Having made passages between Tonga, New Zealand and Fiji three times now I still know one thing, that it can be a long passage with some excitement thrown in to get your heart valves tapping out. The rule of thumb in this part of the world is that you could be like Jesus and walk on water even when the tempest is blasting around you and come out smelling sweet as a flower with no sea water leaks on your favorite clothes in your locker or disheveled interiors from being rolled from side to side or you could be like the rest of us and just say “Wow! Just wow!”
It is said by many who make this passage that it isn’t one to be taken lightly. If you are lucky enough to have a very fast boat you could make the 1100 or so miles in six days, maybe, I’m told. If you are like us we plan for about nine to eleven days depending on the weather. Let me reassure you there will be some weather. It is also said for yachties like us that you will have weather in one, two or three different sections or in all three during your trip. Those are the first, second or final third parts of your passage.
I think I’d prefer it to be the first third of the passage. Mostly because you are well rested, except for all of your hours of looking at weather predictions, and better suited to make good changes on the fly. Additionally, you probably haven’t injured yourself yet so you might even be a bit physically stronger and you are closer to your starting point if you have some kind of major boat issue that would require returning to port.
For our trip we download our weather for updates to see how things more than likely have changed. As you patiently watch the progress bar on your electronic device pony express your download, you take a nap and come back to check if it’s done. Only to find that there was some glitch or error requiring you to start all over again. A little frustrating, but we’ve got some time to kill. It sometimes reminds me of the old 24 baud rate modems I had on my first computer. You’ve got mail!
Going into this passage it was a nice enough start. I knew there would be a few days of some blustery stuff in the middle, but it was going to be a beam reach with some predicted 3.5 meter swells. Ha Ha Ha! By our third day there were some aggressive easterly winds in the mid twenties pushing some swells a bit bigger. They were more like 4-5 meters.
Our fourth day continued racing with more of the same as the day before. But, by the afternoon we were seeing some mountainous swells that were easily 6 meters. Somehow Dazzler just dealt with those massive things with a few moments of serious side to side rolling. By the end of the day Jilly looked as if see had seen more than all the terrible things from her nightmares rolled into one beast. Believe me I get the pleasure of hearing every morning what crazy thing she was involved in. Too many times it involved me and I am now an A..hole. How is that for projecting your dream angers on someone else? I guess it’s a perk of being married.
At one point Jilly stated, “We’ve never seen anything like this. I’m scared!” I’ve been in some big stuff in my sailing days, but this by far was the worst. Dazzler took great care of us. I knew she would. She is a very soundly built and maintained vessel. She’s a true bluewater cruiser and after being cooped up for two years, she is enjoying stretching out her sea legs.
Of course the list of Fiji boat projects has been growing. A few minor leaks that weren’t there before. A few lights no longer working, but nothing major.
Jilly now wants to know, “When is this going to get better?” I tell her tomorrow. She promptly downloads the weather and discovers it doesn’t look like anything will happen to better our conditions until Sunday. Well, I believe she may have only focused on the wind velocity and not so much it’s angle. The same 20 knot winds would now provide us with broad reach point of sail with some nice following seas. And yes the swells also diminished from Mount Fuji sized mountains to baseball size pitchers mounds.
As we continued sailing to Fiji the day was lovely. A few large swells in the 3-4 meter range but spaced about 10 seconds apart. No spindrift or green water to speak of. Just a pleasant day.
Then it happened
I was on watch enjoying an after dinner coffee when the instruments started doing something I’ve not seen before. I heard beeps coming from the multi function display (MFD) followed by FRED taking a break. FRED is our auto pilot. He can steer better than when a police car pulls in behind you causing you to get the sober religious death grip on the wheel. Who is FRED? Freaking Remarkable Electronic Device, FRED for short. Also known as the autopilot on Dazzler.
The displays started flashing and not working properly at all. Not good as we still have about four days to Fiji. Jilly’s proclamation was made. “I’m not hand steering to Fiji. We need to call a helicopter.” Okay dear, but I’ll be able to figure out what’s what and make the necessary repairs or fix it. It took about three and a half hours while hove to before we were back underway.
Diagnosing and finding the source of this new Dazzler unapproved glitch was a cross between an orchestrated ballet of choreographed boat Yoga and a carnival side show shell guessing game. That’s another story all to itself. As it turns out I was a lucky blind squirrel. Of course if you think all the boat Yoga and shell guessing game of moving everything out of the way was cool. Before we could get back underway, we had to do it all in reverse to put everything back in their designated places.
What passage between the islands wouldn’t be complete without a repair or two? I thank my lucky stars that this did not happen during the crazy swell fest from the day before.
Some repairs are just more involved than others. What’s next? Bring it on! We got this even if it does sometimes rattle a last nerve.
The rest of the night was perfect. The electronics were getting along nicely again. Grape Ape was taunting FRED. Jilly was getting some much needed sleep before her watch. I was wishing I was a bit younger so boat Yoga didn’t hurt so much after it’s over. But I’m not so I was looking at the starry sky thinking how fortunate we are to be able to see and witness this glorious night sky. Oh course all the while thinking, I could sure use a beer right about now.
The sea state is still off our starboard quarter along with the 18-22 knot tradewinds pulling us along mile after mile bringing us that much closer to our destination.
Onboard there is a fine line between crew and being husband and wife. Yes they coexist, but quite frankly the sea and Mother Nature do not care about who’s onboard as long as you respect the sea and all the things that get you safely from departure to destination. Sadly at the end of the day the sea doesn’t care about feelings or clean boat interiors.
If it’s happened once, it’s happened at least five times during our passage. We have left the sliding hatch open for fresh air down below. We tempted fate and fate rewarded us with a nice saltwater rinse in the galley. There is nothing to do except curse a lot, clean it up and remind yourself that if it wasn’t open the majority of the water would not enter below decks. Still trying to balance that spinning plate. We will get it all right one of these trips.
I’m trying to decide if I should end this, but I’m kind of anxious to see what will happen next….I guess we’ll both have to wait for the next installment. For now we have to figure out how we will bake dinner in a glass baking dish full of tasty enchiladas on the metal rack in the oven without making a mess. You know from all the sliding around it will be doing. I bet Jilly will pull it off Until the next exciting adventure, con provecho!