Passage to the Marquesas: Days 21-23

Friday afternoon and evening we continued motoring at 4 knots and had done our sums in relation to actual fuel consumption and mileage. During the night there were squalls running down both our starboard and port sides but we were OK. Seems like this bowling alley is infinitely wide! And only drizzly rain – nothing too serious thankfully.
At 1am on Saturday (Day 22) the wind started to fill in on our starboard quarter. We had previously reefed the headsail with the pole out as we anticipated more easterly winds to come. Of course, the forecast was wrong, and the angle of the wind meant that we would need to drop the pole. I was reluctant to send Richard forward to do that in a pitch black night until the wind had stabilised for a while. So I continued motoring and left him sleeping….
By 3am it was clear the wind was here to stay from the north east so on shift change we put all our foredeck lights on and Richard got the pole stowed. I pulled out the genoa and shut off the engine. The wind remained unsure of its direction – constantly shifting through 40 degrees as the strength fluctuated – so we decided not to deploy the main at this stage.
At 8am we were still sailing along nicely – reacting to the constant wind shifts by tweaking the course to keep the wind abaft the beam – and averaged four knots. So still slow but tons better than the frustrations of previous days. The forecast predicts an increase in wind strength come Sunday and for it to continue throughout the week ahead. We can only hope that is the case. But the good news is that we have enough fuel to slowly motor all the way to Hiva Oa if we need to. That news, alone, gave us a boost.
Saturday continued unchanged but the wind eased for a while so we deployed the pole for the night to ensure we could run dead down wind. Oh yes and some excitement because we saw a tanker on our AIS although we didn’t actually physically spot him. So there is life out there!
Anyway pole out, shifts underway and the clouds built, and built, and built until I was surrounded by black menacing clouds and I was the only thing sitting under a circle of grey sky…..then the circle closed like something out of a horror film….the wind howled up to 35 knots and the heavens opened. It rained continuously and we had to shorten sail to a handkerchief size as the huge following seas, which often broke on our stern quarter, had us surfing manically up to 9 knots and swerving all over the place until we settled and started the whole process again.
These horrible conditions continued throughout the night and the movement made sleeping very difficult. Again our track looks like a drunk staggering around as we are constantly tweaking our course to ensure we don’t take these breaking waves side on…. Despite the strong winds and the surfing activity we still only averaged 4.5 knots over the hours of darkness – very disappointing – but we had no choice in the conditions to ensure we stayed safe.
Sunday morning (Day 23) and we were relieved that the rain started to move away around 7 am. The seas remain heavy and are breaking on us but the reduced wind – true wind speed 15 knots – has enabled us to get more sail out and increase our average speed to 6 knots. The latest forecast is for these wind conditions to remain constant – unfortunately with some more rain – for the rest of the week so fingers crossed! We have done 2,639 miles now and have around 420 to go if we can continue to go in a straight line. And that’s a big ‘IF’ LOL.
Bye for now Jan