Very rough oversail from Mopelia, French Polynesia to Rarotonga, Cook Islands 18-21/6

Sans Peur
Grete & Fred Vithen
Sat 29 Jun 2019 05:27

Cook Islands, Rarotonga       21 12 02S 151 47 10W   21-29 June 2019

Oversail 489 Nm, ca 86 hours. 18 -21/6.

We left around 8:30 from Mopelia (our last stop in French Polynesia). 

It was a sunny day and favourable winds.

Due to very bad weather conditions later we sailed a longer distance 489 Nm and arrived around 

15 hours later then estimated. 

Wind gusts up to 43 knots and hitting us from all kind of strange directions.

Very heavy rain plus wind in the nose at some point (the solid deck house saved us).

Lot of motoring against the wind, 34 hours (40%. This is very rare.

The last 150 Nm we sailed against the wind, 3 reefs in the Main and reefed Yankee.

Serious rock ’n’ roll.

Our original ETA was around 9 in the morning Friday 21 June.

Finally we arrived late in the night, around 23:00, and managed to anchor just outside the harbour.

Luckily we at least was sheltered from the ugly South West on). Flat sea. Thank you!

50 m of rattling chain during the whole night (rocky bottom). Still we slept like logs.

Everything on Rarotonga, this little island, is basically closed after 16:00 Friday 

It’s a very small little shitty harbour.

Harbour master is gone. Nobody is answering channel 16. Not even the coast guard.

Sara and Alex took on this challenging conditions with good mood and bravery.

Can’t be much worse.

Captain Fred


We left Mopelia at around 8.30am after eating a nice big breakfast in the sunshine. It is quite typical that it would be sunny now that we are leaving, it is so sad that we didn’t have the opportunity to snorkel by the entrance as there seems to be a lot of nice coral around that area. 

It was not possible as it would be too risky to anchor the boat around the shallow corals and the current. 

We planned to use both yankees during our sail to Cook Islands and arranged this during our trip. So it was fixed whilst we were moving to ensure that we could make use of the wind to the maximum. This would change one night and cause breaking rather than speed due to the winds changing. But more about that later…  

This time we did take the right pathway through the entrance and made it out safe and sound again. We were praying for some nice tuna on the way and we actually got a small one that we hardly noticed on the line but it was a nice first catch - it is called Bonito or Skip Jack Tuna. Yummy! It was Alex first time fishing and dealing with the catch directly from the sea - he looked quite excited. It’s very very messy catching this kind of fish. Blood everywhere.

Most probably we also hooked a huge dorado which we lost. The line made the winch go crazy where it was secured for a very short while. A big very strong splash and it was gone. Too bad we missed that one but we still got some nice meat from the Skip Jack.

As this would be a longer sail, 4 days and around 450 Nm, mom and dad thought it would be best to divide the night watch up into 4 and that Alex and I would be with one of my parents during the night watch due to the strange winds. Mom and I started the first watch and it all went quite well until the wind started to blow and suddenly the boat took a crazy turn (almost 360 degrees) and the autopilot went crazy. It was quite scary as the boat behaved really strange and it was impossible to get her into our right course. 

Both Alex and dad woke up and came to see what was going on which was good as dad (the captain) confirmed that the boat was behaving crazy. We got her on route again after a few tries and some crazy turns again and they both went to bed again. Mom and I stayed on watch for a few more hours and it did go quite well at that time. We were quite happy when we could go to bed after a long and stressed watch. At the end of the night we had done four 360 degree turns which was scary as we didn’t know what was going on. 

The autopilot problem was related to our portable speaker stored directly on top it’s magnetic compass. I guess we should have thought about this when we put our stuff inside the cupboard but well done Alex for thinking about this. And it corrected the 60 degree inaccuracy of the compass as well. We thanked the sailing gods that we didn’t have to recalibrate the compass in this weather. 

The next day we managed to catch another fish, the same one as the day before but much bigger about 15 kg. As we had to get that one onto the boat safely, we left the line in the water. When Alex and I were railing it in, we got another big one on the hook. How are we going to fit this into the fridge and freezer - did we hope for too much!? Anyways, it was very nice meat and it was perfect for tuna steaks, sashimi, fish curry, fish paddies and Alex and dad even had them in their instant noodles - loads of yummy meals. 

We had quite a lot of rough weather with strong winds and loads of current, these winds and currents were going against us instead of with us as it would be normally - we now call it the Sara and Alex affect. If anything would go wrong it would be with us on the boat… Even mom and dad said that the weather is so weird and that this is very unusual.

Due to the fact that we had put the 2 yankees up but didn’t connect the second sail properly onto the yankee pole it was impossible for us to furl the sails. This caused some issues during one night as the wind started to turn from the side to hitting us directly from the front. Poor mom was on night watch and had to wake up dad to see what we could do as we were almost going backwards. Not good at all. We managed to fix this when we got a window of little wind and sun so we winched Alex into the mast. We connected the second yankee so that we could furl both of the sails together. Well done Alex!

During these longer sails your body gets a good work out especially when the odds are against you. You priorities the speed rather than the comfort at times. The boat was leaning so much so it touched the water almost all the time on one side. It is hard on the body as you are always sensing yourself to ensure that you do not fall overboard or hurt yourself - even when you are sleeping. 

You cannot believe how happy we were when we arrived to Cook Island - unfortunately we arrived   about 14 hours later compared to our original plans. It didn’t matter, we were happy that we arrived safe and sound. When we came closed to the island it was very confusing as it looks like they have multicoloured Christmas lights on along the shore which made it impossible to find the entrance of the port/harbour (2 big blue lights on land). No-one answered on the radio so we said screw it as we were exhausted and dropped the anchor at 6-7 meters close to what we thought was the entrance. It was nice to be in calmer water and not to sleep in an angle this night, the only thing that woke us up at times was the chain rattling due to stones on the bottom but we still slept better compared to the other nights. 

The day after we moored the Med way. Only sail yacht in the harbour.


Leaving Mopelia
Alex first catch ever. A Skip Jack Tuna around 12 kg.
We got a very tired passenger.
Alex doing a great job a the top of the mast.