Location: 19°10.971S’ 169°53.712W’
Date: July 27, 2015
Day 9 at sea.
Land Ho! Geeze, I wasn’t this excited to make landfall even after our 23-day passage to the Marquesas. We had WAY more helps steering on that one. This was a pretty rough passage on us; hand steering required us to be out in the wind and spray, and actively steering is surprisingly taxing. We’d do three or four hour shifts and then fall in exhausted heaps into the berth while the other changed from PJ’s into salty deck clothes to take over, and find a good podcast to keep awake and focused on the compass. We wore scopolamine patches and ate little. Even when exhausted, trying to sleep with the boat’s ridiculous motion was difficult.
The boat motion, owing to her cat-like nature, was sometimes fluid and sometimes comically awkward. At times when we got crossing wave trains she seemed to almost crawl like an animal with tethered limbs, a flying squirrel or sea lion. Each corner of the boat pitched up at a different time, threatening to buck the skipper off the helm were we not attached. Then we’d get a long period, large swell from directly aft and Tayrona would ride that thing like a school bus down a sledding hill. We’d make 5 knots going uphill, then 11 knots going downhill. Very exciting, and easier than the quadruped shuffle until the swell sets changed again for the worse, back and forth.
On occasion the stars would come out and we could steer a course using them. It’s much easier if you can aim for something on the horizon. For the most part we would cower under the Bimini and side covers following the compass. My eyes hurt after a few days of it. It’s also COLD! Sitting still in sixty degrees with 25 knots of wind for four hours made us layer up with everything we had aboard. Sissies…
Watches blurred together, but this morning the sky cleared, though the wind and seas didn’t abate, and then there on the horizon was Niue. Swells slammed into the southern craggy coast, erupting in huge plumes of spray. Niue, also called The Rock of Polynesia, is 10 miles in diameter and the world’s largest coral island. Just offshore 1/4 mile the sea is 6000 feet deep, a stone throw from shore it’s 100 feet deep, then one or two paces from the cliff the reef is ankle deep. It’s like a skyscraper with the top floor sticking out of the water.
We sailed downwind, wing-wing past the coral cliffs heading north to the western bay near the ‘town’ of Alofi. Sailing wing-wing is annoying; one sail is always flagging, you have to be really attentive to the whole thing. I’m not sure why I waited until salvation was in sight, but I’m blaming the lack of sleep for my intricately woven string of blasphemies and oaths that erupted out of me like lurid confetti out of a party popper. I must have ranted and raved for a good half-hour about the idiocy of the whole idea of sailing. Eventually the tide of explicatives ebbed and we moored just off Alofi in 100 feet of calm, flat water.
We took hot showers aboard, made real food, and cleaned the boat up. There was so much salt encrusting everything it felt like the decks had carpeting. The sun was setting low in the west, throwing orange hues, when we heard a mighty “PHHHHHHHHHT” from right next to the boat. We scampered over to the starboard rail in time to see the massive black rolling back of a humpback whale not ten feet from our transom. They were bigger than the boat and loitered around blowing plumes of spray (and snot, I presume) into the air; the orange sunset reflected off their backs. I’m sure it was the sea gods telling me to shut my big yapper and quit griping. I quickly retracted my hastily spoken words and Miranda decided to stay aboard too. Welcome to Niue.