Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First cyclone of the season?

We have been watching the barometer rise and the winds rotate into the west as a deep low has passed south of us. While we have not heard it called a cyclone yet, I think it could be classified as one. Some boats on its less violent northern side reported gusts of 74 knots. Our friends Bruce and Marcelle on 'Adventure Bound' reported 10 meter seas and winds in excess of 55 knots yesterday and this morning. They sounded very unhappy to be where they were, which today is the area with the highest forecast seas (at 7 meters) south of the center of the depression. Yesterday we heard they were hove to, but today they are making their way slowly (at 2 knots) north in response to a request from New Zealand emergency response.

As far as we can understand from sketchy reports, a 39 foot Beneteau named 'Windigo' was rolled over in heavy seas 30 nautical miles to the north of 'Adventure Bound'. They set off their EPIRB and took to the life raft. A New Zealand Orion rescue plane has been standing by and 'Adventure Bound' has been asked to head towards the life raft and take the passengers on board. Chris tells me that for a boat as large as Windigo to roll completely over requires a breaking sea of about 8 feet - that would be on top of the non-breaking part of the swell. I do not know for sure if the vessel was completely rolled. Perhaps she may have suffered a knock down that filled her through open hatches.

The rest of the fleet en route to New Zealand are all experiencing rough weather (winds 30-40 knots) and high seas from 3-5 meters. On the Pacific Drifters Net this morning several sailboats reported less severe damage, for example a broken boom vang and leaky portlights. Believe me when I say that I am not looking forward to this passage at all! I volunteered to winch Chris up the mast to inspect the rigging before we set off.

Closer to here, about 130 miles south of Tongatapu, an unregistered EPIRB was set off. Because it was not registered, we have no details of which vessel set it off. Also, just south of us in the Vava'u Group there is a sailing boat on a reef. The Tongan police are trying to rescue the vessel, but its crew is not in danger.

Finally, our friends on 'Kindred Spirit' had their mooring in Neiafu part company last night around dusk but were able to react quickly enough to save their boat. I am glad we did not take them up on their kind offer to raft up with them! We are anchored off a somewhat surfy beach with about a 2 mile fetch to the west, from which the wind is now blowing. I had some concerns about our anchor chain being wrapped around coral and spent an uneasy night wondering if it would be sawn cut but Chris reassured me that there are small rocks not coral close to the anchor. Being a worrier, I still kept a close eye on our GPS position, ready to hop out to start the engine if the anchor drag alarm sounded.

The front is moving quickly away now and we anticipate better conditions later this evening as the wind swings behind a nearby island and the fetch subsides.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people out on the open ocean today, in particular the folks off 'Windigo' and Bruce and Marcelle on 'Adventure Bound'.

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