Twin cyclones ...
Vanuatu to Australia Cyclone - part 1
As anyone who was in the southern hemisphere this past year is well aware of there was an El Nino weather pattern in effect. It’s not all academic bluster and real events do happen because of it. What kind of things happen you ask? The only answer I can give you is – strange ones and things you do not want to happen to you.
After two of some of the best weeks of cruising we’ve ever experienced we arrived in Luganville, Espirto Santo on Friday the 20th of Oct (2006). Most of the yachting fleet had been scared out of the tropics at this point since the official cyclone season was less than two weeks away. We were happy to find plenty of open mooring buoys as we rounded the bay in front of the Aori resort. The main anchorage in Luganville is notoriously raucous since it is nearly completely exposed to the trade winds and swells. After picking up a ball with no trouble we dinghied into the beach and had a nice siesta the usual bar suspects. There were four yachts assembled in the bay, like us they were all participating in the Port2Port rally from Luganville, Vanuatu to Bundaberg, Australia. This is a yearly rally sponsored by the Port Bundaberg Marina that promises a “gentler” passage from tropics to tropics in contrast to the long Southerly slog across the mighty Tasman to Sydney or the even more perilous journey to New Zealand.
For at least the preceding ten days I had been tracking a tropical disturbance near the equator that was moving south. From looking at the pilot charts I knew that this was something to keep a weather eye on since this was getting to be the time when little blips like this can turn into big problems. Other yachties had been tracking this low as well and we talked about what might happen in the next couple of days.
The next day we completed our water, provisioning and check-out formalities in Luganville. I was able to get online at a local Internet café in the “downtown” area of the village and look into the next week’s weather in greater detail. I am a huge fan of the site the US Navy Meteorological team maintains for their own fleet; it also has a public access component. The models they use are not only some of the most accurate I’ve found they also have some of the longest lead times – at nearly seven days – where NOAA, although very accurate extends to only 72 hours. The Navy confirmed that something was indeed happening near the Solomon islands group and was moving quickly South to our latitude. The winds in our area were expected to increase in speed to 30-35 knots within 48 hours. On top of that, due to a “squash zone” being created between the low and a high pressure system further South the seas would start piling up into the 15-20 foot range.
After learning many hard lessons about sticking around a place too long this time we had readied the yacht nearly as soon as we had arrived at Luganville for her eminent departure. Based on the data at hand I calculated that if we could leave immediately, that Saturday, we might just be able to make enough Westing before the storm and seas set in. I discussed this with an English friend from a catamaran next door and he informed me that he had learned from the local “nets” about the low as well but that the seas would actually be diminishing within the next 24 hours to 1.5 meters or less. That sounded much better! We decided to stick around a bit longer, enjoy the big native performance on Saturday night and catch the ebb tide at 0600 on Sunday morning.
In the early morning hours of October 22nd we gently raised our mainsail, slipped our mooring line and glided down the gap between Espirto Santo and the off lying islands. The current was quite strong and we were easily making seven to eight knots in 10 knots of light winds with no apparent swell. We had been the first yacht to slip her mooring but I soon noticed two companion yachts sailing behind us as well (SY Sunflower and SY Simplicity). As we rounded the western most edge of Vanuatu and said good-bye to a country that had treated us so kindly the wind and seas began to increase considerably.
We're trying out some new bulletin board software on the site. Check it out (and ask questions) here.
Read all about our experiences in the great Seattle windstorm of 2006. No getting lazy about the weather - even on land!
Also, a few of our favorite places from the cruise, so far ...
Ladies commuting to church in Awai, Vanuatu
Whoa - fast forward four months! To our three fans out there: we are alive and well. We've had some website issues lately and have somehow lost a couple of logs along the way.
We'll get you up-to-date on all the details from the last part of the 2006 season soon but in the mean time here's a quick recap ...
The weather was ... basically very heavy for six solid months and we felt as though we were made of wood by November. After spending way too long in Port Vila Stephanie put us on a strict diet of one anchorage equals one day. The result were two of the best weeks of cruising we've ever had - imagine 30 kt winds but every anchorage completely to yourself for an entire island group.
We joined our first (and probably last) cruising rally from Luganville to Bundaberg Australia. Everything was going great except for the Tropical Cyclone we encountered on the second day at sea.
After a midnight arrival up the Burnett Heads river in Bundy and a week of rally partying we put Mico in stasis for the second time in only a year. Now we're back stateside working for all those wonderful freedom chips that will let us do it for just a little bit longer ...
Anyone who's a friend of the famous Quinn Closson of SY Tequila should get in touch if they're interested in crewing on an ocean passage making adventure in April. Yup, he's at it again. Some would say "... there's no shame in shipping ..." Well Q and I feel differently and Tequila's coming home the hard way on the wind for 9,000 miles.
Also, here's a few notes on "storm preparations" from the past season.
Roos in our Aussie backyard
Photos below from the last part of our Vanuatu cruising:
Simplicity heads to Australia
Times is hard
Native dance troop from Tanna get down on Efate
Rolf and Yolanda heading to the Solomons (and Hong Kong) - We'll miss you, Killer Bunnies forever!!
September 11, 2006
After nearly three months of our fourth cruising season, we finally have some updates to deliver. Fiji has some of the worst Internet connections we've encountered yet, so you all had to wait until we reached Vanuatu for news. But you had nothing to worry about -- as you'll see, Vanuatu has been much more exciting than Fiji for us.
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