Thursday, July 24, 2008

We left Bora Bora on July 16, 2 days after Bastille Day. We had to motor for the first 3 miles and then we put up the sails and had light winds for most of the day and into the night. We had the spinnaker up and were ghosting along in the general direction that we wanted to go. There was a lovely full moon and clear skies in the early evening; it was so bright almost like the first light of dawn. About midnight things began to change, the wind and the waves picked up. We put in one reef and then a few hours later we put in the third reef on the main, we still had the Genoa out. We do not have to leave the cockpit to do any of this. When the wind had started rising, I had gone forward to hank on the staysail in case we needed it, 3 hours later we did, up it went. We ran most of the day with the triple reef and staysail, the winds continuing to build and the seas were starting to look really nasty. The roaring of the wind and the head long rush of the boat down the 2 meter waves convinced us that we had to reduce sail once again. We did not think we could put the boat into the wind to take down the main. We would have had to go to the mast to take the sail down and keeping your footing while trying to wrestle the sail down as the boat would have bucked and heaved like a horse trying to throw you off it would have been a daunting task. We decided to take down the staysail instead. This would involve going way forward and hauling it down to the deck. I put in my contacts, put on some shoes that would stay on my feet, buckled on my life jacket and hooked the harness into the lifelines and edged my way forward. The boat's motion as it surfed down the waves was not unmanageable, the waves were far enough apart and with Barry's steady hand on the wheel all was good. The task could be accomplished as long as the boat didn't round up and take it into her head to bash to windward or a rogue wave did not smash sideways into the boat and give it a good whack as well as washing the decks with gallons of water. I hung on to the mast for dear life as I undid the halyard and the crawled forward with the line in my hands to pull the sail to the deck. Barry let go off the sheet and from my seat on the deck I grasped the sail with my hands and dragged it down. At this point the sail began to flog, dangerously flailing itself back and forth, yikes, I tried to pull it down faster, I did not want to get hit by the 1 inch thick lines that were thrashing about. I managed to get it on deck and tie it down without any damage to life or limbs, whew!!For the next two days the seas did not abate. The waves had grown to 10 feet, the wind was howling at 30 knots and we were getting tired, unable to sleep very well with the motion of the boat and howl of the wind in the rigging, the whooshing of the waves and the creaking and groaning of a 25 year old boat. Every once in awhile, a rogue wave would thump the centre of the boat and water would carom into the cockpit, soaking us from head to toe and leaving a deluge of salt water to run off the boat. Then the squalls began, the clouds would move in and it would spit with rain, then the downpour would begin and the wind would increase 5 to 10 knots for 15 to 20 minutes. Now we were not only tired but drenched and in the dark. With the low cloud cover we had lost our beautiful moonlight. We had maintained our watch schedule of 2 hours during the day, 3 hours at dawn and dusk and 4 hours each in the dark, last night we were so cold and wet that we decided to only do 3 hours at night; it cut into our sleep but made the watch more manageable. Once the watch was over we would go down below and strip all our soggy clothes off, hang them in the head to hopefully dry a little and fall into bed. I have to keep at Barry to eat as he forgets, I am not drinking enough so maybe I will stop and go and coif something cold. Yes cold, it has finally cleared up, the sun is out and the seas have abated. I took the staysail down and we unrolled the Genoa and we are making headway to Swarrow, an atoll which is one of the northern Cook Islands. It is a national park, and it is supposed to be a beautiful spot. We hope to be there sometime tomorrow during the day. We have heard from other boats that the entrance is not a problem and there is plenty of room to anchor inside the reef. We are now safely in Swarrow and it is a lovely spot. We are drying out and catching up on our sleep. The only residents of this atoll are the park warden, his wife and his four boys. Tonight all the cruisers, there are over a dozen boats in the anchorage, are going to shore to have a pot luck for Virginia, the park warden's wife, it is her birthday. It is great to be in the Cook Islands because they speak English. Their first language is Cook Island Maori and their second is English, they are taught in school in both languages so we are able to converse with the boys as well. I am not sure how long we will be here but a few more days before we attempt the 450 NM trip to American Samoa.