Wed/Thurs 23rd/24th June Days 21 and 22
MARINE WEATHER BULLETIN FOR ISLANDS AREA: EQUATOR TO 25S BETWEEN 160E AND 120W. SYNOPSIS AND FORECAST VALID UNTIL Jun 23 1800 UTC.
CONVERGENCE ZONE CZ ......10S 169W, 14S 155W...... SLOW MOVING. POOR VISIBILITY IN OCCASIONAL RAIN AND SQUALLY THUNDERSTORMS WITHIN 150 MILES OF CZ.
OVER BROAD AREAS SOUTH OF CZ AND WEST OF 145W, EXPECT EAST TO SOUTHEAST WINDS 20 TO 25 KNOTS AND GUSTS UPTO 35 KNOTS. ROUGH TO VERY ROUGH SEAS. MODERATE SOUTHEASTERLY SWELLS.
"Nereida" was at 11S, 158W - and suffered the sudden strong winds and rainstorms from before dawn to early afternoon... scattered squalls at first but then we had to pass through a big, solid line of dark grey, high, spreading rainclouds - with nearly zero visibility in HEAVY rain and strong winds. I'd just let out full genoa in the calm well beforehand.... had to do some fast winching!! We heeled over like crazy for quite a time & sped along at 7.6 kt - had me worried for a time, but we came through OK. Winds backed to NE for quite a time & forced us N-NNW. I got drenched: soaking wet hair, clothes & body. Fortunate that the air temperature is 32C, although in the strong wind, I soon cooled down, despite my exercising, and was pleased to be able to strip off my wet gear when things got calmer. It was a refreshing long shower which removed much of the salt... Pity I was too busy to get some soap & shampoo to take full advantage!
Sky cleared totally and wind veered to its usual ESE after leaving line of clouds behind....
What a difference Wednesday afternoon and evening were from the morning's series of squalls and calms.... We passed Tongareva Atoll (Penrhyn Island) about 6 miles off soon after midnight, early on Thursday. I'd wanted to be up on deck to keep an eye on the depth gauge .... depths are 1000m or more until very close to the reef..!!! And there are no lights, so far as I can make out from chart... I think I gave a textbook illustration of why it's best to pass to leeward of dangers when possible! Because I was up anyway, I was writing an email to a friend: " beautiful night now - clear sky, hardly a cloud in sight!" But as I was writing that, the wind got up & I went up to find a big grey cloud overhead. NOT a big squall, I thought, just a few drops of rain and a touch more wind. I unfurled the rest of the genoa, changed course slightly to put us off the wind more to give a better speed until the cloud had passed over... But the wind suddenly increased to 24kt & I'd just let out the full genoa ...... We were heeled like crazy again, careering along at over 7 knots, being forced well off our course by the wind backing eventually to NE from ESE.
Having chosen to pass to leeward of the island, we were in no danger of running aground on the unlit reef, but I wouldn't have liked to have been to windward at that point in time. After the first black cloud, there was another one shortly after - no rain, but black and threatening ...& plenty of wind again to heel us over at speed. ....... I was left wondering how ever could I have done that yet again! The number of times I've been caught out like that before, you'd have thought I'd learned the lesson by now: It's really got calm... so let's unfurl some more genoa/let out a reef. But soon after, the wind rapidly increases and you wish you'd left the sails alone - you always pay the price of a lurking cloud upwind, all ready to catch you out......!! (The advice runs: If you think of reefing, DO IT! If you think of un-reefing.... go make a cup of tea...!!) Trouble is, the calm before the squalls here is so long lasting and the wind dies down so much, that it's sometimes difficult not to want to get the boat moving and to associate the calm with the upwind cloud - sometimes a good distance away still ... patience...!!
Tongareva Atoll looked like a lovely place to have stopped off at if I'd had time. I'd received an email from a friend about having passed by another 'picture-postcard' atoll - Palmerston Island.
"Did you enjoy your swim in the Lagoon at Palmerston? Even if you didn't stop, you could have used your imagination, as you were less than 40 miles away. Just think, warm water, crystal clear, a lagoon surrounded by palm trees waving in the breeze, catch a fish by hand for dinner (they are not people shy), a drink of coconut milk fresh from the nut before a quiet siesta on a beautiful white sandy beach. " Mmmm...!!
Thursday continued in a similar way - in the calm of the morning, I sat in the shade on deck, enjoying the refreshing breeze for a long time. But by mid-afternoon, the clouds had built up again - and we were back playing the winching game.... wind backing and dying,... strong wind under a grey cloud, maybe some rain, maybe heavy,... pass between two clouds if you can manage it... And all the time, trying to get a bit further East if at all possible, in readiness for those NE Trades after the ITCZ (aka Doldrums).
DMG: Wed: 101n.ml. Thurs: 120 n.ml. Distance to finish (DTF): 1807 n.ml. at noon Thursday