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Date: 23 Aug 2012 02:32:00
Title: Blue Lagoon to Manta Ray Bay - 16 57.054S 177 18.816E

We had hoped to stay at the Blue Lagoon until Saturday, but the weather is not looking so good for the weekend and as we're starting to run out of time, decided to start heading back south. So it was back to Manta Ray Bay to have another go at swimming with the manta rays, but this time it was via the west coast of the island group. So we left through the west pass out of the Blue Lagoon rather than the southern pass that we followed when coming in. We thought the west side would be more sheltered and more comfortable than our rough passage up, although there are more reefs to dodge. Having developed even better techniques in our use of Google Earth, we  felt we should be able to find our way through the reefs okay. If its a clear day and the seas are not too rough, reef spotting is not too difficult. The danger is that you set off and the weather becomes overcast, or worse, it really closes in with rain. To help combat that we've found out how to do a bulk export of a whole set of waypoints and input them to the chart plotter. In addition we now use a new (to us) system that takes Google Earth pictures and creates a chart that can then be superimposed over the charts used by OpenCPN, another charting program. So we created Google Earth charts of the entire route. The advantage of having a bulk export/import facility means it doesn't matter how many waypoints you have. (Without the bulk facility each waypoint has to be transferred one at a time which is a pain on Raymarine chartplotters, so you tend to keep to the minimum number of waypoints you can get away with.) So for the 20 miles passage we had 32 waypoints, taking us in the middle of every passage through or around all the reefs. And it all worked - it's a bit like playing a computer game and then acting it out for real! As it happens, it was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky. What's more, the wind was on or behind the beam the whole passage, so we sailed virtually all the way and being sheltered behind the islands on the west side, it was a lovely sail. (The position for this entry is on the west of the Blue Lagoon, so the Google Earth track on the blog, shows a slightly different path than the one we came up on.)

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