After a very wet day in the weather trough lying south of Fiji yesterday we finally saw the sun as it set and had a great night's sailing. It was really pretty horrible – dense grey cloud with heavy rain and wind squalls that required frequent changes of sail reefs. Once again we patted ourselves on the backs for our choice of boat; Maunie took it all in her stride and we were able to shelter in the pilothouse, comfy and dry, rather than having to be up in the cockpit. Today is a complete contrast - bright and sunny – se we really do feel as though we've emerged from a very damp and dismal tunnel and are blinking in the bright light.
For those interested in the details our update at 00.00UTC Sunday 26th October is as follows:
Position: 21 degrees 37 mins south, 176 degrees, 07 mins east
Wind: South-Easterly 12-15 knots
Boat: 5.9 knots SOG at 207 degrees true, with a 0.2 adverse current
(reducing, it was about .6 knots adverse at daybreak)
Sea: 1m south-easterly swell
Cloud cover: 5% Cumulus to our south and east, sunshine and blue skies
Mileage covered in past 24 hours: 142nm
This part of the ocean is pretty deserted so once we left the shipping routes into Suva (we saw the lights off one tanker) we weren't expecting to see any other boats. However, last night Graham had a slightly eerie experience on his watch as our route took us within a couple of miles of a seamount – the depth rises from 2000 metres to around 30 metres and, from what happened, we assume it's a good fishing spot. Anyway, Graham spotted some bright lights away to our port, roughly at the position of the shallows and then passed a bright white strobe light, which we assume to be a marker for a line or net, close to starboard. The bright lights turned and headed towards us and a searchlight illuminated Maunie's sails. A few seconds later our radar alarm sounded (it detects if we are being 'swept' by another vessel's radar so is a good early-warning in empty bits of ocean that there's someone else around) so the other vessel had obviously just switched his radar on.
Graham checked our radar and saw the 'blip' of the other boat turn and then follow us, keeping just about 3 miles astern of us for about half an hour. Eventually they got bored and fell away but it was mildly unnerving to be followed like that!
This morning we've received a weather update from our router Bob McDavitt who predicts that we'll sail into a high pressure system tomorrow afternoon then have to motor in light winds for a couple of days before hitching a ride on the favourable NW winds on the west side of the high. All as hoped for but we always knew that we'd have to contend with a weather front north of NZ and that should meet us on Thursday morning – hopefully the rain and squalls in it will be short-lived and then we should get westerlies which should be fine for the final 2-3 days down to Opua. Some serious finger crossing here as friends on Mystic Moon had a very unpleasant weather front to cross yesterday and were in the rough stuff for 18 hours.