January 16

Today began well with a nice breeze from the SE or even SSE and we were able to shut down the engine and sail. Even against the current we were making 5 - 5.5k over ground and all was looking well in the world. How tricky the sea can be. At about noon we sailed into a wall of cloud, rain and wind, from the West. We were suddenly motor sailing upwind in 20k of wind and driving rain and still not making anywhere near our course to Lukunor. So we tacked Northwest then we tacked Southwest and the rain lightened a bit and the winds eased but continued from the West and veered more to the SW during the afternoon. By 4pm we were just halfway to Lukunor and were facing another 36 hours, if we motored into the wind and current at 3.5k. We decided to try to head Southwest to Nukuoro but found we could not lay that island either, and worse, after working our way South for a couple of hours we found the seas from the SW increasing and the wind decreasing!

It was when the captain realized that Tank 3 was almost empty that he stopped the engine. The first mate and skipper discussed the situation. The thing was, with the opposing current and wind we had been facing over the previous 30 hours, we had gone through half our fuel already! Nearly 75 gallons of fuel burned to make only 150 miles from Pohnpei. So we stopped and tried to lie a hull (basically just sit there with the sails down) and wait for wind. That lasted about an hour before we were all miserable, the boat rolling wildly in 10-12ft rollers from the SW. And the kicker was we looked at the GPS and we were moving at 1.5k to the EAST! Back in the direction we had come.

We realized that we could not sit and wait for wind (at any rate, forecasts showed no significant wind for 3 days) or we could motor on to Lukunor and arrive with only 20 or 30 gallons, enough to charge batteries and motor in and out of the lagoon to leave, but no more. And we were facing 1100 miles AFTER Lukunor to reach a source of diesel fuel. We briefly considered trying to reach Chuuk Lagoon, the capital of Chuuk state and home of nearly 30,000 Chuukese people, part of the FSM. Diesel would be easy to get there, but it was 260 miles to the Northeast and we could not reach it with our remaining fuel.

So, at about 7:30pm we started the motor again and pointed the boat East back toward Pohnpei. To say the disappointment was palpable would be mild. The wind has now, we realize, changed back to the East, but it is only 6-8k, not nearly enough to sail considering huge swells are slamming us from both the SW and the NE.

We were 125 miles from Ant Atoll, a small atoll just next to Pohnpei (about 20 miles) and we might be able to make it there before dark tomorrow afternoon. We found immediately that the SW swell and current pushed us along at over 6k with only 1600rpms on the engine. This would allow us to cover the 125 miles in 20 hours and put us at the entrance to Ant Atoll at about 3pm, just barely in time to enter the reef strewn pass with the late afternoon light.