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Leg 3 - 2014, Update 1

July 12, 2014, 0530 hrs, 16.31 S, 152.55 W, Log: 173,962 miles
Baro: 1009.7, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 84.7 F
Motorsailing at 6.5 kts in 3 kt SSW winds, confused seas, overcast and drizzle

El Nino Providing an Unexpected Lift!

Our eight days in Rarotonga passed all too quickly but we enjoyed catching up with many friends, two challenging Hash House Harrier runs (Amanda got totally lost on the second one) and on our second Sunday had a wonderfully quiet time, starting in a light drizzle, cycling around the island in a leisurely three hours, compared to Amanda's fastest time of half that. Jacob, a nice Polish guy, has started a fantastic bike shop "Ride Rarotonga" (www.riderarotonga.com) near the harbour and in exchange for discount bike rentals Amanda gave Jacob and his wife plus three little kids her "Viking Queen Grace O'Malley" Mahina pirate tour.

Raro's tiny Avatiu Harbour is normally chokka-blokka with freighters, fishing boats and visiting yachts and for one unusual day we shared the harbor with only one freighter, the Tiare Moana whose Sri Lankan captain was too scared to try and turn his ship around and leave the harbor in the gusty northerly winds. Those gusty northerly winds turned Avatiu Harbour into a washing machine as they bounced off the wall to which Mahina Tiare was stern tied but our anchor held well and we were sure pleased when the wind switched to the W, S & SE and conditions improved.

Since Friday was a holiday honoring the Ariki (Polynesian royalty) Saturday was a busy day for us, combining shopping for fruit and veg at the packed and vibrant Saturday morning market plus provisioning with dry and frozen goods at the Cook Island Trading Company across the road. Both location were packed with locals and tourists as all flights and nearly every guest house and hotel on the island was sold out.

Our crew came aboard Monday afternoon for safety briefing and first thing Tuesday morning Amanda was collecting final fresh vegetables and bread while I signed our crew on at immigration and cleared us out at customs.

As I said goodbye to our friend Sau Rasmussen, the harbourmaster whom I had met when he was a school boy on Penrhyn, he said, "If you stop at Penrhyn, be sure to say hello to my uncle Tini, the island mayor". Not knowing what the weather would bring, we had purposefully not cleared out for Penrhyn, secretly hoping that the forecasted unusually slow-moving frontal passage would give us the opportunity to get enough easting to possibly reach Mopelia, Maupiti or Bora Bora.

As we sailed out the narrow harbor entrance, Amanda said she couldn't look back at the island and I felt a real sadness. Several times during the week we had both said, "I could really live here" and for me 39 years of visiting and friendships was a powerful pull.


Leg 3 Raro to Hilo crew: Tom, Christa, Ingo, Dave, Peter and Matt

Dave, Peter and Matt enjoying ideal trade wind sailing

Our first night was in nearly perfect conditions; 12-15 kt ESE winds, flat seas and a nearly full moon and Wednesday morning we sighted Manuae, an uninhabited island 120 miles N of Raro. Harbormaster Sau had told us he had anchored Te Kukupa, the Cook Is. patrol vessel off the small lagoon entrance on the NW corner of the island but our hopes of anchoring and going for a snorkel were dashed by the NW winds

Crew gather for a team photo as we cruise along the coast of Manuae: Matt, Peter, Christa, Dave, Ingo and John
which sent large rolling breakers into the anchoring shelf. Instead we sailed close along the S coast of this dramatic, uninhabited coral atoll catching both a rainbow runner (a first for us!) and a skipjack tuna which Amanda seared with Cajun spices and olive oil. What a treat!

Slowly the cold front that was providing us with NW instead of SE winds overtook us and conditions deteriorated until we had gusts to 40 kts and driving rain. Our crew got valuable experience tucking in and shaking out reefs and we ended up spending a couple days with three reefs in the main and four in the genoa until slowly the winds moderated as the low center has been drifting SE.

Over breakfast Peter, one of our two Aussie's, initiates Tom, one of our two Hungarian/Canadians, into the downunder art of devouring vegemite.
We ended up broad reaching with full sails and the whisker pole deployed late yesterday, but early this morning the winds went very light as another low center is passing directly overhead. Although conditions haven't been brilliant and the seas have been confused we've managed to get a substantial amount of easting, so our passage N to Hilo should be much easier than if we'd had the normal ESE tradewinds.

We asked our crew whether they'd like an overnight stop in tranquil Maupiti or bustling Bora Bora and they quickly chose Maupiti which it looks like we will now make landfall at around noon today. Besides time for exploring and snorkeling, we'll be busy making repairs as the gooseneck pin's top cap has sheared off, the genoa car puller's sheave has pulled out, the trolling generator line has chafed through, the watermaker needs its oil topped up and we'll need to transfer our extra fuel jugs into the main tank.

July 16, 2014, 1030 hrs, 10.07 S, 150.15 W, Log: 174,483 miles
Baro: 1018.8, Cabin Temp: 84 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 86.2 F
Beam reaching at 7.5 kt 14 kt E winds, single reef in main, full genoa

Surprise Landfalls!

As we paralleled Maupiti's S reef heading for the pass entrance we saw salt mist hanging high in the air over the reef, a result of large breakers on the reef. Not a good sign. We had all hands on deck with David and Tom standing on the mast pulpits continuously watching for breakers in the pass. Once we were lined up on the leading marks, we were amazed at the size of the breakers on either side of the pass but David and Tom along with our Aussie surfers Peter and Matt informed us that none of the breakers were breaking completely across the entrance.


Landfall on Maupiti's south coast
When we were 0.5 miles from the narrowest part of the pass I borrowed Tom's perch on the mast pulpit and very carefully studied the pass. Amanda mentioned that it looked like the current was really setting S across the narrowest part of the channel and it was obvious that that water was fairly boiling in the pass. It was then a much larger swell than previous began quickly rolling toward us. It started breaking on our port side, then starboard and Amanda shouted, "Large swell astern!". I made an instant decision to bail out, took the helm and quickly did a 180 degree turn as the now HUGE steep royal blue swell rolled underneath us then promptly broke into a white rolling billowing surf across the entire channel. Whew, that was a little too close and we only considered waiting for a more settled period for a fraction of a minute before deciding to set sail to Bora Bora, 26 miles downwind.


Ingo and Dave point out the Maupiti's breaking pass as we decide to high tail it onto to Bora Bora
As our winds began clocking around to the NW we continued to ease sheets and were soon screaming across the channel to Bora Bora. It was a surprise to find the leeward pass had breakers on both sides and the strongest ebb current we'd ever seen. Amanda noted to the on deck watch that she'd just overheard one of the dive companies on the VHF cancelling their regular afternoon pass dive due to too much current. Bora and Maupiti both have low, exposed south-facing reefs that fringe the islands lagoon and only one major deep navigation pass. When large southerly swells are present, like today's, they break over the over the southern reef and the only exit for all that water is the deeper navigation pass.

We were able to anchor off the north of town off Marine Services ship chandlers and Tao Amok supermarket just before dark and Amanda had already researched her old Bora information packet to find out what was going on. She excitedly announced that the final night of the month-long Heiva festival was about to happen with the inter-village Tahitian couples dance competition starting at the town stadium at 8pm followed by the awards ceremony at 9:30pm. Our crew enjoyed dinner ashore at the swanky nearby MaiKai Marina (www.maikaimarina.com) and then we all proceeded to the dancing. Amanda and I sat on the sand at the free viewing are while our smart crew paid $15 for bleacher seats with a much better view of the spectacular dancers and full on accompanying drummers and singers.


A couple, attired in yellow pareo's adorned with fresh yellow frangipani/plumeria lei's and crown's, perform on the sand stage for the judges and paying crowd as a previous competing couple and drumming/singing group, in orange and white costume wraps, watch from behind along with the free standing and sitting crowd beyond the roped off stage.

A small section of a dancing drumming group in action

A competing village group, wearing fresh flower crowns, await the judge's decisions while making notes for future reference. The group's dancer, third from the left, is dressed in a stunning red feather crown and costume adorned with shells and seeds.

Sunday morning Amanda and I went ashore at dawn to wait with the entire island for hot French baguettes at Chin Lee, the only open grocery store on Sunday, and then really enjoyed a brisk run up Faanui Bay, stopping to buy bananas along the way. After our tasty baguette breakfast our crew pitched in to hold and balance the boom to allow the stainless gooseneck pin, whose welded top had popped off, to be replaced. It was then shore time and crew enjoyed a quiet Sunday relaxing ashore at Bora Bora Yacht Club while Amanda replaced a backed out/lost genoa car puller sheave, added chafe protection to the towing generator line splices and replaced the vang triple block cleat as I repaired the freezer and serviced the watermaker.


Some of happy crew strike a pose at our tranquil Bora Bora anchorage: Tom, Christa, Peter Matt and Ingo

Many hands make light work: Dave, Peter and Tom work at replacing the gooseneck pin

It was just on sunset when we sailed out Bora Bora's only pass and set a course 430 miles N to tiny uninhabited Caroline Island. We've since had remarkably fine beam and broad reaching, covering the distance in well under three days. Now we have a gorgeous tropical island on our bow and a fascinating book about it.

July 17, 2014, 0930 hrs, 8.11 S, 149.50 W, Log: 174,616 miles
Baro: 1011.6, Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 88 F, sea water 86.2 F
Beam reaching at 6.9 kt 22 kt E winds, three reefs in main and genoa

HILO, HERE WE COME!

As we approached the breakers at the southern tip of Caroline we pulled in the Ampair towing generator and Amanda set both fish lines that included a swanky new pink and blue lure. Christa named the lure "Sweet Caroline" in honor of Caroline Is and Neil Diamond "Hot August Night" which we've all had a hankering to hear (must be the age of us baby boomers) and don't have aboard. Ya Hoo, Sweet Caroline instantly hooked a sizable rainbow runner but unfortunately we were not organized enough to quickly pull in the second line when it also got hit with something big. Sadly we lost our old faithful favorite green and yellow bottle brush lure to the aggressive sharks that fought over the second caught fish. With the first line reset Amanda was quick to wrestle in a 4'10' wahoo (Spanish mackerel) before the sharks snapped that up too although they managed to take a chunk out of the tail before both Peter and I could muster the strength to lift this monster over the lifelines and to the deck. Defiantly a record wahoo fish for us.

Matt carefully piloted us under sail, paralleling the edge of the reef and Christa called depth soundings.


Looking across the lagoon to the windward side we spied the wreck of an oriental long-line fishing boat which must have been near Blind Passage.
We had to be very close to the reef to find any soundings, but about in the middle of this skinny 1 x 7 mile island that lies N-S Christa started calling soundings that dropped to 70'. With almost no swell and only a light 13 kt E wind holding us off the reef, we should have anchored there but instead carried on to the northern bight of Nake Islet.

Ron Falconer in his book, Together Alone, had written about anchoring at Nake Islet for 5 days on his first visit. In 1988-89 I'd spoken with Ron, a cruising sailor, on the ham radio and vaguely understood that he and his wife Anne along with their two young children were caretaking Caroline Island, 450 miles NNE of Tahiti for Omar Darr, a mutual friend from Moorea. They had sailed their 27' yacht Fleur d'Ecosse to the island keeping it moored in Blind Passage while they settled ashore.

Fast forward 20 years to Moorea where were dinning ashore with long-time friends and multiple expedition members Capt. Al and Larry Maher and the rest of our crew at Alfredo's. In conjunction with wonderful Italian food place we were enjoying the music of the once-a-week entertainer who at a break came up to us and said, "Hi, I'm Ron and you must be sailors!" When Ron said he'd singlehandedly circumnavigated aboard a 27' sloop he had built in Scotland and then had lived on Caroline for a couple years I instantly made the connections that we'd chatted on the radio 20 years earlier.

Fast forward another 13 or so years to last year when a sailor in Papeete casually mentioned he was thinking of sailing his Hinckley 70 to Caroline. I told him of my casual friendship with Ron, and he said, "Oh, I have Ron's book aboard, would you like to borrow it?" I stayed up all that night devouring Together Alone and a couple days later when Amanda and I were anchored off Moorea we saw a poster stating that Ron was playing at Hotel Kaveka that night. We truly enjoyed catching up with Ron, learning that his wife had ended up

A momento photo for Ron
teaching school on Moorea and their kids had gone off to France for school and jobs. We missed seeing Ron on Moorea this year, but took a picture of us with his book on MT's bow with Caroline in the background which we will send him from Hilo.

The Sailing Directions state there is no anchorage anywhere as the island falls away so precipitously. Upon arriving at the middle of Nake Islet we dropped anchor in 30' off the bow although there was 90' under our transducer and over 200' at MT's stern. We were now very close to and constantly watching the reef and fortunately the winds held us perpendicularly off the reef.

Nine years ago when we anchored off Caroline, also enroute to Hilo, very inquisitive and aggressive sharks wouldn't even let me get down the swim ladder to check the anchor, so this year when I went snorkeling to check the anchor I armed myself with our gaff hook and crew stood by with boat hook and scrubber pole to fend them off. Almost immediately six small 3' reef sharks zoomed in, but when I headed directly for them with outstretched gaff hook, they took off running like scared dogs! There were tons of tropical fish and a turtle off MT's bow and our anchor was easily visible sitting nicely on a flat piece of coral. Ingo was the first of our crew to go snorkeling and by the time our third swimmer was in the water, the sharks were nowhere to be seen.


Christa takes a peek at the sharks

It appears that the sharks are only interested in our fish carcass

Ever since Rarotonga I've been battling challenges with our freezer system working in the warmer environment so now took this quiet time to hook up a diagnostic LED light and empty some refrigerant from our possibly overcharged and overworked compressor. Just in the middle of this the sunny clear sky darkened and the wind increased a couple knots, just enough to slide our anchor off the flat piece of coral. It was now dangling 100' straight down off our bow and far above the bottom. Our alert anchor watch noticed something amiss when the boat began drifting sideways so Matt started the motor and we slowly cruised alongside the calm reef while Tom completed watching the diagnostic sequence of lights and I put everything back together.

With winds now gusting to 20, Peter suggested a couple reefs as they hoisted the main and in just minutes we were out from behind Caroline's calm lee and bashing into lumpy seas. Last night was a challenge with winds dropping to 14kts then gusting to 42. Several watches hit over 9 kts and Tom and Matt took the prize with 9.8 kts!

We're now down to 497 miles to our EQUATOR PARTY!!! and have finally had time to celebrate our stop at Caroline with a wahoo caper dinner and flambé bananas.

 


Leg 3 - 2014, Update 2

July 28, 2014, 0530 hrs, 18.11 N, 153.36 W, Log: 176,421 miles
Baro: 1017.0, Cabin Temp: 81 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 83.7 F
Broad reaching at 8.2 kts in 23 kt NE winds, double-reefed main, triple-reefed genoa

Racing Tropical Storm Genevieve Plus Two Potential Tropical Cyclones to Hilo

Our equator crossing was in brilliant weather and Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley and King Neptune officiated at the transition from Pollywogs to Shellbacks of Mahina Tiare's crew.

M. Images are out of order (Image 20w of Tom steering should actually be 22w)


Peter and Christa delight in our first tropical downpour but they soon became rather wearisome especially combined with buckets of salt spray douches

Plenty of foul rum, coffee, chili pepper gruel for Peter who is now hardy shellback

Ingo, Matt, Peter, Christa, Tom and Dave

We'd been pleased and amazed that the Honolulu weatherfax charts hadn't shown a single low or tropical wave anywhere between Mexico and Hawaii when two small lows popped up. We decided to get the best possible weather routing information for this passage and contacted Rick Shema, www.weatherguy.com.

Click here for Rick's forecasts showing the progression of Cyclone Genevieve as she gathered energy and was forecasted to cross our course two days before our estimated arrival in Hilo.

We went from not having any cyclones or tropical waves to having one named tropical storm plus three additional lows labeled Possible Tropical Cyclones" in a period of a week. After our first forecast, I came up to the cockpit that evening to find half our crew in deep discussion and their first comment was, "Let's get Amanda up here to show us how to get maximum speed out of MT! We figure if we can sail at 8kt instead of 7, we should cut one day off our remaining passage time, greatly reducing our exposure to the storm!"

Within minutes we'd tweaked and trimmed and had MT surging along at 8 kts, and that became our crew's agenda. Not only did our speed increase, fortunately TS Genevieve slowed from 10 kts to 5 kts of westerly movement and as of yesterday, she was downgraded to a tropical disturbance and we should be in port well before she passes south of the island of Hawaii.

It's been a much rougher and more difficult passage than we remember the last two, with the cyclones with the ITCZ (an area of intense tropical convection; squalls, heavy rain and confused seas) extending 600 miles from 4 N all the way to 14 N, instead of the normal 9 N. Rick has suggested we sail directly N instead of NNW towards Hilo to lessen our time in the ITCZ. We've mostly done this, adding miles and days to our passage.

Teaching has been a challenge, with winch servicing and sail repair with our Sailrite sewing machine having to have been delayed, but all other classes and all testing now completed.


Dave takes a sextant sight

Christa and Tom shake a reef

Tom reveling in our final blast to Hilo

Just minutes ago we broke the 100 mile barrier to Cape Kumukahi, our first waypoint, three miles off the easternmost lava tip of the Big Island. If the predicted winds continue, we should round the Cape just after sunset, setting us up for a fast 20 mile reach to the Hilo Harbor breakwater and an early evening arrival.


We cut off and stowed the net so it won't be tangled in a whale or turtle and will chuck it in the rubbish once we reach Hilo
Just 20 minutes ago when checking our XANTREX LINK LITE battery monitor, I noticed our AQUAIR towing generator wasn't putting out it's normal 2-4 amps, 24 volts of power so I asked Peter who was on watch to check that the torque line was spinning. When he said it wasn't, but was just out straight behind, I assumed the worst that the new Dyneema-sleeved splice that Amanda had just done three days ago had somehow chafed through. DARN! We have really, really been amazed at how close the towing generator comes to supplying all of our power needs and was not looking forward to instead having to run the engine in neutral on our 2,600 mile Leg 4 passage to Prince Rupert. I even got out the receipt from Marine Warehouse in Miami to order a new propeller, hoping that it wouldn't have to come from England as the generator had.

At first hint of light Peter went aft to pull in the generator line and called back that he couldn't budge it! We got Tom to steer 20 degrees lower than course and together Peter and I tried and by heaving as hard as we possibly could, just got the line to budge. Tom put the autopilot on and the three of us were just able to slowly pull in the 100' of line and the large mass of drift net that had tangled the prop. Amanda's splice was unscathed and the Dyneema sleeve showed no sign of chafe.

Here's our hearty Leg 3 crew:

Peter, 50
Currently working as an aviation consultant in Manila, Peter sailed with us on Leg 5-2012 "I haven't yet sailed in the Philippines, but I've learned that there is a sailing community in Subic Bay. Until recently I worked out of Sydney, Australia where I kept my Jeanneau 40. After my last passage aboard MT, I decided my Jeanneau wasn't adequate for my future plans and sold it. I've been continuing my research to find the perfect offshore cruising yacht."

Matt, 52
I'm an airline pilot based in Sydney, Australia and my wife and I sail a Beneteau 34 around Sydney harbour and coasts. The reason I joined this expedition is to gain experience on and ocean passage as cruising features in our retirement plans.

Christa, 56
I'm a family physician with a practice focused on palliative medicine in Toronto, Ontario. My interest in sailing began when I met my husband Tom and our first date was to the Toronto Boat Show Jan. 15, 1977. During my speech at our wedding, I made mention that I had to learn to sail to join Tom's family. We are now exploring our options as to what our next boat will be. We currently sail a 25' Shark on Lake Ontario and are looking forward to chartering in Belize with friends soon.

Tom, 58
I am CEO of an advisory/mentoring service for Ontario dentists. My father introduced me to sailing at age 13 and I have sailed ever since and have the pleasure of sailing with my wife Christa, our daughters and their husbands. We have club raced Hobie 16's and our Shark and have chartered various places. We were looking for a bucket list sailing adventure and this ocean training passage was a perfect fit. We are seriously looking for a larger cruising boat, and Christa says, "Next boat HAS to have a head!"

David, 60
I've had a career in sales ending up in real estate. I enjoy sitting on my 18' shrimp boat reading about physics, drinking tea and staring at the water while rocking in my rocking chair. While enjoy these little boating adventures, I thought perhaps sailing a 2700 mile up the middle of the Pacific might be a very different experience.

Ingo, 69
I am a cardiologist who was born in Austria, cruised summers in the Med with my parents aboard their Camper Nicholson 47 as a young person, went to school in Sweden and immigrated to Boston with my wife and children in 1991. Before moving to Boston we had been living in Oman for ten years.

Postscript:


Land Ho! It was great to watch the sun set behind Mauna Kea and spot the observatories on the clear mountain top.

After our final supper at sea we all enjoyed an impromptu sing-along to celebrate Dave's 61st birthday...Hit songs included "I get by with a little help from my friends", "When I"m 64/61" and Dave, having owned only cassette for the year he bummed around Australia in a van, that of Leonard Cohen, gave a great rendition of Suzanne. BUT!...Where is Neil Diamond when you need him?


Mac nut pancakes and sumo breakfast at Ken's: Tom, Christa, Auntie Wilma, Matt and Peter
Note: Dave also kept us greatly entertained at story time with his prior hitch hiking adventures that included extreme close encounters with dingos, Aborigines, straw bugs, snakes, deserts and jungles. Our Aussie's reckoned he should have dead meat long ago.

Our winds and a favorable current meant we made landfall off Cape Kumukahi, the easternmost tip of the island of Hawaii just before dark and we had the anchor down and stern lines ashore in Hilo's Radio Bay by 2300.

First thing in the morning we cleared customs and then Amanda completed our teaching schedule by sending crew aloft for rig inspections and teaching double-braid splicing. We had to settle for a graduation breakfast instead of dinner, and Ken's House of Pancakes, a Hilo institution was the venue. We had a blast!

Tropical Storm Genevieve passed S of Hawaii, but now two more threaten as we prepare to set sail in six hours for Prince Rupert.


 

 

Leg 3 - Itinerary

leg 3 itinerary

 


 

 

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