Passage to Ongea (the Southern Lau group of islands)

We had been watching the weather for a few weeks and hoping for a weather window to get to the Lau group. With the trade winds from the east 99% of the time, we weren’t sure but our chances did not look good. A small window could get us to Kadavu, about half way there, but with typically a month between windows would another window come in time? With this you can imagine our excitement that there looked to be a two plus day window just about the time Roxy and Jean left. Thus the reason for yesterday’s chaotic list to accomplish. Getting up at 5:30am for a 6:00am departure we were hoping that last night’s forecast was still holding and off we headed with high hopes for the passage.

The day started with flat calm and little swell even after passing the cut in the reef and entering the open ocean. It was a very pleasant day motoring along with the forecast holding thus far. Around noon, there was some long period swell but still very nice comfortable conditions. Otherwise it was a pretty lazy day surfing the internet, since we knew we would lose it soon and wouldn’t find a cell signal for weeks. For dinner I whipped up a veggie chicken stir-fry and we even had homemade bread with it (my first attempt to bake bread using Roxy’s recipe). After dinner and dishes were done, watched an episode of Westworld and then headed down to my berth for a nap at 7:30pm. First watch was 9:00pm-11:30pm, spent listening to podcasts and playing phone games before another nap from 11:30pm-2:00am, followed by my final watch of the night from 2:00am-4:00am (more games and podcasts). Last nap was 4:00-6:00, waking up about fifteen minutes early, concluding our first 24 hours at sea.

Up to a bright sun, start to the day and rolling waves that we are heading into but still they were small and everything was going exactly to plan (and matching the forecast). Carl brewed up coffee and after breakfast we replaced the port engine gauge since the LCD was nearly unreadable. We had timed it to stop the engine at exactly 2,600.0 hours (which meant the Port engine had been running about 22 hours straight). There was a lot of time spent messing with routing on the tablet and chart plotter. An interesting quirk, the chart plotter was confused on our ETA due to the crossing of the 180 degree longitude line in about eight hours. Software.

I watched another Westworld and messaged Jean finding out the State of Colorado is trying to screw me on the sales tax due on my plane (claiming resale value and not my costs). Ugh, something fun to look forward to when I get home. It was a mellow, flat sea state and for dinner I pulled out the pressure cooker for pork chops with potatoes, and I sautéed up Bok choy along with parmesan eggplant, yum. After cleaning up and relaxing, I headed to my berth around 8:00 to get some sleep before watch, only to wake up to higher winds and some confused seas. Huh, I had thought we’d have until 4:00am until this started.

During my 9:00pm-11:30pm watch the winds and waves built, mostly rolling the boat, at least with very little wave slapping on the hull. During my first nap it built with more slapping, here we go I thought… During the remainder of the night, we were rolled around, quite violently at times. Around 7:30am it continued to build and kept slowing us down, pushing back our arrival as our speed decayed to a 3.4 knot average. Very slow going, ugh. We had moved from a morning arrival to a mid/late afternoon arrival. Blerg!

The morning dragged into the afternoon and the frequent waves twisting the boat and crashing loudly grew tiresome. But finally we reached a turn towards the cut in the reef around Ongea. With ten miles to go we had hoped to hoist the sails and make up some time. As if a cruel joke, the winds had shifted the same 30 degrees that we changed our course. Grrr! A motor the entire way it would be.

The entrance to the atoll was a reasonably wide cut, on each side surrounded by impressive waves crashing on the reefs, once through it was another half hour before weaving our way around bommies and small rock island before dropping the hook in 1.5 meters of water onto beautiful sand at around 4:00pm. Whew!

All told it was 58 hours of movement (and noise) and 298.1nm (my initial estimate of 400nm was when route planning to go south of Kadavu but the weather window called for the most direct route possible).

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