Sea Mercy Mission – Day Two

Noon position: 17 10.9 S 178 20.5 E
Course: South East Speed: 3.3 knots
Wind: East by North, F3 – gentle breeze
Sea: calm Swell: nil
Weather: sunny, hot
Day’s Run: 85 nm (72 nm made good)

As I sit here wondering what to write about the last 24 hours, I find myself contemplating the advent of satellite navigation and how only 20 years ago I could not have even considered doing what I did last night. For my more avid readers (?), you may recall that on entering the channels through the reefs from Bligh Water to Vuda Point that I chose to stand off in Bligh Water until daylight so as to be able to see the channel markers and reef, no doubt the seaman-like thing to do especially after a cyclone has hammered the area only a month before. Now, however, having once negotiated the channels and having the track plotted on my GPS and PC navigation software, I chose to continue on through the night rather than go to anchor, as would have been necessary pre-GPS days. I guess thinking about such things goes to show my age. On the other hand, I have also thought about pre-chronometer days when the only way to find longitude was through lunar distances; something I have also practiced at one point just to gain a better appreciation of how they worked. But, to more immediate matters.

Overall I am very satisfied with our progress over the last 24 hours. We had light favourable winds for most of the day which allowed us to sail the winding intricacies of the reefs between Vuda Point and Bligh Water, only once resorting to the motor a little after dark, and this only for about ten minutes during a flat calm which, it turned out, merely presaged a large rain squall passing through. The cold fat stinging drops of rain that the squall brought also brought wind enough to have us sailing under a reefed mainsail, the genoa remaining furled after being stowed for motoring. Even without the headsail we quietly hissed through the black sea at over five knots, which in the dark reef strewn waters I thought quite fast enough.

Once through the last tricky narrow channel of Yavena Passage and out into more open waters I breathed easy, as it seems did the wind, for it also eased. A little after 22.00 I gave Sylph some headsail and by 23.00 we were under full sail, beam reaching at four knots in a flat sea.

For the early part of the night I still had to monitor the navigation closely as we still had to negotiate our way between the Viti Levu’s fringing reefs and Charybdis Reef four miles to the north, but four miles is a lot more than four cables (0.4 nautical miles). Also Charybdis Reef is only five miles wide so, despite having light headwinds requiring us to tack within the relatively broad passage, we were soon clear into less constrained waters, and I allowed myself a little sleep.

I am quite pleased with the decisions I made last night. In heading out into Bligh Water we have made an additional forty miles than what we would have if I had gone to anchor for the night, and now we have only forty miles to go to our destination. Unfortunately this last forty miles will probably take about another 24 hours as we have light headwinds until Sunday, after which the trade winds are forecast to be picking up again, still headwinds, just a lot stronger. So for now I am well content to be making slow relaxing progress against light winds, rather than slow stressful progess against a fresh trade breeze.

All is well.