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.
08/07/2009, 19 21.2'S:163 31.2'W, 690 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
After having such exciting days & nights at sea again, I'm finally able to enjoy a smoother sleep and cook in a somewhat upright/straight position. This morning, we enjoyed a great home-style breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs. Also, making some pre-meals for the overnights has been the smart thing to do.SO, as some of you know me.I overcook (easy to do with only the two of us), so there's always something to eat on your watch! We mostly enjoy watching stars when the night skies are clear. Funny thing, I've been listening to old music that I found on my Ipod that wasn't in one of my playlists.fun stuff while at sea and in the quiet of the night. I've finished another book: "The Memory Keeper's Daughter", by Kim Edwards. It's a wonderful, heartbreaking, heart-revealing novel. I loved it. Starting a new book, with the recommendations of both Pep & Alyssa - "The Prodigal Summer", by Barbara Kingsolver.so far, it's GREAT! I totally understand why Pep reads this book every s ummer! Thanks for everyone's posts on our blog, it's really nice to hear from everyone. Enjoy your weekend. -Rina
Day 5 Overview: -151 miles covered in last 24 hours, 690 miles from Bora Bora, 366 to Niue -2-4 foot seas, 8-10 knot winds, gusts to 12 -6.3 knot average speed -Now tracking about 30 miles South of preferred course, winds died, so we are motoring to bring us back closer to the rhumb line. -Might stop at Beveredge Reef on the way to Niue, since it is now on the way. Reportedly lots of sea life and great snorkeling in this reef out in the middle of nowhere.
08/06/2009, 18 29.2'S:161 10.2'W, 550 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
The old adage is true, after 3-4 days, your sea legs return, your broken sleep patterns become tolerable, and you find some semblance of equilibrium out here. Since the big blow a couple of days ago, we have been sailing along our predicted course +/- 10 degrees and making good speed. The weather looks steady for the next couple days, then calms down, hopefully bringing some flatter seas. We are riding 6-10 foot seas on our port stern quarter, sometimes making for a rocky ride. The best seat in the house is the converted settee (dining table) that is right at the center of the boat, and therefore has the least motion. Rigged with a proper lee cloth, it holds you tight even when you get punched by a wave on the side of the boat, which happens now and then. Rina and I hot bunk there, and it's a great feeling jumping into a warm bed at the end of your watch at 2am.especially as the weather has cooled a bit, 82 during the day and mid 70's at night, which is freezing, given our recent experience.
Rina and I celebrated our ships log hitting 10,000 miles last night with a bottle of wine, on an otherwise dry passage. Hard to believe we have put 6000 miles on the log in the last 9 months. Otherwise we spend our time reading, sleeping and looking out for 2 other boats (Kalalau and Wayward Wind) who are within 30 miles of us.
Day 4 Overview: -140 miles covered in last 24 hours, 550 miles from Bora Bora, 504 to Niue -6-10 foot seas, 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 20 -5.8 knot average speed -Now tracking about 20 miles South of the rhumbline course on a beam reach, apparent winds 100-120 degrees to port
08/05/2009, 17 38.4'S:158 26.9'W, 415 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
Sunrise broke today over clear skies and decreasing wind and seas. After 12 solid hours of high seas and winds yesterday, both decreased to fairly standard trade wind conditions. We are catching up on our sleep and making a nice dinner after nothing but tuna sandwiches and miso soup over the past 36 hours. It's even calm enough to read a book.
The boat held up very well in the extreme conditions. With lots of rain and big water on the decks, we found no new leaks, but reopened an old one at the mast compression post. Our watch schedule is 3 on, 3 off, unless one of us needs more or less sleep, in which add or subtract an hour to a shift.
Day 3 Overview: -154 miles covered in last 24 hours, 415 miles from Bora Bora, 635 to Niue -Sailing in 6-10 foot seas, 15 knot sustained winds, gusts to 20 -6.4 knot average speed -Now tracking about 11 miles North of the rhumbline course on a beam reach, apparent winds 90-120 degrees to port
08/04/2009, 17 09.0'S:157 17'W, 260 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
It's about half past midnight local time (330am Pacific) and I'm on my 11-2am watch and decide to pull down the latest weather, as we have been experiencing much more rain than expected. Waiting for me were several comments from my last blog post, courtesy of an RSS feed from Sailblogs to Facebook. Each blog entry shows up as a Facebook note, where friends can comment, which drops me an email. Nice way to stay connected out here as we can't see blog comments directly.
Bob, it is in fact a dark and stormy night, dumping several inches of rain on us over the past 5 hours. A steady drizzle punctuated by intense downpours that are very similar to Midwest style thunderstorms that sweep the landscape. With these come very unpredictable winds. In general we have 5-7 knots of winds but when one of these storm cells comes through, it kicks up quickly to 15-20 knots with gusts to 25. We are also running in 8-12 foot following seas, which make for an interesting ride. When a large set comes through, we see a wall of water as high as the top of our bimini behind us, only to watch as it lifts the stern and passes underneath us. Given the conditions we are motorsailing under triple reefed main only. Bonus, we get fully charged batteries and the motor warms the cabin in what otherwise would be cold and clammy weather. I'm hanging out under the dodger that covers the steps to the main cabin and letting the autopilot do most of the work. Radar on both the navstation down below and at the helm warn of incoming storm cells or other boats. I pop down for about 3 minutes every 15 to write a little, before light seasickness pushes me back up to get some air and scan the horizon.
Terry, you asked about trepidations. There have been many, mainly fears of the unknown and the application of previously unproven skills to new and riskier ventures. Would we be able to navigate coral reefs successfully, deal with new and confusing bureaucracies, would we manage the boat systems successfully. While we have not always succeeded (see watermaker posts) we have learned much and now feel comfortable out here. Going forward one of the big unknowns was our ability to manage big weather. Stand by. 12:45 Aug 4 local time update
Well, last night we certainly learned a lot. We saw VERY large seas and winds over 40 knots. While we have seen large seas before, and seen 40 knots before, not like this. I can say that there were a couple of times I was scared. Fear does have a place out here, and if harnessed successfully, can help motivate you to ensure the safety of boat and crew. In our case, just after writing a bit of blog after midnight, a large storm came through that we are still dealing with. I was at the helm for 5 hours straight making sure we were keeping the boat running downwind and across the 20 foot waves correctly. Fear kicked in when I got the boat sideways a couple of times on the backside of one of those 20 footers and we were in danger of getting hit broadside. It never happened as I was able to get the boat pointed down the wave again, but from then on I was properly motivated. The entire night I stood at the helm watching as sets of 4-5 huge waves approached and successfully steered over them, carving a line so as not to punch the bow into the trough at the bottom. After a couple of hours I pretty much had it down, but would still get surprised by a sneak attack now and then. We got pooped several times, with waves coming into the cockpit, filling it with 5-7 inches of water. First time getting pooped for us on this boat.
So there you go, that trepidation that we would be able to handle heavy weather? Put away for the time being until the next big one comes along.
Day 2 Overview: -160 miles covered -20 foot seas, 35 knot sustained winds, gusts to 43 -Currently 24 knots sustained 15 foot seas -6.6 knot average speed -Surfed down one wave hitting 11.5 knots. That's 3 knots faster than theoretical max speed for this boat (8.5 hull speed) -Now tracking about 10 degrees North of the rhumbline course to maintain wind and swells on our stern quarter. -Little sleep, little food over past 12 hours
08/03/2009, 17 46.0'S:153 50.4'W, 140 Miles WSW of Bora Bora
With some sadness we left Bora Bora and French Polynesia yesterday. Our stay in French Polynesia seems all the more unbelievable when we think back upon our trepidations as we first approached the Marquesas after our 25 day crossing from Mexico. The unknowns of the geography, the seas, the culture, the French ;-} and whether our experiences would top those of Mexico. Loyal blog readers certainly know the answers to these questions. Our new trepidations are similar to the last. what new experiences, cultures, and unknowns await us as we make our passage to Niue, Tonga/Vava'u and beyond. Certainly it is part of the adventure we signed up for when heading west.
Day 1 Overview:
- 140 miles covered - All but our 30 minute exit of the Bora Bora lagoon was by sail - 5.8 knot average speed - Winds 14-22 knots from ESE - 6-8 foot confused seas - separate swell patterns from both east and south converge to knock us around every 15 minutes - Tracking about 20 degrees south of the rhumbline course to maintain apparent wind and higher boat speed. - Winds supposed to decrease over next couple of days, which will allow us to motor back towards our desired course.
For the last 30 days Rina and I have been contemplating our next passage, networking with cruisers, hitting all the cruiser websites for the latest info from boats that have arrived this season, and one of the best ways to get a sense for what the place will physically be like.... Google Earth. Our earlier plan was to do short passages from Bora Bora to the Cook Islands, then to Samoa, then down to Vavau and Tonga. The closer we looked, the less appealing the Cooks and Samoa became... In many of the Cook Islands, there are only a small anchorages or shallow passages that we can't navigate given our 6.5' draft. In American Samoa, the harbor is dirty, and new reports suggest that the only places to come ashore have now been fenced off... It's a long way to go just to be able to shop for familiar foods, often cited as one of the benefits of heading that direction. Western Samoa is nice, but when we started looking at timing, we would not be able to spend much time there, as we are due in Tonga at the end of August to meet my brother Phil and his wife Josie. And that was because we stayed an extra couple of weeks here...
In the end we decided to sail 1071 miles over 8-10 days to the small Island Nation of Nuie, which is a protectorate of New Zealand. Niue is geologically very different and much older than most islands we have visited. No reef, just steep walls rising 100 feet out of the water over most of the island. Inside the island, the primordial remains of a lagoon support a lush forest with many caves for snorkeling and diving. The Nuie yacht club has 20 mooring balls, making it an easy stop as long as the trade winds are coming from the Southeast. If not, we'll continue on another day and a half to Vava'u.
The other challenging aspect of this passage is the weather. This part of the South Pacific has less consistent winds and you can get caught in lows coming up from New Zealand or "squash zones" that create lots of rain and winds from varying directions.
As we haven't done a long passage in awhile, we have had to work a bit to get the right mindset and stop being tourists...creating a punch list to prepare ourselves and the boat. A sample of the stuff we are working on:
- Plot waypoints to Niue into chartplotter
- Research and mark dangerous reefs near our expected passage on the paper charts and chartplotters.
- Notify family of float plan
- Create catalog of google earth screen shots of Niue and Tonga Islands
- Start Yotreps position reporting
- Climb mast to inspect all shackles, sails, halyards, shrouds, fittings
- Inspect new clank in steering system
- Work with CNI boatyard to extend the fuel pickup for the genset to the bottom of the tank - currently only goes 2/3rds of the way down, as a dumb precautionary measure
- Top off water, propane and fuel
- Fix 3 broken screw-snaps that allow water into the boat
- Change primary Yanmar fuel filter
- Change genset oil and adjust valves
- Secure cabin for extreme heeling
- Make Niue Courtesy Flag
- Move kayaks and all the other crap strapped midships to aft stateroom
- Start monitoring weather files daily
- Test satphone email
- Defrost fridge/freezer to reduce amp usage
- Rig jacklines
- Provision food for passage
- Prepare main dishes for easy preparation on passage
- Get lots of sleep
We motored 3 hours from Bora Bora to Raiatea on a wind-less Thursday, only to be pounded by 2 days and nights of 30 knot winds and constant rain. Sleep was difficult, even when on a mooring ball, as the howling wind made the boat shudder all night, and all Rina could think about was the mooring ball coming unhooked and us slammed against a reef in the middle of the night. Normally we sleep well when on a mooring ball as you don't worry about your anchor dragging...unfortunately; we have seen two boats drift off recently due to faulty lines securing the mooring ball to the bottom. Today we moved to the guest dock at the Moorings Yacht Harbor to work on the boat and hopefully get a good night sleep.
Right now it looks like a Wed-Thursday departure, when the trade winds return after a week of unsettled weather. Inspecting the steering today uncovered a rod end that has lost some of its plastic coating, making it clank when the autopilot moves the wheel back and forth. Very low risk of failure, just a sloppy ball joint right now, but we'll order a replacement and have Phil bring it to Tonga. If it gives out, we have an emergency tiller that we can rig to get us there.
07/20/2009, Bora Bora
Since linking Sailblogs to Facebook via and RSS feed awhile ago, we have received many questions and comments, and we very much enjoy hearing from you. Unfortunately we have not always been able to respond, so below we do a little catch up, before we head off to Samoa in a couple of weeks, where internet availability is an unknown.
Mary Lee and Lewis,
Thanks for the kind words on the blog, and you're right, it does take a lot of time to write them, especially without feeling like you are repeating yourself, or god forbid, become predictable and boring! Read about your bash up the Baja coast and it sounds like you are enjoying being home in Marina Del Ray and the family. Who knows, maybe we will see you in Mexico next season. One of our many "plan B's" for getting home next year is to ship the boat from NZ to La Paz and enjoy another season in Mexico, then bash home.
Sandy and Chris,
Well, you can stop your drooling, as you will be here in Bora Bora soon enough! You will have a blast on Carinthia, and as it looks like Carinthia will be going to NZ this year, we should see each other a lot. Congrats on the engagement and you should have an awesome ceremony here in Bora Bora. I'm sure you have checked into the formalities of getting hitched here, and there are some interesting constraints, but we have seen a couple of local weddings for honeymooners at places like the Four Seasons, with a great Polynesian flavor. Check Frommers Guide for more info... See you next week!
Ken and Lori,
You asked about passagemaking with crew vs. without and which one liked better. Short answer is we like them both. We've been blessed with fantastic crew, from Jan, the Dutch sailing chef, to a procession of family members who have made it much easier to be away from home, especially for Rina. It's nice to be alone again after 4 months of crew, and as we prepare for our first long passage without crew, (1200 miles) we'll let you know if we still feel the same way!
Hey my drumming brutha, glad you are enjoying following our adventure. With all the drumming going on here lately, and the drum corps season in full swing, I could not help but miss attending shows this year.... As you know, it's almost like the annual pilgrimage for us age-outs. Get to see any top 12 corps this year in their swing through Texas?
I've seen you in a swim suit... The algae has always been on your bottom. I just want to know why Suzie didn't clean it off for you ;-}
It was a tough climb indeed. Pirates attacks are localized to a couple of places only. The Red Sea near Somalia gets all the press these days, given how brazen they have become targeting tankers and such. Cruisers still transit the Red Sea however, usually by putting together a flotilla of many boats and staying well offshore. The navies in the area have recently stepped up patrols and now provide a registry of sorts for transiting yachts so they can better monitor the situation. The last yacht to get attacked was late last year. A French Yacht ignored the French Navies advice to stay well offshore. He went within 30 miles, and was kidnapped. As I recall, the French Government paid some kind of ransom.
The Malaca Straights near Indonesia is another area with a recent history of piracy, although it is almost always against freighters. Have not heard much from this area recently. Other than these two areas, there really isn't much classic piracy against yachts, but you do have to be careful in places like Central America, Venezuela, Columbia, as theft and robberies are fairly common. It's one of the reasons we decided to head west, rather than into the Caribbean this year. The South Pacific is MUCH safer. We have never felt unsafe out here and have only lost a pair of sandals, which I stupidly left in my unattended dinghy in a busy dock in Nuku Hiva... my fault really.
You can check out www.noonsite.com for updated piracy reports. It's the best resource we found to stay current.
You will love Bora Bora, but yes, the hike up the mountain is not your typical vacation fare. No markers, no safety net... There's plenty to do elsewhere between diving, snorkeling with the stingrays, touring the island, dining at Bloody Mary's, etc.
Hmmmm... if you want remoteness and privacy, most of the major resorts are not where you will find it... actually, I take that back. Occupancy rates are WAY down... like 20-30% occupancy at many of the over water bungalow places like the Intercontinental or Sofitel. Something tells me that's not the kind of remoteness that you are looking for, however. Actually, it's kind of depressing. There will be a line of 30 overwater bungalows with only 2-3 occupied. Restaurants are ghost towns at the resorts and very few people by the pools.
The best way to get privacy, variety and remoteness is to leverage that Coastal Cruising Certificate and rent a catamaran at the Moorings base in Riataia. You have 3 islands to choose from within a 3 hour sail. Riataia and Taha'a are within a single reef, so no big ocean swells, and Bora Bora is a 3 hour sail, where you can then stay inside the reef in smooth water for weeks.
Another option would be to seek out the smaller properties on the island, typically called Pensions. They are older properties, some with rustic beachside huts, away from the hustle and bustle of the large resorts. The better ones are on the surrounding reef rather than on the island itself.
07/20/2009, Bora Bora
We had been cautioned by Seth and Elizabeth from Honeymoon, who had done the climb the week before... 720 meters, about 2100 feet, most of it a 60% grade. Rina was smart enough to decline, mostly due to her reconstructed knee, but I could not resist the challenge. After taking it easy for weeks here with only light exercise... walking, swimming, biking, it was time for a serious hike to the top of Bora Bora. It took them 3 hours each way the last time, so we were prepared with LOTS of water and some protein. Rina the safety officer told me to take two water bottles rather than one, which I declined (mistake!) and a handheld VHF, which would come in handy up the mountain.
10 of us from 5 boats started the trek from the center of town, leaving our dinghies in the central marina. After hiking a half mile up a relatively flat dirt road flanked by houses and lots of aggressive dogs but friendly people, we entered a lush jungle as the grade started to increase. After 30 minutes of jungle roots attempting to trip us up in the deep underbrush, we entered a steep climb that would take another 1.5 hours. It was one of the most technical hikes I have done since I was a counselor at a camp in northern California that taught mountain survival skills some 30-odd years ago. I don't have to remind all you fellow old guys how the mind is always willing but the body, shall we say, lags just a bit. The first hour was fine. I paced myself, monitoring heart rate and stayed hydrated even as the group was sweating profusely in the late morning sun and humidity. Frequent breaks provided enough recovery time to make the hike invigorating and fun.
As we neared the summit, the hike got more technical, with several sections with fixed ropes and plenty of footholds to scramble up the steep face. Even though the elevation was just nearing 2000 feet, the combination of fatigue and living at sea level for a year had taken its toll on my stamina. More frequent stops were required to get my heart rate back into a safe zone and recharge the now throbbing thighs.
By this time we had broken into 2-3 groups, and Elizabeth, the trail veteran, had powered ahead by herself. A fairly standard rule of long hikes is to buddy up and always stay in touch with the first and last person on the trail. As the summit neared, Seth called out several times to Elizabeth with no response. Seth assumed she had gone on to the summit by herself, so we continued on. At this juncture I should mention that the first time Seth and Elizabeth did the hike it took 3 hours up because they took a wrong turn 3 separate times. We climbed to the summit up a 100 foot face with the help of a rope but did not find Elizabeth. With a slight look of concern, Seth reversed direction and headed back down the mountain with a handheld VHF to search for his wife. Long story somewhat shorter, Elizabeth had taken one of those wrong turns for about 20 minutes before realizing her error and then backtracked, only to run into Seth on the trail. The picture above is Elizabeth's triumphant and slightly embarrassing ascent to the summit.
We spent about an hour on the summit recharging our batteries. The summit ridge allowed us to spread out, and I sat for 30 minutes in lush green grass by myself, just taking it all in. *Alone* is not something we get to do often, so I relished the opportunity. The scene overwhelmed my senses. While a stiff breeze chilled my sweat drenched shirt, the juxtaposition of this view from our normal sea level view was jarring at first. In the distance, several boats were headed out to sea towards the Cook Islands and beyond...passagemaking once again after 90 days of comfortable anchorages and sleeping through the night. It was east to put myself in their place, and it's a special feeling when starting a passage. It all added up to a very special experience, one that I will not forget.
After obligatory picture-taking, rejuvenated blood-sugar and rested muscles, we started our trip back down. This would be MUCH easier I thought, without the super-cardio workout. Instead, one set of challenges was replaced by another. The same muscles that powered us up the hill now had to work very differently, braking our descending bodies as we searched for secure footholds. After 45 minutes, we all complained about our toes being jammed into the front of our shoes. Normally not a problem, but remember, most in this group has not worn a pair of shoes in months. As we neared the end of the steep sections, fine-grain leg muscle control began to wane and keeping good footing became increasingly difficult. Periodic sliding bodies required us each to keep some distance from one another. Luckily, we came away with nothing more than a few slight scrapes and bruises, some very tired legs, mild dehydration and one very slightly bruised female ego.