Passage to Palmerston – part 1

We dropped our mooring ball at the Bora Bora Yacht Club at 16.50 on Thursday 24 August and motored out through the pass into light airs and glassy flat seas saying our farewells to French Polynesia. We both enjoyed the spectacular sunset over the island of Maupiti before moving into our overnight shift system.
The wind was so light we motor sailed until about 21.00 when the wind strengthened enough for us to switch off the engine and sail along on a beam reach in about 12 knots of breeze. Because of the notoriety of this area for sudden wind gusts of 30 knots at any time we were deliberately reefed down despite the low wind speeds so made quite slow progress.
At one point I looked up and suddenly saw lots of bright lights coming fast towards us – and thought at first it was a ship. Not able to see any navigational lights nor any AIS I watched carefully before I realised it was a large catamaran motoring fast towards our stern. All its cockpit / saloon lights were fully illuminated masking their navigational lights on the bow (which are useless in the Pacific anyway because of the swell of the ocean) and they were not showing either a masthead light or steaming light which would have definitely helped! I stood on and illuminated our sails with a torch to make sure that they could see me. They passed within 50 feet behind me – Richard was very surprised I didn’t berate the captain on the radio…. He was definitely an idiot. But he may have heard me swearing at him anyway he was that close!
The rest of the night passed quietly with no more incidents and the night sky was spectacular with a very bright star show. The moon was a mere slither and he went to bed pretty early on.
By the morning of Friday 25 August the wind remained slight. The sun came out and it was a beautiful day out on the water. The only downside was our slow progress making an average of only 4 knots in the light airs. But at least we were sailing! We saw no ships all day nor any marine creatures although Richard lost one of his new fishing lures to a huge fish who declined to show himself….must have been at least a marlin LOL.
As we headed into the evening shifts we had our evening meal together and downloaded the latest weather. This forecast threatened us with sustained 25+ knot winds and 12 foot seas starting on Sunday morning. This bright and windy weather will then stay with us for the rest of the passage. This is caused by a squash zone between a ridge of high pressure below us and the South Pacific Convergence Zone above us. Could be a bit challenging later on then…..
During the day the wind continued to be light and variable but the seas started building but nothing too uncomfortable. What was interesting were the strange currents running across us – one minute we were on the rhumb line, then you are being pushed above it so correct the course and then suddenly you are heading in the other direction. Certainly kept us on our toes.
We had another beautiful sunset at sea as we ate dinner and went into our shifts. The night sky was simply amazing. The sky was so full of stars from all angles they looked like they touched the sea – it felt like I was in a vast sparkling snow globe at one point. The only downside to this spectacular display by nature was the difficulty in seeing any boats as many of the stars masqueraded as masthead lights LOL. Around 1 am I spotted an unusual small white light ahead of us. So I watched it carefully for a while but remained unsure so woke Richard up. As we were relatively close to some ocean drop-offs and a small island we think he may have been a small fishing pirogue. I changed course slightly, Richard went back to bed, and I kept watch. He disappeared for about 20 minutes but then briefly reappeared behind us. Could have sworn he was using a phone to illuminate himself in the absence of boat lights!
Nothing else happened during the night – all was well on the good ship Morpheus – and we both managed to get some sleep.
At 6 am this morning (Saturday 26 August) the wind had filled in a little but not sustained as it has now dropped back to 10 knots. We are still making slow progress but I’m sure we’ll make up for it when the wind really kicks in later. The seas have continued to build – now around six feet – but are thankfully not pushing us around too much at this stage.
Bye for now Jan