Penrhyn to Fakaofo

In Voyages on 28/11/2010 at 22:16

Monday November 22nd Fakaofo 9.23S 171.16W, at anchor

We have arrived! After a tiring second half of the trip we are now on Fakaofo. This afternoon around 14.00 we finally had the anchor down after going around the west side of the island a few times to find good anchorage. We haven’t found “good” anchorage but the anchor is down anyway. We are now for the first time anchored on the exposed side of an atoll with the anchor on a coral reef. We found a small flat area at the furthest west part of the island which was shallow and wide enough to provide us with some holding. We are exposed to the ocean swell though, but nothing too bad. Normally there should be a mooring in front of the village for the supply ship, but that has been sunk by bad weather, so it was unusable for us.

We have been welcomed by the policeman and tomorrow we’re going to visit the chief of the island. He has allowed us entry to the islands and we’ll discuss our further plans with him tomorrow. We probably won’t stay on this island too long due to our exposed anchorage. If we can find out more about the status of the moorings on the other atolls, we will probably go there to spend some more time instead.

For now we’re just looking forward to crawling into our bed and getting a good night sleep. We hope that it will work with the swells that make the ship roll around, but it seems to be better than the open ocean so far.

Sunday November 21st 9.26S 169.26W

Order has been restored on Helena. After a long tiresome night with lots of shaking, stirring and smashing we finally got a strong wind again this morning. 20 knots! We were able to sail again and to keep the genoa filled with wind without slamming in every direction. We will definitely need a sailmaker though since the genoa has no shape left. The trimline in the back part of the sail has been torn out all the way from the clew (where you attach the sheets) to the top of the sail. This means that the wind just flows by with the edges of the sail continuously clapping or collapsing. The real problem is that we don’t have any location with a sailmaker on our itinerary… Oh, well, we’ll see what we can do about that. We have some other sails on board that we can use, but they’re a lot smaller and for downwind sailing that is not very useful. We also have bigger ones, but they are only suitable for the light and stable conditions. They are very hard to handle with only Boukje and myself on board if the wind unexpectedly would pick up. So we’ll have to go for the smaller sails as soon as we reach Tokelau.

About one hour ago the wind dropped down again to 10 knots which means that we cannot sail anymore with this genoa, so we started the engine again and we’ll be motoring until the wind picks up again or until we reach Fakaofo (only 100 miles left!). That should be tomorrow around noon-ish. Luckily I have learned my lesson from the Atlantic crossing so we’ve still got 8 jugs with 45 liters of fuel on deck. No worries about fuel this time!

We also heard from our friends of Basjako. They left yesterday morning from Penrhyn. After reading our mail from yesterday they gave us a reply about their status. Trust me, we don’t have it bad at all. We were just a bit pissed off yesterday because of the lack of sleep. However, Basjako is having the right to be really pissed off… You should know that on the pacific crossing to the Marquesas, they took 45 days because their autopilot broke down just after leaving Galapagos. They ended up hand steering and heaving to every night. They fixed and renewed it all, but last night, when they were well away from Penrhyn, their autopilot started breaking down again! They’ll probably end up heaving to again every day until they reach Samoa. That’ll take them a long time… We are wishing them a lot of strength and luck with this! Hopefully the weather will stay calm for them in the next few weeks.

Saturday November 20th 9.27S 166.46W

Today we have our “what the hell are we doing out here on the ocean”-day. So if for a happy update, please skip this one and start again tomorrow. We didn’t get a lot of sleep last night because the sea is incredibly confused and we’re being tossed around with not enough wind to keep us stable. To make things worse, the wind has shifted further east so the little wind we do have doesn’t bring any stability at all. All this rocking and rolling means that the sails are clapping around continuously. There is enough wind to keep sailing, but the genoa is already worn and the trimline has torn out completely, which means that there is hardly any shape left in the sail. So after several experiments with the sailplan we have decided to tighten all the sails and run the engine to keep the speed up and get out of this annoying swell asap. The good news is that at this speed we should be in Tokelau by Monday afternoon.

Tomorrow the wind is predicted steady out a bit and hopefully the swell will also get a bit less confused. So it should be a good day on the Helena again.

Friday November 19th 9.32S 164.51W

We’re being hammered by two opposing wave systems. It’s very rocky out here, but at least the wind keeps blowing! All the weather information states very light winds for the area, but they’re all wrong. The wind is good! We’re making pretty good way and even with the sails reefed for the night we’re still making an easy 6 knots. If only the sea would calm down a bit then we would get some rest. It’s pretty difficult to get the necessary rest this way.

Last night the wind died down on us and we were forced to protect the sails by taking them down and starting the iron soldier again. We burned diesel throughout the night until the wind picked up again this morning with a pleasant 15 knots. Every day we are seeing very impressive systems south of us with a lot of rain and other potential trouble, but so far we’ve been amazingly lucky. We have counted 3 raindrops in total throughout this passage so far. Nice!

Oh, and before I forget, we have definitely given up on Puka Puka. With Tokelau 3 days away we have set our course to Fakaofo.  Puka Puka does not have a sheltered anchorage for us and with the northerly winds and these crazy seas, it would be madness to try and anchor on a tiny exposed plateau on such an island. The reef plateau is only about 50 meters wide and consists of only coral. After the 50 meters this plateau plunges down into the deep sea. When you’re about 500 meters away from the coast, the depth is already beyond a few kilometers. Not really a good anchorage. Even the pilots state that when at anchor in settled conditions, one crew member should always remain on board due to the poor anchorage. So we have decided to give it up and leave Puka Puka for other more brave or fortunate sailors.

We expect to arrive on Fakaofo on monday. Then we will find out if we’re gonna be kicked out or not. Yeah, seriously. My passport is going to expire in march and officially I cannot enter the country without at least 6 months left on it. We are already planning to fly to New Zealand or Australia as soon as we’re in Kiribati or the Marshalls to get a new passport, but for now this will not be a possibility. We don’t believe it will be a problem though. Worst case scenario, I will have to declare an emergency stop so they will have to let us in… 🙂

Thursday November 18th 9.43S 162.21W

We’re drifting around here in the Pacific. During the afternoon, the wind disappeared on us without a trace. We’re rocking and rolling and the sails are flapping around. Now and then a little, really tiny little bit of breeze comes by to puff a bit on our sails and put the log up to 3,5 knots. Wow that’s fast! 🙂

We have used this to our advantage. Since the clouds have disappeared again today, we decided to practice our sunbathing again. The nice thing about being in the middle of the ocean is that nobody in particular is watching us, so we’ve been laying bare butt on the stern deck, completely covered in spf 30. Well, completely… apparently our butts got wiped clean while having a cup of coffee and now we’re dealing with ehh, well, you know what. Hopefully the Aloe Vera will work soon.

We are slowly giving up hope of visiting Puka Puka. The swell is still coming from the north and the wind will stay in the wrong angle as well. This means that the only possible anchorage is completely exposed. We are probably going to change our itinerary to go directly to Tokelau.

Wednesday November 17th 9.08S 160.14W

It’s always something to get used to again. The first two days underway. Last night Boukje hardly caught any sleep and today we are both tired, but cheerful and happy with the beautiful weather of the last day. During the night we were presented with an absolute clear sky and a bright silvery moonlight that lit the way west. During the day we had plenty of sunshine and only at the end of the day there were some clouds coming in that now seem to have passed us by again. The wind has been gentle to us and we’re trying to keep the wind somewhat from the side to prevent the rock’nroll to take over. With the angle of 135 degrees the wind has mostly taken us west so far, but now we’re heading directly towards Puka Puka. We’ll see what happens.

We are getting a bit worried about the anchorage at Puka Puka. A long, but relatively high swell has suddenly come in from the north and that means that there could be breaking waves on the anchorage in Puka Puka. Not really something to anchor in. If this swell keeps up, we will probably have to skip Puka Puka and continue on to Tokelau. Not really a bad thing though, since the wind angle is very promising for such a trip.

Tuesday November 16th 9.00S 158.25W

We are on our way again! Penrhyn has been a truly amazing experience. But, to all this comes an end. We need to get going because the cyclone season has started and we have to keep moving to get out of the cyclone territory. So this afternoon we have said our goodbyes and transmitted our final message over the VHF: So long and thanks for all the fish!

We are sticking close to the northern part of the area (around 10 degrees south). This way we can run north as soon as there is any kind of tropical disturbance developing. Cyclones are rare in these latitudes, but we have to keep an eye open. For some extra safety we have hired Bob Cook, a weather router in the US to keep an extra eye on us and our planned track. He will inform us if there is anything brewing, so we will have plenty of time to get out of the way. Our plan for now is still as before. We are now on our way to Puka Puka, but if the wind is going to continue as predicted, we will only be able to wave to the island as we come by, because the anchorage is unsafe except for the most settled conditions (no wind or waves). Right now would be good, but the wind is going to pick up in a few days, so we may not have a chance to stop there. Which means that we may have to continue on to Tokelau in one go. This is about 800 miles and would then take about 6 to 7 days. After that we’ll make another jump to Tuvalu and from there a final jump to safety, the Gilbert Group of Kiribati and the Marshall islands. All these crossings are relatively short and very manageable. The safety of the equator is always within a few days reach and with the extra eyes of Bob Cook, we think we have everything pretty much sorted. What is left now is for us and all the other ships in the area to have good voyages, steady winds and calm seas. This is all looking good so far!

  1. Lieve familie, wat fijn dat jullie ook weer figuurlijk boven water zijn. Wat maken jullie een bijzondere dingen mee. En wat geweldig stoer dat jullie met zijn 2 de oversteek hebben gemaakt! Boukje, verword je al tot net zo’n zeilcrack als je vriendje?
    Hoop dat het jullie heel goed blijft gaan, maar dat spreekt voor zich. En ik blijf er naar uitkijken jullie weer te zien. Hier kachelt het allemaal voort. Spannnnnnennddde dagen! Vol zwarte pieten en pepernoten. liefs! Hen.

  2. Hee Rolf, ik was je even kwijt! Zie nu een nieuwe website. Heb op twitter kennisgemaakt met je andere buuv, Liz. Wat een gave verhalen allemaal, ga ze niet allemaal bij zitten lezen, teveel lettertjes maar heerlijk om te zien dat je zo goed gaat en geniet verder!!!!!!!

  3. Beste Rolf en Boukje. Ik volg met interesse jullie buitengewone avonturen. Ik kopieer de tekst en de foto’s,rangschik het op datum en maak er voor jullie een boek van dat je later kunt afdrukken en in chronische volgorde lezen. Ik bewonder jullie beider boeiende schrijfstijl en taalkennis.Ik kijk uit naar het vervolg!Veel geluk!
    Oom) Reint.

  4. Beste zeilers,

    Prachtig om te lezen. Ik hoop dat jullie de essentiële literatuur bij je hebben, zoals “Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka” (1948) van Johnny Frisbie, “An island to oneself” (1966) van Tom Neale en “The island of desire” (1944) van Robert Dean Frisbie. Vooral het boek van Neale geeft je tips, mocht je op een van de eilanden vast komen te zitten. Het boek van Johnny Frisbie beschrijft op prachtige manier veel van de eilanden die jullie (willen) bezoeken, zoals Penrhyn, Samoa, Puka Puka, Tuvalu, Kiribati en Neale beschrijft uiteraard Suwarrow. Veel succes bij jullie reis!

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