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Leg 1 - 2014, Update 1

May 9, 2014, 2130 hrs, 35.54 S, 175.46 E, Log: 169,719 miles
Baro: 1012.5, Cabin Temp: 69 F cockpit 65 F, sea water 72.3 F
Broad reaching at 6 kts in 11 kt SW winds.

AN EARLY START FOR OUR 24TH SEASON OF SAIL-TRAINING!

With an unusually moderate and favorable weather pattern developing, we asked our Leg 1, Auckland-Tahiti crew to come aboard yesterday from 2-6 PM so that we could start our safety briefing and collect passports and to return at 7:30 this morning instead of noon for customs clearance and setting sail.


Jeff and Angela listening to Bob's passionate weather forecasting

At 3PM yesterday Bob McDavitt, former MetService NZ forecaster gave us a weather briefing confirming that if we waited until our originally planned Saturday morning departure, we would miss the forecasted S-SW winds and end up in the middle of the first of three high pressure cells with very little wind. Bob who literally wrote the book (Mariner's MetPak, SW Pacific) on regional marine weather said that the next frontal passage should give us fresh and gusty SE winds to 35 kts with its passage Saturday (tomorrow) but following that we should have modest S to SW winds for several days, giving us excellent beam to broad reaching conditions with very moderate seas.

We've also just received our passage forecast from www.commandersweather.com and CLICK HERE to view that.

Each year when we leave MT on the hard with all systems working we always wonder what the gremlins will get into while we're gone. Items that were working perfectly sometimes refuse to work when we relaunch and turn them back on. This year we were very fortunate in that the only item that not working was our Trimble INMARSAT-C satcom, and the good news was that it only needed a new internal battery, something easily installed locally.

A couple days ago I installed our new Yellowbrick Tracker, an Iridium-based "pinger" that shows our updated position on a cool Google Earth map at the bottom of our home page. While we were gone we had our 17 year old Avon RIB 340 tender "re-tubed" by Lancer Industries who make tenders for surf rescue services. Before they took it away we went over every part of the old tender with the Lancer manager marking changes and modifications with a marking pen. They cut the old hypalon fabric off, refurbished the worn spots on the fiberglass hull and then did an amazing job building an even better tender than the original. The only problem was that when we went for a test spin while anchored at Rangitoto Island, the tender porpoised a bit, but this was completely solved when I installed a fin on the cavitation plate.
We enjoyed mooring at Pier 21, a small marina very close to the marine shops and after a week of work headed north for a lovely weekend with Amanda's family.

A bonus for us upon returning was that our photographer friends Tor and Kyoko Johnson aboard their Beneteau 46 Kahea arrived at Pier 21 in and we spent all day Tuesday doing a photo shoot off Motutapu Island and in Auckland Harbour after dark. We had perfect conditions all day and most amazingly a pod of common dolphins spent over an hour frolicking alongside so close that their breathing sprayed Tor in his dinghy plus Amanda and Kyoko! Check out Tor's website, www.tjhawaii.com.






Leg 1 - 2014, Update 2

May 21, 2014, 0600 hrs, 23.39 S, 160.59 W, Log: 171,447 miles
Baro: 1010.5, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 78 F, sea water 84.7 F
Closehauled under triple-reefed main and 30% of headsail at 5.5 kts in 22-28 kt NNE winds and confused, crossed seas. 155 miles to Rarotonga and 537 miles to Rurutu, Austral Islands


Leg 1 Crew ready step aboard - Terry, Kate, Jess, Karl, Angela and Jeff

A Never-Ending Parade of Lows and Frontal Passages Has Continually Challenged Our Progress!

For the first time in two weeks our winds have backed toward the north and we are able to steer directly for Rurutu, our destination after sailing many extra miles because of headwinds and heavy weather. The SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) has linked up to four low pressure cells forming a band of rather nasty weather that we have been keeping pace with. Normally the lows and fronts move through fairly rapidly on their march towards Cape Horn, but not this week.

Click HERE for our latest forecast from Commanders' Weather:

Our expedition crew tell us they chose this passage leg for the challenging conditions and they haven't been disappointed! Not long after dinner night before last Terry and Angela were on watch, motorsailing slowly in 4 kts of wind. We'd been watching approaching weather visually on the radar but were caught off guard when the winds gusted up to 47 kts within TWO minutes, accompanied by a deluge of rain.

Crew practice reefing as yet another rain squall passes by
We had a single reef in the main and only 30% of the genoa out, but we were instantly overpowered and Amanda struggled to triple reef the main as we furled the away the genoa. The winds stayed in the 35-40 kt range for the next 12 hrs and we found that fore-reaching (no headsail, hand steering under triple-reefed main to keep boat speed down) provided the least stressful ride as we sailed directly north to get across the convergence zone where we have since found more favorable wind direction.

Our Leg 1 crew have reefed and unreefed dozens of times in challenging conditions as we struggle to keep making progress, mostly upwind. Our latest forecast and GRIB files indicate we should have at least a couple days of beam to possibly broad reaching in 18-26 kt winds before yet another low pops up near Rurutu giving us headwinds again. Even with the rough weather we've managed to have class all but two mornings and are nearly on our teaching schedule.


3 feathered friends take a rest stop on the aft pushpit

Amanda teaching rigging spares

Life onboard is a little uncomfortable with the continual rough motion and soggy foulies although everyone is in good spirits and getting used to hanging on tightly, moving around with caution and catching sleep whenever possible. We've slowed down several times for aft deck showers but the couple times when sea conditions were calm enough to stop for a swim we've wanted to keep making miles.

May 23, 2014, 0630 hrs, 23.05 S, 155.46 W, Log: 171,755 miles
Baro: 1014.2, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 78 F, sea water 84.4 F
Beam reaching under double-reefed main and triple-reefed headsail at 7.5 kts in 18-20 kt NNW winds and moderate seas. 165 miles to Rimatara and 250 miles to Rurutu, Austral Islands.

The pesky South Pacific Convergence Zone is now a near-record 3,200 miles long, stretching from north of Fiji nearly to Easter Island. It has been moving east at nearly the same speed as us as one day we sail through its 250 miles wide band, and the next day it overtakes us again. The latest NZ weatherfax charts predict that by 0200 tomorrow morning it will have passed well ahead of us. We sure won't miss the squally weather!


A typical day of grey sky, squalls and bouncy conditions

John and crew discussing routing tactics through the SPCZ

Karl and crew still smiling and conditions get even wetter

As forecasted, the winds backed to NW yesterday giving us a glorious 24 hrs of broad reaching where we actually needed to rig the preventer for the first time in two weeks. The eastern sky is now getting some morning color and looks free of squalls. Our winds have been slowing clocking around from NW to NNW and are forecasted to continue clocking until they are nearly on our nose, so our speed will drop down. With 165 miles to Rimatara, we are planning to drop anchor tomorrow for lunch, oil change and snorkeling.


Reefed down and blasting along!

Karl and Angela looking a little weary after yet another reefing squall passes and more reefing

We've yet to catch a fish, but Terry and Jeff, our keen Aussie fishermen convinced us to bring in our Aquair Towing Generator yesterday so that they could rig a second fishing line. Our teaching schedule is on target and Amanda taught sail design and trim yesterday morning and I was able to use our PowerPoint presentation for anchoring class in the afternoon. Several of our crew are quite keen to try their hand at sail repair so we are looking forward to dusting off our Sailrite machine once we reach Rurutu.


Kate takes a noon site

Yahoo!...we all finally get to go swimming

Karl and Angela navigate to Rurutu

May 25, 2014, 0530 hrs, 22.25 S, 151.22 W, Log: 172.0355 miles Baro: 1014.2, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 79 F, sea water 83.1 F Motorsailing at 4.5 kts off Rurutu, waiting for sunrise

Our landfall at Rimatara yesterday was at noon and we enjoyed lunch while anchored off the island before everyone jumped in for a snorkel. Meanwhile I was able to change engine oil and filter plus get in a swim before we raised anchor and set sail for Rurutu. We had some great sailing last night with Jess and Amanda consistently topping 9kts on a beam reach during their 2am watch.


The small landing on the west side of Rimatara

Kate and Terry take the cockpit watch while Karl stands lookout as we skirt the Southern coast of Rimatara

Coconut trees, white sand beaches and impressive surf breaks provide a spectacular site as we sail along the southern coast in the hopes of catching a fish.

An hour ago we picked up the AIS signal of Tuhaa Pae IV, the 250' freighter that serves the Austral Islands, heading toward Rututu with a 0430 ETA. What a surprise to see her pass the harbor on the east side of the island steam past us. She now appears to be stationary in the lee of the island. I'm wondering what she is up to as she normally docks in Moerai Harbor to unload. I'm now unsure of what to do in terms of whether we should enter tiny Moerai Harbor or wait to see if she's coming back. If we enter the harbor we might then have to put to sea if Tuhaa Pae returns to allow room for her to swing around.

May 27, 2014, 0130 hrs, 20.59 S, 150.22 W, Log: 172,156 miles
Baro: 1017.8, Cabin Temp: 82 F cockpit 79 F, sea water 83.1 F
Broad reaching at 6kts in 17 kt E winds, calm seas with 207 miles to Taapuna Pass, Tahiti

We timed our arrival off Moerai Harbor entrance for first light and Amanda who was checking out the harbor with binoculars said, "There are three giant cranes in the harbor". We now knew the reason the supply ship headed to the anchorage off the only other landing place on the island must be because of harbor construction. Our next thought was would be able to get in the harbor.

We decided to give it a go so after first light we very slowly entered the harbor. It was a little nerve racking as it's a narrow entrance through the concrete breakwaters with breaking surf either side and a green flashing range to line up. I had contemplated launching the dinghy to check out the harbor first but the swells and seas were too large to make this a safe option. After gingerly entering the entrance and dodging a string of buoyed painted soda bottles we find a large dredging barge tied to the wharf and two large mobile cranes ashore amongst piles of dredge spoils. On the funny side the largest crane had a mobile generator hanging high in the air; possibly to avoid having it stolen? We dropped our anchor in the middle of the harbor trying to avoid cable running out from the barge and shore and slowly backed toward the harbor wall. In order to get a stern line ashore we then launched the RIB and attached the outboard. The harbor was deserted and we hoped the dredging crew would be taking the Sunday off work, which thankfully they did.


Kate awaits instructions as we prepare to drop anchor in the harbor

Jess tidies the halyards - note the construction barge in the background

While Amanda made breakfast and taught going aloft for rig inspection I hiked down the coast and was amazed to find that even on Sunday the Gendarmerie was open from 9-12 and 2-4. The same Gendarme who has checked us in the past three years was there and as friendly and helpful as ever. I left him copies of our boat registration, of all passports and onward air tickets and he asked if I could come back at 3 pm to complete check in and check out.

Our crew took off to explore the island and Amanda and I cleaned, restocked the galley and slept until after I'd completed our check-in at 3 PM when we then we went for a hike to the NW tip of the island.


A view of Mahina Tiare in the harbor taken by Jess on her bike trip
Our crew discovered we'd arrived on Mother's Day and after a swim at the northern beach with shower in the rain and a hike for Jess to the other side of the island they met at the only restaurant/bar open in the village where enjoyed lots of local music and dinner.

We suspected we would have to leave the harbor later in the morning once the construction work stated so we set our alarms for a 6am explore ashore. Exactly at 6am the digger stated up and began scooping sand into the dump truck in the dark. Jess was the only one up for an explore ashore so we took the dinghy out to check out the offshore anchorage as a possibility but fair sized rollers made this a non-viable option. Once ashore we were met by the foreman/engineer who said they needed to position the barge exactly where we were anchored. We asked if we could pick up our bread at the bakery before leaving and he said that would be ok. We'd 12 pre-ordered loaves of crispy hot French bread waiting plus a huge flour sack full of pamplemouse, (large sweet grapefruit) that the storekeeper always gives us.

As quickly as possible we heaved the heavy sack of pamplemouse aboard, dropped our stern line, got the dinghy aboard, anchor and sails up and headed out the harbor. We sailed back and forth along the coast with boat fishing lines out but having no bites, turned and set sail NNE for Tahiti, 310 miles away.


View of the harbor as we leave the reef zone

Kate take the helm and we troll the coast of Rurutu in search of a fish

Jess and Karl take time out for a little light reading...oh it's looks more like some quick zzzz's before class

Right after breakfast Amanda taught sail repair and the seas were calm enough that she was able to pull our Sailrite sewing machine out to give the keen members of our crew a chance to try their hand at sample sail repairs.


Terry trims the headsail as Karl sails true to course

Kate takes a moment for checking headsail trim to enjoy the trade wind sailing

Our sailing has been so good that we've had to reef down to keep our boat speed under 7 kts so we don't arrive in Tahiti before dawn. Since we're not in a hurry, we hove-to and went for a swim after lunch in boisterous seas which was rather fun.


Leg 1 - 2014, Update 3

June 3, 2014, 1600 hrs, 17.30 S, 149.51 W, Log: 172,424 miles
Baro: 1009.2, Cabin Temp: 84 F cockpit 85 F, sea water 88.0 F (an all time record!)
At anchor, Robinson's Cove, Opunohu Bay, Moorea


Kate, Jess and Karl practice hoisting the storm staysail

The Shark Drogue Babes - Angela, Kate and Jess

We really enjoyed the sunny passage to Tahiti, and with calm sailing for the first half we were able to focus on the last few important classes such as practicing storm tactics but as predicted, during our final 60 miles the wind came forward of the beam and increased to 27 kts so our keen crew kept tucking reefs in until the main was triple-reefed and the headsail wasn't much larger than a hanky.

Once we were well in the lee of Tahiti the wind totally dropped so we motored the last few miles into Taapuna Pass and Marina Taina. We were delighted that marina managers Philippe and Constance found a spot to squeeze Mahina Tiare into.

While I headed to Papeete to check in with Port Captain our crew tidied their cabins and packed. We enjoyed a delightful graduation dinner in Marina Taina's Pink Coconut restaurant with a fabulous sunset view of Moorea.

Friday Amanda and I provisioned, cleaned and set sail for Moorea, not expecting the 27 kts we received though enjoyed a great sleigh ride to Cooks Bay. Since then we've gotten three coats of varnish on, visited our local friends ashore and enjoyed meeting this seasons cruisers.

Here's our Leg 1 crew:


Leg 1 in Tahiti - Jess, Jeff, Angela, Kate Terry and Karl

Jessica, 36
This September my partner Bill and I are moving aboard our HR 43 to start a 5-7 year circumnavigation. Bill joined Mahina Tiare on an earlier expedition and based on the knowledge and confidence he gained I decided on Leg 1. My goals have been to become a stronger sailor while focusing on specific skills such as sail trim, storm tactics and to mentally prepare for life aboard. I study and practice studio art (painting) in New York and plan to dedicate more time to this when we move aboard.

Jeff, 54
I'm a pilot for an Australian airline and in the past I flew P3C Orion aircraft for the Australian Air Force and have always been interested in joint operation of air and sea such as search and rescue. I live in Sydney with my partner Angela and we have sailed intermittently for 15 years, mainly chartering. We joined this expedition to gain ocean crossing experience to enable us to purchase a catamaran for our own cruising adventures.

Angela, 63
I'm a Kiwi living mostly in Sydney for the past 40 years and have always had a penchant for exotic outdoor adventures. I'm about to offload my sales and marketing business and hope to extend my sailing experience, hopefully aboard a catamaran with my partner Jeff.

Kate, 54
My original career was psychiatric nursing and after meeting my husband Terry we've been involved in numerous small business adventures including fuel distribution, hotels, child care and we still operate an 80' offshore power catamaran that takes guests out to the Great Barrier Reef. As all but one of our five children has left the nest, it was time to do something for ourselves so we purchased a 46' aluminum Van de Stadt sloop in SE Asia thisFebruary, sailed it to Singapore and now we leave Mahina Tiare with the confidence to sail our yacht back to Australia.

Karl, 60
Hi, I'm Karl. I sail my Pacific Seacraft 34 out of Greenport, NY and I've cruised the Chesapeake and southern New England for 25 years. I have my sights set on a singlehanded race to Bermuda and long term an Atlantic Crossing when I retire from producing music for advertising.

 


Leg 1 Itinerary

 

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