05 Aug French Polynesia to the Cooks (Suwarrow) passage
— Sunday, July 29, day one of the passage
I’m starting my second night shift on our passage from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands. I am sitting in the cockpit watching the beautiful almost full moon (96% waning) rise up through the sky. We have been out here for a little over 24 hours. The weather has been comfortable, partly cloudy with temperatures around 80 degrees. The wind averaging around 15 knots today. We have been sailing at an average of 6 knots. We have a 5-6 foot swell, and are getting knocked around a little bit.
It is pretty wild thinking that we left one South Pacific Island group and are heading to another Island group with just Dick & I on our 41 foot sailboat! It will be around a 700 nautical mile journey from Taha’a to Suwarrow and we expect to be out for 5-6 days.
We have not seen any other vessels since we left yesterday. There could be another boat several miles away that we just do not see. Generally on a clear night you can see other boat’s lights when they are 5 – 10 miles away. If they have an “AIS” transmitting their position, we would see the vessel on either our Standard Horizon VHF Radio or B&G Chart Plotter when they are as far as 30 miles away. With radar, if they were a big ship, we’d possibly see them when they are as far as 36 miles away.
One of our nieces got married in Park City this weekend. It feels really weird not to be “home” celebrating with family. I’ve been feeling a little sad, but also realizing how fortunate we are to be on this adventure looking out on the water and seeing the shimmering moonlight, lighting up the sea and clouds all around us.
— July 31, our fourth night out
It is a dark and stormy night… (Is that plagiarism? Sorry Snoopy!) Let’s try it again…. The moon is below the horizon, and will be rising in a few hours. There appears to be many clouds in the sky (as only a few stars are seen). It is dark and hard to see what is around us. As I look out into the water I see strands of luminescence appear from the water flowing away from the boat, they are amazing to see and my outlook brightens.
Around 2000, the wind began swirling around and softened. Earlier at sunset we had a little bit of rain and now it is super humid! We are motoring at around 6 knots and we will continue to motor for as long as the wind stays light. We still have about a 3 foot swell and the ride aboard Maia is fairly comfortable.
It feels like we are getting into a groove. I finally slept well last night (off at 0200, then relieve Dick at 0800). I took one nap early afternoon and slept a couple hours. Dick took a morning nap once I relieved him. This afternoon we did a little “cooking”. We cut up cucumbers for pickles and also a bottle of other veggies. This is our first experiment with pickling, hopefully they will be tasty! (They were 🙂
The sky is brightening up as the moon prepares to rise. I can begin to see the clouds about in the night sky. Off the starboard to the North, I see a low line of black clouds. Looking to the South, clouds appear higher in the sky and I see a few stars. As the moonlight increases it reminds me of dawn, but now there is no real color, just gray hues with some blue. The water is almost glossy and the luminescence becomes more beautiful.
It’s only 2200… I’ll need to stay awake for the next 4 hours so maybe I’ll stretch, do push-ups, a few stair steps, have a dance party. Read, listen to podcasts, play word puzzles, Sudoku, continue to write, gaze out into the ocean and sky. It is amazing how quickly those six hours may go.
The black clouds that were off to the North are now in front of us and we get a few sprinkles. The clouds show up on the Radar in deep red with yellow and orange, they almost look like thunder clouds (cumulonimbus) puffy and expansive.
The moon has risen and even though the sky is mostly filled with clouds there is a moon glow lighting up all around us. Now when I do a 360 look about, I can see what is out on the deep blue sea. I’ve caught a few glimpses of La Luna, but she appears rather elusive this evening.
—August 2, night six
What a difference a night makes :). It is calm and clear, we have 6-8 knots of wind and are cruising along around 3 knots. The sky is filled with stars, the Milky Way is spectacular. At the beginning of the night, Venus was leading our way as we are heading West toward her beam of light. The Southern Cross appears to be at the bottom of the Milky Way, off of the port side.
We had a wonderful sail today with winds around 10 knots. We are sailing close hauled and Maia likes this wind angle and sails well. The waves have calmed down to around a 1 foot swell. That makes everything feel better :).
During Dick’s early morning shift, at 0300, he saw our first vessel on AIS, sv Anila was 12 miles away, by 0830 they were 6 miles off our port side. When I came up to take over I could see Anila sails shinning in the sunlight, like beacons. A nice sight after 6 days, and awesome to have company out here. We gave them a call on the radio and they are heading to Suwarrow also. We have mutual cruiser friends at the anchorage.
August 3 at 1255 – Anchor down at Suwarrow! The journey was 6 days (including sail repair time), 723 nautical miles
[Thanks to all of you that have been following along on the journey. It has been great to receive messages from people, it boosts our spirits!]