West meets East - crossing the anti-meridian

Rumpelteazer Pacific Crossing
Robert Holbrook
Tue 6 May 2008 03:02




We left Neiafu harbour in Vava’u around lunchtime on Saturday.  Motoring out to the ocean through the beautiful green-clad Tongan islands was a special experience, but soon we were heading West once more.


Three days of almost non-stop down-wind sailing has taken us to within 100 miles of Lautoka, our destination on the West coast of Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji.  The wind has been changeable, ranging from 6 to 24 knots.  It has mostly come from the east, but has recently been moving around the compass, requiring lots of sail-trimming, more recently coming in from the north.  We have averaged 6.2 knots since Saturday, and have covered around 450 miles in the three days.


We have also had lots of rain storms, and have amused ourselves by trying to dodge at least some of the rain clouds as they headed towards us.  Robert has set up an intricate arrangement of plastic pipes so that we can now collect rainwater from the bimini roof and pipe it straight into the water tanks, saving us from having to run the generator to make water.


We have been eating through our provisions in preparation for the likely confiscation of all fresh on arrival in Fiji.  On Monday night we feasted on ‘tuna burgers’ – Susie’s delicious solution to dealing with the last of the frozen tuna left over from Max’s fishing days.  Sadly we have caught no fish since Max left.


On Monday, at around 4pm our time (12 hours ahead of GMT), we crossed the 180° anti-meridian line, so that all our longitudinal co-ordinates are now ‘East’.  We celebrated with a bottle of Panamanian bubbly and Charles appealed to Aoleus, the Greek God of the Winds, for our safe passage by throwing his surplus coins into the deep. 


Maintenance, cleaning and mending things continue to keep us busy, but nothing prepared us for this morning’s surprise event.  As Robert was tightening it, the main halyard snapped.  Fortunately the halyard, which takes enormous strains and was probably past its sell-by date, broke between the winch and the rope clutch which meant that the huge mainsail did not come tumbling down. As a result of a big team effort, including sewing a ‘messenger’ rope onto the stub end of the halyard, we were able to get the halyard down without losing it up the mast.  


We were fortunate that this happened when we were only 100 miles from land, so rather than rig up a jury halyard we decided to motorsail under jib.  All we need to do now is to buy a new halyard (67 metres of 12mm Dyneema) when we get to Fiji. 


Much of our recent conversations have focused on ‘life without Andy’, as he jumps ship in Fiji.  We are awaiting handover briefings for his onerous tasks – baking bread, making up powdered milk, cleaning the heads, monitoring the fluid levels in both engines, managing the kitty, and cracking open the coconuts, to name but a few.



All around us now are the islands which make up Fiji.  Many have reefs around them so we are pleased to be approaching at least some of them in daylight.  We should be in Lautoka by tomorrow morning, Wednesday 7th May prior to a short cruise in the Yasawa Islands and a  stopover at Musket Cove Yacht Club and Resort  - the "Mecca for Yachtsmen" so the book says!