The first leg of our trip south was from the Big Island in Hawaii to Fanning Island, Kiribatis – a trip of just under 1,000 nautical miles. We expected this leg to take us approximately a week, and it took us exactly a week – almost to the hour.
We left the Big Island with a double reef in the mainsail and about 50% of our #2 jib unfurled. Seas were 10′ from the east. We headed 190º to leave ample space between us and the south point of the island. We expected increased winds and seas near south point, and we thought they might persist up to 100 miles out. However, we expected to get out of the shadow of the big island within 100 miles or so.
The winds increased to and stayed around 20-22 knots during the days, and 23-25 knots during the nights. The seas were 10′ and highly confused. We reduced our jib to about 30%. We had frequent seas breaking on us, and it was impossible to get comfortable or stay dry. We felt miserable.
This persisted for four long days…
On our fifth day out, the wind eased slightly to 19-20 knots, and the seas calmed considerably to 4′. We continued with our same sail plan and started re-making the easting we had given up during our four long days.
On our sixth day, we saw small squalls blow around us, but we avoided them until a large one completely engulfed us for about an hour. We had gusts to 37 knots, and a bolt sheared on our autopilot rendering it inoperable. After the squall blew by, we fixed the autopilot. Then a bolt sheared on the gooseneck requiring us to drop our mainsail. We couldn’t fix that one underway, so we continued on under jib alone.
Land in Sight
During these six days, we never saw another vessel. Neither did we see any sea life other than a million flying fish and a pod of dolphins that visited us a few times at dusk and dawn. Neither of us knows what kind of dolphin they were, but they looked like steel grey torpedoes. They were short and very stout – and very fast!
On our seventh day, we sighted the island at daybreak. It took us until midday to reach the pass into the lagoon, and it was a morning of wonderful sailing. Although we were sailing with only our jib, the winds were on our port quarter, and we maintained 4 knots of speed. We had a pod of huge bottlenose dolphins play in our bow wake for a while. We entered the lagoon at slack tide and dropped the CQR in 16′ with a sand/coral bottom.
Read about our stay on Fanning Island.