September 6, 2019, 0600 hrs, 16.37 S, 175.38, W, Log: 226,786 miles
Baro: 1011.9, Cabin Temp: 75 F, Cockpit: 76F, Sea Water: 82 F
Broad reaching at 7 kts in 16 kt SSE winds with moderate seas
Rene, Ann, Carly, Helen, Jerry and Dan
We love Fiji, so our time off between expeditions here is something we look forward to all year. Amanda’s parents, Lesley and Robert Swan flew in from NZ (between skiing sojourns) to join us aboard for a week and we all decided the best place to chill was at Musket Cove on Malololailai Island where we got married on the beach 22 years ago. With a turn in the weather we spent the last two nights of their visit at Denarau Marina, not far from the airport. Amanda and Lesley instantly headed into Nadi for tropical fabric shopping and I tagged along to replenish our fishing gear and medical kit. As a final hoorah we all attended an evening performance by VOU dance company and we were all extremely impressed with their dynamic story-telling of a Fijian legend through dance, drumming and songs.
Upon Lesley and Robert’s return to the ski slopes we sailed back to Musket Cove and proceeded to catch up on boat projects. Amanda’s fish hook wound was thankfully slowly healing and in an effort to keep her foot rested and out of the water she took up playing her ukelele with the Musket Cove musicians. Meanwhile I did my first-ever dive with a dive operator, and first scuba dive in many years.
Four days prior to the Leg 5 expedition start we returned to Vuda Marina to provision and prepare for our crew who joined us Wednesday, as a series of moisture-laden fronts brought gusty westerly winds (headwinds for our destination of Vanuatu) and buckets of much needed rain for this dry, leeward side of Fiji.
For the first time in years we delayed our departure by a day, although we kept busy with orientation, charting and plotting and then rounded out studies with a delightful beachside dinner at First Landing Resort, adjacent to Vuda Marina.
Rig top view of Vuda Marina entrance and The Boatshed Restaurant and Bar
Jazz and Shamron, the charming and always cheerful marina office staff, have not only all the blank Fiji customs and immigration forms on hand, they also have all inward forms for Vanuatu! I was shocked to see both customs and immigration officers hard at work in the marina café when I arrived 15 minutes earlier than the 1000 appointment Shamron had made the previous day.
When I expressed surprise at their being there early, Shamron replied, “I told them 8am instead of 10, and they were here by 9:30. This is Fiji time! If we’re having a party, we tell everyone 5pm, and they start showing up at 7!”
As is there tradition, the boatyard and marina staff showed up with guitars and ukuleles to sing Isa Lei, the Fijian farewell song before they released our bow and stern lines and we set off at 1130. Yeah, the frontal passage had occurred, the skies were cloudless, but the wind was still fresh and from the SSW so we tucked two reefs in the main and only unfurled 70% of the genoa. Dan, our detail-oriented navigator had set waypoints that allowed us to skirt multiple unmarked reefs on either side of our course before getting to our “exit gate”, a narrow passage between Eori and Navadra islands. We reached this point in good light at 1630 and were surprised to see two yachts anchored in the gorgeous, protected anchorage between the two small, uninhabited islets of Navadra and Vanua Levu. That’s another thing we love about Fiji – dozens and dozens of incredibly perfect anchorages like this scattered amongst 330 islands.
Once clear of the reefs and protected waters the seas became a bit choppy and several of our crew dealt with seasickness – which now all but one has managed to get free of.
Our destination is Tikopia, one of the very remote Polynesian outlier islands where Polynesian voyager/settlers migrating eastward in their 70’ catamarans stopped and settled in Melanesia. Last year we visited Rotuma, another Polynesian outlier, 300 miles north, but part of Fiji. Their physical appearance, language, culture, dance and DNA is markedly different to their Melanesian neighbors being more closely associated with Samoa and Tonga.
Tikopia’s geographic isolation, smallness and lack of resources pretty much guarantees that it receives very few visitors. We’ve known of only two yachts that have anchored here, although there have been more. Jared Diamond brought the island to light in his excellent book, Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed when he wrote of the unique methods of population control.
We’re also keen to explore Vanuatu’s remote Banks Island group, which only recently gained a port of entry in the village of Sola on Vanua Lava island. There’s very scant information for cruisers written about these islands, but our New Caledonia-based friends Richard and Frederique Cheshire, have produced an amazing digital cruising guide with excellent satellite images and anchoring and cultural information. www.rocket-guide-vanuatu.com
TIKOPIA – HERE WE COME!
September 9, 2019, 0630 hrs, 12.24 S, 169.08, W, Log: 227,223 miles
Baro: 1008.6, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 81F, Sea Water: 84.2 F
Running at 7 kts in 18 kt ESE under full main and 50% flat-sheeted genoa
Ann recently yelled LAND HO as she spotted Tikopia’s dramatic cone-shaped 387-meter volcanic peak. We’ve had remarkably fine and steady sailing conditions – not a drop of rain or sign of squalls. With winds mostly directly astern, we’ve had to gybe a few times and for a day we rocketed along, wing-and-wing, surfing directly downwind and exactly on course. The steady winds (28 kts was our highest recorded gust) have allowed us to accomplish our teaching modules and we’re on schedule, with Marine Weather, Anchoring, Position plotting, Reefing and survey of Abandon Ship packs completed.
Dan switches out at the helming with Carly
With numerous gybes along with poling out the headsail kept us busy.
For close to 24 hours two 30-meter Chinese long-line fishing boats shadowed us on either side visible only on AIS, and yesterday when they started calling each other on Ch 16, Helen, a native of Taiwan, answered them in Mandarin, totally surprising them.
Helen’s conversation with the fishing boats was entertaining
Here’s Ann’s account of her first few days aboard.
Our first lesson in passage making occurred at Vuda Marina in Fiji as our departure was delayed by a day while we waited for a favorable wind direction. Thursday morning the marina staff sang us Fiji’s traditional farewell song, “Isa Lei” as we backed out of our tight Med-mooring space under sunny tropical skies.
Leaving the shelter of the marina, the aqua waters of the shoreline quickly changed to deep ocean blue. Standing on the mast pulpit for a better view into the water as we threaded our way through the just-submerged reefs and small islands in choppy seas was exhilarating.
Unfortunately, the choppy seas also meant that three of our crew became suddenly and violently seasick. Amanda and John were quick to respond with escalating medical treatment for the stricken crew and everyone recovered within a couple of days as we settled into the rhythm of life at sea.
We’d been assigned a rotating schedule of two-hour watches in pairs. Initially, my lack of steering skills had the boat swinging wildly down the waves, but with patient guidance, I was eventually able to keep the compass needle balanced momentarily on our desired heading and to react quickly when it danced off on the next wind gust or wave.
This was a 24 hour per day educational experience as Amanda and John guided us through reefing, sail trim and setting the pole for wing-on-wing downwind surfing in the rolling waves. Life below was like living on a roller coaster. We lurched from handhold to handhold like drunken sailors as we made our way fore and aft. Climbing into my top bunk was an acrobatic feat, which generally ended in an ungainly belly flop.
On the third night, Amanda’s keen eyes spotted a glow on the horizon, and two ships appeared on our AIS screens. We were never close enough to see the ships, but after hearing them chattering on Ch 16, Helen, who speaks Mandarin had a long chat with them, learning they were Chinese vessels and had been fishing in the area for over two months.
Late yesterday afternoon we covered Polynesian and Landfall Navigation, reviewing the entry in the latest Admiralty Sailing Directions, Pacific Islands, Vol. 2, the latest chart of Tikopia, BA #17, Google Earth images I printed off while we still had internet in Fiji, plus the images and blog entries from our former seminar grads Leslie and Phillips 2012 visit on SV Carina. We discussed village protocol; staying lower than the chief, listening more than talking, ladies wearing a sarong, and our policy of no cameras the first few moments ashore and asking before taking a photo.
Class ran right up until dinner (a very tasty Thai shrimp curry on brown and wild rice) and then instead of catching up on sleep before night watches, the entire crew hung out in the cockpit with Dan teaching another knot-of-the-day and everyone telling stories and laughing long after I hit the sack at 2030.
TIKOPIA – WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ISLAND!
September 11, 2019, 01000 hrs, 13.20 S, 168.02, W, Log: 227,322 miles
Baro: 1011.5, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 83F, Sea Water: 83.7 F
Beam reaching at 7 kts in 15 kt SE with single-reefed main and two reefs in genoa with moonlit seas and the Southern Cross overhead
Our remarkably fine sailing conditions held for a post-breakfast arrival at Tikopia’s Ringdove Anchorage; a remarkably protected bight, well-sheltered from prevailing SE trades, but likely untenable with winds from NE through SW. As Amanda’s wound was still keeping her out of the water, Dan, a very keen and capable master’s swimmer and scuba diver took up the important role of bottom surveyor, finding us a fairly large area clear from the giant coral heads which reached the surface. We anchored in 60’, all sand at 12 17.604 S, 168 49.145 E and had the RIB launched and rigged in record time.
Ann is all smiles as we approach Tikopia
Normally at a traditional village Amanda and I go ashore first to ask for permission to anchor and visit but an impending and freshening wind shift to SSE meant that this would likely be to a two-day, one-night stop. In order to maximize time ashore I decided we’ll all head ashore and it took two trips to ferry crew as I had to thread through shallow channels in the extensive coral banks to the sandy beach where dozens of very excited small children eagerly awaited our arrival and enthusiastically helped lift and carry the dinghy up the beach, clear of the rising tide.
We’d read that Carina’s dinghy had been covered in sand by playful children so I asked one of the ladies who came by to greet us if she could ask the kids to not play in the dinghy which she did, and the kids all immediately stepped back. Upon asking directions to the chief we were instantly led along the beach as multiple very sweet shy kids delighted in holding our hands to show us the way.
We were distracted when a small sailing canoe appeared on the outer reef and everyone explained it was being sailed by Jessie, the chief’s son. We waited until the canoe landed and under the guidance of Jessie we continued on to the Chief’s house.
Jessie sails across the reef to the beach
Greeting Jessie and showing Corina’s pictures
Jessie explained them much-beloved chief Edward, whom we’d read about in Leslie and Phillip’s blog and when Googling Tikopia, had passed away two years prior and that next-in-line son Chief John was away at the Solomon Island capital, Honiara for medical treatment. At a large thatched house where we were welcomed inside by we were greeted by acting chief Danstan who apologized that chief John could not meet us. Danstan warmly welcomed us into his large thatched house and after accepting our gifts of rice, cooking oil and popcorn he introduced his wife Nina and young son. Danstan confirmed that Tikopia is still divided into four villages, each with a chief, who are numbered in order of ranking.
We were offered drinking coconuts, taken from the adjacent trees by small boys, and Danstan asked how long we could stay. We were only the second yacht in a year to visit and it had been several months since the last visit of the government supply boat although it was due to arrive once the weather looked a little more settled. He eagerly gave us the visiting yacht log started 15 years ago with chief #2 Edward in which we noted visits by several friends and a few impressive mega yachts.
Chief Danstan extracting coconut meat for us to eat
When we mentioned that we had supplies for the clinic and school, Danstan said his son would show us the way. Amanda asked about visiting the villages on the south side of the islands south side and the other, bordering the substantial volcanic crater lake. Danstan was very clear that the following day would be the best time to visit, mentioning they would then be having a small occasion marking processing turmeric. Preparations were underway for a traditional dance on Thursday and turmeric is used for body painting.
We stopped by the school which had finished for the day and then met with the island’s only nurse, Jenny Kapei, from Ontong Java (another Polynesian Outlier island to the north). She’d been told we were looking for her so she arrived at the clinic (in her uniform) to meet us. Jenny stated she’d welcome our supplies and upon asking if there was anything she specifically required she said she’d write a list. When asked Jenny said there was little sickness on the island due to the reliance on plentiful root crops and fruit and we saw no obesity that seems to plague most South Pacific Islands.
Exploring team photo at the school
Jenny writes down her name for us
We introduced ourselves to everyone we passed, who without exception were warm and welcoming. Roxy, who lived near the dinghy landing beach asked if we had any carving tools or hacksaw blades to trade and when I said I could bring him a hacksaw blade the following day he said he’d have bananas and papaya for us.
Women, carrying cooking wood and food, shyly pass us by on their way home from their gardens in the bush.
Once back aboard we all jumped in the crystal-clear 83F water where visibility exceeded 80’ and the adjacent coral reef is vivid and healthy. Before lunch, a man and son in a primitive dugout canoe arrived to visit and trade. Besides a couple of war clubs used in dancing and an assortment of shells, he had a large coil of intricately square-braided coconut sennit traditionally used in lashing for canoe and house building. He said this represented two weeks of work, and that each sibling was required to provide a similar bundle as part of the price of a bride.
Following Rigging and Rigging Spares class and dinner, we were ready for a great night’s sleep. Long after sunset we could hear the happy sounds of dozens of kids playing along the beach and the underwater lights of spear fishermen lit parts of the bay while flying fish fishermen with their pressure gas lamps spread patches of light offshore. With not a single generator, only individual solar panels and 12 volt interior lights, we didn’t see any lights ashore – a first in many years.
Carly, our navigator for today had all the navigation done and waypoints in the GPS and MFD last night and advised that if we were to be underway by 1 pm, we should reach Sola, the port of entry for Vanuatu on Vanua Lava island, with daylight to spare even if headwinds required us to motorsail.
We had an early breakfast, distributed and packed the medical supplies, reading and sunglasses that Ann had brought, plus gifts for the other Chiefs before struggling ashore through the shallow water and coral on a rising tide.
Ann, with children clothes donated by her staff, along with medical supplies explains the different eyeglasses prescriptions to Jenny
Jenny’s clinic is simple and tidy, and she gratefully accepted our supplies giving us her needed equipment list. Two of the interesting items for me were a wristwatch and a clock.
The only timepiece we saw was Chief Danstan’s watch and from the responses we received when asking how long the walk to the lake and when school started we gathered that the islander’s sense of time was somewhat loose. School starts “very early” and it’s “not that far” or “over 2 hours” to walk to the other side of the island.
Here’s Jenny’s list of supplies for the clinic – and please pass this on to anyone you might contact who plans on visiting Tikopia:
Duffel bag for carrying medical supplies, rubbish container, curtains, sheet, single foam mattress for exam table, watertight containers for storing gauze and dressings, clock, watch, paint of any color to repaint clinic, shoes (to wear while working on concrete floor), cupboard for medicine storage, torch, solar panel, batteries and light, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, Doppler & KY jelly for pre-natal exams, methysalicylate ointment, antibiotics, Panadol100 & 500 mg, sunglasses, reading glasses, laptop and projector for community health awareness talks,
About 15 minutes into our cross island hike through bush, the odd house and small gardens we heard the surf before then seeing the ocean. The final trail to the other three villages and crater lake is along the beach then around a tidal headland. When Joshua pointed out the chief of the next village (the highest #1 chief of the island), sitting with his wife and cousin under a tree overlooking the beach, I asked if he’d introduce us. He declined, saying he wasn’t allowed to and our accompanying party of children quietly waited at the headland while we proceeded.
Once given the all clear at the headland everyone gets to proceed
I introduced myself and our crew. The chief was open and friendly, welcoming us to the island and his village, while mentioning that he had been to Paris with a group from the island on invitation by a film maker for the premier of a film about Tikopia which I’d read about on the internet. His wife, Keren, was the only Solomon Islander (darker, and with frizzy hair) we met on the island. I asked if the four different villages got along and the chief said that the tribes (his word) intermarry and all work together in harmony.
A shy boy at the lakeside stays focused on cleaning his net
The third village fronted Lake Te Rota and the 67-year old chief (who looked much older) was the father of one of our two guides, who introduced us to him. When I asked how old he was, he didn’t know, but after some thought he told me he was born in 1952.
Tikopia’s houses are constructed like no other we’ve seen in the South Pacific. The entrances are so low we had to remove our backpacks and crawl in. I noticed that the women exit the houses feet first are soon standing in an upright position on off on their way, this was certainly a more graceful method than our exit strategies. Each of the huts we visited had sand floors covered with mats and the household possessions and clothing piled in a corner. Cooking is done in an outside hut over firewood and toiletries are done in the ocean.
A house and cooking hut
Jerry discovers the Cat Cow yoga pose upon exiting the lake chiefs house.
Although similar in design each house has its own character being thatch holding timber, fish netting or entrance covering
Due to timing we decided to skip visiting the furthest village, opting to leave the appropriate gift bag with another chief to relay. Upon our return to Danstans’ house we decided it was a brisk half hour walk across the island. Danstan had a large stalk of bananas plus several papaya waiting for us and thanked us for our visit.
Walter delivering Jerry and Helen.
Walter, a handsome 16-year-old, met stopped us, asking if we would like to trade a large sack of grapefruit for a mask and snorkel. He (and a horde of very keen children) helped us launch the dinghy. I told him I’d return for Helen and Jerry with his mask and some additional supplies for the clinic and school, but by the time I’d located everything he’d delivered Helen and Jerry to MT by dugout canoe!
Walter said he’d soon be leaving for Honiara, the capital, to complete his education and that his goal was to be trained to work in public health. My concerns of whether he would be tempted to keep the headlight, clock, batteries and Betadine destined for Jenny in the clinic for himself quickly evaporated and we all wished him success in his studies.
As Carly guided us out the bay and around the windward side of the island, it seemed more rugged and exotic by the minute as the caldera wall and crater lake Te Poto came into view. In retrospect, Tikopia’s happy, healthy, industrious and shy but friendly people seem a real treasure.
Here’s Jerry’s account of Tikopea:
Mid-afternoon, overcast. Fourth day of raucous and exciting downwind sailing. Ann calls out, ‘I see the island!” And she adds, “It’s just like John said, the cloud is gathering all around it.” Sure enough, the faint outline of a diamond-shaped mountaintop looms through the dark clouds. What a relief, a point of land to steer toward, growing larger every minute! As we draw near to the island, the sun reappears, and the island reveals itself: surrounded by turquoise, enveloped in deep green mountainside, banded by brilliant white sand.
As we slowly feel our way toward the anchorage, a man in a tiny dugout outrigger canoe pushes off from the beach and paddles out to us, pointing the way to where we should anchor. Our very own First Encounter. Dan dons snorkel gear and dives into the water, circling the boat, scouting the bottom for a sandy area free of coral heads. In a minute, the anchor is down and we are at rest in Tikopia.
From all along the beach, emerging from the tree line, children are hastening toward our landing spot. As iron filings attracted by a magnet, the children of Tikopia are drawn to visitors. In pairs, in clusters, and all in high spirits, laughing and calling out. No sooner does the dinghy touch the shore and the first visitors wade through the shallows, the children swarm, grasping our hands, beaming smiles of intense welcome.
Children led us to wherever we wanted to go often with frangipani flowers in hand, worn as leis or head crowns.
After awaiting the arrival of a small sailing canoe sailed by Jessie, the chief’s son, we are led through the village to meet chief Danstan. Children quietly and gently take our hands – two, sometime three at a time on each hand. Such tenderness. Such curiosity and happiness. Perhaps not experienced since our own children were small. This magnetic attraction continues the entire time we are on the island. Now little Jemma. Handsome little Neil later. And Tai Tai, and Luke, and Martin, and so many others. Each of us and our own accompanying clusters of pure joy.
Jessie leads us to the Big House and invites us to enter by crawling through a door barely three feet tall. No one is permitted to be taller than the Chief, and this architectural feature certainly ensures that! Under the dim coolness of the stitched palm leaf thatched roof we sit on mats woven from pandanas leaves. The chief, Danstan by name, reports that his father chief Edward, (pictured in a photo album from a visit by the yacht Carina, friends of Amanda and John seven years earlier) has since died. He is grateful for the photographs and explains that the main Chief is away on a medical issue but that Jessie the small boy in Carina’s photos.
The gifts of rice, cooking oil, popcorn and corned beef we offer Chief Danstan are appreciated along with the items we have for the school and clinic. In return, he welcomes us to the island and presents us with an abundance of fruit. Upon an unseen gesture from the Chief small boys quickly scurry up the nearest trees, returning with fresh coconuts for each of us to drink. Welcome to Tikopia, indeed!
Chief Danstan told us there are approximately 1,500 people living on Tikopia. They are visited by two or three yachts annually and the supply ship appears periodically but there’s no set schedule. They have a radio for medical emergencies. When we ask about crossing to the other side of the island to see the freshwater lake, the chief suggests that “tomorrow would be better”. Other villages, other chiefs,.but we were welcome to visit the school, clinic and beachfront.
We all wondered if these leafy creatures were perhaps Tikopea’s legend little folk such as the Hawaiian Menehune.
The next morning at 8:30 as we set out for the school and clinic clouds of children attached to each of us. Then it was off through the bush to see the other side. Children guide us through the dense greenery, carefully steering us as the paths diverge. We reach the windward shore, trekking along a coastline strewn with bleached and broken coral. A woman and her two children forage through the tidal shallows. We veer off from the shore into the bush again, and soon emerge on the shores of the freshwater lake, which we are told is filled with tilapia; a prime fishery for the island. A typhoon some years earlier had breached the land separating the lake from the sea, and the fish had almost all been washed away. A potential calamity. With international assistance, the breach was repaired, and enough fish had remained to restock it although they are still too small to harvest. Food supply ensured!
Getting ready to depart
Heading back to the beach, preparing to depart, swarms of children grow larger. Boys veer off the trail and disappear into the forest. Fantastical creatures cloaked in vines and leaves re-appear, cavorting and laughing down the path ahead. As we gather on the beach, ready to head back to Mahina Tiare, gently swinging at her anchor, the young people’s chorus of Tikopia — small girls and boys, teenagers, a few young adults – begins singing a farewell song of indelible sweetness and harmony.
I will never forget the soft touch of the children’s hands in mine, the smiles on their faces, and the music in their hearts. – Tikopia. Extraordinary.
Since departing Tikopia, we’ve had ideal sailing conditions with 16-18 kt beam winds and very modest seas.
A few minutes ago Ann spotted Mota Lava island in the moonlight, and our ETA gets earlier and earlier as we charge along on moonlit seas.
THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY WE LOVE VANUATU!
September 12, 2019, 01000 hrs, 14.12 S, 167.27, W, Log: 227,378 miles
Baro: 1013.9, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 1F, Sea Water: 84.4 F
At anchor in 16’, Matanda Bay, Gaua Island, Vanuatu
We carried our excellent reaching conditions right into Port Patteson, anchoring seaward of the broken down wharf seaward of Sola village, the largest on Vanua Lava Island by 0630. After breakfast we launched the dinghy and Amanda and I called in at the customs office located a few steps from where we’d landed on the black volcanic sand beach.
Here’s our always keen and eager Leg 5 crew:
I live in Carlsbad, CA, a little north of San Diego with my husband, Dan. We learned to sail in San Diego and now occasional beer can races in Oceanside. I don’t have any major near term sailing plans, but enjoyed learning and experiencing so much aboard Mahina. Specifically, I enjoyed navigating and steering in different conditions.(Carly is an engineer currently involved in sales, and she and Dan are without a doubt the strongest, fittest EM’s we’ve ever had – always up for adventure!
I’d like to cruise with Carly and our kids (yet to arrive – we just got married) in 5 – 10 years. On this expedition I learned how to steer in over 25 kts, storm tactics, weather resources, sailboat repair and maintenance and reefing at night. (Dan spent several years working with the navy developing unmanned submersible vehicles and is working on bringing medical devices to production).
I began sailing about 20 years ago when I met my husband, Marek. We have now been cruising on our Cape Vickers 34 on the Pacific coast of Mexico and the past six years we have been joined by our 11 yr old son, Isaiah and black cat, Skitty. We enjoy snorkeling and diving in the Sea of Cortez and the cultural life of the Mexican Riviera. Perhaps we will sail to Central America next season, or maybe across the Pacific…
I’m an optometrist from Kamloops, BC who enjoys chartering sailboats with my husband, Rene. We are planning to sailing our retirement and this expedition has proven invaluable in improving my sailing skills, as well as an incredible opportunity to meet the warm people and experience the beauty of some of the small and remote islands of the Pacific.
I’ve been interested in sailing all my adult life and started windsurfing in 1975, culminating in a 5th place in the Mistral Nationals in Ontario. Later I progressed to racing and chartering and this expedition was the next progression to gaining the skills needed to achieve our goals of cruising. (Rene is a retired mechanical engineer, and a very clever guy!)
I’m from North Andover, Mass. And have been sailing since I was a young boy. My previous blue water passages have been to Ireland, Bermuda and the Caribbean. I’ve enjoyed cruising the Maine coast, first on my Sabre 34, and now on my Sabre 36 and this expedition provided me the opportunity of sailing in the South Pacific and learning new skills. (Jerry helps inventors bring new medical devices to market).
THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY WE LOVE VANUATU!
September 12, 2019, 01000 hrs, 14.12 S, 167.27, W, Log: 227,378 miles
Baro: 1013.9, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 1F, Sea Water: 84.4 F
At anchor in 16’, Matanda Bay, Gaua Island, Vanuatu
We carried our excellent reaching conditions right into Port Patteson, anchoring by 0630 seaward of the broken down wharf seaward of Sola village, the largest on Vanua Lava Island. After breakfast we launched the dinghy and Amanda and I called in at the customs office located a few steps from where we’d landed on the black volcanic sand beach.
Arrival at Port Patteson
The sole customs and immigration officer answered our questions as he quickly completed our inward clearance, welcomed us to Vanuatu and recommended Hudson, for a tour and bread, who was to be found in a grocery store a five minute walk around the bay.
Not wanting to delay our crew’s chance to get ashore and explore, we opted to check out the nearby “Sola Yacht Club” adjacent to the government buildings where we met Solomon and his lovely wife Stephanie who said they would be pleased to serve us a traditional Ni-Van dinner including the national dish of laplap at 1730, before they served their guest house guests.
On arriving back at the dinghy, a red Toyota truck pulled up and Hudson, the effervescent owner jokingly said the holy ghost had suggested he come and chat with us. Perfect! Hudson said he’d be delighted to give us a tour at 1400.
After lunch aboard crew were able to change money at the local bank and do some exploring around the small town before we all met at Hudson’s store and piled into his truck. First stop was the grass airstrip where we’d seen two of the four or so weekly flights arrive and depart from the anchorage, followed by a drive and walk out to a sulfuric river coming from the active volcano. Hudson said skin ailments could be cured by soaking in the sulfur water while also pointing out the mangrove area where resident crocodiles hung out.
Next was Hudson’s ridgetop plantation, started by his father and featuring a chicken farm, disused bread bakery, mahogany grove, extensive coconut planation and his latest project, a one-bedroom guesthouse with spectacular “million dollar” ocean view.
Tour time with Hudson on the right and his gardener on the left.
We took turns sitting in the cab and asking questions and learned that Hudson had worked on Chinese and American tuna clippers based in American Samoa for close to 25 years, saving money to build the store for his daughter and purchase his truck. He also pointed out his Seventh Day Adventist church, mentioning that he had given up drinking kava and felt better for it.
Our final stop was the sole bakery where we instantly demolished several loaves of delicious wood-fired bread, before heading back to the yacht club for an amazing dinner featuring spicy fish soup, laplap, green papaya salad, cassava rissoles, boiled pumpkin, sautéed local cabbage, drinking coconuts and lime infused cold water. Originally Stephanie asked if US$5 would be ok, but I told her we’d pay $6 each.
Our private dining room at Sola Yacht Club
Our local dinner…watch out for the chilies!
As we were eating in the little beachside hut, a precariously-heeling local trading boat came in an anchored inshore of us, shuttling loads of supplies to the beach in longboats, and a large local sport fishing boat, likely from Port Vila, anchored astern.
Concerned with forecasted fresh SSE headwinds for our 35-mile channel crossing south to Gaua Island, we set sail at 0600 this morning, first battling headwinds with gusts to 28kts before the wind shadow of Gaua started to moderate conditions.
Both C-Map and Navionics show very little details and few soundings for Gaua’s coastline, but thankfully Richard and Frederique’s Rocket Cruising Guide provided satellite images of Matanda Bay and a series of waypoints plus an anchorage.
We hadn’t even gotten the anchor down before Michelle and his father Richard had greeted us from dugout canoes, welcoming us to their bay and inviting us to visit ashore. Michelle, son #2, explained that his father and older brother were chiefs, and additionally his father was the paramount chief of the island.
Upon swimming to check our anchorage, we discovered that we’d gone slightly too far into the bay…no worries…”Dan “the diver” dove down to 20’, picked up the 77lb anchor, and ran (on the sandy bottom) with it repeatedly, in the direction we needed to move it. Once we figured the anchor was in a safer place, Helen, the only one still aboard, started the engine and pulled in reverse as the rest of us watched as the Ultra anchor dug deeper and deeper.
Mid-afternoon we headed ashore for a visit, finding a very small and tidy small three-family compound. Michelle’s wife, Ennette, was from Malekula Island, 75 miles to the south and as she was slim and tall she looked different from the other Ni-Vans we’d met. Michelle explained his father and mother were at their mountainside garden, and we asked if it was possible to hike up hillside to visit.
We delighted in again meeting Richard and he introduced to his industrious and sturdy wife Madeline who was busy in the garden. We soon realized that growing a garden here is extremely demanding. First the bush has to be cleared then a variety of root crop grown in succession along with shade trees such as papaya. Once the soil is manageable more familiar and nurturing plants such as bell peppers, tomatoes, chili, spring onions, local cabbage (more like a large leaf hibiscus) and cucumbers, pumpkin can be grown although these require watering. Once the soil is exhausted more nearby bus is cleared and the garden cycle continues. We were offered a bounty of fruit and vegetables and although we only asked for enough for dinner we ended up with a more than ample supply.
A garden tour with stunning views out to sea and also into the hinterland
While leafing through their very-treasured yacht visitors log, I noticed a photo from one yacht showing three people beating the water with their hands. Michelle explained that these were his wife, her sister and his cousin performing water music – Lonely Planet states that this is only performed by women of Gaua. In fact, it is the only music the women of Vanuatu create. So, at 0830 tomorrow, we’ll meet on the family beach with the gently requested trading items of a white church shirt for Madeline and a blue sheet to create a church outfit for chief Nelson wife.
Group shot at Matanda Bay
Before heading back to Mahina Tiare, Amanda asked the family if they would like a family portrait, mentioning she could print off the picture on the boat. Everyone first looked horrified, then politely asked if they could change out of their gardening clothes. Chief Richard proudly pinned his presidential medals of independence on a clean shirt, explaining that this was awarded him by Vanuatu’s president for many years of service to Gaua Island as paramount chief. He also asked if he could wear his newly acquired sunglasses from Ann.
After the family photo, the chief asked if they could have a photo of all of our crew with their family, which Amanda will include in their guest book.
September 19, 2019, 1530 hrs, 15.32 S, 167.10, W, Log: 227,486 miles
Baro: 1011.9, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 87F, Sea Water: 81.7 F
On a mooring, Aore Island Resort, Luganville
The ladies creating water music
The water music was incredible. The ladies and Michele stood waist deep in the ocean and struck the water with cupped hands in various positions to create a series unique rhythmic percussive melodies.
Our passage SSW to Hog Harbour on Santo Island the following morning was a rough one with headwinds gusting to 30 kts and breaking seas. Hog Harbour proved a protected and calm anchorage, but after lunch and a swim instead of our usual shore side exploration we instead focused on class with Amanda teaching sail design followed by Diesel Engine Maintenance and Electrical Power Systems.
Rene and Dan hard at work tucking in the third reef.
Malapo and Malono islands on the outside of Oyster Bay Resort proved to be deeper anchorage.
Ah…a quiet anchorage
Lonely Planet states that Oyster Bay Resort puts on a Sunday buffet extravaganza including local oysters, so while crew went for a snorkel, Helen and I threaded our way through the coral to see if we could attend. Sadly, the hotel has been bulldozed into a huge pile. The caretaker said that the Chinese had purchased the and resort form the French founder and soon to be building a “grand casino”. Never mind, we all chipped in with the galley chopping to create another excellent lunch before Amanda taught splicing.
Helen reckons these starfish may be fake, they’re just velvet beany bags.
In late afternoon we re-anchored near the dinghy channel to go upriver to the blue hole we’d read about in Richard Cheshire’s Rocket Guide. Jerry had offered to stand anchor watch the following morning so to ensure he got to see the blue hole, after waiting for the tide, we did a test run up the channel, stopping at the S bank of the river entrance.
Here we met Phillip, whose family owned that side of the bank. Phillip showed us his collection of WWII bombs and aircraft bits and after chatting, we learned that another family who owns the N side and the river.
We would need to ask permiss on and pay a $5 per person fee to see the blue hole. So, up the channel we motored, stopping on the opposite bank when flagged down by Samu, whose grandfather is the traditional landowner. After explaining our intentions, he suggested I show Jerry the blue hole, stop by and pick him up on the return, go out to MT to pick up Jerry’s fee, then drop him off on the beach near his home so…that’s what we did.
Oh soo blue!
Before breakfast we quickly piled into the dinghy and slowly quietly motored up the river. The river water was crystal clear and we were mesmerized by its exotic blue while ducking under fern-laden overhanging trees and listening to exotic bird calls. As soon as Dan and Carly spotted the rope swing, they were off.
A dive in the water, scramble up the tree roots and leaping launch to grab high on the rope saw them fly through the air in a brilliant Tarazan and Jane imitation. (oh…new nicknames!). We then all took turns… for an hour (humm…some of us wanted to perfect the feat…just ask Amanda and you’ll get a half hour tutorial) – it was totally exhilarating.
Forever looking for morning exercise Amanda asked if she could swim downriver, which in reality sounded like a great idea especially when we realized that all you needed to do was drift with the current. Generally spring water is rather chilly except here toasty saltwater lies underneath the fresh so all you have to do is dive down to warm up. Oh sooo much fun! We all agreed this is a “Numba One” adventure.
Oh look see Carly swing!
If Jane can do it how hard can this be?
After a mammoth banana-blueberry pancake breakfast we motored south into a fresh breeze to Palikulo Bay, a super-secure anchorage 12 miles from Luganville where Amanda taught going aloft for rig inspection and Carly surprised herself and us by free-climbing 64’ to the masthead. We landed ashore in the late afternoon to stretch our legs and chatted with the locals enjoying beach picnics and net fishing who explained that party of cautious Chinese floundering about in the shallows wearing full sun protection kit and snorkel gear were the hospital workers.
Amanda instructs crew on safe going aloft procedures
Whose feet are these?
Yesterday we covered Cruising Medicine, Three-Strand Splicing, Lifesling Overboard Rescue and Celestial Nav before sailing south 11 miles to Luganville. As we entered Segund Channel we passed Million Dollar Point where the Americans drove dozens of trucks, bulldozers and jeeps into shallow water after the local French and British planters refused to pay token amounts for them, and just to the west, we noticed the outline of the famous wreck of the luxury passenger liner, converted to WWII troop carrier, SS President Coolidge on our chart plotter, and spotted a dive boat tied to the wreck.
Tarzan checks that his splicing handiwork meets his namba specifications
The Coolidge is one of the most famous dive sites in the Pacific, it accidentally bumped a “friendly” mine and the captain ran it toward the beach, allowing all but two of the 5,340 aboard to safely make it to shore. About 20 years ago Amanda and I snorkeled down, touching one of the masts and having an amazing view of most of the ship. Keen divers on our Legs 5 & 6 will enjoy touring through the entire ship which rests in 60’ to 240’ of water, close to the shore.
We swung by Aore Island Resort, where we’d moored before, and had been in email contact with them in regards to a mooring, but their two moorings were occupied, however, Jerry spotted a free mooring further along the island off the dive operator’s dock next door, and when the owner, Paul White, came by with a load of divers and said we could rent the mooring, we were delighted.
After sorting out the necessary arrival documents and finally having a few motionless hours with sunshine to take sextant sun sights, plus checking in with the Dave Cross at the cruiser-friendly Beach Front Resort near town, where our crews will to stay, we all appreciated our graduation dinner ashore at the Aore Resort where we were joined by Jerry’s wife Louise who had just flown in.
“Wow”!!…what a fabulous two weeks. We sincerely thank our “Namba A1 Fruit Loop Crew” who keenly devoured 3 stalks of bananas, one huge sack of grapefruit, 9 giant pineapples, 12 kiwi’s, 10 large parrot mangoes, 30 football-sized papaya, 7 oranges, 12 limes and their daily ration of 3 imported NZ apples.
Rocket Guide to Vanuatu, Richard and Fredrique Cheshire: www.rocket-guide-vanuatu.com
Navionics charts running on Raymarine MFD’s
C-Map charts running on a laptop with Rose Point Coastal Explorer
British Admiralty Sailing Directions: Pacific Islands Pilot Vol. 2, NP 61
Tide Tables, Central & Western Pacific
BA 4633 Solomon Is. to Fiji
BA 17 Plans in Santa Cruz & Adjacent Islands
BA 1575 Ile Pentecost to Torres Islands
BA 1638 Plans in Northern Vanuatu
Leg 5 ,2019 Lautoka,Fiji;Luganville,Vanauatuadmin2021-05-04T00:32:34+00:00
September 23, 2020 0630 hrs, 48.27N, 122.51W Log: 625 miles
At anchor, Hunter Bay, Lopez Island
Baro: 1008, Cabin Temp: 65 F, Cockpit Temp: 65 F, Sea Water: COLD!
MASSIVE STORM SYSTEM HEADED OUR WAY!
Yesterday afternoon we received the following warning from San Juan Sailing, from whom we’ve chartered Misty: Hi SJS team, I’m sure you’re watching this but just wanted to call attention to the storm that is approaching the area this week, expected to hit the islands on Wednesday. The European model forecast sustained winds are in the 20-30 kt range with gusts to 35-40 kts from the S to SE. The North American model is forecasting even stronger winds. Models runs from last night say timing is for the strongest winds to hit early Wednesday morning through mid-day. Rain may be heavy at times. Perhaps a good time for the fleet to shelter in place wherever they may be! Anchorages protected from the south will be popular (e.g., Blind Bay). Marinas even more so. Below is a link to the NWS forecast discussion from early this morning. Gale warnings are expected for the coast and small craft advisories for inland waters are a pretty good bet if the forecast verifies. Plan to hunker down!
A Windy capture showing the massive low-pressure system about to make landfall
Our Leg 3 team have been very aware of the weather, checking www.windy.com on their phones several times a day, starting as soon as they’re out of their bunks before breakfast. For the last four days they’ve been tracking a large storm system coming across the North Pacific from Japan has been expanding as it got closer, and the forecasted wind speeds for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Rosario Strait have been holding steady as the system approaches, not diminishing as is normally the case.
Heavy weather experience is normally one of the learning topics we see on applications, and this crew is no exception. However, crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in gale conditions with possible wind against tide on a charter boat isn’t on our list of prudent moves, so yesterday we crossed from Dungeness Spit to Hunter Bay on Lopez Island a day earlier than planned.
Tuesdays departing quiet view of Dungeness Spit Lighthouse with the Olympics towering behind
Shane taught Mary how to seize the dinghy shackle after teaching Lisa the same process on the anchor shackle
We scoured the charts looking for an anchorage sheltered from the forecasted SE winds and came up with the same two as Lothar Taylor at San Juan Sailing suggested, Watmaugh Bay on Lopez where we’d anchored for lunch on Leg 0 and Hunter Bay further around the SE corner of Lopez. The two moorings in the most protected, furthest in part of Watmaugh were both taken, so as our team continued reefing, practice as we motored into Hunter Bay which only had four boats anchored and plenty of room.
To simplify reefing, it was decided that we should tape the reefing lines and halyard with “Go To” marks
Instructions for hoisting, reefing and lowering the mainsail get refined daily
Heather Bansmer and Shawn Breeding’s excellent San Juan Islands, A Boaters Guidebook provided a concise chartlet of Hunter Bay and mentioned a charming 1.5-mile walk to Southend Market. With a sunny afternoon and ice cream calling, we launched Misty’s RIB and headed ashore, grateful for the county dock that provided easy shore access. Lopez Island is famously friendly and on our hike to the store and back every single driver that passed us waved.
Smiles all round in the dinghy as we return from a jolly walk ashore
Back aboard, Amanda led Rig Check Aloft, with all expedition members going at least to the first spreader, if not to the masthead. As Rig Check was still going after sunset and Amanda made certain everyone got safely aloft I jumped in the galley to make Walu’s Lentils. This recipe features in her new second edition of The Essential Galley Companion and it’s always-favorite with expedition crew. Thankfully, Amanda had typed up the recipe for eight and prepared the spices, so it was super quick to make.
The breeze started cranking around 0300 and by dawn the now ten boats sheltering in the bay were dancing in different directions. Looking through the entrance with binoculars we can see lots of white water. Smith Island, located halfway from here to Dungeness Spit is reporting 31 knots.
Leg 3 started with the first clear skies we’d seen in a week, and after crew briefing Friday night we set sail Saturday morning the best sailing conditions yet as we gybed our way up Hale Passage and north of Orcas and Waldron toward tiny Patos Island.
Before departing Bellingham, we review the the charts and overall expedition itinerary.
Just before reaching Patos our vigilant crew spotted several orca whales, our first sightings of year! Sadly, both state park moorings were occupied and looking carefully at the anchorage possibilities, we decided to carry on, anchoring at Prevost Harbor, Stuart Island. There were a third the number of boats in Prevost Harbor than we’d seen a week earlier, so finding a protected spot to anchor without crowding any already-anchored boats was a cinch. We fired up the barbie and enjoyed a salmon dinner before launching into navigation. The forecast suggested better sailing conditions if we set sail Sunday morning directly for the grand Pacific.
That is what we did, raising anchor at 0700 to take advantage of a favorable tide and enjoying some great sailing as we passed San Juan Island and headed across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
With navigation mastered Shane and Mary brief the crew on the Sunday’s passage to the Straits
As the fog held off as we round Turn Point Lighthouse giving us a nice morning view of this iconic headland
When we reached San Juan Island breakfast became a challenge as we suddenly entered thick fog with numerous ships paralleling our course
We then had a mixture of gorgeous clear skies with the rugged Olympic mountain bordering us to the south mixed with patches of dense fog as we sailed (when there was enough wind) and motored out the Straits.
We were able to take sun sights thanks to a lovely long patch of sunshine
By midnight we were well out into the Pacific with a million stars overhead and a clear horizon, allowing us to see the Tatoosh Island light astern as well as steady stream of ships exiting and entering the shipping lanes which were a couple miles north and west of us. In the early hour of Tuesday morning our crew made the decision to turn around.
Simon completes the hourly log entry
By 1100 we arrived at Port Angeles Boat Haven with plenty of time for showers, lunch and exploring ashore before setting sail that afternoon for Dungeness Spit and a night at anchor. While enroute, Amanda taught sail design and sail trim.
September 24, 2020 1000 hrs, 48.45N, 122.30W Log: 658 miles
The forecast of gale warnings prompted Amanda and our hearty crew to re-reeve the reef lines on Misty’s crisp new Bellingham Sails mainsail
By the time we exited Lopez Island’s Hunter Bay we had the third reefs in and the second reef available. As with most current booms, there are only sheaves for two reef points, and Kurt, Misty’s owner had spec’d the new main to have three reef points. We were slightly under-canvassed for a few minutes, then we saw the maelstrom ahead and fought to reduce the headsail to handkerchief-size as Misty heeled in gusts to 42 knots. We rotated crew through helm position, and it was great to see their excited grins as they guided Misty past Bird then Bell Rocks.
Mary takes a trick at the helm while Rick keeps lookout
Very curious to see how the Sun Odyssey would do with storm tactics, we completely furled the headsail and Lisa set the wheel brake to try fore-reaching, our favorite storm tactic.
The result was impressive – Misty kept on track without a headsail, autopilot or hand on the wheel. Lisa did have to make minor corrections when the wind occasionally dropped below 30 kts, but overall, fore-reaching proved successful.
We were glad we’d run the third reef
We were all kept busy as we put Misty through a few storm tactics
Wind eased briefly while we were in the lee of Fidalgo Island, but then returned with a vengeance as we rounded the NE corner of the island, with gusts over 40 kts as we motored into the entrance channel to Cap Sante Marina. After topping up Misty’s fuel tanks, we cast off with gusts still in the 40’s, choosing not to attempt the downwind landing at the berth we’d been assigned, instead opting for the open end of C dock. Hot showers and a “Team Awesome” crew dinner at Village Pizza were very welcome.
Thursday morning Mike Beemer taught Diesel Engines and Electrical Systems at the Marine Tech Center before Amanda had our eager crew stitching patches on sailcloth using the college’s two new Sailrite sewing machines.
The eye of the huge storm provided clear and sunny skies and excellent broad-reaching conditions as we sailed the 20 miles from Anacortes to Bellingham stopping to allow each expedition member to perform our modified Fishtail-Quickstop Lifesling Rescue procedures.
Fishtail-Quickstop Lifesling Rescue procedures in full swing
With calm waters and a spare hour Mary practices her sail repair baseball stitch with palm and needle
We were in for a treat Thursday night following our Selecting an Ocean Cruising Boat PowerPoint seminar. Mary’s musician husband Tony showed up for dinner with his guitar. What a treat! Although it currently says, “No guitars, please” on our PNW Sea Bag Gear List, we are going to change that. The backside of the huge North Pacific storm arrived Friday morning, with gusts over 50 kts substantially heeling Misty over amid driving rain.
Our Team Awesome crew did an awesome job of tidying up Misty for the handover back to San Juan Sailing, and just like that, our 2020 expedition season was complete.
Introducing Leg 3-2020 aka Team AWESOME! – Mary, Simon, Lisa, Mark, Shane, and Rick
I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest and my husband Tony and I learned to sail when we moved to the SF Bay area. We’ve lived aboard our Cal 39 in Alameda for several years and this expedition has given me the confidence to begin thinking about the skills I’ll need to sail our boat to Mexico. (Mary is a freelance copy editor).
Originally from Manchester, UK, I’ve been a keelboat owner and coastal cruiser in Puget Sound for 15 years. I fell in love with cruising on a charter in Scotland as a teenager, and with my partner Lisa, I’m getting sucked ever deeper into the life. We’re hoping to find our bluewater boat with John’s help and if all goes well we’ll be cutting the docklines and be Pacific bound before too long.
I’m half-mermaid and love the water and everything related. I love to sail with my partner, Simon, on our Catalina 30 and aspire to sail major passages and have a grand adventure once we find a larger boat. By day, I write software, knit, play piano and love to spend time with family, friends, dance, meet new people and rid my motorcycle.
Here’s a limerick Lisa wrote for our crew:
On a sailboat called Misty Blue
Rick-Mark-Shane-Si Lis Mary too
‘Manda-John taught us well
How to handle ocean swell
And we all became better crew
I live in Seattle and spend my weekdays building young companies. On the weekends I’ve been chartering boats with Windworks and Seattle Sailing Club and taking out with my wife and 14-year-old son to enjoy sailing on Puget Sound. Someday I hope to sail off and see more of the world with my family.
In my previous life I worked in corporate IT. I decided I’d had enough of cubicle life and quit my job, sold my house, and bought a camper. Now I ski in the winter and have been a campground host in Glacier National Park in the summer back home in Montana. My dream is to sail the far reaches and I’m now looking for a boat with hopes to find one soon. Learning with Amanda and John was a great experience and I feel like I’m now better prepared to start my sailing adventures.
I’m from Lewiston, MD and just retied from corporate life. My wife and I are closing on an Outbound 44 in a week or so and are trying to get it home to the Chesapeake before the canals and bridges close for the winter. We’re excited about cruising the Chesapeake and East Coast to start with.
Yay, Lisa (aka Tiger) and Amanda finally get a knitting session together
Before departing Bellingham Amanda and I met with Greg, the owner of Obelix, the Garcia Expedition 45 we’ll be using starting April 28, 2021, assuming we’re unable to return to Mahina Tiare III in Auckland, New Zealand.
On recommendation of our 2020 expedition members our 2021 Pacific NW expeditions will each be 9 days, instead of this year’s 7 days, allowing us to add Medicine at Sea and Diesel Engine Overview to the curriculum. Assuming Canada/American border opens we’ll sail 1/3 of the way up Vancouver Island to the spectacular Barkley Sound.
Additionally, Leg 4 will sail 350 miles from Bellingham to the northern tip of Vancouver Island and out into the North Pacific before ending in Port Hardy, one of our favorite northern BC ports. Leg 5 will be a first for us, and a dream come true, sailing down the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island from Port Hardy, to end in Bellingham 12 days later.
Finally, we’d like to say a big THANK YOU!!! to the excellent and dedicated crew, from the three partners, Danelle, Mike and Lothar to the 60 boat cleaners and fixers at San Juan Sailing and to Kurt and Etjen, Misty’s owners for their help and support which made our first of many series of Pacific Northwest training expeditions a total success.
Leg3,2020 Salish Sea and Open Pacificadmin2021-05-04T00:33:07+00:00
Leg 2 Crew: Lisa, Diana, Amanda, Jim, Yarden, Richard, and Alfonso with John taking the picture.
Leg 2 started on a smokey Friday September 11 and Saturday morning we motored and sailed 35 miles to Stuart Island’s Prevost Harbor, pausing to check out the lighthouse on Patos Island through the fog and smoke. Smoke from intense wildfires in California, Oregon and Eastern Washington meant we would be running under continual radar watch for the entire week.
I’d been tipped off regarding an exciting book, The Light on the Island, written by 12 year old Helen Glidden, who lived on this tiny, isolated island located very near the US-Canada border with her lighthouse keeping father and family. She writes descriptively of immigrant smugglers, rumrunners, gun battles and what it was like to grow up isolated from society.
There is one tiny cove where we saw the remains of the coast guard wharf but the two state park mooring buoys were occupied and it didn’t look like there was any simple place to anchor in the tiny bay. The lighthouse looked very sharp and is maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers. The light keeper’s home was purposefully burned down a few years ago, but it would sure be fun to get ashore and explore the lighthouse and island. Maybe on Leg 3!
Once again, the www.windy.com forecast predicted light headwinds if we were to set sail as planned at 0200 Sunday for Neah Bay and the broad Pacific, so we chose to anchor in Prevost Harbor Saturday night.
The small harbor was packed, and it took a couple tries before we were content with an anchorage that wouldn’t be too close to other vessels or to the numerous rocks at low tide.
That evening, Lisa and Jim prepared wild-caught Alaskan salmon and cooked it to perfection on Misty’s barbecue.
We had thick smoke and fog Sunday and Amanda taught Rig Inspection as I dodged lots of small salmon fishing boats as we approached Henry Island’s Open Bay in the late afternoon. We all turned in early, in anticipation of our 0200 departure.
48 North magazine readers, sailors, and locals Richard, Jim and Lisa pose with Amanda and a 48 North Magazine at a smoked-in Turn Point Lighthouse.
Diana and Alfonso were on watch as we departed in the fog Monday morning. Once we were a mile or two down San Juan Island’s west coast the fog lifted enough to see lights ashore and we had little traffic and a little wind as we crossed the Straits toward Port Angeles, then turned and followed the coast.
Just as forecasted, following outflow winds increased throughout the day and we all delighted to shut the engine down as we sailed toward the ocean. Just six miles from Neah Bay the winds lightened, and we started motorsailing again. As always, once we start up, I checked the volt meters at Misty’s nav station. Instead of seeing13.6 volts (float voltage) the readout at the chart table read 12.5 volts. A quick check of the Xantrex Link 10 voltage monitor showed a minus 10.2 amps, indicating the alternator was no longer working. We shut the engine down, and Jim and I checked for loose wires. Finding none, I emailed Kurt, Misty’s owner and was delighted to hear back there was a spare alternator under the forward port berth.
Almost too good to believe, we found a shiny new Balmar 120-amp high output alternator and our navigator adjusted our course to include an anchorage stop in Neah Bay to switch out alternators. The only slight issue was that the ring terminals on the wiring harness were too small for the beefier posts on the Balmar. Not finding a rat-tail file which would have allowed us to enlarge the ring terminals, Jim had the good idea of snipping the ring terminals with side cutter, spreading them apart, and then attaching them to the Balmar.
John and Jim start sorting out the Balmar wiring
The new Balmar had not yet been fitted to the engine so it took a bit of improvising to get bolted on with correct belt tension
There were cheers all around when we re-started the engine and the Xantrex monitor showed the new alternator was charging at 40 amps, and in no time the anchor was up and we were sailing downwind for the gap between Tatoosh Island and Duncan & Duntze Rocks and out into the broad Pacific. We held that course until our crew decided to turn around – next stop Port Angeles where we arrived at 0700 in thick smoke and fog.
A smoggy Tatoosh Island
Jim shares a romantic happy kiss with Lisa as we reach our Ocean turn-around destination
Lisa at work plotting our return route
Tatoosh Island looks small on the chart but it’s light is a big welcoming sight
Alfonso and Diana have the watch at 0200
Early afternoon following showers and lunch ashore in Port Angeles, we set sail in occasionally thick smog for Dungeness Spit and undertook a reefing competition until we found a perfectly calm anchorage with a colorful sunset. Once we anchored, Amanda rigged up Misty’s monitor so I could teach Storm Avoidance and Survival Techniques while Amanda made dinner.
Richard, Captain of the Day, leads the reefing competition
An early morning departure Wednesday saw up crossing the Straits with light winds and mostly very thick fog. Richard, who lives on Lopez Island gave us some tips and directed us to Aleck Bay, on the south side of Lopez where we anchored for lunch before setting sail for Anacortes in patchy smoke and haze.
Crew master splicing underway to Anacortes
This crew were grateful for Mike Beemer’s diesel and electric training at Skagit Valley College’s Marine Tech Center Thursday morning, and several mentioned they now plan to sign up for extended courses at the college.
Our extensive docking practice just before exiting Cap Sante Marina proved a big hit, with each expedition member choosing a different docking maneuver and location before we set sail north for Bellingham. The windy extensive Bellingham Bay provided an excellent sail with the perfect spot to practice Lifesling Overboard Rescue before arriving at Squalicum Harbor where I presented Selecting and Purchasing an Ocean Cruising Boat PowerPoint before doing a dock walk with crew, pointing out good options for offshore cruising boats.
Diana takes up off the fuel dock then Lisa skillfully berths Misty amongst the fishing fleet
Diana displays a big smile now that were finally sailing with nearly blue skies.
Jim and Lisa learning the finer points of sail design and trim from Amanda
Friday morning cam around quickly with and early breakfast, packing, washdown and celestial navigation class before crew bid farewell and headed to new adventures.
It’s never a dull moment with Captain Action Man….even wash down is fun
Image08c ( NOTE – image out of order on purpose)
The fearless Tatoosh Alternator Expedition Crew at our Pacific turnaround point: Yarden, Alfonso, Richard, Jim, Diana, and Lisa
I grew up around boats and the water, learning sailing from my father who was a sailmaker and a rigger. I now live on Lopez Island with my wife where we have an Olson 25 for local racing and gunkholing. I joined this expedition not only to gain more experience with ocean voyaging, but also to learn how to teach others. (Richard works remotely in IT which allows him and his wife to live in Paradise!)
I’m originally from Spain but have been living in California for 25 years. I just sold my C&C 35 sloop with the idea of going towards a bluewater sailboat to increase passage range and to ultimately cruise worldwide. I’m interested in crewing for others, trying on different boats and helping with sailboat deliveries until I buy my next sailboat.
I’m a retired RN, new to sailing and married to a passionate sailor. We have a Cal 35 that we sailed from Newport Beach, CA to Mexico and have enjoyed sailing all the Pacific coast of Mexico as well as the Sea of Cortez. It’s now time to buy a larger boat and go wherever live leads under sail. I joined this adventure to gain knowledge and confidence. Mission accomplished!
Jim & Lisa Osse
Jim: I’m a retired ocean engineer and spent 30 years designing and building autonomous underwater instrumentation for the UW, NATO and NOAA. I’ve repeatedly dove at the North Pole for my work and have a special desire for all things cold and blue. I hope my wife and I can venture to the high latitudes with a sailboat and this expedition was a big step in that plan. (Jim and Lisa kayaked 1300 miles from Lake Washington (Seattle) to Ketchikan, Alaska in 117 days. Sounds like a beautiful and brutal experience!)
Living by snow peaks in the middle of the desert in Utah, I decided one day to retire early, sell my house and sail around the world. I packed my Miata and drove to Bellingham, camping along the way and passing wildfires in Eastern WA. Now that I’ve completed this expedition, I’ll stop by Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle to order a new Allures 45 to sail from the Arctic to the tropics and down to Antarctica. Should be a wild ride, and you are welcome to join me.
Leg 2 , 2020 Salish Sea and Open Pacificadmin2021-04-24T04:39:37+00:00
September 9, 2020 1700 hrs, 48.24N, 124.36W Log: 1949 miles
Broad reaching under full sail at 6-7 kts
Baro: 1018, Cabin Temp: 70 F, Cockpit Temp: 65 F, Sea Water: Ch-ch-chilly!
Between Legs 0 and 1, Amanda and I spent time organizing provisions and supplies for the three upcoming back-to-back expeditions and enjoying our first summer on San Juan Island since 1996. We discovered the process to be easier the second time around and Amanda created three separate boxes of supplies for each expedition which we are lucky enough to be able to stash at a friend’s home in Anacortes.
When we met our Leg 1 crew near San Juan Sailing’s office at 8 pm Friday they were all chatting happily with each other and excited to be heading off on a sailing expedition.
Leg 1 Crew – Bob, Chuck. Alice, Julie, Scott, Gi and John with Amanda taking the photo.
Together we studied the weeks wind predictions on www.windy.com and it quickly became apparent that following our published itinerary would have us motoring in light and variable winds the entire way from Henry Island to Neah Bay plus out into the broad Pacific. On the other hand, delaying our departure from Henry Island by 24 hours would see us sailing downwind in winds of 20-30 knots out the straits so that’s the option our intrepid crew chose.
Scott, navigator of the day, crew our intended route.
From Bellingham’s Squalicum Harbor we had quite good winds, sailing most of the way 36 miles to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island. Stuart Island is always mentioned in the top two or three must-visit anchorages in the San Juan Islands, featuring two state park docks and moorings on both Reid and Prevost harbors. Being Labor Day weekend, we expected a crowd, and sure enough, by sunset we counted 70 sail and power vessels spread evenly down the two-mile long Reid Harbor. This island was also my home for seven years, and it was different to be at anchor, looking ashore, rather than the other way around
The temps were in the high 70’s, winds in the anchorage were light – perfect weather for Gio to barbecue the HUGE striped bass he had spearfished in Lake Mojave, frozen, and brought on ice on the 20 hour drive from Arizona to Bellingham. Once it started thawing out, he’d marinated the bass in olive oil, lime, garlic and parsley. It filled the double-stacked barbecue several times, but our hearty crew devoured nearly all of it.
Gio, hard at work.
Gio displaying his spearfishing effort at Lake Mojave
Now this is what cruising is about!
In the morning, with only seven miles to sail to our chosen anchorage of Open Bay, Henry Island, we focused on teaching at anchor. Amanda taught deck-level rig inspection plus going aloft. Alice had a slight fear of heights but with some gentle encouragement from the remaining crew she ascended to masthead and was chuffed she’d accomplished this.
Weather rules onboard but navigation is a serious duty which requires all crew to become proficient at.
Alice returns to the deck happy to have conquered her apprehension of going aloft.
We had a brilliant sail to Henry Island in winds that started light and gradually filled in, with our crew getting faster and more proficient with every tack. We were amazed how close-winded Misty, the Jeanneau 45.1 that we’ve chartered from San Juan Sailing was. Her 7’ draft likely has a lot to do with her excellent sailing performance!
Last time we shared Open Bay with five other pleasure boats, but this time we had this gorgeous bay to ourselves, and a spectacular sunset to boot! Much of evening was taken up with laying out courses on paper charts, calculating course and distance for each leg, then inputting the latitude and longitude into the Garmin MFD and our navigational laptop computer running C-Map charts of Rose Point Coastal Explorer.
We’ve not been impressed with Garmin’s documentation, and after our Leg 0 crew scanned the confusing owner’s manual, they wrote up much-simplified directions which Amanda printed and laminated.
At 0230 this morning various alarm clocks went off and by 0300 Misty’s anchor was up and we were on our way under a sky ablaze with stars and the glow of Victoria’s lights on our starboard beam. Slowly the wind filled in and we’ve enjoyed ideal downwind sailing conditions today, never needing to reef and with calm enough conditions to complete our Marine Weather II class.
Chuck points out another log to the helmsman. With numerous logs in the Pacific NW vicinity it’s imperative to have a bow lookout.
Currently we’re just passing the entrance to Neah Bay, the Makah Indian village where we anchored on Leg 0. With a crew keen to experience ocean sailing, we’re holding course for offshore!
September 10, 2020 1705 hrs, 48.45N, 122 30 W Log: 104 miles (has been reset)
Moored, Squalicum Marina, Bellingham
Passing Tatoosh Island lighthouse is a tiny bit like rounding Cape Horn light. It’s rather monumental as Amanda and I always think about the many times we’ve made landfall here, and how grateful we’ve been to spot this iconic island and light.
Amanda related to crew the story of making landfall here in November 1980 after a horrendous wintertime passage. Having been booted out of Sausalito for overstaying their visas, they battled gale to storm force conditions as they made their way north. While on watch Amanda listened to a radio station account of a fishing boat capsizing that night at one of Oregon bar entrances, and the rescue Coast Guard helicopter attempting to rescue the fishermen crashed into the sea.
Long before electronic navigation, Amanda’s father hadn’t seen the sun for several days before making landfall so was going only by dead reckoning. When they started spotting logs a debris in the water, they surmised they must be at the entrance of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and turned east into an outgoing tidal current. Amanda say the lighthouse stood stationary for her entire night watch but after going to bed in the early morning it was how glorious to be woken up in calm seas as they neared Victoria after a fast passage on the incoming tide.
Surprisingly, but consistent with www.windy.com forecast, a few miles past Tatoosh Island, our following winds dropped off completely. We continued motorsailing on out into the calm ocean with humpback whales blowing all around us until our crew made a unanimous decision on their own to turn around before forecasted fresh outflow winds would make retracing our route very difficult.
Team Enterprise – Alice, Gio, Chuck, Scott and Julie…. Tio Bob is MIA.
Scott masters his helming as we motorsail in chunky swells past Tatoosh Island.
Julie and Alice find navigating down below no problem as we bounce and occasionally slam to windward.
We continued 55 miles ESE from Tatoosh Island, hugging the coastline, motorsailing against wind and current through the night to arrive after dawn off Ediz Hook, the spit that protects Port Angeles, to then moor at the visitor’s float just before the marina office opened. The assistant harbormaster said they didn’t expect any more arrivals that day and that we were welcome to stay without charge. After breakfast we headed to the showers then up town for exploration.
The forecast called for the fresh easterly winds to diminish at 1600 but by the time we all returned from town at 1400 and were ready to start class, the winds were light and Amanda suggested we set off for Dungeness Spit, halfway between Port Angeles and Port Townsend, so we did. Now that crew were more proficient at helming, we were able to set the autopilot while Amanda taught 3-strand splicing. Wildfires in central and eastern Washington provided a spectacular sunset while we anchored just off the picturesque lighthouse in very sheltered conditions.
Three-strand splicing was mastered by all.
We had an early night and by 0700 everyone was up so we chose to raise the anchor and set sail for Lopez Island. Geo had very carefully plotted our course and entered waypoints for Watmaugh Bay on the SE tip of Lopez, but with very calm conditions and as an extra navigational exercise I suggested we instead explore Macaye Harbor, inside of the SW tip of Lopez.
California sealions provide comic amusement as we pass a buoy. It was a treasure having Julie aboard as her extensive marine knowledge helped enlighten us. Do you know that elephant seals can dive down 2 miles in search of their favorite food which is giant squid? Oh, and they go to sleep on the way down to conserve energy.
We arrived at an excellent anchorage just off the county park and dock and I taught Anchoring Techniques Worldwide before we got underway for Anacortes. Wednesday was one of the warmest days of the year and we all kept peeling off layers as we go closer to Anacortes.
Gio takes a noon site on route to Anacortes
City-owned and immaculately kept Cap Sante Marina has an ever-changing assortment of interesting yachts and boats of all sizes, and this visit was no exception. Since every one of Leg 1 expedition members is looking for a cruising boat, they walked the docks with great enthusiasm, checking out several boat with FOR SALE signs.
Thursday morning was out half-day of instruction at Skagit Valley College’s Marine Tech Center and director Mike Beemer was in top form as he detailed the latest and best in new electrical power storage and generation options before diving into a hands-on diesel engine demo. Mike was especially proud to show off the Westsail 39 the college had recently purchased as a rebuild and refit project for the marine training program. View their progress on YouTube: SVC Skallywags
Mike explains the importance of battery monitoring.
Before we knew it, it was time to set sail for Bellingham, but not without some serious docking practice. Every EM practiced docking on the partially empty guest dock, with several even practicing backing into empty slips.
Bellingham Bay provided an excellent place to practice our modified Quick-Stop Lifesling overboard rescue procedures, with everyone acing the rescue.
Scott was told by his three-year-old daughter to take one of her dolls with him. Here’s Dolly with a new marine friend.
Upon his return home Scott sent us this image of Helen lovin’ Dolly’s friend.
Tio Bob, “Capitán del Día”, lends a hand as Team Enterprise crew members Gio, Alice and Julie lower the main for the final time,
And then…we were back in Misty’s slip, ready to wash down, go through Selecting an Ocean Cruising Boat PowerPoint seminar and share a serious dock-walk through the marina, pointing out and discussing merits and detractions of dozens of different cruising boats.
Here is our awesome Enterprise Leg 1 crew:
What better way to commence the transition from landlubber to mermaid than spending a week at sea! My husband Gio and I are starting our cruising adventure in the new year and arrived on this expedition excited to progress our sailing skills, learn navigation and gain offshore experience. In my non-mermaid life, I enjoy marine natural history, my chickens and tie-dye projects. (Julie is a scientist for National Park Service and has worked at a wide range of different parks. One of the nights when she was storyteller, she gave us a great briefing on the pinnipeds of the NW and how to distinguish between seals and sea lions)
Hello, my name is Gio. I’m 37 and have lived in the Mohave Desert of Arizona for the past 12 years. In that time, I’ve been a fish biologist for US Fish & Wildlife and a self-employed contractor. My passion is spearfishing and adventure and my wonderful wife. We both have a deep passion for the ocean and have decided to realize our goals of self-sufficiency as cruisers and dining in every ocean of the world.
I’m a demographer living in Snohomish County, WA with my wife, daughter, and soon-to-be-born son. Before I left on this expedition my daughter wanted me to take one of her dolls with me. It was a highlight of the trip to take a selfie with her doll overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The view of the Milky Way seen from the cockpit as we were returning from the ocean was a close second. I can’t wait to go sail the world with my family!
I’m a desert rat from Arizona with limited sailing experience other than ASA training and desert lake sailing on my Hobie Cat. I’ve truly enjoyed this expedition as it’s opened my eyes to the reality of cruising and sailing.
As a nurse I’ve always had a love for life. To see the whales, seals was exciting and viewing the Milky Way at midnight without city lights was truly spectacular.
I’m from Vancouver, WA on the Columbia River where I previously sailed my Cascade 29, out of Hood River, OR, usually triple-reefed with a storm jib in 35-45 kt winds. Right now, I sail with a friend and am planning on purchasing a 40’ blue water sailboat within a year and leaving within three
Leg 1, 2020 Salish Sea and Open Pacificadmin2021-04-23T10:01:03+00:00
Leg 0, 2020, Update 1
Salish Sea and Open Pacific Ocean
Leg 0 Crew – Amanda, Rick, Dave, Margaret and Ram, with John taking the photo.
August 9, 2020 1700 hrs, 48.22N, 124.36W Log: 1097 miles
At anchor, Neah Bay, Washington
Baro: 30.2, Cabin Temp: 65 F, Sea Water: Ch-ch-chilly!
This is an entire new and exciting experience for us. Due to COVID, we’re unable to easily return to Auckland, New Zealand, to launch Mahina Tiare for our 31st year of sail-training in the South Pacific – so…we decided to conduct 7-day sail-training expeditions from Bellingham, WA, through the San Juan Islands, out the Straits of Juan de Fuca into the Pacific Ocean, using a Jeanneau 45 charter boat from San Juan Sailing. This is our first of four expeditions, and we’re delighted and honored to have such a keen and hearty crew.
Ram kindly bought the liferaft up from Seattle – on loan from Ryan Helling of Swiftsure Yachts.
Our four expedition members joined us aboard Friday night in Bellingham, and after a good sleep we completed orientation and set sail 40 miles through the San Juan Islands on a brilliantly sunny, if mostly windless day to Henry Island, one of our favorite kayak destinations from our home base at Roche Harbor, San Juan Island. Open Bay is totally wide open to the south, but it allows a clear and straight exit for a 0300 departure to enable us to sail 120 miles out the Straits of Juan de Fuca and into the Pacific.
Ram and Rick work on the navigation for our Ocean passage
After enjoying a salmon dinner in the cockpit, we relished the calm anchorage and awoke at 0300 to a half-moon lighting up the shoreline and islands. By the time we passed False Bay on San Juan Island the first rays of the morning were silhouetting snow-capped Mt. Baker to the east.
Our navigator diligently detoured from the rumbline to avoid straying into Canadian waters which are strictly forbidden to non-Canadian pleasure vessels. To avoid the busy Vessel Traffic System (VTS) Control lanes of freighter traffic we crossed at nearly a right angle, then fairly hugged the Washington coastline, passing Port Angeles and Sekiu, motorsailing into light headwinds.
The prevailing summer winds in this area are light inflow NW and W winds except in the afternoon when they often rise to gale force. The exception is when a frontal passage occurs which bring outflow winds.
Early morning watch
Amanda taught single-line reefing (kind of new to us, as we’d only sailed Misty once a couple months ago) and later I taught marine weather as we charged along in the sunshine, dodging many small fishing boats.
John teaching Marine Weather underway
Our plan was to pass Neah Bay, the Makah Indian village at the far NW corner of continental North America, turn W or SW and sail as far as our crew wanted before turning around and sailing back down the Straits. However, just a few miles before Neah Bay we saw a thick grey band of fog directly ahead of us, and in minutes our visibility dropped to less than ¼ mile. Radar and running lights on, lookouts posted and just as we crept through the entrance into Neah Bay, the fog started lifting in patches.
Rick squares away the mainsail
Two cruising boats were anchored in the bay, waiting for a good weather window to head south to Mexico, and across the water we chatted with Doug and Mary on Cassiopeia (http://asailof2hearts.com/) – who had attended our Offshore Cruising Seminar at the Anacortes Marine Tech Center last year. They were happy and proud to have cut the dock lines and set sail on their dream cruise!
Doug and Mary on Cassiopeia
Fairly rambunctious NW winds and seas forecasted for tonight, with small craft advisories or gale warnings for most areas. Our plan is to have dinner, raise anchor and set off in an hour or so with the goal of gaining offshore experience.
Calm and clear conditions as we pass Tatoosh Island
Checking the shipping lanes as to a good course to make
We’re also running Rose Point Coastal Explorer charting on the laptop, the vessel’s Garmin MFD plus Margaret keeps track of our position on her i-phone with a Navionics app
This ship entering the Straits is just one of constant procession in both directions
By the time we finished dinner the fog had mostly lifted and at 1900 we set sail, rounding Tatoosh Island, on a course slightly S of W. The seas became more and more confused and at 2200 a thick cold fog descended upon us. At the change of watch we discussed our situation with all the crew and based on the sea conditions and the shipping in the area that we were following on radar and AIS the decision was made that it would be prudent to turn around and head back into the straits. As we closed on Neah Bay again, we got occasional glimpses of the village streetlights, but we never saw the powerful Tatoosh Island light, only four miles away. At 0130 Sunday we re-anchored, enjoyed a cup of hot tea and biscotti and all instantly fell asleep in the calm anchorage protected by the breakwater attached to Waddah Island.
By 0900 we’d set off again, in light downwind conditions, and encountered fog patches off and on all day
Rick making his lunch for the daily lunch spread
Foggy conditions prevail, but they don’t hold up rig check class
We arrived at 1610 in Crescent Bay and with gale force NW-W winds forecasted for the night, we tucked in close behind the headland, nearly completely protected from the wind, but not the swell. In fact, Dave, a long-time surfer pointed out several surfers riding the waves on the eastern shore of the bay, astern of us. 24 years ago, we’d briefly stopped in Crescent Bay for dinghy fuel on our way back from Cape Horn and Antarctica aboard MT II, but now the only sign of the resort was some pilings and a large A-frame lodge ashore. When we headed ashore in the dinghy a guy was standing on the beach in front of the lodge and informed us that the shoreline was private but we were free to land at the state park where the surfers were enjoying the shore break.
Our evening anchorage
So – we focused on navigation for the following day and getting caught up on sleep which proved challenging, given the frequent rolling motion. Next visit, we’ll be setting a stern anchor to keep Misty’s bow pointed into the swell that wraps around the headland.
Dave is anchor master today as we get underway from Crescent Bay
We were underway by Tuesday and looked forward to anchoring behind the breakwater at tiny Sekiu, home to four salmon fishing docks/campgrounds. Rich called his friends ashore whom we’d hoped to visit but they said the fog was as thick ashore as it was with us out in the strait so we motored by with light following winds, eyes glued to the radar, chart plotter, navigational computer and paper charts.
Navigation briefing for the entering Port Angeles
By 1100 the fog had disappeared, and we decided to stop in Port Angeles to top up water tanks, enjoy showers and lunch ashore. Ram called the harbormaster who requested that we tie up on the registration dock in front of his office, which we did. When I explained that we planned to stay a couple hours and asked if they had a day rate the cheerful harbormaster Erik Widsteen, said, “Just stay where you are, and there won’t be any charge!” It had been five years since we last visited aboard Mahina Tiare, and when I asked if Safeway was still located on the far side of town, Erik, who looked like the quintessential logger/fisherman said, “Forget Safeway! We’ve got the most incredible health food store called Country Aire. They’ll have everything you need and more plus it’s much closer”.
Our crew headed for showers and lunch ashore, and Amanda and I, curious to check out this new store headed the mile or so to town. Country Aire had taken over the old JC Penny’s store that covered half a city block and what a shocker it was! A huge deli section dominated the middle of the store and an entire wall housed glass containers of bulk herbs, spices and teas.
Two LARGE tractors, a John Deere and McCormick plus a lovely wooden boat with mast, and all kinds of farming and logging implements decorated the space above and around the food shelves.
I couldn’t resist asking the herb & spices woman what the scoop was, and she said the store was started by John and Robyn Miletich, a 24-year-old local couple 45 years ago, moving into the current building eight years ago. She said the owners had done nearly all the remodel themselves, and that the staff loved working there which was obvious by the smiles and cheerful greetings of everyone we spoke with.
Finally, on our sail from Port Angeles to Dungeness Spit, the winds filled in, and kept filling in until we were reefing (not for practice, for real!), learning how to run the preventer and starting to surf!
Approaching Dungeness lighthouse
Happy sailing crew
Ram clocked the highest boat speed of the afternoon, accompanied by much whooping and hollering, and before we rounded the iconic Dungeness lighthouse, we reefed down some more.
Spray was flying as we charged along the inside of the Spit
With near-gale force winds forecasted for the night (calm in the day, windy at night!) we carefully laid out all 200’ of 3/8” chain with a depth of 13’ (Misty must be the only bareboat charter boat in the world with so much chain which we are grateful for) and very carefully set the anchor.
Time to celebrate and Ram had generously bought an assortment of treats at NW Fudge in Port Angeles
It’s great to be able to present our PowerPoint shows on the boat monitor
It did blow that night, and someone got up to check, but we never budged, pitched or rolled…..thank goodness, and true to www.windy.com’s ECMWF forecast, the wind died at 0200.
Summertime Pacific NW cruising brings KELP!
Dungeness lighthouse looked very inviting on a still sunny morning
We decided to have splicing class underway and set sail at 0930, and by then the fog had burned off, winds filled in and we were off on a GLORIOUS broad reach, across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. What a perfect time to teach celestial navigation! The sky was cloudless, the horizon clearly visible and the students keen to try out Pete McGonagle’s Cassens & Plath sextant while taking a Latitude by Noonsite shot.
Ram takes a sun sight
Margaret, the navigator of the day, chose a course to take us at near right-angles across the busy shipping lanes and suggested we stop at Watmough Bay for lunch, mentioning there were five mooring balls there, in case we didn’t want to bother anchoring. Upon arrival Margaret was shocked to count 23 boats in the bay, so many we couldn’t even see the moorings. No matter, as the bottom slope was very gradual, we anchored well outside of the other boats, enjoyed lunch in the cockpit (actually – we had every single meal of the expedition in the cockpit) and then set sail for Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes.
It felt so strange to pass the Anacortes ferry dock where our San Juan Island ferry docks and continue on into downtown Anacortes. We’ve checked out boats for clients in Cap Sante Marina in the past but have never been a moorage customer before so, it was all rather new to arrive by water. We’d earlier made reservations, and as the marina office was closed because of COVID, everything was done over the phone. With a free night from class our crew raved about their dinner ashore at Anthony’s, adjacent to the marina.
By 0730 Thursday we were headed a couple blocks away to Skagit Valley College’s legendary Marine Tech Center, finding director Mike Beemer plus instructor Art were waiting for us. Mike showed us the very latest in Li-ion batteries and charging systems, had crew test electrical systems and then switched to diesel engines. Mike has ten marine diesels of varying horsepower on roller stands, each operational. For this class he chose a new Yanmar, demonstrating fuel and cooling systems. We also got to tour the Westsail 39 that the college recently purchased as an instructional rebuild/refit project.
Mike and Art explain the latest battery systems
Our last class at the college was sail repair, utilizing one of the college’s several Sailrite sewing machines.
By then it was time to fuel up, pump out, and set sail for Bellingham, 23 miles away.
Again, the wind filled in, giving us an excellent opportunity to practice heaving to and Lifesling overboard rescue.
Each of our crew nailed the MOB “rescue” of a newspaper head, and after dodging a tug and barge it was time to drop sail and return to Squalicum Harbor.
Amanda and I welcomed Margaret’s conscientious and sound advice and she demonstrated superb docking skills getting Misty back into her berth.
August 14, 2020 1100 hrs, 48.41N, 122.32W
Squalicum Harbor, Bellingham
Baro: 1023, SUNNY and warm already!
We tidied Misty up, then our crew asked if we could point out boat features from our “Selecting an Offshore Cruising Boat” PowerPoint seminar so after dinner we walked most of the docks in the marina, pointing out good and bad options for the three of them that are in the market for cruising boats.
Friday morning was a blur of packing – and then it was over.
Wow – we’ve never had a week fly by so quickly!
Here’s our hardy Leg 0 Expedition Members:
Dave, 47 from Vancouver, WA
I’ve been a livelong dreamer of sailing and have enjoyed daysails through the years and taken a few ASA courses, but nothing of this magnitude. It was an amazing experience and I wasn’t ready for it to end. I met amazing people, learned an incredible amount, and had a wonderful time doing it. It was absolutely fulfilling.
After a 20-year hiatus from sailing on the Chesapeake, this instruction and experience kickstarted this Washington DC’s transplant’s exploration of Puget Sound, West Coast, Hawaii and eventually…everywhere!
I’ve been a sailor since I was a teenager. Now I work as a sailing instructor in the Pacific NW. I am quite happy to sail here and also enjoy going offshore. This was a great opportunity to learn from two legends in offshore sailing instruction. Amazing stories, great insights and loads of inspiration as well as all the learning. (Margaret is an ASA and US Sailing Instructor Evaluator, plus an instructor at the SVC Marine Tech Center).
I’m a retired communications consultant who signed up for some of the Clipper Challenge around the world legs upon retirement. I grew up sailing around Puget Sound on a variety of boats, and most recently enjoyed a long ownership of a Catalina 320.
Our September Legs 1, 2 & 3 are all filled.
Assuming we’re unable to return to Auckland in April we’re in the process of contracting for six expeditions out of Bellingham starting April 2021. 2021 training expeditions will be nine days (instead of seven) which should allow us time to reach Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, if allowed.
Assuming Canada reopens her borders by next August-September we’re considering circumnavigating Vancouver Island with two 12-day expeditions. Please let us know if you’re interested in either or both of these expeditions.
2020 Annapolis Boat Show – October 8-12
We’re excited to be presenting in person at this show. If you’re attending there’s plenty of options for presentations of which some will also be online.
Here’s what we’re currently presenting Mahina all-day Offshore Cruising Seminar, hosting Take the Wheel seminars, and three 90-minute seminars at Cruisers University. We’re also arriving early and staying late at the show, planning to have plenty of time to answer questions personally when not presenting. Hope to see you at the show!
COVID RISK MITIGATION PROTOCOL
1. We have just ordered and ask all expedition members to order and complete a COVID-19 test shortly before their expedition.
Our SJ County Health Dept. recommended: https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/covid-19 which we have ordered and will take before the expeditions. $119 covers FedEx with a 3-day turn-around. Your insurance may cover the cost.
4. We ask all expedition members to be VERY conscientious about wearing face masks and washing hands whenever they are out in public. We absolutely do the same. If you can think of any additional steps we can take for the safety of our crews, please advise.
Leg 0 Itinerary
Leg 0 2020 Salish Sea and Open Pacific Oceanadmin2021-04-23T09:03:09+00:00
October 22, 2019, 2019, 0915 hrs, 25.33 S, 155.06 E, Log: 228,901 miles
Baro: 1020.6, Cabin Temp: 758 F, Cockpit: 82F, Sea Water: 83.3 F
Close reaching at 7 kts in 15 kt SE winds with flat seas and glorious blue skies
MAGICAL UNINHABITED REEFS AND ISLANDS PLUS FAST SAILING!
BONZER! We’re Amanda, Scott, Nigel, Tom, John I, John N, Rachel & Nojan and we’re off to Oz
What a grand adventure Leg 7 has been so far!
It all started with a large ridge of high pressure coming across from Australia, setting up the perfect weather window for anyone wanting to sail from Noumea to Australia. We’d collected passports Monday afternoon during safety orientation at our Port du Sud Marina location so that I could be on the doorstep of the immigration office across town, awaiting their 0800 opening. There was only one couple in the waiting room when I entered to hand the forms I’d earlier completed, but when I exited the inner office, the waiting room was jammed with 30+ cruisers complete with kids, backpacks for final grocery runs and ship’s papers. The three offices required for outbound clearance (immigration, customs and port captain) are located several miles from the marinas and spread out around the commercial port. I wore running clothes and shoes which allowed me to efficiently make their circuit plus stop by the market to get a couple hands of super green bananas (that still look like they’ll never ripen) to arrive back at the marina in under 2.5 hours.
Rachel takes the helm for MOB practice.
Our crew were on the dock early (at our request) looking extremely energetic and focused. We slipped the dock lines and were smartly underway for tiny Ile Nge, inside Passe Dumbea, eagerly anticipating a swim with everyone pitching in for a final polish of MT’s Micron 66 antifoul. For our Australian Bio Security arrival, it’s extremely important that the bottom and all apertures be free of any barnacles or growth
After MOB, lunch, bottom scrubbing and the crew unpacking their kit into lockers we were soon underway and clear of Dumbea Pass on a course heading NW. Relatively excellent broad reaching conditions prevailed although we occasionally chose to motor when the winds went light.
Between New Caledonia and Australia there are many scattered and extensive reef systems. We selected a course that took us between the southern tip of Lansdowne Bank and an unnamed reef 15 miles to the south. It also took us just south of Fairway Reef, which some charts show as drying, but I’d forgotten to bring our copy of the Admiralty Sailing Directions for this part of the Pacific. I emailed our circumnavigator-friend Skip Sims in Hawaii, and he Googled and forwarded the following Google entry:
Fairway Reef as viewed on our MFD
“The southeastern end of Lansdowne Bank is marked by Fairway Reef, thus named from its lying in the fairway between Australia and New Caledonia, midway between the Bellona Reefs (south of the Chesterfield Islands) and New Caledonia.
Fairway Reef is 3.2 kilometers (2.0 mi) long, about 4 to 5 fathoms (7.3 to 9.1 meters) deep, of coral bottom, and located at 21°00’15″S 161°45’09″E.
According to some sources, Fairway Reef dries at low tide.”
As this totally got my interest we altered course slightly, and sure enough, substantial breakers were visible three miles out. As we go closer, several of our gang spotted pink coral reef sticking above the breakers. Brilliant! I was now in search of an anchorage and explored the western lee of the reef choosing to anchor in sand and coral at 28 59.580 S, 161 46.615 E. Scott had volunteered to check for a clear spot for the anchor, but although there was extremely good visibility he discovered very few sandy spots. A 1.3 to 1.9 knots of current was a surprise and he suggested we tow a line behind MT if we all went swimming.
Nigel keeps lookout for sharks…..though that’s a funny place for his mask.
We decided to take our chances in anchoring amongst the coral heads and were soon in the water marveling at the crystal-clear views of colorful coral and large fish. Most impressive of all was the time to gaze around at the blue skies and seas, brilliantly white crashing breakers and the numerous seabirds soaring around.
When anchoring in offshore reefs like Fairway, it’s rare to find sand, so we put down only enough chain to barely hook a coral head, then when leaving slowly motor forward until the anchor drops free.
Weather dictates nearly everything aboard and the weather learning is ongoing.
Our next stop was Chesterfield Reef, a huge mostly-submerged coral reef 190 miles to the NW which earlier expedition members Mark and Marie Claude have said was the highlight of their entire two-year cruise. Changing course after we rounded Lansdowne Bank put us on an excellent broad reach which we carried through the entrance and nearly to the Three Islets anchorage shown on French chart #5978 that Jim & Katie Thomsen (www.tenayatravels.com) had recommended.
Chesterfield Islands were named after the American whaling ship captained by Matthew Alt in the 1790’s. The islets have been scraped clear of guano several times and the lagoon has served as an off-season base for whaling ships. Wikipedia has an extensive list of ships that have been wrecked on the reefs.
We chatted briefly with an English catamaran of divers anchored off the windward islets before settling an anchorage closer to the beaches that had a smooth sandy bottom. We now had three options: go snorkeling, go aloft for rig inspection or head ashore – Once Amanda spotted two turtles resting in the tide line on the beach going ashore won hands-down!
Someone read that these turtles come ashore during the hours of darkness. They proceed up the beach to above the high tide line then dig huge holes in the sand before laying eggs. It’s then a tiring journey back to the ocean before morning only to return consecutive nights to lay more eggs. As we walked the length of several of the connected islets we passed dozens of turtles tracks and excavated holes.
On higher ground low scrub bushes and trees housed thousands and thousands of nesting seabirds, while a few were content sitting on eggs laid on the sand. Interestingly, the birds were not at all aggressive as we’ve experienced on several other isolated islets. They squawked and squawked as we quietly and slowly walked by, but never dive bombed us.
Amanda’s lofty view of the isles we explored
After a couple hours of exploring, we headed back to MT. This is where Amanda demonstrated going aloft for rig inspection before we hoisted anchor.
We then set off seven miles across the lagoon to Long Island, the largest of the Chesterfield Islands at 1600 meters long by 100 meters wide and 9 meters tall at the highest point, located to the south of an unnamed broad pass.
We all enjoyed a swim to view very healthy coral, a couple uninterested sharks and some huge parrot fish upon anchoring off Long Island.
Nigel’s view of Mahina Tiare while snorkeling off Long Island.
Healthy colorful coral heads made for interesting snorkeling.
Tom was the only taker on our offer to explore ashore and we watched several more turtles relax in the tidal waves and thousands more seabirds and a long, flat clearing that looked as if it could have been a runway at an earlier time.
A sobering piece of jetsam especially since a friend recently lost his trawler in Havannah Pass, Noumea when a floating line ripped out the props.
Our goal was to have the anchor up by 1700 to have plenty of visibility while exiting the pass. We had an easy departure and an hour later all witnessed the green flash following a brilliant setting sun. The next couple days brought light air and calm seas, great for teaching, but only occasionally enough wind for sailing as we headed S on the 570-mile passage to Brisbane.
Scott on morning rig inspection
Weather systems are starting to make sense especially when giving the daily weather faxes briefing.
“Team Amenable” – Nigel (birthday boy), John, Tom, Scot, Rachel and Nojan
Sunday afternoon we rolled up the genoa and stopped in 3 kts of wind to do a final wipe-down of the bottom. It was Nigel’s birthday so we celebrated with a chili chicken dinner and sing along.
Nigel, 57, originally from England
I am an engineer living in Upstate NY working on silicon chips. The dream is to cruise with my wife Karen and daughter Leah when I retire. We’ve always loved to travel, but two weeks was always too short to really see the countries and experience the cultures of the places we visited. Learning to sail over the past two years and then getting our own boat will give us the time to truly appreciate each country and places well off the beaten path. Experiencing places like Chesterfield Reefs is one reason I’m learning to sail.
John, 64 from the SF Bay area
I’ve loved sailing since first learning on Long Island Sound at age 13. My family and I live in the Bay Area, sailing at OCSC in Berkeley and I work in Silicon Valley. We’re planning to acquire a cruising boat in Florida in 18-24 months for seasonal Caribbean cruising, spending hurricane seasons in our MA cottage, enjoying retirement.
Tom, 60 from Connecticut
I am blessed to be able to sail with my wife Patty and my 87 yr old Dad on our Seaward 32RK out of Old Saybrook, CT. Most of my sailing is daysailing in Long Island Sound with some extended trips to Rhode Island and NY. I have chartered in the BVI and Bahamas and future plans include some extended chartering and coastal cruising along the New England coastline…and who knows where beyond.
Scott, 60 from the greater Portland, Oregon area
I’ve sailed since college – dinghies, Hobies, sailboards and bareboat charters. For a number of years, I’ve dreamed of expanding my horizons, and this expedition was a key part of confirming those decisions, and I’m excited to know I can! I also have begun to learn how beautiful the ocean is, in all directions!
Rachel, 44 of Seattle
I started sailing soon after moving to Seattle in the early 2000’s and even crewed on Nojan’s J-24 for a few years. We wanted to cruise in retirement and decided to start looking for a boat after watching Robert Redfords’s “All is Lost”. (Rachel took heart in thinking she knew more and could perhaps do better than Redford) A year later we attended Amanda & John’s Offshore Cruising Seminar and decided life is short and we’d better plan a mid-career cruising break in 2020. When not preparing for the big cruise, I enjoy cooking, craft beer and developing my career as a casualty actuary.
Nojan, 47 of Seattle
Exploring the Coral Sea aboard MT has been a tremendous adventure. As we navigated out of New Caledonia and sunset descended we slipped into our first offshore passage. The following morning our navigator of the day found an island on the chart and we adjusted course and sails to go find it. Unbelievably it was a seamount that just broke the surface so we anchored and went for a swim in the middle of the ocean. Unforgettable!
I stumbled into sailing in middle school and it was an instant infatuation. Over the years I learned to be a decent day sailor, then got into racing and then coastal and offshore cruising. I’m yet to find the end to the learning and physical tests that sailing provides. Next year I’m putting J-24 racing on hold to cruise our HR 36 from Seattle to Mexico and beyond. We love it.
For several days several weather sources predicted we would have SE winds gusting to 40 – 50 kts, the night before we’d reach Brisbane. Not wanting to be close-hauled in these conditions, we’d set a course directly south to preserve easting. Predictwind.com forecast of the arrival time and duration was excellent, and following dinner, Tom wondered out loud if it mightn’t be easier tucking the third reef in the main before dark. When several of our hearty crew mentioned they’d really love some heavy weather experience. I thought, “Be careful what you wish for!”.
Heavy conditions soon hit hard with a couple of drenching downpours and rouge waves which crashed aboard, partially flooding the cockpit and two dorades. By midnight, winds were still in the low 30’s and the seas were still crossed and confused, but we were able to ease sheets and head directly toward Brisbane, making the ride smoother.
Not quite a perfect set on the mainsail reefing…but it shouldn’t be in for long
Tom trims the headsail for more speed.
By breakfast all reefs were shaken out, the genoa unfurled and MT was smokin’ along at 7kts, right on course for Brisbane! Our crew were delighted with the few hours of heavy weather conditions, saying it was just the right amount. Our seas moderated enough for me to be able to remove three engine room doors and conduct our engine room checkout and Amanda is currently conducting Sail repair class.
Earlier we were overflown by an F-15 fighter that also checked out two nearby container ships and we’re now wondering if that is in connection with our 96-hour pre-arrival notification that we sent a couple days ago.
October 26, 2019 0915 hrs, 27.27 S, 153.11 E, Log: 229,087 miles
Baro: 1020.6, Cabin Temp: 758 F, Cockpit: 78F, Sea Water: 86.0 F
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, berth K-42
Excellent sailing conditions plus the 1kt south-setting current had us trying to put on the brakes so we wouldn’t arrive before dawn at the NW Fairway buoy, the entrance to the 46-mile channel into Rivergate Marina’s quarantine dock. Very early Wednesday morning we passed several freighters and tankers then ran through quite an intense and closely-spaced line of 50-60’ coastal fishing boats of which only one was transmitting an AIS signature so we experienced some tense moments tracking them on radar and trying to figure out their intentions.
We’d spotted the large and very well-lit NW Fairway buoy on schedule and as we’re at the western edge of this time zone (and on Queensland time) first light occurs well before 0500. Our navigator had a busy morning ahead keeping us in the narrow, twisting channel while the on watch kept a traffic lookout.
Inland a few miles, we sighted the spectacular Glasshouse Mountains in the clear morning light which so fascinated Captain Cook that he and several of his shipmates left the Endeavour, hiking to, exploring and mapping these mountains. These mountains also intrique Amanda and I during our first Australian landfall in 2011. We’d rented a campervan in Brisbane with plans to explore further north but ended up so enchanted with this area that we spent a couple days camping and trail running there. The following year we decided to return and explore some more. I’d discovered www.glassonglasshouse.com.au: three self-contained architect-designed all-glass cottages, set in the midst of the mountains and surrounded by wildlife, and was hooked.
Ohh so vibrant after over a week in the wilds
We’d arrived in the channels as the tide started to ebb and soon found a couple shortcuts allowing us to exactly make our 1000 hrs appointment at the Rivergate Marina quarantine berth. Not only had I emailed the required Pre-Arrival Notification info, I’d also emailed customs daily updated ETA information.
Minutes after we tied up, two Border Force officers pulled up to the gate. They were a bit surprised and very pleased to see that we had all of the paperwork completed (a big thanks to John Hemlaw of Go West Rally who gave us the forms in Fiji). After asking us the usual questions they interestingly handed me a reduced version of the same nav chart we’d been plotting on asking me to draw our approximate route since departing Noumea. Mishell, the lead officer, advised that we’d need to give Border Force a four-day notice of our proposed departure time, but since I know when our Leg 8 crew arrive, we set the date and time then – 10am Tuesday, November 8, and as soon as Mishell returned to her office she forwarded me the outbound customs forms
Bio Security writing up their bug report
Bio Security arrived shortly after and promptly spent two hours searching for termites in EVERY nook and cranny. With bright flashlights they peered high and low including pulling out all the drawers. When, amongst my breakfast cereal bin, they found and captured a tiny live bug and swept up two dead ones the officers appeared almost jubilant. After dropping them into vials they advised the live bug was unidentifiable by them. It had shriveled up to a teensy size and they were no longer able to view a thorax at the abdomen section therefore it would be taken immediately to an entomologist. We advised them of our location and they stated we’d be alerted if the bug was “actionable”.
After Bio departed, we dropped our lines and headed down river, and down current to St. Helena, a small national park island that had been home to one of Queensland’s first prisons. We found a sheltered anchorage off the pier and were surprised the island was totally deserted – even the park ranger had departed. Some of the prison buildings have been restored, but one must be part of a tour to visit them. We were happy to explore the areas allowed without a guide and were amazed and delighted at hundreds of wallabies bounding in all directions.
Sweeping views across the old farmland to the prison
Finale “Team Amenable” photo at the ole prison entrance – what a grand expedition!
We had not only a brilliant sunset during dinner, but also the city lights and a totally peaceful anchorage. Being a day ahead of schedule, one of our options had been to ask the marina if our berth was available, but we were all so glad we didn’t. Early Thursday morning four of us headed ashore for a run then swim and after breakfast we were underway, then in the sizable Royal Queensland Yacht Club marina. searching for berth K 42.
Once checked in, I led our final class – Dealing with Customs Worldwide before our crew set off to explore Manly, our favorite little seaside town in Australia. Our graduation dinner was at the Thai restaurant and this morning crew pitched in with Scott, Rachel and John washing tons of accumulated salt off before hoisting Amanda aloft to replace a nut on the new turnbuckle. Meanwhile Nojan and Nigel were troubleshooting (and solving!!!) a very occasional fault that had been causing our 24-volt alternator to stop charging. Nojan went so far as to call and explain the problem to Balmar’s hugely-helpful tech support staff and finally – thanks in part to the Balmar tech-support guy – a solution!
Basically our voltage regulator would completely stop working if it got too hot. Problem was solved by installing a new regulator which was in our spares locker and reprograming it for our Lifeline AGM batteries.
I also received more good news email from Bio Security: the bugs were “Non Actionable. I asked what they were and was told the following.
3. Dead Snout or Bark beetle (Curculionidae suspect Sitophilus sp.)
Amanda made it clear that the bugs were in my “area” – where I stow breakfast grains and cereals. Next year, I’m taking out all the bins out for a “spring” clean before we leave Noumea!
Then BINGO…Leg 7 was officially over and we were saying goodbyes on the dock, all a little sad, I think…we’d shared some great times and adventures!
Speaking of adventures, Amanda and I have been working flat out since noon, getting MT cleaned and prepped for Leg 8 so that we can again slip away to the Glass House Mountains.
With the recent news from a girlfriend of Amanda’s that COSTCO is opening in Auckland in 2020 we went online and discovered they are now in Australia. Bonzer!. Brisbane has two stores…I’m sooo excited as one is on our drive north…planning a stop on the way up for a reconnoiter then a second in few days on the way back in case we missed some goodies. Amanda’s hoping they have Vegemite by the case, and I’m praying they don’t!
Leg 7,2019 Noumea,New Caledonia;Brisbane,Australiaadmin2021-05-04T00:36:14+00:00
September 29, 2019, 2115 hrs, 19.45 S, 167.03 E, Log: 226,786 miles
Baro: 1017.9, Cabin Temp: 75 F, Cockpit: 75F, Sea Water: 75.9 F
Close reaching at 5 kts in 7 kt ESE winds with flat seas
It’s all about the sailing with these lads….Gottlieb, RJ, Mike, Paul, Rodney and Rob
Tonight seems the opposite of last night, when five of our six Leg 6 expedition members were noisily dry heaving with seasickness, brought on by 22kt, gusting 28 kt ESE winds and very rough, cross seas but…more on that later.
Between Legs 4 & 5 Amanda and I appreciated having MT on a protected (from blustery winds and seas) mooring at Aore Island Resort. We delighted in long morning runs, meeting locals and ex-pats, and a highlight was traveling to Freshwater Plantation for an incredible nouveau local lunch and a tour of their scary micro bat caves. For easy we moved MT across the channel to anchor off the Beachfront Resort the yachty-friendly small hotel on the site of the WWII US Navy’s dry dock and repair facilities.
From Beachfront Resort it’s a short taxi ride the town of Luganville which is certainly more vibrant than during our previous visits. Local produce abounds at the market and Laplap is the local version of fast food.
Crossing the swing bridge to the inner bat cave
It pays to wash all local fruit & veg.
We’d started Leg 5 on Friday, setting sail from at noon from our anchorage off The Beachfront Resort. We experienced excellent downwind sailing as we sailed out past Aore and Malo islands for the 27-mile crossing to Malua. We found two yachts, a French family and a Kiwi couple anchored in this, the first protected bay on the leeward west coast of Malakula as we dropped the anchor on dusk.
Evening anchorage at Malua
Everyone dove in to check out the bay and we found incredibly clear water with featureless gently sloping black sand bottom. Our crew had flown into Santo from as far away as Taiwan, Manila, Denver and Seattle, with several going for dives on the wreck of the SS President Coolidge and tours of the amazing WWII sites, so everyone crashed right after dinner sleeping deeply through the night.
For our three-day passage to New Caledonia we had an exceptional forecast of E and ESE winds of mostly less than 20 kts before the prevailing and soon-arriving conditions of stronger SE and SSE winds were predicted. Our plan was to get underway soon after breakfast, a final wrap-up of our safety orientation and a visit by Peter, the nearby village chief’s son.
Peter had paddled out in a badly-leaking dugout canoe as we arrived on Friday night, promising he’d return the following morning with green bananas. True to his word he brought several hands of very green bananas. While he was standing on MT’s swim step telling us about his village, Amanda took his ancient-looking dugout outrigger for a spin, alternating between paddling, laughing and bailing it out with half a coconut shell.
Peter (on the transom) chatting with our crew
This is harder than it looks
Initially we sailed south along Malakula’s leeward coast with sometimes strongish gusts, but as we neared the southern tip of the island, the winds and seas increased as we kept rolling up more and more genoa and kept reefing the main until 0200 this morning when we ended up with three reefs in the main. Late yesterday afternoon before the seas got very rough, our new Rapala lure snagged a very tasty dogfish tuna.
Yes! This sailing stuff is rather fun
Surprisingly, all but one of our crew succumbed to seasickness in the confused seas downwind of the channel between Malakula and Epi islands, even though we were 60 miles offshore. Our guys tried everything from Stugeron tablets to Compazine suppositories, but in the end, it was Transderm Scopalamine patches and diminishing sea conditions in the early morning that did the trick for them. Wind and sea conditions then became perfect, and this morning we completed our orientation with a survey of our two abandon ship containers.
John and Paul working on navigation and the popcorn bowl
I asked MetBob.com for a super quick weather forecast for the passage to New Caledonia, and here it is: “Nice ESE until Monday, then squally conditions Monday night, followed by SE 10 kts Tuesday to Friday and likely to be squally again from Sat 5 Oct until Thurs 10 Oct.”
As it looks now, we’ll be passing Lifou in the Loyalty Islands soon after dawn tomorrow morning, then will be making landfall at the tricky Havannah Passage Monday night in squally conditions.
PredictWind.com agreed, and as expected our winds have become increasingly lighter, now averaging 8 kts. Mahina Tiare manages 5-6 knots in these conditions, thanks to a super clean bottom and very conscientious helming. Eventually we know the wind will go swing around to light headwinds, but we’re enjoying the smooth conditions, sailing under a star-filled sky.
WHAT AN ADVENTURE!
October 7, 2019, 0815 hrs, 22.10 S, 166.19 E, Log: 227,966 miles
Baro: 1014.1, Cabin Temp: 74 F, Cockpit: 75F, Sea Water: 75.0 F
At anchor, 11 miles W of Noumea at Baie Papaye
Monday morning, we made landfall off Lifou in the Loyalty Islands at first light, and then reveled in excellent sailing conditions all day allowing Amanda to teach Rig Check and Spares, Provisioning and me to teach Marine Weather I. We had hoped to make it to the always challenging Havannah Pass entrance before dark, but as sailing were ideal and the scenery inspiring, we held off motorsailing as long as possible.
Rodney, Mike and Gottlieb enjoying the dawn watch
It was 2200 when we lined up on the excellent range lights for the pass entrance and for the first time in many visits, it wasn’t a maelstrom, in fact, seas were flat and winds were below 5 kts! With RJ doing a diligent job of navigating, we threaded our way 13 miles through the twisting channels in the dark, always with at least one bow lookout and two cockpit lookouts, passing only two vessels, to anchor at Anse de Pilote, the old pilot boat anchorage on Ile Ouen. Sensibly, NewCal customs allows anchoring in the channels while waiting for daylight, as long as one is flying the Q flag.
It was 0100 by the time we anchored, and the smells of dry land and the sounds of birds and the calmness of the anchorage were overwhelming. We celebrated with dark chocolate and tea before having one of the soundest sleep in days.
Dawn occurs well before 0500 in NewCal, and everyone dove in for a dawn swim and shower before we got underway for Port du Sud marina in Noumea. I’d been emailing marina manager Marc for a week, and amazingly, he had one spot open on the outer visitor float. Moorage is always incredibly tight in Noumea, so we’d hoped to tie alongside vs. anchoring out, at least for clearing customs.
I was in the marina office minutes after Marc opened, and he said, “If you don’t mind taking a taxi, I think you’ll be able to complete everything by 1pm today!” I quickly completed customs forms which Marc faxed off with copies of our passport, then hopped in the taxi, arriving in time to complete immigration clearance before 11:30 am when they close for the day. Fortunately, I’d read in www.noonsite.com that Noumea now requires proof of travel and repatriation insurance for all arriving sailors, and having copies of each of our crews policies, outbound air tickets and passports speeded up the process.
Never one to waste a minute, Amanda taught sail design and trim to our keen crew before setting to make an early lunch with items that bio-security might take. They were our final official hurdle and the friendly bio-security officer appeared exactly on schedule at 1330, taking away popcorn plus our remaining fruit and veg.
Everyone then went hiking over the hill to explore Noumea town with the goal to meet at 1800 in the Latin Quarter for dinner. Only problem was, La Chaumerie, our favorite restaurant (and all restaurants) don’t open until 1930, so Amanda led us on a walking tour that included , the best supermarket called Johnston, the colorfully lit Place des Cocotiers and on back to the Latin Quarter. We also spent considerable time at the back of town looking for an outrageously good Moroccan restaurant we’d once eaten at with past crew only to discover it was no longer there.
It was 1900 by the time we reached La Chaumerie, and the always-gracious Kanak women staff seated us and brought us drinks, even though we were half an hour early. La Chaumerie has a set menu and limited choices but it serves delightful French food with a Kanak twist.
Traditional Kanak house – Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Wednesday morning while some crew showered and did laundry and others visited the iconic Tjibaou Cultural Centre. Meanwhile Amanda and I stocked up at a nearby Carrefour supermarket before we set sail for Baie Papaye. With following winds gusting to 25, we sailed under genoa only and upon arrival we realized the tide was too low for an easy dinghy landing so Amanda taught Sail Repair, followed by my teaching Anchoring Worldwide.
Our Leg 6 crew are from fascinating and varied backgrounds, one having been a high ranking army officer on loan to the White House as a policy advisor, another is a State Department diplomat with worldwide experience, another has lived in Bhutan training doctors, another has volunteered in Nepal, setting up communications systems. Many or all have hiked to Machu Pichu and explored Patagonia, one grew up in Switzerland and so on. Sure makes for interesting after dinner discussions!
Here’s “The Intrepid Six” – Paul, Gottlieb (Rodney is behind at the MFD), Rob, RJ and Mike.
This is my first offshore sailing adventure. I’m an emergency medicine physician with years of wilderness experience. I arrived with a sense of trepidation and rapidly became debilitated by seasickness. Amanda and John got me through it with compassion, humor and experience helping me see the immense beauty of the ocean.
Diplomat, husband and father, originally from Switzerland whose work and love of the outdoors take him around the world. Currently stationed in the Philippines, he and his wife began their love of sailing with an anniversary date, later buying a HR 24 Misil which they sailed in the Baltic while working in Finland. Our family has since sailed in the Virgin Island and Greece.
I grew up in a small town in Texas, attending Texas A & M, after I built robotics for semiconductor fabrication. I always had the desire to cook so I quit tech to go to culinary school in NYC where I met my wife. We then moved to Portland, OR where we now have two BBQ restaurants, a brew pub and a 5 yr old boy. We spend as much of the summer as work allows on our Caliber 40 LRC in the San Juan Islands and hope to sail to Mexico and possibly beyond someday.
I’ve been sailing San Francisco Bay with my wife and two kids (5 & 6) for several years now and we’re dreaming of taking a year off to sail the Med and Pacific. In 2015 we bought a Beneteau 41 to enable us to sail and explore the California coast more. Next year we’ll enroll our oldest in sailing classes on Treasure Island and hopefully over the next few years we’ll build up enough confidence to sail the open blue!
I’m a SVP for an information management company, based in the Washington DC area, retired Army lieutenant colonel and a graduate and professor at West Point. I’ve been married to my wife Miki for over 41 years and we have three grown children and one grandson. I’ve been sailing for over 20 years and have enjoyed completing the Newport-Bermuda race plus 7 Chicago-Mac races and have done several offshore deliveries
Having married a circumnavigator, I was only recently introduced to cruising and have worked quickly to gain experience. I began in earnest in 2013 with the purchase of our first real boat, a Jeanneau 37. Now with the help of my wife, Pete McGonagle and John & Amanda, we’re gearing up to take our two sets of young twins across the South Pacific. And, having just bought an Outremer 49 from Dr Spann, we’re keeping it in the Mahina family as Dr. Spann himself is an expedition and consultation alumnus. Mike is a former physicist and he and his family currently divide time between Orcas Island and Seattle.
Unfortunately, on passage the locker in which we keep our dinghy gas tank had flooded so before going ashore we had to triple filter the dinghy fuel using Mr. Funnel Filter but Leg 6 crew will go down as one of our keenest and most helpful crew. Daily duties are completed quietly and efficiently and whenever we ask for the Galley Helper to chop vegies or fruit, inevitably a second volunteer jumps in to help.
Our mid-morning hike was superb. We landed on the beach and headed up the ridge which overlooks the bay and very active cattle ranch. On our way down, we crossed paths with a Kanak farm hand riding a shiny tractor. Along the western coast, in the lee of NewCal’s central mountain ridge, wide dry scrubby plains occur and the farm hand had been clearing fire breaks along the fence lines with the tractor mower and a weed wacker. We were unsure if we’d be reprimanded for hiking on private land, but he stopped and chatted with us, happily showing us his young companion puppy then suggested we hike the taller ridge in the middle of the bay that he’d been working on.
We had a dawn 0500 departure, hoping to avoid having to buck the normally heavy seas to return to Noumea, and it worked! We motorsailed into modest seas until in the lee of Ilot Maitre which proved an excellent location for having each EM demonstrate our modified Quick Stop Lifesling rescue maneuver.
NewCal’s famed ranching land
We picked up a free park mooring buoy, had breakfast, then Amanda taught Going Aloft for Rig Inspection before we headed ashore to hike around the small resort island, view the impressive skills of the kite surfing instructors and then brave the slightly chilly waters for a scenic coral snorkel back.
Rob in MOB command at central control station
Gottlieb’s masthead view of Ilot Maitre and Noumea beyond
Setting off for a charming beach walk around Ilot Maitre
Marina du Sud, three miles away in the next bay south from downtown Noumea, was totally packed, but Marc allowed us to tie to the unused fuel dock. Amanda taught splicing and whipping then we all met back aboard at 1700 for a 45-minute hike along the tourist beaches to L’Edzen restaurant which Gottlieb had found online. What an incredible dinner we had, with lots of interesting local ingredients.
Before we knew it, it was noon Saturday, MT was spotless (thanks guys!) and our keen intrepid Leg 6 crew were off on more adventures. Amanda and I went and enjoyed a visit to the New Caledonia Maritime Museum which had recently re-opened and was celebrating their 20th anniversary. For the occasion Le Vendemiaire, a French frigate based in Noumea, was open for tours. We were surprised to learn the warship annually goes to Auckland for dry docking and at 27 years old she’ll continue its work of territorial fisheries patrol and port visits to neighboring Pacific countries until retirement in ten years.
Leg 6, 2019 Luaganville,Vanuatu:Noumea,New Caledoniaadmin2021-05-04T00:37:05+00:00
September 2, 2018, 1540 hrs, 21.13 S, 159.49, W, Log: 217,729 miles
Baro: 1018.0, Cabin Temp: 78 F, Cockpit: 81 F, Sea Water: 75.9 F
At anchor off the reef, at Arorangi School with 40’ depths and coral bottom
We (Amanda and I) are currently rolling about in large southerly swells, so much so that Amanda has ended up sleeping athwart ship in the main saloon as we ride bow into a strong easterly wind that’s blowing a lot less here than in the harbor. A safe moorage is often the conundrum of Rarotonga – we love the people and the island, but it is one of the most challenging places that we visit in regard to between expedition mooring. Here off Arorangi it’s not too bad in general but every now and then there’s some large rollers that shoots MT forward dragging the chain under a coral head after which it snaps up short causing a large jerk. There is not a speck of sand to be found in this area, only hard, flat coral.
It’s possible to get ashore through a shallow channel dredged through the coral to a landing ramp and this morning we took a run up the valley and then went to church to hear the unique powerful singing and admire the ladies in their white Sunday finery that includes wonderful hats woven from young coconut leaves. Thankfully the wind and seas are forecasted to start dropping Wednesday night, so we’ll likely return to Avatiu Harbour on Thursday to prepare for our Leg 4 crew’s arrival on Tuesday.
As to our Leg 3 adventures – on Bora Bora, thanks to the calm weather, we all delighted in the snorkeling at the quiet reef anchorages and spectacular starry evenings with the nearly-full moon in between class modules. For their shore leave our crew enjoyed circumnavigating the island on scooters and dune buggies, hiking up to the WWII gun emplacements and exploring deserted beaches and inland vistas on the east coast while Amanda and I dealt with multiple departure formalities and provisioning.
Crew master 3-strand splicing
Looking for tradewinds
As a final farewell to our crew shouted Amanda and I to an excellent dinner at the always colorful Bloody Mary’s restaurant.
We had a great sail to Maupiti, 30 miles and a world away to the west of Bora and an exciting reef pass entrance due to the large southerly swell.
Here we caught up with friends ashore from previous visits while our intrepid crew ALL climbed the highest peak, Mt. Tiriano at 372 meters and a 3.5 hr. round trip. Now that will be a new adventure for us and our hopefully keen crew next year!
Falko, Dana, Alain, Michael and Greg…whew!…
Mountain ridge view of Maupiti pass
After word made it around the island by coconut telegraph that we were leaving shortly for Mopelia, a tiny atoll 100 miles WSW owned by Maupiti, two people asked for rides and three families asked if we would carry food and supplies to their relatives. We ended up with 100 lbs of flour to be stowed which we lowered with the spinnaker halyard in the fore cabin where it sat between the V-berth. Close to 60 lbs of rice loaded into the forward shower and box after box of food and supplies filling both showers and crew hanging lockers thus leaving the dog food cans sitting on bunk room floor, a plastic drum of green mangoes lashed to the granny bars and a sack of pamplemousse lashed to the aft pulpit.
Upon entering the pass with passed this Beneteau 424 crewed by and Italian couple we’d met in the San Blas at Christmas
With excellent broad-reaching conditions we reached Mopelia after breakfast, finding only 1.5 kt ebb current in Vahine Pass where the current can reach 8kts with a large southerly swell. I’d chosen Mopelia as destination to visit in Chris Santell’s bookFifty Places to Sail Before You Die so it’s always a treat to return.
Within a few minutes of anchoring off the northern village Marcello and his daughter Karino came alongside in their rickety plywood skiff to greet us. I’d first met Marcello and his wife Adrienne in 1981 when they were newlyweds living in an attractive thatch house on stilts facing the anchorage.
We then all proceeded to sort through our delivery supplies (some of which had had labels removed in order to stow them) then winch and lower the appropriate packages to Marcello who also offered to distribute the ones to his neighbors.
Unloading supplies to Karino and Marcello
Meanwhile Dana test the water for sharks…yep…PLENTY!
Knowing that we had supplies for the other eight people living three miles away in the SE village, Karino invited us to return the following afternoon for an evening beach barbecue as a way of thanking us for bringing the supplies.
Dodging the occasional waterlogged floats marking failed oyster shell farms we anchored off our friend Hina’s house. Teraitua and Parua soon came alongside in an aluminum skiff to collect their supplies and quickly invited us to a lobster and coconut crab barbecue that evening. Parua has only been on Mopelia a few months but loves everything about this isolated place so plans to try and persuade his family on Maupiti to permanently join him.
Parua, Greg (with coconut crab dinner) and Tera
Hina joined us for the barbecue, after first trouncing Falko at several games of chess. Dinner was over the top! At the same time we watched the sunset while the full moon rose over the opposite side of the lagoon. Parua showed us his coconut crabs which he keeps in plastic barrels, feeding and watering them daily for months at a time until they’re needed for a barbecue, along with how he makes his killer coconut milk and curry coconut sauce.
Tera kept us supplied with young drinking coconuts and tended the fire which cooked pots of coconut crabs and the lobsters he’d caught. Amanda had made several salads, a ton of hot spuds and at Hina’s request heated up our previous night’s dinner of chili chicken. I baked tropical brownies being sure to omit the coconut from Hina’s. She gets plenty of that making copra all day…it’s best to bring her chocolate if you wish a warm welcome.
Check Mate Falko!
A busy morning servicing the Andersen spinnaker winch.
We’re passionate about feeding our food waste to the pigs
Scott, a keen fisherman accepted Parua’s offer to join him at 0500 on a fishing trip outside the lagoon from which they returned with three large fish. Hina had suggested if they caught a fish, they’d should both clean and prepare the fish then join us aboard MT for lunch, which they did: sashimi, poisson cru (marinated raw fish in coconut milk) and salad.
Lunch time shenanigans
We had to scurry to prepare for our evening barbecue three miles across the lagoon at Adrienne and Marcello’s who had invited the crews of two other yachts ashore as well. We were a total of 16 seated at a long picnic table under the palm trees on a white sand beach complete with heart of palm salad, corned beef pizza and green peppers stuffed with fish. Jim Patek off the Ovni 435 Let’s Go had previously visited at the same time I had nearly 20 years earlier just after Mopelia had been devastated by a cyclone which washed over the atoll, sending 90% of the palm trees into the lagoon, and causing the French navy to send a ship to evacuate all 80 inhabitants back to Maupiti.
We’d planned to enjoy a third night at tiny Mopelia atoll, population 16, but with forecasted 35 – 45 kt winds for the day we planned to make landfall in Rarotonga, we collected more weather information from MetBob.com in Auckland and WeatherGuy.com in Honolulu and decided it was prudent to leave right away. In fact, here’s Rick Sheema’s (WeatherGuy.com) suggestions:
If departing recommend ASAP and best reasonable speed along rhumbline.Goal is to cross cold front over your route as far to the west as possibleto minimize time and strength of squash zone winds.
Cold front lies between you and Rarotonga. On departure winds variable 10kts or less, waves, 1.5-meter swell, and dry conditions on departure tocold front. Cold front is weak with some rain, gusty, shifty winds. Expectto pass front west of 156W or on Tues 0000-0600UTC. Then high pressureridges in from the south. Winds shift and settle from the south 10-15 ktsand build 15-20 shortly after crossing the front. Waves increase to 2.5meters. Winds back to SSEerly generally up and down slightly in speed. Thenincrease SSE-SE 18-23 kts waves 2.5 meters around Tues 2200UTC; intermittent rain showers. There is a chance of winds 25 kts, waves 2.8meters.
Apparent winds of 30+ kts may make it seem like true wind is higher.
Voyage Summary Depart ASAP Plan: Rhumbline Distance: 440nm Average SOG: 7.6 ETE 2 day 10 hrs
Conservatively, expect about 220 nm in the squash zone. Higher initialspeed on departure before front may reduce the time in squash zone. Nextopportunity to depart is late this week or over the weekend.
Upon receiving the above forecast we bid farewell to Marcello and Adrienne, and their daughter Karino and Faimano.
We’d purposefully left the dinghy in the water as we departed and upon reached the pass, four of our guys jumped in the water, wearing masks and fins, and held onto it hoisting lines as the 4kt current swept us through the narrow channel.
Snorkel boys in the pass
Alain and Greg diving the shipwreck
We anchored in the quickly sloping hard coral bottom as close as possible to the WWI wreck of Count Von Luckner’s Sea Adler and snorkeled over the wreckage located in 6’ – 12’ of water on the outside surfline before raising the anchor and setting sail for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
We had some excellent sailing with smooth seas, followed by a little motoring before we started to feel the effects of the cold front, giving us time to teach celestial nav, cruising medicine, and electrical systems. In the afternoon we saw a very distinct band of black clouds ahead, and since our crew had just completed a timed team reefing competition, they were keen to tuck ii some reefs.
On Tuesday morning we’d hoped to briefly anchor in the lee of Atiu for a swim, showers and breakfast, but there was little protection from the large southerly swells wrapping around Atiu and crashing on the reef along the entire lee (west) side, so we carried on for Raro, 100 miles SW. Before long our navigator figured we’d need to keep our speed below 7 kts to avoid arriving in Raro in the dark or before the harbourmaster reached his office at 0700, so we tucked in another reef and enjoyed an excellent day and night of sailing. Exactly as the GRIBs had forecasted, the winds went from just forward of the beam to a frisky broad reach. The 3+ meter seas kept our helmspeople focused, but we didn’t have any gybes or even close calls as this team had all perfected helming skills.
Before first light Wednesday we had sighted Raro on radar, and at first light Scott and Michael spotted the rugged green mountains ahead.
By 0730 we entered tiny Avatiu Harbour, dropped the mainsail and prepared to anchor only to witness a struggling 53’ Cheoy Lee motor sailor – her old-fashioned kedge anchor was continually dragging in the gusts and her stern was getting perilously near the concrete harbor wall as the owner tried to reset the bow anchor without slipping stern lines.
Once they had their anchor reset, we dropped MT’s, launched the RIB, ran a long stern line ashore and carefully winched MT in toward the wall, letting out anchor chain at the same time. With lots of able hands, the running of a total of four additional lines went well. We were surprised that there were only two other yachts in the harbor, and no fishing boats, but with the 20-30 kt winds on the beam, it was not a pretty sight at all as MT heeled in the gusts and strained at her anchor. When I snorkeled down to check our 77lb Ultra anchor, I found it so buried that all I could see was one glint of the stainless shackle. The Ultra anchor has exceeded our highest expectations.
Harbour master John Jessie greeted us ashore, informing us he’d already called for the health and bio-security inspectors as well as customs/immigration and within a couple hours we were all checked in and our crew headed ashore for hot showers at the port building. We’d arrived a day early so we had plenty of time to complete our last two classes; working out our Sun LAN sextant shot and Amanda teaching double-braid splicing.
Falko do our “Team Empty Platers” proud winning the chiefs dance completion to receive the grand prize of dance with three maidens
When offered the choice of dinner at Trader Jack’s, a very colorful waterfront bar and seafood place a short walk away or a ride up into the hills to Highland Paradise, a 600 yr old village that offers a feast and cultural music and dance show, they chose culture, and we enjoyed an interesting evening, learning about the village’s warlike history, and their pride at having their young people carrying on their traditional music and dance.
As forecasted, the winds and seas kept increasing and crew did a great job in the challenging conditions helping us tidy up on deck before packing their bags, cleaning cabins and negotiating a challenging landing before setting off to their hotels and more island exploration. In the harbor Amanda and I were kept busy tending lines and watching out for other vessels movements.
MT secure in Avatiu Harbour
Lady Moana, an ex-Norwegian coast guard vessel, now an inter-island freighter twice took off for Mangaia, 100 miles upwind, complete with a cargo of fuel and a new car lashed on deck but twice was turned around by breaking seas and 35+ kt winds that caused her cargo to shift. The Choey Lee Today (eatlessplastic.com) set sail into boisterous seas and we watched her roll away into dark squalls.
The last remaining yacht Xenia, a 43’ Danish Bianca sloop also choose to leave but while pulling up their anchor the horizontal windlass, mounted on a shelf in the anchor locker, totally busted up its platform falling into the bottom of the locker. I held their bow off the concrete wall with our dinghy while Amanda jumped aboard and helped release stern lines and pull the anchor up by hand. Slightly in shock and looking totally exhausted they decided to sail for Niue, so we wished them a fair passage.
Although the winds and seas went down a little on Saturday, the forecast is for 30+kt winds and 3.5 m seas, so yesterday after filling propane, completing a quick shop at the farmer’s market and grocery store we sailed five miles around to our current Arorangi anchorage.
Leg 3 – Update 1
August 19, 2018, 1130 hrs,
16.31 S, 151.46, W, Log: 217,147 miles
Baro: 1012.7, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 87 F, Sea Water: 80.6 F
At anchor, in the shadow of Mt. Otemanu
BORA BORA’S INCREDIBLE LAGOON!
We’re truly anchored in paradise – away from land, out near the lighthouse marking the furthest SW corner of Bora Bora’s reef with only rays, fish and birds for company in water so shallow we can watch the rays swim by on the white sandy bottom. As today is Sunday not much will be open in Bora Bora’s main township of in Vaitape so hence we decided to choose this tranquil anchorage, especially since the tradewinds are absent.
Dana checks our water depth
Yesterday we sailed from Raiatea on what was a rather slow passage due to a lack of wind but as we closed on Bora’s pass, we suddenly saw two humpback whales, right on the bow, headed our way. We watched the cavorting whales for some time before heading through the pass to choose our current anchorage. As we’re not near land for our usual morning run we’ve all enjoyed long swims out on the reefs sand shallows and currently Amanda is sweating it out end-for-ending the Endura braid main halyard as a class. This involves removing the halyard form the mast and resplicing the shackle; always a tough task with old line.
Backing up a bit, hours after our previous Leg 2 crew departed in Tahiti Amanda and I set sail for Moorea, 21 miles to the WNW where we enjoyed visiting with local friends and a run up the mountain before setting sail 83 miles after sunset for tiny Baie Haamiti on the rarely-visited east cost of Huahine. Although we’d never checked out this bay in 44 years of sailing to Huahine, we’d been dreaming about it over the past four years while we’ve been away. On the charts, it looked to have everything we desire in an anchorage: good protection on all sides, cool breeze (being on the windward side) no resorts and a few distant villages.
What we found was even better than we’d hoped and at first light each morning we ran in different directions, finally running an hour to the south, then hitchhiking back. After a week the weather goddess smiled at us, giving us unusual NW winds for a gorgeous overnight broad reach back to Moorea before the SE trades returned. Back in Marina Taina on Tahiti we stocked up at nearby Carrefour mega grocery store, grateful to see our US dollars going further than ever with the most favorable exchange rate in decades.
Our Leg 3 crew all arrived early to Tahiti with. Greg had a rental a car and after offering exploration drives to Michael and Scott he kindly drove me to Douanes (Customs) to pick up a duty-free fuel authorization.
Leg 3 crew received safety orientation on Thursday afternoon and at noon Friday they officially joined ready to help with fueling before we set sail to Moorea. Set sail…yes!…we hoisted sail, but where were the tradewinds? We had some sailing, but more motorsailing before enjoying a lovely anchorage inside the pass entrance to Cook’s Bay out on the reef. With water so clear, we had just 1’ of water below the keel, we could see shell trails on the sand, and crew were quickly in the water exploring the coral heads and fishes until sunset. What a delight to have their first night onboard in such an idyllic anchorage!
Saturday morning, we completed safety orientation going through bilge pumps, alarms, extinguishers before pumping the fuel tank’s sump (it was totally clean – thank you Marina Taina for being conscientious on checking your sumps and filters) before someone mentioned our Jabsco electric head was making funny sounds when they pushed the “fill” button, with little water filling. This (and many) reef anchorages occasionally have reef flowers which break away from the parent plant to then floating about, often in large clumps. Some of these had had plugged the intake hose and filter, first time ever, so I made a class as I cleaning it out to get it working again.
Here’s our intrepid Leg 3 crew: Alain, Greg, Falko, Michael, Scott and Dana
I’m a lawyer and finance professional from Montreal, Canada and am now CFO of a software company. I started sailing as a teen on Lasers and 470’s and later progressed to chartering in the Caribbean, Mexico and the med. My wife Dana and I recently purchased a Boreal 47 in Southern France and earlier this summer enjoyed sailing in Croatia and Corsica. We’ll be returning to the boat fairly soon.
I’m a telecommunications engineer, originally from Romania, but now living in Montreal. My first-time sailing was nine years ago when Alain and I were invited by friends for a weekend of sailing on Lake Champlain. Since then we’ve sailed as often as time allowed and now look forward to retiring and cruising extensively.
I’m a general surgeon living in Sarasota, Florida. I don’t own a sailboat but have my inshore fishing boat on the market. I sailed Sunfish dinghies as a kid, then raced Hobie Cats as a teenager. Most of my cruising experience has been bareboat charters in the Bahamas and Caribbean. I’m exploring the idea of a three-year sailing sabbatical to sail with my wife and family before returning to work/land life.
I’m a recently retired electrical supervisor from Laguna Niguel, CA and look forward to cruising Southern California and Mexico aboard my Pacific Seacraft 31. This expedition is a retirement present from my wife.
I am responsible for clinical and regulatory affairs for a medical device company in Sydney, Australia. Our company makes defibulators and stents. Originally from East Berlin, I now sail with my wife in Pittwater on our Bavararia 32. We’ve enjoyed coastal sailing and chartering in the Whitsundays.
I’m a 57-year-old orthopedic surgeon who coastal cruises my Tartan 37c out of Florida. I aspire to longer distances and durations of cruising on my own sailing vessel.
Saturday noon our crew had lunch in Paopao village before hiking up and over the mountain to the Lycee Agricole fruit juice stand and down to scenic valley to Papetoai Bay while Amanda and I took the boat around the headland. After a swim we set sail before sunset for Huahine.
Falko adjusts the vang after reefing as we approach Huahine
Modest then light winds again prevailed and after entering Huahine’s Passe Avapehi we anchored out by the reef for lunch and a snorkel before carefully navigating 4.5 miles south to the spectacular Baie d’Avea which is bordered by a 1.5-mile-long crescent white sandy beach.
Monday we sailed up to the spacious Port Bourayne bay where everyone practiced Lifesling overboard rescue before we anchored, enjoying a sunset sing-along while celebrating Falko’s birthday. Dana sang with a lovely, strong voice, and knew all the words to Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary songs as when growing up in Romania, her neighbors had smuggled forbidden cassette tapes in from the decadent West!
Tuesday morning three of us dinghied through the isthmus between Huahine Nui and Iti to enjoy runs ashore – for us in a totally new direction where we met several friendly Tahitians setting off to work in their gardens. We had breakfast underway enroute to Fare, Huahine’s principal town and anchored off the Huahine Yacht Club, a new establishment with a secure new dinghy dock.
The charming Huahine Yacht Club
Huahine Yacht Club dinghy dock
We’d been given a recommendation of a guide: www.greentourshuahine.com and three of our crew enjoyed learning about the botany, plants and ecology of Huahine while the other three rented bikes and had a lot of fun circumnavigating Huahine Nui, the larger of the two islands.
This hill is rather a killer on a bike…best to push your bike up it.
After lunch at the yacht club we set sail for Tahaa, again enjoying a nice bit of sailing before the winds again petered out. On this expedition leg we’ve always have great tradewind sailing with lots of reefing and trimming practice, but, possibly because of the effects of a modest El Nino episode currently occurring, the winds are currently lighter, infrequent and contain drizzle.
We miss the trade winds! Tahaa, shares a barrier reef with Raiatea and is more isolated and less populated island than it’s sister to the south.
A paddler draughts in our wake as we enter the bay
On Wednesday, after circling the top of Tahaa, we anchored off the outer west reef at Ilot Tautau, to snorkeling what has been dubbed, “Coral Gardens”. For the first time ever, we purposefully arrived before high water (noon and midnight every day) and were rewarded with slightly more depth and less current than we’d previously seen.
We landed on a small islet and walked the five minutes to cross over to the ocean side where you hop into the water to float back into the lagoon through a channel containing a kaleidoscope of colors in the form of coral, fishes and anemones. Even though dozens of snorkelers make this drift snorkel daily, the coral looked just as vibrant and healthy as when we first saw it 30 years ago.
Early morning start for our Tahaa island circuit
Falko capturing the underwater extravaganza
Noe in his garden explaining the origins of the candle nut
We anchored in nearby Tapuamu Bay Wednesday night then Thursday morning motored a few miles south to Hurepiti Bay where we picked up a mooring and went ashore to meet Noe Plantier, son of Alain Plantier of Vanilla Tours. Alain and Linda sailed from France on a 30’ –pink plywood sloop to settle on Tahaa 40 years ago and for most of the past years Alain has been leading daily
Noe in his garden explaining the origins of the candle nut
ethno-botanical tours in the mountains of Tahaa for visiting sailors. Recently Alain retired, turning the business over to his son who was born and schooled on Tahaa before going to France for university training, then working as an aeronautical engineer for Airbus.
Noe related how the 900 plants of Polynesia had arrived, brought by winds, birds and the ocean and told how the plants are used by Tahitians today, as well as visiting a vanilla plantation, showing how the vanilla blossoms must be hand pollinated. After the tour we motored to the outer reef choosing an anchorage that offered an amazing view of Bora Bora.
Friday morning, we headed five miles SSE to the main town of Uturoa where we purchased fuel, explored town and topped up groceries before heading to Marina Apooiti: home base of The Moorings, Sunsail and Tahiti Yacht Charters. Although the small marina looked full, marina manager and long-time friend Jean Michel Nocuse helped us squeeze into a Med-mooring between two helpful liveaboards. We were thankful to top up with water, send off laundry and wander about the marina chatting with the many lively liveaboards.
Javier, “The Spaniard” and local charter captain, explains the intricacies of the passes at Maupiti and Mopelia.
Jean Michel loaned me a new book on geolletes (local sailing and motor freighters) of Tahiti that he had contributed to. When I (and Jean Michel, who arrived in 1975 to do his French military service) arrived in French Polynesia in 1974, several of the wooden 100’+ sailing copra schooners were still afloat, serving as bars and restaurants and several of the wooden motor vessels shown in the book were still carrying cargo and collecting dried coconut meat in the Tuamotus and Marquesas.
Each of these copra boats had small stores aboard and I recall going aboard in the Marquesas and Tuamotus to purchase food and chat with the skippers about currents and the lagoon passes in the Tuamotus.
Learning the mechanisms of the Ovni rudder
After dinner we enjoyed visiting Voile d’Or, a small restaurant/bar inside the marina where we listened to a group of elderly friends who met weekly to sing, play guitar and trumpet. The next morning after departing Marina Apooiti we made a stop at the nearby boatyards Raiatea Careenage and Chantier Naval to tour the yards. I enjoyed meeting with consultation clients from seven years ago plus some Offshore Seminar grads who are living the dream. We also chatted with an elderly French couple who were doing an annual haulout on their Ovni 435 before setting returning to the Marquesas.
Tomorrow will be Monday and we’ll start the outbound clearance process with the local Gendarmerie Nationale, giving our keen crew time to explore Bora Bora while we do a final provision before setting sail for Maupiti, Mopelia and Rarotonga!
Leg 3 Itinerary
Leg 3 ,2018 Papeete,Thahiti-Rarotongaadmin2021-05-04T00:40:10+00:00
January 18, 2018, 0630 hrs, 06.35 N, 090.15 W, Log: 209,777 miles
Baro: 1013.7, Cabin Temp: 79 F, Cockpit: 79 F,
Sea Water: 78.4 F (really chilly?)
Broad reaching at 7.9 kts in 15 kt
HOORAY – WE’VE FOUND THE NE TRADEWINDS!!!
Our week off between Leg 9-2017 and Leg 1-2018 was the best time we’ve ever had in Panama, partly because we had secure moorage. On our last stay on the Pacific side of the canal in 2015, the only moorage option was La Playita Marina and the surge was so bad at the time that cleats were pulling out of the docks and lines were chafing no matter how much chafe gear we put on. What a difference we had this time.
Flamenco Marina (also called Amador Resort and Marina) located right at the Pacific entrance of the canal is one of the most expensive we’ve used anywhere at US$2.40 per foot per night. Thankfully it has improved over recent years (the previous time we stayed here there was no power on the docks and actively discouraged sailboats from mooring there) and currently has a very conscientious manager, Carlos Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) and crew.
As we had a safe place for Mahina Tiare, Amanda agreed to a visit to Gamboa Rainforest Lodge which we’d briefly viewed after it’s opening in 2000. Since then I’d been dreaming about a spending a night there; surrounded by jungle and incredible wildlife. We checked in to a large and comfortable room complete with balcony hammock and sweeping views of the Chagres River and surrounding jungle. Just before sunset we went for a boat ride with just the guide and us, looking for sloths, monkeys and alligators and that night went to sleep to the sounds of soft tropical rain, to be awakened in the morning by the roars of howler monkeys and songs of tropical birds. The staff were enthusiastic and professional, and the rates were surprisingly reasonable.
In the morning we took a gondola ride up through the rainforest canopy and then climbed up a 90’ tall observation platform. There were just two other visitors plus Paulina, our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic naturalist and we all enjoyed the stunning views of the Panama Canal and Chagres River. During our stay we saw many exotic animals, birds, frogs, plants and insects – plus a crocodile! If we visit Panama again, a longer stay at the lodge will be high on my list as I’d also like to check out their jungle hiking trails and visit the sloth sanctuary.
Chilling at the observation tower
Upon returning to Mahina Tiare, we really had to get to work; complete the general cleaning and laundry between afternoon downpours, undertake small repairs and make numerous provisioning runs for the longest expedition we ever run – 31 days. Trying to find, stow and maintain enough fresh vegetables and fruit for eight people in a very tropical climate for that long of a passage is a real challenge. Thankfully we had Elias Castillo, (email@example.com, +507 6140 1135) the very helpful driver and representative of our agent, Tina McBride.
Elias knows where all the best food and good values are and we managed to complete our entire provisioning in two trips – the first to Price Smart; the HUGE and excellent Costco-like warehouse and the second to Mercado de Abastos (the enormous public fruit and veg market) followed by a final top up at Rey, a nearly-new and first class supermarket located in nearby Albrook district.
Purchasing a used chocolate container to use for extra fuel from a sidewalk vender in Panama City
One $4.00 stalk of bananas or two?
Kevin’s drone image of MT berthed in the middle of Flamenco Marina
Wednesday night met up with old friends Jessica and Richard from www.elcieexpeditions.com at the Cruisers Discount Pizza Night located at the waterfront pizza joint near where they were anchored off La Playita Marina. We first met in Fiji 21 years ago where Richard had been best man at our wedding at Musket Cove and later caught up in NZ. We again enjoyed a great visit along with Dennis and Cheryl, two of our Leg 1 expedition members who had just arrived from Singapore. Richard and Jessica have been involved in sail-training for over 35 years and take expense-sharing guests with them. They’re on their second circumnavigation, this time on Elcie the 60’ aluminum catamaran they built in New Zealand and sailed home to Annapolis with their two daughters. Marty, who had sailed with us on our Canal Transit Leg 9, is sailing with them to the Galapagos. We both needed to sponge the Panama slime and growth off the bottoms of our boats and made plans to anchor together off Taboga Island, just six miles away once we leave Panama.
Thursday morning Elias and I met our crew at Country Inn and Suites Hotel where our crew stayed to pick up passports before heading to immigration next door at Balboa Yacht Club. On most of our five previous visits the club’s visiting moorings have been filled, but we dropped by their office on the end of the pier to ask if they had any moorings available and met General Manager Rex Jansen (firstname.lastname@example.org, +507 211 0827, cell +507 6670 7284). He said they currently had one mooring available and mentioned that the club is now allowing yachts to anchor just west of the mooring field while waiting for a mooring to become available. Rex goes all out to help cruisers and is now installing new washing machines and driers this season, complementing the services including fuel, showers, restaurant and bar.
Friday was a blur! Crew came aboard before noon (we’d had safety briefing for two hours Thursday afternoon) and we headed to the fuel dock to fill the extra 16-gallon plastic drum we’d purchased in town. After leaving the marina we crossed the canal entrance (with permission) and headed to Taboga where we dropped anchor and got everyone’s help underwater with sponges and scrubbers, to ensure Mahina Tiare’s bottom was in prime condition for a fast 4,700-mile passage to Hawaii. Our Micron 77, recently applied in Lanzarote, did great in the rich nutrient rich waters of the Caribbean and Panama. While anchored, Kevin flew his Mavic Pro drone, getting pictures of MT at anchor, and just as we were leaving, Elcie arrived and we all waved farewell.
In our two previous passages from Panama to Hawaii (2002 and 2008) we’ve had a rough start to the passage, with Punta Mala (bad headland in Spanish) living up to its name. This year was different, and we enjoyed smooth broad reaching conditions under clear night time skies as we worked to stay clear of the busy inbound shipping lane.
Click HERE for Mahina Tiare’s passage weather forecast provided by WRI.com.
By morning the winds disappeared and while motoring under clear skies Cheryl spotted a turtle. We quickly turned the motor off, drifted nearby while our crew hopped in the water to get a closer look. Not long after getting underway, we hooked a HUGE mahi mahi and we’ll enjoy having Kristi share that story:
My dad used to take me fishing as a kid, but as an adult I’ve rarely had the opportunity. As a future cruiser I hope to frequently catch fish, so it’s important for me to learn the best methods of catching and filleting. On our third day at sea while we were preparing for class Amanda loudly shouted, “FISH ON!” and all of us anxiously headed for the stern to see what was thrashing about.
Matthew quickly went into action, reeling and fighting the 35 lb mahi that seemed determined not to be landed. It took four of us and the gaff hook, but we finally got the fish on deck where Amanda slipped a sail tie around its tail, cleating it off to the stern mooring cleat. The mahi continued to fight and it took three of us to hold it down while Amanda sliced it behind the gills. Amanda showed Matthew how to fillet one side and me the other side and maybe it was because I helped, but I think it was the best tasting mahi I’ve ever had!
Dennis, matthew and Pred with our catch of the day
Fuel transfer time
We had a good stretch of beam reaching Monday morning, but much of the remaining miles to Cocos Island were spent motoring in occasionally drizzly conditions as the ITCZ (Inter-tropical convergence zone) showed its normal conditions. There is a sizable area between Acapulco, Cocos, the Galapagos and Panama where there is rarely wind, hence we’d taken the extra 16-gallon fuel jug on deck.
Cocos Island, just 3 x 5 miles was discovered by a Spanish navigator in 1526 and was used by pirates and corsairs preying on shipments of Spanish gold and silver for the next hundred years. Chatham and Wafer Bay attracted treasure hunters for many years but the island has been in possession of Costa Rica which proclaimed it a national park in 1978 and aside from park rangers, naturalists and volunteers (all totaling 20 currently) staying ashore is not allowed.
Tuesday morning dawned with modest headwinds, squalls and drizzle but by 0842 we picked up one of the four moorings in Chatham Bay. It’s quite difficult to obtain permission to visit Cocos Island as a permit from Costa Rica is required. I’d twice tried calling Cocos Island on Ch 16, knowing that the national park rangers monitor the VHF, but didn’t receive an answer. Our voltage regulator had again stopped working, (we’d replaced it with a spare in Panama) and our watermaker also required replacement of a corroded fuse holder so I was hoping for permission to stop.
View of the two ranger dwellings at Chatham Bay
After making breakfast, with the help of Dennis, who is knowledgeable about marine electrical systems and had just rewired his HR 42E, we started going through the diagnostic steps provided in the Balmar owner’s manual. By putting a jumper across two of the terminals on the voltage regulator we determined the alternator was fine (I had thought it was) and when re-checking all the connections, Dennis easily pulled out a loose wire in a crimp connector that had to be large enough diameter for two wires at one end, but only one wire at the other end. Fortunately, I had a step-down crimp connector that fitted perfectly and that seems to have solved the intermittent problem that has been bugging us for nearly a year! Fingers crossed!
In the midst of our work, an inflatable with the park ranger and naturalist stopped by while making their morning patrol around the island, looking for poachers. When we explained that we had only stopped to make repairs and knew we weren’t allowed in the water, the ranger asked for copies of our Panama clearance papers, ships registry and passports. They said we were welcome to stay overnight if needed, asking that we call them on the VHF when departing. Pointing to a place alongside adjacent Manuelita Island they then warned us of a tiger shark that had tasted blood last month having mauled one diver who died, and taken a foot off the dive master who tried to rescue his client.
Pred, Cheryl, Dennis, Kevin, Matthew and Kristi shark about with the Costa Rico flag and Cocos Island backdrop.
Amanda asked if they’d had many visits from the two liveaboard dive boats that regularly visit the island from Costa Rica, and the ranger replied that after the shark attack the dive boat visits had dropped sharply. He also mentioned that now that word is out among cruisers about how difficult it is to get a permit to visit, they rarely have cruising yachts stopping.
Kevin: As a professional photographer and amateur drone pilot, I’m always looking for opportunities to share the beauty of this planet through the lens of my camera, but flying a drone off a pitching and rolling sailboat is especially challenging during takeoff and landing. Once the drizzle stopped, I decided to try launching. I spent 10 minutes flying along the coast of Cocos, and knowing it could take some time to land, decided to bring the drone back with 50% power still left. Pred volunteered to help with the landing and since the aft deck area was so small, I asked him to catch the drone when I directed and he deftly reached up, grabbing it and holding on as I shut it down. Any landing boat landing where the drone doesn’t crash or end up in the water is a good one, and I can’t wait to view the footage!
With clearing skies, we enjoyed our scenic and productive stop at Cocos and as we’d expected from the GRIB files, we had a calm start to our 1350-mile passage to uninhabited Clipperton Island. Thankfully very early this morning the trades slowly started filling in and we gratefully turned the motor off.
The LOOONG Leg 1 crew: John, Pred, Kristi, Kevin, Dennis, Matthew with Amanda and Cheryl in front.
I am from Chicago where I work as an IT manager at a university. This summer I began teaching Basic Keelboat to US Sailing standards at my community sailing center, www.SailChicago.org and professionally at www.Chicagosailing.com where I learned to sail. This is my second expedition aboard Mahina Tiare with the first being a BVI to Azores Atlantic crossing. I really enjoy long ocean passages and making new friends with whom I’ve stayed in touch and sailing with again.
I’m a retired US Marine currently live in Chantilly, Virginia. My husband Kevin and I are now under contract on a 50’ catamaran which we plan on moving aboard within the next year. When not studying sailing and learning about the liveaboard life, I enjoy kickboxing, yoga and reading.
After retiring from the US Marine Corps in 2008, Kristi and I have enjoyed traveling to the Galapagos, Ecuador, Colorado and Montana and only started sailing boats larger than our Hobie Cat last year, helping a friend deliver a cat from Florida to Rhode. We have recently gotten the goal of circumnavigating the world on our own boat.
Dennis, 36 and originally from Germany
I work as a risk manager for a bank in Singapore and have enjoyed refitting and sailing our HR 42E over the past year while gathering knowledge and experience needed for our future adventures.
Cheryl, 30 (also known as Tiger Lily by the rest of the crew)
I left corporate banking life in Singapore a few years ago to pursue travel and business opportunities and have trained and received my RYA competent crew and Singapore-issued Powered Pleasure Craft license. I spend my weekends with Dennis on our HR 42E refitting and sailing in local waters and we have the dream of a possible world circumnavigation.
I am about to retire from the US Army Special Forces, and am currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan. This is my second expedition aboard Mahina Tiare as earlier this summer I joined John & Amanda on the Scotland to Falmouth expedition with my 12 yr old son, Jonathan. I hope to circumnavigate with my family one day.
January 21, 2018, 1330 hrs, 08.57 N, 099.09 W, Log: 210,316 miles
Baro: 1010.7, Cabin Temp: 84 F, Cockpit: 88 F, Sea Water: 79.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.9 kts in 15-19 kt ENE winds under full sail with genoa poled out
We’ve been making good progress and enjoying very pleasant sailing conditions. It’s been mellow enough that we’ve been able to keep up with our ambitious teaching schedule, stop for one very enjoyable mid-ocean swim and enjoy on-deck showers every afternoon. Our best 24-hour run in several years was the 187 miles we sailed noon-to-noon two days ago and today we covered 161 miles. The air and water are very gradually cooling down but we’re still enjoying the shelter from our Magma Boat-Umbrella at the helm most days.
Class is a little tricky when we’re rockin’ along, but no one seems to notice now that we’ve been underway for so long.
We’ve had this setup rigged for a fair few miles
Our 24 volt towed-turbine generator is quietly doing an excellent job replacing most of the power we’re using. The only sign that it is working is a slight hum audible in the aft cabin.
January 28, 2018, 1730 hrs, 11.56 N, 118.38 W, Log: 211,432 miles
Baro: 1008.4, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 79 F, Sea Water: 79.7 F
Broad reaching at 8-9.5 kts in 22-30 ENE kt
LANDFALL, BIRTHDAY AND RECORD-SETTING 24 HR RUN!
This hitchhiking booby never
really settled in
We made great time on Tuesday and Wednesday and had to put the brakes on by gybing south and reducing sail so we wouldn’t run into Clipperton Atoll in the dark. Clipperton Rock, a rough 60’ high promontory covered with nesting birds was visible not long after daybreak followed by palm trees and the slowly our rambunctious seas smoothed as we sailed into the narrow lee created by this 1.5 x 2-mile coral atoll.
Upon furling the headsail, we slowly sailed along the islands west side, with our navigator frequently calling depths, searching for a sandy spot to anchor. The chart shows an anchorage off the flagpole and monument but we tried slightly north of there, then after studying the swell pattern with the binoculars we re-anchored in a calmer place yet a little further north, dropping the anchor in 14’ of water with a sand and coral bottom.
Clipperton’s prominent rock
The tight grove of coconut trees on the atoll’s south shore
After anchoring, our crew noticed large dark shapes cruising around MT, unsure if they were seeing rays or sharks, no one was keen to jump in the water. First order of business after breakfast, was getting the mainsail foot down through the hatch so that Amanda could make a class out of a sewing machine repair that would have been very difficult to make at sea. During reefing competition the previous day, Matthew had also noticed that the slider above second reef had also chafed through so we re-lashed that as well.
A rather sail repair that required many hands to make it easier;
A noon squall passed and we were grateful that it provided a substantial shower, allowing us to scrub off the bird dookie that two hitchhiking booby birds had left behind. After naps we set sail back south along the coast so those that those who were asleep when we first passed Clipperton Rock could get a good view of it. We then tacked, eased sheets, set the preventer and established a course for Hilo, Hawaii, 2750 miles to the WNW.
Crew photo time: Amanda, Dennis, Matthew, Pred, Kristi, Cheryl and Kevin
Just after we departing we received a surprising email from Tahiti:
French Maritime Interagency Center responsible for Pacific Ocean detected that your vessel is currently within Clipperton territorial sea. Please be advised that the territorial sea of Clipperton is a marine protected area and that anchorage, diving, introducing species, going ashore and to leave wastes are forbidden (see enclosed).
In addition, the provisions of United Nation Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), and especially the conditions of exercising the right of innocent passage (continuous and expeditious) are applicable within Clipperton territorial sea. We request you to comply with the provisions of French Law and relevant international regulations. Please acknowledge.
We of course acknowledged, stating we had stopped briefly to make repairs and were already underway for Hawaii. We of course wouldn’t have stopped (although we needed to, in order to properly repair our sail) had we known it wasn’t allowed, but are unclear as to how we could have possibly known stopping was prohibited.
We had checked www.noonsite.com for any updates on Clipperton before departing Panama and had read the entry in Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Destinations which states, “Even more remote and the subject of a long dispute with France, is Clipperton Atoll lying some 700 miles off the Mexican coast. The lagoon has no pass, but the few yachts that stop can shelter in the lee of the reef. Landing through the surf is sometimes difficult, but the diving on the surrounding reef makes up for it.”
Friday was Cheryl’s 31st birthday we celebrated with fresh baked Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownies following Mugee fish curry, a repeat of Cheryl’s favorite dinner of the expedition so far. We’d all made Turks head bracelets in class and Amanda organized the gift of a spiffy zipped pouch from upcycled sail cloth which each of us will sew a seam on during sewing class…once these seas subside enough to bring the Sailrite machine out.
Crew photo time: Amanda, Dennis, Matthew, Pred, Kristi, Cheryl and Kevin
Yesterday was a record-setter, with our first noon-to-noon run of 200 miles since the same day on the same passage in 2002! Each watch boasted a higher top speed – I think Kristi’s 11.4 kts on the GPS VMG was tops – with two reefs in main and poled-out headsail, Mahina Tiare surfed along like a freight train with winds frequently gusting into the 30’s. Steering was challenging at times, and before dinner Pred and Matthew set the third reef, making steering (and perhaps everything!) a bit easier.
We’ve seen three ships but after dinner last night Pred spotted what he called a “ghost ship” on the Icom remote handset in the cockpit. A huge bonus of the new Icom M506 VHF radio we had installed in Sweden is that the RAM (remote access microphone) has a repeater of the AIS receiver that is built into the radio. This means that while on long passages when we are conserving battery power, we can turn off the Raymarine MFDs (multi-function displays). We always keep the VHF on while underway and every 20 minutes our on-watch crew check the cockpit mic screen for AIS returns and if they see anything they then turning on the Raymarine. Our Raymarine AIS is still transmitting, still has the alarm on and can be viewed in our instrument repeaters above the companionway. The minute we sight an AIS signature on the mic or repeater, we turn on the MFDs and radar.
Pred’s “ghost ship” turned out to be a 60-meter-long Chinese fishing vessel as when we got close enough we could then receive the rest of its AIS signature. I gave a VHF call but heard nothing. A little later Cheryl’s call in Mandarin elicited a very excited reply and a long chat with the watch stander. Cheryl relayed that the vessel was based in Panama, crewed by 18 as was out 8-10 months at a time catching fish.
Today’s run was 195 miles and we’ve enjoyed slightly smoother seas and shaken out the third reef.
February 5, 2018, 0730 hrs, 17.48 N, 141.09 W, Log: 212,776 miles
Baro: 1015.1, Cabin Temp: 77 F, Cockpit: 79 F, Sea Water: 77.5 F (cooler every day!)
Deep broad reaching at 7-8 kts in 18-23 ENE kts, 799 miles to Hilo
ZOOMING DOWN TRADWIND SEAS TO HILO!
Amazingly, another week has passed, surfing along in tradewinds en route towards Hawaii. Our daily runs have been 190, 190, 198, 178, 184, 195, the current has been with us and we haven’t encountered a single rain squall since Clipperton. This crew LOVE sailing fast, and if Amanda or I wonder out loud if it might be time to tuck in a reef, the standard helmsman reply is, “No, we’re handling it just fine!” even with surfing spurts to 11 knots on the GPS!
Here’s Pred to fill you in on the total lunar eclipse we enjoyed Friday morning:
Here are Kevin’s comments about photographing this once in a lifetime event In order to shoot the progression of the eclipse from a boat under sail in the middle of the night, I needed a fast shutter speed of 1/250th of a second or faster, an F-stop of 5 and an ISO of 1600. As the eclipse progressed, my F-stop opened up to 2.8 and my ISO increased to 2500 in order to keep a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the motion of the boat during shooting. I was using a Nikon D800E with a 70-200 mm f 2.8 lens with image stabilization.
After two weeks of anticipation and watching the moon wax ever larger each night, in the early hours of January 31st, we watched in wonder as the shadow of the earth fell over the bright face of the full moon.
It began at 0345 and would not end for five hours. We waited for the total phase as the shadow crept down over the moon like a theatre curtain.
It would not be fully eclipsed for two hours, but that’s ok, since some of us (including Kristi and me) were on night watch.
Kevin photographed the progression to totality with a 200mm zoom lens with spectacular results. We were able to see orange-red totality before the moon sunk into the clouds near the horizon.
What a privilege to experience a total lunar eclipse from a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!
But this was no mere eclipse – it was the trifecta of eclipses; simultaneously it was a super moon, a blood moon and a blue moon, a phenomenon not seen in 150 years! That night like many before it on this trip, we were roaring along at sometimes 10 knots, with just the moonlight and the stars illuminating our path.
We would put nearly 200 nautical miles under that keel that day – and remember it for the rest of our happy lives.
Our teaching schedule is easy accommodated on a four-week expedition, and the only topics we haven’t been able to cover yet (because of the rambunctious sea state) are sail repair with the Sailrite sewing machine, Lifesling overboard rescue, winch servicing and going aloft The GRIB weather files have promised lighter winds for the past four days and in fact winds and seas are down slightly this morning. I believe we set a record, going one week without once touching the whisker pole, but very early this morning the wind backed more to the east, causing us to shift the pole forward.
It’s fun hearing Cheryl chat away in Mandarin to the passing Chinese vessels
Matthew decorates Amanda breakfast pancake
1/2 way party high jinks
Wednesday we celebrated Kristi and Kevin’s 15th anniversary, the next night we pulled out our song sheets and enjoyed a very enthusiastic sing-along and last night we had our half way (of this final leg) party for which Amanda organized pass-the-parcel and presents of specially-knotted bracelets for all. This crew love curry and Amanda’s served a global gauntlet from Thai green and red, Indian, Fijian last night party dish of babotie from South Africa which included Panamanian plantains. For desert we enjoyed Italian Panatone and sparkling cider.
As everyone enjoys a party and since we may still have a secret supply of treats tucked away, Amanda has challenged our crew to organize the 3/4 way party which shouldn’t be too many days away. Kristi and Cheryl quickly become our party planner and spent hours yesterday scheming away. Cheryl’s even been practicing guitar strings and chords (on her phone!!!) so I guess were in for another sing-along. Today the party planners posted our Midway to Midway Party announcement…the dress attire is toga.
Cheryl and Kristi busy party planning while…Pred refines his splicing and Kevin sews up a tear in his trousers for the second time
We continue to have brief visits every other day by dolphins and yesterday an immature red-footed booby spent much of the day aboard – first perched on the Lifesling case, and then in the afternoon perched on the top of the dodger, just in front of the helmsperson. When it first landed Pred threw it a large stiff flying fish and the instantly boobie lept to the deck and ate it. He had trouble swallowing it all the way down and flew away to sea only to return later.
Our run of spectacular weather appears to be changing, with the winds clocking from ENE to E and now forecasted to go to the SE. We’re now close enough to Honolulu to have received our first coastal Navtex forecast and their light and variable winds with occasional rain makes sense on viewing a stationary front stalled over the island group. Thankfully a new high is forming over the islands, so hopefully after a day or two of unstable weather and rain, the NE trades will re-establish just about the time we arrive.
We’ve enjoyed an evening SSB radio schedule with Karina and Gary aboard Sea Rover II, their Oyster 43. They joined us on a Rarotonga to Samoa Leg a few years back and we’ve kept in touch over the years as they prepared to depart Vancouver for Patagonia. Currently they are enroute from the Galapagos to Easter Island, and then on down to Valdivia, Chile. We were able to hook them up via email with dear friends Mary Ann and Larry aboard Traversay III, (www.traversayiii.blogspot.com) who have just spent nearly a year living aboard and exploring around Valdivia and are now just about to set sail for Hawaii and home to Vancouver.
February 24, 2018, 1930 hrs, Back home at Roche Harbor,
San Juan Island, Washington
Baro: 1019, Home Temp: 67 F, Outside Temp: 37 F, Sea Water: Nippy! Part of our bay was frozen over this morning!
LEG 1 UPDATE 4 – FINALLY COMPLETED
It’s never taken me this long for a final update but…we were slammed with chores (and FUN!) upon reaching Hilo. After crew left it then became a mission for Amanda and I to get Mahina Tiare around the island of Hawaii to Honokohau Harbor in Kona, hauled out, full boat cover rigged, shore side accommodation sorted and pack to return home, all amongst Presidents Day holiday weekend. A winter weather system bought flash flooding and lightning to Kona which shut down the airport the day before we flew home to Friday Harbor and drowned our rental car.
Anyway, enough with the excuses! Let’s pick up where we left off with Update 3.
As we closed on the Hawaiian waters, more birds, whales and dolphins came visiting and we started picking up NOAA weather forecasts, first on the Furuno Navtex, and then, once within 150-200 miles, on the VHF radio. On February 4 we had our first slower day in weeks – 160 miles noon-to-noon, as we passed the 1,000 mile to go mark. The mellower conditions allowed some drone flying, and time to trim the ends off the genoa sheets where the whisker pole had chafed plus pull in the Aquagen towing generator and re-drill it’s break-away coupling as due to it’s continuous towing it’s holes had become enlarged. On the 5th, we enjoyed the first of several movie nights: BBC’s Horatio Hornblower series with dark chocolate treats!
Pred and Kevin celebrate another successful drone flight.
Cheryl on early morning watch
Kristi and Cheryl rocking along in the early morning
The mid-mid (3/4 way) party that Cheryl and Kristi had been planning for days was on Wednesday, Feb. 6th resulted in a masked Hawaiian toga party utilizing everyone’s sheets with several intriguing games the girls had created involving Gibratler our mascot macaque. Needless to say, everyone had a great time.
Toga party and game night to celebrate another milestone.
We’d been watching a large trough slowly move toward us for several days and by Thursday the wind switched from following (ESE) to headwinds (NNW). With the wind shift, we immediately encountered intense rain showers with gusts over 40 kts in squalls and recorded a gust of 94.7 kts, which we’re not sure was accurate.
Our team got lots of practice tucking in and shaking reefs and steering in steep, large seas, while experiencing and adjusting to upwind life below decks. With not a lot of extra time to spare before the end of the expedition and predictions of continued headwinds we triple-reefed the main and genoa and motorsailed the final 338 miles to Hilo. It wasn’t pretty, and our friends near Hilo said the strange NW wind blew the roof off the farm supply store, caused power outage and produced storm surf on the NW side of the island. Any hopes of the wind letting up a bit were crushed when the NOAA VHF forecasts continued calling for NW winds with gusts into the 30’s.
After waiting a week for calmer conditions Cheryl realized it was now or never if she was to ever finish her birthday sewing present.
We’re not too sure when this occurred!
By 0300 Saturday, February 10th, our watch standers reported the loom of Hilo’s lights, 36 miles away
HOORAY, at 0655 we had the first sighting of a snow-capped, 13,803′ Mauna Kea summit.
As we approached Hilo’s breakwater at 0900, the wind dropped from mid-20’s to 17kts, the skies were brilliantly clear, and all that was left was to drop the sails and head into tiny Radio Bay.
Cheryl and Amanda happily kiss the ground
In no time flat we’d anchored, backed stern-to and secured shore lines to the empty wharf, called US Customs nearby office, learning that we all needed to come to the office for inbound customs clearance. We all quickly packed a few things, launched the RIB, and headed ashore.
Once cleared, we picked up a rental van and headed to the famous Hilo Saturday morning farmers market for lunch after which we drove up the dramatic Hamakua coast to Akaka Falls State Park, enjoyed cookies, ice creams and a chat with Mr. Ed, Honomu’s always-friendly baker extraordinaire who closes shop Sunday mornings to preach to his mostly-Hawaiian congregation in the Buddhist temple next door. Only in Hawaii!
Mr Ed’s has the best ice cream EVER!
One of the reasons each of our Leg 1 crew had chosen this leg was to have time to explore the absolutely amazing island of Hawaii (known as the BIG Island) so next on the agenda was stopping by Island Naturals, our favorite health food store in Hilo where we all boxed up hot entrees and salad goodies before driving 32 miles and 3000′ up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
As the sun set, we watched minor lava eruptions in Kiluea’s crater while enjoying our picnic and champagne (thanks to Dennis and Cheryl!) in the misty night.
On our late return to MT, the strong winds had died down, her anchor had held, and we all fell into a deep sleep.
Sunday morning was full tilt boogie! Trips to the masthead for rig inspection were first on the agenda followed by packing and cleaning. It was then all ashore to Ken’s House of Pancakes, an iconic Hilo diner since 1971 where macadamia nut pancakes with lilikoi syrup held top billing for our awesome breakfasts. Then, all too soon, we were saying farewells to our crew after dropping them off at their Banyan Drive hotels.
What an expedition, and what a crew! Even before we said goodbye, they were busy making plans to see the island sights together. We love it when a crew bond together in work and play and it’s sad to see them leave although we also know they’ll reunite for more adventures.
…and true to form, the gang sent us this picture the following day of them on Mauna Kea’s summit.
After hauling MT packing her up, we flew home to San Juan Island and candy floss snow under sunny skies. Such Fun!
We’re also excited to be sailing back to the South Pacific after 4.5 years away and we still have a few expedition berths open. If you’d like to experience the South Seas our expeditions sail to Tahiti, our homeport of Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Fiji before returning to New Zealand where we all get to share Amanda’s homecoming with her family in Whangarei.
Thank you for following our updates! If you have questions about our seminars, expeditions or need help locating the best possible cruising boat for your own cruising adventures, don’t hesitate to contact us: email@example.com.
Additionally, follow Amanda’s creative and colorful postings on Facebook and Instagram: @mahinaexpeditions
Leg 1 Itinerary
Leg1,2018;Panama to Hawaiiadmin2021-05-04T00:38:26+00:00
September 7, 2017, 2030 hrs, 29.37 N, 012.56 W, Log: 204,876 miles
Baro: 1015.8, Cabin Temp: 77 F, Cockpit: 79 F, Sea Water: 72.1 F
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 17-22 kt NE winds with only 50 miles to Marina Lanzarote, Arricife
It was then practiced Lifesling Overboard Rescue as we sailed to our evening anchorage, five miles to the west. Although it was Friday night we found a secure place to anchor at Las Illeas and the morning several of us went running along the waterfront.
After completing orientation, we set sail for tiny Isla Tagomago, 60 miles away and off the E coast of Ibiza where an evening snorkeling and a colorful sunset dinner rounded off a perfect day.
Ready to depart our Isla anchorage
Marty tackles a few packing washers in the vang to solve our phantom clunking
An early morning outboard driving lesson for Peixi
After completing Marine Weather I class the following morning, we set off on the 165-mile passage to Cartagena, which had been by far our favorite stop between Gibraltar and the Balearic Islands on our last leg. Perhaps it’s the absence of tourists and party goers, or maybe it’s just the location and super helpful marina staff but Amanda and I really wanted to show our new crew this beautiful city.
Even though rain threatened our crew were eager to explore and after visiting the outdoor Roman amphitheater they hiked all over the old town center. In the cool evening Amanda and I again enjoyed wandering though the pedestrian-only marbled boulevards; watching families and friends out socializing.
Morocco has held a fascination for many years with us, fueled by the pictures and stories from previous expedition member Jack Hoopes along with Vickie Vance and Roland Olsson aboard Bella Luna. Both recommended Port Marina Smir, just 30 mi. south of Gibraltar. When planning our 2017 expedition two years ago, getting to check out Morocco and Spain’s Balearic Islands were two of the reasons for leaving the South Pacific.
The 165-mile passage from Ibiza to Morocco had some of the most intense and fast ship traffic we’ve ever seen. Upon landfall, we spotted Marina Smir’s breakwater several miles off and after calling them on the VHF radio, we entered the channel and after making a 90 degree turn just inside the breakwater, we ended up at the fuel dock where an attendant motioned us to tie up. We were surprised at how few boats were in the large marina. Checking in was painless – first the marina office, then police/immigration who have a tiny office open 24 hrs per day within the marina building. The police/immigration officer knew I’d earlier emailed the marina office about hiring a minivan and driver to drive our crew up the mountain blue city of Chefchaouen and while I filled out passport entry cards he rang a friend of his whom I spoke with on the phone briefly.
Lisa and Tommy raise the Moroccan flag
Topping up the fuel
By the time I’d completed clearance, our guide Rachid showed up, came aboard, learned exactly what we wanted to see. After we’d fueled two taxi vans with Rachid to take us to Tetouan, a large (330,000) city with a vibrant medina, or ancient walled inner city. For four hours Rachid guided us through the medina, stopping to point out various sites with a special focus on old doors. We viewed shops selling a wide assortment of items, purchased fresh fruit and nuts at very reasonable prices and never once did we see any non-locals or tourists.
Rachid took us into a carpet shop owned by friends where after fresh mint tea and a flamboyant display of many carpets Lisa and Tommy fell under their spell and purchased two.
Peixi and Amanda were cast a different spell and tried to go for a magic carpet ride while…
Matthais and Marty decide to fashion djellaba’s; the traditional dress for men and women
Rachid told us that Tetouan and Chefchaouen were places where Muslims, Jews and Catholics had peacefully lived, worked and intermarried since 1494 when the Spanish in Granada had expelled both Muslims and Jews. It was the last shopping day before Eid, an important Muslim holiday, and many people were purchasing and were leading home sheep and goats to sacrifice the following morning.
Restaurant Palace Bouhal: A possible place for dinner tomorrow night
Akmed was very reluctant to come aboard as he was afraid of the water
We arrived back aboard MT elated but overwhelmed and exhausted and then Akmed, the camel arrived. Mohamed, the camel owner who asked if any of our crew wanted a camel ride, but we were very content with just bringing the camel aboard.
Chefchaouen from outside the city wall
At 9am the following morning Rachid picked us up in a nine-passenger van in which we all just fit and we headed up the mountains for Chefchaouen. But even before we were out of the marina car park, we came on an assembly line of goats being sacrificed, hung up, inflated, de-skinned, gutted and parceled out – all in the marina car park!
The roads were nearly empty as we climbed up the Rif Mountains to Chefchaouen. Upon arrival Rachid parked just inside the medina and led us to the sign less Casa Hassan guest house. He had made reservations for us and introduced us to the owner.
The guest house was newly renovated and comprised of four towers with rooms surrounding the open courtyard on the ground floor. We saw only a couple other guests and after getting checked in, headed to Aladdin’s Restaurant, also owned by a friend of Rachid’s, for an excellent Moroccan lunch on the canopied roof-top terrace, with spectacular views in all directions.
The main courtyard in Casa Hassan which is one of four
Following lunch Rachid led us on a brisk walking tour of the wonderful narrow blue painted streets of the medina.
“Excuse me, look, look, blue door!” was an extremely extreme phase from Rachid
Several of us were exhausted and enjoyed siestas at the hotel, but Amanda headed back to one of the few shops open during the holiday. She had previously spotted some Moroccan jewelry and met an interesting guy named Fatah who is studying Sociology. After chatting for nearly an hour Fatah mentioned that he also offered to guide walks into the mountains. When Amanda returned to the hotel I suggested we make arrangements to meet him the following morning.
For sunset, we all headed up the mountain a short distance to the Spanish Mosque, built in 1920 during the Spanish occupation, but never used and perched on the mountainside overlooking the town. Here dozens of locals and tourists gathered nightly to visit while watching the sunset. Amanda spoke with Australian mother and daughter who had been traveling around the country for three weeks, organizing their own travel and enjoying seeing the Sahara and many different parts of the country. Their travels intrigued us.
That evening we had an excellent dinner in Casa Hassan’s restaurant, located across the street from the guest house. The interior, like the hotel was eccentric and very artistic, the kitchen had a glass wall and looked surprisingly modern and spotlessly clean and we were given our own little alcove. The food, service and prices were excellent.
We were all awoken by the 5 am call to prayer and I enjoyed yoga on a semi-private rooftop courtyard before wandering around the deserted streets. Breakfast was included and we all ate together in a lovely quiet and tranquil outdoor courtyard.
Upon meeting up with Fatah and his friend Assan they took us to the water source where artesian springs pumped an impressive amount of water out, some of which was piped for the town water supply, Some was sold as bottled water and some of which was funneled into two roofed public clothes washing buildings.
For yet another amazing panoramic vista we hiked up the back of the valley all the time asking questions about life in Morocco and their university courses.
Assan and Fatah at the city wall
The blue streets never cease to amaze
La Botica de la Abuela Aladdin
Perfume cubes for sale
Our tour ended at Fatah’s mother’s house where Amanda, Lisa and Peixi were invited upstairs to meet the women of Fatah’s family and Islam, his 3-month-old nephew. Fatah was interrupter as his sister-in law Hajar hennaed Lisa and Amanda’s hand while his mother served Moroccan mint tea, lamb kebabs and layered cream cake. Fatah family is Berber and Amanda, Lisa and Peixi really enjoyed their quiet time with the women and were surprised how friendly, relaxed and outgoing everyone was.
Fatah’s sister Jihan and nephew Islam
Lisa greets Islam
Lisa gets her hand hennaed
All to soon it was time to meet Rachid and head down the mountain to Marina Smir. As we approached the marina, we noticed multiple policemen and soldiers on every corner. Rachid explained that the king had just arrived at his summer palace, adjacent to the marina. There was a very impressive giant black power boat anchored offshore and Rachid said the king loved jet skis and fast cars!
We thoroughly washed down Mahina Tiare, did laundry in buckets and I cleared out with the marina and immigration so we’d be able to set sail for Gibraltar at first light. Amanda and I look forward to returning to Morocco at a later time and spending more time ashore exploring. We were impressed with how polite, kind and helpful everyone we met was and the country’s rich history.
Eager to learn the nuances of sail trim, Lisa is keen to trim
The 30-mile crossing to Gibraltar was a fast beam reach with a volume of high-speed ferry and commercial traffic that had us tracking and avoiding up to six vessels simultaneously. What a great learning experience!
I’d earlier heard back that Ocean Village Marina, where we’d docked several weeks earlier, had no slips available, so the day before I’d emailed Queen’s Quay Marina asking if they had space for us.
Another option would have been sailing a mile further north, on the other side of the airport that marks the boundary between Gibraltar and Spain to La Linea, the newish Spanish marina where Peixi had sailed many times, working toward her RYA Yachtmaster training and had several friends.
As our goal was mooring MT close to the mountain, whose summit our crew were keen to hike up to, and to the amazingly well-stocked Morrison’s supermarket, we were pleased when, just as we entered the harbor, we got an email from Queen’s Quay Marina saying they had room for us for one night only.
MT, in red circle. docked at Queen’s Quay Marina
Once we’d gotten MT secured stern-to with the help of twin mooring lines, we had lunch aboard and our keen crew took off, hiking the 1,300 ft up the Mediterranean Steps to the top of the rock and then down the mountain, across the airport border (between flight landing and taking off) and over to the Spanish side to check out Peixi’s favorite tapas restaurants. Meanwhile we headed to Morrison’s for our final shop of amazing fresh fruit and veg.
After showers, most of our crew returned to the Spanish side (45-minute walk) for more tapas. Amanda and I enjoyed a late night hike around town, checking out several new areas. The architecture was interesting, with no signs of graffiti or rubbish and the town was festooned with banners celebrating the 50th anniversary of the referendum when Gibraltarians voted to remain British.
Interestingly, customs, port and immigration clearance are obtained electronically by the marinas, making the inward and outbound clearance process quick and easy. We left at first light Monday morning, dodging the intense traffic, motorsailing into fresh headwinds until we’d crossed the channel and were heading down the Moroccan coast. By early afternoon the winds clocked allowing us to unroll the genoa and head SW on a fast reach. The traffic was heavy and we sailed just inside along the coast with the destination of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, 600 miles away.
We’ve had brilliant downwind sailing and only last night did the winds peak at 30, gusting 34 kts with rambunctious seas. Even triple-reefed with only a sliver of genoa sheeted flat for stability our competitive crew hit low 10’s always trying to out-do the previous watch. Currently Matthias holds the surfing record having hit an impressive 10.3 knots!
Princess Peaches mastering the helm in near gale conditions
A happy Lisa and Tommy, 31 years after tying “the knot” in their log cabin in Sun Valley, Idaho
Highlights were a full night moon that illuminated the towering seas, sunny warm skies during the day and helping Lisa and Tommy celebrate their 31st anniversary twice.
September 11, 2017, 180 hrs, 28.57 N, 012.56 W, Log: 204,876 miles
Baro: 1015.8, Cabin Temp: 77 F, Cockpit: 79 F, Sea Water: 72.1 F
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 17-22 kt NE winds with only 50 miles to Marina Lanzarote, Arricife
WHAT AMAZING ADVENTURES!
Our near-surfing brilliant wind conditions held the entire way to Arricife harbor entrance with Dan calculating that we averaged more than 165 miles per day for three straight days. We kept our speed up, hoping to reach the harbor entrance before dark which we nearly did. We could just make out the newly-extended outer breakwater and thanks to C-Map and Navionics updated electronic charts we very carefully and slowly motored
Peixi receiving her 28th birthday serenade during rig check class
down the well-marked fairway to the three-year old Marina Lanzarote. The very efficient marina office had a slip reserved and a marinero waiting to take our lines. What a surprise to be moored right in front of a fancy marina shopping center – directly in front of Sunglass Hut! It only took our crew minutes to find a superb gelato shop owned and run by a Spanish sailor who makes his fruit-infused gelato on site!
Since we were two days ahead of schedule, we had a birthday celebration for Peixi, who sadly had to leave Friday for a new job in Kazakhstan at the most amazing waterfront tapas restaurant in nearby Arricife before setting sail west to Playa Quemada, a semi-isolated fishing village where the goats and sheep vastly outnumbered the humans. We found clear cool (74F) water, a good anchorage, but persistent and irregular swell wrapping around the island.
Amanda and I (mostly Amanda) worked hard at scrubbing the failed International Ultra antifouling paint off MT’s hull, readying to haulout and repaint Tuesday morning, just after the expedition ends.
Sunday we moved to Puerto Calero where we topped up fuel, filling all of our jerry jugs for the first time in years for our November Atlantic crossing and were delighted to discover moorage was free since we had pre-paid more than one month at Marina Lanzarote, owned by the same company.
Dan demystifying the sextant for Lisa.
It’s now all up to Tommy as Lisa takes “a fall”.
Changing oil and transmission oil was one of our several Sunday classes, along with Cruising Medicine, Clearing Customs Worldwide and Leaving Your Boat in a Foreign Port.
This morning we all enjoyed walking, running or exploring along the clifftop just west of the marina, marveling at the amazingly creative architecture of many of the homes.
After sextant navigation Amanda planned to test our crew with a real-life overboard incident on our sail back to Marina Lanzarote, so “fell” off the swim platform as she was showering, giving Lisa an excellent training opportunity.
Next Lisa decided she also wanted to be rescued, by her husband Tommy, but borrowed line to tie her bikini together after Amanda told her the drag was so strong once in the Lifesling that she might lose her swimsuit bottoms!
And, before we knew it, we were back in the same slip, with crew checking on hotel and flight reservations and Amanda and I checking in with the boatyard. We learned they had been able to source Micron 77 antifouling paint locally and needed to haul us tomorrow instead of Wednesday as previously scheduled, due to Friday being a holiday.
As we fly home Friday evening, these will be busy days between sanding, painting, cleaning and packing up charts and winter clothes to take home to San Juan Island.
This morning we all enjoyed walking, running or exploring along the clifftop just west of the marina, marveling at the amazingly creative architecture of many of the homes.
Here’s our truly extraordinary Leg 6 camel team: Dan, Marty, Tommy, Lisa, Peixi and Mattias
I recently retired after 25 years in the software business (and 25 years before that as an architect) in Connecticut. My dad taught me to sail at an early age and enjoyed sailing dinghies until 2005 when we bought a 40-year old Pearson to sail on Long Island Sound. More recently we bought a 1983 Southern Cross 35 and have spent most of the last eight years upgrading all of her systems. This expedition has confirmed my love of the cruising life.
I’m a builder from Colorado and have been sailing off and on for years, but didn’t start taking sailing seriously until three years ago. I joined John & Amanda for Leg 3 and sailing on Leg 6 I learned so much more.
I work in our family propane business in Nevada and Lisa and I have dreamed of sailing for over 25 years. We are keen water skiers have two ski boats, a Mastercraft and a Ski Nautique plus a Hobie Cat and we love being on the water, but ocean sailing is new to us. I’ll be retiring soon and doing this expedition has opened doors for us to be able to safely fulfill our dreams.
I am a yoga instructor in landlocked Elko, Nevada. Tommy and I want to discover exotic places in our own boat. We did this excursion to see if we are cracked up for blue water sailing. My experience is very limited: basic sailing course on Utah Lake (there really is such a place!), a BVI charter with friends and sailing our Hobie 16. We will now be buying our own boat to explore our wondrous world!
I’m an environmental engineer working in the energy industry. Originally from Tianjin, China, I moved to Montana when I was 16. Since graduation from university, I have been very fortunate to have worked in Texas, British Columbia, offshore Angola (where I was one of the only 10 females among 2000 people), and now Kazakhstan. My rotational work schedule has been flexible enough to allow me to travel the world on my time off. About two years ago, I started learning sailing in Gibraltar as a novice and immediately fell in love with the sailing lifestyle. I have since sailed 4000NM in Gibraltar region, Mediterranean, UK, and Antarctica. Currently I am preparing to obtain my RYA Offshore Yachtmaster with the hope of purchasing my own blue water boat in the next 3-5 years to continue exploring the world. This goal has led me to join Mahina Expeditions to learn more about practical sailing, various aspects of owning and maintaining a boat, and the true lifestyle of cruising around the world. John, Amanda, and Mahina Tiare III couldn’t have been a more perfect combo to take me a step closer to realizing my goal.
I am a telecom manager for local governments in Silicon Valley, CA. I enjoy sailing on San Francisco and Monterey Bays and love introducing friends to the fun of sailing. I plan to buy a catamaran in three years for living aboard and circumnavigating. I’ve enjoyed the adventure of learning on an open ocean passage in the company of like-minded new friends.
Resources used on Leg 6, Palma de Mallorca to Morocco and Lanzarote, Canary Islands:
Cruising Guides: Imray Costas del Sol and Blanca, Islas Baleares, North Africa, Atlantic Islands (brilliant cruising guides, frequently updated),
Imray charts: M11, M12, M3, C20, E18
Electronic Charts: C-Map running on Rose Point Coastal Explorer
Navionics Silver running on both our lovely new Raymarine MFD’s (multi-function displays), one at the chart table, and for the first time, one in the cockpit under the hard dodger
General Sailing Conditions: The passage from Palma de Mallorca to Morocco is subject to frequent changes in weather conditions. From Gibraltar to Canaries NE winds are generally predominant in late summer when many boats are heading to the Canaries in preparation for their Atlantic crossing.
General Anchoring Conditions: Morocco has some anchorages, but officials are very clear in expecting all visiting yachts to clear in first at a customs port of entry. The Canary Islands are frequently subject to strong winds and rolly anchorages. Marinas start filling up in mid to late September with sailors prepping for their Atlantic crossing. It is certainly worth emailing ahead of time for a berth reservation, even if your exact ETA is subject to the weather.
FUTURE TRAINING EXPEDITIONS:
Although leg 7, our Atlantic crossing is filled, we currently have 2 berths open on Leg 8, Antigua to Panama (fabulous FAST downwind sailing with landfalls on Montserrat, in Columbia and the San Blas Islands), 1 berth on Leg 9, our Panama Canal Transit and jaunt out to Las Perlas islands, and just one berth on Leg 1-2019, the amazing 4,600 miles of downwind surfing rom Panama to Hawaii. Click HERE for details!
Leg 6 Itinerary
Leg 6 , August 2017 : Mallorca – Canaryisandsadmin2021-05-02T15:38:56+00:00