Awoke to the sound of ADVENTURER weighing anchor so I beckoned them over. They said they were going to Fiji along with MAKANI, CRIMSON TIDE and PERICON. The weather looked settled so we decided to go as well, stopping off at Hunga Resort for the fax. We said our farewells on the sked then I called Pete and asked him to radio the fax to us as it might not be important enough to keep us in Tonga. We continued motor sailing W until the 2 metre swell from the SE started to hit us then the bolt at the bottom of the mainsheet traveller let go. We usually attach our harnesses to the traveller as we emerge from the cabin. Fortunately no-one was attached there at that time as the boom swung outboard and they may have been carried overboard too. We were all harnessed to the lifelines. I ordered Joy, who was at the helm, to head around into the wind. This would have brought the boom back amidships. She said she couldn't so I repeated the order. She again replied in the negative. This surprised me as in 23 years of marriage I have only ordered her to do about 5 things and I expect the orders to be obeyed. When I asked why she wouldn't comply she replied that there were whales in that direction. They leapt out of the water at least 3 times but only Joy saw them because the rest of us were too busy. I felt like yelling 'Thar she blows' but all I could think of was 'Land ho!' which wasn't very appropriate. Anyway the replacement shackle was too fat so I swapped it for the one on the boom vang. We were up and sailing again in about 15 minutes. Pete called to say the fax was about the non-repairability of the GPS in Tauranga. (We were using our reserve one on this leg).
By this time MAKANI and ADVENTURER were several miles ahead, CRIMSON TIDE was taking a more Northerly route and PERICON had gone fishing. They soon stopped fishing, hoisted their spinnaker and rapidly overhauled CRIMSON TIDE.
The wind stayed 10-20 knots although occasional wind gusts came through slightly stronger. The swell was 1.5-3 metres from the SE. Occasionally it looked as though a big one was going to climb aboard but it was one of the smaller ones which finally drenched Joy. The rest of us were shielded but she got quite moist. We had VHF contact with all except PERICON at 1545 hours.
Mount Talau dropped below the horizon at 1230 hours but we could see the volcanic cone of Kao 60 miles to the SE until dark. By mid-afternoon we had overhauled MAKANI and just after dark we passed ADVENTURER. We arranged to stay in contact with them as we were all going through a 5 mile gap in the Lau Group on the 3rd morning. Also with only one GPS on board it made sense to stay closer to others. There was a beautiful sunset followed by a full moonrise although cloud cover increased shortly afterwards. Throughout the night we continued to draw ahead and at 2200 hours I opened a can of condensed milk -always good for the first night out. Just after midnight Rebecca pulled the No.2 in a tad to slow us down so we could keep the other boats in sight.
Joy noted in the log at 0345 that the seas had calmed considerably since leaving Tonga and so had she. When I came on watch again at 0400 hours I dropped the jib because ADVENTURER was disappearing astern behind the swells. We could only occasionally see her masthead light. Pleasant conditions, warm breeze and moonlight on the water. It was about 0900 hours before ADVENTURER got to within about a mile of us. At 0800 hours I calculated that we had Done 170 miles in 24 hours - not bad for 1 reef in the main and bareheaded for 4 hours. We decided to slow down to reach the Exploring Isles at daybreak tomorrow.
One day ahead of us the slower boats EPISODE, OMEGA and DELPHIS were making slow progress in bigger seas. We stooged around all day with ADVENTURER about a mile away and MAKANI on the SE horizon. After hours of radio silence he finally drew abeam and with ADVENTURER on our opposite side Marty came up with the words which have amused Joy ever since 'D'you give up; d'you give up'? In the middle of the ocean we were surrounded by other boats. At about this stage Marty said he would lead us through the Exploring Isles in the darkness using his radar and chart plotter. We all increased speed and with all sails up and drawing it took a while to overhaul ADVENTURER who had drawn about 400 metres ahead. We later learnt that they were motor sailing. When we were 400 metres ahead of them I decided that MAKANI was getting too far ahead of us so we should drop the mainsail, and motor. With the genoa down I got caught in a squall so got wet but in the tropical warmth I quickly dried. By this time it was dark. I decided to lower the main while we continued motoring instead of turning into the wind. Sometimes I wonder how I let my cleverness get me into trouble. The only good thing was the foredeck light was not on so ADVENTURER could not see what a mess I made. We again finished up 400 metres behind them. Under motor we slowly drew ahead but MAKANI was still increasing her lead. With Rebecca at the helm and the engine revving higher than usual MAKANI's light suddenly disappeared from sight. When Rebecca told me I thought that they had just disappeared behind a large swell but after several minutes realised that this was not so. I radioed to them and Noeline said that they had just blown the masthead bulb. They put on their steaming light and it made a spectacular sight. Sometimes we could see the light and sometimes just the jib glowing with its reflected light. This made it shimmer. At other times their main would obscure it giving an eerie elongated shape. They also slowed down. They can motor at 9 knots while our maximum is about 6.8 knots. It was a dark, cloudy night with only 1.5 metre swell.
The breeze was light all night. We approached the Exploring Isles and could just make out some hills on the port side in the darkness. We went between Katafanga Island and Malevuvu Reef without sighting the reef. By this stage ADVENTURER was close astern. With Katafanga Island on radar it was no problem. I knocked the autohelm switch, turning it off and losing the statistics for the trip. By 0520 hours it was starting to get light so we raised both sails. After the mess I had made taking the main down we had to go around 4 times to get it up again. By this time the other boats were a mile in front. We sailed in light winds past Muna Island. The wind was coming from the port quarter. As the other boats approached the island of Mango, Marty reported seeing a marlin leaping and heading our way. We didn't see it but shortly afterwards he alerted us to some whales heading towards us. These we saw. I was pointing to some only about 40-50 metres away and the rest of the family were becoming more excited than I thought the occasion warranted. When I looked at them I realised they were excited about the whale underneath us!!! They were only 10-15 feet long pilot whales.
By the time we were abeam Mango Island we had caught the others and a mile further W opposite Frost Reef the breeze had decreased to the extent that MAKANI started motoring. We continued sailing and the breeze did come in. The other 2 boats were hooking fish but we weren't. ADVENTURER pulled 2 nice mahi-mahi alongside but lost them both. The wind was taking us towards Vatuvara but then it backed to allow us to lay the light on Nukutotu Island. It was now Laura's turn to knock the autohelm switch accidentally, turning it off. I was on watch and didn't realise that the autohelm was on standby mode. It automatically goes onto standby mode when it is initially turned on. We were only 100 metres abeam of ADVENTURER at the time and we continued parallel for 5 minutes before suddenly turning to port. It was then that I realised that the autohelm was on standby. However it also illustrated how balanced the boat was on this point of sail. As we turned the corner by the light onto a more northerly course, the wind which had been blowing 9-16 knots SSE all day came from directly astern and the swell which had died away at dawn increased to 1.5 metres. We persevered with both sails for a while but eventually lowered the main and poled out the genoa. We did discuss running under spinnaker at night but eventually ruled it out as too dangerous. Sometime after dark we hooked a Long Tom - a sort of barracuta. But as it was so slimy none of the family were keen on eating it so it went back over the side albeit in several sections. With the swell the outer end of the genoa sheet kept jumping out of the jaws of the pole. This occurred spasmodically and randomly. During Joy's watch it only happened once in two hours but on Rebecca's shift it happened 3 times in 30 minutes getting me out of bed each time. Just after midnight the breeze dropped below 8 knots so I doused the sail and resorted to motor. The genoa pole hadn't been used for so long the inboard end required a stern talking to before it would co-operate. I think the hammer and screwdriver helped.
Sometime overnight we lost sight of ADVENTURER way out to starboard. I remembered that my Boatmaster tutor had said that the definition of a passing manoeuvre is when a boat comes over one horizon and disappears over another. Well, given that definition, it has taken 2 1/2 days to pass ADVENTURER. MAKANI had dropped astern at night fall.
Two very interesting things happened after midnight. The first one was shared by ADVENTURER and MAKANI although we did not realise that until we were within Nasavusavu Bay.
Shortly after midnight we picked up what we thought was a masthead light just off the port bow somewhere between 1/2 and 1 mile distant. It stayed at the same elevation for 4 hours so it wasn't a star. Nothing remarkable about that until you realise that ADVENTURER, 2-4 miles to our right also picked it up as did MAKANI, 8 miles astern and over the horizon - same direction, same elevation. The chart says the light on the point at Nasavusavu Bay is visible for 10 miles. We picked it up at 7.2 miles. Between 1 and 2 miles from the Point the light ahead of us disappeared - one moment it was there and the next it was gone. It was as though a bulb had blown.
At the same time as it disappeared I saw a masthead light which I thought was anchored off the coast. It was off the starboard bow. As I contemplated trying to negotiate the entrance to the bay with a boat I couldn't see over to port, I noticed that a green light had suddenly appeared on the boat off the starboard bow on the left side of the white light meaning that it was moving slightly to our right. At this stage I thought it might be heading fairly close to where we were so with ADVENTURER clearly heading our way as well, I checked that our navigation lights were working and stopped making way through the water. After 5 minutes his bearing hadn't changed so we got under way again cautiously. Within a minute the green light disappeared although the masthead light was still clearly visible. It wasn't until we were around the lighthouse and the end of the reef, which extends some distance W of the light (told you I was cautious), that I realised that the masthead light was on a boat anchored inside the reef at Cousteau’s Resort, and the green light was a channel marker several miles up harbour. It had been obscured by the drying reef. When ADVENTURER was coming in I warned him of the danger of the reef extending beyond the light. Marty asked where my white cane was. At this stage he told us about what he had thought to be our masthead light disappearing earlier. We felt our way slowly up the bay. Just before it got light Tony from SANITY called us to tell us they had a mooring for us all. They had heard over the previous night's sked that we would come in early in the morning and had kept their VHF on overnight to assist if necessary. I did appreciate the caring thought although I was a little gruff with him probably because of tiredness and the events of the last couple of hours. We chose to meander slowly up the bay. On daybreak we felt our way into a small bay from which emanated delicious cooking smells - I thought it was baking potatoes; Rebecca thought it was a self saucing pudding with ice cream on the top. She's been at sea too long. How did she know the ice cream was on the top?
In broad daylight we finally let go our anchor a few feet from The Copra Shed, Savusavu, and ADVENTURER tied to us. Linda from SUNSET QUEST rowed across to welcome us then Simon (marina manager) motored over in a dinghy which had the name NERISSA boldly displayed on the outboard. He told us of a mooring for all three of us. An hour and a half later MAKANI tied up on the other side of us. We then raised anchor and ADVENTURER motored us all up to a mooring at the E end of the inlet. Health and Immigration officials came aboard and although very pleasant did not stay very long.
The original plan had been to have some sleep before clearing in but the excitement of arrival and sharing with other cruisers put a stop to that. Susannah had an infected ear which had troubled her during the night, otherwise there were no injuries or illness on board. The authorities made us feel very welcome and they left us with all our food. I had to go to the hospital to pay F$33 (being the health fee). We went ashore and about 10 yachties descended on 3 customs officers 20 minutes before their closing time (1300 hours). They looked aghast until they realised that we had already filled in the forms....lots of them including 12 copies of the crew list. It only took about 5 minutes to process us. Laura and I then caught a taxi to the hospital (F$1). The driver wouldn't wait while we paid our health fee so we could catch a ride back with him. He was a grumpy Indian. The hospital looks old. It only has 2 doctors for 58 beds. I saw one of the doctors walk by - a Sri Lankan - who looked just out of nappies. I wouldn't like to get ill here. The pleasant Fijian lady who took my money was short of change so she reached into her own purse to make up the shortfall. Such service is rarely found these days. I think I'm going to like it here. Only the taxi driver has been unpleasant - even the pedestrians are smiling. We caught a ride back to town with Claire and Steve. Then into Morris Hedstrom's supermarket (commonly called MH's in the Islands). It was then that the culture shock following Tonga became evident. They even had leaf polish for sale on the shelves. Laura and I had an ice cream Magnum for lunch. Then for tea we all had a barbeque ashore at the Copra Shed (F$5 compared to T$18 at Atata Island). I poured a whole lot of sauce over my steak before Simon Ahern (who runs the Savusavu Yacht Club and the Copra Shed) told me it was chilli sauce and not tomato. Marty to the rescue. He was just behind me in the queue. He likes his chilli so we swapped meals. I then covered my steak with tomato sauce. After tea we watched the World Cup Soccer Final on TV. I kept falling asleep during the second half.