Goodbye French Polynesia! - Passage to the Cook Islands - 17.-19.9.2013

Fri 20 Sep 2013 00:13
17:49.870S 155:58.699W
Goodbye French Polynesia
Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands (New Zealand)

Off to a new country: Cook Islands are next!
After having spent more than a week in Mopelia, FP, we set sail on Tuesday morning, continuing our still long journey to New Zealand. It's 2,100nm to go - two thirds of the Pacific crossing from Galapagos to the Marquesas - in a direct line, that is!

However, our planning route (with the only 100% certain destination being New Zealand in November) adds up to 2,750nm, easily more:
370 nm to Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Islands (NZ)
470 nm to the Beveridge Reef (a sunken atoll, always under water)
130 nm to Niue
230 nm to Vava'u Group, Tonga
180 nm to Tongatapu, Tonga
270 nm to Minerva Reef and then the final long stretch,
1,100 nm to Auckland, NZ

And now we're on our first of those legs, from Mopelia to the Cook Islands (which belong to New Zealand). There's a Northern and a Southern Group. And even the Southern Group is somewhat spread out. We would have liked to go to Rarotonga (the capital), Aitutaki Atoll and the intriguing Palmerston Atoll (I recommend google Palmerston and William Marsters, you'll surely find many interesting visitor reports!).
Unfortunately though, after some good 4 and a half months in French Polynesia, we're running of time for this huge area and decided to only visit the Aitutaki Atoll.
However, things are always subject to change on a sailing journey...

We left Mopelia with still pretty high seas and about 20-25kn winds from the even strong winds in the previous week and sailed an entire day and night with the Genoa and Main up. After so many weeks at anchor with rather little sailing, the trip started particularly bouncy. Or maybe we're not so used to it anymore?
More due to not paying sufficient attention rather than the bounciness, I hit my head fairly strong on the kitchen counter Tuesday night. Not by banging it on it as possible expression of desperation might be, but rather coming up after picking something up from the floor. The rather strong bang was followed by a pretty strong and nauseating pain. Hard to say whether the nausea was more caused by the bouncy seas or the pain, but together with the strong headache for the next 12 hours, it's a likely indication for a mild concussion, I guess. In German there's a saying that most accidents happen in the household - rather than getting bitten by sharks or dangerous snakes or even having a true sailing accident, I guess.
Anyway, I retired early and in the contrary to our normal watch schedule, Michael took the first 6 hours til after midnight and I then felt so refreshed that I stayed up til way past dawn.
Then it was time to set the spinnaker, and we continued with a much smoother ride on somewhat calmer seas, so I could head back to my cabin and get some more rest.
Only to be woken up by a peculiar noise a few hours later.
The sound was like a metal pin falling onto the deck and clinging while bouncing off a few times. Since that's not a neither typical nor good sound, I was up in an instant and poked my head through the hatch. Sure enough, a very thick metal pin had fallen down - but from where? We quickly realized that it came from way up the mast, where the Genoa attaches to it. Not a good thing, as the Genoa is one of our three stays, holding the mast in position!
The flying spinnaker is pulling the mast forward a bit and must have released some tension on the fitting. Which usually is not a problem at all. But for some unexplainable reason, the stainless steel cotter pin holding the pin in place had disappeared - corroded, broken, whatever, and the moving seas and difference in tension must have jiggled it lose and we could see the top of the Genoa stay off the mast. Fortunately, the halyard is still holding it in place, and the spinnaker holding the mast forward.
We then put several spare halyards to the bow to give it more support and tied off the Genoa to both sides of the bow to prevent it from bouncing.
However, it still didn't look good enough to keep sailing like this for another day and a half, so I went up the mast with the only available halyard, from the Main, to tie the top back to the fitting on the mast. Only to realize that the enormous forces had bent it open so much that it's more like the shape of a very wide V, then a slim U.
Anyway, it's secured for now and it looks good that we can continue sailing with the spinnaker to Aitutaki Atoll.
In the calm anchorage we will be able to better assess how to fix it properly.

Fortunately, my second night shift is almost over and we had a fast and somewhat rocky ride through the night without any incidents.
It's Thursday morning, 6am, 47nm to go, and dawn is driving away the night.
Still not much brighter than the bright full moon that has accompanied us these wonderful two nights, but soon, the sun will come and I can get rid of my fleece already and then crawl back into my bed.
Time to get the captain out of his. Unfortunately, the bouncy seas and unavoidable work on board have expectedly not helped with his painful back.
So we're looking forward to some rest in Aitutaki.

PS: Tue, 19.9. 12.30hrs - we arrived safely to Aitutaki and anchored outside the pass today, as we missed the necessary high tide at 9.30.
Happy and thankful to have arrived safely!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: