Leg 1 – 2005 New Zealand to Tahiti

Update 1
May 5, 2005, 1615, 33.33 S, 175.15 E, Log: 85,487 miles
Winds: 30kts ESE, down from 45 gusts 50 early this morning. Seas: 12-15′, down from 22′ earlier, Baro: 1023, Cabin Temp: 75F, Cockpit Temp: 67F

Start of a new season, second day at sea on passage to Rurutu, Iles Australs, south of Tahiti

We’re out here on edge of the Roaring Forties again, but instead of heading east along 40 degrees south latitude, unusual weather patterns dictated sailing north. We are now 50 miles N of the North Cape, the northern tip of New Zealand, pointing toward Fiji, instead of Tahiti. Our plan is to sail around the northern edge of a low that just dropped down, to find S, SW, then NW winds to scoot us on our way toward Rurutu and later Tahiti.

Amanda and I arrived in Auckland April 18 to a gorgeous Indian summer without the ubiquitous winds and squalls that made any work on deck such a challenge a year ago and again in December when we were packing up to leave MT for the summer. The sunny weather meant Amanda could work on varnish prep and I was able to hire a guy from the local boatbuilder with a very powerful sander/vacuum machine to help lightly sand the decks after I trimmed the deck seams with a sharp chisel. As the bottom had already been painted and topsides cut and polished before our arrival, I concentrated on recommissioning the engine and Max prop. We launched a day early and motored to our favorite anchorage on Rangitoto Island, at the entrance to Auckland harbour to varnish and continue re-installing gear.

M.T on our arrival back in N.Z

M.T ready to launch

John installing the refitted watermaker

I had carried our PUR/Katadyn 160 watermaker membrane and motor back to the States for servicing, so I reinstalled the watermaker and tested it before we motored for Auckland. Strong, cold southerly winds with rain meant we weren’t able to bend the mainsail on until several days later in Westhaven Marina.

On Tuesday, April 26, Gordy, my all-time favorite diesel mechanic from Ovlov Marine came to help with our annual engine service. Together we adjusted the valves, he checked the alignment, swapped out the 12 volt alternator that had just stopped working, for our spare, then rebuilt the old one. After 4000 hours since we last had the fuel injectors serviced in Norway, Gordy pulled them and sent them off to be rebuilt.

Gordy our trusty mechanic gives the engine a thumbs up

Amanda and Grant assembling the new Furlex furler

Base of the forestay wire assembly

Friday was a busy day. About the time Gordy showed up with the injectors to reinstall, Grant, a local rigger showed up with a new forestay and headfoil for our furler that had come from Selden in Sweden. Amanda and Grant assembled the Furlex furler with some great advice from Eddie, the local Selden rep, while I helped Gordy. Friday night was dry good provisioning, Saturday was frozen foods and Sunday was fresh fruit and veg provisioning. Monday we ran errands and Tuesday crew arrived. What a blur!

Leg 1 Crew – Paul, Shawn, Merle, Carolyn, Amanda, Karen and Jim

Bob Mc Davit showing crew our departure possibility

As always with expeditions starting or ending in Auckland, I scheduled a weather briefing at MetService New Zealand’s Bob McDavitt. On Monday Bob (and Commanders Weather) had said that it looked like we might need to wait as long as six or seven days for a good departure window. Our crew put on a brave face as we outlined coastal hopping up the coast with a planned outbound customs clearance from either Whangarei or Opua. But when Bob in his Tuesday afternoon briefing showed us an alternative of sailing north from Auckland, around the newly established low, everyone (including us) was delighted.

After an excellent dinner ashore together Tuesday night, we topped up fuel and water and cleared outbound customs Wednesday morning, to set sail before noon. Our beam-to-broad reach winds filled in just north of Rangitoto Island and before long were in the 25-30 knot range scurrying through the Hauraki Gulf and past the northern tip of Great Barrier Island. The forecast called for gale force SE winds over the entire east coast, with very rough sea conditions, but as these were following seas, we charged on our way north. Surprisingly we didn’t see any shipping or fishing boats, and by midnight we really had our hands full with the very rough sea conditions forecasted.

In our orientation we always record the reasons crew have chosen the leg they are on, and what their top learning goals are. With our Leg 1 crew, five out of six mentioned heavy weather experience, and we knew they wouldn’t be disappointed! Only three succumbed breif seasickness, but even with very challenging conditions, everyone stood their watches without complaint. I tried an experiment for seasickness treatment, and as soon as anyone vomited, I asked them to take two Stugeron, even though each had either used Scopalamine transderm patches of Compazine suppositories. The results were stunning, and the seasickness (mine included) vanished, even though we were in appalling conditions. I said a quiet thank you to Vicky White from our Leg 8-04 crew who has kindly sent a ton of Stugeron purchased in London a few months ago.

May 6, 2005, 1600, 31.34 S, 176.05 E, Log: 85,626 miles
Winds: 6 kts NE,. Seas: 8′ – 10′, Baro: 1014, Cabin Temp: 76F, Cockpit Temp: 71F

From very rough conditions, winds started moderating, as forecasted in the early hours of Friday, and by noon, we had reached the center of the moderate (1014 mb) low where winds were less than five knots, so we started motorsailing. All our forecasts (GRIB files, Commanders and McDavitt) call for several days of light air as we move along the top of the low pressure in an area devoid of isobars on the charts. With calmer conditions we’ll try our luck at fishing.

We had a great first swim stop today with everyone diving in to the surprising warm water, soaping up, and diving in again to rinse off before enjoying a warm fresh water rinse on the swim step. Not long after our swim when we were back underway, Jim spotted a MetService NZ yellow weather buoy, and when he slowed so that we could read the writing on it as we passed, we got a hit on one of our fishing lines. As Amanda pulled in a 20lb mahi mahi, it did some real fighting including a tail walking display, a dozen or more of its cohorts came right up to the boat, their bright colors flashing in the crystal clear water. It was a battle landing the mahi, with Amanda on the hand reel, Merle with a sail tie lassoing the tail, and me on the gaff. After several minutes struggle with blood splattered everywhere, we finally had the mahi on the deck, her tail secured with a sail tie to a cleat. But somehow she managed to slip out, beating a tattoo across the deck, she would have been back in the water if Merle, a very keen fisherman, hadn’t tackled her! Merle happily filleted one side after Amanda showed him on the first side, and within minutes crew were tucking into sashimi. Merle had brought some special spices with him, so for dinner Amanda dipped each fillet lightly in olive oil, then in the seasoning before quickly searing it. What a dinner we had, complete with spuds and veggies! To top it off the night sky was ablaze with stars and the Southern Cross shown brightly overhead.

May 7, 2005, 115, 30.59 S, 178.41 E, Log: 85,780 miles
Winds: 20 kts NE,. Seas: 8′ – 10′, Baro: 1009, Cabin Temp: 79F, Cockpit Temp: 76F

After a night of quietly motorsailing along in winds averaging under 5 kts, we pulled out our cruising spinnaker after breakfast this morning when the following winds reached 10 kts. By the time we had the sock (with sail inside) laid out and ready to hoist the winds had increased to 18 knots, and we were sailing along at 5.5 kts with just the main held all the way with a preventer. So, we packed up the chute and unrolled our 130% genoa and rigged the downwind pole to hold it steady. Presto! Our speed jumped to 6.5 kts, and since then we have been sailing along on a broad reach at up to 8.5 kts. We can’t figure where the wind is coming from as the NZ weatherfax shows three low pressure centers surrounding us, each with 1014, and no surrounding isobars. It should be really calm, according to the forecasts, but we are delighted to be scooting along, nearly exactly on course for Rurutu, now just 1660 miles away.

Leg 1-05, Update 2
May 16, 2005, 0640, 24.35 S, 156.47 W, Log: 87,269 miles
Broad reaching under full main and 130% genoa at 7.5 – 8.5 kts, Winds: 23kts SSW, seas: 8′ Baro: 1008, Cabin Temp: 77F, Cockpit Temp: 71F

Mahina Tiare ready to set sail from Westhaven Marina

Surfing Toward Rurutu, 320 miles away!

No one familiar with this route would ever believe that for the past nine days we have had nothing but following SSW winds, consistently covering 140-174miles per day, but it’s true! Normally we are battling easterly quadrant winds, trying to stay south as long as possible. This year is the exception, and our eager crew loves every minute.

To bring you up to date, after the last update we sailed past then circumnavigated Curtis Island, an uninhabited smoking volcanic island belonging to the Kermadec group. At first we were just going to sail by, but fascinated by the rugged, barren prehistoric-looking island, we rolled in the genoa and slowly motorsailed around the island. Part of a NZ nature reserve, no fishing or landing ashore is allowed and by the looks of the sheer cliffs and huge breakers, landing would be impossible in anything but settled weather.


Curtis Island

The following day Merle and Amanda caught both a yellow fin tuna AND a mahi mahi, but those were the last fish we’ve landed.

Merle and Amanda tackle a slippery yellowfin tuna

We also received a visitor! A little bird that looked like a finch landed on the lifeline in the afternoon, obviously exhausted, and struggling to balance. Amanda gently lifted her off the lifeline and set her under the dodger where she would periodically fly around the cockpit, alighting for a few minutes on Shawn’s finger, before settling back down. It flew away but returned later, Karen commented that it looked skinnier and was not the same bird. Sure enough by sunset we had three little birds, one was quite tame, the other two more weary started the night out sleeping on the lifeline. When it started to rain Amanda checked on them only to find them snuggled together, one little feathery ball. She plucked them off the line and placed them in a plastic container lined with a cloth so they would have something to hang on to. The following morning they happily flew on their way!

Mid ocean visitor alights on the high lifeline…

and Shawn’s finger

On Tuesday, April 10th we had our halfway party while closely monitoring a meteorological bomb (a surface depression that drops 14 milibars or more at 30 degrees latitude). The NZ MetService weather faxes showed a rapidly deepening low dropping in on top of us. As we were in the center of the depression, we had mild conditions as the barometer plunged to 999. With winds of only 5 knots, we shook out all the reefs, took bucket baths and were motorsailing slowly under full sail when the leading edge of a vicious cold front overtook us with solid 35kt winds and gusts to 50.

The on watch crew felt the cold, damp winds but failed to see the squall line approaching, so in seconds we were hove-to, VERY overpowered, and being pushed sideways, with the leeward deck awash. That was the first time this has happened! In minutes we carefully started easing the backwinded jib, furling it down to 10%, then gybed around and Amanda organized dropping the main into lazy jacks. We then surfed off downwind, under just the scrap of headsail. That evening the winds stabilized in the 25, gusting 38 knot range, and both Commanders Weather and Bob McDavitt at MetService NZ said, “GO NORTH, QUICKLY!”, and that is what we did to avoid the still deepening serious depression. The confused seas fueled by the depression continued to build until they were in the 18′-22′ range, giving our crew some more valuable storm sailing experience. For what seemed days we had the main triple reefed and hardly any headsail out.

Slowly the conditions moderated, but we have kept zooming along, only occasionally needing to motor for an hour or two when the wind is sucked away by a passing squall. We’ve had virtually no rain. Our rebuilt watermaker is really cranking and our water tanks (and fuel tanks) are still ¾ full. We’re nearly on track with our teaching, the only thing we are waiting for is a little calmer sea condition so crew can take sextant sights.

Amanda’s rig check class took a very realistic turn when she had to go to the first spreaders to replace the deck light bulb that was not only burned out, but had somehow managed to slip out of it’s holder and was swaying back and forth, miraculously, never shattering against the mast! Amanda has a new sail handling practice program where each day she gets the daily rig check duty person to tuck in and shake out a reef, as she accompanies them on their round-the-deck rig check.

Amanda aloft to replace the deck light

Rig check class with Amanda

Hey, we’ve got an excellent crew, and we haven’t even told you about them!

Shawn Waldowski, 32, moved to San Francisco after finishing Michigan State University nine years ago. He lives in the Marina district and enjoys sailing, snowboarding and playing his guitar. Soon after moving to the Bay area he joined OCSC sailing club which he loves. He says they do an excellent job with lots of different classes and boats available. His sailing goal is to buy a boat, maybe a Pacific Seacraft 34 in a couple years and sail it to Hawaii with his Dad, maybe with the Pacific Cup. His dad sailed around the world on an aircraft carrier some years ago, and Shawn thinks sharing the passage to Hawaii would be cool.

John and Shawn top up the main tank from jerry jugs

When not sailing, Shawn works as a global account exec for GE Capital, where he originates and structures large international corporate transactions.

Paul Christehsen, 59, is a semi-retired electrical engineer and laser jock who enjoys both mountains and sea. Although business has kept him in the Washington, DC area for quite a few years, he is originally from Colorado, he seeks lone wilderness trails and has back country hiked extensively in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Canada plus skied throughout the Rockies. Lately Paul has been spending most of his free time on sailboats on the US Eastern seaboard, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Panama. He joined this leg to get his first experience in the wild and beautiful seas of the Southern Ocean. Paul’s wife Ruth accompanied him to New Zealand and they enjoyed a week of touring and hiking before meeting us in Auckland.

Karen Foster, 49, lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has a passion for travel and adventure. It’s hard to believe that she is a mother of four, step mom to three and grandmother of five! She came on board with incredible anxiety thinking she could never live without her six shots of espresso a day, but says it has been a piece of cake! She is a very successful realtor having previously been an ABC television news reporter. She enjoys sailing their Pacific Seacraft 37 out of Seward, Alaska with her husband Jim.

Jim Foster, 48, first visited Alaska with some buddies right out of high school. After moving back to Florida and being trained as a paramedic, he returned to Alaska and has since worked for the Anchorage Fire Department. Jim and Karen are keen divers, having recently returned from a diving expedition to the Galapagos Islands they are looking forward to diving in Bora Bora after the expedition. Jim, a history buff, has a plan to retrace Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world which is approaching its 500 year anniversary. Jim and Karen are hoping to upgrade to a Pacific Seacraft 44 for their planned circumnavigation.

Merle Jadhe, 57 is a true renaissance man and is our first expedition member who owns horses, four tractors, hunts, processes his own deer and smokes his own fish. This guy is a true rugged sportsman and outdoorsman! Merle grew up on a family farm leased from a Native American community in Nebraska, attended a one-room school house, and has dreamed of sailing to Tahiti since he was nine years old. What a joy to be help him achieve this dream! Merle still does some farming, but his main focus is in doing award-winning environmentally-sound housing developments near Lincoln, Nebraska.

Carolyn Jadhe, 62 was a successful realtor in Florida when she met Merle, who persuaded her to move to Nebraska. She is a full-speed-ahead person, enjoying family, horseback riding,

Amanda testing Carolyn on reffing procedures

photography, golf and interior decorating when not working like crazy selling real estate. She and Merle have really been bitten by the sailing bug and plan on extensive cruising somewhere in the

An attempt by Shawn to capture a green flash

next 2-3 years.

There you have it! A crew bonded by the common thread of the desire to broaden their sailing and seamanship skills, plus a love of adventure. What more could we ask for?

Leg 1-05, Update 3
May 23, 2005, 0140, 18.15 S, 151.00 W, Log: 87,865 miles
Broad reaching under full main and 130% genoa at 7.5 kts, Winds: 17kts SSE, seas: 5′
Baro: 1011, Cabin Temp: 79F, Cockpit Temp: 77F

Rurutu, What an Island!

Our incredible winds held until Rurutu, and sunrise on Wednesday revealed a verdant up thrust coral island. Unusually calm conditions along the windward (eastern) side of the island meant that we could sail along close to the shore, checking out the numerous limestone caves along the shoreline.

Dawn landfall at Rurutu

We drifted past the exposed and deep anchorage where nearly 30 years ago I had anchored briefly with Mahina Tiare I, my 31′ Hallberg-Rassy Monsun. No sooner had I gone ashore to clear in with the Gendarme than an easterly swell came up. I hurried back to MT, but just after I got aboard, there was a loud BANG as my anchor roller assembly snapped. The anchor chain had become wrapped around one of the numerous coral heads (there were no sandy patches to be found) and the swell had caused tremendous loading on the chain and roller assembly. I slowly retrieved the anchor, hand over hand, then set sail for Rimatara, the smallest and westernmost of the Austral Islands.

Over the past 30 years I made several visits all the other Austral Islands, except isolated Rapa. Occasionally I would hear some news of Rurutu. One year I met a school teacher in Papeete who said he spent a year living aboard his sailboat in the newly-built harbor, but last year was the clincher! On Moorea, Amanda met the crew of a kiwi yacht that had just stopped at Rurutu on their way up from NZ. Tales of being overwhelmed with kindness, offered tours of the island by a local teacher and receiving gifts of more fruit and vegies than they could use was the clincher for Amanda, so one year ago we decided to change our itinerary for Leg 1-05, skip Raivavae and Tubuai, and try for Rurutu then sail north to Huahine before heading for Moorea and Tahiti.

By 1130 we had arrived at the new harbor, complete with range lights and substantial breakwaters protecting either side of the entrance. Not knowing what we would find inside, we launched the RIB, and

Approaching Moerai harbor

Paul and I zipped inside to find the attractive little basin totally empty – not even one canoe or speedboat visible.

With crew we discussed mooring options; we could drop a bow anchor and med-moor stern-to along the inner bulkhead, or for easier access, we could try and tie alongside the wharf, designed and fendered for the 150′ inter-island freighter, Tuhaa Pae II, that we seem to meet every year we visit the Australs. We chose the later, and because we had been warned the kiwi boat and Charlie’s Charts of Polynesia of considerable surge in the harbor, we borrowed a trick we have frequently seen freighters use in small harbors. We came into the harbor, made a 180 degree turn, and slowly passed the wharf by two boat lengths, dropped the main anchor, then backed to tie beam-to along the wharf. Amanda was in the RIB, acting as our tugboat, and Shawn was on the dock catching and securing lines. The plan worked like a dream! Our spring lines in moderate tension against the bow anchor kept us close to, but not touching the rough concrete and large black ship’s fenders.

Almost immediately a dozen kids were on the dock, chatting away in Tahitian. Before long one of them returned with a huge stalk of bananas and a couple more returned loaded with gifts of pamplemouse, the delicious sweet grapefruit that are irresistible. We asked if they would like to see the boat, but they shyly said no. The Gendarme had told Amanda I should come by with papers and passports at 1400, so we tidied up the boat and chatted with the kids on the dock until Jackie and Valentine came roaring up in a shiny new 4 x 4 pickup. Jackie told us he was an Airbus 340 pilot for Air Tahiti Nui, and Valentine, his attractive and vivacious wife told us she was originally from Rurutu, but they had been living in Bordeaux and Papeete, only recently starting to visit Rurutu where they were having a house built. Jackie dreams of cruising on his own boat one day, and they both eagerly jumped at the offer of a tour of MT.

Before long they had to catch a flight back to Papeete, and Amanda and I headed to the Gendarmerie to check in. The Gendarme said we were only the second boat to check in while he had been stationed there, and he used the papers from the kiwi boat a year ago as a guideline for what to ask us

When I asked about a place to rent bicycles, he said in French, “It’s too far to walk, so I’ll have my assistant drive you there!” So, we got the tour of town (didn’t take long!) and were introduced to Laudry Chong, a Chinese-Tahitian mechanic who had recently opened an attractive eight-roomed pension and restaurant, complete with a gorgeous swimming pool a little ways out of town. Amanda and I rented the only two bikes he had, and headed back to the boat so our crew could go exploring. Karen and Jim had dinner at Laudry’s and after their hearty recommendation; we all booked for dinner there the following night. What a great time we had! Terry, the Hinano beer rep from Tahiti was a pension guest and kept us entertained with jokes and introduced us to each of the pension guests while Laudry would come by and explain what each of the courses were. In the end, we all piled into Laudry’s truck and he drove us back to the harbor. Drinks, the delicious dinner with wine and desert and transportation was $32 US per person.

Tourist map of Rurutu

Moerai Bay, east coast

Terry serenades us with Tahitian songs at dinner

Carolyn and Merle took off cycling, Paul and Shawn went hiking, and Karen and Jim checked out beaches the following day. While Amanda and I were doing boat chores, a woman came by and told us it was nice to have a yacht in the harbor, and that she hoped we enjoyed the island. We later learned that we were only the second yacht in 12 years to visit Rurutu!

Friday morning Tuhaa Pae was due, and at 0530, before first light, our crew spotted her, hove-to two miles off the island. We quickly got underway, and she ghosted past us just at dawn. We anchored offshore, and after breakfast and class, went on a snorkeling safari along the coast. Before noon we raised anchor and had an excellent opportunity to practice stern-to Med-mooring inside the harbor, but out of the way of the freighter.

Waiting for the supply ship

Tuhaa Pae offloading supplies

M.T med morred in the Harbor

That afternoon Merle and Carolyn, Karen and Jim had booked a tour and enjoyed circumnavigating the island with Laudry in his truck. Paul and Shawn set off to cycle the northern half of the island, and as Amanda and I cycled the entire island yesterday we were now eager to take a hike around the attractive village and enjoy visiting with the local children plus catching a few images of what seemed old style Polynesia.

Amanda pointing out our moring bike route

Main Street Moerai

28 Picturesque houses and gardens

28 Picturesque houses and gardens

In front of the mayor’s office we found the huge stones, a 130 kg one for men, and a 90 kg stone for women, that are part of Rurutu history. The islanders have long held contests as to who can lift the heaviest stone, greased with coconut oil. We couldn’t budge either stone.

Gate post displaying the traditional sporting event of rock carrying

Amanda attempts to pick up the “carrying rock”

When Laudry returned with our crew, his truck was piled high with gifts of fruit: bananas, soursops, papayas, limes, and MORE pamplemouse! Then a woman showed up on the harbor wall astern of us with yet more pamplemouse, and Saturday morning when we were hoisting the dinghy out, getting ready to set sail, a shy older couple hailed us from shore. They had brought a wheelbarrow overloaded with bananas and pamplemouse. None of these people wanted anything in return, they were just overflowing with kindness and generosity. We will never forget this island, the generous and friendly people and the attractive houses and gardens.

Leg 1-05, Update 4
June 4, 2005, 1340, 17.29 S, 149.52 W, Log: 88,137 miles
Broad reaching under full main and 130% genoa at 7.5 kts,
Winds: 17kts SSE, seas: 5′ Baro: 1011, Cabin Temp: 86F, Cockpit Temp: 97F

Setting sail from Rurutu the winds were light, in the 10-12 knot range, but as we murmured about

Rarewell to an enchanting island

setting the cruising spinnaker they jumped to 15-22 knots, and stayed there with occasional gusts into the mid-30’s, until we sailed in the pass at Fare, Huahine.

The several stalks of bananas we had generously been given on Rurutu decided to ripen spontaneously and Shawn and Merle dreamt up all different ways to fix them. Their favorite was to slice them down the middle, filling them with Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread) and shredded coconut. What a treat!

Merle and Shawn discover that banana’s taste great with Nutella, coconut and peanuts

As we hadn’t caught a fish in well over a week, and this crew loves fresh fish especially raw, Amanda held a lure design and construction class on Sunday. It worked! Karen had combined a wild assortment of octopus skirts on a resin head and within hours we were struggling mightily to land a large mahimahi. After we had landed the giant and had it secured with a sail tie slip-knotted over its tail and cleated

Everyone takes a trick at rigging a lure…today we’ll catch fish

off, somehow it managed to slip loose. The mahi was headed toward the scuppers and freedom before Merle, ever the keen fisherman, tackled it!

As the wind was uncharacteristically out of the S and then SSE, we got practice steering downwind and gybing the pole as we rocketed along under a bright full moon. At sunrise on Monday we caught a glimpse of Maio, a sparsely inhabited island 100 or so miles south of Moorea as the wind freshened to 25, gusting 28. Our doubts of making Huahine’s pass before dark vanished as our speed increased above 8 knots. By 1400 we had the breakers on the southern reef in sight and by 1530 we had sailed into the precarious anchorage that we favor, 1/2 mile off Fare town wharf.

Jim keeps watch as we approach Huahine

Entering the main bay at Huahine

Lining up the range markers as we enter through the reef

This anchorage is handy to town, yet out of the way of the inter-island freighters that arrive and depart at all hours. It took several attempts by Merle and I underwater before we got the main anchor hooked into a little crevice in a bottom which is as hard and flat as cement. The more convenient anchorage off the beach and snack bar just west of the wharf is often subject to violent gusts coming down the valley.

Tuesday Amanda and I stood anchor watch as one after another squall came roaring through the anchorage, while four out of our six crew bicycled the entire way around Huahine Nui, the larger northern half of the island. Late that afternoon I found an old abandoned mooring that I had seen over a period of several years, and with the help of Shawn and Merle we shackled our second anchor line to the huge rusty links of chain that were wrapped around a giant coral head many years earlier. We slept better because of that!

We enjoyed meeting two couples who had buddy-cruised all the way from Europe. The American couple were sailing a handsome Najad 49 on which they proudly pointed out many custom features included hydraulically retractable dinghy davits, and their Welsh friends, aboard Seren Wen were sailing a two-year old Hallberg-Rassy 43. As the 43 is on Merle and Carolyn’s short list of cruising boats, they were delighted when we were all invited aboard for a tour. What an attractive and fast boat she was! With the same size rig as Mahina Tiare, nearly as long of a waterline, and a larger aft cabin, German Frers really came up with a winner with this design. Of extra interest were the mainsail handling systems. The Najad owners had chosen Leisurefurl, the NZ made in-the-boom furling system, and the HR owners had Selden’s in-the-mast furling. We gathered that the Selden system was better as the Najad owner’s said it took both of them to raise the main, and that the boat had to be pointed directly into the wind to raise, reef or strike the main. The HR owners said that with their hydraulic furling system either of them could raise, reef or strike the main on any point of sail. They said they hadn’t had any problems with the hydraulic systems on the main, jib or staysail, other than the cap coming off the reservoir because someone forgot to properly tighten it when the boat was new.

Niad 49, La Contenta

HR 43, Seren Wen

Ed and Ray welcome us aboard for a quick tour

Wednesday we sailed south to the more sheltered and secure Port Bourayne. With depths of 60-90′ and thick, luscious vegetation ashore, this is not a usual yachtie hang-out, but we had a delightful sunset beach walk and enjoyed a very quiet night. It provided the perfect venue for Amanda to teach winch rebuilding Thursday morning.

A lush tropical view of Huahine

Before long it was time to set sail for a last quick fresh bread stop at Fare, and then on to Moorea, 85 miles to windward. With reinforced tradewinds of 26, gusting 32, we tucked two reefs in the main, rolled the jib down and hung on! It was a rough night with several of us (including me for the first time this year) succumbing to mal de mer. Right in the middle of it (I have no idea what time it was-probably around eight) the forward head just decided to stop working. As it is an important stop for seasick crew below decks, I felt it was imperative to get it working as quickly as possible. When I pulled the pump off there was no signs of blockages, but plenty of scale build-up, so I just installed an entire new pump assembly. Boy, did I heave a sigh of relief when I got all the hoses hooked back up and it worked perfectly! Moorea’s jagged, unmistakable outline was visible at dawn and by 1135 we dropped the anchor in front of the Club Bali Hai, a funky beachfront hotel-bar started in 1960 by three crazy guys from Newport Beach, the Bali Hai boys. To keep up with our teaching schedule, Amanda had crew learning how to safely hoist each other to the masthead to check the rigging (and to snap great pictures of this dramatic bay) soon after we had anchored. While Amanda taught, I found that pineapples ashore were still six for $5, so we had a tasty treat after class.

Carolyn checks se ond spreaders

Nebraska farm boy Merle in Paradise, Cooks Bay Moorea

After lunch crew went exploring ashore and the next morning it was sail repair class, followed by a competition between two teams to see who could hoist the storm staysail or storm trysail faster, without any instruction.

Crew team up to compete in rigging storm sails

A tast of the past as the square rigger La Boudeuse glides by

Jim and Karen take the watch as we wait for wind

Lifesling overboard practice followed, then we sailed out of Cook’s Bay and into the tiny pass by the Pearl Resort, as we heard they would be having Tahitian dancing that evening. What a show! Tahitian tamure dancers on the beach, under the stars, with pulsating slit drum music.

Tahitian Tamure dance

Tahitian Fire dance

Merle, Carolyn and dancers

The following morning we set sail early for Tahiti, stopping to top up fuel at the only fuel dock in Tahiti located at Marina Taina. Normally we anchor out, but as there was space following a recent expansion, we decided to take a slip for the night. The cost was the equivalent to $1 US per foot per night, the same as we have paid at Roche Harbor, Puerto Vallarta and at Cowes, England.

Paul keeps a look out as we approach Tahiti

Fueling at Marina Taina

We caught the bus to town and were surprised to see Shepherd Moon, Joe Wilcox’ Island Packet 350 tied up to the Papeete quay, Joe had sailed on a Samoa-Fiji leg several years ago. Joe is on his way around the world, interspersed with returning to teach astronomy at Highline College near Seattle. We had a great evening at “le roulettes”, the open-sided restaurant-trucks that park at the Papeete quay each night. All kinds of home made pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven plastered on the back of an old Renault van, tasty salads and wicked ice cream treats were our fare that evening.

Shepherd Moon, Island Packet 350

Joe and Robin Wilcox share desert

Crew graduation dinner at Le Trucks…Great Pizza!

Monday morning it was time for crew to pack their bags and clean their cabins before heading off on more adventures. How can four weeks pass so quickly? Before leaving we all took a moment to say what we were thankful for. Karen was thankful for the new head pump that was easier to pump, Merle was thankful for all the fish we caught, Carolyn was thankful for all the things she had learned, Paul was thankful for the new friends and places he had seen, and I was thankful for the most amazing weather we have had on the ninth time making the passage north from NZ.

Leg 1 – 2005 New Zealand to Tahiti2021-05-04T02:00:25+00:00

Leg 5 – 2004 Rarotonga, Cooks; Apia, Samoa

Update 1
September 11, 2004 0000
Moored Stern-To in Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga, Cook Islands


In our weather classes we state that although high pressure generally means clear weather, with central pressure over 1030 millibars, one should expect gale force winds somewhere on the perimeter. Right now we have a 1040 mb high south of us and a 999 mb low that should soon pass over Rarotonga. The combination has generated gale force northerly winds and seas to 6.8 meters (20′), a direction that tiny Avatiu Harbour offers no protection from.

As the weather (and forecasts) worsened over the past days, every longline fishing boat and rust bucket freighter headed for this tiny harbour. Yesterday afternoon we had tense moments as Mana Nui, a 150′ wrecker’s yard freighter came into port just as a powerful squall struck the island. She managed to get a bowline ashore, but repeated tries at sending a monkey’s fist ashore, with stern line attached, failed, and she started to blow down on us. Finally her skipper powered the bow into the wharf with a screeching of steel on concrete and her crew managed to get the stern line run ashore.

Last night the harbour was a continual surging beast exhibiting loud grinding noises as fenderless steel ships gnawed on each other and the concrete wharf. I had been occasionally catnapping between checking anchor, mooring and stern lines when at 0300 I heard the harbourmaster urgently and repeatedly calling four fishing boats (80′ – 60′ in length) that were rafted to one of the freighters. I looked out and saw every sailor’s nightmare. The rafted boats had broken their bow line and were all pivoting away form the wharf towards a 40′ Canadian sloop against the wall. John Fallon, the ever-vigilant harbourmaster had the security guards climb onto the heaving freighter and yell at the fishing boats, trying to alert anyone. In the end, they

Miss Mat leaves the wharf

Heads out through the breakers

Will she survive?

threw rocks at the boats to awaken the crew and disaster was averted when the boats powered forward together and connected a new bowline

Soon after there was a huge explosion and this morning I was told that the large steel roller door of the Public Works workshop on the wharf had blown in. Their solution was to stick the door back in and park a truck up against it on the inside of the building. An hour later there was a tremendous roar and bright lights on deck and I again dashed up from the nav station to see an Air New Zealand 767 just above mast height. They had aborted their third attempt at landing and were struggling for altitude in the buffeting gale choosing instead to flew on to Tahiti. Aloha Airlines 737 also gave up landing and flew back to Pago Pago.

Early this morning when the forecast came through from Fiji, the harbourmaster ordered all ships and fishing boats out of the harbour by sunset until further notice. He later explained to me that with the forecasted northerly gale the ships wouldn’t be safe from seas breaking in the harbour and that it would also not be possible for them to put to sea to avoid harm because of breakers across the entrance. One by one the boats and ships jostled lines, poured on the throttle and went crashing and rolling out into a very angry sea. The locals lined the shoreline and wharfs, watching to see if the ships would make it through the surf and for awhile it looked like Miss Mataura was going to founder in the crashing breakers.

I really feel for the ship’s crews. Tonight the ships will either be cutting donuts or be anchored in very deep water off the outer reef in the lee of the island. We just had a powerful squall with a 150 degree windshift and solid winds well over 35 knots. If they don’t move quickly, they could be driven ashore in these conditions.

Three lone yachts in the harbor

The empty wharf

We’re lucky. When we anchored here a week ago Gary and I spent several hours in the water checking the anchor and surveying the bottom. We were able to find the old large mooring of the harbour tug, a huge hunk of concrete with ship’s chain leading to shore, so chained and shackled M.T to it in two places. Although now we only have inches under the keel at low tide even after moving rocks and rubble away from under the keel and rudder. I also wish our 60lb. CQR was further than 100′ out (all chain), but it has dug in so well that the anchor has disappeared so I hate to disturb it. I looked at setting a second and third anchor, but when I daily dive to check set up it’s all holding securely. Today the visibility was only 6″ and when I was snorkeling down to 9′, it’s eerily dark because of all the stirred-up silt. I couldn’t do much more down there if I wanted to.

On another note I’m thankful the engine is back to it’s reliable 100% status. For the past year there’s been a new rattley sound between 800-1000 rpm in slow forward or reverse. We thought it was the Max prop, but rebuilding it didn’t help. Peter, owner of Ovlov Marine the main Volvo

Amanda with the old and new damper plates

marine dealer in Auckland, suggested it might be the damper plate that transfers the engine torque to the transmission, and I remembered replacing that part on MT II at about the same number of engine hours, 6,500, so I had Peter DHL the part here to Raro.

Before the storm we removed the 62kg (110lb) transmission. Yes, it was a challenge, but with Amanda’s clever rigger lashings and galley chopping boards as blocks, we slid it back to discover the damper drive had nearly sheered and was just hanging on by shreds of silicone rubber. The replacement part has been redesigned and should last for many more thousands of hours. Were we ever thrilled to get it all back together the same day and to hear a quiet and smooth engine when we shifted into gear. The other option that Peter had mentioned was that the entire gearbox might have to be replaced. It would have had to been airfreighted from Gothenburg to Auckland to Samoa and would have cost NZ$9600 excluding airfreight.

Now it is 0100, the winds have dropped to 15kts and the torrential gully-washing rains have tapered off to a drizzle. I think I can catch a nap now before the next squall. I hope the weather is better in the morning as Amanda has her heart set on competing in her second Rarotonga Half-Marathon at 0700. I was going to do the 10k run again that runs simultaneously, but it looks like I will be standing anchor watch instead.

Sept 15, 2004 1300 19.49 S, 161.25 W, Log: 82,033 miles, Baro: 1017, Cabin: 82, Cockpit: 82

Broadreaching at 6 knots with 15 kt SE winds and 140 miles to Palmerston Atoll

We survived yet another cold front and northerly wind blast, but it kept us aboard and Amanda missed her run Saturday morning. Instead we waited until a lull in the weather and headed ashore to fill six canvas tote bags with fantastic fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. It seems that at least half of Rarotonga shows up for the market even on a stormy day and it was fun to see many old friends and view the Island dancing. We also succumbed to pearl fever! Tokerau Jim, a young, very successful pearl shell carver from Manihiki has really taken his art to the next level and

We hold our breath as Miss Mat returns to the harbor

this year his detail is incredible. We also visited Amanda’s friends Temu and Lesley Okataki at their little Farm Direct pearl shop across from the harbour. We bought presents for everyone we could think of, plus extras for future expedition members to purchase. The prices are a fraction of Tahiti’s and the settings that Lesley and Temu use are very high quality from imported from Germany.

As the seas and wind abated the harbor was reopened and the ships were allowed to return in a mooring pecking order throughout the day. Unfortunately all was not calm as two yachts lost anchors to props of maneuvering ships. In the storms wake Amanda and I worked flat out until late Sunday night and then until minutes before our new Leg 5 crew arrived at Monday noon. With nearly everything checked off our list and we settled into orientation with crew only to be advised that we would have to move by 1600hrs to allow Forum Rarotonga, the largest ship from New Zealand, to turn around and leave port.

As an introduction into being flexible, crew spent the next 3 hours learning the finer points of releasing and securing a vessels as we detached all our storm trussings and positioned ourselves next to the just-returned patrol boat, Te Kukupa. Phew, we sure enjoyed a fun last night dinner ashore at Trader Jack’s on a base that wasn’t surging around.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a blur. Between downpours we had several Palmerston islanders coming down to ask us to take drums of fuel, bicycles, 6 stalks of bananas and dozens of boxes of groceries, toys, clothes and school supplies to their relatives on Palmerston. Both of MT’s heads are now stacked to the overhead with boxes, but we drew the line on the bicycles, 55 gallon fuel drums and 6 huge banana stalks. Meanwhile, I was clearing out with customs, trying to sort out all of our mooring lines and help a German yacht find their anchor that turned out to be wrapped around the patrol boats prop plus finish our safety orientation. By 1330 Amanda had completed mainsail orientation and exhausted, we sailed out the narrow harbour entrance, destination: tiny Palmerston Atoll, population 60, 270 miles NW of Rarotonga.

Update 2 September 24, 2004
0600 14.28S, 171.13W, Log: 82,849, Baro: 1011, Cabin: 84F, Cockpit: 84F
Beam reaching at 7.3 knots in 19kt ESE winds, calm seas.


Neil just sighted Upolu Island, 28 miles ahead on the port bow as the sun is rising spectacularly LAND HO!

Neil just sighted Upolu Island, 28 miles ahead on the port bow as the sun is rising spectacularly over Tutuila Island, American Samoa on our starboard beam. Most of the evening we’ve been enjoying the glow of Tutuila and now the rugged island is clearly visible, but just outside our 24 mile radar range.

Meet our Leg 5 Crew – Tom, Debby, Neil, John and Tim

What a great expedition this has been! From leaving Rarotonga totally exhausted, we had an excellent 270 mile reach and run up to Palmerston. Bill Marsters met us offshore again, as he did last year, where he had been fishing, and guided us to an anchorage spot. Amanda dove into the crystal-clear water with 200’+ visibility and swam around until she found a spot free of deep coral chasms and told us to quickly drop the anchor in just 23′, only a few boat lengths from where the surf crashed on the reef. I jumped in the water with a mask and snorkel, checked the anchor and was serenaded by the songs of the humpback whales that we had spotted breaching as we approached the anchorage. I

Palmerston Island

stayed aboard while crew went ashore and spent the entire day cleaning, drying and stowing the many lines we had used securing MT in Rarotonga plus sponging off the waterline slime that had accumulated while in Raro. Tom Hughes
Palmerston Island

Approaching Palmerston from the south meant we needed to skirt the reef areas around three of the six islands in the Palmerston group. The first impressions one receives from Palmerston include idyllic, beautiful, serene and welcoming. The colors were vivid and striking-blue of course (ocean), greens (palms, lagoon), and sparkling white (beaches). Our destination was the island farthest north; it’s the only one that is inhabited.

Bill Marsters met us at our anchorage and six of us clambered aboard his skiff, carrying with us a dozen boxes containing clothing, books, school supplies, etc that John and Amanda had collected and brought with them to help fill needs that the islanders had expressed previously. Bill motored us through a complex maze of coral heads and stones that eventually put us on the beach.

All ashore with Bill

Main Street

The boat park at the end of Main Street

Bill with his children Neb and Juliana One Girl

We were met by two toddlers and a lifelong-island resident named Inona, who was a great source of information about Palmerston. Palmerston’s history is virtually all built around the life of the original William Marsters (died 1899) who had three wives, dozens of children and scores of grandchildren. Virtually all of the island’s current residents are Marsters, members of one of the three original families. We were served coffee, tea and hot chocolate under the canopy of the Palmerston Island Yacht Club, which was an open air meeting place for any one on the island. Bill also served us green coconuts from which we drank the very sweetest and refreshing water.

Crew relax the Yacht Club

Bill drives off the collect the supplies

As we sat enjoying our drinks, we were joined by Ned, a five-year-old boy who delighted in demonstrating his jumping, climbing and spelling skills. We asked Ned to show us the island’s school, and he led us past very colorful homes, through a grove of palms, and past a fish processing facility to Palmerston Island school. Here we met Yvonne Marsters, teacher, principal and chief supply officer for the school. Yvonne, an New Zealand transplant to the island, teaches nineteen students aged five to fourteen in a one-room facility that has fifteen desks.She is an impressive person that obviously knows her business, but the school is continually in need of supplies. She had a wish list for paper, pencils, books, etc. and obviously desks.

Following John and Amanda’s example, we five crew members agreed to send such supplies as soon as practical after our return to the USA. Readers of this article may also be interested in helping out; if so, send whatever school supplies that you can to Yvonne at Palmerston Island School, Palmerston Island, Cook Islands, South Pacific. We know every one of Palmerston’s sixty-five residents will appreciate it.

Palmerston Lucky School

Yvonne Marsters – the school teacher

Yvonne explaining the school procedures

Ned and Juliana standing before the map that displays homeports and pictures of the visiting yachts and crews.

Palmerston and its people had a noticeable and beneficial impact on us visitors-we were glad we came, we were sorry to leave. If you have the chance to visit, don’t pass it up. If you do make it there, please say hello to Bill, Ned, Inona, Vvonne and everyone else for us.

Hey thanks Tom, it’s great to have help with these updates!

Bill brought our crew back in the late afternoon, everyone went for a snorkel, amazed at the water clarity and vibrancy of the reef, and we set sail for tiny Beveridge Reef, 300 miles to the west.

Here’s the scoop on our excellent Leg 5 crew, in their own words:

Neil O’Rourke, 37
With three life changes this year, I decided to take a South Pacific adventure. My wife, Krystol, is almost five months pregnant with our first child. We don’t know the sex yet, but between watches I dreamt that it is a boy. We’ll find out in February. The other life changes were changing jobs from a private law practice to managing a real estate development company and building a house in Cary, North Carolina.

I joined Mahina Tiare as both of test of my seamanship skills and as a test of whether the cruising life would be for me. As of Day 4, things are looking great – I feel comfortable on the boat and am learning a lot.

Debby Platt, 45 I am a real estate developer in Denver, Colorado redeveloping the former Lowry Air Force Base and quickly working myself out of a job. I have been racing my J-80 locally at the Dillon Yacht Club and nationally for the past three years. I can’t seem to get enough sailing! Two years ago I tried to complete my first blue water crossing from Bermuda to Charleston, SC. But the 60′ ketch had engine troubles and we never left port. I have joined Mahina Tiare III to build my confidence and skills in ocean crossings in order to do an extended offshore trip in the future. Upon my return I’ll also be looking for new real estate on one of the coast, so I can sail more year around.

Tim Sullivan, 61
Vacation Quandry Solved!

I found myself sitting in the cockpit of a sailboat in San Diego harbor with a strange problem. Most of my fellow cockpit loungers had been with me on a recent Far West Ski Assoc. non-ski event when we had spent three weeks in September, 2003 on an African photo safari. The trip had been a smashing success. Hundreds of animals of all types were spotted and photographed. On the last day in the bottom of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania we witnessed five lioness stalk and take down a warthog.

Our common problem after such a fantastic trip was: what can we do for vacation next year that will even come close?

The answer: a Mahina Sailing Expedition in the South Pacific. Warm sun, cool breezes, ultra clear water, very friendly local people, honing our sailing skills while sailing through paradise. We are only getting started, and already we are having a blast! (Tim is an electronics tech for Motorola in Arizona and is thinking about introducing his wife to coastal cruising before trying offshore passages later.)

Tom Hughes, 61
Picture this if you can: I’m sitting in the cockpit at 1630, there are virtually no clouds in the sky, the Pacific is the deepest blue and I am among my crewmates, a more friendly and interesting group I couldn’t hope to find.

And by the way, I’ve learned what blue water sailing means, and I love it! For days into the trip and I’ve gone from the low of being seasick to the high of being on Mahina Tiare as she does her stuff. This trip is all I expected and more.

John Wolf, 61
John forgot to write his bio, so here goes: he is an orthopedic surgeon from Cincinnati, Ohio who sails a Capri 18 on a nearby lake, sometimes with his college-aged kids, and sometimes singlehanded. He organizes a chartering trip annually to an exotic location with sailing friends and is excited that his wife will be joining him (hopefully) and friends on their next trip which will be a catamaran in the BVI’s.

Our sixth expedition member, Bryan Hall, 31 wasn’t able to join us because of a knee injury.

Winds stayed aft of the beam and consistent, so we arrived just after noon off the entrance to

Aerial view of Beveridge Reef

Beveridge. The only chart we have (and I believe the only chart that exists!) was hand-drawn by a yachtie a few years ago and John Fallon, Raro’s harbourmaster freely distributes it. Weatherfax charts from NZ had shown that a cold front would approach us and just as we entered the lagoon we could see a huge black wall closing in on us. We motored to the far windward end of the lagoon, dodging numerous large coral patches that reached to the surface, continued past the drop off to where the white sand was only 10′ deep, dropped the bow anchor with all the chain just as the heavens opened up. Winds gusted so hard that the rain felt like bullets as we rushed to get the second bow anchor, our trusty 44lb Delta, hooked up to chain and rode and set. We motored forward slowly at a 60 degree angle from the main anchor and dropped it also in the shallow, but when the wind blew us back, tightening the rode, it was wrapped around a huge coral patch. I jumped in the water, dove down 30′, but couldn’t carry the chain over the coral, so crew pulled the rode in, motored forward again and succeeded in anchoring us free of coral. Our extra precautions turned out to be unnecessary as the winds dropped back to 15 knots after the squall, and the cold front passed slowly that night with the winds shifting back to SE by midnight.

Debby Platt:
20 01.295S, 167 46.547W
Beveridge Reef is a spectacular heart-shaped 4 by 5 mile reef in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As we approached the reef with our fishing lines out, we caught a 50+ lb. wahoo that filled our fridge and freezer. At the top of this heart-shaped island is a 12′ deep pass. There is no land or reef breaking the surface of the water. We went inside and anchored on the white sandy bottom. As we anchored, the sky opened up with a warm, fresh downpour. As we swam and showered on the stern of the boat, we watched a black-tipped reef shark checking us out.

John goes aloft for his own aerial view of Beveridge

An arty view from up the rig of our second anchor

Beveridge was a great location for our training on going aloft to check the mast and rigging. We took turns hoisting each other to the top of the mast, producing some spectacular photos of the reef. After spending the night and doing our training the next day, we set sail in search of land.

Here’s a parting verse from the poem

“A Shipmates Parting Toast”,
by my friend J.R.

Aye” the ocean can be a grand place-
When you stand your watch at three;
and you watch as stars streak ‘cross the night sky
and crash down in the sea.
Where they wake the lil’ fishes-and light the coral reefs
and perhaps spawn those spiny starfish-
you see washed upon the beach.

Thanks Debby!

The 140 mile passage to Niue was a breeze and with following winds we again rigged the whisker pole, reeling off those miles quickly. We arrived by noon, and luckily Chamberlin, our young customs officer friend was just completing clearing in another yacht as we picked up the fourth

24 Yachts at anchor at Niu

and last available mooring. Last year there were 19 boats on moorings, plus several more anchored and the place was a beehive of cruiser’s potlucks, dinners ashore and cruisers filling the local dive boat. This year there were only four other boats at anchor.

When Chamberlin came aboard, I asked what had happened to the other 15 moorings, and he said that they had totally disappeared after the cyclone. We had heard that Niue had sustained a direct hit in January from Cyclone Heta, but what we didn’t know was that it was a Category 5 Super Cyclone (the highest rating) with winds over 300 kph (over 150 mph) and a storm surge over 50 meters (150′) that had crashed over the 100′ cliffs, completely obliterating much of the populated side of the island. Gone was the hospital, museum, most of the government buildings, hundreds of houses, even brick and concrete houses, the hotel, dive shop and on and on. Although the islanders have had help from Tahiti and New Zealand cleaning up, the place still looks like a war zone. It was sad going ashore, and we were amazed at the buoyant attitude of the people we spoke with. We enjoyed seeing our old friend Mary Saunders of Alofi Rentals, now assisted by her son Les from New Zealand. Amanda and I rented bikes for a couple days and had a blast cycling around the north end of the island, completing the circumnavigation of Niue we started last year. Our crew got an excellent nature tour from Misa, a local barefooted naturalist and on Wednesday, Debby, Neil and Tim went scuba diving with Annie from Dive Niue (they got to swim with whales) while Tom and John explored the island on motorcycles and Amanda and I enjoyed more cycling.

Misa passes out another bush delicacy

Time for a cool drink courtesy of Misa

Coconut crab

The grib files and weatherfax showed another front approaching, forecasting headwinds for the last day of the passage to Samoa if we waited until Thursday to depart as earlier planned. Faced with great sailing or headwinds, this crew said, “LET’S SAIL!” so we slipped the mooring and took off on a flying broad reach Wednesday afternoon. We just lowered to whisker pole this morning as for the first time the wind came forward of 150 degrees true. Now it’s 0700, the sun is really up, we are zooming along at 8 knots and Upolu is getting larger by the minute! September 25, 2004 1600, 13.49S, 171.45W, Log: 82,902, Baro: 1016 Temperature: HOT! We’re All Set in Apia!

By 1330 we had entered Apia harbor and side-tied to a harbor tug. Minutes later a young Port Authority employee came by and said had notifed Customs and Quarantine of our arrival. As we knew that many government offices close early on Fridays in the South Pacific, we were delighted when the Customs inspector showed up a few minutes later, and then walked me down and introduced me to the Quarantine officials. As soon as I had filled out some papers and paid a small fee for them

Debby strikes a pose the resorts lush tropical garden

to incinerate our rubbish and bananas, I hopped in a cab and headed downtown to immigration. As was the case last year, the waiting room was packed with 40 Samoans waiting for passports or ID cards. Just minutes before they closed for the weekend, a helpful young immigration officer motioned me to the counter and then helped me fill out the seven entry declarations and ship’s declarations. We were then free to get off the boat, not having to wait until Monday morning! In minutes we had slipped our lines to the tug and were anchoring in the quietest, most distant part of the harbor. It didn’t take our Leg 5 crew long to get organized and we headed ashore to explore bustling Apia before shops closed.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Sails Restaurant which was Robert Louis Stevenson’s home while he was waiting for his estate at Vailima to be completed.

The next day crew rented a jeep and drove across the island to Coconuts Resort for dinner and an excellent Samoan dance show.

What a first class crew this was! Right on track till the very end, and always eager to learn and help with whatever needed to be done.

Samoan fire dancing
Leg 5 – 2004 Rarotonga, Cooks; Apia, Samoa2021-04-27T15:49:34+00:00

Leg 6 – 2003 September 27

Update 1
Leg 6 – 2003
September 27, 2003 17.49S, 176.11E Log: 71,187 Baro: 1014 Cabin Temp: 81F
Broadreaching at 8 kts in 25kt SE winds, double-reefed main and jib
540 miles to Luganville, Vanuatu

Surfing Through the Night!

What a flying start we’ve had to Leg 6! Soon after we sailed out of the wind shadow of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, the wind piped up to 35 with gusting 38 kts. The combination of shallowing depths and that much wind generated steep seas to 12′, providing our eager crew with some challenging surfing conditions. As it is often windier outside Malolo Pass, we had tucked in a reef before departure, and once we were into the heavier winds, Roger and I tucked in a second reef in the main. We also reduced the headsail by 50%, and still Mahina Tiare surged along, nearly touching 9 knots as she zoomed down the face of the large waves.

This is a type of passage that we find easy for crew to get the hang of ocean passage making. Very soon after they joined us at Vuda Point Marina, we set sail for a gorgeous uninhabited white sandy beach bay 12 miles away. With 18 knots of wind abaft the beam and flat water, we quickly covered the distance to the tricky entrance through coral. Once again Amanda surprised us with an unexpected overboard drill, this time she threw the rescue target (wadded up newspapers) through a port, completely surprising our crew.

The quiet, unnamed anchorage on Malolo Island gave us a chance to complete our safety and boat orientation in a cooler, quieter environment. Friday morning we covered watch standing, collision avoidance and galley orientation before crew headed ashore to explore the gorgeous beach and hike to the top of the hill for a view of all of the Mamanuca Islands. In the meantime I changed out the aft holding tank vent and pump out hoses for new ones that Len had brought down with him. No longer do we get ripe odors when the engine room warms the hoses. Whew!

View of Musket Cove anchorage from the top of Malololailai Island

Ratu Nemani Island bar and barbeque

We had a surprise in store for crew yesterday afternoon. We had only told them that we would be anchoring off a small island, so they were in for a treat when we anchored off Musket Cove Marina on Malololailai Island. Amanda had been marinating three chickens and cooked up some fresh green beans and pumpkin and we invited several other cruisers to join us for a barbecue ashore on Ratu Nemani Island, adjacent to the marina. With nearly 60 boats in the anchorage and another dozen or so in the marina, the barbecue island was jumping with great music and cruisers from many countries having a blast. Katie proved a great fire starter and Len a consummate barbecue expert, and before long we had a table filled with friends and food.

George and Julia Maynard, wooden boat builders sailing a Zulu, a 30′ gaff-rigged ketch from Port Townsend, Washington and Lisa and Eric, avid windsurfers sailing an classic Cal 40 from Hood River, Oregon joined us. We really like it when our crew can get to know cruisers during our expeditions. After dinner we all went to the main restaurant to listen to our Fijian friends playing guitar and singing. The tanoa (kava bowl) is always full when they are singing, and some of our crew accepted bilos of kava.

This morning we covered coastal navigation and plotted a safe course to the open sea, and to Vanuatu. We have an excellent forecast (thanks to Leon in Sweden and NZ Met Service) and should have following winds, gradually moderating, for the entire passage. It is a bit rough tonight, but crew have been attentive and there hasn’t been a single gybe or roundup yet.

Leg 6 – 2003, Update 2
October 1, 2003 2145 15.31S, 167.11E Log: 71,752 Baro: 1013 Cabin Temp: 83F
All Surfed Out! At anchor off Customs Dock, Luganville, Vanuatu and Playing Scrabble

What a passage! Winds dropped only to 12-14 knots for a few hours and then kept building until we

Landfall at Ambrim Island

were running downwind with full sail in winds 30, gusting to 35. Amanda hit 9.4 knots while we surfed through the gap between Pentecost and Ambrim Islands. We saw no signs of life, other than a couple of roofs peaking through the rows of coconut trees clinging to the hillsides.

Our crew have been first class, never gybing or rounding up as we pushed hard, trying to make it to port tonight before dark. As the winds increased, our ETA kept moving up and we had the anchor down off the customs wharf with nearly an hour of daylight to spare. Dinner tonight was seared wahoo (Spanish mackerel) caught this afternoon, mashed potatoes and kumera, and fresh green beans…not to mention brownies for desert.

We are exactly on track with our teaching schedule and look forward to exploring ashore tomorrow and Friday. Vanuatu is a primitive country, newly independent. Click here for a link to their national website, and here for the updates from our last visit Leg 6, 1998.

This will be our last update until October 19 as Melonie, our webmistress is headed to Paris and Rome with her husband Chris. We wish them a fabulous time! When they return you can hear about our visits (hopefully) with our Small Namba tribe friends in Banan Bay on isolated Malekula Island.

Leg 6 crew
Len, Tom, Roger, Katy, Sue, Debbie

Here’s our Leg 6 crew, a winning combination, and the first time in 14 years we have had three couples:

Tom Zacher, 43 is a dentist from Wooster, Ohio who sailed with us on Leg 4-2002 and who met his lovely bride, Sue Grimm, 44 when they were doing their residency after dental school. Sue, now an orthodontist, sailed with us on Leg 5-2002 and she and Tom decided it was time to stop chasing after their kids, Heidi and Tim, and share an adventure together. Heidi, 14, is a keen soccer player and Tim, 12, is a competitive Optimus sailor and for family time they race their Beneteau First 40 on the Great Lakes. Debbie Campbell, 43 and Roger Campbell, 44 met when they were working at McDonalds, just out of high school. They went on to university, and then Debbie supported them and put Roger through dental school. Now Debbie runs the front office of their dental practice in Seattle, and they enjoy sailing their Catalina 320 out of Des Moines, south of Seattle. BB Katy Friedel, 55, recently retired as a school librarian in Chicago, and she and her husband Len Friedel, 57, a retired equity fund manager recently sold up in Chicago and moved to picturesque Port Townsend, just across the Straits from Victoria, Canada. They were looking for a seafront small town where they could have a boat moored near their house, and chose a gorgeous spot. They bought Magic, a nearly-new Hallberg-Rassy 42 that we spent time on during this past January Seattle Boat Show, and have already had a great time cruising the San Juan Islands. Len is already going over our charts of Alaska and the Queen Charlottes, making notes for their eight week cruise to Alaska next summer.

Once again, we have great synergy occurring. Lots of good times, laughs, jokes and people happy to help each other. We feel honored to share Mahina Tiare with new friends eager to discover the joys of the cruising life, from overcoming their fears of the high seas to embracing new adventures ashore.

Update 3
Leg 6 – 2003
September 8, 2003 0140 hrs 17.30S, 168.07E Log: 71,876 Baro: 1013 Cabin: 80F
Beam reaching at 8 kts in 25 kt easterly winds with only 24 miles to Port Vila, Vanuatu
Full Speed And Full Moon!

Well, once again, time has flown by. On our last update we had just arrived in Vanuatu. Quarantine, customs and immigration clearance went smoothly, and instantly brought back memories of why we enjoy the Ni-Vanuatu people so much. Initially they seem much shyer than the boisterous and self-confident Fijians, but once approached, they are sweet and lovely people with a great sense of humor.

After clearing customs, I was keen to see if we could line up Toto, a Ni-Van guy that had shown our Leg 6 1998 crew his village and around the island. I sat down with a group of local men at the gas station (there are only two) that I knew Toto used as a base, and started asking questions. Slowly I learned the story, Toto had a new van, his cousin Moses had brought their villagers in from Champagne Beach (where they live) that morning, and was somewhere around town. I told the guys that Toto was a friend of ours from five years earlier, and that we would like to arrange for him to show our crew around the island. I left a note with the name of the boat, and returned to the boat to take crew ashore.

Crew had hardly walked into town before Moses, with a policeman in tow, screeched his van to a halt in the middle of the street and asked if they were from Mahina Tiare. It wasn’t hard to spot visitors; I hadn’t seen one white fella (European) all morning! Quickly it was arranged that I should call Toto on his cell phone (totally new concept in Vanuatu) that evening to arrange for a tour the next morning.

As the quarantine anchorage became choppy in the daytime tradewinds, Amanda and I moved MT to an island anchorage off Aore Resort, www.aore.net a yachtie-friendly island resort across the harbor with eight moorings, dinghy dock, showers, water and great dinners. They have a ferryboat (just a large covered skiff) that goes back and forth two miles to Luganville, and our crew caught that back after exploring the small town for record nine hours.

Not long after we anchored, Kathy Seigismend and Ken Machtley on Felicity, www.svfelicity.com, a Tashiba 31 came by to say hello. Kathy sailed from Victoria to San Diego on Leg 1 – 2000 and then she and Ken left from Seattle on their own cruise just weeks after she returned. We instantly invited them to join our crew and us for dinner at Aore, eager to hear of their adventures.

Cathy and Ken aboard Felicity

A couple mornings later Lois Crandell who with her husband Gunter Hofmann sailed from Raro to Pago with us on Leg 3-98 came up on the local SSB Net and said, “Remember us? We did it! We’re out here cruising on our new Catana catamaran that we have sailed from France!” Their website is www.pacificbliss.com. We are going to start a new section called Expedition Graduates Websites under our Sailing Links page, so you, our readers can read of the adventures of our previous expedition members. There is nothing more exciting than meeting past expedition members out here having their own adventures!

We had a neat experience on our second day in Luganville. Crew had hooked up with Toto and were off on a grand adventure. First stop was a kastom village of the followers of the Jimmy Stevens independence movement and other sites through out the day included the blue water holes and traditional laplap lunch at Champagne Beach cooked by Toto’s wife.

Tour guide Toto and crew about to head out for a day’s overland adventuring

Village house

Smiling children

Blue hole

Toto’s wife preparing traditional laplap lunch

Champagne Beach

Meanwhile Amanda and I finished up with outbound customs clearance and then went shopping in the market and the handful of Chinese grocery shops. As we walked by the little bamboo thatched Nambawan (number one) Cafe we heard 15 or so kastom (traditional) men dressed only belts with little bits of fabric playing guitars and slit drums and kind of marching and dancing back and forth. They had just started a lunchtime performance and we were only the second couple to sit down and soak up the atmosphere.

String band from Mavoonlefu village

We learned from Terry and Covina Sims that this was the first time this string band had ever performed in town. They were from a Mavoonlefu, a poor village 30 minutes truck ride away, and had come to Terry and Covina, who had just bought the tiny restaurant after visiting Vanuatu on holiday from New Zealand, asking if they could help them start eco-cultural tourism. In a number of months Terry and Covina had helped them print up flyers, organize their custom dancing (with as many as 200 dancers) and use the money already generated to pay for all the children’s school fees for the year and build a new washing building for the ladies. The men were performing as thanks to the Sims, and their strange sing-song voices and rhythmic music was mesmerizing. Trucks stopped in the middle of the street, crowds of locals gathered on all sides of the little restaurant, locals and a few visitors came in to order lunch ($2.50US equivalent) and the place vibrated with energy and excitement.

While I was chatting with Terry and Covina, Amanda met the couple across the picnic table from us. Turns out they were Australians who also had recently come to Vanuatu on holiday, and fell in love with the people and the islands. They say a huge need for local shipping (there are very few ships) returned to Australia, bought a small trading ship and were now operating it as a business. So many times in the last week we heard about or met people who believed in making a difference. Hooray, not everyone in western society is just chasing money and status!

Banan Bay, 60 miles south of Luganville was the main reason we chose to return to Vanuatu. We set sail from Luganville at 0400, and after practicing storm tactics were anchored off Banan Bay by 1300. Not long after the anchor hit the water we saw a man launch a primitive, unpainted dugout canoe from a distance beach and slowly paddle our way. John Eddy, chief Saitol’s eldest son came to greet us. We instantly invited him aboard for lunch and renewed our friendship of five years previous.

Katy launches the Galerider drogue

Amanda: Everyone gathered around the lunch table fascinated to chat with John Eddy until we realized the mainsail was still up…oops. As crew scrambled to drop the main I quietly chatted with John between the large mouthfuls of food he discretely ate. We talked politely about our last visit and how the village and the gardens were doing. I didn’t want to appear too eager or pushy in asking about seeing their kastom dancing, we had to leave on in 2 days, and knew there was no dancing on Sunday so that left only Monday for them to perform for us. Then bingo, John quietly asked if we would be interested in kastom dancing I ecstatically said YES!!. “How would Monday suit us?” asked John…”Yippee, we’re in for a treat “was my answer.

Welcoming smiles from Chief Saitol’s son John Eady

Sue Grimm: On Sunday John Eddy met us on the beach at 0940 and led us all to church. Dressed in slacks, a golf shirt and sandals and carrying his Bislama Bible, he led us briskly down a long dirt road to the next village, about 20 minutes away.

The church was small inside with old pews on the right side for the men and bare benches on the left where women and children sat. The windows were all open, letting in a gentle breeze to cool the packed room. We were led inside and brought to the front rows to sit. The service and hymns were all in Bislama and we all sang using the Bislama hymnal. The young girls were dressed up with sparkles ion their faces and in their hair, and the men all wore long pants and a few even wore shoes.

After the service John Eddy organized us into a line outside the church where everyone who had attended filed by to shake our hands. We were then escorted back to “our” village where our new friends invited us back to the village at 1500 to visit, after they had eaten lunch.

When we returned, we sat on mats, sang songs and played string games, visiting and waiting for the others to return from afternoon Bible study. What a lovely day of getting to know these wonderful people!

Monday, October 6, 2003

Roger Campbell: Our third day at Banan Bay was dental clinic day. Our crew walked to the clinic in the next village, 20 minutes away, loaded with toothbrushes and toothpaste to distribute. When we arrived, there was already lineup as the message that we would be conducting a dental clinic had spread.

Peter, the first in line had a toothache so painful that he was willing to have it removed without anesthetic. By the end of the morning we had checked around 20 people.

Dental team extracting a tooth

Villages intrigued with the outdoor dental clinic

Teeth cleaning instructions

Crew donating toothbrushes and toothpaste to the clinic staff

Roger: Over the SSB Namba Net covering Vanuatu waters, John had put out the work that there would be a large kastum dance at 1530 Monday afternoon, inviting any boats in the area to join us. We hoped another boat or two would arrive, and were surprised when we returned to the village to see eight other boats and learn a total of 30 yachties would be attending the dances. At 1500 vatu ($12US) each, this would provide one of the few sources of cash income, to be shared amongst the villagers at the end of their financial year.

The kastom dances were amazing. Sixty men, dressed only in penis wrappers, paint, headdresses and feathers performed four traditional dances that shook the ground and filled the air with dust. The former sweet and gentle villagers that we had been chatting to only an hour earlier now danced fierce meaningful dances, swinging heavy wooden clubs, chanting, shouting and gyrating. Between the dances pride and happiness shown on their faces.

The kustom dance band

Ceremonial headresst dance

The Waverly Courtship Dance

The dancing heats up

The first dance was ceremonial dance that involved tall pointed headdresses. The second dance gained momentum, as it is preformed before the clubbing of a pig that then gives the chief higher status.

Amanda and Katy joining in the women’s dancing

The third dance of courtship shook the ground but it was the fourth dance held in a sacred garden that was a masterpiece. Danced by the village men before the circumcision ceremony of 12 year old boys the dance also call the spirits that live in the recovery thatched house along side sacred tam tams (tikis).

The village women are not allowed into to enter the area or see the men dancing, and they performed there own dancing, a type of line dance including 60 women and children. On their second dance, they invited the yachtswoman to join in, and a few did.

Len presenting Chief Saitol with a 2 year scholarship to the trade school

After the dance we were all presented with drinking coconuts and asked to introduce ourselves. Then Amanda led the kiwis (a majority of the yachties) in a Maori haka war dance, which the villagers loved.

Len presented Chief Saitol with a scholarship donation from entire crew of Mahina Tiare, providing school fees for two years for one student to the new vocational school being set up on Malekula to provide secondary education in business, carpentry and agriculture.

Next the men laid out woven mats inviting all the visitors to sit on the ground and sample laplap, a mixture of yams, taro and cassava that we dipped in coconut milk.

Traditional laplap dinning

Crew and Small Nambas strike a pose

Amanda, who was fondly remembered for her Tahitian dancing from our last visit, had been repeatedly asked over the past few days to dance again. This time better prepared, she had made a flower crown and borrowed a grass skirt from her dear village friend Jean. She performed dances from Hawaii, Tahiti and Fiji to the silent, watchful and appreciative village audience until the batteries in her boom box died. Crew even managed to join in with a funk number and chief Saitol also shook his booty on the dance floor.

Amanda performing for the village

The children followed us back down the beach to the dinghy, proudly and enthusiastically singing their school and church songs. These warm and generous people will stay in our hearts always.

Early yesterday morning (Tuesday) we left our Banan Bay on Malekula for the short 28 mile jump to Epi Island, not expecting winds to 34 knots and steep head seas. The winds increased instead of decreased as we closed on Epi Island, and it was not much fun. In 1998 we sailed directly from Banan Bay to Port Vila, about 130 miles, but this time we heard of a very friendly dugong and dozens of sea turtles in Lamen Bay on Epi, so we decided to leave a little earlier (0500) and stop for the day.

Arrival at Lamen Bay, Epi Island

What a great idea that proved! Lamen Bay is large and protected from all but the west, and is a prosperous looking village with a boarding high school, an airstrip, a small village-run guest house and restaurant and very friendly people.

After anchoring and lunch, we heard from another boat anchored nearby that the dugong had been feeding (they eat sea grass) along the far shore earlier in the morning, so we swam and drifted with the dinghy, hoping for a glance of this friendly 8′ long mammal that loves to have its back scratched. Instead we saw two sea turtles, myriads of brightly colored tropical fish and some very healthy coral.

The elusive dugong

…who likes to be scratched

Soon after swimming we piled in the dinghy to explore ashore. Crew walked the length of the village, found the only shop closed, and watched a Twin Otter land and pick up passengers. Amanda and I had only walked a short distance before she stopped to chat with a woman plaiting a basket. Bennington, an outgoing and chatty woman, admired Amanda’s woven flower crown, having never seen anything like it. Amanda offered to show her how to make one, and she excitedly took Amanda in tow to her house and started collecting bougainvillea and brightly colored leaves. More women and several men gathered around, excitedly commenting that they could make these to sell when an Australian cruise ship visits the village every couple of months.

The canoe parking lot in Lamem Bay

I meandered down the beach to look at the village commuter parking lot. A dozen or more dugout canoes were pulled up on the beach. Only one had a mast and a Dacron sail. We had heard from yachties earlier that most of this village of 300 paddled two miles from Lamen Island where they lived to work in their gardens on Lamen Bay every morning and sailed back each evening. Other than the one canoe with a mast and sail, I couldn’t figure how they would sail home, downwind. Just before sunset, I had the answer! Canoe after canoe sailed swiftly by us at anchor, powered by a couple of palm fronds amidships on the canoe, held up by branches and string. Amanda’s friend Bennington had earlier explained that originally they slept on the island to avoid the mosquitoes and malaria at Lamen Bay. Now they have cleared much of the undergrowth and although mozzies are rare (at least during the cool winter dry season months) they still continue their commute.

After Amanda’s birthday celebrations we departed with two reefs in the main and three in the headsail. We delayed leaving Lamen Bay on Epi Island until just before dark, planning that we would cover the 80 miles to our final destination on Leg 6 at a leisurely six knots. The winds didn’t drop after dark as usual, and we have had one very fast sail! This time we were prepared, with hatch covers on all three deck hatches, high lifelines rigged, and a double reef in the main.

Amanda’s birthday celebration
September 9, 2003
1300 17.44S, 168.18E Log: 71,898
On a mooring, Port Vila Harbor
Wow, another expedition finished in a blur!

Winds dropped once we were in the lee of Efate Island, and we motorsailed the last few miles, arriving just after dawn. We tied to Yachting World’s fuel dock and washed down MT while waiting for them to open so crew could give them laundry and we could get fuel. While I hunted down customs and immigration offices, Amanda taught double-braid splicing, turks heads, sail repair, winch maintenance, rig check and going aloft…phew! One busy morning!

In the afternoon expedition members shopped for treasures before meeting back at the boat at four for the expedition test. That evening our graduation dinner, and more birthday celebrations for Amanda, were held at Rossi’s a delightful waterfront restaurant. Over the past two weeks we completed our teaching goals and had had more land experiences than we thought possible!

Leg 6 – 2003 September 272021-05-04T11:33:07+00:00

Leg 1 – 2003 : Auckland to Tahiti

May 16, 2003 0200hrs 39.43S, 174.59W Log:65,567 miles Baro: 1029 Cabin: 65 F Beam reaching at 6.5 – 7.5 in 12-18kt S winds, on the edge of the Roaring Forties

This is our most difficult passage as we spend over 2,000 miles in or just above the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties (40 degrees south latitude). It is also a challenge to have the most difficult, longest and coldest passage as our first of the season. Amanda and I have just returned

Auckland City

from four months of shore life to an always busy two week period of recommissioning and relaunching Mahina Tiare, provisioning for eight people for four weeks, and reconnecting then saying goodbye to family and friends in New Zealand.

At anchor at Rangitoto Island

The recomissioning this year included painting the bottom, getting the liferaft repacked and bending on our new mainsail and recut 130% geona from Port Townsend Sails. Everything went very smoothly this year, so smoothly that we were able enjoy two nights anchored at Rangitoto Island and to take a day off and travel southwest from Auckland to Piha Beach, where we enjoyed a night in a little cabin above this surfing village and beach. Amanda had come to this beach as a girl with her family, and it was fun to explore it together. The beauty of the New Zealand countryside, bush and coastline, only 40 minutes from downtown Auckland was stunning.

Before we knew it, our final weekend was upon us. This is when we do our fresh goods provisioning, say goodbye to friends and stow the gear that arriving crew have kindly brought down for us.

On Friday I checked in with Bob McDavitt on MetService NZ and he told me that there had been steady easterly winds blowing since December, and to expect a difficult passage to Tahiti with persistent headwinds. We scheduled a weather briefing for Monday afternoon with our entire crew, and hoped for a change in the pattern.

Leg 1 Crew – Blake, Peter, John, Elizabeth, Cam and Rick

Crew arrived Monday noon, and we launched right into orientation. It is always a highlight to introduce our crew to the weather briefers, and Monday afternoon was no exception. Bob McDavitt had drawn up a special forecast for us, suggesting we sail a direct course for Raivave, in the Austral Islands. This was a shocker for us, who have always planned to head south to pick up the Westerlies, just above the Roaring Forties on the last eight times of making this passage. Bob showed the start of a possible low pressure cell, coming down from Fiji, that he thought might just be a problem for us four days out. He thought that if we headed south, then east, as planned, we might be stuck in some very strong winds of a squash zone, between the low and an already present high pressure cell.

Leon Schulz, our German friend in Sweden that has helped us with weather ever since his wife Karolina sailed down the coast of Norway was as shocked as we were with McDavitt’s advice. Leon said, “Head down to 40S and then sail east”. Commanders’ Weather in Nashua, NH concurred, so we decided to take the longer, southerly route, in hopes of following winds instead of headwinds.

M.T at the downtown Customs dock

Customs officials visit onboard for outbound clearance

Liferaft orientation

Tuesday morning we lined up for last shore showers in the dark, and were on the Customs dock to pick up our outbound clearance by 0900. We had a spectacular sail out of Auckland Harbor and the Hauraki Gulf, with following 20 knot breezes and lots of sun as we sailed past sheep-covered green islands where Amanda had grown up sailing, rounding the top of the Coromandel Peninsula, and sailing southeast along the coast toward East Cape, the easternmost tip of New Zealand. As we turned and sailed southeast along the Coromandel’s east coast, we enjoyed smooth water, a fine breeze and spectacular moonrise. All the next day we sailed close along this rugged and spectacular coast, passing the occasional farm, but no cities and only one town, Hicks Bay, just before East Cape.

Peter helms along the Coromandel coast

Rig check class – rigging the staysail stay

As the coastline fell away to the SW after East Cape, the coastal shipping and fishing boats disappeared, and we were alone on the Southern Ocean. The large and impressive SW swell, the soaring albatross and dropping temperatures remind us that we aren’t in the subtropics any more! Each night becomes colder, and hats and gloves are now essential for comfort on night watches. In order to save space and weight, I have a minimum of “winter” clothes on board. Now I am wearing and sleeping in all of them! Amanda, more practical, is enjoying a toasty mummy bag that one of our Cape Horn crew donated after an expedition.

This afternoon we reached 37.40 S, just 20 miles from 40 degrees south, and almost magically, the wind changed from SE to S, giving us a beam reach, as we turned to sail straight east. An enormous high-pressure cell stretching all the way to Tasmania with a center pressure of 1034 is the reason we have had to sail this far south to avoid headwinds. It has been stationary, and is now only moving at 5 knots, so we will sail as efficiently as possible to stay on the leading edge as long as possible. Surprisingly, we have had small mini-squalls fairly frequently, where the winds will increase from an average of 15 knots to as much as 33 knots, even though our barometer reads 1029. Our sturdy and eager crew has been getting a lot of practice at sail trim and helming in these changing conditions.

Speaking of crew, before I introduce them, I should let you know that these are a special and select crew. As this is by far our most difficult leg ever, more difficult than even our Cape Horn to Antarctica leg in 1996, we are extremely particular about whose applications we will select for four weeks of challenging sailing.

Peter Schmid, 35, spoke of applying for this leg when he was enjoying the difficult windward passage of Leg 4-2000 from Panama to Tortola, Virgin Islands. I will never forget the image of Peter hanging on to the bow pulpit for hours as Mahina Tiare charged north from St. Croix to Tortola, drenched with spray and blasted by salt, clad only in shorts and safety harness, with a huge grin on his face, yelling back to the cockpit, “Now this is REALLY sailing!” Peter, originally from Bavaria has been teaching mathematics at the University in Washington in Seattle and most recently in Paris at Ecole Polytechnique. His bride-to-be Donna Calhoun and Peter also shared the wild West coasts of Ireland and Scotland with us on Leg 7-2000, just before getting married in Paris.

Elizabeth Ells, 66, is another favorite of ours! She sailed with us last year on Leg 3-2002 and brings real joy, enthusiasm and determination with her. Elizabeth is originally from England, but came to work in Ontario as a biologist at Canada’s nuclear research facility in the 50’s. Recently, her daughters put an engagement notice for her in the local paper, and she beams when she talks about sharing cross-country skiing and traveling adventures with her new friend.

Cam Cambell, 46 is a cardiologist now living in Iowa City, Iowa who has an amazing thirst for adventure! Can you believe that he signed up for this passage after completing a similar passage from Wellington to Papeete aboard the powerful and capable 65 ‘ex-Whitbread Race winner, Flyer? On that passage, the Alaska Eagle, run by Orange Coast College and skippered by Richard and Sherry Crowe was close-hauled and beating for the entire 2400 miles. The headwinds were so consistent that they had to motorsail until nearly all of their fuel was exhausted, just to lay Raivavae. As they were short on time before the expedition was to end, they had to sail past Raivavae. One of Cam’s overriding reasons for making the passage with us is to be able to explore this spectacular, rarely visited island. Learning that, I really hope the weather conditions will allow us to stop! Cam and his wife Kathy just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in January. I think they are celebrating their four boys all being off to college now!

Rick Johnson, 32 is an emergency room nurse who is so motivated to go cruising that he worked 12-16 hours a day for 15 months as a nurse while living in his Geo Metro (this is not a joke!) to save money to buy a boat to sail off into the sunset on. He just bought the boat, a Moody 37 in Florida, sailed her to Alabama, ran out of money while refitting her and will go back to work in San Francisco (but no longer living in the Geo) once he returns to the US.

John Merritt, 36 of Walnut Creek, Calif., has long dreamed of offshore cruising. John’s lovely and capable wife Hanne, from Denmark sailed with us on Leg 6-2002 so we now get to hear more stories and see new pictures of their son Patrick, who at five speaks both English and Danish! John and Hanne sail their Catalina 36 on the San Francisco Bay, and John has sailed it offshore on singlehanded races. John who invented drugs for a biotech company that just shrunk is enjoying some time off work and more time with Hanne and Patrick before job hunting.

Blake Elder, 41 works for a software company in Silicone Valley, but maintains a healthy balance in his life, sharing a passion for surfing and mountain biking with his wife Dorothy who will be meeting him on Moorea at the end of this passage. Quietly confident and competent and always ready to lend a hand, Blake is a real asset to the expedition.

In fact, everyone onboard is a real asset. It’s a joy to work with and teach this caliber of crew. I most appreciate that this crew are totally living in the moment, enjoying every watch and every day, not counting down the days of the passage.

If you’d like to get some offshore experience and instruction, we still have a few berths available some great South Pacific expeditions this year:

Leg 3: Rarotonga-Pago Pago – one berth
Leg 4: Pago Pago-Suva, Fiji
Leg 5: Suva-Lautoka, Fiji
Leg 7: Vanuatu-New Caledonia
Leg 8: Noumea-Auckland

Tracy McClintock our office manager can answer or relay any questions you have on 360-378-6131 or sailing@mahina.com regarding the legs, and I can call you once we are in Tahiti to speak with you directly.

May 18, 2003 0135 39.41S 168.50W Log: 68,582 Baro: 1030
Emergency Rigging Repairs While Surfing Through the Roaring Forties

A few minutes ago three firm knocks came from the cockpit, ahead of our aft cabin, alerting us that we were needed on deck. Winds were 25-30 knots and we had been charging through the night on a broad reach in swells that the Roaring Forties are famous for.

I assumed Cam and Blake had spotted a ship, but Amanda who was first to the cockpit rushed back to put her foul weather gear and boots on, said, “Something is wrong with the mainsail tack”. I assumed the shackle that attaches the tack of the sail to the gooseneck fitting of the boom had come unshackled or broken, and climbed back into my bunk. Just a couple minutes later came the three firm knocks on the cabin side. Blake said, “Amanda needs help on deck, now!” so I hurried into my foulies and onto deck.

The solid stainless pin that acts as a swivel and attachment for the boom to the gooseneck had sheared its top cap where a U-shaped special shackle normally attached to the tack of the mainsail. Fortunately I found the sheared cap to windward on the deck. We were thankful that the pin hadn’t dropped through, as that would have resulted in the boom becoming detached and damaging the sail.

Amanda disappeared below, returned with some Spectra line, slacked the main halyard, and made a lashing to the reefing hooks on either side to get the mainsail tack secured again. We were concerned with how to best prevent the pin from falling to the deck if it wiggled just right (or wrong!)

Epoxying the sheared gooseneck pin

and looking at the tight fit of the cap on the pin, where the weld had broken, I came up with the idea of trying to glue the cap back on with epoxy. It didn’t take long to mix up some International Epi-Glue, warm it up in front of the furnace vent and to glue the cap on.

It was such a close fit that hydraulic action pushed the cap back off when I released pressure on it, so Amanda went ahead with an earlier idea of lashing a sail tie around the pin to prevent it from dropping, as a backup to the epoxy. That did the trick! As she tightened the lashing, epoxy oozed out between the pin and head. I used extra epoxy to glue the webbing in place, hopefully preventing it from slipping off or chafing.

Checking the previous evenings repairs

Setting the epoxy with the heat gun

In the morning we will email Vickie Vance at Hallberg-Rassy Parts and Accessories in Sweden to contact Selden in Gothenburg for a replacement part. Hopefully this repair will hold 2,000 miles till Tahiti! We will also look through our spares to see if we have a stainless bolt long enough to replace the pin until Tahiti, if necessary.

May 19, 2003 0945 38.32S 164.46 W Log: 66,036 Baro: 1033
Motoring just south of the high pressure center in calm winds and overcast skies.

The repair has held fine, in fact the pin hasn’t dropped at all, so there is no pressure on the epoxied on piece of stainless. Vickie Vance and HR Parts & Accessories in Sweden has already ordered a replacement pin from Selden Mast in Gothenburg, and Blake generously offered to have the part UPS’d to his wife Dorothy who will meet us in Tahiti. If all goes well on timing, we hope the will join us for the passage across to Moorea where she and Blake are planning a week together.

The large (huge, actually!) high that has kept all the lows and fronts south of us has slowly caught up with us, and for the first time we have less than 2 knots of wind. No matter, we still have enough fuel for 1000 miles and crew are happy to learn that the extra powering has resulted in full water tanks which means hot showers this afternoon.

We have been doing well on our teaching program, and yesterday when we covered electrical systems upgrading, we used Richard’s recently-purchased Moody 37 as an example. Richard has started upgrading the systems, but still has electrical gremlins to deal with. Today we will cover long range communications options for cruising boats, demonstrating SSB, INMARSAT C, INMARSAT-Mini M and Irdium systems.

Having never caught fish before in these high latitudes, we weren’t even going to bother trying until we were closer to Raivavae, that is, until Cam told us they caught three tuna during the same passage he made aboard Alaska Eagle. Out went the fishing lines,

Cam sushi’s on down

and in no time flat we landed a gorgeous 15 lb albacore tuna. Yesterday, just before class Richard spotted a huge commotion and splashing astern. We had hooked two more albacore, twice the size of the first! So far we have feasted on fresh tuna every meal but breakfast, and Amanda has just finished making Hawaiian poke marinated raw fish dish that is always a favorite. For lunch today we will have roll-your-own sushi rolls, complete with lots of wasabi!

Oops, it’s nearly time for class, so I’d better quit salivating and get ready for teaching!

Update 3

May 26, 2003 2115 28.27S 149.02W Log: 67,119
Baro: 1007, down from 1034 282 miles to Raivavae
Close hauled in 18-30 kt NNW winds with triple reefed main and jib

Battling an Intense Tropical Cold Front

On deck it’s pitch dark, pouring rain and blowing a near gale. Seas are rough and confused, and we’re being launched into an old swell that sends the boat shuddering. “Feels like you’re in a car wreck every few minutes” came a comment from Cam who’s parked in the bow. It’s been a long night with intense squalls that have peaked at nearly 40 knots. Even though we have been expecting this for the past two days it’s still a challenge to the nerves.

The John’s set sail

Cruising Spinnaker Glory

The huge 1036 millibar high that filled much of the South Pacific for the past ten days finally has been pushed aside. This high was moving at almost the same speed as us, so we have had light northerly headwinds for the past week. One day we had a fabulous beam reach, utilizing our gorgeous new cruising spinnaker for the first time, until the wind moved forward. Sometimes we sailed, sometimes motorsailed NE, other days NW, but only yesterday did the wind back slightly to the NNW allowing us to nearly steer our ideal course towards Raivavae, in the Austral Islands, 400 miles SSE of Tahiti.

Suddenly three days ago a small low showed up on the weatherfaxes; at first, just a closed-isobar low of moderate pressure. Then it bombed from 1010 to 990 and started heading our way. An intense cold front was shown hooking north from it, and that is what we are going through now. We will be glad when it has passed, as the winds are forecast to back to WNW, W and even around to SW. This will mean we will be able to sail a direct and fast course. Even now as I sit at the nav station writing and monitoring the radar, I see a strange wall of precipitation a mile ahead, stretching out 12 miles perpendicular to our course. Maybe this is the final edge of the front. Our barometer is now 1007, up one from the lowest reading of 1006.

Our crew has been phenomenal. Not once has anyone complained about too little or too much wind, and when there is a sail change or help needed on deck, they are practically tripping over themselves to help. When we suggested a swim yesterday, they were lined up and doing crazy dives into the water as soon as we hove to. We’re right on track with our teaching plan, and the heavy weather experience they are gaining tonight is invaluable. Some crews on long passages become fixated on arrival. This crew is content to enjoy every moment of the passage. I must say, Amanda and I are really looking forward to landfall, and having this, our most difficult passage of the year behind us. What a treat to have such an isolated and exotic tropical island as Raivavae to look forward to!


That wall of precipitation that showed on the radar was a nightmare! Before it winds dropped to 14 knots so that with triple-reefed main and jib we were totally undercanvassed and being tossed around uncomfortably. Richard and Amanda shook all but one reef, and we were sailing along slowly, but more comfortably, then it hit! Winds went to a steady 38 knots, the rain was torrential, and the seas built quickly. If we were sailing off the wind, it would have been an E-ticket ride, but on the wind it was a handful. Fall off too much and the speed quickly built to 7.5 knots where MT would go charging through the wave, then drop to the trough below. Head up into the wind too much and the sails and rigging would start shaking. It was a fine edge, and lasted what seemed like forever. Finally, dawn came, revealing confused, heaving seas, but also showing

Blake admiring a peaceful sunset after a rough night

a new wind wave pattern on our beam, out of the WNW. Within a couple of hours we eased sheets onto a close reach, and out speed and comfort level quickly soared.

May 27, 2003 0500 25.45S, 148.33W Log: 67,302 Baro: 1012 120 miles to go Broad reaching at 5.6 knots in 14 knots of SW wind

For the first time of the passage, our crew is getting to focus on improving their downwind helming skills. What a delight to have the winds and seas from astern! Yesterday we had excellent conditions, surfing at up to 8.4 knots as the miles just melted away. Instead of class yesterday we had hot showers and naps, catching up on sleep from the night before.

Update 4
May 29. 2003 2030
Exotic tropical landfall.

Last night was magical. With only 6-9 knots of wind and extra hours to sail before we could enter Raivavae’s pass, we ghosted along in smooth seas, a million stars overhead, and the knowledge that an exotic island waited just over the horizon. We hove-to for a couple hours when it looked like we would arrive before dawn, then started sailing again.

Sunrise was brilliant and vivid, with the rugged volcanic outline.

Entering the pass at Raivavae

The pass and the nav marks on the new French chart didn’t quite agree, but we had no problem finding our way through the coral heads to the wharf.

Soon after we had tied to the dock, the mutoi, (Tahitian policeman) stopped by to ask if we had any extra fishing gear we wanted to sell, and to see if we would like to clear customs. As all the fish in the lagoon are affected by ciguatera, pelagic fishing is very important on this small island. We also swapped the mahi we had caught yesterday for banana’s, limes and taro.

We were asked to move off the wharf and anchor out as the twice-monthly supply ship from Tahiti was due early the following morning. What a rush of activity it brought to the normally sedate island! Everyone, all 1000 people it seemed, came to see the ship, pick up supplies or see passengers on and off the ship.

Our rugged crew took off exploring the island on foot, just before a very persistent and slow-moving front settled the island into a steady drizzle that lasted the rest of our visit. Peter and I spent a very busy day working on the backstay radar mount that had split at the bottom and needed a new swing dampner installed while Amanda emptied and reorganized the fridge and freezer while making quiche for dinner.

The front didn’t seem to be moving on the weatherfaxes and as we were drowned out by the rain which forced us below to scrabble tournaments we decided to sail to Tubuai, 100 miles WNW, which looked to have clear skies.

Team Scrabble

Tubuai Island

Tubuai Island form a hill top view

Sure enough, when we were about half way there, the skies cleared and we had a gorgeous landfall. First order of business was laundry, and my old friend Larry said we could again use the water tap at his little gas station by the wharf. Before long, Mahina Tiare was festooned with drying laundry and we all took off exploring. Amanda and I borrowed bikes from another friend to clear in with the Gendarme, but as it was Sunday lunch there was no one in sight at the Gendarmerie, so we decided that would have to wait.

Monday morning saw crew up early and ashore by 0700, headed for the Chinese store where they had heard rumors of pain chocolate and other French pastry items. We eventually found a Tahitian gendarme who said we didn’t need to check in, so we headed off bicycling along the coast.

After receiving a forecast from our friend Leon in Sweden, we decided to depart Monday before noon to take advantage of fresh SSE winds, switching to SE, E, and hopefully, arriving in Tahiti before the winds backed around to the NE. As Tahiti is due north of Tubuai, NE winds are headwinds, but SSE mean a rollicking broad reach.

And rollicking broad reach we have had! We started with 20-25 knots, occasionally gusting to 30, and what a glorious sail we have had! An extra bonus was catching our second ever yellow fin tuna, and a bonita, the first day out from Tubuai.

June 4, 2003 0615 18.03S, 149.28W Log:67,863 Baro: 1012
Broadreaching at 7 knots in 20 knot E winds. 28 miles to Taapuna Pass, Tahiti

What a sunrise! Moorea is off the port bow, Tahiti is to starboard, and the colors are wild. Crew is snapping pictures in the cockpit, the winds are still fair, and we are scooting along nicely. I think it’s time to shake a reef out, as our speed has dropped just below 7 knots.

The Pro’s – Cam and John – shake a reef

…later…working on the reef spaghetti

As the weather window for the passage from Tubuai to Tahiti puts us in several days early, our plan is to clear customs, then give crew as long as they want exploring Tahiti (a couple of days is usually max) then sail to Moorea for great snorkeling, hiking, sailing, exploring. We will complete our teaching in the next couple of days with sail repair, celestial, going aloft to check rigging and storm tactics.

Update 5 – June 11, 2003 0530
16.43S, 151.02W Log: 68,025 Baro: 1012 Cabin Temp: 77F
At anchor, Huahine, 100 miles west of Tahiti

Our day in Papeete was intense and busy. We were anchored off Marina Taina around noon, and before long Amanda and I were on the bus, headed to town and Customs. We got most of the clearing in procedure done before offices shut for the day, then crew were able to take the bus and explore this bustling, growing city. We all met for dinner at Lou Pescadou’s, a crazy and fun pizza joint with awesome food and a very eccentric and funny owner-chef. The following morning crew returned to town to check out the thriving public market and buy gifts, and by noon we were filling fuel and water and setting sail for Moorea.

Given the choice of bustling Tahiti or tranquil Moorea, crew said, “Let’s set sail!”. Moorea was the perfect place to practice Lifesling overboard procedures, heaving to, going aloft for rig check and sail repair, interspersed with hiking, biking and looking for pearls for spouses and children.

All too soon Monday morning rolled around, and it was really neat to see how crew looked after each other. Blake rented a car and shuttled people to the ferry and their hotels, and crew made plans to hike together, meet for dinners and stay with each other in Tahiti while waiting for early morning flights. It really feels like a successful expedition when this type of synergy occurs.

We did laundry in buckets in the little fishing harbor, waited out a torrential rainsquall, then set sail at nine Monday for Huahine, 85 miles west of Moorea. We had a picture-perfect passage, with winds never less than 11 or over 16 knots, and as we were making landfall, Amanda caught a perfect little yellowfin tuna, enough for four meals for the two of us.

Amanda started removing lifelines and hardware yesterday, in preparation for sanding and the first of five coats of varnish on the caprails today. The weatherfaxes look promising, and as soon as it starts getting light, we’re headed ashore for a run while it’s still cool.

John Merritt carried back the disk with the images of Leg 1 on it, and those should be posted into the text of Leg 1 updates within the next week.

We still have (hard to believe) one berth available on Leg 3, with fantastic sailing from Rarotonga, Cook Islands, to Pago Pago, Samoa. We have 3 berths on Leg 4, Samoa to Fiji (another favorite of ours, with great sailing and lots of wind!) as well as berths available on Legs 5, 7 & 8. If you’re interested, give Tracy McClintock a call in our office, 360-378-6131 or email her on sailing@mahina.com for more details. If you have questions she can’t answer, she’ll relay them to me and I’ll get right back to you.

Leg 1 – 2003 : Auckland to Tahiti2021-04-27T15:35:59+00:00

Leg 7 – 2003,Port Vila, Vanuatu to Noumea, New Caledonia

While waiting for our Leg 7 crew to arrive, we enjoyed getting to know Frederique Lesne and Richard Chesher, authors of the incredible Tusker Cruising Guide to Vanuatu (www.Cruising-Vanuatu.com) and a similar Cruising Guide to New Caledonia (www.Cruising-NewCaldonia.com). Both are on CDs and feature crystal-clear satellite images and detailed anchorage and cultural information.

Frederique and Richard – Authors of Cruising Guides

The CD cruising guide to Vanuat

They are also developing a CD guide to all the village guest houses and hotels for travel agents and asked us to stop at two smaller, rarely-visited islands to photograph to new village guest houses on Erromango and Anatom

Our eager crew came aboard at noon on Wednesday, October 15:

Frederique and Richard – Authors of Cruising Guides

Carl Nichols, 48 of Spokane, WA sailed with us last year on Leg 5-2002 and enjoys sailing his Columbia 36 in the waters of British Columbia and the San Juan Islands.

Sam Parker, 62 of Newport Beach, California is going for the record! He joined us for Leg 2-2000, and then sailed from Tahiti to Fiji with us on Legs 34 & 5 2002. This year he signed up for both Legs 7 & 8. Now he will have seen every country and most of the islands between Tahiti and New Zealand!

Christine Webb, 51 of Auckland, New Zealand joined us on Leg 7-2003 and is now aboard for her first offshore passage. She and her husband Tony raced their Stewart 34 extensively, and Amanda crewed for Christine in women’s racing series in Auckland MANY years ago.

Bob Lester, 57 is an OB-GYN doctor from North Carolina who is semi-retiring a week after he returns from this expedition. He is looking forward to more time on his boat, a Catalina 30 that he keeps on Lake Norman in the mountains of North Carolina. He would like nothing more than to purchase an Amel 53 and cruise the Caribbean.

Port Vila market

Ladies at market

Amanda buying traditional laplap for lunch

The Waterfront Yacht Club – a popular for yachties

Following orientation Wednesday afternoon and a trip to the colorful public market Thursday morning, we cleared out and set sail.

Port Vila – ariel view

The shelter of Vila Harbor provided us an excellent opportunity practicing the Lifesling overboard procedure before we hit the open seas. Our plan was to sail to Erromango and Anatom as well as Tanna to look up old friends from my first visit nearly 20 years ago, and to see the very active Mt. Yasur volcano, before setting sail to New Caledonia.

Prevailing SE winds usually make the passage to Erromango and Tanna a difficult one, but unforecasted winds gusting to 30 knots and the short, steep seas made it really uncomfortable. To make things more complicated, we received a GRIB-file forecast over the Iridium satellite system that forecasted 35 kt winds for the next three days. These would make all the anchorages difficult and would probably mean standing anchor watch.

With nearly everyone on board seasick, later that evening we held a discussion, asking if anyone would be overly disappointed if we fell off to leeward toward New Caledonia, skipping the southern islands of Vanuatu, and instead cruising from Noumea to the fabled Isle of Pines. Everyone agreed that this would be a good decision, so we eased sheets and set off on a fast close reach. The winds backed more to the SE, so we soon had to sheet the sails back in, still reefed down in winds of 25 knots and steep seas.

At 2100 we sailed through the narrow gaps in the Loyalty Islands, part of New Caledonia that cruisers aren’t allowed to stop at until clearing customs in Noumea.

Carl keeps watch while Bob takes the helm

Surfing through Havannah Passage

Early Saturday morning we surfed through the entrance of Havannah Pass, still with a constant 25 knots astern, appreciating the superb new French charts, lighthouses and range markers. While pressing on to Noumea we passed lots of neat looking bays and anchorages, which we read more about in the cruising guide.

Cruising Guide to New Caledonia

Noumea – ariel view

At least six other yachts were in contact with Port Moselle Marina, asking for berths and custom clearance and we were surprised to see the Kanak (local Melanesian) dockmaster at the end of the visitors dock, directing boats with his handheld VHF and a clipboard.

We didn’t really expect that we would be able to clear customs on a Saturday afternoon, but Quarantine, Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Office were all on the docks and we were totally cleared in within an hour! A nice surprise is that your first night’s moorage is free (for visiting yachts) and clean showers are at the head of the guest dock. Our crew had bags of laundry for the fuel dock laundry-lady, and the harbormaster gave a voucher from the marina restaurant offering free drinks for the crew of every arriving yacht! No big surprise that we ended up having dinner there.

Sunday was a quiet day, except for the public market that is totally jamming from 0600 until noon, even in pouring rain, the first we’d seen since Leg 1. We all went different directions on long wet hikes and runs exploring the waterfront and hills behind town.

Monday morning I purchased an excellent new French chart of Isle de Pines, and we set sail, reaching Baie de Prony by late afternoon. The cruising guide talked of taking the dinghy up a river at Baie de Careenage to a hot pool and hiking to a waterfall, so we were off exploring soon after the anchor touched the bottom.

Crossing the river on our Prony hike

Waterfall at old Prony mine

Tuesday we were underway by 0530, and were pleased to find a following wind once we sailed outside the protected Baie de Prony. The winds kept building until they were 28, gusting to 34 and the seas were large enough to have us surfing along nicely, touching 9 knot occasionally. I was getting concerned that the main anchorage at Kuto Bay would be totally open to these near gale force winds, until Christine found an alternative anchorage across the peninsula in Kanumera Bay that proved very protected.

Kuto peninsula, Isle of Pines – ariel view

Mahina Tiare at anchor in Kanumera Bay

What a delight Isle of Pines proved! The powdery white sand beaches were magnificent, and the native dinosaur era pine trees vied with palm trees along the beaches, and impressive eroded coral formations. The air felt sub-tropical, cool and crisp, not heavy and humid. Every Kunie (local) person we passed smiled and waved. This is our kind of island.

Scenic view of offshore isles

Kunie thatched house

Kunie children

Traditional Kunie sailing canoe

We quickly determined that it was way to large of an island to explore only by bicycles that were available at the small guest houses and hotels near the beach, and booked an island tour for the following day. We saw incredible beaches, huge local Kunie sailing canoes and nets drying, the unusual looking thatch and stone houses of the local islanders, descendents of Tongans from Polynesia and remains of the political prison that France set up in the late 1800’s. After returning for lunch aboard Bob and Carl set off snorkeling, exploring the caves, coral and fish, Christine worked on her tan and yoga, and Sam went exploring ashore. Amanda and I rented bikes and later hiked up to a little chapel overlooking one of the villages with a magnificent view of the lagoon.

The persistent strong winds had abated and backed 30 degrees by Thursday morning, and after motorsailing 5 miles on the initial course, we changed course, hoisted sails and had an excellent fish-catching beam reach 50 miles to a protected anchorage in Canal Woodin. There it was time to catch up on teaching, and in the afternoon we covered Sail Repair, Low Island Landfall, Cruising Medicine, Dealing with Officialdom, Communication and Storm Tactics.

Early this morning (0500 start again, as it gets light at 0430) we raised anchor and headed for Noumea, 25 miles away, in sunny, glassy conditions. Once we arrive we will tidy the boat before crew will take their tests and head off to explore town and beaches. It’s now fun to look back on how varied, eventful, and not to forget relaxing, the last ten days have been.

Leg 7 – 2003,Port Vila, Vanuatu to Noumea, New Caledonia2021-04-27T15:06:04+00:00

Leg 6, 2002 : Suva, Kadavu, Mamanucas, Lautoka, Fiji

November 2, 2002 0200
18.27S, 177.27E, Log 63,548, Baro: 1011, Cabin: 83F
Broadreaching at 5.7 kts in 14kt E winds, calm seas. 45 miles to Malololailai Island

Day 1, October 28
We were tied stern-to in front of the Tradewinds Hotel, just outside of Suva when our crew joined us. Other than one visitors berth at the Royal Suva Yacht Club this is the only other place in Suva that yachts can tie up with services, and it was a treat for us to have the hose onboard to give the boat a thorough wash down after our varnishing while at anchor of the Yacht Club. Within an hour of our Leg 6 crew joining us we tossed our shore lines, raised anchor and motored a short distance to a totally protected anchorage off Nukumararika Island. Suva City Council has a live-in caretaker who maintains the island as a picnic and swim destination.

Leg 6 Crew: Ruth, Bob, Amir, Max, Hanne and Bryan

After several hours of safety and boat orientation we hit the beach and enjoyed playing beach volleyball with some kids from Suva.

Once again we’re about to share another expedition with a first class crew:

Ruth and Amir Keren, 47 and 46 join us from Yaad, Israel. They are our first Israeli expedition members! Ruth is a computer programmer and Amir is a vulture capitalist (his words, not mine!) who has started and sold several companies. Amir is in love with Wharram catamarans and is thinking about building one. Ruth isn’t so sure about that. They really enjoy spending school holidays sailing with their three children, most recently in Greece.

Bob Trenner, 56, has earned the nickname of “Kava Bob” and got along famously with every Fijian we met. They were always trying to get him to drink more kava, (elephant cups) partly egged on by Bryan! Bob and his wife Karen are considering a Cape Horn 70′ trawler yacht. We enjoy Bob’s great sense of humor, hopefully he will be joining us for a Spitsbergen leg in 2007.

Max Lenker, 56 is an ex-military and private pilot, loves sailing and navigation, and lives in Atlanta. Max is considering buying a cruising boat and mooring it in the BVI’s, since he can easily fly there from Atlanta. He enjoys sharing sailing with his teenage daughter, son and wife and manages many convenience stores when not sailing.

Hanne Merritt, 36 is a research scientist from Copenhagen, Denmark. She met her husband John at grad school in Chicago and they now live in the San Francisco area where they sail their Catalina 36 on the Bay and down the West Coast. She already really misses the two men in her life, Patrick, age four and John who will be on Leg 1-2003. Hanne also misses sailing in Scandinavia and has already committed for our Norway leg in 2007! We will certainly look forward to her gentle, sweet energy and love of sailing.

Day 2
A 0530 start to our passage to Kadavu, 55 miles south of Suva ensured us of a daylight arrival off the somewhat tricky entrance through numerous coral patches into the Daku Village anchorage. Winds and seas were perfect, giving us a broad reach at 7.5 knots and moderate seas.

Daku Village

Threading our way into Daku Bay in less than ideal daylight was a challenge, but we found our way into the protected inner anchorage. With a sandy bottom and just two feet of clearance under the keel, sheltered by reefs to seaward and shoreline, this is one of our all-time favorite anchorages. The villagers didn’t initially recognize Mahina Tiare, but they said that by the way we threaded our way into the bay, they knew we must have visited before. We met our good friend Kata Ravono coming down toward the beach, followed by hugs and tears. She said her husband, Epi, who she calls her “woodcutta” was helping out at the district school, but should be back soon. Kata invited all the crew to their home “for a bowl of grog”.

In a flash we were back to MT to bring crew ashore and soon after sunset several of the village men gathered in Epi and Kata’s house to grind and mix the kava, knowing that Kata would invite them to gather round the tanoa (kava bowl) for a bilo or two of grog. Joe, Epi’s younger brother who is a real clown (and the minister, believe it or not!) sat next to Bob, and nicknamed him Kava Bob. Brian and Bob egged the villagers on to give larger and larger bowls of kava, known as “high tide”. All our crew participated in the evening and everyone made us very welcome especially the village children who were eager to know more about us.

Village boys around the kava bowl

Amanda’s new friends –
Emely, Lice and Jale

Kata told us that the formal sevusevu ceremony would be the following night with the village chief. This would be when we would present the bundle of kava I had purchased in Suva, make a short speech after a very special ceremony around the kava bowl in the chief’s house. This may sound like a hassle, but it is a very special part of Fijian culture, and one that we love and respect. It reminds us in many ways of the ceremony in the San Blas Islands, where we would present the requisite bag of rice or sugar and ask permission of the village headman to anchor near his village and visit ashore.

Epi didn’t make it home before we returned to Mahina Tiare for the night, so many jokes were made about how he must have drunk too much kava and ended up with some maiden. Kata laughed and laughed saying, “I know my preacher-man, and he is a good man. He will be home tonight!”

Sure enough, we just missed him by minutes, and early the following morning Epi came out to the boat, amid lots of joking and teasing. I kidded him about his hair turning white, and he said, “it’s much cooler in the sun, and at least I have all my hair, John!” It was so wonderful to see this man who has been a close friend of mine for 18 years, even if we go four years as we just had between visits.

Epi asked if we would all like to hike up the mountain to see the village farm plots, so off we went! Epi and Kata’s three kids are away at boarding school and his oldest, seventeen year old twins named Mariah and Senemeli hope to be able to attend college in Suva next year.

Recently the price paid for kava, Daku’s only cash crop, plummeted after a European report that pills made from kava might cause liver damage. For the first time in their lives, Epi and Kata need to earn cash to pay school fees, so Epi showed us 2000 pineapples which will soon be ripe, and which he plans to sell at the market in Vunisea, the largest village and government station on Kadavu. He then told us of his ambitious plan to convince the 18 of village men to cooperatively clear garden plots and plant an acre of ginger each. In preparation, Epi planted a test plot with the help of the Agriculture Department last year, and has already harvested part of that crop. All 18 plots have been cleared, any many have already been planted. We wish Daku villagers a bumper crop of ginger and plenty of money for school fees!

Epi and his infectious smile

Epi explaining the new ginger gardens

Epi’s pineapple garden

Coming back down the mountain to the village we then wandered over to a home where several of the village women were cooperatively weaving a room-sized mat for a visiting preacher after which we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade of a chestnut tree in the middle of the village. Later Kata showed us her latest masi (tapa) mats. A very small hotel has opened across the bay and they bring their guest by boat to see the Daku women’s handicrafts so now that the women have a close market for their art they are really going to town and becoming very creative.

Ripe papaya from Epi’s garden for breakfast

Ulita prepares pandanas leaves for weaving while her daughter Cheeky watches

Kata serves us green banana cake under the chestnut tree in the village common

We went back to Mahina Tiare for a swim and class, then returned for our sevusevu ceremony in the chief’s home. Many of the men had heard about “Kava Bob” and “Hollywood Bryan” and there was good fun around the kava bowl after the serious introductions were done.

Thursday, Day 4, Epi led us on the 45-minute hike to Vunisei, the nearest elementary school.

Kava ceremony with the five village chiefs who are supervising the schools building maintenance projects

Situated high on the knife-sharp mountain ridge, the school serves five villages, with children from the three most distant villages boarding during the week. The arrangement in Fiji is that the men of each village spend one week a month working on the school and grounds, and this was the week. Strong Fijian men were carrying bags of sand, gravel and cement up from the beach, and others were mixing cement and preparing the foundation for a new girl’s dorm bathroom. The grounds looked immaculate. We were met by the headmaster who showed us around the buildings and took us to where the chiefs of each village were seated drinking kava. He explained that the chiefs would need to be there drinking kava all day, and it was there job to say “Well done” to their village members at the end of each day.

The headmaster had arranged for the children to sing for us, and afterwards we presented toothbrushes for most of the children and Ruth and Amir presented school supplies they had thoughtfully brought with them. We came away with a list of needed supplies: a dictionary, an encyclopedia, calculators, maps, a world atlas, crayons and volley and soccer balls. We will purchase and mail what we can find with funds left by Sam Parker, (legs 4,5,6 this year) and bring another load next year.

Vunisei school children sing for us

Ruth chats with the teachers

John presents toothbrushes to the headmaster

We were all pretty bushed by the time we got back to Mahina Tiare, so instead of packing up and going sailing to practice Lifesling and storm tactics, we covered electrical power systems and watermakers in the cockpit, under the awning.

Epi and Kata had prepared a real Fijian feast for us that evening, and Amanda contributed her famous Baboote (an incredible South African curry dish) and an enormous batch of brownies. The village generator (new last year) had run out of diesel, so instead of fluorescent lights, we had dinner by kerosene lamp, sitting cross-legged on a woven mat on the floor. After the dishes were cleared away the large kava bowl was placed at the head of the circle and the evening’s kava drinking and talking story began. Slowly shadows slipped by the hurricane lamp and the circle of people sitting around the room on the floor began to expand as neighbors and friends joined in the ceremony. It took me right back to all the times I’d had dinner with Epi and Kata and our many evening of jokes and laughter.

Ladies Tea Party – Amanda

I’d bought our travel guest book-photo album ashore the night of the feast that shows our travels over the past 5 years and everyone had poured over the pages with delight and awe. They were thrilled to see pictures of themselves and crew from two earlier visits and scenes of what Mahina Tiare was like below. The fact that we had returned to Daku was special to quite a few people and they asked if other boats that had previously visited the village would also be returning one day.

After a few hours it was time to leave and the room emptied of the women and children as they escorted us to the beach for farewells. The tide was low so it required two dinghy trips to keep the boat light and thus avoid the coral heads. As the first dingy load left for Mahina Tiare the women stood around me on the beach and became bolder with their questions, maybe it was because of the darkness or perhaps it was the fact that we were sailing away in the morning.

A question that they eagerly asked was what M.T was like below and where everyone slept. I did a pantomime walk through of the boat and they giggled with interest as I explained each cabin, the beds and the galley layout. I suggested that next year when we visited perhaps the ladies would like to come to the boat for a visit, I’d be happy to bake a cake, “Oh yes, a ladies tea party” exclaimed Ulita in a clipped English voice.

On the way back to the boat I explained to John that the ladies were very interested in seeing the boat and perhaps next year we should invite them out to visit. John’s reply was very enthusiastic and said why not just have the tea party in the morning. So seven the next morning we went ashore and announced to Kata that the ladies were invited to a tea party later in the morning. Kata suggested that around 9:30 would be a good time.

Throughout the morning we heard a lot of activity from shore, although M.T was equally in a morning bustle as I baked chocolate brownies, John did breakfast and crew completed their daily chores. By teatime John was off to shore to collect the ladies but when he arrived he was in for a surprise as the beach was full of children with beaming faces, they’d been to school in the morning but had been sent home, as the school had no water. All the women and girls of the village were now coming aboard for ladies tea party a total count of 32. We also had two males in the party, the chief’s brother and Jale my little dancing friend, and the rest of the boys were left on the beach with some them crying.

Three dinghy loads later everyone was aboard and quickly settled into a sitting position. The sight was extremely colorful as even at such short notice the ladies and children had dressed in their Sunday best and were adorned with wonderful fresh flower leis that they’d obviously made that morning. There was definite ranking order as to who sat where, the wife of the chiefs brother sat below with the chiefs sons wife Ulita, my friend Kata, Jale’s mother, Kata’s sister-in-law Taina and two other ladies whom I’d become friends with. Jale, Emely and Lice were also allowed below while the rest were told to stay in the cockpit.

School children happily saying hello

Ladies enjoying the Tea Party

Time in the Pacific Islands moves at a slow place and everyone was just happy to sit and gaze about, all that is except the 12 children who were eager to explore the boat. There was a charged atmosphere in the air and expectation that something big was about to happen. All eyes appeared on me and I felt rather put on the spot not really knowing what they were anticipating. I’d been dancing in the village with the children and decided to play a video of the South Pacific Arts Festival that shows dances from 10

Two year old Siteri poses for a picture

Pacific nations. The New Zealand haka war dance was very popular along with the quick rhythmic hip swaying of the Tahitian tamure and everyone was glued to the T.V for a while.

It was then time for cake. Luckily I’d baked a double batch of brownies but as I pulled it out of the oven all eyes were upon me and I wondered how I was going to divide it into 34 pieces. The brownies were also of a very sticky, crumbly concoction and I didn’t even have 34 plates to serve it on. I just held my breath sliced away and sent up a tray of 20 pieces for all the children and ladies on deck. Whomp…flying brownines with crumbs in all directions and 200 sticky fingers to prove it. Down below faired a little better but still required me to excuse myself to vacuum up the runaway pieces. The vacuum cleaner in itself was an amusement item. While I’d been down below entertaining my close friends, Hanne and Ruth had been chatting with the ladies and children in the cockpit and enjoyed getting the girls to write there names and draw pictures in there diaries.

For the entire tea party we’d been abandoned by the men of our crew who had gone off snorkeling and after a few hints from the ladies below I knew the party was coming to an end. Five blasts on the foghorn signaled the men to return and in short order they were back, ready to take the ladies ashore. But no one was really ready to leave and farewells were long and hearty as we all had so much more to share with one another.

As we slipped away from the anchorage a few hours later (it took a while to clean up wayward brownie crumbs and I’m still finding them days later) we sounded 5 long blast on the foghorn and watched with tears in our eyes as the children waved from the beach and signaled the boat with mirrors. Once we reached the bay entrance we tossed a few leis into the water with a promise to return to Daku.

Yeah, we were back sailing! We tucked a reef in the main and set sail on a gorgeous broad reach, skirting the reefs that protect this side of Kadavu Island. Our destination was a narrow, unmarked and reef-strewn channel to anchor in front of Dive Kadavu, www.divekadavu.com a small and very appropriate dive resort. We found that they only had two guests, a young kiwi honeymoon couple, so Julie, the manager welcomed us for drinks, songs and Fijian dinner.

“Kava Bob” returning the ceremonial coconut bowl used for drinking kava

Max performs the hula

Amanda brought her “Rise Up Singing” songbook (thanks to Tom Hall) so when the three Fijians that were singing asked us to sing, we were prepared! We even found a few songs that we all kind of knew, but what a fun evening and great sunset we enjoyed.

John and Kava Bob get singing

All the boys joining in with the band

The following morning Bryan, Amir and Max enjoyed an excellent two-tank dive before coming back for class and setting sail for Malololailai Island, 110 miles away. We managed to thread our way out through the reefs safely and set sail well before sunset. The wind started out dead astern, so crew gained experience setting the pole and preventer before it moved forward, allowing us an excellent reach, exactly on course.

Musket Cove

After sunrise the winds went light, so we motorsailed the last few miles, giving the batteries a good charge.

Musket Cove, www.musketcovefiji.com has long been one of our all-time favorite places. On our last trip here in 1998, we got married on the beach between expeditions, so this was a real homecoming for us. In no time flat crew had laundry and shore clothes organized and hit the beach running! We enjoyed a fun poolside dinner before heading back to MT, exhausted.

Sunset at the two dollar bar

Monday morning, Day 8, Max and Amir were off on another two-tank dive while the rest of our gang explored the island and lazed by the pool. After lunch on board, Amanda taught rigging and splicing before we headed ashore for dinner.

As soon as the light was good for coral piloting we set sail on Day 9, for Vanua Lailai, 28 miles away, through numerous occasionally correctly charted coral reefs. Along the way we used the sextant to shoot

Low tide at Musket Cove

a noon latitude then had each expedition member repeatedly practice Lifesling overboard procedures until everyone felt very comfortable single-handedly executing the Quick-Stop maneuver and retrieving the Lifesling.

We found a nice sandy patch, surrounded by coral and anchored in 60′ of water. We had recently covered Storm Avoidance and Survival Tactics so figured that late afternoon would be the perfect time to show the video, Pacific Rescue, dealing with the Queen’s Birthday Storm that we encountered. WRONG! The anchorage was a bit rolly, and by the end of the video, all but one crew were in the cockpit, looking green about the gills!

Johns explains “Man Overboard” to Hanne

Hanne at the helm in the final stages of “Man Overboard” retrival

Day 10, Wednesday morning, we piled in the dinghy and looked for an anchorage called Rainbow Lagoon, a notch in the coral between Vanua Levu and the next island, Navadra, which is connected by reef, but not land. We found the anchorage, but decided we would need very stable weather to consider it, plus a stern anchor quickly deployed. We anchored off a long white sand beach and swam ashore, ours the only footprints on this uninhabited tropical island.

Soon the sun was high enough for safe coral piloting, so we set sail for Vuda Point Marina, 25 miles away on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. The winds filled in enough for us to practice deploying warps as well the Galerider drogue. Far too soon we arrived at Vuda Point Marina, (email: vudamarina@connect.com.fj) and before long we were moored stern-to and had a hose on board to scrub MT down.

We enjoyed our last evening next door at First Landing Resort www.firstlandingfiji.com where we were serenaded nearly continuously by the band. Our waiter occasionally borrowed one of the singer’s guitars and launched into beautiful Fijian songs, explaining them afterwards. It was another special evening highlighted with lobsters, dancing and the sound of surf on the beach.

Our maitre de Keli and Amanda doing an impromptu performance

Check out Mahina Tiare’s Current Weather Conditions!

Leg 6, 2002 : Suva, Kadavu, Mamanucas, Lautoka, Fiji2021-04-27T14:22:35+00:00

Leg 3, 2002 : Papeete, Tahiti to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Day 3 August 18, 2002 0100 17.03S, 150.27W Log: 60,853 Baro: 1012 Cabin Temp: 84F Closehauled at 4.1kts in 5.5kt N(!) winds 37 miles to Huahine, Iles Sous le Vent

Within 45 minutes of our past Leg 2 crew setting off for adventures on their own in Tahiti, Amanda and I set sail for Moorea, 21 miles west of Tahiti. The cold front with 25-30kt SE winds that had roared through our Papeete anchorage at Maeva Beach, causing crew stand anchor watch on their last night, had blown through, leaving cloudless skies though lots of wind and a substantial swell that crashed on Tahiti’s SW facing reef, to the delight of the surfers.

Speaking of surfing, with winds between 32 and 39 kts for the passage to Moorea, Mahina Tiare was in her element, touching 12 knots in one surge, with boatspeed rarely


dropping below 9 knots. We covered the 21 miles in record time, even managing to catch but not land a fish as we sailed past Pointe Aroha on Moorea’s NE corner. I couldn’t stop grinning – these were the conditions I kept dreaming about a year ago as we crossed the bitter North Sea between Germany and England. Finally, it REALLY felt like we were back sailing in Paradise!

Aerial view of Cook and Opunohu Bays

For a week we enjoyed two of our favorite anchorages, the first shared with a sistership, Heron, owned by friends from Hawaii in front of former original Bali Hai Hotel and the second in Opunohu Bay. We enjoyed morning runs up the valleys followed by a swim and managed to accomplish a record six coats of varnish in six days, plus ticking off jobs on the repairs and maintenance list. On our last afternoon we hiked three hours up to Belvedere, a scenic lookout over both Cooks and Opunohu Bay.

We are here 2 months later than when we usually sail up from New Zealand and have encountered more yachts on Tahiti and Moorea than previous seasons. The Port Captain said we were the 367th foreign boat to check in and that on average Tahiti has 350-450 boats a year passing through. I think concern over El Nino conditions, the economic climate and the increased Panama Canal fees have reduced the number of cruisers in the South Pacific this year, which is balanced by a few extra yachts sailing to Auckland to watch the America’s Cup.

This year a change in French Polynesia’s immigration policy has caught many cruisers, and even the Gendarmes in the Marquesas and Tuamotus by surprise. For the past ten years or so, foreign boats arriving in French Polynesia were automatically given a three-month visa which could be renewed for another three months if a request in writing was forwarded to the High Commissioner in Tahiti. Now it’s necessary to leave the country to apply for the second three months. The two options most used by cruisers are one-week excursions to either Easter Island or Hawaii. For future cruisers a better alternative is to apply for a six-month visa from any French Consulate before arriving.

Papeete Harbor, Moorea Island in the background

European Community citizens fare much better, having no immigration entry formalities at all! With her British passport Amanda can stay one year and doesn’t have to fill out any paperwork, not even an entry card or post the bond money of an airline ticket home We will mention these changes in the latest update that we are writing for Charlie’s Charts of Polynesia.

Another major change is the famous waterfront quay of Papeete. The area with a concrete bulkhead, power and water has quadrupled in length, though we saw only a handful of cruising boats as most cruisers prefer the quieter reef anchorage south of the airport near the Maeva Beach Hotel, Taina Fuel Dock and Carrefour Mega Store.

Now that you’re caught up here’s the start of Leg 3.


Crew joined us noon on Friday although I had already collected their passports the previous night and completed the paper work with Immigration and Customs. Our original plan was to spend Friday afternoon on safety and navigation orientation, but once everyone was aboard, Amanda said, “Why don’t we sail to Moorea now, instead of tomorrow” No one objected.

In short order we were powering across a flat Sea of the Moon as El Nino results in lighter winds over the South Pacific, but our bonus was when Ron, a keen fisherman who had been watching our fishing lines yelled, “We’ve got a fish!” Both these events were two major firsts as in the 28 years that Amanda and I have made this passage, we’ve never motored or landed a fish. And what a fish! A 30lb wahoo (Spanish Mackerel) that filled our tummies, the fridge and the freezer. What a treat!

Paddling at sunset

Yesterday was a busy one, as after delicious morning swims in the lagoon we seriously launched into our safety and gear orientation, followed by most of the crew heading off for a hike up to Belvedere, a photo shoot sailing back and forth in front of the spectacular lush green mountains and cliffs of Opunuhu Bay, where Captain Cook had sailed, and setting sail for Huahine before dark.

At a distance of 84 miles, it’s slightly too long of a passage for daylight hours, so most cruisers leave Moorea at sunset, planning an early morning landfall at Huahine. The light winds have gradually filled in and are hovering around 6 knots, allowing us to sail at 5 knots. The moon is 2/3 full, there are a zillion stars spilling from the Milky Way that’s stretched across the sky, and life is good aboard Mahina Tiare! August 18, 2002 1940 16.43S, 151.02W, Log: 60,899, Baro: 1013, Cabin Temp: 82F At anchor, Huahine

Last night the winds stayed with us, though never more than 8 knots, they were rarely less than 5 knots. With diamonds and moonlight teasing the inky black sea, and caressing warm breezes filling our sails we were all enchanted by the night and happy to be silently slipping along at an effortless 4 – 5 knots. By sunrise we were only a few miles from Huahine with a fading breeze but dazzling sunny skies. We motored into Passe Avamoa and anchored in the lagoon off the village of Fare. Within minutes we had all dived into the crystal clear turquoise water that felt like being in a tropical aquarium.

Ashore Fare was experiencing a very quiet Sunday afternoon, with the three Chinese grocery/hardware stores closed for the day. The only sign of business were four or five roulettes, or Tahitian food trucks, with hibachis blazing away and a table of Tahitian mama’s making lei’s and sewing tifaifai quilts. With a population of 5,600, Huahine is quieter and more rural than Tahiti or Moorea.

Tahitian women weaving and sewing in Fare, Huhahine

After returning to Mahina Tiare, Oystercatcher XXXV also joined the anchorage. We had briefly seen her in Spitsbergen when Gary Jobson was aboard with owner Richard Matthews, making an ESPN television show. We had then drooled over Oystercatcher, an Oyster 53 in Southampton Boat Show and knew that Matthews owns Oyster Yachts. At least two of our past expedition members, Rosemary and Keith Hamilton and Mariusz Koper have ordered or taken delivery of new Oysters, so we have also been following the line with interest. Not really knowing the crew we were surprised when Richard Matthews sent his captain over to invite our ENTIRE crew aboard for sunset drinks. Matthews has been a keen racing sailor for 30 years, owns a 12 meter America’s Cup yacht and was initially involved in the present British America’s Cup challenge so it was an interesting time for us as we talked about the upcoming America’s Cup and heard the future plans for Oyster Yachts.

One of the many Maraes (temples) at Lake Maeva

Aerial view of Bora Bora with Raiatea, Tahaa and Huahine in the background

Three miles North of Fare at Maeva, Muffet Jourdane, a friend of Dorothy and Mark’s, is working on an archaeological dig for Hawaii’s Bishop Museum under the direction of Yoshi Sinoto, long the preeminent Pacific archaeologist. Excavation in this area started in 1923 and the site map lists 35 ceremonial marae sites.

We all cycled to the site and were guided around by Muffet and by Eric Komori who explained the large traditional meeting house/museum on stilts over the lagoon and various stone maraes or temples which face Lake Maeva, remnants of the previous culture. Eric explained that the oldest sites in the Society Islands date to 850-1000 AD, and that the reason this Huahine site is so large, covering dozens of acres, was that for 400-500 years the island had not suffered inter-family or inter-tribal warfare Eight brothers had divided the island but remained harmonious and built the temples together with their only concerns being raids by warriors from Raiatea, Bora Bora and Tahiti.

Tahitian site worker washing the
archeological dig soil in search of artifacts

Work on the present archaeological site had been going for two weeks, with Bishop Museum and Hawaii State Historic Preservation staff assisted by volunteer grad students from Japan and Norway and local workers. While we were watching, a student uncovered a beautiful mother of pearl shell coconut grater at a house site and a large carved wooden log used in tapa cloth making was unearthed at a meeting house stone wall.

Coconut grater made from a large pearl shell

Tapa log being unearthed from meeting house site

Map of a 10 cm layer of the house site

Archeologists and Amanda at the meeting
house site discussing tapa making

Marae Tefano

Marae Paepae Ofata overlooking Huahine’s NE coast

Sam was the only one who cycled around Huahine while the rest of us ended up having picnics on the beach or at the hotel.

After an interesting snorkel in Fare’s pass, we studied coastal piloting and navigation and set sail for Raiatea, 20 miles west of Huahine. We started with less than 5 knots of wind, but soon we had 7-9 knots on a lovely close reach across in unusual NW winds. We anchored (for my first time in 28 years) off the most sacred religious and navigational site in all of Polynesia, Marae Taputaputea (holy, holy place).

Leg 3 crew at Marae Taputaputea, Raiatea

Marae Hauviri, Taputputea

During our visit ashore before sunset, we marveled at the extensive religious platforms, all well maintained, and dating only to the 17th century. It was from this site that Polynesian voyagers sailed south to discover and settle New Zealand, and also departed on voyages to Hawaii and Rarotonga, on their 80′ long catamarans. This site was so important that chiefs sailed here from the Australs, Cooks and even New Zealand for important ceremonies. We quietly watched the sunset over the rugged mountains of Raiatea and went swimming in the moonlight, finding a powerful magic in this tranquil place.

Leg 3, 2002, Update 2

Day 13 August 29, 2002 1000 16.26S, 152.14W
Log: 61,041 Baro: 1016 Cabin Temp: 84F
At anchor, Maupiti Island, 30 miles west of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Trying to untangle ourselves from the jungle after taking a wrong turn

Lest you think it is all teaching and no play, on Day 5 after class we motored a few miles north up to the head of Baie Faaroa, and took the dinghy up the only navigatable river in French Polynesia – or rather, we tried to take the dinghy up the river. It had been several years since we had done this, and I didn’t realize there were two separate rivers opening into the bay, both entrances partially obscured by mangroves and palms. The river I mistakenly chose ended up with us stuck in a tangle of branches, laughing so hard we nearly cried! The dinghy ended up full of leaves, branches, and spiders, much to Zahra’s dismay, as her job for the day was dinghy cleaner. On our way back we passed a local who gave us the oddest look and in Tahitian tried to explain we were in the wrong river. Once we figured it out, we motored over a mile up the main river past manicured banks and plantations, under overhanging trees with birds flitting back and forth and spied rugged green peaks through the gaps in the tropical canopy.

Zahra removing the jungle debris from the dinghy

Day 7 on Raiatea brought a forecast of a cold front passing over in the late afternoon bringing 25-35 knot southerly Maramu winds. What a perfect time to do our marine weather class. We discussed sources of marine weather when in isolated places, looked at weatherfaxes from New Zealand and Honolulu and listened to a translation from French (by a cruiser in Tahiti) of the local forecast. As a conclusion we studied the general dynamics of marine weather covering cold, warm, occluded and stationary fronts, highs, lows, ridges, troughs and convergence zones, plus overall weather systems for the Atlantic and Pacific, use of Pilot Charts and World Cruising Routes, hurricane seasons and effect of El Nino. Our Leg 3 crew did great – lots of good questions, and I’ll bet a high level of retention for our test, and more importantly, for use on their own boats.

We carefully studied the chart of Tahaa, a dramatic island two miles north of Raiatea that shares the same barrier reef, trying to find the best anchorage in strong S or SW wind conditions. We chose a small bay on the N end of Tahaa and on the way stopped and snorkeled by Passe Toahatu before having a lovely quiet sail under headsail along the dramatic coastline. We kept a constant lookout to the south for bands of low clouds that would signify the arrival of the front, but as the front hadn’t shown we anchored in a tiny hole 1.2 miles north of our chosen storm anchorage. When Amanda first joined me aboard MTII in 1994 we had spent a week here, surrounded by 2′ deep water, in a small sandy-bottomed pocket with 60′ depths and a dinghy channel to the outer uninhabited islets and reef.

Soon after we anchored, a French boat came in, looking for an anchorage, only to discover how tiny the anchorage was and sail on.

We took the dinghy ashore and hiked along the outer reef where we collected plastic rubbish and we admired the sea and tide pools. After returning to Mahina Tiare where Amanda had been standing anchor watch, a 30′ Canadian sloop singlehanded by a gentleman we had met earlier cruised into the tiny anchorage and promptly ran aground, getting well stuck between two coral heads on a falling tide. Amanda, Zahra and Ron donned masks and fins and swam over to lend a hand as I brought the dinghy over. With three sets of eyes underwater our crew directed me which way to push with the dinghy, as they stood on the coral, pushing and shoving the boat into deeper water. After he was free, we invited Dean to join us for dinner in the anchorage on Tahaa we were leaving shortly for. Dean works occasionally as a movie location manager in Vancouver, and his wife, a Kiwi, is a retired ballerina who teaches Pilates on Bermuda.

It did blow that night, and rained enough to half fill the dinghy. We stood anchor watches, but with good protection from the south, great holding and lots of chain out, we didn’t have a worry!

Day 9 The previous nights’ cold front had created a large southerly swell and the Pass Papai on the SW corner of Tahaa had huge seas and lots of contrary current. We knew it would be a rough passage but our crew was interested in heavy weather experience, so we double reefed the main and hung on. With winds gusting in the 30’s Elizabeth hit the highest speeds, repeatedly passing 10 knots as we surged along toward Bora Bora.

All smiles as we surge towards Bora Bora

As Day 10 was a Sunday and most things ashore including the Gendarmerie, where we needed to check in, were closed. We opted to go sailing inside Bora Bora’s spectacular lagoon for sail practicing tacking, gibing, reefing and Lifesling Overboard procedures. In Faanui Bay with the winds gusting from 10-30 knots down the rugged valley our crew were given a great work out. Next we sailed around to the windward side of the lagoon through a narrow blasted channel with only 16″ of clearance under the keel. We stopped at our favorite Bora anchorage, behind an islet on the far windward corner of the lagoon and anchored with just 2′ of water under the keel in water so clear we could watch sting rays glide by. Ron spotted an octopus, Elizabeth more rays and a moray eel, and Amanda found that the hundreds of blue damselfish loved stale French bread.

Sailing inside Boar Bora’s lagoon

Early Monday we returned to anchor off Bora Bora Yacht Club where we could easily walk to the town of Vaitape. Ron, Zahra and Sam biked the 20 miles around the island, Mark & Dorothy went shopping and Amanda and I took care of clearing out, retrieving my immigration bond and reprovisioning. Tuesday morning Elizabeth and Zahra went scuba diving with a local dive operator while we topped up our water tank and did a little laundry at Yacht Club. That afternoon we sailed to the far south side of the lagoon to anchor by ourselves in a spectacular spot. We again enjoyed great snorkeling in clear, shallow water followed by a tropical sunset.

M.T on Bora Bora Yacht Club’s water mooring

Zahra, Amanda and Elizabeth demonstrating how big a manta rays mouth is

Day 12, yesterday, was a great day for the 30-mile passage to Maupiti, a miniature version of Bora Bora, with only 1/10th the population, 500 instead of 5000. Perfect following seas and winds meant that we arrived at the narrow pass at exactly noon, always the time of high slack water in the Society Islands. Ashore we found a friendly, unhurried atmosphere, nearly untouched by the surge in tourism that has recently affected Bora Bora. Sam & Zahra walked the seven miles around Maupiti, accompanied part way by some young girls on bicycles.

Mark and Zahra guide us through the Maupiti’s twisting pass

Landscaping the pathway of a picturesque house on Maupiti

Maupiti boys proudly showing us their fighting cocks

Today, Day 13, has been Amanda’s day for teaching. After sending each expedition member aloft carefully in the bosun’s chair to do a rig check, she showed them how to strip and clean winches and is now just finishing teaching how to splice double-braid line. Earlier Zahra plotted our course to Mopelia, an occasionally inhabited small island 100 miles west of here. We will wait until late afternoon to set sail so we won’t arrive too early at Mopelia.

Amanda teaching safely going aloft

Here’s our Leg 3 crew:

Zahra Elmekkawy, 34, originally from Cairo, Egypt was working in Basel, Switzerland for the Bank for International Settlements before joining us. She will return to New York City where she works for the Federal Reserve Bank. Zahra has become hooked on sailing and is wondering if there is a nice guy with a seaworthy boat in the greater New York City area that she could go sailing with to continue improving her skills.

Elizabeth Ells, 66 originally from Croyton, England but has been living in Ontario where she worked as a biologist at a nuclear research facility before raising three daughters. Chuck, her husband of 38 yrs recently passed away, and she is determined to experience all of the things she has put off in the past. She lives on Ottawa River and sails her Naiad 18 off a mooring in front of her house. What a positive attitude this woman has! Elizabeth is usually the first one in and the last one out of the water. She and Amanda often stay up until the wee hours playing Scrabble in the cockpit.

Dorothy Hazlett, 54, and a psychiatric nurse and avid snorkler from Honolulu has 20,000 miles of cruising experience, much of it in the South Pacific aboard a 57′ ketch that she and her previous husband built over 3.5 years. She and her husband,

Mark Hazlett, 52, a marathon runner and lawyer in Honolulu, sail their Catalina 34 out of the Waikiki Yacht Club. Dorothy and Mark’s four children have nearly flown the nest and they are considering upgrading to a larger boat after retirement in a few years to sail to Alaska, B.C. and possibly Chile.

Ron Poulton, 54 of Rancho Mirage, California, has long been fascinated with the South Pacific. In his 30’s, he signed on to crew on an Alden ketch from LA to Tahiti. When the skipper turned around because of seasickness, Ron hopped on the next flight and spent three months crewing on three different boats around the Societies. He later moved to Kauai for six years, before settling in the desert. Ron doesn’t let a successful real estate career keep him from 6-8 weeks off each summer, and is considering purchasing his own boat and sailing it to Tahiti in the next few years.

Sam Parker, 59 from Newport Beach and Palm Springs, CA joined us last year from San Diego to Acapulco and signed up for three consecutive legs this year. Sam is part owner of an Island Packet and Hatteras yacht dealership and keeps a Duffy electric boat tied up to his dock. Always thinking ahead and ready to do what needs to be done, it is a pleasure to welcome Sam back aboard!

Day 16, September 1, 2002 2200 hrs
17.13S, 154.33W Log: 61,209 Baro: 1016 Broadreaching at 7.3 kts in 23 kt ESE winds

After a perfect overnight broad reach, we arrived at Mopelia’s pass at exactly noon on Day 14, the time of high slack water. Slack water is a bit of a misnomer at Mopelia as we measured 3.6 kts of current against us in the pass, which is a 100′ wide gash in the coral reef. In lining up the entrance we appreciated two steel posts, set on the reef on each side of the pass, plus one small fishing float on each side at the inside end of the pass to mark the narrow and shallow channel. We always had at least 8′ of water under the keel and although

In the middle of
Mopelia’s narrow reef pass

I’ve entered before it’s still slightly scary. As we had solid 20-knot easterly winds, we carefully motored across to the sheltered side of the lagoon, dodging reefs and numerous pearl farm floats some just below the surface.

We were surprised to find two Spanish yachts, an Italian-Brazilian couple on an HR 45 and a San Francisco couple on an Esprit 37 anchored off a couple of thatched huts ashore. Soon after we anchored, the couple on the Esprit named Reflections, zoomed over in the RIB, inviting us to a barbecue with the locals on the beach. They said the other yachts had been there over a week and had been enjoying the hospitality of Gretta who invited everyone on spear fishing and lobster trips during the mornings and potluck barbecues each night.

After a swim Amanda got busy and baked a tasty cobbler, I made a big batch of popcorn and crew made a big cole slaw and lots of garlic bread to heat on the fire. Just as we sighted Mopelia, we had a LARGE mahi mahi take Ron’s Tahitian lure and a smaller mahi on “Pinki”, so Amanda prepared the fish with Cajun spices for the barbecue. It was fun to meet Gretta and his friends, all from Maupiti, but preferring to live on this

Polynesian Motu

tiny isolated island, present population only 15. His home was just a shack on the beach, with a solar panel to power one tiny light bulb and his boom box. Fires blazed high on the beach as we got to know the nine yachties from nearly as many countries. The Italian owner (with Brazilian wife) of the HR 45 said they had found paradise and planned to stay two more weeks. They enjoyed long afternoon games of chess with Gretta and a pleasant friendship.

Day 15, yesterday, we studied diesel engines and electrical power systems in the morning, followed by long hikes along the coral, coconut tree motu. We met a pearl farmer, down the lagoon white sand beach whose wife was visiting Tahiti with 600 pearls to sell from their farm. He said they have a house in Maupiti, but prefer the tranquility and nature of Mopelia. The outer ocean coral beach was windy and wild with 20 knot winds and occasional rain squalls passing through and our crew came back aboard feeling like they had visited the movie sets for Gilligan’s Island and Castaway.

Day 16, this morning, I taught Storm Avoidance and Survival and Amanda showed our crew how to run our Pfaff 130 sewing machine. Mid-morning we got an email from our friend Leon Schulz in Sweden, in answer to my query of how the weather looked on internet sites for a Thursday arrival in Raro. Leon replied that a Wednesday arrival may provide more settled sailing conditions, recommending we set sail today. We took a vote, and everyone said, “Let’s go sailing!”. Before setting sail we motored out the pass and tried to anchor near the wreck of the WWI sailing-raiding ship, Seadler, which we snorkeled on during Leg 3-1997. The swells were too large, and we had to anchor further down the outer reef though still had an interesting snorkel before leaving.

Our winds have been 20-27 knots and seas a bit confused, so we just tucked a second reef into the main to slow the boat down. We have 375 miles to Rarotonga, so we need not hurry. We’re hoping it’s daylight when we pass Atiu, plus calm enough to anchor in the lee and go swimming as we did when passing the island in 1997.


Another record Mahi
from Amanda’s “Pinki”

Leg 3, 2002, Update 3

September 8, 2002 1700 21.12S, 159.47W
Log: 61,567 Baro: 1015 Cabin Temp: 79F, Cockpit Temp: 75F
Tied to Cook Island Patrol Boat, Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga

Day 17 provided 20-26 knot winds and larger SE swells than expected so we double-reefed the main and jib and had great sailing averaging 7.5 knots. Mid-morning we hooked the largest mahi mahi we’ve seen to date, and this fish was a fighter! For a while it felt like we had hooked a shark as she dived deep and kept crossing back and forth, refusing to surface. It took three of us to reel this lady in and when Amanda held it up, it was nearly as tall as her.

Day 18 held a mid-passage diversion, in the form of Mitiaro and Atiu islands. The direct course from Mopelia to Rarotonga goes between these islands, and we’d hoped to anchor long enough to swim. We sailed close along the coast of Mitiaro, waved at four people fishing off the beach, but large swells, no harbor and over 100′ depths close to the breakers kept us from anchoring. Atiu, another small island, population 300, is 24 miles away, and again, large surf kept us from getting close enough to anchor. However, Sam volunteered to standby with the boat, motoring off the reef while the rest of us snorkeled and swam edge of the surf breaking on the reef, marveling at the 100’+ visibility and huge fissures in the coral extending from shore.

Atiu’s beach landing

Last night dinner at sea –
seared Cajun mahi

After a quick shower back onboard we hoisted sail for Rarotonga and enjoyed a special sunset last-night-at-sea dinner in the cockpit, all thankful for new friendships and a safe and fun expedition.

Early morning on Day 19 the winds became light and as we’d been keeping track of a very active cold front a few miles south of Rarotonga, we decided motor and make some miles. However, the winds came back on an off for a few hours throughout the last 50 miles so we enjoyed peaceful sails whenever possible. After dawn we practiced sextant sun sights before tidying the boat for arrival.

Ron practicing celestial navigation
before landfall at Rarotonga

It’s always exciting to see what boats are in a harbor, and if we can spot any old friends. As we entered Raro’s tiny, packed Avatiu Harbour, we didn’t spot any friends, and couldn’t see a single place to drop anchor where we wouldn’t be blocking another boat. We first tried anchoring bow and stern off the small boat ramp, but got told off by a dive boat. Then a friendly yachtie came over and suggested a spot, further in the harbor where we would be able to take stern lines ashore, instead of having to trust a stern anchor in this harbor famous for unreliable holding. By the time we were re-anchored, it was nearly 1700. In between I found time to run ashore and clear customs. Our good old harbormaster friend, Don Silk had just retired two days earlier, but the new harbormaster, John, formerly the captain of the Cook Islands patrol boat, Te Kukupa, has the same great attitude, and welcomed us back to the Cook Islands.

We had earlier warned our crew about Captain Jack’s, one of the South Pacific’s most notorious (and riotous) restaurant and bar. Perched on the edge of a harbor it overlooks the wrecks of the Yankee and an earlier steamship, it’s often washed through with hurricane waves and the walls are littered with the memorabilia of countless other shipwrecks. So it was only fitting that after HOT long showers ashore us tropical seasoned pirates gathered here for sunset drinks and a fabulous graduation dinner.

Graduation dinner ashore at Trader Jacks, Raro

Day 20 was the last day of instruction. We discussed and demonstrated changing communications for long distance cruisers with our Inmarsat Mini-M, C, SSB radio and Iridium satellite phone. We also practiced programming the Furuno weatherfax and discussed SailMail and WinMail. Next we borrowed and strung together 250′ of hoses to reach from shore to MT, gave our girl a proper wash down, filled our tanks, plus the tanks of four other yachts around us.

On shore we met an old friend from Penrhyn Island, in the Northern Cooks, Anis Kaitangi. After catching up on how our various Penrhyn friends are doing, I asked Anis, “Did you bring any pearls down from Penrhyn with you?” He lit up like a Christmas tree, as this was the subject he’d been dying to talk about! His immediate answer was, “You buy pearls?” I explained that I still had pearls from our last visit, but that our crew was interested in pearls. In a flash he was off on his motorscooter, returning shortly.

Crew fascinated with gold and black pearls from Penrhyn Island

You should have seen the looks on our crew’s faces as hundreds of gold and black pearls were rolled out on a white t-shirt. Quickly they decided which daughters, wives, girlfriends, etc. needed gifts of exotic South Seas pearls. After nearly cleaning Anis out from his stock of pearls, everyone took off in different directions, exploring. We met for a fun Indian dinner at Blue Note Café in town, with Zahra making a dramatic entrance, dressed to the nines and looking every bit like an Egyptian princess.

Yesterday morning the one spot in the harbor for a yacht to tie alongside, vs. anchoring with a bow anchor and stern lines ashore became available. Ron, Sam, Dorothy and Mark helped us retrieve both bow anchors and two stern lines and move Mahina Tiare into a tiny corner of the harbor where we are rafted to a lighter which is rafted to the patrol boat which is side-tied to shore. There is always a small jerky surge in the harbor and all seven lines to the ships and one line to a mooring are constantly working, but we no longer have to worry about anchors dragging or being run into or drug down upon by other boats. A bonus is that we can climb over the two ships and jump ashore, not having to rely on our dinghy.

Tiny Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga

John securing M.T’s mooring lines –
Avatiu Harbour

This is a very special time for Amanda and I, when we really get to relax and enjoy one of our favorite islands. For the meager sum of US $3 per day we’ve rented mountain bikes that we use constantly. This morning we bicycled the 32 kilometers around the island, stopping for a long wander on the beach at Muri lagoon, and for a fish salad lunch at a little café. Tonight it’s a yachties potluck ashore and tomorrow we get to join a Hash House Harriers fun run up the mountain. (Amanda has signed up for a half-marathon next Sunday after completing a 10k fun run last Thursday). Tuesday night we’re invited to a barbecue at a friends house ashore and Wednesday we’re guest speakers at the Rotary dinner. Somewhere in there we want to find time to hike across the rugged interior of the island, snorkel in Muri lagoon and browse the trendy art galleries. And I guess we will need to find time for some boat maintenance and vegemite, opps I mean grocery provisioning.

What fun being in Paradise!

Leg 3, 2002 : Papeete, Tahiti to Rarotonga, Cook Islands2021-04-27T14:03:46+00:00

Leg 1, 2002 Panama-Cocos Island-Hilo, Hawaii

Day 3, Jan 13, 2002 0600 6.17N, 84.30W,
Log: 53,959, Baro: 1010 Cabin Temp: 83F
Close hauled @ 6.5 kts in 10 kt WSW winds.
157 miles to Cocos Island

Our free week in Panama between legs passed in a blur of boat projects, provisioning for 8 people for 34 days, answering mail and emails and taking a day off visiting a rain forest park to view exotic tropical birds and animals.

After meeting crew on Thursday afternoon, Jan 10, to collect passports and start orientation, we then welcomed them aboard at noon on Friday. Once a series of tropical downpours passed and we completed orientation plus a trip to the fuel dock to top up water tanks, we shot out of Fuerte Amador Marina in winds that peaked that night at 32 knots. We started out with a single reef in main and jib and ended up surfing at 9 knots even after we reduced the headsail by 60%. Nearly all the time since leaving we have had .5 to 1.2 knots of current behind us, speeding us towards Cocos Island, 500 miles WSW of Panama.

Leg 1 crew drying out between rain showers

Sunrise Saturday morning (Day 2) revealed a scene of sea and hills. When we sailed on the Atlantic side of Panama from Portobello to the canal entrance we were in thick, muddy water, dodging tree trunks and rubbish, looking up at a dark, foreboding jungle shrouded in fog and rain. Now in the Pacific, the water is a clear deep turquoise-blue that greets a dry, sunny-green mountainous coastline. This contrast felt like we’d achieved a major transition and I felt happy to be sailing back in the Pacific and headed for Hawaii.

We were surprised to find such strong and consistent winds for the first few days as all predictions were for NE winds, less than 10 kts. But on Day 2 the winds lightened and since then we’ve motor awhile, then sail awhile, however over the past 12 hrs we have had some great sailing, with our VMG (Velocity Made Good) often above 7 knots.

We expect to arrive at Cocos at dawn on Day 4, Tuesday. It is a little out of the direct 4600-mile course from Panama to Hilo, but we don’t want to miss a repeat opportunity of visiting this small, tropical rainforest island that mesmerized us 20 months ago. On continuing our course line from Cocos to Hilo, it passes Clipperton Atoll, a French possession 700 miles SW of Acapulco. Sea conditions permitting, we hope to anchor off and if the surf is modest, even land on this uninhabited island with a rich history of pirates and buried treasure.

We hand picked the best possible crew for this 34 day expedition, knowing that temperament and personality would be critical to an enjoyable voyage. Here they are:

Lore Haack-Voersmann, 47 is a psychologist from Hamburg, Germany specializing in drug prevention with youth. She has about 35,000 miles sailing experience, much of it on square-riggers and her second book on seamanship for square-riggers is due out in March. She and her husband Peter have enjoyed sharing summer sailing adventures in Scotland, Norway and Ireland with their four college aged children on their 53′ steel Van Dam ketch which is presently moored in Scotland’s Caledonian Canal.

Jim Barbee, 56 just retired after 29 years as an engineer with Bechtel and sails his Islander 36 out of Alameda on San Francisco Bay. He is volunteer teaching part-time in his wife Mary Ann’s classroom and is thinking about going cruising in a couple of years when she retires.

Ralph Imlay, 45 is an ER MD from Wichita who learned to sail on small boats in Kansas in 1990 after med school. He still has his first boat, a Sweet 16 and in 196 added an O’ Day 25 on Cheney Lake thru Ninnescah Sailing Assoc. He’s looking forward to exploring the Big Island.

Brent Blair, 56 is a former Bering Sea king crab fisherman who lives in Salem, Oregon and works as a geographer for Bureau of Land Management. Brent and Sue’s daughter and son have flown the coop. Brent and Sue enjoy sailing the San Juan’s aboard their Cape Dory 25D.

Larry Donahoo, 65 first joined us in Fiji in 1993, flying in with his wife Donna from Saudi Arabia where he worked as an engineer. After seeing our pictures of the San Juan Islands of Washington State, they bought a home overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca, just a couple miles from Friday Harbor and moved there from Dhahran. Larry and Donna sailed in the ARC last summer and sail their Nor’Sea 27 out of Friday Harbor. Donna is studying museology at the University of Washington, but it would be awesome if she cuts class and flew to Hilo to meet us.

Lisa Hinson, 46 has been exploring the world for the past 2.5 years, but before that she lived in Austin, Texas. Lisa has little sailing experience and her aim of this long an expedition is to make her a more well-rounded and competent sailor for chartering adventures. Her partner, Frank Kunc, met Larry and Donna on one of our Fiji expeditions and is off on a 2-week bicycle trip in Cuba before flying to Hilo to meet us.

Day 7, Jan. 17, 2002 0730 6.18N, 90.17W, Log: 54,369, Baro: 1010, Cabin Temp: 84F
Close-reaching, motorsailing @ 6kts in 8kt NNE winds, 1150 miles to Clipperton Is, 3849 to Hilo

On Tuesday, Day 5, through clouds and drizzle we only sighted Cocos Island when 4 miles off at 0800. By 0900 we anchored in Chatham Bay, but had missed a sandy spot we were aiming for and in the swirling current and bouncing swell the chain wrapped around some giant coral heads. After getting everything stowed, Amanda donned mask and fins and directing us where to power to unwind the chain. Then I hopped in and together we searched the bay for the sandy spot we had found last visit. Once reanchored, two park rangers came by in a skiff and asked us to tie to one of their two shaky looking moorings. The mooring consisted of two cement-filled 55-gallon drums chained together amongst nasty coral heads and a worn line going to the surface in 15′ of water. Not far away were breakers and a rocky shoreline, so we knew Amanda or I would always have to remain aboard and that overnighting could prove unsafe.

Cocos Island park ranger coming to visit

Isaiah and Hugo, the park rangers, came aboard to check our last port clearance zarpe and to collect the U.S $15 per person per day park fee. They said we were welcome to go hiking and snorkeling and before they headed back around the corner to their base in Wafer Bay they pointed out a buoyed water hose. In minutes everyone was in the water admiring the myriad of fish under MT.

Any more laundry?

Laundry rated high on the request list so we all leaped in the dinghy with buckets and soap then motored over to the water mooring near a waterfall to scrub clothes in the firehose-forced water. After the mornings rain the water was fairly brown, so we were delighted our PUR watermaker had MT’s watertanks overflowing.

Cocos Island logo

After lunch and with the tide in, the crashing surf had subsided somewhat ashore. Amanda and Larry volunteered for anchor watch so we chanced the beach landing. Our timing was perfect between the breakers and we got the dinghy pulled up the beach and tied to a tree. Ashore we found a new shower, restroom and garbage drum for visitors, plus the third park ranger, living alone with a cat in the hut a few feet from the surf line. He pointed us up the trail and went back to trying to contact park headquarters in Costa Rica on his radio.

Greetings from Cocos Island

Brent set a blistering pace up the 1000′ steep and sometimes slippery trail, but along the way rewarding views of the bay and valleys, birds and strange tropical vegetation halted progress.

The Birdwatchers – Brent, Lore, Lisa and Jim

After 40 minutes we reached the mirador (viewpoint) overlooking Wafer Bay.

We slipped and slided back down the hill and the ranger gave us a hefty bag of ripe bananas of which half was devoured before we returned to the boat.

Lore contemplates the downhill slide

Between the waves we went charging into the sea carrying the 180lb Avon RIB, and all but Brent scrambled in as I started the motor. Brent pushed until the water was up to his chest and several crew grabbed and helped him over the dinghy side as we cleared the surf before an impressive set pounded the beach. Whew!

We enjoyed a quiet afternoon, I did a couple of minor boat projects, Amanda made a fabulous taco dinner, then at 2000 hrs we slipped the mooring and set sail for Clipperton Atoll, 1350 miles away. With winds less than 6 knots and the equatorial counter current against us at .5 to 1.5 knots we’ve been motorsailing since leaving except for our afternoon swim stops. The seas have been calm and the nights cool, starry and clear with the Southern Cross appearing in the early morning sky. We’ve seen little of the ITCZ but a heavy afternoon shower yesterday was very welcome.

Last night the winds increased slowly and the current lessened, so we hope to shut the engine off soon. According to the Pilot Charts we expected little or no wind for the passage from Panama to Cocos and for 300 miles out of Cocos. I purchased 6 additional 5-gallon fuel jugs and we’d hoped to buy fuel from the dive boat at Cocos. When we delivered our empty jugs to the skipper he said he would call the company office in Costa Rica to find the price. We were sad when after our hike he told us that his office had said because of park policy he wasn’t allowed to sell fuel. Now we have enough fuel supply for about 1100 miles. Although I hate burning it so early in the trip, if the weather follows the averages of the Pilot Charts, we shall soon be broad-reaching in 11-16kt NE winds with a .5kt current with us the entire way to Hilo.

Jan. 17, 2002 1530 6.38N, 91.01W Log:54,416
Close-reaching at 5.5 kts in 12 kt NE winds, ENGINE OFF

Not long after writing the previous entry the wind clocked and slowly increased, allowing us to turn the engine off. Since then we have had gorgeous smooth sailing conditions with winds above 8kts. Finally we are out of the equatorial counter current and actually have .2 kt current with us. Hooray, trade winds here we come!

January 26, 2002 1200 11.56N, 115.43 Log: 55,703 Baro: 1011 Cabin Temp: 89F
Broadreaching at 8kts in 24kt NE winds. 2350 miles to Hilo

Zooming in the Trades!

Since the last log entry the winds have rarely dropped below 12 knots and have often been around 20 knots, with highest winds of 34 knots sending M.T on record runs of over 200 miles per day. We should pass the halfway point this afternoon as we calculate the total distance, Panama to Cocos, Clipperton and Hilo at 4600 miles.

Day 14, January 24th was an exciting day. It started with dozens of dolphins playing in our bow wave for hours, while to the north a huge flock of booby birds passed, dive bombing into a ball of fish that tuna had herded. We watched tuna leaping out of the water like dolphins as they chased smaller fish. Just after crew assembled below decks around the table for class, Amanda, who steers while I’m teaching class, called down from the cockpit, “I need help!” After fruitlessly towing two fishing lines for 2,000 miles, Amanda’s new lures had snagged two matching 40lb wahoo, which had soon become entangled. It took steady hands and fancywork with the gaff to land both fish, nearly as tall as Amanda.

Two-timing fishing

Not long after the fish had packed the freezer and fridge, Brent sighted the palm trees of Clipperton Island, www.melchizedek.com/clipperton_island.htm. Measuring 3 x 5 miles with only 7 square miles of land, Clipperton is the only coral atoll in the Eastern Pacific. Located 1630 miles SSE of San Diego, Clipperton was originally discovered by Magellan in 1521, but was later named after an English pirate rumored to have buried treasure on the islet. Mexico and France both clamed the island, and both stationed people here for brief periods. Franklin Roosevelt twice visited the island in the ’30’s, quietly ordering the US Navy to occupy it as a secret US airbase. These days the only people visiting are Mexican-based sport fishing boats and very occasional amateur radio expeditions.

As we sailed closer, Clipperton Rock, a 70′ tall, bird inhabited upthrust coral outcropping came into view.

At the southern tip we passed a recent shipwreck, a 60′ steel fish /shrimp boat, now high on the coarse coral sand.

We gazed at several clumps of green palm trees, a marker cairn of white-painted stones and a remaining mast from a radio expedition. A big surprise was an orange mooring float rising in the swells at the calmest spot, south of the largest palm grove. I was keen to anchor or even better, tie to the mooring, but Amanda reminded me that at 1630 we had already lost most underwater visibility, and that we wouldn’t have much time before dark. With such an isolated and dicey place, any problems could quickly become very serious, so reluctantly we continued on our way. But it was a feast to watch this isolated, deserted and secretive island receding in the distance.

You may wonder what we do all day at sea, but time flies. I always cook breakfast at 0800, this morning it was ham and cheese scrambled eggs with Amanda’s home made bread toasted on the side. After breakfast everyone does their boat cleanup chores (cockpit, head, vacuuming, etc) and at 1000 we gather for class. Class is either demonstrations on deck or theory in the main saloon. This morning we studied the latest weatherfax charts from San Francisco and Honolulu and covered communications; learning how to program and use the ICOM M710 SSB radio, as well as our INMARSAT Mini-M and C units. We discussed other communication options including SailMail, PocketMail, internet cafes and other satellite options.

Yesterday crew did an excellent job completing our new two-page written test.

It was time to start preparing lunch which featured hot bread (Krusteaz Bread Mix that Brent purchased at Costco in Oregon and brought down to Panama with him) and poisson cru, Tahitian marinated fish, plus ham, cheese, vegetables, sprouts and chilled fruit. Not bad for the middle of the ocean.

Now at 1300 our navigator has plotted our 1200 position and calculated our 24 hr noon to noon run as 203 miles, an all time record.

The afternoon is free time with people reading, sunning, and sleeping when not on watch steering. I have been fiberglass cleaning and waxing the cabin sides, trying to get rid of the grime of Panama, and Amanda has been touching up the varnish. Lately it’s been too rough for swimming so we’ve been having seawater bucket showers followed by fresh water rinses on deck after the hottest part of the afternoon. The water and air temperature have dropped slightly since leaving Panama, and it’s now cool and refreshing to tip a bucket of water over one’s head.

Lisa enjoying the “Mahina Spa Deck”

Amanda aims to have dinner ready before dark so we can get everything cleaned up and stowed before night fall.

Tradewind “El Fresco” sunset dinning

I’ve started scanning the AM dial on Amanda’s Walkman at night. It’s BIG TIME wishful thinking, at 2300 miles, but I’m an island boy at heart and look forward to the night that KIPA-Hilo slides in with its aloha country-Hawaiian music.

February 1, 2002 1700 15.52N, 134.57W Log: 56,776 Baro: 1013 Cabin: 80F Broad reaching at 8-9kts in 25kt NE winds. Only 1170 to Hilo

Day 22
As the NE Tradewinds blow relentlessly the days fly past. Today the winds and seas are down slightly from the 30-35 knots and 18-20′ seas of previous days. We’ve shaken out the sails from three reefs in the main and four in the headsail, to one reef in each. Occasionally adjusting sail trim to wind conditions we continue to rocket along through sun drenched blue seas, with puffy white tradewind clouds scudding by overhead. Crew has become skilled at piloting a 36,000 lbs projectile surfing down wave faces at speeds of 11 knots VMG.

The great news is that everyone is getting along famously, and this afternoon we all had a good laugh with Ralph about his alarm clock that, sounding like a bell in a fire station instantly wakes everyone aboard except him!

Ralph entertains us girls with his erotic tuna dance!

For the first time I’ve run out of things to teach. This morning I propped our Toshiba laptops on the saloon table and demonstrated Nobeltec Visual Nav Suite running Nobeltec, Softchart and Maptech charts of Europe, the South Pacific, Hawaii and San Francisco. Tomorrow we’ll take turns plotting and inserting waypoints for Hilo.

It’s too windy & rough to think about heaving to for swims and showers, so we are still doing saltwater bucket showers with a fresh water rinse every day or two.

We’re now out of range of the Panama-Pacific but are enjoying checking in via SSB radio each evening with Ron DuBois aboard his Westsail 42, “Foxy II” in Honolulu. Ron and his wife Janice live aboard and coordinate several radio nets.

February 4, 2002 1400 18.57N, 143.27W Log: 57,261 Baro: 1019 Cabin: 82F Broad reaching at 7.2k in 18 kt NE winds. 657 to Hilo

Day 25
Tradewind conditions still rule the day, with temperatures and wind speeds dropping slightly as we sail north and closer to the North Pacific high pressure center. We’ve landed three 20+lb mahi in the past days and packed what we can’t eat away in the freezer. The large NNE swell has subsided, so it’s now safe to open the hatches. Surprisingly there has been little talk of landfall among crew. Soon we’ll pull out the maps and books of the Island of Hawaii and point out our favorite places for hiking and relaxing. These include Volcanoes National Park, lush and scenic Onomea Bay, historic Hilo town and the dozens of great snorkeling and body surfing beaches. Since it looks like we’ll arrive around Friday, Feb. 8, six days ahead of schedule (a first!) we plan on showing crew a bit of paradise before they take off exploring on their own.

February 12, 2002 2330 19.43 N, 155.03 W Log: 57,873 Baro: 1019 Cabin Temp: 72
Stern-to moored, Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii

Day 29

WE MADE IT!!! Our longest season came to a spectacular conclusion when we were escorted by breaching and spy-hopping humpback whales for the final two hours before entering Hilo’s breakwater. Hilo’s reputation as a rainy town was not confirmed as clear skies gave unlimited visibility to the top of Mauna Kea’s snow-capped 13,600′ summit.

Raising M.T’s battle flags on arrival

No sooner had we cleared customs, agriculture and immigration than the cold front we had been racing struck with gusts to 37 knots. We were very happy that Lore and Brent had helped me set a second anchor, our 45lb Delta with 150′ of line and 50′ of chain in preparation for the blow.

We enjoyed a fun evening out at Uncle Billy’s, a Hawaiian-owned restaurant where the owners’ nieces and nephews present a low-key dance show.

Ralph did a pretty good imitation of the hula, (not the tuna dance) helped out by a pretty Hawaiian girl.

Saturday was our last day together before crew scattered to the winds, and we started it by a long walk (the girls ran) along the Onomea Scenic Road followed by breakfast at a friend’s place and a drive and hike to Akaka Falls.

Akaka Falls

Day 30 Still having fun

For the past four weeks crew had been hearing about Ocean Sushi, Amanda’s all-time favorite restaurant located in downtown Hilo, so here we enjoyed a tasty lunch before heading 30 miles and 3,500′ up to Volcano National Park. Boy what luck! For the first time in months lava was flowing down the mountain instead of in underground tubes. We arrived at the parks coast an hour before dark, hiked out a ways on the old lava flows from 1990 to watch as the sun set and the mountain side came alive, with glowing and flowing lava headed seaward.

Lava looking

Orange lava glows on the mountainside

By Sunday the last crew left M.T to collect rental cars for more island exploring on their own. It seems strange to have the boat quiet. Amanda and I have been swimming at the town pool every day and enjoying catching up with many friends here finding it hard to believe our season is over.

Special thanks to the many people who helped create a smooth season for us: Tracy McClintock in our office, Roberta at Great Getaway Travel, the entire crew at Hallberg-Rassy for letting us leave MT with them last winter, Vickie Vance at HR Parts and Accessories for sending us new carpets, little bits and pieces and our first cruising spinnaker, Leon in Sweden for the great weather forecasts, Lars and Susanne in Gothenburg and Claus Berndtson at the Sjogarden Hotel in Ellos, plus Tina McBride and Hugo Garcia in Panama. A special thanks to Melonie at Rock Island, our ISP for stepping in and rescuing our wayward updates.

Most of all, a special to all 2001 and Leg 1 2002 expedition members with whom we shared unforgettable adventures and especially to those crew members who joyfully went the extra mile, always there eager to help lug out extra anchors in driving rain and snow, ready to tuck a reef in, or happy to do whatever is needed to be done. We’d also like to acknowledge the incredible cruising community and the wonderful new and old friends we met along the 15,000 miles we sailed this season.

John and Amanda

If you’re interested in joining us in 2002, we still have a few berths left. Our weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars (Seattle, San Francisco and Annapolis) have Nigel Calder as special guest presenter and will be even more organized and fun than ever.

We hope you’ve enjoyed following these log updates, and look forward to starting them up again around July 8th when we’ll be re-launching Mahina Tiare and getting her spiffed up for the passages to Tahiti and through the South Pacific to New Zealand.

Leg 1, 2002 Panama-Cocos Island-Hilo, Hawaii2021-04-27T13:22:24+00:00

Leg 3, 2001: Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Spitsbergen, Norway

Thursday, July 12, 2001, 0200 Madalene 79.34N, 11.02E
Log: 44,423

Tuesday, at noon leg 3 crew arrived and following orientation we sailed from Longyearbyen, into cold rain, west along Isfjorden spending night at glacial anchorage of Trygg at the north entrance of Isfjorden. We opted for an early start in the morning with the goal to push north 130 miles to 80 degrees. On leaving the protection of the 50-mile long Prins Karls Forland which flanks the NW coast of Spitsbergen like a spare rib, the 18-knot NW winds with opposing current weren’t in our favor and as we motorsailed north several of our new crew quickly succumbed to seasickness. By midnight conditions all round weren’t improving so we ducked on to Magdalene Fjord, at 2am to recover with a tranquil night at anchor.

Mac trying on survival suit


Magdalene Fjord, Spitsbergen

Thursday, Sallyhamna 79.49N, 11.15E, Log 44,448

John and Amanda exploring ashore at
Magdalene Fjorden with the always-present rifle.

Hot showers and a pancake breakfast did wonders to restore crew spirits. Visiting ashore at Gravnesset we hiked to the Dutch whalers’ graves from the 17th and 18th century and chatted with Hans and Jan the Sysselmannen Patrol while Mahina Tiare sat at anchor with the dramatic Waggonway glacier behind. Back onboard we started safety class until the Europa cruise ship arrived, assembled its landing wharf, proceed to tow it ashore (in the large bay) and then promptly crash it into us. Class dismissed!

When another cruise ship, Polar Star, crackled over the radio with it’s announced arrival, we definitely decided to head north in search of walrus for Mac. After scouring the shoreline along Smeerenburg Fjord we ended up with a negative on the walrus hunt so opted to look for polar bears instead.

Sevin sharing smoked leg of lamb with MT’s crew

Last week in Longyearbyen we heard from a Dutch steel schooner that they had seen polar bears feasting on a beached dead beluga whale a couple of miles from the old trapper’s cabin at Sally Harbor, where our Patrol friends, Sevin and Arild were stationed. We decided we needed some latest news so arrived at Sally Harbor as the dinner quiche was ready and called Sevin and Arild on the radio to invite them for dinner. Good News! They were bursting with stories of their polar bear sightings, 64 since we had last visited them. As we demolished dinner we listened to their accounts of the numerous bear visits at their cabin, one particular young male was very inquisitive and they had to fire the signal pistol to scare it away. Another male proceeded to stand up and peer in the thin plexiglas window just as Sevin had been heading out the cabin door without a gun to answer a call of nature, Arild had been in talking by radio with Hans at Magdalene reporting on the day’s events. Hans claimed that being at Magdalene has it’s advantages as they get to have showers and meals aboard the visiting ships, and they even had strawberries aboard Europa. But Arild responded that their remote cabin with no cruise ships visits but 64 polar bears sightings amounts to more than the number of showers and dinners aboard cruise ships the Magdalene crew have had.

Arild piloting MT to polar bear feeding site.

Polar bears feasting on dead Beluga Whale.

This time the guys were prepared for their visit to Mahina Tiare, and brought towels and soap and didn’t hesitate for a second when we offered them hot showers. Afterwards, we asked if they would like to come with us aboard MT to look at the bears, and they eagerly said yes. Arild piloted MT through some shallow rocky spots and suggested how close we approach the whale before anchoring, so as not to stress the bears. We immediately spotted five very full and uninterested (in us) bears, too good to believe! Arild pointed out the bears they had been watching for the past week, an old female with two new cubs, a three year old male sleeping in a snow hole, and a mother (with a dirty neck) and her two-year old. There was not a lot of bear activity as they seemed more interested in sleeping than eating the whale that was almost under water in the high tide so we decided to return in the morning when the tide was low.

We were eagerly up at 0500am to go polar bear watching and our morning activity was worth the effort as mum and cubs were leaving the whale to a lonesome two year old who was busy tugging away at the white blubber that resembled a hunk of discarded chewing gum. When we were thinking about abandoning our viewing in lieu of breakfast two suave two-year olds boldly strolled down the rocky foreshore. Mother and cubs quickly moved from their sleeping spot to higher ground and one little cub stood on its hind legs to better view the passing procession. These two fellows wasted no time pushing out lonesome bear and proceeded to tear away at the stringy whale with playful shenanigans. We continued to watch the bears until the cold drove us into more activity so we decided to sail north to 80 degrees before returning to Sally for breakfast.

80 º North, again!

Friday July 13, 2001 0830 79.59 N, 11.54 East Log: 44,468 Baro: 1010 Close reaching at 8.1 knots in 15 kt easterly winds Check out this latitude! We crossed 80 degrees north, just 600 miles south of the North Pole, for the second and final time, and smartly gybed south, toward our final destination of Hilo, Hawaii. It seems like a long time ago that we left Victoria, Canada, although it was 16 months and 16,000 miles ago.

Ecstatic crew, mission accomplished and sailing South.

After a late celebration breakfast we departed the far north with a short stop in Magdalene and a Saturday night pub visit in Ny Alesund. We had interesting chats with the research base assistant director and some of the scientists who wandered down to the dock after seeing us arrive. Being Saturday afternoon, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to purchase fuel, but the young harbormaster returned from a glacier hiking trip in his Zodiac just before a small local ship arrived, and we were able to top up our tanks.

Barentsburg – Russian mining settlement.

Sunday Barentsburg Departing Ny Alesund at 0500 we continued south under a resplendent sun in flat slate-gray seas that shimmered and danced with ripples when little auks and guillemots took fright as we passed. In the afternoon a west breeze blew in allowing us to sail the last few hours across the mouth of Isfjord to Barentsburg, the last remaining Russian coal-mining town in Spitzbergen. Approximately 900 Russians live in this collective community with a shared canteen and wages paid in Russia on the day they return home after completing their two-year contracts. The view from the water of tumbledown buildings, huge piles of coal tailings cascading down the cliffs, black smoke belching from the power plant and piles of rusting, abandoned equipment is a stark contrast to the smart colorful Longyearbyen.

As we tied to a small jetty we were greeted by two guys who were eager to engage our attention and promptly asked if we had coins to exchange for ruples. We offered what foreign money we had and they swapped handfuls of notes, coins and tin commemorative pins.

Jenny on Barentsburg Wharf.

We chatted with three children standing by who spoke good English. Jenny was 12 and had been living in Barentsburg for a year, her father was an engineer at the mine and her mother worked at the animal barns. Eager to explore town we set out with the intention to meet at the hotel for dinner. 0n the way up the numerous flights of wooden stairs to the top of the hill we passed Jenny playing in the grass lawn outside her wooden two storied house that she her family shares with 3 other families.

View of Barentsburg from the piggery.

Reaching the top of the stairs we strolled the concrete block roadway past the massive brick sports complex and along a row of a hodgepodge brick and ornamental wooden two-storied buildings that sprawled along the hilltop. Huge colorful propaganda billboards sporting smiling attractive workers dominated the building facades giving the town a distinctive Russian flavor along with the Lenin monument in the towns square.

Forward, brave workers!

Gathering at the rustic hotel bar, also home of a Norwegian pay card telephone, we discovered there was no dinner menu that evening but we enjoyed a relaxing time sipping hot drinks and sampling the assorted Russian chocolate for sale. After a tasty fish taco dinner onboard we went in search of the animal barns and met Jenny who offered us a tour. The soft brown eyes of the lovely jersey cows peered quietly over stalls and the pigs, of which there were hundreds, were organized into age groups and sexes, and noisily pressed their noses at us. Jenny affectionately named the mother pigs as we passed noting which ones loved their piglets and which ones ignored them.

Barentsburg Piggery – the world’s northern most!

We particularly liked the Babe piglets but the millions of cockroaches crawling about in the heated pig barns left us with an uneasy feeling.

Lindsay trying on Russian hat at hotel.

For the evening we decided to anchor out in the bay rather than listen to the squeaking jetty and rumbling generator.

Lindsay and Paul clowning around.

Monday Bellsund We retied to the jetty in the morning and dashed about town to take pictures, phone home and visit the museum. It explained the history of Russian activity in Spitsbergen with early archaeological artifacts, details of the Pomor trade routes and a geological exhibit on coal mining.

Barentsburg Harbormaster building.

There are rumors from the Norwegians that Barentsburg’s coal operation is not profitable and that their equipment is falling into dangerous disrepair and many believe that the only reason Russia holds on to the decaying anachronistic community is solely for political and territorial purposes. However the people we spoke to including Jenny said that they much preferred living in Barentsburg to Russia or the Ukaraine.

Over the past few days we’ve been juggling weather reports to determine our departure date for Tromso. Unable to receive steady Inmarstat-C coverage due to the high latitude and mountains we’ve been playing information tag with Commanders’ Weather who we’ve hired for the crossing to Norway. Conditions don’t look promising for us to depart until Wednesday due to heavy wind conditions (gusts to 50 knots, seas 18′-20′) so we’ll continue coast hopping south and hope for a report when we’re clear of the mountains. In the afternoon we motored 65 miles south in calm seas to Bellsund and anchored in a retreating glacial bay on the south side where last week Taonui and Trait de Union were visited by a swimming bear that tried to climb into their cockpits.

July 17, 2001 Tuesday Calypsobyen 77.31N, 14.33E Log: 44,721

Whalebone on Calypsobyen Beach.

Lone arctic fox, Calypsobyen, Bellsand

Our morning was thrown into a bit of bother when the forward head became blocked so it was quickly decided to go for a crew trip ashore while John changed the oil and worked on the toilet. Yesterday on our way to the anchorage we’d seen a few shacks on the beach flying a Polish flag so we thought we’d go investigating. Ashore at Calypsobyen we met two welcoming Polish geology scientists who made us coffee and showed us their cabin and laboratory explaining that another two scientists were out studying the glacier. The Northern Exploration Company from London originally built the cabins for a coal mining operation in 1918, and gold miners, whalers and trappers later occupied them. Remnants of their exploitations were visible along the beach and made interesting viewing in the early morning fog. The polar bear that had visited our friends yachts had also paid a call to the scientists food storage cabin and although he was extremely selective in what he ate he had still made quite a mess. We were relived to not share the beach with a polar bear, but instead, two arctic foxes that came scampering about looking for food.

Back on MT John had changed the oil but the head was still blocked. After some twisting and turning of handles, pumping and grunting of pumps (we pressurized the holding tank with the dinghy pump) there was not an easy solution, so John pulled off the discharge hose and pried at the blockage with a long screwdriver. Sweet success!

In a thick fog we said farewell to Bell Sound and headed out to sea not knowing if we would be going 60 miles to Hornsund, or carrying on 450 miles to Tromso.

July 18, 2001 0930 78.45N, 16.24E Log: 44,857 Baro: 1022
Motorsailing south, 8 kts ESE winds, calm seas

On receiving a flurry of forecasts from Commanders’ Weather (www.commandersweather.com) that forecasted 30-40 kt, gusts to 50 kts and 14′-20′ seas for our arrival at Vannoy Island, 40 miles north of Tromso, we decided to leave on the 460 mile passage yesterday (Tuesday) anyway. The good news was that the winds were forecasted to be NE or E, meaning a fast broad/beam reach, while waiting a few days to depart would result in strong SE to S winds when another intense low roared over the British Isles and pushed north.

As we left Spitsbergen behind, in mellow conditions, we could still see Sorkapp and the southernmost glacier on Spitsbergen, 50 miles off in the distance, 20 hrs after departing Bellsund. We all took turns catching up on sleep after our non-stop activity and shall never forget this amazing place, the people we’ve met, or our thrilling adventures.

Here’s our adventuresome Leg 3 crew:

Leg 3 Spitsbergen hearty crew, on arrival in Tromso, Norway.

Mac Taylor, 53 is a vascular surgeon and prof at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. He and his lovely wife Catherine sailed with us in Alaska in 1999 and are considering buying a Sceptre 43 soon for some coastwise cruising.

Bob Franke, 48 sailed with us from Cape Horn to Antarctica and back in 1996, as well as from Tahiti to the Cook Islands in 1997. Bob is a telecommunications specialist working for the Salt Lake City Olympic committee who races his Capri 30 with Heidi on Great Salt Lake.

Mariusz Koper, 40 sailed with us from Auckland to Tahiti on a very rough passage in 1999, and that didn’t put him off high-latitude, high-adventure passagemaking! Mariusz divides his time between Warsaw where he owns a textbook publishing company and Toronto where his family is. He will be ordering an Oyster 49 for long-distance cruising this Fall.

Lindsay Lessig, 49 is a CCU/ICU nurse who loves sailing and adventure and lives aboard a Saga 43 (which they purchased from Mike Locatell, one of our 1995 Cape Horn crew) with her husband,

Paul Lessig, 60, at Shilshole Marina in Seattle. Paul is a cardiologist and they are interested in cruising to lots of exciting places on their Saga. Paul and Lindsay met while working at an army hospital in San Francisco. They won the SF Big Boat Series on their J-35 in 1996.

Claude Richter, 47 divides his time between Luxembourg and Dunedin, N.Z. Claude is a retired translator who worked for the European Union and is now keen to gather sailing skills for his own future adventures.

July 19, 2001 2200 71.34N, 19.14E Log: 45,128 Baro: 1016, falling
Broad reaching in 25-30kt NE winds at 7.2-8kts under triple reefed main and triple reefed jib

We have 81 miles to Torsvaag, the closest harbor in Norway to Spitsbergen. Commanders’ Weather has revised the wind speeds in their forecast, down slightly to 26-32 knots, gusting to 40 for 0200, four hours from now, and it’s looking accurate. Our winds have built steadily during the day as the barometer has dropped from 1023 to 1016. The seas are confused, and will get rougher as we approah the shallower water close to land. Mahina Tiare is handling the seas like a champ, with continual sail reduction but we’re looking forward to hot showers and relaxing once we make Torsvaag.

Preparation, Anticipation, Safety and Exhilaration
by Leg 3 expedition member Lindsay Lessig

The Commander’s Weather forecast for our crossing of the Barent’s Sea was detailed and accurate (as we proceeded to confirm with reality). There was a wonderful element of magic to me relating to their ability to be so precise for our planning purposes. With their frequent updates and
responses to our questions, it felt comforting that we had faraway friends looking out for our well being.

John and Amanda thoroughly discussed our situation with us and went over our various options. Taking everything into consideration, it was an easy decision to take off when we did!

Our journey of 150 miles to and past Bear Island was smooth sailing as anticipated and we continuously were happy to have been spared heavy weather till late in our passage. The true excitement came in the last 1/4 of the passage 100 miles from coastal Norway. Surfing the waves in winds from 25-35 knots was exhilarating! I was wishing for Beach Boys’ music (or Victory at Sea) to blast from out of the stereo. We continuously talked over and executed methods to manage the winds (reefing the main, reducing headsail, etc.)

As the barometer dropped, the seas became more organized, steeper and higher. The heaviest weather I saw on my 0400 watch was gusts up to 49 knots in steep and breaking 15-20 foot seas. Steering became extremely challenging and exhausting! I felt fortunate that I evaded a small bout of seasickness (with the help of Dramamine and/or Compazine) till right after my dramatic turn at the helm. It was also good to be with two very experienced sailors who vigilantly guided our progress.

I honestly can say that I am extremely thankful for the experience, although I was tremendously glad when we were in safe harbor at Torsvag! The preparation, anticipation and vigilance for safety exhibited are forever “gifts” from the Barent’s Sea for me. This was a crystal clear reminder of why we joined this wonderful sailing opportunity!

Thanks to you both, Amanda and John.


In the last 15 miles before arrival at Torsvaag the seas moderated, and the wind dropped to 20-25 knots, possibly because we were out of the North Cape current which was up to 1 knot, directly against the wind. By 1030 we were safely (and happily!) anchored in Torsvaag. We saw no sign of whales being winched ashore for processing, in fact through the rain and wind we never saw any sign of life, other that one moving truck. After a huge late breakfast of huevos rancheros, and hot showers, we slept for most of the day, had dinner and then went back to sleep!

The following morning, Saturday, July 21st, we had a fast sail, gybing downwind in up to 25 knots to the small town of Hanses, where we stopped for lunch and exploring before sailing on to a favorite anchorage of ours, 8 miles from Tromso. Claude and Mac landed a bucket full of cod fish, we had a relaxing evening, then hit the teaching hard in the morning, with trips to the masthead to learn rigging inspection, instruction on sail repair and an anchoring seminar.

Yesterday, Sunday, we completed our expedition instruction before motoring in flat seas under brilliant skies into Tromso, where crew treated us to a fun dinner ashore. It’s hard to believe we’re now back after five weeks and 2,350 miles of fantastic adventures! Tromso is a changed town; snow has been replaced by trees sporting long leafy limbs (we don’t recognize streets anymore) colorful and abundant street stalls line the sidewalks, plus all the University students are displaying buff belly buttons. Such feasts for ice weary eyes!

Leg 3, 2001: Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Spitsbergen, Norway2021-04-27T12:57:21+00:00



Arctic Expedition crew post their own Spitsbergen story and images. bikenfly.org/arctic.htm

Click here for great map of Svalbard

June 21, 2001 1700 72.59N, 19.31E Log: 43,327 Baro: 1018-
Broadreaching @ 7-8 kts, ESE winds @ 18-24 kts Clear skies!

We’re 80 miles south of Bear Island and 230 miles south of Spitsbergen with great conditions. The passage from Tromso to Svalbard (Spitsbergen to non-Norwegians) is higher latitude sailing than Cape Horn to Antarctica with the same potential for serious weather conditions. However, it looks like the Weather Goddess has smiled on Mahina Tiare!

Our Leg 2 crew joined us Tuesday noon and by 1500 we were underway for a favorite anchorage.

Liz and Sergio model survival suits. (Click on image to enlarge)

Yesterday we practised Lifesling overboard procedures on our way to a final stop for fuel and a hike at Vannag, before sailing to Spitsbergen. We had the best of summer’s day to date, although a cold front will be blowing through tomorrow night bringing rain and a wind shift.

The discussion of sailing to Spitsbergen arose in 1996 during our Antartica expedition, at the suggestion of crew. Now five years later 2 Antarctica crew are joining us, Al Maher on this leg and Bob Franke on the return trip to Tromso. Only a handful of sailboats receive permission from the govenor to sail to Spitsbergen during the six-week window. Expensive Search and Rescue insurance is required and the govenor requires that anyone venturing ashore outside the settlements carry a large caliber rifle for protection against polar bear attacks. (Polar bears killed and ate two people last summer.) We rented two 30.06 WWII Mausers from a sports store in Tromso and have our permission papers from the govenor onboard. Ice conditions are a constant concern, and when we left Gothenburg the ice charts displayed thick ice extending to Bear Island, 150 miles south of Spitsbergen. Light northerly winds over the past few months have pushed more ice south but this past week the winds switched to southerly and the ice situation (according to the Norwegian forecasters) appears better.

Two nights before leaving Tromso, we admired a female Eider duck passing by with four tiny ducklings in tow. A minute later there were only three, then a tiny duckling, barely able to swim, floated between Mahina Tiare and the Canadian yacht Taonui that we were rafted to. Tony from Taonui scooped the duckling up in a bucket and we went looking for its mother, who had disappeared under the dock. No luck on finding mum and the duckling seemed on its last legs as it was smoothered in diesel oil from one of the many slicks in the harbor.

Duckling Tromso after cleaning. (Click on image to enlarge)

Amanda washed him in warm water and set him to dry on a towel in front of the heater. Within 20 minutes Tromso (Amanda rejected my suggestion of naming him “Diesel” in favor of “Tromso”) had warmed up enough to open his eyes, raise his tiny fuzzy yellow and black head and make feeble squeaks. That night Amanda lined a plastic case with a towel, put in a hot water bottle and kept Tromso next to her in bed. In the morning when I opened the box Tromso took off, tearing up and down the length of the boat, peeping excitedly and occasionally tripping over his big feet, exploring every cabin. We never found the mother, but a pet store near the harbor said they would try and find a home for him, which they did that afternoon. We sure miss the little guy and hope he does OK.

An introduction to our high latitude adventures crew:

Al Maher, 55 has sailed with us nearly every year for the past ten years is a commercial property manager who sails on San Francisco Bay.

Liz McLoughlin, 60 is an ex-Catholic nun who is now an injury prevention researcher. She recently bicycled & camped 3,900 miles from Boston to San Francisco with her 22 & 24 yr old niece and nephew. She and her husband

Tom Hall, 70 took our weekend Offshore Cruising Seminar in 1983 and then sailed their Downeaster 38 from Seattle to New Zealand. They also sailed to Cape Horn with us in 1995 and Tom, an international health planner sailed with us to Pitcain Is. As soon as they return from Norway they take delivery of their new Nordhaven 40 long-range power cruising boat and proceed from Dana Pt, CA to Alaska.

Richard Ressman, 59 is an orthopedic surgeon from Chicago who sails on the Great Lakes and is looking forward to more sailing after he retires next year.

Larry Avins, 54 is a retina surgeon from St. Louis who recently sold his Swan 43 that he enjoyed extensively cruising the Caribbean aboard.

Sergio Aquino, 31 is an economist from Brazil who is presently living in the San Francisco area and may circumnavigate Vancouver Island this summer.

These folks make an eager & cohesive crew for this potentially challenging expedition. One of the real benefits of high latitudes in mid-summer (today is the summer solstice!) is that the sun never sets. In fact it never even got close to the horizon last night. It sure makes landfall and ice navigation easier.

June 25, 2001 0200 77.41N, 12.59E Log: 43,680 Baro: 1020-
Broadreaching @ 5kts in 9kt SW winds, 1 mi visibility in fog & drizzle

June 21, Summer Solstice, Thursday
11pm and we are puzzling at how the western sun will journey across sky to rise again in the east…by midnight the sun is on it’s way east, a bright orb floating across the cloudless sky 15 degress above the horzion and by 4am it’s nearly reached the east to rise on it’s daily journey.

Bear Island through the mist. (Click on image to enlarge)

By 6am the sky becomes cloudy as Bear Island looms into view and as we cruise down the west coast large swells and fog force us to keep a safe distance offshore. Weather conditions are too unstettled to think of landing and since we’re expecting the wind to switch further to the north we’d best press on 170 miles for Hornsund on the SE tip of Spitsbergen. Birds by the hundreds keep us company in the light SW winds and whales and dolphins appear briefly, welcoming us to the arctic.

Excitment builds onboard as crew settle onto sea life rhythm and Spitsbergen draws closer. At 9am, 9 miles from Hornsund we sight our first piece of ice and began a game of ice dodgums. The wind dies and we motor through ice lumps that grow in size and numbers, their frozen white and compressed blue sigh and breathe in the grey swells like sleeping whales. Soon ice thickens and we are forced to cross a wide band, the large swell jostling and manipulating Mahina Tiare along with the ice. We scramble to assemble our 12′ long carbon fiber bergy poles then push lumps away as we twist and shunt our way through.

Entering Hornsund before the ice became thick. (Click on image to enlarge)

Sergio stands on the mast pulpit, looking for clear leads through the intensifying ice. Eventually he calls down that he doesn’t see any more leads. We are beset seven miles from the entrance to Hornsund, stuck in heavy ice which is crashing and undulating in the ocean swell. These aren’t little bergy bits that we just deflect off the bow, but huge, heavy plates of ice, some much larger than Mahina Tiare.

John takes the wheel, puting the engine in gear. When nothing happens he says, “Oh no, we’re not moving, I hope we haven’t lost the propellor!” He then learns that it is the pressure of the surrounding ice that’s preventing the boat from moving forward. Al and I do some massive shoving of bergs from the bow with the poles and manage to open a gap for us to power slowly into, while Sergio stands aft, fending the largest pieces away from the prop with the boat hook. Once we’re slowly moving, John calls the Polish Research Station. On VHF Ch 16, enquiring about ice conditions in their bay. They reply that the bay directly in front of the base is ice free, but that fog prevents them from seeing further.

The minute John’s done talking with the Polish Base, Catherine on Trait d’Union, a 35′ steel French sloop we had met in Tromso calls us to say they were stuck in heavy ice, four miles north of us. There is no panic, but a lot of anxiety in her voice as she says this is their first experience in ice and that neither she nor her husband Daniel know what to do. John tells her that we are moving and can see some leads in the ice ahead, so she says they will try and push south through the pack to join us in Hornsund.

Suddenly through patchy fog we see clear water ahead and call Trait d’Union to tell them the great news! Instead of creeping along at half a knot, we’re flying at 7.5 knots, and in less than an hour mountains of ice and rock loom out high in the fog and soon a shoreline with builings appears. We anchor in the ice free bay and after lunch visit ashore. Our friends on Trait d’Union and Taonui from Victoria arrive and join us ashore.

The Polish staff of eight scientists are welcoming and show us their humble scientific working facilites of four seismic recording machine, and two small labratories. We chat with Lisa, a grad student from UC Irvine who has recently arrived to study little auks, a trek every 6 hours to a marked nesting site for observations on numbers and feeding patterns. She says that the constant threat of polar bear attack means that for each trip another scientist has to accompany her, keeping watch with a high-powered rifle as she does her bird counting. Over 900 polar bears walked past the base this past winter, and one of the three base watch dogs was killed by a bear.

When we asked the base staff if we can hike out to the bay entrance, they say, “Not without rifles!” We have brought the two 30.06 guns that we rented in Tromso ashore with us, so we go exploring. On our way back by the base, we are invited to a shore side evening beach campfire, but exhausted, we decline.

A leisurely start to a day surronded by fog. For morning class we discuss ice tactics and look over the charts and weatherfaxes. We cruise further into Hornsound and visit an old bear trappers cabin ashore. We each take a turn shooting the rifles and stick together like glue as we wander the stony beach and sloping hillside carpeted with purple flowering saxifrage and moss, we gaze about in wonder of this arctic paradise. The bay entrance looks fairly clear of ice, and SW winds are forecast which would give us a broad reach for the 115 mile passage to Longyearbyen, so we decide to set sail.

If you’d like to learn more about Svalbard (Spitsbergen), check out these sites:

www.svalbard.net/arktperl.htm (Info Svalbard)
www.sysselmannen.svalbard.no (Svalbard Govenor’s office)
www.npolar.no (Norwegian Polar Institute-Research)
www.polar-quest.com (the site of our friends who arranged for our permits and gun rental)

July 2, 2001 0945 78.07N 13.55E
Log: 44,197 Baro: 1013+ Beam reaching at 6.8 kts in 15 kt SSW winds, with overcast and mist

A new arctic vocabulary reels off our toungues, Viroghamma, toothwalker, ammonite, Sysselmannen, shelfshot, Blubbertown and isbjorn. Ice, which was to be our biggest threat to exploration, is nonexistent and light winds and sunny skies with the odd cloudy period have enhanced the following adventures.

Monday June 25 – Longyearbyen An afternoon stop in Longyearbyen allows time for exploration in this colorful town, bulging with the arrival of two cruise ships. We visit the Sysselmannens (Governor’s) office and complete the necessary forms for travel outside the settlements, having already proven that we have the necessary $15,000 insurance required for emergency rescue. Our quick wander around the capital of 1,400 people involved in government, tourism and coal mining is intriguing. Due to the permafrost all buildings and amenities are above ground. The winter snow has melted and flashy snowmobiles sit abandoned; short-legged reindeer nibble on the young tundra while the place hums with a frontier feeling. But it is wilderness we’re after so as quickly as possible we depart for Moffen Island, 210 miles north at the top Spitsbergen.

Tuesday 0200 When exiting Isfjorden we encounter 18 knot head winds so we turn and run downwind to the glacial bay of Ymerbukta on the north of the fjord entrance. We sleep late despite a sun filled night and after breakfast and medical class we dinghy ashore in search of ammonite fossils. Not knowing what to look for in the glacier melt-water we take a few minutes to discover the light brown rocks reveal fossilized worm and shell-like creatures.

Hunting for fossils in Yumerbukta. (Click on image to enlarge)

As the sun climbs higher we are kept in awe of our surroundings. Our east view reveals grassy trunda with grazing reindeer and nesting barnacle geese sloping to steep snow covered mountains. Rocky hills to the north lead to a tidal glacier that stretches across the bay and the far east side contains ice floes with basking seals, beyond which the fjord sparkles to the south against layers of sedimentary strata producing mountains separated from one another by broad valleys. Sadly our time is up and we set sail for Moffen after a combined lunch/dinner.

Al on Polar Bear lookout in Yumerbukta. (Click on image to enlarge)

Wednesday June 26 – 80 Degrees North Latitude! We press north under grey skies, sighting looming mountains and gleaming glaciers.

By 1200 we round Spitsbergen’s NW corner expecting to encounter heavy concentrations of ice but surprisingly, the waters are ice-free and we race across the top of Spitsbergen to arrive at the sandy atoll island of Moffen by 1830. Success! 80 degrees north!

80 º North party anchored off Moffen Island! (Click on image to enlarge)

We celebrate with dinner at anchor, watching 40 walruses wallow on the beach and frolic in the waves. We use the range ring on our Raytheon radar to check that we stay the minimum 300 meters off the island.

Decimated by hunting for their hides, tusks and blubber, only 37 were sighted in 1964. Now their population is around 1,000 and these Obebenus rosmarus “toothwalking” animals are an unusual sight. We raise anchor at 2130 in search of a calmer evening anchorage.

Thursday The vast expanse of Liefdedjorden to the south of Moffen greets us with a still calm in the wee hours of the morning. Light descends through grey clouds and bounces off snowy mountains, glaciers and bergy bits through a pink haze that hangs in the cold air. We weave through the Andyoyane islands, low covered tundra mounds, and spot what we were in search of….an ice bear (polar bear) wandering across the beach. He strolls in to the water and sets off swimming for the far shore. We ghost along…watching. Once anchored at 0400 we take a dinghy trip and spot a mum and cub snoozing on the hilltop. Mum is not interested but the little guy keeps popping up his head, inquisitive as to what we are. These are so called fjord-polar bears who do not follow the pack ice but stay behind in the summer eating birds eggs, berries and moss. Before leaving Andoyane after a few hours of sleep we have eight polar bear sightings. Impressive! Our next anchorage is the protected glacier of Holmiab on the NW corner, a long, snowy and grey 50-mile motor sail to arrive at 2300.

Friday Inspecting the glacier wall by dinghy in the morning we are daunted by it’s size…it didn’t look that big from the anchorage!

Exploring Holmiab Glacier. (Click on image to enlarge)

We swing by a hut at the bay entrance and noticing a zodiac tied to shore stop for a visit with the two Sysselmannen rangers based here to report weather, wildlife and tourist activity.

Sysselmannen patrol showing us their polar bear sightings. (Click on image to enlarge)

Interior of historic trapers cabin now used by Sysselmannen patrol. (Click on image to enlarge)

In exchange for a hot shower aboard they provided answers to our many questions and a guided tour of the whaling site containing stone walls for the blubberpots and whalers graves with protruding bones.

Whalers grave near Holmiab. (Click on image to enlarge)

We sail on for Virgohamna, Danskoya Island to view the remains of many attempts in the late 1800’s, by balloon, to reach the North Pole.

Anchored at the historic balloonsite of Virgohamna. (Click on image to enlarge)

Ashore guided by a map we identify the pieces of strewn hodgepodge; wood, wire, rust and pipes become the framework of buildings and technical equipment needed to fly the giant airships of Andree and Wellman. Remains of a Dutch whaling settlement are situated in the center, an overflow town from Smeerengurg (blubbertown)on the far shore. Continuing on for the day we anchor late in the evening at Magdalena fjorden, enjoying a short night surrounded by glaciers and high mountains.

Mahina Tiare sails into Magdalena Fjord. (Click on image to enlarge)

Saturday June 30 – Ny Alesund A morning wake up call from Hans, the Magdalena Bay policeman, had us scrambling out of bed and whipping up pancakes. It’s fun for us to chat with these guys, stationed here for just eight weeks and hear their stories. Hans’ normal job is in state security, similar to the FBI, and he lives in Kristiansund, where he enjoys sailing his folkboat with his wife and girls. He has long dreamed of owning a Hallberg-Rassy boat, so we leave him with a poster of the HR 31.

Ny Alesund is our next port and we arrive in early evening and tie dockside obtaining fuel and water. We invite Paul, the powerplant engineer who sells of diesel fuel aboard for dinner and are fascinated that he is the third generation of his family to work and live on Spitsbergen. His grandparents were hunters and trappers, and his parents were captured when the Germans seized Spitsbergen during the war. Now Paul and his wife have the only child in Ny Alesund, an 18 month old baby girl who is well doted on by the community of 80.

Sunday Ny Alesund is a modern research station with scientific bases from 17 nations studying radiation, magnetism, meteorological, geophysical and seismology observations year round, while in summer fieldwork such as glaciology, botany and zoology is undertaken. We explored town, chatted with few scientist and maintenance crew, stocked up on souvenirs before heading south to a quiet anchorage on the SE side of Forlandsundet.

Monday June 2 – Barentsburg We’re beam reaching at 6.8 knots for the Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg, 40 miles to the West of Longyearbyen in Isfjorden and from all accounts this working settlement of 800 people should prove an fascinating stop.

As we won’t have satellite reception once in Isforden we will have to end our log entries for this leg here. It’s been a fabulous two weeks with a crew that have risen with eager smiles to all events and adventures, the scenery continues to astound us and we are keen to undertake more adventures on the next leg, sailing north again, then back to Tromso.

ARCTIC EXPEDITION2021-04-27T12:33:01+00:00
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