Monday, August 2, 2010

Sitting Here Watching the Wind Blow

Current Location: Raroia Atoll, Tuamotus, French Polynesia 15°57.35'S 142°18.97'W

I can't believe it is already August 1st! We had only planned to spend one night here at Raroia Atoll. When we left Makemo, it looked like the perfect weather window to sail to the Marquesas was shaping up. But 24-48 hours later--the whole weather picture had changed. A big high pressure had moved in from the west, which would strengthen the trade winds to about 20 knots.

Since then, we have had TWO big strong highs pass south of us, back-to-back. They are way south, between 30 and 40 south latitude, but they still really affect our weather. The wind has been blowing "like stink" for the past week. That is, steady winds 24 x 7 from 20-25 knots out of the East. And passing squalls crank it up to the 35 knot range.

As the Highs slowly pass, they trail a long high pressure ridge to the NW behind them, lengthening the time that they affect our weather. Just about the time one High departs, another one comes blasting in from the west... After a very mild June, we have had a succession of strong Highs for nearly the whole month of July. But this last week has been worse than the rest.

We have been snugged up in the NE corner of the Raroia atoll for a week now. It is a beautiful setting... white sand beaches everywhere we look, palm trees all over, gorgeous turquoise water, and not a soul around. The nearest sign of other people is about 8 miles south--a remote pearl farm who showed no interest in us when we motored back and forth in front of their building. The tiny town on the atoll is even further away--about 15 miles SW of us. We don't even see the glow of lights down there at night. And we haven't seen another boat--cruiser or local--except the pearl farm skiff about 8 or 9 days ago.

Though we have tucked up behind a palm studded island, to mitigate the wind somewhat, we can still see over the reef just to the south of us, and the big breakers crashing on the reef. We are really glad not to be out in this stuff. Though we are antsy to get to the Marquesas, we just keep reminding ourselves how bad it would be trying to beat to weather in these kinds of winds and seas.

It has been rather cool here--between the fact that it IS wintertime in this hemisphere--and the howling wind. The ambient air temperature is a nice cool 75 during the night and only gets up to around 80 during the day. The water temp is a cool 77 degrees. So we haven't even been swimming in the past week.

Though we're a LONG way from running out of food, we didn't provision as well in Makemo, as we would have if we had known we'd be stuck here so long. Fortunately we did lay in a big stock of baguettes, tomatoes, eggs, carrots, and cabbage. We still had a good supply of apples left from Fakarava. And we still have TONS of the basics--flour, rice, beans, canned fruits and veggies, that we stocked up on in Panama and Ecuador. Plus a freezer full of meat--when the supply ship finally came into Makemo, we were able to buy nice lamb chops, chicken, pork chops, and some beef.

And of course, we still have some of the wine and rum we loaded on in prolific quantities before we left South America... which is being carefully rationed to last us until we get to Hawaii. A poor-quality liter box of wine costs $10-12 here in the Tuamotus, and rum is in short supply, poor quality, and runs nearly $20 a bottle.

But Dave is starting to worry about running out of bread and tomatoes... we "only" have 6 baguettes left!!

We thank god (and Dave) every day for the SSB radio that lets us talk with other cruisers. Everyone else is just as pinned-down as we are by the weather. Though most people are headed downwind, going downwind in this stuff is only slightly less onerous than going upwind. Our friends on Whoosh who just arrived in Suwarrow after a several day passage, went the last 36 hours under bare poles, and were still making over 100 miles a day!

We are a net controller on the local "Polynesia Breakfast Net" that is now covering cruisers strung out all the way from the Marquesas to Niue (almost to Tonga). We also like to listen up on the Pacific Seafarer's Net--a Ham net that's on in the evenings (0300 UTC) on 14300. Their net controllers are all over the Pacific... from mainland US to Hawaii to Australia and New Zealand, and the cruisers they track are all over too. On a good night we can hear almost everyone--we had a nice short chat the other night with a net relay operating just outside of Tampa, FL!!

The current weather forecast shows MAYBE a break coming about the 4th or 5th of August. It's not a perfect weather window (we're looking for 10-15 kts out of the SE), but at least the wind lightens up for a few days. It might be long enough for us to get out of here.

Until then... we're enjoying paradise... doing boat projects... reading... and watching the wind blow.
At 7/30/2010 6:02 PM (utc) our position was 15°57.35'S 142°18.97'W

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