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Leg 3 - 2012, Update

July 14, 2012, 0100 hrs, 19.52 S, 167.34 W, Log: 157,095 miles
Baro: 1012.3, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77.5 F
13 miles from Beveridge Reef, 134 miles to Niue Island
Broad reaching @ 8 kts with 12 kt SSW winds, mellow seas

THE BEST LAID PLANS, OF MICE AND MEN...

Our time between Legs 2 & 3 in Rarotonga, Mahina Tiare’s homeport was challenging, to say the least as dredging and harbour reconstruction was going full tilt, 24 hrs per day, six days a week. Initially Andre, the acting harbourmaster, stated Avatiu Harbour was full and very busy. He requested that we not enter the harbour but anchor in the rolly open roadstead off Trader Jack’s; the notorious oceanfront restaurant/bar where ships used to offload cargo into open boats before Avatiu Harbour was built.

Thankfully the next day a space opened up in the harbour and we were allowed in briefly to top up water and fuel


Dredging at the entrance of Avatiu Harbour

Upon re-anchoring off Avarua it took an hour of my being in the water with mask and fins directing Julian, Jim and Amanda as they tried setting the anchor in different sandy patches. We quickly discovered that the bottom is hard, flat coral, almost like cement with a very thin layer of fine sand over the top. In the end I had them drop the anchor upwind of a large 10’ diameter live coral head. Julian volunteered to help and went down 35’ using our Spare Air mini-scuba tank to physically wedge the 75 lb CQR anchor under the lip of the giant coral head. Normally I don’t have a problem doing this but I was having difficulty clearing my ears and I was thankful for Julian’s excellent free diving skills.

All day MT rolled back and forth in the ocean swell and that night the current swung MT around in a circle, undoing our careful wedging of the anchor. With just Amanda and I onboard we knew we were in a very precarious position. On our morning run we noticed an unused spot in the corner of Avatiu Harbour so stopped by Andre to ask if we could possibly move inside the harbour for the weekend promising we’d instantly move if we were obstructing construction. He agreed, and shortly after as Amanda and I were maneuvering MT into the rather difficult mooring spot Jim showed up on the wharf, saying, as always, “How can I help?”

We dropped our main anchor several boat lengths off the industrial high edge of the new wharf and slowly warped our way into the corner as Jim repeatedly tied off dock lines we tossed him. In the end we had all seven lines holding MT off in three directions from the huge tires meant to fend off ships, plus our anchor holding us off.

It was a relief to be inside and to no longer worry about MT dragging anchor but now we had other concerns. Ships, fish boats, tugs and barges coming and going, dump trucks full of dusty dredge spoils rumbling past 24 hrs a day, plus on the other side of us the construction barge, which had lost its ramp off another island, had a huge mobile crane come to help them fit the new ramp the Fijian crew had been building onboard. (When Amanda’s parents were in the harbour in December a construction crane had toppled over across a cargo ship.)

Early Monday we had to move slightly so the only remaining (the others have all sunk) small inter-island freighter could dock. We’d spotted another quiet corner of the harbour, the previous berth of the Cook Island patrol boat, and Andre gave us permission to move there. Just before we moved Carina and Gary, part of our Leg 3 crew, showed up eager and willing to help and again we wedged MT into a challenging spot never intended for yachts. Once again we dropped our main anchor well off from the wharf and slowly warped MT into place, again utilizing many dock lines. Whew, our baby was safely away from the construction action, noise and dust! Our only concern now was a strange surge.

We look forward to seeing Avatiu Harbour next year when the work will be completed. It will have much more room for ships to turn around and it should have more room for visiting yachts as well.

Our crew came aboard earlier than normal at 2:30 on Monday for safety orientation then we all met on a beach past the airport for Raro’s famous Hash House Harriers running/walking group. An excellent trail had been laid along the beach, through a jungley patch, down the road and back along the beach. Try as we might none of us could catch the front leaders; seven and eight year old brothers running in sandals. Kirk also was running in sandals and everyone had a fun time following the run on the long white sand beach for the awards and cold drinks

Tuesday morning was a blur of clearing out with immigration, customs and harbour master’s offices, getting fresh bread and a few last minute groceries before our gang arrived at noon. After unpacking and lunch we carefully untied and retrieved line after line until MT was free then with the anchor was stowed aboard Amanda demonstrated the raising the main and we set sail for Beveridge Reef. We had moderate winds but a crossed sea so several of our crew succumbed to seasickness as we watched a spectacular sunset.

Since then we’ve sailed 450 miles on every point of sail with winds between 2 and 30 kts, rain, squalls and sun as we passed through a weak frontal passage. We’d been looking forward to a night or two anchored inside Beveridge Reef which is a semi-protected horseshoe-shaped mid-ocean reef with a good anchorage. However, when we looked at the GRIB weather files for the later 140 mile passage from Beveridge to Niue we saw five days of light headwinds caused by a new low pressure cell that had dropped in to our SSE.

Gary and Megan happily display our catch of the day


Dredging at the entrance of Avatiu Harbour

Karina presented our weather scenarios before crew made the call of skipping Beveridge and continuing on another night and a half to Niue. It will mean a night arrival tomorrow night. We have just now cleared the northern tip of the Beveridge reef by 12 miles and Peter, our navigator of the day, has been continually plotting our position along with setting a new course for Niue.

July 20, 2012, 0200 hrs, 15.27 S, 170.44 W, Log: 157,500 miles
Baro: 1012.2, Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 82.6 F
67 miles from Pago Pago, American Samoa
Broad reaching @ 7 kts with 20-22 kt SE winds, 8’-10’ crossed seas


Kirk enjoying his trick at the helm.
Winds steadily increased our last 24 hours before approaching Niue until we were rocketing along under double-reefed main and genoa. Peter and Gary sighted the pancake-shaped outline of Niue just at sunset Saturday and Karina set a conservative course, rounding the steep-to island by several miles.

We’re never keen on night time arrivals but having snorkeled the entire mooring field and adjacent reef many times and knowing that Niue has no off-lying shoals or dangers we very cautiously approached just before midnight on a dark and squally night. The AIS first picked up a yacht on the moorings and Amanda spotted its anchor light through binoculars but thankfully as we crept in closer our bow lookouts spotted an unlit yacht on a mooring close by on our bow. Keith Vial, the Niue Yacht Club commodore, has put reflective tape on all the mooring balls, so Gary’s shining the spotlight showed us multiple options. (There are a total of 16 moorings available for visiting yachts this season.) Fiona picked up the closest mooring and before long we were celebrating below with cups of tea, hot chocolate and carrot cake.

Not really expecting to be able to clear customs on a Sunday we’d planned to spend the day aboard teaching and snorkeling. When Keith called at 8 am suggesting we ask Niue Radio to try calling customs I thought it’s worth a shot. In a minute they’d called back asking me to meet the customs officer on the wharf with our passports at 10 am. The customs officer

hadn’t been able to locate the entry forms so he just took a look at our passports and outbound clearance papers from Raro and said, “You’re set. You can come ashore now; just stop by the police station in the morning for immigration and one of us will then come and take you to our office when you’re done there”.

Keith had offered to take our gang to Washaway, the only restaurant/bar on the island opened on Sunday for sunset drinks in his new mini-van so while crew enjoyed that Amanda and I took off on a run along the coast and to see if there were any changes in little Alofi town. The new information center/museum next to the market look inviting and several of the coastal tracks down to the stunning caves, beaches and chasms had been improved upon for easy access with new signage containing more historical information.

When we headed ashore at first light Monday for our run our entire crew joined us not so much for a run but to utilize the yacht clubs tidy showers and restroom (overlooking the wharf) and to do laundry in the wash basin.

The rest of Monday was busy and exciting. Keith took our crew on a picnic lunch tour of Niue’s spectacular coastal limestone caves, three of which they were able to swim in.


Hash House Harriers heading off along Niue’s busy main street
In the late afternoon we all met at Niue Yacht Club (actually the Backpacker’s Hostel) for the weekly Hash walk (they don’t run on Niue, but we all enjoyed visiting with locals during the hike) Following our wander Keith had excelled in his island hospitably by organizing a combined Hash/Hostel/Yacht Club potluck barbecue at the club. As the hash club members, yacht club members and crew of the three yachts all showed up there was quite a nice crowd, great conversations and some really excellent tasty dishes.

Niue has a strange tradition; their Tuesday and Saturday morning market starts at 4:30 am! We really wanted to find bananas and papayas but the best we could do was to arrive at 6:30 when some of the ladies were packing up to head home. We did find some fruit along with delicious warm coconut bread before returning to MT for brekky, following which Amanda taught sail design and sail trim. We’d cleared in and out with customs and immigration at the same time on Monday so by noon we slipped the mooring and hoisted sail for Niuatoputapu, 140 miles to the WNW and Tonga’s smallest port of entry island.


John gets a few barbecuing lessons from HHH barbecue expert Patricia


What a great potluck spread!

Fiona who had been bothered by seasickness earlier was all over that and keen to practice reefing, so she did! Before long we really did need reefs tucked in as the winds freshened with gusts to 30. Continually checking weatherfax charts and GRIB files we saw that a future change from SE to NE winds would make the 290 mile passage from Niuatoputapu to Apia, Samoa impossible to lay, requiring tacking against 20-30 kt winds. From previous experience we knew there would also be a substantial west-setting current against us so we looked at alternatives that wouldn’t require completing this leg with a bash to windward against mean tradewinds.

Amanda came up with the option of heading straight north to check out Pago Pago, American Samoa which we haven’t visited in the last 8-10 years or so. We don’t really want to clear in and out, which from previous experience can take several days, but perhaps just sail in to have a look at the harbor. That’s where we’re headed now. This new destination has meant good sailing angles with the wind at 120 degrees true. We’ve had occasional rain squalls but the weather is clearing and seas were mellow enough for me to teach cruising medicine, clearing into foreign ports and electrical power systems this afternoon.

Gary and Carina recently purchased an older Oyster 43 and shared their experience of upgrading rigging and electrical systems.

July 21, 2012, 0740 hrs, 13.46 S, 171.39 W, Log: 157,679 miles
Baro: 1012.2, Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 84.4 F
6 miles from Apia, Samoa
Broad reaching @ 6 kts with 12 kt SE winds, mellow seas

We’ve been reefed down since sunset last night, not wanting to arrive at Apia harbor entrance too early. Our harbor tour around Pago Pago was interesting and there were about 15 yachts mostly on moorings, and many looking like they had been there for years. The tsunami that occurred three years ago while we were in Apia leveled quite a few of the buildings closest to the water and the place actually looked tidier than when we last visited. The government-built and run Rainmaker Hotel on a promontory as one enters the bay has been abandoned but a huge new drive-thru McDonalds is located next to the public market.


Entering Pago Pago


Fiona and Peter are pleased to be mastering ocean passage making and are excited about their own voyaging possibilities


Karina makes quick work of our morning fruit salad
After a look around we slowed for on-deck showers as we left the harbor and set a course for Apia. As we were clearing Tutuilla Island, Kirk, who had been lying on the cabin top in the shade of the sails spotted a seam that had opened up about 1’ near the head of the genoa. This was the first sign of serious aging on the sail that now has over 40,000 miles on it, and another great example of the longevity of Carol Hasse’s Port Townsend Sails. We were able to partially furl the sail so that the effected area wasn’t exposed and all of our crew was keen to help in the repair. Sailing conditions last night were gorgeous - tons of stars, no squalls and smooth sailing.

This morning we are looking forward to teaching Lifesling overboard retrieval and then will head into the harbor.

 

 

July 27, 2012, 0620 hrs, 13.52 S, 171.37 W, Log: 157,698 miles
Baro: 1012.2, Cabin Temp: 81 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 84.4 F
At anchor, 9 miles from Apia, Samoa

WE MADE IT!

After sunrise Saturday morning, we slowed down to practice Lifesling. Fiona, always keen to swim, eagerly volunteered to dive in the water to make the training more realistic. Normally we practice our modified Quick Stop Lifesling rescue in sheltered waters, not offshore with a fairly sloppy swell running. Before we knew it, Fiona had in and Kirk did a picture-perfect rescue, easily having the Lifesling sliding right up to Fiona in under one minute.


Megan returns to the cockpit after deploying the Lifesling during MOB practice


Crew give a “Thumbs Up” after successfully accomplishing Lifesling retrival - Kirk, Megan, Gary, Fiona, Karina, Peter and John

We sailed nearly to the harbor entrance then dropped the main and slowly entered Apia Marina, surprised to see only two other cruising boats in the 60 space nearly-new marina. We knew there was no chance of obtaining clearance before Monday, so we agreed to focus on completing our teaching schedule.


First on the list was repairing the genoa as yesterday Kirk had noticed a parted seam. Fortunately, upon dropping the sail and inspecting the damage, we ascertained that the sailcloth hadn’t torn and that only stitching at seams near the head had chafed through. With everyone helping we were able to stuff sections of sail through the saloon hatch to the table where Amanda had our Sailrite machine set up. Crew then took turns at stitching the chafed seams and as often is the case, the more we looked, the more seams we found that were in need of restiching.

Generally we get 45,000 miles (equivalent of two world circumnavigations) out of each main or genoa from Port Townsend Sails, but in the past we’ve been able to have the entire sails restitched after 30,000 miles. Our current genoa now has 40,000 miles so we are still pleasantly surprised to see how well it’s looking.

At the day cooled a little we all, plus the crew of the German yacht Akka next to us, headed to Aggie Grey’s Hotel for sunset drinks and to listen to the traditional Samoan music by the pool. How very civilized!

Sunday, with the port guard’s permission (as we hadn’t yet cleared into the country) we all headed to the very busy public fish market across the harbor. The place was jam-packed and was doing a roaring trade in fish, vegetables and fruit before the locals headed to church.


Fiona lends her hand to hand stitching chafed through stitches at the clew while Gary takes notes.Megan enjoying her trip aloft
In the morning rig inspection and winch servicing were accomplished and in the afternoon electrical power systems, watermakers and communication along with viewing our Diesel Maintenance and Troubleshooting video were all completed to close out our teaching and testing program.

Monday we were eventually cleared by health, quarantine and customs, but immigration was too busy to come to the harbor, so I caught a cab downtown to complete our formalities. We then hopped in a taxi and were able to make the last tour through Vailima, the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, and a steep hour’s hike through the rainforest to his hilltop gravesite.


Megan enjoying her trip aloft
Monday dinner was at Aggie’s, the location that James Michener wrote, “Tales of the South Pacific” and without question the most famous hotel in the Pacific. Normally we go on the Fia Fia dance and traditional Samoan feast night, but that wasn’t until Wednesday, so we enjoyed a quiet dinner until Amanda asked one of the waitresses if she would dance for us. The waitress said she would only if Amanda would go on stage with her for a siva Samoan dance lesson. This certainly livened up the guys playing guitars and singing.

We can always tell that an expedition crew have bonded well and really enjoyed the trip when no one is in a hurry to leave, and our Leg 3 crew was one of the best. Those who were renting cars were giving rides to those who hadn’t and all made plans to see the fire dancing near the marina Tuesday evening and to meet to enjoy Aggie’s dance show on Wednesday.

In terms of eagerness to learn and help out this was one of our best crews ever!

Here they are all hot and sweaty on the hilltop at Vailima - Peter, Fiona, Kirk, Megan, Karina & Gary

Peter, 56
I’ve been married to Fiona for 28 years and now work as a city manager for a city of 150,000. I’ve been sailing small boats for years, but it’s always been my ambition to try bluewater cruising. Now that our children are on their own, all I needed was for Fiona to say yes, and now it’s looking good, so I can dream of balmy tropical nights on our own boat!

Fiona, 53 from Victoria, Australia
I’m married to Peter and we have three grown up children. When the children were young we owned a Cavalier 30 which we sailed on the Gippsland Lakes, having many wonderful family holidays. Now it is time to pursue further sailing adventures and while I enjoy my job as a speech pathologist, I’m looking forward to the career change of being a sailor!

Kirk, 24 from Bellevue, Washington
I am relatively new to sailing having recently completed ASA bareboat certification. I just completed grad school at WWU and start my first career job a few days after we return.

Megan, 25 also from Bellevue
I work in marketing and advertising and over the last few years I have done coastal sailing and chartering with my family but I was interested in gaining more experience. I’m looking forward to using my new knowledge and experience when Kirk and I charter abroad, maybe in Croatia.

(When we first met them, Megan and Kirk were both in grad school. Since then, they’ve both graduated, landed awesome jobs, Megan bought a house, and the week before they joined us Kirk proposed on the top of Mt. Baker! We wish them a wonderful life.)

Karina, 39 from Vancouver, Canada
During the week I work as a scientist at a biotech company, but on weekends you’ll find me, Gary and our dog Charlotte out sailing in the San Juan or Gulf Islands. I joined this expedition to gain open ocean experience and to improve my overall sailing knowledge.

Gary, 40 and also from Vancouver
Karina and I recently purchased an older Oyster 435 that we are currently outfitting for a trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands this summer. Following this expedition, we fly to Hawaii where I’ll be hopping aboard a friend’s boat that just completed the Victoria-Maui Yacht Race, to help sail the boat back to Vancouver.

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Leg 3 - 2012, Itinerary


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