Sunday, July 25th, 2010*
* Crisscrossing dateline so I'm now on my 2nd Sunday as Wallis & Futuna are UTC -11
18:00 LTY time (UTC -11) = 05:00 UTC
Location: about 75nm SE of Wallis Island
Position: 14 20.016 S, 175 20.168 W (cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
Wind: 5-10 kts SE kts (apparent)
Seas: 1m @ 8 secs SE
Air temp: 84F 28.9C
Sea temp: 84F 28.9C
Weather: sunny, blue skies, some clouds building off to the west, sun setting
Distance traveled last 24 hours: 150nm
Distance to Wallis: 72nm
ETA Wallis: 10am Monday, July 26, 2010
SPECTACULAR SAILING & EATING AFTER A DUBIOUS START
** See photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/wayne.hodgins/NiuatoputapuTonga# for more pictures
Got away from Niuatoputapu as expected yesterday afternoon about 16:30 but not without a scary incident on the way out of the tricky pass. The lagoon is very good with all sandy bottom at about 35’ but the pass to come in and out is very narrow and you have to wind your way in through a very convoluted path to get through the coral of the reef. I had the track (electronic bread crumbs) from coming in which had worked well and so was following this back out expecting it to work equally well. However as I rounded the port marker where you need to make a 90 degree turn to head out through the narrow pass I suddenly went aground HARD! From 5kts to zero in an instant! Still not sure how this happened as I was within the two markers on port and starboard and what I thought was the exact path coming in, but obviously not. Thanks to good old Learnativity being very solid steel (over an inch thick at the bottom of the keel) she just backed right up when I put it in reverse, and I moved over to be as close as possible to the starboard marker and we went out fine. Stopped to dive the keel quickly once I was out, and just have some new scrapes in the new bottom paint and otherwise all was well. Whew!
Yet after this dubious start it flipped over to the other side of greatness for the rest of the trip as you are about to read. Once out in the open seas, the wind freshened up a little bit to about 10 knots out of the SE, just as forecast and part of the SE Trades that you expect to be blowing here pretty much all the time at this time of year. The winds had been up about 20 most of my stay, which was great for the wind generator and keeping my battery bank fully topped up, but the forecast was for light winds (under 10) this weekend, building gradually through the week to about 15-20 and all from the SE. This was a bit light but otherwise perfect and I’d waited to Sunday to leave in part to get the slightly higher winds as well as to get the chance to enjoy the Sunday feast with Cici, Niko and others. The timing worked out well.
With the wind out of the SE though, and my heading being NW it means that I’m sailing dead downwind which is a bit difficult for sails. But I live to learn and so I tried out a bunch of different sail setups to see what would work best. Full main and jib weren’t working too well both due to the low wind speed, now under 10 knots and it being right behind me. So I figured I had enough daylight left to get the spinnaker out for the first time this season and also try out my shiny new SS bow sprit! Took quite a while to get everything setup for the first time but eventually got the spinnaker hoisted just as the sun set and the light faded. The new bow sprit setup worked great and was worth all the work to design and build in NZ which added to how good this all felt.
However with the wind directly behind me the main was blanketing the spinnaker too much and so I took down the main and tried the spinnaker alone and that worked best of all. I’ve got what is called an asymmetric spinnaker which is meant to work well in winds from about 60 to 140 degrees (measured off the bow) so wasn’t sure how this would work or how to adjust it as I’m basically trying to get a sail to work well outside its parameters. But more experiential learning (aka trial and error) and I soon had this huge blue and white sail billowing out in front and pulling us along at 6 knots in less than 10 knots of wind. Not bad for this big heavy steel tank of mine!
And that’s been the sail plan ever since, over 26 hours now. I played around with it a bit more this morning after the sun was up to get it to pull a bit more and keep it from collapsing as the boat rolls with the swell of the following seas. The wind is a bit tricky as it crosses over to both sides of being dead downwind and goes up to as much as 10 and down to as much as 5 but I’ve got the tack and the clew lines adjusted now such that the spinnaker moves back and forth with these changes and rarely collapses and when it does it quickly recovers.
It is a thing of beauty I must tell you, to be out here in perfect weather, blue skies and a few scattered clouds, following seas, following wind and a spinnaker puffed out in front pulling LTY, Ruby and I silently through the seas at ideal speeds and motion. As if that wasn’t enough as the sun went down last night the full moon came up in these clear skies and bathed us all with its silvery beauty. And just to top it all off, the moon came up over my starboard aft corner and the small picture perfect volcanic cone of the Island of Tafahi was between us and made for a scene right out of the movies. I wallowed in that all night long as the moon made its arc over top of us and set early this morning off in the west as the sun was coming up to take its place. Can’t get much better than that right? Wrong!
As many of you know I’m big on fish eating but not so much on fishing itself. Actually I’m very much into fish catching, juts not fishing as a sport. I seem to be missing that whole sport gene completely and just don’t get the kick out of things like fishing that so many others do. But I do love learning and I do have some fishing gear and I’ve been pumping all who do catch fish to teach me more. So I finally remembered to put my fishing lure in the water about 9am this morning and about 10:30 am zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing went the line and we had ourselves a fish! It took about 15 minutes to reel it in, doing my best to remember what I’ve read and what all my fishing friends have told me but not being willing to stop sailing so we were still going along at a good clip. (poor fish!) It really was quite a site as this fish would leap out of the water every minute or so and the sun reflected brilliant greens and yellow as it arced through the air fighting as best it could to spit that darn hook out. Unfortunately for the fish and fortunately for me, the hook stayed in and as I reeled it up to the boat I could see that it was a magnificent Mahi-Mahi or Dorado or properly called (according to my book) a Dolphin fish. 80cm long though I’m not sure what the weight would be. Guess I need to get a fish scale. I soon had it gaffed and up on the deck as you can see.
I considered throwing him back as he was just so beautiful, but fresh Mahi was just too much to turn down and he was just the right size for me to eat so he paid the price. Out came the ice pick (to kill him quick) and a few minutes later I had two big fresh fillets on my deck. Hadn’t realized how much red blood these fish have and so I then set about cleaning off the deck and the back steps. But being the rookie I am as I was doing so a swell rolled us and I paid back some tax to mother nature and stupidity as one of the fillets and my deck brush went back to the sea! Given that I was now down one half a fish and had lots of room in my freezer I put the hook back out and about 2pm the line really went off. This was a MUCH bigger fish and after about 15 minutes he succeeded in getting rid of the hook, which was probably just as well as it would likely have been more than I could eat. I didn't lose my lure though and still had one half a great fish and it alone yielded some super fresh sushi for an impromptu lunch and 6 good sized fillets, one of which I’m about to go cook up in a few minutes as soon as I finish typing this up and sending it. Making this a completely local diner, with thanks to Cici and Niko, I’ve also got fresh papaya, tapioca root and breadfruit to go with my fresh fish diner tonight as well.
And to top it all off, and I even have some bread pudding for dessert! Back in Niuatoputapu I had some bread that was going stale and remember my Mom’s bread pudding being so delicious as a boy, so out came the Joy of Cooking and I soon had a pan full of bread pudding with some dried cranberries, apricots and figs I had around. Delicious and just as I remembered. Thanks Mom!
No internet connection good enough for pictures tonight (since added while in Wallis) but picture me out on the deck, under the full moon that is just now up in full glory after a great sunset, eating this completely local, completely delicious diner. Wish you were here!
Night for now.
Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog