Sunday, September 23, 2018

Passage to Tonga

[Kyle]Since we were at a mooring ball in Niue, all we had to do to leave was untie the lines and we were freely drifting in the ocean. We hadn’t needed the engines since repositioning closer to Ganesh back at Beveridge Reef (weeks prior).

The wind blew Begonia backwards. I put the helm over to one side to slew her sideways, then Maryanne unrolled the jib, cranked it in to make it bite, and we were off. What a lovely, peaceful departure – no noise, no fumes, just Niue slowly slipping behind.

We had two days of nice, strong winds from almost dead astern, which would have been perfect if there hadn’t been an annoying cross sea coming in from the north and tossing us around a bit. We curved north of the direct line in anticipation of a wind shift that was predicted for the morning of our arrival. I was really hoping to avoid any upwind unpleasantness.

My plan was working beautifully until 0210 on the third day. I was sitting at the computer, looking at the new weather forecasts when the jib started luffing. I went outside to find us heading directly into the wind and slowing rapidly. The rudders were losing their effectiveness and the autopilot was freaking out trying to keep us pointed a direction we could no longer go.

I shut it off and spun the wheel to get air back into the sails, but with the current also against us, we were now heading ninety degrees from where we wanted to go. Eighty-nine would have been better. I tacked and had the same problem on the other side of the wind. Suspecting the wind shift was due to a short lived squall, I gave up and hove-to in order to wait it out. That didn’t work either, because the wind was going crazy and shifting around faster than the boat reacted, so half of the time we were hove to and the other half, we had full sail pulling us fast in the wrong direction.

Maryanne took over and I was glad to hand my problems over to her. As I was falling asleep, I did a little calculating in my head and realized our only chance of getting into Tonga the same day was to start an engine now. We tried each tack again, as the little bit of speed the engine provides can often give us another knot and allow us to point ten degrees further upwind. That didn’t work, either, so we eventually ended up stowing all sail and just motoring the rest of the way.

We made it to the Customs dock right at the end of civil twilight, just as it was starting to get really dark. We had expected to have to raft up to all of the others that had left Niue before us on the same day we did, but we were the only other boat there. We suspected the others had been a bent the rules and anchored out on the way in (making our arrival much easier). They all mysteriously arrived as we were pulling away after clearing in the following morning.

We're back in Tonga!

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