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Date: 16 Sep 2010 02:39:00
Title: Going West Again - Day 1 - 18 00.395S 163 31.803W

The strong winds expected in this area came and we've been hiding behind the reef at Palmerston for 5 days with non-stop winds in the region of 25 to 35kts. there were 6 other boats on the moorings and most stayed on board just in case they broke from the mooring. Apparently that happened to 2 boats the week before we arrived. On the same night their ropes chafed through and they quickly got blown out to sea. Luckily no damage was done, but they ended up motoring up and down until daybreak when they were able to reattach to the mooring. There is supposed to be excellent snorkeling here, but the wind generated significant currents round the island which made it difficult and it was just too windy to get in the water. We were very lucky that the big swell expected (18ft or so) changed in direction and came from the east rather than the south. Palmerston is protected from the east and so we were able to stay. Had it gone round to the south we would have had to put to sea in very rough conditions.

All visitors to Palmerston are hosted by one of the 3 families. You use there moorings at no cost, they take you ashore in their boats (the current's too strong and the sea was too rough, even in the shelter of the reef, for yacht dinghies), and you share their lunch - some excellent cooking. In return, yachts help them out with supplies that they need. The supply ship visits every 3 months or so, but recently it got delayed and it was nearer 5 months. If heading for Palmerston, most yachts stock up on the goods the families are likely to need.

As Palmerston is not a port of entry for the Cook Islands, you can only stay there 3 days, but as the weather was so bad and sea so rough, we were all given an extension until better weather arrived, which it did today. The wind is down to about 15-20kts, which is much better. The sea is still up, about 10 to 14ft, but nowhere near as aggressive. So we left at 09.00 this morning and are heading west once more. The coordinates in the subject heading was our noon position today. Two whales surfaced in the bay this morning to say good bye.

The original plan was to stop at Niue, 400 miles to the west, but big swells are again expected from the south west this week-end. There's a really big weather system between Australia and New Zealand and swells of up to 23ft are predicted all the way up to Fiji, Tonga, Niue and Palmerston. Niue has no protection from the south and west, so it wouldn't be safe to go there with this swell coming, so we're heading for Tonga 632 miles to the west of Palmerston. Tonga is supposed to have all-weather anchorages where we can shelter from the swell. The weather systems this year have been dominated by big high/low pressure systems coming off the south of Australia, resulting in what is called re-enforced trade winds. Instead of 15-20kts, they're tending to be 25 to 35kts and we, along with the other yachts crossing the Pacific this year, are scurrying from one safe anchorage to another in the small weather windows between major weather systems. The only problem is that these safe anchorages tend to be several hundred miles apart!

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