Green flash at sunrise

Rumpelteazer Pacific Crossing
Robert Holbrook
Tue 22 Apr 2008 18:58
20:03.680 S

165:36.723 W


Avatiu is Rarotonga's commercial harbour with a rough wall against which we had moored “stern to”.  We had one nasty moment when the wind moved into the north and we were being pushed towards a rusting and listing trawler which was moored beside us.


We moved off and anchored in the newly constructed harbour for local fishing boats, and spent a day anchor-watching but in smoother water.  Unfortunately the wind changed again during Thursday night and we swung near the underwater reef, necessitating some urgent night-time up-anchoring and mooring stern-to against the fishing boat quay.  Infinitely nicer!


We left Rarotonga on Friday evening and turned west out of Avatiu harbour in the direction of Niue.  It seemed as though the wind direction was going to allow us to make for Niue close-hauled but as we cleared the northern part of the island we were headed and this, coupled with an adverse current, meant that we were making no progress at all.   On went the port engine and as the seas subsided we were able to make good progress in the right direction.


In the meantime great excitement broke out on deck with cries of “it’s a whale”, and “no, it’s a whole pod of whales”.  As we motored closer, ‘it’ was clearly not a whale but was instead a large wooden buoy with seabirds sitting on it.  Excitement over.


Since Friday, we have been motoring into around 2 to 4 knots of wind on a relatively calm sea.  Although there have been huge rollers coming gently at us from the port quarter, the surface of the sea has from time to time been completely glassy and smooth – an incredible experience when we are in the middle of the Pacific and 250 miles from the nearest land.  This vast sea area was selected by NASA as the landing zone for their Apollo astronauts returning from the moon.


Our 24 hour runs have been low – 129 and 138 miles respectively for the past two days with an average speed of 5.1 knots - but we are enjoying the wonderful sunshine and the opportunity to sleep well at night.  We have also stopped for a swim each day – the sea is amazingly blue and warm despite there being 16,500 feet of it below us, and so clear that you can see down at least 100ft. 


Night watches have become increasingly popular as we have had a full moon and clear starry skies all night.  Our little LED head torches have been put back in their boxes as we have great natural light throughout ‘the dark hours’.  At around 7am (our time = BST minus 11) on Sunday morning, Andy saw a one-second green flash as the sun rose above the horizon.  We know this is only supposed to happen at sunset, but Andy is adamant it was real and not an as yet undiagnosed problem with his eyesight.


We have still to land a fish since Max’s departure, but are comforted by the knowledge that the Niue islanders are also short of fish.  Life on board continues to be a mix of mending things (faulty water taps, water filters etc), cleaning things (the oven, the floors, the winches etc), doing chores (changing the oil in the engines, pouring diesel from our 5 gallon jerrycans into the main fuel tanks etc) as well as reading, sleeping, ipod-ing, playing Scrabble and of course the all-important preparing and eating of our meals.  One of the other upsides of our relative windlessness is that we have been able to enjoy sunset drinks on the trampoline – until now a fond memory from more than a month ago. 


Yesterday and today we saw some other ‘traffic’ for the first time since leaving Rarotonga.  As we got back aboard from our afternoon swim yesterday, we spotted a white square on the horizon astern of us.  The radar told us it was 10 miles away.  An hour later we were passed, to starboard, by a large freighter, probably on its way to Samoa.  And today a heavily laden, and listing, container ship passed us astern on its way (as they told us over the VHF) to New Zealand.


The Grib files tell us there is currently very little wind between here and Niue but from tomorrow it will build from the east rising to 20 knots for the foreseeable future.  So for now we are resigned to continuing under power.  We hope to arrive in Niue on Wednesday, and will have an extra hour in which to do it, as we have today put our clocks back an hour to 12 hours behind BST.