Mischief - Up to Mischief Log 58 Further adventures of S/Y Mischief through the eyes and ears of Chas Baynes

Saturday, 7th July 2018 - Start leg 6 Musket Cove to Tanna, Vanuatu

Lots of goodbye's to lots of friends on the dock and goodbye to the Fiji Islands, Vanuatu here we come 450 miles to the west south west. Certainly, the Fiji Islands have been very special but Tanna in Vanuatu has its own appeal with its constantly active volcano and its particularly friendly people.

At 9.30 am we pulled up our anchor and slipped our shore lines and we were off to the starting area and the slightly delayed 10.30 start. Everyone seemed perfectly able to got over the bar but the marina manager was letting boats off in order of keel depth to make sure there were no issues. It was a beautiful morning that's for sure with a 17 knot breeze blowing from the SE. All boats had precautionary reefs set.

The start line was a bit tight as was between two reefs and the exit to the inner reef around Musket Cove was narrower still, especially when we had four boats abreast trying to get through at the same time, just like a chicane, but good order and sense ruled the day and everyone was given ample space. But approaching the outer reef into open ocean the wind was 25 knots + with big seas so the boats were being knocked about a bit. We had rigged the new A5 spinnaker but soon decided to keep it in the bag when we saw these conditions! In fact I went on deck and put it away receiving a good soaking in the process.

We were all milling about during the starting sequence when Stefano of Rally Control came over the radio offering a special prize for the first boat to cross the line with a coloured downwind sail flying. Bones from Emily Morgan came straight back saying that any boat flying a spinnaker in these windy conditions in such a tight passageway with all these other boats would be a bloody idiot, to which there was a general cheer from all the boats, certainly in our vicinity!! The thought of the consequences of a broach within the reefs do not bear thinking about. Smoke and Roses though did make an effort and flew a coloured blanket from the rail; Dave suggested we set a pair of Wendy's knickers (her "ten-peggers") as a spinnaker excepting we had no way to reef them down!

The wind was definitely increasing well beyond that in the forecast and we were soon experiencing 30+ knots and big quartering seas which were alarming Wendy as the boat was broaching heavily at times, giving Dave a proper soaking sat as he was in the leeward steering position - at one point he was semi submerged, and I was surprised his life jacket didn't auto-inflate! It was very fast and exciting sailing though.

The really uncomfortable seas continued well into the evening and night. It was a good job I had pre-prepared a few meals before we left as cooking in these conditions would have been a bit more of a challenge than usual, especially as I was feeling a bit queasy spending too long down below; it will take a little while to get used to the motion again after a period of 'shore' time.

It was also quite cold in the wind as the sun went down and I went and found my foulie trousers to wear at night not just because I was getting the occasional wave over the boat - I was freezing!

Oh, by the way, should you be friends of Kurt and Carole of Ice Bear, I understand you may be following these blogs and as they don't write their own they say "Hi".

Sunday, 8th July 2018 - En route to Tanna, Vanuatu Islands

The wind was all over the place last night blowing around 22 knots and coming around more into the east, making it into a deep downwind leg. Certainly, on my 2400 - 0300 shift it blew between 27 and 31 knots for an hour solid requiring constant attention to prevent an unplanned gybe. The boat was unbalanced in the big seas as although we knew we needed the genoa to be boomed out we decided to wait 'til light before we went on deck. We had boats all over the place too and spent a couple of hours uncomfortably close to Adrienne as it is a bit of a one-track course.

1200 position: 18 Degs 50.1' S 173 degs 59.7 E C: 242 W: 21 Knts E Spd: 7.5 knts DTR: 258 nm

Come lunchtime we caught a fish!! First one in ages, a smallish tuna that seemed to be lunch sorted until it was filleted and being of the red meat variety it was not such good eating raw as sashimi, so we have put it in the freezer for another day. It certainly added a bit of excitement to the day which otherwise was bright and sunny with glorious white capped, deep blue seas and plenty of wind. Our noon/noon mileage was hoped to break the magic 200 mile barrier but because the waves were on the beam a lot we were not really getting much by way of surf mileage and so it registered as 187 miles - not bad, but given the speed we had been achieving all day it was a little disappointing! Certainly, the wind was constant for a change, proper trade wind sailing, unlike last night which required continual helm adjustments -today it was just set on 242 and go! Let's hope it continues into the night…….

2400 position: 19 degs 25.5' S 172 degs 44.4 E W: 15 knots ENE DR: 277 nm DTR: 183 nm C: 246

The wind has definitely been dropping with more and more north in it so we are unable to make a direct course to destination as it is dead downwind. The sea state has flattened off as well so with the genoa now boomed out and one reef in the main it is at last quite comfortable sailing.

Monday, 9th July 2018 - En route Tanna, Vanuatu islands

The wind was reducing but kept coming back then switching off again. I am not sure what is worse, having too much wind or too little as with the latter the sails just slat and bang about. We have the occasional wind shift though that tantillisingly points the boat in the direction we want to go for ten minutes then switches back again. As we can't go direct it is adding to the overall mileage for the leg and whereas we were initially predicting being in by early Tuesday 10th, it now looks like being much later in the day, but anything can happen as we have seen previously.

In fact, having just written that the wind shifted again, but this time by 45 degrees to the north - due north effectively. It coincided with Wendy and my 3 - 6 am watch which I have mentioned before as being the real graveyard slot but today it seemed to flash past. I spent the first hour or so writing up this blog as it was relatively calm on deck, then another 20 minutes making a cup of coffee, and a further while talking with Wendy about triathlon training plans (of all things), when the wind shift came at around 5 am. We needed to gybe and so got Dave out of bed to help, completed the gybe and are now sailing directly to Tanna at 7 - 8 knots on a beam reach on starboard tack, due west! The ETA now says early Tuesday morning, but I am sure it will change again.

However, true to form it didn't last too long - it certainly was never forecast to come in from the north so perhaps not unsurprising, and after 6 am it dropped again completely forcing us to put the engine on for a couple of hours until it eventually swung back to the SE and filled in at 10 knots needing another gybe, but at least we are headed roughly towards our destination.

So, bacon sandwiches were called for, as was the spinnaker so we have been doing about 6 - 7 knots all day in glorious sunshine and 10 - 15 knots of breeze. The initial clouds this morning soon burnt off and the skies have been clear all day. We even had a couple of bites on the fishing line, but both were very small tuna and we put them back.

We have the spaghetti bolognaise for tea which I made before we left, although there was no need as it is really calm here today. We may well be flying the spinnaker through the night tonight as it looks set fair but we will take a hard look at the weather before it goes dark as this spinnaker is a beast in its size and is all hands on deck to get it down should the wind get up. We'll see, we may even put up the new smaller one for its inaugural outing but our course may be too deep downwind for it. I shall let you know - watch this space.