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Leg 1, 2019, Update 1
Auckland, New Zealand; Rurutu, Papeete, Tahiti


A BRILLIANT START TO OUR 30TH SEASON OF SAIL-TRAINING ADVENTURES!

May 18, 2019, 0730 hrs, 28.37 S, 159.01, W, Log: 222,688 miles
Baro: 1015.9+, Cabin Temp: 72 F, Cockpit: 70 F, Sea Water: 74 F
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 33kt W winds: double-reefed main and three reefs in genoa
256 miles to Orne Bank, a mid-ocean seamount with a depth of 29 meters

Mahina Tiare spent the cyclone season ashore in Auckland and these are the items we addressed during that time and once we returned:

  • Regalvanized second bow anchor and chain
  • Replaced Lifeline AGM batteries with the same
  • Added an additional Raymarine multi-display over main hatch which we’ll use solely for depth
  • Replaced engine coolant, had valves adjusted and engine aligned
  • +Had windlass stripped down and serviced for the first time since installation 12+ years ago
  • Had the rudder stripped down to barrier coat and coated with Copper Coat
  • Had one of the Flexofold prop blades coated with PropGlide and the other two with PropSpeed as a test for Practical Sailor magazine
  • Had one bow thruster prop coated with PropSpeed, and the other with Micron 77
  • Had bottom painted with Micron 77

And the big daddy of all; installed an IridiumGO satellite system, and got it synched up with PredictWind whose base is in Auckland.


Leg 1 crew – Amanda, Joanna, Dean, Andrew, Linda, David and Andrew

We asked our Leg 1 crew to meet aboard MT the day before they joined us for the expedition for a safety and weather briefing. Auckland had been experiencing the finest fall weather we’d ever seen and orientation day was one of the finest! A real bonus was having Keryn McMaster from PredictWind come aboard and show us how to commission and receive weather routing through the IridiumGO we’d just completed installing. Crew members Andrew and Dean had already been using PredictWind and were big fans.

Shortly after crew came aboard on Thursday, May 9th, we set sail for Rangitoto Island, just six miles away. Rangi, as it is affectionately called, is a fairly new volcanic island that guards the entrance to Auckland Harbour, and where Amanda and I anchored on our first sailing date in 1994. We all enjoyed a hike ashore before completing safety orientation, unpacking and preparing navigation for a pre-dawn departure.


Enjoying a late afternoon stroll on Rangi


Heading pass downtown for customs clearance at Westhaven

NZ Customs asks for a 48-hour pre-departure form filing, and we asked for an 0730 outbound clearance inspection appointment at the Customs dock in downtown Westhaven Marina, 11 miles east of Rangi. For the first morning since our return to Auckland we were greeted with rain and then drizzle as we set a course in the darkness, keeping an eye out for the many 30 kt commuter catamaran ferries zipping by.

Customs was early and had received all of our emailed forms and by 0740 we dropped dock lines and raised the main. Our reason for an early start was to get clear of the Hauraki Gulf and islands before sunset, and clearing conditions plus a big ebb tide saw us well past Cuvier Island and into open water in time for a brilliant sunset.

Click HERE to view the passage weather forecasts from Commanders Weather and MetBob.com.

It seems like each of the 15 or so times we’ve made this passage from Auckland to Tahiti there is a substantial weather front bearing down on NZ and this time was no exception but delaying our departure would have only meant dealing with stronger winds closer to land. With light following westerly winds, we periodically motorsailed, keeping our speed up to 6.5 – 7 kts with the goal of getting well clear of the coast before the forecasted frontal passage.

First shipping, then fishing traffic was frequent and Saturday the wind filled in to 14 kts. It was sunny all day, and we had a lovely visit by a pod of friendly dolphins. For the first time, we encountered Oriental long-line fishing boats using AIS beacons on the end of their lines and we had three fishing boats and six sets of long lines showing up on the MFD screen at the same time. None of the fishing boats returned our calls and twice we had to alter course to avoid them.


Can you spot Linda’s champion synchronized swimmers leg?

Saturday we crossed the Date Line and had more perfect broad reaching conditions in 15-20 kt WNW winds. We continued with our teaching, covering helming skills, survival pack inventory, Marine Weather I and reefing practice. Two of our three seasick crew who were seasick were over it and we were surprised when Dean’s suggested, during a brief calm spell, that perhaps we should swim that everyone dove into the 71 F water without encouragement, after heaving-to. The water felt slightly brisk to start with, then glorious!

Sunday the winds gradually freshened, giving Linda and Joanna repeated practice as they tucked in one, two and finally three reefs in the main while the barometer dropped and winds increased to a solid 29 kts, gusting 41. With the wind around to the NW, every few minutes a big roller would smack MT on the beam, sending a wall of water straight up in the air, to be blown back over the cockpit. Gradually Dean started to understand why I’d been recommending boats with permanent dodgers to him, and Linda and Bob said they were very pleased their HR 46 has the same rigid dodger as MT.


Yet more weather chart reviewing by David and Linda

This was the frontal passage we’d been anticipating for a week, and according to Keryn at PredictWind, it brought 45 kts to Auckland, followed by a cool, fresh southerly of 20 kts. By Monday afternoon the front had passed, leaving clearing skies and a rising barometer and spirits.

Tuesday brought very light winds and a 3.1-meter LARGE SW swell, so we reverted to motorsailing, trying several sail combinations to lessen rolling.

Friday brought another frontal passage with shifting winds peaking at 35 kts. As forecasted, the wind shifted from SW to SE and our crew got some excellent practice gybing with a triple-reefed main in a squall. Throughout the changing conditions the skill level of each of our helmspeople has steadily improved and we’ve had daily runs of 153, 160, 175, 152, 150, 158, 153, 173 while keeping on track with an ambitious teaching schedule.


Jo and the helm...it pays to be tucked up in your foulie hood to avoid that major douches.

We’ve been discovering more very useful features of PredictWind almost daily, and the accuracy of the PWE forecast model which is the ECMWF European forecast, enhanced with PredictWind’s weather routing model has been stunning, and considerably more accurate and far more visual than using the US GFS GRIB forecasts displayed in AirMail format as we’ve done in the past.


Phew...with clearing weather, smoother seas and warmer climes dinning “el frescho” has an appeal

Life at sea has followed a rhythm according to shipboard life of watches, duties, class and meals. Crew are learning about living with continual large lumpy swell conditions while the numerous squalls and wind changes keep everyone on their toes adjusting sails and tweaking helming technique as sea state and wind alter the boats movement.

Everyone is in great spirits, slowly shedding layers as it gets warmer, and we’ve witnessed some awesome sights like a whales breaching and cruising alongside at night, a full moon to steer by, and even a glowing rainbows a couple of nights as squalls pass by...this is certainly a first! Stories and questions abound at meal times and the only thing thats missing is a FISH! We’ve had the fishing line out from sunrise to sunset daily, have switched lures, but no fish yet...

Here’s our switched-on and very focused Leg 1 crew:

Linda, 55
I retired six months ago after a 30 yr career at a healthcare company in Chicago. My husband’s and my next chapter is going to be living aboard and cruising half of each year on our Hallberg-Rassy 46 that we’ve owned for two years. I’ve not spent much time at the helm and do not know much about our boat, but I want to! I joined Mahina Tiare to get a crash course on basically everything and to gain confidence. So far, so good!

Bob, 56
The day after I retired, Linda and I left for this expedition. I’ve sailed all my life and have always dreamed of seeing the world on a sailboat. Upon our return we plan on starting the next chapter/adventure of our lives. We will start in the Great Lakes for a couple of seasons and then we’ll sail to the East coast to see where our boat will take us. Having an ocean passage under our belts will go a long way toward making the dream a reality!

Joanna, 63
My partner, David, and I own a classic 65’ Rhodes steel ketch that we have enjoyed cruising the Pacific NW part time over the past nine years. The next phase of our life (retirement) will bring the opportunity for blue water sailing. Leg 1 is helping me understand all that is involved and lots that present when ocean sailing. This is crucial for building my confidence level, something much needed since I am a relatively inexperienced sailor. I’m originally from Vancouver, BC, but we now live in Florida.

David, 64
My wife, Joanna and I are founders of a large internet-based advertising production company. We’re from Toronto and Vancouver and I’ve sailed both competitively and for pleasure all my life aboard small and large boats. We hope to take our 65’ Rhodes ketch down the West Coast to the Caribbean and Med, so the main reason we joined this expedition was to experience the full range of ocean passage conditions as a couple.

Dean, 49
Besides sailing in the Pacific NW, skiing and enjoying my family (three kids and a wife), I run my biotech business in Montreal. I’m always looking to make my life more complicated so I’m considering buying a blue water boat and going sailing on a global adventure. Joining this expedition was strategic – it would either put me off or have me sold for life on the concept of worldwide sailing. Oh yeah, I’m a Brit who emigrated from London to Montreal.

Andrew, 57
My wife and I live in Seattle where I’m an anesthesiologist. We’ve enjoyed cruising in the PNW on a trimaran that my Dad built and launched in 1967. When I was six we cruised Mexico for a year and it’s been great to borrow that boat and share the cruising experience with my family. I recently completed building a Farrier 22’ folding trimaran coastal cruiser. After years of reading about long distance cruising, I’m excited to be part of this expedition!

Additionally, Dean says:
The crew have really bonded well and were very supportive of each other during the first few days that were fairly rough, as everyone was finding their sea legs. Weather routing training has been amazing and the combination of PredictWind (awesome) and weatherfax has allowed a clear understanding of our weather situation.

I have been counting the days between opening the letters from my kids, Alba (12), Milann (10), and Hugo (6) and can’t wait to see you all as well as my darling Antonia.

 


Leg 1, 2019, Update 2
Auckland, New Zealand; Rurutu, Papeete, Tahiti

Heavy Weather Sailing

May 26, 2019, 0600 hrs, 18.19 S, 149.55, W, Log: 223,561 miles
Baro: 1015.9+, Cabin Temp: 78 F, Cockpit: 70 F, Sea Water: 85 F
Beam reaching at 7.5 kts in 33kt W winds: triple-reefed main and four reefs in genoa
52 miles to Cooks Bay, Moorea

We did land a modest-sized tuna at sunset the day before landfall at Rurutu and it was only minutes from landing him that he turned up as sashimi followed by seared fillets.


Yep...Linda proves she’s ready for fresh fish


Seriously boisterous conditions don’t deter this crew from mastering 3-strand splicing

A 1.5 kt contrary current also plagued us in the final stages, so much so that our planned late afternoon arrival resulted in a very cautious 2200 passage through the small man-made reef entrance into Rurutu’s Moreai harbor. Normally we don’t enter harbors in the dark, but in this instance Amanda and I have previously snorkeled the channel several times and trust the excellent leading lights. Once lined up on the range, Amanda and crew dropped the triple-reefed main as there’s not much space for turning into to wind to lower it once inside the harbor. Bob piloted us through narrow channel into the relatively calm tiny harbor, built specifically for the Tuhaa Pae IV, a small freighter owned by the Austral Islands, and the only ship to visit. In fact, as we approached the island, we saw Tuhaa Pae’s AIS signal as she departed on one of her monthly supply stops. Once anchored, we celebrated with cookies, signed up for hourly anchor watches and enjoyed a fairly quiet night.

Early Wednesday morning we launched the dinghy and I completed customs entry procedures at the nearby Gendarmerie, stopping to buy the last French baguette in one of three small Chinese grocery stores, which was quickly devoured upon my return to MT.


MT anchored in the middle of Moreai harbor

For docking practice and to make it possible for our crew to come and go without waiting for the dinghy, we decided to duplicate how Tuhaa Pae moors here. We raised anchor, dropping it at an angle off the wharf, with Joanna then slowly backing down alongside the wharf as Bob played tugboat and on shore side Linda and David tossed us our lines. Our last step was dropping our second anchor by dinghy at ninety degrees off the beam and securing it to our mid-ship mooring cleat. There was a fair swell coming into the harbor and this help keep MT from bouncing off the rugged concrete wharf.


Final stages of wharf-side anchoring

Just as we completed tidying up the eight lines and tensioning the two anchors, Gizelle, a local woman stopped by in her truck that advertised whale watching. She chatted with Amanda about the humpback whales that would soon be arriving then said she’d return later with some fruit. Amanda asked if she gave tours and although it was still her off season she agreed to meet us the following morning at 8 am for a tour of the entire island for the equivalent of US$30 each. A few hours later her husband and sons showed up with a truck load of fruit – two huge stalks of bananas, a bag of limes, another of taro (not quite sure what we’ll do with that!) and a huge sack of the local grapefruit which are soccer ball size.


A typical local house with curtains waving in the breeze and tidy yard.

Our adventurous crew enjoyed what they said was a fabulous fish lunch at the only restaurant on the island open (owned by Gizelle) and then hiked to the top of the nearby mountain pass and on to the northern tip of the island before exploring the extensive community taro fields.

Meanwhile, as Andrew had earlier noticed a small tear in the tack reinforcing patch of the third reef of the main, Amanda and I dropped enough of the sail through the main hatch that we could make the repair, ever thankful for the Sailrite sewing machine we carry. The tear in the nearly new sail was entirely my fault – as in my rush to tuck in a third reef during a squall, I’d forgotten to release the vang and tighten the topping lift.


This tear in a high load area requires a serious repair job


It took booth of us to wrestle the sail under the Sailrite’s walking foot for straight rows of zig-zag stitching

Wednesday night was very surgy and jerky as Mahina Tiare chafed at her dock lines, so as soon as Bob, Amanda and I returned from a dawn run, we dropped dock lines, raised anchors and re-anchored in the middle of the harbor, all before Gizelle showed up at 8 am. I had looked forward to the tour, but MT was covered with sand which had blown off the wharf, so I stayed and cleaned and restocked.

Late afternoon Amanda and I got ashore to visit the handicraft/fruit market and to pick up a few things at a nearby shop, whose owner has long indulged Amanda’s love of pamplemouse, the delicious sweet grapefruit of Tahiti. The local shop owner remembered Amanda and promised to have a bag ready for our departure the following morning. He filled a huge 100lb flour sack and asked one of his customers to run it to the wharf for us in his truck, which he did, effortlessly hoisting the 60 lb bag on his shoulder and lithely jumping down to the dinghy with it - all a gift!

On such a small island, devoid of tourists except for during the four-months that whales visit, everyone knew we were off the yacht anchored in the harbor, and only the third of the year to visit. Nearly everyone we passed smiled and waved.


Crew heading off on tour with Gizelle.


View of the leeward side of the island but with not practical harbor or anchorage only a small boat pass.


Crew heading off on tour with Gizelle.


Taro beds ready for planting


Jo, Linda and Amanda enjoying tea party.

Our crew returned with stories of unrivalled hospitality, saying that Gizelle was truly a one person welcoming committee, introducing them to half the island’s inhabitants, teaching them about growing taro, how to knock down papaya’s that grew by the roadside and living on an isolated island. She also included a visit to her house where she gathered bundle of herbs - lemon grass, mint, lime leaves, basil and rosemary for tea infusions.


Farewell to Rurutu

Being stopped gave us an excellent (and easy) time to catch up on teaching: engine room survey and sail repair inventory. After evaluating the weather, our crew chose to set sail for Moorea (instead of Tahiti, as we were still two days ahead of schedule) Friday morning.

It’s since been a tough beam reach, with winds peaking at 44 kts Friday night, and rarely dropping below 27. The same 1.5 kt contrary current we experience the day before Rurutu has persisted, with a stationary trough bringing squally, unsettled conditions with swells of 3.5 – 4.1 meters, according to PredictWind. Incidentally, PredictWind and the AirMail GRIB charts both show our winds turning to very light headwinds once we reach the lee of Tahiti, which should be within the next few hours.


Blasting in 40+ knots and yet another squall


Linda checks on the Rurutu sail repair

June 5, 2019, 1600 hrs, 16.43 S, 150.58, W, Log: 223,765 miles
Baro: 1011.9-, Cabin Temp: 84 F, Cockpit: 85.8 F, Sea Water: 84.5 F
At anchor near Passe Tiare, Huahine

The wind finally subsided once we were in the lee of Tahiti, and by 1510 we dropped anchor just inside the reef pass to Cook’s Bay, Moorea. Within minutes everyone was in the water, later returning with stories of having swum with rays and having seen a large sleeping grey reef shark.

Amanda then taught winch servicing and use of the Sailrite machine for sail repair before we headed ashore for a celebratory dinner taking advantage of Moorea Beach Cafe’s excellent little dinghy dock and enjoying an amazing dinner at their stunning waterfront location.


Early morning passing squall through the outer reef anchorage that packed an unexpected big punch.

We all slept deeply that night, that is until about 0500 when a real duzey of a squall came roaring in. Mahina Tiare’s amazing 77lb Ultra anchor didn’t budge, but we watched as a Norwegian catamaran was blown across the anchorage and heard multiple distress calls on Ch. 16. Soon after first light we raised anchor, to reanchor 1.5 miles further into the very protected Cooks Bay, named after Captain Cook who anchored here. Soon the squally weather passed and everyone took turns going to the masthead for rig inspection.

By noon our keen crew were ready for shore adventures. We recommended several options, advising they could always hitchhike if they’d like to see more than just the Cooks Bay area. It was nearly dusk by the time they returned, triumphant (and sore!) at having made it all the way to Belvedere, the mountain top lookout with views down both Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay to the west. The guys walked nearly the entire way up and back, while the girls choose to hitch home and received a scenic tour of the bays by two French girls. This is one hearty group of adventurers!

We set sail from Cooks Bay at 0530 Wednesday, with an eye to get across the channel to Tahiti before the ESE tradewinds (headwinds on our course) really started cranking and arrived at the entrance to Marina Taina by 0900. Marina staff had emailed they’d been totally full for weeks, but as we pulled up to the fuel dock we heard the dockmaster in a skiff astern of us call the marina office, informing of our arrival. The return call came quickly in French, “Show them to the spot that is just now open because the owner had departed”. The stern-to space belonged to a large catamaran, so there was tons of room to spare for us, and the dockmaster kindly pulled up the mooring lines to take to MT’s bow, then stood ashore to take our stern lines.


Early morning departure from Cooks Bay

Surrounded by 100’ – 150’ megayachts, MT was the small kid on the block, but our crew got inspired by all their mega yachts crew’s constant polishing so turned-to, helping us wash down and tidy up before heading to showers, laundry, shopping at Carrefour and exploring. After our final class we rushed to the nearby shoreside restaurant for a spectacular sunset dinner.

Thursday was super busy as crew cleaned cabins, exchanged contact info, packed up and said goodbye.

For the past year, Amanda and I have been dreaming of exploring more of the rarely-visited E side of Huahine Island, 110 miles WNW and by noon were underway for Moorea, which is directly on the route.

We stopped to swim and sleep a couple hours before departing at sunset so as not to make landfall on Huahine’s lee shore in the dark.

While at anchor off Moorea our Raymarine MFD (multi-function display, formerly called a chart plotter) started beeping with a warning message about no AIS or GPS input. I simply shut the system down and took a nap, thinking Moorea’s high surrounding peaks must be blocking the signal.

Once underway as winds were under eight knots, we chose to motorsail with a reefed main (to prevent rolling), and I offered to take the first three-hour watch so Amanda could get some sleep.

Three hours out, the autopilot suddenly went to standby, and all the instruments started issuing alarms saying, “NO INPUT”. We tried repeatedly shutting down everything and rebooting, but it only got worse, as the instruments started to lose all information, one at a time. We both checked as many of the SeaTalkNG junction boxes and connectors on the back of the displays as possible, but nothing helped.

We made the decision to turn around, and without any working instruments including the autopilot we made it back through the reef entrance to Cooks Bay, anchoring at 0200. Once anchored, I emailed a Raymarine service center in Australia, plus numerous friends and colleagues in NZ and the US, trying to figure what was wrong. By 0500 I was in the waiting queue for Raymarine’s telephone tech support center in New Hampshire, and ended up spending an hour on the phone trying different options, all without success. I was totally impressed by Raymarine’s service staff who seriously tried to help us find the problem.

We then determined that we’d best get MT to Tahiti and look for professional help and by noon we’d anchored near Marina Taina and received the name of apparently the only marine electronics technician in the country, who happened to live aboard a boat anchored nearby. That evening, we met with Roger, and he said that on the following Tuesday (five days later), he’d have time to help us look for our problem.

At 0300 the following morning, I remembered that I’d placed fabric sun protective cover on the MFD and that perhaps I dislodged a cable on the back. There is one pesky cable that never had never seated right from the beginning. We I mentioned this to Amanda she also admitted that she’s worked on the cover. Note: our fabric cover is a white shower cap from we bought on our visit to Buckingham Place last year. As it’s round in order to make a quick fit Amanda added Velcro straps that you tuck underneath the unit.

At first light I checked the connection, found it was loose, and after dismounting the cockpit display Amanda confirmed the cable did not lock in properly. The small rotating collar that locks  the small network cable in place after it’s plugged in was out of alignment, not allowing the cable to be locked in place. Hooray!....that was it! We promptly raised anchor and sails, and set off for Huahine again, never looking back.

Currently we’re anchored the lee of a fringing reef islet, near a small pearl farm and not too far from a safe place to land the dinghy for shore adventures. We’ve plenty of boat projects to accomplish but all in all, life is truly grand!


Leg 1 Itinerary

 

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