Everday there are activities sponsored by the All Points Rally (hosted by John and Lynn Martin, http://www.islandcruising.co.nz/), and every evening there are BBQ's or dinners. The other night was all you can eat pizza; lots of varieties, along with a cash bar for beer, wine and soft drinks. More boats are arriving daily; our friends on sv Attitude (Neil & Kathy) arrived in the afternoon. We hadn't seen them since the Gambier Islands, and they returned to NZ from Fiji. Btw, along with all the above work and activities, we've also been packing to depart for the States for a few months to visit family and friends...there's always something going on!
In between projects we've gone along with friends to Pahia, Keri Keri, Whangarei and, last night, Russell. First off Pahia. It's a touristy little town but has several banks and lots of storefronts with tourist prices for goods. Brian at the scuba shop fixed our regulator, which needed an adjustment as it was free flowing air. We use it with our hooka rig when we scrub the bottom. He didn't charge us, and indicated that January was a better time to go diving around the islands as the water clarity improved then. Grocery shopping is in nearby Keri Keri, with an excellent selection of most anything. We went into Whangarei with our friends on Passages. There's a nice marina there where many yachties spend the season, and the town is really a small city, with lots of places to go, a downtown, and many boat related services. I arranged another sail and canvas maker to visit Infini, so we'll end up with 2-3 quotes from various lofts before deciding on who will do our work. Last night we ate at the Swordfish Club in Russell, the second oldest sport fishing club in the world. It was lots of fun to look at all the old pictures and trophies and talk to a few of the members; the food was really good too. Aboard Infini, the headstay and foil are off and in the rigging shop! We needed to shorten the headstay wire, and figured along the way we'd have the Profurl unit serviced, all easier to do in the shop. The rigger has replaced all six sheaves at the masthead, and from the condition of these original wire/rope sheaves of the Lefiel mast, this was long overdue. We've gone to sheaves that will be for rope only, and our old wire rope genoa halyard will be replaced. The wire was old, a few strands were letting go, and the SS thimble at its terminal end was cracked. Very seldom checked, but time to replace it! With the entire unit on the bench, I had a good opportunity to really go over the Profurl and wire with Paul of Northland Spars and Rigging. I replaced the headstay about 8-10 years ago (my memory gets faulty...) so although the wire and Hayne Hi Mod terminals look OK, I chose to replace the wire. The Profurl unit was due for a major service. In NZ, Profurl parts are expensive, but the shop sells and works on the units, so I've OK'd an overhaul. The work goes on...
Pic: Watching the dolpins play from the Swordfish Club in Russell.
We rented a small storage space from the Marina office and started off loading sails, canvas, and a whole lot of stuff we don't need aboard right now. This will make it easier to empty out lockers and get to areas we haven't really been into for a long while. In the afternoon there was a complementary "sausage sizzle," which is a grill set up to cook, in this case, sausages; it was sponsored by Cater Marine, one of the big chandleries around here. It was a good opportunity to meet other cruisers, and from there we went to listen to a guitar duo that played some nice music at the nearby Opua Cafe. We walked over to the Opua Cruising Club for dinner, and joined as visiting members ($40/year) to support the local kids sailing and take advantage of the amenities of the OCC.
Pic: A gathering of friends we've met along the way...celebrating at the OCC.
Today was a buying day for a bunch of stuff we needed/wanted (we'll mention prices as so many folks have asked us for specifics): a suitcase to pack our stuff for our visit back to the States (thrift store cost: $5), a Petanque set (this is a real good lawn bowling set (Bocce), list $50, our cost $45), a 6' fishing gaff, (we lost ours overboard a long while back...list $100, on sale $50), a water hose (15 meter cost $25). Now, don't forget to apply the currency conversion, presently $.81 USD/NZD. Driving thru Paihia to get to Keri Keri is a beautiful excursion. There aren't too many cars on the road, the rolling hills are incredibly picturesque, and the multiple bays have hundreds of boats anchored nearby; we love it! We stopped at the RoadRunner Bar, a local spot, on the way back to the marina. Back at the boat, went for a nice hot shower ($2 coin for 4 min; doesn't sound like a lot of time but it's plenty for us; scalding hot water and nice facilities). One of the riggers stopped by, and we found a broken wire on the port aft lower shroud at the mast terminal. I hadn't replaced any of the lowers when I rerigged in Honolulu, so they'll be changed here. Also saw a few new arrivals: Frank (previously owned the W-43 RiRi, we bought our new staysail from him) as well as Mike and Irene (sv This Side Up).
Pic: Sue walked the coastal trail from Opua to Pahia, with Sharon from Georgia J. It was a scenic 2hr. leisurely hike. (They got a ride back.)
We've been busy! Both Sue and I have made separate trips to Paihia with friends to get a Sim card, more money, and a haircut. I've seen some of the tradesmen here, and many have good reputations for most yachtie needs. One of the SS fabricators stopped by to help design a fitting needed forward of the headstay, extending from the bowsprit, so we can fly our code zero sail. One of the canvas shop guys came over to talk about a new dodger with us. I've also stopped by one of the rigging shops to discuss some modifications with them. This afternoon, an electrician came by to review a few electrical gremlins that have been giving us a bit of a challenge. Progress on many fronts. It appears that many of the tradesmen here charge in the $65-70/hour range, so major projects can cost quite a bit, albeit many of us are using currency exchange rates to our favor. We were pleasantly surprised when our friends March and Pam of sv Passages docked next to us. (We're in the slip they were in last year!) They had just returned from Fiji and said it was one of their best passages they've had. Lots of folks to see and things to do! And yes, it's rainy and cold; it reminds us of the Pacific Northwest.
Pic: Good to see friends from the past; we had met in Panama. Sue & Pam didn't plan on the same wardrobe.
We haven't even washed the deck yet! Our friends Kim and Sharon (sv Georgia J) had bought a car and invited us to the Sunday Farmers Market in Keri Keri. Kim's doing great driving on the "wrong" side of the road, and we went to scenic Paihia first, found an ATM, walked around, and then went to the market. We bought fresh fruits and veggies, ate a delicious breakfast at the Cinema Cafe, and had a jolly good time. By the time we got back to the boat it was 1300 hours, and I was determined to do a bit of work. I hooked the hose up and the fitting to the dock spigot promptly broke. I took that as a sign that maybe I should just relax more, open the bottle of Ake Ake Merlot we had just bought, and get on the internet. Boats are arriving in hordes to the Q dock, and we don't see too many empty slips. Weather has been fine; sunny and warm (certainly a relative term for those of us who have spent so long in the Tropics!), with occasional light drizzle.
The picture is another view of the Q Dock from our slip. Nobody's there now, but another wave of boats is heading down.
We had what may kindly be referred to as a "long night..." Contrary winds, strong contrary currents, and enough worry to light up a small city. Fortunately, about 20 nm outside of Opua the current changed and the wind backed about 10 degrees; both allowed us to make our rhumb line instead of continuously being pushed westwards. In fact, we continuously had to slow the boat down to allow arrival at dawn. It worked out perfectly, and although a bit tired, we entered Opua in high spirits. The currents coming from the river here are a force to be reckoned with; docking went pretty well though. There were about 10 boats at the Q (Quarantine) dock. Customs and Immigration couldn't have been nicer or more proficient; same with the personnel at Opua Marina. So far, so good. We're seeing a lot of our friends we've met along the way and are just so happy we were able to get here safely with no major systems breakdowns. We ended up sailing 1105 nm on a route whose direct rhumb line is more like 780 nm! Well, that's what's sailing is all about; you take the weather you get and make the most of it, in spite of predictions and expert input. Sue was like glue this trip; holding together and encouraging when I was starting to feel pretty glum about the whole thing...I figured we'd have to detour to Australia or maybe around to the south island before we'd ever get into Opua! Well, she was right, and here we are! Team Infini has now completed a crossing of the Pacific Ocean! We've said many thanks and offered many prayers...can't forget the important things. More later when we're coherent!
Pic: The Q (Quarantine) dock, which is not connected to any other pier. The officials take a dinghy out to clear boats in. You can dock on either side of it.
Day 9 run: 105 nm
Avg speed: 4.4 kn
Course: 170 T
Wind: ESE 14 kn; gusts to 20
Seas: E 4-6'
Sails: 2nd reef main; scrap of Yankee
Ship's log: Well, we didn't have to worry about flat seas, little wind and running out of fuel! We've had nice wind, but cross seas and a corkscrew motion (ugh), and still have about 50G of diesel in the tank! In fact, we've been slowing the boat down since last night for our expected arrival in Opua in the early morning tomorrow. Who'da thunk? We've got about 65 nm to go, and will still have to slow down to be near our outside waypoint at dawn. There are a slew of boats making faster passages to NZ; our 9+ days isn't a fast time by any means, but a safe arrival with no major system or gear breakdowns counts for a lot!
Day 8 run: 92 nm
Avg speed: 3.8 kn
Course: 161 T
Wind: SE 8 kn
Seas: SE 3'
Sails: None. Motoring.
Ship's log: We've been motoring at 1200 rpm's to conserve fuel, so subsequently our speed is quite low. But, the strategy is working, as we have enough fuel to go the 166 nm to our Opuya waypoint, and the wind may even pick up a few knots to allow us to keep our sails full, thereby increasing our speed even more. This morning we came near an atmospheric high pressure ridge (note the barometer reading), with associated lower wind. We expect to make landfall in two days, which represents about one extra day at sea instead of arriving earlier had we had enough diesel. It's been beautiful out here; the sunrise and sunsets have been awesome -(Sue saw another green flash!) Not too much bird life, and so far, no shipping, although I expect that to change soon. All's well aboard.
Day 7 run: 91 nm
Avg speed: 3.8 kn
Wind: E 8.5 kn
Seas: E 2'
Sails: Motor sailing
Ship's log: The iron genny is on again in very light, and a bit inconsistent, wind. We're about 238 nm from our outside waypoint into Opua. Not much more to add!
Day 6 run: 122 nm
Avg speed: 5.1 kn
Course: 100 T
Wind: SE 10-12 kn
Sails: full main, Yankee, staysail
Ship's log: We tacked to starboard tack to gain some easting before tomorrow's expected very light air. The winds have been fluky; one minute we're doing 90T, the next 110T. Bottom line is that we still haven't been able to lay the rhumb line to Opua, so this is taking a while and we expect many more tacks before we're in port. S: All's well...food's great; sun is out; sea's comfortable; getting cooler--so, long johns and boots!
Day 5 run: 131 nm
Avg speed: 5.5 kn
Course: 188 T
Wind: ESE 16 kn
Seas: ESE 4'
Sails: single reef main; full Yankee; staysail
Ship's log: The wind's easterly component finally showed up at 0930 this morning. We've had a good 24 hour run, but expect lighter conditions to follow. About 400 nm to our outside waypoint at Opua. We listened to the World Cup Rugby match (New Zealand vs France) last night on the SSB radio (1332 AM); NZ won 8-7 in a nail-biter; we're confident celebrations will still be going on when we arrive! All's well aboard. Update: Wind is now SSE, so we're still heading a bit more west than we'd like, on a course of 210T.
Day 4 run: 114 nm
Avg speed: 4.75 kn
Course: 215 T
Wind: SSE 18-20 kn
Seas: SSE 6-8'
Sails: single reef main; full Yankee
Ship's log: We had shook out one reef yesterday when the wind lightened, but the SSE freshened this morning so we may have to shorten sail again later if the pounding keeps up. We're still sailing close hauled. All's well aboard.
Day 3 run: 117 nm
Avg speed: 4.9 kn
Wind: SSE 13-15 kn
Seas: SE 6'
Sails: double reefed main; full Yankee
Ship's log: The seas have laid down and the winds have steadied a bit. The sun's out and the temperature down below is 75F. So far, there's been no ship sightings, but NZ radio just broadcast an alarm (looking for a particular catamaran near the Bay of Plenty) on VHF 16 - we're about 600 nm away; that's a powerful transmitter! Our progress can be tracked by clicking on the "Where We Are" button; the PacSea Net personnel enter our daily particulars into the ShipTrack registry until we reach landfall. All's well aboard.
Day 2 run: 127 nm
Avg speed: 5.29 kn
Course: 240 T
Wind: SSW 18-25 kn
Seas: SW 10-12
Sails: double reefed main; partial Yankee
Ship's log: It's been heavy going waiting for the SE to fill in; it's not here yet! At least the distance to go log has finally started to go down in the number of miles to go, not up! Sharp eyed readers of this blog will have noticed that Infini has passed into the eastern hemisphere, crossing the Date Line in the early morning hours yesterday. Of possible import is that we discovered that one of the diesel tank sending units had misread on the guage; it had probably been stuck when it read full...the tank is actually about empty, so we're down about 75G that we usually would have topped off. Hmmm...All's well aboard.
Update: the SE winds have filled in, and we're barreling along in 20-25 knots of wind on a heading of about 235T. Now all we have to do is wait for the wind and seas to calm down a bit....
Day 1's run: 126 nm
Avg speed: 5.25 kn
Course: 295 T
Wind: WSW 20
Seas: WSW 8'
Sails: double reefed main; staysail, scrap of Yankee jib
Ship's log: We departed North Minerva Reef at 1000 and had to motor sail in very light winds until 0230 in the morning when we finally got 20 knots of SW wind. We've been bearing SW, then W, now WNW in heavy wind and wave conditions, and are close hauled on a port tack at about 50-60 degrees of wind off the bow. In the next few days the wind is expected to back to S, then SE, then ESE, and we'll follow it around as we make a big semi-circle, finally aiming more for our destination of Opua. All's well aboard.
We anchored in 52' of sand at 1800 hours after a 287 nm passage. We had varied wx, but much of the time it was cloudy, rainy and winds were high. Minerva Reef is an old volcanic crater surrounded by a thin rim of reef all around with one entrance into the area. The area is claimed by both Tonga and Fiji, and in the past boats have been told to leave the area due to this dispute. Wx permitting, boats stop here on passage to NZ, as it cuts down the long leg of the trip to about 850 nm (approx) and you're able to wait for a decent wx forecast going onwards. Talking about the wx, once again I'd urge anyone following our blog not to rely 100% on grib forecasts. They are often inaccurate and it's very difficult for the models to predict with certainty what wx you'll get in the very small patch of ocean you're in! This two day passage was forecast to have nice 10-15 knot SE winds, not the NE gale that blew constant 35 knots for several hours with gusts we noted to 42 knots. One thing about this sailing game...you take what you get out here and it's better to be prepared for the worst.
Day 1 run: 129 nm
Avg speed: 5.4 kn
Course: 225 T
Wind: NE 20-22 kn
Seas: NE 8'
Sails: double reefed main
Ship's log: It's been a boisterous first twenty-four hours. We should be able to assess weather conditions to see whether we stop at Minerva Reef tomorrow afternoon as well as be able to reassess weather going forward to NZ. All's well aboard. Update: The predicted 10-15 knot NE wind has turned into a bit more: it's a rainy day, with squalls to 37 knots at this time (0100Z). We've taken down the main entirely and have up a scrap of Yankee jib until conditions settle down a bit.
We departed Apia Marina at 1500 hours for the 175 nm run to Niutoputapu, often called "New Potatoes" by yachties. It's located in northern Tonga, and is a point of entry to the Kingdom of Tonga. We really enjoyed our stay in Samoa, and highly recommend the area to those of you following in our path. Unfortunately, we were unable to see a lot of the area, as well as get to the nearby island of Suvaii, as Sue came down with a stomach virus for a few days, and we figured we'd get going to Tonga instead of spending further time here. Of note, there's an FM radio station here that is other-worldly. It's FM 101.1, and plays an incredibly eclectic selection of songs from the 40's thru the 80's; just the most delightful stuff you'd ever want to hear. I call it other-worldly because I can't quite describe the music...whoever does the play list is top notch. Most all musical venues are played and although we've all listened to oldies stations in the USA, 101.1 here is nothing like that...Really good stuff, and commercial free - how do they do that? The weather window so far has been great: 10-13 knots from the E-ESE, 2-3' seas, and this evening's sail was beautiful with an accompanying full moon. While at the marina we did some boat maintenance: I went up the mast to check the rigging and got the autopilot working (rechecked all the wiring and rebuilt the solenoid. Note: for any of you that have equipment that includes a solenoid... take it apart to inspect and clean it occasionally, and carry a spare!
We departed early and took a bus to Vailima, where the home and tomb of Robert Louis Stevenson is located. The bus ride is, as one would expect, a cultural experience, but I've got to tell you, the little kid in back of us was giving us history lessons, and the woman in front of us with two kids on her lap was contributing to our sense of wonderment. The people here have been SO friendly; everyone asks where you're from, how long will you be here...it's like they must give lessons in school on hospitality management...it's just awesome! We arrived at the RLS Museum entrance and walked the beautifully gardened road to the former plantation house of this Scottish author who was so beloved by the Samoans. It's been restored to its former glory (by the generous donations of an American businessman) and we had a personalized tour conducted by a young man named Nitro (...seriously), and he really knew his stuff. For those of you not familiar with Stevenson's works, they include Treasure Island, Kidnapped; Strange Case of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, The Ebb Tide, The Black Arrow, In The South Seas, A Child's Garden of Verses, The Vailima Letters and a long list of others. After an enjoyable walk around the house, we hiked up the steep, short path to the tomb on Mt. Vaea. There's a long path you can take which is a bit flatter and not so steep...we chose to exercise those soft calf muscles that haven't seen a hike in way too long. Once there, we were befriended by a group of young people in college, and we learned the names of various birds as well as enjoyed conversation with a few of the folks who had never been there before either. We returned to town by bus in mid afternoon and did a bit of window shopping downtown. There are numerous grocery, department, office supply, fabric and a bunch of other stores for Apia's population of about 44,000 people. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable day! Oh, btw, there was a tsunamai alert last night at midnight; there had been an earthquake in Vanuatu. We were awakened by the marina guard who knocked on our hull and informed us of the alert; fortunately, it was cancelled within about 30 minutes...thank goodness.
Lat 13deg49.675min/Long171deg45.549min. We had a wonderful overnight sail in 15 knots of easterly winds to Apia, Samoa, arriving at 0900. We were met by two marina representatives in their small boat, who guided us to our slip at the marina and took our docklines. Anchoring here in the harbor is no longer permitted, and all yachts must use the marina. Being five years old, the marina is beautiful, and Immigration, Quarantine, Health, Customs, and the Port Captain all came to the boat to check us in. Meanwhile, some of our old friends were here, and we were made to feel quite welcomed. We walked the town a little bit, ate a pizza (!) and had a Vailima beer (this is the local beer brewed here in Samoa). Tomorrow we'll do a few boat chores and start our serious exploration of this island. Amazing to think we won't have to worry about our anchor dragging or another boat hitting us...we're behind a gated fence with 24/7 security!
Well, it sure rains a lot here! I guess there's a reason why Mt. Pioa is called Rainmaker Mt. Our Lonely Planet states that Pago Pago Harbour has the highest annual rainfall of any harbour in the world. I'm glad we're here in the 'dry season'! The winds, however, have calmed down enough to allow everyone to get off their boats and stretch their legs. Yesterday, Sue and a few friends went to Cost-U-Less (like a Costco), and this morning, we both left the boat and took the bus to Ace Hardware to pick up a few items, then went to an early lunch at a Chinese restaurant in town. The cruisers have set up a morning VHF net, so this morning I had suggested a Happy Hour get together and one of the local cruisers who has been here for a long time arranged for us to use Sadie Thompson's bar/restaurant, a well known local establishment nearby. They discounted their beers ($3 for Steinlager or Vailima) and served free poupou's as well - two sure ways to attract yachties! Most all the boat crews showed up, and many ended up eating dinner there also. Folks are starting to talk about where they're going to next, and many people have ordered parts to be delivered here. One boat we know is having a Honda 2000 portable generator shipped from Marine Warehouse in Miami to here! For you Westsail fans, there are two W-32's, ourselves, and a W-39 (also called the Fair Weather Mariner 39) here; a pretty good showing, I'd say!
We've all been boat bound these last few days. Brisk SE winds of 25, gusting to 30, with a 2-3' chop from the long fetch here at the anchorage, make any dinghy rides wet and uncomfortable. A few boats dragged yesterday, but most are holding. One boat went to reanchor and found his anchor fouled on 1" chain; what that goes to is anybody's guess. His windlass wasn't powerful enough to bring it all up, so there he sits...not necessarily a bad thing, but would you want to trust that kind of anchor holding? Me neither. Another single hander arrived on a 40' Benateau. He traveled around the anchorage for about two hours and tried multiple attempts at anchoring without success. Our neighbor took his dinghy over and helped him out; turns out this guy's running around with 50' of chain and a small anchor - nope, I'm not kidding. What are some folks thinking? It was finally arranged for that boat to raft up next to a big steel fishing boat. One thing was for sure - there was no way in hell he was going to get a good anchor set with that sort of inadequate ground tackle in this anchorage. Another boat came in, a friend of ours in fact, who had to divert here because his autopilot broke and his engine heat exchanger went bonko. They had a pretty nasty ride from Suwarrow to here. So...wx progs forecast another day of strong winds (it's raining with winds 28-31 knots for the last 15 min) and then it should lay down a bit. From VHF conversations, it's evident the fleet is all getting just a bit stir crazy and are ready to get off their boats and go explore this beautiful island.
Today was interesting. Here's a chronology of events:
This morning at 0400 we woke up in some heavy gusts and noted the 53' boat anchored in front of us had dragged to within a dinghy length of our bow! This was a single hander on a 53' vessel, and he was the only boat in front of us, as we had anchored in the front row of boats in the harbor, and he was a new arrival. After hailing him on VHF 16 with no reply, repeatedly blowing our air horn into his cockpit, and shouting as loud as I could, he finally awoke and retrieved his anchor, all in lousy conditions and without hitting us! Exciting stuff.
At daybreak, squalls were rumbling thru. White out conditions occurred and the VHF was busy with lots of boats dragging and reanchoring. Now...there's a reason for this....Pago Pago harbor is renown for difficult anchoring conditions. Here's why: there used to be three tuna canneries here that for years dumped their debris in the harbor. Then a tsunamai occurred two years ago that washed tremendous amounts of crap into the water. There's all kinds of stuff on the bottom: corregated metal roofing, building materials, tables, cars, fencing, tires...you get the idea. We helped the catamaran next to us when he dragged as his Bugel anchor had snared a tire exactly in the middle of it! (he got a ringer!) It took two of us to get that anchor out of the tire! In the meantime, with heavier winds, calls were going out as other boats were dragging, snagging old mooring lines, wrapping their props in old cables, experiencing engine failure...hmmm. We launched our dinghy to run out some fuel to another dinghy that was towing a disabled boat to the government dock. I had just got back to Infini when a 35 knot gust blew us off our anchor and we dragged. Again, no telling what you get when you anchor and use the engine to pull down on it. It might feel good, but not be a secure hold. So...we reanchored and, so far, things appear OK. The winds are blowing 25, but that's a lot better than 40! There's about 20 boats anchored here, and most have dragged, reanchored, set anchor watches, and the crews are a bit fatigued, all of us waiting for the weather to abate!
Meanwhile, while all this was happening, it was a good day for baking! So...Sue got busy and decided to bake a banana bread. She heard a popping sound in the cockpit (our propane solenoid) and the propane breaker shut off. Racing into the cockpit, she noted the solenoid smoking! Not good. I quick shut off the manual valve to the propane tank and cut the 12 volt wires to the solenoid. There was a hole in the casing of the solenoid, smoke was pouring out, and it was apparent the unit had stuck, overheated, and blew a hole thru its casing! Never enough excitement around here. Of course, let me mention that the solenoid is in line within inches of the propane tank....Well, I dug out our old solenoid and replaced the failed one, never being one to stand in the way of a chef and a banana bread, so all's well. I might mention that Sue was on a roll...she also baked a peach cobbler for dessert and an artichoke-crab dip for dinner. Good stuff.
We're planning on being on anchor watch tonight, as most boats will be doing. If conditions permit, we'll check in with Officialdom tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Picture - Michael and Dennis from sv Lardo off to help other vessels in distress.
We had a four day passage here from Suwarrow. Quite a bit of it was dead down wind, and the sails took a beating. Conditions were much lighter than I thought they'd be, and we ended up motoring a lot more than we had planned. No fun since that means hand steering...the autopilot is not working. Sue had a special event occur two days ago; we were motoring in very calm conditions, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and she saw the green flash at sundown---her first. She says it was the most brilliant green...and big, not a tiny dot. She feels so very special to finally have witnessed one of the rarities of nature. The harbor here is picturesque with the high hills and dense green. The tuna fleet and tuna cannery take up a lot of the shoreline, with a huge generator and lights. Such a contrast to the remote anchorages we came from! Here in Pago Pago, internet 24/7 is $20 for one week - quite a change from the very high prices in French Polynesia. We straightened up the boat today and will go exploring tomorrow (Sunday). Monday is check-in and expected weather changes. Many other boats and people we know are here also; unfortunately, holding is poor in the harbor due to so much debris on the bottom, so dragging anchor is said to be very common.
The pic is of our final approach to the anchorage at the head of the bay
We've departed Suwarrow for American Samoa. Actually, it's just called Samoa now, and the main port is pronounced Pango Pango. There are nine boats on this same passage at this time, so we've set up an informal SSB radio net twice daily, and we check into the Pacific Seafarer's Net also. Winds, so far, have been lighter than we like, and there's an awful lot of banging, slatting, rolling and general noise as we head downwind. But the sun is out, and the meals are fabulous as usual! It's about 450 nm distance, so we figure a 4-5 day passage. So far, no fish.
The picture is of the boats at Anchorage Island behind the reef. Sad farewells....
Suwarrow has been a very pleasant stop. One cruiser referred to it as adult day camp! Most days there are organized activities, as the two rangers here, James & John, offer "guided tours" to the reef, dives, shark feeding, bird watching, fishing trips, night time lobster hunting, potluck dinners, bocce ball, as well as lessons in coconut husking and meal preparation! Unbelievable, isn't it? These are the same (and only) officials that check us in, stamp our passports, and give us departure paperwork! There are also a variety of boat to boat activities and visits amongst the twenty five boats (give or take) and a daily (except Sunday) VHF radio net (channel 16 at 0830). Some cruisers stay for weeks here, as officialdom is very relaxed and quite accommodating…we know of one boat that finally left on their 39th day! So, little boredom, beautiful water colors and scenery, and a great spot to stage for our next stop, which is Pago Pago in American Samoa. Life is good!
Pic- We're collecting the 'properly sprouted' coconuts for the lesson in making coconut pancakes- they are sooo delicious!
S - As we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, my memory goes back to this day in Olympia, WA, where our friend Dale had brought his shipshape and decked out 26' Seabird Yawl down from Seattle to be our wedding platform. We moved to Florida shortly after and built our first boat, a steel Chuck Wittholtz design Departure 35 we named Beyond which became the first big project we undertook. After 'outgrowing' her, we restored the 73' custom Derecktor built ketch Anore, as well as raised a family and attended a very busy medical practice. We purchased our present Westsail 43 Infini in 1998, and have cruised parts of the Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba and Florida while constantly upgrading her. Our dream to 'go cruising' had never changed, and we finally saw the timing was right when our youngest son went off to college.
We look back and marvel at the road we've traveled, and the many blessings we've had. We wouldn't be here without the help of many friends and family. We are fortunate to know some very gifted and talented people. We continue to meet and marvel at the diversity of backgrounds and knowledge of the cruisers out here. The experiences we've been having are priceless - we truly feel fortunate. We miss family dearly, but know their busy lives are taking their own path and we look forward to each trip back home to see them.
I know I'd make the same commitment I did back in Olympia. I'm looking forward to the next 30 years - Manuia!
M - I couldn't have put it any better! Although, I regret not having married her a hundred years earlier! She's been my saving grace, and is truly a unique and lovely woman, mother, friend and cruising partner. I love you, babe!
We ran out of wind 9 miles away from the pass and had to motor into Suwarrow. Our anchor was down at 1500 hours, and we saw a bunch of other boats we knew. Tomorrow being Sunday, we can't check in with the caretakers, so our official check into the Cook Islands will be Monday, Aug 8. All's well, we'll catch up on some rest, and relax here nearby an island that has no internet, no stores, no airstrip...not much of anything, and you can only get here by private yacht! Lovely!
Here's what I wrote earlier about Suwarrow...
Have you ever thought about living on a deserted island by yourself? We're traveling to Suwarrow to pay homage to a New Zealander who did exactly that, as a hermit, more than 50 years ago. His name was Tom Neale, and he reputedly treated visiting yachties well during his stay there from 1952 thru 1978. There's a book written of his life at Suwarrow entitled "An Island to Oneself" and it describes his solitary existence on this 11 mile atoll in the Pacific. These days the atoll is a Cook Island's national park, and two caretakers live there and are rotated on a regular basis every six months. There are bird sanctuaries as well as several wrecks, which attest to the place as being unsafe to anchor in any weather except routine tradewind conditions. A visit here also breaks up the passage from Bora Bora to American Samoa or Tonga into two parts rather than one long leg.
Day 5 run: 152 nm
Avg speed: 6.3 kn
Course: 285 T
Wind: 6-8 kn (Speed is presently 4-4.5 kn)
Sails: full main, Yankee jib, and staysail. Starboard beam reach.
Ship's log: We had one of those magical nights. Swells were about 3' with no chop; winds were NNW at 13-15, and our boat speed was about 7 knots the entire night. There was very little sail or vane adjustment necessary, and all we had to do was go along for the ride. A billion stars were out in clear skies, and a few shooting stars were also visible. Landfall is expected later this afternoon. It's ten miles to to to the outside waypoint off the pass into Suwarrow.
Day 4 run: 148 nm
Avg speed: 6.2 kn
Course: 290 T
Wind: ENE 12-15 kn
Seas: ENE 6'
Sails: full main and jib; starboard tack
Ship's log: A nice day and evening run. If winds stay up (they're forecast to go lighter), we'd arrive at Suwarrow during daylight tomorrow afternoon; if not, we lay off and go in Sunday morning. Took the anchor chain (250' of it anyway...it continues for another 100' stowed under the starboard V berth) out of the chain locker earlier this morning to mark it with wire ties. Thru the years we've painted the chain, marked it with wire ties, marked it with special rode markers, and used the guesstimation technique to approximate chain paid out. Nothing works all that well. One friend of ours just installed an expensive electronic chain counter and it didn't work at all - probably installation error! So, it's back to inexpensive colored wire ties; replaceable and, when they're there, easily readable in the dark.
Day 3 run: 135 nm
Avg speed: 5.6 kn
Course: 290 T
Wind: NE; 12.5 kn T
Seas: NE; 6'
Sails: full main; full Yankee jib; starboard tack
Ship's log: It was a beautiful night sailing on a broad reach. Calm weather; no problems. About 300 nm to go. All's well aboard.
Day 2 run: 137 nm
Avg speed: 5.7 kn
Course: 285 T
Wind: 10-12 kn
Seas: ESE 4'
Sails: 2nd reef main; jib
Ship's log: Not a bad day's run. So far everything's been a dead run (not our most favorite point of sail) or broad reach, with lots of gybes thrown in. There's been a few light rain showers with not much wind in them. Approximately 430 nm to go. Update: in midafternoon the wind speed has fluctuated; we've shaken out both reefs and put the full main up; boat speed is in the low 6's.
Day 1 run: 145 nm
Avg speed: 6.0 kn
Course: 280-330 T
Wind: ESE 12-18 kn
Seas: ESE 4'
Sails: 2nd reef main; full to partial reefed jib; reaching pole used when running
Ship's log: We departed Bora Bora and took down the French courtesy flag that had been flying for 3 months. We've spent a total of 9 months in French Polynesia over 2 seasons, and it's now time to head west. We were a little rusty for the first few hours, as it's been a while since we've been on passage. Winds were good and the seas were calm, allowing good passage time running and broad reaching. Sue had precooked some meals and we're on a 4 hour watch schedule in the evenings. Max is doing a good job steering. We're checking into the Pac Sea Net every afternoon (14300 mHz USB at 0330 UTC), so you can follow our progress on our blog (click "Where we are"). All's well aboard.
Just a reminder, when you check our position, change it to satellite view to see the beautiful lagoon and motus around the island.
We sailed the 25 miles to Bora Bora in 16-20 knots of NE wind, going 6-7 knots (highest speed was 7.5 kn surfing down the face of a wave). The wind headed us coming into Teavanui Pass, which is the only pass into Bora Bora, and is located on the west side. Current coming against us in the pass was about 2 knots and reminded me, once again, that I had better clean the prop. We at first took a mooring at the MaiKai Yacht Club, but moved over to 80' of mud and dropped the anchor; the moorings had been placed way too close together, and the noise from construction of the new YC was something we didn't care to put up with. So, as a consequence of the squirrelly winds here, we're doing circles every few minutes, and I can't imagine how many twists our chain has! We'll go exploring tomorrow.
We anchored in Hurepiti Bay and met Alain & Christine of Vanilla Tours. They provide 4 hour botanical tours of the island and were kind enough to allow us to use their dock to park our dinghies. Knowing we were hikers, they volunteered to drive the four of us (Rich, Jan, Sue & myself) to the town of Haamene, as we were off on a long excursion yesterday. We walked to the entrance of Haamene Bay, and met Tamahere and Virginie of the Tiare Breeze, a private residence and guest house. These folks were so gracious, showing us their unique home and suggesting we walk up a steep incline to their guest quarters on the hill, which provided stunning vistas of the barrier reef and bay entrance. What a grand place; we really didn't want to leave! Their daughter, Tiheni, was our delightful tour guide, spoke excellent English, and answered our many questions. The weather cooperated, and we had sunshine all day, quite a change from the rainy day before. On the way back we stopped at the MaiTai restaurant and had an expresso and profiterolles. This morning we motored to Tapuamau Bay, anchored in 78' (that's not a misprint) of mud, and declared it a boat project day. I changed the engine oil and filter, added battery water, and did a few odds and ends. Tomorrow we're planning on going snorkeling between two motus by the barrier reef, then it's off to Bora Bora the day after.
Pic- Tiheni with us up at the guest quarters...what a view!
It's been rainy and quite windy here for the last few days. Fortunately, the holding here in front of the town of Fare has been good, so the "cannonballs" of high winds that barrel down the mountains at the yachts anchored here haven't adversely affected us other than slewing everyone around a bit. Hiking the mountains in the heavy mist and squalls didn't sound too appealing, so we ended up renting a car along with Dennis and Mary Lee of sv Lardo. A road mostly encircles the islands of Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti, and we slowly drove around the island taking in the lush scenery and noting how windy it was at most of the other anchorages; whitecaps were constantly visible everywhere. We visited a few beaches and marae, and stopped for lunch at a snack place where we unexpectedly ran into a bunch of other cruisers from boats anchored at Avea Bay. They were all commenting how rough a night they had had in the high winds, and then asked us if we had seen the blue eyed eels. It turns out we had driven right past the small gulley where these unique eels were, so after lunch we backtracked about 10 minutes and found a bunch of kids in the water trying to play with these 3-4' eels. The eels, indeed, had small blue, beady eyes, and the books said they are unique in all the world…where's Joseph Banks (the botanist/naturalist who accompanied Charles Darwin) when you need him? At any rate, after about 10 minutes of taking pictures and looking at the eels we drove away, ending up back in town for an ice cream, and inquiring where we could find the vanilla farm. You wouldn't think you could get lost on a small island like this, but it took us driving around about 45 minutes and taking a back road to eventually stumble across the vanilla farm we were looking for, and that quite by chance when Mary Lee looked up and happened to notice it. We bought some fresh vanilla beans, and now will look forward to recipes which use them. Unbelievably, we returned the car 7 hours and 45 minutes after we left the rental office; all of us shaking our heads wondering where those hours had gone. There's really not that much to do or see here, which is one of the allures of Huahine, but we managed to spend 8 hours "doing nothing", enjoying the raw, lush, natural beauty of this special place. Kind of sounds like a Seinfeld script.
Position: S16deg42min/W151deg02min. We departed Cook's Bay at noon and encountered very light SW winds for the first few hours. At dusk the expected SE winds finally filled in, and we had mostly 10-15 knots all evening, with the occasional gust. We sighted Huahine at dawn, and entered the main pass around 0900. We're anchored just inside Avamoa Pass, which is a nice, wide pass with easy entry. The surf is breaking on the reef a few hundred yards away, and as the wx is changing, the surfers are enjoying 10' waves. Swells outside are expected to reach 12-15' before the wx moderates a bit. All's well here.
"Huahine is made up of two mountainous islands, Huahine Nui (big) and Huahine Iti (little), with a bridge connecting them at the isthmus. A common fringing reef circles them, and there are 5 passes through the reef. (Bora Bora has only one.) It is the most laid back, mellow, and rural of the Societies, with untouched coves, wonderful lagoons, killer reef breaks--and the most extensive complex of pre-European marae in French Polynesia. It is approximately nine miles from north to south, and six miles from east to west. There are many places to anchor which entice the cruiser to explore underwater and there are hikes along the ridges and peaks." We've been told there are unique blue eye eels found here that are not found anywhere else in the world.
This morning, we walked from the Bali Hai Hotel to the small town of Maharepa, stopping in many of the shops and at the post office. We went into one small shop and met the American owner, who, it turns out, knows a friend of ours back in Florida...it's indeed a small world. We returned to the boat and later went into the Blue Pineapple Bar/Restaurant at the Bali Hai to have a beer and use their wifi and ended up having a nice long talk with one of the original owners, Jay Carlisle, who gave us a bit of insight as to the beginning of the Bali Hai Hotel. For more details look at http://www.bookrags.com/news/a-small-hotel-on-moorea-is-all-that-moc/. With the better internet here, Sue's managed to upload a few more picture albums - enjoy!
Yesterday we took a dinghy ride and visited the church at Papetoai. The Octagonal Church was built in 1822, and is thought to be the oldest church in the South Pacific. We then dinghied over to where some tikis had been placed underwater for the tourists to find (kind of hokey), and finished up nearby the Club Mediterranee, a rather expensive hotel with a fantastic view, to snorkel with stingrays and black tipped sharks. Very cool. Actually, the best part was finding a flying gurnard fish. I know, a few of you are probably thinking "What took them so long to find a flying gurnard?" Well...for those of you who have never seen one (we hadn't before this morning) the common name is "sea robin." What a great looking fish: it has camouflage to fade into the sandy background and wings that make it look like it's flying as it's swimming around.. pretty unusual! It looks like a moth and moves slowly along the bottom, using his 'hooks on either side of his head to stir up the sand. Thanks, Sheri (sv Reflections) for sharing your pictures! This morning we motored to Cooks Bay and anchored in 67' in front of the Bali Hai Hotel. We tied our dinghy up to their dock and went inside to find the proprietor to make sure it was OK to tie up where we did, and her response was to look at us and say "This is your place...of course you can tie up there." What a welcome! We've made reservations for dinner and a Polynesian dance show tonight. The steak dinner cost 2000cfp, the chicken 1800cfp, and there were many other entrees as well. Some of our friends dinghied over from Opunohu Bay to Cooks Bay just to see the area, and we've met some other cruisers from New Caledonia as well as a French local who runs a catamaran doing day charters here for the last 12 years (actually, "met" isn't the proper term as I went out to "rescue" him as he tried to row into shore against a fresh breeze and couldn't make it, so I towed him in). The views here are beautiful, just a bit different than the views in Opunohu Bay, and it's easy to see the tremendous allure of this area. The weather is doing a bit of change, so we expect to be around here for a few days.
The second (and last) day (Sun) of the Pacific Puddle Jumps Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous began with an outrigger canoe race. There were 26 teams of four cruisers and two Tahitians in each 6 person canoe, and four canoes faced off against each other in each heat until there was an overall winner. We didn't win our heat, but came in third, missing second place by a second or so. There were many activities you could choose from-weaving of baskets/bowls/headbands, or make your own flower headband or lei, or design and make your own pareu. After the outrigger races, a traditional Tahitian lunch was served. After lunch there was a rock lifting (strong-man) competition, as well as foot races and coconut husking sessions. An awards ceremony was held after everything finished up, and all participating boats received a beautifully engraved oyster shell momento of the Rendezvous. Traditional dancing closed out the entire program, and lots of pictures were taken. You can check out the pictures and happenings at www.latitude38.com, the main sponsor for this event. If any of you readers are thinking of coming this way, we'd highly recommend this Puddle Jump get together; we had a really good time, and think you will too!
This morning (Mon), we hiked to the Belvedere, a lookout between Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay. We then took an additional extended hike to the Three Pines, which afforded a beautiful vista view of both bays (Mount Tohieva and Mount Mouaroa) as well. The wind is 20-25 knots outside the reef, although the gribs don't reflect it; it's supposed to lay down tomorrow….we'll see….
We slipped our mooring at the Yacht Club de Tahiti at 0800 and motored out the pass in very light winds. Unfortunately, the wind didn't pick up, and instead of motoring down to the entrance of the Port Of Papeete, where the official 1000 hour start time of the Tahiti to Moorea Sailing Rendezvous was, we decided to just motor on to Moorea, as we figured the winds would stay very light anyway. We were right, and out of about 40 boats registered for the rally, only (I think) 7 actually sailed, the rest of the fleet motored here as well. Well, some years the winds just don't fill in as expected. About 50 boats are anchored way to close to one another in front of Mareto Beach here in Opunohu Bay. The bay is stunning, with Mount Tohivea and Mount Muaroa forming a jagged backdrop at the head of the bay (Robinson's Cove), and we'll go exploring and hiking Monday. Today, after all the cruisers arrived, there was a welcoming party on the beach, with traditional dancing and cocktails served. We've signed up as one of the 23 four person canoe teams (we're aboard Team Hawaii with some friends of ours) for the canoe races tomorrow (Sun), and there will be other competitions as well, before a traditionally prepared Tahitian lunch on the beach. Sounds like good fun. We're anchored in 10' of crystal clear water, watching the sting rays glide by, with big smiles on our faces, pinching ourselves to remind ourselves we're really here in Moorea. The only sounds at night or in the early morning are roosters crowing and the occasional dog barking. Air temperature is 73 degrees. Lovely.
We anchored in 25' under the loom of the lighthouse at Point Venus. We had a good day sailing, at times reaching over 7 knots; this speed allowed us to get to the anchorage at dusk - what a pleasure! Tomorrow we'll move around and find another anchorage; tonight is one for celebration. It'll take a while for it to sink in - we're in Tahiti!!
Course: 200 T
Speed: 5.6 kn
Wind: SE 22-24 kn
Seas: SE 6-8'
Sails: 2nd reef main; reefed jib. We use the running backstay as much as possible; mast support can't hurt!
This is a fairly short run of about 200 nm from Rangiroa to Papeete. We raised anchor at first light and motor sailed down to Avatoro Pass, exiting the pass at slack low water without problems. Since we expect arrival at Tahiti after sundown, we plan to anchor at Point Venus (named by Capt. James Cook) and go thru the pass into Papeete in the early morning daylight.
We went with a few other folks to snorkel Tiputa Pass, but the current was fast and it was so deep we didn't find it all that exciting. We (Matt is still nursing an earache so he stayed back)then snorkeled the west side of Motu Fara, a small sandy motu just inside the pass, where we were able to tie our dingies to buoys set in the coral. There were hundreds of fish, and our friends had brought pancakes to feed them. It was great fun to have them come up and hand feed right in front of our eyes, but we didn't let the large fish get all that close! A few morey eels swam out from their hiding place, and there were a few sand sharks resting on the bottom. We then took the water taxi (250 fcp pp) over to Tiputa (across the pass), and walked thru that small village for a bit before returning by water taxi to the other side and lunch at the wharf. There are about 8 boats here now, and 3 boats expected this morning on the tide. Weather has been blustery, with squalls coming from the E, ENE and ESE directions. Holding is good; we're anchored in 34', sand, and there are a few low scattered coral heads about. Btw, Sue's managed to upload (on very sketchy internet connection!) several new Picasa photo albums - enjoy!