Thursday, 4 July 2013
From Force 1 to Force 9 and back again
We are regularly reminded that 'normal' weather conditions (from a European perspective) don't apply out here in the Pacific. Our experience of torrential rain and flash floods in Hiva Oa was one example but today we've experienced a frankly rather scary, prolonged wind event which transformed last evening's tranquil anchorage into a white-frothed maelstrom. (Random fact No 27, incidentally, is that Graham once sailed through Maelstrom in the Lofoten Islands of Norway - it has an impressive tidal whirlpool and gives its name to sea conditions you'd rather not experience).
So this morning, after a leisurely breakfast and a Skype call to Di's sister, we inflated the dinghy and were about to go ashore to the supermarket. However an intense black cloud to windward made us wait, thankfully, and ten minutes later the wind had increased to over 30 knots (Force 8) and all the boats were straining at their anchors or mooring buoys. It's a pretty unpleasant situation in a crowded anchorage as you worry about (a) whether your anchor will hold and (b) whether the anchors of the boats to windward of you will hold.
Unfortunately such was the speed of the transition from calm to (unforecasted) gale that several boats had their crews already ashore and two empty yachts either side of us dragged their anchors and slid past us. The VHF radio was suddenly alive with warnings and three people climbed aboard Annaconda and managed to let out more anchor chain to stop her moving further whilst Sierra Echo stopped of her own volition when her anchor snagged something on the seabed. Another yacht about a mile away was less fortunate when she broke free of her mooring and ended up on the rocks and a couple of other boats saw their furled headsails break free to be whipped into shreds by the wind.
As the gale increased (we saw a gust of 42 knots on Maunie) the swell outside the reef began to break heavily on it and inside the reef the wind-driven waves grew to nearly one metre in height, making life aboard very uncomfortable.
Finally, after about 7 hours of this misery, the wind began to drop and the local canoe teams came out for heavy weather practice (we did say they take their sport seriously!). Now, as dusk falls, the wind has dropped to less than 3 knots and once again the anchorage is calm.
So it's been a bit of a day for us but at least Maunie has remained firmly anchored and we are undamaged. We've felt very trapped aboard but have been reasonably productive; Dianne has been adding information on treating bites and stings from 'sea critters' to our medical files and Graham managed a few maintenance jobs and, unfortunately, discovered an oil leak on the generator which will probably need professional help if we can track down a local engineer and spares... Never a dull moment on Maunie!