Voyage 11

Cook Islands to
American Samoa
October 21-27, 2017

Day 1 – Saturday, October 21, 2017

rarotonga-samoatnI have been at Avatiu Harbor on Rarotonga since last Monday.  I have enjoyed my stay, but it is time to move on to my next destination, which will be Pago Pago on American Samoa.  American Samoa is a 750 nm sail to the northwest.  I expect this crossing will take 4-5 days.

I had considered leaving for American Samoa this morning.  Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated.  Two days after I arrived here, a low pressure system developed south of Rarotonga and we had winds blowing out of the north around 30 knots.  Today, the wind is much lighter, around 6 knots, but it is continuing to blow directly out of the north.  The trade winds are normally easterly and that is what I need in order to sail toward American Samoa.

The weather forecast says that the winds will shift around 2:00 PM this afternoon, coming from the northwest.  From 2:00 PM on, the wind direction should continue moving counter-clockwise, reaching south-southeast by about 8:00 PM this evening.  I have my provisions on board and I am ready to go.  All that is left is to watch the winds and be prepared to set sail once the winds move south.

At a little before 7:00 PM, the wind had shifted to the southeast, but was barely 6 knots.  I decided to raise the anchor and set the sails.  I headed slowly out of Avatiu Harbor and then turned northwest toward open ocean.  The forecast is for stronger winds in a few hours, so sailing slowly now is not a problem.

Once I was a few miles north of Rarotonga, I set the auto-pilot to follow course 302º and then I headed below for bed.  With the light winds and calm seas, I expected a peaceful sleep tonight.

Day 2 – Sunday, October 22, 2017

I awoke at a little before 5:00 AM.  The wind had increased overnight, although not by much.  The wind was 10-15 knots and was coming from directly astern.  That was giving me a speed of a little less than 6 knots.  The seas were still fairly calm.  I was looking forward to a good day of sailing.

My morning position report at 7:05 AM showed that I was 70 nm northwest of Rarotonga.  That was a good distance considering how light the winds were last night.

1705 UTC – 20º 33.87′ S 160º 51.21′ W

At about 8:00 AM, I was sitting at the helm, checking out the navigation chart when I noticed Palmerston Atoll, which is about 195 nm northwest of me.  It is slightly north of my current course track.  I decided to head for Palmerston because it would be a nice diversion to break up the long crossing.  Sailing about 15º to starboard would also give me a better wind angle on the sails.

As the day wore on, the wind increased a bit and I started to see some whitecaps.  For the most part, the sea continued to be calm.  My Inmarsat was working well and I got to watch the whole Seahawks/Giants game on TV.  While the day began with a mostly cloudy sky, by late afternoon, most all of the clouds had moved to the northeast and it was now mostly clear.

0349 UTC – 19º 46.51′ S 161º 37.65′ W

At 5:49 PM, my position report indicated that I had traveled 65 nm since this morning’s report.  It was not a fast day, but a very enjoyable day just the same.  During the breaks in the football game today, I looked at the navigation chart in the area closer to American Samoa.  There are a couple of islands that are directly east of the island of American Samoa, which I decided were worthy of a sail-by.  I adjusted my course track so that, after Palmerston, I would sail to the Manu’a Islands, and then on to American Samoa.

Day 3 – Monday, October 23, 2017

I slept a little longer than usual this morning.  The cats were restless and they had me up early, so I was finally up at about 6:30 AM.  The sea was a bit rougher this morning and my speed was up to 7 knots at times.  The wind was now blowing 15-20 knots, it was mostly cloudy and about 78ºF.

1705 UTC – 18º 38.55′ S 162º 40.35′ W

The weather forecast for the next few days is good.  The wind is forecast to strengthen some around mid-day, then it will get lighter the rest of the week.  The GPS reported that I would be at Palmerston Atoll around 2:00 PM this afternoon.  Time for breakfast.

At 10:30 AM, the GPS said I was only 20 nm from Palmerston.  My speed was up over 7 knots at times, which accounted for an improved ETA to Palmerston.  It looks like I should spot Palmerston in a little under 3 hours.

At 1:30 PM, I made my closest approach to the south side of Palmerston Atoll.  The reef around Palmerston, at least on the south side, looked quite treacherous.  Low points in the waves revealed parts of the reef that were not always visible because of the water.

It was nice to see some land after a couple of days at sea.  I steered more to port and headed for the Manu’a Island Group.  The GPS says it’ll take a little more than 2 days to reach there.  Once I am at Manu’a, I will have a short sail to Pago Pago.

0348 UTC – 17º 48.22′ S 163º 34.3′ W

It is interesting how, the farther west I go in a time zone, the later the sun sets and rises.  At nearly 6:00 PM, the sun still has a way to go to the horizon.  At some point during the next couple of days, I should cross another time zone, where my time will be 4 hours behind the west coast instead of the current 3 hours.  During the past 24 hours, I have traveled 163 nm.  Overnight tonight, I should pass the halfway point in this journey.

I enjoyed a beautiful sunset this evening.  After verifying that the auto-pilot was on course, I headed below for what I expected would be another peaceful night at sea.

Day 4 – Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today, I continued to sail toward the Manu’a Islands.  I had an all-day assignment IRL, so I was only able to check on my progress in the evening.  At about 6:45 PM, I had traveled about 160 nm during the past 24 hours.  It was a good pace, considering the fact that I couldn’t watch my sailing much today.

0448 UTC – 16º 14.62′ S 165º 47.86′ W

Day 5 – Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I was awake at a little before 5:00 AM.  The wind had calmed down to below 15 knots, so my speed was right around 6 knots.  The sea is much calmer as well.  The skies were clear, so the stars were amazing.  The forecast is for the winds to continue at 10-15 knots all the way to Pago Pago.  The temperature was quite warm at 80ºF.

It was an easy day of sailing.  The wind speed decreased even more by afternoon.  The whitecaps were gone and the wind was barely 10 knots.  My speed slowed significantly and I was traveling mostly 5-6 knots.  Rose Atoll was not far off, but I expected I would be passing it in the dark, so it was not likely I would see much.

0405 UTC – 14º 50.46′ S 167º 46.92′ W

At about 7:00 PM, I headed below.  I was about 4 hours from Rose Atoll and would be back at the helm around 10:30 PM for the pass.

I was back at the helm at 9:30 PM.  My speed was around 5.5 knots and the winds were still light.  Sometime during the evening, I passed into another time zone, so I was now 4 hours behind the west coast of the U.S.  At 10:05 PM, I reached the southern edge of Rose Atoll and turned more west toward American Samoa.  The rest of the voyage would be mostly sailing west.  My next landfall would be around noon tomorrow, when I expected to reach the Manu’a Islands.  I set the helm back on auto-pilot and turned in for the night.

Day 6 – Thursday, October 26, 2017

I was up at 5:00 AM and found that the weather had not changed much.  My speed was still about 5.5 to 6 knots.  The GPS reported that I should arrive at the island of Ta’u at around 1:00 PM.

1602 UTC – 14º 26.33′ S 168º 45.91′ W

I reflected back on the start of this voyage and remembered how I had estimated my time to cross to American Samoa at 4-5 days.  Here I was on day 6 and I was still more than a day from arriving at Pago Pago.  It pays to not have a schedule when sailing.

At 12:40 PM, I passed Ta’u.  Unfortunately, my work IRL kept me from seeing the pass.  Thankfully, the auto-pilot followed the course track and turned toward American Samoa.  The GPS reported that I would be at Pago Pago in about 12 hours.

At about 4:30 PM, it occurred to me that I would be arriving at Pago Pago around mid-night.  I decided I would prefer to arrive at the harbor at Pago Pago during daylight.  I decided to sail back toward the Manu’a Islands and perhaps anchor overnight.  That way, I would be able to arrive at Pago Pago in daylight.  I turned northeast and headed for the islands of Ofu and Olosega, which are a short distance northwest of Ta’u.

0452 UTC – 14º 7.48′ S 169º 41.76′ W

I had to sail a bit north of Ofu and then tack back southeast because of the direction of the wind.  I reached a good place to anchor at about 6:15 PM.  I’ll stay here for about 8 hours and then I’ll continue on to Pago Pago

Day 7 – Friday, October 27, 2017

I had a restful sleep while I was anchored at Ofu.  At 3:45 AM, I raised the anchor, set the sails, and turned toward Pago Pago.  The GPS reports I’ll be there in about 8 hours.

At 11:25 AM, I reached the southeast edge of American Samoa when I passed the small island of Aunu’u.  I continued sailing along the south side of American Samoa, headed for the entrance to Pago Pago Harbor.  I was excited to arrive at a new port.  The weather was beautiful, clear skies, with a temperature of about 82ºF.

At 12:42 PM, I reached the western portion of  Pago Pago Harbor and dropped anchor.  Time to enjoy a cocktail, in celebration of another successful voyage.  During my stay at American Samoa, I will start planning my next voyage.  I haven’t yet decided where to go, but I am sure it will take me farther west.

2342 UTC – 14º 16.38′ S 170º 41.32′ W