Passage to Vanuatu – part 2

Sunday (11 August) continued to be benign with very light wind conditions so we motor sailed all day.  The sea continued to flatten and we made the most of the near-perfect conditions so had lovely hot showers and well as making water.   We were ever hopeful that the wind would pick up but, by 5.30 pm, it had disappeared altogether.   Sails were flapping so we went into our night shifts motoring under bare poles.   Calm and steady conditions meant for a good night especially with a huge moon although cloud cover kept the stars hidden from sight.   No ships were sighted at all.

Monday (12 August) was another beautiful day.   At 6am the wind changed direction and started filling in.   By 8 am the engine was off and we were sailing on a beam reach at 4.5 knots in 9 knots of breeze.   The swell was less than 1m and the seas were pretty flat.   This is about as good as it gets!   Blue skies on a sunny day with the deep blue ocean sparkling all around us.  Fantastic.

In these conditions we were on schedule for a Wednesday arrival as we had planned.  Two other boats, who left Fiji a couple of hours ahead of us, are pushing harder so will arrive on Tuesday.   They also had the advantage of motor sailing on Saturday night when we had to rely on sail power alone, so they pulled away from us as we were going so slowly.   We are, for the first time, participating in a SSB Pacific cruisers net each day at 8.00 and 17.30 reporting our position so we are aware of those around us.   We are happy to just plod along with the wind so long as we are making way in the right direction.

By lunchtime the wind had picked up to 13 knots and we had the most perfect sail doing 6 knots on a beam reach.  Thoroughly enjoyed it.   As had happened the day before, around 5.30 pm, the wind died completely.   So it was back to motor sailing throughout the night – good job we got diesel in Fiji!   The seas picked up a bit too for some reason so it did get a bit rolly again for a while.

Overnight we had a close encounter with a large motor vessel who was not a pleasure boat or a cargo ship.   He did not have AIS but we picked him up on radar and eyeballed his progress as he slowly passed behind our stern.   As we are nearing the islands of Vanuatu and its territorial waters we wondered whether he might have been a coastguard cutter as we know they are actively watching boat traffic to ensure that people abide by the regulations – boats that stop in non-designated ports of entry before checking in are treating as potential drug or people traffickers with heavy penalties for non-compliance.

This morning, Tuesday (13 August) and we still have no wind but the sea state is increasing with a short interval between waves making it pretty rolly.   At 10.15 we still have no wind – although boats ahead of us are reporting 18 knots (which is actually forecast).   We have just recalculated the remainder of our passage so have slowed back down to 4.5 knots as that is the maximum speed we need to arrive into Port Vila by 9am local time (which is one hour behind Fiji).   We are expecting feisty conditions later today so anticipate sailing slowly and steadily through it – we just hope we can keep our speed down LOL.

Bye for now