08/27/2009, 21 08.2'S:175 10.9'W, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Brother Phil and wife Josie arrived in Tonga yesterday morning after 21 hours of flying.SFO to LA to Western Samoa to Tonga. Rina and Josie squealed like little girls, having seen each other for the first time in almost 9 months. this after they have been daily walking partners for the last several years of our land-based existence. They came loaded with 4 bags of "stuff". As Stephanie, John, Alyssa and Megan all discovered, we missed no opportunity to replenish critical spares and supplies from the U.S. After Rina and Josie's ritual espresso shots, we began catching up and unpacking. More on this adventure in our next blog...
In what must be a record, we fixed a major issue with our generator in 4 days. On Sunday, our generator died and upon investigation, I found that the wires from the "run" capacitor had chafed on a heat sink. As I had played around with the capacitor, moving it around while inspecting the genset, I can only blame myself for not positioning the wires away from the danger. With the help of Alan on LoveSong, we confirmed the capacitor was toast, so I began strategizing for a replacement. On Monday a quick call via Skype to Mastervolt tech support in Florida confirmed that the capacitor would likely be the only problem, so we sourced replacements at Southern Cal Marine in San Diego, shipped them overnight to Bair Island Marina in Redwood City. Phil picked them up on the way to the airport and after a nap yesterday, we installed the replacements and the genset fired up the first time. YES!
08/19/2009, 18 42.0'S:172 15.9'W, 140 miles WNW of Niue
Nope. How about:
The night was black, the wind tense and the seas annoyed. Our night ride to Vava'u was fast, in short following seas that snuck up on us in the darkness and sucker punched the boat, like getting unexpectedly bumped from behind on a crowded New York street. Winds were steady at 28-32 knots, so the boat in general and the rigging in particular were taut, making for a loud, stiff ride. No moon and a deeply overcast sky ensured we would see nothing around us other than the white froth of breaking waves behind us reflected in our white stern light. Sleep came only when we were so tired that the conditions no longer mattered and we fell into our sea berth without a care.
We arrived at daybreak and navigated the 10 mile passage inside the fjord-like confines of Neifu Island, listening to the morning VHF net, (including commercials!) to arrive at the customs dock, where, upon seeing our yellow quarantine flag, four officers from customs, immigration, health, and quarantine descended on the boat. It was just before lunch and we were aware of stories of cruisers being exploited by officials for extra fees. We were advised to have soft drinks ready, so upon introductions I offered a Coke to each, but upon searching the fridge, found none. Unfortunately Rina's late night tactics for staying awake included plenty of Coke, so we were at risk, especially as Mr. Health started talking about how it's lunch time and extra fees may apply. Uh-oh. we quickly rummaged through a cabinet to find some old Pepsi Max from Tahiti that Rina didn't like. Pepsi Max and ice distributed to each officer helped avert extra charges for checking in during Mr. Health' s lunch break and a little light bantering with officialdom helped move the process along. A couple of questions about fruits and vegetables, firearms and the meager contents of the liquor cabinet satisfied their urges, and after 45 minutes they all departed.
After a lunch of buffalo burgers and locally brewed Ikale beers at the Aquarium Café we secured a mooring ball and moved the boat to a ball near a grove of trees infested with birds and frogs, who's chorus awakened suddenly at dusk. Rina and I sat on the port coaming of the cockpit listening, and stared at the developing sunset for an hour, watching the clouds traverse the color spectrum from red through burgundy, bright copper, bronze and finally a deep brown before disappearing. The frogs joined a frenetic mating song punctuated by lilting bird calls we have not heard in the South Pacific until now.
The waters are now pond-calm, with bright reflections from the shoreside lights, the sounds of a local rugby team practicing, and dinghies slowly motoring to the many bayside restaurants. Over 75 mooring balls are populated by many of our cruising friends, whose company we will enjoy over the next 3 months in this sailing mecca. Meanwhile, a good night's sleep will be had, contemplating it all.
08/18/2009, 18 42.0'S:172 15.9'W, 140 miles WNW of Niue
We skipped forward a day today, crossing the International Date Line between Niue and Tonga. A minute ago it was 15:08 on Tuesday, 18-August, now it is 15:09 on Wednesday, 19-August, going from GMT -11 to GMT +13. We're still 4 hours ahead of the west coast, just on a different day.
Otherwise, a pretty uneventful crossing so far. The seas are calmer out here than in the Niue anchorage our last night, so we slept well, sailing all night. Prevailing winds took us a little South overnight, so we motorsailed in light winds this morning to charge the batteries and get us further North. This will set us up for a nice beam reach as the winds move to an expected ENE later tonight. Rina and I are brushing up on Tonga and Vava'u, re-reading the cruising guides and etching the locations of previously uncharted reefs into our minds and chartplotters.
Day 1 Overview: - 140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 116 miles remaining to the anchorage in Neiafu Bay - 4-8 foot seas, much less than expected - 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 23 - 5.8 knot average speed
Gallery has been updated with our pics from Niue...
Rina and I have enjoyed our week on the *very* relaxed island of Niue. We knew we were not in French Polynesia anymore when the customs office was in the same building as the duty free liquor, which they provide an allocation to cruisers upon arrival (one case of beer, 4 bottles of wine, or 2 liters of liquor per person, per week) and then allow unlimited purchase upon departure. The prices are refreshing after French Polynesia, at the grocery store, as well as duty free. There were exceptions of course... a quart jar of best food mayonnaise was $22.50 NZD.
We have been in good company, with Kalalau, Victory Cat, Brick House, Bagheera, Tender Spirit, Wayward Wind and Quiver from our travels in Bora Bora. We also met cruisers from Dosia, Crazy Diamond, Amikuk and others in this small community.
We day-tripped the island in a rental car with Dosia and Honeymoon, seeing the windward side of the island and climbed many a trail into limestone and coral caverns, got swamped with waves in caves, and had lunch 100 feet down a chasm near the shore.
Later in the week Rina and I decided to head to the only hotel on the island (24 rooms) for a rare night off the boat. It has been 8 months since we slept off the boat, and it's a good thing we did as the swell shifted to the South, keeping all the boats rocking back and forth all night. Nobody slept in the anchorage. Our remaining time on the island was filled with local sightseeing, reading, potlucks with Honeymoon and Dosia and just having fun.
Oh... the whales... did I mention the whales? Try sleeping with the whales talking to each other every night, or lazily making their way through the anchorage. We're talking huge humpback whales too. We'll be sitting in the cockpit or down below and hear a huge breath outside, look over the side and see whales not 10 feet from your bow. "They mostly come at night...mostly" (movie reference time) which is why we didn't get a ton of pictures of them, but by the end of the week we were all getting a chuckle about how blasÃ© we had become about the whales around us all the time. We need Donna to slap us back to our senses again!
Weather has been so-so lately, with overcast or significant cloud cover most days. Sunday was non-stop rain. While the air temp was still low 80's, the water temperature has plummeted from 80 to 72, so there's not much swimming or diving going with this fair weather crowd. Those that did dive took quite a while to get their temperatures back up, given the 3-mill suits they have been using.
We're off today to Vava'u, in the Tonga group to find some sun and a non-rolly anchorage. Short 250 mile, 40 hour passage in pretty benign conditions. We'll be hosting brother Phil and his wife Josie in late August. It'll be nice to have visitors again.
08/11/2009, 19 03'S:169 55'W, Niue
Our last 18 hours into Niue was a fast ride, with 30 knot winds and big following seas. We must have learned something from our encounter with big weather on Day 2, as our ride was faster and less stressful on boat and crew. The only difference in the sailplan was more jib and less main, but it made a big difference.
We arrived at 7am, grabbed a mooring ball, enjoyed the calm seas in the lee of Niue, and promptly fell asleep for 4 hours. We awoke to a new sound which at first we could not identify. After ruling out new boat noises, we figured out that it was whales singing beneath our boat. Entering the cockpit we could see whales breaching in the near distance. Cool.
In the afternoon we checked in with customs and immigration, which was very relaxed and unofficial about the whole thing, then hung out at the Niue Yacht club with the crew of about 6 boats, most of which had just arrived, enjoying a steinlager or two.
This ends our daily updates for awhile. We're off to explore Niue with Honeymoon and Dosia and get some hiking in.
08/09/2009, 19 26.9'S:168 13.6'W, 954 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
As the wind clocked around through the west to the southeast last night, squalls with gusts to 30 knots were frequent. Gene, our California-based weather router, called it. After a lull during the early morning, daylight brought very confused seas. a classic potato patch, which slapped us around, making sleeping difficult. Winds, squalls and seas have continued to build today and should peak tonight.
We were able to overhear boats conversing on VHF 16 from Beveridge Reef this morning, and they also had an uncomfortable night. They are all departing for Niue today to get out of the uncomfortable conditions.
We expect to make landfall at Niue around 07:00 and the mooring field by 9am. We are looking forward to a comfortable nights sleep.
Day 7 Overview: -140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 954 miles from Bora Bora, 93 to Niue -8/10 foot confused seas, 20-28 knot winds, gusts to 32 -5.8 knot average speed
08/08/2009, 19 45.2'S:166 01.5'W, 827 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
We have had fun-filled 24 hours after Rina proclaimed "smooth following seas" yesterday. Late in the day the wind stiffened, creating "bumpy following seas", but no real problems. Overnight winds increased further, steady at 18-20 from the ENE, with gusts to 22, which allowed us to move west at 6-7 knots on a starboard tack with reefed main and jib. Winds moderated early in the morning, such that we gradually unfurled both main and jib. Then, this morning as the sun peaked over the eastern horizon, winds spiked quickly to 26 knots, overpowered the autopilot and spun us around broadside. Rina came up from below with cobbwebs still in her eyes and took the helm as I tried to tame the unruly sheets and sails. We turned the engine on, pointed ourselves into the wind, furled the jib and reefed the main to 50%, then fell back off on a broad reach. After gauging the conditions, we slowly let the jib out to 30% and were doing 5 knots in building seas.
We decided to keep her slow for awhile until we understood the changing conditions. As seas continued to build, we would get punched on the beam now and then, showering the coachtop with water. Rina went back down for a nap and about 30 minutes later, we fell off one of the big wind waves, healing the boat 25-30 degrees to port with a shuddering thud. Normally secure books and my jungle drummer wood carving dude went flying. Why? My theory is that by going too slow in these conditions, we open ourselves up to more rocking and action from waves. Instead, I want to increase boat speed to give us more lift, thus negating some of the effects of the wind waves. This counters Rina's "go slow" intuition. We agree to disagree, but "he or she who owns the watch owns the boat"; so as it was my watch, we slowly unfurled sail until moving smartly. Rocking was reduced measurably while Rina good-naturedly smirked at me. I decided to keep my celebration to myself.
Winds are going to clock backwards over the next 24 hours, shifting from their current north, to northwest, then southwest, before returning to normal southeast trades in a couple of days. They never get above 25 knots according to NOAA, but it will make for lots of sail trimming.
Day 6 Overview: -158 miles covered in last 24 hours, 827 miles from Bora Bora, 232 to Niue -6-8 foot seas, 10-22 knot winds, gusts to 26 -6.6 knot average speed -Currently on starboard tack heading south of Beveridge Reef, but will likely tack over as winds continue their transition west -Still might stop at Beveridge Reef on the way to Niue, but winds to 30 knots from the SE are predicted for later next week, in which case we may want to be safely moored at Niue rather than at exposed reef on the hook.