We finally left Palau after 5 and a half months of stationary dwelling.

We had intended to move westward once Ralph had completed his divemaster certification but as per usual…..things change. In this case it was our destination.

You may recall that our journey had begun with the intent of exploring and contributing to the communities we encountered and having kept this in mind we decided to formalize this a little and have committed ourselves to volunteer assignments in the Solomon Islands.

Having passed through PNG on our way north when we left Oz we had not initially ventured through the Solomons but we had skirted close enough to feel a certain affinity with the Melanesian character and culture and decided the Solomons would be just the ticket for us….. but what of Hafskip….well….she came with us of course.

So… we sailed. Time constraints meant we had to move as fast as possible and in October it wasn’t going to be easy to set against the prevailing winds and currents to head east…but east is where we went nonetheless with the intention of heading to the Solomons, via the Hermit Islands and Rabaul.

Surprisingly enough we started out quite well…good weather window…a few southerly gusts which meant we were able to cross the west setting equatorial current to find the countercurrent at around 3 degrees. Lordy, what a difference that made, even when the wind died in the ass we were still scooting along at 3 knots!...Then we got cracking with the ‘pole thing’ and ran wing on wing at a screaming 5 knots….not bad for us in 7 knots of wind……

Unfortunately good things tend have a habit of coming to an end and with a twang our forestay broke at the tip of the mast sending the genoa and furler tumbling into the sea. We were thankful this occurred during the day on a mild sea…and as we were feeling quite perky we simply hauled our wet foresail onto the deck and secured the furler to the railing and drifted on with the current, making adjustments to the stays as we went to rebalance the main.

For a wee while at least we stayed with the countercurrent but eventually we figured we needed to head south and with an annoying onslaught of south westerly winds we ended up beating to windward for as long as we could, which was not long given we had only a teeny storm gib on the baby stay!....so for the rest of our passage (over 5 days) we motored…… nursing a leaky propeller shaft (one of those things that really should have been repaired when we hauled out in Airlie Beach!!)

Most likely even with the genoa we would have struggled as the further south we went the stronger the west setting current became. I would strongly recommend staying north in that countercurrent for as long as possible as our decision to head directly for the Hermits meant we had an extremely slow and occasionally ‘ungentlemanly’ sail.

Nonetheless with the aid of our new and extremely useful autopilot (can’t quite believe we sailed 4500 miles without one) we made it to The Hermit Islands, not too exhausted and had a nice morning run through the west entrance. (Not the recommended passage I know, but really quite simple if you’ve got good light and stay awake.)

After our lengthy passage we were rather glad to motor our way towards Luff Island in the Hermits and even happier to pick up one of the mooring buoys installed especially for passing yachts, and after stemming the leak from the propeller shaft we were set to explore a fresh paradise.