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Leg 4 , 2009 Rarotonga , Cooks ; Apia, Samoa

Leg 4-2009, Update 1

September 17, 2009, 2300 hrs, 18.52 S, 162.25 W, Log: 132,766 miles
Broad reaching at 8.5 kts in 23 ENE winds, full main, double-reefed genoa
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 81F, cockpit 79F, sea water 77.7F

Rocketing through the Star-Filled Night!

We’ve just double reefed the genoa, trying to slow MT down for a daylight landfall at tiny, mischarted Palmerston Atoll. This afternoon the wind dropped to below 8 kts for an hour, providing us the opportunity to motor and top off batteries and water tank. We were all hoping we wouldn’t have to motor the last 90 miles to Palmerston when after an hour the winds filled back in. We’ve since continued on our course in picture-perfect sailing conditions with nearly flat seas and lots of wind from the right direction.

Both of MT’s inside showers are stacked high with boxes containing food and items for the families and minister living on Palmerston while Jill, Elaine and Molly have brought school supplies and fishing gear to donate. Dr. Wolfgang Losacker, formerly of the Cook Islands Ministry of Health and a former MT expedition member, has sent toothbrushes for every person on the island. Wolfgang’s toothbrush contribution  is part of an ongoing project he started nearly thirty years ago and one which we assisted him twice; 18 and 9 years ago.

Our time in Raro between expeditions always passes in a blur. This time we were there ten days though it never seems like there’s enough time to catch up with all of our old friends and do and see everything we want to. For the only the second time in 35 years of visiting Raro the harbor remained calm and relatively dry with no northerly winds funneling in.

The island was all a-twitter and very excited to be hosting the bi-annual South Pacific Mini Games. They start in three days attracting something like 5,000 athletes, coaches and fans from around the South Pacific. On top of that, the annual Te Maeva Nui national traditional dance competition was delayed from July to last week so that the outer islands could attend both events. This allowed us and all of our Leg 4 crew to enjoy a week of incredible traditional dance performances held nightly at the national stadium.

Dancers enjoying their last few moments on stage

AND, on top of that, the annual week of running competitions coincided with our arrival, so we HAD to take part in two of the fun runs, one a Hash House Harrier run which crew members Jill and Roy joined us for, and the other, the totally grueling Nutter’s Cross-Island Race, which we survived, covered with mud, but were sore for several days after. Especially Amanda who was the second women to finish with time of 1:28. It almost felt like we needed to put to see to have a break from non-stop adventures!

Jill, Amanda and John with HHH birthday runners

John on a typical trail search with Raro HHH….ON ON!

Our last day in Avatiu Harbour saw an increasing stream of former Palmerston Island residents stopping by to see if we could squeeze more boxes aboard for their relatives on Palmerston. It has been three months since a ship has stopped and another 3 months before one is scheduled. Just minutes before our crew were to board we were hailed by Arthur Neale, son of Suwarrow Island’s famous hermit, Tom Neale (author of Island to Myself). Authur who hails from Manihiki in the Northern Cooks is distant cousin of mine and friend of nearly 30 years. Arthur’s son and mother are on Palmerston and he asked if we could take some gifts for his son’s 21st birthday next week.

We had sweet sailing conditions with 20-25 kts right out of the harbor yesterday other than the one little light air period. Half the crew experienced some seasickness in the choppy seas last night, but they all followed directions (hydrate, eat and use Compazine, Stugeron or Scopalamine) and in record time the’ve all came right. This morning we had just started class when we had a two-dinner sized mahi strike which we landed easily. This crew LOVES fish so much so that Amanda had to cook a second round of filets at dinner tonight.

September 21, 2009, 0300 hrs, 19.07 S, 169.13 W, Log: 133,133 miles
Broad reaching at 6 kts in 13 ESE winds
Baro: 1014.5, Cabin Temp: 80F, cockpit 79F, sea water 79.7F

Brakes Are On for Niue!

Again we are trying to slow Mahina Tiare down to wait for a dawn arrival, this time at Niue, the smallest country in the world (population around 900) with one of the friendliest yacht clubs anywhere.

Sunny skies at Palmerston

Backing up a few days, we slowed down enough so that our landfall at Palmerston was comfortably an hour or so after sunrise. As we came in sight of the anchorage area off the single shallow lagoon entrance we noticed three boats including our Swiss friends on Kopernik rolling heavily on moorings. Bob Marsters came out in a aluminum skiff and when we enquired about the one available mooring located close to the reef, he said, “I’m not sure who that belongs to, or if it would be safe, but you could anchor just over there”, pointing to a spot just off the channel entrance.

We know from several past visits that the bottom is totally covered with coral, not having even the hint of sand, and that there are several deep anchor-swallowing chasms. Amanda dove in with her Seal mask and fins and swam around checking out the spot Bob had indicated, getting Roy to drop the anchor in one very specific spot that turned out to work well. Bob returned to shore promising to tell the customs and immigrations officers (that was a bit of a surprise on this tiny island!) of our arrival and to ask them to come out and check our clearance papers from Rarotonga. He promised to return after the officials to give our crew a ride ashore with a mention that most of the island was preparing for the 21st birthday party and feast at 3:30 that afternoon which we were all invited to.

In minutes our entire crew were in the water with masks and fins on, watching turtles, numerous huge parrot fish and a couple of totally uninterested white-tipped sharks cruise by in crystal-clear water where visibility was more than 150’. They also grabbed sponges and started cleaning off the light slime on the anti-fouling paint that had accumulated in Raro.

Customs and immigration departing with MT’s cargo

Amanda and I swam aft to check out the mooring that an Amel 53 was secured to and forward to say hello to George and Eva and look at the mooring lines securing Kopernik, their 40’ custom aluminum cutter. We weren’t surprised to see very light lines that looked like discarded halyards from a passing yacht, frayed, chafed and tied together in bits, and secured to very light chain that had been passed around and through coral heads. Concerned, I asked George if he had swum down to inspect the mooring. He didn’t understand my question so I didn’t belabor the point. Unfortunately this was nearly to cost him and Eva their yacht as the line broke that night and they woke up drifting (thankfully and luckily) out to sea. They were lucky not to end up in the reef breakers that were very close astern.

The new school house

The school teachers, Marama and nano Marsters, happy to receive new teaching aids and toothbrushes

Before long the customs and immigration officers came aboard and with lots of joking and laughs glanced at our papers and welcomed us to Palmerston. Minutes later a skiff appeared and Simon Masters helped our crew scramble aboard his skiff in the difficult rolly conditions. I stayed aboard to stand anchor watch as neither Amanda nor I are comfortable leaving a boat in such an exposed position, even though we had checked the anchor.

Molly wrote the following:

We all caught a ride through the reef toward the island and the pass was outlined by shattered pieces of a Korean fishing boat that had drug ashore and was subsequently blown up to clear the only pass to the lagoon. Our host, Simon, led us to his house and then gave us a tour of the tiny island. Our first stop was the school with 22 children where we met the two sisters who are the teachers.

The children were delighted to get a break from a test in order to play soccer and visit with the visitors. Having brought a plentiful amount of toys and learning tools for the kids, they very quickly became my friends. The school looked like a normal one room classroom filled with books and hand-drawn art.

After the school, we stopped by the minister’s house which seemed to be the nicest on the island. We were also taken by the phone booth located next to a satellite dish and solar panels that powered it. It cost $50 a minute to make a call which locals use to speak with family members in Raro or New Zealand.

William Marsters, the man who settled this formerly uninhabited island in 1863 with his three Cook Island wives had his grave amongst the others near the church.

An idyllic scene on Palmerston. As we visited various homes we saw everyone preparing for the afternoon celebration.

A final fitting for party frocks

It was to be the 21st birthday of a young man named Joshua. At this age they become adults in the eyes of their peers. We were welcomed like family to eat and join the festivities.

Joshua’s birthday party at the water catchment shed

Time flew, laughs were enjoyed, bellies were full and it wasn’t long before we had to say goodbye.

Joshua’s three Grandmothers – Sarah, Teinano and Akarotouna Marsters

It was hard to say bye to the children with their playful energy, but we eventually did and Simon motored us back to Mahina Tiare. We all threw a flower in the water as we sailed away in hopes that someday we could find ourselves back on Palmerston again.

Here’s our Leg 4 crew, one of our youngest ever!

Customs and immigration departing with MT’s cargo

Molly Massena, age 20
I am a business student at University of Washington in Seattle. Having grown enjoying many sorts of water sports, sailing is a naturally relaxing feeling for me. My father, Roy, being an avid sailor seriously introduced my siblings and  me to the sport about two years ago, starting in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and recently we chartered a boat in the Caribbean. I was unsure whether I would choose sailing as a hobby for myself, but after a few days at sea, I see myself doing a lot of sailing in the future!

Roy Massena, 58
I’m a self-employed and provide real-time document conversion services and patent licenses to internet recruitment companies. Having sailed with Mahina previously in Norway, I brought my girlfriend and daughter to see what ocean cruising in a warmer climate is like. The indications are good that this may be the prelude to cruising the South Pacific and beyond on our own boat.

Jill Josselyn, 55, but young at heart!
I had lots of dinghy sailing and racing experience in Nantucket Sound. My previous sea time was spent aboard a Woods Hole Oceanographic research ship all over the Atlantic, studying the mid-Atlantic ridge as a molecular biologist. I’ve found that sailing and oceanography translate well to the southern hemisphere and my objective is to learn as much as possible about weather and especially navigation while having a great time.

Eric Larson, 39
My wife encouraged me to take this trip, both for the sailing and the life experience. We have a Hans Christian 33 in Anacortes, WA which we hope to sail to Alaska or Hawaii one day. I also haven’t had a vacation in 15 years where I didn’t log in at least every few days so being in the middle of the Pacific is wonderful. Eric is a manager in financial services.

Bill Tobin, 40
I am from Harrison, NY and have a 14 yr old daughter and 13 yr old son and wife Darci who are aspiring sailors. I am in the orthopedic distribution business and grew up working on fishing boats. In the past ten years I’ve been learning to sail and I currently have a time share in a Jeanneau 38. I plan on purchasing a boat in the next two years and would like to take an extended cruise, possibly circumnavigating. They trip on Mahina was to confirm these aspirations were right for me and the answer is definitely yes.

Elaine Bryson, 50
I’m from Vida, Oregon, 125 miles east of Eugene where I am Director of Programs for the McKenzie School District. My husband and I own an Outbound 46 which we hope to sail to Mexico and the South Pacific, starting next years. I wanted to sail aboard MT to gain open ocean sailing experience to see if I would enjoy it. So far, so good!

Buns, age unknown, but still a fluffy bunny!
I am the McKenzie Elementary 1st grade class mascot and am a world traveler having been to Switzerland, China, Mexico and now the South Pacific. I can’t wait to tell all my school friends about my sailing adventures!


Leg 4-2009, Update 2

September 24, 2009, 0530 hrs, 18.42 S, 171.20 W, Log: 133,254 miles
Broad reaching at 6.7 kts in 23 ENE winds, full sails – no reefs!
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 77F, cockpit 78F, sea water 79.3F

Niue Island – What a Gem!

Eric writes:
At first light we were standing on the mast pulpits, straining for the first glimpse of the cliffs of Niue. Soon the jagged coast came into view, along with bursts of spray from waves breaking in the chasms. As we rounded the southern end, we quickly understood why Captain Cook failed to land here. We sailed into the anchorage early Monday morning while enjoying toast topped with peanut butter and bananas and saw seven boats already had quarantine flags flying, indicating many new arrivals. Despite this, customs quickly invited us ashore to clear in.

Eric and Bill enjoying yet more bananas

Wharf and anchorage

It’s necessary to hoist the dinghy each time we all go ashore

Keith Vial, the Commodore to the Niue Yacht club, met us at the wharf with an offer to take us and the crew of two other yachts on a tour of the island. Once we’d finished clearing in we met at the Yacht Club enjoying a nice fish sandwich lunch and ice creams before joining David and Marcie Lynn of Nine of Cups from Colorado, and Rob and Teresa Sicade of Yohela from Washington for the tour. In our drive around the island Keith shared the history of the island, particularly around the 1994 storm, whose 27 meter swell wiped out many windward buildings, including a resort hotel, on to of the cliffs. He’d also put together a guide to the island, which highlighted the caves and snorkel spots we should be able to visit on our own during the next few days.

In addition to showing us the natural beauty, Keith gave us a tour well beyond any commercial offering. He introduced us to local business people and artists. He arranged a tour of islands noni farm and juicing facility. The small, nobly fruit is picked, lightly fermented, then extracted and shipped off to be used in health drinks. Jill’s quick comment on tasting the pure juice was that “Anything that tastes like this must be good for you!” We also toured the studio of Mark Cross, a local but world renowned artist. Mark showed off his latest work in progress, as well as the photographic images that inspired it.

Later, Keith introduced crew member Molly to the island’s power engineer for a tour of the islands solar facilities. The local Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) hosted a bush run Monday night which the crew joined with enthusiasm. We worked up some thirst running a several kilometers through the jungle, and rendezvoused bay at a hotel with the largely Kiwi crowd for drinks and stories. Our hosts were particularly concerned that the supply ship was several months overdue and the island was starting to run out of flower, rice, and, worse, beer! Calculating the exact hour or the ships arrival the following Sunday was a popular pastime.

Tuesday we spent snorkeling, spelunking, and whale watching. The Limu pools were full of beautiful fish, coral and sea snakes! While the snakes made us nervous at first (we had been assured there were poisonous), they were not aggressive in the least. Later we found a sea cave near Liku only accessibly by swimming in, after a steep climb down a coral cliff.

Eric and Bill enjoying yet more bananas

Locals enjoying a swim at one of the many beaches

After checking for snakes, we swam into a fairly narrow opening through a moderate surge. The cavern that opened around us looked like an excellent place to bury treasure. We finished our exploration in Avatele Bay, where we watched several humpback whales breaching and playing.

Keith hosted a wonderful barbeque at the yacht club Tuesday night in honor of Marcie for her work in helping Niue Yacht Club become the 130th Seven Seas Cruising Association cruising station.

SSCA (ssca.org) is an organization of cruisers founded in 1955 as a means of exchanging information through monthly bulletins which consists of timely information from cruisers “out there” all over the world. Their cruising stations around the world consist of ex-cruisers or locals who enjoy greeting arriving sailors and “showing them the ropes” of their port. They are some of the most generous and friendly people you could imagine.

The barbecue was a wonderful gathering of cruiser and ex-pats, with many familiar faces from the Hash House run. These people provided a wealth of information on other anchorages and cruising in general. An English cruiser shared that in the Marquesas, the propane station refuse to fill the newer fiberglass tanks, saving two of us future difficulties. We also received advice on diving equipment, routing, sewing machines and cruising with children.

Yesterday we had a very full and exciting day, ashore in the dark at 0530 at Molly’s urging to see the market and coconut crabs for sale, back aboard for breakfast and engine room orientation, then ashore by 0900 for crew to pick up the van they had rented for a full day’s adventure of exploring.

Morning market starts at 5am!

Amanda and I caught up on chores then went for a long snorkel in and out of the coral chasms along the mooring area, stunned by the 150’+ visibility and the profusion of brightly-colored tropical fish. Several times on our earlier swims we clearly heard the plaintive songs of humpback whales, but not this time. Just after we returned to MT and showered on the stern, two 60’ humpback whales surfaced a short distance off. We grabbed masks and fins, jumped in the dinghy and quietly motored out, being sure to stay the prescribed 50 meters away from where we had seen the whales. Shutting down the outboard, we jumped in the water and waited. Nothing, so we motored a little further and I hopped in the water. Almost instantly I was shocked by the sight of two huge humpbacks slowly gliding toward me. Amanda jumped in the water with the camera and we watched as these two giant lovers glided under us, snuggled up to each other and touching fins. Wow!

Amanda’s arty whale image

Later that evening when we were back aboard we were startled by a loud “WHOOSH” very nearby. Someone yelled, “WHALES!” and instantly we were all in the cockpit listening to the whales breathing alongside us.

The humpbacks spend southern ocean winters in the waters around Niue calving and nursing the babies before heading south to feed. For some reason they seem fond of the moored yachts and often spend nights sleeping between the boats. Last time we were at Niue, I woke up startled, and told Amanda, “It’s raining, quick close hatches and ports!” She told me to go back to sleep, it was just moisture coming through the open port from a whale breathing next to the boat

September 28, 2009, 0600 hrs, 14.17 S, 171.32 W, Log: 133,610 milesBefore we knew it, it was time to set sail for Niuatoputapu, one of Tonga’s smallest inhabited islands, 290 miles to the west. It was a little hard to leave this very friendly and beautiful island, so we sailed back and forth along the coast, watching the whales as Amanda took pictures from the dinghy.

Beam reaching at 8.1 kts in 19 ESE winds, one reef in main and geona!
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 80F, cockpit 79F, sea water 83.1F


Our passage from Niue to Niuatoputapu, Tonga was downwind and smooth, so smooth that we had to motor the last bit to ensure sufficient daylight for the tricky coral pass entrance. Long before we sighted Niuatoputapu we sighted the perfectly shaped volcanic cone of Tafahi; four miles north, 4,000’ high and rumored to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. As we approached the islands in the distant we saw humpback whales breaching clear of the water and landing with huge splashes. Later I was steering while Amanda taught provisioning class below when a whale surfaced less than a boat length away with a huge “WHOOSH”, giving me quite a surprise!

We weren’t surprised to see seven other yachts, mostly European, anchored off this small island that has long been a favorite stop for cruisers sailing from Samoa to Vavau, Tonga. Bill and I dinghied over to an English yacht whose owner said that he doubted that we would be able to clear customs on a Saturday afternoon as one yacht had been calling customs all day on the radio without answer, so…we all piled in the dinghy and headed ashore to have a little look around.

Wharf and the bay at Falehau Falehau village Jill:
A “very sacred coconut” is the Tongan meaning of the oval shaped small jungle island of Niuatoputapu. This island has about 400 residents, all seemingly eager to welcome the few yachts and even fewer supply ships that venture into this locale on of the northern reaches of Tonga.

From our anchorage we could see bonfires ashore and hear the rhythmic drums from the nearby village of Falehau. After attracting the attention of the local Customs official, he promised to attempt to round up health, immigration and quarantine inspectors so that we could possibly clear in that evening which would mean we would be able to go ashore for church the next morning. They surprised us by all turning up on the wharf and we had a good visit with lots of joking as we filled out forms and they stamped our passports.

Tongan hass a very religious culture so we had few options for activities on Sunday other than going to church along with nearly all ashore. Half our crew going to the Methodist church and half to the Catholic. Though we didn’t understand the Tongan sermon, we appreciated the energy and vibrancy of the melodic hymns. Dress is conservative here; not much skin is exposed though the climate is sultry. Women wear elaborate decorative belts over colorful long dresses and men wrap woven mats over their sulus or long pants.

Children leaving church

Setting off on the road to Hihifo. After church we set off on the road to Hihifo and a circumnavigation the 11 km island.

Bill and Elaine cool off

On the northern coast we went swimming and chatted with the locals. The guys of our crew were invited to join a “kava circle” of local men enjoying a post-church drink, but we learned that in Tonga women don’t generally participate in this social ritual.

What’s not to love? The island looks idyllic, situated amidst turquoise reefs, white fluffy clouds and lots of blue sky.We enjoyed a refreshing watermelon given to us by Mu, a proud and handsome young farmer who accompanied us on part of our walk. Mu cut us pieces of crispy green mango with a 2’ cleaver that he carried on his bike and gave us another two melons to take with us.


Leaving the pass at Niuatoputapu for Tafahi

After a lovely quiet afternoon of walking and visiting, we all met back on the wharf and moved MT to an anchorage closer to the pass for an early morning departure. We had 183 miles to sail to make it to Apia before dark and all of us were keen to see if we could anchor at Tafahi, the conical-shaped volcanic island just four miles away, said to have very friendly folks and rumored to have buried treasure. As we watched the sun set over the lagoon, we all gave thanks for a magical visit to a very special island before dinner. Little did we know that the island was soon to be hit by a 9 meter tsunami!

At first light the following morning I was surprised to see all our crew up, and ready to lift the dinghy on board and get underway. Tafahi looked lush, green and steep, but as we approached the cut through the reef where we would have to land we understood why the books said this was a high tide-only landing.

At nearly low tide a wall of breaking water roared across the landing channel every minute or so forcing us to abandon the idea of landing so we set sail on the 180 miles to Samoa passing by the village the hillside at the north end of the island.

Fresh SE winds that enabled us to stay east of a direct line and make excellent time. ESE tradewinds normally blow here which would make a fairly bumpy close-hauled passage so we kept waiting for the winds to head us. Phew, they never did.As we cleared the island we landed a perfect sized wahoo for Molly to fillet for Elaine’s second birthday dinner as we’d crossed back over the dateline. Happy Birthday Elaine…..and what about Buns birthday? Perhaps he celebrated it somewhere special…..search all the images to find out where.

Elaine takes a noon sights

At first light Monday (Samoan time) morning we were making landfall and surfing past Aleipata Village on the extreme eastern end of Upolu Island.

Winds lightened slightly so we set the whisker pole. In the calm conditions Amanda taught sail and rig design which I followed up with sextant sights and Lifesling overboard practice. At 1400 we entered Apia’s new 60 boat capacity marina and by 1600 we had been cleared by a host of officials including health, quarantine, immigration, customs and port authority. Now free to leave we all headed for the nearest ATM and then met at Aggie Grey’s Hotel for poolside drinks.

Aggie Grey was a part Samoan woman who in 1942 opened a hamburger stand for American GI’s which turned into the most famous hotel in the South Pacific. It was here that James Michener started writing “Tales of the South Pacific” and many people assumed that Bloody Mary in the book was modeled after Aggie Grey. Aggie died at 91 in 1988, but her gracious granddaughter, Marina Grey now runs the hotel.

We were all pretty pooped after an exciting day so I was surprised to see most of our crew awake and heading for the showers when Amanda and I left on a dawn run to re-explore Apia; a city that we visited five years earlier.

John and I had just left Farmer Joes supermarket with an armload of hot bread when the street started shaking. I looked around thinking a truck was passing by but saw no heavy equipment. I was a little behind John as I had been peering in a shop window so I ran to catch him as he was now standing in the middle of the street.

“Earthquake?!” we said to each other.
“Not a bad one” commented John as the ground continued to roll and shake.
“Hum” thought I, and then wondered how are crew are fairing back at the boat.

John and I quickly made the ten minute run back to Mahina Tiare, keeping clear of all tall buildings and power lines. My eyes were fixated on the harbour front watching for any signs of receding water. In 1977 I’d experienced a 7.7 earthquake whist in the small boat basin in Nukulofala, Tonga aboard our family cruising yacht Swanhaven. It was at 2am and all the cruisers had stood on deck in the dark discussing the possibility of a tsunami. I was now wondering the same as I ran back to the marina.

We arrived back at the boat to find our crew in good spirits. I chatted with Elaine who said as the quake struck she had awoken to a strange jiggling. After going to the cockpit she looked about as other cruisers appeared on deck. As the quick jiggling motion continued for several minutes every assumed it was an earthquake. I went off to collect my shower kit when suddenly loud civil defense sirens sounded. It took me a few moments to register what it meant, then only a few seconds to realize it was a tsunami alert.

“Grab your passports and run” I told our crew.

I set about shutting ports and hatches while John grabbed boat papers and our passports. I was still in my running gear and knew my sneakers were on deck. Marina staff was now yelling urgently for everyone to run for the hills and fire truck sirens were also joining in with the civil defense warning. John and I had to make a quick decision. Do we run or put to sea? We noticed the water in the marina had started to move about and had quickly dropped four feet. Sea water was surging up and down, dropping lower after each surge.

We watched across the dock as Ernie and Charlene on Lauren Grace, a Knysna 440 Catamaran, took off partly sideways out the marina with lots of current sweeping them out.

One of the ferries that goes to Pago Pago also cast lines and departed. On arriving the day before with knew that the marina entrance is very shallow, we only had a depth of 1.7 feet under the keel in places, plus there are also numerous large unmarked coral heads. Would we have enough depth to get out and what if we got stuck on a coral head? We decide to run. This meant running along the waterfront to reach the first road going inland.

The smart yachties headed for Aggie Grey’s hotel, in the middle of the waterfront bay where hotel staff welcomed them and sent them to the top floors. Here they had a great view of the harbor going dry for several hundred yards out.

We soon joined a mass of people, cars and trucks all heading up the hills. Although the fire department kept directing everyone further inland John and I decided there was no way a tsunami would go further than where we were so we took shelter in the courtyard of a church. After half and hour we stopped a passing taxi heading back to the harbour to see if he had any news. He mentioned that the radio said a tsunami had struck the eastern end of the island and that a school had collapsed with at least three children dead and more were trapped in the wreckage. Little did we know that as the sirens went off an 18’ tsunami hit the south side of the island causing 130+ deaths and massive destruction. John and I concluded that a tsunami can’t hit both sides of an island and went back to Mahina Tiare.

Our crew had been offered rides inland and were not able to return until around noon due to police road blocks and no final all-clear given over the radio or sirens system. Relived to be safe we then spent a few hours calming our nerves while completing medical class, sewing and splicing.

Jill, Molly and Roy decided to volunteer at Red Cross and headed off in their rental truck

View of marina from Aggie Grey’s

The rest of us choose to stay put though at around 6 pm the sirens went off again and the police and fire trucks came roaring down the harbour front yelling that everyone must leave immediately. This time we headed to Aggie Gray’s Hotel where the staff welcomed us and said hurry up the stairs to one of the top floors. We met a nice couple from Auckland who let us stay on their balcony which had an excellent view of the marina and harbor. We switched on the TV but the local coverage of the tsunami was amateurish and rather disturbing and so we turned it off. This time three yachts headed out to sea. Thankfully after an hour of nothing much going on in the harbor the word of the “All Clear” filtered up to us.

As we returned to the marina Ernie on the catamaran Laura Grace said that he had just overheard the RNZ Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft that had been searching for bodies saying that another tsunami was expected in 20 minutes. We quickly returned to MT to grab some more things and overheard the NZAF pilot on the VHF asking Apia Port Control for an update on the now imminent tsunami. Port Control said that the last warning was for high waves on the village on the south side of the island that has been devastated and the alarm should not have been sounded again for this side. Whew! That night we slept with our knapsacks and running shoes in the cockpit ready to sprint back to Aggie Grey’s Room 313 where our Kiwi friends have invited us to return if necessary.

Here’s Molly’s account of volunteering at Red Cross:
It’s Thursday night and it’s not easy to find the right words to describe what has happened here in Samoa. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the earthquake and tsunami is that I forever will be thankful to have survived the incident.

When the tsunami sirens sounded I fled Mahina Tiare along with Roy and Jill. We headed along the waterfront and soon hitched a ride on a truck that took us inland on the cross country road where waited out our time at a now rather busy neighborhood convenience store. They translated radio updates on the events that were unfolding on the south side of the island. When we heard that the south coast had been devastated by a tsunami we decided to help in any way possible. When the all clear was announced two hours later on the radio we returned to Mahina Tiare renting a large new van on the way.

All seemed quiet back in Apia Marina so Roy, Jill and I went to Red Cross in Apia to see how we could assist. They welcomed our offer to help and we loaded the van with water, blankets and relief supplies before taping a Red Cross flag on the front and back of the van. We then proceeded across the island with two local guys to the small hospital at the village of Lalomanu, the worst affected area.

When we reached the south coast it was instantly apparent that the situation was serious. The guys who were guiding us had a hard time determining where we were. There were no recognizable buildings, villages, resorts or even signs of life. Everyone had taken refuge on higher ground fearing another catastrophic wave. The 20 miles of coast road to the hospital was slow going and although it had be semi cleared, with many detours where parts had washed away we often just drove over debris including power lines. Nearly everything except the churches had been flattened with cars tumbled upside down and small fishing boats washed high up onto land. The round trip took four hours and we finished up with the evening with a thankful hot dinner at 11pm at Aggie Grey’s.

We reported to Red Cross at 6am the next morning for another day of ferrying supplies and aid workers. The morning Samoan Observer newspaper reported the death toll at 47, with the number of people missing still a critical concern. The Samoans were doing a phenomenal job in providing aid and I was impressed by the deep rooted bond that showed between each and every fellow Samoan, even though they may have never set eyes upon each other before. While traveling to and from the hospital I witnessed and amazing display of community and teamwork as everyone worked together. As the blistering sun beat down teams were hard at work sorting through the wreckage in the hopes of finding people alive while others gathered up the pieces of destroyed homes, hauling them up the hill to those who were constructing on temporary shelters.

Today was another early start with a Red Cross supply drive to Lalomanu. NZ and Australian relief workers have arrived and as Red Cross now has a surplus of local volunteers they informed us that they are no longer in need of our assistance. Donations to the communities and families affected by the tsunami will be appreciated.

John and Amanda happy and thankfully safe in Apia Marina

Friday in Apia everything seemed rather normal, but fairly quiet with as there were no government offices open on Wednesday or Thursday. Other than the small local morning paper and radio news rebroadcast from Radio New Zealand once a day getting local news is difficult. It’s hard to know what is happening if one doesn’t speak Samoan so it’s best to search the internet. The airport and flights are normal and there aren’t any shortages of supplies. Outside aid is arriving on military flights, the Samoan prime mister has returned from overseas, and the New Zealand prime minister arrived aboard a RNAF 757 containing a portable desalinization plant, Samoan-speaking medical personnel, emergency supplies and rescue sniffer dogs.

Kalalau, a sloop from Seattle, left Thursday morning loaded to the gunnels with supplies for Niuatoputapu as the island was also hit badly and several other yachts plan on making the 180 mile passage there once it’s learned what supplies are needed. The Tongan government patrol boat arrived there Friday with medical personnel and a French naval ship from Noumea should arrive tomorrow. We’ve been listening in on the morning SSB cruisers net to see how everyone fared especially the yachts anchored in Pago Pago and Niuatoputapu.

John and I are now anchored in small bay to the east of Apia for a few quiet days to work on Mahina Tiare. We’ve talked a lot about Tuesday’s events and know we made the right decision to run although perhaps it should have been sooner and we learnt from Lauren Grace that you need to go to sea to a depth of 100 ft to be safe.

We’re certainly on schedule for our Thursday October 8th, Leg 5 departure for Fiji via Wallis and Futuna although we may adjust our course for a quick stop to deliver supplies to Niuatoputapu.

Leg 4 , 2009 Rarotonga , Cooks ; Apia, Samoa2021-05-04T01:10:35+00:00

Leg 6 , September 2008 : Lisbon – Lanzarote

September 2, 2008, 0130 hrs, 33.07N, 016.12 W, Log: 119,863 miles
Beam reaching SW at 6.2 kts in WSW 12 kt winds, tons of stars!
Baro: 1021.0, Cabin Temp: 77F, cockpit  71F

Marina de Cascais

A passing turtle

Fresh mahi for lunch anyone?

The Lights of Porto Santo are Ahead!

We were ready to set sail as soon as our Leg 6 crew joined us in Cascais, and anchored off Marina de Cascais for lunch and safety orientation.

It had been a busy and noisy week in Cascais, the last week of summer holidays for school children, a dramatic difference from arriving five weeks later than previous year. The beaches were now packed and a huge clear music stage overlooked the waterfront with live music resounding across town each night. Over 150 sailboats from many countries poured into the marina for a sailing regatta, 80 of which were immaculate Dragons (with complete support crews and vehicles) whose owners we met everywhere we went. Setting off to sea appeared restful after the non-stop noise and bustle.

To date our passage has been a quiet one. Instead of too much wind as we had on Leg 5, a large high pressure cell has meant very modest winds. We’ve had some sailing in spurts, but the strongest wind we’ve seen has been 12 knots. The past 36 hours have seen winds consistently under 5 kts, so we’ve been motoring along quietly in a flat sea at just 2000 RPM, giving us around 6.7 knots at a fuel burn of about 1.2 gph. Fortunately, the forecasts call for winds to increase soon!

The upside has been sighting dozens of turtles sunning themselves lazily on the surface and excellent swimming conditions with our entire crew enjoying relaxing swims for 30-40 minutes each afternoon. The International Cruiser Uno antifouling paint applied in the Azores in April has held up extremely well and after a mid-ocean sponge off looks like new.

Another bonus was catching our first fish in over a year, (finally! says Amanda) a mahi mahi that found it’s way onto our lunch menu in very short order!

The amount of shipping traffic visible on our new Raymarine AIS receiver has been surprising! Except for today, we’ve had 4-6 ships AIS signals visible on the radar/plotter screen most of the time. A couple times we’ve needed to alter course slightly to pass astern of ships.

We hadn’t intended to make landfall at Porto Santo Island (24 miles before Madeira) in the dark, but it looks like that will be the case again this year. Sam, our navigator of the day, has set a conservative course, taking us well clear of the end of the island and then to an easy anchorage inside the harbour breakwater.

September 9, 2008, 0430 hrs, 29.26 N, 013.50 W, Log: 120,149 miles
Broad reaching SW at 6.2 kts in WSW 14 kt winds, smooth seas, clear starlit skies
Baro: 1012.7, Cabin Temp: 78F , cockpit  73F

Porto Santo Boatyard

Porto Santo town and beach

Amanda teaching rig construction

Our nighttime landfall worked out perfectly; we slowly crept into the well lit Porto Santo harbor anchorage, guided by the music and lights of the all-night disco on the harbor edge, before dropping anchor.

After clearing in the Wednesday morning our crew enjoyed exploring this vibrant little island, one time home to Christopher Columbus and famous for having the longest and best white sand beach in Portugal. The normally quiet little boatyard had over 100 boats ashore for winter storage. Sonja, the manager said that 150 boats arrived the previous week on a race from France. They were all wintering in Porto Santo or Madeira until January when the race would continue to Martinique. On top of that,

Ensenada de Abra anchorage

Sam paddling the Airis kayak

she said another 135 boats were due to start arriving in Funchal, Madeira the following day on a race from the Canary Islands. Any hope of us getting a spot in the small marina in Funchal, a couple days later, quickly went out the window.

Wednesday we sailed to Ensenada de Abra at the far eastern end of Madeira with rigging class on the way. We anchored in 20’ depths in what looked like a half volcanic caldera, with one side having eroded out to sea. What a fabulous anchorage! The water was crystal clear, the bottom of the bay was totally flat with black volcanic sand and we were surrounded on three sides by spectacular cliffs. We shared the bay with a friendly Austrian couple who were on their final leg of a three year circumnavigation aboard their very handsome and well-maintained Najad 490.

Minutes after we anchored everyone was in or on the water. Sam and Sue took turns exploring the bay on our nifty new Walker Bay Airis 10 inflatable kayak and the rest of the crew snorkeled ashore to explore the beach. This was real cruising, complete with a spectacular sunset.

The following morning after a leisurely start and anchoring seminar, we headed a mile SW to Quinta do Lorde Marina, stopping to top up fuel and the fuel is still contaminated. This fairly new marina development now has around 30 new townhouse and hotel buildings under construction, all started within the last five months. There was a beehive of activity on the hills behind the marina, and the model of what the five-star development will end up looking like is impressive. There was still plenty of space in the marina, and Katia, the lovely manager, easily arranged for a van to pick us up the following morning for an all-day island tour. What a bargain this turned out to be!

Quinta do Lorde Marina and construction site

Filling fuel

At 0900 Friday morning, Leno, a bright young local guy picked us up in a shiny new van and gave us an incredible insightful tour of this island that he so loves. With tourism representing the largest share of local economy, Madeira believes in being well prepared. Leno had completed a college degree in tourism and spoke a mandatory fourth language, French, as well as Portuguese, Spanish and English. He said as far back as they can trace his family has lived here, previously on a small farm six hours walk from Funchal. As Funchal is in the midst of its 500th year anniversary of the founding of the city, that could be a long time! Leno took us to the summit of the third highest mountain along impossibly narrow cliff-hanging

Marilyn and Mike hiking the mountain summit

Leg 6 Crew

roads, to little villages nestled in the mountains, and to lunch at neat little indoor-outdoor restaurant nestled in an elaborate flower garden. Before returning to the Lorde marina we briefly stopped by Funchal so we could check if there was room to anchor off the town (since the 130 race boats were arriving) and talk with the marina office. All of this for less than 30 Euros per person, plus, none of us had to drive!

Here’s our Leg 6 crew:

John Spurr, 70 (but looks and moves like he was 40!) was born in England, schooled in South Africa, Australia and California. As an iconoclastic mechanical engineer, he has worked on many interesting projects and managed to make an escape to Canada’s Yukon Territories nearly 30 years ago where he an Alice hand built a log cabin 30 roadless miles from Tagish, a small village, and 75 miles from Whitehorse, a small town. They travel by snowmobile over a frozen lake in the winter and by canoe and motorboat once the ice has melted. Now they are considering sailing adventures in warmer climes.

Alice Spurr, 55 is originally from Korea, but met her husband John when they were both working at HP in the SF Bay area. Alice is a fine artist who has had displays and shows in San Francisco area as well as the Yukon Territories of Canada.

Sam Parker, 65 of Newport Beach, California was aboard for his 11th expedition. Sam has owned at least a dozen boats and currently has a nearly-new Island Packet 3700 on his dock.

Marilyn Jackson who turns 74 the day after the expedition earlier joined us on Leg 5-2006. A very keen sailor, Marilyn has done several passages aboard Alaska Eagle and has sailed extensively with her son, Michael, whom she works with. She lives on the banks of Hoods Canal in NW Washington State.

Mike Jackson, 54 was a crab fisherman in the Bering Straits waters between Alaska and Russia. Ever seen Most Dangerous Catch? That was what Mike used to do, and those are the fisherman he supplies with foul weather gear as owner of Grundens, USA, Mike has all kinds of plans for offshore cruising with his wife and son once his son finishes college.

Sue Grimm, 40 something from Ohio was aboard for her fourth expedition and has already signed up for her fifth and sixth expeditions! Sue just traded in her Beneteau 46 for a new Beneteau 37 which she enjoys sailing on a lake in Ohio. If her hot-shot sailor-son Tim is accepted into the Annapolis Naval Academy, she will move her boat to Annapolis to have a place to stay (and sail) when visiting him at school.

View of one of the many small villages

The Tres Amigos – John and Mike clowning around with a souvenir salesman in a coastal village

Saturday morning we got a 0500 start towards Funchal, arriving and anchoring around sunrise to allow us maximum time for exploring this exciting city. By 0900 we hit the beach running (well sort of!) and our entire crew took the gondola to the top of the mountain overlooking town. Mike and Marilyn hopped in one of the famous wicker basket toboggans, careening down the steep streets as two guys hung on the back, dragging their feet to keep from hitting cars, curbs, trees or pedestrians, and the rest of our gang checked out the botanical gardens. Amanda and I enjoyed exploring the vibrant and bustling public market and went looking for Madeiran lace and a few groceries.

500th anniversary of Funchal sign in lights on the pier

After dinner aboard, several of us set off to explore the final night of music, festivities marking the end of the Madeira wine festival and part of the cities 500th year anniversary. The wine festival had free wine tasting along with two guys stomping grapes in a traditional method, with sampling of the freshly-stomped grape juice which was really tasty. We watched traditional Madeira folk dancing, danced by young and old, along with Belarus dancers who must have been sweltering in their traditional costume as well as a group of elaborate mimes doing a modern performance relating to wine (we think). There was so much to see and so many people were out enjoying the magical evening! There is something special about how Portuguese people love celebrations and festivities and go all out to make sure they are the best possible. At midnight there was a fireworks show off the end of the breakwater, the perfect capper for a perfect day of adventure!

Stomping grapes

Amanda sampling juice

Traditional Madeira folk dancing

As the passage to Graciosa Island, in the Canaries, is only 275 miles, we didn’t want to leave too early so we left after noon on Sunday. As the wind had filled in many of the race boats were also starting their passages back to the Canaries. Just after we set sail inside the breakwater, we passed a racy looking X-50 Danish-built race boat. It took them hours to catch us, but when they did, Sue and Alice were competing for the binoculars to check out all the cute guys on the rail! AKA…”hotties” according to Sue!

Sue with bisnos and X-50 “hotties” ahead

For the first time in over a week we had good steady winds but not the normal northeast trades. Instead we’ve had flat seas and steady west winds, no more than 14 knots and rarely less than 10, which have hardly caused us to adjust sail. It’s the most enjoyable smoothest, easiest passage in recent years.

Yesterday we snuck under the southern tip of a weak cold front, motorsailing for a couple of hours to avoid the band of rain clouds, but since then it has been a picture-perfect, complete with Sam landing our second mahi mahi of the year. These conditions are great for utilizing our PowerPoint presentations on the saloon monitor, along with the Expedition Companion, to better illustrate the teaching topics. As John and Alice plus Mike are keen on purchasing their own cruising boats shortly, they are taking lots of notes during classes.

With the brilliant sailing we haven’t wanted to stop for a swim and shower, so for the first time yesterday, we tried out our new deck seawater shower that Martinsson’s Boatyard in Sweden recently installed. It works great with unlimited surprisingly warm water and loads of pressure. Our old method; me scooping up buckets of seawater and dumping them over crews heads, is now history. This saves approximately five gallons of fresh water per person, per shower which really adds up with eight of us showering nearly every day. Yep, you still do get a fresh water rinse to follow!

September 17, 2008
Somewhere over the Atlantic making 500 knots at 38,000’

Graciosa Island

Graciosa town and marina

We had to slow down to arrive at Graciosa, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graciosa,_Canary_Islands) in daylight. Being the smallest inhabited island (population 500) of the Canaries we were surprised to find a very substantial breakwater and harbor. Two marina piers are situated on east of the harbor while the west side contains a pier along with a handful of fishing boats and a couple of small ferry/tourist boats that shuttled between Lanzarote and Graciosa. There were several empty slips and after clearing in with the port captain and paying our mooring fee of 8 euro our crew headed for showers and a little beachfront restaurant.

Amanda and I went walking and were impressed by style and quality of the architecture which looked like a modern interpretation of North African style. We learned that Lanzarote-born artist/architect/civic planner Cesar Manrique (http://spain-travel.suite101.com/article.cfm/lanzarote_artist_cesar_manrique) had inspired or designed many of the homes and buildings and greatly influenced public land use planning, tourism development and protection of the environment on Lanzarote and Graciosa. We tried to rent mountain bikes but they were out and it turned out the soft sand on the trails and roads would have made cycling a challenge. Instead we circumnavigated half the island on foot. Not being desert people it felt strange and exhilarating to experience this wild, dusty and barren island. We stumbled upon a cactus farm, later learning that cactus has been farmed for food and more importantly, for of tiny bug that lives on the cactus, from which cochineal red dye has been made for hundreds of years.

Typical architecture

Cactus farm

On our hike we passed a gorgeous bay surrounded by a several mile long white sandy beach so when we gathered back aboard MT and found the marina hot and windless it didn’t take any convincing to get our crew to switch marina dock lines for a sandy bay anchorage. As soon as Amanda completed splicing class, nearly everyone hit the water. Mike found gazillions of fish and some rays and we were just glad to be snorkeling in clear, clean, warm water.

Our best sail of the expedition (and one of the best of the season!) was Wednesday. With an early departure, we sailed 32 miles around the southern tip of Lanzarote, (http://www.lanzarote-guide.com/) always on a broad reach. It was strange; the wind angle just stayed the same as we kept rounding headlands.  The flat conditions enabled crew to practice celestial navigation and Alice and John to perfect reefing.

Alice concentrating on a sun sight

Alice and John – jubilant after a successful session of reefing

Final leg to Marina Rubicon

Mike had volunteered to jump in the water as a surprise man-overboard victim, but when we neared the semi-protected area of the coast just before Marina Rubicon, the wind piped up to 20-25 knots, so we resorted to using balled-up newspaper for heads instead.

Marina Rubicon was our second choice, after Puerto Calero. We’d left MT in Puerto Calero in 2002 but they now couldn’t guarantee us both marina and dry storage space, something Marina Rubicon could so we decided to give it a try.

The impressive marina and development is very new and at least double the size of Puerto Calero. After clearing in and assigned a berth we were told us that since Monday was a holiday we would have to haul out either Friday afternoon, the final day of the expedition, or Tuesday, the day we were flying home.

Thursday morning we completed teaching and Sam rented a passenger van. We had all voted to spend the day touring this very interesting sounding island and Mike, navigator of the day, had done a great job researching places of interest and mapping out a route.

A local camel guide

A camel train on the mountain side

The Parque Nacional de Timanfaya is stunning. From 1730-1736 the volcano claimed more than twenty villages and extensive farm land with a resulting volcanic landscape with over 20 peaks. The final eruption was in 1824, but the heat from the volcano is still so hot that the parks restaurant, designed by Cesar Manrique, barbeques meals on a grill over a vent. Surprised at a camel sign near the national park we stopped to visit. For 10 euro a camel, that can carry two adults, you can join a camel train for a raunchy half hour journey into the park’s volcanic hills.

We also enjoyed an excellent lunch at a hillside restaurant called Lagomar, designed and built by Manrique for Omar Sharif. The story goes that Omar Sharif lost his home in a poker game. Since then Lagomar has been used in numerous movies and magazine fashion shoots.

Lagomar restaurant and garden

 There were extensive pools, fountains, grottos – it looked like it must have been an incredible place to entertain!

Another intriguing must do highlight is Manrique’s home/studio. Now an incredible museum and foundation much of his unusual home is built underground in lava tubes and caves which, where necessary, Manrique blasted to create connections.

Manrique’s underground white lounge

Manrique garden mosaic

Mahina Tiare in the travel lift

After tidying MT up Friday morning and saying farewell to crew, we hauled in the afternoon and went to work getting her ready for two months of storage. We removed the sails, cleared the decks of lines,  winterized all systems (I guess it should be called “summerized” in the desert-like climate) did a thorough cleaning of the entire interior and galley cupboards and rigged the sun awning as a cover. Then, before we knew it, we were headed to the airport and home for two months until it’s time to cross the Atlantic.

Leg 6 , September 2008 : Lisbon – Lanzarote2021-05-04T01:12:21+00:00

Leg 2 , 2008 Ireland – Scotland

May 27, 2008, 1400 hrs, 51.27 N, 009.21 W, Log: 115,864 miles
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 20 kt ENE winds (down from 38-42, gusting 44 earlier), moderate seas
Baro: 1011.1, Cabin Temp: 65F (furnace is on!), cockpit 55F

Fastnet (shipping area forecast): Force 9, Severe Gale, gusts over 50 knots was our morning forecast.

Kath concentrates on steering

Sailing into Schull

Anchored off Schull

When our crew arrived yesterday noon, a similar forecast helped us decide that our most prudent plan was to stay at the dock and spend the afternoon on safety orientation, and the evening on navigation overview. We’re now putting to sea as the difference this morning is that the most severe wind conditions have passed and the forecast is (accurately) for diminishing winds from noon onwards. Another reason to set sail is that the forecasted wind direction should provide us with a broad reach.

Amanda and I are sad to be leaving Crosshaven as our time between Legs 1 & 2 was a real treat. We enjoyed long bike rides and runs exploring many of the back roads around Crosshaven while MT was safely and securely moored at the Royal Cork Yacht Club which has to be one of the friendliest clubs anywhere.

We sure couldn’t turn down Leg 1 expedition member George Coyle’s invitation to visit him in Connemara, an hour west of Galway, so last Monday we headed north in a rental car. George met us in Galway and showed us the oldest part of the city which had some Spanish arches dating back to the 1500’s. Much of the neatest shopping part of downtown Galway has pedestrian-only access, plus amazingly restored interesting buildings.

We followed George out along the Connemara peninsula to his fascinating Irish bungalow which although it looked traditional is only ten years old. George proved an amazing cook and host. In exploring the sparsely-populated countryside we went for several long runs and walks plus drives along the scenic coast, rivers and lochs. In the local Rosmuc combination grocery and farm supply store-post office we were surprised to hear hardly a word of English spoken and realized we were in true Connemara, for it has the largest concentration of Gaelic speakers in Ireland. On Wednesday we explored an old lakeside castle that had been turned into a quintessential lodge featuring fly fishing on the river before making our way out to Clifden Sailing Club, where George sails and races.

On our way back to Cork we stopped at a giant new Tesco supermarket to the north of Limerick filling the small car with all kinds of goodies the smaller shops in Crosshaven didn’t have.

As our car was not due back for another day we figured we could squeeze in one more adventure, so it was off to Ballymaloe School of Cookery (www.cookingisfun.ie) and Ballymaloe House (www.ballymaloe.ie) we headed, a half hour east of Cork. Amanda had seen their write up in a tourist guide and I’d enjoyed a look at The Ballymaloe Cookbook at George’s. Amanda went online (wif-fi at the yacht club) to read more and we decided we couldn’t miss seeing this amazing cooking school/hotel whose 84 year old co-founder Myrtle Allen still runs the hotel and is still full of energy and graciousness. We were only disappointed that we didn’t have time to stay when we got invited to join a luncheon created by students and meet the schools founder. Next time!

So today it was a raucous early morning 0600 start, with a solid 38-42, gusts to 44 and seas forecast to 4 meters (13’!). We even had the cockpit partially filled with a rogue breaking wave that smacked us on the beam – that’s a first in several years.

Basking shark

Barrie trolling for fish

The colourful Portmagee

Evening anchorage at Portmagee

Leg 3 crew at the Blaskets

The seas gradually began easing by ten and our keen new crew just shook out three reefs in the main. We now have full main and just one reef in the genoa. Lot’s Wife, the unmistakable tall white stone pillar marking the entrance of Baltimore Harbour, is abeam and from here we’ll skirt Clear Island before hardening up, sheeting in sails and sailing into Schull Bay.

June 2, 2008, 21400 hrs, 54.33 N, 009.38 W, Log: 115,864 miles
Broad reaching at at 7.5 kts in 24 kt W winds, moderate seas
Baro: 1009, Cabin Temp: 65F , cockpit 58F
Ireland Abeam, Scotland Ahead!

The past week has passed quickly with sunny days and short clear nights containing mostly very moderate winds (until this evening) and occasional foggy patches. Tuesday afternoon we quietly dropped anchor off Schull, just N of Fastnet Rock and explored the small quaint village. Wednesday morning as we rounded Mizen Head, follwed by Dursey Island where Barrie spotted some strange fins in the water.  We changed course and had a clear and very close view of several large basking sharks.

Portmagee, a small fishing village was our Wednesday anchorage and the next day we sailed out to Great Blasket Island to hike around the deserted village and island, famous for its several Irish-speaking authors.

The following day we left Brandon Bay at the crack of dawn (actually, it never got very dark at all) and had covered the 65 miles for a landfall in the Aran Islands by early afternoon. Amanda taught rig check, emergency rigging repairs and provisioning while we sometimes sailed and sometimes motored in light winds.

It didn’t take us long to rent bikes (even in the light rain) once we reached Inishmor, the largest of the Aran Islands. We were surprised to find that Dun Aengus fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BAn_Aengus) was open until 1900 and found it fascinating that the inhabitants in 500 BC chose to locate the site so close to a 300’ cliff.

Friday night we dinned ashore and ended the evening with some great live, but not traditional, Irish music played on harp, accordion, guitar, and banjo. Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash figured heavily into the repertoire of musicians.

Saturday saw us doing more cycling and exploring, in what must have been the sunniest and warmest day of the year, before we set sail for Roundstone. With very light winds, we ended up motorsailing part of the way while Amanda taught splicing.

Roundstone, a very traditional small town/large village in the heart of Irish-speaking Connemara let us into her bay much easier than last time. Instead of tacking through rock piles and reefs in 30-35 knots of wind we sailed and motored in brilliant sunshine (it was actually HOT!!!), trading tacks with a very smart looking small Galway hooker named Theo.

The hookers are traditional workboat/fishboat and were the backbone of transportation for isolated places where few roads existed one hundred years ago. We took lots of pictures of the handsome small tar coated sloop and invited the owner to stop by on his way home.

Not long after we had the anchor down off Roundstone Barrie started fishing off the stern and before long we noticed the hooker approaching. Theo came alongside and we quizzed Michael Caine on his boat. Unlike some of the traditional boats, that are over 150 years old, Michael said he had built Theo 20 years ago. This was his first sail of the summer and he had been busy catching fish to give away to friends and neighbors. We couldn’t turn down two pollack and Barrie put away his fishing pole and got straight into cleaning the fish.

Blasket anchorage

Small hooker out fishing

The Cliffs at Dun Aengus

Amanda and I made a quick dinghy run to town to ask if there would be any musicians performing that evening, and from a distance in Eldon’s Hotel we spotted the “LIVE MUSIC TONIGHT” sign in the window. The waitress in the hotel pub said it would start at 10:30 or 11, or whenever the musicians felt like it, and yes, it would be traditional Irish music with accordion and banjo.

The little hooker Theo

Theo alongside

Fresh fish for dinner

We took naps after dinner before heading ashore in with plenty of daylight remaining at 2200. We found a table, relaxed, and waited. Around 2230 a big silver Mercedes parked in the middle of the street and a large man got out, carrying what looked to be a small accordion box. Paddy had a real presence when he entered the pub. He looked kind of like a large, friendly bear and went around greeting many of the pub patrons before sitting down right next to us and pulling out his accordion. Soon the banjo player arrived, followed by a young guy with Uilleann bagpipes and a collection of penny whistles.

Music night at Eldon’s

It turned out to be a night of traditional music and singing that we will never forget. Paddy and the boys played song after song, some fast, some slow and occasionally he would sing a traditional song, often a little risqué, followed by whoops of laughter from the audience. It took Amanda a few songs to get up the nerve to hit the floor with the traditional Irish step dancing called Sean Nos that she’s been practicing, first in a workshop in Friday Harbor, followed by watching a few DVDs and You Tube. In seconds every eye in the pub was on her shoes. The older folks were pointing and commenting on footwork and between songs many people wanted to know where in Connemara she was from and who had taught her this traditional, nearly-lost dance style. Several hours into the evening an Irish-American guy originally from Wexford, now on holiday from Berkeley, California got up and danced the higher, flashier Riverdance style. Everyone cheered and whistled and asked him to dance more, but he explained that those few steps was all he remembered from his compulsorily Irish dance classes at elementary school. A couple of times when Amanda sat down to catch her breath Paddy roared out, “We want more Sean Nos dancing!” and at 1:30 when Amanda said goodbye to the musicians, they all clapped and cheered and thanked her.

The Pirate Queen’s castle in fog

Saturday morning after a sunny run along the coastline we set sail for Inishbofin, (www.inishbofin.com) a small offshore island with a rich history of pirates, smugglers, monks, invaders, prisoners, fisherman and music. Thick fog closed in on us when we were halfway there and the first thing we saw was the lighthouse on a pile of rocks just a few boat lengths off the bow. We are very pleased with our nearly-new Raymarine C80 radar and Nobeltec Visual Navigation Suite plotting software with Passport Charts work flawlessly. The accuracy of the Passport charts has been consistently incredible.

To avoid the ferries and traffic in the fog we anchored off Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley’s castle and Amanda and I headed ashore while our crew slept. We found the island was extremely busy. 150 orienteer competitors and a 200 plus wedding party hugely outnumbering the local population of 190. Before long we discovered that John O’Halloran and friends would be “having a session” at the Dolphin restaurant. Johnny plays accordion on one of Amanda’s Sean Nos DVDs and is a well known musician in Galway music scene.

It turned out to be an over-amplified evening with only a fragment of traditional music. The following morning we headed ashore to explore Grace O’Malley’s castle in sunshine before we gingerly navigated our way out of Inishbofin’s rocky shores and set a course for Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.

Innishbofin harbour from the castle

Amanda and Michael working on the pole beak

Chuck and Noah share the watch

Alex shakes out a reef

Our timing couldn’t have been better. With a series of powerful lows racing across the North Atlantic, we had a gap with relatively moderate conditions (less than 30 kts from astern) before the Tuesday night’s Navtex forecast of, “WSW Force 5 to 7, Occasionally Gale Force 8, increasing to Force 7 to Severe Gale Force 9, perhaps Storm Force 10 later” The GRIB files showed strong SE gales early Wednesday morning after the frontal passage, making our two first choices, Barra Island (southernmost inhabited island of the Outer Hebrides) or Tiree (Inner Hebrides) unsuitable due to their southern exposure.

We pulled out the Imray charts and the best option for landfall looks (again) like Loch na Lathaich on Mull island, which we ran to a couple years ago with a similar forecast. We expect it might be dark by the time that we reach it but winds of 25 gusting to 34 have kept our speed between 7 and 10 knots all night with some spectacular surfing bursts, so our current ETA is well before dark.

June 6, 2008, 1800 hrs, 56 47 N, 005 50 W, Log: 116,418 miles
At anchor in the shadow of a very old castle, Loche Moidart, Scotland
Baro: 1017, Cabin Temp: 65F , cockpit 68F

We reached Scotland well before dark and anchored near Bunessan village in a windless Loch na Lathaich not far from Iona Island. It did blow that night, but with 200’ of chain out in only 20’ of water Mahina Tiare didn’t budge. The system had blown through Wednesday morning and we awoke to brilliant sunshine. We tied to the town pier for a boat wash down and showers before hiking and exploring ashore. After studying storm tactics we set sail, cruising past Iona – an important religious place, then close by Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island with its huge basalt columns.

Muck, on of the three “small islands” of the Inner Hebrides was our evening destination and after weaving our way through numerous kelp topped reefs we finally dropped anchor on the north side of the island. In reading Lonely Planet Scotland and the Imray cruising guide we learned that the entire island is owned by one family who has run it as a farm for many years. Recently they built a small hotel/restaurant a tea shop in addition to renting out several of the farm cottages (www.isleofmuck.com) at very reasonable rates. That evening we visited with a group of Scottish sailor who gave us tons of tips on “must see” places in the area. Rob, the skipper, said we should visit Doune, only about 15 miles away where a cruising/boatbuilding family had built a restaurant and tiny hotel, easily accessible by boat or a 16 mile tramp through bog.

We never miss a 6:30 am morning run if there is a trail or road ashore and most mornings we were joined by Barrie (who secretly incorporates a Full Monty swim into his daily morning run), and few times by Michael and Alex. On Muck we found sheep lounging on the road, cows munching seaweed on the beach and horses galloping along the shoreline. Returning to our RIB at the beach, we were surprised to see a small, classic expedition cruise ship anchor astern of Mahina Tiare. The Hebridean Princess (www.hebridean.co.uk) launched large inflatables that landed a portable dock on the beach. Kath had us wondering if Queen Elizabeth was aboard as she mentioned that now Britannia is now longer in service the Queen had rented the entire ship (49 berths) two years earlier for her 80th birthday cruise of Scotland’s west coast. When Amanda and I visited her ex-royal yacht Britannia in Edinburgh a couple years ago, we learned that her annual cruise of the Inner and Outer Hebrides was one of the things the Queen most enjoyed.

Cows on the beach at Muck

Port Mor at Muck

Morning Tea on the Lawn

Barrie at his best

Sailing by Castle Tioran

MT in Tobermory

Our hopes of seeing Queenie were dashed when the infaltables were loaded with assorted bodies (definitely ancient tourists) that got landed ashore. Knowing the island was going to be a zoo our crew weren’t too keen to go ashore. But Amanda pointed out that at least the teahouse/gallery on the other side of the island would be open. She was right! And we were treated to a delicious morning tea on the lawn over looking the small harbour while chatting to the interesting passengers and lecturer/guides.

We later set sail for Rum (www.isleofrum.com ) but there was only bright sunshine and not a breath of wind, so we motored. Rum has a great fairly recent (1897) castle built for George Bullough, an eccentric English cavalry officer. Since 1957 the island has been owned by The Nature Conservancy and part of the castle is used as a B & B and restaurant. Unfortunately we missed the daily tour by half an hour, so we had to be content with peering in the windows.

Calm and sunny conditions still prevailed for our passage 20 mile passage to Doune (www.doune-knoydart.co.uk ) north of Mallaig on the Knoydart Pennisula. Kath had rung ahead and discovered they just had room for our eight in their family-style dining room that evening. What a treat we were in for! The small restaurant and tiny hotel were built by an amazing cruising family that turned an ancient derelict ruin into a home and boat building center later adding diving-sailing-hotel and restaurant business. A handful of cottages nestle around the tiny bay where two free moorings are provided for visiting yachts. Dinner was a stunner, and lots of fun! The two guys at the next table whose Bavaria 34 was on the other mooring provided us with even more anchorage information and stories of running search and rescue helicopters supporting the BP North Sea oil operations. The restaurant owner’s wife heard Amanda was interested in traditional music and brought out her fiddle. Not only did she play a mean fiddle, she also managed to step dance at the same time.

This morning we covered electrical power systems and watermakers and once we arrived here in Loch Moidart Amanda spent more time on sail trim pulling out the sewing machine for sail repair class.

All of our new Scottish friends had told us Loch Moidart, with its very accessible abandoned 14th century Castle Tioran, shouldn’t be missed – and they were right! After a narrow, long and tortuous entrance, we dropped anchor off the castle where fourteen successive chiefs of Clanranald had lived. Ashore, we climbed through the bars and into dungeons, great rooms, kitchens and high walkways. It was easy to see where the floor timbers had been set into the rocks for the second, third and in some cases fourth floors while all directions we could see different channels and islands while only a handful of isolated cottages dotted the lochs rim. It felt like we were on a mountain lake.

Our last night, before heading to Oban, found us enjoying Tobermory, (www.tobermory.co.uk) the colorful fishing/tourist small town on the Isle of Mull. The marina had just doubled in size to 40 berths and a new building with showers and a clubhouse is nearly ready to be opened. We delighted in chatting to skippers and crew from all over Scotland and picking up some additional charts at the excellent chandlery.

The winds finally came through for our Leg 2 crew and we had a great final sail from Tobermory to Oban Marina (www.obanmarina.com) on Kerrera Island with plenty more time to work on Lifesling overboard rescue.

Oops, I nearly forgot to introduce our Leg 2 crew. Here they are:

Barrie (53) and Kath (52) Stott are from Yorkshire, England and just five years ago they signed up for a “Learn to Sail” flotilla holiday in the Greek Islands. They were instantly hooked on sailing and have since spent two weeks each year progressing through the RYA training program. Last month they sold their 250 year old home (only on the market 1 week) that Barrie had spent years rebuilding and next year Kath plans to sell her optometry practice. Having downsized to a flat they’re keen to purchase a HR 40 or Najad and plan to cruise NW Scotland before venturing further field. Barrie is a semi-retired mechanical engineer and looks forward to doing most of the maintenance on their yacht himself. Kath is keen for adventure.

Alex Diamantis, 37 lives in New York City and learned to sail after responding to an internet newsgroup posting for racing crew in the early ‘90’s. He has spent the past 14 years racing a variety of boats in and around Long Island Sound. When not racing Alex works for a large investment bank as head of hedge fund tech support. Alex looks forward to expanding his sailing knowledge to include cruising and ocean passage making and plans to share his love of sailing with his wife Petra and soon-to-arrive son. One of many, Alex said he had read these expedition updates for many years before the timing worked for him to apply for this leg.

Michael Eden-Walker, 57 of Toronto has been reading and planning a cruising life, once he retires from his medical practice, for the past ten years. Mahina Expeditions has been part of that plan as this is his third passage – AND – he has already signed up to join us on the Tahiti-Raro leg in 2010!

Chuck Yingling, 65 says he failed retirement 101 but continues to enjoy sailing. He is selling his Baba 30 having just purchased a classic Monk-designed powerboat that he keeps moored in Sausalito, CA and which he will use as a second home and office. In his “other” life, Chuck has been a professor at UCSF teaching monitoring of brain function during neurological surgery. This is also his third expedition on MT but the first that he enjoyed sharing with his son Noah.

When Noah Lundling, 27, was 18, he moved out of his parents’ house to live on an old wooden boat. From that point on his love of boats continued to grow, so he was delighted when his father Chuck invited him to come along on Leg 2. The expedition was a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of city life in San Francisco. Noah hopes to continue sailing the SF Bay and perhaps beyond, on any boat available while pursuing a career in criminal justice.

Leg 2 , 2008 Ireland – Scotland2021-05-04T01:16:13+00:00

Leg 1 , 2008 Horta, Azores ; Cork, Ireland


After a mamouth effort in the boatyard and marina on Terceira, we set sail yesterday at 0600, covering the 85 miles Horta, our Leg 1 starting port in 12 hours. We had planned on taking another day or two in preparation for the passage, but forecasted high swells and wind encouraged us to depart Tuesday. Horta Marina assigned us one of only three available slips, and the one with the least surge, so Amanda has already started removing lifelines, stanchions and rubstrakes getting ready for sanding and varnishing.

For our arriving Leg 1 crew members, Mahina Tiare is in Berth #4 not far from the ferry docks in the “old marina”, the southern part.

You’re welcome to drop by the boat once you arrive in Horta (particularly if you are bringing spare parts!) to let us know you made it safely.

Leg 1-20 08, Update 1

May 6, 2008, 0700 hrs, 45.16 N, 18.47 W, Log: 115,174 miles
Broad reaching  at  at 6.5 kts in 13 kt S winds, rolly seas
Baro: 1010.0, Cabin Temp: 67F, cockpit 60F

We’re well on our way toward Ireland!

After a windy start on our first passage of the season, the several fronts have passed, the wind has settled down but a sloppy swell remains.

It was bittersweet leaving the Azores, a group of islands we’ve really come to love. With a few sunny days in the Horta marina we varnished the toerail and finished up our boat projects before renting a car to provision at Modelo, the only supermarket. We also enjoyed some side trips – exploring an old abandoned lighthouse on a northern headland one evening, then a drive and hike along the coast past the airport the following morning.

For this passage from the Azores to Ireland, we allow 5-6 extra days for waiting for the weather. This year it looked as if a 24 hour wait would put us in line for fresh following winds topping out in the low 40’s for the first several days of the passage so I requested a custom weather forecast from www.commandersweather.com. Click HERE to read it.

Our six crew arrived in Horta at least two days before they joined us Thursday noon and were well rested. Rather than stating what our proposed sailing plans were, we laid out the weather information ranging from Commanders Weather five day forecast, Navtex forecasts, and the GRIB files, asking what they would do, based on their weather interpretation. Unanimously our crew agreed for a days wait to let the fairly active front, bringing wind and rain, pass through. We would then leave the next day on a forecast of fresh to strong following winds. After working hard on safety orientation Thursday afternoon we enjoyed dinner out together and getting to know a little about each other.

Our Leg 1 crew is the most international group we’ve ever had!

Leg 1 Crew – Anders, Thor, Scott, Neil and George

George Coyle, 65 hails from Connemara, County Galway, Ireland – one of the world’s finest cruising areas, rich in culture and offshore islands. An international consultant on diversity and conflict resolution, he spends about 40% of his working time on offshore oil rigs in the North Sea. He recently crossed the Atlantic in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and is interested in purchasing a boat, possibly a Regina of Vindo pilothouse 43 with the goal of spending more time sailing and less time working!

Neil Scott, 53 is originally from Durban, South Africa where he learned to sail, but has lived in Hong Kong and now lives in the San Francisco Bay area where he is an accountant for a Silicone Valley company. He recently purchased an Island Packet 440 with a partner and has been enjoying sharing sailing in Puget Sound where the boat is located with his wife and children.

Anders Vindenes, 65 is from Bergen, Norway and has Viking blood! He has sailed his entire life and his grandfather sailed worldwide working on sailing cargo ships. Anders worked for many years as a naval architect in shipyards but now is a physics professor at Bergen University. He keeps his Beneteau First 367 near his family farm south of Bergen.

Thor Sommerseth, 52 Is a neighbor of Anders in Bergen, and a minister in the Norwegian state church. He took delivery of a new HR 37 two years ago and enjoys sharing sailing with his wife, children and friends annually to Denmark and Sweden. Thor and Anders have enjoyed sailing across the North Sea together to visit the isolated Shetland Islands several times.

Ed Makauskas, 57 is a busy and successful architect from Toronto, Canada. His partner Peggy recently sailed her Jenneau 49 from Florida to Greece and now Ed is itching to buy a Hallberg-Rassy 43 to cruise part time on.

Scott Grubb, 51 retired from a career in sales management to purchase and run a small business which he recently sold. Scott and his wife Lynn live on Bainbridge Is., Washington and plan to sail more extensively on a new Trintella 50 sloop that is currently under construction in Italy. They visited the boatyard together before arriving in Horta bearing gifts of Parmesan cheese and Italian salami for MT.  While at the boatyard in Italy they met Ron Holland, the designer of their new boat who has invited Scott to visit him when we arrive in Kinsale, Ireland.

Early Friday morning Neil and I went to the port captain and immigration to clear out. I think this is one of the few places in the world where both offices final word was, “We hope you’ll come back again next year”.

By early afternoon skies were clearing as we set sail for Ireland. If the weather window had been a day or two later, we would have relished a stop at Graciosa Island, but we were content with the thought that the early start would allow us time to explore the SW coast of Ireland. Our forecasted fresh following winds filled in later Friday night and we were off on sleigh ride with boat speed touching the low 10’s.

Saturday an expected frontal passage brought high-speed surfing conditions, intense squally weather with buckets of rain and gusts to 44 knots. We quickly reduced sail to three reefs in the main and 60% of the headsail furled. This crew had signed up for some heavy weather experience and handled the challenging conditions very well.

Consistent strong broadreaching conditions held through Monday night giving us 24 hour runs in excess of 175 miles but in the middle of one of the blackest squalls the high temperature alarm went off on the engine control panel under the wheel (we had been charging batteries in neutral). In the process of trying to figure out what the alarm was, the helmsman accidentally gybed. After we got back on course, I stuck my head in the engine room to find it warm, but not seriously overheated. I could tell by the discolored paint on the raw water pump that the nearly new (less than 20 hrs) pump must have failed. This was only the second time in 9100 hours that the engine had overheated, so I couldn’t wait until to investigate to see what caused the problem.

Not wanting to deal with the engine problem on a dark rough night I managed to get some sleep until Amanda came off watch at 0500.  With Anders (the naval architect and physicist) help we set to work. Sure enough, the raw water impeller was severely damaged, but all the vanes were still attached so they hadn’t been pushed into the heat exchanger – good news. I pulled off the raw water strainer lid and it was clean. Perhaps the problem was something sucked into the intake screen so I removed the raw water intake hose from the thru-hull fitting before opening the valve slightly to check that sea water come out, yes there was water flow. Then on Anders suggestion, I reattached the hose to the thru-hull fitting but removed it from the bottom of the strainer, put the hose end into a bucket and fully opened the thru-hull valve.

A modest amount of what looked like chopped up clear jellyfish came out with the water Ah ha.  I put the hose to my mouth, slowly opened the thru-hull valve and gave a series of mighty puffs, hearing bubbles go out under the hull and feeling less back pressure. Next I replaced the entire raw water pump assembly with a rebuilt pump containing a new impeller and we started the engine. No luck – no water flow out the exhaust. Anders, ever the quiet, thoughtful Viking suggested pulling the raw water hose off the strainer, placing it in a bucket of water, and briefly starting the engine to ensure the pump was pulling water. When we tried that, instead of the pump sucking water from the bucket, bubbles came from the hose. Anders stated that I’d installed the pump backwards. He was right. The bronze raw water pump is nearly symmetrical and can mount two ways. I removed and reversed the pump and everything worked well. The three hour saga over, it was time for me to clean up and make a late breakfast. What a relief to have the engine back at 100%!

Amanda teaching rig check

Commanders forecast has proven, once again, uncannily accurate and by Tuesday the weather cleared and calmed enough for hot showers on deck but by afternoon it became slow going with the left over swell and only 10 knots of wind. In the late afternoon the swells had subsided enough for us to hoist the asymmetrical spinnaker and we enjoyed its pull for several sunny hours before the wind went extremely light and we opted out for the motor for a few hours until the wind returned.

Hoisting the spinnaker
George trims sails after shaking out the final reefResting barn swallows

Today, Wednesday, has been a real hodge podge of weather providing real time weather analyzing practice for crew as our course parallels a fairly active warm front. We’ve experienced everything from nice beam reaching in 15 knots, sailing close hauled in 25 knots, to now, early Thursday morning, motorsailing in sloppy seas, light winds and drizzle. Our crew are gaining some valuable heavy weather reefing experience. With 252 miles to sail to Baltimore, Ireland, we need to keep our speed to 6 kts to ensure arrival before dark tomorrow.

As we approach landfall it’s hard to believe how quickly the miles have clicked by. Other than passing ships, sail trim and class, small incidents pass the time like at sunset, when one, then another, and another small swallow swooped in and tried to land in the cockpit. Obviously exhausted and presumably blown out to sea by a storm these little birds were quite dazed and after a couple of landing attempts they settled in around the cockpit. Amanda caught each bird and placed them in plastic boxes covered with a lid for the night. Although we though they might want to be together, and even though they chirped away excitedly away when together, they were not friendly to one another and soon one would peck another. Two birds flew off in the morning but one didn’t make it through the night, while another fourth swallow landed briefly at dawn. Speaking of wildlife throughout the trip we’ve had two sperm whale sightings, numerous dolphins, some turtles and today a couple of gannets but no luck on the fishing.

We’ve since discovered that these birdies migrate yearly 9,500 miles to and from South Africa across the Sahara and thorough Spain and France. The male returns to Ireland in the beginning of March, generally to his birth place, with the females following later.

May 9, 2008, 1430 hrs, 51.12 N, 009 55 W Log: 115,694 miles
Broad reaching at 6.2 kts in 16 kt S winds, fairly smooth seas
Baro: 1013.0, Cabin Temp: 68F, cockpit 72F

LAND HO! Ireland ahead.

A sunny day with a gorgeous steady breeze just abaft the beam has a speeding along in nearly flat waters to the mountainous green contours ahead, or for some of our Kiwis, Norwegians and Canadians hazy hilly things. We had an excellent diesel engine class this morning and everyone is feverishly studying charts, tide and current tables, cruising guides and guide books. Now several days ahead of schedule it’s up to our eager crew to choose the next couple night’s anchorage after Baltimore by talking with local sailors on the docks and more importantly the pub as well as checking in the cruising guides and charts.

Leg 1-2008, Update 2

Soon after passing Fastnet Rock lighthouse, a famous landmark of Ireland, Amanda spotted a sail, the first we had seen since the Azores, bearing down on us quickly. She called for a tack as she spotted the HR logo on the sail and wanted a closer look. To our surprise she smartly rounded the famous rock then hardened up, ending just upwind of us. Fastnet Dancer is a Hallberg-Rassy 45, the predecessor to the 46, so we set to trimming sails to try and pass her.

George…a true Irishman!

HR Fastnet Dancer approaching the rock

Try as we could, we just couldn’t pull ahead. About that time, as Amanda was washing off the stern before flying our flag she noticed a trail of bright blue streaming behind. “We’ve got something caught underneath!” We quickly luffed up and with Thor’s help and the boat hook Amanda managed to snag the blue pulling a net aboard. The other end appeared to be firmly stuck on the rudder or prop.

John clears the prop

There was no doubt the net needed to be cleared. We didn’t want to sail into Baltimore which sports a very narrow, high cliff, rock-studded entrance, knowing that the rudder might be affected and the engine unusable. In just a minute we dropped sail. I grabbed a knife, donned mask and fins, and headed down the swim ladder. Hyperventilation (from the cold water) took about a half minute to get under control before I grabbed a big breath and ducked below the surface. The water was surprisingly clear and I instantly saw the net caught in one of the Max Prop blades and where it had rubbed against the rudder as the antifouling paint had worn off in a patch. In a few seconds I cut the line free clearing the prop. The hot shower on the swim step sure felt great but the swim sent me under the weather with a nasty cold that I’d all but avoided from the crew.

We rehoisted sail but as we neared Baltimore the wind dropped and we motorsailed the last mile or so through the narrow entrance which opened into a broad but shallow harbour and river estuary. Watching the depth and charts exceedingly carefully we crept in with very little water under the keel to anchor off Baltimore’s town wharf around sunset. After dinner we headed ashore to see about clearing customs (as Baltimore is listed as a Port of Entry for Ireland). Well, actually, we headed to the pub, as it is here we were sent to enquire about customs. “Come back tomorrow and we’ll ring Bantry Bay Customs and Excise” was the answer.

Sunset at anchor

Baltimore waterfront

A welcome Guinness

What we did discover, in this tiny seaside fishing and tourist village was that the sixth annual Baltimore Fiddle Fair, www.fiddlefair.com was on its second day and fiddle workshops, concerts and sessions, at numerous locations, would be occurring every couple hours for the rest of the weekend. We were particularly delighted to learn that the imposing Dun na Sead castle, perched above the village, was the site for a concert by two sisters the following noon.

We hit class right after breakfast then agreed to meet at noon at the castle for the concert which George had managed to secure tickets. The castle, built in 1250 and recently renovated to a private home had been kindly opened to the festival for concert events. The entrance stairwell is decorated with some “before” pictures depicting a roofless ruin complete with tumbling stone walls covered in ivy – a stark reminder to how many hours of restoration and rebuilding have gone into what is now an impressive home.

Pretty Kerry musicians taking a break

The sisters leaving Dun na Sead castle

With a backdrop of tapestry curtains, hunting and fighting weapons representing many centuries, fine furnishings, displays of china, crystal and silver, plus mounted trophy wildlife, the sisters Aoife and Deirdre Granville from County Kerry put on an excellent concert of traditional Celtic music with the full range form airs to reels played on Irish harp, fiddle, flute and tin whistle.

Afterwards we enjoyed a sunny, warm and windless hike out to “Lot’s Wife” on the cliff at the entrance to Baltimore harbour. This tall white painted stone beacon was erected by order of the British government in 1798 after the rebellion. In the evening we cruised across the harbor to moor at Sherkin Island, a quieter spot allowing us to explore the ruins of the 15th century Franciscan Friary.

The next morning after class we set sail in light air and foggy conditions for Castle Haven, 11 miles to the east, which turned out to be a very sleepy English-influenced village. Well, it was Sunday… But true to village fashion the pub lit up after sixish and our crew went missing for dinner aboard.

Crew enjoying the sunshine at Lot’s Wife

Sailing by Lot’s Wife

Castle Haven from our anchorage

Our 32 mile passage Monday morning to Kinsale was in thick fog and windless conditions. We passed within 15 boat lengths of what we assumed from the radar to be a small fishing boat without seeing it. Just as we reached Old Head of Kinsale headland the fog lifted revealing the green fields of silage and the cliff-lined entrance to Kinsale Harbour.

We were pleased to find space on Kinsale Yacht Club’s guest dock and it was a relief to finally be able to officially clear in. Well, kind of. Phil Devitt, the helpful and friendly harbourmaster had me fill out a sheet with our names and passport numbers which he promised to fax to Customs in Dublin – that was clearing in.

Kinsale, known as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland”, offers no shortage of places to dine out. We ended up at The Spaniard, up the hill, where they had live traditional music afterwards. Tuesday mornings the downtown merchants and farmers host a street fair with music and free tasting of all kinds of delicacies.

Porter cheese tasting at the market

Anders, Neil and Scott sampling Irish brew…either Guinness or Tea?

Finally, fresh winds returned and we had a vigorous beat up the coast towards Oyster Haven, pausing to practice storm tactics including heaving-to, towing warps and setting a drogue. About halfway up the coast a large schooner with a squaresail came roaring toward us so we tacked out and back to get a better look and some photos. Asgard II is Ireland’s sail-training ship and she looked great with cadets heaving in unison to sheet in the sails before dancing a jig. We sailed along with her for a few minutes before coming back on the wind, tacking the 10 miles to Oyster Haven.

Hoisting sail in the lee of Charles fort
Ed takes a few leprechaun turns out of the high lifeline

Stand by to tack.

One of the smaller and most protected anchorages on the south coast, Oyster Haven has only a few houses and a windsurfing/sailing center. Every time we’ve anchored here it feels like we are in wind tunnel, and with winds gusting into the mid-20’s, it took us a couple tries to get the anchor to set in the weedy bottom. Eager to continue our teaching schedule, our Leg 1 crew tackled storm tactics, sail repair, splicing, electrical power systems, communications, Turk’s heads and monkey’s fists – all in a row! Whew they deserved Amanda’s rhubarb crumble pud after that.

Crew strike a pose with the shark drogue

I had hoped for a little mellower conditions for our final 15 mile passage to Cork on Wednesday so we could practice Lifesling rescue, but instead we got more reefing and tacking practice as winds reached mid-20’s again. The 1.5-2 kt current opposing the wind, coupled with the shallow offshore depths meant that the wave crests were less than one boat length apart, making for a choppy upwind sail. We tacked and tacked and tacked and by 1000 we cleared Roches Point lighthouse, eased sheets and zoomed through Cork harbour entrance. Finally, inside the harbor we found ideal conditions for Lifesling practice – 15 kts and calm seas. Each expedition member completed a rescue and were amazed at the simplicity of the system we’ve developed. We have taught Lifesling rescue in up to 38 knots of wind, but find that it’s easier to grasp the procedure (and we have fewer complaints from Amanda about cracked mainsheet blocks) in lighter winds.

Nothing fazes this young Viking!

Royal Cork Yacht Club is the oldest (founded 1720) and one of the friendliest clubs we’ve visited. Chris, the harbormaster remembered us from our previous visits and pointed out an available berth. Long hot showers and walks to Crosshaven Village were first on our crew’s list, followed by going aloft for rig inspection, cruising medicine and dealing with officialdom while cruising.

My, how fast two weeks have gone. There were no final farewells with this crew – they were all swapping contacts for future sailing visits before hopping on the bus to trains and planes – off to new adventures.

We’re looking forward to some adventures of our own in our week off now. George from Leg 1 has invited us north to his home on the Connemara coast for a couple days to share some of his favorite coastal hikes along with some great Irish hospitality, an offer we certainly couldn’t turn down! Amanda is also hoping to check out Ballymaloe Cookery School to the east of Cork.

Leg 1 , 2008 Horta, Azores ; Cork, Ireland2021-05-04T01:17:04+00:00

Leg 3 July 19, 2007, Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Tromso; Norway

Leg 3-2007, Update 1
July 19, 2007, 0130 hrs, 76.58 N, 13.28 E, Log: 109,796 miles
Broadreaching at 7.8 kts in 27-32 kt NNW winds, 6′-8′ seas
Baro: 1002.8, Cabin Temp: 61F, cockpit 44

Headed South to Norway!

Repairs between Legs 2 & 3 kept us busy. Fixing the mainsail batten pockets took a day for us both and recaulking some deck seams besides normal maintenance items took another few days. A treat was being able to take MT to a couple of isolated anchorages where we enjoyed fabulous hikes and exploring.

Torn batten pocket

Batten pocket repair

A week later we were able to come alongside the single busy float in Longyearbyen to wash down, fill tanks and totally charge the batteries while also dashing into town for a final provision at the only grocery store in Spitsbergen, www.svaldbardbutikken.no.

Shortly after our Leg 3 joined us, Wednesday noon on July 11, we set sail for Ymerbukta, at the entrance to Isfjord, 23 miles W of Longyearbyen. We were looking forward to fossil searching along the river bed ashore, but no sooner had we anchored when a Sysselmannen patrol boat approached from the next bay, putting a hold on our fossil hunt in lieu of being polite. Tor and Ivar joined us for dinner and we enjoyed

Sysslemann Tor and Ivar

hearing their tales of adventure. There had been 50 applicants for each position, and Tor, a biologist, had volunteered for remote duty on Bear Island the previous summer, solely to better his chance at being selected to work in Spitsbergen. They had found a couple of rusty and leaky 55 gallon fuel drums abandoned on the ridge above the anchorage and were on their way to transfer the fuel into a studier drum so the helicopter could remove them.

Early Thursday morning we sailed north, stopping for lunch at Poolepunten Point on Prins Karls Forland. Friends on the Apogee 50 Joyant had anchored here the night before advising us of several walrus on the beach. Even before we reached the somewhat tenuous and partially exposed

Walrus at Poolepunten Point

anchorage we could see (and smell!) the 2000lb behemoths. We anchored in rather choppy conditions and dinghyed ashore to hike up the beach to the point where they snuggled together. We were careful not to disturb them as we admired the incredible view, eight giant walrus on the beach, two cavorting in the water, and spectacular glaciers and mountains in the background.

Thirty miles and a few hours later we anchored at Engelsbukta which proved well protected from the 15-20 kt northerly winds we had experienced all day. We sighted reindeer ashore, and when we landed and hiked the hill they seemed fearless and curious, galloping past us, stopping, coyly looking at us while pretending to be grazing, then running back. It got rather sad to watch one poor reindeer get hassled by a couple of nesting birds which chased it for a good mile.

Engelsbukta anchorage

Reindeer being chased by birds

We had planned on stopping at Magdalene Fjord the following day, but with continued clear and calmer conditions we pushed on for a total of 68 miles to Sallyhamna one of our favorite anchorages.

Saturday morning, July 14, we got our normal 0600 start, planning on sailing to the edge of the pack ice, which according to the Navtex ice report was unusually close, just 30 miles NW. We had heard from a Dutch boat that they had spotted several seals and a polar bear along the ice edge, so as that was an added incentive, besides just seeing the edge of the ice pack that extends to the North Pole and beyond.

As we left Sallyhamna on the course we had plotted the night before, Amanda turned and admired the dramatic Drottenfjellet Fjord and glacier just south of Sallyhamna. The sun was shining on the glacier, Stefan was standing watch on the mast pulpit, Chuck was on the helm. I said, “We’re not in a hurry, let’s duck in there and have a look!” I had a look at the chart, noting two rocks awash, one which I could see further

Stefan keeps watch approaching Svitjodbreen glacier

in the bay, and a closer one which was not showing in the nearly-high tide. I knew the chart was not accurate for GPS positions from many previous plots at anchor showing us ashore. We motored slowly in, got some pictures, then Chuck steered us out of the bay and back toward our original course. I assumed we had passed the rock awash that we hadn’t seen and at 0641 left the chart in the cockpit, taking the bucket and brush to the foredeck to clean the sand and bits of kelp that came up with the chain.

I was leaning over the bow to scoop up a bucket of water when there was a sudden thud and instantly I was flying from the bow, doing a loop and landing feet first in the 34 degree water. I held the bucket, swimming aft along the hull to where crew tossed the Lifesling down, towing me back to the swim step. As I climbed up the stern, blood spurted over my jacket and the teak decks. “Your chin is badly cut!” said Amanda. I grabbed the cockpit cleaning towel, applied pressure to try and stop the blood and quickly assessed the situation. We had obviously found the rock awash, and fairly close to high tide! Amanda quickly tried backing off with full reverse power, but from the angle that the bow was pointing up in the air, it was obvious our 5-6 kts of momentum had carried us well up the rock.

In a couple minutes we had the dinghy launched, motor mounted, second bow anchor (44lb. Delta with 50′ of chain) in the dinghy. Peter and I motored the dinghy to MT’s transom where crew passed us an end of the 180′ nylon rode which he shackled to the chain and they paid out. In a couple minutes we had it set directly astern and led to the primary sheet winch. Even with a large pull and reverse power MT wasn’t budging. I had a quick hot shower below, got into some dry clothes, grabbed a hot chocolate and went to work rigging our third anchor, a 40 lb West Marine Performance 2, to the spinnaker halyard and setting it abeam in deeper water. Our crew scooted out to the end of the boom which was secured with the preventer and heeled MT over. With MT starting to heel considerably there was no movement from the rock. As the tide continued falling, Peter and later Amanda put on a dive mask, hung over the side of the dinghy and reported that the rudder was clear, but the keel was totally aground, with shallower water to port.

Setting the stern anchor

Crew scrambling to get MT off the rock

We called our friends on Joyant whose sail was still barely visible as they were also sailing to the edge of the ice pack. Amanda let them know our situation and they offered to turn around and stand by if we needed any help. We declined, but told them we would let them know how we progressed.

Stefan, a emergency room physician, offered to take a look at my bloody chin. I lay down on the cabin sole lifted the sodden, bloody towel off to Amanda’s gasp. A three inch gash to the bone was the problem, and it was still bleeding so Stefan glued it closed with Dramabond tissue adhesive. Getting back to work we tried re-leading the stern anchor around the amidships cleat to pull from a different angle, but still nothing. We watched the tide (one meter tidal range) closely on the shoreline and frequently sounded around the boat with the sounding lead. As we weren’t going anywhere soon Amanda made porridge and passed bowls to crew on deck with Bob eating his on the end of the boom. We retrieved the spinnaker anchor, knowing it would be difficult to get it back once we got off.

By 1106 the wind hand increased to 12 knots, and with a little chop coming into the bay, we felt a couple jolts as the tide slowly brought MT closer to vertical.

At 1231 we ran the stern anchor line to the opposite side of the transom (the shallow side) and started to move the boom over to have crew scoot out to try and heel us over the other way. I started the engine, put moderate reverse power on and MT pivoted. I thought we had moved, but Amanda noted that the stern line was winched into the same place. Within a few minutes I tried reverse again, and slowly we floated free. Wow, what an incredible relief! We quickly led the stern anchor line to the bow, then retrieved the dinghy. After pulling up the anchor Delta anchor by hand, stowing the chain and line, we were off.

“Hard Rock Wait”

John’s cut chin

Carefully getting back on our pre-charted course, we checking in with Joyant who had just found the edge of the ice, relaying there were seals and many birds. We had a great sail until we got into thicker ice where we motored, looking for leads. At 1728 we had gone as far as we could, reaching 80 09 N, 10 09 E. Shutting the engine down we drifted about, nearly locked in the ice. We saw several seals, polar bear tracks, birds and incredible vistas, with white ice as far as we could see especially when Amanda went to the masthead to take pictures.

View from pack ice to northern Spitsbergen

Looking north to the pole

Ice exploring

At 1800 we started the engine and slowly picked our way through several miles of fairly close ice then sailed 80 miles south for the research base Ny-Alesund, arriving at 0623, 24 hours after we had originally left Sallyhamna. With everyone exhausted, only those on watch were awake to tie to the surprisingly empty fueling float. At 0900 a truck pulled onto the main wharf and Peter discovered 3 important points from the harbormaster, Bjorn Valle; the Hurtigruten coastal steamer/expedition ship would be arriving shortly, Bjorn would sell us fuel once he had tied the ship up and that the shop and post office would be open (a first for us!) only during the ship’s two hour visit.

Nordstjernen Hutigruten

Tor Jkolsrud – cruise director aboard Nordstjernen

The Nordstjernen Hutigruten www.hurtigruten.com is a traditional, 50 year old Norwegian coastal steamer which had passed us many times. No sooner had they tied up than their captain, first officer and cruise director were leaning over the rail on the wharf oogling Mahina Tiare. When asked if they’d like to look below they were aboard in a flash! They were keen to know where we had found the edge of the pack ice, what animals we’d seen, and were curious about our sail-training program. Tor Jkolsrud, the cruise director who works for www.spitsbergentravel.com, a sister company of Hurtigruten was particularly interested, saying he had just purchased a Vindo 40, a gorgeous Swedish built 1979 sloop, eight weeks earlier. He had lots of questions about maintaining and repairing 30 year old teak decks and in the end invited us aboard to see Nordstjernen. She really is a lovely old ship, reminding us of a smaller version of the Britannia! Tor mentioned that his company was looking for cruise directors and guides for their two new ships which split seasons between Antarctica and Greenland/Iceland, would we be interested?

Rob, the new director the small British research station also came by to see Mahina Tiare. Turns out he hails from Ft. William, Scotland, and is a friend of Rick Atkinson, our friend and previous expedition member from Port Lockroy, Antarctica. Rick had just visited Ny-Alesund the previous day, guest lecturer aboard a Russian research/expedition ship, the Vavalov. In return for a visit aboard Rob invited us to the

Scientists Alex – with red algae, and Birgit

British base to meet the researchers. Birgit Sattler, an Austrian professor and Alex Anesio from Italy and Scotland showed us some fascinating red algae they had recently discovered. The algae breeds on the glaciers, swimming through snow to the surface, before shedding its flagellates and reproducing. We were amazed the amounts of research the Brits were carrying out on a very modest budget except Amanda who was across the tundra at the Dutch station.

Maarten Loonen, a barnacle goose scientist, had trapped a very young Arctic fox and was attempting to measure, weigh and ear tag the little fella. Amanda had keenly photographed the whole process and much to the scientist’s pleasure, downloaded the images to his computer. http://loonen.fmns.rug.nl/arcticstation/weblog.php?nr=145.

Young Arctic fox

Measuring Arctic fox

With another arriving ship it was time to clear the dock for their tenders. We headed for the end of Kongsfjord (Kings Bay) and it’s spectacular glacier. Stefan had offered several times that morning to take a look at my chin where dried blood had soaked the dressing and I had said, “Once we’re off the dock”. On his inspection he quickly noted that the tissue adhesive had not held causing the wound to open and a blood clot to form. It needed immediate attention – serious cleaning out and suturing. Unfortunately, with all our extensive medical supplies there was no local anesthetic. We chatted with the Ny-Alesund harbor master asking what supplies they had and we all set to head back when communication was interrupted by Ocean Spirit of Moray, a British sail-training vessel for teenagers (www.gordonstown.org.uk ). They offered the needed materials and after we rafted mid-fjord Stefan met with their medic and obtained supplies after which he quickly irrigated the wound and popped in 5 stitches. BOY was it handy having an experienced ER doc onboard!

Sail-training vessel Ocean Spirit of Moray

MT alongside Ocean Spirit

Following John’s stitch up we worked our way up to the face of the towering glacier, where we shut down in the shadow of the enormous and quite noisy ice wall. What a great way to enjoy another of Amanda fantastic dinners, sunny, comparatively warm, and with calving ice all around.

We chose Piersonhamna, just across the bay from Ny-Alesund for our evening anchorage after backtracking form the glacier we all collapsed for some needed sleep. At 0600, the watch was on deck and we were under way again. Nick, our 13 yr old crewman and Stefan’s son

Sailing along Kings glacier

expertly charted our course for the 56 mile jaunt down to Askelsundet, where we tucked into a beautiful and well protected cove with a glacier nearby, ice all around and a whole bevy of walruses on the beach, what an exciting time. On the way, we stopped at walrus spit on Prins Karl and lo and behold, there were even more there this time, including a pair that was so curious that they swam to within 10 feet of the boat. As we watched them swimming all around the boat, moving their big front flippers and waving their flipper tails sideways we marveled at how graceful they are in the water as ashore they look so ungainly like giant lumps of gray rock that waddle about.

In Farmhamna, late Tuesday afternoon we enjoyed a quiet anchorage off a trapper family’s cabin, followed by a magical hike up the undulating

Friendly walrus

hills above the anchorage. The view in all directions was breathtaking and a very curious reindeer mom and youngster kept checking us out, galloping back and forth in front of us before wandering off, only to follow us, popping up from behind rocks to look again.

Departing early Wednesday morning we had another brilliant day with great sailing at times and sunny calm motoring at other. Joyant had raved about Fridtjovhamna, a glacial bay inside of Bellsund where they had seen both walrus and a polar bear on the beach a week earlier. The glacial wall had recently moved forward many hundred meters, only stopping when it ran into an island. This is one of only two glaciers in Svalbard that is advancing, instead of retreating. We anchored off the east sand spit guarded by eight walrus piled next to each other and gingerly went ashore to photograph them with Mahina Tiare in the distance.

Resting walrus

Kittiwakes take flight

The German yacht Pagan had anchored nearby, so we dropped by to say hello. Just as we said goodbye, Amanda thought to ask if they had seen any polar bears recently. “Of course! We just came from the bay,15 miles from here, where there are bears feasting on a dead whale that washed up on the beach a couple weeks ago”. We instantly made plans to sail there first thing the following day, on our way south to Norway.

In Fleur de Lyshamna we found the remains of the dead beluga whale and went ashore to speak with Tor and Ivar, the two Sysselmannen men we had met a week earlier. They told us that for the past week four or five bears had been taking turns eating, then retreating to sleep, so we patiently waited several hours at anchor, taking turns watching with the binoculars. At 1700 we gave up on the bears and set sail for Tromso. It’s now 0130 Thursday, July 19, and we are rocketing along on a broad reach in 35-30 kt winds with 440 miles to go to Torsvaag, Norway.

Leg 3 crew – Lyle, Chuck, Bob, Nick, Stefan and Peter

Lyle Krehbiel, 62
I founded and am one of the owners of a company specializing in database software for emergency 9-1-1 calls. Prior to founding the company I taught college for many years. My wife and I own a Pacific Seacraft 31, Bella Luna, which we home port in Annapolis MD. We spend around three months a year on Bella Luna, several months in Maui HI, and our home is in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Fortunately as long as I have cell phone and internet access I am able to do my job. Several years ago I sailed on Mahina Tiare from Hawaii to Tahiti and am taking this expedition to have a very adventurous trip in an area that few have sailed.

Bob Garbe, 55
Hi there, I do safety and health consulting for the federal government, and have over 33 years of service. I am on my third Mahina expedition, having done Leg 3 (Tahiti to Hawaii) and Leg 6 (Fiji) in 2004. This time out I am looking for some cold weather sailing experience, as I intend to try on the northern Great Lakes in the next couple of years. However, I need to get a boat first, as I sold my Nor’Sea 27, Endorfyn last October. AND, I am looking forward to retiring in mid-to-late 2008. Currently, I live and sail, when I have a boat, in Denver, CO where I also enjoy hiking, snowshoeing and anything out of doors.

Chuck Yingling, 64
Not sure they need me, at least they still feed me in San Francisco where I failed Retirement 101 after 27 years as a professor at UCSF School of Medicine. I now work part-time with a local private practice group, monitoring brain and spinal cord function during surgery and consulting in this field nationally (www.brainmon.com). My wife gets seasick at dockside, more so when sailing in our Baba 30, Hinayana, so I get my deep-water fixes on trips like this. (Also Samoa – Fiji on MT in 2002, Easter Island – Pitcairn – Marquesas in 2004, San Juan – Nassau on the clipper Stad Amsterdam in 2006).

Peter Schmid, 43
I work as a research director for the French Research Agency CNRS and teach at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. This is my fourth Mahina trip; after exploring the warmer waters of the Caribbean, the west coast of Ireland and the Southern Pacific, I thought it would be interesting to explore the Arctic Ocean. So here I am, sailing under the midnight sun, keeping an eye out for walrus, seals and polar bears and enjoying every minute of being at this high latitude. My wife Donna just came back from the first leg from Ellos to Tromso raving about the beautiful Norwegian coast line.

Stefan Spann, 43
I’ll be 44 July 18 on this trip. I’m an emergency medicine physician and live in Corvallis, Oregon and have a boat in Anacortes Washington. My family and I sail in the San Juan Islands every summer for the last 11 years on our Catalina 30. I’ve raced as crew in Boston, chartered in the Med, Carribean and Thailand. I came on this trip to prepare for a six month voyage with my 13 year old son.

Nicholas Spann 13
I’m still in school, seventh grade. I live in Oregon U.S.A. and so far the only sailing I have done has been short trips in the Caribbean with my dad and family on a thirty foot Catalina. The main reason I joined this expedition was to learn how to blue water sail and to see if I like it because my father and I plan on going on a six month sailing trip.

Leg 3, Update 2

Nick concentrates at steering

We set sail south, a little sad to leave the amazing magical land of Spitsbergen, to Torsvaag, Norway at 1700 on Wednesday, July 18.  20 kt NW winds sent Mahina Tiare flying along at close to 8 kts on a broad reach in rough, confused seas. The winds held in the 25-35 kt range all Thursday, slowly coming forward to nearly a beam reach. Worried about our Norwegian courtesy flag wearing out, Amanda asked Peter to take it down. Well, he really did, pulling the flag halyard down as well! Oops.

While speaking on the SSB radio with Tom and Dorothy on the Apogee 50, Joyant, Terry Coats aboard Querida, a Cape George 36’ cutter broke in after hearing our position to tell us we were just 18 miles behind them. We had seen Querida in several ports, but had never met Rob and Terry, so decided to try calling them on the VHF for a chat. It worked! Realizing that we would catch them we really poured the coal on; shaking out reefs and steering a straighter course. Nick spent many hours standing on the mast pulpit scanning the horizon for a sail, with the bribe of dessert if he was the first to spot them.

At 0300 Saturday, Nick sighted a sail ahead and within a few hours we closed to within camera distance of the salty cutter that had been cruising since 1990.

Querida, Terry and Rob Coats’ Cape George 36 Cutter

Mahina steaming up to Querida

Torsvaag provided a rainy, misty landfall where by 1600 we had rafted up to a fishing boat in the crowded little harbor. There was no sign of the whaling boats we’d seen in 2000 and instead a new marina had been built plus a small sport fishing lodge. We enjoyed showers in the fish packing plant along with walks and runs. Querida arrived around midnight and stopped by Sunday morning to share notes on anchorages with us.

After a very slow start the next morning we had a lovely sail to Finnroken, an even smaller village where we knew the fishing was good. Everyone got in on the line casting act and we ended up with ten fish.

Landfall at Torsvaag

Peter and Amanda codd’in around

Monday we worked on completing our teaching which included Stefan going aloft to replace the flag halyard and straighten the windex which had been bent by a crash-landing bird.

“But you said to take the flag down!”

Stefan replacing the flag halyard

Marveling at the shore side greenery and warm sunshine crew set out for long walks and runs ashore before a late lunch on a perfect summer day. We up anchored late afternoon and zoomed along on a broad reach with following winds of 15-17 knots all the way to Tromso, with a pause for practicing Lifesling overboard rescue. There was a perfect berth waiting for us in the normally crowded town basin  in front of the Rica Hotel (thanks Bob!) and it was a treat to give MT a proper scrub down and tidy up.

Perfect broad reaching conditions

Peter’s applies caviar to the fish

Peter who lives in Paris and has been to an exclusive NY cooking school was in charge of preparing our cod dinner. (Look for it in November’s Galley Essentials) Just as his Norwegian baked fish was coming out of the oven a couple sailing a Forgus 39 sloop popped into the slip next to us. With plenty of cod to spare we invited them to join us for dinner. What a fun evening! Oddi and MJ live on a small island north of Stavanger and were full of stories of adventures.

Amanda in cloud berry heaven

Wednesday the sewing machine came out for instruction and we completed our last teaching goals before crew scattered to find prezzies to take home. As the expedition ended so did our fabulous summer weather and during the 27 mile passage Amanda and I made to Senja Island, on Thursday, we had a mix of pea soup fog, serious rain and a little clearing. Now we’re exploring the small islands around the north of Senja. Today the sun has come back and as there aren’t any public laundry facilities in Tromso we’re washing laundry in bucket and hanging it to dry in the rigging – just like in Tahiti.

Monday we’ll head back to Tromso to reprovision and are looking forward to meeting our Leg 4 team Wednesday noon. Until then we’ll seek the help of other cruisers, locals, and 5 guide books to devise a sailing route that will take us to many new (for us) islands and places. We’re in for an exciting summer trip to Ellos, Sweden.

Leg 3 July 19, 2007, Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Tromso; Norway2021-05-04T01:28:53+00:00

Leg 2-2007 Tromso to Longyearbyen

Leg 2-2007 Tromso to Longyearbyen

July 5, 2007, 1530 hrs, 78.14 N, 15.42 E, Log: 109,289 miles
Anchored across from Longyearbyen in Adventfjord, Spitsbergen
Baro: 1030.0, Cabin Temp: 65F, cockpit 52F

We had an excellent start to Leg 2. Crew joined at noon on Tuesday, June 19, and we soon sailed north for Spitsbergen. Ten miles north of Tromso we anchored for the night at Finnroken, 69.50 N, 19.26 E, a protected little bay flanked by jagged snow covered peaks with a few houses scattered along the shoreline. When the anchor hit bottom Amanda produced three sets of cod jigs and with in an hour, both from boat and dinghy, our crew and Amanda had landed ten fish, enough for a tasty dinner and next days lunch.

Our plan had been to spend Wednesday night at Torsvaag, a whaling and fishing village which is the last settlement and jumping off spot for Spitsbergen. However, with an excellent forecast we decided to head north. Winds were very light and the sea was unusually calm that night and the next morning, but slowly the wind filled in and we were off on a sweet, smooth broad reach making 5-6 knots in flat seas.

Bjornoya, or Bear Island lies at 74.30 N 18.59 E nearly on the direct course from Torsvaag to Spitsbergen, but few vessels visit due to its isolation, precarious anchorages and frequent lousy weather. The extension of the Gulf Stream splits around the island, and the Byornoya Current sets opposite at over a knot. When we passed the island in 2001, we encountered contrary currents of several knots, whirlpools and patches of very dense fog and to top that off with a large confused swell crashing into the foreboding cliffs. We didn’t even contemplate anchoring.

What a different story this year! We closed on the island at 1000, broad-reaching at 6.5 kts in flat water. The island is approximately 10 x 10 miles and the south coastline is a combination of ragged-looking cliffs with caves while the north fans out in to an even plateau with the occasional white sand beach. As it looked calm, we sailed the full length of the island to check at the anchorage off the weather station in Herwighamna Bay on the north tip.

With a southerly wind the anchorage was protected with 18′ of depth, and in a minute had launched the dinghy and zipped ashore. Our first shore party was greeted by a chap with radio who asked why we hadn’t radioed to ask permission to land as the met station were in the middle of a fire drill. If we to called them in three hours at 1730, we would be welcome ashore at 1800. Back onboard MT, we ate lunch, then Amanda taught rig check and spares. Everyone else crashed for some much-needed sleep while Alec gave me a hand changing the engine and transmission oil.

At 1745 Byornoya Radio called inviting us ashore. Eivend, a jolly meteorologist and fix-it man from Stavanger, Norway met us on the concrete landing and showed us around the beach area and station buildings. Nine people including 2 cooks are stationed on the island for six months rotation. Duties keep everyone busy; maintaining the buildings, generators, launching weather balloons twice daily and sending weather reports back to Oslo. Three years ago, when the ice was thick, over 238 polar bears were sighted so they never go anywhere unarmed and keep husky dogs as bear alarms. Five huts are scattered about the island and everyone enjoys year round exploring either by hiking or cross country skiing. During WWII the Germans set up a weather station and we hiked with Eivend to a German Junkers bomber wreck.

Eivend with Mahina crew

Met staff taking bear protection husky for a hike

Dense ice at entrance to Hornsund

With continued fine weather, we set sail that evening with pleasant reaching conditions. Shipping activity supplied plenty of entertainment and we sighted the Polish research vessel Oceania, several Russian trawlers and two Norwegian coast guard ships, one towing a Russian trawler that they had arrested for illegal fishing.

At 1200 Alec yelled, “Land HO!” and sure enough, through the clouds and fog we saw a very rugged mountainside. Soon scattered bits of ice

Crew at derelict trapper hut

become dense bands at times, forcing us further offshore. We didn’t know if the entrance to Hornsund, 77 N, 16 E, our proposed first anchorage, would be free of ice. If it was ice-bound, we planned to try sailing north along the rugged coast until we found a relatively ice free anchorage. Thankfully we were soon clear of ice and broad reaching at 7 kts in 17 kts of wind! The patchy fog has lifted and we could see the stunningly rugged coastline, interspersed with huge glaciers on our beam and as we again closed on the coast a minke whale popped up close abeam, followed by several inquisitive seals.

John Anderson:
We entered Hornsund and had ice free water for the last seven miles before dropping anchor off the Polish Polar Research Station at Isbjornhamna on the north shore. The wind, as usual for Hornsund, was blowing over 20 knots and out of the east dictating one hour anchor watches through the night to fend off a couple of glacier growlers, but otherwise a generally quiet night. In the morning there was sufficient chop and adverse winds to make a trip ashore a rather wet affair. Instead we weighed anchor and headed across to Gaashamna on the south shore. The wind quickly piped up to 22 knots, but just as quickly dropped to 5 knots in the lee of Gaashamna. In short order the anchor was set, 

Pete – the ice water swimmer

dinghy launched, gun gathered and we headed off to the shore in bright and warm sunlight. As polar bears are in the area, bear pepper spray cans were distributed, as were small hand-launch flares. After testing the flares and with Ken on watch with the rifle, we headed off. A short walk from the beach an old and weathered wooden hut stands amidst the ruins of a brick structure that is completely flattened; remains of several past expeditions made by scientists, whalers, and trappers. Large whale bones lay bleached on the rocky ground along with rusty tools, wild flowers and mosses that are slowly taking over the site.

When we returned to Mahina Tiare, Pete suggested a swim! Alec and I were game, so one-by-one we took the plunge followed by hot showers on the swim platform. With an invigorated crew, we raised the anchor and set sail for Isfjorden 78 N 16 E.

Soon after exiting Hornsund and heading northward the wind fell dramatically and as a double whammy the pack ice quickly increased until we faced a large ice band and began constantly fending off growlers.

Ice band as viewed on radar

Mahina trying to find a clear path through ice

While looking from atop the mast pulpits, no safe way through the ice could be found. Amanda donned the bosons chair and was hoisted to the mast head for a better view. From there it was clear that the fastest path was to simply skirt the entire ice pack by heading out to sea for 2 miles. Once clear of the ice, we were back on course to Isfjorden. My visit to Hornsund will be certainly be remembered for its clearing skies, warm air, cold water, and close camaraderie.

John Neal:

Our 130 mile overnight passage to the main settlement of Longyearbyen was along a dramatic coast in brilliant round-the-clock sunshine. As we passed the entrance to the extensive Bellsund Fjord, steady outflow winds kept us reaching along at hull speed for several hours.

Image 08 John taking a rare turn at the helm

By 1100 on Monday, June 25th we anchored off the T-pier and harbormaster’s office. The one small float had a couple of boats on it, so we

Longyearbyen yacht pontoon – ship wharf in background

Amanda with landing permit

Sallyhamna – our newest crew – keeps watch

Looking for wind

What a good looking crew

elected to anchor out. The harbormaster noted that one of the boats was soon leaving so we were soon able to tie to the float to top off water tanks and wash down. He also mentioned that we could fuel up in the morning when an expedition ship left the pier. This was a great surprise as in 2001 we dinghied jerry jugs to the gas station at the bottom of town, a very tedious process. The harbormaster’s building offers showers and laundry facilities included in a daily fee of $35 US for either tying to pier/float or using the dinghy float. Pole Position, (www.pole-position.no) a new port agency offers shoreside services and logistics to private yachts and the 75 expedition ship visits during the short summer season. We learned that instead of the 15 private yachts that were visiting when we arrived in 2001, 50 are now expected over the next two months.

Our second town business was to check in with the Sysselmannen’s (governors) office (www.sysselmannen.svalbard.no) letting them know we had arrived. Stein Tore Peterson from whom we had received permission to visit Spitsbergen offered us tea and made sure we understood the rules for landing ashore: always carry our rented 30.06 rifle and flares, don’t disturb any graves or historical sites, plants, mammals or birds. We offered to take supplies to the Sysselmannen’s personel stationed in Magdalene Bay, but he said they had only been dropped off at the hut a few days earlier and that would have plenty of supplies including a new bread machine but might appreciate our offers of hot showers aboard.

In Longyearbyen village center we found several new trendy outdoor supply shops, fur stores, a thriving supermarket, new housing plus loads of tourists from the recently docked cruise ship.

The following morning after fueling at the ships pier (diesel is US $4 per gallon) we set sail north, with the ultimate goal of reaching 80 degrees North, and hopefully sighting a polar bear or two. With headwinds of up to 20 knots we motorsailed, then sailed, finally dropping anchor in Engelsbukta at 2230. From the anchorage we watched reindeer grazing above the beach.

With brilliant, cloudless skies we got underway at 0600 on Wednesday, June 27th, stopping at Magdalene Fjord around noon. We had hoped to do a photo shoot of MT under sail in front of the glacier, but found the ice had receded dramatically from six years ago, plus there wasn’t any wind.

Magdalene Fjord is one of the few places in Spitsbergen that cruise ships are allowed to anchor and land people ashore We dropped to anchor off the beach and went ashore to visit the Sysselmannen’s hut where two personal are stationed for two-month in summer to make sure the bears

Anchored in Magdalene

Policewomen Live and Cecilia

Live offering advice on anchorages

don’t eat any more tourists, as happened here in 1977, and to keep the tourists from trampling the trappers graves and the tundra ashore. We met Live and Cecilia, city policewomen from Oslo, who were rather bright-eyed and fresh at their posting to one of Norway’s most remote police locations. After being a little overwhelmed at the volume of visitors over the past two days they keen to take their open tender 35 miles north to the tiny trapper’s hut at Sallyhamna which is their second base. Live spread a chart on the ground and showed us where polar bears had been recently sighted. We asked if they would like showers aboard but in true Norwegian fashion they exclaimed they preferred going for a swim in the 35 degree F water, as it was such a sunny day!

As we prepared to leave, the girls asked us if we would like some vegetables explaining that they had been left with more food than they could eat in two months plus the last cruise ship had just insisted they take a 25kg sack of potatoes. Our crew joked that they thought they would see those English Kent spuds hidden in every meal to come…perhaps they were proven right (he he!) – look for Amanda’s “Spuds in Spitsbergen” Galley Essentials article to come.

We had planned to stay the night in Magdalene, but sunny skies, calm seas and word of recent polar bear sightings north beckoned so we spudded on to the magical anchorage of Sallyhamna on Spitsbergens NW corner.

Heading north

Anchored in Sallyhamna

Amanda keeps bear watch

GPS at 80 north

It was 2015, sunny and clear when we anchored and headed ashore after quiche and…yep you guessed….baked taties. The tiny trapper’s hut where we had enjoyed visiting the Sysselmannen guys six years earlier looked exactly the same, though cleverly boarded, from curious bears, with sawn driftwood. We explored the historic whaling sites and graves on the peninsula, all the time scanning the shoreline for bears as we saw many tracks through the snow.

Thursday, June 28, heralded another 0600 departure in calm and sunny conditions for Moffen Island, straddling 80 degrees North. NNE headwinds of 20-22 knots and very close headseas had built by 0900 and Alec suggested we give up Moffin directly to windward, and head straight north to cross 80 degrees latitude. After a quick celebration with Tiare Arctica flower leis (thanks to Ken!) we turned south discovering that two batten pockets ripped off the main. The choppy conditions demanded a combined crew effort to quickly drop the main and asses the problem. Amanda decided to remove the two offending battens and will set about repairing the damage in our week off. By tightening the spectra leechline a little more we could still sail with full main minus the two battens. – check out our next update for repair details.

Woodfjorden was our heading as over the radio that morning we’d heard the Zodiac drivers of two expedition ships exchanging of bear sighting information. It was slog to the entrance, and a fast reach down the fjord before tuning the corner to sail past a cruise ship and the Andoyane Islands. Amanda who had been intently scanning the shoreline with binoculars shouted, “There, on the far sound beach is a bear!” We motored in as close as we dared, dropping anchor in only 8′ with 22 knot gusty winds holding us off the beach. Ken thought he sighted the same bear further along the beach after lunch, but with the strong NE winds undoubtedly pushing the main ice pack closer to the fjord entrance I was

Ken frees kelp from the anchor

Polar Bear!

anxious to get back out to open water and headed south and NOT to get trapped. Upon pulling up the anchor the windlass lugged down heart wrenchingly then stopped and I suspected we might be getting into trouble. The potential was there as we had gathered huge bunch of kelp on the anchor. As Ken set about clearing the kelp, I checked the recently installed new windlass and discovered because it hadn’t been tightened down properly when installed, it had pivoted on its bolts, pulling loose some wires. After ten minutes of work with an open-end wrench in the forepeak I had the windlass back in position and wires re-attached. We were sure glad to have it working again, and next time I will be more patient in clearing the anchor as soon as it breaks the surface.

In search of a polar bear we motored around another of the Andoyane Islands but gave up on the idea when we spotted tons of people strolling about on the island where we sighted bears in 2001. Upon leaving the islands we were keeping clear of 3 Zodiacs full of passengers returning to the Russian expedition ship when all of a sudden an Aussie voice came booming in on Channel 16 “Sailboat, if you want a bear mate, there’s one here, it’s all yours we’re headed home.” There it was….trudging quickly along the ridge before stopping to take look at us then pacing out of sight over the ridge. A few minutes later he popped up again, further down the island. WOW! Success!

Motorsailing into 24 knot winds for about 10 miles it was another slog to get clear of the entrance of Woodfjord but then we set sail on a powerful broad reach surfing along in winds gusting to 31 kts to arrive back at Sallhamna at 0300 totally exhausted. The anchor didn’t hold in

Snow bear keeps glacier watch

the gusty winds, picking up a huge clump of kelp, so we took Amanda’s suggestion of trying the glacier-lined Holmiab Bay. We all got a surprise as we bumped the bottom near the glacier wall when the depth came up quickly from 50 feet and chose and anchorage in 26 feet on the bay’s eastern shore.

Sleeping through a snowstorm that night we awoke to find the decks covered with several inches of snow. Amanda made a snow bear on the dodger top while Alec and Peter spent time trying to clear the decks of snow with buckets of nearly-freezing barely-salty glacial water.

Heavily snowing conditions persisted as when we raised anchor at 0950 back tracked to Ny Alesund, 45 miles south at 78.55 N, 11.57 E. As the whipped up to 30 knots out of the NNE and a twisting course was planned between several islands in poor visibility we didn’t want to have to worry about repeated gybes and re rigging the preventer so we sailed the entire distance comfortably under headsail.

Throughout the afternoon the weather improved and by 2025 we were moored for the night to float at Ny Alesund, a research base for seven

Alec steers course

nations. The museum and small shop were closed, but our crew met researchers from several countries at the different bases and was invited for a visit.

Saturday’s, June 30, GRIB (grided bianary file) forecasts from saildocs.com showed the wind swinging to a southerly direction and increasing to 25+kts. Good reason to hurry south! As we cleared Daudmannsodden Point at the northern entrance to Isfjorden, the wind increased to 35-40 kts. We furled the headsail and continued toward our planned anchorage of Ymerbukta on the northern shore unsure if the deep glacially-carved bay would be tenable in the katabatic winds zooming off the mountains. Arriving at the entrance we sheeted the double-reefed main in tight to lessen the danger of gybing in the violent gusts when to windward.

“Smoke on the water” where violent downdrafts blow clouds of water in the air appeared before us, our first sighting since Cape Horn in 1996. A 47 kt gust hit Mahina Tiare quickly spinning us 180 degrees into the wind as Ken had the foresight to release his grip on the wheel. We’d been waiting to drop the main between gusts in the lee of the cliff planning to head to boat to wind but Amanda had enough antics and shouted, “Drop the mainsail, NOW!!!”, setting crew to work to claw the main down in freezing conditions.

Seeking relief from the violent gusts we ventured far into the bay until we ran out of water, and ended up anchoring in 20′ with Pete quickly letting out all 250′ of chain. Nearly every time we have anchored in Spitsbergen the anchor comes up with huge clumps of kelp, so this time we had purposefully anchored directly in front of a glacial stream, hoping, as we found in Chile, that the freshwater would have kept the bottom

Crew setting the anchor in 45 knots

free of kelp providing good holding in sand-silt. Gusts to 31 kts and breaking waves on the shoals eight boat lengths to leeward meant it would be very close getting underway and the anchor up and if we were to drag. An active anchor watch was set requiring the watchman steer into the wind as MT veered back and forth in the gusts.

I knew we couldn’t relax in this situation and by 2330 the winds had dropped to 15-20. We made the decision to raise anchor, hoisted sail and head to Longyearbyen arriving at 0330 exhausted.

We slept in the following morning and over breakfast Amanda suggested sailing 21 miles to Scansbukta; a secluded and dramatic bay and site of an abandoned gypsum mine. Here we could complete our teaching, spend some time relaxing plus shore side exploring. Our crew was unanimous; “Let’s set sail now!” was their verdict, so we did. That afternoon Amanda brought out our new double-braid docklines for real hands-on splicing instruction and in the morning we explored the abandoned railway, mine and hut before sailing back toward Longyearbyen, stopping to practice Lifesling overboard rescue along the way.

Old mine railway

Scansbukta southern shore

The friendly harbormaster had earlier told us that if the inside of the commercial pier was ever free, we were welcome to squeeze alongside. The best thing about this spot was that his fueling hose would reach us, and he said there was water available, mentioning the hose was “a little large”. Yes, it was a 4″ fire hose, and that was the first time we have washed MT down with so much water pressure!

Our crew booked our final dinner ashore at Huset, an ex-hospital turned into a restaurant and movie theatre. They sampled reindeer for dinner

John enjoys washing down with the fire hose

and the waitress said whenever a bear has been shot (only in self-defense) it turns up here on the menu.

Tuesday morning crew all pitched in to clean MT and fuel up before departing, half for flights out that afternoon, and half for more exploring ashore.

Speaking of crew, here’s the scoop on our great Leg 2 gang:

Peter Knowles, 22
Born near Chicago, Peter was bitten by the sailing bug early in life, sailing with his father, Alec on their Victoria 18. He has just completed a degree in economics in Boston and goes starts his first post-university job in Boston this fall. Full of enthusiasm and focus, we wish him the best in his new career!

Alec Knowles, 58
Although originally from Maine where he learned to sail at an early age on his families Hinckley Pilot 35, Alec and his family moved to the Chicago area for work at a major brokerage firm. The end is in sight! Alec and his wife are looking forward to moving to Newport, RI and having their Caliber 40 on a mooring within site of their new house. Alec is planning an Atlantic circumnavigation in the near future.

John Andersen, 50
“I am a physics professor in Rochester, NY where I cruise my Pearson 26 on Lake Ontario. I also enjoy crewing for club racing and recently Key West Race Week. Since I am planning to start high latitude cruising within the next five years, this expedition really made sense! It’s been a fantastic learning experience accompanied by awe-inspiring majestic views.”

Ken Appleton, 58 “This is my third expedition aboard MT, each a unique experience. Despite 26 years in the US Coast Guard and a master’s license I always leave these expeditions with a hand full of new and reinforced knowledge. I enjoy delivering boats, crewing and watching other people pay for boat ownership.

Mark Bell, 39 (perennially)
Mark also joined us for the third time, joining us from Illinois and Sister Bay, Wisconsin, where he sails his 26′ S2. Once he sells his farm, he plans on purchasing a boat in Europe, possibly a new Malo 40, and crossing the Atlantic.

Wayne Smith, 70

Image 29 Longyearbyen

“At 70, it was time to get focused on expanding my cruising envelope. Having taught automotive technology for the past 35 years at RVRHS in Mt. Holly, NJ it was time to capstone 60 years of messing about I small boats with a real hands-on expedition. “Wayne is fascinated with high latitude sailing and plans to apply to join Skip Novak’s Pelagic Expeditions to sail to Cape Horn.

Amanda and I enjoy Longyearbyen – it reminds us so much of the great adventures and friends we made in Patagonia and Antarctica – there’s is always something happening. Yesterday the square-rigged Polish Academy of Sciences research ship whose crew we met in Tromso, and whose course we crossed north of Bjornoya sailed in. There isn’t another sailboat in town at the moment, but we’re keeping an eye out for Joyant, the Apogee 50 that we met last year in Scotland and this year in Alesund. We’ll probably set sail tomorrow for Scansbukta……it’s a week off to catch up on chores and recharge.

Leg 2-2007 Tromso to Longyearbyen2021-05-04T01:36:05+00:00

Leg 1-2007 Ellos, Sweden to Tromso, Norway

                                 Leg 1 Crew : Katie, Will, David, Donna, AL and Jim

June 2, 2007, 1130 hrs, 68.09 N, 14.12 W, Log: 108,040 miles
Moored in Henningsvaer Harbor, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Baro: 1031.1, Cabin Temp: 64F, cockpit 74F


Bergen was brilliant, and just after we tied up in the inner harbor, surrounded by the outdoor fish stalls selling everything from whale and reindeer meat to fresh shrimp and crabs, we noticed a line of black limos pulled off on the side of the street next to Mahina Tiare. Turns out Norway’s king and queen and Bill Clinton were inside, coming to attend a three day music festival. Katie and Jim just missed seeing Bill in a hotel and the king and queen hopped out of the limo to greet the crowd where Donna was standing. Crew also checked out the local street market returning with caviar, marinated salmon and smoked whale.

Bergen waterfront

Bergen harbor

Local fish market – whale, salmon and caviar

With a forecast of Force 7 following winds, we decided that nothing was going to keep us from surfing north, so off we sailed, frequently surfing to over 9 kts while dodging ship traffic headed to the offshore oil rigs!

Our landfall was Fedje Island, the pilot station for ships entering the channels. We tied to an abandoned barge that night and the following morning watched a pilot boat come in and got to chat with Ole Hansson, the ship’s pilot who invited us up to the vessel traffic control center and pilot station. What a view they had! Ole said that in the winter the seas sometimes exceed 24 meters at the oil platforms offshore, and that several times a year it is too rough for any ships to enter. For very large ships, a helicopter comes from Bergen to pick up the pilots and drop them on the ships; otherwise, they go out in their sturdy pilot boats.

Fedje harbor

Pilot boat returning

Hilltop VTS and pilot station

John and Ole, a ship pilot

Thursday, May 24th we had a rip-roaring run in winds gusting to 34 up to Floro, a small fishing and ship building town, followed by another fast, 82 mile run north to Alesund, an attractive city of 25,000 which straddles many small islands, connected by bridges. Alesund was rebuilt in an unmistakable Art Nouveau style in 1904 following a devastating fire. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany who very was fond of

Alesund harbor

Alesund, sent ships with building supplies and craftsmen to help rebuild this city. All of our crew climbed the 484 steps to summit for a fabulous view of the harbor and town, but sadly found the little café had closed for the evening.

Tuesday, May 29 – Update by Donna

Finally, we are going to get to see the glaciers up close! On Saturday, May 26th the GRIB weather files showed gale force headwinds coming in 72 hours or so, so we took advantage of fresh southerly winds to sail 350 miles non-stop to Lovund Island.

Rocketing north in near gale conditions

A short hike from the Mahina took us to a puffin nest “viewing site”, a short distance up the western side of the 619 meter summit of Lovund. From the viewing site, we could watch the world’s largest puffin conlony returning from their day at sea with beakfuls of herring to feed their young. Between April and August, they fly out to sea each day, sometimes as far as 70km to catch fish.

But while the small black dots of puffins were sometimes indistinguishable from clouds of mosquitos, several distant islands were rising dramatically on the horizon. Traena, Nesoya, Hestmona, and Luroy, each over 1000m of outcropping rock to the west and north of us. Tucked between Hestmona and Luroy is the second largest glacier in Norway and the lowest lying glacier on the European continent. Covering 140 square miles, the Svartisen glacier occupies a sizable chunk on the lacy thin section of Norway just north of the Arctic Circle. From Lovund, the snowy peaks between Hestmona and Luroy only hint at the vast expanse of the Svartisen.

Lovund Island

View form puffin colony

We next sailed north to the Holandsfjorden. Our course to the fjord and to the toe of the Svartisen took us on a meandering route through numerous islands and notably, across the Arctic Circle, at 66 degrees north. Finally, looming peaks came into view. For someone used to seeing such craggy glaciated peaks at much higher elevations, I had to remind myself that our northerly latitude accounted for the fact that these peaks were only 3000-5000 feet high. Arriving at the glacier, we stopped for a short photo shoot, docked and had another fabulous meal that Amanda miraculously conjured up in the tiny galley kitchen.

After dinner, we hiked up towards to the glacier to get a close-up view of the ice. The hike to the glacier proper took us past a hotel and tourist center (accessible only by boat), a large lake that formed in the 1950s when the glacier retreated, several sheep, and finally to a well marked path along the slabby rock striped and scarred by the retreating glacier. When the path ended, it looked like only more committing scrambling was going to get us to the actual toe. As it turned out, the scrambling was easy and the view of the toe of the glacier from up close was well worth the effort. What looked to be short steps when viewed from the dock a mile away, turned out to be impressive 30 foot vertical ice walls.

Svartisen glacier

Crew antics

Glaicer tongue

To top off this unforgettable adventure into the fjord, we awoke the next morning to a completely cloudless sky, 70 degree temperatures, and coffee waiting for us in the small hotel at the base of the glacier!

The gorgeous following winds switched on Wednesday, May 31st and we ended up motoring straight into 20 knot headwinds on the 65 mile passage to the city of Bodo, where we found a windy and very full harbor. We ended up rafting to a traditional wooden fishing boat for the night before leaving early the next morning.

With persistent headwinds, frequently narrow channels and fairly flat seas we motored north on Friday in order to shorten the passage the following day out to the Lofoten Islands. We didn’t really know where we would end up, but when we passed a protected little bay with a white sandy beach, it was quickly decided that Vettoya Island would make a perfect and quiet anchorage. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and glaciers on all sides, it seemed as if we were anchored in a mountain lake. Yesterday morning crew climbed to the top of the nearest hill for a fabulous view in many directions, followed by a swim off the stern. The water was the clearest we’ve seen outside the tropics – crystal clear and in 20’ we could see the bottom perfectly.

Jim on Vettoya litter pickup

Idyllic Vettoya anchorage

“Ohhh! That’s Chilly” – gasps Katie

Our passage out to the Lofoten Islands yesterday was calm, sunny and WARM! When we tied at the small guest float in Henningsvaer, an historic cod fishing and drying village, locals told us that it had been blowing and raining for months until three days earlier. Reveling in the great weather, people from nearby islands had brought their small cabin cruisers to Henningsvaer for the weekend. The women were all dressed up, and the crews from the five boats seemed to know each other and went out to dinner together. Sven, skipper of the closest boat told us that because of a change in ocean water temperature, the cod were returning to areas further north on the Norwegian coast. He said that the famous cod drying racks of the Lofoten Islands are still used, but now much of the cod arrives by ferry and truck. During February, March and April, thousands of tons of salted cod fish are hung on racks to air dry, their final destination being Spain, Portugal and North Africa.

Massive cod drying racks

Gry, Amanda and Erling with cod

For the past five days we have had brilliant cloudless days and nights. As we are over 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it is still clear, brilliant and bright at 0200 in the morning. The high pressure cells that normally move over southern Scandinavia this time of year have been diverted by the jet stream so that the lows are all passing to the south of us with rain and strong winds. It’s been hard to convince crew to go bed before midnight as the sun shines so brightly, but it certainly makes for fun classes on deck.

Destination planning

Crew go aloft in Henningvaer

Here’s our Leg 1 crew:

Donna Calhoun, 44
I am a computational scientist, working for the Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique in Paris. I don’t have much sailing experience but have always wanted to see the Norwegian coast, and after a trip with Amanda and Jon up the west coast of Ireland a few years ago, I knew there was no better way to see Norway than this! Also, my husband is an avid sailor who is a MT veteran and will be joining Amanda and John shortly in Spitsbergen.

Katie Thomsen, 47
Life is great! I sold my store at Mamouth Mountain in 2000 and we moved to Belgium. When Jim brought up the idea of retiring and sailing around Europe aboard a sailboat I was excited but hesitant. I had no clue about sailing, only windsurfing, but I was game and started reading everything I could find. When our new sailboat arrived, I insisted on lots of private instruction and now we are planning to sail from Holland to Spain. This trip on Mahina is the perfect opportunity to see how my body and mind handle multi-day passages. I already know I love the idea of traveling aboard my home.

Jim Thomsen, 58
In 1972 I returned from my first sailing experience in Mexico with the plan to buy a boat and start cruising. But I started working instead. In 2000 we moved to Europe where I was president of an international division of a US company. Katie and I really enjoyed living in Europe and wanted to explore more. In 2006 my 35 year old dream finally became real. I retired; we purchased a new Hallberg-Rassy 40 in Holland and moved aboard. With little sailing experience we are learning as we go. After returning from this expedition we will start sailing south, to reach the Med by mid-summer.

David Kotecki, 47
I am an associate professor of electrical and computer engeneering at the Univesity of Maine. We sail our 32’ sloop primarily along the coast of Maine. I joined this expedition to obtain experience in offshore and log distance passage making. (What David didn’t say is that he left a hi-tech job in Baltimore, bought a 120 acre farm in rural Maine with a 150 year old farm house, got married and got into sailing. Sounds like a great life!)

Will Lee, 38
I am a financial manager for a fast-growing ten year old company in New York City. I live in Manhattan with my beautiful wife Stacy and gorgeous 2.5 year old daughter Lexi. We have been sailing our Catalina 36 in the waters between Long Island Sound and Nantucket for five years now, and I’ve wanted to try a longer trip on a bigger boat somewhere remote and scenic. One might say I’ve been pining for the fjords! (Will’s father is Norwegian)

Al Canale, 49
I recently retired as an investment executive after living and working all over North America and most recently in London. I felt the need to slow down and de-stress from a busy work-based existence, and one of my dreams was to learn to sail well, and now I have the time! I recently found a slip near Vancouver, Canada and am now looking for a boat.

June 8, 2007, 1530 hrs, 69.39 N, 18.57 W, Log: 108,236 miles
Tromso Harbor
Baro: 1023, Cabin Temp: 63F, cockpit 62F


Gry and Erling Baera, cruising friends that we had first met in Fiji, stopped by to visit us in Henningsvaer and invited to Solvear for a bacalao dinner and to sail to a friend’s beach cottage on a nearby uninhabited island on Sunday. We did, and enjoyed a sunny day on the beach, plus hiking and exploring. That evening we motored 20 miles to one of Norway’s most scenic spots, Trollfjorden, a very narrow, cliff-lined fjord surrounded by glaciers and waterfalls. The charts show over 100’ of water at the head of the bay, so we weren’t confident that we would find a place shallow enough to anchor, but we did. Surrounded by waterfalls, and glacier-capped mountains, we enjoyed a lovely night.

Early the following morning we came alongside the small wharf at the unattended hydroelectric power station. We all started hiking up the mountain toward the mountain lake we had read about, but only Donna and Will made it high enough up the trail to see the totally frozen mountain lake.

Tollfjorden wall

Donna at the frozen lake

Sailing Trollfjorden

That night we sailed to Neshamn, a small bay with a couple houses where we enjoyed walks and hiking ashore. Yesterday we sailed to Harstad, a sizable town of 14,000 on Hinnoya, Norway’s largest island. What a friendly place! We were the only boat in the small guest harbor and many local sailors dropped by with car or boat to say hello and to offer to show us a quieter inner harbor.

Wednesday morning under brilliantly clear skies we motored then sailed north, 53 miles to anchor inside of tiny Hestoy Island. Along the way we had a clear horizon and the perfect opportunity to teach celestial navigation. Within minutes of arrival Al had caught a nice cod for dinner on fishing gear borrowed from Gry and Erling. We took advantage of the sunny afternoon to catch up on double braid splicing, sail repair class and celestial navigation. Yesterday we had another sunny day and a fair following then beam wind, gusting to 26. Conditions were perfect, and with a full main, a double-reefed jib, flat seas and a fair current we touched 10.2 knots repeatedly. These conditions provided the perfect opportunity to practice towing warp and setting the Galerider drogue. What a great conclusion to an exceptional passage!

Katie takes a sight

Al’s cod

David practicing towing warp

On arriving in Tromso were surprised to find the guest pontoon nearly empty, and after tidying MT up, headed ashore for an excellent Thai dinner together. For us, one sign of a successful expedition is if expedition members are still getting along after 2-3 weeks and after

Tromso harbor

dinner our crew was up to the wee hours of the morning, exchanging addresses and plans to meet and sail together in each other’s home waters.

We’ve just been handed an ice report and map from a powerboat headed to Spitsbergen. According to the report, there is no sea ice at all on the west coast of Spitsbergen so this should make landfall on Leg 2 much easier than during our last visit. I the meantime Amanda and I will be enjoying a few local scenic anchorages while we continue with boat projects and prepare for Spitsbergen.

We have one berth available on Leg 4-2007, Tromso, Norway to Ellos, Sweden, August 1-18th. Expect fabulous sailing conditions, non-stop daylight, several 2-4 day offshore passages and some of the most interesting coastal sailing anywhere in the world!

We also have three berths available on Leg 5-2007, from Ellos, Sweden to Southampton, England, via Denmark, Germany’s Kiel Canal and a North Sea crossing. This leg provides great sailing, challenging navigation and a lot of neat stops in different countries.

If you have any questions about joining us for an expedition, just contact us: sailing@mahina.com or give Tracy in our office a ring on 360-378-6131.

Update 1
May 22, 2007, 0500 hrs, 59 30. N, 04.58 W, Log: 107,376 miles
Broadreaching at 7.8 – 10.1 kts in 22-34 kt wind, 6-9’ E swell
Baro: 1012.7 (down 7 mb in 19 hrs), Cabin Temp: 66F, cockpit 50F


We’re off on our 18th season of sail-training expeditions, and what a start we’ve had!

When our Leg 1 crew arrived last Friday, May 18, it was a relief – now we could focus on sailing! For 13 days, since we arrived back aboard Mahina Tiare in Sweden, Amanda and I had been working long hours, putting everything back together, unpacking gear we had brought with us, provisioning, and unloading gear we didn’t want to take north to Spitsbergen and back.

After safety orientation, we set sail for Kristiansand, Norway, 90 miles to the west. We had been closely monitoring a large 987 low as it made it’s way across the North Atlantic, and thought that we might be able to sneak across the Skagerrak before the winds changed from SSE (beam reach) to SW (headwinds). No sooner than we had passed the picturesque island village of Gullholmen did the winds increase to 40 kts with driving rain. Although triple reefed and prepared, we knew the seas in the middle would be horrendous, so we turned around and spent the night pinned to the dock in Gullholmen with strong winds and rain, as the leading edge of a very active cold front persisted.

The winds moderated to 10 kts, at the dock Saturday morning so we took a vote as to whether to go. The “ayes” were unanimous

Crossing the Skagerrak in gale conditions

so we set sail! Once clear of land winds quickly built to a solid 27, gusting 34. We once again considered turning back but chose to set a course further off the wind north to Risor.

When underway for an hour, we received a paid update from www.commandersweather.com, the trusted weather service we use periodically, saying that our Skagerrak crossing would be rough but the following day would be smoother. We decided to keep going. Then the Navtex posted a weather warning for Force 7 occasionally Force 8 near-gale conditions.

With the wind forward of the beam and a solid 34, gusting 40 we did indeed have a rough passage, especially once we cleared the lee of Denmark. Large breaking rollers occasionally came roaring through and our helmsmen would need to turn slightly into them to avoid having them smack on the beam, sending cascades of icy water streaming over the boat.

Donna and Katie hit the ice cream shop

Risor Harbor

We made landfall at Risor’s fairly narrow but well-marked channel at 2000 hours, well before dark, and found an empty berth on the guest dock. The huge bowl of hot soup disappeared quickly once our crew returned from hot showers ashore.

Early Sunday morning when Amanda and I went for our run we were surprised to find Orion tied in the inner harbor. Former expedition member Lore Haack-Voersmann had singlehanded from Germany, frequently in gale conditions, aboard her ketch-rigged Vim motorsailer and after her husband Peter had joined her in Ellos they had set sail the day before us for Norway. Peter showed us some excellent German weather sites he had downloaded from his mobile phone and we made plans to visit later in the summer in Norway’s northern Lofoten Islands.

The forecast was clear, and all the different sources agreed for Sunday’s conditions: near gale force headwinds, diminishing late afternoon or early evening. We took advantage of the time to continue our orientation, teach an introductory weather class and explore the very attractive seaport town of 4,000. Risor is famous for its classic wooden boat festival and the pride and joy of the town is a traditional gaff topsail Colin Archer designed volunteer coast guard sailing rescue boat, Risor II. Tied up in the middle of the inner harbor, a steady stream of volunteers were maintaining this classic boat. In our hike up to get a photo of the harbor and town we met a friendly guy who was preparing a classic varnished wooden clinker-build skiff for the start of lobster season. He explained that his father and uncle had used this boat for over 30 years of fishing, and that he really enjoyed working on and fishing it. His wife, maybe more practical, pointed to the modern fiberglass skiff next to it on the front lawn and told us she preferred it for taking the kids for picnics on the nearby skerries (islets) while her husband was tending his lobster pots.

Finally, after dinner, the winds in the harbor had dropped to 10-12 kts and we dropped dock lines and set sail at 2130. As the winds were right on the nose, we motorsailed into 15-18 kt headwinds which dropped to 10 kts by midnight.

Yesterday a high pressure cell parked itself over the southern tip of Norway, known as the Cape Horn of Norway. Where we had always passed Lindesnes in strong winds before, this time we motored past with clear skies, smooth seas and less than 5 kts of wind. When the wind picked up to 7 kts we sailed for several hours, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

Last night it never really got dark, going from several hours of spectacular sunset to moonrise to sunrise as we passed Stavanger harbor entrance, a busy offshore oil industry and shipping base, we were kept on our toes with a steady stream of ships of various sizes and types.

Early this morning the wind started filling in as forecasted, and now it is gusting 35 and we’re hearing some whooping and hollering from the cockpit as our helmsman has Mahina Tiare surfing at up to 10.1 kts on the big swells. Our ETA for Bergen is this afternoon, so our navigator of the day is going to need to get busy plotting the frequently-changing course through the channels.

Leg 1-2007 Ellos, Sweden to Tromso, Norway2021-05-04T01:46:51+00:00

Leg 7 , 2006 , Cork Ireland to Oban Scotland

August 25, 2006, 1510 hrs, 53.00 N, 09.42 W, Log: 105,996 miles
Broad reaching under double-reefed main and jib @ 6.3 – 7.8 kts with winds WNW @ 18-25 kts in squalls
Baro: 1006, Cabin Temp: 70F, cockpit 72F

Owenabue Valley Traditional Irish Group performing a the Ceili

A Welsh set dance in full swing

We have a whole spread of islands and channels ahead, and with a fresh wind aft of the beam we’ve been zooming along all day. Small craft warnings have been posted for the last 24 hours for all of western Ireland as an active occluded front moves through bringing bands of rain, higher winds and reduced visibility. We’re thankful the wind hasn’t been from the north, as it was for the past 1.5 weeks, as this would have been a lot slower, wetter and bumpier trip.

Our Leg 7 crew joined us Monday noon at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, in Crosshaven, near Cork. For the previous week Amanda and I sailed back to Kinsale, once crew left, to complete boat projects including Amanda re-leathering the steering wheel. The highlight of the week was happening upon a fantastic evening of Welsh and Irish traditional music and dance at the Acton Hotel, just across from the Kinsale Yacht Club. The Irish dancers and musicians (www.ownenabue-valley.net) were part of an extended family that has traveled around Europe performing.

We were invited us to a ceili, (traditional Irish dance to live music), the Saturday before Leg 7 started. What a great time the Irish have with their music and dance! Amanda has long enjoyed Scottish Country dancing and even got me interested, but that is so restrained compared to Irish set dancing where everyone lets their hair down and enjoys themselves. Kids as young as six were playing instruments, singing and

Amanda demonstrating reefing

Anne and Christina chart our course north

dancing with people who must have been in their late 70’s or early 80’s. The Welsh group we’d watched in Kinsale was also at the hall so we heard more of their music and even got to try some Welsh set dances.

Oh, back to the expedition! Monday noon crew joined and after lunch and a start on safety orientation we set sail for Oysterhaven, a quiet bay between Cork and Kinsale. We wrapped up orientation that evening with navigation before raising anchor in the first hours of dawn a 0530 and setting sail for Baltimore, just before Mizen Head, the SW tip of Ireland. We had headwinds until we were nearly to the Head, then decided to keep sailing as those headwinds would translate into a glorious reach once we rounded the corner and set a course north. With winds gusting to 24 knots our crew got excellent practice at reefing and heavy weather steering as Mahina Tiare surfed north under a press of canvas.

Dunboy Castle at the entrance to Castletownbere was our planned anchorage for the evening but when we sailed into the bay a gigantic construction crane dominated the sky, the empty castle we had enjoyed walking through six years ago was undergoing major reconstruction. Not wanting to anchor in a construction zone we motored a couple miles into the small and busy fishing port of Castletownbere, where the harbourmaster allowed us to tie to the commercial fish boat wharf for an hour’s look around town. We then choose and an anchorage in Lawrence’s Cove nearby Bere Island for a quiet evening.

Construction crane at Dunboy Castle

The waterfront at Calstletownbere

Headwinds on Wednesday forced us to and motor at the first 20 miles of the passage and abandon a visit to the monastery on Skellig Michael,

An Irish yacht sailing past the Skellig Islands

but once we rounded Valentia Island and the Kerry Peninsula and set a course for Ventry Bay, 40 miles away, the winds were aft and MT picked up her skirts and scooted along nicely. Ventry is large bay well protected from the north and faced with a curving sandy beach where we were surprised to see people horseback riding on such a cold windy evening.

Yesterday we had a civilized start, 0900 for a short passage of seven miles to the Blasket Islands. The Blaskets were abandoned in 1953, but these islands were home to several of Ireland’s most beloved poets, and a repository for the Irish language. The little café-museum is no longer there, but our crew enjoyed hiking and a picnic on the cliffs as I stood a boisterous anchor watch in rip tides.

Smerwick Harbour, on the north of Dingle Peninsula provided a sheltered but windy anchorage last night and allowed us an early (dark) morning departure this morning for the 65 mile passage to the Aran Islands. As the entrance to Kilronan, the main village on the island of Inis Mor is tricky with a lot of tidal current, rocks and course changes, we wanted to be sure to arrive in good daylight. Well, that hasn’t been a problem as with WNW winds to 27 knots in squalls we’ve made excellent time and the islands are just ahead.

MT at anchor off the Blaskets

Anne and David hill top on the Blaskets

August 28, 2006, 1840 hrs, 54.00 N, 010.18 W, Log: 106,092 miles
Broad reaching under double-reefed main and jib @ 7.3 – 7.8 kts with winds WNW @ 24-36 kts in squalls
Baro: 1010, Cabin Temp: 66F, cockpit 62F
CAPE HORN TO LEEWARD, or is it Achill Head?

We enjoyed an excellent time on Inis Mor (www.aranislands.com) sailing all the way into the inner harbor of Kilronan and heading ashore for a tasty dinner at a small pub/restaurant called the Aran Fisherman. Afterwards we were delighted

Kironan Harbour

to find live music and dancing at a nearby pub/hotel. A group of island teenagers dressed in black dance outfits were having a great time doing set dances before asking the audience, young and old, to join them on the floor. It was neat to see so many people excited and accomplished at their traditional dance, and to see their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles clapping, cheering them on, plus joining in the dancing. This is what we love – isolated island communities thriving and cherishing their heritage.

The following morning we delayed class so we could explore the historic, sparsely populated (1300 pop.) Irish-speaking island on rented bicycles while the sunshine held. Amanda and I cycled along the coast with sand dunes and lagoons planning to explore 2000 BC stone cliff top fort, Dun Aengus.

John pausing on his bike to take in the view and wait for a horse buggy

Dun Aengus Fort

I had been fighting a cold, we had been cycling into headwinds and occasional drizzle and I had just said to Amanda how nice it would be to find a little café and have tea and scones once when we rounded a corner to find a collection of thatch and slate-roofed cottages. Amanda made a beeline for the cottage selling famous Aran knit sweaters and I checked out a little thatched-roofed tea house, Tigh Nan Phaidi. What a find! The girls inside were baking all kinds of goodies, there was a big fireplace with a peat fire burning away, plus an

Tigh Nan Phaidi

Richard, David, Anne, Mark, Christina, Eric and Amanda

enormous kettle of home made tomato soup. I quickly found Amanda and coaxed her into joining me for a cuppa. We enjoyed meeting the tea ladies Deidra and Correna, and Amanda collected a tasty recipe for scones along with images for her monthly galley column in 48 North magazine.

We never did make it to the fort – that will have to wait for next year, but when we returned to Kilronan, an historic Galway Hooker, a traditional 60′ sailing cutter had tied to the wharf creating a scene that could have been 100 years ago. In the meantime the Aran sweater shops on the pier, www.aransweatermarket.com, had done really well off our crew, some of whom did their Christmas shopping early!

Speaking of crew, here they are in their new woolly jumpers:

Richard Baker, 54 from Johannesburg, South Africa in a real quiet gem! Leg 7 is his second of three consecutive expeditions. Always early for his watches and a keen volunteer to help with whatever needs to be done he has become a very confident sailor and great crewman.

David Huber, 54 from Sydney (what is with being 54??) is “a doctor who needs to heal himself by doing a lot more cruising”. David’s current dream boat is an Amel 53 or 54, an excellent choice for a cruising boat. David is a vascular surgeon and one of Anne’s star Pilates students.

Anne Wolfers, 54 claims she’s “an Australian who might otherwise be happy at home on the verandah with a glass of red but

Galway Hookers under sail

South & West Coasts of Ireland Sailing Directions published by the Irish Cruising Club plus Imray charts proved invaluable on Leg 7

has decided to poke herself in the eye with a blunt stick. So far it’s more fun than I imagined”. Anne brings a lovely sense of humor (where’s your JOKE flag Anne?) and an incredible determination in joining David in his dream.

Mark Bell, 54, a just-retired dentist from Iowa dreams of sailing the seven seas on his own boat and brings an odd collection jokes each time he joins us. Having sailed with us in Tahiti and now , Mark plans on honing his skills on our passage to Spitsbergen, 80 degrees North in 2007.

Christina Thomson, 34 is an executive at a small pharmaceutical company in the Bay area who hopes to cruise high latitudes with her partner Eric. She is keeping her eyes open for a recent model Valiant 42 in a few years.

Eric Murphy, 34 is a mountain guide/climber who guides clients trying for the Seven Summits. He hopes to cruise with his love Christina. After the expedition Eric and Christina are camping, exploring and climbing on the Isle of Skye.

David had our most challenging navigating of the year, keeping us off the unmarked rocks as we short tacked to windward through Inner

The ferry and town wharf at Inner Quarter, Inishbofin

MT anchored before castle ruins

Passage to Big Sound before anchoring off Roundstone on the SW edge of Connemara Peninsula. We had heard that there were plenty of Galway Hookers in the bay plus traditional Irish music at the pubs, but found the music had been cancelled as some of the musicians were ill. Not to worry as our crew still enjoyed hoisting a Guinness in the packed little pub that evening.

INISHBOFIN, what a great name for an island! Amanda has been practicing a Sean Nos step named for this small island, home to some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians. From Roundstone we motorsailed the first 12 miles between the reefs and rocks, but once we cleared Slyne Head we eased sheets for a great sail north over the next 12 miles to Inishbofin. The weather was typically Irish; sunny and

Ann Marie busy knitting

Ann Marie’s shop

Dance Sean-Nos DVD and John’s CD and is what keeps Amanda amused

gorgeous one minute, squally and rainy the next, then sunny again. The harbour was tiny, with just enough room for a handful of boats to anchor in the shadow of and impressive castle ruin that was used in the 16th Century by Grace O’Malley the pirate queen and then by Cromwell as a prison.

After class (I think it was Diesel Maintenance) we stepped ashore to check out the small museum and search for music. Amanda and I hiked up to a Ann Marie’s Craft Shop overlooking the harbour where we enjoyed listening to Ann Marie’s stories of her parent’s sailing their Galway Hooker 50 miles up to Westport to buy supplies for their shop. It seems that the smaller the island, the friendlier the people, and the more they enjoy chatting. Amanda was thrilled to buy two CD’s especially one from John O’Halloran whose old style melodeon playing contains great vitality perfect for stepping to. John is also the feature player on the “Dance Sean-Nos” DVD by Ronan Regan and Maldon Meehan that Amanda practices to. We had just missed the last major Inishbofin Ceili Band dance of the summer, but their CD allows a wee taste of their talents. We’ll just have to go back in 2008! www.inishbofin.com

We have just rounded Achill Head, the easternmost point of Ireland and the island and sea conditions look strikingly like Cape Horn. Small craft warnings have been up for several days, and we have had two reefs set for many days now. The Irish weather forecast is for Force 6 (Beufort scale: 22-27 kts) and it has been accurate. It has been a rough day with very confused seas created by the dramatic 15′ tides and currents of up to 3 knots, compounded by swell refraction off the headlands. Early this afternoon we left on our longest leg of this expedition, 240 miles from Inisbofin Island in County Galway, Ireland, non-stop to Castlebay on Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.

Passing Achill Head

The weather doesn’t faze these tough Donegal fishermen whom we passed before sighting Tiree Island

September 1, 2006, 1245, 56.26N, 006.10W, Log: 106,324
At anchor, Soriby Bay, Loch Tuath, Ulva Island, off the Isle of Mull

Our winds increased in the early hours of Aug. 29th until they were gusting to 36 knots and clocked around to the NW instead of the forecasted WNW direction. Mahina Tiare was doing a great job, but the seas were crossed and confused so at 0200 we decided to fall off and set a course for Tiree which proved to be 17 degrees more off the wind, giving us a smoother ride. Wind and seas held and we were able to

Tied to the wharf in Bunnessan

make landfall at dusk 29th in Hynish Bay. Tea, hot chocolate and ginger cake were rewards for a difficult passage well done. Later I read that Castlebay, our original destination on Barra in the Outer Hebrides has been the ancestral home of the MacNeils (my family) since 1030 and that the family’s medieval fortress-castle-home of Kisimul which we anchored off in 2000 is now a historic attraction. Amanda tops that by learning that her family, the Maqueen’s from which Swan hails, are from northern Skye and that their Donald clan chief’s Armadale castle on the south tip of Skye is now the Clan Donald Centre. We must visit in 2008!

As near-gale force southerly winds were forecasted we looked on Imray chart C65 for an anchorage that would be totally protected from the

The dinghy approaching Fingal’s Cave

Inside Fingal’s Cave

south. We chose Bunessan on the Ross of Mull and had an excellent sail, close-hauled then close reaching at 7.5 knots. We tried to anchor off Iona, often called the cradle of Christianity in Europe, but it was too windy, so we continued on to Bunessan.

That night it rained and blew like crazy, but the following morning (yesterday) the sun came out and after catching up with our teaching we temporarily tied MT to a fish boat wharf to top up water tanks. Minutes after we started filling the water, a fuel truck drove onto the dock to fill one of the fish boats and we were also able to get fuel. Crew went exploring the little two-shop village, Amanda went for a run and after lunch we se sail for Staffa.

Staffa Island, www.staffatrips.f9.co.uk, home of Fingal’s Cave was the inspiration for Felix Mendelssohn’s overture. With 18 knots making the entrance a serious lee shore, anchoring was out of the question. The attraction of the cave

A quiet anchorage in Soriby Bay

Mark practices his bowline “wabbit” after securing the preventer

Eric relishes the downwind helming

is black, basaltic crystal-shaped stone shafts. Amanda volunteered to motor around slowly while I took our crew into the cave in two trips for a look. The surge pushed the dinghy in and out, and the 45′ tall cave was impressive.

Soriby Bay, small and uninhabited, off Ulva Island was our anchorage last night. Waterfalls line the opposite shore and only 16 people live on this fair-sized island. We went hiking (or squishing as the ground was very boggy) ashore before sunset yesterday and saw one house, lots of black faced sheep, heather, bracken, wildflowers, and magnificent views in all directions. With so many dramatic islands and picturesque anchorages we’re continually shocked at how rarely we see another boat.

This morning we finished up storm tactics, completed the test for it, and Amanda has just packed away the sewing machine after teaching sail repair. We’re now looking forward to a rip-snorter of a downwind sail around the corner of Mull to Tobermory, the quintessential Scottish fishing/tourist village.

September 3, 2006, 2245 hrs, 56.25N, 05.29W, Log: 106,378 miles
Alongside Oban Yacht Services, Kerrera Island, Oban
Baro: 1007, Cabin Temp: 70F, cockpit: 61F

We experienced a very pleasant evening and morning in Tobermory, including a fun dinner ashore plus hiking and poking around in the colorful old waterfront of this famous fishing village. The excellent little marine chandlery had the Imray Yachtman’s Pilot books that we had been trying to locate and it was fun to study more about the places we had visited and where to go next.

Christina’s treat’s – A clean new hat from Tobermory Distillery and Guinness Dark Chocolate

We concentrated on class in the morning, then set sail to work seriously on Lifesling overboard rescue. While we were gyrating around in practice circles, a sleek traditional 45′ Alden-looking cutter flying the American flag went gliding past. When we entered the narrow,

Ardornish Castle

Gary and Beth aboard Anasazi

fjord-like Loch Aline, a rainbow formed over the end of the loch where two real castles guarded either side of the head of the loch and not long after we anchored, that lovely classic cutter anchored nearby. Anytime we see a classic-looking cruising boat, we expect to find interesting and fun sailors aboard, and I did. Beth and Gary Schwarzman aboard Anasazi, homeport Falmouth MA, had just sailed in from the Faroe Islands. I invited them to dinner to enchant us with images and stories of a magical place only a few hundred miles WNW of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Perhaps we’ll see if we can work them into our 2008 schedule as it’s a group of isolated, remote, unusual and rarely visited islands, so naturally, we want to sail there!

Early this morning Amanda and I went for a run up the loch to check out the sizable Ardtornish Castle, of which we could find no mention in any of our books. All the gates were open and there weren’t any No Trespassing signs, so we quietly walked up the expansive, curving

“Sir Richard the Ready” filters fuel

“Knight Mark the Mark” strikes a pose at Duart Castle

Amanda and Lady Maclean

driveway to get a glimpse of the castle close at hand. It was huge, and in very good condition. Lights were on, there were six sporty cars parked out front. We later read at the estate office that the owner, Faith Raven rents out the castle as four separate self-catering units. The gardens were a lovely profusion and confusion of color and texture, definitely not manicured and are open to the public with a two pound donation asked. The next castle was much smaller, but very tall, probably eight stories, it too looked very lived in with composting piles near the front door and farm tools scattered about.

Later in the morning crew visited with Beth and Gary to lean more about their Chuck Paine designed cold-molded wooden cutter. Cruisers since 1976, Beth and Gary helped build the boat and their low tech, self-maintenance set up intrigued our crew.

The best castle was Duart Castle, www.duartcastle.com, halfway to Oban, and located on the confluence of three important channels. The weather was squally with gusts to the mid-20’s, and the charts and cruising guide showed no anchorage in the deep bay, but we found one in 20′, very close to boat ramp and trail leading to the castle. We could hear a piper playing the bagpipes from the anchorage, and the excitement started building. Unfortunately we had gotten water in the last batch of dinghy fuel but with “Sir Richard the Ready” helping we had the problem solved and were off ashore in a jiff.

Richard and a harrier hawk

It’s a wonderful thing that all the Castles seem to have Tea Rooms!

MT quietly at anchor off Duart Castle

Wow, were we in luck! It was the one day a year that the Orient Express special private train tour from London arrives in Oban. The passengers then board a luxury coach that brings them to the castle for an exclusive tour! This is a real genuine castle, complete with dungeons, extensive swords, battle gear, coustume and silver collections and AND a real Lady of the Castle! Lady Maclean, mother of the current 28th Chief of the Clan Maclean was up from London and greeting visitors in the family lounge. At 84 she has a great sense of humor and showed us around the room offering us tea, shortbread and whiskey.

Outside on the lawn we met Richard, a falconer from www.wingsovermull.com, a nearby birds of prey conservation centre. Richard was a fascinating chap and Amanda really enjoyed his flight demonstrations with several birds of prey plus chatting about the role of the birds as food hunters for the castle tables.

It was now only a five mile sail to Oban and with just the genoa unfurled MT touched 7.5 knots as we sailed past the town before furling sail and mooring at Oban Yachts marina, www.obanyachts.com, at Kerrera Island, across the harbor.

Wow, that’s it! What an exciting two weeks! New places, new friends, and great attention to our teaching program from our Leg 7 crew made this an unforgettable expedition. As the last ferry for the day had crossed, we dinned aboard with lots of jokes and laughter. That’s a sure sign of a successful expedition!

We will work like crazy tidying up MT over the next couple days before catching the train to explore Edinburgh later in the week.

Some highlights of our time between Legs 6 & 7

*Watching hundreds of young sailors compete in the Mirror world championship at the Cork Yacht Club

*Seeing the entire bay of Oysterhaven (near Kinsale) filled daily with people of all ages, sailing traditional yawls, windsurfers, catamarans and dinghies of all sizes and shapes. No matter that it was freezing cold and blowing 25 kts. plus that boats were flipping on a regular basis, these people were having a blast!

*Watching 150 Optimist dinghies and their very young skippers prepare and compete in the Opti Nationals here in Kinsale. It looks like many of their parents have made this part of their summer holiday, bringing the campervan with the Opti’s on trailers or lashed to the top of the campers. Their parents are so keen and proud of their little sailors!

*Discovering traditional Irish (and Welsh!) music and dance performances all over the place. Last night we went ashore at the yacht club with another cruising couple, looking for music and we hadn’t gone more than 20 steps from the marina when a single bagpiper came out of the Acton Hotel, slowly walking out to the road while piping. He was like a magnet and was followed back inside the hotel pub/ballroom by quite a crowd. We were in for an amazing evening of free traditional music and dance, part of the Cork International Folk Dance Festival. The Owenabue Valley Traditional Group, www.owenabue-valley.net based very near the Cork Yacht Club is an expended family that has danced internationally for twenty years. Two of their dancers are world champions and kids as young as six and people who must be in their 70’s were all dancing and instructing the audience on the dance floor. Amanda, who has been studying Scottish and Irish dance since age six was in seventh heaven. As if this wasn’t enough, an incredible group of Welsh traditional dancers and musicians performed, sang, joked around and sword danced. The evening closed with everyone standing and singing the Irish national anthem with tremendous feeling. What an incredible night, and what inviting people and country. Even though they have faced tremendous adversity at times, they have never lost their culture or heritage and they are so connected and proud of it now.

Leg 7 , 2006 , Cork Ireland to Oban Scotland2021-05-04T01:49:36+00:00

Leg 4 – 2006 Panama to Tortola

Leg 4, Update 1 SAFELY THROUGH THE CANAL! May 17, 2006, 1630 hrs., 09.21N, 079.54 W, Log: 100,890 miles, on the dock of Panama Yacht Club, Colon, Panama Baro: 1008.8, Calm winds, drizzle. Cabin: 80F, Cockpit Temp: 82F, Occasional drizzle

What an incredible day! We were told by the canal scheduler to be standing by at 0700 in front

Thomas and Carlos, our canal advisors, with a morning coffee

of their Flamenco Signal Station (the control tower for the Pacific entrance of the canal, located on the same island as Flamenco Marina) at 0700. We had set our alarms for 0530, planning to get underway at 0600. At 0615 we were about to give up on Ricardo, the line handler recommended by Tina McBride, our agent, when he showed up. We cast off, motored slowly around the island, and let Flamenco Signal know we were on station; waiting for our Pilot Advisor to board. We were told the boarding time would be 0700, then 0745 so we circled around eating breakfast and listening to the canal radio traffic.

Belle Flora, a merchant ship of some type, called on the radio to confirm their pilot time as 7:30. Another vessel identifying as US Navy warship 43 also called to confirm their pilot boarding time as 7:30. Flamenco Control advised the warship she was scheduled to transit the following day not today. The warship replied that is not what their agent had told them. They did not sound happy at all. Within 20 minutes phone calls must have been made as Belle Flora was radioed back and told they wouldn’t be transiting until the following day. They had been bumped for the warship.

Warship 43 being positioned into
the lock

Entering the lock to side tie to
the tug

At 0815 the pilot launch came alongside and delivered Carlos, a full canal pilot and Thomas, a pilot advisor in training. “Full speed for Miraflores Lock!” was their simultaneous greeting. As we opened the throttle to make eight knots against current M.T spewed black smoke, her engine temperature climbed and our advisors looked a little pissed. We were to be locking up with the warship 43, Fort McHenry at 0900 so had to push hard to make it for best of all lock situations: side-tied to Esparanza, an ACP tug assigned to maneuver the warship.

Thomas, our training advisor, normally operats one of the two large canal dredges with a crew of 18 men. He had volunteered to be trained as a relief advisor for yachts. He explained that with up to a one month wait for yachts to transit during the peak month of March, the ACP (Autoridad del Canal de Panama) didn’t want to hire full time advisors and have nothing for them to do nine months a year. The solution they choose is to train existing personnel who can volunteer for overtime to serve as advisors on their days off during the months of peak demand. Carlos was a full pilot and was training and evaluating Thomas.

We did a lot of waiting as the warship was very slowly and carefully maneuvered into each lock before being hooked up to the electric locomotives. When it stared to drizzle, both of the guys removed their shoes and socks and tucked them under the dodger so they wouldn’t get wet. Thomas pulled out a plastic rain jacket and pants while Carlos preferred to sit under the dodger reading the paper. The last time we had transited our advisor had been unhappy that we didn’t have any junk food and Coke. This time we were prepared with Coke and candy bars. Amanda even researched Panamanian dishes on the internet to make sure they would be happy with lunch. We’ve heard stories of advisors ordering out for restaurant lunches to be delivered to them as they were unsatisfied with the lunch provided on the yachts, and charges of up to $200 for this service subtracted from the yacht’s buffer fee. Amanda made Panamanian rice and beans with tasty roasted chicken. But as it turned out, Thomas was a vegetarian and loved the spread of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as our last night’s reheated pizza.

After Pedro Miguel lock Thomas informed us that we would probably have to spend the night tied to a mooring in Gatun Lake as our transit had been slowed by the warship. No one said anything, but when we approached Banana Passage, a shortcut through the mangroves that yachts occasionally are directed to take, he said that if we could make it to Gatun locks by 1700, we might be able to lock through Gatun that evening. I asked if we could take the shortcut, he said “Sure”, so we poured the power on and kept a lookout for howler monkeys and toucans as we barreled through the narrow passage flanked by overhanging trees.

As we approached Gatun the lock control told him we needed to wait for 45 minutes, so Thomas instructed us to side-tie to a huge foam-encased mooring buoy. Ricardo, our linehandler had done

Laura and Peter soap up for swimming

this many times, prepared bow and stern lines and jumped aboard the large buoy to secure us.

In minutes most of us dove into the freshwater lake while keeping an eye open for the notorious HUGE crocodiles that live in the lake. Ricardo told us of a fisherman who had been dragged away and eaten by a croc not too far away, but that swim sure felt great!

Side-tied to a similar mooring nearby was Hebe, a Golden Gate 30 sloop from San Francisco. Newlyweds Ariel Pavlick and Tim McFadden and their crew of four yachtie linehandlers had been waiting 24 hours for another advisor so they could complete the final set of locks. Thomas called the control station and just as we were getting underway a launch showed up with three advisors for Hebe! There was a great amount of banter and laughter back and forth, and the advisors in training said they all wanted to come on Mahina Tiare as there was more room.

Hebe receiving her three advisors

Hebe approaching the lock

We motored together to the entrance of Gatun locks, waited for awhile as a ship hooked up, then Thomas instructed Hebe to raft alongside us on the starboard quarter. We were to slide ahead under the bow of the ship into the chamber. Maneuvering with Hebe alongside wasn’t difficult until we got to the end of the lock and tried to stop. Thomas explained we would have only one

Rafted with hebe

chance to get the port stern line on the tug. If we missed it, the 1.1 knot current would plaster us against the gates of the lock. As I approached, Lynn got the stern line to the tug, but when I tried to slow, Hebe kept moving forward, pivoting our bow toward the tug. Strong hands, seven tires plus three fenders did the job.

Leaving the lock was even more difficult as we were instructed to motor slightly away from the tug, allowing them to move forward before following them to side-tie again. Unfortunately the tug surged forward, with their wake pushing us sideways in the lock and very close to the wall. Despite my working the throttle and wheel to the max, Hebe, on the outside came within 3′ of scraping the lock wall. It was very intense.

We repeated this another time, now in the dark, then we were out. The final lock opening is the

Nght time in the lock

most difficult as the freshwater mixing with the incoming seawater produces a lot of turbulence. I asked Thomas if Hebe could cast off first, followed by MT and then the tug, but he said we needed to go together, and asked for full power. We made it out safely, cast Hebe off, and headed to “The Flats”, the designated anchoring area for yachts off the Panama Yacht Club. It was dark and raining, but the pilot launch found us, we said goodbyes, and headed toward the club.

Earlier I had called the yacht club, only to be told there was no space and no possibility of rafting. Ricardo said, “There is always space, even if we have to tie up to the gas dock”. He faced a long bus ride back to Panama City carrying our four heavy 7/8″ x 125′ dock lines that we had borrowed from Tina, and didn’t relish the thought of a wet dinghy ride across the flats.

Sure enough, he was right! There was one berth available, an end-tie perfect for Mahina Tiare. Minutes after we tied a guy from the club said that for $30 we could stay the night there and told us the club’s Chinese restaurant was still serving dinner for another half hour, so we were set.

The next morning we piled our 16 plastic-bag wrapped tire fenders on shore and a few minutes later on the VHF morning cruisers net someone mentioned that there was a large pile of tires available. In minutes they were all gone!


There is an excellent new book, “The Panama Cruising Guide” , ISBN 9962-02-829-9 by Eric Bauhaus, ebaauhaus@gmail.comwww.sailorsnet.com. Eric did a phenomenal job with the book, and it is a necessity for cruisers coming to Panama.

Although it isn’t necessary to hire a professional linehandler (most cruisers help each other to ensure four linehandlers aboard each yacht, excluding the skipper), we think that at $65 it is a small investment in damage prevention. Ricardo came highly recommended by Tina McBride, our canal agent, and was extremely helpful at knowing exactly which line needed to go where and when, plus he stayed focused through the long day.

Sometimes the shoreside canal linehandlers release the yacht’s lines too early or the tug guys are little lax in securing a yachts line. Having an experienced linehandler aboard who knows “everyone” and can speak fast direct Spanish is an asset. Ricardo was also able to answer all the zillions of small questions we didn’t want to bug our advisor with all day.

It also isn’t necessary to hire an agent, as some of the taxi drivers can show you which offices need to be visited in which order, but at times (February and March) when the waiting list for a transit date reaches one month, it can certainly speed up the process. Tina McBride’s website has a form with all the questions needed to be answered, she can handle all payments and refunds and arrange for cruising permits, signing crew off and on and generally make a transit as easy and fast as possible. Her fee is approximately $550. At peak times like February – April, she can have a yacht get admeasured an on the scheduling list, then take off for weeks cruising the San Blas Islands instead of waiting in the not-so-nice and very crowded Colon area. She stays in daily contact with the scheduling office and can let her clients know when to start heading back toward Colon for their transit.

The two agents we recommend are:
Tina McBridewww.panamacanaltransits.com, email: tinamc@sinfo.net, or tinamcbride@hotmail.com
Peter Stevensdelfinomaritime@hotmail.comdelfinomaritime@bellsouth.net.pa, 011-502-261-1931, fax 507-261-3236, cell: 507-613-1134.

Other useful information and sites:

Panama Canal Authority (ACP) website: www.pancanal.com
Balboa Yacht Club: moorings for $0.40 per foot per day includes launch service and wi-fi: bycbilling@cwpanama.net
Flamenco Marina: marina berths (some with power) for $1.60 per foot per night, 200 ton travel lift: Docks are funky and surge can be a problem. www.fuerteamador.com
Panama Canal Yacht Club (in Colon) may have slips available for $0.50 per foot per night. Showers, Chinese restaurant, laundery, internet and a wild bar like out of Star Wars! email: pcyachtclub@cwpanama.net
Shelter Bay Marina is a new and nearly completed marina at the old US Ft.

The town of Portobleo

Sherman base, about a 40 minute taxi ride from Colon. Although somewhat isolated, we heard rave reviews about Shelter Bay, and the moorage rates are less expensive than Flamenco.

Our 20 mile passage to Portobello was in large, sloppy swells, but no wind. The sea was chocolate brown and large trees and all types of junk floated by, a result of the recent heavy rains. There is no dry season on the Colon side of the Canal, unlike on the Pacific side, although skies cleared nicely as we approached Portobello. Instead of the three or four yachts we had seen in our two earlier visits to this historic bay, we counted over 20 yachts, and several looked like they hadn’t done much sailing in several years.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Portobelo in 1502 and in 1597 the Spanish established a city here. The riches of the Orient, as well as those taken from Mexico, Central and South America

The counting house

Town fortress

all passed through Portobelo on their way back to Spain. There was a mule train path, the Camino Real, across the isthmus to Portobelo and it didn’t take long before Drake, Morgan and an assortment of pirates started attacking the town.

The resulting two forts, one at the entrance, the other along the foreshore of the town are impressive. Spain has been funding their reconstruction and the counting house where all the treasures were tallied has been turned into a museum. We enjoyed exploring this crazy little end-of-the-road frontier town. Brightly painted old US school busses make the 45 minute trip to Colon every hour and we were surprised to see Panamanian families enjoying a little holiday on the long weekend. Obviously they had taken the bus from Colon or Panama City and were enjoying looking around. We didn’t see a single gringo, but have heard there are a few yachties who have moved ashore here.

We anchored off Fortress San Fernando opposite the town, hiking up for some great views before sunset.

With over 50 miles to the first anchorage in the San Blas Islands, we raised anchor in the early morning light and were pleased with a 1.5 – 2 kt following current that speeded us on way. Our

Approaching sailing canoe

intended anchorage has a very challenging and narrow anchorage with little chart detail available, so we were pleased to arrive in good light. Tilly Whim, a yacht from the Virgin Islands had given us a hand-drawn sketch and recommended the anchorage when we met them at Pedro Miguel Boat Club in 2000. Amanda had made a special friend of Adelia, a woman who lived on nearby Chichime Island, and was hoping to see her again.

Soon after we anchored cayukos, or sailing dugout canoes headed our way. The first was a young family who had seven months earlier moved to a totally new island astern of us that they had started building. Julio explained that they were tired of the busy village life and just started digging up coral and sand by hand and piling it up. They had two thatch huts built on coral and sand island and he said in six years they would have a nice island, complete with coconut palms

Another family is always assigned by the sayla (village chief) to live for six months on Yansadur, an island of

Kuna’s selling molas and beads

a couple acres that is the closest to the anchorage. They also visited unloading dozens of colorful molas from five gallon plastic pails. We all bought several molas from each of the two families, as we were anchored in their waters, and accepted their invitations to visit.

On Monday it REALLY rained, so we focused on navigation, diesel engine maintenance and I worked on repairing a selector valve on the watermaker plus a leak in the hot water tank.

Tuesday we covered marine weather, Amanda and I both went up the mast (separately) and Amanda managed to free the sticking main halyard sheave whose bushing has become worn, then we raised anchor, stopping briefly at Chichime to find that Adelia no longer lives there. We also anchored briefly off Banedub island to visit Justino Galindo, a clever guy who kept sailing over in his

Baking Kuna bread

very nifty sailing canoe to visit and practice speaking English. Justino asked for any English newspapers of magazines and we wished we had an extra Spanish-English dictionary as he hopes to become a guide for yachties. He and his cousin share the small island where his cousin has a tiny store and bakes hot “kuna bread” every hour, all day! We didn’t really believe this until we saw his propane stove in operation producing rolls. We bought 30, fresh out of the oven although they didn’t all make it back to the boat.

Our evening anchorage was at Gaigar, a mangrove-protected bay (also shown us by Tilly Whim) not too far from Mormake Tupo, an island we have brought school supplies to on our previous visits. Being surrounded by tropical rainforest jungle on two sides, hearing howler monkeys and tropical birds and watching a new moon rise over the water was incredible.


Tues. May 31: We slowly approached Mormake Tupa with two people forward on lookout for the reefs and scattered shoals surrounding the island. Seeing the island was to be transported to another time, another world. Thatch huts ringed the shoreline, each hut seemingly an extension of the

The Restepo family compound

next. From the middle of the island palm and banana trees sprouted. Life abounded from these Kuna shores – children laughing and playing, people coming in anticipation to the water’s edge and dugout canoes busily sailing to and from the island.

We anchored off the island in front to the Restrepo family compound where John and Amanda had previously been given an introduction (and gifts to take) to this family by Tom and Maureen on Tilly Whim. This was their third visit and Venacio, the main English speaking person in the family and also a master mola maker, had earlier stopped by our first anchorage and welcomed us to revisit his family and island.

We tied the dinghy at the family compound coral wall. Two pigs in pens overhanging the water grunted and children smiled shyly. An elderly Kuna women detailed in Spanish what we saw; the bathroom hut perched over the water, the family house with laundry drying and a large dugout canoe in progress.

Venacio took us straight to the school where we delivered school supplies to the headmaster. The school was having a special fiesta with lots of races and competition in the main courtyard as celebration of an international “No Smoking” day. When the headmaster asked for something with the boat name and email address, he looked at the boat notecard that has a drawing of MT on it and suddenly remembered their previous visit. His big smile said it all, the supplies were much appreciated. He said school supplies of any kind (paper, blank lesson books, pens, pencils, construction paper, scissors, glue, etc) would always be a tremendous help and we promised to get the word out to other yachties, so if you are reading this and planning on sailing your own boat to the San Blas, please do your part. The anchorage off Venacio Restrepo’s house (next door to the school) is: 09 27.180 N, 078 51.200 W.

John and Ross chatting with
the headmaster

School teaching
instructing students

Next, we met the present sayla, or chief, and asked for permission to enter the village. The congresso, or village meeting house is always the largest thatch structure, and generally one or

Amanda giving glasses to the sayla

more of the chiefs stay there reclining in hammocks, often smoking pipes. Venacio introduced us individually to the sayla who was small, friendly and proudly 80 years old. Amanda presented the requisite small bags of rice and sugar, the traditional gifts, plus a magazine and John gave the $5 anchoring fee. I gave a gift of a Gas Café, Eat Here, Get Gas! T-shirt from my brothers’ restaurant-gas station in Colorado which also delighted the chief.

We were then free to visit the village, following Venacio, not just wandering around by ourselves. Venacio had told the women that there would be eight of us visiting and the women had hung molas on the outside bamboo walls of their houses. Nearly all of the women wore traditional Kuna dress, a colourful ensemble of mola blouse, printed wraps, wini beads, red head scarf and faces adorned with a black nose strip, gold nose ring and ruby cheeks. What a busy time! We wove our way through an intrigue maze of thatch, going from hut to hut to meet the women and study their legendary molas, beautiful appliqué designs of animals, insects, lore and patterns.

Kuna women in traditional dress

Traditional dress

Well behaved children huddled at the legs of their mothers and smiled, small dogs wandered about, little green parrots were paraded by their owners and smoke from their kitchen fires lazily drifted in the air. Amanda passed reading glasses out to several of the older women who 

Kuna women testing eyeglasses

Making a beaded leg wrap

were quick to try threading a needle to see which glasses strength worked best. Lore said one women nearly started crying, saying that her eyesight hadn’t allowed her to sew molas recently but now with glasses she could earn a living again.

Our last stop was Venacio’s family home where one of his sister’s was making a wini; a beaded leg or arm wrapping. His others sister quietly showed off their exquisite molas and Venacio’s 79 year old father was busy weaving an intricate basket. This is a family of artists!

After saying goodbye, we motored two miles away to the island of Rio Sidra to find the clinic. On the way through the village, the man who was leading us took us by the very busy school, introducing us to the six teachers (for 290 children). When we said we were looking for the clinic so we could donate the reading glasses, nearly all of the teachers lit up, and they had a lot of fun trying to read with the different strengths of glasses before finding a pair that worked for them.

We did find a very tidy-looking clinic and donated the bulk of the glasses to Hector, who worked there. We have a big thanks to Skip Crilly, of our Leg 3 crew who purchased several hundred pairs of glasses from a couple of different close out wholesalers he found on the internet. Another special thanks goes to Lori Abrahams-Dana from Leg 2 who also gave a generous donation that enabled us to purchase school supplies.

While we had been at the clinic a 50′ funky wooden Columbian trading boat arrived, docked and we were invited aboard to shop. They had excellent onions, cabbage, potatoes, rice, flour and

Anchored off Rio Sidra

Teaches joking about their eyesight

cocaine for sale. This is how the Kunas shop, and the Columbians buy coconuts in return. It’s hard to understand how it could make sense for the Columbians to purchase unhusked coconuts, but until three years ago coconuts were the prime trading currency of the San Blas islands. Now the US dollar is the currency of choice.

Amanda picked up some good looking cabbage and onions and we found some more hot kuna bread, then set sail for Holandes Cays. We had an excellent broad reach, stopping so that everyone could practice our nifty new Lifesling rescue technique, before anchoring and jumping in for a swim.

That brings us up to date. It is now Thursday, June 01, 2006 and we have a very good forecast for our passage to the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. Commanders Weather, the NMG weatherfaxes from New Orleans and the GRIB files all are predicting moderate E and occasionally ESE trades of 10-20 knots, much mellower than the average NE 20-30 kt winds we experienced in 2000.

June 2, 2006, 1100 hrs., 10.33N, 075.58 W, Log: 101,122 miles, 40 mi N of Cartagena, Columbia
Baro: 1011.2, Motorsailing in 7 kt. W winds. Cabin: 85F, Cockpit Temp: 84F, overcast

We set sail from the San Blas yesterday noon with light winds and lumpy seas. Last night the winds filled in from the SW averaging 16-20, but with 1.5 – 3 kt following current, our speed over the ground reached 11 knots several times. Today the wind has swung around to the W, so we

Donating the eyeglasses to the clinic

just gybed and are now on a course to a waypoint 20 miles N. of Baranquilla, Columbia. We have no intention of stopping, but every mile we get of easting, now when broad reaching, means a better wind angle the rest of the passage which will be close-hauled against the current. Lynn set a waypoint this morning for the very southern tip of the Domincan Republic, and according to the GRIB files, we should be able to lay that course, at least for the first day or so.

Here’s our Leg 4 crew:

Ross Tunkey, 31 from Crested Butte, Colorado
I grew up in the tropics of South Florida and for years I have dreamed of voyaging by sailboat. I have daysailing and limited coastal cruising experience so far. I now live high in the Rocky Mountains, but the cruising dream is still with me. Mahina Expeditions offers the perfect opportunity to test my dream with offshore cruising reality, gain skills and discover how I want to pursue the dream further.

Michael Perello, 41
My boat will be called Insatiable Curiosity and that best encapsulates the voraciousness I’ve pursued in all aspects of life. The ability to not only sail, but live aboard a boat and circumnavigate the globe serves as both the method and means to my core pursuit. So I’ve come to learn from the best such things and will be aboard until we reach the Azores.

Peter Verstoep, 44
I live in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada with my wife Debbie and our two sons, age 6 & 8. We have sold our hotel business and I am taking this expedition as a starting point for our family circumnavigation. I wanted to learn all aspects of successful cruising as we will be buying a boat once I complete this expedition and I already have several lined up in Ft. Lauderdale to look at. It has given me the insight in what is needed in a boat, equipment and procedures we should abide by to explore the world with my family in safety.

Lynn Zeidler, 49
I’m from Calgary, Alberta and I grew up sailing, racing and teaching in dinghies. Seven years ago we started training in cruising boats 38-42′ in the BVI’s and West Coast’s Gulf Islands and San Juans. Together with my husband…

Stephen Dorsay, 50
We commissioned a new Outbound 44, New Latitudes, in 2005 and are now looking forward to more sailing on the West Coast in the next few years, followed by an offshore cruise, possibly to the South Pacific.

Lore Haack-Voersmann, 52
This is the third time I’ve joined Mahina Tiare. The first time was in 2001 when we sailed from Panama to Hilo, and last year in Alaska. The last 20 years I sailed on different ships from big square riggers to small sloops everywhere in the world. But now it becomes more and more my dream to do all this with my own little boat named Orion, a 12.2 meter Vilm II. I sometimes sail Orion with my four children and wonderful husband, Peter, and sometimes singlehanded. Next year I plan to sail from my homeport in Germany to Norway to meet Amanda and John.

Leg 4, Update 2

June 6, 2006, 1330 hrs., 17.34N, 068.14 W, Log: 101,721 miles, 95 miles WSW of Ponce, Puerto Rico Baro: 1008.8, Winds SE @ 21 kts, Seas 6′-10′, confused. Cabin: 88F, Cockpit Temp: 91F, Clear skies

An Unforgettable Passage to Windward

We left the San Blas Islands on Thursday, June 1st and were surprised with a 2-3 kt following west-setting current and light variable winds until Saturday noon when we were nearly to the Columbia-Venezuelan border. Our original plan was to sail or motorsail on a compass course of 25 degrees 20-30 miles off the Columbian coast to the vicinity of Cartagena, then set a course north toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But when we zoomed past Cartagena, we decided to continue gaining valuable easting on a course of 45 degrees for as long as possible. We motor sailed to nearly to the northernmost point of South America and the Venezuelan border until 15-17 kt easterlies made the going slow and wet so we decided to shut down the engine, unrolled the jib and set sail on 70 degrees for Ponce, Puerto Rico 230 miles away.

Instead of the average 20-30kt NE winds, we have had ESE to SE winds of 15-25, with only occasional gusts higher. The real bonus is that instead of making landfall south of Haiti, we are now 32 miles south of Mona Island, in the middle of the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and we still haven’t tacked or motor sailed yet! With 95 miles to go to the entrance of Ponce, Puerto Rico, we look forward; weather permitting to arriving tomorrow morning.

We are now picking up NOAA weather radio forecasts from Puerto Rico and they are calling for E 5-15kt winds tonight, so we will sail as far as we can, then probably motorsail close inshore along the coast until dawn.

Our Leg 4 crew signed up for heavy weather experience, and they have all done incredibly well. Aside from a quick spit early on, seasickness has not been a problem even though conditions have been very rough. For the first time in a long time, everyone on board is taking staying hydrated

Lore and Lynn shake a reef

seriously, so we don’t have any sleepyheads. When we call for a reef to be set or shaken out, we have more volunteers than we know what to do with. We have rarely had less than two reefs in, and several times, including now, have had three reefs in – not so much for the wind speed, but just to keep the boat speed down so MT doesn’t go careening off the top of a swell, only to crash into the trough seconds later.

June 15, 2006, 1130 hrs, 18.30 N, 064.22 W, Log: 102,051 miles, at anchor Prickly Pear Island, Virgin Gorda Sound, British Virgin Islands. Baro: 1016.0, Winds E @ 11kts, Cockpit Temp: 90F, Cabin Temp: 85F, Tradewind skies!

We held our one tack all the way from the Columbian coast to Mona Island, in Mona Passage, just off the SW tip of Puerto Rico. At 0200 we made our first and only tack to clear Punta Melones, and by 1120 hours we were tied up at the Ponce Yacht Club’s fuel dock waiting for US Customs. Customs was a breeze and we signed off Michael who succumbed to the call of business vs. sailing. Peter asked if he could invite his wife Debbie to fill the empty berth, which we agreed to.

Ponce Yacht Club has expanded their moorage and had a slip available for us. Peter rented a car

Arriving at Ponce Yacht Club

to drive across Puerto Rico to pick up Debbie at San Juan Airport and kindly took us for a serious provisioning run to Sam’s Club before taking crew on a tour of Ponce.

Since we were five days ahead of schedule we decided to break up the 135 mile passage to windward to St. Croix with a couple of stops. Our first overnight anchorage was off Salinas – but we didn’t go ashore as we set sail very early (0330) before the tradewinds started cranking on the 55 miles passage to Isla Vieques. Vieques has been a bombing range until three years ago,

The beachfront at Esperanza


but the US Navy left and now there are new parks on either end of the island. We found a protected anchorage and the lovely little town of Esperanza which we explored Saturday afternoon. There were lots of local families enjoying cooling off in the shallows at the beach and everyone was very friendly.

Sunday morning we got another early start so that we arrived at Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI by 1130. With most of the cruising boats headed out of the area for the start of hurricane season, we found plenty of dock space.

Our intrepid crew commandeered a taxi and circumnavigated the island, stopping to enjoy sunset. Our Volvo shaft seal which I had just replaced in March had started leaking a month ago, and by this time was passing a steady stream of water, no longer just a drip. Normally these simple and reliable seals last 40,000 miles, but this must have had a faulty lip seal. When I asked the marina manager if they could haul us part way out of the water for an hour, he said, “Let’s go now!” This was at 0730, and was not the answer I expected – what about laid back island time? Our crew scarffed down breakfast as we dropped the headsail and forestay and got MT into the Travelift bay. The lift wasn’t working properly, but eventually Washington, the operator got us three feet out of the water so I could change out the shaft seal. That went flawlessly and before long we had everything back together.

Ross discovered that Cruzan Rum, a company whose CEO was a long-time family friend was located on St. Croix, so he called his best friends dad in Miami and organized a VIP tour of the distillery.

We had been tracking an active tropical wave weather system for several days, and decided to make the 40 mile passage during the frontal passage. By the time we cleared St. Croix the wind

Arriving in BVI’s in 45 knots

was already gusting in the mid 20’s so we hoisted the main with two reefs, but before long we had a huge squall, more than 15 miles across bear down on us. With three reefs in the main and headsail and wind gusting into the mid-40’s, we had quite a challenging crossing. Just as we neared Norman Island another squall hit, also with gusts in the 40’s. We heard several Mayday’s on Channel 16 but once we were in the lee of Norman and Peter Islands the seas smoothed right out.

Little Harbor on Peter Island, just across from Road Town, Tortola was our destination. Winds gusted to 46 knots as we motorsailed the last few miles into Little Harbor where we found good protection. The williwaws caused the four boats already anchored in the bay to dance in every direction, so once we were anchored, Ross and Lynn swam a stern line ashore and we moored Med-style to a small tree. This worked very well and kept us out of the middle of the bay where charter boats merrily bump into each other in the night. We enjoyed some good snorkeling before a huge downpour passed by and thankfully washed all the salt off MT.

Yesterday we had a vigorous beat to windward to clear customs in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. The marina provided one hour free moorage for customs clearance, and we enjoyed looking around at the boatyard, shops and buying ice cream cones. Spanish Town looked a busy place, so we set sail north, arriving at Prickly Pear Island in Virgin Gorda Sound well before dark. This anchorage was Lynn and Steve’s suggestion, and proved perfect! Here we are, off a quiet, uninhabited island, well protected from the still-gusty winds, but out of the busy mooring fields off Bitter End Yacht Club, just a mile away.

This morning Amanda has been really focused on teaching rigging, with deck rig check, everyone going aloft to check the mast and rig, and rigging spares. Now she is teaching how to macramé pull lanyards on snap shackles. After lunch we are going to set sail to practice live, in-the-water Lifesling Rescue as Peter has volunteered to jump in the water. We would also like to explore Gorda Sound, and what better way is there than under sail!

Debbie takes to new heights

Peter overboard

Exploring Gorda Sound

Anchored at The Baths

Ready to Tack?

June 17, 2006, 0930 hrs, 18.26 N, 064.39 W, Log: 102,082 miles, at anchor in Brewer’s Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Baro: 1016.0, Winds E @ 11kts, Cockpit Temp: 90F, Cabin Temp: 85F, tropical wave approaching

We had a blast tacking around Gorda Sound as Amanda shot images of Mahina Tiare charging along. Dinner was ashore on Saba Rock, www.sabarock.com, a tiny man-made island and early yesterday morning we set sail for The Baths, a famous spot at the south end of Virgin Gorda. Here giant boulders abound on white sand beaches forming caves, amazing snorkeling and great hiking trails. Since we were only the second boat on the day moorings (anchoring is not allowed in order to protect the coral) we had the place to ourselves. Nowhere have we seen such an amazing place! At the end of the hike we found a very attractive restaurant with an absolute killer view called Top of the Baths.

Amanda volunteered for more photo duty in the dinghy and we spent more than an hour, tacking back and forth in front of the incredible backdrop of The Baths before setting sail for Tortola, passing Beef Island, going through some narrow channels (all under sail!) and stopping for a great snorkel off Monkey Point.

When we read that bareboat charter boats aren’t allowed in Brewer’s Bay, and that there was minimal development ashore (just Nicole’s Beach Bar which was closed), we were hooked! We found an incredible bay, a safe anchorage with a sandy bottom and all enjoyed a great sunset walk on the beach in the calm evening. The only boat in the bay is a cruising tri with a couple families onboard. What a change from anchorages packed with of charter boats!

This morning Amanda is covering sail making and repair, and this afternoon we are going to set sail for Jost Van Dyke, where our crew have read about several “must see” places in the new, first-class cruising guide, Exploring the Virgin Islands by Mark Bunzel and Joe Russell at www.FineEdge.com.

June 18, 2006, 2200 hrs, 18.25 N, 064.37 W, Log: 102,105 miles, at Village Cay Marina, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Baro: 1016.0, Winds E @ 11kts, Cockpit Temp: 80F, Cabin Temp: 85F, tropical wave passing with occasional rain storms.

We’re HERE! Yes, we just completed a very successful Leg 4, Panama to Tortola and a few hours ago we tied up in the same tidy marina, Village Cay, that we used in 2000.

We had a rip-snorter of a sail from Brewer’s Bay, Tortola across to Sandy Cay (too windy and

Lore, Ross and Amanda on the dance floor

exposed to stop for lunch), Little Harbor (a nice lunch stop) and then Great Harbor where we spent the night at anchor.

It didn’t take our Leg 4 crew long to decide whether or not to have dinner ashore or aboard, once they hit the beach and met Foxy Callwood. A legend of the Caribbean, Foxy has the craziest beach bar and lucky for us, Satuday was barbecue night! We each were given two plates, one for cold stuff, one for hot, and headed to the serving line. After dinner all of our crew hit the dance floor (sand) and enjoyed dancing until the wee hours. This morning our crews new knowledge was tested with the rigging and sails test, followed by everyone successfully completing the challenging double braid eye splice under Amanda’s helpful eye.

Amanda said we had to stop at Soper’s Hole to check out all of the brightly-painted small shops, so we did, before slipping the mooring and heading for Road Town.

M.T. looking snappy at Soper’s Hole

Amanda charms the successful eye splicers – Debbie, Peter, Lore, Ross, Lynn and Stephen

This next week will be a busy one as we will aim for four coats of varnish and a serious tidy-up of MT but our Leg 4 crew are leaving us as friends and were all happy that we have completed a successful expedition. This evening at dinner our crew were sad the expedition was at an end but all are energized with new direction for continued cruising adventures. Peter and Debbie are on their way to Fort Lauderdale and plan to purchase a boat in the next five days, Lore will continue her endeavors of single handed sailing aboard little Orion in the Balitc, Lynn and Steven thank us for enlighten them on how to sail and maintain their new Outbound 44 and Ross is now down to a short list of cruising boats suitable for his plans.

Leg 4 – 2006 Panama to Tortola2021-05-04T01:52:28+00:00

Leg 6 – 2006 Azores to Ireland

Leg 6, Update 1

After our Leg 5 crew headed home, we worked like crazy on MT for a few days, preparing for our little getaway holiday; two nights at a small B & B owned by a lovely Swiss/French couple, at the far end of Pico Island. I wanted to rent a car so we could explore the mountain

Amanda redesigning Mahina’s wall painting

lakes as well as the bays and villages, but I gave into Amanda’s idea of cycling. So 7:30 Sunday morning we were on the ferry with our little folding Dahon Helios bikes for the four mile crossing to the town of Madalena.

When we stopped for a drink at a lookout in the first village past Madalena, the old men who were chatting by the side of the road insisted on showing us their immaculate and ornate church. Every time Amanda stopped to admire something, a cow, a vineyard, a field of corn, salted fish drying in the sun, locals would show up and want to visit, no matter that we didn’t speak much Portuguese and that many of them spoke little English. Once when Amanda was taking a picture of a corn field, a lovely couple appeared and insisted on giving her ears of corn. Everyone was eager chat and proud of their small villages, homes and farms.

John entering the village of Nesquim

Farmer milking his cow

Friendly locals

On our third day we found a two-story house with two additional outbuildings above a cove for sale for $40,000 US! It was tempting, especially when we met a guy down the street who had just opened a boat building museum in his families’ wooden boat yard after returning from 38 years of working for Alden Yachts in Rhode Island. I bought a lovely half-model of a whaleboat from him.

House for Sale

Azorean whaling boat

I’ve long been fascinated with the graceful Azores whaleboats and on the smaller islands we learned of an intense rivalry of racing these classic boats under sail. This week they are having “Sea Week” in Horta, and the nearby islands are all sending multiple boats and crews for the races. They are using the same motorized launches that used to tow the boats out to the whaling grounds and then tow the whales back to shore to tow the boats to the races. Many of the villages have turned the boathouses into museums and in several cases the buildings that were used for processing the whales as recently as 1984 are now museums and bases for a growing whale watching industry. With more sperm whales here than anywhere in the world, plus tons of dolphins, you can’t go a day in these waters without seeing whales and dolphins.

We had so much fun circumnavigating Pico in three days (120km) that when our neighbors on the boat next to us (Pluto from St. Barths) invited us to join them for a day trip to Sao Jorge, another island, we tossed our bikes on the ferry and cycled off to explore. Each island (we’ve visited five out of seven) has a totally different feel, different agriculture and architecture and often settled by people from

Approaching Ouvidor anchorage

different countries. Many new retirement and summer homes have recently been built by Azoreans who immigrated to the US (Boston or central valley of California) and are now returning after successful careers. The islands have a very prosperous feeling.

Monday, July 31st our Leg 6 crew joined us at noon, and we set an all-time record by being underway and out of the marina by 12:13! Our anchorage for the night was in Bay Almoxarife, a few miles around the corner from Horta, but out of town. We all enjoyed a swim in the surprisingly warm, crystal clear water midway through our safety orientation.

After completing our orientation Tuesday morning we had a great downwind sail 33 miles to Ouvidor, on Sao Jorge Island. I first read of Ouvidor in the small, out-of-print Azores Cruising Guide published by Jimmy Cornell in 1993. He said this was the only anchorage on the rugged and isolated, but leeward north coast of the island. After reading his description and notes in a recent email, I think he only visited by taxi. The bay is not shown on any charts, but Amanda and I had checked it out when on our day trip to the island the week before.

I’m always looking for new and unusual places to anchor, and when we sailed into the tiny bay, I wasn’t sure it would work out. The

Mahina at anchor at Ouvidor

afternoon onshore breeze touching 15 knots, making it a lee shore and the large lava rocks looked menacing with breaking swells. Allison, a keen snorkeler and strong swimmer volunteered to dive in and check out the bottom and was off in a flash. She reported a rocky bottom with very few sandy patches. Soon after dropping the main anchor, we took a stern anchor shoreward, then snorkeled down and wedged both anchors as securely as possible between large rocks.

After a quick tidy-up, I landed our adventuresome crew on the small boat landing and they went off to explore the small and picturesque village perched at the base of the steep cliffs. We all enjoyed an excellent and very reasonable fresh fish dinner ashore at O Amilcar restaurant. Eva, the waitress and cook, explained that she had come from Madeira to work in the restaurant and after a year had returned to her family in Madeira. Amilcar, the restaurant owner, missed her so much he traveled to Madeira to meet her family and ask her parents for

Eva serves us an after dinner drink

permission to marry their daughter. They have been married six months, are obviously in love, and really enjoy what they do. Eva said we were the first yacht anyone in the village could ever remember visit and they hope more boats will follow. Amilcar has put down a mooring for whale watching boats that frequently bring their clients for lunch or dinner.

We took turns standing one hour anchor watches that night, but the anchors didn’t drag and we set sail before breakfast on Wednesday for Terceira Island, 38 miles away. Friends on Acquest and Spray Venture also sailing to Ireland and England were waiting for us to arrive and share weather forecasts with them.

We made landfall at the historic city of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira. This stunning historic city was founded in 1474 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The new 260 slip marina was hosting 47 sailboats that were competing in a race from Lisbon to Horta with stops

Mahina moored in Angra

in Ponta Delgada and Angra and was totally packed. We thought we would just scope it out and then anchor outside, but the harbormaster insisted that they never turned anyone away and shifted a couple boats around to create a slip for us for the night.

The new marina is amazing. The new modern glass-fronted building housing restaurants, showers, internet, jacuzzi and laundry looked like something out of a five star hotel. When I asked if the marina was self-supporting, the harbormaster laughed and showed me the price sheet – moorage for MT cost us 13.27 euros (about $16US). He explained that the marina was owned by the Camara, or town council, and that the business people said, “Let’s build a marina that is the nicest one around and will attract lots of sailors to visit our town!” Not content with just a marina, they are nearing completion of a six million euro boatyard to complement their new 50 ton Travelift, services offered hope to include a sail loft, rigger plus fiberglass, diesel and electronics repair, and dry storage. Details on: www.aptg.pt.

When I mentioned that we had planned to leave MT for the winter of ’07 at Ponta Delgada, www.apsm.pt/marina, he explained why Angra’s

Angra Harbor

facility was better, and convinced me! I figured it out – in the 1700’s and 1800’s the different villages and towns used to compete to see who could build the biggest and most ornate Catholic churches. There are tons of them, even in tiny little villages. Now marinas are the showcase, especially because the towns can apply for matching EC funds for construction. Horta just expanded by 120 berths, Ponta Delgada is doing a major expansion, Praia do Vittoria just opened a new marina and boatyard and even Pico is building a new breakwater for a marina. The beneficiaries are adventuresome cruisers as well as the restaurants and businesses.

After exploring town Sam found a nice seafood café above the harbor where most of us enjoyed an excellent dinner. We generally split the bill between everyone and including drinks, dinner and desert we averaged $10 US per person per dinner for top notch seafood.

Madeline and Chris have a great hiking/alternative travel tour book and discovered an amazing historic tangerine farm turned into a museum/guest house/organic restaurant, www.quintadomartelo.com, run by a young local man. We can’t wait to check it out next year!

Thursday morning we hiked and explored this beautiful and historic city, crew caught up on internet and I checked out the unfinished boatyard where we now hope to leave MT next November. We cleared out for Kinsale, Ireland, but planned to stop on the other side of the island at the new marina at Praia do Vittoria long enough to photograph the marina and boatyard and buy a final round of ice cream cones. We

Madeline questions the weather

found a totally packed small marina with a strong onshore wind. Although the marina manager and friends on a Valiant 42 said we could raft outside of them, it didn’t look comfortable or safe, so we waved goodbye and set sail for miles for Ireland, 1150 miles away.

We’ve had brilliant sunny weather and winds consistently around 10 knots until this afternoon when it dropped to 6-7 knots, so we dropped the whisker pole, partially furled the headsail, sheeted in the main and are making tracks across the center of the high pressure cell that is dominating the area. Every day we have seen sperm whales, sometimes just a few boat lengths away, and three times we have been surrounded by leaping dolphins. But no fish.

We are now receiving excellent quality weatherfax charts many times a day from Northwood, near London, and between those charts and the excellent GRIB files (thank you Jim Corenman!) it looks like we should pick up some very welcome fresh (15-25) kt NW winds in a day or two that should give us a good ride into Ireland.

We are nearly caught up on our busy teaching schedule, and this crew are quick learners, every one of them having aced our weather test.

Jeremy, Allison, Madeline, Chris, Sam and Richard

Here they are:

Allison McGhee, 27 is a high school Spanish teacher in Louisville, Kentucky who just purchased a Harpoon 4.6 sloop on which she looks forward to introducing her 3.5 year old son to sailing. She hopes to spend next year in Argentina on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange, and after that, who knows? Maybe pharmacy school in Florida to be closer to the water, followed by a job in Puerto Rico where she and her son can sail every day, then perhaps take off and sail around to world!

Madeline Hutcheson, 44 grew up sailing on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and joins us with the goal of building confidence, honing skills and gaining more blue water experience. She and long time friend Chris Knapp sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii aboard Alaska Eagle in 2002. Friends since college, they both share a love of sailing and travel. When not on the high seas or scheming her next adventure, Madeline works as a free lance writer in Richmond, Virginia.

Chris Knapp, 43 of Houston, Texas has had a lifelong interest in sailing, particularly passage making. “I make these trips for the confidence they build and what they teach about self-sufficiency and teamwork.” Chris is a master swimmer and involved with investments.

Jeremy Westerman, 38 is originally from England’s Lake District, but nine years ago was recruited to work in the San Francisco Bay area software industry. He currently sails frequently on SF Bay by chartering and racing with Modern Sailing Academy and Spinnaker Sailing in Redwood City with the goal of combining extended cruising with living and working in Australia and NZ in the next five years.

Richard Baker, 54 joins us from Johannesburg, South Africa where he has sailed dinghies since childhood and always dreamt of bluewater and coastal sailing. He joins us to gain first hand experience of ocean sailing and to see whether his dream of acquiring an ocean going yacht is realistic. His wife Elaine will be joining him in Ireland for some exploring before he rejoins MT for Legs 7 & 8.

Sam Parker has the record! This is his ninth expedition aboard Mahina Tiare. He says his goal is to continue spending his kid’s inheritance, but he doesn’t have any kids!

His wife Sandy joins Sam in Ireland for some traveling and golf after the expedition.

August 7, 2006, 1530 hrs, 47.06 N, 21.48 W, Log: 105,150 miles, crossing the North Atlantic High Pressure
Beam reaching under full sail @ 6.3 with winds NW @ 13 kts
Baro: 1027, Cabin Temp: 76F

Our winds have held surprisingly constant, slowly coming around from S to SW and now to NW. Seas are calm and we are scooting along nicely with just about 550 miles to Baltimore, the first possible customs Port of Entry after Fastnet Rock.

We are now caught up on our teaching schedule and planning our halfway party for dinner time tonight.

Leg 6, Update 2

August 10, 2006, 2210 hrs, 47.06 N, 21.48 W, Log: 105,150 miles
Beam reaching under full sail @ 6.3 with winds NW @ 13 kts Baro: 1023, Cabin Temp: 71F

Surfing Toward Fastnet Rock!

Today has been an unforgettable day. After a couple days of mostly motorsailing through the ridge of the high pressure winds increased very early this morning and started backing. Instead of ghosting along close-hauled in a sloppy swell, we have been surfing along with 20-24 knots abaft the beam. We could have reefed long ago, but when I asked if anyone wanted to slow down, NO WAY! was this crew’s response.

We had a fabulous sunset, then not long after a deep red full moon rose and is now sparkling across the seas. Just a few minutes ago Madeline said she spotted a ship bearing 11 o’clock on the radar, and before long the ship started to get broader and broader. It turns out that its Mizen Head, Ireland. We’re also only 26 miles to famous Fastnet Rock lighthouse and the light should be visible anytime now, as it’s rated for 27 miles visibility.

Highlights of the past few days have been having our crew review weatherfax charts and GRIB weather files each morning, then present a weather briefing for Spray Venture of Victoria, a 40′ steel sloop we met in Horta. As Steve and Marilyn have no way of receiving weather

Fish and carpaccio

information, they are most appreciative, and this provides excellent weather training for our expedition members. Another high point was Sam catching our first and only fish of this passage, an excellent albacore tuna. Amanda fixed it three ways: sashimi with wasabi and soy, carpaccio (Italian style raw fish with capers and olive oil) and seared with Cajun spice. What a treat!

This morning Allison asked if we could double up on classes today so crew can have all day tomorrow to explore Kinsale, so we set a record, thoroughly covering cruising medicine, electrical power systems, refrigeration, watermakers, boat maintenance and the test for Storm Tactics.

August 11, 2006, 2345, 51.42N, 8.31 W, Log: 105,720
Tied up at Kinsale Yacht Club, County Cork, Ireland

Our winds increased last night until they were hitting 27 knots, so with full sails set Mahina surfed on like a freight train, frequently surging to nearly nine knots. We decided to reef just before dark to make steering a little easier.

What perfect conditions we had for landfall, nearly full moon, following wind and seas and minimal shipping. In the early morning hours we saw Fastnet Rock light followed by a whole string of coastal lights. At first light we could see the smooth, undulating coastline, as well as a few fishing boats. The favorable winds and current had us arriving at Kinsale Yacht Club much earlier than expected, the 1160 mile passage taking us a little over 7.5 days.

Richard coaches Jeremy on sewing nuances

Madeline takes a sun sight

Our first job when arriving in a new country is clearing customs and immigration. Phil, the Kinsale Harbourmaster explained that there isn’t a customs or immigration office, and since Kinsale is listed as a Port of Entry, he would fax a list of names and passport numbers to customs in Cork, and “If they want to see you, they will come find you!” Definitely one of the most laid back check-in’s we’ve experienced

Kinsale marina

anywhere. Our #2 priority was to find which pubs would have traditional Irish music. After a great Indian dinner ashore, we checked out every place we could. The harbourmaster had recommended The Spaniard, a very old Irish pub.

Jeremy and Amanda led the way out of town, and what we found was what I always imagined. A traditional ancient pub with low beamed ceilings, small drinking sections and lots of interesting stuff scattered about on walls, shelves and ledges. We found happy and polite local people, no tourists at all, and big NO SMOKING signs, following the new law in Ireland. Three guys were seriously making music with accordion, guitar and a lovely voice. They sang sea chanteys and ballads while lots of the patrons sang along on the choruses. Jeremy got his Murphy’s stout, a beer so dark, thick and creamy that he nearly had to scrape it out of the mug. What a delightful evening! On the way back to the harbour we sampled the music in several more pubs in town and were surprised to find the streets filled with people visiting and walking around at 11:30 at night.

Musicians at the Spaniard

Jeremy and Murphy’s

Saturday morning we all went exploring in different directions to castles, forts, town and along the waterfront before setting sail. We spent quite a few hours practicing Lifesling overboard rescue and reefing in winds gusting to 23 knots before anchoring in the late afternoon in Oysterhaven, a quiet and protected bay just four miles east of Kinsale entrance.

Crew practice reefing

While anchoring we noticed four people fishing and drifting with the wind from a classic open yawlboat named River Dance. A couple hours later they tacked back upwind to us, luffed up and asked us if we would like some mackerel, saying they had caught “too many”. It was a lovely local family with two teenage boys who had just spent a Saturday afternoon fishing and sailing. They didn’t want anything for the fish, and before we could invite them aboard they had hoisted sail zoomed across the bay. Amanda fixed it the way they had suggested, with a little olive oil in the fry pan, and baked a yummy apple and berry cobbler before surprising us with ice cream, something we don’t normally

River Dance passing mackerel

have freezer space for.

August 13, 2006, 2210, 51.48N, 8.27 W, Log: 105,747
Tied up at Royal Cork Yacht Club, Crosshaven

Right after breakfast this morning Amanda got everyone exercised by sending all six expedition members up the mast for a rig inspection using our nifty new Spinlock climbing harness followed by winch servicing. By 1130 we were underway and the gusty 20-25 knot winds provided a realistic background for deploying warps followed by launching our Galerider drogue. We had a beautiful 15 mile sail along the coast from Oysterhaven to Cork with lots of wind off the land but flat seas, followed by some great short-tacking practice up to Cork harbor entrance.

Chris going aloft

Allison preparing to tow a warp

Madeline shakles on the Galerider

The friendly RCYC has plenty of visitor dock space available at fairly reasonable charges (for Europe) of 204 euros per week. After giving MT and ourselves a thorough cleaning we had a fun last crew dinner at a new trendy restaurant in the village and now this eager-to-learn crew are watching our Rescue South Pacific video to study more about storm tactics.

Crosshaven and Owen River

Crosshaven Village

Amanda and I are looking forward to catching up on a few boat chores this week, followed by some cycling and hopefully finding some live traditional Irish music.

Leg 6 – 2006 Azores to Ireland2021-05-04T01:56:38+00:00
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