Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rock 'n Roll

August 4, 2008--This passage from Penrhyn Island to Pago Pago, American Samoa, has been an interesting one. After exiting the pass, we raised the sails and settled into a nice broad reach in about 18 knots of wind. The seas were not bad at all, and we just enjoyed the beautiful day. Ernst left with us; however, he is headed to Western Samoa so he is heading more north and west.

Saturday the conditions were basically the same but with bigger seas. Around 10 p.m. we passed by Manihiki, which is another Northern Cook Island. Larry and Trinda on sv Katie Lee had left Penrhyn two days before us and were now anchored at Manihiki. We wanted to stop there but only during the day. Manihiki does not have a pass into the lagoon so you have to anchor in the lee of the island and take the dinghy ashore. If any bad weather comes up, you might have to leave in a hurry which might be difficult if your anchor chain is wrapped around a coral head. The idea of anchoring in coral heads in the dark was not too appealing to us even though it was possible. Also, we are getting low on supplies so we decided to bypass the island and head straight to Samoa. We gave Larry a call on the VHF radio and spoke with him for a few minutes, and we told him that we would probably see them in Samoa later on.

The past two days has been a bit more challenging. We seem to be caught in the South Pacific Convergence Zone, which is the meeting of two air masses usually associated with the formation of a front that occurs in the Central South Pacific during the southern hemisphere winter. Most sailors are wary of the zone because it can be associated with high winds; however, it can also be quite benign. We have experienced winds from 18 to 25 knots with some gusts to 30 knots during a squall. Most of the squalls we have been through have been rain squalls with increased winds. We have seen lightening in the distance, but, thankfully, have not experienced any close by. The seas have been as high as 16 feet, but mostly they have run about 10 to 12 feet. Initially, the ride was pretty rolly and uncomfortable, but the past two days have been better. Everything we have experienced the boat and crew have weathered just fine. We have had no equipment failures except a minor one--our U.S. flag was consigned to Daie Jones's locker when the lines holding it must have broken. I was lying on the settee one afternoon looking out to the stern of the boat when I realized that our flag was gone. We have no idea when it was lost, but today we put up a new one. The conditions have resulted in a pretty fast passage so far. We have run between 5.5 and 7 knots and a few times hit 7.5 knots. Most of the time we have had a triple-reefed main and then various jib settings.

The only other mishap was that today I was resting on the settee again when the boat was hit by a wave on the port side and a half gallon of sea water came down the center hatch right onto the settee and me. I had to strip the sea berth and mop the floor, but it was only a small amount of water--it could have been much worse.

Our good news is that today Steve caught a small great barracuda. He threw the line in the water while he cleaned the fish, and about 30 minutes later he also had a beautiful 30-inch Dorado or Mahi Mahi. He had been having the worst luck with the fishing; the fish would bite but would get away. We rigged the line a little differently and what a difference it made. We enjoyed some fresh Dorado for lunch, and it was absolutely delicious.

I was in the cockpit this afternoon looking forward when a large wave came under the boat. Right when we were on the crest of the wave, the trough in front of the wave dropped away. I felt as though I were on a bluff looking down at a valley except that in this case, everything was a deep cobalt blue. It was really quite spectacular.

This will by our second longest passage since leaving Mexico, and as usually happens, we are anxious to get there so that we can get a good night's sleep. We will probably arrive at Samoa sometime late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning (we always seem to arrive at night no matter what we do) and will have to wait for daylight to enter the harbor and receive a berth assignment for the harbor master.

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