiful at last, very light breeze and calm sea. I treated myself to a whole half grapefruit as I should be able to get some new supplies in Tonga. It's calm enough to grate coconuts, so the cream is done, washed up and ready to make the coconut coffee!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Palmerston Island

Well I made it to Palmerston in nine days, averaging an appaling 72 miles a day. They were all talking about the unusual weather, days of rain, apparently it never happens. Well apart from my first day here it has continued to rain and is blowing a near gale, so I've been stuck on the boat sitting out the weather. The wind should drop a bit in the morning, but will come in from the NW at 40kn and here I'm only sheltered from the East so I'll be setting off again at first light in the general direction of Fiji, with a possible stop at Niue in 380 miles or Tonga in another 250.
Palmerston gave me a wonderful welcome. Simon was out in a dinghy getting the mooring buoy ready to hand to me as I cruised in, then left me to clean up, returning with the government official and the mayor to clear me into Cook Is. This must be one of the more remote locations, population 70, it gets a supply boat four times a year, so if you leave to see the doctor in Rarotonga you get back three months later! I am the third boat to call in this year. It was wonderful to walk on land again after the last horrid nine days. There are three families descended from the three wives of the Scotsman who settled here, and each family takes turns to host a visiting yacht. I was given a tour of the island, and joined in lunch with everyone at the building site of the new school room. The kids were all studying in a covered open classroom. I met about half the population and was very much looking forwards to the next day or two ashore but the weather has vetoed my plans. Not looking forward to the next bit at all, seas should be big after the last few days strong winds, and wind will be variable in direction, still it should take only four days to Niue where I can take another break if needed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lone sailors are stchoopid

Well I've been out for over a week, still smiling, but it's been pretty tough. First few days had very little wind so I gradually put more sail up to try and get over two knots and finally made the mistake of leaving the whole main up overnight. My first solo squall hit at 4am and was a shocker. It blew the wind direction and speed instrument from the top of the mast, so it was dangling on it's cable. At first light got the sail reefed just before the next squall. Since then it's been light winds, squalls, head winds, the worst seas i've had so far, very confused. Big confused breaking seas make life impossible for the little auto pilot, so I don't get to sleep much on some nights. Last night a big squall caught me by surprise, and half way through a change of tack. It should have come from behind, but it came from in front with a wind change. It's awful holding onto the wheel, hoping nothing goes wrong. With a crew you can cope with so much more, and you get to enjoy watching them struggle with the pole on the foredeck, while they have the pleasure of knowing that you are more or less dry and certainly less likely to be knocked overboard than they are. There's the biggest scary thought, going overboard. Even with a crew you will be lucky to get back on the boat. With sails poled out in a good breeze it takes a bit to stop the boat and turn, then going back up into the sea could take an hour to win what you just did in 5 or 10 mins. Alone, you can be quite sure the boat will not turn around for you. Here's another thing to worry about. I set to catching squid at night and found it easy. Different species from at home, most of them have short tentacles, but one, only small, but with very long tentacles was very different. He did not want to stay in the bucket and sulk, tentacles were shooting out like iron rods, gripping edges and up he went. Beak pulsing in and out, he was quite agressive, and his eyes were huger than huge, and bluer than blue. The most scarey thing about this tiny monster was the tips of his long tentacles. Instead of suckers he had hooks, lots of them, and sharp, they slip straight inside your skin and hold on. Imagine a large one of them throwing his hooks into the cockpit! Or even a few hundred little ones tearing at your flesh as you watch the boat sail away. Here's another one. I keep sailing over volcanos and was wondering if some were still alive and what if they decided to let out a huge gas eruption? Under me? Gas would come up and Ellida would go down.
Here's a nice thing amongst the gloom. Small tuna are jumping all around, and have been for a day. They were leaping even higher in the squall, I thought they might have been laughing, not sure. Still a lot of the ocean is basically desert, so it's amazing to see so many fish.
I'm hoping to stop at Palmerston Island tomorrow for a much needed rest.