Passage to Tongatapu

As planned we dropped our mooring ball at 21.00 hrs on Monday 16th October and worked our way through the anchorage to the channel. We were waved off by air horns which we presume was Ian to wish us good luck so we replied in kind – and other boats joined in. Was quite touching.
We motored slowly and carefully out towards the pass to deep water through the narrow chicane and between a couple of small unlit islands. In the very dark moonless night these were nervous times.
Thankfully by around 22.30 we were running alongside Hunga in deep water so we raised a reefed genoa and main and were hurtling along. As we came to the end of the island we realised we were over canvassed for the wind and sea state so reefed down further. The forecast was 15-20 knots decreasing through the night with moderate seas. So why did we find 25-30 knots plus higher in rain squalls?!? Never mind….at least it was a beam reach. The wind kept moving forward of the beam during the night and there were lots of rogue waves slamming our port side and breaking over us so we got wet a few times.
By 6.00 on Tuesday the wind had moderated slightly giving us a steady 20 knots still on a beam reach. But the skies were grey and heavily laden with the promise of rain. We have been going much faster than our passage schedule so have decided, at this early stage, not to shake out any of the reefs. We’ll evaluate that decision later – right now we were enjoying the more comfortable ride and I was hoping that Richard would manage to sleep as he had been struggling thus far.
At 10.00 the wind had moved to 60 degrees off the port bow and eased to about 16 knots. We shook out both the headsail and genoa reefs, pulled out the staysail, and hardened up. We were easily maintaining our target speed of five knots with an ETA for Wednesday morning so everything was going to plan although I would have preferred the promised beam reach as we hadn’t sailed upwind since we left the Caribbean LOL. Was a lovely day’s sailing.
This short passage meant that we could raise dink (without his outboard which was on the rail) onto the davits. But of course he is still leaking and if he deflates he might swing about causing stresses on the arch so every shift change Richard pumps more air into him – CPR for dinghies whatever next LOL!
By the time we went into our evening shifts, however, the sea state had got lumpy and the wind continued to clock more southerly and strengthened to 20+ knots again. We couldn’t hold our course – and with hazards to starboard – we needed to tack and get more easting in. We did this and went straight into the waves making very slow progress for a few miles. Then we tacked back and were making good speed once again. At 21.00 we had a cruise ship and a fishing boat sighting – no worries or concerns – but the wind continued to shift and eventually we couldn’t hold the course again. By this time we were running in deep water (5,000 feet) between sea mounts (rising sharply to 85 feet) and active (2016) underwater volcanos to both port and starboard. The seas around these areas are confused and lumpy and we started to lose traction. Eventually by midnight we had to motor sail to make any progress….and even at 1800 rpm we were still struggling to make 3-4 knots. What a difference a night makes!
By 6.00 on Wednesday we had passed the sea mounts and volcanos and were motoring directly into wind and waves towards the ship channel entry through the reef . It was a strange feeling though to be heading towards an island that we couldn’t see when only 15 miles away from our final destination.
We worked our way in through the reefs and little islands and finally, at 11.45, we arrived having sailed 181 miles and are now anchored off of Big Mommas Resort.
Bye for now Jan