Blue Sky's Voyage
George & Michael
Mon 26 Apr 2010 19:50
Hello Friends "15:49.4S 145:07.1W"
We had an interesting passage south west from Fatu Hiva: anything from 7 to 45 knots of wind and all sorts of odd sea conditions. On the last night, right at the end of Michael's watch, a couple of spots of rain were followed only seconds later by the wind accelerating from 15 to 40 knots in less than 15 seconds, leaving us no time to reduce sail. We rounded up predictably, tacked involuntarily and lay hove to, with rather too much sail, until the squall passed and we could continue on our way.
On the last morning, Michael noticed that the towgen had ceased to spin and (rather pessimistically) assumed that the tow rope had frayed through and fallen into the deep. In fact on hauling it in we found that a shark (we presume) had taken a fancy to the white spinning blades and bitten them off. Fortunately the solid stainless shaft is robust enough for sharks and as we were unusually using the larger blades, so we were able to fit the smaller normal blades and carry on.
The bitten blades are supposed to be 50% bigger than the ones fitted...
Anyway, we made it to the Tuamotus OK, though we went into Kauehi as we were a little later than expected and decided to enter our first atoll in good light at noon. Despite the various dire warnings about entering the passes -
- oops ! I need to explain all this don't I ?
Quick Note on Atolls...
The accepted theory is that atolls are the remains of sunken volcanoes which had a fringing barrier reef. So you start with a volcano - like the Marquesas; it acquires a coral reef and then looks a bit like Tahiti; then the volcano sinks under its own weight and the coral grows fast enough to stay near the surface where the polyps can grow OK. The coral keeps growing to the surface as the land sinks and thus the outer sides of the atoll are very steep - more or less a vertical wall. The inside lagoon grows coral too but typically they seem to have modest depth of 30 metres or so.
Many of the lagoons have passes in through the reef, some navigable by yachts. But as the tide sloshes in and out of the lagoon (Kauehi is about 10 miles across) through a narrow pass (Kauehi - about 300m wide by less than 10m deep) then the currents in the pass can be substantial and cause overfalls and standing waves, dangerous to small craft, so you're supposed to enter at slack low water.
OK, I hope Atolls 101 helped. So after a voyage of more than 500 miles, you're supposed to time your arrival to the hour at slack low water. Mmmm , tricky.
So we sailed slowly past the entrance to Kauehi and looked at the waves with the binos - there were some modest waves as the strong inflowing current on the rising tide was met by 15-20 knots winds across the lagoon causing predictable turbulence. But Blue Sky is a substantial craft and we've been in severe conditions in Biscay and the Mona Passage, so having carefully checked, we motored in. A couple of the larger waves did wet the foredeck and a couple of spots of spray actually hit the skippers sunglasses, but otherwise all OK. It's also an area that has been carefully surveyed and we were using about 5 different data sources to cross check details. Once through the waves, we reset the genoa and sailed 9 miles at high speed across the flat water of the lagoon to the village, just in time for lunch.
Here's the view of Kauehi from Blue Sky:
The village - or Kauehi City as they seem to rather grandly refer to it - is a neat collection of homes along the beach. There are a couple of small shops, one of which did sell ice cream, so everything the cruising sailor needs.
Here's George & Michael in the main street (well, the only street):
Amazingly the locals had found the need to build speed bumps on this road - goodness knows why as there can't be more than a handful of cars around. The population is so small that if anyone were going a little fast, surely it would be obvious who and the Mayor could just pop round and have a quiet word?
So after a stroll and ice cream, we repaired to Blue Sky for a swim and lunch, normal procedure really.
We leave you with this image of a pig's life in Kauehi (actually a very friendly pig) Blue Sky on horizon :
That's it for this episode of the Blue Sky blog, next stop Fakarava.
George, Michael and Simon