We left Auitaki last week and made an easy two day passage to Palmerston Atoll, where we enjoyed the hospitality of the Marsters family for a few days. They are a very interesting bunch- more on that soon.
Departing Palmerston we continued west towards Beveridge Reef. The first day was easy down wind sailing. Things started to get interesting the 2nd morning out as the winds clocked from east to south then southwest, putting the wind and swells almost directly on our intended route. We saw some strange conflicting weather forecasts before departing with two possible outcomes. The first was light breeze that would make the trip a boring motor boat ride. The second was moderate to heavy conditions right on the nose. Nothing dangerous, just uncomfortable.
Pretty soon we saw 25-30 knots of wind with 10-12 foot seas making for a very uncomfortable ride. We reefed down the jib, mizzen, and main to keep the speed under control and the ride as comfortable as possible. We were easily going 6 knots and touching 8-9 knots in the larger gusts. Every once in a while the seas and boat speed would conspire to launch Delos from one wave to the next. Imagine the bow of the boat breaking through a cresting wave, only to find nothing on the other side but the trough of the wave. As gravity takes over the bow drops down until it meets the water again with a loud SLAM. Delos is a moderately heavy boat, weighing about 28 tons so imagine the amount of force involved in that much weight falling from a cresting wave to the trough, sending spray out from under the boat in 50 feet each direction. The entire bow section where Brady normally sleeps was uninhabitable- more like an anti-gravity chamber than a berth. Boys and girls alike recognized the need for “When at sea sit to pea.” Every once in a while the period of the waves would be spaced so that when Delos launched from one wave instead of finding the trough she would find the crest of another smaller wave and land on that instead, almost like some deranged moto-cross rider miscalculating a double jump and not clearing it. This resulted in a loud bone jarring CRASH that made the boat shudder from bow to stern. Sleeping and preparing a real meal were nearly impossible. We tried different variations of sail trim and reefing to improve the ride. If we took in any more sail we went too slow to make any progress so we lived with it knowing that we only had another 140 NM to go. It helped to commiserate with our buddy boats Imagine and Jackster who left Palmerston at the same time and were in VHF range. We later found out that Jackster had a small tragedy due to the pounding. They lost 17 beers that exploded in their bilge.
We weren’t sure if the Beveridge Reef anchorage would be tenable when we got close and our spirits dropped. We really wanted a place to rest, get a hot shower and eat something other than microwaved ravioli. The huge waves were crashing along the side of the reef sending cascades of water dozens of feet into the air. There is no land here, only the ancient remains of an island atoll that’s long since sunk leaving only the trace of a fringing reef behind. It’s unlike any other landfall we’ve ever made because it’s not really a landfall. It’s better described as a shallow, sandy, reef fringed anchorage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We made our way through the wide and deep reef passage to find calm waters with only a slight wind chop even though there were huge seas on the outside. We found good anchorage in about 30 feet of beautiful blue water with a sandy bottom. There were no other boats here when we arrived so we did the preliminary scoping for Imagine and Jackster, advising them to come enjoy the protected waters. The next morning two more boats joined us after asking how the anchorage was over VHF. They were seeking refuge after their 4 day passage from Rarotonga.
This is our third day holed up in Beveridge Reef and it’s now our safe haven from the brutal seas crashing against the reef. Easily the best anchorage we’ve seen since Bora Bora. It’s been blowing 30-35 knots and since there is no protection from land we feel the full force of the wind. The wind generator is running like mad keeping the batteries charged up. The seas are amazingly calm though and we took full advantage sleeping a full 14 hours our first night. We haven’t even gotten the dinghy off the deck yet to explore due to the wind. Yesterday was a movie day lounging around the boat, occasionally popping our head out for a look at the 360′ view of waves crashing all around us. It’s quite a sight with blue sky melting into the horizon, which melts into the ocean. The only discernible feature is the surf line marking the reef that protects us. There is no land for hundreds of miles but we feel safe, rested, and well fed.
Hopefully today the wind will die down enough for us to explore. There is a wreck of an unlucky fishing boat on the reef to check out and good snorkeling and diving off the reef. There is obviously no internet here so we’re posting this via the SSB radio. Sorry for the lack of pictures! Stay tuned for our blogs on Auitaki and Palmerston.