We are now moored at Port Vila after an exhausting passage of nearly five days. The start was not good---having to do a 46 mile round trip just to satisfy some Indian/Fiji woman customs official set the mood!
We went through the reef before dark but just after midnight the wind had increased to a steady 25 to 30 knots and gusting 35 knots. We reefed right down and endured that for about five hours and things then settled down and we had two days of good wind and sun----ideal cruising conditions(15 knots). The wind was forecast to die to about 5 knots on Sunday so we were prepared for 24 hours motor/sailing before the wind was due to increase to 16 knots before falling back to 12 knots to speed us into Port Vila.
The forecast and reality bore little semblance. We had reefed before dark down to two reefs although there was still very little wind----the wind or what there was of it was dead astern and with the main sail flogging, despite being hauled into the centre line of the boat, we decided to drop it on the basis that we could raise it again when the wind started to increase. Within four minutes it was raining and the wind increased to 15 knots, then after another couple of minutes the rain turned to monsoon conditions and the wind increased to 30 knots plus. The sea went from flat calm to a mass of white tops coming at us from all directions and we had no way of getting our main back up as it would have required one of us to go on deck to the mast to release the main halyard and then we would have needed to put in a third reef although we can do this from the cockpit. We therefore had no sail to stabilise us so we had a very rough passage----it is amazing that what you think is well stowed appears from nowhere and very soon the inside of the boat was not as tidy as when we set off!! Never mind we thought the rain squall will be over in half an hour and all will be normal----the rain stopped but the wind continued to howl (25 to 30 knots gusting 35 knots) and ten hours later as it began to get light the wind dropped back to about 20 to 25 knots and finally down to the forecasted 16 knots by mid afternoon on Monday. All this time we used a small amount of genny and the engine until the propeller started vibrating. Having just had it refitted we thought the worst might happen and we would lose it all together so the engine was switched off at about five o'clock in the morning. We did not try it again until we approached Port Vila on Monday evening and all was fine---we think something got wrapped round it and a combination of stopping the engine, the prop folding up and the rope cutter working helped remove the obstruction.
We arrived in Port Vila at 2am on Tuesday and anchored next to the quarantine buoy. Next to us in the morning was Ocean Lady a 40 foot Bowman who also arrived on Monday night and they had set off two days before us---sounding rather shell shocked they said they had 45 knot winds and it lasted for 48 hours, so we got off lightly.
We had been told that conditions on this side of the Pacific can be tricky so we were prepared but ..........!!! Sailing is full of surprises.
Marita was fantastic and we never really had cause for concern other than to try and snatch sleep whenever possible.
First impressions of Vanuatu are delightful with very friendly people.
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