It was with a heavy heart that we decide to leave Tonga a week earlier than planned. As it was, we were only allowed 4 weeks to explore dozens of islands. Sure, we could have extended our visas, but we really needed to pick up our second hand rudder – so we had to leave at the first “decent” weather window. Our voyage had a rough start.
We left the Neiafu mooring field (main town in Vava’u, Tonga) around 0730. Our forecast had light 10-12kts of wind from the southeast, moderate 1-2m seas, no cape, but a constant rain. It was not the best weather window, but it was good for us as the winds put us in an angle where we could use our starboard rudder. Remember we are still operating with only one rudder.
Matt decided to put up full sail (both the main and genoa) because the winds were “light.” However, as we were exiting the Faihava pass a storm popped up and gave us winds coming from multiple directions. Auto pilot could not control the steering with one rudder and we quickly jumped to hand steering until we got outside the pass. Once we had more room, we rapidly reefed the main and genoa. So much for the forecast!
There was a large group of boats that decided to leave with us. Some were going to Vanuatu, some to Fiji and others were headed west. It only took a few hours before we lost sight of all the boats. We could still see some of them on AIS, but there was no visual with the naked eye. The images of the orange boats and white boats are all leaving Tonga.
I took stugeron (sea sick pill) but I failed to put on my transderm patch. Why do you ask? I did not think I needed it since we had light winds in the forecast. Silly me! I tried to weather through the crappy feeling, but 3 hours later I succumed and put the patch on. The seas coming from the SE hit our aft side of the boat causing us to rock funny and that did not sit well with me. But after I put the patch on I felt better.
On our first day we averaged 7.1kt with a max of 13.7kt as we surfed down a wave. We traveled 175nm on the first day of our voyage.
It was gloomy and drizzly the entire day.
We had to constantly manage our sail trim with these big seas. Auto pilot would easily get overpowered with a rogue wave changing our course from 290T to 240T in a blink of an eye.
We tried to fly our parasail as the winds were deaddown. It was a super sporty ride and we were making great time with boat speeds hitting 9-11kts! However, the waves would cause us to surf and the additional speed put too much pressure on the sail. So we took her down after only a few hours and put our genoa out. Speeds decreased from 9-11kts with the parasail to 5-7kts with the genoa.
As luck would have it, we entered Fijian waters at night which was not ideal. But we have great charts and satellite images which kept us safe. The photo below shows us (red boat) on a trajectory through the island and reefs.
We tried very hard to arrive to the Savusavu channel before dark, but we fell short by 45 minutes. The channel is narrow and has boats on both sides. With one rudder and limited mobility, we decided it would not be wise to enter in the dark so we dropped the hook at Custeau Resort for the night.
Overall Trip Details:
- Total Travel Time: 60hours
- Total Miles Travelled: 413nm
- Average overall speed: 7.1kts
- Max Speed: 14.7kts
- Engine Hours used: Port: 5 hours and Starboard 16 hours
We ended up using our starboard engine more to compensate for the missing rudder. But overall we were able to sail the majority of this voyage.
The next morning we got up early and made our way into the channel. Copra Shed Marina sent Pio out to assist us with the mooring which was so appreciated!
Our blog posts run 8-10 weeks behind actual live events. This blog occurred mid-August. Did you read our last blog, “The Majestic of Kenutu.”