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Monday, October 17, 2011

A Gale

Ship's log 21 degrees 35 min S
Lon 174 degrees 43 min W

It's the morning after. Full sun, SE breeze, 10 kts, Seas 2 mtrs out of the SE Angi (i.e. Minetta) and Nick have left Terrwyn and signed on as crew on SV Shadow in Neiafu with skipper Michael. Michael is a sweet young skipper needing crew to help him sail her ( a Tayana 37) to Fiji and then NZ. Michael is from New York and we all met and partied in Niue, everything was perfect, Michael lost his crew in Tonga and Angie and Nick are perfect for the job. Cath and I love each other (now minus our shirts) and Mike truly needs crew and ours will learn so much more with "comparative anatomy". Terrwyn to Shadow and Fiji added in the balance.

Win, win, win. We will miss our young ( and now all trained up ! ,crew )

Back to "A gale"....

Terrwyn cleared Nieafu customs, harbour master and immigration Saturday, October 15, 07:00 just before a terrific "squall" unloaded a Somerset Maugham Tropical Deluge. Clever Bill saw this major rain as a big squall and maturely suggested we hang on a mooring buoy nearby so Cath could clean the Nieafu Saturday Market in the pouring rain while I squared away the dock lines and did final Terrwyn Sea worthy lock down. And it rained till nearly noon. No problem, just a big squall, aren't we clever and mature to wait this one out in harbour (not having motor or cockpit protection). It stopped storming (paused) around noon and we slipped the mooring and sailed out of the harbour in a light following breeze... very nice! A few light air jibes through the Vava'u islands (Desolation Sound look alikes plus 80 degrees temp) and out East into the open ocean, 3 metre seas, 25 knot N "breeze", lightning and more rain. My goodness a touch of sea sickness and the breeze 'on the nose', right. Comic relief is provided with spy hopping humpback whales showing off port beam distance 100 ft. Amazing, then rapidly scary as we watch their white bellies coming our way. Nothing happens further and we regain our voices and carry on plowing to windward to regain to north of Vava'u proceeding east before heading south for NZ. The waters west of Tonga are reef strewn (and to Bounty Mutiny history) so we chose to head south along the east of the Tonga Chain. Good call as the rain and wind continued all day, all night, all day and all night.

Again, this morning is a new morning. This was no squall but our first "full blown gale". The first night we beam reached due south in 3,000 metres of water 30 miles to windward of Tonga's lee shore. And it howled, seas built, clouds and rain blackened the sun, moon and stars for 48+ hours continuously. Everything below deck soaked up water as we dregged it below with all hatches closed to the green water rolling over our fore deck and both side decks. No squall, I gather, a gale, no blown spume... Beaufort scale?... however 30-40 kts wind with 3 mtr seas everywhere confused, noisy and scary. Daybreak more of the same however we have accustomed to it and enjoying the ride at 7 knots down the pipe so thankful in deep blue water not littered with shoals as to the west of Tonga. It has to "blow itself out" right? Wrong.. Nightime came and- Second verse, same as the first. Then near midnight Cath alerted me to nasty darkness to windward. My goodness. Now it's sheets of rain which calms the waves somewhat and full on phosphoresence roaring along and behind the boat as we surfed down these monsters at 7-8 knots - steady whine and vibration.

Monti (our wind vane) held Terrwyn, broad reach, under hankie sized reefed jib, stay sail and double reefed main. We held the mainsheet to cast off if she rounded up but everything held - thank god for 2 hours steady as a rock, roaring along 240 compass. Good thing as no way we would dare upset the balance that was set. 7.6 knots boat speed, apparent wind 26-30 and no no visibilty. Essentially on autopilot, everyone double clipped in listening and watching the ocean roar past in spraklying phosphoresence.

Amazing! Even this gets a little tiring after 2 days of the same. Cath "retired" to the din below and I watched Monti do his magic throughout the night. Relieved later by Cath, sleep of the dead to awaken to today's South Pacific Paradise. Was I dreaming? That was no dream nor was I sleeping. We survived our first gale. YAHOO on with the prgram NZ here we come albeit at 5-6 not 7 plus knots which is very nice.

Fair winds ,



  1. We see you on Yotreps. Looks like you're on course yet again, admittedly with more of a starting blow than you'd like! Calm here on Vancouver Island while in front of the TV.

  2. Wow, okay for once that didn't sound so much like and idyllic trip moment. While I recognize that foul weather alway comes sometime, man that one was a bute. Made worse to read knowing your equipment wasn't running well. Glad you weren't wetter than you got, and we able to enjoy a beautiful morning aterwards. So did time stretch out before you? Or blow past fast?
    Glad you are safe and the boat is too.

    Big Bear Hugs
    The Bear

  3. Vancouver is basking in glorious fall sunshine today - quite lovely! Happy to know that you rode the storm waves out successfully and safely - I can almost feel the ocean moving and experience the length of days and nights from your descriptions.
    Cheers to you on your next leg of your journey.
    Mark and Laura