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Leg 2 - 2003 Tahiti - Rarotonga

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Leg 2-2003 Tahiti - Rarotonga Update 1
July 5, 2003 0500 19.11S, 155.52W Log: 68,747 Baro: 1017 Cabin Temp: 81F Broad reaching at 7.8 kts in 20 kt ESE winds, main and headsail double-reefed 240 miles to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

For only the third time in 14 years, we had a family

The Might Family - Tom, Diane, Cristina, Matthew, Daniel & John
book the entire boat for a leg. Tom and Diane Might attended some of our seminars at Pacific Sail Expo in Oakland, California a few years ago, followed by our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar. After the seminar they ordered a Hallberg-Rassy 62, planning on taking delivery in Sweden and sailing it across the Atlantic in the 2004 ARC with their sons making up part of the crew. Having not owned a boat before and knowing they would need some ocean experience, they signed up for

The town of Utuora on Raiatea
this Tahiti-Raro leg. To better prepare for the expedition, they chartered a bareboat from Sunsail in Raiatea (120 mi W of Tahiti) for five days before joining us as a way of refreshing their sailing skills.

Normally the Tahiti-Raro leg begins in Papeete, followed by a introduction day sail to and a couple days exploring Moorea, next gently easing into an overnight 85 mile sail to Huahine, time for exploring, snorkeling, scuba diving there, before sailing to Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Mopellia and finally Rarotonga.

This time, in order to get some longer (550 miles north, 750 miles south) passage experience, Tom asked if we could start the expedition in Raiatea, giving us an extra week or so to make the passage north to Penrhyn, in the Northern Cook Islands. Sounded like a great plan, and a bonus, we would get to see our old friends in Penrhyn!


The dramatic peaks of Bora Bora as viewed from Tahaa

Matthew stands watch as we sail to Tahaa


The wind goddess decided this was not to be! We had a great start to the expedition, sailing downwind in up to 28 knots from Raiatea to Tahaa the first day, then a fast passage to Bora Bora where we practiced Lifesling and started our teaching program in earnest. As a treat Tom took us all out for dinner to Hotel Bora Bora, a chance to dress up and enjoy the islands fine cuisine. At this point the weatherfaxes still looked great for Penrhyn.


Bora Bora

Aerial view of Mautpti, pass in the foreground


We had a rip-roaring passage to Maupiti, 25 miles west of Bora Bora, where we biked, hiked, walked, snorkeled, ran and enjoyed the friendly and open islanders. However, a very persistent stationary low really changed all the weather around. Instead of ESE winds that generally ensure an easy broad reach up to Penrhyn, we had light NW headwinds. We waited an extra day, then decided to give it a try anyway. After a day of making little headway, we fell off and sailed 100 miles to tiny Mopelia, population 15. After entering the 60' wide maelstrom of a pass, we motored four miles across the turquoise lagoon to anchor in the same place as last year.


Cristina takes a navigation lesson from John in the tricky Maupiti Pass

John Might navigates us through Maupiti's Pass

Cristina and Diane enjoy a refreshing swim during their island hike


Kaita, who last year invited all of the yachts to his shack on the beach for a lobster and fish barbecue and potluck, came by the second day with the same invitation. Once again we enjoyed the singing and guitar and ukulele playing of Kaita, his sister Hina and cousins. Matthew and Cristina enjoyed chess matches with these islanders who are famous for their chess skills as a huge pile of lobsters was grilled over the coals. We enjoyed getting to know the crews of a French, German, Swiss and French Canadian boats, and the evening on the beach under the stars was magical. It was fun to watch the Might family get to know the islanders and cruisers of many different backgrounds. For Amanda and me, it brought back so many fine memories of similar nights on beaches with locals and cruisers over our past 30 years of South Pacific cruising.


Baker Tom's famous peanut butter cookies

Daniel say's farewell to rig checking Mum

Up she's winched by Tom and Daniel



"Hey this is fun" shouts Diane

View from the mast head

"Oh Yes, we're family"


Early the next morning, Irwin, the skipper of the Swiss catamaran anchored next to us came over and earnestly said, "Friends of ours are in trouble, they just hit the reef while trying to enter the pass and are taking on water. You have the most powerful engine, would you go and tow them in the pass?" Our crew immediately started getting Mahina Tiare ready for getting underway, and I spoke with the boat, Miss Milla, over the radio. Hans, the owner was quite shaken up, plus his radio kept cutting out, so it was hard to determine how serious the problem was, or exactly where they were. As we motored toward the pass, Irwin passed us in his dinghy, followed by Kaita and his cousins in two plywood skiffs. As we got closer, the breakers across the pass looked huge and dangerous, so crew anchored MT just inside the pass, and I took off with the skipper of the German yacht in our RIB. Getting through the breakers required timing and hanging on, but we couldn't see any sign of the damaged yacht once we were outside. Had they sunk? Should we be looking for a liferaft?


Cristina learns about island cooking

Sorry, no room for any more lobsters on this grill.

Matthew studies his chess moves


About this time Kaita passed us in his skiff, pointing to a tiny speck on the horizon, the mast of the boat we were looking for. The swells were huge offshore, and in the process of getting back toward the pass after rendezvousing with Miss Milla, Kaita's cousins outboard died. This left us pulling the heavy plywood skiff against wind and current, through the pass to a shallow spot inside where they beached the skiff and waited.


Island sing-a-long

Katia heads out the pass to rescue Miss Milla

Assisting Miss Milla


Meanwhile Irwin had lashed his RIB alongside to assist Miss Milla that was attempting to enter the pass. I took a line on the opposite side, hoping the extra horsepower would be enough to help the underpowered ETAP 32 enter against the six knot current. After half an hour of very slowly creeping closer to the narrow opening, occasionally swept by breakers, Hans gave up and was swept back to the ocean. He said he would try again in a few hours, so I and Kaita's cousins headed back through the pass to Mahina Tiare for lunch.


Fresh tern eggs

"Snorkel Daniel" avoids onion tears

18 tern egg quiche


While waiting on the reef the locals made use of their time collecting tern eggs, that Amanda made into quiche for dinner that night with assistance from "Snorkeling Dan". An hour after lunch Miss Milla made it slowly through the pass with Kaita on the bow shouting directions. We motored back across the lagoon just before dark, exhausted. Still watching for a break in the headwinds so that we could sail north the Penrhyn, we spent another two days in Mopelia's lagoon, teaching class in the mornings and hiking and beachcombing and visiting ashore in the afternoons.

Finally we ran out of time to make it to Penrhyn. The low to the SE of Tahiti had blocked the normal movement of weather for nearly two weeks. It was too early to sail to Raro, and Tom came up with the idea of sailing back to windward to Maupiti, giving his family more experience at sea in different conditions. We covered the 100 miles to windward in about 24 hours and enjoyed two peaceful nights, some great snorkeling, hiking and teaching before setting sail yesterday for Rarotonga.


Like father

Like son


We are just now in the middle of our first squall of the passage. Winds just topped at 30 kts in a tropical rainsquall, but Daniel and Tom are on watch and enjoying the challenge.

Let me tell you about our Leg 2 crew:

Tom Might, 52 went to work at the Washington Post right out of the army. After several years working in DC, he was appointed CEO of the Post's cable television division, necessitating a move from Washington DC to Phoenix, Arizona where the Might's have lived for the past 11 years. After completing the ARC next summer, Tom and Diane look forward to basing their new HR 62 in the Annapolis area and exploring New England.

Diane Might, 48 has worked as a school principal, just completed her masters degree and has applied for a PhD program in educational leadership as well as doing an excellent job co-raising three boys.

Matthew Might, 21 is completing his PhD in computer science at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and hopes to eventually start an internet security company.

Cristina Casanova turned 22 yesterday, and she and Matthew are getting married three weeks after the expedition. She just graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Design and will be job-hunting soon.

Daniel Might, 20 is a junior in industrial engineering at Georgia Tech and is looking forward to making the Atlantic Crossing with the ARC next summer. He is a hot runner - 32 minutes around Maupiti and works for a manufacturing optimization company when not studying or running.

John Might, 17 is a senior in high school, also planning on attending Georgia Tech, planning on majoring in computer science or industrial engineering. Two days after returning from Rarotonga, he's off to Washington DC for a Congressional Youth Leadership Conference.




Update 2
July 14, 2003 21.12S, 159.47W Log: 68,975 Baro: 1009, Cabin Temp: 79F (chilly!)
Side-tied to Cook Islands Patrol Boat, Te Kukukupa in Rarotonga Harbour


Our passage to Raro was faster than expected. We had hoped to arrive at Atiu Island early Sunday morning, anchoring in the lee to snorkel up to the reef and relax for a few hours, but great sailing conditions meant that we sighted the island just before dark Saturday evening, so we carried on, arriving in Raro Sunday afternoon.

A couple days earlier we had overheard a yacht checking in to the "Coconut Breakfast SSB Net" that was also sailing to Rarotonga. I plotted their position, noticed it was quite close to ours, so the following morning I chatted to them after the net. It turned out that the yacht Meredith was a Hallberg-Rassy 45, the predecessor of our HR 46, and that we had closed the distance to only 15 miles! The skipper, Michael Bragg, is a 70-year-old Englishman who has a great sense of humor and loves to sail fast. We started shaking out reefs and poled out the headsail trying to catch them. Slowly their sails grew larger, but were still slightly behind Meredith when we made landfall at Rarotonga.

Raro looks like a miniature version of Moorea - lush, rugged valleys and mountains, turquoise lagoon - a real South Seas paradise!


Daniel displays our welcome Mahina Expeditions
Tom Might was doing an excellent job on the helm, surfing down the building swells as we closed on the island, and I started getting gear on deck ready for getting sail down and anchoring when a huge mahi-mahi hit one of Amanda's new lures. Daniel, Amanda and I struggled to get the fish aboard, Amanda did a super fast job of filleting the fish, as Tom kept us on course.

What we had thought was the headland just past the harbor turned out to be the Tahitian Princess cruise ship anchored off Avatiu Harbour for a few hours. We brought the pole and sails down and Tom piloted us through the narrow entrance. Last year we had arrived to a harbor packed with a dozen yachts, this year there were only four! As we cruised past the ship's wharf, John Fallon, the Harbourmaster waved and said hello, and asked, "Would you like to tie alongside the patrol boat as you did last year?" He must be a mind reader! In no time we had fenders and docklines (no anchor needed!) out and were alongside the smart 90' Australian-donated patrol boat. The easterly tradewinds would push us against the ship and the flare of her topsides would bend our stanchions, so Daniel and I jumped in the water and secured Mahina Tiare with one chain and two lines (bow, amidships and stern) to the same engine block mooring we had used last year.

Given the choice between showers ashore first or dinner ashore, the Might kids eagerly voted for dinner, and we were soon off on a hike along the waterfront to Trader Jack's, one of our all-time favorite South Pacific eateries. Great company, awesome sunset and a superb dinner - what a way to celebrate landfall!

Monday morning was time to clear customs with John Fallon. The Cooks are the easiest country in the world for formalities as the harbormaster handles customs, immigration and harbor check in. The only other official is the health inspector who arrived shortly.

Before long we noticed two local men ashore, beckoning to us. The weather hadn't allowed us to sail to Penrhyn, but here were our Penrhyn friends in Raro to greet us! Saitu Marsters and Fred Kaitangi have been friends of mine for nearly 30 years, and it was good to see them. I asked if they had brought pearls with them from Penrhyn, and they said that was part of the reason for their trip to Raro. They were also here to attend a church convention, but I suspect that a pearl smuggling and selling trip to Tahiti was the real reason for their visit. Many years ago Saitu had our crew roaring in laughter of tales of how he smuggles pearls into Tahiti in his underpants! Being the mayor and a minister hasn't had any effect, and he said that was his plan again this year.


John and Diane buying natural gold pearls from Katangi, a Penrhyn Island friend.
Saitu and Fred agreed to bring their pearls by Tuesday morning, and the Mights enjoyed choosing very rare and beautiful natural gold pearls from Penrhyn. Cristina and Matthew had fun shopping for black pearls to give to their wedding guests, and Diane found an exquisite carved black-lipped pearl shell.

We worked our way through the remaining topics of instruction including watermaker maintenance (we needed to biocide the watermaker as we can't run it in a commercial harbor), weatherfax and SSB programming, electronic charting including comparison of raster vs. vector charts, celestial navigation, rigging fishing lures and dealing with officials in foreign countries.


Diane learns how to use the sextant
One of the most interesting classes was to go over route and passage planning with Tom and Diane. As they will be picking up their new HR 62, Braveheart, next June in Sweden, we printed off our log updates from our identical series of voyages two years ago. As we still have all the electronic charts onboard (the paper charts are bulky and stored in our office) for the passage from Sweden to the Canary Islands, where the ARC race starts from, we were able to show them all the options and discuss the various ports and "don't miss" places. Amanda and I are excited about repeating this passage that we so enjoyed again in 2007. We often talk about what an incredible time we had in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, England, Spain and Portugal. We love the South Pacific with it's wonderfully friendly people and exotic tropical islands, but we also crave the stimulation and difference that cruising Scandinavia and Europe provides.

Before long, Thursday noon arrived and the Mights were headed back to many adventures. We waited for a cold front that was supposed to arrive Thursday noon with fresh north winds that would make the tiny harbor very tricky. The front finally arrived Saturday night, but without much wind.


Learning the nitty gritty of boat maintenance
how to pickle the watermaker
Rarotonga has always been one of our favorite islands in the South Pacific. Every morning we enjoy a 30-minute bicycle to the yacht club, a swim across the turquoise lagoon to deserted motu for a run on the beach before heading back to the boat and chores. Amanda has been prepping the handrails and dodger trim for their annual varnish update and I have been working through the inevitable list of repairs and chores. Every morning we check the tiny local paper for local events. So far we have enjoyed a special premier with the author of the NZ Maori film, Whalerider and a cultural dance with dancers from several different islands, Monday it's off running with Hash House Harriers after a swim in Muri Lagoon and a visit with Tokerau Jim, a local shell carver friend. Air Rarotonga is offering a special price on a day trip to Aitutaki, and if we get all of our chores done in time, we are considering flying up for a day of bicycling and exploring later this week. Mahina Tiare draws slightly too much water to enter Aitutaki's lagoon.

The harbor here is the emptiest we have ever seen it, with only three visiting yachts. We have heard through the coconut telegraph that there are only 200 instead of usual 300 yachts sailing through the South Pacific this season. This totals the boats coming through Panama and coming from Mexico.

Our next leg, Leg 3 is now filled, but we still have berths available on another favorite, Leg 4, from Pago Pago, Samoa, to Suva, Fiji. We hope to stop at Apia, Western Samoa for the first time ever this year, and look forward to spectacular Wallis Island, as well as some great ports in Fiji.

We also have two berths available on Leg 5, inter-island Fiji, and berths available on Legs 7 and 8.

If you would like more information on these legs or an application packet, please contact Tracy in our office, 360-378-6131 or sailing@mahina.com.

Hope you can join us for some great learning and adventures!



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