Dawn wakes & we prepare for our annual migration sailing west from Fiji to the Loyalty Islands New Caledonia to join our Down Under Rally boats at Lifou Island.
Muddy anchor and chain is pulled from the waters of Momi Bay Mainsail hauled with a second reef, headsail unfurled to manage conditions of the day in between coffee & breakfast on the go.
We take off like a horse leaping from the gates as the 18-20 knot winds fills our sails, waves on the beam, seas 1/2 – 1 m lift the port hull and slap underneath as the swell exit from the starboard side.
He we go … 9 – 10 knots we sway from side to side, our bodies having to quickly become accustomed to the boats behaviour.
It doesn’t take long & I am craving salt then sugar after a few hours of forced exercise, my head starts to feel a little like it’s been in a salad spinner.
Vegemite for the salt, hot milo for the sweet appeases the cravings.
First log book entry of many recorded. John & I fall into a comfortable routine as we are safely out the Malalo pass & on our way. We change seats a few times from helm to comfortable chairs, then rest beckons for John & I’m on watch.
Sunny skies & waves thump onto the beam & continue to rock us from side to side.We alternate watch & Its my time to rest, no particular pattern we are just in sync with each other. I prepare stir fry chicken for dinner, we eat before the sunsets. Dishes done sees me back on watch.
The deep purple water fades to lighter shades then grey as the cloud cover swallows the sunset. Dashes of red between the clouds appear and just like that it’s dark. We are alone, no visible boats in site, but we know at least 6 are behind us.
The wind has calmed and we are less frantic at sea, rolling through the swells more fluidly.
I hear the engine start, my first thought as I stir from sleep mmm the wind must be light, dozing, I feel a tap John says playfully ding ding. I leave the saloon bed & he falls into the warmth where I had laid.
Green tea at the helm & our passenger the past few hours “a boobie bird” is grooming its feathers, after a pattern of burying its beak into his back feathers. A few squawks, It suddenly takes flight once around the boat & back onboard, a few more attempts to leave, circling, landing, flying low across the ocean swell, and as mysteriously as it arrived it’s gone.
Two boats were visible last night, but not showing on our AIS, the sailboat is still abeam of us this morning & the other which was lit up like a Xmas tree headed in Fiji’s direction.
Someone is hailing us on the radio “Sailboat off our port side do you copy?” Faint at first & he repeats, its “Lettin Go”one of our Down Under Loyalty Rally boats. John answered back, although close by he said our transmission was broken. We eat breakfast and begin another day at sea.
The clouds part blue skies & calm seas open up to a wonderful sunny morning. I lie on the bow in between a short yoga practice. I am surrounded by blue – listening to music & delving into thoughts of my next yoga class, retreat & playlists to suit …how much clarity working with so much beauty & calm conditions.
John on the other hand had an email causing him grief re the New Caledonia Rally – a last minute requests came at a inappropriate time as we are all at sea embarking on the Loyalties. A broken sat phone conversation followed by an email to sort.
I am in heaven, I love the passages, ocean swells & a slow Yoga4Yachties flow to wonderful music I put together the sounds of drums, piano & soulful singing as sunlight dances on the water & we float along the ocean surface – no one insite – no voices, alone, at peace with myself …. this is the true sense of freedom when conditions are perfect nothing at all in the world matters it’s just you & the sea!
I spot a shadow of something big in the water & say “Do you have the fishing line out?” John later retrieves the line – what was left of it, tracer & louer gone! No fish tonight!
John chooses a movie called “Cliff Hanger” as we eat freshly cooked prawns & vegetables with mix of quinoa, porcino mushroom & basmati rice yum! I’m sure I had 3 helpings, I am so ravishingly hungry in the ocean.
Last night I struggled with tiredness during my watch, I grabbed my iPhone & played some lively music to boogie away to keep me awake. I usually don’t do this, but with just John & I onboard our evening watches, 3 hrs on 3hrs off, I needed to stop myself from being sleepy. I listened with one earplug in, so I could hear with the other if the boat noises were calling for attention.
Today I wake to a bucking bronco ride, the seas are choppy Southerly winds gusting to 23 knots true with SOG 8-10 knots with reefed headsail & main.
John should be sleeping but he is adjusting sails to make it more pleasant on board.
The boat settled after some tweaks & I rest behind the helm on a comfy chair, side curtain down to stop any splash from the swells.
After 2 nights on board Futuna island protrudes from the sea, a large table top island standing proud a beam of us. The wind has eased and seas not so confused.
I go below to wash my face, turning the tap nothing comes out, no water, what? I did hear the pump running last night like we were getting low on water – I just presumed air in the tank … we were full when leaving Fiji & both of us have showered only once so far. I go below with a torch to check the tanks, bugger port side empty, starboard only a quarter. I turned the pressure pump on at the starboard side and the basin tap start spluttering water … “damn it I must have bumped the tap” which is easy to do as you are thrown side to side, struggling to dress. Luckily conditions are ok & John goes forward to retrieve 3 spare 10 litre jugs of fresh water.
We are in the cockpit enjoying conversation & dinner, the boat starts to gallop “How much wind have we got?” asked John, “21 knots” I reply. I look ahead & a massive black cloud is approaching us, we are quick to reef the main sail & headsail. As predicted, southerly winds gusting to 20-23 knots most of my shift, the boat behaving ok, typical slapping under hull sounds like fire crackers. Songlines creaks & groans a little as it dips & weaves in confused seas, our bodies constantly needing fuel to keep up with the energy we are expelling from being moved side to side & back & forth.
Songlines our 48.8 ft Ocean Catamaran is doing its job, a wave takes me by surprise & crashes straight over top of the boat, wow seas are getting a little bigger! Now this isn’t in the brochure, right? But it is part of my life at sea & what I expect will happen on occasions – I don’t hold myself rigid & i’m not scared, just aware, allowing my body to move as the boat moves, keeping a good look out – the headsail flaps, a few turns on the winch handle makes it happy.
I’m off watch & sound asleep, waking suddenly hearing waves crashing more often over the boat – things are falling & clanging together. The boat twists deep turns & a bang sounds under the hull – ear piercing like a whip cracked – 99% of the time everything stays exactly where I leave it on passage but chairs are moving books are falling crockery clanging & banging.
I say in passing as we change over “Its rough as hell out there!” John laughs & says “It’s calm now!”
I sit at the helm and the craziest cloud stares at me illuminated by the moon behind it – it looks like a woven blanket rolled & I can see the pattern through it, stopping at a thick edge – I did say holy shit & stay calm girl, it may be nothing just plenty of wind! Thankfully 😅 it dissipates into nothing – a few burst of 22-25 k – it’s just so cold, wow after little more than bathers for 3 months I’m dressed in warm clothes & shivering, turn me around – I want Fiji weather please!
The moon slowly dips into the ocean in a glowing red farewell, and not long after light illuminates behind me as the sun begins to rise. I turn & watch the cloud formations & witness another forming above it in a fan like cloud with stacking smaller ones not unlike the game “Jenga.”
Red sky in the morning “Sailors take warning”
All sorts of clouds surround us.
It’s now 5:36am & the ray marine E120 says 61.98nm to our first way point for our destination Lifou Island. We are relieved, as the thought of another crazy night of this wind & seas – pass. You deal with it because you have no other choice – I signed up for this ride I have to finish, there’s no out at sea. In saying that, I have never felt I could not handle the conditions, I cooked & went about our time on our home each day, I just walked a little funny getting from A to B.
The wind is blustering again to fits of 23.5 k dropping to 16 k.
Our boat speed has been high 8- 9- topping at 11 most of this trip! The engine run for a short few hours only.
Cloudy grey skies & seas build again … I keep hearing a horn barm barm I look around trying to see the ship that fits it – but nothing, I swear I hear it at least another 6 or so times … I mention it to John & he says you would see it if you can hear it… strange sounds at sea imagination or real? John later tells me it’s the wind generator braking to stop when batteries are at full power, problem solved!
A few more hours should see us arrive late afternoon- a very quick trip!
We arrived at Lifou island around 3:30-4.00pm main sail dropped & headsail furled, as we will alter course as the wind will be on our bow – we motor slowly at 4 knots until wind & sea allows us to increase speed.
We arrive at Drueulu bay Lifou Island to the sounds of music & children playing, rooster crowing … a beautiful white sandy foreshore reminds us of Fraser Island Australia. A few of our Loyalty rally boats have arrived from Fiji & Vanuatu, crystal clear blue water below us & a magnificent sunrise to end our voyage !
We are tired but happy!