Saturday, June 15, 2013

Unexpected course: Sailing from Samoa to Iles Wallis

June 16, 2013
Position 13°45.57'S 174°07.92'W
Underway for Iles Wallis

Yesterday morning we made a early departure from Apia, Samoa heading for Fiji or so we thought.

We encountered some rough waters while sailing between the Samoan islands of Savai'i and Upolu through Apolima strait where current strongly opposed tidal flow. We recommend that other sailors consult tide tables and local fishermen about the appropriate time to transit Apolima strait to avoid the rough confused seas. At one point we slowed the boat to only 2 knots to avoid launching off the crazy steep confused seas that extended seaward nearly 10nm from the strait. Once clear of the shallow tormented waters the desired course to Fiji was quite uncomfortable with strong SE winds and swell almost on the beam and stronger winds in the forecast. There is no substitute for going where the wind blows, so we altered course 40 degrees to starboard to get the swell astern which resulted in a much more comfortable motion aboard. Luckily, the new course had us aimed at Iles Wallis a French atoll some 225 nm distant. I launched the smallest of our spinnakers as boiling black squall clouds blotted out the horizon and soon engulfed s/v LightSpeed in a tropical deluge and gusty winds. It was good to be on a comfortable heading, even it meant a radical change in plans and a unexpected destination.

You've got to ask why in the heck would we leave port with unfavorable weather? Especially, when I write so much about our regular study of weather GRIBS and WW3 wave models. The short answer is the weather changed on us. It all looked good up until the morning of our planned departure, then the GRIB files showed stronger winds and a less favorable wind angle. At this point we were really committed to leaving having already checked out of the country with Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain the day BEFORE. If we stayed through the weekend we'd be breaking the rules badly and likely be confronted with the need to check back in and then out again a full day affair. So, hoping for the best we decided to set sail and see how reality compared to the GRIB wind model. The GRIB file was spot on, so utilizing our flexible time table we changed course and are making the best of the weather by going with the flow. Visiting a totally new island will be fun considering many of our recent stops have been our second or third visit.

That's it for now.

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