Astra Blog: Bora Bora, Society Islands to Rarotonga, C ook Islands 04.09.08 - 07.09.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Wed 24 Sep 2008 19:53

Astra Blog: Bora Bora, Society Islands to Rarotonga, Cook Islands 04.09.08 – 07.09.08


Most people thought that we were a bit bonkers when we charged out through the pass doing 10.5 knots accompanied by a farewell blast from Mystere’s fog horn.  They probably had a point, but we felt we had been in Bora Bora long enough and we were falling behind schedule.  The forecast was for 5-6 metre swells and 35-40 knot winds the whole way.  The forecast proved to be spot on and it wasn’t long before we had two reefs in the main and had furled our genoa down to about 50%, even so we were making rapid progress enabling us to do over 200Nm a day. 


Just three hours out from Bora Bora, we left the shelter of the Society Islands and began to experience the full force of the weather.  Jeremy was the first to get a little damp.  Sitting alone in the cockpit, a rogue wave caused by the two or three different swell trains, mounted Astra, sending a wall of water hurtling aft with such force that it ‘took out’ the spray hood which Jeremy was sheltering behind.  Both Jeremy and the spray hood ended up in a tangled mess several feet back from where they had been.  The spray hood was completely torn in half and even the metal frame was bent from the impact!  This unfortunately was only a taste of things to come.


With no spray hood left, those on watch had to resort to wearing full foul weather gear and of course their life jackets and harnesses for the duration of the trip.  The same wave that destroyed the spray hood also sent a cascade of water down into the saloon leaving it flooded with a couple of inches of water but somehow missed the navigation station.  Our relief at having our electronics spared was short-lived as about 24 hours later we ‘lost’ two out of our three GPS systems.  This was later found to have been caused by the excessive amount of seawater that had managed to find itself into the connection boxes for the GPS receivers mounted on Astra’s stern.  Ok it wasn’t the end of the world as we still had our handheld GPS. 


During Ash’s watch on the second afternoon, we got hit by an absolute monster of a wave which caused one of the hydraulic hoses on the autopilot to split open thus rendering it useless.  This meant that we would have to hand steer the remaining 90Nm of the journey.  George was thrilled as it meant that after 7 months on board and a crash course on helming from Ash, he was finally allowed to touch the wheel!  Just as we thought that the situation couldn’t get any worse, our handheld GPS gave up the ghost due to water-logging caused by the incessant battering, leaving us with none of our 3 GPS systems functioning.  As darkness fell, we were only 30Nm from Rarotonga and with some careful steering we were able to stay on course and finally picked up the island on the radar which we used to guide us in. 


At 0230 we arrived off the reef at the point where we believed the entrance to Avatiu Harbour to be.  However, there were no green leading lights to be found, so we slowly felt our way up and down the coast in search of the leading lights which according to our charts and all the pilotage books, were operational and had green lights.  Finally Tupenny a yacht moored in the harbour heard us on Channel 16 and informed us that they were in fact blue, not green, leading lights.  These were in exactly the right spot where we had first arrived, but we had been in no rush to motor towards what could well have been a supermarket sign!  So, lights located Ash drove full throttle at 10knts towards the fluorescent blue lights to counteract the breaking waves which were crashing into Astra’s side and the vicious cross current at the entrance.  We shot into the harbour only to have to hit full reverse as we realized just how small it was!  We final anchored for the night at 0345, exhausted but relieved to have arrived.