Leg 2 , June 2014 : Papeete,Tahiti ; Rarotonga,Cook Islands

Leg 2 – Update 1

June 15, 2014, 1200 hrs, 16.36 S, 151.32 W, Log: 172,650 miles
Baro: 1013.3, Cabin Temp: 84 F cockpit 86 F, sea water 85.1
At anchor, Tapuamu Bay, Tahaa Island, 20 mi E of Bora Bora


The slow-moving front we’d been watching for a week lay right over Tahiti when our crew joined us at noon on Monday, six days ago, and they had to sprint from their taxi to the boat between tropical downpours. With winds gusting to 37 kts INSIDE Marina Taina we were particularly glad marina manager Philppe had found a secure berth for us as the radio was busy with calls to Philppe about yachts dragging moorings and one on the verge of sinking.

Crew, laden down with their gear bags, make their way to MT in the rain

Philippe even stopped by as crew were arriving and said we were welcome to stay another night without charges due to the rough conditions, but as the fuel dock was empty, while closed for lunch, we decided to see if we could safely maneuverer alongside. We did, thanks to the help from our able crew pre-stationed on the dock and our bow thruster. We had time for a quick lunch before the attendant returned at 1 PM and once fueled up we were faced with the decision of – what next?

Mainsail briefing

Taapuna Pass, just a couple miles away is completely sheltered from the prevailing ESE tradewinds, but in the SW gale conditions it’s a lee shore and, according to a local, would probably be breaking completely across, so this guy whom we’d met last year made a great suggestion; for our planned passage to Moorea. Why not sail downwind six miles past the airport and out Papeete’s main pass to Moorea? Excellent suggestion, although as we sailed along the protected channel we could see the 180′ Moorea ferry taking spectacular water over the bow so decided to wait until the seas diminished a bit might be a better idea. Papeete main downtown harbor was nearly empty and my idea was to anchor off so we wouldn’t be subject to the very common thefts of gear that nearly every boat mooring in Papeete reports, but Amanda said, “There are plenty of empty berths, if we tie up, then our crew can check out the Roulettes!”, so that’s what we did after Amanda had our new crew practice raising and reefing the mainsail.

Our intrepid crew gather together in Cooks Bay – Brad, Stewart, Monty, Steve, Margy, Suellen and Denise

A port administration guard helped us tie up and when I explained that we had already cleared out for Moorea, showed him our clearance papers he said it would be fine if we waited a few hours before setting sail. We set a Port Watch schedule that would always have one person on watch in the cockpit and then took turns exploring ashore. The roulottes are food vans that have been a part of Papeete’s evening waterfront for as long as we know. There were at least 20 vans and hundreds of Tahitian families enjoying barbecued, Chinese and French food. Kids were playing, everyone was happy and it was a very colorful scene.

At 0400 with a nearly full moon we set sail for Moorea. There was still a confused swell, but we made it to Cook’s Bay without anyone losing their dinner.

We’ve always encourage our Leg 2 crews to make the three hour hike over the mountain from Cooks to Opunohu Bay where we meet them with Mahina Tiare. On this hike a stop at the agricultural schools fruit stand for homemade ice cream and fruit is the reward, but this crew were the first to hike all the way to the end of the Opunohu road to the ancient stone marae’s (temple) and Belvedere lookout with a spectacular view of both bays.

Dinghy pick up at the head of Opunohu Bay

Upon their return we motored out to the reef anchorage just inside the pass for snorkeling and dinner before setting sail for Huahine, 90 miles WNW.

With excellent and building winds our gang got reefing and gybing/preventer practice throughout the night and we sailed right to the pass entrance before dropping sail and threading our way five miles through the narrow coral passage to the southernmost Baie d’Avea anchorage. This is one of our all-time favorite anchorages as it offers a panoramic view of the lagoon, outer reef and ocean with great snorkeling, easy shore access and some of the friendliest people we’ve met anywhere. Hotel Mahana is small and quiet and they don’t mind cruisers using their dock for shore access and our crew enjoyed sunset drinks there. The only other patrons at the beachside bar were from two other cruising boats.

At first light Wednesday morning our entire crew headed ashore when we went for our daily beach run, to explore the beach maraes. Amanda and I ran around the southern tip of Huahine to where we came upon a crop growing competition. Two sturdy-looking Tahitian farmers were in the open-sided community pavilion surrounded by piles of giant yams, taro and bunches of bananas. They explained that each of the villages on the island was in the competition to see who could grow the biggest and best produce and they proudly showed us theirs. Tidy houses and yards, extensive flower gardens portrayed a happy community with pride and everyone we passed smiled and said “Iaorana” or “Bonjour”. A bit different than the busy folks on Tahiti and Moorea.

Thursday we sailed under headsail alone three miles north to a new (for us) reef anchorage where we all piled in our RIB and headed out nearly to the outer reef for some great snorkeling. We didn’t realize it was Stewart’s first time ever snorkeling, but he figured it out and had a great time. Port Bourayne, a huge, nearly landlocked bay was the perfect venue for Lifesling overboard practice which every one of our keen crew aced!

Friday everyone again surprised us by being in the dinghy at first light for a longish dinghy ride to the bridge connecting the two islands of Huahine Nui (large) and Iti (small). With four directions to choose from, we ran to a new village and found extensive preparation for the island-wide Tahitian tamure dance competition of Heiva that is just about to start. The dancer whom we met explained that most of the village works from 5-7 pm nightly preparing the materials, dying and weaving the natural fibers and shells used in their incredible headdresses and costumes.

We had breakfast underway and an hour later found a secure but deep (45′) anchorage off bustling little Fare town. This crew have to be among our keenest ever as they all rented bikes and cycled to Maeva village on the northern tip of Huahine, site of an extensive, partly restored royal village. After a quick tidy-up aboard, Amanda and I headed ashore for a restock and were surprised at the number of sidewalk fruit, vegetable and fish sellers. At least six people had large coolers offering just-caught tuna for 1000cfp per kilo (US$6 per pound!!!) so Amanda smartly bought enough for three meals. Shortly after noon we set sail on the 18 miles to Tahaa, the next island to the west, enjoying a good sail and arriving in Baie Haamene with enough light to anchor.

Saturday we had a sunrise start and a very nice sail around Tahaa’s southern coast to Baie Hurepiti where we had arranged with our friend Alain for our gang to join him for his excellent ethno-botanist tour of Tahaa’s vanilla plantation and rugged interior.

Everyone gathers under Alain and Christina’s banyan tree for a group photo

Alain demonstrates hand pollination of the vanilla orchid

That afternoon we had a perfect sail under headsail only north along Tahaa’s lagoon as Amanda taught rig check, anchoring for the night in Baie Tapuamu.

We’d hoped there might be Tahitian dance practice ashore that night as in some previous years, but no luck.

Denise and Suellen enjoying coral gardens

After class Sunday morning our crew walked to Tiva village’s colorful lagoon-side church to hear some amazing Tahitian singing and then we motored a mile away to an anchorage off an outer motu or islet comprising part of the encircling barrier reef for an amazing snorkeling experience.

Dubbed “Coral Gardens”, this is a cut in the reef where the ocean water flows through a narrow cut in the coral about .5 mile, into the lagoon. It is very shallow, but for the first time we had arrived close to high slack water (noon and midnight every day in this area of solar tides) so the current wasn’t as strong and there was a few inches more clearance above the beautiful but sharp coral.

Coral gardens is like power snorkeling through a giant tropical aquarium with zillions of exotic fish and very healthy, colorful coral.

Denise spotted and photographed an octopus which everyone watched, fascinated for several minutes as it frequently changed colors while scooting from coral head to coral head.

Our crew were so keen that they kept hiking up the beach, and drifting down until they were getting cold. We then headed back to Tapuamu for a quiet night’s anchorage.

We enjoyed another early morning run on Monday before heading south through the coral maze called “Grand Banc Central” to Uturoa, Raiatea’s capital and only fuel docks. Surprisingly the free community dock had only one boat where 6-8 would fit and we were easily able to get fuel and do some shopping. Our crew found a café with free internet access and enjoyed checking out the public market, handicrafts stalls and few art galleries. Steve and Denise navigated and drove Mahina Tiare around the north end of Raiatea to Marina Apooiti where Jean Michelle, the manager of Marina Apooiti had saved us his last of four visitor slips and we did an excellent job of turning MT into what looked like a Chinese laundry shortly after getting the water hose aboard.

Once inside Bora’s encircling barrier reef Monty threaded us through the narrow channel to a very protected anchorage in the lee of Motu Topua. We inventoried our three abandon ship bags before diving in the 85F degree lagoon water.

While Amanda was teaching sail design yesterday morning I zipped 12 minutes in the dinghy to the commercial wharf in Vaitape village to pick up the check-out customs forms from the gendarmerie and was able to purchase tickets for the Friday night opening festival of the Heiva Competition  one month of nightly dancing on a huge white sand outdoor dance arena.

After lunch we had an excellent sail down the very narrow channel around the southern tip of Motu Topua where a handsome young Tahitian man chased us in his one-man outrigger racing canoe so that he could enjoy surfing in our quarter wave.

Each time we tacked or gybed for photos he was right there, paddling like crazy with a huge grin on his face. Once clear of the coral channel we then charged across and up and down the lagoon practicing tacking to the mainland where we anchored off the notorious Bloody Mary’s restaurant where our crew enjoyed an amazing dinner last night.

We were quite surprised to find all seven of our crew lined up on the rail in the pre-dawn this morning, waiting for walk/run to Point Matira, the southernmost tip of Bora Bora. With an extra day on Bora Bora due to attending Heiva on Friday night we

The gang outside Bloody Mary’s – Steve – Denise, Suellen, Stewart, John, Amanda, Brad, Monty and Margy

really focused on teaching today with Amanda covering sail trim and three-strand splicing while I taught Polynesian Nav plus dealing with tides and currents.

In the afternoon we sailed up and down the lagoon, giving everyone the opportunity to reef and unreef in the nearly-always gusty, but flat lagoon before dropping anchor on the sand bank situated in the south of the lagoon.

Suellen and Denise lower the mainsail

Tomorrow will be a busy day in town before Heiva and the gendarme has also requested sighting our entire crew before formally clearing us out of French Polynesia.

June 23, 2014, 0300 hrs, 16.47 S, 153.15 W, Log: 172,816 miles
Baro: 1012.4, Cabin Temp: 80 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 85.1
Broad reaching at 6.7 kts under full sail and poled out genoa in 18 kts ESE winds between Maupiti and Mopelia

Friday morning we found only one local boat anchored in our favorite corner near the largest Chinese grocery store and were all at the Gendarmerie by 10 am to clear out. With the exit papers all filled out and copies of each EM’s passports inserted in the passport our clearance took just a few minutes, then our crew were off for a day of shoreside adventures. Steve and Stewart circumnavigated the island on scooters while the rest of the crew explored the town, yacht club and Mai Kai Marina. Amanda and I did a final reprovision at our favorite store and before long it was time to pick up crew, make dinner and head ashore again for the opening ceremony of the month long Heiva festival and dance competition.

Denise: And what a festival it was! Earlier in the day we could see up close the elaborate layout of huts “baraks” that were erected to house all the restaurants and carnival type games, which had been intricately decorated with plants and flowers. When we entered the sand floor stadium for the evening dance and himine (singing) competition there was definitely an excitement in the air.

Suellen with himine singers

The show began with the “mamas” choir performing church type music in their Tahitian language which was beautiful, accompanied by many musicians playing their home made instruments.

After intermission we were awed by the dance team’s traditional and spectacular performance complete with drums, grass skirts and coconuts (good thing John brought his binoculars!).

The beautiful women were so flawless and graceful and the men so athletic.in this hour long segment that consisted of 3 costume changes. Including headdress, each getting more dramatic than the last. The accompanying musician team’s rhythm and cadence was mesmerizing.

The girls with a dancer – Suellen, Margy, Amanda and Denise

Our balmy evening witnessing Heiva was such a treat and a true celebration of the Tahitian culture and a highlight of our trip we’ll all remember.

Denise and Suellen take notes from of the working of the Sailrite sewing machine

At first light Saturday morning we set sail for Maupiti, one of our favorite islands in the world with excellent easterly trade winds, arriving at the treacherous pass by 1100, an hour before slack water. We found the calmest conditions ever with less than two knots of outflow current and no breakers. Margie did an excellent job navigating us through the pass and to a sheltered anchorage off one of the two islets flanking the pass entrance where we enjoyed anchoring and snorkeling with manta and sting rays before threading our way to an anchorage off the village.

After Amanda taught sail repair using our Sailrite sewing machine we all headed ashore to explore – our entire crew hiking or running the 9 km distance around this spectacular small island. Meanwhile Amanda and I hunted for bananas, papaya and French bread, but came up empty on all

In the early evening everyone lends a hand either with navigation or dinner prep

counts. It has been a very dry year and although we found many stalks of bananas, none were ripe. Our baker friend reminded us he doesn’t bake on Sunday, so we left a note inside the door of the Chinese bakery saying we’d like to order 12 loaves if they baked Sunday morning, only to return this morning at 0630 on our morning run to see both our card and a sign on the front door saying in French, “Sorry, no more bread until the supply ship brings more flour”.

When the crew of an Island Packet anchored nearby stopped by to visit, Amanda had the idea of asking them if they were going to Mopelia, and if so, could they pick up 12 baguettes for us at the bakery and bring them to Mopelia. They agreed and we hope our baker friend gets our note and it all works out. On such a small island with a population of around 1000, the two bakers only bake bread to order.

Several of our crew enjoyed the harmonious singing at church this morning while others of us explored.

Amanda and I made it around the island, but with more walking and visiting than running, enjoying the perfect day, beautiful island and lagoon and friendliest people anywhere.

I stopped at a sign advertising fish and brouchettes and found a fisherman and his wife with a tiny deep fryer and electric grill making tasty lunches to go in front of their house.

I asked how much just a single brouchette (grilled chunks of fresh fish and vegetables on a skewer) would be and at the 150 franc (US $1.65) price couldn’t resist. The woman also included fries and French bread, but when I didn’t have any notes smaller than 1000 franc and she didn’t have change, she insisted that I enjoy the brouchette without charge.

At another house Amanda spotted a tiny sign advertising fresh fruit and we finally found the bananas we’d been looking for. When we returned following our walk and started carrying the heavy stalk down the road to the dinghy, a truck instantly stopped, insisting that we toss the bananas in back and he drove us right to the post office dock where we’d left the dinghy. Every single person

Brad, Stewart, Suellen and Denise kiss their magnificent tiare leis, from church farewell, before casting them into the sea. This ensures they’ll return to this small island paradise.

we passed smiled and nodded or waved. We learned that the twice weekly ferry service had ended a year ago, and that the expensive Air Tahiti flights had curtailed a lot of travel. Maupiti has never had any hotels but does have several very attractive pensions (family-run guest houses) both on the mainland and on outer barrier islets.

Steve was our captain of the day and did a very organized job of getting our anchor and sails up and by 1700 yesterday we had cleared the pass and set sail for Mopelia, 103 miles to the west.

We’ve had steady following winds between 10 and 18 kts and with the whisker pole set are making very good time downwind and calm seas. As Mopelia is a low coral atoll with the tallest point of land being about 6′ we purposely left as late in the day as possible so as not to arrive before good light.

Leg 2 – 2014, Update 2

June 28, 2014, 0600 hrs, 19.40 S, 157.44 W, Log: 173,234 miles
Baro: 1013.2, Cabin Temp: 84 F cockpit 75 F, sea water 85.4
Close-hauled at 5 kts in 6.5 kt SSE winds, calm seas, clear skies, no moon


Our 109 mile overnight passage from Maupiti to Mopelia was perfect – a broad reach with the pole up, only and slight roll and not long after sighting Mopelia we landed the first fish of the season; a gorgeous mahimahi. Mopelia’s pass fairly boiled with a non-stop ebb current that looked like a river and which we measured at 5.5 kts. As the pass is only 60′ wide for much of the quarter-mile distance, the turbulence is staggering, requiring a powerful engine and a deft touch on the wheel.

To record our entrance, Stewart was on the starboard spreader with video camera and Amanda was on the port spreader with still camera

Once through the maelstrom we anchored off Motu Manu (bird island) and took the RIB ashore for a chance to quietly observe many nesting frigates and their chicks.

Two lonely masked boobies nesting on the sand looked rather out of place amongst the frigates who were nesting in the bushes

We then motored four miles to windward across the lagoon dodging pearl floats to anchor in the most sheltered (from prevailing trade winds) SE corner of the lagoon. As soon as the anchor was down curious black-tipped reef sharks surrounded Mahina Tiare and our crew jumped in with masks and cameras to photograph the sharks which apparently being camera shy promptly disappeared. With a calm anchorage we quickly got into teaching mode, Amanda covering sail design, going aloft followed by my teaching electrical power systems and watermakers.

Crew walking to the windward beach from our dinghy landing

I briefly popped ashore to visit our long-time friend Hina, an attractive Tahitian girl from Maupiti who has lived alone cutting copra (dried coconut used for soaps and oil) for a living for the past 15 years and who enjoys frequently entertaining visiting yachties. I asked and she agreed to host a barbecue at her place the following night and her parting words were, “Be sure to bring another chocolate cake like last year!”

We’d told our keen crew about our all-time favorite beach run/hike along the wild windward coast around the tip of the island from Hina’s beach and weren’t surprised to see them all lined up for the dinghy ride ashore before dawn Tuesday morning.

We covered storm survival tactics and anchoring Tuesday before heading ashore late Tuesday for the potluck.

Last night the Mahina Tiare crew descended on the shore of Mopelia at the residence of Miss Hina, the legendary siren of the South Seas, for a potluck barbeque and soiree. We were joined in the festivities on this beautiful and remote island by the crew of the Iguana, an Island Packet 45 we’d met in Maupiti, who had kindly delivered a load of sorely needed fresh baguettes to us from there. In honor of the occasion, and as a gift to his old friend Hina, John baked a sheet of delicious chocolate brownies – chocolate being a rare treat here. And Hina’s neighbor Edgar contributed a haul of freshly caught lobster, and a large (and to some, terrifying) coconut crab that we hauled in on a leash, which caused quite a stir. And was delicious.

Edgar’s coconut crab

On the right of the table – Edgar and Hina entertain us with a wonderful mix of Tahitian songs and Hina held the entire party captivated by her beautiful singing and spirit – leaving no doubt as to how she gained her reputation as a siren on this sparsely populated paradise.

The festivities began with fresh coconuts being hacked open with a machete for a sweet and refreshing beverage, which we enjoyed as the feast of lobster, tuna, and crab were being prepared over a fire of coconut husks. And what a feast it was: in addition to the multitude of fresh seafood, we also enjoyed a poisson cru, and delicious pasta and rice dishes, and of course the treat of brownies for dessert.

Much fun was had swapping stories with our fellow cruisers, and enjoying the hospitality of our gracious hosts Edgar and Hina. The party and fun went for hours as the guitar was passed back and forth between Hina and Stewart each sharing songs in a multicultural jam session, that left big smiles on everyone’s faces, until the last coconut went bottoms up, and it was time to bid au revoire and head back to the Mahina Tiare.

The frontal passage that we’d been waiting for started cranking up Wednesday morning with the wind shifting to the N then NNW, increasing to 23 kts and making the anchorage off Hina’s exposed, so we headed to the N corner of the lagoon, anchoring off Adrienne and Marcello’s place where I’d first anchored and visited them 25 years earlier. Their little spot of paradise was busy with five pigs, lots of dogs, a new backhoe, a pearling boat being readied for paint, plus a very productive garden. Along with their son Hio, 25, and Faimano, 26, who we had met on our previous visits their daughter Puaiti was also on the island while Karina, 22, the youngest daughter was still on Maupiti. Adrienne and Amanda, best of friends had fun clowning around together, Marcello as always offered to cook us up a big pot of lobsters, but we were watching the approaching weather and after an hour sadly said our goodbyes and headed for the pass.

Want one blue eyed pig!

A farewell gathering on Adrienne’s and Marcello’s beach
Suellen, Hio, Puaiti, Brad, Denise, John, Adrienne, Faimano, Marcello and Amanda

The plan had been to tow the dinghy and any keen snorkelers holding onto it out the pass, then anchor off the wreck of the WWI German raiding sailing ship outside the pass but this quickly went out the window with a good look at the pass. The 23 kt NW winds were colliding with the roiling continuous ebb current creating bar-like conditions at the ocean end of the pass so we quickly hauled the motor and dinghy aboard and in poor light with the sun’s glare directly in our eyes headed out. It was a challenge maintaining control and Amanda had Brad trigger the bow thruster port or starboard in the critical moments. MT’s bow plowed completely underwater several times as we went through very rough water and then, suddenly we were out of the channel and into calmer waters.

Everyone studies the upcoming weather and passage

Our keen crew tucked two reefs in the main, rigged the preventer, unrolled the genoa and we were off on a fast broad reach. Even before the sun had set we could see flashes of lightning in the frontal cloud band on our bow and we hoped the lightning wouldn’t be striking the surface. By 0100 Thursday we’d cleared the front and the stars were out. Since then the wind has slowly clocked around until we were able to ease sheets a bit and although light and a little flukey, we’ve not had to motor.

Now it is 0630 and we are awaiting dawn and hopefully a good view of Mitiaro, one of the Southern Cook Islands that is only nine miles off on radar. Conditions permitting, we hope to anchor off Atiu, the next island for lunch and some snorkeling before setting sail for Rarotonga.

June 30, 2014, 1500 hrs, 21.12 S, 159.47 W, Log: 173,396 miles
Baro: 1012.3, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 81.3
Moored Med-style, Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Meanwhile Brad and I snorkeled by Mangaroa II and into the tiny channel to watch the lighter being unloaded by a mobile crane ashore before checking out the shipwreck

Not long after we passed Mitiaro we started picking up the AIS signature of Mangaroa II, a 97′ Rarotonga-based trading boat skippered by David, a Fijian friend of ours. As we approached we noticed that although unloading cargo to Atiu’s lighter (the island has only a tiny boat harbour and trading ships must anchor offshore) we noticed the ship was cutting donuts and wasn’t anchored. We learned that David was in Raro and a relief captain was running the ship. They had lost their only anchor a week earlier and would be headed to Raro as soon as all their cargo was unloaded.

Overhearing our conversation on the VHF radio, the mayor of Atiu asked what our last port and next port was and said if we brought our passports and boat papers we could come ashore. That was a shocker as many times we’ve anchored off Atiu for lunch, always wondering what this rarely-visited island with only 400 inhabitants must be like. Initially I said, “Thank you, we’ll be right in once we launch our tender”, but once I started thinking about it, I knew going ashore before reaching a customs port of entry could cause problems when we went to clear in at Raro, so I called the mayor back, thanked him and asked for permission to anchor for lunch and a swim which he granted.

By 1400 we and our dinghy were back aboard and we set sail for Rarotonga, only to have the wind go very light, requiring us to motorsail much of the night as Mangaroa II slowly caught up and passed us.

Steve takes a noon site

Crew take down the mainsail in the early dawn to allow us to motor into the light headwinds.

For morning class our eager crew were keen to see our PowerPoint sequence titled, “Leaving your Boat in a Foreign Port” while Amanda stood watch, but by the time we finished, Amanda had us in on the leading marks lined up for the harbour entrance. We cut a couple of circles while our gang got the mainsail down, anchor and docklines ready and before we knew it, we were dropping anchor in a nearly-empty Avatiu Harbour and backing toward the wall.

Having arrived in Raro on the weekend in past years, we had zero expectation of clearing quarantine, health, customs and immigration before Monday so you can imagine our shock when the port watchman said he’d already called all the officials and that they’d be down as soon as they were done clearing in a flight nearby at the airport. Sure enough, we were soon all cleared in and Suellen could greet her husband Scott who had been waiting to take our stern lines and Brad got a great big smooch from his wife Laura who had come up a couple days earlier with her parents and friends.

We asked Laura and family and Scott to join us for what turned out to be an amazing Indian dinner for 13 at nearby Raviz restaurant.

Steve, 58
I’m a commercial real estate broker and investor based in LA. My wife, Denise grew up sailing and we needed a “together” adventure now that our kids are out of the nest. We really wanted to see if “commuter cruising” could work for us and this time aboard MT has given us realistic expectations to use evaluating our future sailing plans.

Denise, 55
I’m a fashion consultant from Manhattan Beach, California. Growing up in Newport Beach racing Lasers was a great intro to spending summers aboard my father’s cutter at Catalina Island. Early in our marriage Steve and I sailed with my dad on his KP 46. Now we sail through Fair Winds Yacht Club in Marina del Rey but joined this expedition to see if cruising might be for us, and we are hooked!

Suellen, 53
Suellen and her sweetheart Scott live on Lake Macquarie, 90 minutes from Sydney, Australia where they keep their Jeanneau 43DS moored in front of their home. (lucky them!) They both worked in medical equipment sales and training in multiple countries, have just retired and are trying to decide if they should set off on grand adventures now on their Jeanneau or upgrade.

Brad, 56
I’ve sailed in Australia for several years, but my experience has mostly been racing Dragons as opposed to cruising. My experience aboard MT gave me some great experience to enjoy sailing in a new and more relaxed context and I’m looking forward to future sailing charters with Laura at the very least if not purchasing our own cruising boat. (Brad has lived all over Asia working as a project manager on large construction projects and brought his uniquely Aussie sense of humor with him)

Monty, 57
I am a financial advisor and keen skier from Vancouver. I was looking to experience some blue water sailing to compliment the coastal cruising Margy and I have done along the British Columbia coast. We have sold our house and have plans to purchase our own boat in the near future with the goal of adventuring under sail for several years.

Margy, 56
I recently retired as an accountant in Vancouver, BC and am ready for cruising adventures!

Stewart, 50
I am a filmmaker and editor working in LA. I’ve been sailing small boats since I was a kid growing up in Seattle. Since then I’ve gotten much more serious about sailing and cruising and am planning to buy a boat of my own in a few years. Sailing on MT gave me a unique opportunity to experience on an ocean passage and a taste of serious cruising, and brought me closer to my dream of sailing across an ocean on my own.

Leg 2 – Itinerary

Leg 2 , June 2014 : Papeete,Tahiti ; Rarotonga,Cook Islands2021-05-03T15:49:31+00:00

Leg 1,May 2017

Refit Success!

In May 2014 we set sail from Auckland, New Zealand for a 20 year, 200,000-mile refit in Sweden. We took our time enjoying the journey with stops in Tahiti, Rarotonga, Hawaii, Alaska before leaving our boat for the winter in Sidney, BC. Our next season included landfalls in San Diego, Mexico, Cocos Island, Panama, BVI’s, Azores, Ireland, Scotland and Norway before leaving Mahina Tiare in a boatyard an hour north of Gothenburg.

That first winter Mahina Tiare spent at Adams Boatcare where she got new teak decks (2mm thicker than the original and vacuum-bagged without any fasteners), a new motor, shaft and prop, two (12 & 24 volt) new Mastervolt Chargemaster battery chargers plus all new thru-hulls and ball valves. All went well with the refit and a year ago we did a shakedown north to visit Oslo for the first time before setting sail on 8,000 miles of sail-training expeditions to Orkney, Tromso (northern Norway), Bear Island, Spitsbergen, Iceland, Faroe, Scotland and then back to Sweden last September for the final refit at Broderna Martinssons boatyard where we’d had our 10-year, 100,000 mile refit done.

This past winter’s final refit was a lot easier on the budget, with only the fridge and freezer, all electronics including radar and autopilot replaced, rudder seals and bearings, steering gearbox, genoa plus standing rigging and lifelines.

Why Sweden when we could have had the same work done for a similar price in New Zealand, Sidney, BC, Seattle or San Francisco? Partly as a reason or excuse to sail back to Spitsbergen and to explore Iceland for the first time, and partly because we really enjoy working with Swedes. Their work ethic, sense of design, 10,000 years of boatbuilding tradition all counted. Also figuring into the scenario was the fact that this was where MT had been built and the source for the engine, rigging and some of the hardware we planned to replace.

The island of Orust, an hour’s drive north of Gothenburg has long been a hotbed of boatbuilding excellence, but since the decline in new construction, many of the yards have turned into refit specialists, with owners sailing or shipping their boats from all over Europe and Scandinavia and even some from the US.
When I was shopping for new instruments, I asked boatyard owner Hakan Martinsson about the quality of the sub-contractor he used for installing electronics. Hakan simply answered, “They get it done. If there is a problem, they come at night or on the weekend, but they always get it right.”

We just had cause to test that statement. Months ago I had asked the electronics installing company if they could send a tech out three days after we returned to test out the electronics which had been installed while the boat was in a huge, heated hall for the winter. They did, and on our shakedown, when the tech turned the new autopilot on, the boat veered hard to starboard. In seconds Per Martin dove below into the aft cabin, lifted up the mattress and switched out two wires on the pilot control unit. A couple minutes later, that was resolved and he went through the instruments, quickly calibrating and adjusting. We headed back to the yard and thanked him. A week later on a six-mile jaunt south to the yard where MT had been built, the depth sounder went blank after five minutes, and didn’t start sounding again until we were moored. A call to Per Martin and he said it was most likely the junction box but to be certain, he ordered both that part and a new triducer. He arrived, installed the box, and it worked perfectly on a test run and he then installed the very latest update that had just been issued. Later that night we noticed that neither the chart table or aft cabin repeaters showed depth or speed. An emailed reply said that he thought when he installed the software update the two repeaters had lost their settings. He forwarded a PDF of the entire 115-page installation and operation manual, plus a note saying to read page 39 and follow the directions for resetting. That did the trick!

Here is a list of what we’ve replaced over the past two winters, why we chose the suppliers we did and how it has worked out.

Engine: Our original Volvo TMD31L 95 hp engine was still running perfectly after 14,000 hours, never broke down or used oil, but the cost of replacing it was within $2000 of the cost of rebuilding. The Volvo D2-75 has mechanical, not common-rail injection and is 260 lbs lighter. It has proven more economical, much quieter and has increased our top speed from 7.9 to 8.5 kts. In actual fact, the speed increase is likely due to a switch from Maxprop to a Flexofold propeller.

Prop: The stopping ability and non-spinning when sailing were great aspects of the Maxprop, however, after having to have it rebuilt three times over 200,000 miles at a cost of $1200 each time, the reports of the simplicity and improved efficiently I heard from several owners and the reports of two propeller tests tipped my choice to Flex-O-Fold. An added bonus is that the Flex-O-fold feathers with blades trailing aft, instead of sticking out to snag lines.

Instruments and Autopilot: Our 20-year-old Autohelm ST50 instruments had proved to be reliable, but it had become increasingly difficult to find parts and the Autohelm linear drive Type 2 autopilot had become occasionally erratic. We’d replaced the original R20X radar when it died at ten years, but chart cartridges were no longer available in the format required by the C80 that we replaced the original with.
Frigoboat Refrigeration and Freezer: Our keel-cooled fridge and freezer systems were working ok, but we’d had to have refrigerant added several times and they were no longer as efficient as when first installed. The cost of replacing both including labor was the equivalent of US$3400 and the replacements are using considerably fewer amps, only rarely coming on.

Aqua Signal LED Nav Lights: The original Aqua Signal lights were large, and occasionally filled with water, plus the red and green lenses would turn frosty white every seven years, so replacing them with much smaller, hopefully more watertight LED’s will prove a good solution.

Mastervolt Chargemaster Battery Chargers: For the past 20 years we used a heavy portable step-down transformer to turn 220 volts into 110, temporarily perched under the dodger. It was a hassle to drag it out from bilge stowage, so many times I didn’t plug us in when free shore power was available. Christer Verta at Adams Boatcare did an excellent job of installing two Mastervolt Chargemasters (one for each our 12 and 24 volt banks) and they have worked very well. We are surprised how many marinas and docks in Scandinavia and Europe have free shore power included with moorage. When we return (briefly) to the lands of 110 volts in Panama and Hawaii, we’ll simply plug a 110 volt cord into the second power inlet. Simple!

Leg 1 – 2017

May 6, 2017, 0200 hrs, 58.45 N, 000.29 W, Log: 200,406 miles
Baro: 1024.7, Cabin Temp: 63 F, Cockpit: 59 F, Sea Water: 48.5F
Beam reaching at 8.1 kts with 15 kts NNE winds just abaft the beam


Our adventurous Leg 1 crew – Doug, Nevin, Tara, Billy, Amanda and Harvey

MT ready to sail the Skagerrak from Gullholmen

Harvey and Doug take a relaxing moment below on the new spacious and light HR44

After a 30 hrs of motoring at the start of our North Sea passage the winds have filled in and we’re having a very smooth sail as we pass the pass the prime meridian, re-entering the western hemisphere. Yesterday we passed through the oil fields. Production platforms and their flares dotted the horizon and each platform had a rescue boats standing by. Traffic has been quiet since although twice tonight we’ve altered course a few degrees to ensure at least 1-2-mile separation as 200’ bottom-dragging fishing boats passed by.

While Amanda and I enjoyed the winter based on San Juan Island interspersed with boat show seminars, Mahina Tiare got the second half of her 200,000-mile refit, this time at Broderna Martinssons boatyard, just 8 miles of the Hallberg-Rassy yard where she was built. The previous winter at Adams Boatcare she received new teak decks, a new engine, shaft and prop, all new through-hull fittings and new battery chargers. This winter’s projects were less extensive and, thankfully, less expensive; replacing rigging and lifelines, Raymarine instruments including radar and autopilot, Lewmar/Whitlock steering gearbox, Andersen halyard winches, Elvstrom experimental 120% genoa, Aqua Signal LED running lights, Frigoboat refrigerator and freezer. All the gear we replaced still worked (although the autopilot, which we rarely use was getting erratic) but after 20 years and 200,000 miles of use, it was all well-worn. As we enjoy and plan to continue running expeditions for several more years, I felt it made sense to replace the gear where it was not only reasonably priced, but it could also be installed by skilled technicians who were daily involved in refitting HR’s.

With 16 days from when we landed in Sweden until our Leg 1 crew arrived we had plenty of time to prepare, and for the first time in 28 years I was ready a day early. Inevitably we always experience some last-minute glitches, and this year the Iridium phone which I’d tested two days earlier refused to connect when I again tested it on the morning our crew arrived. After trying our spare computer and second Iridium phone I learned that the problem might be system-wide with Iridium. We reloaded the program and driver and appeared to get it working.

Magnus Rassy and the new HR 44

While we prepared for our expedition season we enjoyed catching up with Magnus Rassy who is passionate about the developments on the new HR 44. Last September we’d been aboard but there’d been no interior. Now the boat is complete (and was a big hit at the huge Dusseldorf Boat Show) and most weekend’s and holiday’s Magnus and frequently his wife Mellie plus their daughters are out sailing.

Also a big treat was to have Leg 2-2011 expedition members Per and Annika moored next to us aboard Albatross, their HR 48, as they prepared to sail for the Med. Annika made us all a wonderful traditional Swedish dinner and we enjoyed several sunset walks together with Charlie, their keen Labrador.

Annika and Per aboard Albatross

As several of our expedition members had expressed interest in touring the Hallberg-Rassy yard, and as Monday was a holiday, we spent Monday afternoon going over safety systems and reefing, spending the night at nearby Gullholmen, a quintessential Swedish west coast fishing village before returning to the HR yard Tuesday morning for the boatyard tour. Harvey had recently ordered a new HR 412 so was keen in learning more about how these boats are built and everyone enjoyed checking out HR 44 hull #1, a new twin-ruddered German Frers breakthrough design.

First day sail orientation

After lunch, we set sail for Mandal, Norway, 135 miles to the west. Tuesday was the warmest day of the year to date with a cloudless sky, following winds of 10-17 kts and flat seas, making for a very enjoyable overnight crossing of the Skagerrak. Our crew practiced rigging the preventer, gybing and we even needed to tuck a reef in at one point. As we approached Mandal the wind increased so we tucked a second reef in then furled the genoa, sailing through the channel and nearly to the guest harbor before dropping the double-reefed main.

Preparing to drop the main as we sail the into Mandal

Everyone took off to explore this small seaside town after lunch, and here’s Tara’s account:

We found lots of little shops and restaurants including Proviajen where a few of us had homemade Kambuchai beer and amazing baked goods including yummy cinnamon buns, apple muffins, bread and cookies. Evelyn, the owner and baker brought us an assortment of things to try and we had to bring back some fresh bread and chocolate chip cookies to the boat.

Evening view of Mandal

It seems like we’re always early or late in the season when we visit Mandal and this time was no exception as we were the only visiting yacht in this harbor that we hear is totally packed during summer. As the harbor office and guest showers were locked, our adventuresome crew headed to the local community pool and sports complex for showers, and saunas. Harvey and Doug forgot to bring swim shorts and said the local boys in the locker room had a good laugh at them trying to be modest with only small towels as they headed to the sauna!

For the first seven hours after setting sail from Mandal we had 20 kts from astern, so we got more practice reefing, rigging the preventer and setting the whisker pole. By 1700 the wind went very light and for the first time ever crossing the North Sea, we had to motor 30 hours until midnight last night when a nice NNE breeze filled in.

When motoring in light air we often tuck a reef in the main to reduce the chatter

Tara getting ready to shake out the motoring reef

A snap shot of our North Sea AIS traffic

May 10, 2017, 0200 hrs, 59.22 N, 002.22 W, Log: 200,529 miles
Baro: 1004.7, Cabin Temp: 58 F, Cockpit: 59 F, Sea Water: 48.0F
At anchor, North Ronaldsay Island, Orkney

We held our surprisingly fine broad reaching conditions all the way to Kirkwall Harbour entrance, dropping sail and entering to find two other cruising yachts on the visitor’s pontoon. Our crew were keen for the convenient showers and to explore town. Doug joined Amanda and I at The Reel (outlasting us by several hours) for an enjoyable session of Orcadian Celtic fiddle music and singing.

Sunday was a free day and sadly three of our crew decided to head for warmer climes. Doug and Billy braved a blustery day finding a keen and knowledgeable taxi driver to show them several of the Neolithic and WWI historical sites while Amanda and I took the bus to Stromness to check out the museum’s exhibit on Orkneyman John Rae’s discovery of the NW Passage.

MT in Kirkwall Marina

Kirkwall’s quaint Albert Street; the main shopping street

Monday was a fine day and we set sail for St. Catherine’s Bay on Stronsay Island, population 300 which our crew figured would be well protected from the current northerly winds. We found a very secure anchorage surrounded by curious seals and launched the RIB to go hike or hitchhike to (I thought) nearby Whitehall Village. The tide was out miles and it was a chore to roll the dinghy over soft sand, hopefully far enough from the incoming tide. Before long Doug, Amanda and I hitched a ride with what we later learned was the island taxi. The owner informed us he was a fisherman and a crofter (small farmer) as well as using his car as a taxi. When we were at the turn off for Whitehall, Amanda and Doug said, “Let’s go to the Vat of Kirbester which turned out to be at the other end of the island. We hiked some distance from the end of the road to the arch, but all the time I was concerned that the incoming tide might float the RIB away.

Amanda and Doug at the Vat of Kirbester

We started walking back and fortunately a woman on her way to the twice-daily ferry gave us a ride most of the way and Amanda sprinted the last mile or so, only to find the dinghy still well above the tide line.

Yesterday we had an excellent sail 20 miles to North Ronaldsay, an island we had long wanted to explore for the Stevenson lighthouse (tallest in the UK) and the ancient breed of seaweed-eating sheep. The forecasted 15 kt WNW winds made the anchorage in Linklet Bay, directly off the famous lighthouse a dream. Dropping our shiny new Ultra anchor in just 17’ of water we let out 150’ of chain and spent several minutes in reverse to ensure the anchor was well set as we planned to be away exploring much of the afternoon.

The long stone pier built in 1853 for the construction of the lighthouse was a perfect dinghy landing site and once ashore we were met by Mark, chairman of the island council who asked if we would like a tour of the wool mill and lighthouse.

The woolen mill is only 12 years old and came from Cape Breton Island, but allows the islanders to mechanically process the wool. There is a larger demand than supply, so this really helps provide jobs and income. Helen Galland, www.woolywally.com, the woman running the mill, never stopped moving from station to station. Helen also runs the visitor’s center, café, bike rental, farms and is an airport firefighter!

Mark shows us why North Ronaldsay wool is so special; it has hair as well as wool. The hair must be separated from the wool before it is spun

Helen Galland is kept busy with the rather intrique workings of the mill machines some of which are from Cape Breton

The island council purchased the lighthouse and associated buildings and has turned it into a museum, café and several guest houses. Helen led us and a group of Scottish birder watchers up the 176 stairs to sweeping 360-degree view, which on a clear day stretches to Fair Isle, 27 miles ENE to Kirkwall, 30 miles south. We could see Mahina Tiare patiently waiting at anchor, but couldn’t see the dinghy tied to the wharf.

North Ronaldsay lighthouse

The lens and view south from the lighthouse tower

Our stranded dinghy in the tidal kelp bed

We’d offered Mark afternoon tea aboard and he met us back at our dinghy bearing gifts of the island lamb sausages made in Kirkwall to his recipe. Oh No! not only was the dinghy high and dry on the kelp, it was 50 meters from the water! Amanda and I clambered into to it, put on our boots and stepped out onto the kelp only to quickly sink down to the tops of our boots. We considered lifting the motor and dinghy up onto the stone slipway and carrying it down to the water, but after testing the slipperiness of the stones on the water’s edge, decided that waiting for the tidewaters to return would be a safer option.

The unique seaweed eating sheep of Ronaldsay. They only like the fresh kelp!

Mark said, “Right, you guys want a tour of the island?” and off we sped, to see every corner of this very flat 1.5 x 3-mile rock, passing thousands of the ancient sheep, many with very small lambs. We saw the water purifying plant that Mark runs, the very old church slowly being repaired and the outside of the laird’s (owner of the island) house before he dropped us back at the lighthouse museum where we enjoyed watching historical films about servicing the lighthouses until the tide refloated the dinghy at 7 pm.

Doug, our navigator for today plotted our course and waypoints for the 28-mile passage from North Ronaldsay to Fair Isle, and at 0700 this morning we set sail. The stronger winds and change of direction to headwinds brought on by the frontal passage haven’t occurred yet, and hopefully we’ll have the anchor down at Fair Isle before they do.

Leg 1, 2017, Update 2

May 17, 2017, 1300 hrs, 60.20 N, 001.01 W, Log: 200,628 miles
Baro: 1014.7, Cabin Temp: 63 F (no heater, hooray!), Cockpit: 68 F, Sea Water: 49.6F
Symbister Harbour, Whalsay Is., Shetland

Our 28-mile passage from North Ronaldsay Is., Orkney to Fair Isle was windless, and just as we rounded the spectacular Stevenson lighthouse on the southernmost tip of the island, we also passed Swan, a 70’ traditional Shetland fishing ketch. On we entered Fair Isle’s tiny North Haven, we noticed a puff of smoke when The Good Shepherd, the local sheep, cargo and passenger vessel started up her engine. We figured that rafting alongside would not be an option since they’d shortly be getting underway so we turned and prepared to anchor in the fairway. We then noticed a crew man motioning us to come alongside, and when we were within hailing distance Kenny, the engineer, wouldn’t hear of us anchoring off and welcomed us to tie alongside until 0700 the following morning.

The Good Shepard

Kenny, Good Shepard’s engineer

Kenny was only running Good Shepherd’s generator as part of the routine servicing and happily gave us an engine room tour. He told us the ferry was built 30 years ago with the intention of only lasting 10 years, but was still going strong. North Haven is so rough in the winter that immediately after each of her three sailings per week to Shetland Mainland they must haul her out on her marine railway adjacent to the wharf.

Fair Isle North lighthouse

Doug and Billy went off exploring and enjoyed visiting with the staff and birdwatchers at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. Doug, not wanting to waste a chance to explore, then chose to battle the weather with a hike all the way to the south lighthouse while Amanda and I ventured off to the nearer north lighthouse.

Always thinking ahead, Amanda and I took our charts and cruising guides aboard Swan, the 1900 Shetland-built herring schooner (now a sail-training vessel). She’d been on a day sail around Fair Isle with the school children and was heading to Kirkwall to do the same there. Steve, a volunteer crew and active Shetland sailor, was most helpful in suggesting many interesting anchorages and harbors and some of the local sites we shouldn’t miss.

Swan returning from her sail around Fair Isle

John gleaning local information on the Shetlands with Steve aboard Swan

Early Thursday morning we were up and anchored out in the fairway ready to be ashore in time to tag along on the warden’s morning bird trap rounds. The traps are located at numerous sites that include a few stone fence runs, gulches and small patch of bushes nicknamed the plantation in which they keep a bird feeder. Richard collected two bramblings (similar to a chaffinch) plus a rock dove and upon our return to the bird observatory we watched him weigh, band and release them.

The brambling ready for release

MT at anchor in North Haven

Comical puffins

Billy enjoying the reaching conditions to Sumburgh Head

We’d plan to spend a second night at Fair Isle waiting for forecasted fresh NE headwinds to diminish, but by noon the wind was still SE and very favorable for a passage to Shetland, so following Diesel Engine Essentials class we set sail. The 11-14 kt SE winds gave us a very smooth broad reach for the 31-miles to Shetland’s southernmost bay, Grutness Voe, located on the east coast just around the corner from the impressive Sumburgh Head lighthouse, yet another built by the family of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Following Customs & Immigration Worldwide class the next morning we launched the RIB and used the end of Good Shepherd’s pier to land. We met Gordon, the farmer whose land borders the wharf as he was checking on his 30 Shetland ponies; seven of which had foaled within the week and another five that were just about to foal. It’s a 4-hourly check on the pregnant ponies in case a foal gets stuck while being born and requires assistance.

View across the anchorage at Grutness Voe to Sumburgh Airport

Doug’s all smiles as keeps MT steadily surfing

The 1.5-mile hike to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse was windy but the sunshine offered stunning views. The lighthouse and surrounding buildings have been turned into an impressive visitor center and rental cottage and we fantasized about returning one day without MT and renting the light keepers cottage for a couple nights.

As the predicted frontal passage arrived with winds to 35kts the nine-mile passage north to Levenwick Bay provided very good reefing and heavy weather helming practice, resulting in keen competition between our helmsmen to see who could achieve the highest speed surfing down the impressive North Sea swells which reached 12’ for a time. Doug was the likely winner with 9.6kts, but Billy was very close behind with 9.4 kts.

Going ashore at Levenwick, the only bay offering protection from the SE winds, was out of the question as surf pounded the beach all night and morning. Following breakfast Amanda pulled our now-spare Lewmar winch out of storage and taught how to dismantle, clean and lubricate it. Next was a review of necessary knots and the splicing three-strand line.

Winch servicing class is certainly easier below than a windy rainy rolling deck!

We’d planned to anchor off Mousa Is. to explore the Neolithic brough (fortress) but with wind gusting into the mid-30’s and a wee bit of rain we reworked our navigation. Instead we carefully rounded several lee shore headlands before easing sheets and setting off on a very brisk broad reach for Lerwick. We’d arrived a day early but Lerwick was certainly a calmer spot for our final classes that included docking practice, going aloft for rig inspection and man overboard under sail.

Lerwick waterfront in full swing with a Hutigruten cruise ship, MT’s crew and Shetlands infamous Up-Helly-A lad’s

Monday noon Billy and Doug caught the bus to the airport and were off on more adventures. Billy was heading to the boatyard in Scotland where he plans to store his Valiant 42, Eleanor this winter following a northern Atlantic Crossing from Cape Breton and Doug was off to look for a suitable boat for his Northwest Passage attempt.

Amanda and I enjoyed a few fun runs and hikes around Lerwick finding the community pool and Tesco supermarket (we’d missed both on our previous short visit here) plus clocked up numerous tips to the tourist office to gather info what’s not to be missed. We were also delighted when KiwiRoa arrived as we’d met Peter Smith, the New Zealander who’d invented the iconic Rocna and just released Vulcan anchors, and his partner Marlyse last summer in Iceland. They were then deciding between sailing to Svalbard (80 degrees North) or heading off for the Northwest Passage but in the end another season in Portugal won. They’re now setting sail for Svalbard and thinking about transiting the Northwest Passage next summer. These guys are true adventurers!

Peter Smith proudly singing the praises of the Rocna anchor. The poor bloke nearly keeled over upon sighting our shiny new Ultra anchor and went as far as offering us mates rates if we replaced it with an anchor of his design.

With the onset of summer Lerwick’s waterfront is bustling with cruise ships, ferries, roadworks and visiting yachts. Amanda and I decided some quiet was in order so we set sail yesterday in a forecasted gale for Whalsay, an island 12 mi N of Lerwick. With winds gusting to 42 kts, we gybed downwind under partial genoa alone and were very pleased to reach this very well protected commercial fishing harbor.

We’ve already started reviewing charts for Leg 2 during which, weather permitting, we hope to visit several new ports in the Faroe Islands and the elusive St. Kilda in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.

Resources used for Leg 1, Ellos, Sweden to Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland
YR.NK NRK Met Institute – Excellent Norwegian government weather site
WINDYTY.COM: Worldwide GRIB forecasts utilizing both EU and US forecast models

Cruising Guides:
The Scottish Islands, Hamish Haswell-Smith
Clyde Cruising Club Shetland Islands

British Admiralty: 1042, 2249, 2249, 1239, 3283, 1119, 3299
Norwegian: 1
Imray: C68

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

Leg 1 Itinerary

Leg 1,May 20172021-05-04T00:30:18+00:00

Leg 5 , September 2013 : Fiji – Vanuatu

Leg 5, 2013 Lautoka, Fiji to Port Vila, Vanuatu

Sept 3, 2013, 0700 hrs, 20.09 S, 170.06 E, Log: 167,171 miles, 12 miles to Anietyum Island, Vanuatu
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 74.1F, cockpit: 73F, seawater: 78F
Broad reaching at 6 kts in 14-18 kt SE winds with moderate swells

During our time between expeditions Amanda and I enjoyed a road trip to Suva and a week and a bit at Musket Cove with Amanda’s parents, Robert and Lesley who had earlier sailed up to meet us in Savusavu aboard Gracias, their Beneteau Oceanus 432. We returned to Vuda Marina a day earlier than planned to replace our house batteries which went died in just over two years. We found only one company (located in Suva, a 4 hr drive from Vuda) which stocked sealed (GEL or AGM) batteries and coordinated with a colleague of our taxi driver friend Abdul to pick them up. Installation was a little challenging and the size, terminal type and location was different than on our existing batteries, but I sorted it out and the results were brilliant.

Leg 4 crew met us Thursday afternoon for safety orientation and officially joined us at 10 am Friday to allow us time for the six mile sail to Lautoka’s customs wharf. There was a line at customs and I’d forgotten that they closed from 1-2 PM for lunch, so it was 3 PM by the time I’d cleared us out and returned to MT which was anchored off the commercial wharf. We got underway immediately but as there wasn’t time to navigate one of the several unlit, unmarked passes on the extensive fringing reef before dark we anchored off Malololailai Island for the night then set sail Saturday morning after completing engine room orientation.

Jason is all smiles as we sail past the famous TavaruaIsland surf spot.

Craig, Dan and Jason quickly master reefing practice in preparation for our increased winds

Forecasts called for 15-17 kt broad reaching conditions but once clear of Viti Levu’s wind shadow the wind filled in at 28-36 kts, so our crew got reefing practice early, and we sailed with three reefs in the main until yesterday. We’ve never even had to motor as the AeroGen towing generator has kept our new batteries nearly topped up.

Tom keeping MT nicely trucking along on his dawn watch

An hour ago just before first light Craig and Perry could see the cloudy outline of rugged Aneityum, the southernmost island and recently-designated Port of Entry in Vanuatu.

Sept 7, 2013, 0530 hrs, 18.44 S, 169.12 E, Log: 167,969 miles, at anchor off Potnarvin, Erromango Island, Vanuatu

Yachts anchored in AnelghowhatBay

We had a good landfall at Anietyum and were surprised to find eight boats already anchored in the spacious and well-protected Anelghowhat Bay. Former seminar graduates aboard Blue Rodeo told us that we’d need to go ashore to track down customs and immigration so we dropped anchor, launched the dinghy and went ashore to ask about.

We met a very chatty Kenyan man, who was working with the village on tourism development, and he kindly led us to the immigration office. We were warmly welcomed to Vanuatu and given the forms to fill in and quickly cleared in. The policeman handles customs clearance but he wasn’t in his new office, so we visited the elementary school where we renewed our friendship with Jonathan, the head teacher, and delivered several boxes of school books he had requested last year.

Jason points out the pathway to the school

Jason, Tom and Craig delivering books to the school teachers

The policeman returned and we were able to clear customs so we slowly headed down to the secondary school, meeting and chatting with villagers along the way. Half our gang took off exploring and half of us returned to MT, returning with a load of books for the secondary school.

We enjoyed a great dinner and a quiet night at anchor before heading ashore at first light for runs and hikes. Amanda and I ran a coast and beach trail some distance to the south, marveling out how tidy the track was – the sides of the pathway was artfully planted with a variety of tropical plants and every so often friendly cows were tethered in grassy groves. Upon our return to the village pick up our three loaves of bread, we’d ordered the night, and because they were only 50 cents a loaf we asked for an extra two.

The following winds and sunshine made the 55 mile passage to Tanna extremely pleasant

Amanda took the advantage of excellent sailing conditions to teach rig check and spares although all eyes were wandering the belching plumes erupting from Mt Yasur

In the early afternoon we arrived in the poorly-charted Port Resolution where Captain Cook had anchored in 1774 and as anchorage was not rolly Amanda taught three-strand splicing while I went ashore to look for Stanley, the young chief and a friend from many earlier visits. Stanley’s sister said he was in his garden, some distance away, collecting yams for dinner, but a cousin was walking home she offered to show me the way.

Tanna, with a population of 25,000 has very few roads but is crisscrossed with hundreds of trails through the bush and now, in the late afternoon, we passed a steady stream of children carrying bundles of firewood home for the evening cooking and parents carrying woven palm frond baskets filled with yams, taro tapioca and bannas; the main diet of ni-Vans.

Stanley spotted me from a distance, calling out, “John – you’re back!” and we chatted as we returned along the path home with food for dinner. I was told that Werry, a cousin and the yacht club manager, was away in the capital, Port Vila taking a six month tourism course, a new school building was nearing completion and a Save-the-Children community meeting of school teachers on child welfare was coming to an end. Stanley also said that more yachts than in previous years had called, with the ICA and Oyster rallies bumping up the numbers

Although the two village trucks that take visitors on the arduous climb to the volcano were out of commission Stanley was confident he could find a truck to take us to the very active Mt. Yasur volcano the following evening.

Thursday morning we had several early birds joining us as we headed ashore at first light for our morning run. For the first time we found a trail across the community central green that lead to the wild and exposed aptly named White Sand beach where high surf crashed. It was strange to find a wonderfully wild stretch of beach with no sign of people after travelling along bush paths where you pass frequently pass someone.

We all admired the skilled craftsmanship of the numerous dugout canoes and paddles dotting the foreshore

Children gather at a viewpoint on the path to school to look at the new yachts anchored in the bay

Surprisingly there were women at the modest village co-op market building and we were able to purchase bananas for 30 cents a hand and check out their baskets and carvings before checking in with Stanley. He said 10 am would be a good time to bring our school books ashore as that was morning break.

When we returned to MT, Amanda taught winch servicing after breakfast. Crew then gave lent a hand transporting boxes of books ashore and after visiting the yacht club Stanley introduced us to the headmaster who showed us the new library/meeting hall donated by Australian visitors, the new clinic donated by New Zealand cruisers and a new classroom. Ben, the headmaster said that the government provides funding for the teachers but not much else, so they are very grateful for the yachties who for many years have been bringing books, school supplies and who have been funding materials for the buildings. He also mentioned a group of Aussie Rotarians had just departed after helping build the new library.

Crew check out the eclectic paraphernalia at the Port Resolution Yacht Club

Dan, Perry, Jason and Rick deliver books to the school books

After lunch aboard MT we covered diesel engines and anchoring before packing up and returning to the village at 3pm for our volcano excursion. Stanley had earlier told me of a village on the way to the volcano that performs traditional custom dancing and he called the chief (although there is no electricity in the village everyone has cell phones) to give notice we’d be interested in seeing that. After a rugged 15 minute 4WD truck ride we arrived at a small and attractive village with no sign of visible life. Then after a few minutes Stanley said, “They’re ready!” and led us down a path to a clearing in front of a huge banyon tree.

Then, through a gap in the roots of the banyan. a steady stream of villages emerged like football playing arriving onto a game field. But as the villages were about to present their custom dance their clothing was far less than that of padded football players as the men only wore grass nambas (penis wrappers) and the women and girls grass skirts. Without further ado the custom dancing began and it proved to be very different than the small namba dancers we’d seen years earlier on Malekula Island, to the north. The men stomped around in a circle in one direction clapping and chanting with the children middle of a circle while the women jumped up and down on the outside. Their stomping made the ground tremble and the men’s voices boomed with their haunting primitive chant.

Custom dancing before the banyan tree

After the dancing the chief demonstrated making a fire by rubbing two sticks together

Young children playing with the chief’s fire

Crew in the ute for the second half of the journey 

The last 20 minutes to the volcano is rugged as the truck very slowly creeps up and along a deeply-rutted bush track in lowed 4WD gear. Finally you’re the clear and quickly travelling up the steeply sloping ash covered rim of the volcano. It’s then a short hike, from where the truck parks, up the last remaining sloop and although it’s steep going there’s an incentive to hurry for as you look up huge belches of smoke and ash are hurled skyward.

At the summit the strong southerly wind blew the smoke and ash away but made standing on the crater rim a challenge. As it got darker, the red glow of the lava shooting high into the sky grew even more spectacular. This time around I found watching the people nearly as interesting as watching the volcano. There were Japanese, many wearing face masks and white gloves, all carrying huge camera, Chinese, Europeans all smartly dressed and a good representation of young Aussie surfers wearing thongs, surf shorts and t-shirts while everyone else was bundled up against the cold wind. The ni-Vanuatu guides and drivers have built a lava rock wall and were all huddled behind it, laughing and joking among themselves.

Mt Yasur at its best

When we reached Port Resolution and launched the dinghy in pitch darkness we were all looking forward to the warmth and coziness of Mahina Tiare where Amanda had a huge pot of Mexican bean-chicken casserole and hot chocolate brownies waiting.

Yesterday Tom and Jason joined us on our first light visit ashore and while Amanda and I ran and explored, Tom ran into Stanley. He asking him about the coastline just past the village marked TABU on the map and Stanley’s had an interesting response:

He explained that the ancient story for why the eastern end of Tanna called Yewao Point is tabu arose when many many years ago one of the old chiefs’ son had been chosen to succeed him. The son was grown up and named Narua and was much loved by the old chief and villagers who all awaited the day he would become chief. One day, however, he fell very ill and the vision man could do nothing to heal him. Sadly he died and all the village mourned his death for many days, but then a woman from the village had visions that the son was not gone so she walked through the trails toward the sea at Yewao Pt to find him. As she approached the sea she saw a village with many happy people and children playing, but it felt to her a strange place as there was plenty of food and shelter, no sickness and a kind of power or presence that she had never experienced before. She called out to the villages asking if they had seen a man named Narua. But the villagers had changed his name to Societal, so they said no, they had not seen Narua.

The woman searched and searched until she saw a boy running around playing a children’s game and she was struck that the boy looked like Narua. As he ran past her, the woman reached out and grabbed the boy, but she grasped only air, yet felt the presence of a spirit. So she returned to her village and to the son who had lain dead and bent down to him. She opened her arms and released the spirit of the boy into the dead son. The son then woke up, coming back to life to eventually become the chief. Forever after the area around Yewao Point was tabu; the eastern gateway to spirit world. Even chief Stanley cannot go there by himself. Only one responsible man go there for he has special vision and magic which he uses to prevent very ill people’s spirit from passing into the tabu. The name given to this coastline is Panglory which is both sacred and spiritual to the Ireupowow people.

John:  I wonder if this special person is a relative of Werry Nerua, the absent Port Resolution Yacht Club manager, or if it is in fact him?

Stanley and Tom enjoying each other’s companyl

After saying our farwells to Stanley and the village we set sail on the 55 mile passage to Erromango Island after breakfast. As soon as we cleared Port Resolution, Jason started putting out our fishing lines and before he had the first line cleated off, he started yelling, “WE”VE GOT A FISH ON!” In minutes he landed a perfect dinner-sized tuna.

With 15-27 kt following winds we started out with three reefs in the main, gradually shaking out reefs until we our crew had MT surfing at speeds close to 9 kts.

We still had some light as we anchored in Potnarvin, but were too tired to head ashore, instead enjoying dinner and our crew eagerly watched RESCUE SOUTH PACIFIC, the video detailing the Queen’s Birthday Storm which we encountered in 1994.

Perry trims the sails while Rick catches the swells

The village of Potnarvin

Sept 8, 2013, 0530 hrs, 18.37 S, 169.02 E, Log: 167,986 miles, at anchor off Potnamlas Bay, Erromango Island, Vanuatu
Baro: 1016.5, Cabin Temp: 75F, cockpit: 75F, seawater: 77F

We skipped our normal sunrise run/explore yesterday as we hadn’t been ashore the night before to ask permission, but while I was making pancakes, Craig said, “There’s a guy in a dugout canoe coming alongside” so I popped on deck and Chief Joe whom we’d met last year. He introduced himself to our crew and warmly told us we were welcome to visit ashore. With the pancakes burning below, I quickly invited him aboard for breakfast and we very much enjoyed his company.

Perry, Dan and Tom share pancakes with Chief Joe

Joseph is 46 years old (but looks 70), has six children, the oldest of whom works as a mechanic in Vila, but knows he must return to be chief of the village once his father gets old. The village has had a lot of babies born recently and now has a population of around 160. Being an eight hour hike from Dillon’s Bay, the main settlement on the leeward side of Erromango, they get very few visitors and live a very basic existence. When I gave Joe a banana pancake, he only ate half, wanting to save the other half for his wife and youngest daughter. I quickly told him to eat plenty and made extra pancakes for him to take home.

Once ashore, Mary, the headmistress and her assistant Mr. Dan Lifu were waiting at the school and eager to receive the several boxes of books and school supplies we were delivering. They showed us the start on a library they’ve made and said any books from yachts would be a big help. Mr. Don and Chief Joe led us up the valley to their waterfall and on the return we met an American couple from Oregon who are Peace Corps volunteers helping in the school and clinic. Tom was a hit with the villages and they begged him to stay behind and teach some guitar lessons.

Don, Jason, Perry and Rick handing over school books to the teachers

The valley waterfall, a short hike from the village

Chief Joe demonstrates his hunting bow and arrow. Funnily enough when Tom gave it a whirl he nearly speared Joe’s pet black piglet when it ran before his aimed target

The water in the bay was crystal clear, so upon returning to MT crew were in the water with masks and fins checking out the coral reef and turtles. After lunch we set sail 12 miles for a very protected, isolated and uninhabited Potamlas Bay at the very northern tip of Erromango. The fresh trade winds gusting to 37 kts meant a triple reef in the main and only a little bit of genoa unrolled had us surfing at up to 8.7 kts.

Minutes after the anchor was set, ever keen Jason, age 18, said, “Hey that looks like an awesome beach for a campfire! Could you run us ashore, John?” Never one to dampen ideas of adventure, we gathered together a foil baking tray, a pile of bananas, a big bar of dark chocolate along with the honey jar and dropped everyone ashore for their adventure.

Within minutes we saw a roaring fire ashore and assumed all was well. But just before the designated pickup time we heard long heard many plaintive whistles, the signal for me to run ashore and pick them up.

Perry, Jason, Rick and Dan enjoying the campfire before the growler sounded

Tom: We were discussing how eerie the sounds of foreign bush calls appear on a dark night such as this when suddenly all we heard was a low, low, throaty growl from beyond darkness bordering the beach. Instantly all of us sprang into action quickly assuming we were to be instantly attacked and ripped apart by something nasty. Myself? I reached for a rock to throw, Jason grabbed the pocket knife while trying to whistle one handed, Perry snatched for a big fire stick and Dan frantically searched the darkness with his headlight. When we heard the low growl again, and surmised that if wasn’t a large, angry wild boar, it was something even worse. At that point we all used our prearranged whistle call with meaning hoping it translated to come quick, come Very Quick, QUICKLY!!

Sept 9, 2013, 0530 hrs, 17.52 S, 168.196 E, Log: 168,048 miles, 12 miles from Port Vila, Efate Island, Vanuatu
Baro: 1020.5, Cabin Temp: 76F, cockpit: 74F, seawater: 78F

Tom and Jason on the hilltop above the Ponamlas anchorage

Running downwind under triple-reefed mainsail alone at 6 kts in 20 kt ESE winds

Yesterday was a relatively relaxed day. Most of our crew joined us for a sunrise hike up Ponamlas Valley that is until they again started hearing very loud wild boars growling in the nearby bush. Amanda and I were following the riverside trail and heard a lot of loud and strange noises coming from the ridge above us and figured it must be Tom and Jason playing around.

Amanda taught sail repair then sent everyone up the mast for rig inspection before I covered dealing with customs worldwide and demonstrated INMARSAT-C and how to request and download GRIB weather forecasts via Iridium satphone.

Perry’s lofty view of Mt

Masthead view of the southern end of the beach and river at Ponamlas

On their afternoon snorkeling safari Perry spotted a turtle, Tom a shark and the rest of our gang told of lots of exotic tropical fish and amazing water clarity. For dinner Amanda pulled out all the stops and made an amazing Indian curry complete with raita, chutney and hot poppadum’s following which we had naps before setting sail at 2000 hrs for Port Vila.

Rick, Amanda and Perry lend a hand for the tricky process of tracking down a malfunctioning starboard compass light. This time it was a pinched wire that had corroded

Once clear of Erromango Island, tradewinds filled in occasionally gusting to 35 so we were glad to have left three reefs in the main from the day before. Our winds held the entire way and we spent an hour once in the shelter of Pango Point practicing Lifesling Overboard Retrieval before heading on into Port Vila harbor where we found an excellent med mooring spot open along Yachting World’s seawall. I quickly hopped in the dinghy with passports and papers, determined to reach Customs located at the commercial wharf and was able to quickly clear us in before returning to town to clear in with immigration. With official duties and ship chores completed, our crew took off exploring for lunch as we hooked up power and filled MT’s water tanks.

Our graduation dinner ashore was at the amazing Iririki Island resort, just across the harbor from where we were moored. Formerly the British High Commissioner’s office and residence, Iririki quite a tranquil oasis. We chose to have dinner above the boathouse overlooking the yachts and townfront at the second of their three restaurants, and it was a very special evening. Actually the evening ended up going well into the wee hours for some of our crew who ended up celebrating something (no one was sure what!) with a bunch of Aussie ex-pats, but that is another story.

Rick, Craig, Jason, Perry, Tom and Dan

Here’s our intrepid Leg 5 gang:

Rick, 60
I am a surgeon from Knoxville, TN and a retired Army officer. I have sailed the FL Keys, Caribbean, British Columbia, Newport RI, the Great Lakes and Tahiti and am now looking forward to a charter trip in the Greek Isles with my wife.

Craig, 43
I am a husband and father of two (7 & 9) and am an anesthesiologist living in Victoria, Canada. I grew up on the ocean in South Africa and when we moved to Victoria we bought a Catalina 34 which we sail in the Gulf Islands. I joined this expedition to broaden my sailing experience. My wife and I have dreams of one day sailing into the sunset!

Perry, 56
I live in Islamorada in the Florida Keys and enjoy fishing, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding and sailing my Bayfield 32 cutter. I also spend time on Isle of Palms, just outside Charleston, SC I have worked as a Field Clinical Engineer for several years conducting clinical trials seeking FDA approval for cardiovascular devices. I plan on cruising the Bahamas and Caribbean in the near future.

Tom, 55
I am a maritime lawyer in Vancouver where we sail a Catalina 34. I sailed on Leg 8-2012 from Brisbane, Australia to Auckland, NZ last year with Amanda and John. I decided this leg would be a great one to share with my son, Jason. The sailing and the remote villages have been awesome. One day we’ll be back on our own boat!

Jason, 18, (Tom’s son)
My dad and I have talked hypothetically about doing our own sailing adventure in the future, be he was always more for it than I was. The timing of this leg was perfect for me and fit right in before my backpack trip to Australia and SE Asia. After sailing this expedition I feel more confident and am on a similar page to my dad about cruising after or during my university degree. This experience also has inspired me to go the extra mile to see more rural places during my travels.

Dan, 63 from Phoenix, AZ
Crewing on Thistles at Lake Pleasant rekindled my interest in sailing. Current plans are to build more experience through charter sailing and expedition style educational sailing classes. This has been a blast!

Sailing Itinerary

Leg 5 , September 2013 : Fiji – Vanuatu2021-05-04T00:55:01+00:00

Leg 2 , June 2013 : Papeete,Tahiti ; Rarotonga , Cook Islands

Leg 2, 2013 Papeete, Tahiti to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Update 1
June 29, 2013, 2330 hrs, 20.36 S, 158.19 W, Log: 165,319 miles, 83 miles to Raro!
Baro: 1016.2, Cabin Temp: 83F, cockpit: 81F, seawater: 80.1F

Wing and wing downwind at 6 kts in 14-20 kt ENE tradewinds and smooth seas

Our time between Legs 1 & 2 was magical. Not a drop of rain (ok, one tiny squall) and we got lots of boat projects completed with time to catch up with several old friends; Tahitian and ex-pats. We also enjoyed our favorite morning mountain trail runs, overindulged in French baguettes and I even had time to read a book or two! We so love being at anchor off Moorea that we put off going to Papeete to reprovision until Monday with crew joining on Tuesday.

Marina Taina is generally pretty packed this time of year but the dock guys showed us a tiny slip which the help of their skiff we managed to wedge in to. Within minutes we’d hit the ground sprinting (Amanda even forwent her shopping frock in favor of running gear) up the road to our very favorite mega Carrefour grocery store.

Three hours later we’d navigated $650 of precariously overloaded groceries in a shopping cart back to Mahina Tiare without capsizing.

Amanda managed to stow all of the fresh and frozen provisions (we’d done a dry and canned goods shop 10 days earlier after completing Leg 1) within two hours and we were ready for Leg 2 safety orientation at 4pm. A wonderful treat that evening was a fantastic meal by Karyn aboard RealTime who with Bob Packard had previously joined us for Leg 2-2010 and were now about to sail the same route aboard their Norseman 447 (www.sailblogs.com/member/realtime).

Tuesday morning I took a taxi to downtown Papeete, 20 minutes east of Marina Taina, cleared out with the port captain, stopped by Customs for a duty free fuel certificate, bought a few bits of hardware and returned to ready MT for the start of Leg 2. Crew joined at noon and after fueling and a quick lunch we set sail on an excellent broad reach for Moorea, 17 mi W. We anchored for the evening in a spot we haven’t tried in years, just inside Cooks Bay. Seconds after the anchor touched the bottom in just 9’ of water, everyone was in the water which at 85 degrees F was the warmest we’ve ever seen.

Wednesday morning we continued with orientation then headed into Cooks Bay on a quest for pineapples and bananas while our adventuresome crew hiked three miles over the mountain valley to check out the ice cream and fruit smoothies at the Lycee Agricole (agricultural high school). We met them on the beach in Opunohu Bay then headed for an exposed and windy anchorage 2.5 miles away near Papetoai Village.

We knew that Carla, one of our Leg 2 gang, was a professional quilter and textile artist and a few days earlier Amanda had met with Miri Vidal, (tifaifaipapetoai@yahoo.comwww.facebook.com/tifaifaimir ) to arrange a visit . Miri’s picturesque lagoon-side studio/gallery/home is just a short walk away from Papetoai harbor and is a delightful spot. The girls all enjoyed her art and learning the uniqueness of tifaifia (traditional Tahitian quilting) along with chatting with her daughter-in-law Tehani from the Cook Islands who is just learning to sew.

Shanti, Carla, Amy, Angela Tehani and Miri gather before Miri’s artwork

Miri explaining the origin of her designs

Shortly after dinner we raised anchor and sailed back deeper into Opunohu Bay to tuck two reefs in the main, get lined up on the leading lights and set sail for Huahine. We don’t like exiting a coral reef pass in the dark, but leaving at sunset would have had us arriving at Huahine well before dawn, so we exited slowly out of the pass with everyone watching the well-marked channel. It was then time to hang on as the trades were gusting to 30 kts out of the ENE (normal direction is ESE, placing Huahine dead downwind), the seas were confused and we were in for one mighty sail that proved true when Carla surfed up to 9 kts. Usually we have to gybe downwind to Huahine, but this time we laid a direct course and at sunrise Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa were all on the horizon. What a night, and what a view!

Once through the pass we motored five miles to the southernmost bay, Baie d’Avea where we were the only yacht. Following lunch Amy and Carla swam ashore for some beachcombing and the rest of us went snorkeling and had naps.

Friday morning Amy, who is training for a marathon in December joined us (actually, she left us in the dust in about one minute!) for a morning run around Huahine’s dramatic southern tip. On returning our Tahitian friend Joel met us with two stalks of bananas, a huge bag of papayas and some coconuts.

Joel, Amanda and Amy with our yummy fresh tropical bounty

Amy’s hair braiding skills were welcomed aboard

After class we returned back up the west coast with a delightful swim on the reef before lunch.

Angela and Cody prepare to set sail

Amy prepares for a dive to check the anchor

We then spent the afternoon sailing around Port Bourayne for some excellent Lifesling overboard recovery training session with everyone rescuing volunteer victims, no wadded up newspapers for this crew!

Angela and Cody prepare to set sail

Cody happily volunteered to be rescued by the Lifelsing

Early Saturday morning we motored up to Fare, Huahine’s small harbor town, giving our crew time to explore while we did a quick resupply before setting sail for Tahaa, about 25 miles west. Sadly we had very little wind so we charged batteries and gave the watermaker a workout as Amanda taught rigging.

Angela’s sunset image of Bora Bora

Anchoring in Baie Haamene, we enjoyed a calm night and a great early morning run before sailing around the top of Tahaa (all inside the reef). After an afternoon snorkel safari on the outer reef we retreated to Tapuamu Bay for the night where our crew went for a late afternoon walk and enjoyed the spectacular sunset view of Bora Bora 25 miles away.

Monday morning we made an early morning passage of five miles south to Hurepiti Bay where we picked up one of Alain Plantier’s moorings and Amanda and our crew headed by Land Rover to the mountainous interior of Tahaa on our friend Alain’s ethno botanical vanilla tour. Alain explains not only how vanilla cultivation works (it is incredibly labor intensive) but what many of the plants are and how they arrived on Tahaa.

Alain explaining the origins of the travelers palm

Amy amuses us the a Puerto Rican childhood trick that utilizes a hibiscus flower

Alain and Christina in their garden with their friendly dog

That afternoon gusty winds gave us an excellent opportunity to practice reefing inside Grand Banc Central, the extensive coral reef between Tahaa and the larger island of Raiatea, lying three miles south of Tahaa, but encircled by the same barrier reef.

We anchored off Raiatea’s two boatyards and went for a late afternoon boatyard tour. As all of our Leg 2 crew are planning on sailing to the South Pacific on their own boats it was valuable for them to see the repair and storage services available. Local laws now allow owners to leave their boats in bonded customs storage for up to three years without paying import taxes, flying home to work or see family between time spent cruising locally. Both of the yards were chokka with boats, many utilizing this service.

Tuesday we had challenging 25-30 kt headwinds as we motored through narrow coral channels to the duty free fuel dock, then to the port of Raiatea for groceries and internet for crew before zooming downwind to Marina Apooiti, the Moorings/Sunsail base for the night. We were delighted to see that marina manager and liveaboard Jean Paul Nocuse had extended the visitors wharf, adding two more berths, both of which were empty. It is always a delight to tie up where fresh water is available mid-expedition, and in no time, thanks to Angela and Cody’s help MT was salt free and before long was completely festooned with drying laundry.

Our reefs came out and we surfed past the IP Danish-flagged Island Packet 440 Segwen which was only cruising under headsail.

We heard drums at sunset Amanda grabbed Angela, Amy and Cody and went in search of the source. They ended up at the nearby church/school yard here Amanda and Amy eagerly joined in the village dance practice for the upcoming Heiva competition. At the break Angela held an impromptu ballet class for a group of young girls.

After a morning class we set sail for the 27 mile downwind passage to Bora Bora in stiff trades. Our crew got more reefing practice until we spotted a distant sail and their competitive urges surfaced.

We spent Wednesday night anchored not too far inside Bora’s only entrance pass, behind Motu Toopua. Gusty winds kept MT dancing a bit and after sunset we could hear the sounds of drumming coming from the main village a couple miles upwind and across the lagoon. We were invited for a sunset tour aboard a nearly new Lagoon 50 cat Sophie sailed by a family from Seattle and crew enjoyed hearing their perspective of the cruising life.

Thursday we worked on coral piloting as our crew navigated us through narrow coral channels before working on sail handling and reefing once we were in the main lagoon.

That evening we all went ashore to Bloody Mary’s, a famous seafood restaurant that provides moorings for customers, and were joined by Jenna, Jamie and their kids Leo and Hazel from Sophie.

Jenna, Hazel. Amanda, Carla and Shanti selecting dinner from Bloody Mary’s impressive fresh catch of the day display

Friday morning several of us enjoyed a spectacular beach run along Matira Point, the southern tip of Bora Bora, before sailing to a more protected anchorage near the main town of Vaitape. Led by Amy, most of our keen crew rented a car and circled Bora Bora while I did an oil change and Amanda and I did a final fresh fruit and veg shop.

That evening was the first night of dance competition of the month long Tahitian Heiva festival. We bought bleacher seat tickets for $15 and were in for a real treat. Bora Bora’s individual villages compete against each other to represent the island in the final competition in Tahiti in late July and Faanui, the second village to compete had 165 dancers and drummers and changed between three elaborate costumes. The dancing under the full moon was spectacular and the music continued until the festival grounds closed at 3 am.

Heiva dance celebrations in full swing

Carla enjoys a moment with two of the Heiva dancers

Saturday morning we set sail for Maupiti, but again had light winds. A powerful low east of NZ was sending up a southerly swell forecasted to increase to 3.7 meters by Monday. Maupiti’s south-facing reef is low and any large southerly swell dumps over the reef which can make the south-facing entrance pass impassible due to breakers and very strong current.

Upon arrival we saw breakers on either side, but not across the entrance and Amy carefully motorsailed us in against several knots of ebb current while crew checked our alignment on the ranges.

Normally we find 2-3 hearty cruisers anchored in Maupiti’s lagoon, but this time we were surprised to find eight yachts! It looks like the world economy must be improving. Our crew all rented bikes, cycling around this dramatic little island and Sunday morning they attended church, enjoying the powerful and harmonious singing.

We set sail for the pass right after church, wanting to hit the pass as close to the daily noon high slack water (the Society Islands have solar instead of lunar tides; high slack water is noon and midnight every day). We were surprised to find conditions much calmer and to see no sign of the forecasted 2.7 m southerly swell.

Unlike in many previous years, light winds prevailed again, so we ended up motoring to Mopelia, the furthest west of the Society Islands, and had to slow down so not to arrive in the dark. At 7am we eyed the pass and perhaps we should have anchored off and waited until noon slack water as the current was boiling out of the pass, but we cautiously motored in against it, being mindful of large rollers on our stern which Amanda called to the helmsman. Maximum current reached 5.5 kts so we had to use about 70 of MT’s available 95 hp. Markers on either side show the steep edges of the pass where the depth drops from 6” to 45’ and the islanders have attached three sets of fishing floats to shallow coral patches. Each of these three sets of floats should be kept to port (north) upon entering.

The tradewinds were still missing, so we took the opportunity of anchoring just inside the pass to visit one of several small, brush-covered motus (islets) covered with nesting birds. When we went ashore thousands of birds flew up and were circling. Amanda sat very still in the bush and slowly the terns landed next to their eggs which are incubated on the ground. The frigates lay a single white egg on a nest in the trees and their landings and take off are rather comical.

Carla, Shanti, Simon, Amanda, Any, Angela and Cody on the bird motu

Cody and Angela explore the motu

We noticed another yacht anchored inside the reef in a distance corner of the lagoon and when we motored four miles across to the windward side to anchor off our friend Hina’s beach, they joined us.

We learned that Kareem, Valerie and their three daughters had been enjoying the last five days on Mopelia, and that they were keen to join us for a barbecue the following night ashore at Hina’s. Kareem, originally from Algeria and Valerie from France had moved to Tahiti 11 years ago where Kareem works as an orthopedic surgeon and taught himself sailing after purchasing an ex-charter boat.

Hina, one of only seven people currently living on Mopelia has been a longtime friend of ours and we’ve had a joke going for the past several years. When we ask Hina what we can bring her on our annual visits, she always says ICE CREAM! We’ve forgotten it several years, and last year Amanda asked, “What flavor, taro or coconut?” Hina says neither, but growls before snarling she wants CHOCOLATE!. We no longer found locally produced taro or coconut ice cream on Bora Bora, but Amanda did a welcome/challenging haka Maori greeting dance, presenting Hina with a giant taro root that had been given our crew on Maupiti. Hina thought this was great fun, and later we produced ice cream bars fist coconut then chocolate. With no generator, fridge or freezer and only a speedboat or small supply boat every 6-8 months Hina lives mainly off coconuts and fish and gets $70 per 100 lb sack of split, dried coconut meat.

Hina challenges Cody to a game to chess and wins

For our beach barbecue the following night Kareem and Elise caught several fish and Valerie made poisson cru (Tahitian marinated raw fish). Hina contributed rice and a roasted a huge coconut crab, Amanda made cole slaw and a giant pot of Mexican beans and chicken and I baked a double batch of brownies. What a magical evening we had with with conversations in French, English and Tahitian.

Kareem who is fairly new to sailing but very keen to learn everything along with Valerie and their eldest daughter Elise attended our Diesel Engines PowerPoint seminar and filled us in on the repairs he’s had to make on his 8,000 hour, ex-Mooring charter boat Yanmar engine.

We enjoyed the calm anchorage and put our sun awning up before our diesel engine class on Tuesday.

Amanda also covered sail trim and repair, with most of our gang having a go on our Sailrite sewing machine.

Carla and John overhaul the Sailrite sewing machine with Amanda getting a reprimand in machine maintenance. It was interesting to learn that Carla, a professional quilter, oils her sewing machines daily.

Elise was fascinated by her new friend Angela and keen to practice their English so we invited her to sail across the lagoon to another anchorage on Wednesday. Mopelia’s lagoon has hundreds of partly submerged floats from old pearl shell growing era, as well as many coral heads closer to shore so our crew gained valuable piloting experience as they practiced reefing.

Our final anchorage was in the north shore of the lagoon off Adrienne and Marcello’s house. I’d met them 30+ years ago when they were newlyweds living in a stilt thatch house on the edge of the lagoon. Now their children Hio and Faimano are in their 20’s and Marcello is temporarily back on Maupiti until their youngest daughter finishes school. Ashore their compound is always a circus and this time a goat had been added to the menagerie of pigs, dogs and cats. We found a bucket of leatherback turtles which they had caught after hatching and were raising for three months before releasing them into the lagoon. Hio said they would have a much better chance against the birds and sharks when they were a little bigger.

Amy, Angelique, Eugenie, Elise Amanda, Adrienne and Faimano gather outside NorthShore’s newly completed thatched fare.

Angela has a visit from her new French sisters; Eugene 13, Elise 17 and Angelique 12

Carla marvels at the underwater sights of sharks and wreck

Thursday morning we went for a long run on the beach, said goodbyes to those ashore and to Kareem and Valerie.

Upon exiting the pass Simon and Cody leap in the water and got an E-ticket ride by holding on to the dinghy stern lines as the now 2.5 kt current whisked us out the pass. We anchored just south of the pass entrance, all piled into the dinghy with masks and snorkels and had a swim over the wreck of the WWI German sailing/raiding ship Sea Adder.

The landing on Mauke looked welcoming but the anchorage deep and tenuous

Finally the trades had returned so we tucked a reef in and left Mopelia late yesterday afternoon surfing downwind at close to 8 kts. What a night! Half a moon and then millions of stars, air warm enough to stand watch in t-shirt and shorts and fairly good sea conditions.

The current ENE wind angle had us a little south of the direct course to Atiu and Rarotonga, so we’d hoped to be able to anchor off Mauke for a swim and lunch today, but found no soundings even quite close to the reef, so carried on toward Raro.

The ENE winds had been predicted on the GRIB files to die out tonight, but instead they’ve averaged 15-20 kts and we’ve been rocketing through the night, wing and wing, straight on course for Raro!

Amy mastering her celestial navigation calculations

An empty Avatiu Harbor

Leg 2 crew:  Amy, Carla, Angela, Cody, Shanti and Simon

A full southern harbor wall; MT in the foreground with Picton Castle on the left

Here’s our Leg 2 crew:

Angela, 30
Up until a few months ago, I was a project manager for a design and branding firm in New York City. I have since left that career and city in search of a more nature-oriented lifestyle…hopefully aboard a sailboat! I’m still a sailing novice with two years of self-guided education and experience on J-24’s under my belt. I joined MT III to get more hands-on experience and to see if I would enjoy the cruising lifestyle before my partner Cody and I buy our first boat and set off for the Caribbean. Our blogsite is: www.yourfinsareshowing.com.

Click HERE for Angela’s description of COUCHSURFING, an option they enjoyed in Tahiti instead of staying in a hotel.

Cody, 30
As an accountant in NYC I sat at my desk for years planning a blue water voyage after reading Joshua Slocom’s “Sailing Alone Around the World”. My girlfriend and I quit our jobs and joined this expedition to determine if cruising was for us. We planned on using the expedition as a litmus test to indicate whether we should take the next step and buy a boat. What a fun test it has turned out to be! (Angela and Cody met in high school in Amarillo, TX)

Amy, 46 from Puerto Rico and now Seattle
I run my own interior design firm in Seattle, WA with an emphasis on commercial design and multi-family housing (www.arroyo-id.com) My husband Jim who is joining MT for Leg 7 and I are planning to set sail from Seattle in 2015 aboard our custom aluminum sloop, Millie J Gult (www.milliej.com). I chose Leg 2 to learn about ocean passagemaking and coral piloting.

Carla, 54
I am a quilting and mixed media artist (www.carlabarrett.com) from El Dorado, CA. My husband Joe sailed on Leg 5-2012 and we plan on upgrading our O’Day 23 to a bluewater cruiser so we can cruise Mexico, Caribbean and the South Pacific following our retirement.

Simon, 61
I live with my wife, Shanti in Hawkes Bay, NZ and work as a radiologist in Australia. I have done some sailing pre-family and some chartering abroad and joined this expedition to learn more about blue water cruising which we hope to do in the future.

Shanti, 56
I am from rural Hawkes Bay, NZ and am the mother of four and take care of many four-legged critters, mostly horses. This has been my time to pursue my love of the sea, finally. To do an ocean passage has been on my bucket lies and so here I am. I can now look to the future with living on a boat as a realistic option.

Final update

We had a perfect afternoon arrival in tiny Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga and Med-tied next to the Island Packet 44 we had raced alongside in Bora Bora. Argo, the very handsome and quite new 100’ traditional sail-training schooner (www.seamester.com) with dozens of 18-20 year old students was in the harbor and we enjoyed chatting with skipper Sam and some of the students. Sau Rasmussen, the new harbourmaster (originally from Penrhyn Island) helped show us a good mooring spot and caught our stern lines. We enjoyed an excellent meal ashore at a great Indian restaurant (thanks Sau, for allowing us off the boat before clearing in!) and completed clearing in Monday morning.

Fuel, water and propane tanks are now filled and we’re very much looking forward to Raro’s famous Saturday morning market which is held adjacent to the harbour to complete our provisioning for Leg 3.

Leg 2 – 2013, Sailing Itinerary

Leg 2 , June 2013 : Papeete,Tahiti ; Rarotonga , Cook Islands2021-05-04T01:00:03+00:00

Leg 8 ,November 2012 : Brisbane, Australia : Opua,Auckland,Newzealand

Leg 8 – 2012, Update 1

November 2, 2012, 0500 hrs, 27.27 S, 153.11 W, Log: 160,553 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 74 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 77.0 F
Moored at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, Brisbane, Australia


We’ve really enjoyed our two weeks off between Legs 7 & 8 with a rental car trip as far north as Bundaberg, but now it’s time to get serious about our final passage of the season from Brisbane to Auckland.

Our eager crew joined us at noon yesterday and within minutes of their coming aboard, we slipped mooring lines, headed to the fuel dock and then set sail to have each expedition member practice Lifesling overboard rescue maneuvers off nearby Green Island.

On our way out of the marina, Ian proudly pointed out his Schonning catamaran, Nicky C which he purchased only two weeks ago. It was great to have his local knowledge showing us the deeper parts of the shallow entrance channel to Manly Boat Harbour.

Customs is scheduled to come aboard for outbound clearance between 7 and 8 am this morning, then we will set sail directly for the 40 miles of channel to Brisbane’s NE Channel entrance.

Just about the time we reach the relatively shallow entrance, we expect to have a frontal passage with a 180 degree wind shift from N to S and winds possibly gusting to 40 kts for a few hours.

Click HERE to view the forecast we’ve just received from Commanders Weather
Click HERE to see our weather first hand on PassageWeather.com

November 3, 2012, 0600 hrs, 27.10 S, 153.22 W, Log: 160,571 miles
Baro: 1011.2, Cabin Temp: 73 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 77.0 F
Anchored off Tangalooma, Moreton Island

This was certainly one our fastest and friendliest Customs clearance.

We didn’t get far yesterday, only 20 miles. Winds that had been forecasted by multiple sources to 21 kts at 1300 turned out to be 38 kts, gusting to 46. With the highest winds predicted to occur at 1600, the time that we planned to be rounding Cape Moreton into the Tasman Sea we decided that conditions for rounding the Cape and once we were offshore could be very untenable, so we looked for alternatives. Several people had mentioned the anchorage off Tangalooma, a small resort settlement near the middle of Moreton Island as a possible anchorage in all but SE winds. Our concern was whether it would provide enough shelter from the ESE winds and substantial chop we were experiencing. We dropped the triple-reefed main, surfing under only 6′ exposed of our nearly-furled genoa to allow us to quickly change course without worrying about gybing the main and Amanda called a small landing barge/ferry that we were on a converging course. The skipper of Rainbow Venture was super helpful, advising that there should be a protected anchorage just past the wharf. We tucked in close to the beach to allow him to pass and found a very good anchorage in 50′.

The view ashore to Tangalooma from our anchorage

We had torn our now very-tired mainsail getting it down so we waited until 1700 when the wind was down to 20 in gusts, hauled our Sailrite sewing machine on deck and with the help of sticky-back Dacron sail repair tape, made the repair with many helpful hands keeping the sail from blowing away.

After a yummy dinner (Kitty Elton’s Seafood Pasta) there was a chorus of groans when I pulled the test books out to test our crew on sailing terminology and safety procedures.

Last night was quiet and this morning I’m headed into the water to scrub the prop and waterline before breakfast and finally setting sail for NZ. The forecast for today is for 14 kts out of the SE. The wind direction is forecasted to slowly, very slowly back to the E then NE, so it looks like we will have a slow passage to windward for our start.

November 4, 2012, 0520 hrs, 28.17 S, 153.59 W, Log: 160,681 miles
Baro: 1011.2, Cabin Temp: 74 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77.0 F
Close-hauled at 6.5 kts under double-reefed main and genoa

Ian keeps a watch lookout while Thor helms and Stan catches up on some off watch reading Surprisingly, no one has been seasick, even though it has been a bit bouncy going to windward. Thor brought down extra Transderm Scopalamine patches I’d requested and nearly everyone is trying them out with excellent results.

Yesterday morning we scrubbed the prop, sponged off harbour slime on the bottom and enjoyed a brief pre-breakfast swim before hoisting anchor and setting sail from Moreton Island. We had downwind conditions until we exited NE Channel and set a course S to clear Hutchison Bank. Motorsailing close-hauled for a few hours gave us a few miles of clearance off Moreton Island and conditions have remained remarkably similar since then.

Ship traffic has been sporadic; we’ll have 2-4 ships passing, headed N or S, every half hour or so, but none close enough to cause us to change course. We’ve been making good time to windward, and although we are sailing well south of the direct course line to North Cape, New Zealand, we are getting south which should put us on the favorable side of the ridge that is forming in the Tasman and very slowly moving eastward. On the south side of the ridge (where we are trying to get) NW winds are forecast which would be downwind for us, but on the N side (where a direct course line would put us) we would have SE headwinds for nearly a week!

If you’d like to check our current position, go to the Google Earth map on the bottom of our homepage, www.mahina.com.

Mahina Expeditions

Leg 8 – 2012, Update 2

November 9, 2012, 0530 hrs, 33.20 S, 163.10 E, Log: 161,254 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 69 F cockpit 67 F, sea water 67.0 F
Close reaching at 6.5 kts in 18-22 kt under triple-reefed main and genoa


After two days of being close-hauled and not being able to steer a rumb line for North Cape, New Zealand we found ourselves closing in on Lord Howe Island; an island Amanda has twice raced to from Sydney 20 years ago and one that I have long dreamed of visiting. www.lordhoweisland.info.

Although our winds were not favorable the East Australian Current was overall favorable for us sometimes up to 1.7 knots.

As we’d not planned on stopping, I hadn’t faxed in a request to visit, required according to www.Noonsite.com which also states that because of Lord Howe’s World Heritage and park status no anchoring outside the island is allowed. But as we closed on the island at about 4 miles I thought we’d give a call to try and co-ordinate a visit. “Lord Howe Maritime this is yacht Mahina Tiare on Channel 12”

When Clive, who answered, said we were welcome to visit and asked me to call again at two miles from the island the euphoria I felt spread infectiously amongst the crew. At two miles Clive advised to enter the lagoon through North Passage and pick up mooring #5, just slightly to starboard of the range and green inner channel marker.

Thor was calling depths which got down to 1.5′ exactly in the center of the channel with coral and rocks surrounding us. Once secured to the mooring we had 2.3′ of water between MT’s keel and the gorgeous coral with the remains of an old shipwreck directly astern. Tom dove to check the mooring and reported it was like swimming in a tropical aquarium.

Clive checked with the sole policeman and reported back that since our last port was in Australia we wouldn’t need to complete any formalities other than to pay the island administration for the use of the mooring ($40 per night, two nights minimum plus $30 admin fee) and our landing fees of $37.50 each.

We headed ashore quickly as we’d heard on the VHF it was Melbourne Cup Race Day therefore the bowling club was where most of the island’s population of 350 was celebrating. What a wild bunch – girls and ladies wore fancy dress accessorized with fab hats & shoes while the guys were wearing outrageous tux with tails!

We met a local couple who had for many years worked 4-5 months per year picking kentia palm seeds, the island’s famous export, while cruising around the world in various boats the rest of the time. They’d followed us through Patagonia in the late 90’s and were soon flying to Tasmania to continue cruising on their current 34′ S & S sloop.

As we walked by Wilson’s Bike Rental and couldn’t resist renting really good mountain bikes for just $8 per day. No bike locks required and with only a few cars on the island this is a cycler’s dream!

Fairy Tern sitting on an egg at Wilson’s Bike Rental. They mate for life and this little fellow and its partner had been nesting on this branch for 5 years
The tranquil scene at The Pines Resort boat house

Meanwhile our adventuresome crew, well-organized by Linda, an irrepressibly happy and inquisitive Kiwi nurse, met many of the local colourful characters as they hitchhiked and trekked from one end of the island to another frequenting all the notable vistas such as Transit Hill and Binky Beach

Numerous surf boards and boggy board stored in the dune grass were just too irresistible for Tom and all in good humor Jamie ran to be on life guard duty to our wayward Canadian crewmember.  


We decided on The Anchorage restaurant for dinner, situated in the village center not far from the wharf, and what a surprise! I had expected typical Aussie fish & and beer battered chips but instead we enjoyed truly local gourmet fare of fish and beef with decadent treats for desert.

When paying our mooring fee I’d forgotten to ask for the key to the free showers and laundry on the wharf moorage fee but little did I know Linda had already shamelessly flirted with the Lord Mayor and talked him out of his own set of keys so crew enjoyed delicious hot showers to wash away their surf tumbling at Blinky Beach before we headed back to MT.

Anytime going ashore for a run, cycle or explore is an option, Amanda and I always invite any of our crew to join us at first light. We were both so excited about getting on our rented bikes and exploring the island that we awoke at 4 am before first light. By 0500 we were in the dinghy, joined by Ian and Tom and headed off on adventures. We were back aboard at 0800 so I could make breakfast, then everyone headed ashore to rent bikes and explore more of the island.

At the excellent museum we’d learned that this exotic, sub-tropical island had been uninhabited when discovered in 1788 by the RN ship, SUPPLY when on a supply run between Port Jackson and the penal colony on Norfolk Island. A few decades later three British whalers and their NZ Maori wives and children were the first settlers. They had been chased from their NZ land-based whaling station and set up farms on Lord Howe, selling provisions to passing whaling ships.

We met at the island co-op at noon, and every one had tales of adventure including how not to loose your shorts while body-boarding. None of us wanted to leave! In fact Ian called his wife Debra in Brisbane saying, “We’ve got to sail here” only to be told, “I’ve been telling you for years we should visit Lord Howe!”

We each made plans to return, some by yacht, others by air as we returned to MT to enjoy lunch and a snorkel. I found that Tom hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d remarked earlier that the snorkeling was amazing. Seconds after I’d dropped into the crystal-clear water a huge ray somehow managed to glide between MT’s keel and the bottom, and parrot fish the size of truck tires inquisitively swam up to inspect us. It’s obvious that declaring the lagoon a marine park in 1999 has really paid off. While we were on the mooring, several groups of kayakers and two glass-bottomed boats glided by. Total number of tourists at any time is limited to 400 and as there are only small guest cottages and luxury lodges the island won’t be overrun by tourists any time soon. In fact, there is no mobile phone service, only old fashioned-card phones like we still see in Tahiti.

So, sadly we set sail heading around the southern tip of the island which afforded a clear view of the stunning Balls Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack at 1500′. Minutes after we cleared the limits of the marine park Tom had the fishing lines out instantly snagging a tiny toothy tuna but thankfully last night, just as Amanda was stretching the tiny fella into dinner, Thor who was helming, quietly suggested that Tom appear on deck and with the help of Stan landed to land the evenings catch: a much tubbier southern ocean tuna that was definitely a three-mealer. Amanda doesn’t go by fish weight, just how many meals it will create.

This morning the sun is out and ever so slowly the wind is coming around from NE to N, allowing us to ease sheets and our speed to pick up. With 492 miles to North Cape, we should be rounding it sometime Monday and hopefully arrive in Opua on Tuesday.

Mahina Expeditions

Leg 8 – 2012, Update 3

November 16, 2012, 2230 hrs, 36.46 S, 174.53 E, Log: 161,944 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 71 F cockpit 67 F, sea water 65.7 F
At anchor, Islington Bay, Rangitoto Island, New Zealand

We’ve Saved the Best for Last!

Upon departing Lord Howe, our winds very, very backed around to the N, then NW, allowing us to ease sheet for the first time and we were tickled to watch our noon-to-noon daily runs climb from 150 to 160, 162 and then 175.

Linda certainly enjoyed her trick at the helm although when our temperature started to plummet as we head south she wondered if we’d somehow over shot NZ and were headed for Antarctica! We caught fish, thanks to Stan and Tom, taught class, got Mahina Tiare up and surfing and had a seemingly endless supply of stories and jokes from our crew, particularly Ian.  Thankfully Jamie spotted a tear in our sail. This time it was the headsail and only a row of stitching near the head that had given up the ghost.

For nearly a week we had been hearing of a low spinning up down near Sydney, which was supposed to trigger a fairly strong frontal passage just about the time we calculated we would be rounding the rugged northernmost tip of New Zealand.

Sure enough, just before sunset on Sunday, November 11th I looked astern at a fairly solid grey/black wall approaching and said, “There’s our cold front!” I headed below to put on foulies and no sooner than I made it below to our aft cabin than there was a CABOOM! As an instant, 50 degree wind shift caused our helmsperson to gybe the mainsail. Fortunately the preventer was pulled tight and there was no damage. As quickly as possible we trimmed for our new tack, put in another reef and OFF WE SCOOTED!

It was dark by the time we passed Cape Reinga, the very NW tip of New Zealand, and we had to motorsail some across the top before making the turn at North Cape just after dawn on Monday and making a beeline for Opua, New Zealand’s northernmost customs port of entry located in the Bay of Islands, 85 miles south. New Zealand Customs requires a 48 hour advance notification of arrival, and we’d done that by sending a fax before we left Brisbane. It was looking close as to whether or not we’d reach the customs wharf before they closed at 1630.

At 1400, just as we were entering the Bay of Islands, Hawk, the NZ Customs launch zoomed up alongside saying, “Welcome to New Zealand” and asking if we had made any stops or had any contact with vessels since making landfall. Robert and Lesley, Amanda’s parents whom we last saw in Noumea motored out in Gracias to welcome us to Opua with cat Tigger aboard. They moor Gracias, their Beneteau 432, on a mooring directly off Opua Marina.

We arrived at the customs/quarantine dock with 45 minutes to spare, thanks to a favorable current and within minutes an inflatable nudged up to the dock which is not attached to shore and customs and quarantine officers came aboard for a sleek and warm clearance. They told us they had cleared 60 incoming yachts in the past three days and were expecting over 100 more within the next three days, at least half with damage from an early tropical storm that had mowed right through the fleet of boats heading down from Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Cal. We learned that a couple, suffering from head injuries, had just been taken off a Beneteau 43 and that vessel was severely leaking after the forehatch was smashed by an adrift jerry jug.

As we knew Opua Marina must be busting at the seams with so many new arrivals we were delighted to learn they had a slip available for us, and moved in immediately, giving our crew access to the excellent showers, laundry and café directly ashore.

Jamie, Linda and Tom test the waters in the whale blubber melting pots in Russell At Roberton we hiked to the top of the hill, three of our nutty crew went swimming (Yes you guessed right Linda, Jamie & Tom) and Robert and Lesley kept everyone entertained with sailing stories over dinner..

Reflective self image of Amanda viewing of the eclipse through the welder’s glass

Our crew headed into nearby Paihia to a barbecue ribs joint and then explored the area Tuesday morning before we set sail from nearby Russell for Roberton Island, one of our all-time favorite anchorages.

Wednesday dawned clear and crisp until the sun started disappearing behind a near-total eclipse. Stan was well prepared, having brought two welder’s glass plates, allowing us to watch the sun hiding behind the moon.

Our sail south to Tutukaka was brilliant! We had good winds as we sailed past Cape Brett (hole in the rock) and with winds gusting to the mid-20’s, we got some more reefing practice.

Here’s our diverse Leg 8 crew gathered as we sail past Cape Brett Stan, Ian, Jamie, Tom, Linda and Thor

Stan, 60
I live in Scottsdale, Arizona but enjoy coastal sailing on my Hunter 27 out of San Diego. My wife Lynn has joined me for bareboating in the BVI’s and Greece will be our next chartering adventure.

Ian, 44
Part time anesthetist, part time businessman in international freight forwarding, born in Tasmania but I’ve lived in Brisbane for the last 20 years. I very recently purchased a 14.3 Schonning catamaran which I’m currently enjoying sailing on Moreton Bay. I’m looking forward to exploring further offshore soon!

Linda and Jamie, 54 & 51
We are from Northern Victoria, Australia and have had all types of adventures from running a large irrigated dairy farm for 11 straight years to owning printing business but what we’re really keen on doing is purchasing a sailboat and cruising the Pacific, Med or Caribbean.

Tom, 53
I live in North Vancouver with my wife Susan and sons Jason and Steve. We sail our Catalina 34 between the along the BC Coast and San Juan Islands. I’ve always looked forward to ocean passage making and crossing the Tasman Sea aboard Mahina Tiare was a fantastic experience.

Thor, 45
I am outfitting my Pacific Seacraft 34 for extended cruising and wanted some offshore passage making experience before taking off in a while on my own adventures.

Jamie practicing celestial navigation in the calmer conditions

Thursday we had a 58 mile sail, this time with gusts into the mid-30’s, but off the land, so seas were flat and MT was barreling along at up to 8.5 knots. It’s always fun to watch our crew’s helmsmanship improve from steering wobbly courses when they join us, to handling strong, gusty and frequently changing conditions with ease after a couple weeks.

Kawau Island was our destination, and was where Linda had spent many summers with her family, sailing, boating, fishing and having great adventures. She pointed out their family home which they had just recently sold and places they had sailed to as a kid.

Lin and Larry Pardey, just back from a four month road and sailing trip to the US, joined us for dinner, Lin regaling us with great stories from all over.

This morning we anchored off Mansion House, the former governor general’s home and all went hiking and exploring before breakfast and setting sail south towards Auckland. Once again we had great sailing conditions, lots of wind, but very modest seas.

Islington Bay on Rangitoto Island is always a starting and ending place for us. This is where Amanda and I sailed on our first sailing date in 1994, always our first stop after relaunching Mahina Tiare each May, and our last anchorage of many seasons. Last night after everyone went aloft for rig inspection in a fairly stiff breeze the skies cleared and the winds died so we all enjoyed a hike around the well-preserved historic “bach’s” (beach cottages).

November 20, 2012

The morning of the 17th Amanda and I had hoped to take crew on our traditional Rangi Ramble up to the summit but a howling gale put a damper on our plans. Instead we focused on the finer points of cruising with a detailed engine room briefing and braid splicing.

The skies cleared long enough for us to steam up the Waitemata Harbour with a ticky tour of maritime museum and the swanky viaduct basin home stuffed with visiting mega yachts. Thankfully Westhaven Marina found a berth for us and we all enjoyed a final crew meal out at the Turkish Café in Ponsonby before everyone headed off home or on explorations of NZ.

Now, another season, our 22nd is winding down. Even before we were done cleaning Mahina Tiare we’d shifted into repair and refit mode. So far we’ve replaced a genoa winch base that had cracked, purchased replacement rope clutches for our mainsheet, purchased filters and impellers for our Volvo engine, repaired a cranky bilge pump, found a Lofrans windlass specialist to show us how to rebuild our leaking anchor windlass and removed our Force 10 stove/oven and taken it to the Force 10 importer to replace the burners. When I saw the shiny new and improved model, I took the leap and put a deposit on a new stove.

We’ve been fortunate to have sunny, dry days without the normal Auckland spring time gales. Today on our return across the harbour bridge from the stove place we saw both Team NZ and Prada out very cautiously sea trialing their massive new 72′ America’s Cup catamarans.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to get the main and genoa down and furled on the dock and rebuild the windlass. Friday we plan on sailing (oops, no sails – I mean motoring!) back to Rangitoto Island to work on varnish and decks before hauling out Monday morning. After a week in the boatyard working on the decks and general cleaning and sorting we hope to have even more projects completed. While we’re beavering away over the next weeks we’ll look forward to driving north to Whangarei to see Amanda’s family, especially her 4 and 1 year old nieces, Mary Ann and Tessa. We’ve already been told we’re got special tickets for a ballet performance of Snow White.

It’s nearly Thanksgiving Day, and this is the time we express our gratitude to the special people in our lives; our families, the expedition members who join us, Tracy who runs our office so efficiently, Melonie and Chris who keep our website looking so smart, Carol Hasse – our sailmaker at Port Townsend Sails, and the dedicated crew at Hallberg-Rassy who built Mahina Tiare.

Last but not least, thanks to you, our readers who have followed our adventures, some of you since our first Antarctica update in 1996! Let’s make a toast to a wonderful year, full of learning and adventures, and to next year when more adventures and islands await upon our completions of our voyages!

A Hui Hou!

John and Amanda,
Westhaven Marina
November 21, 2012

Mahina Expeditions

Leg 8 Itinerary

Leg 8 ,November 2012 : Brisbane, Australia : Opua,Auckland,Newzealand2021-05-04T01:01:00+00:00

Leg 5 , September 2012 : Fiji – Vanuatu

Leg 5 – 2012, Update 1

September 1, 2012, 0400 hrs, 20.07 S, 170.15 E, Log: 159,030 miles
Baro: 1017.8, Cabin Temp: 76 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77 F
Broad Reaching at 7.1 kts in 20 kt SE winds, single reef in main and geona


Our time between Legs 4 & 5 was a real treat, as we were cruising in company with Robert and Lesley, Amanda’s parents. Once we’d tidied up MT and Gracias, we rented a car together and drove 4.5 hrs across Viti Levu to the capital Suva, enjoying a night ashore from where we had last anchored together six years earlier at what used to be called Tradewinds Hotel but is now Novatel. That afternoon Amanda and I did our annual massive shop at Cost U Less, an offshoot of Costco, while Robert and Lesley checked out the old Royal Suva Yacht Club. The following morning we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the moored yachts and then a quick stop for fishing lures at Amanda’s favorite shop in Suva, Bob’s Hook Line & Sinker, along with a final load at Cost U Less before heading back to the other side of the island.

The following morning we both headed out to Musket Cove on Malololailai Island where we’d gotten married on the beach 14 years ago. We enjoyed a week at the island, working on our boats during the day and frequently sharing evening meals aboard or ashore and then, all of the sudden, it was time to sail back to Vuda Point Marina and shop for fruit and veg for Leg 5.

Departing Vuda Point Marina

 Thankfully we were soon underway with enough wind for everyone to practice Lifesling Overboard Rescue before we sailed between two famous surfing destinations, Tavarua and Namotu Islands. Both Bill and Roger are keen surfers and were checking out the waves.

We had Leg 5 crew briefing and safety orientation Monday afternoon and requested they board at 9 am instead of our normal noon start time. This early start gave us time to motor six miles north to the port of Lautoka for outbound clearance. I went ashore for clearance whilst Amanda and Dave did a final provision. Thankfully clearance was a breeze with one interesting new wrinkle; an immigration officer is now required to board all departing vessels checking in every cabin and space and that all crew are accounted for. It appeared as if he was closely checking for unlisted passengers and we wondered if this had anything to do with a megayacht that was seized last week in Vanuatu.

Our first evening at sea was surprisingly calm as 15-20 kt SE tradewinds had been forecasted but before the next morning the wind returned and since then we have been rocketing along. We have passed two troughs, clearly shown on the weatherfax charts from New Zealand, each having a bit of rain and up to 29 knots of wind.

 Bill enjoying his trick on the wheel…rain and all!

Amanda gets ready to grill our marinated catch of the day

Swells have been minimal but from all direction and all of us except for Bill have had issues with seasickness which has fortunately passed for all but Raul and Susana. Soon after coming aboard Roger had mentioned that he hoped we’d get a bit of heavy weather sailing, so he and most of the guys were delighted when they got to tuck in first one, then two and three reefs in the main throughout the night.

 Bill and Roger tuck in third reef under John’s guidance While the mainsail is reefed Joe keeps MT trimmed and on course

Now Aneityum, the closest Vanuatu Island to Fiji is only 18 miles away and we have kept one reef in the main and headsail so as not to make landfall before dawn.

September 2, 2012, 2210 hrs, 19.31S S, 169.29 E, Log: 159,113 miles
Baro: 1017.8, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77 F
At anchor in 20-30 kt winds, Port Resolution, Tanna Island

Our landfall at Aneityum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatom) was before breakfast and within ten minutes a fast new police skiff slowed when passing and the skipper announced he’d bring the officials over shortly. The skiff was ferrying people across the bay to the tiny, uninhabited Mystery Island (located on the south side of the reef it provides protection for the anchorage) in preparation for the arrival of the semi-weekly flight to the islets tiny grass strip.

By 0730 Richard George, the island’s police officer on loan from Port Vila, came aboard and pleasantly explained that in order to save money the government had recently requested that the policeman was to handle all inbound yacht clearance. Not only was this a Saturday, but what a change from last year when we waited all day for the dedicated quarantine and customs officers to board and clear us as they first had to process 1,200 people on a P & O cruise ship. Richard felt clearing arriving yachts quickly, even on weekends, and without overtime charges was important so crews could visit ashore. Now that’s the most cruiser-friendly viewpoint we’ve ever heard of!

Aneityum is very fortunate as about eight times a year P & O cruise ships from Australia anchor off and shuttle passengers ashore to Mystery Island for snorkeling and beach time while the islanders set up a market of arts and crafts. Richard welcomed us to snorkel off the islet but firmly asked that we not take lobster or fish as this is an important marine reserve. He (and the islanders) are quite upset that the ICA Rally members who had recently departed, had illegally collected lobsters from the posted marine reserve.

 Jonathan accepting exercise books from Raul

Once cleared in, we dinghied ashore to deliver school supplies our crew had generously purchased in Fiji. School was closed for winter holidays but we met two teachers, Jonathan and Ben of Anelcauhat Primary School (www.mysterious79.blogspot.com) directly ashore from the dinghy landing channel. They sincerely thanked us for the supplies and Jonathan said that if school was in session the kids would show demonstrate traditional dancing. He also mentioned that they would welcome further school supplies, dictionaries and primary school books for their newly-opened library. The library was established with funds donated by tourists as the school children proudly give tours of school gardens and perform traditional “kastam” dancing. We then went off on an exploration of the village and a hike along the beach and were impressed at how quiet and friendly these people are and how tidy they keep their fairly primitive homes and property.

Yesterday morning greeted us with wind and rain and we all had second thoughts about setting out on the 55 mile passage north to Tanna Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanna_(island) . But when I called Robert he said they were ready to go so I dropped David, who had volunteered to give Robert and Lesley a hand for the passage, off at Gracias and they set sail. I started breakfast and we waited a bit to give Gracias a head start but we were never able to catch them.

Roger enjoying the wet surfing action at the bow

The weather charts showed a slow-moving trough had stalled over southern Vanuatu which was providing us with 20-35 kt winds and rain. Roger, who is such a keen surfer that he drives 2.5 hours from Portland, Oregon to surf in the frigid North Pacific waters, was whooping and hollering as he hit 12.4 kts surfing towards Tanna. We kept putting up more sail to see if anyone could beat Roger’s record (also our highest speed so far this year!) but his record still stands.

Recently in Auckland, I had recently purchased the latest British Admiralty Anchorage chart for Vanuatu, only to discover there is no longer is any chart available of Port Resolution. I had given Robert, who hadn’t been here before, an ancient WWII chart of Port Resolution as none of our electronic charts showed any depth or detail. Fortunately, two years earlier we’d recorded two sets of entrance coordinates for the bay when we were involved in a search for an overturned local boat. At that time the visibility at the entrance had been well under one mile in driving rain and rough seas with winds still gusting close to 30 knots and we knew boats returning to the anchorage after us might require additional help.

Our crew did an excellent job, safely gybing, lining up on the difficult, unmarked entrance and dropping the main just as we entered between the jaws (narrowest part) of the reef. While most of the crew were securing the main I asked Susana to perch the anchor on the bow roller so we’d be ready to anchor once we entered the rolly and shallow bay. Minutes later we heard the continual sound of the windlass quickly powering out the chain as Susana came running back saying she couldn’t stop the chain!

Raul talks about Offshore Sail Training

We were at the narrowest and most critical part of the entrance when the anchor hit the bottom stopping us instantly. Amanda quickly shut off the windlass circuit breaker under the nav seat and it became immediately obvious we were in a real pickle in only 18′ of water with violent rain gusts edging us toward the breakers. When Amanda flicked on the breaker the windlass instantly started releasing more chain. While Bill did a brilliant job of keeping the bow into the wind Roger and I manually heaved in the chain and Joe manually cranked the windlass to stow the chain below decks. Unfortunately our CQR anchor had REALLY set well so we cleated the chain off and Bill powered forward to allow us to pull in the 80′ of chain and 75 lb anchor. Needless to say it took every ounce of our strength to heave it in.

Meanwhile, David and Robert had been watching our little drama trying to figure out why in the world we would choose to anchor in such a dangerous place. Robert said, “I’ll bet John is having them practice anchoring – see here on their itinerary, it says they’re covering anchoring today!”

We used the manual clutch on the windlass to release the anchor and chain in the fairly crowded bay. We’ve only ever seen four boats in Port Resolution but now seven boats were waiting out the bad weather. Several had anchored bow and stern to counter the swell so it was a little challenging to find a safe spot. Very unusually, our anchor drug several boat lengths before we veered additional chain and it then held well, even as Bill added more reverse engine power. The minute Bill shut the engine down Roger offered to dive down and check the anchor and reported it totally buried up to the shackle. Whew! What an adventure – but it wasn’t over yet!

Minutes later, previous expedition members Jim and Katie Thomsen from their Hallberg-Rassy 40 Tenaya (www.tenayatravels.com) dinghied over. They were heading ashore to deliver a photo album Jim had compiled for a nearby village of the seven-day circumcision ceremony of five young boys that they had just attended. Their images and stories were truly like something out of National Geographic. Jim and Katie had spent one month last year, and now another month, interacting and working with several local villages, even staying ashore in a treehouse in a distant village. Jim said that they had taken and printed over 120 ID card and football card photos using a portable printer they had purchased elsewhere, and they also gave us a copy of a brochure and map they had produced for the local villages to give to the yachts. When I mentioned that we were planning on heading ashore to try and arrange transport up to the volcano for the following afternoon/evening, Katie offered to speak with the chief about it.

We then launched the dinghy, helped Gracias anchor in a more protected spot, retrieved Dave, and our gang launched into their weather and Lifesling tests as I started trying to repair the windlass. I first thought that the “down” windlass switch on the foredeck must have shorted out, so I cut the wires, pulled out the old switch, then threaded and mounted a spare switch. Unfortunately, when I turned the breaker on the windlass once again started lowering chain, so that wasn’t the problem. I now had a two hour job, after dinner, of wiring the new switch into place.

My next thought was that perhaps the windlass solenoid located next to the motor might have stuck on so I tapped it a couple times and, VOILA!!, it worked perfectly. Being paranoid about something as critical as the windlass failing we’ve long carried but never have had to install a spare solenoid. It will be a multi-hour job working in a cramped location and one which I hope will wait until the end of this expedition when we are on a mooring in Port Vila.

Whew! It’s now 0400, winds have finally dropped to 10 kts so we no longer have crew standing anchor watch. It’s still drizzling, but the forecasts show that by late afternoon, when we hope to head up the volcano, the rains should be mostly passed.

September 5, 2012, 0700 hrs, 18.44S S, 169.12 E, Log: 159,168 miles
Baro: 1019.0, Cabin Temp: 73 F cockpit 70 F, sea water 77 F
At anchor Potnavrin, Erromango Island

Early yesterday morning Robert and I went ashore in drizzle and wind and spoke with brothers Stanley and Johnson, chief and yacht club organizers about arranging a ride up to Mt Yasur volcano that evening. Johnson said the village truck was enroute three hours across the island to Lenakel, the only town, and offered to call his cousin (the driver) to check on progress. It’s amazing

Crew and Villagers gather for a photo with donated school supplies

that people barely out of the Stone Age have mobile phones but the driver said the roads were terrible; however, he would try and be back by 4 PM and would try and get us up the volcano.

Amanda taught sail design and provisioning and before we knew it, it was time to pack sturdy shoes, warm clothes and water and head up to the village. Marilouise, one of the village women opened up the handicrafts market for us to check out and we donated more supplies to the village school.

Surprisingly, right at 4PM, the truck showed up, we paid Stanley 1500 vatu each (US$16) and we were off with our driver Rosen. The roads, normally abysmal, were badly eroded in places from the last few days of steady rains. The dual cab diesel Toyota 4WD was amazing – packed with a total of 10 people in the cab and back. Rosen slowly and skillfully climbed the washed out roads and we arrived at the base of the crater nearly an hour before sunset.

Mt Yasur was in amazing form; every few minutes we would feel the concussive shock of an explosion and then get to view the fireworks -  molten blobs of lava the size of Volkswagens being hurled a thousand feet in the air amid mushroom shaped clouds, only to make strange splat-splat-splat sounds as they landed in the crater rim. As the sun set, the show became even more spectacular. We were the last ones left on the mountain and when Rosen suggested it was just about to start tipping again we reluctantly took it as our cue to head back down the mountain. Thankfully Amanda, who was under the weather with the flu, had an amazing dinner waiting when we arrived back aboard MT at 1930.

Weather charts and GRIB files showed that a high was blocking the normal easterly movement of a trough that had perched over Vanuatu and we again had another very unusual night of blinding rains and winds gusting to 30kts. Fortunately after arrival Roger had not only snorkeled down to check the anchor he had even videotaped our 75 lb CQR totally buried to the shackle.

Yesterday morning before departure to the island of Erromango (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erromango) Bill, Roger and I went ashore to thank Stanley and Johnson for arranging the truck and to deliver toothbrushes for all of the village children. We didn’t give Robert and Lesley (and Bill who volunteered to sail with them) as much of a head start this time but it still took us several hours to catch them with full main and only one reef in the poled out genoa. Several of our gang hit 10’s and 11’s on the GPS speed but Roger’s earlier record of 12.4 kts still stands. The 25-35 kt winds and drizzle were unabated until we rounded the Uvwore Point.

Leaving Port Resolution Gracias charging along
 Port Navrin Village

In Port Narvin on the east side of Erromango we found winds of only 15-20 kts and some swell wrapping around but all n all a safe anchorage. We had planned to sail again to Dillon’s Bay on the W side of the Island but upon reading about Port Narvin in Richard Cheshire’s Rocket Cruising Guide we had to check it out. The bay is described as fairly protected in SE tradewinds, rarely visited by yachts and as having a few hundred friendly inhabitants.

Friendly was an understatement. Even before we dropped the anchor, dozens of screaming kids were running the length of the beach, waving and jumping up and down. As soon as we’d launched the dinghy, I retrieved Bill and zipped through the surf where dozens of kids waded out to help pull the dingy up the black volcanic sand beach. Within minutes more than 70 villagers ambled up and I was introduced to Chief Joe and Mere; one of the teachers. I said that we were bringing school supplies and would like to learn what they needed for our visit next year and was told “You are most welcome ashore, come tomorrow at 10am and some of the children will sing for you”.

September 5, 2012, 2330 hrs, 18.30S S, 168.57 E, Log: 159,191 miles
Baro: 1020.0, Cabin Temp: 75 F cockpit 72 F, sea water 77 F
Broad reaching at 6.5 kts in 20 kt SE trades, double-reefed main and genoa, moonlit seas

We’ve now set sail from Erromango Island for our final Leg 5 destination, Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu on Efate Island. What a jam-packed day we’ve had!

After breakfast we covered anchoring class then headed ashore where more than 50 adults and kids were waiting on the beach. Chief Joe walked us to the school where teachers Mere, Mary and Don invited us in and asked us to sit down. Mere, the shy headmistress, said we were the first visitors to the school and she hoped we would enjoy the singing.

Her husband played the guitar and led the children in songs about their schools and community. She asked each of us to stand and introduce ourselves then after another couple songs we visited for awhile. We learned that Potnarvin has no road access, only receives a freighter every three months or so, and that it is a 4-5 hour skiff ride to reach distant Dillons Bay on the far western side of the island.

Mere accepted the school supplies we’d donated and agreed to give us a list of additional supplies they need. We will email Beth and Norm on Sarah Jean and ask them to purchase supplies before departing Fiji. Mr. Don and Daniel, the volunteer nurse, led us through the sizable and tidy village to the tiny clinic. We didn’t have any medical supplies to donate but several sets of sheets, left by earlier expedition members, were very much appreciated.

Roger explains surfing

Upon setting sail and clearing the bay we were quickly surfing north in gusts to 35 as we skirted along the coast of Erromango to reach Ponamlas Bay; a tiny bay on the furthest NW corner of the island mentioned in Rocket Cruising Guide. The dramatic bay looked idyllic and was completely sheltered from the gusty winds and swell occurring just outside. In no time we’d launched the dinghy, collected Robert and Lesley and all headed ashore for a hike.

From the boat we’d spied fence posts and a roof and ashore we found the framework of a thatch house, a small abandoned frame house, lemon and orange trees, and many cleared areas with evidence of wild cows. We hiked up a trail that ran along the river and soon after Roger and I crossed over the river, in search of a trail back to the beach on the other side, we heard dogs and then human voices. Out of the woods appeared two very strong looking Ni-Vanutu guys with large bush knives and ten hunting dogs.

Robbie and his brother in law Allen had just hiked about 15 miles barefoot to come and check on their family’s property. Ronnie explained that their family had moved to Dillon’s Bay several years ago, but that they occasionally came to hunt the now-wild cattle. They said they stay for a couple days, eat all the meat they can and then hike back home. Allen hiked back to their house, returning with a large bag of just-butchered beef and then both guys walked back to the dinghy with us.

Following dinner Susana plotted our course and put the waypoints in the GPS before we all turned in for a little nap awakening at 2200 to set sail for Port Vila. We have clear skies, around half a brilliant moon and life is good!

September 7, 2012, 2230 hrs, 17.44S S, 168.18 E, Log: 159,258 miles
Stern-tied, Yachting World dock, Port Vila

Our landfall timing at Efate Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efate) went well, and it was 0930 by the time we had picked up a bow mooring line and backed in to stern-tie to the concrete wharf at Yachting World (http://yachtingworld-vanuatu.com). Almost immediately Amanda was showing our very keen crew how to strip, clean and lubricate winches and while Robert and I went to clear in with customs and immigration, Amanda had everyone take turns going aloft for rig inspection.

After crew enjoyed lunch just steps away ashore at the Waterfront Restaurant, Amanda taught sail repair and I covered diesel engine maintenance, watermakers, and dealing with customs worldwide leaving only storm tactics to cover in the morning.

Graduation dinner was at the elegant private Iririki Island Resort, (www.iririki.com/) formerly home of the British High Commissioner, and now a private resort with its own little ferry and an unbeatable view of the yachts and Port Vila waterfront.

Wow, what a whirlwind these last ten days have been and our crew left as firm friends eager to share explorations around the island and future sailing adventures. Amanda and I look forward to enjoying Efate with a sojourn anchored off Mele Beach to work on MT in between morning runs, kayaking and visits ashore with Bob and Lesley.

 Here they are, our amazing Leg 5 crew: Roger, Joe, Bill, Raul, Susana & Dave

Roger, 36 from Portland, OR
I’ve dreamed of sailing the South Pacific since reading “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham, so when I was accepted for this expedition, it was a dream come true. I come on this trip to see new cultures and gain blue water sailing experience. I live in Portland, Oregon where I practice medicine and enjoy sailing on the Columbia River and surfing on the Oregon coast.

Joe, 54 from El Dorado, CA (east of Sacramento)
My wife Carla and I sail an O’Day 23 on Folsom Lake and look forward to getting a bigger boat and cruising the Caribbean and South Pacific in the future. I’ve sailed since I was 14 and we’ve chartered several times in the Caribbean.

Bill, 64 from North Bend (east of Seattle, WA)
I grew up sailing and surfing in Southern California but was transferred to the Seattle area about 15 years ago. Recently my wife and I purchased a Tashiba 36 which we are in the process of updating and improving.

Raul, 57 originally from Argentina, now living in Calgary, Canada
I grew up living near the water and racing dinghies in Buenos Aires and 25 years ago, Susana and I moved to Canada and started our family. We started sailing the coast of British Columbia to get our kids interested in sailing. We learned tons on this expedition, had fun, worked hard, met great people and feel more confident and prepared to fulfill our own sailing dreams.

Susana, 54
We always lived close to the water wishing to go cruising some day. Now the wish is to come back to these islands aboard our own HR 53 which we moor in Victoria, BC.

Dave, 57 from Phoenix, Arizona
I own a consulting business and my sailing experience is mostly lake sailing with limited offshore experience. I want to increase my confidence and skills in sailing offshore and in heavy weather so I’m better prepared for chartering boats in far away places.

Click HERE for a list of the anchorage updates from Leg 5 now posted on www.noonsite.com.

If you’re sailing to these islands on your own boat, or if you’re joining us on Leg 5-2013, here is a list of school supplies requested by Mere in Port Narvin, identical to supplies needed at nearly all schools in isolated areas: Blank exercise books, pencils, sharpeners, pens, crayons, coloured pencils, chaulk, scissors, educational posters, lesson books of any type, dictionaries, reading books, coloured construction paper, tape, paper glue, etc.

Leg 5 , September 2012 : Fiji – Vanuatu2021-05-04T01:02:46+00:00

Leg 5 , September 2011 Fiji – Vanuatu

September 2, 2011 0700 hrs, 20.11 S, 170.04 E, Log: 150,347 miles
Baro: 1019, Cabin Temp: 77 F cockpit 74 F, sea water 78.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.4 kts in 15 kt SE winds, moderate seas


Our 13 days between Legs 4 & 5 were a treasure. We are convinced that Fiji has to be one of the best tropical cruising destinations in the world. After our saying goodbyes to our excellent Leg 4 crew the following day we headed to Lautoka by taxi to reprovision then set sail for one of our favorite spots on the planet, Musket Cove on Malololailai Island. We anchored in the same spot and walked the same beach where we were married by a sulu-wearing Fijian minister in 1998, between Legs 4 & 5. We scheduled 13 days off this year between Legs 4 & 5 and not only did we get Mahina Tiare in top shape, we had time for trail running, kayaking, swimming and visiting with our Fijian friends and cruisers. Life just doesn’t get any better!

We headed back to Vuda Point Marina Friday morning giving us plenty of time on Saturday for reprovisioning and stowing the food. I spent three hours Sunday morning at masthead, replacing a failed Lopolight tricolor before our Leg 5 crew met us for safety orientation in the afternoon. They were all staying next door the amazing First Landing Beach Resort enjoying every minute as they caught up on sleep and decompressed by the pool side or sandy beach.

Monday morning was a whirlwind of signing our Leg 5 crew on at the immigration office in Lautoka, picking up fruit and fresh bread and getting ready for departure. Because of a fickle change in rules, we had to physically anchor MT in Lautoka Harbor, not just come in by taxi for our final outbound customs clearance. We made the two hour trip there and were able to clear out and set sail that afternoon.

We had some light winds for the first day, but the trades filled in so nicely that we’ve been under double-reefed main and had up to 40% of the genoa furled for most of this passage to keep our speed under 8 knots and make it a little easier for our crew getting their sea legs.

Crew relishing chicken curry on a calm evening

TC enjoying the dawn watch

We’ve yet to catch a fish, but we had a booby bird spend night before last perched on the lower lifeline, just a few feet from the helmsperson.

A rig check and deck survey for stranded flying fish soon becomes a morning watch ritual for Donna

Sailing conditions have been amazing – no squalls, very modest seas and few clouds. As we sail south, the water and air temps have been dropping daily which has been very pleasant.

Aneityum Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatom on the horizon ahead just became a Port of Entry for Vanuatu a few months ago, something I learned about on www.noonsite.com. We’ve long been curious about this rarely visited island that has several very protected anchorages, but as it lies 55 miles directly upwind and against a strong surface current, we, and few other sailors have ever visited it.

September 6, 2011 0600 hrs, 18.49 S, 169.00 E, Log: 150,463 miles
Baro: 1017, Cabin Temp: 75 F cockpit 73 F, sea water 77.3 F
At anchor, Dillon’s Bay, Erromango

As we approached Aneityum we picked up the AIS signature on our chart plotter of Pacific Pearl, an 850’ P & O cruise ship and then soon saw her superstructure on the horizon. “Mystery Island” is the name given to Inyeug Islet, a small uninhabited island forming Port Aneityum Harbour where cruise ships occasionally stop giving their passengers a day of snorkeling and beach time. It was quite a surprise to find our visit on this rarely-visited remote island coincided with the arrival of 1900 Australian tourists! In Lonely Planet Vanuatu we learned that the cruise passengers were not allowed on Aneityum, but only on Inyeug Islet.

TC keeps a watch as things get rather busy coming into the anchorage. We saw Tenaya, an HR 40 and shouted an excited greeting (Amanda doing a Viking Haka) to Jim and Katie Thomsen, Leg 1-2007 (www.tenayatravels.com) who had just sailed in from New Zealand via New Caledonia.

We chatted to a ni-Vanuatu Customs inspector who stopped by in a skiff and he said that he and immigration and quarantine officers would be busy for several hours clearing the cruise ship, but suggested I meet them at the dock on Mystery Island after lunch. Whist waiting for the immigration and quarantine at the island I chatted with the Customs inspector for an hour, who then all came aboard MT to clear us in. By the time they left it was nearly dusk but we all immediately headed ashore.

The village is quite small and with no recent supply ship the shops were shut tight as there were no goods to sell. We met Animo, a very chatty 23 year old school teacher, who told us about their village and history. She said that the first European missionaries had been cooked and eaten, as had a second group of Samoan teachers. Only the week before a sizable group of Samoan Christians had come to accept the reconciliations of the villagers, apologizing for eating their ancestors 175 years ago.

The village playing field adjacent the beach with the church and school

The nakamal (kava bar) that Animo led us to was just a thatch hut in a clearing with a dozen of very zoned-out looking guys sitting on a fence. She apologized that the nakamal had just closed and said that the guys should be heading home to their families for dinner soon. Vanuatu’s kava is far more powerful than Fiji’s and if you’ve drunk too much the local’s claim you’ll be “listening to the kava”.

Before setting sail 55 miles to Tanna Saturday morning we all headed ashore early for walks and run and to meet the quiet but friendly villagers.

Marie-Claude brought a stack of French school text books which she donated to a still-sleepy friend from yesterday who is the French teacher. Before Vanuatu’s independence from France and Britain 30 years ago, there were separate French and English villages and schools. Animo told us that recently many of the schools had been combined.

We had a perfect 50 mile broad reach arriving at Port Resolution, Tanna Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanna_(island)) with plenty of visibility for selecting an anchorage. Captain Cook anchored his ship here in August 1774 to investigate the great glow he saw in the sky while sailing past. I have visited Port Resolution several times since my first visit in 1989 and looked forward to seeing old friends.

As we approached Port Resolution Donna was very thrilled to spot her first whale. We watched as three whales surfaced heading south, then turned 180 to keep us company for awhile.

A group photo with the ladies of the co-op and our recent purchase

Ashore I met with Werry, the Port Resolution Yacht Club & Bungalows manager who recommended I chat with his cousin Stanley in the main village nearby about arranging for a truck to take us to the volcano. The yacht club (www.portresolution.com.vu) is a very cool thatch structure with three cliff-front rental bungalows for rent. Werry also mentioned that we should be sure to check out the new women’s cooperative market. We found a new building with woven baskets, shells and Port Resolution Yacht Club membership cards for sale, and some very proud ladies.

Stanley mentioned that Mt. Yasur volcano had been quite active and said there would be no problem arranging a truck for the following afternoon. The cost was 5000 vatu, or about US$55 including park admission and the guide and truck.

Several of us went ashore at dawn on Sunday, some exploring the beaches and Amanda and I for a long run stopping frequently to meet and chat with locals.

At precisely 3pm our volcano ride arrived. Tonu was 18 years old, and the fairly recent model Toyota 4WD truck belonged to an uncle. He’d lied about his age to get a driver’s license at 14 and had been driving groups the tortuous 45 minutes to Mt Yasur volcano most evenings since them. When I first visited Tanna in 1989 there were very few vehicles on the island and Barbara Marrett and I hiked to the volcano, our guides Charlie and Remi getting us terribly lost for hours in the jungle on the return. Now with the rise of tourism there are three trucks in Port Resolution and dozens on the island.

We really hit teaching Sunday morning covering engine room check out, anchoring, engine maintenance, splicing only taking a break when Tom, the son of my old friend Charlie, came to visit by canoe to trade fruit and vegetables for a little petrol so the village kids could watch a movie that afternoon. Upon heading ashore we enjoyed a visit with Stanley learning more about the Tannese history and culture. Marie-Claude presented the primary school teacher a large duffel bag full of school books donated by Calgary schools and Donna had brought medical supplies which she delivered to the nurse. Amanda promptly started helping a girl make local snacks; a sprinkle salt on slice of coconut which then gets wrapped in a single leaf and threaded onto a stick. Tastes rather like salty coconut wrapped in grass.

We went through a park entrance gate and then a little further up a very steep narrow and rutted track through bush until we came to a clearing of cinder slopes with a peak where two outhouses and a pathway marked the short track to the crater rim. It was very dry, windy and we could hear rumblings ahead!

Yeah! Here we are finally at the volcano park entrance and yep…we’re trying to smile.

As we approached the crater rim, there was a great KABOOM as large amounts of molten lava were hurled into the air. Tonu advised us not to stand to close to the edge, duhh!, as we watched and listened to rumblings.
Every few minutes we would see a shock wave and feel the mountain tremble before hearing the explosion and watching the lava splatters hurled skyward. We were the first on the mountain, but every few minutes another battered 4WD would arrive with guides and guests from all over the world.

As it got darker, the fireworks just got better!

Within an hour of sunset most of the volcano watchers started heading back down to their trucks. On Amanda’s advice and lessons gleaned from her visit last year she suggested that we bring foul weather gear. Several of our crew did and stayed warm – the rest of us were freezing!

I knew from the previous two times I’d replaced the solenoid and pressure reducer over the past 14 years that this was a several hour job squished in the anchor locker. Exhausted, I decided to wait until morning to make the repair.

By the time we got back to Port Resolution and out to Mahina Tiare, cups of tea and hot chocolate followed by a tasty hot dinner were on everyone’s minds, however, ¾ of the way through making dinner, our stove stopped. As we’d recently filled the propane tanks in Fiji, we were fairly certain the propane solenoid had failed due to corrosion. Amanda made couscous instead of pasta and “Kitty’s Seafood Sauce” worked just as well.

Monday morning was a very busy one! We wanted to set sail for Erromango Island by 9 am to have good light for landfall and anchoring and had also promised to stop by the school to see if David could fix their generator. I managed to get the solenoid 90% installed and waterproofed and Dave, Donna and I headed ashore and up to the school. Donna had more medical supplies for the clinic.

Dave, an aircraft A&P mechanic as well as FedEx pilot gave repairing the broken recoil spring on the generator his best effort before we returned to MT and set sail.

It was great to sail past the slopes of Mt Yasar and view the belching, reminding ourselves that only last night we’d been peering into it’s lava depths.

Our light winds filled in as we cleared the island and we had a great sail at the end, arriving at Dillon’s Bay, Erromango http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erromango at 1635 with plenty of light for anchoring and a few completed Turk’s heads. A couple hours before arrival I had been reading and resting in the aft cabin and couldn’t figure what all the tromping around on the aft deck was about until I poked my head out to see Dave landing a nice tuna! After anchoring, we all jumped in, snorkeling up to check the anchor before an amazing sunset, complete with green flash.

September 9, 2011 0600 hrs, 17.44 S, 168.18 E, Log: 150,553 miles
Moored stern-to, Yachting World, Port Vila http://yachtingworld-vanuatu.com

Tuesday morning after communications, electrical power systems and watermakers class we headed ashore at Dillon’s Bay.

Donna had more medical supplies for the nurse and we donated a large bundle of tooth brushes courtesy of previous expedition member Sue Grimm.

We crossed the river bar entrance and landed the dinghy near the meeting hall, church and clinic. Coming ashore we were met by Jason, the chief of one of four clans that make up the village.

Jason eagerly filled us in on the history of the island and village, and showed us the church. Until 1985, there had been just one Presbyterian Church, but now there were seven different churches.

As we stood on the rock beside the river where John Williams was parceled up Jason mentioned that recently the village had held reconciliation with the relatives of John Williams, George and Ellen Gordon and James Gordon, all Presbyterian missionaries of Scottish descent who had come from Canada, only to be killed and eaten. He said that since the reconciliation the villagers felt that their fortunes were improving.

Later that afternoon we set sail six miles north to Elizabeth Bay, a recently-abandoned village and site of a former logging operation. I head read and Jason confirmed that there were many miles of logging roads leading from the bay and I pictured exploring the island’s bush on these roads.

We practiced Lifesling Overboard rescue on our sail north, then found a nice anchorage in 15’ depths on clear black volcanic sand. Most of our crew came ashore to explore the beach and Amanda and I came prepared with running shoes to hit the logging roads. But…directly ashore I found a large CAT log skidder and travel trailer, which must have been part of the logging operation, but when we tried going back up the valley we just found tangles of vines and a few wild pig, horse and cattle trails. I finally found the logging roads further south along the beach and up the next valley, wide enough for two logging trucks and flat as anything but totally choked with vines and tall sticker bushes. So much for trail running on Erromango!

After a swim and dinner we set sail for Port Vila, the capital and main town of Vanuatu on Efate Island. Starting out we had fresh and gusty winds, so we tucked in reefs in the main and genoa, but once clear of the island the wind settled into to 13-17 knot range and we enjoyed a gorgeous broad reach on surprisingly smooth seas.

Right at sunrise our crew spotted Efate Island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efate ahead and by 1000 we had picked up a mooring off Yachting World and were stern-tied with a gang plank ashore. I hit the ground running, clearing us in and signing crew off with both immigration and customs before their offices closed at noon. Meanwhile Amanda and crew had set our awning and launched into sail design, trim and winch servicing.

That afternoon crew explored Port Vila and decided we should catch the shuttle ferry to nearby Iririki Island Resort for dinner. TC’s husband Charles and kids JJ and Tom (our Leg 6 crew) joined us for a lovely dinner.

Our last teaching goal was going aloft and Amanda taught that early Thursday morning before with nearly everyone reaching the masthead before breakfast.

In a flash, Leg 6 was over! What an excellent expedition – we’d covered our teaching goals, visited a new island along with a new anchorage, delivered school and medical supplies, renewed friendships on Tanna, sailed with whales, plus seen what middle earth has on offer. We’re already looking forward to next year’s visit!

Stewart, Dave, Matthew, Donna, MC & TC

Here’s our Leg 5 crew:

Stewart McKean, 60
I grew up in Sydney and Hobart and now live in Coolangatta, Queensland. I have always had a love and respect for the sea being a life long surfer. I have sailed around the buoys in Hobart and made some small passages but yearned for some real guidance and experience on the ocean which I’ve gained during this expedition.

Donna Hoover, 45
On a sunny day in 2004 I was invited by a friend to go sailing on a small lake in Arkansas near where I lived. The boat captain invited us to a hot air balloon event in Mississippi and there I met my future husband. We were married in 2005 and spent our honeymoon bareboat chartering in the BVI’s. I was overwhelmed and enamored all at the same time. Since then I’ve come to believe that land dwellers “truly miss the boat”. Now we bare boat charter annually and own a J24 which we day sail on the same lake I went for my first sail on. Donna oversees the imaging department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

David Hoover, 41
My passion and love of sailing grew from seas stories told to me by one of my dearest friends, Ray Chase. Ray got me into flying balloons and years later that is how I met my wife Donna. Donna and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas and I fly worldwide as a First Officer for FedEx.

Matthew Percival, 59
I live on the shores of Sydney, Australia’s harbourfront and surprisingly took up sailing only four years ago. This was my second ocean passage, having sailed my Bluewater 40 with my son and a friend from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and back recently.

TC Vollum
Hi! 19 years ago I singlehanded my 20’ Pacific Seacraft Flicka from San Francisco to NZ. I returned to the States where my husband, also a singlehander, and I had two children. Now I’m back for a “brush-up”. My husband and children will be joining me aboard MT for Leg 6 shortly – the first offshore training for the children who are now 10 and 12 years old.

Marie-Claude Osterrath, 42
I’m originally from Quebec but currently live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband Mark and two children. Mark introduced me to sailing when we raced Hobie Cats some 20 years ago and sailed and chartered several different boats while living in Australia. Our dream is to sail extensively with our family in the future. Sailing aboard Mahina Tiare has been a dream come true and I’m amazed every day how much knowledge I’m gaining. Mark has been watching our kids while I’ve been sailing and Leg 8 will be his turn to join MT while I watch the kids!

Leg 5 , September 2011 Fiji – Vanuatu2021-05-04T01:03:56+00:00

Leg 3 , July 2011 ; Rarotonga , Cooks ; Apia ,Samoa

July 13, 2011, 0440 hrs, 19.12 S, 169.49 W, Log: 148,364 miles
Baro: 1017.4, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 84.4 F
Broad reaching at 3.4 kts in 9.5 kt E winds, clear skies with nearly a full moon


Our 600 mile passage from Raro has been unusually light and mellow and deep downwind angles have meant lots of practice gybing the main, setting the preventer and poling out the headsail.

Refreshing mid-ocean afternoon swims are certainly a highlight although Mora and Amanda certainly were grooving at every available opportunity.

Niue is now just 4.2 miles ahead and the moonlight is bright but it’s only with a good imagination that we can make out the pancake-flat outline of the two-tired limestone Niue Island ahead.

Ed spotted a nice mahi-mahi which he and Fiona landed and in between the grooving Mora was keen to practice her reefing skills.

July 17, 2011, 0140 hrs, 18.38 S, 173.46 W, Log: 148,604 miles
Baro: 1015.6, Cabin Temp: 79 F cockpit 76 F, sea water 81.1 F
Broad reaching at 6.5 kts in 19-26 kt E winds, double reefed main and triple reefed genoa, occasional light rain squalls, the first in months!

With a nearly-full moon we’re rocketing along towards Vavau, Tonga although with just 12 miles to go we’re now trying to slow down.

Our time on Niue was terrific. Keith Vial, Niue Yacht Club commodore met us at the dock after we cleared customs and had offered to take our crew on a half-day tour of some of the most spectacular limestone chasms that our gang entered by climbing down a trail and then swam through and out into the sea.

View of MT in the south mooring field as seen from the cliff top in Alofi town

Fiona, standing on the right after exiting a cave, appears rather tiny against Niue’s rugged coast

Mora and Harry swimming in one of Niue’s many pristine pools

“Wow! A perfect limestone cave Zen seat” announces Fiona

On Thursday Michael and Fiona rented bikes and did a major five hour cycle around the S end of the island while the rest of our crew explored the coastline closer to town. Amanda and I rented bikes, hoping to make it to the hotel near the SW tip of the island but by the time we cleared out with immigration, customs and visited with friends we settled for a cycle down the coast to a spectacular blow hole.

Verne and John get a tour from Commodore Keith of the new venue of “The biggest little Yacht Club in the world”

Our visit coincided with Niue Yacht Club’s first Thursday night barbecue of the season – and what an eclectic group of people jammed the little club house! None of the local members were sailors, several have little outboard fishing skiffs, but their hospitality was incredible.

There is no easy shore access at Niue so a trip ashore for everyone means that the dinghy is hoisted via crane onto the wharf. This proves rather a challenge in the dark with a big swell running so all crew need to nimble and pay attention to avoid a douching by the swell.

In the early dark of Friday morning we went to town for morning market and again later for last-minute errands. We were amazed to see all the locals dressed up, plus tons of visiting VIP Kiwis; part of a government and trade delegation visiting each South Pacific nation before the South Pacific Forum heads of government meeting which coincides with the start of the rugby world cup in Auckland next month. Ed said that on a scale of 1 to 10, he’d rate Niue at least a 12.

The ladies are proud to display their unique pandanus woven placemats for sale at the market

It’s 250 miles from Niue to Vavau, so we didn’t want to leave too early on Friday. In the lee of Niue it seemed like winds were very light but once we sailed clear we found steady 20 kt easterly trades. With a course of 265 degrees magnetic our crew has become quite adept at gybing both the main and the whisker pole. The mellow conditions have been great for class with Amanda teaching splicing and sail design this morning.

Currently we have a very interesting 146’ neighbor, the vessel St. Theresa. She’s 48 days out of Uruguay via Straits of Magellan; a small inter-island cargo ship just purchased by a group of Tongans. They have no chart for Tonga and have never entered Vavau from the east. The only waypoint they’re steering for would take them directly, in the dark, over three consecutive reefs in an attempt to enter Vavau from the south. We first heard them on the VHF as they were trying to call a ship that did not reply. I answered back and discovered they were hoping to get more GPS waypoints to enter Vavau. They were currently steering to a waypoint from the diary of the Tongan first office, Kaveka. He’d written down the waypoint a number of years ago when he was on the inter-island ferry.

When I plotted their waypoint on our chart discovered it would take them directly over the very dangerous southern reefs as the waypoint was only really good if you were entering Vavau from the south, not the east as we both were. After a moment of thought I managed, at some length, to convince them to instead skirt the N coast of Vavau and enter in a direction that would be clear of reefs.

We chatted for a bit and Kaveka said he knows Esau, the new Tongan harbourmaster in Rarotonga. They’d now been at sea for 48 days and all they have left to eat for dinner is mince, or hamburger as it’s know in the U.S. After they dropped their Strait of Magellan ship’s pilot in Punta Arenas, Chile, they battled huge head seas for two days making no progress before seeking shelter for another day in the channels before again trying to head north around Cabo Froward again. Other than passing Easter Island 13 miles off, they haven’t seen land since Patagonia. A few minutes ago I called them again on VHF and asked if they now had land on their radar, and they said yes, they were happy to see lights ahead.

July 21, 2011, 0040 hrs, 14.35 S, 171.35 W, Log: 148,936 miles
Baro: 1008.7, Cabin Temp: 82 F cockpit 81 F, sea water 84.1 F
Close reaching at 7.6 kts in 15 kt E winds, full main and single reefed genoa, clear, moonlit skies


Our landfall in Vavau, Tonga was perfect. We watched our timing closely, skirting the high, volcanic and reef-free northern coastline so that at first light of dawn we were on the range and headed for the commercial wharf to moor for customs clearance.

We end-tied on a bit of the towns rugged wharf with all of our fenders getting a workout, just to windward of St. Theresa, the just-purchased Tongan small cargo ship we had given waypoints to. The ship had all her flags flying and we watched as a steady stream of dignitaries including customs, immigration, quarantine, health inspectors along with the owners and several distinguished looking Tongans that must have been members of parliament visited.

We had been told that Customs rarely started work officially before 9AM, so at 10:30 I ambled over to St. Theresa and struck up conversation with one of the owners, the captain, the chief engineer and a deckhand. All promised to ask the four officials to consider stopping by to clear us in after completing clearing the ship however it was noon when we saw our first official. Knowing that customs demands that vessels tie alongside the very busy and rough commercial wharf for in or outbound clearance, I patiently asked for both clearances at one time. Meanwhile there were six later arriving yachts including the brigantine Soren Larsen circling around the wharf literally all day, waiting for a place to tie on the wharf to clear in or out along with a sport fishing boat waiting to fuel.

Once we had completed inbound clearance our crew was free to explore Neiafu town while Amanda watched our fenders and lines and I waited for the immigration office to open so we could get our departure stamps in our passports.

Finally at 1:30 I was able to pay port fees and pick up our outbound customs clearance and we could leave the dock to pick up a mooring off The Aquarium restaurant.

Neiafu post office

From the seaward Neiafu looks quite established and prosperous and since Amanda and I had last visited Neiafu 30 years ago (she with her family aboard the Roberts 50, Swanhaven they had built, and I aboard Mahina Tiare I, my HR 31) we were keen to check it out.

Once ashore discovered that several of the hotels were closed and that the basic services of town had changed rather slowly. Neiafu town was now rather interesting as many cruisers had moved ashore and opened businesses ranging from restaurants and bars to art galleries, t-shirt screening while you wait, dive shops and whale watching operations. Our crew found several internet cafes and one with rather delicious baked goods and fruit smoothies

At the municipal market Mora and Amanda select lettuce from Nina

Town view of MT on her mooring in Neiafu

It’s interesting to note that home owners use untethered pigs as lawn mowers!

Phil Holland, Leg 1-2000 and his wife Judy were on the next mooring and joined us for dinner at the Dancing Rooster; an excellent waterfront restaurant started by an Swiss ex-cruiser. Phil and Judy have sailed their Hylas 46, Fetching Light, over 50,000 miles since taking delivery in 2003 and. The next morning a number of us went aboard for a tour and to view all of the cool custom features they had incorporated into the design. Ed’s ears perked when they mentioned they are interested in selling her, upon returning to the States later this year, as he would like to upgrade from his current Catalina 42.

Having been cruising Tonga for 2 months and in preparation for their passage to Hawaii Phil had scheduled a maintenance haulout for later in the morning at the tidal railway. It proved to be rather rustic but successful.

Once the morning rain cleared we headed for Mariner’s Cave, located six miles away on Nuapapu island. Last year on the chart we’d fortunately written the position (18 41.460 S, 174 04.496 W) of this very hard to locate underwater cave. As there’s no possibility of anchoring off the cave Harry volunteered to keep MT in position offshore as the rest of us swam to the cliff.

Verne and Amanda play with schooling fish at the mouth of Mariners Cave

Then one by one we held our breath and swam down 10’ and in about 50’. I went into the cave first and held an underwater light to guide everyone through the challenging entrance.

Thankfully I’d remembered to tell everyone to quickly clear the entrance by swimming further into the cave after you surface. Last year we had quiet a pile up of bodies making it difficult for the next diver to surface. This time everyone rapidly rocketed through the underwater passage before smartly swimming off into the large cavern, complete with stalactites.

Verne swimming the passage from Mariners Cave

Earlier we’d read of the Tongan traditional story of how the young lover of a girl whose family had been condemned to death hid her in the cave for two weeks. Daily he swim in. to bring her food until he had built a sailing canoe and spirited her off to Fiji, later to return and live happily ever after.

After the cave excursion we headed for the shelter of Neiafu with the challenge of finding an anchorage that would be safe from all wind directions as a weak frontal passage with squalls and rain was forecast, but yet one that would allow us to depart safely in the dark for Samoa, as if we waited until sunrise Tuesday we would have to average 6.6 kts to reach Samoa before dark on the second day.

We found a passable anchorage .5 nm SW from Port Maurelle off tiny Kakautaumai village, but with some coral and shifting winds, although later it would prove to be less than ideal.

Amanda taught going aloft in between the afternoon showers and I taught diesel engine maintenance
As we finished dinner the wind slowly swung around to the west and increased to 16 kts, putting us in a lee shore situation. I had swum down and lifted the chain free of coral from the predominant easterly direction but now with westerly winds we could hear our chain grinding against coral. There was only one option; try and raise anchor in the dark squally night and get clear of the bay.

With the wind shift I could easily imagine the chain now having wrapped itself around any one of a number of coral heads, but it hadn’t happened! Surprisingly, the anchor came up without a hitch. In driving rain we cautiously followed out the course Ed had patiently plotted, between several small and high volcanic islands, and set sail. Once clear of the islands we had a sloppy sea with modest winds. Later in the day the winds picked up and we’ve had some great sailing and slowly sailed clear of the stationary front that brought the weather. Catching a wahoo then mahi mahi were added bonuses.

We’ve been struggling to gain easting against a very strong west-setting current in order to round the windward, eastern end of Upolu Island. Apia is halfway (30 miles) along the northern shore of the island and now it looks like we should easily clear the eastern tip so we’ve slightly eased sheets. Mahina Tiare loves these conditions and is eating up the miles at 7.5 kts in just 15 kt winds and our crew is truly enjoying honing their sailing skills.

This morning we’ve done well on our teaching program covering sail trim, sail repair and storm tactics. All that remains tomorrow morning before arrival is communications, dealing with officialdom, watermakers and electrical power systems. On second thought, I think it is going to be a busy morning!

Apia is one of the very few places we visit in the South Pacific that has a protected, fairly safe marina where, unlike Tahiti, there always seems to be plenty of slips for visiting boats. With showers, laundry, restaurants and town all within walking distance, it really makes our job of getting MT prepared for the next leg much easier.

Ed, Harry, Mora and Verne are all smiles as we enter Apia Harbor

Here is our Leg 3 crew ready for a celebration Samoan dinner and dancing ashore at the historical Aggie Grey’s Hotel

Michael Eden-Walker, 62 from Ottawa, Canada
This is my fourth adventure aboard Mahina Tiare and the most enjoyable ofor me as my daughter and sailing buddy Fiona is along for the ride. My plan is to purchase an HR 36 and keep it somewhere on the East Coast. (Michael and his wife Polly run and urgent care clinic)

Fiona Eden-Walker, from Toronto, Ontario
I’m an adventurous chef and rugby player back home and when the call came to join Dad for a Pacific sailing journey I happily agreed! Hiking, scuba, HHH in Raro, Amanda’s cooking and landing a mahi on the aft deck were highlights.

Mora Thompson, 44
I’m a San Diego native who hadn’t been on a sailboat until I was asked on a date which was a sea trial. He kept the boat and he kept me. We’ve had happy sailing (mostly) for the past ten years. I do web design and estimating in our landscape business.

Harry Thompson, 58
I’m a landscape designer/contractor and have been sailing since 1980. Currently we own a Westsail 39 which we keep in La Paz, Mexico. We sailed to Mexico from San Diego with the Baja-Haha five years ago and have been commuter cruisers ever since. We are thinking about sailing from Mexico to either the Marquesas or Hawaii and wanted to get some offshore experience first. We’ve been learning a lot and I now have a list of 50 things to improve our boat. I am grateful for this experience.

Ed Bessinger, 64
I learned to sail at a YMCA camp on a sunfish as a teenager and still love sailing. I owned a sailed a boat in Mexico for eight years and now have a Catalina 42 in Bellingham, Washington and want to do some offshore sailing in the South Pacific. I live in Union, Michigan where I have a construction business and I believe that you are no older than you feel and that my best sailing years are ahead of me.

Verne Wood, 57
I’ve been an avid boater since my father taught me to sail at age nine and have raced and cruised a variety of boats from dinghies to keelboats. Throughout many years I’ve maintained a dream of sailing the South Pacific. I live in Hilo, Hawaii and as surfing is one of my passions I operate an 80’ liveaboard surf charter boat in Indonesia, www.surfinindonesia.com.

Leg 3 , July 2011 ; Rarotonga , Cooks ; Apia ,Samoa2021-05-04T01:04:35+00:00

Leg 7 , 2010 Portvila, Vanuatu ; Noumea, New Caledonia

October 11, 2010, 0100 hrs, 22.01 S, 167.43 E, Log: 143,308 miles
Baro: 1015.5, Cabin Temp: 81 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 80.1 F
E winds 25-33 kts, 12′ breaking seas
Beam reaching at 7.8 kts with triple reefed main and genoa


Our Leg 7 joined us in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu on Monday, October 4 and since then we’ve had non-stop adventure.

We cleared the med-moor waterfront soon crew joined and headed for a sheltered anchorage behind the resort island of Iririki. After some snorkeling, serious orientation and teaching we set sail Tuesday afternoon for an overnighter bash to Erromango Island; 90 miles south of Port Vila. With headwinds to 22 kts and very rough seas we chose to motorsail the entire way arriving Wednesday morning 1000 hrs. It was all hands in the water for a swim to wash away the effects of seasickness before a late breakfast and nap. During navigation class we calculated that the tide should soon be high so we decided it best launch the RIB and make the most of the high water to cross the small the river bar entrance that provided a sheltered estuary for the village.

As we motored across the bar several men were waiting for us on the shore and when landed all of the men shook our hands and introduced us to Joseph, their chief. Joseph asked if we would like to see the sandalwood which the men were working on. Upon entering a small shed Joseph explained that a ship was due at 9pm and he introduced to Johnny, a sandalwood buyer who had flown in from Tanna the previous day. Johnny told us he was paying the equivalent of US$20 per kilo for cleaned sticks and logs of sandalwood. Judging by the piles of logs and stacked sacks of sticks there appeared to be a few thousands of dollars of sandalwood in the room. Joseph said that the islanders are planting more sandalwood trees which can be harvested in as little as 13 years.

Johnny showing us that sandalwood the size baseball bat is about 1 kilo

In preparation for weighing the lads clean up the sandalwood by chipping off the bark with machetes

Erromango’s valuable sandalwood caused a violent and bloody past between 1840 and 1870 when sandalwood traders killed many locals, and locals killed and ate many traders and several missionaries. Chief Joseph asked if we would like to see the rock on which the villagers killed and ate the missionary John Williams. All nine of us gingerly filled the dinghy, motored across the river and hiked up to a large flat stone. Here, in 1839, the locals had chiseled the outline of Reverend Williams on the rock before eating him.

Jon testing out John Williams chopping rock

In preparation for weighing the lads clean up the sandalwood by chipping off the bark with machetes

As we visited the small village church Joseph said, “We lived in darkness before. The missionaries brought light, and now we live in light and our lives are much better.” In fact, their lives seem quite good. We were introduced to the local nurse and his wife, shown their clinic and saw a lot of very happy people.

Jon chatting with the district nurse

The district nurse with his wife Priscilla and numba 1 pikinini Fransen

Trying to avoid the daily strong afternoon winds we raised anchor at 0400 and set a course that hugged the lee of Erromango as far as possible, before heading south to Tanna Island, where we needed to clear customs and immigrations out of Vanuatu at Lenakel; the capital village situated on the SW side of the island. We had two options; either tack or motorsail into 20-25 kt headwinds to Port Resolution – an excellent anchorage on the SE of the island, then take a 2.5 hr truck ride to across the island to Lenakel or…sail closehauled on one tack to Lenakel. We chose the latter and had an excellent sail until we reached a point where the winds wrapped around the island and headed us. We’d read that Lenakel is a very rolly and exposed anchorage and as we approached the small village we wondered if we’d find any protection at all from the 25 kt winds and breaking surf.

As we approached the village of Lenakel we noticed two makers on the reef to leeward of the anchorage and concrete wharf. As the water was clear and anchorage area only 15′ deep we could see there many obstructions on the bottom. I asked for volunteer snorkelers to look for a clear spot to drop anchor and both Angelo and Amanda dove in with masks to discover that the bottom was covered with huge lava boulders with only very small patches of sand. They directed us to the clearest spot they could find, but just after we’d set the anchor they requested that we re-anchor as the chain had snagged a huge lava boulder. We then re-anchored to avoid an engine block with chain and a large ship’s anchor, also with chain snaking across the sea floor. If we were not careful our chain could quickly become caught under the lava boulders if the wind or current changed and we might not be able to raise the anchor without snorkeling down to free it. Amanda wanted to ensure we had both enough swinging and dragging room in case we needed to move in the dark.

MT at anchor off the quay at Lenakal

While waiting ashore for customs and immigration to return from lunch we learned that the main supply ship for Vanuatu’s southern islands had been tied to the concrete wharf with a broken main engine, waiting for an engine part to come from Vila. Two nights earlier, in order to allow the sandalwood ship to come onto the wharf she’d somehow moved to the anchorage where we were anchored.

The mast of the shipwreck that we mistook for markers

Just before sunset a 60 knot squall broke the anchor chain and the engineless ship ended up crashing along the rocky coast before sinking in 20′ of water. The crew had gotten off into a speedboat. The villagers seemed more concerned about all of the cargo and fuel drums that were still aboard than the loss of the ship but it helped explain the strange reef markers as on closer appearance they were the masts of the ship.

When on Erromango, Johnny, the sandalwood buyer had told us his family was involved in tourism and that his brother Eric could drive us to the top of the erupting Mt. Yasur volcano, located 1.5 hours away. Eric met us on the beach as we came ashore for customs, and agreed to meet us on the wharf at 3pm with his truck. I was surprised that he was there on the wharf early, smiling and ready to go!

Leg 7 Crew ready to go volcano exploring – Jon, Amanda, guide Johnny, Jerry, Kathi, Kate, driver Eric and Angelo

Jon Fawcett, 50
I am a liver transplant surgeon in Brisbane and have sailed, on and off, since childhood. Since moving to Australia in the mid-90’s I have moved up from dinghies to our current boat, a Cavalier 30. I have sailed from Chile to the Azores aboard Pelagic and my motivation for joining this expedition was to experience offshore sailing with my wife, Kate and to visit some of the remote islands of Vanuatu and look at opportunities to provide medical assistance there.

Kate Fawcett, 50
Kate is a London girl who moved to Brisbane, Australia a few years back. Besides working as a GP in a neighborhood clinic, she tutors med students at U of Qld.

Jerry Peterson, 55
Jerry grew up working on his family’s high mountain cattle ranch in Colorado, became a surveyor, studied religions and wrote a book for U of Ill while living in India for two years and has recently been tasked with managing all surveying and real estate for CA Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection. It sounds like cruising will be a natural for him and Kathi.

Kathi Peterson, 55
I live in Auburn, CA and work with clinical research of medical devices. My husband Jerry and I would like to retire soon and do some ocean cruising. Since we haven’t experienced it yet, we thought this expedition was a good place to start.

Angelo Auguto Araujo, 41
I am a medical doctor (eye surgeon) from Aracaju, Brazil, and I have been sailing since January 2009. I am currently looking forward to buying a boat bigger than my 19 footer, and hope to one day do an offshore cruise.

Jon Fawcett’s account of Mt.Yasur – the smoking gun of the South Pacific
It would be remiss to visit Tanna and not pay a visit to the only active volcano in the South Pacific. Unless it rains, maybe – but more of that later. Five stalwart expeditioners, and Amanda, signed up for a tour with local guide, Eric. When Eric offered to throw in dinner as well, it meant Amanda didn’t have to cook on her birthday, it was game on.

The vulcaneers assembled at the quay at Lenakel looking for the assumed air-conditioned coach and there it was; a pickup with a row of seats, bolted to a removal plank, in the cargo tray outside! Three got the deluxe open air experience whilst three shared the inside back seat. The 2 hour, 45 mile trip each way along dirt tracks through grass hut villages was fascinating (cost-saving note to Toyota â€“ no need for 3rd and 4th gears in supplying vehicles here).

Then the rain came, the drenching, old jungle war movies, sort. There might have been some murmurs of discontent from the outside travelers but it was difficult to hear because it was raining so hard. But it couldn’t be worse than going to windward in 25 knots, could it? Perhaps so as in order to make it up some of the steep hills Eric, had to reverse back up the narrow dirt road to get a bit of speed up before tackling the slopes. It was only after a couple of short stops that Amanda mentioned that perhaps the starter was not working for Eric either parked on a hill or kept the engine running. Oh, did I mention that co-guide Johnny’s job was to wipe the condensation off the cracked driver’s window.

Phew….We arrived! Scrambling up the desolate, black, lava field we were disconsolate. There was only a little smoke issuing from the crater. Maybe the rain had put out the volcano like a hiker douses a campfire with a kettle of water. Boom! There was a visible shockwave in the smoke and steam followed by a shower of molten lava thrown into the air as if a giant hand had casually slung a handful of burning coals in the air. And it wasn’t a one-off. Unpredictably, every few minutes there was another Yasur “roar and belch” reminding one of our group of fireworks night in childhood when there would be an erratic lighting of the Roman candles by a tipsy uncle between slurps of grog.

Wet, cold and foggy on top of Mt Yasur

A Yasur roar and belch of molten lava

Worth the trip? Definitely, but look up and check the clouds before climbing aboard the Tanna taxi. Strangely enough on the return trip in order to make it up the hills Eric would turn off the car headlights. Oh. And the meal…was great, happy birthday, Amanda.

While crew were visiting the volcano I dinghied over the shipwreck. It was strange to look down into the clear water at the outline of the ship and I made a plan to snorkel down to photograph and explore it the morning but this was not to be as we made other plans. I’d been tracking the weather for a week looking for a suitable weather window for our passage to Noumea. After consulting with Bob Mc Davit from Met Service NZ he confirmed that high winds and seas caused by a squash zone were now forecasted for Monday night the 11th not Saturday as predicted earlier. Since we’d cleared out of Vanuatu before the weekend I decided it best to enjoy a few days in a quiet anchorage for teaching and visiting before putting to sea for Noumea. Jon & Kate had also been in contact with a small Seventh Day Adventist clinic in Port Resolution and had bought some medical supplies to give them, another good reason to reason to stay.

It was a calm but unnerving anchorage because of the crashing surf off Lenakel so I decided it best if we stood anchor watches and at first light at 0500 we departed for Port Resolution to again avoid the windy afternoons.

While in Lenakel we had heard that an overloaded local open boat making the rough 18 mile passage from tiny Aniwa Island to Tanna had overturned that afternoon and that three of the 12 people had swum back to Aniwa but the others were missing. Wow, this was the third disaster of the week! The day our crew joined we heard a VHF relay that a women was requesting help in searching for her husband who’d been lost overboard in rough conditions south of Malekula Island.

When we approached Port Resolution (named by Capt. Cook who anchored there in 1740) Mt. Yasur belched forth huge clouds of smoke and ash.

At 0530 when a search and rescue plane from Noumea flew overhead we gathered from their VHF radio conversation that a search was underway for the missing boat passengers. Going around the southern tip of the Tanna wasn’t as rough as expected.

Once anchored in the calm waters of Port Resolution we heard five yachts, a P & O cruise ship, the Vanuatu patrol boat along with the French SAR plane coordinating the search for survivors on the VHF. When a dugout from shore came out and two villagers asked us if we had heard any news about the search Amanda suggested that perhaps we should offer help.

Then, minutes later over the VHF, we heard that Sea Level, one of the yachts, had spotted the overturned boat and had rescued one old man who was clinging to the hull. At that news we quickly got underway heading to the search area, 18 miles to windward. Further information trickled through over the radio and it became apparent that Steve May aboard the 41′ Corsair catamaran Endless Summer was in charge of the search. It was a credit to Steve that he had a search plan taking into account debris that had been spotted and sounded so collected. It sounded as if coordinating rescue operations could have been Steve’s previous job. I notified him that we had three doctors onboard and were heading to the search area as quickly as possible.

We sailed closehauled at 7.8 to 8.5 kts in 20-25 kt winds and large crossed seas and had covered the 18 miles to the search area while wondering how a small motorboat with 12 people could ever have set out, a sign of the desperate need they had to make the journey. We then heard that the plane had spotted two more survivors and that TeKoro, the Vanuatu patrol boat, could not get them onboard due to the patrol boat’s freeboard. They requested that Jim and Kent Milski aboard Sea Level, a 49′ custom Schionning catamaran with long sugar scoop transoms, rescue them. Sea Level was able to get the guys aboard and asked if it was possible to have one of our doctors join them. After some debating and giving of medical advice on how to care for the barely alive survivors we all decided that the seas were far too rough to transfer anyone at sea and that it was be best if we follow Sea Level back to Port Resolution.

Jerry maintaining a vigilant search as we approach Aniwa

Kate, Kathi and Jon review our medical supplies as we return to Port Resoultion

We arrived back in Port Resolution after dark, following the tracks on our Nobeltec electronic navigation system and our Raymarine/Navionics chart plotter into the very poorly charted, unlit, breaker-lined narrow passage. Thankfully Amanda also noted some key entrance waypoints from the GPS and depths and was able to relay these to Endless Summer who arrived later and only one engine working and had no functioning radar. When Jon, Kate, Kathi and I met Jim, his wife Kent and their friend Larry Mosher on Sea Level, they said they had just finished taking the survivors ashore where a doctor met them. He was then taking them on the two hour drive to the islands only hospital at Lenakel.

Jon Fawcett’s account of the rescue:
Aboard Sea Level we heard an incredible story from Jim Milski, who was still scratching his head in amazement as to how the rescue had been pulled off. That morning having just arrived from Fiji and not even cleared in he took on two village men, Nelson and Charlie who is the village witch doctor or magic man and set out upwind 2 hours for the designated search grid. Everyone had calculated that the 20-25 kt ESE winds must be setting a surface current to the WNW so the search began on the SE of the island downwind from the coast were the four people had swam ashore. After searching for a while Charlie took up a position at the windward shrouds and commenced chanting, eyes half-closed. After a while he declared that he had a vision of men swimming. Casting some leaves in the water and offering prayers, Charlie pointed southeast to the other side of the island. Jim, an existential surfer from way back, didn’t hesitate. He tacked Sea Level over and followed Charlie’s directions. An hour later, the upturned hull hove into view and minutes later they had the old man aboard the catamaran.

Debris was now being spotted and identified by the survivors; a woven frond basket of Aniwa oranges, blue jerry jugs and a yellow tarp. The explanation for the current anomaly was almost spooky. This was relayed to the French SAR aircraft who then quickly found the two men clinging to some floats 4 miles to the east of the boat. How the aircraft crew could spot two swimmers wearing dark t-shirts barely afloat is amazing. Jim and his wife Kent said the guys were very cold and nearly dead and that they had only just managed the get them aboard. Jim could find no pulse, but a short time later they drank water and opened their eyes – these islanders are tough.

Charlie and Werry paddling across to Endless Summer

At first light yesterday, 5am, Charlie and Werry paddled a dugout canoe out to our three yachts. Finding no one awake on Sea Level or Endless Summer they quietly paddled up to MT. They told us that a woman in the next village had a fishon (it took me awhile to understand that it was a vision, not a fish on they were talking about) that there were three people still swimming. Charlie asked if we would take them back to Aniwa to search for them. I said of course, and dinghied over to the two catamarans to wake them up and ask if they were up for another search. They both agreed, saying they expected this and that we should do everything we can to help. I met eight of the village elders and searchers ashore and distributed them among the boats. The woman who had the vision was not coming, but would be relaying her directions via cell phone. I asked if the guys had spare batteries for their phones, but none did.

Aboard Sea Level a search plan is discussed

As Sea Level was the largest vessel and had the best transoms for getting survivors back aboard, Jon and Kate, both doctors, went with them. Steve May was aboard Endless Summer were exhausted, having not even reached Vanuatu after a rough three day passage from Fiji before joining the search. We offered to loan them Kathi and Jerry, both excellent helmspeople. Johnson, the village nurse came with us and we were off, with Steve and Jim formulating a search plan based on where all of the wreckage and survivors had been spotted.

We spent the entire day searching in very rough conditions with Johnson, Amanda and I scanning for survivors or wreckage. Some of the old men had told Jim that there is an anti-clockwise current south of Aniwa that then sets north. Our GPS units confirmed this and the strange currents made the seas extremely confused in places. In late afternoon after no luck we jointly decided to head back to arrive at Port Resolution before dark. It was sad and depressing to have only spotted a blue jerry jug from the wreck and possibly the yellow tarp seen previously.

Johnson phoning in to see if there is any news

The Nobeltec chart showing the positions of the found overturned boat, survivors and our search tracks.

Amanda and Johnson enjoy an orange from a basket of renowned Aniwa oranges whilst continuing to search

Jon’s account of his second day searching.
On Sea Level, Jim and Kent were gracious hosts to us and the two villagers aboard. The catamaran, a superbly homebuilt Schionning 49, performed impeccably (who says a modern cat can’t hack it upwind?) and a lot of sea was covered but sadly no further success ensued. As we reached back at 10 knots, there was somber reflection of an episode that sadly is all too common in this part of the world where life is noble but a harsher deal than it is for us. The final word should go to Jim when asked why he broke off from the search pattern set up by the authorities and went with Charlie. “That guy is part of this world and I’m telling you, he just knew. Beats any amount of science.”

Mary, Mike, Bob and Angelo

In the hopes of recovering from repeated bouts of seasickness Angelo had opted to stay ashore at the yacht club (a thatched hut with a view of the bay) for the day. He also had adventures in the treating and setting a boys arm that had been broken five days earlier. Mary and Mike off the catamaran Carpe Vida thankfully had the necessary medical supplies.

The villagers thanked us sincerely that night and asked if Amanda and I would meet them ashore this morning at 7 before we had to (because of the impending strong winds) set sail for New Caledonia.

Ashore this morning we found all of the elders assembled on the yacht club grass. Werry, the yacht club manager and brother of Johnson thanked us on behalf of all the people saying they were sorry we couldn’t stay for the special time of thanks they had planned for the crew of the three yachts. They gave us baskets of fruit and fine woven baskets.

For further coverege, visit Lattitude 38 here.

We gave Johnson the antibiotics and medical supplies that Kate and Jon had brought to donate to the clinic and mentioned that we looked forward to visiting next year under happier circumstances.

Saying farewell to Sea Level

The GRIB files had forecasted winds to 35 knots with 20′ seas as a cold front and squash zone collide early Tuesday but it looks like the system has arrived a day early. Since leaving Port Reslotuion we’ve covered 120 miles while experiencing winds of 25 to 33 knots and fairly heavy short seas. We now have 30 miles until we pass the SE corner of Mare Island, one of the sparsely-populated Loyalty Islands belonging to New Caledonia. Once we pass the island we’ll be able to fall off 30 degrees to an easier broad reach for the remaining 60 miles to Havannah Passage, the start of the 45 mile series of channels leading to Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia.

October 14, 2010, 1300 hrs, 22.16 S, 166.25 E, Log: 143,391 miles
Baro: 1015.5, Cabin Temp: 81 F cockpit 80 F, sea water 77.6 F
Moored in Port Moselle Marina, Noumea, New Caledonia

Kate and Angelo share a challenging watch

We set a course to pass on the windward side of Mare Island, rounding it at first light. This allowed us to fall off onto a fast reach with winds gusting between 22 and 40 knots. Havannah Passage, the main channel leading 45 miles through reefs and islands to Noumea, has a nasty reputation for breakers and overfalls especially when a 5 knot ebb tide opposes the prevailing SE winds. After some apprehension we were pleased to find the US tide tables accurate as we started noting that we were picking up current. At first a half knot when about 12 miles out then a full knot as we neared the pass.

Concerned about potential breaking seas we requested that crew put on float vests and close all hatches, only to find the pass much calmer than the seas had been. We kept lots of sail up, reaching the entrance to Port Boise, a slightly protected anchorage six miles in from the pass, just before dark. It took us a couple tries to find the most protected anchorage with enough depth but before dark we had the anchor well set and in minutes we were all in the water and lined up for showers.

Enjoying the stiff afternoon breeze in the lee of the reef as we head to Port Boise

We stood anchor watch all night and the following morning after a bit of a sleep in and leisurely breakfast our crew voted to sail the remaining 42 miles to Noumea that day rather than choose a better suited anchorage and catch up on teaching. What a sail we had with 26-40 knots from astern or the quarter, triple-reefed MT surfed along in the semi-protected water, pulling into Noumea around 16:30. Port Moselle Marina, where arriving boats are supposed to tie to clear customs, had no visitor’s berths available so we anchored across the harbor for another windy night. When listening to the yachts chatter on the VHF we learned that three days of high winds had kept everyone in port and as soon as the winds abated several yachts were heading to Australia or out cruising the extensive lagoon, claimed to be one of the worlds largest.

Later in the afternoon Kathi and Jerry returned with decadent chocolate treats and Kate had news of a French restaurant she’d discovered while on a walk around the historical Latin Quarter. Kate’s restaurant La Chaumièr (thatched cottage) was charming and exceptional and an enjoyable evening was had by all.

I was ashore at the marina office when they opened Wednesday morning but still no berths were available. The helpful staff were telling everyone who came in the door or called over the radio to keep trying back later in the day but I asked if I could just wait in the office. “Certainly and here is all of the paperwork to fill out for quarantine, customs and immigration” was the reply. Not long after I started the paperwork a Kiwi skipper came in to say he was leaving within the hour. BINGO, we had a slip assignment and not long after I had the paperwork completed the marina manager said, “Your slip is empty, give us a call on Ch 16 just as you enter the marina and there will be a dock assistant to help you tie up”.

Meanwhile Amanda had completed sail design and construction, sail repair, rigging spares and cardinal buoyage system classes. I’d radioed Amanda to give her the berth info and minutes after I returned our eager crew had the anchor up, fenders tied and dock lines ready. Once in our slip we waited a short while for quarantine officer, followed by immigration. Interestingly, for the first time ever, both of the officials were local kanaks (the indigenous Melanesian people) not French. They were a little shy but very polite and charming. Once the formalities were completed crew headed ashore for showers, ATM’s, internet, laundry and to scope out a restaurant for dinner.

Thursday morning was a busy one, with classes on anchoring, electrical power systems, storm tactics and three-strand splicing, interspersed with packing and cleaning. The weather was perfect with clear warm sunny skies and crew left at noon eager to dump their bags at their hotels and set off exploring Noumea’s museums, beaches, café’s, gallery’s along with town’s quaint old quarters and parks.

Leg 7 , 2010 Portvila, Vanuatu ; Noumea, New Caledonia2021-05-04T01:05:37+00:00

Leg 6 , 2010 Lautoka , Fiji ; Luganville , Portvila , Vanuatu

Leg 6-2010

September 19, 2010, 1530 hrs, 15.37 S, 167.24 E, Log: 142,678 miles
Baro: 1013.4, Cabin Temp: 83 F cockpit 84 F, sea water 81.3 F
ESE winds 25-34 kts, 10’13’ closely spaced breaking seas
Surfing along at 8-10.4 knots, straight downwind with a single reef in the main. HANG ON!


Our two weeks between Legs 5 & 6 were a special treat. After tidying up Mahina Tiare we rented a car and made an overnight trip to Cost-U-Less (similar to Costco) staying ashore in the Novotel Hotel that we had anchored off a week earlier.

As soon as we had most of our provisioning done we set sail for Musket Cove Resort; 10 miles offshore on Malololailai Island. We celebrated our wedding anniversary on the exact palm treed beach spot where we’d gotten married 12 years earlier. Funnily enough Daryl and Lucy, good friends from Auckland, arrived to stay aboard their friend’s boat and we were lucky to have another celebration, this time for Lucy’s birthday. It was interesting to chat about corporate lifestyles as Lucy is public relations spokeswoman for Microsoft and Daryl just designed the re-vamp of Auckland’s rugby stadium for the up coming world cup.

Each time between expeditions I expect one thing to break and need replacement. So when the forward Par Jabsco electric head’s motor started making squealing sounds on our arrival at Musket Cove, I figured that the inner seal had worn out, allowing seawater into the pump motor. I was thrilled that the replacement motor and macerator assembly, ordered from Vickie at HR Parts in Sweden, fitted perfectly! It was nearly a full day’s work and I was very pleased when it was all back together, working properly and not leaking. I quickly assumed that this was my normal between-expeditions repair. You see, normally the thing that is going to break or fail poops out just hours or even minutes before new expedition crew arrive.

A great example of a last minute failure was a few years ago in Tortola, BVI’s. One hour before crew arrived I topped up the water tanks (at US$.30 per gallon!). The watermaker had of course been pickled a week earlier so when the water tank overflowed slightly it diverted water into the bilge through the watermaker’s Y valve. So far so good except the bilge sump pump made a very strange noise! After nine years of flawless service (actually it rarely had to pump water) it had chosen this precise moment to fail. I had a spare fresh water pump so I quickly switched some fittings around, connected the wiring and hoses, only to find the pump ran backwards, blowing bubbles in the bilge and reversing the wiring didn’t solve the problem. Now I was down to eight minutes before noon and I knew our crew was lined up on the dock waiting eagerly to come aboard. After removing and looking at the pump I figured that by removing and rotating the pump head 180 degrees it should suck water instead of blowing bubbles. That trick worked and with one minute to go I ran to our swim step for a quick shower and dry off, ready (exhausted!) to greet our eager crew.

So, would I get off with just the one early repair? No way! On Friday morning we savored our last sunrise trail run over Malolailai Island and headed back to MT for a quick swim. I then tackled my last tiny job before raising anchor and heading to Denarau Marina on “the mainland” for fresh fruit and vege. As I closed the ball valve to allow me to remove and clean the sea water strainer basket on the refer cooling water intake the valve closed with abnormal ease. When I went to open the ball valve it opened too easily as the handle snapped off inside with the valve in the closed position, thus allowing no water to pass. Unfortunately we now could not run the fridge or freezer, watermaker or use our aft head.

Initially I thought, “No problem, I’ll just swim down, pop a wooden plug in the intake, and then we can unscrew and replace the ball valve without water rushing in”. Then I remembered that this intake could not be plugged as it has a nifty bronze screen on the outside of the thru-hull fitting; a Volvo part identical to the engine water intake. To make matters worse I remembered that just before leaving New Zealand I stored the two spare fittings, which I had intended to replace when we were hauled out but had run out of time, in a friend’s basement with our bikes and boat cover.

At this stage we decided to follow our original plan and headed to Denarau Marina where we knew there was at least one marine store. Two hours later we were tied up in one of their new finger-pier marina berths (last year there was only stern-to mooring on a long dock) with a plan. I unscrewed the ball valve as far as I dared using our largest pipe wrench, and then jumped in the murky water. I held a plastic bag over the raised bronze strainer intake while Amanda unscrewed the ball valve the last few turns and jamming a wooden plug into the intake fitting. I rinsed off and took the jammed ball valve up to the dock to the marine stores.

After trying a couple of marine operations I went to Baobab Marine (www.baobabmarine.com) a relatively new marine repair shop owned by a South African guy. I was totally surprised! Baobab Marine, started a few years ago as a small repair yard at Vuda Point Marina, has now expanded into a very impressive operation. An authorized Yanmar dealer they import engines from Australia and we learned that many cruisers are taking advantage of their reasonable prices and expertise to repower their boats here. Not only did they have the exact fitting they also sent me on my way with the new fitting smeared with Loctite thread cement to ensure a leak-proof fit.

Now came the fun part. As Amanda went underwater to hold the plastic bag over the raised fitting I pulled out the plug and quickly threaded the replacement valve on. IT FIT — HOORAY! In just minutes I had the plumbing all reconnected and the fridge and freezer turned back on (whew!). We quickly grabbed a taxi and headed to the supermarkets for our final round of provisioning. That evening we enjoyed walking around the Disneyland-like Denarau Center which sports a dozen eateries including, believe it or not, a Hard Rock Cafè! Several new shops had opened since we visited last year and it was fun to enjoy pizza and people watching.

Saturday morning we headed to the Nadi Market having heard that this was the best time for produce. Wow, best time if you want a mob scene! The market was teeming with people for when all the market tables are taken new vendors just lay out tablecloths on the pavement and pile high their produce. There was no room for the throngs of people to pass. Next time we will go to the much smaller and easily accessible Namaka Market down the road. In any case we filled the cab with our goods then piled it aboard before setting sail for Vuda Point Marina, six miles north where there was plenty of room as a total of 70 boats was enjoying the festivities of Musket Cover Race Week.

Sam and Ron, our Leg 5 & 6 expedition members had just returned from a ten day road trip around New Zealand’s South Island even sleeping through the Christchurch earthquake which was a few miles south from where they stayed that night. That night over dinner at the adjacent First Landing Resort, where they were staying, they told us tales of their adventures. Monday noon they came aboard and we headed eight miles north to Lautoka. Last year Customs changed the rules; now cruisers clearing out of Fiji must physically take their boats to Lautoka instead of visiting by taxi. The office closes for lunch so by mid afternoon it was totally jammed and overflowing. Instead of waiting we decided to run some last minute shopping errands and showed up at 8 am the following morning to clear out for Vanuatu.

It was 10:30 by the time Customs located the one and only exit stamp and although we set sail at once there wasn’t enough time to clear all the reefs into deep, clear water to the west. With no wind we decided to tuck into a spectacular little anchorage between Navandra and Vanua Levu Islands just before sunset. We’ve enjoyed this idyllic anchorage, inhabited only by a few goats, several times but were now totally blown away by the snorkeling in calm conditions. Even in late afternoon light the reefs were brilliant, thronged with many types of hard and soft coral, all showing strong new growth. For the first time in a long time we didn’t see the ravages of crown-of-thorn starfish only verdant coral and zillions of colorful tropical fish.

Google Earth view we captured using the program SnagIt to ensure we selected a sandy anchoring spot. Note the red X marking our perfect anchorage.

Sam and Ron preparing MT for departure.

Wednesday morning the winds were still calm so we snorkeled the other direction before landing through the surf ashore embarking on a plastic beach litter clean up that filled a giant garbage bag. By noon the trades started so we set sail and for the next 600 miles we had following winds that slowly increased until they were in the low to mid-30’s.

Trimming to ensure a maximum power ride

Translation to Bislama of Kava Sam thoughts of Sportif Ron’s catch – “Yu gat wan smol fis. Mi watem big wan laekem Ms Boss Lady’s.”

Highlights of the passage were passing a sailboat from Port Townsend that was heading back to Baobab Marine in Fiji to repower and a very chatty Taiwanese owned long-line fishing boat. Not long after dawn on Thursday when I heard someone calling repeatedly in what I took to be Chinese on Channel 16. Only when the caller gave our position in English did I realize he was calling us. When I replied he said his name was Ricky, he was from Indonesia and that he had been running the Taiwanese boat, for a month at a time, out of Fiji. He had picked up our radar return five miles off (hey, our new radar reflector installed in Sweden must really work!) and was concerned that we might be another longline fishing boat. He explained that they were in the process of “shooting” or laying out 48 miles of line with 3500 hooks suspended by floats at a depth of 35 meters. As we were on converging courses, with an intercept speed of 15 knots, he really came up on us quickly. Ricky said fishing had not been real good but he would throw over a couple of yellow fin tuna if we came alongside! As we came closer we watched the bow of his 120′ long ship plowing into solid walls of green water and decided to decline his generous offer.

At dawn Saturday morning we passed between Pentecost and Ambrym islands and then sailed a straight course for the entrance to Luganville Harbor, about 60 miles further. Our goal was to reach the harbor before dark and with the reinforced trade winds gusting into the mid-30’s that was easy. Oh, I should mention that after trolling Ron’s Yellow Submarine lure all the way from Savusavu it finally brought home the bacon. Sadly Ron’s catch of the month was quickly forgotten as Amanda landed a bigger mahi.

Upon entering the harbor which is a fairly open roadstead partially sheltered by Aore Island we found the quarantine anchorage off the somewhat broken down commercial wharf to be too rough and exposed. The four yachts anchored a mile further along off the Waterfront Hotel, a small, cruiser-friendly place, were pitching in the chop so we crossed over 1.5 miles and picked up one of several available moorings provided by Aore Island Resort, www.aoreresort.com.

For the equivalent of about US$16 the moorings provide a sheltered location easily accessible by the resort’s small ferries. In 2003 all the moorings had been in use so we anchored in the 75-100ft of water only to hook an airplane or something so large that we had to get help from the local dive operator to untangle our anchor.

Monday morning it was even windier and as there was no response on Ch 16 from Luganville Port Control (we later learned their radio had been broken for some time). We decided to drop the mooring and motor across to the quarantine area to see if there was any possibility of safely anchoring there long enough to clear quarantine, customs and immigration. With breaking waves and a bottom that we imagined was foul with WWII wreckage we waved at the officers, pointed back to Aore Island, and returned to the mooring.

To enable us to check Sam, Ron and I hopped in our RIB and did what the local skiffs did. We snuck north along the lee of Aore Island, until well to windward of the commercial wharf, then surfed across the channel, tying up to the pilot launch for formalities. We had brought a bag with our prohibited items (fruit and vegetables that might bring in fruit flies) and what little galley rubbish we had so that Sam, the same quarantine officer who had cleared us in ten and seven years earlier, just smiled and said “tank u tu mus!”, pigeon for thank you very much. We’d saved him a trip across to Aore to check the boat. After paying his fee we cleared in with customs and immigration. Sam and Ron then took off to explore bustling little Luganville while I returned to MT and Amanda. In the late afternoon we caught the ferry over to town to check it out and shop at the public market.

Amanda surveying the local produce. Note the pikinini under the table.

Luganville Market contained hundreds of people, many whom had traveled several hours by mini-van or caught rides on trucks to sell their yams, taro, bananas, tomatoes and firewood. It was obvious that many people were not returning home until all their good were sold and in the hot afternoon many of the ladies and children were sleeping on the ground under their display tables.

What a contrast it was when Sam treated us to dinner at Aore Resort; the view through waving moonlit palm trees and sparkling white sand beach across channel to twinkling lights of town was peaceful and romantic.

Tuesday the winds had slightly abated and the cruisers on a large cat next to us told us they had organized a boat to take two of them diving on the wreck of the President Coolidge and six of them snorkeling on Million Dollar Point. Their boat was full but we organized a similar boat to take us as well. Whoa, what a pounding ride! The point just north of the harbor entrance is a lee shore and the boatman picked up a mooring, tossed an anchor through the breakers to shore, before pointing out the direction for us to set off snorkeling. Million Dollar Point occurred when the local French planters refused to pay a few cents on the dollar for the surplus American equipment at the end of the war WWII. The Americans dumped tons of bulldozers, jeeps and trucks off the end of a wharf before then blowing up the wharf. What a snorkeler and divers dream they created! We saw all kinds of cool equipment in 10′-60′ of water even a small shipwreck.

Ron inspecting yet another piece of awesome junk at Million Dollar Point

The loading and offloading of canoes and boats on Voa Island beachfront

Just a short distance down the coast the boatmen pointed out three buoys which marked the stern (closest to shore) midships and bow of one of the largest accessible shipwrecks, the President Coolidge.  While carrying 5,000 troops she’d accidentally hit several US mines and sunk as the captain tried to save the ship by driving her up on the beach. We weren’t set up for a scuba dive but asked the boatman if he could tie to one of the buoys. We were able to snorkel over and partially down to the stern which is in 60′ of water and with fairly good visibility we could look forward quite a ways at the huge former luxury liner.

Upon returning to MT we set sail for Malakula, one of Vanuatu’s largest islands, 50 by 25 miles in size. What a bash! With winds nearly on the nose and gusting to the high 20’s we chose to motorsail, tacking into the steep, short, tidal-current enhanced seas. They flattened out for the last bit and we had a nice sail, finally, before anchoring in the lee of tiny Vao Island, near Malakula’s NE tip.

Amanda dove in the water to help us find an anchoring spot free of coral while we witnessed a continual parade of canoes going back and forth across the strait carrying school children (the elementary school is on the island with the secondary school on the mainland) plus many of the Vao residents returning from their gardens.

The locals also spied us and it was not long before we were surrounded by dugout canoes. One of the teachers came out with a very shy wood carver friend, from whom Ron bought a very primitive wooden mask from. Joe, the teacher, explained that the 1 square mile island was very densely-populated at least 1,300 people live in seven villages and equally that many living across the quarter mile strait on Malakula.

All night long we heard slit drums and traditional string band music from the mainland. It was so loud that even with the hatches and ports we could hear it. At 2am none of us were sleeping well so Amanda suggested we should put to sea. With full moonlight we raised anchor and headed SE, straight into the prevailing wind direction, hoping to knock off most of the 36 miles to Banam Bay before the trades picked up. We picked up a knot or more current as we slugged SE, anchoring in Banam Bay by 1000.

Ron with the artist of his new mask

As we were anchoring I was shocked to see a little, very thin, gecko clinging to the deck genoa car control line. Where he came from and how did he ever managed to hang on through the seas cascading down the deck? We put him in a container and carefully placed him ashore on a log under a leaf. He was gone when we checked back so hopefully he was scurrying about catching dinner!

Banam Bay has been a favorite of ours and of many cruisers over the years, due mainly to the efforts of custom Chief Saitol and his son John Eady. As the 50 or so “new” villagers had long since forgotten their traditional “custom” dances, Chief Saitol enlisted the help of two elders of another village. They taught the villagers the dances from the very recent days of cannibalism and showed them how to make the elaborate masks. As there is no tourism by land here yachties were the only possible market for the dances and as word got out the yachties came! During our last visit Chief Saitol and his son requested we get on the radio and announce that if six yachts anchored in the bay they would “makem big custom dance and feast!” We did and the yachts came. The dancing was incredible, like something just out of the pages of National Geographic. The women and children danced after the men in a separate compound and all of the yachties sat on the ground to sample laplap; the huge, pizza-like concoction of bananas, manioc, taro, yams, coconut milk and plantains roasted on hot rocks.

When ashore we asked after Chief Saitol or John Eady but sadly learned that the chief was very old and at times confused and that John Eady had left his wife and children and moved to Port Vila. The village was “taking a vacation” from dancing and that there was a new chief. The new chief turned out to be Sam, the husband of Jean, Amanda’s ni-Vanuatu “sista” or best friend from previous visits. We’d been also in search of Jean and happened upon her in the next village where she was visiting Chief Saitol’s daughter. The chiefs daughter had recognized Amanda as “she who dances” and eagerly connected her with Jean.

The following day we hiked an hour along the coastal road passing several small villages to Alua village where the primary school was.

Sam donated school supplies he had purchased earlier and we passed on school supplies from Angela Anderson and toothbrushes from Sue Grimm both given to us form earlier expedition members. One of the teachers quickly nabbed Ron and had him give a talk about where he came from.

Amanda was all too quick to start a small riot in a classroom by teaching 100 or more kids how to dance the Hukilau (Hawaii) and Haka (NZ) war dance.

Saying farewell to the school children

That evening we enjoyed kava with Chief Sam and the village elders followed by laplap that Jean and her daughter Rachel had made along with catching up on the latest news of the village. Copra fetches $20 per 120lb sack taking two sacks of fresh coconut meat to be roasted down to one. It takes one man a full day to make a sack. The going bride price in now $8,000 cash for wan fine daughter with pigs and cows on the side. This often equates to two years of strenuous back-breaking copra work as there are no vehicles or animals to transport the coconuts.

Chatting with villages as we go to visit with Chief Sam

Sam downs his 3rd kava

Chief Sam, Jean, her dad and two of her four sons

Amanda chats with Jean as she slices up the families laplap

On Friday we had another pre-dawn departure for the 30 mile windward passage to Lamen Bay on smaller Epi Island. What a treat to find two other boats in the bay, both boats we had seen earlier in Fiji. Lamen Bay village is lucky to have an well-protected anchorage from all but westerlies, a sandy bottom mostly free of coral, and a very famous and friendly group of dugongs; a relative of the manatee. We barely had the anchor down when one of the dugongs surfaced only a few feet from Mahina Tiare to check us out. Amanda was in the water in seconds swimming about with the fat fella for more than a half hour. She watched in fascination as the dugong snuffled about the bottom feeding on the short eel grass with the numerous turtles.

The locals told us the dugongs like to have their bellies scratched by snorkelers!  Yeah Right!

School building mural of the scene at Lamen Bay
Ashore we found the small Paradise Sunset Bungalows and as Amanda helped Enneth pluck the chicken that was soon to be dinner. Ron surprised us by asking if he could make reservations for dinner. Totally local would be the best description for this charming rustic resort. The other diners were a kiwi couple, the crew of the Austrian catamaran next to us and Austrian snorkelers we’d invited aboard for a cuppa to warm up with as they were chilled from hours of watching the dugong and turtles. Dinner was… interesting (the chicken must have been really scrawny!), but the conversations were great and it was a pleasure to see locals being successful with small scale tourism.

Saturday we checked out the village market, held on the grass in the middle of the village, and in the afternoon had a glorious nine mile sail down the coast to Revolieu Bay which would then us a straight shot at our final 90 mile passage to Port Vila; the capital of Vanuatu located on Efate Island.

A handsome youth paddled out a fair way to visit and we all got a surprise when a small curly head popped up from under his seat. It was his sister, whom he said was 8 years old. Let’s hope big brother takes care of her for we doubted she could be eight or could even swim. Not to worry for they then paddled off beyond the reef.

Aerial view of Port Vila. The red X marks the yacht mooring area.

With moderate ENE then E winds we had an excellent and smooth moonlit sail, slowly catching up with a couple yachts also making the passage. It was strange to look around and see the lights of other yachts. Sam did an excellent job of navigating and a first light we were close to Efate. By 0715 we had sails tidied up before picking up a mooring on the bow to then moor stern-to near the hopping Waterfront Restaurant. The treat of shore side life followed with easy boat wash down, laundry, full water tanks and batteries that welcomed a full charge, and an easy step ashore off MT’s stern for Sam and Ron’s fixes of pastries, cappuccinos and Tuskers beer.

We all enjoyed a final dinner at a quaint waterside French restaurant only steps from the boat and after I cleared in with customs and immigration Monday morning, Sam and Ron were off to the museum and then their hotel. Amanda and I picked up a harbour mooring, away from the bustling town, and have been busy varnishing with high expectations to smartly complete our work so we can experience some adventures.

Leg 6 , 2010 Lautoka , Fiji ; Luganville , Portvila , Vanuatu2021-05-04T01:08:51+00:00
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