Voyage 12

American Samoa to Tonga
November 1-5, 2017

Day 1 – Wednesday, November 1, 2017

americansamoa-tongatnI have been enjoying my visit to American Samoa ever since last Friday.  Here in Pago Pago, I’ve been able to provision my boat for my next voyage, which will be to Tonga.

I have been watching the weather ever since my arrival.  Today, the wind forecast showed a band of calm air forming south of American Samoa.  That calm area is expected to last for a couple of days before the wind will pick up again.  My choice was to leave this afternoon and try to get far enough south to avoid the area of no wind, or stay put until the weekend.  I decided to leave today.

At 11:45 AM, I raised the anchor, set the sails, and headed out of Pago Pago Harbor.  As soon as I was clear of the harbor, I turned southwest and sailed along the southern coast of American Samoa.  The winds were 7-8 knots out of the northwest.  I was very close to sailing a starboard beam reach, which was giving me a speed of a little over 6 knots.  The sea was mostly calm.

As I plotted my course for my first waypoint, the Vava’u Islands, north of Tonga, I noted that I would be crossing the International Date Line about 40 nm southwest of American Samoa.  So, I will have started this voyage on Wednesday, but will be going to bed on Thursday night, since I will gain a day when I cross the line.

I reached a point where I was about 25 nm from American Samoa and I checked the wind forecast again to determine if I was still on the best course.  The wind is forecast nearly reverse direction in the next 6 hours, given my present course.  I decided to turn more to the west, hoping to avoid a situation where I have a head wind coming from my intended direction of sail.  Mostly, I will just need to watch the wind direction closely for the next couple of days.

Day 2 – Thursday, November 2, 2017

The new day heading means that I crossed the International Date Line.  I calculated that I made the 1-day leap at about 5:15 PM this evening.  Now I’m 20 hours ahead of the west coast of the U.S. instead of being 4 hours behind.

11/02/2017 0447 UTC – 14º 43.92′ S 171º 4.06′ W

I can’t believe how calm the sea is.  The wind speed continues at about 7-8 knots and my boat speed is still a little over 6 knots.  I am expecting both speeds to decrease by morning.  I continued to enjoy a beautiful sunset while sitting at the helm.  After the sun set, I checked the auto-pilot and changed the setting to follow the wind.  The wind direction had strayed west far enough to affect my speed.  I’m probably going to be up several times during the night, checking on the wind direction.

I awoke at about 11:00 PM and got up to check the helm.  The wind was steady and I was still on course.  I knew it was only a matter of time before the wind would die down and shift from another direction.

Day 3 – Friday, November 3, 2017

I awoke again at a little after 3:00 AM.  My boat had changed direction by about 180º and the wind speed was now barely 3 knots.  I turned off the auto-pilot and turned back around to the west where I was on a port tack.  The wind was currently coming out of the south, but I expected that, in the next 12 hours or so, it would swing around to come from the east.  At that time, I could continue my voyage to the southwest.  In the meantime, my boat speed was down to about 2 knots and I would have to wait out this calm patch.

After reviewing the weather forecast at about 4:00 AM, I decided to swing the boat around onto the starboard tack and head southeast.  It looks as though the winds will be favorable sooner to the east of me.  The wind speed is now below 3 knots, but my current speed is 2.8 knots.  The sea surface looks more like a lake right now than it does the ocean.

11/02/2017 1620 UTC – 15º 27′ S 171º 23.49′ W

Slow going.  I took my position report at 5:20 AM.  I’ve traveled a mere 47 nm in the past 12 hours.  Thankfully, the whole trip should not be this slow.  By tomorrow, I should have the trade winds back again.

Today was one of the calmest days I’ve had yet during my voyages.  Most of the day, the wind speed was 2-5 knots and the wind direction was all over the compass.  A lot of the time had the wind coming directly from Tonga, which meant I had to sail close-hauled on both port and starboard tacks.

By about 5:00 PM, the wind started to swing around counter-clockwise.  At around 6:00 PM, the wind settled to coming from the southeast and the wind speed started to increase.

11/03/2017 0456 UTC – 16º 7.14′ S 171º 34.29′ W

It was a slow day indeed.  After plotting my evening position report, the result was that I had traveled 42 nm since this morning.  With the wind speed returning, I should be able to start making good progress toward the Vava’u Islands, which is my first waypoint for this voyage.

At 7:20 PM, I felt pretty much exhausted.  The constantly changing wind direction and speed was a challenge, but I was now solidly into the trade winds.  The wind speed was 10-15 knots and my boat speed was approaching 7-1/2 knots.  Tonight would not be as smooth as last night, but I’m sure I will probably travel as far in the next 12 hours as I did in the past 24 hours.  I set the auto-pilot to follow my course track and I headed below for sleep

Day 4 – Saturday, November 4, 2017

I was up at about 5:00 AM.  The sea was more rough this morning and the wind had increased to 15-20 knots.  My boat speed was up to 8 knots.

11/03/2017 1629 UTC – 17º 14.47′ S 172º 37.83′ W

According to my position report, I traveled over 90 nm overnight.  That was more than twice the distance I traveled all day yesterday.  I expect it to be rougher today, but I will be making better progress toward Tonga.

I had a great day of sailing.  My speed over ground was consistently 8-9 knots.  The sea was a bit rough, but not bad.  At around 5:00 PM, I could make out Vava’u Island.  Unfortunately, it will be dark by the time I get to Vava’u, so I probably won’t see much as I sail past.

11/04/2017 0433 UTC – 18º 24.09′ S 173º 52.39′ W

I sailed past Vava’u Island at about 8:00 PM.  Once I was nearly past the island group, I turned to port and headed for the next waypoint, which is Tofua.  The GPS reported that I would be there in about 8 hours.  It was time to turn in for the night.

Day 5 – Sunday, November 5, 2017

Since Tonga started observing daylight saving time a couple of years ago, I lost an hour overnight.  I was up at 5:30 AM, which would have been 4:30 AM yesterday.  I was about 2 hours from Tofua.  At least it would be daylight when I passed that waypoint.

At around 6:00 AM, I spotted the island of Kao, which is just north of Tofua.  Kao is taller than Tofua.  I imagine Tofua was taller eons ago, but Tofua is just a caldera now.

11/04/2016 1635 UTC – 19º 40.22′ S 174º 54.95′ W

At about 11:45 AM, I made a close pass of Nomuka Island.  I figured that the island didn’t have much elevation because, at 2 nm west of the island, I couldn’t see anything.  I was passing through a reef at this point and I didn’t want to sail any closer because of the risk of shallow water.  Once I was past the shallow area, I turned more southwest to head to my next waypoint, which is an opening in the reef northwest of Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu.  Nuku’alofa is the capital city of Tonga and it should be a good place for me to rest and to provision for my upcoming long crossing to New Zealand.

At around 4:00 PM, the wind speed decreased and so did my boat speed.  I was now traveling under 7 knots.  It will take me longer to get to Nuku’alofa that I originally calculated.  I will be arriving after dark.

I passed a milestone within the past few hours.  I surpassed 10,000 nm on my voyages since I left Washington State in July.  Now I can shoot for 20,000.

11/05/2017 0410 UTC – 20º 56.57′ S 175º 11.8′ W

At about 6:45 PM, I crossed the reef north-northwest of Nuku’alofa.  I could see the mountain tops of Tongatapu.  I was only 7 nm from my anchorage.

At 7:45 PM, I passed the marker for the Ualanga Uta Reef.  I was 1 nm north of Nuku’alofa.  The sun was still up, but it was getting to be dusk.  At 7:54 PM, I reached a point offshore, a short distance east of the center of Nuku’alofa.  I dropped the sails and set the anchor.  I welcomed myself to Tonga as I watched the sun set over the west side of Tongatapu.  I will get a good night’s sleep at anchor tonight and head ashore in the morning.  During the next few days, I will start planning my crossing to New Zealand.

11/05/2017 0554 UTC – 21º 8.15′ S 175º 11.36′ W