The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Thu 9 Jul 2015 21:12



13:14S  159:49E


So far we've done 460 miles with 440 miles to go – over half way... We did 145 miles in the past 24 hours. We're on a course of 290°, have 100% cloud cover, with the occasional shower and a 20-25 knot SSE wind pushing us along on a broad reach at 6-7 knots. We’ve now got 3 metre seas and it’s very, very rolly – our pleasant sailing conditions are over and it’s now constantly “one hand for the boat”.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


9 July 2015  Luganville to Papua New Guinea (Day 4)

We’ve only done 315 miles so far and have 695 miles to go, so we have another five or six days at sea.  The GRIB forecast this morning showed consistent SE 15-20 knot winds for the next 48 hours, but then there seems to be a trough forming across out path, which will probably give us some squally weather – we’d better enjoy the next two days.


Our charts are all electronic, which sometimes is dangerous in the way that they work.  When planning a passage like this one, we plot a route at a very large scale (in this case at 900 miles on one screen) then check along the route looking for any hazards such as islands and reefs.  For this passage, we both had a quick look along the route, but at a medium scale there was nothing apparent.  Most of the route is over ocean at 2000-4000 metres, so I did notice an area called Rennell showing depths of 500 metres, but thought nothing of it.  


This afternoon, Glenys was looking at the iPad, zooming close into our current position and Rennell suddenly popped up as a 50 mile long atoll complete with small islands and a fringing reef (with wrecks).  It only shows up on the Navionics charts when zoomed into a small scale.  Our route takes us just 25 miles south of the reefs – very scary to find out now.


We had another lovely day sailing with winds at 8-12 knots and one metre seas, running downwind with the sails wing on wing. It’s all turning into a blur now – 3 hour watches at night, then Glenys sleeps in the morning and I sleep in the afternoon, then we’re back on night watches.


The wind picked up to 15 knots in the late afternoon, so I put a heavy reef in the main just after sunset, expecting the winds to increase overnight. By one o’clock in the morning, we had 20-25 knot winds, so we put a heavy reef in the genoa and rolled off downwind in the 3 metre swell – it was hard to sleep being constantly thrown around in bed.  We had a few showers overnight, so the cockpit is now totally enclosed by Glenys’ new rain panels.