Thursday, September 27, 2018

Passage Notes - Days 1 & 2 - FP (Raiatea) to Cooks (Palmerston Is.)

Mainsail, full hoist, sunset backlight  as we depart French Poly for the Cook Islands.

Two and a half years after arriving in French Poly Cinnabar departs again for new distant lands.

Passage Making - Refreshing Rusty Skills:

Day #1, Sunday 23 September 2018: After many goodbyes to our good friends in Raiatea we sailed out the western pass of Raiatea at 15:30 (3:30 p.m.) bound for the open sea and Palmerston Atoll in The Cook Islands, a distance of 675 nm (nautical miles). Katie on Pangaea had given us some good luck charms: one to keep to help insure good weather and two French Polynesian franc coins with which to make offerings to Tangaroa, God of the sea. We tossed the first coin in the water as we exited the island reef pass. The good luck charm, a small bag holding a beautiful pearl from the Tuamotus and a shiny, virgin French Polynesian coin would have pride of place on Sharkie's belt. (Sharkie...our little stuffed San Jose Sharks Hockey mascot keeps constant vigil at our mast).

We quite literally sailed due west into the sunset, on our bow, and a full moonrise, coincidentally on our stern. And yes, some proverbial good luck dolphins also escorted us away. Wow!

We expected rambunctious weather for our first night and that's what we got. Winds in the high 20's and steep swells from different directions made it a challenge to get our "sea legs". Luckily the wind and seas calmed down a bit before midnight and even though it was challenging for the off-watch down below trying to sleep, it was magnificent for the on-watch up above. The skies were mostly clear and bright due to the nearly-full moon and all in all it was a glorious night as Cinnabar whizzed fast westward with a fully reefed mainsail (reef = reduce sail area by dropping it a bit and securing it) to reduce the bounciness of the waves and a reefed jib to slow the speed and keep the near runaway boat under control.

Brochure Sailing. Sunset Daily Grog Ration. Sublime Condx from our "Living Room"

Brochure Sailing - This Never Happens:

Day #2: It was a beautiful day at sea with moderated winds in the teens. The sea was still bumpy with 2.5 meter swells coming from different directions, but at least they were smoother and not as steep as the day before. We shook the reef out of the mainsail and continued happily on our journey.

In the afternoon, during a maneuver (probably gybing), Tom found a nylock nut on the deck. Uh oh, loose hardware = not good. Where did it come from and what was going to come apart? A while later I came up from resting and saw Tom lying on the deck with the binoculars staring at the mast. "I think the nut came from the top batten car", he announced. I looked too and sure enough, that car (they are the things that slide up and down mainsail track and keep the sail attached to the mast), looked different from the others. All of the cars had a shiny nut on the bottom but the offending car, WAY up high (60'), did not. It was too windy and too late to do anything about it that day so we put it on the "to do" list for tomorrow.

At 15:30 we took our 24 hr. stats: 154 nm "distance made good" (avg 6.4 kts), and 173 nm actually sailed (avg 7.2 kts). What is "made good" vs "actually sailed"? Due to the direction of the wind Cinnabar cannot sail directly to our destination, instead we sail angles so we actually sail more miles than we would "as the crow flies". This is effectively a 21% penalty against optimum efficiency.

That night was the true full moon, it was clear with few clouds and we were feeling bold so we decided not to reef the mainsail. Cinnabar hauled ass with her full sail configuration. More good times! Although it was great fun for the on-watch (Sylvia) above deck, the fast speeds made for a bit of a lurchy hell for the off-watch (Tom) trying to sleep below. Tom got up from (not) sleeping and suggested we reef the mainsail to make things more comfortable. He had no sooner geared up and come up on deck when a big wave washed over the side deck and fully drenched Tom and one of our bean bag chairs! Soooo not fair. At least if was warm water and warm temps outside. We reefed the sail, dried out and got better rest for the remainder of the night. The thing about these night time maneuvers is that one or both crew invariably lose some of their sleep time, hence the potential sleep debt that can build up over time.

Nevertheless we were happy about our trip so far. The big question was would these sublime conditions hold?

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