Tag Archives: Flying Cloud

Crossing from French Polynesia to Niue

After leaving the pass at Maupiti, exciting enough as that was, we took off W with the bit between our teeth. With initially one reef in, then quickly two and a scrap of foresail out, we took off fast and then got faster. The seas were pretty sloppy as we went along the S coast of Maupiti, with reflected surf mixing with the SE seas running, making it an unpleasant affair. The ride for the first four days was fast and bouncy, bouncy enough for Lou to continue taking Stugeron, her anti pukes pills, each day. It is the longest she has ever had to take them on a passage.

Once we got clear the seas settled down to a standard SE 3+m flow which lengthened over the first day and stayed with us for the whole trip. Daily reports

9 May 17. Day One. Posn @ 1200hrs – 16 27.086S 152 36.950W Run distance – 110Nm (in 15hrs)

Left via the pass through surf and 5m standing waves. Not nice. Once we got on course, it was fast sailing though. 2 reefs and hanky + clean bottom + new sails + 20+ App wind = 8kts+ boat speed, surfing to 13! Oh yeah. At 1930hrs, we were all amazed to see what I can only describe as a silver rainbow. Can the light of a full moon shining through rain make this?? It lasted about five minutes and looked spectacular.

Be and Be are not far behind us but we can’t speak to them as their VHF radio has a range problem. Spoke briefly to Flying Cloud. Going to be a bouncy night. Curry for dinner. Lovely.

10 May. Day Two. 16 28.124S 155 28.244W. 163Nm

Spent the day taking the genoa in and out as the squalls came through. Fast running averaging 7kts –  over a knot more than I’d expect with the old sails. Lou and the girls not liking the motion but are enjoying the speed. Girls spending most of their time horizontal. The kindles are getting a work out.

Grey overhead and plenty of cloud. Boat getting covered with spray when we get side swiped by the odd wave. Can’t sit outside and stay dry. Chicken, bacon and leek pie for dinner, yum. Last of Lou’s premade meals.

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As always it is difficult to get a photo showing what the is like. Be and Be took this one which is one of the better ones and a fair representation of the big waves bearing down on us throughout this trip. 3+m.

11 May. Day Three. 16 44.326S 158 20.832W. 163Nm Full Moon tonight.

I spent the day smirking. A second best day’s run on the trot. WHY did we wait so long in getting new sails? Would have taken days off the Pacific crossing…… Note to self – make sure you get the new sails early on the next boat. And a copper coat bottom…. and more solar…. and a bigger AC wind genny…..and batteries to take all that power……and a decent heavy weather downwind sail…… and a compressor…….and a wind auto-helm…….. and don’t forget the vital percolator coffee cup! What lessons you learn over time.   We had some big aquatic life below us this evening. Stayed with us for over an hour at depths of between 16 and 45’. No idea what it was but big enough for a continual return which, I have to say, was a bit worrying. Tried to lure it out with the big torch but failed. It eventually, to my great relief, buggered off. Think we are hitting a counter current. Can’t understand the difference in boat speed against SOG.

Clouds breaking now and getting a little sun. About time.

Cauliflower cheese tonight with Hannah finishing off the chicken pie and potatoes. 

12 May. Day Four. 17 28.036S 160 53.802W 147Nm

We overheard Flying Cloud having a chinwag with a Russian container ship just after midnight. We could see neither of them but it was good to hear another voice out there even if the subjects the Russian wanted to talk about were Putin, Trump and our thoughts on Ukraine. I eventually talked to Flying Cloud at 0630hrs and found them to be about 13 miles to our SSW. With our HF set still not working, they were kind enough to pass on the weather report they had. No material changes to what I had. We should have decent easterlies all the way to Niue.

Xing to Niue

The big change today was the wind veered from SE to E forcing us to either run off the rhomb line or drop the main and get hauled along jib only. Way too strong for the Parasail with gusts up to 30kts. On the basis that the ride would be a lot comfier, we went for the latter and are now running at a slightly more sedate 6kts av.  Got pooped by a rogue wave – first time ever – that went over the solar panels. Lou only had enough time for a very loud “Oh my God” before it hit. Thankfully the dinghy stayed on and drained quickly and the door – just for once – was fully closed. It will now stay so for the rest of the trip.

I did have a good giggle during the night. Both girls are sleeping up in the saloon. Eleanor had a pillow falling over her face and was waving an arm back and forward trying to clear it, failing as she just caught the edge of it each time. Unfortunately, every time she raised her arm she was also hitting Hannah. Hannah eventually sat up, eyes glazed and saw what the problem was. She gently lifted the pillow away and then gave Eleanor a full blooded whack with it to the head, lay back down and was instantaneously fast asleep again. Eleanor looked confused for a second and then turned over. I had to go back outside to chuckle at this wonderful display of sisterly love. 

We now have no more working Apple chargers. All five are bust. No more IPod or IPad until we hit some civilisation where we can get replacements.

Today marked the end of the bread which seemed to last remarkably well. Last serving was as eggy bread for us all this morning. No chance of baking more with the bouncing around we are experiencing. I think Lou would lynch me if I even suggested it…….. Tonight’s culinary delight was a simple can of Ravioli!

13 May. Day Five. 17 41.775S 163 11.245W 120Nm

A tedious day. Wind dropping, seas not, wind still directly behind us. Slowing down….. We passed Palmerston today where Flying Cloud intends to spend a couple of days. They will be only the second boat in there this year and the locals are already out catching tuna for an arrival feast. Ah well. Next time around.

Girls joined me for dawn. More importantly to them, for yet another round of “Yes, No” between them, a game trying to identify characters from books or films. Nice getting a cuddle and some company after a few hours by yourself through the night.

Xing to Niue

Wind at last light was a steady 20kts with inconvenient bursts of 25+kts which means still no Parasail. Can’t risk it with only one of us to hand at any one time. Girls getting more time on the helm now the wind is a bit easier. Which means I have time to write this up! We are definitely hitting a current, I think running SW-NE.

Xing to Niue

14 May. Day Six. 18 11.830S 165 00.998W 115Nm

Another tedious day. By midnight the wind was down to single figures – the middle of the low passing beneath us was supposed to be another 100miles S of us but obviously wasn’t –  and we were crawling along at 3-4kts. Although we used the genset for over an hour last night, by 0230, the batteries were down to 12.23. With little sun during the day and no wind, they were not getting the normal “free” charge.  It isn’t even as if the auto-helm had had to work that hard. With the genset back on for another hour, it took ten minutes for the bulk light to go out. Too long.  If the wind continues as light as this, we will need to make sure we run the genset until the batteries are full each time.

The wind continued to fall away until 0700hrs, then increased and went into the E. We managed 5hrs with the Parasail up. A sudden big increase and veer in the wind at 1930hrs had us hauling it down quickly, going back to plain sail.

We maintained our average by nearly catching a fish today, which would have been our first in a long time. We hooked a big Mahi and had to play it for 30mins before it started to tire. We got it 20m from the boat before it got off. Infuriating! We ate our evening meal outside for the first time this trip. (Turned out to be the only time we could – SH)

Xing to Niue

We saw our first life for a few days. A big container ship passed us just before midnight about 5nm N of us heading W. They didn’t answer a hail on Ch16.

15 May. Day Seven. 18 41.030S 167 13.560W 159Nm

Wind out of a clear sky! And even vaguely coming from the right direction! Back to SE and 22-25kts. One reef in the main and a couple of turns on the genoa. It feels after a couple of frustrating days we are going to be there soon. Seas still mixed up with a swell from the SE and another from the S making a mess of things. Still, we are back to a 6+kt av means we have a chance of arriving tomorrow during daylight hours.

Got a visit from six Boobies this morning. They circled us hopefully, a couple trying to land, before heading off.

The wind continued to grow during the day and we needed a second reef in by 1600hrs. By 2200hrs it was 30+kts  and there it stayed. The seas were big, more than 3m and coming from two directions meaning every now and again you would just get side swiped and thrown as much as 40o off course. Not easy sailing and the auto-helm couldn’t cope needing Lou and I to do a lot of hand steering and corrections.

16 May. Day Eight. On Ball @ 19 03.178S 169 55.365W 75Nm

We charged on through the night averaging 8+kts and maxed out at 17.2kts surfing down a wave whilst Lou and Hannah were at the helm. It was noisy and neither Lou or I got much sleep. I would class it as exhilarating sailing; Lou hated it!

We saw Niue at 0640hrs, a long flat pancake lying on the horizon with a uniform height of about 50m the length of the island. After another surfing excursion to 15+kts, we reached the N end of the island and gained the lee. I think we all were pleased to slow down.

Xing to Niue

It took us another three and a half hours to reach the mooring field at Alofi, the main village half way down the W side of the island. We talked to Niue Radio to arrange Immigration and Customs and then Keith, the Commodore of the yacht club and the PO for the OCC. We picked up Buoy No.1, just off the jetty. The Customs and Immigration staff were tied up with an incoming plane in the morning so came to see us later in the afternoon. Whilst waiting for them to arrive, we put Skylark to bed, tidied bedrooms, washed some of the salt off, listed work that needs doing and ate a lot of griddle scones on our lovely, flat, still mooring. To top everything off, Be and Be arrived just two and a half hours after us.  Cheers from the kids!

The Customs and Immigration folk were a delight. Big smiles, very friendly and helpful in filling out the right forms, the task was quickly done. Keith had come down to meet us and gave Peta and myself a tour of the village, pointing out all the sights and getting us a key for the washroom.

After comparing notes on the passage and a sundowner with Peta and Geoff, we headed back to Skylark for an early night. Lots of catching up of sleep needed.

Xing to Niue

Passage Info

Total Distance by log: 1053Nm (great circle distance approx 1030Nm)

Total time: 7 days, 1hr 35mins

Av Speed: 6.2kts

Sea state: 5 (Rough). One day of 4 (Moderate)

Max wind: F7

Av wind: F6

NB. I had assumed that we still had the westbound S Pacific current with us for this trip. Whilst we may have had it for Day One, after that we didn’t. On investigation, once you reach about 16-17S, the current reverses to a W-E direction. For most of the trip we estimate that we ran against a current of between 0.5- 1kt. VPP2 puts it as high as 2.5kts: Cornell’s Ocean’s Atlas suggests lower which was our experience. Puts our 160+Nm days into perspective……… with any current with us, they could have been a lot more.

Xing to Niue

Maupiti – Island of Mantas

We had a lovely sail across to Maupiti. Blue sky, favourable and light winds meant a pleasant day sail.

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With our new sails up, we dondered along, just about keeping station with Be and Be. As the broad reach became a run, we ditched the white sail and flew the parasail. Maupiti

Such an easy sail once it is up. We caught up with Be and Be, had some very close sailing in company and got some great photos of the boat and her crew.

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She returned the favour!

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The entrance pass to Maupiti on the SE corner of the reef is very cheeky and the boat actually surfed on one wave just as we went past the edge of the reef. Not a pass for the fainthearted. The guide books tell of big surf and of boats getting stuck here for weeks at a time with unpassable seas breaking across the less than 75m wide entrance. It is obvious to see why. Even on a quiet day there was a 3m surf only 20m either side of us. God knows what it would be like when the weather kicks up. For us, we know that there is strong SE winds coming in on Tuesday afternoon which we intend to use to spring W. We will be making sure we leave before that affects the pass.

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We pushed through 3-4knots in the narrow channel and anchored at 16 28.339S 152 15.024W in about 10m of water. As soon as we dropped we had two big Mantas go past us! Thank you, Cathi and Wolfi, for the steer to this place. Just to our E there is a protected area marked by four buoys prohibiting anchoring. The area is known to be a favourite of Manta Rays and the main reason people visit this island. The Manta use it as a cleaning station. We watched with some amusement as a charter boat actually tried to pick one of the buoys up before realising their error!

It was good to watch a near perfect sunset with a clear sky and unimpeded view of the horizon.

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The next morning Be and Be was asked to move as although their anchor was outside the protected zone, she had swung into it when the wind changed from an E to a N overnight. A local dive boat went back and forward then threw down an anchor. We jumped in to the dinghy and then set ourselves to drift down towards the dive boat. We were rewarded with five Manta, the largest of which was about 4m across. Although the visibility of the water wasn’t great, watching these gloriously languid beasts was a fantastic experience. They spent their time circling a couple of the bombies.

We spent the afternoon getting ourselves ready for the crossing, allowing the kids time with each other. We gave the watermaker a long run and did some tidying away of the toys that we had out during our Bora Bora fun time and the cabin became a little less full of girls’ bits and pieces.

The next day Eleanor and I decided to dive where we had snorkelled before. The rest of the crowd watched above us as three Manta came to the cleaning station and hovered overhead and within touching distance of us for about half and hour. They were amazing. Two smaller 3m wide ones were with us throughout and we were joined by a 4+m one for a few minutes too. Eleanor’s eyes were glowing as we watched them circle us. The advantage of being down on the bottom was we were able watch them open their gills to allow the smaller fish in to clean them. It was amusing to watch the Manta twitch as a cleaner took a nibble of something it shouldn’t have!

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With the weather just a day away, we moved up to the village and anchored in 15’ of water at 16 26.911S 152 14.757W straight off the church, by far the largest building here.

Maupiti

Geoff and I had a last chat about the weather, deciding to push off early the next morning to make sure we are out of the pass before the SE swell arrives. An USA boat, Flying Cloud, a name I knew from the Poly Mag Net was also waiting for the weather and agreed with our assessment of it. Typically island like, the post office was closed for Labour Day (they do like their holidays here) and therefore the internet had been switched off too.

Our last night was spent quietly by ourselves. I was up early on our last morning to get bread. You will find the boulangerie at the main jetty under the huge edifice at the S end of the island. It was a pleasant 15min walk from the dinghy dock at the post office through the village.

Maupiti

I was served by a long silver haired French émigré with a big smile and a dead, well chewed half rollup hanging out of his mouth. But the bread smelt wonderful!  I walked back just in time to catch dawn, our last in French Polynesia, at the dinghy dock.

Maupiti

After an early breakfast, we visited the magasin, dropping off our last empty crate of Tahitian beer and came away with some bits and pieces, mainly crisps, chocolate and snacks for hosting, trying to use up the last of the XFP we had on board. We tried one last time to get a call to Delorme but the internet was just too slow. By about 0830hrs the wind had veered, earlier than we had expected, and was coming out of the S. We rushed back to the boat, pulled up hurriedly and headed for the pass.

The pass was already interesting. Although the SE wind was no more than 15kts, we were faced with a line of close packed 5m standing waves and surf across the pass entrance. WTF?!

Maupiti

Thankfully there is always an outgoing current here so whilst we got shaken up a little we were soon able to turn out of the race, close to the surf line on the S edge of the island. With the main already up, we pulled foresail out and got sailing. Be and Be followed us out and got a bit more bounced about as the waves strengthened, just 10 minutes behind us . We spoke later to Flying Cloud who had decided to leave a couple of hours after us and they got hammered. As he put it, their 44’ heavy long keeled boat was stood on its end twice by huge standing waves and they got very worried. It was by a long way the worst pass they had ever been through. The wind was only just getting up to 20kts. We saw 30kts on the clock within a few hours of leaving. We decided that no-one would be getting out or in behind him, not for days.

With the new sails looking good, big seas running and half a gale of wind behind us, we took off W.

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