Sunday, November 6, 2016

Passage report - Fiji-Vanuatu

Musket Cove Fiji-Port Resolution,Vanuatu.

Distance: 460nm

Time taken: 74 hrs

Average speed: 6.2knots

The weather forecast for the trip to Port Resolution for the prior week from our departure was showing relatively light winds of 10knots or less from the east south east and this would put us on a broad reach or running for our trip. Sarita really needs 10 knots apparent wind on that point of sail to make any decent progress and to stop the sails from flogging if the sea state creates a bit of roll, hence we had delayed our departure. But now the wind was blowing and the forecast was for 10-15kts but still from the E to SE but it was worth risking a departure. At 8am we departed, motoring the short distance out of the pass to Musket Cove and raised the sails and shot out of the main pass into the open water. Wind being a beautiful 15 knots on our beam and seas of around 1m. We were doing 7.5-8 knots. Great!

Dawn approach to Tanna
As the day progressed the wind shifted more east, behind us, and lightened. Our apparent wind also shifted aft as our speed dropped and the wind headed to our stern, finally the apparent wind shifted aft of the beam and our speed dropped to around 4 knots. Urrrrrrr. Here is where I have to make a frustrating decision: either stay on a direct rhumb line course to our destination at a speed of 4knots and listen to the occasional flogging of the sails -the seas were still quite flat so it was not too bad – or head more on to the wind, and off course to pick up speed and stop the sails flogging but knowing that the distance we will have to travel will be longer. The fact of the matter is that I don’t mind travelling longer of the ride is faster and more comfortable but what I always worry about is a wind a further shift and lighter winds which would mean that we might have to sit around waiting for more wind or motor having gone a distance off course.

We decided to risk the course change as the sails now were starting to flog more. We headed south with our apparent wind at around 85 degrees. We used the WIND setting on our SIMRAD autopilot which allows me to set the apparent wind angle and the autopilot steers the boat to maintain the apparent wind angle. I do this in order for the boat to head down, and back towards our rhumb line course when we have a puff or when the wind changes. After 6 hours on the altered course we were only 2 miles off course and we ran parallel to our rhumb line course but we had lost quite a bit of time in making our decision. As the next day came we had drifted a little further off the rhumb line but not too bad but the winds were variable and shifting 15 degrees at times and becoming so light at times that the sails flogged again.

On the second day, when I was below, Jude started shouting that we had a fish on the line so I came on deck and hauled the line in to find a lovely 48 ins long Mahi-Mahi or Dorado. This is one of our favourite fish and were pleased to catch it.

Mahi Mahi

We wanted to arrive in Port Resolution at dawn so as to anchor in daylight and sure enough we were about 10 miles from our destination as dawn broke. As the sun rose behind us we could see Mt Yassur volcano bellowing out large plumes of ash and steam in eruptions about every 10 minutes. No fiery molten lava but it was an impressive sight to see and reminded me of reading about captain Cooks first sighting where in 1774 he said : a Volcano which threw up vast quantities of fire and smoak and made a rumbling noise which was heard at a good distance.  It was Captain Cook who named the harbour after Resolution, the vessel he was sailing on. Like Cook we could not wait to do the hike up to the crater, Cook however was no allowed as it was seen as tabu in those times. 

Mt Yassur eruption on our approach to Port Resolution

Did you know that the national anthem of Vanuatu is called Yumi, yumi, yumi?,_Yumi,_Yumi

The seas had picked up a bit along with the wind as it was forced around the southern tip of the island and we dropped the sails outside of the bay and started the engine to motor across the reef and into the bay where we dropped the anchor in 15f eet of water surrounded by a black sand beach and verdant forest. Paradise again!  Our friends on Red Thread were already in the anchorage having left a few hours before us. Glad they had a fast passage.

Port Resolution with Mt Yassur in the background
Summary: Overall it was a good and comfortable sail without event but I wish we had had just a few more knots of wind as this would have allowed us to get the apparent wind forward of the beam giving us a faster and more direct course. We had reefed early on in the passage to slow us down (we were doing 8 knots) for a more comfortable ride and a dawn arrival but in hindsight we should have stuck with it. We should have also changed course onto the wind a little earlier as this would have saved us a couple of hours. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Hopefully I will remember next time.   

Having dropped the anchor and ensured we were secure we went below for a sleep, pleased to be flat and stationary.

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