Tag Archives: passage

Voyage: Tonga to Fiji

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.

The Voyage

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.  

Day 2

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.”

Weather, a fickle mistress, Arrival, Recap

The weather in these parts can be quite the mess. So we were looking, as many other boats for nice weather windows to leave the ‘cyclone area’ for season and go somewhere “safe” ..

Well I guess there is no really cyclone/hurricane safe place. The systems will just be called by different names to lure you in. We will probably be dealing with typhoons next as we go further west. Ugh,

Anyway, waiting for weather is an extreme exercise in patience, boredom, itchy feet, mental stability all play a role, which might explain things.

In Fiji, we were waiting and watching, a Tuesday looked good – but further looking had winds on the nose. Then a Friday looked good, but had a constrained finish, had to arrive before the following Friday. So why not Thursday .. hmm maybe some on the nose, similar to the Tuesday that we passed on. Then Lola started to swirl around and make noise about coming to Fiji.

Cue “The Clash”, “Should I stay or should I go”.

Leave Thursday so there is a buffer on the Friday deadline. We did this trip last year in nice conditions and it was a 6 day trip, the models were showing 9-10 days for the Thursday or Friday departures. Doing math and redoing math and checking with weather people and routers etc.. It’ll make your head spin. Weather router said, “doable”, not a warm fuzzy by any stretch of the imagination. Doable did sound, well doable.

Thursday got the call, a few other boats were leaving, others were staying. Thursday did have the allure of a couple nice days at the beginning, to get your feet wet on the long passage, And running “away” from the future Lola that was brewing near by gave a bit of weight to Thursday departure. So we cleared customs and departed just after lunch.

Thursday evenings updated forecast after we left, had future Lola (had not be named yet) coming on our path. Ugh more math, double check dates. Want to turn back, more math, nearly 100 miles into 1100 mile trip we could turn back easier than the 90% left in front of us. Decision was, wait till next forecast, continue on. Whew.. next forecast kept future Lola north and not following us. Still had the Friday constrained by cold front from the Tasman sea.

Christine will have her own view of the passage, but for me, a couple nice days for decent sailing, a couple days of pure crap into the winds with demoralizing VMG (progress to destination) followed by a couple good sailing days, and still a looming Friday constraint. So we kept pressing hard and making forward progress with eyes on arriving Thursday, ahead of the Friday cold front. Amazingly enough that Friday constraint has been in the forecast and never wavered one way or another for over a week. We calculated we needed a 6knot VMG (to make 6nm every hour toward the destination) to make it by Thursday. Boat can be going 10knots and only making 3kn VMG which is what was happening on the ‘crappy’ days, where we sailed 80 miles off course because of the wind direction. We made it.

Lola did materialize and did start her way south, kind of regrouped into the forecast you see below. This forecast is for Monday, the boats in the picture should all be in on Friday or Saturday at the most. Just in time to hunker down. Hopefully we will be nicely tied up to a good strong floating dock by Thursday evening awaiting the Friday event that has now tuned into a possible bigger deal with the addition of Lola remnants.

Predicted forecast for Monday.

We averaged 7.3kn for 1200 miles, used a bunch of diesel, broke the jib car, but we made it before the deadline, now time to sleep, clean, secure the boat for 50 knots of wind in the marina.

As the crow files the passage is 1100, we did this in 160 hours so we made 6.8nm per hour as the crow flies. Our VMG goal of 6nm is what we needed to make our Thursday arrival. The 7.3 average was over the entire distance the boat went, of 1200 and change.

Arriving in the dark
Rounding the Whangarei heads at day break

Now back to your regularly curated blog posts.

Pushing to the Finish

One more sleep to till daybreak.. Uh? Loosing your mind??.. Of course daybreak happens after a sleep. Lets try this again, One more sleep till we arrive, there will be plenty of naps between here and there.

Sun is out, wind is cooperating and giving us a boost to arrive in on Thursday morning well ahead of the changing weather. Not taking any chances tho, burning some diesel to make sure. Temperature is brisk, so tolerable with 3 layers on. I’m sure 19C/65F degrees is warm for some.. but it’s darned cold at night. And the cold front hasn’t even arrived yet.

Finally saw sails on the horizon to further the proof that we are going some where. And even more interesting is that we all have ESP and we can read each others mind even if we are miles apart. Imagine the possibilities.

In almost synchronized swimming precision, we all decided to raise the canvas at the same time. Well could have been daybreak and the ‘slow wind’ from over night was starting to fill in enough to use it as propulsion instead of just making noise flapping back and forth.

Ready set raise!

Doing pretty good on finishing the pork products, a couple of chops will be donated to the incinerator as we can’t eat everything. And there is no way Christine will let the pulled pork go to anywhere else, so that’s for lunch and to be followed with Gumbo for dinner since its getting cold..

All in all, nothing but making the miles today, and checking on boats that also on this hear fun passage. And fresh baked cookies, now time for another one of those naps. And restraint, save some cookies for the officials. Must save cookies… Must save cookies.

All good all day, Last night out. 90 miles to go, nice winds, decent seas, scattered clouds

Cheers to tomorrow’s sunrise and learning to speak Kiwi again. Sweet As.