June 20, 2019
Today and tonight we are doing something we normally don’t do. Normally, we try to go as fast as we can, either because we’re in a race or because we just want to get to the next place.
But the crossing to Fiji isn’t a race and there are many reefs around Fiji and, more specifically, around the place we are going to clear in. It’s called Vanuva Balavu and the World ARC has arranged for us to clear into the country there rather than going where most cruising boats go.
Any time we enter a new country, all of us and the boat have to go through Customs and Immigration, just like anyone arriving at the airport would do. The ARC helps tremendously with this by getting Customs and Immigration staff to come to us rather than what we used to do which was wander all over a new place, looking for them, then filling out endless paperwork, paying various fees and then doing the same when we were leaving. I would say this is one of the best features of participating in this rally. We leave the bureaucracy to them! In this particular instance it is a huge help because it’s my understanding that most boats have to go to a location downwind of Vanuva Balavu. This means that if they want to visit the area where we’re going to travel, they have to backtrack upwind. Upwind sailing is usually not pleasant because you are going against not only the wind, but also the waves.
So, back to what we’re doing. Trying to slow the boat down. If we go our “normal” speed, we would arrive in the middle of the night. This is usually what we do anyway because the ARC sets the start time so we have no choice. This time we chose our departure time and tried to select a time from Tonga that would put us in Fiji during the day but it didn’t work out. It has been a delightful sail the whole way – good winds and seas which means that we are ahead of schedule. Earlier today we dropped the mainsail (Cobin and Marin helped me and are almost ready to do it themselves) to see if that would help us slow down.
We had reefed the main (this means we reduced the volume of the sail so we would go slower), from the beginning so that we would be prepared if the winds were strong. Then we took the main down altogether. We changed from the gennaker to the jib (smaller headsail) and now we have rolled up the jib (the only sail currently being used) so it’s only a tiny triangle and we are still seeing 6 – 7 knots of speed. We’re shooting for 5.8 average. If we arrive before the sun is up, it will be very hard to see the reefs.
In other situations, like the entrance to Fakarava in the Tuamotos, we could just motor around in circles or heave to (maneuver that more or less keeps the boat in place). But with the reefs around, we will have to stop a good distance out and do circles or something, unless our sail reduction plan works, in which case we will arrive at daybreak. It’s nice that Charm is so willing to get us places – that’s part of why we bought her. We figured a fast boat would be able to run away from storms or unpleasant seas and that would be a good thing.
True to form, the kids spent the day on their devices. Cobin, especially, did not want to emerge from his room for any reason, reminding me that “It’s a free day!” Marin and Tully mainly played Minecraft and Tully was delighted by all the things she could blow up with TNT. “Mama – watch while I blow up this giant mushroom!”
Later the girls switched to pretend play. At one point they were ballerinas in a dancing school and then they dashed to their room where they loaded up all kinds of bags with all kinds of stuff and came up to let me know that they were pretending to run away from their imaginary family. You can see them, ready for their departure, on one of the photos.
Another is of Joe and Cobin working on a puzzle game together. Finally, a picture out our porthole window. I’ve been doing a series of these because I think it’s fun to have the image framed and I often marvel at what is outside our porthole window!
In Tonga, it was a tree full of fruit bats. They didn’t come out well in my attempts to photograph them – they just look like black leaves hanging in the trees.
With the kids fully engaged in their rare unlimited screen time, Joe and I actually got to spend 15 minutes talking together and did a few crossword puzzles that came with Chris and Griselle. We lean heavily on our “mules” to get us the things we think we need (e.g. crossword puzzle books) in the US and bring them over. Chris and Grisell schlepped our new spinnaker all the way over, along with a duffel full of other stuff. Our next guests will do the same. It’s always like Christmas when they arrive and we’re very grateful to them!
Next time I write, it will be from Fiji!