Sunday, September 19, 2004

Passage to Vava'u

Trip to Vava’u

Tacking the last day
It started out to be one of the best trips we’ve had. There was good wind and we were making great progress down the rhumbline. We had had a great sail during the day when the wind began to drop and move behind us. In order to keep our course I put up the spinnaker and we were flying at about 6.5 to 7 knots. Usually we think about taking the spinnaker down at night but the breeze seemed to be dying so we left it up. After dark, at 7:50 to be exact, we heard a loud wave (like a low rumbling noise), kind of like the breaking waves that come out of the night, except there were no seas. All of the sudden we slammed into a whale. Water came over the rail and KT got rather wet. The boat slowed to about 1.5 knots as our spinnaker collapsed and the boat felt like it was going bow down. I immediately got on the radio and told Emerald that we had hit a whale and were checking for damage. We both ran around frantically, checking the steering, which didn’t feel right. I checked under the floorboards and had to raise the dinghy to check in the watertight compartment but there was no water. Finally we got enough boat speed and the steering felt fine, as we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was planning on checking under water in the morning but the weather had different plans.

After catching our breath and relaxing a little, we saw lightening on the horizon as the wind got lighter and shifted more to the northwest (usually a bad sign). Something triggered in my head ... “lightning.. spinnaker .. bad idea!!” About ten minutes after we took it down, the genoa back winded, and I swore at the autopilot thinking it had lost its course again. Well the wind kept rising, 15, 20, 25 knots right on the nose. It rained a little bit but we seemed to avoid direct lightening, even though the thunderhead cloud passed right over the boat.  The next 36 hours were spent battling against winds coming from the exact place we wanted to go. They say gentlemen don’t go to weather, so all you out there that actually had doubts can now be 100% sure.. I’m no gentleman!! The seas got rather big as we pounded into them. Green water was running down the windward side of the boat like we’ve never seen. There were waves constantly breaking over the bow. De La Mer had a couple of emergencies, one when his water generator line got wrapped around his rudder when he tacked. He actually had to get in the water in the rough seas and unwrap it!! We tacked behind then and stood off as he went over, I can’t imagine what a rescue must be like in a storm. The second was when he looked up on deck and realized that his anchor was not on deck; he was towing it and 45 feet of chain behind him under the boat. Later he joked that parachute anchors are overrated, just throw your anchor overboard. I kept giving him crap about trying to anchor in 1000 feet of water with only 40 feet of scope.

Night came and everyone else turned on their motors and motored straight into it at about 2 knots. I figured that even though we were tacking through about 135-140o (instead of the normal 110o) we were moving five plus knots so we were getting there almost as fast but we were more comfortable, and we were sailing. The only problem was there was a line of boats motoring straight and we were tacking across the same line.. ALL nightlong. I let KT sleep and kept in touch with the other 4 boats, sometimes needing to flash deck light etc to figure out who was who. They thought I was nuts.  KT woke up and heard me telling some of the other boats that we would be in around noon. KT came on deck with the saddest face I have ever seen, “I thought we’d be there already”. We sailed a little longer, now it was fantastic sailing because while we still had 20+ knots, we were in the lee of the island so the seas were relatively calm. I finally gave in and motored the last 5 miles into Vava’u. It was nice to see a town with electricity for the first time in five weeks, plus you get a free “refrigerated ice cold tap” beer at the local bar on you first day. More about that later!!

No comments:

Post a Comment