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Leg 3, 2019, Update 1

SURFING DOWN THE TRADEWINDS!

July 15, 2019, 0700 hrs, 19.47 S, 167.03, W, Log: 225,193 miles
Baro: 1013.4, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 76F, Sea Water: 76 F
42 Miles to Beveridge Reef


Leg 3 crew are Adrian, Fiona, Beth, Walter, Flo and Christian.

Between Legs 2 & 3 the first week of our time in Avatiu Harbour was overshadowed by a huge 1044 mb high pressure cell to the south of Rarotonga. This brought sustained 30-40 kt easterly winds stretching from Tahiti to Tonga. Skies were generally clear skies but a swell that built to nearly 6 meters forcing two local offshore fishing boats and one inter-island freighter to return to the harbor and the starboard navigation marker for harbor to wash ashore. We were allowed to take our 350’ 7/8” longest line across the harbor which gave us additional security if our two anchors were to have drug, which they didn’t. Finally, on the Monday before our crew joined it the winds had moderated and the sport fishing, dive and commercial fishing boats resumed operations while the harbor master allowed the NZ freighter that had been cutting donuts in the lee of the island for several days, to enter the harbor for offloading.

In the meantime, Amanda and I really treasured our few hours ashore. We had three dinners invites ashore – two with distant cousins of mine and the other with local black pearl shop owners and long-time friends, Timu and Lesley for a guitar/ukelele singalong BBQ with their ole time mates. Monday we attended the grand opening of the just-completed Palmerston Island hostel, along with 1,000 of the Marsters’ clan, many whom had just flown in from Australia and New Zealand, having never visited Palmerston, but sharing the common ancestry of William Marsters. William was a ship’s carpenter who’d settled the tiny island with his three Cook Island wives, from whom he had 63 children.

Following safety orientation Tuesday afternoon, crew joined us Wednesday noon and within two hours we’d retrieved both anchors and all shorelines and hoisted sail for tiny Palmerston atoll, population 38, 280 miles to the NW. For what seemed like the first time this season, we enjoyed moderate and ideal broad reaching conditions, reaching Palmerston Friday morning, and surprised to see six yachts on moorings. The crews of the other yachts had all been waiting out the same week-long period of strong winds in Bora Bora and said there were more yachts departing daily for Palmerston, Niue and Suwarrow.


Rigging Spares class and Amanda showing the construction of 1x19 wire and the options for terminal fittings.


Bill and Ned Marsters welcome us to Palmerston Island


Fellow yachts at the morring field in the lee of Palmerston

Always reluctant to tie to moorings, Amanda dove in the water and along with help from Bill Marsters and Ned in their skiff she directed us to a coral platform we’ve used several times. We wished to avoid tall coral heads or chasms and dropped our anchor in 40’ which by the time we’d let out 140’ of chain, the depth sounder read 180’. Once situated, Christian and I snorkeled over the lay of the chain and anchor diving down to straighten out the chain by hand, so it avoided turns around coral.

After being ferried ashore in skiffs we enjoyed visiting with locals and some of the other cruisers plus exploring the island and soaking in views of the blue lagoon, white sand beaches and green coconut trees. After getting a return ride back out to the yachts with our friend Bill Marsters we arrived aboard just in time for a spectacular sunset.

For several days we had been watching a forecasted frontal passage on PredictWind.com and the GRIB files. Days earlier the forecast had called for a brief period of westerly winds which would make the open roadstead anchorage/mooring field off the west side of Palmerston untenable, but by Thursday the forecast was only calling for ESE winds increasing to 27 kts, accompanied by rain. I asked crews of two our neighboring yachts if they’d seen this weather in the forecast and received noncommittal replies. Several of our very conscientious crew asked if we should stand anchor watch that night, but I said only if conditions warrant it.

At 0300 winds had increased to 15-20 kts, but out of the ESE and holding us nicely away from the reef, so after making the rounds on deck and checking the anchor snubber for chafe, I headed back to bed, only to be awakened a short time later when with rain and increased wind. By 0400 there was low visibility in driving rain and winds gusting to 25 so I started MT’s motor and instantly all our crew were in the cockpit, keen to help and stand watch. Shortly after, Fiona said, ‘Hey, DASH (a Tayana 56) has left the anchorage!” We watched their anchor light and AIS signal moving away, so I called them on Ch 16, asking if they were ok. They answered immediately, saying they were dragging the mooring. They later said that from the tremendous weight on the mooring line still attached to their bow, they assumed the coral head to which the mooring was chained had simply broken off.

Each time we’ve anchored off Palmerston I’ve dove to check the nearby moorings, frequently finding them made of bits of floating polypro line, knotted together and tied to a coral head. When Dash remarked on the radio that after waiting for sunrise they planned to pick up another mooring, I asked if they had dove to check the first mooring to which they replied no. To assist Dash in determining the location of the yachts as they motored back and forth in the lee of the island I said I would turn on our running lights in addition to our anchor light, and then asked all yachts in the mooring field to do the same. For a brief period, Dash turned on their deck lights all we could see of her was driving spray flying completely over the yacht as she motored back to the island.

Meanwhile as we counted down the time to first light Mahina Tiare continued tacking back and forth on her anchor as the winds gusted to 40 kts. Thankfully the winds started dropping after first light along with the rain stopped and slowly, conditions improved until by 0900 it was back to normal. Once Dash received their outbound clearance papers, they set sail for Niue.

Edward, the policeman had invited our and several other crew to his home for lunch, so as I taught Marine Weather I, Amanda made salads and baked a double batch of brownies for us to take to lunch then volunteered to stay aboard on anchor watch.

A couple off a Dutch trimaran were the only other takers on lunch, and Bridgette said that when she when she snorkeled down 30’ to inspect their mooring the previous afternoon, she found the chain which encircled a coral head nearly chafed through. She reinforced it by lashing Spectra line through the chain, and that had held during the squall.


Lunch gathering at Ed's House


Time to say farewell to Palmerston

Following lunch, we said goodbye to friends ashore, caught a ride out to MT and started preparing to set sail then departed for Beveridge Reef just before sunset.

We’d planned a second night at Palmerston, but after perusing the chart, Flo asked if we could spend that night at Beveridge instead, since the suggested course from PredictWind had us sailing right by anyway. So far, we’ve had brilliant downwind sailing conditions with ESE winds from 17 – 23 kts, and for the first time this year, needed to set the whisker pole.

LIGHTS OF APIA ON THE HORIZON!

July 22, 2019, 0630 hrs, 13.49 S, 171.38, W, Log: 225,784 miles
Baro: 1013.4, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 81F, Sea Water: 85 F
6 Miles to Apia Harbor entrance

Our brilliant downwind conditions continued, and once we sighted Beveridge Reefs breakers and sandbar, we pulled in our towing generator so we could troll two lines with the hopes of catching dinner. We’d arrived at low tide when the reef is most visible, and when there is the least amount of jostling when anchored. The past entrance went smoothly an after motoring across the lagoon we dropped anchor on the windward side near the wreck of a small fishing boat. In the past, we’ve constantly had very curious sharks surrounding us the minute we jumped in the water, but this time one very timid black-tip took off as soon as he saw Flo.


Flo on lookout as we approach the pass


This wreck makes a great landmark for
Beveridge's best anchorage in tradewind conditions


Moonrise over the reef

 

In the afternoon we studied Diesel Engine Systems and Anchoring Worldwide before enjoying an early dinner and the best night’s sleep of the expedition.

Tuesday morning, we got an early start, pausing to practice Lifesling Overboard Rescue just outside the reef entrance, before setting sail on a smooth broad reach for Niue. Frequent rain squalls made night watch a little damp and persisted as we landfall at Niue just after first light Wednesday. We were pleasantly surprised to find two moorings free so chose the one closest to the wharf.


Beth tosses the Lifesling as the key person for MOB maneuver pickup.


Fiona is all smiles as she masters her MOB drill.

Niue is a raised coral atoll with crystal clear water, visibility close to 200’ and with a population of only just over 1300, one of the world’s smallest nations. It is also one of the friendliest places we’ve ever visited. With no anchorages (depths are around 100’) and deep coral chasms, we are always grateful to Keith Vial and his volunteers at Niue Yacht Club who annually set up to 20 moorings for visiting yachts, then pull them out before cyclone season starts. The “harbor” consists of a substantial concrete wharf where the surge is so powerful and constant that all boats, including local aluminum fishing boats to 30’ and even dinghies must be hoisted out of the water.

When we called Niue Radio, they told us to be on the wharf ready to meet health, bio security, customs and immigration at 10:30, so we enjoyed breakfast and did a quick tidy up before launching our RIB and heading in. The crews of three other yachts whom we’d met at Palmerston were also ashore to be cleared and within 30 minutes’ officials had cleared all of us.
Keith Vial, commodore of Niue Yacht Club and a retired school principal from NZ, greeted us and whisked our crews’ laundry away, confirming details of a five-hour island tour for our crew the next day.


A peaking view of MT on her mooring


Landing wharf at Alofi

It was now time to relax and explore for our crew, with plans reunite at by dinner at Gill’s, Niue’s excellent Indian restaurant. Keith and his wife Sue joined us enchanting us with tales of living on  a small island.

Our crew’s five-hour Niue Orientation Tour with snorkeling through several caves and chasms, the next morning, was amazing and after sewing machine class aboard we all headed to the new Niue Yacht Club premises for a fun sausage sizzle (kiwi terminology) and potluck and exploration of the late night scene at the town square.


Hiking path to another limestone chasm, pool cave or arch


Flo studying the rock formation in one the stunning tidal pools


Amanda and members of Nieu Yacht Club


Local dance group perform Niuean dances the round off their ensamble with a hip hop mix.

An impending frontal passage was due to cross Niue Saturday and Sunday bring westerly winds over 12 kts which turn Niue’s mooring field into a lee-shore nightmare, so all 15 yachts clear out with customs Thursday, setting sail either that evening or the following morning for Tonga or Fiji.

We slipped the mooring (thank you, Keith and Niue Yacht Club) at 2100 and set sail in the moonlight for Apia, Samoa with calm seas and a perfect 14kts abaft the beam. Our seas were forecasted by PredictWind to be only 1.6 meters high, just about the smallest we’ve ever seen anywhere. These amazingly smooth conditions held all the way to Samoa and by the time we first spotted the glow of Pago Pago, American Samoa the winds had slowly come forward (as predicted) until they were on the nose, at 7-8 kts.


Girrrl Power!


Fi was delighted to test her Sydney Market Seafood Class skills on our fresh catch.


Flo, “Navigator of the Day” ensures that the midnight
switch to new the navigator will transition smoothly

After motorsailing the remaining few miles we arrived at Apia harbor entrance at 0730. As required, we requested permission to enter the harbor from Apia Port Control on Ch 16. Port Control granted permission for us to proceed to Apia Marina with a message that they would call health, bio-security, customs and immigration offices once they opened at 0930. Once secured in our berth everyone on pitching in we soon had MT washed down, the sun awning up (a real necessity here!) and breakfast on its way.

By 1100 we hadn’t seen any inspectors, so I called Port Control who said they were likely on their way. At 1130 bio-security stopped by but said they couldn’t come aboard until after health so I followed him to his office and completed his paperwork. He mentioned that as Samoa had just finished hosting the South Pacific Games all inspectors were probably pretty tired as they’d been working 20+ hrs per day for the past two weeks. Even though it’s not officially allowed he suggested it might be best if I went to customs next door to ensure they’d received the message from Port Control.

I did, they hadn’t, but a proactive customs inspector gave me forms to complete and met us aboard five minutes later. She confirmed that immigration had been swamped when she stopped by earlier and when that no one was answering the phone. She suggested we visit the main immigration office, located across the harbor, so I rented a van next from across the road and we all piled in and headed for downtown.

We were surprised to find the normally packed office empty, except for a couple of young guys playing on their phones, who led me to the back of the office to the one immigration officer left. She gave us entry cards to complete and within the hour, passports were stamped, and we were on our way.

We’d looked forward to taking our crew to Robert Louis Stevenson’s stunning home in nearby Vailima, but it would be closed by the time we arrived so we went to the Curry House for a tasty graduation dinner and then on to Vailima for a sneaky walk through the open back gate, so at least our crew got to view the spacious grounds and handsome, tropical home/library/museum in the twilight as fruit bats flew overhead and cricket resounded in the lush vegetation.

We were all exhausted Monday night, but bright and early Tuesday morning our crew were packing bags and cleaning cabins, ready to head on to their own adventures!


Here’s our brilliant Leg 3 crew Fiona, Adrian, Beth, Flo and Christian (Walter was sleeping) who chose
the nickname, “The 110%ers”, as they truly gave 110% to everything they did!

Fiona, 37
I’m a Sydney-sider who enjoys sailing on beautiful Sydney harbour aboard our 1996 Australian-designed Jarkan 30. My partner Adrian and I are preparing to set sail on a one-year voyage to Perth starting this December. We’ll be sailing with our spaniel “Bernie” and can’t wait to see more of our beautiful country. Say HI if you see us, our boat is called ADDICTIVE.

Adrian, 53
I have recently rekindled a childhood interest in sailing. I raced dinghies as a child in a fledgling sailing club on Australia’s east coast that included everything from trailer-sailors to old wooden racers.

Beth, 64
I live in Gig Harbor, Washington and sail Puget Sound aboard a 38’ Beneteau. I learned to sail with my son through Mike Rice’s Puget Sound Sailing Institute. I am looking forward to more sailing in different locations around the world.

Walter, 52
As a teenager I sailed on small boats in the Midwest before my Dad introduced me and my sister to racing and cruising on keelboats. After many years of working, I am again enjoying the joys of sailing. The world awaits!

Flo, 46
I was born and lived in Argentina until I moved to the States for university, and now life in the SF Bay area. I sailed Optis for a while as a kid, but other sports interests took over. During a cold summer SF in 2010 I took sailing lessons with J-Performance in Oakland, CA and discovered my love of going fast on the water. Christian and I now own a sailboat in Alameda. I’m a competitive masters rower and hope maybe to do some racing on sailboats. Once this itch to go fast is dealt with, we’d like to go exploring a bit, and we’ll see where that takes us!

Christian, 53
I grew up sailing in Argentina on our family boats – all designed by Argentinian German Frers, of course! I currently live in the SF Bay area with my wife Flo and we own a Jeanneau Sunfast 37. This experience helped us recalibrate our goals and expectations.



Leg 3 Itinerary

 

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