Vanuatu to Solomons, Day 2

The sun has come out, and the spinnaker is up. And long ago somebody left with the cup…

Sophie’s noon position is 11.40.439 S 162.46.667E, meaning we have covered 156 miles in the last 24 hours. Our destination of Gizo is only 412 miles away, and the first of the Solomon Islands, Santa Catalina, is just 50 miles to our north. We hope to catch a glimpse of it before sunset. Sophie is ambling along at 6.5 knots straight downwind on our rhumb line course of 284 magnetic with a comfortable motion in relatively calm seas.

We’ve had an uneventful 24 hours. We sailed with just the jib up through sunrise today, and then I tried to sail with the mainsail as well but we couldn’t get a good sailing angle so we went back to the sailing with just the jib. I did succeed in waking everyone up, though. 2 hours later a squall line came through and Sophie hit 10 knots of boat speed as the winds gusted up to 30 knots. This lasted through late morning. After the squalls passed, the wind died down to 15 knots and we decided to break out the chute. It’s the first time we’ve had the spinnaker up in a long time. It feels nice to be on a gentle boat after 2 days of rock and roll, breaking surf.

The current temperature is 90 degrees F inside our shaded salon. It will continue to get warmer with every mile north we sail. Jenna, Lauren, and Hazel are all taking naps right now. My life vest is beginning to feel a little warm and uncomfortable in the heat. I will stay up top watching the chute until we take it down at sunset. We plan to do so even if it means we will be going slower with just the jib up overnight. We don’t want to get caught with the big sail up in a squall in the dark, even if we sacrifice some miles to do so.

Our weather forecast is for the wind to slowly die down to nothing over the next 72 hours, which means at some point we will likely turn on an engine or two. But we are glad that we left when we did in order to take advantage of the trade winds.

In terms of fishing, we’ve had four lines in over the last 24 hours and caught a very small mahi mahi that we released. We are increasingly running into groups of birds working the water, which we didn’t really see in Vanuatu. This is a good sign and we’re still hopeful we’ll get that tuna. Unfortunately there are also some white birds that like to dive at our lures, which is somewhat annoying. Fortunately they chicken out at the last second. We do not want to catch bird.

Dinner last night was grilled Ono accompanied by the lasagne that Lauren made and some green beans. After owning a little panini press on Sophie for the last 4 years, it suddenly dawned on us that we can use it to grill fish and meat in addition to sandwiches and toast. We used it for the fish last night. It took 2 minutes to cook and produced a very tasty meal.

Leo and Hazel are once again proving that they are excellent children on passages. They seem to fight with each other less when we are at sea and have been doing a good job at their schoolwork despite the rolling motion. Leo is now taking afternoon watches and is learning how to navigate. Hazel is learning to cut down on her gymnastics when the boat is getting rocked by waves.

Solomons to Gizo will be Sophie’s longest offshore passage until we begin to cross the Indian Ocean for South Africa in a little over a year. I am beginning to feel sad that this passage will soon come to an end. I like sailing offshore.

POSTCRIPT: As I was giving this a final proofread, the pole exploded with a hit. I ran out and saw us passing a big bait ball boiling on the surface with 50 birds attacking from above. Something big was on the lure, and it swam straight down and away from the boat. Almost all of the line ran off the reel, but we couldn’t slow the boat down below 6 knots with the big chute up. I pointed the pole at the fish and the line broke at the lure. We think it was a big tuna or a shark. Never jumped. There are more out there. Our blood is up!

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