Windward Passage

On Friday we pointed high all day and into the night, when blissfully the winds backed to the north. Anson re-lead the sheets and we bore off ten degrees, pointing directly towards our windward waypoint. Unfortunately, this good news came with the jolting reality of pointing directly into the short period wind waves. For two hours in the middle of our Friday night we pounded forward, dead on course, with the occasional wave lifting us on top of its steep edge and then slamming us down, pouring water over the decks and jolting those sleeping into fitful wakefulness. We finally cleared the cobwebs from our middle of the night thinking and bore off five degrees to the south, letting Anthea slip alongside these road bumps of waves, now only occasionally lurching forward, rather than bashing and pounding. We’ve kept up this strategy, pointing without pounding, and now the decks get occasional dousings, and we enjoy a sweet, gentle sail in winds in the 7-,10 knot range.

The light winds, combined with the short period seas, lead to a slow passage, averaging 5 knots. If we focus only on the goal of Fiji we’d be desolate right now, as our unusual upwind route is doubling the journey and slicing the speed. But the conditions have been blissful. Clear skies and gentle weather are easy on the body and the boat, letting us savor our surroundings, rather than steel ourselves against the elements.

We are surrounded by the sea and the skies, watching them change: from the golden and salmon light of sunrise, slowly revealing the pale blue of the morning sky; on, through the deep blue of the afternoon skies, offset by white clouds on the horizon, matched in intensity by the brightness of the deep blue ocean waters; slipping into the red skies of sunset with brilliant gold painting the undersides of cumulus clouds low on the horizon; and then to the clear night skies with billions of stars above and phosphorescent waters shimmering green and white below.

Nights are magical aboard. Last night after dinner, for a few precious minutes we turned off the navigation and instrument lights and folded the bimini back to reveal the dark night sky, devoid of any light pollution. Orion sat low in the Western sky while the Southern Cross shown brilliantly across the southern quadrant. The milky way was like a stream. Devon contemplated the odds of other lifeforms far, far away, reflecting that each star offered the possibility of a solar system with life unknown. Two evenings ago, Anson watched brilliant phosphorescent trails on his watch. The wind rose to 15 knots apparent, and as Anthea’s speed stirred the ocean, he saw visions of nebulae in the fluorescent green webs and sparkles within the wake-filled water. Last night Mark watched the waning moon rise: first the tips appeared like two distant lights, then they merged into slanted cat’s eyes, and as the crescent revealed its full form, wave silhouettes danced across the orange cup, balanced on the horizon. On my watch the moon changed from a delicate gold to silver as it climbed through the sky, its trail on the water transforming as well. At dawn a veil of thin stratus swept across it, and somehow the moon took on the light blue of the morning sky. Each of these moments are gifts, rare and treasured.

We still have 100 miles to go before we tack and head for Fiji. If the weather was poor and conditions were rough, we’d all be wishing we were snug in a harbor in Opua, waiting out storms and looking for a weather window. But the sweet, gentle sailing, along with the gifts of the sea and sky, have made this windward passage a journey without regret. Kim
31 degrees 04 minutes south, 176 degrees 14.5 minutes at 8:50 a.m. on 5/13 NZ time
PS wind beginning to veer and strengthen – now we’re scooting along at 6.5 knots at a course of 70-75 degrees

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