01/23/2010, Opua, New Zealand
It sounds strange, but it's true...you know that feeling you get after coming home after a vacation? We had it in spades after settling back in on the boat, especially after she was floating again.
After 6 whirlwind weeks in California, we arrived yesterday in Opua to find a thoroughly renovated sailboat waiting for us. Doing project management from 6000 miles away has been a challenge, but Ashby's boatyard has done great work... The list of improvements completed during this "mini-overhaul" are substantial... Both sails got new clews, new UV covers and were substantially re-stitched... They are 6 years old and were showing their age and significant use over the past 18 months. After the new rudder was installed and the keel bolts tightened, we decided to do a high quality bottom job; deep sanding followed by 2 coats of epoxy and 2 coats of Micron66 bottom paint, which served us well over the past 2 years. A couple of surprise repairs: The cutlass bearing holding the propshaft was almost gone, requiring a complete rebuild. Another was the replacement of our Yanmar 4JH3TE injectors while getting a major tune-up. They were marginal when tested so we bit the bullet and replaced them now. Hmmmm, wonder if our engine salt water episode in Tonga had anything to do with it.
Follow You then went back in the water after a thorough inspection and a couple hours of cleaning the waterline, and it was quite exciting really.... She floats, steer and everything! We'll do a thorough sea-trial on Monday and then finally get out to anchor in the Bay of Islands for a couple of weeks before heading to Auckland. Rina and I spent 10 straight hours cleaning and putting stuff back together again. 6 weeks of dirt and mechanics onboard had taken its toll. The good news is that all systems came back on line without a hiccup EXCEPT the shower sump, which decided to test our troubleshooting skills AFTER I got in the shower. Turns out a small blockage formed at the 90 degree elbow right at the thru-hull... mud-wasps perhaps? The barbeque got a thorough test, with New Zealand's finest steaks, and it felt great to just hang out in the freshly cleaned cockpit.
Along the way we have had several homecomings, spending time with Kaumoana, Dosia, Lucy, Incantation, Qayaq and Hipnautical. Speaking of Hipnautical, I'm already dialed into several gigs, as well as picking up again with Trippy, who I gigged with when last here.
All in all a great first day. Tired bodies, calm minds, smiling faces.
11/27/2009, Opua, New Zealand
Follow You is on the hard... all systems put to bed, and a new kiwi-built rudder is being constructed. Our IMIS Jackline insurance has been great to work with and they saw the merits of building a high quality rudder locally, rather than shipping in a rudder from the US, where there might be additional fitment issues to deal with.
We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with Kaumoana, Carinthia and Wayward Wind and are now at the Sky Grand Hotel in downtown Auckland... Boy things move fast around here.... We forgot what big city life was like. Rina is getting her shopping fix, and we are eating wonderful meals at cool restaurants all over town, seeing movies (2012 is next) and basically doing all those things you don't get to do while crossing the pacific.
This will be our last blog until we have some pictures of the new rudder being built and installed in late December or early January.
11/22/2009, Near Russel, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Mind and memory are funny things. After longing for marina time for months, we are officially tired of it... the hustle and bustle of the boatyard and the incessant groan of the giant crane lifting boats in and out of the water 6 days a week is getting to us. Even after the fatigue of numerous long passages over the past months, we find ourselves wanting to be out there again. Rina and I found this beach on the back side of one of the many islands here in the Bay of Islands. As we sat on the beach watching sailboats gracefully glide past our vantage point, squinted at the distant anchorages with masts poking towards the sky, it really hit us. We really like being out here and living on the water. It will be interesting to see how we react to being off the boat for the next 6 weeks as we head back to the states to visit family and friends, most of which we have not seen for over a year. Our last trip home in December of 2008 was 2 weeks and we could not wait to get back on the water. That said, it is time for some quality catch-up time with home.
Over the past two weeks the remnants of the 2009 Pacific Puddle Jump fleet have wandered into Australia and New Zealand. The focused group of 20-30 boats who we crossed the pacific with have dwindled to just a few here in Opua, although we do stay in touch with many of our friends elsewhere in the region. Carinthia, Dosia, Wayward Wind, Zen, Thumbs Up, Long White Cloud, Tender Spirit, Sarava, and several others have passed through Opua, and several have since departed for Whangarei and Auckland. The dream voyage is ending for some... Honeymoon has sold in Australia, and Seth and Elizabeth are planning their next boat already. Dosia is likewise on the market, and Drew and Margie are planning a round the [rest of the] world trip to finish out their adventure before heading home.
Most of our boat projects are done. The boat gets hauled for 62 days of storage on the hard here in Opua, where a new rudder, bottom paint touch up and a wax job await her. After living with Follow You's systems 7/24 for the last 15 months, turning everything off and putting her to bed for such a long period is strangely un-nerving for me. Boats don't like to sit around. Stuff seems to magically break. I can only imagine what awaits us upon our return, other than a shiny new rudder.
We head to Auckland this week for Thanksgiving at the home of Suzanne and Richard from Kaumoana, accompanied by the crew from Carinthia. From there, we get some hotel time in the big city and then head for home on Dec 4. As we did last year, we'll be putting the blog on hiatus during our time home, likely after one more entry before we depart.
11/13/2009, Opua, New Zealand
While awaiting information from our insurance company to get things fixed on the boat, we decided to do a road trip with Kuamoana (Richard & Suzanne) up to the most northern point of New Zealand (Cape Reinga). The winds were blowing, seas swirling and we didn't miss being out there in the boat in this weather. We were thinking of our friends still on the passage and experiencing these seas, not much fun. Wind on their noses, bashing into the sea swells, smelling land and friends awaiting their arrivals. The cape was beautiful. I can't believe that we are 5709 nautical miles from Los Angeles!!! I feel the sense of accomplishment personally. I really did it! Now that we are at the end of our South Pacific sailing journey, right before moving the boat back to the Northern Hemisphere, you look back at your passages and can't believe the countries you've seen that are only accessible by boat. Most islands that we've visited only have puddle jumper type planes (oh, and I do not enjoy small planes). Short trips and long passages, we've learned a lot about, not just the boat, but the time that we had together as a couple and then with new friends. We've grown together even closer than we left. It's been an interesting challenge living in such close quarters for over 18 months but, we have learned to appreciate space and the attachment to "stuff". Cruising is a lifestyle, not a vacation (just to clarify that for you land lubbers). Provisioning, cleaning, maintenance, and fixing things in exotic places is such a true statement in the sailing books. We've had rough times, fun times, but for the most part, it's been a pleasure working and learning from Allan. We have realized how much we contribute to each other's strengths and practically read each other's minds on most things. I'm excited and can't wait to finish up our cruising back in Mexico (which seems pretty easy compared to the challenges the South Pacific has served out) and then work our way back up the coast of California, visiting friends and family along the way. Oh, I'm posting more pictures...so check them out. Hi! To everyone...see most of you in December!
11/11/2009, Opua, New Zealand
We have learned a bunch about rudders and rudder design in the last two weeks, perhaps more than we really cared to, but it has been key to the dialog with insurance about how and why our rudder failed and the possible replacement options.... They are not simple appendages, but complex creatures that must be built to take much stress while gracefully steering the boat with a mild helm. Our original rudder was fiberglass over foam, connected to a fiberglass rudder post. The rudder post failed just below the bottom bearing, but the reasons are still being researched... There were no groundings of the rudder that we are aware of, but serious stresses have been placed on it in force 10 winds and ferocious seas (Just out of Bora Bora in August) and an unfortunate episode backing the boat slammed the rudder against the stops while pulling away from the dock in Vavau.... But it could also be design or manufacturing related.... There have been other well documented Hunter 466 rudder failures... Mike Harker's 466 rudder failure in 2004 is a case in point, but statistically, Hunter rudders have failed no more or less than other brands with stainless rudder posts... even if the fiberglass rudder post is viewed as a maritime abomination by most.
At this point we are waiting for an insurance decision on coverage and which replacement rudder to go with. A locally built rudder would be made with 20 mil thick 316 stainless tubing, Kauri wood under fiberglass with an optimized shape largely based on the original specifications. The other option is a replacement made by Hunter's subcontractor, who has the original rudder molds. Their rudder is also has a stainless 316 post, but is made of foam under fiberglass. Even after expedited shipping from the US, the Hunter replacement is significantly cheaper than the locally built one, so we expect insurance will go that route.
We will put the boat on the hard in late November while the replacement rudder is built and shipped, then fitted to the boat in December. We will return to the boat in January, splash her and sail New Zealand for several weeks before shipping the boat to Mexico for the remainder of the sailing season.
I've put a bunch of pictures in the gallery of the rudder and associated bits... I'm sure you technical sailing geeks have plenty of questions (and opinions of course!) bring em on, mate!
11/05/2009, Opua, New Zealand
After arriving in New Zealand on the 27th, we checked in with the cheerful customs officials, who were a model of efficiency. We then arranged a quick tow over to Ashby's boatyard where we have been since. We then slept for the better part of two days.
It's a funny thing... we have been looking forward to "marina time" for awhile now.... Power, unlimited water, easy on/off... and after a week of it Rina and I have both commented on how we feel trapped... "Trapped like Beavers" (movie reference time!) No rudder, and now no engine, while we have our fuel injectors inspected and cleaned. It's not that we *want* to go anywhere, it's that we cant if we wanted to. So we did the next best thing. We rented a car and went for a road trip.... First spending a few days at Paihia, a touristy town about 5 miles away. Then off to historic Russell, one of the earliest settlements in New Zealand. Lastly, we headed 30 miles away to Kerikeri, to visit the farmers market, wineries and waterfalls on the Kerikeri river. The highlight was a stunning lunch in the sun and chilled air on the deck of the Ake Ake winery just outside of Kerikeri... imagine Napa wine country 30 years ago, or Shenendoah Valley in Amador County 5 years ago...quaint and very personal... and oh yea,,, great wine. I've also picked up a few gigs with local musicians, which is always fun.
After returning to the boat early in the week, we set off on our deferred projects. Engine maintenance, sail repair, fixing the damaged steering ball joint and a host of smaller projects. And oh yea, that rudder thing... We've spent many hours on email, the phone and with the local guys figuring out our options. We can get a replacement rudder from the states made by a Hunter subcontractor or we can get one made locally. Unfortunately Hunter's documentation on the rudder is not complete, so the local guys are flying a bit in the dark, but we should have a decision soon on which way to go. Unfortunately, either option requires 3-4 weeks lead time, so we're stuck here for awhile.
We get hauled today to pull the remains of the rudder shaft... A survey done earlier this week found no additional damage, just a broken tab under the front bunk.
New pictures in the gallery!
10/28/2009, Opua, New Zealand
The longest day.... Our last 24 hours approaching Opua was shaping up to be great... winds and seas were moderate and the weather front previously threatening us moved south, removing the last potential obstacle to completing our 1200 mile passage from Vava'u to New Zealand. Winds built to 12-15 knots over the last 12 hours from the west, enabling us to motorsail comfortably at 6-7 knots in 1-2 meter seas, some 45 miles due south of Opua.... With the quicker pace we were anticipating an 8pm arrival, some 6 hours ahead of schedule... a sound night's sleep was quite the enticement.
Then, before you could blink an eye, Follow You rode up a wave, on the other side of which was a sharp drop. The boat heeled and then fell on her starboard side with a slam, sending Rina across the cockpit. As she righted herself and we started checking things out, I heard a gut-wrenching sound, later described as a rather large carrot being split in two... Instantly the boat swung 180 degrees into the wind and started pitching back and forth. I swung the wheel over hard but the helm did not respond...Then I looked behind me to see our rudder floating 10 meters away from the stern... A major jolt of adrenaline coursed though my body as the implications started to become clear... With a quiver in my voice, I told Rina the bad news... twice, as she did not believe me the first time.
We quickly doused the sails and assessed the safety of the boat. While bobbing in the seas, we figured out that there was no water intrusion into the boat, as the rudder tube is higher than the waterline. Next we called Kaumoana, some 20 miles behind us to alert them of our situation. They immediately changed course to stand by for assistance. After 10 or so minutes, nerves calmed enough to begin assessing our options. We then called New Zealand Maritime radio to alert them of our status and they began figuring out how to get a towing service to us. We then discussed towing options and emergency rudder options with Kaumoana, who was still 3 hours away from us. They had an emergency rudder aboard for use on their Hunter 49, but it required dedicated strong points on the stern. Kaumoana's ability to tow was limited as well, given that she has an oversized and heavily pitched prop that allows for great mileage, but not much capacity to move the additional weight of a 22K pound boat. Additionally, seas and winds were continuing to build, making any tow or jury-rig rudder construction a less likely scenario. The conversations with Richard on Kaumoana were heartbreaking on both sides... Here we had been buddy-boating for 1150 miles, with several small assists between us, and now when the need was really there, they had a limited ability to help. It goes without saying however, that if we were hundreds of miles offshore, Kaumoana would have done whatever it took to help.
We then started brainstorming additional options while Maritime Radio was searching for a tow vessel. After several minutes of discussion with Rina, we decided to deploy the drogue parachute to slow the drift of the boat, which was about 2 knots to the east, down the coast of New Zealand, rather than towards land. Once the drogue was deployed, we unfurled the jib and with some experimentation, found that we could sail at 3 knots, on a beam reach at 180 degrees true directly to Opua! Our spirits immediately brightened as the boat began to move like a boat again, and we felt as if we had some control. This feeling would only last for a couple of hours however.
After an hour or so, Maritime Radio has still not identified a towing solution, and the people they were talking to were in Whangerie, another 50 miles down the coast. The thought of being dragged almost 100 miles to Whangerie, rather than 45 miles to Opua made us both shudder. Richard then hailed us, suggesting that we call Ashby's boatyard, where we were due to have some repair work done upon arrival. I got on the satphone and called Nick at Ashby's, who quickly determined that they could send a 55 foot trawler to us and tow us in, piloted by Jim Ashby himself and Peter the "deckie". They said they would hail us via maritime radio once they had a scheduled departure. Whew, another piece of the puzzle dropped into place.
We sailed under drogue and jib for 5 more hours after getting word that the tow was underway. During that time we moved 12 miles closer to land. Why not 15? After a couple of hours we picked up a strong easterly current that our 3 knots could not overcome. We were pointed at 185 degrees, right towards Opua, but the course over ground was more like 135.... Parallel to the coast at one point. By this time our nerves had calmed down enough for us to even joke about our predicament a bit, and then second guess ourselves... I have inspected the rudder regularly, no issues... why didn't I purchase that 700 emergency rudder...etc, etc.
At 22:30 Jim on m/v Olga showed up on scene and threw us a big tow line, which I attached to a bridle off the bow of the boat. We started towing without the drogue out to start but quickly found out that without a rudder, the boat veered wildly from side to side... 45 or 50 degrees each way. When it got to the furthest point, it would jerk violently back the other way. We were petrified that our front deck cleats would be ripped right out of the boat... this would be a continuing theme for the next 12 hours. We yelled "all stop" to Jim several times, finally getting his attention, so we could redeploy the drogue. With the chute out, we could make 5 knots over ground, but the pressures on the drogue were tremendous... After a couple of hours, we called for another "all stop" and rigged a beefier bridle off the stern, and this time with a snatch block to help shield the 7/8' double-braid line from chafe. We got underway again and for the next 6 hours made progress towards Opua.
Rina finally calmed down enough and was exhausted enough to go below and get some sleep and I stood watch in the cockpit. I could close my eyes and monitor the motion and sound of the boat with my ears... Any strange motion or sound brought my immediate attention, but it was pretty boring until all hell broke loose around 4am. I heard a crisp snap and the boat immediately veered violently to port until it got to 50 degrees and jerked back, throwing Rina out of her bunk. It was evident that we had lost the drogue so I got on the radio and hailed Jim to stop the boat. Nothing happened... no change... Jim didn't answer. For what seemed like an eternity but was probably 3 minutes we veered from side to side while yelling into the radio first on 17, which we had left open for communication, and then on 16, thinking that maybe he had gone back to the standard hailing channel. If you had left your radio on channel 16 that evening, you would have heard a string of obscenities as we tried to get Olga's attention. Rina brought out the big spot light and shined it on Olga, I got out my signaling horn and blasted away, all to no avail. Finally, Jim comes on with a chipper voice and says "all ok back there?" DOH!!!! "All stop! Shut her down! We've lost the drogue!" I yelled. "Come again?" said Jim? Ahhhhhhhhh! Finally he hears us and shuts her down... NOW what are we going to do, with some 12 miles to go. I knew the answer....
Rina and I started pulling our 100 foot lines, tying knots in them and hanging them in loops off the stern... Ok, we can now get up to 1.5 knots without veering... We need more weight.... We grabbed the stern anchor, a Fortress 55 pounder, tied it to a line and heaved it off the stern.... Then grabbed a 150 foot nylon rode with 30 feet of chain on it and tossed it into the mix... ok, now were at 2.7 knots.... What else do we have? Hmmm... we need friction in the water and weight, so we filled a couple of 5 gallon water jugs, tied them to long lines and threw THEM overboard...it looked like a floating junk yard behind the boat. Finally, we pulled out a heavily reefed mainsail and trimmed it to keep the boat pointed to one side, and all that together allowed us to move relatively straight ahead at 3 knots. At this point, Rina was shaking at the intensity of the whole episode, and we decided that we had nothing left to throw, and would just keep her at 3 knots for the rest of the way, almost doubling the time needed to get into Opua. Crap.
We both collapsed into the cockpit, shell-shocked. Given that our adrenaline reserves were pretty depleted now, we both were feeling the effects of fatigue. I tried to shut my eyes around 6am and awoke with a start at 8am when I realized the motion of the boat had just changed... we had just entered the head of Opua Bay and were finally out of the 1-2 meter seas, and winds had finally declined to 10-15 knots. As daylight broke, we were taken by our surroundings; lush green rolling hills, rocky coastlines, very "Oregon" like...
We made our way the last 5 miles deep into the Bay as the sun peeked above the hills, providing the needed motivation to clean up the chaos on the boat and prepare for NZ customs officials. Jim shortened the tow line just outside the marina and deposited Follow You gently at the customs dock, where Kaumoana was standing by to assist. It was 10:30am and we were exhausted but elated. 40 miles in 21 hours, one hour of almost sleep in 27 hours, no food, lots of adrenaline, and one merit badge for making to New Zealand in the most trying of circumstances.
Follow You is now at Ashby's boatyard, getting ready to be pulled out. We're designing a new rudder with a stainless steel rudder post rather than the stock fiberglass. Rina and I are happily ensconced at a cute hotel in Paihia, just down the road from Opua and enjoying restaurant meals, Sky TV and a bed that doesn't move. When the hotel manager started talking up the "bay view" from our room, Rina and I looked at each other, smiled, and said, "thanks, but we've had enough views of the water recently.
10/27/2009, Opua, New Zealand
We've arrived safely in Opua, but it took a little longer than expected...
Why is this boat towing Follow You Follow Me?
a) We were tired of sailing
b) We lost the engine
c) We ran out of fuel
d) We wanted to sight-see on the way in rather than navigating
e) We lost our rudder
f) We forgot how to read a chart
g) It was the annual Bay of Islands towing Parade
Full story once I finish writing it up later today or tomorrow.
Rina and I are wrapping up more than seven weeks in Tonga and heading to New Zealand tomorrow. Our time in Vava'u has been very special. The comfort of company from the states, many good cruising friends, and the ability of music to bridge cultures has created opportunities to hang with the locals in what is otherwise a pretty closed society. I don't pretend that we've gotten inside the culture, but just hanging with Tongans and playing music for seven weeks with them has opened doors that I don't think get opened much.
For most of the time here, I have been lucky to play Djembe with the Ano Beach Band. Ano Beach puts on a Tongan Feast every Saturday night and I brought my drum one night and got invited back to play every week. The music is mostly Tongan folk style, requiring a steady bass beat and not much else. Luckily, the band also backs up a father/son fire dance, so we get to rock the house with fast Polynesian rhythms and it has been a challenge for both my chops and learning the beat. Straight 4/4 it is not. Eventually I learned the chants that preceded breaks in the beat and how to anticipate what was next... It's something I always wanted to learn...and it was very cool when I eventually got tight with the rest of the rhythm section.
This last week I got a call on the VHF from Maka, the patriarch of the Ano Beach village, asking me if I wanted to join the village at a festival, where they would compete with all the other villages in Vava'u. We ran across the same thing in Bora Bora. (See Drum Corps in Paradise, in the blog archives) I told him I was honored to be invited and he said he would pick me up Friday night. Luckily I was able to play a gig with Hipnautical at the Vava'u Yacht club earlier in the night, before Rina and I headed over for the festival.
In Tonga, a Palongi is a foreigner or white person. In some cultures it is a racial slur, but here it is simply how the Tongans identify the many foreigners that live amongst them. When we arrived at the festival, Rina and I were the only palongis among the 2000 or so gathered to watch. It was very much a family affair. While each village put its best dancers on the basketball court stage, it was clear that the closed Tongan culture revolves very much around family. A quick read of "Making Sense of Tonga" helps visitors gain some insight into the Tongan ways and gives an appreciation of how strong family ties bind the culture. As I first entered the stage area, it was clear that it was way out of the ordinary to have a palongi participate... Rina, sitting along the periphery of the crowd, noted that the chatter going on around her included the word palongi many times.
In all, the Ano Beach band played 3 different times, supporting their own plus another village's dancers. Throughout the festivities, people from the crowd would come up and slip 1 Panga (Tongan dollar) notes in the collar of the various performers. It seems that family and friends do so to recognize the efforts of the performers. In our last performance, I was surprised by a tug on my collar, and as I looked up, an elderly gentleman in a tie, who was one of the master of ceremonies, slipped a 1 Panga note in my collar and smiled, thanking me for performing. Afterwards, Maka explained that it was quite special to be recognized by somebody high up in the hierarchy, recognizing that not very many palongis make the effort, or if they do, don't always feel comfortable within the culture. I very much did.... Music kinda does that for me.
The night was certainly special, and a great way to make our exit from the tropics... Now it's on to New Zealand, where we will be hanging out in Opua and the Bay of Islands for several weeks before heading home for the holidays in December for 6 weeks. We've been in the warm South Pacific for seven months now, and we will be in for a shock as we head south of 30 degrees Latitude, where water and air temperatures are both in the 50's as Spring has just barely sprung down under. Cold weather clothes and foulies will be the order of the day...
We will blog often during our passage to New Zealand, which has historically been one of the more challenging ones given the extreme weather that spins out of the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand... We are in good hands, however, having hired a weather router to help watch our backs as we move South, giving us advice on how to best avoid the nasty stuff. Stay tuned....
Gallery has been updated and commented with pics from a very special night with the Ano Beach Band at a local festival.