Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vanuatu to Australia - Day One

I awoke yesterday morning with a groan. The display at the head of our bunk showed True Wind Speed (TWS) at 0.0. Our weather forecaster had promised light winds for our first day of our passage but zero wind meant long hours of motoring and burning up our expensive and acquired-with-much-difficulty fuel (to fill Rutea's two 90-gallons tanks, we have to load our 5-gallon 'jerry jugs' into the dinghy, motor to the beach, carry the empty jugs to the road, take a taxi into town, fill the jugs <almost US$8.00/gallon>, find a taxi willing to haul us and our fuel back to the road that leads to the beach, wade out to the dinghy in water up to our waists carrying the 40-pound jugs, lift them up to Rutea's deck, dump the fuel into the tanks and then repeat until our tanks are full - it can take days to complete the process).

While Ruthie and Corie caught a few more winks of sleep, I made a batch of banana muffins (the once bright green stalk that has hung in our galley has been reduced to a fraction of it's original size and the remaining bananas are mostly black with some yellow streaks) and got us ready to get underway. Motoring out of the Segond Channel our Speed Over Ground (SOG) was less than 2 knots as we bucked a strong current but once clear of land we resumed our normal motoring speed of almost 6 knots per hour. The wind had picked up slightly but was still less than 7 knots so we motor-sailed until I got the idea to hoist our spinnaker. Once up, we cut the engine and were making 5+ knots per hour and when the wind increased to about 10 knots, Rutea got a bone in her teeth and began to see over 7 knots. The seas were flat calm and other than the overcast sky, it was near ideal conditions.

Traveling with us are Mark on Merkava and Bill and Sue on Dilligaf. We seem to be almost perfect cruising companions as we tend to stay within a few miles of each other.

As the sun was starting to set, we doused the spinnaker and unfurled the genoa. The wind remained around 10-11 knots and the seas flat - the almost-full moon meant near daylight visibility. Since it was so calm, I went below and whipped up a batch of Chicken Cacciatore, using a sauce that I had made a few days earlier. I sautéed the plump chicken breasts in olive oil until they were golden brown and then added quartered onions, bell peppers and black olives before I poured the sauce over. I served it to us in large bowls over bow-tie pasta and even though the tropical heat was making us sweat, the steaming dinner hit the spot.

Because the seas are so flat, sleep came easy. I was enjoying my watch so much that I let Corie have an extra hour of sleep before I got her up for her watch at 0100. When I got up at 0530, I found that we had passed Merkava and Dilligaf sometime during the night. The seas and wind remained constant. In our first 24 hours we covered 144 miles which is not bad for light winds. We hoisted the spinnaker again this morning and with 10 knots of wind we're making over 7 knots. The sun is out and the solar panels are cranking the amps into our battery banks. None of us can remember a passage with conditions that are this good.
At 10/27/2012 10:46 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°36.00'S 164°47.00'E

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