Setting moon below the clouds of an early morning departure. Glassed off water farewells us, sky looks much better than yesterday. But at 2 a.m. the rain bucketed down, must’ve been a passing squall, with wind across the deck of 25 knots plus for about half an hour. Just to let us know there’s still some weather about.
We cross fingers as we skirt the reef guarding the entrance. A hundred or more metres off our starboard bow a big marlin tail walks across the water, leaving us behind as he falls back into his element. I’m not quick enough to get a pic of this fitting farewell.
We swing to port to run down the western side of Rendova Island, leaving Kolambangara off astern to starboard. Kolambangara, part of the scene of the naval battle in “Payback.”
Blue sky above, but the horizon not promising, we sail fast in the protected lee of Rendova.
Drumbeat slips along in light winds under full main and heads’l.
Instruments show 7.3 knots wind speed 8.6 knots boat speed. We continue like this, sailing faster than the wind, which is coming from just ahead of our port beam, slowly strengthening.
Now we’re parting company with the southern end of Rendova, 8 miles to port, lifting to the ocean swell. The sea is still relatively calm, nice fast sailing.
Soon conditions deteriorate.
We reduce the main to the third reef, and small heads’l as the wind quickly picks up – 25 knots, then 30, then 35 knots, worsening While still daylight we take the decision to run from the storms. This means instead of heading south west to Gladstone, we go northwest towards PNG. It’s a wild trip for many hours until we get behind the limited shelter of a 30 mile long reef, Pocklington Ridge. By now a combination of distance between us and the storms and the reef shelter made conditions easier.
Well after midnight we reach the northwestern end of the reef, about 80 miles from the Louisiades, and gingerly turn again to the south west. The reef drops away to the Pocklington Trough, some 3000 metres deep. Serious water.
Daylight sees us in much calmer conditions, now heading for Mackay.