TIME: 2016/09/17 02:52
COMMENT: Beach House – ANCHORED – Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands
Sorry if you received this twice. It was prematurely sent!
Our last day at sea was a doozy! Despite weather guru, Bob McDavit saying \”Travel from Tahiti to Tonga: Voyage along about 20S is likely to encounter the passing SPCZ around local wed to Friday 14 to 16 Sep, and that may be squally. It is looking OK to venture via Suwarrow this week.\” (from French Polynesia) – he missed it. The squalls we saw on the weather files were actually the front that was moving through the central Cook Islands. It either moved north or was more intense than originally thought. Beware the \”Guru\”…. Actually, Bob gave me great advice when I left NZ in 2012 for Fiji and he is a great weather man. He always adds a disclaimer about weather being a mix of pattern and chaos. Indeed, it is.
When I awoke at 3:45 a.m. for my watch, we had 2 reefs and the genoa poled out to port. The winds were persistently shifting to the East from the Southeast, so we decided to roll up the genoa and tack instead of gybe so I could take in the third reef in the main during the tack. I NEVER put in 3 reefs. In 12 years, I\’d done it one other time. Why now? I can\’t tell you other than \”experience\”. I felt the conditions were going to build and build they did. After Nikki had gone below for her off watch, it started to really blow. First 25 knots went to 33 knots and then I had to look twice! 45-46 knots! With three reefs and a scrap of staysail, the wonderful Miss P, aka: Beach House was a star. We quickly accelerated to 10, then 12 then 18 knots! This, with about the sail area of large kite board sail. The tops of the waves were simply blown off. After 10 minutes, the winds backed off to 35 knots and then again, built back to 45 knots. 10 minutes later, the wind was down to the high 30\’s and then one last blast hitting 41 knots. The weather files were saying this entire system was going to blow out by 12 noon, but that was 6 hours away. Lets just say, it was \”intimidating\”. Seas had built to 3.5 meters (about 12 feet) and we even saw a few outlier\’s at 4-5 meters (14-17 feet). My height of eye is 12 feet off the water when standing in the cockpit. When I\’m looking UP at waves, they are big! In these conditions, \”Beach House\” just picks up her skirts and flies out in front of the breaking foam. She\’s always done it, I love this boat.
Except for the speed, you couldn\’t have guessed the weather conditions outside, such is the nature of well designed cruising cats. We certainly could hear the sea rushing by and the speeds were impressive, but the boat (and very fortunately, our rebuilt hydraulic steering rams), performed just as all should be. We actually had winds in the 30+ knot range for over three hours. The boat just zinged along. I\’ll write up more details on this in the main blog when we get internet, but for now, you get the picture. My rule of thumb was to follow the advice of weather expert, Lee Chesneau (retired from NOAA)….\”Always avoid the 34 knot wind field\”. Once this is the story, you are technically in \”storm\” conditions. This was actually the longest and highest wind speeds I\’ve experienced in the last 50,000 plus miles! That includes into and out of New Zealand! I will work hard at avoiding this in the future! Every time I do my own weather, I never get into trouble. When I listen and want to \”believe\” in other sources, is when the mistakes get made.
For now, lovely spot here in Suwarrow. We completed the trip in 4 days, 6 hours. One boat here took 8 days for the same trip. So as you can see, \”Beach House\” goes fast…:-) The boats here told us they had the same wind experiences as we did, but they were anchored behind this lovely island!
This is the only national park in the Cook Islands and has almost all invasive species removed including all rats! The bird life here is astonishing and the black tip reef sharks are everywhere in the anchorage. They\’re no issue and pretty cool to just watch. If you jump in the water, they scatter faster than you can imagine. We\’ll do a mini blog on this before we leave, but for now, if interested, look at the book, \”An Island to Oneself\”, by Tom Neale. He lived a nomadic life here on and off from the 1950\’s to the mid 1970\’s.
4 other boats here, the Rangers took everyone to a spot called \”Perfect Reef\” for a snorkeling trip inside the lagoon. Nikki and I were still in trip recovery mode, but hopefully we\’ll get to do that in a few days. They also have a Manta Ray \”cleaning station\” right near the anchorage which we can snorkel at. If we get to go, we\’ll give a full report.
We expect to be here about 4 days. There is currently NO win – wouldn\’t ya\’ know!…:-)
Scott and Nikki