Sunday, August 4, 2013

Passage from Rongerik to Likiep

July 24-25, 2013

We left the SE pass at Rongerik Atoll about 7:45am, in company with Challenger and Opus. Conditions were great. The wind had shifted as forecast more to the NE, and was down to about 10 knots--perfect for sailing to windward. As soon as we got out of the pass, we turned off the engine, and were having a great sail.

For several hours we were able to sail at a good speed, higher than the direct-line course to Likiep's NW pass. At that rate, we would have arrived in the early hours of the morning. But by noon, the wind had started to shift back more to the east, and get even lighter. My 4pm log entry says "Wind less than 10 knots... We are going slowly in the wrong direction... Cranked up the engine." But an hour later we were sailing again, the wind having come back again.

This pattern repeated itself all night long... too much wind, not enough wind, wind shifts left, wind shifts right. Drives ya crazy!! Our ground track from the log varied anywhere from 97 degrees to 165 degrees (with a desired course of 130T).

To compound things, once we got away from Rongerik, we were feeling the effects of the persistent westerly current--probably running a half a knot from the ESE. And occasionally, when the current runs into a big bottom profile, we get weird "washing machine" waves. You'll be sailing along enjoying nice conditions, and then all of a sudden, it gets rough and choppy, with waves coming at you from two different directions. Check the chart, and yup, there's the bottom contour. We REALLY slow down when we go head-on into waves. Just the effect of the waves will drop our average speed from 5kts to about 3.5 kts.

Finally about 3:30am, Dave got tired of trying to deal with the changing conditions, and "sailing slowly in the wrong direction", and pulled in the genoa, and turned on the engine. Even motorsailing, we were still not quite making the course we needed to make, but at least going closer to the proper course, and going at a more constant speed.

By daylight, we were almost in the lee of Likiep atoll. We continued on our course down to close in behind the reef, tacked over, put the fishing lines out, and motorsailed NE back up the reef. We kept our fishing lines out through the pass and all the way across the atoll to the anchorage we'd picked out from the chart. Got nary a nibble.

Challenger, who points a little higher than we do, and sails a little faster in light conditions, had entered the pass ahead of us, but had headed on to the SE to where the town of Likiep was. Opus came in about an hour behind us.

We went straight east from the pass, to the nearest island. I wanted a swim and a rest, and to get the boat sorted out, before we dropped anchor at the town and had to interact with anyone.

But when we got to the anchorage I had picked out from Google Earth (approx 09-59.6N / 169-06.8E), we found that the sand was full of coral heads. When the coral stopped, the depth dropped abruptly off to 60-70 feet deep. There just wasn't enough sand in shallow water to find a good anchor spot. We could have easily anchored in 60 feet, but we figured it would be easy to find a good anchorage further south somewhere.

Well, we ended up motorsailing all the way down to the town, 12 miles south. We did stop for lunch and a short swim on the tip of a sandbar coming out from an island, but it wouldn't have been a good overnight anchorage.

We kept looking for an anchorage that didn't have coral-studded sand, and had enough lee. But the angle of Likiep's eastern rim makes the islands line up with the wind, which was forecast to blow from the ESE for a couple of days. So there wasn't much protection. We did see one place that looked OK--at 09-55.47N / 169-12.05E. It wasn't great, though and the next island down looked better (it wasn't). We should have gone back there, but kept heading SE. The first decent-looking anchorage had some houses ashore, so we carried on to the main town.

We finally reached the Likiep anchorage, at the town, about 6pm, tired and cranky. Fortunately, it was a GREAT anchorage. A little closer to the town than we'd normally choose, but perfectly calm with no swell, and good holding in about 25 feet with a sand bottom (scattered coral heads). 09-49.54N / 169-18.29E

Passage recap: Point to point distance covered - 140nm at 129T. Tacking and navigating inside the lagoon, we covered 180nm over the bottom in 35 hours, 15 hours of it with the engine on.

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