Our departure from Bora-Bora has been marked by an unusual degree of indecision. The wind has been howling through the anchorages since our arrival, denting our enthusiasm for leaving. In addition the sight of the waves breaking on the reef has tempered our thoughts of an early departure. So for days we've been watching the weather, studying New Zealand weather faxes, subscribing to various weather email services, listening to weather reports from boats further west and generally confusing ourselves with too much information and too little knowledge of South Pacific weather systems.
Not only has the weather kept us in port, but also indecision about our destination. Since Panama the route across the Pacific has been well defined; Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus and the Society Islands, but on leaving Bora-Bora a number of options present themselves. The main choice is whether to head to the Northern or Southern Cook islands or even miss out the Cooks and head straight for Tonga to try to arrive while the aging king is still around.
The Southern Cooks have many attractions, the main ones being, Rarotonga the capital, Palmerston watched over by the Marsters families, Niue with allegedly fantastic diving, and the isolated Beveridge reef. The Northern Cooks, include the almost deserted Suvarov made famous in sailing circles by Tom Neale's book "An Island to Oneself" and the infrequently visited Penrhyn with a coral infested entrance.
After much debate a plan formed; we'll take the Northern Cook route - the weather further north looked sightly more stable. We're aiming for Penrhyn followed by Suvarov, before heading on to Samoa and Tonga. After much procrastination the weather looked favourable for a departure yesterday (Wednesday). We were all set to leave when a chance conversation with a fellow cruiser severely dented our faith in our decision making ability. He helpfully informed us that, "Well boy, if you want 50knot winds, go ahead and leave, but I'm staying put along with the rest of the boats in port". We thanked him and fretted that we'd somehow overlooked the forecast saying "Don't leave! 50knot winds ahead", but a frantic search through our weather information revealed nothing approaching 30knots, never mind 50knots. By this time it was mid-afternoon we were tired so decided to get an early night and leave first light the next day. Typically the wind completely died overnight, leaving the water in the anchorage eerily smooth the following morning. Yet another delay, as we hoped the forecast wind would arrive by the afternoon. Finally at 1.30, we cleared the pass and set sail for Penrhyn – 580 nautical miles to the north-west.
Once we cleared Bora-Bora the wind filled in with ENE 10-15 knots. We've been effortlessly making 5-7 knots on a beam reach, with a slight southerly swell. Not only was the wind favourable, but by late afternoon the visibility was such that our view was bounded by three spectacular islands, Bora-Bora to our south, Maupiti to the west and Tupai to the east. We couldn't really ask for a better start to the trip, perhaps all the waiting was worthwhile after all.
It seems that we're not the only sailors wracked with indecision. Noa left just before us, bound for Surarov. We watched as our paths slowly diverged, then appeared to re-converge. We checked our course – we were still heading for Penrhyn, perhaps Noa was tactically heading further north for more favourable current or wind? Later we talked on the radio and it turned out that they'd changed their minds and were following us (or rather leading us) to Penrhyn. We think that talk of favourable exchange rates between black pearls and alcohol had made Rita convince Walter of the merits of our choice of landfall. Since pearl farming is the main occupation of the islanders and we have some spare Panamanian rum we hope to leave Penrhyn slightly lighter, but potentially more decoratively endowed.