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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Augusst 6-7, Fiji - Vanuatu Passage part 2

Day 1 was rather benign hosting clear blue skies and very little winds. We had been briefed on expected weather for the crossing that included light winds and 1-3 meter seas until Sunday when we should anticipate a moderate storm to pass directly over the fleet's rhumb line. Nonetheless we had stowed away most projectiles and loose items on shelf tops and counter tops just in case. Frank was reading J. Maarten Troost's second book, "Getting Stoned With Savages", and laughing a lot. I was reading a really, really intense Jonathan Kellerman book. And we set the hand line for fishing. By nightfall we realized we'd not caught any fish nor had we brought in the fishing line but Frank said to just leave it out. He, the easy-going one. Me the not so the easy-going one yapped at him about losing more lures and/or perhaps catching something that would get dragged through the water attracting sharks, but he prevailed and we left the line in the water.

The night was God's own palette. We witnessed a glorious sunset and as the last vestige of the huge orange ball dipped to the surface of the horizon, we both exclaimed "Green Flash!" We saw it, yes we did. Big one this time. The colors that painted the sky entertained us for a while. Then out came the full moon, lighting up the cloudless sky so that we bright sparkling stars and great visibility for our night shifts. We happily noted that we were literally surrounded by nearly two dozen dancing mast lights and tri-color lights as our brethren sailed on through the night accompanying us.

Day 2 as the sun was finally yawning awake over the horizon and I was coming off watch at 7 AM, I noted a very slack fishing line hanging off the stern. We have a strict rule that unless it is a dire emergency no one leaves the cockpit when alone up top. So when Frank awoke I tried not to sound too "wifey" when I told him that it looked like we had donated another (brand spanking new) lure to Neptune, and then I went on deck to reel it in. We both felt a sinking feeling as we noted it was gone. Frank didn't feel like fooling around getting a new one rigged so we opted out of fishing on day 2. Good thing that we did because by mid-day we began what we now know to be the "preliminary storm dance of the seas". The winds refreshed and out came the Gennaker. Sails up - SOG increasing - engine off! We enjoyed a good day of sailing indeed. As the afternoon faded into evening however, waves began building as squalls appeared on the horizon. What was this? This was not on the forecast and not on anyone's GRIBS. We checked rigging and made sure everything was well secured as the pounding began. This would not be a night for restful sleep. In fact we were both on hyper-awareness as Destiny tossed side to side. The seas were very angry and not well formed. With double reefs in both sails we sped through the night averaging 7-8 knots. At the 19:30 "sked" boats reported in with averages of 25-30 knots of true wind, and speeds varying from 6-12 knots with sails reefed. There are several catamarans in the fleet and two large motor yachts. These guys were probably going to out run this thing and were likely to make landfall a full day ahead of the rest of us. I was in the cockpit while Frank was giving our report when all of a sudden we felt we'd been slammed by a tank. The crash came before either of us could react. Oh Lord, what now?! The laptop and all contents of the Nav station area were sent hurtling across the interior, into the galley, slamming into the paneling of the fridge and freezer leaving deep gouges in the teak before landing in a heap on the floor below. Rogue Wave. I dutifully went below to pick up pieces. Phones had come apart, as had most electronic pieces. eyeglasses, flashlights, flash drives, business cards, pens, pencils, books, charts - you name it had gone airborne. Amazingly none of it was broken - just scattered everywhere. It was a mess, but one that was easily cleaned up. It was to be a very long, wet night. But we sailed it! It was great not to have to turn the motor on for about 24 hours.

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