Although we started our 2006 cruising season with a nice passage from New Zealand to Fiji, we had lousy weather almost all season in Fiji and Vanuatu. We found more of that lousy weather between Vanuatu and Australia. All in all, a lousy passage.
We had checked out with Vanuatu customs on Friday the 10th with plans to leave on Sunday the 12th. However, there just wasn’t enough wind. So we waited until Monday the 13th, and we left midday with only 8 knots of wind. We had already had a close encounter with Cyclone Xavier, and we were aware that we were two weeks in to the cyclone season, so it was time to go.
Within four hours of leaving we found 12 knots of wind and 1 foot seas. It was very nice sailing, and it remained nice for two and a half days. Our first two mornings at sea were beautiful.
Our third morning out was hazy but otherwise ok, but conditions deteriorated that day and night. Our winds backed around to the NW, and we could see a wide band of frontal weather, including lightning, to the SSW (our heading). We zigged and zagged a bit hoping to avoid it, but it was very broad, and it engulfed us. We had a squally night, then the winds veered back to the SE and built.
Our winds were sustained between 28 and 31 knots with gusts in the mid-30s. However, the seas were more problematic as they built to 10-12 foot heights.
Passage doesn’t seem to mind these conditions. She is like an old dog with a bone in her teeth. She may growl a bit, but she keeps on plowing along. The crew, however, abides these conditions slightly less gracefully. The second time we flew off the top of a 10 foot sea and crashed down, we knew that we needed to slow her down a notch.
We considered heaving to, but we expected these conditions to last a while, so we wanted to make some progress through them. Instead, we backwinded the staysail, and that slowed our boat speed to 2 to 3 knots. The seas were still uncomfortable, but they were tolerable at that slow speed. We did this for two days.
Eventually we eased the mainsail and trimmed the staysail, and we continued to crawl along at 5 knots. We would occasionally speed up a bit, and we would have to rein her in. We just couldn’t tolerate going any faster in the seas. We did this for another two days.
The seas decreased to 3 to 6 feet about ten hours before arriving in Bundaberg, but the wind remained above 20 knots until we were within a few miles of shore. We were glad to drop our hook in the quarantine anchorage in Bundaberg midday on the 21st of November.
And, no, we didn’t even consider fishing on this passage!
Follow us to Australia.