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Leg 2, 2018 Update 3

July 30, 2018, 0330 hrs, 16.48 S, 149.03 W, Log: 216,651 miles
Baro: 1014.3, Cabin Temp: 80 F, Cockpit: 80 F, Sea Water: 80.6 F
Broad reaching at at 7.5 kts in 15 kt ENE winds with full sails under a full moon!

MAGICAL DAYS AND NIGHTS!

Our landfall at Rangiroa was dramatic, to say the least. LaVerne’s tidal calculations for entering Tiputa Pass accurately predicted that we would be battling a maximum ebb current, and sure enough, we saw impressive tidal overfalls and breakers as we approached. Jeff kept Mahina Tiare lined up on the range beacons and as we entered the maelstrom we watched our speed over the ground (SOG) dropped to as low as 0.6 knots. By edging over slightly out of the center of the pass the current lessened and after a few minutes diminished to less than a knot.


Overfalls and eddies in as we navigate Tiputa Pass

While at the narrowest point, about 200 meters wide, we spotted a new (since our last visit) deck with chairs and tables cantilevered out over the water and I remarked that it would be a cool place to sit and watch the tidal action.


MT at anchor off Kia Ora

Generally, we’re used to three yachts anchored off the swanky Kia Ora Hotel not 23 as now with several100’,but never mind, there’s plenty of room. When Amanda and I went ashore with passports and boat papers the hotel said we could moor our dinghy on their dock. Upon inquiring if the Gendarmerie was still by the airport they gave us a map of the island and marked that they were now three miles west near town beside a new grocery store. We rented bikes from the hotel and were soon off down the length of the island to be cleared in by a friendly Tahitian officer.

Upon our return I dropped our hungry and thirsty crew at the wharf just inside Tiputa Pass as they were on a mission – to find the café with the cantilevered deck! Success! Josephine’s sits at the end of a palm-lined lane and proved the perfect lunch spot where our crew ate fresh baked quiche and watched bottlenose dolphins cavorting in the overfalls, boats navigating the pass and scuba divers drifting by with the current.


Legs are still wobbling as crew stroll the picturesque path to Josepine’s


Lunchtime Crew on the deck at Josepine’s


Deckside view of Julliet navigating the pass

Several crew also rented bikes to explore further and checkout the scattered boutiques carrying black pearls and colorful pareos but we all met back at Kia Ora’s dock at 4 so the friendly Gendarme could sight each crew member and their passport, then it was off for more adventuring.


Go Jean go!


Andrew displays a handprinted pareo with the artist

Our generous crew shouted Amanda and I dinner at Kia Ora, and it was as lovely as when I was first invited ashore for dinner by founder and builder, Serge Arnoux in 1975. The food was excellent, the architecture (tall thatched roof, carved posts and beams) impressive and the staff friendly. At bedtime several of our gang mentioned they’d like to head ashore with us at 0600 when Amanda and I go for a run to snag baguettes but all we heard was snoring as we readied the dinghy.

Amanda taught going aloft for rig inspection as I prepared breakfast, then everyone went ashore for more adventures, shopping and cycling. Andrew, being a keen diver signed up for a nitrox dive outside the pass and returned with stories and GoPro footage of an amazing dive where he was cruised by two dolphins, saw tons of sharks and experienced excellent visibility.

Wanting to share a quieter anchorage experience with our crew, we sailed downwind five miles, practicing Lifesling overboard rescue before passing the second pass to try a new anchorage in the lee of a small islet. With minimal detail on the paper and electronic charts, we very cautiously motored along the shoreline of what we thought was an uninhabited islet, looking for a place where we could get through the coral to the beach. The was only place that appeared to have access ashore, judging by with two skiffs and a racing canoe on a white sand beach beside a fishing shack, occupied. Kids were swimming and numerous blazing smoky fire piles of husks were scattered about a tidy coconut grove suggesting a copra plantation.

Amanda, LaVerne (an excellent French speaker) and I headed ashore and introduced ourselves to Maori, Etienne and their families. It’s winter school holiday and the family were camping on the motu and making copra. They asked how long we could stay and said of course we were welcome to leave our dinghy in front of their house while we had a picnic on the adjacent beach. Grandma Viamiti warned us of mosquitos and offered us mozzie repellent, but Amanda had thought of that already.

The picnic idea was Amanda’s. We’ve always have fun times and memorable evenings on the beach barbecue picnics we’ve over the years so she vowed to have one on every expedition this year.

Andrew, who taught survival training in the USAF oversaw the beach bonfire, although after shyly watching Andrew’s skills Maori’s daughter, Henare, came to show him how the locals do it. Knowing that we had limited cooking time before dark, and lacking a grill, Amanda had pre-heated the snarlers (Kiwi for sausages), pressure cooked the spuds and set Jean to work in a feisty Jamaican coleslaw.


Picnic Crew - LaVerne, John, Tim, Hermann, Jeff, Jean and Andew


Fire making lessons from Henare


Maori with his gift of fresh fish

Maori was concerned when he learned we didn’t have any fish, so launched his skiff and motored out to his substantial fish trap on fringe of the reed, returning to clean and hand us four large whitesaddle goatfish which made an excellent dinner tonight.

The hand-dredged channel through the coral was narrow and the tide was dropping so not long after sunset we headed back to MT. Looking shoreward as the full moon rose over the waving palm and coconut husk fires was truly magical.


Maori and his daughter bidding us farewell in the pass

Andrew, today’s navigator, calculated 207 miles from the anchorage to Marina Taina via downtown Papeete so recommended a 0630 departure. Yesterday afternoon while snorkeling over the anchor we could see that although the anchor was in sand, the chain snaked around a few dead coral patches. It took several attempts, while gently motoring, in different directions before the chain popped free. When Maori noticed we were having a little difficulty, he tossed his mask and fins in the skiff and motored out with his daughters, standing by if we needed a hand. When were on our way he followed us out into the pass, waving and saying goodbye in Tahitian. What a generous host and we’ll definitely look forward to returning!

We had slack water and an easy exit out Avatoru Pass, sailing close along Rangiroa’s N and NW outer reef to Blue Lagoon, an idyllic anchorage accessible from inside of the atoll. The water was crystal clear, the seas calm except for gentle breakers on the reef, and the day was gorgeous!


Spreader view the east shoreline and point of Avatoru Pass


Busy lookout times as we exit the pass on the range


An ocean view of Blue Lagoon

With such idyllic conditions Amanda taught sail repair utilizing our Sailrite sewing machine, followed by winch servicing then at Jeans request Turk’s head. Yippee we then caught our second fish as Jean landed and cleaned a gorgeous wahoo (Spanish mackerel). Amanda has already made into poisson cru (Tahitian marinated raw fish salad in coconut milk). We also enjoyed our last (of several) sing-alongs as over the years Amanda has collected several song books and four out of six of our Leg 2 crew were keen singers. We’re just now hoping someone on our upcoming 2018 expeditions knows how to play the ukulele! Maybe it’s time for us to learn.


Andrew tackles the sewing.


Jean enjoying a quiet moment as we cruise past Blue Lagoon

August 3, 2018, 1330 hrs, 16.45 S, 150.58 W, Log: 216,821 miles
Baro: 1013.8, Cabin Temp: 82 F, Cockpit: 84 F, Sea Water: 80.8 F
At anchor, Baie Apoomati, Huahine

Our last night at sea before landfall Monday morning in Tahiti was gorgeous – with very calm seas and occasionally just enough wind to keep MT humming. The 0200-0400 watch spotted the lights of Tahiti and by 1100 LaVerne was steering MT through Papeete Pass with Jean navigating and everyone else on sharp lookout for ships, ferries and yachts on the move.


Entering Papeete Pass


Kelly, Samara and Andrew are reunited

I was very curious to see (and show our crew) the new Papeete Marina, just opened in 2015 so we motored through it. I was amazed to see nearly all 83 berths filled with visiting cruising boats. We next had to gain permission to motor past the end of the airport and then followed a very scenic five-mile inside reef passage to Marina Taina.

Constance, our good friend and marina manager had saved a berth for us and no sooner had we tied up than Andrew’s wife Kelly and 19-month old daughter Samara came aboard. Samara enjoyed exploring the boat, playing with our stuffed polar bear and sending Chagres, our stuffed Panamanian sloth, into the ocean for a swim!

After we had MT washed down, water tank filled and everyone ashore for showers, laundry plus explorations to Carrefour our appreciative crew again shouted us dinner, this time at the stylish waterfront French restaurant within the marina which afforded us a magnificent view of sunset over Moorea, just 14 miles west.

Tuesday morning was a whirlwind of packing bags, cleaning cabins with our keen crew making plans to meet for dinner, plus hiking on both Tahiti and Moorea. Amanda and I made a trip to Carrefour, the best (by far) and closest mega-grocery store, then set sail for Moorea.

After a night and day on Moorea, we did something we’ve been talking and dreaming about for years; setting sail 87 miles for the isolated and quiet bays on Huahine’s east coast. We had to reef down to keep from arriving before dawn, but not long after, we sailed into Passe Farerea, ending up anchoring just to the south in Baie Apoomati.

The bay is uniformly 65’ deep but appears to have a mud bottom and this morning we found a small channel through the coral shallows to shore where we enjoyed an excellent tranquil run along a coastline we’ve never explored before.

We’re now working on boat chores and studying  www.windy.com for our return to Tahiti, which would normally be straight into SE tradewinds. Fortunately, a low may pass south of Tahiti providing NNE winds so we may get lucky and be able to reach back to Moorea!



Leg 2, 2018, Update 2

July 26, 2018, 1900 hrs, 13.48 S, 147.08 W, Log: 216,412 miles
Baro: 1016.7, Cabin Temp: 80 F, Cockpit: 80 F, Sea Water: 80.8 F
Beam reaching with brakes on at 6.5 kts in 15 kt ENE winds. Double-reefed main and triple-reefed 120% genoa


The radar never lies – squalls abound!


If you can see the horizon...it’s not such a big threat.


Look Look...no hands...I’m getting the hang of this helming thing.

Following our smooth and fast passage of a very benign ITCZ, we sheeted in and struggled to gain easting. If you look at our track (hyperlink) you’ll see a curvy course where we lost easting for a couple days in ESE winds. Surprisingly and thankfully, we’ve had almost no southerly component in what should be the SE tradewinds, and in fact, have had a fair amount of E and even ENE winds which even continue today. For a 24 hr period which thankfully ended yesterday afternoon, we had frequent squalls packed with rain and gusty winds to 25 kts. Having our new Raymarine MFD in the cockpit sure makes it easier for our on-watch crew to keep track of incoming squalls and to judge their intensity and whether or not they need to reduce sail before the next squall’s arrival.


Amanda and LaVerne belting out yet another song

Our crew became proficient at dialing the headsail in and out, working the traveler and steering all of which they actually appreciated!

Here’s what Rick Sheema, www.weatherguy.com said about our conditions:

This morning I checked the satellite imagery over your route and a low to mid-level cloud band formed offering some enhanced squalls. Once it clears it should be fair skies until arrival.

Fairly bumpy hot conditions have teaching a little difficult, but this crew have rallied on as keen as mustard, so we’ve been working to stay right on top of our class schedule.

Party Time!
We celebrated our equator crossing and half-way party at the same time with a visit from King Neptune and his able assistant with six pollywogs undergoing the grueling initiation process (including having to eat some vile green gruel) and offer up a song to the gods of the deep.


King Neptune and the freshly initiated shellback Jean


Hummm...not too sure what it is that I just ate!


The Black Pearl Pirate Queen  with her new shellback brothers and sisters

With bouncy conditions below our time is mostly taken up with daily duties such as navigating and watches although we have several very keen singers so our song books have made the rounds as we all enjoy sing-alongs following dinner. LaVerne has tuned up our newly-purchased ukulele and promises us lessons.


Celestial class was very popular and our plot came with a 10th of a mile


LaVerne rocking out on her make shift guitar...perhaps we’ll enter her in the Air Guitar World Competition


After trying to shave in a shared cramped head Andrew finds it safer to do so in the main salon.

We all delight in the tales at dinner from our Storyteller of the Day. Andrew related amazing stories of his wife Kelly joining him in exploring China, Viet Nam and Cambodia while stationed in Korea, LaVerne told of kayaking in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic where polar bears are a constant threat. Tim’s stories of living and working in Alaska were only surpassed by his reading Robert Service’s Shooting of Dan McGrew and Cremation of Sam Magee. Hermann spoke of growing up on his family’s farm in Germany, Jean shared colorful stories of meeting wonderful locals in her years sailing and traveling in Mexico and Jeff told of visiting his son in Panama and travels they shared together.

At dawn this morning we had 153 miles to Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, Tuamotu Archipelago, so we’re trying to keep our speed down to below 6.3 kts as entering in the dark would be seriously unwise. One of our navigator’s jobs today is calculating the tidal currents for the relatively narrow Tiputa Pass entrance where the maximum current can reach 5 kts which at times causing standing waves.

Yesterday and today we’ve had visits from frigate birds, (proving land is nearby) terns, noddies, boobies and two beautiful white-tailed tropic birds.


Leg 2 Crew aka The Bitter Enders - Jeff, Tim, LaVerne, Jean, Andrew and Hermann

Andrew, 50
I’m a US Air Force officer nearing retirement, currently living near Wash. DC and primarily sailing the Chesapeake Bay. I’m excited to meet my wife and 19-month old daughter who arrive in Tahiti a few hours before Mahina Tiare and will be joining us for our graduation dinner Monday night. We are looking forward to introducing our daughter to sailing. (Andrew’s wife Kelly bought him this expedition to celebrate his retiring from the military, but then Andrew chose to enlist for another three years in order to give his daughter GI-bill education benefits.

Jean, 64
I’ve been sailing since 1990 and have lived aboard sailboats for the past 23 years in San Francisco, on Mexico’s west coast and Sea of Cortez. and now in San Diego. I am a hydrogeologist focused on water supply for the SW US. In 2020 I plan on crewing for Diane (who was on the 2018 Mahina Panama expedition) to Fiji, hopefully meeting up with Mahina Tiare along the way. Jean also plans to help Diane sail her Pacific Seacraft 40 to Mexico next fall.

Jeff, 58
I live in Clinton, NY and work as a business manager for a radiology practice. I am thinking carefully about relocating to Maine and finding a boat on the coast. Future cruising plans include Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, US eastern seaboard and eventually the Caribbean. My ultimate dream would be a passage through the Panama Canal and the downwind run to the Marquesas.

Hermann, 50
I’m a retired farmer from Germany, now living near Sooke, BC, Canada. I’m interested in exploring new places and making new friends all over the world.

Tim, 66
I’m an engineer living aboard my 28’ Bristol Channel Cutter in Honolulu. I purchased a boat that had been left sitting for several years and have slowly been upgrading it with the first goal of inter-island cruising. My long-term sailing goals include Alaska where one of my sons live and Greenland.

LaVerne
A woman of a certain age whose occupation is attorney and polisher of brass on other people’s yachts. I live in Seattle and Mazama, Washington. (LaVerne sailed to Svalbard with us a couple years ago, she’s a keen kayaker with extensive high latitude kayaking experience, and a climber both which make for interesting stories)


Leg 2, 2018 Update 1

July 12, 2018, 1610 hrs, 17.00 N, 155.54 W, Log: 214,271 miles
Baro: 1013.4, Cabin Temp: 85 F, Cockpit: 89 F, Sea Water: 80 F
Beam reaching at 7.8 kts in 20 kt ENE winds under double-reefed main and triple-reefed 120% genoa

WE’RE OFF TO TAHITI FOLLOWING A FLYING START!

Monday afternoon we had a huge learning bonus for our Leg 2 crew. Marine meteorologist and former commanding officer of forecasting for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Rick Sheema (www.weatherguy.com) hand-delivered and explained how he had developed our departure forecast.


Leg 2 crew ready for grand adventures!


Rick Sheema completing our departure forecast briefing

Click HERE to view Rick Sheema’s forecast: And click HERE to review www.wriwx.com’s passage forecast:

Tuesday noon, July 10th, our crew came aboard and following lunch and completion of our safety orientation, we anchored Mahina Tiare offshore of Ko Olina Marina and all jumped in the 80 F ocean water to finish the bottom sponging Amanda had started in the marina.

By 1600 we raised anchor, hoisted a double-reefed brand new mainsail from Port Townsend Sails, unrolled part of nearly-new Elvstrom experimental Spectra-Dacron genoa and hung on for the ride toward the Big Island of Hawaii! Small craft warnings were up in the inter-island channels and in no time we were further reefing the headsail to keep boat speed under 8 kts in the exciting channel conditions. True to form in Rick Sheema and www.windy.com forecasts, Molokai and Mau provided a wind shadow with light winds and confused seas which we motorsailed through, putting us in the Alenuihaha Channel with even more exciting conditions.


Jean and John work through a GRIB file

By 1600 we raised anchor, hoisted a double-reefed brand new mainsail from Port Townsend Sails, unrolled part of nearly-new Elvstrom experimental Spectra-Dacron genoa and hung on for the ride toward the Big Island of Hawaii! Small craft warnings were up in the inter-island channels and in no time we were further reefing the headsail to keep boat speed under 8 kts in the exciting channel conditions. True to form in Rick Sheema and www.windy.com forecasts, Molokai and Mau provided a wind shadow with light winds and confused seas which we motorsailed through, putting us in the Alenuihaha Channel with even more exciting conditions.

The annual US Navy-sponsored RIMPAC military exercises were in full swing with naval vessels and aircraft from a host of Pacific nations all on joint exercises. We were buzzed by helicopters, passed and were passed by Star Wars-looking warships from France, NZ, Australia, the Philippines but never once did we need change our course by more than a few degrees to keep clear. Surprisingly all the ships except for one were transmitting AIS information, making calculating avoidance much easier. The parade of ships sure made the night watches fly by!

Generally, the area around Ka Lae, the southern tip of the island of Hawaii is the windiest and roughest in the state, so instead of passing close to it to preserve easting, we passed 80 miles south, where we never had an increase with winds hovering between 17 and 22 kts.


Mahina Tiare blasting along SE of the island of Hawaii

When LaVerne plotted our noon-to-noon positions this afternoon, she discovered we’d sailed 154 miles in the varied conditions, something we are all pleased with.

Several of us experienced varying levels of seasickness, but a combination of Stugeron, Compazine, Scopalamine and continued hydration seems to have done the trick and everyone had healthy appetites by breakfast this morning.

Starting this season’s expeditions from Ko Olina, 30 minutes from the Honolulu West Marine store and ten minutes from new Costco, Home Depot, Loews, Hawaii Hardware, Macys and (don’t laugh!) Walmart allowed us to load MT to the gills with supplies we won’t easily have access to until we return to Hawaii in 2023. Both of MT’s showers are stacked with fruit, veggies and nearly every storage space is packed tight. We replaced or have replacements on board for nearly all of the running rigging.

For class this afternoon, we talked strategy for this passage. Both of our departure forecast computer-generated forecast charts recommended sailing a direct rumbline to Rangiroa, Tuamotus, our proposed landfall and customs port of entry for French Polynesia. I wonder if they are both using the same Expedition routing software? When I asked Rick about this, he said this was projected to be the fastest passage, based on current forecasts, but he said that his faith in forecasts only extended out 3-4 days, and that if he was making this passage on his own boat, he would choose to cross the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, formerly known as the doldrums) at least five degrees upwind of the rumbline.

Based on our many times past experience making this passage and on Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes, Amanda and I had chosen 5 N, 145 W as our point to aim for before changing course directly for Rangiroa. The situation is that ENE tradewinds predominate north of the ITCZ and ESE to SE winds are prevalent south of the ITCZ. In sailing a direct course, one runs the risk of having to sail close-hauled or even having to tack if the trades are from the SE. The trades are generally about five knots stronger N of the ITCZ, so trying to put easting in the bank at the start of the passage can be uncomfortable.

July 16, 2018, 0630 hrs, 10.28 N, 150.46 W, Log: 214,822 miles
Baro: 1012.5, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 89 F, Sea Water: 81.5 F
Close reaching at 6.5 – 7.2 kts in 12-20 kt in NE winds under double-reefed main and double-reefed 120% genoa


Jean and Amanda prepare a build-your-own sushi party

Hello, this is Jean, one of the expedition members. We are almost a week out from Honolulu and down around 10 degrees North latitude.  One of my stated goals at our first safety meeting on 7/9 was to learn about steering and sail trim through squalls...well – the squalls are here and we are learning.  Luckily the first squalls were during daylight hours.  These small localized cells can be seen from a distance like a raincloud approaching over a prairie.

The ones that we have encountered so far, contain a noticeable wind-shift, increasing by 5-10 knots and changing directions. The responses have been to follow the wind angle to honor the sail configuration, sometimes we have needed to shorten sail as the squall passed over and showered us with rain. Then there are the short wide rainbows from the ocean’s water surface to the bottom of the clouds.

Sunday weather/seas allowed for our first jump in the ocean for a swim, shampoo, and freshwater rinse. What an amazing experience to swim in the open ocean with a water temperature of about 81.5 degrees. Not sure how to place it in words, but the world feels right. Life aboard has fallen into a daily structure giving free time to read, put out the fishing line and general projects. We have classes each day that are held at different places on/in the boat depending on the topic. We all have improved at the helm and staying on course within a few degrees on the compass is becoming second nature.

Here’s our latest updated forecast from Rick Sheema, www.weatherguy.com:

Weather summary:
Entering northern boundary of the ITCZ. Isolated deep convection north of
07N and to your east. Moderate convection elsewhere. Mostly subdued for
this time of year. Area of probable tropical depression is developing near
14N 140W this morning (16/1200Z). Central Pacific Hurricane Center most
likely will issue first warning today. System moving westward at 15
kts. Most of the higher winds, seas, and rain are north of center and out
of your sailing area. Minimal impact.

Expect NE to abate later today to the 10 kt range, then become light and
variable through the ITCZ axis. Expect these conditions to hold until
roughly 05 45N. Then SE winds 10-13 kts south of there. Winds may back to
Eerly 15-20 kts nearing the equator and south.

Route:
In the very short term, to reduce risk of encountering isolated deep
convection, suggest heading due south until south of 07N. Then resume
SEerly heading if desired. When clear of convection and in the North
Equatorial Counter Current running from west to east, easting can be
attained by slowing speed over ground allowing for set towards the east.

Forecast:
DD/HHHH Wind kts Waves m
16/2100-17/0000 NE 15-10 NE 2.0 mostly swell
17/0000-17/1800 NE-SE 5-12 NE 2.0 mostly swell
17/1800-18/2100 SE 6-11 NE 2.0-2.2 mostly swell
18/2100-20/1800 SE-E 10-15 NE 2.0 mostly swell
20/1800-22/1200 E 13-18 NE swell 1.5, wind wv 1.0

Thank and let me know if there are any questions.

Aloha,
Rick Shema

July 16, 2018, 2130 hrs, 09.08 N, 150.28 W, Log: 214, 919 miles
Baro: 1011.5, Cabin Temp: 84 F, Cockpit: 84 F, Sea Water: 81.5 F
Motorsailing into 5 kt SE winds with single reefed main

Following Rick Sheema’s forecast above, we shook out reefs (main & genoa), eased sheets and headed directly south to cross the ITCZ at the narrowest part. Our course of 170 degrees meant we were broad reaching smoothly and comfortability. With speeds of 6-9 kts we zoomed along all day with flat seas. We even managed to land one small bonito, our first fish of the season.

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