Thursday, October 17, 2013

Turtle's Pace

We are slowly...very slowly, covering miles towards Kiribati. The winds are very light and from the direction we are trying to head. You can't make headway going straight into the wind – so we tack (go back and forth keeping the wind at enough of an angle to keep the sails filled). We have only gotten 180 miles closer to our destination in five full days of sailing (and a bit of motoring). However, we probably have covered well over 300 miles with all the tacks! At times when there is simply NO wind, we just drop all the sails and drift in the Pacific. When there is no wind and there is enough wave and swell to rock the boat, the sails bang around, make a racket and that is hard on the rigging and sails. So we drift and have drifted for hours on end – sometimes going backwards thanks to a current against us as well. Add to that mix – one day we had rain, squalls and clouds all day long. It was wet and we had to change sails regularly – putting more up or pulling some in to avoid the squalls. The problem with the squalls is that you never know which one will have the 30 plus knots of wind. So when we see a big black one ahead, we usually reef the sails down to avoid any surprises. We had a few with big winds – but most were simply rain makers.

So we continue on the trek and luckily have lots of food and books on board. It could take us awhile to get to Kiribati as the predictions continue for light winds. This morning we were are least granted wind from behind us so we can make headway towards the goal (though only at 2 knots). That did require rigging the pole to hold the sail out because of the roll and light winds...and of course that happened at 4 am! But when the wind starts, we try to take advantage after drifting the previous six hours.

Not much in the way of sea life to watch. No whales or turtles...not even many flying fish. We did have two pods of dolphins visit and the night sea has lots of phosphorescence.

That's the passage so far – and we expect more of the same over the next week or so before we arrive finally in Tarawa, For those of you who wonder why we don't motor – two reasons. We don't carry enough fuel for the whole way so we ration the fuel a third/third/third. That works out to 25 gallons (we burn about a gallon an hour and go on average 5 nautical miles per hour) for every 250 miles of this trip. The second reason is that fuel is very expensive out here – we paid about $8 US dollars a gallon – so that is more than $1 a mile. Time we have, money we don't!

Our last week in Tuvalu before we left for passage was quite fun and we promised an update. Our friends John and Jenny from the sailboat "Shark Face" arrived in Tuvalu so we enjoyed renting motor scooters for a day and exploring the entire island from one end to the other. It didn't take long! One end unfortunately is the dumping ground for the island's solid waste. It has heaps and heaps of trash loaded into what are called "borrow pits." These are the dug out coral areas used to make the runway and rebuild parts of the island during World War II. This left massive holes in the ground that used to be part of the island's structure. It is now being used as a dumping ground. It wasn't the pretty part of the island. Global warming is a big issue for these small Pacific Islands so they choose NOT to burn their garbage and add to the problem – so dumping is their answer. They do recycle some stuff – but not nearly enough.

The rest of the island is quite interesting and pretty. Because it is so narrow – from the road you could see the lagoon on one side and the Pacific on the other. We also got good pictures of us on the international airport runway on the scooters! We did stop for a nice swim and snorkel at the other end of the island. Of course, an ice cream stop was also required as was a lunch stop at the local "runway side" vans. It was a fun, but hot day being a biker gang. The bikes were $10 each for 24 hours – a good deal!

On Friday, we cleared out of Tuvalu for a Saturday morning departure. But before we did that, we made our way to the local "Korean Farm" for the Friday morning fresh produce sale. Fresh stuff is hard to get on an atoll - not much good soil and they are dependent on collecting rain water. And it is HOT. But there is this little oasis of a garden – boxes of growing vegetables mostly covered with shades. Lots of rainwater collection tanks are around as well. The key is to get to the Friday sale early(they start selling at 7:00am) – we arrived at 5:45 am and we were number 34 on the list. You sign in and they call your number to get what they have available on any given day. The higher you are on the list – the better choices you have. They also limit what each person can get (based on how many people are signed up and what they have that day). We scored a papaya, some cucumbers, lettuce and a handful (actually seven) small grape tomatoes and three small eggplant. It also was relatively cheap - $7.90 for the above. We hung around after most people went through and also got some extra cukes and lettuce for John and Jenny.

The other interesting thing we did was get to know some of the folks from the local meteorological office on the island. We met Nick, a New Zealand tech guy who comes up every so often to help fix their gear. We enjoyed a few meals with him and had him to the boat for sundowners. He also shared some good info on tech stuff with us. We would go to the met office to look at the ever changing weather models for our departure and trip. The other interesting thing we got to do(a few times) was watch the daily weather balloon get launched. It is filled with hydrogen and outfitted with a GPS, a radio transmitter and sensing equipment and sent off. It sends back data that is then used by met services all over the world. It was cool.

Before we left, we also spent some time with the tourism office and offered some insight into what is important to cruising boats and how to attract more. It is a great little island, where - as their brochure says - "leave your cares behind an put your happiness on!" They only get 1000 visitors a year and only 100 are tourists! The boaters this year have made up at least 20% of that number. We hope our input helps them and other cruising boats following in our wake.

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