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Don & Deb's Big Adventure on Buena Vista
On our way to the South Pacific and beyond...
Going As Fast As We Can
11/14/2012, Outbound Tonga - Inbound New Zealand

Day 4 - 136 nautical miles. 730 miles from here to Opua, New Zealand, as the crow flies. Of course we can't just sail a straight line there. Our course will zig and zag depending on which way the wind is blowing and what we think is in the future based on grib files, weather reports from the experts at Russell Radio, NZ, and position reports from fellow cruisers in the area. Currently about 30 boats are out here all on their way to Opua! So we've got something like 800+ miles to go. I'd like to be there by Thanksgiving. What date that is in New Zealand is a guess because we've just crossed the dateline and there's a bit of confusion over the UTC times as will. Suffice it to say I'm hoping we'll be there in 7-8 days. Lately we've been sailing southwest, riding along the top edge of a high pressure system. It is great sailing right now. We've got 15 knots from the southeast and our current heading is 210 degrees. Happily, there's not much swell either. We've got a lot of sail up because if ever there was a time to go as fast as possible it's right now. The longer you're out in this southern ocean the more chance you have that something will go wrong or some weather system will pop up and pop you! These high pressure systems go in a anti-clockwise circular motion. Problem is we've got to be heading a bit more south now and that might put us in the middle of the high where there's less wind. I KNOW, it's a lot of thinking all the time and I'm ready for a break from watching the weather. But not now, it's super important right now to get it right or you could get your head handed to you on a platter by Mother Nature. Sometimes she's kind and sometime she ain't. (You other cruisers reading this - you know what I mean!) A few side notes before I close...as we sail along there's lots of pumice floating by in the water. Areas of little pieces and some that are the size of an apple or orange. Proof again of what a volcanic area this is. Because of this, it's important to keep an eye on your water strainer going into the boat and keep it clean. One more job for Donald, as if he doesn't have enough to do as it is. Also, after being out here for over 4 days now, getting enough sleep becomes super important. We're doing 3 hour watches at night which seems to be working OK. But during the day, like right now typing this, my eyelids are drooping and I could lay down for another nap...I just got up!

We Missed Minerva Reef - Next Stop New Zealand
11/13/2012, Outbound Tonga, Inbound New Zealand!!

Day 3 - 105 nautical miles. Light winds for most of the day today, and it's just beautiful out here. Blue skies, deep blue water and white puffy clouds marching along in a row in the distance. We passed a pod of some kind of whales yesterday which was a real treat. Last night the wind died about midnight and we motored towards Minerva Reef most of the night, thinking we would pull in this afternoon. We got within 45 miles. But then this morning southerly winds kicked in and now our course is a lot more west and I think we'll miss it altogether. We wanted to stop, and our friends on La Fiesta are waiting for us there but with the nice wind we have right now, it's hard to tack back to the east to get back over there. We would not have made it in tonight and would have to heave-to and go in in the morning. So now we are on route to New Zealand! The chatter on the radio today is all about the weather (so what else is new?) The weather routers that some people are using are calling this a really good weather window. Yet, they also say that there is very little wind just south of us for several days so be prepared to motor...I'm confused. I thought a good weather window meant it's a good time to sail to New Zealand. But I think they mean that it's 'Good Weather' right now since there's no big weather systems to worry about out there (like the cyclone-like Tropical Low a week or so ago). The thing with light winds is that the seas are lovely and flat, really comfortable sailing out here. Buena Vista just loves 10-12 knots of wind and can make 5-6 knots of speed over ground in those light conditions. Maybe other bigger boats are looking for 20+ knots of wind to go fast but not me! That just means bigger seas and a harder life on board.

Fish Stories
11/12/2012, Outbound Tonga, Inbound Minerva Reef

Day 2 - 110 nautical miles. After the rough conditions yesterday, today was a breeze. We cruised along at about 6 knots under beautiful blue skies and sunny conditions. Don put the fishing lines out and we hooked up two mahi mahis at the same time. For a few minutes I was working one rod and Don was on the other. What a blast. Alas, mine got away so we focused on Don's. It took 30 minutes to get the thirty pounder to the side of the boat. I had to roll up the headsail to slow the boat down which always wears me out. As Don was pulling in the fish it had a huge burst of energy and flipped and took the lure and broke the line. Bummer. Let's try again. Only about ten minutes later we hooked up another huge fish, but the same thing happened. He got away just as he was getting close to the boat. I made some lunch and as we are eating another fish hit the line. This time we're already buggered so we keep eating and just drag the fish along behind the sailing boat while we eat. We hope this will wear him out enough for us to actually land the fish. This fish wasn't quite as large as the first two but probably twenty pounds just the same. It was still alot of work but we got him on board. Yippee! Sashimi for dinner tonight!

11/14/2012 | Adam
FISH ON!!! Great stuff!!! Continued fair winds, cheers from Cindi and I from Bolivia
Happy Birthday To The Girls
11/11/2012, Outbound Tonga, Inbound Minerva Reef

A quick note to say Happy Birthday to my good mate Sue off the catamaran 'Waveglider' who is probably celebrating with the folks on 'Juce' in La Paz, Mexico. Don't get in to too much trouble you guys! Happy Birthday to Gilly off the sailing vessel 'Destiny' who lives in beautiful Punta de Mita, by Puerto Vallarta. Hope it's a wonderful day for you. Happy 23rd Birthday to our niece Cara in Auckland, New Zealand. We'll be seeing you soon. And last but not least...to my dear friend Sheree who is caring for her sick mother in Encinada, Mexico. I love you and hope you have a great birthday too. Best wishes to you all.

First Day Was A Rough Day
11/11/2012, Outbound Tonga, Inbound Minerva Reef

Day One - 143 nautical miles. We left the very protected waters of Neiafu Harbor at 9am, knowing that once we got offshore the conditions would be quite different. The weather forecast showed only a few days of good winds to get down to Minerva Reef but the caveat was that the first day would be strong winds and boisterous seas. We went anyway and they were right, it was pretty rough out there. The seas weren't that big, only about 2 meters, but they were close together and choppy. We took wave after wave over the boat, covering us with salt and finding interior leaks we never knew existed. Water went in the navigation area and my primary computer got wet and I think it's dead. Bummer, thank goodness I have a backup which I'm using now. It was difficult to move around and forget about cooking. But as the sun set that evening the seas were starting to calm down and we saw light at the end of the tunnel. We left with Ladybug, Cheers, and La Fiesta. There were also others out there. As the sun went down it felt a bit crowded and you had to keep an eye out for masthead lights in the distance. At about 7pm, as the sun was setting I spotted something...it looked like a ferry or large ship since I knew there weren't any islands out where we were. But hey - OMG - it's an island. Have I made a mistake in my charting? I knew there was a shoal out here but an island? I check the charts again and Metis Shoal does have a note on it that there's been volcanic activity in the area in 1995. Wow - that must be a brand new volcanic island. What else is just under the surface around here?

It's Time To Go To New Zealand!
11/09/2012, Neiafu, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga

The big blow has passed us to the SE and the wind has veered completely around as it does when a Low passes by. Now we've got a moderate southeasterly and the swell is slowly coming down from 3-4 meters to 2 meters. That's a sea we can handle...not the 4-5 meter seas that we've heard were out there recently. The weather gurus are telling us that we have a really nice weather window right now for sailing the 400 miles to Minerva Reef, and if we're really fast we might make it to New Zealand before the next big Low hits the north island. The idea of trying to beat a Low into New Zealand just makes me cringe. So, hopefully we can stop for a few days at Minerva Reef, take a break, then take off again a few days later. We'll see. Today we did lots of chores to get ready to leave tomorrow morning. I made a big bowl of potatoe salad and a big pot of spaghetti sauce to eat on the passage. We did one last shop at the farmer's market, stocking up on veggies and especially the wonderful apples they grow here. Jim on 'Sockdolager' let me use his cell phone and I was able to make several calls to my best friends in the states. That just made my day! We've said our goodbyes and compared notes with our mates that are also leaving Tonga tomorrow. There's a nice fleet taking off from here and we'll all be checking in twice a day on The Drifter's Net on SSB frequency 8133. We are ready to go...first thing in the morning!

11/10/2012 | Carla and Doug
Glad the low passed by. Have a wonderful sail!
11/11/2012 | Geoff & Anne
Have a great last leg and we are sure that you shall be greeted with a huge Kiwi BBQ and endless supply of beer and bourbon by the NZ Robo's.
A Cyclone With No Name Is Still A Cyclone
11/07/2012, Neiafu, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga

The 'Fiji Low' (my name) that is passing just to the south of us is still being called a 'Tropical Depression'. My mates in California that are sending us weather updates say that what they are looking at is clearly a cyclone. Even so, the weather gurus that be have not given it a name as of yet. This cyclone was centered about 300 miles south of us last night and moving to the southeast. At it's strongest it is predicted to cover a rough circle of about 1,000 miles wide. We had reports from 160 miles south in Nuku'Alofa that yesterday they saw 50+ knots and gusts to 70 knots! We've had reports this morning from the folks that are on passage to New Zealand . Currently 33 boats are checking in to the Drifters Net - about half arriving to NZ in the next day or two. They have been on passage from either Tonga, Fiji or Vanuatu on their way to the North Island of New Zealand, many of them friends of ours. Only about 8 are in the danger zone, feeling the strong effects of this storm. Several that are as far away as 30 S and 178 E are currently hove-to and waiting for the 30 knot winds to subside and the 3-4 meter seas to calm down before trying to continue. One boat, 'Adventure Bound' left far too late (in our opinion) to outrun this storm. Yesterday he was running bare-poled with 40-50 knots and just barely hanging in there. His position was 25 S and 179 E. This morning we learned that there was another boat out in the shit with him. This boat called 'Windago', a Benataur 40 we think, was reported to have 'rolled' last night and the two people on board are currently in a liferaft. The RCC-NZ, the New Zealand Rescue Squad has sent an 'Orion' (what kind of plane is that?) out to patrol and has been circling their position all night. This morning we heard that 'Adventure Bound', even in the vulnerable position they are currently in, has been asked to turn around and make their way back 30 miles to try and effect a rescue, bringing the folks on the liferaft onboard. With the current seas, they are only making 2 mph and are not sure they will even make it today. So, 'Adventure Bound', instead of being the loose nut of the day will hopefully be the heros of the hour. It's all very dramatic. Another EPIRB signal has been received, an unregistered EPIRB, so they do not know who it is, but the position was recorded as 23S and 175W...approx. 130 miles south of Tongatapu the southernmost island of Tonga. New Zealand Rescue may send a Hercules aircraft to spot them (what kind of plane is that - does anybody know?). We are at the northern edge of the storm hunkering down in Neiafu Harbor with about 35 other boats. Yesterday it was quite calm in here but was very, very hot and humid. There was no doubting when the storm finally hit this area. We had Angelina and her daughter Natalie on board Buena Vista when it started to rain. They jumped into their dinghy and got back to their boat 'La Fiesta' just in time. Pretty quickly we had 25-30 knots from the north which later veered to the northwest. A terrific lightning and thunder storm passed directly overhead about 9pm with heavy rain as well. I heard the thunder just off to the west and saw a faint flash of light from inside the boat so I came up into the cockpit to take a look. Well, as soon as I got there a clap of thunder hit just over head. It was louder than heck and just a moment later lightning struck right on top of us. I screamed and jumped back inside the boat, quickly grabbing our computers and putting them in the oven. Ten seconds later there was another very loud thunderclap and more lightning at very close range but obviously now just east of us. It continued like that for twenty minutes as we watched and listened to that cell move quickly past us and away. For the next five or six hours there was a beautiful lighting storm off in the distance but from our point of view it was not bolts of lightning but the kind that seem to flash from all around, lighting up in silhouette the many dark clouds that were flying by. It wasn't the best night's sleep I've ever had but when we woke this morning it was a warm and sunny day. We do now have pretty strong wind from the west at 20 knots, sometimes gusting to 25. That means that the storm south of us is moving to the SE since our wind is slowly veering around the clock. Our mooring ball is close to the eastern shore of the harbor so now we're on mooring watch...if something should happen we'd have to bug out and motor across the harbor to get protection from the strong west winds.

11/07/2012 | Chuck /Jacaranda
Orion is a Lockheed 4 engine turbo prop plane developed for the US Navy for sub detection. Because of its slow speed it makes an excellent SAR aircraft. NZ has used these for SAR for many years. During the Queens Birthday Storm they were in the air for most of the time that all the EPIRBs were transmitting. They circled for hours and kept contact with Destiny until they were rescued.

All the best

Chuck & Linda
The Melbourne Cup Comes To Tonga
11/06/2012, Neiafu, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga

We were not the only ones who 'went backwards' and sailed north back up to Neiafu's safe harbor for the upcoming storm. Including us, there are eight boats that I know of that came in from the Ha'apai Group and one catamaran that sailed up from Nuku'Alofa. Incredibly, Neiafu Harbor is full again - all the mooring balls are taken. And, strangely, with a big storm on it's way, it is totally calm in here right now. Winds are expected to start late tonight and should be blowing like stink tomorrow with lots of rain too. We just got a VHF call from 'Ladybug', the ones I was worried about, who we thought had decided to hunker down further south. After re-reviewing all the information they could, they also decided to sail back up here. Unfortunately, their trip up was a lot more boisterous than ours a few days ago because the seas and winds have been building for a few days. But - the important thing is that in a few hours they will be anchored at Nuka Island. It's right around the corner and they will be able to manage the storm alot easier from there - within the safety of Vava'u's outer islands which will provide alot more protection. Hey - Guess What! Today was the Melbourne Cup in Australia. The famous horse race held in Melbourne...duh...but I bet you didn't know that it's a holiday there, even schools are closed for the big event. Well, a restaurant here had a Melbourne Cup event which of course we attended. We wore crazy Aussie hats, mine had corks hanging all around the rim (used in old time Australia to keep the flies off your face). Anyway, we split a $50 bet with another couple and OUR HORSE WON...GREEN MOON from Ireland went off at 16-1 and in a field of 23 horses GREEN MOON crossed the line first. We took 60% of the entire pool of $1,800 so we split $1,080 for first place...DON AND I WON $540 ($540 pa'anga - which is about $300 US dollars). My throat is sore from screaming. Jim on Sockdolager bought a $10 ticket and by random choice it was also for GREEN MOON, and he won $90. We had an excellent meal and celebrated our luck and good fortune. Then, back to Buena Vista to prepare for the big blow which should start in a few hours.

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