We are now in Papeete, Tahiti after a nasty passage (850 miles, 8 days) from Mangareva in the Gambiers. Two days out from Mangareva we were hit by the edge of a Force 10 storm and knocked down. I say the edge of the storm since we had the strongest winds only for an hour or so while another boat on the same route had 10 hours of 45 to 55 knots.
I was sitting son the side deck beside the mast finishing adding some lashings to our dinghy when we must have broached (we were sailing downwind with a postage stamp jib out) and were hit by a lot of warm, green stuff. I was in water above my waste but held on by two tethers and two hands around shroud. When I got back to the cockpit it was full of water and my wife was bailing with a pot that previously had held soil and lettuce. Inside the boat a fair bit of water had gone through the louvers of the doors (along with some of the dirt) so it was pretty messy. Damage was a broken solar panel which was mounted on the stanchions and a wrecked digital camera. The camera was in the chart table but the lid on the table flipped up and deposited the camera on the floor with the incoming water and dirt.
Also we needed to get some sewing done on the bimini and ... both the electric and windvane steerers suffered gear damage or at least, were driven so that gears no longer meshed. The result was that we had to handsteer for 6 days (2 on/2 off). The Monitor fix was pretty easy once I got instructions from them - and at a dock with a stable work platform. The electric pilot is quite old and already had some alignment issues - will work on this today. What made the hand steering harder was that most of the rest of the way NW we had light winds and were running or broad reaching. Should have put up the asymmetric but were just too tired to deal with it.
Hard to estimate the amount of the knockdown, perhaps 75 degrees or so - I would call it aa small knockdown rather than a big pooping.
I certainly don't feel that we were in any great danger at any time. The boat is very, very strong. Lessons we learned:
- Things like this can happen even you don't expect it. The weather forecasts topped out at 25 to 30 knots. We have noticed that forecasts here are often not accurate at all. This applies to GRIBs, weather faxes, you name it.
- Make sure you have harnesses on when conditions are snotty, in particular outside the cockpit; alhtough my wife had hers on as well
- Solar panels on the rail are vulnerable but they do work well here. Fortunately the only cheap thing we have found in French Polynesia are solar panels so it will not be too expensive.
- Hand steering for 6 days really sucks.
A few general comments. I never imagined the impact that Roaring 40s weather can have this far north. Our problems were caused by an occluded front stretching north from a depression in the 40s that was followed by a huge high (1035 mb) and we were at 21 degrees south. Tahiti is lovely but incredibly expensive. A can of beer in the supermarket is about $4 and a very modest restaurant meal will be $20+ not including a beverage.
We will be in French Polynesia (lots of beer from Panama still) until early July) before heading west. We have decided to head to Australia rather than New Zealand for cyclone season. The Admiral has decided that she does not want to go that far south and get hit again and apparently you will get hit going from Tonga to NZ, the only question is how often and how hard. We will go from Vanuatu to Bundaberg/Brisbane and stay north.