Don & Deb's Big Adventure Continues in Oz

We are now living in Melbourne, Australia after selling our beautiful yacht 'Buena Vista' in New Zealand. Even so...the big adventure will continue one way or another!

09 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Nine to New Zealand
08 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Seven to New Zealand
07 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Seven to New Zealand
06 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Six to New Zealand
05 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Five to New Zealand
04 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Four to New Zealand
03 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Three to New Zealand
02 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Two to New Zealand
01 November 2014 | At Sea - Day One to New Zealand
31 October 2014 | Momi Bay, Fiji
31 October 2014 | Momi Bay, Fiji
24 September 2014 | Yasawa-irara, Yasawas, fiji
23 September 2014 | Yasawa-irara, Yasawas, Fiji
21 September 2014 | Cololevu, Yasawas, Fiji
19 September 2014 | Cololevu, Yasawas, Fiji
18 September 2014 | Namataya Bay, Yasawas, Fiji
16 September 2014 | Malacati Village, Yasawas, Fiji
13 September 2014 | Blue Lagoon, Fiji
08 September 2014 | Blue Lagoon, Fiji
06 September 2014 | Blue Lagoon, Nanuya Levu Island, Fiji

Stressful Situation - Actually Many At Once

09 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Nine to New Zealand
Yesterday the wind finally shifted to the east and we were able to stop the motor and start sailing again. It wasn't fast but it didn't need to be. We figured that for every hour we sailed the more fuel was still available to us in the end. We figured we had 30 engine hours left, plenty. We slipped along nicely at 4-5 knots as the sun got lower in the sky. Don finally got lucky and hooked up a fish, a nice big eye tuna. We made gin and tonics and sat together on the starboard side sharing a nice intimate moment, enjoying the gorgeous sunset and the awesome beauty of nature. We toasted the five great years we've spent cruising. I haven't shared it with everyone but we have listed 'Buena Vista' for sale with a broker here in Opua. We did that almost a month ago and knew we just had to get her back to New Zealand, clean her up and let her go. Last night was so beautiful that we questioned that decision again. We had a bite to eat and when it got dark the wind died after we had sailed without the engine for 6 hours. Don went to bed and I started her up and motored slowly into the darkness toward our destination which was I think about 50 miles away. No problemo. Until about 30 miles from Opua the engine sputtered and then died. Holy Crap! No wind, no fuel, nobody around, dark and very lonely out there. My heart sank and Don was just beside himself. I felt very fearful. How often do we feel real fear in the twenty first century. I found myself shaking all over and panting...that's the best I can describe it. Not pretty. To be in this predicament with a big storm coming in a day or so...well...I feel like I damaged my psyche??? We put up all sail and I tried to get the boat moving and for a while could only sail in a circle. We saw another boat close to us on AIS and called out to him on VHF, no answer. We hoped it was because his radio was turned off so we got out a spotlight and also used the airhorn. No response. I thought of shooting off a flare but Don didn't like that idea. We called out to 'Huck' because we knew he was behind us and had mentioned on the net to Don that he had hardly used any of his fuel. I know...reaching for straws. We heard some VHF chatter, lots of boats are converging on Opua from Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia right now, taking cover before the storm on Tuesday. We called and talked to several of them. Remember this is all happening in the middle of the night. And while they would like to help, many were sorry they couldn't because they either were running out of fuel themselves or they just couldn't physically get it out of their boat's big tanks. Just then, a bit of wind hit my face and then it became a little breeze and we were off! I charted a course on Open CPN, a plan of attack to try and sail into the Bay of Islands and then maybe get someone to bring us out some fuel there. We did four big tacks of about 5 miles each, slowly moving toward the goal. Too slowly though. I realized that it could take all day to tack our way into the big bay and my heart sunk...panting and shaking again. Anyway, the wind started to die and I knew we were in real trouble. Right now I want to take you back three years, to Mexico. We met our good friends Karen and Jim on 'Sockdolager' at Espirito Santo, an island group off of La Paz on the Baja Peninsula. The night that we met them we also met their friend Craig from Seattle on the sailboat 'Luckness'. Back to the present, Karen emailed me a week or two ago and told me to keep an eye out for 'Luckness' because he was in Tongo getting ready to sail to New Zealand. Well, today in my despair and fear, I clicked on the AIS target list and oh my of the targets is 'Luckness' and he is just 10 miles to the northeast of where we are now. Total could that be? I asked Don to get on the radio and call him. He remembered us and we remembered him. Then Don asked if he had any spare diesel. Craig replied that he had hardly used any on the passage from Tonga and we could have the three jerry jugs he keeps on deck. OMG, could it be that we are saved? We continued on our course and Craig plotted a path to where we were. As he approached, we turned into the wind and dropped our sails. We put the dinghy in the water and then put the outboard motor on the dinghy. We were very lucky that it was calm conditions. A bit bumpy but not too bad. Don dinghied over to 'Luckness' and picked up the fuel cans. He brought them back to 'Buena Vista' and poured it all into our starboard tank. Then we tried starting her up, nothing. We tried again, nothing. Don is cussing and getting worked up. Too worked up to think clearly so I tried to calm him down so he could get into the engine compartment and figure out what the problem was. Craig stood by, circling 'Buena Vista' as I tried to keep him informed as to what progress Don was making. He told me the next thing was for him to try and tow us in, which he would do if it came to that. But he preferred to wait around for Don to fix the problem. Everyone knows that towing is wrought with problems. Don tried and tried. It seems that the fuel tank is below the Racor filter and the fuel lift pump was having trouble moving the fuel upwards. I guess it works better if the fuel tank is slightly above the filter, gravity helps the process alot. Now it's noon and we're realizing that if we don't get started towing soon, if will be late by the time we get in. We are now ten miles outside the bay and Opua Marina is about 10 miles or more inside the big bay. He and Don set up the tow line, 'Luckness' with a bridle out the back and Don's double towline looped around the bridle and cleated onto to 'Buena Vista', one line in each side cleat up front. It was scary watching the looped line move back and forth around Craig's wind vane steering unit. It's the most important piece of gear on an ocean going cruising yacht. I prayed that the tow line would not wrap around the vane and do serious and expensive damage. But Craig did not flinch. He is an amazing person, down to earth and kind and you get the feeling that he would do anything for you. Boy are we lucky he was there. Well, after about an hour of slow towing, Don finally had me start up the engine for the tenth time and it started!! I wanted to cry tears of relief as the boys untied the tow line and we motored side by side into the Bay of Islands and on to Opua. Welcome to New Zealand! I'm glad that day is over. I'm also pretty certain that my sailing days are over too.

Living the Dream??? Not Right Now We're Not.

08 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Seven to New Zealand
OK, so this last part isn't so easy. We've only got about 105 miles to go but we are motoring directly into SE15-18 knots and a 1-1/2 meter swell. We have done the calculations several times and are 'pretty sure' we've got enough fuel to get in. The majority of the pack is ahead of us by about 45 miles and have the same conditions. Who thought this was a good time to make this passage? Most everybody did. What we think has happened is this. We were counting on a high pressure system that is to our west to pass over us by now. It appears to have turned into a 'stationary high'. So we're all in the front edge of it's counter-clockwise spin which is throwing up some strong south-easterly wind. The good news is we're almost there. If we have enough fuel...we'll be in tomorrow morning. If not...well...we'll have to tack back away from land and then try to sail in. Frankly, I'm a bit over the whole thing right now and would prefer to just motor in. Waaaaaaaa. Maybe this blog should be titled "I want my Mommy" Don was net controller for the Southern Cross net for the last time this morning. I think he'll miss that part alot.

Close Encounter With Cargo Ship - But Not Scary At All This Time

07 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Seven to New Zealand
Yesterday afternoon Don was able to get our autopilot working again. Thank goodness because it is alot of work keeping an eye on your course especially at night. It's the red light of the compass...the way it slowly moves back and forth, back and forth, next thing you know you're hypnotized and falling off your perch. On my watch last night we crossed paths with a 50 meter fishing vessel. They passed in front of us by 6 miles and they showed up clearly on AIS and radar. No call was needed. About an hour ago Don spotted something big on the horizon. I got up and turned on the computer and the radar. It was a huge container ship, the 'Aglaia', 238 meters long and carrying 4000 containers. AIS told me that he would be passing in front of us in 20 minutes, missing us by 1/10th of a mile! Holy jeez...I called on the radio and spoke to the captain, a young man from India. He altered his course to starboard and Don, who was on the back deck of our boat clearly saw that the ship had changed course and we were no longer in a scary situation. We passed port to port with exactly one mile of separation. That's better but they are so big it's still a bit too close for comfort. I called the captain back and thanked him. They are on their way to Tokyo. He told me that he has been working on ships for eighteen years. He asked how big we are and told me that his lifeboats are a bit larger than Buena Vista! He asked us about our travels and how long our trip from Fiji was. I asked him if the Tropical Depressions forming along his path would bother them at all. He said they rock a little bit in 4-5 meter swells, but not too bad. Eeek. If we ever encounter anything like that it would be very bad! I really enjoyed talking to him, it was a nice experience and so much better than our last encounter with a big ship at sea. We are currently just over 200 miles from our marina berth in Opua. We will be there early Monday morning. Several boats in our group, up ahead of us by 50 miles or so are headed towards the North Cape, a bit to the right of our course which is straight at Cape Brett. They have had more of these strongish SE winds and swells that make it difficult to manage. Back here, we're just powering through and over everything, motoring at 6 knots. All is well on Buena Vista. We are ready for a good long sleep! But first, let the eating begin! We've got lots of fruit and veggies to get through before NZ customs takes it all away. Today I tossed my little herb garden and little cactus overboard, sad. Oh well, I'm gonna have a great garden in Australia. Love from us! Debbie and Don

Second Day of South Easterlies - You Can Stop Now Please

06 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Six to New Zealand
We were doing so well for awhile there. Now when I look at the chart it seems like we're gonna sail right past New Zealand. That would be bad! The high pressure system that was supposed to give wind vearing to the east has not happened so that plan is going out the window. We listened to Gulf Harbor Radio for their excellent weather forecasting but today was something of a disappointment. First we're told that there's light and variable conditions ahead then 15 minutes later we're told to expect 20 knot SE! My grib files comfirm that it is a weather mess out there for sure. A front has just passed NZ waters sending SW winds to boaters who are already there. We aren't there yet though so we are in another system altogether. And then on top of that a gale force storm is expected to hit where we're heading on Tuesday. So I had a tizzy fit over it...confusion, frustration and sleep deprivation combined to having me blow off all over Don. When it was all said and done, we dropped the sails, started the motor and are headed straight for Opua. It's about 320 miles ahead and god knows what weather we'll get in the meantime. But that's what big engines are for, right? Anyway, we've had the autopilot up and running, twice. And now it doesn't seem to be working at all so we're taking turns hand steering. To be clear, the wheel does lock but it doesn't hold course that well so you have to adjust it again every few minutes. It's a very hypnotic process so we'll take short shifts. The good news is we will be there by Monday am. Come hell or high water! Way better than what I was thinking a few days ago. I could not see us possibly getting in before the big storm so I totally thought we would be heaving to out here for many days waiting for it to pass. I'd much rather be tied to a dock sleeping. So, all is well on board. Three more days.

Big southerlies causing us to vear to the SW

05 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Five to New Zealand
Day five was fine until late afternoon when the southerlies hit and we had to sail off course to the SW. And we've been at it for some time without relief in sight. It means we're not exactly getting closer to our destination. We're ok here, just a bit worried about how all of this is going to pan out. We learned today that another low (a strong one) is set to hit Opua on Tuesday so we really have to make it in by Monday to be safe. We would have made it easily if we'd been able to hold course. Hard to type right now. We're on a heading of about 210 when Opua is at about 168, still about 400 miles. We were hoping that this 'high' that's causing the southerlies would keep moving to the east so at some point we would get easterlies and could turn south and make a run for it but that has not happening yet. On top of that...David the weather guy talked about this high 'budding' which does not sound promising. Maybe someone out there could google 'a budding high' . I'm gonna pull up another grib file and see what it looks like now.

That's It For Wind For Awhile

04 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Four to New Zealand
We're glad we left Fiji when we did! Multiple convergent zones are dropping down from the equator, setting up to blanket the entire island group soon. Our mates Steve & Nona on 'Corvidae' look to be stuck in New Caledonia. They left Fiji about a month ago to see that country but also to have a shorter and somewhat easier trip to New Zealand. But now conditions have changed in a big way and they may have to wait for a few weeks to leave. I imagine them throwing up their hands and going west to Australia instead. Yesterday (our day 4) was another nice sailing day. The easterly winds are obviously getting lighter as the 'High' we've been using travels further east. But with flat seas like this we can still do 5-6 knots. 'Charisma' is just 5 miles away - we can just see there stick from time to time over the horizon. We've started eating all the great foods we still have aboard. New Zealand customs will take whatever is left so we might as well eat it now. Last night was coconut curry stir-fry vegetables on thai noodles. Yum. As the sun went down we began to notice very ominous looking clouds - dark with very flat bottoms that stacked up super high at the top. Those kind scare me - it seems that they sometimes collapse under their own weight sending heaps of unwanted squally winds down on you. There was lightning off in the distance too so I put our computers in the oven just in cas. Then about 9pm the wind simply shut down. We dropped all sails and started the iron genny. We disengaged the wind vane steering and started up the auto pilot to steer for us. We pushed start and the wheel spun completely around...not what it's supposed to do. We worked on it for an hour or so, no good. Don finally went to lay down for awhile and I attempted to hand steer. Dang. This is not going to be good, hand steering for hundreds of miles. After a few hours I was absolutely 'over it' when Don took over. I layed down and wondered how in the world we were going to hand steer for so many miles. Then, I heard the auto pilot click on. I don't know how he did it but Don got it working again. Yippee. It's now Weds. morning and we have motored all night. The clouds and lightning we saw during the night were part of a trough that we managed to slip through without any trauma. Light winds ahead then we'll face southerly winds approaching New Zealand. That should be interesting...hey...Don's just hooked a fish, I gotta go! Day four was 132 nautical miles and around 530 miles to go.

We Just Passed Charisma!

03 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Three to New Zealand
OK - To be honest, they had rolled up their jib for comfort during the night. Bob was still sleeping which allowed 'Buena Vista' to catch up and sneak by. It was fun to pass another boat for a doesn't happen very often. We were within 1/4 mile or so, close enough to take a few photos of each other - very cool to even see another boat out here in this vast expanse of water. A few minutes later, Bob got up, had lunch, and then we saw him roll out more sail and away they went, sliding over the horizon. Don and I paused, put up our new-to-us staysail, then ran the engine to warm up our water and took showers. It was a glorious day sailing! 15-18 knots easterly and we flew along on a heading of 170 or so at 6.5 knots. We had previously prepared chicken tika masala over rice for dinner. The sun went down and the moon came up and we both commented on what a pretty nice it was, one of the prettiest and most pleasant night sails that we could remember. Ann on 'Charisma' called me on the VHF and we had a nice chat before bed. Don and I took three hour watched and we made it through our thrid night at sea. Tuesday I look out the back - Don's got the small Boxing Kangaroo flag flying. The kangaroo's little boxing gloves are punching away at a nice even pace, unlike the blur of his gloves the last two nights. It looks like the wind is forecast to go lighter and lighter as we move further south. At some point we will crank up the motor to keep moving at a good pace. This is the time of year that 'tropical depressions' start popping up, which turn in to tropical lows. One is on the gribs for the 8th or 9th south of Minerva Reef. Thank goodness we will be alot further south by then. You don't want to be in the path of one of those babies! We must keep moving and get safely into New Zealand waters as quickly as possible now. This stretch of water can turn treacherous so you don't want to dawdle around out here. Day three we made 143 nautical miles...around 650 to go.

BV Is Getting Her Groove On

02 November 2014 | At Sea - Day Two to New Zealand
The seas have calmed a bit from the furious bumpiness of yesterday. Just a bit though, Don just said it's still pretty ratty out there. We've got 22+ knots of wind from the ESE and are heading nearly due south. We're as hard on the wind as we can be and still be able to move about the boat. Although sitting at the table and typing right now takes a bit of effort. Several in the fleet complain of seasickness and to tell you the truth, both Don and I were a bit wonky for awhile but that has now passed. Sunday morning Don was net controller on the Southern Cross Net (which he has been doing for four months now). Most of the boats that checked in are on the same passage as we are. Lots of them are friends of ours. It's really exciting and fun to be out here with your mates. In fact, Bob and Ann on 'Charisma' are just 6 miles ahead of us! We can actually talk on the VHF when we want. The winds perked up again gusting to 25 from time to time last night. We're still flying a double-reefed mainsail and double-reefed (or more as needed) genoa. 'Buena Vista' is once again proving what an excellent sailing vessel she is, especially with the hydrovane steering. It's amazing to me, You just set the vane up to follow the wind at a certain angle and then forget about it. Vinnie does it all! We started eating yesterday...Don finished Angelina's excellent curry dish she gave us and I had a bowl of my great chili with a green salad. I made the salad before we left's not quite time to break out sharp cutting utensils as most everything that is layed on the counter goes flying. It was 100% cloud cover when I woke this morning but the sun is now trying to break through. It's still warm. Not as humid as the anchorage we just left but let's just say not alot of clothing is being worn. Don's job today is to fix the fresh water system. We can't work out why it happens but sometimes when we're heeled over like this the system looses suction and the water doesn't make it out the taps. Today is shower day so it's a must that he gets it going again for that. We just heard on the net that our mates on 'Bravo' are leaving Suva (Fiji) today so we will once again be sailing with the Bravos! All is well on board. Day two we did about 130 miles. We've got about 780 to go. Wow what a ride!
Vessel Name: Buena Vista
Vessel Make/Model: 46' Formosa Peterson
Hailing Port: Ventura, California
Crew: Don and Debbie Robertson
About: The idea of going cruising started when Deb read the book , "Sell up and Sail" around the time they purchased their first boat, a Catalina 22 and joined Chico Yacht Club in 1994.
Last great adventure was traveling around Australia for 12 months in a VW van in 1992, and getting married in New Zealand on the way back to the States. After two years cruising in Mexico, in 2012 we sailed across the South Pacific stopping at many island nations including French Polynesia, the [...]
Buena Vista's Photos - Boating Buddies - South Pacific
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Mark & Jenny
Mark & Jenny 'La Condesa Del Mar'
Added 3 March 2012

Buena Vista's Crew

Who: Don and Debbie Robertson
Port: Ventura, California
I may not have an expensive watch but I've got the time!