Solomons, here we come

We’re writing this blog 3 days into the 3-4 day passage from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands, with a likely landfall at Honiara. I say likely, as we’ve reserved a couple of options for stopping-over in outlying islands on the way, in case we feel we need the rest. And the way this passage is going, I think we will.
We left on Thurs with a strong 25+ knot SE tradewind, which of course with us heading NW means a lovely downwind sail. The first day and night was exactly that, sailing with just a double-reefed mainsail and enjoying the speeds as the 3m swells pick the boat up and push it downhill. Amazing for a boat this size and weight, she’s still “picks up her skirts” (as the old salts would say) in relatively small waves. Mind you, 3m isn’t all that small, and the boys got quite a kick out of recording their personal best speeds …”Daddy, we just topped 12.5 knots!” Lovely to have the fast passage times, but the trick is keeping all this manageable, which we did for the first 24hrs. Once you’ve got used to it, sailing like this at night is a less apprehensive business, as you can’t see the approaching waves and everything seems calmer somehow as the boat bowls forward from wave to wave.

Calmer, that is, until the morning of the second day, when I’d just be gazing knowingly to windward and pronouncing to Rebecca that I reckoned the winds were all localised, and likely to fall away. Sure enough, they do exactly the opposite and rapidly rise to 40 knots with a building sea. The “Yeeehaa, we just topped 13 knots!” comments were starting to be replaced with “oh shit, we just pulled 16 knots, that felt scary”. Time to reduce sail.

Now, reducing sail downwind is never an easy business. I won’t bore you with details, but I’m still searching for a method that avoids having to round up into the wind and waves, not an inviting prospect in these seas. The rounding up itself needs to be timed with the waves to avoid being side-on at the wrong time. On this occasion, it’s also pouring with rain so Rebecca and I strip off down to lifejackets only, and take our stations: she at the helm, and me at the mast ready to reef. We’ve done this before, but not on a catamaran this size or in this sea. I find that the sight of my wife standing naked at the helm of an offshore yacht doesn’t incite the usual reactions, a sure sign that things must be serious. But it all goes smoothly, Rebecca does a fantastic job, we round up with the wind howling and seas crashing over the boat, drop sail and head back down..both mightily relieved.

And on with the journey. We’re running a 2.5hr watch system starting at 8pm, so Rebecca and I grab sleep in short spells with the offwatch person on standby for assistance if needed. This works pretty well, but with just the two of us and three demanding kids during the day, of course we get knackered anyway. At least the kids seem to sleep well at night regardless of the weather.
Seasickness is abit of a constant companion unfortunately. We’d hoped that moving to two hulls would improve it, but despite the clearly more comfortable motion of the catamaran, it doesn’t seem to. Most sailors have a favoured remedy, I remember my father’s used to be large consumption of beer (some dubious theory about the carbonated liquid releasing gases, a theory I was happy to embrace as a teenager). Rebecca has some well-established methods, mainly involving getting up on deck and eating salt and vinegar crisps. This is starting to be automatic with the boys now, which is good. It is miserable, of course, being sick on passage, but the cynic in me can’t help but consider that “Mummy I’m feeling abit queasy” comment generally results in postponed school and a bowl of crisps… what’s not to like?

There’s a lot of electrical activity around at the moment, with sheet and occasional forked lightning going off every few minutes at night. I’m not sure the cause, something I think to do with electrical discharge in the tropics. It makes for spectacular flashes of ocean scenery as the lightning illuminates the waves. Getting struck by forked lightning is one of a sailors’ worries, with no consensus on how to avoid having all electrical equipment on board fried to a cinder. Not sure how often it happens to yachts, but it seems to dominate cruisers’ conversations enough. Some people believe in protecting electrical gear by unplugging and putting it in the oven, so we’ve been doing this with our main navigation computer. I’m convinced we’re going to forget one day, and find we’ve got baked laptop for breakfast.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Matt Hura
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:09:06

    Hey guys, Great to read you are well other then a little sea sickness at times, 3M swells(understandable) its the first time I have logged in since we saved the site, its been good to get an update and I look forward to the next blog. You may know the All Blacks won the the world cup 8-7 and although the margin was small the guts and determination to defend and hold on was huge. Keep well guys and continue a safe journey. I will remind Jakob to blog Luca and Gabriel.

    Take care šŸ™‚

    Matt Hura


  2. Pete & Kate
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 21:41:39

    Yikes Fred! Hope you avoided the lightning, and are now enjoying a cold beer with Rebecca in the Solomans. Pete and Kate.


  3. Jessica Foote
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 21:02:32

    Hey Guys, sounds like you are having an amazing time!
    I think my reading skills are increasing when reading this blog!
    Keep then comming!
    Love to all.. Miss you- ecspecially my gossip sesions with BEX BABY xxx ā¤


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