Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu island, Tonga to Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Total miles: 1052
Average speed: 4.0
Max: 122 Nm on day 9
Min: 64 Nm on day 3
Time: 11 days 1 hour
Motor: 111.1 hours 41.8% of this journey
The South Pacific has an interesting weather pattern. You get high and low pressure systems following each other and the low's bring very strong wind with very high gusts. The high pressure system brings low winds with about 3 days of calms. There is normally a low pressure system crossing the path from Tonga to New Zealand every 5 to 7 days. Everybody therefore warned us that we can expect to encounter one "storm" on this passage. Our experience of the low coming through whilst at Tongatapu (74 knot gust) caused everybody to be a bit nervous about the trip to New Zealand.
We therefore studied the weather maps very carefully and waited for the "correct" window to start sailing to New Zealand. We saw 2 high systems following each other, without any lows (storms). This is actually the perfect window for this trip, except that you can expect to motor quite a bit. We left Tongatapu island along with 9 other yachts. On the first night there was quite a few yachts around us and it was interesting to see how they moved during the night. Some sailed on a more westerly course to stop at Minerva Reef whilst others went ahead with the advantage of size, speed, etc.
We were three boats of similar size and speed that stayed together for most of the voyage . Daniel, from Angeline, got the weather prediction daily from his Dad in New Zealand. He would then contact us and Privateer with the update. Sometimes we could not hear Angeline, and at other times we were unable to hear Privateer. We were however able to get the weather update from either of them. It was the first time during the 14000 mile journey that we were able to stay in a group sailing together.
We sailed in light winds for the first 4 days before we started motoring to get out of the calms. We sailed through patches of coral drifting on the water, looking like islands. There were very big coral (like a baseball) between the smaller pieces.
We sailed with full sails in the light wind and Ntombi was making good miles. It was such a delight with low seas that we were convinced she is the best boat on the voyage. The bigger boats fell behind due to their weight constraint. Whilst motoring on one of the calm days, we heard a strange noise from the prop-shaft and it was growing loader. I was unsure what caused the noise and I decided that it would be advisable to double check the cutlass bearing. We therefore took the sails down, stopped the engine and waited for Ntombi to get to a standstill in the middle of the ocean. Luckily the waves were almost non existent and I took my snorkel gear and dived down to inspect the cutlass bearing. Francina was almost hysterical when I went into the water. The cutlass bearing was still fine and there was no need for her to worry about me.
On Monday, 19 November the barometric pressure was 1016 and rising. On Tuesday 20 November the barometric pressure started falling whilst it was overcast and we sailed through patches of rain. We realized that there is a low pressure system coming through and we can expect stronger winds. On Wednesday it was raining and the wind became stronger with very strong gusts. We reefed down and were still sailing over 5 knots. The wind however changed to a South Easterly and we were unable to sail directly to Kerikeri in New Zealand. We were either sailing to the east or to the west, but not making any way towards our destination. The connector of the one glider broke, as well as the stack pack fastener. Francina's sewing of the stack pack fastener on the voyage to Tonga was not very well, because it was the same one that came loose. At 17h00 we decided to heave to and wait for the wind to change or ease to 10 - 15 knots. We were able to get some sleep before we started motorsailing at 23h00 to arrive in Opua at 9h45 on Thursday, 22 November 2012, still raining.
The breakwater is the Q-dock where you have to moor for the clearing in process to be completed. The breakwater is not connected to land at all and there is a toilet for the boats without holding tanks. When we approached the Q-dock we saw Angeline was already moored and Daniel helped us with our mooring lines. Biosecurity was already waiting for us to get on board to complete the documents and relief us from any seeds (beans, popcorn, etc) and fresh produce, which is not welcome in New Zealand. Next in line was customs, which also represents immigration. Lastly, the representative from Security came on board to find out if we are carrying any drugs. He explained the process and told us that the last step in the clearing in process is the sniffer dog. They however never brought the dog on board. When we were cleared, we moved to a walk on mooring in the marina.
We had to visit the marina office for the formalities there and discovered that we needed insurance in order to be in the marina. We therefore had to go to The Marina Shop to take out insurance on Ntombi. We also had to visit the customs office to complete the process of importing Ntombi into New Zealand. Our passports were stamped and we are therefore in time for our Permanent Residency visa to be effective. Only a few years to get citizenship.....
It is ironic that we started this very long journey in March on Francina's birthday and we completed it on my late Dad's birthday.
Two main islands comprise New Zealand: North Island with 44 200 square miles and South Island, with 58 200 square miles. Both islands are long and narrow and 1100 miles separates the northern and southern extremities. No point is farther than 68 miles from the sea. The country is predominantly mountainous. As huge and permanent as the mountains seem, New Zealand has changed its shape many times, for it is a region where the earth's crust has long been changing. This is particularly true of the volcanic and thermal area. The remarkable thermal activity is most spectacular at Rotorua, where geysers spout and mud pools bubble and plop like boiling porridge.
The hot shower and 'no movement' on Ntombi allowed us to sleep right through the night. We did not even woke up once, which is a first in 8 months! The next week or two will be spent working on Ntombi, seeking employment, sourcing a car and sorting out a few administrative challenges for SA, like SARS returns, etc. Luckily Bill from "The Marina Shop" has kindly offered his car for us to use to go to Pahia, Kerikeri and/or Whangarei. We also met a few South Africans in the marina and the towns close by, ready with advise.
Total miles: 1456
Average speed: 4.3
Max: 137 Nm on day 10
Min: 59 Nm on day 2
Whilst we were at Hiva Oa, we asked David from "Ranchos of the Seas" about his wind steering. He raved about the Pacific windpilot that is already 30 years old and never been touched. Even the gears are still the original. One of the bushes in the pilot was a bit loose. He contacted Peter from Windpilot to enquire about replacing the bush. Half an hour later he got a response from Peter suggesting that he does not need to replace. The pilot was still fine. He said it was spooky, because it seemed as if Peter sat at his computer waiting for mails to come through responding almost immediately. We contacted Peter for a quote and had a similar experience, even with the 11 hour time difference. Which business in Germany responds on a Sunday?
We ordered the Pacific Windpilot and it was sent to Tahiti airport, on flights from Hamburg to New York to Tahiti (2 days). We went to the Faaa airport in Tahiti to collect the Windpilot. The process at customs took longer than the fitting of the system on our return to Ntombi. There is only 4 bolts to fasten the bracket at the stern. No ugly birdcage like I envisaged in South Africa when everybody recommended a wind steering system. The wind steering systems I looked at in Cape Town were all fitted with welding works and really looked ugly at the back of the boat.
The big supermarket, Carrefour in Punaauia is only 10 minutes walk from Marina Taina, where we were moored, and it was the cheapest. Beef and Lamb were imported from New Zealand and sold at very reasonable prices. I enjoyed fresh meat every night during the stay in Tahiti. The French loaves are subsidized and only costs 50 Pacific Francs. It is very nice and crispy to eat especially whilst hot. Every week there is cheese on special and we were able to enjoy it with the freshly baked bread.
Whilst waiting for the Windpilot to arrive, I decided to get the rigger to make up a spare inner shroud. I read that the inner shrouds are the most likely to break and it would be good to have a spare on board. When I removed the shroud to see if the t-bracket they have in stock will fit on our mast, I saw that 2 strands of the inner shroud were already broken. We therefore decided to replace all the rigging before we leave for New Zealand. Everybody is saying that we will sail through at least one storm and we do not want to take any chances with faulty rigging.
We went to the 7th day Adventist church in Papeete on Sabbath. The service was in French with a Tahitian translation. A Chinese translator was allocated to us and he translated the whole service in English for us. He also arranged for the youth leader to take us back to Marina Taina after the service.
On the Wednesday we went to Motu Uta to replace the forestay. When we pulled away from the jetty in strong wind, I felt loss of steering. I immediately realised the stainless steel c-pin replaced in Apataki was sheered off. We were unable to go back on the jetty and therefore used the headsail to cross the harbour into the channel leading passed the airfield. There were 2 ferries coming into the harbour and we had to manouvre to keep out of their way.
When we reached the entrance to the channel, we put out the anchor. Francina contacted the harbour master, informing him of the dilemma. Whilst I was busy aligning the holes to get the broken c-pin out, the torch also died on me. I battled with a small handheld torch. With the grace of God I managed to align the holes and pushed the broken one out with the spare. It only took a few minutes, whilst it took very long in Apataki to remove the previous c-pin.
One of the days that we went to Papeete (capital of Tahiti), I saw a few guys with MTU shirts/overhauls. I stopped them. The one guy was in Cape Town a few years ago and we shared a few "do you know this person" memories. Tahiti was exactly what I pictured it to be. It met all my expectations and I could live here, if it was not for the French language barrier.
Ntombi is registered in New Zealand and we are therefore flying the New Zealand flag. As we sailed through the pass, leaving Tahiti behind, a Swiss boat came past, entering into the channel. He shouted at us "Going Home?". On my response "yes" I suddenly realized that I am going home, my new home. I suddenly felt a big emptiness in my heart thinking of South Africa, the people I met, friends I made over the years, my colleagues and my family. Suddenly my vision became blurred and I had to pick the tears from my eyes. Yah, I am going home.
The wind steering exceeded my expectations. The sail is much more comfortable than using the autopilot. It is a crew member I definitely recommend. The Simrad autopilot served me well, but I belief the wind steering works better in most circumstances. It also do not need any amps, only wind.
We had a slow start. On the day we left Tahiti, it was raining, the baromic pressure dropped to 1015 and all wind disappeared. The same scenario repeated itself a day before we reached Tonga. The pressure dropped from 1024 to 1015, heavy squals washed over us and then the wind died on us in the late afternoon. At 2h00 in the morning we started motoring until we reached Tongatapu at 17h30.
Thursday, 25 October was Francina's Dad birthday. Our calender only had 3 hours on this day due to crossing the time meridian. We went into the future within a blink of the eye. Tonga's motto is "where time begins" because they are 13 hours ahead of UTC.
The Pacific ocean is still very highly confused seas and nothing is predictable. The wind changes direction 360 degrees within 4 hours starting from North, moving anticlockwise. Suzie, the autopilot still worked during these peculiar situations.
On one of the days I caught 2 fish. The first fish of the day was a flying fish and we decided to let it loose. It was it's lucky day. The second fish was approximately 5 - 6 kg big. We however threw it back because the Bible says you can eat fish with fins and scales. This one only had fins and was therefore not fit for human consumption. The American Navy also confirmed the same fact after extensive research.
Contrary to my previous opinion of Ntombi, I belief she is a very comfortable boat and her length is acceptable. The bigger the boat, the bigger the cost - mooring, haulout, antifouling, rigging, etc. etc. A longer waterline immediately gives you the advantage of desperately extra speed - unlike us crossing from Panama to Marquesas in 43 days, whilst bigger boats took 32 days. An eleven day difference can be a l-o-o-n-g time.
We entered Tonga through the Ava Lahi channel approaching with the waypoints given in "World Cruising routes". A very big ship came out of the harbour and we were able to confirm our waypoints (from c-maps) into the harbour is correct. It was getting late and we saw that we would not be able to make it into the harbour before sunset. We decided to anchor out at Fafa motu and had a very peaceful sleep. Fully rested in the morning, we motored to Pangaimotu, dodging some coral reefs on our way and anchored at the Big Mama's yacht club.
We stayed on Ntombi until Monday morning for Immigration, Customs and Agriculture to visit us and complete the checking in process. Contrary to the resources available, we were going to the mentioned offices instead of them coming to us on the boat. Immigration is in town, a good 2 mile walk (one way) from the wharf, then you need to walk to customs - another mile from the wharf in the opposite direction. Agriculture is luckily on your way back from Customs. To check out, you also need to visit Port Control to pay harbour fees (calculated on gross tonnage per day) which is on your way to Customs. They are busy with a new building next to the fuel dock which will host Customs to ease the clearing in/out process, but also to keep an eye on boat movement. Whilst we were standing inside the harbour, Customs and the Police came onto the wharf observing the ships/yachts with binoculars. As SA citizens, we were required to pay for entry permits at TOP69 (approx US$43) each.
Located at the heart of the the South Pacific, the ancient Polynesion Kingdom of Tonga is one of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific Island nations. There are 176 islands (only 40 inhabited) located just to the west of the International Date Line, southeast of Fiji and South of Samoa. Tonga is the first Pacific nation to greet the new day (UTC + 13).
Tongatapu island is the heart of the Tonga islands and home to the capital Nukualofa. Here is the center of government and business and it is where the King of Tonga and the royal families reside. The people are very friendly and most of them speak English. There is a very big fruit, vegetable and local handicrafts market (Talamahu market) in the center of Tongatapu. It has an abundance of local foods at reasonable prices, except pineapples, which is very expensive.
There is also the Tu'imatamoana Fish market located along the waterfront, just before the main wharf where you can buy fish and seashells in the afternoons. We took the local bus to Houma, 15.4 km from town to visit the blow holes. Waves send water spouting 18 m into the air through natural vents in the coral rock, creating one of the most impressive sights in the South Pacific, according to the Tonga brochure. Whilst in Houma, we spoke to a local person who spent 27 years in New Zealand. He told us that Tongans do not pay anything for their land or houses. Everything is owned by the community and is for free. You only need to pay for water and electricity.
We completed our checking out process and were ready to depart on Sabbath morning (3 November). On Sabbath we saw the latest GRIB files which indicated a low pressure system coming from Fiji towards Tongatapu causing heavy winds crossing our path sailing to New Zealand. We therefore decided to stay in Tongatapu waiting for the next weather window to sail to New Zealand.
O boy! What a wind we experienced whilst at anchor at Pangaimotu island. The gusts came through ranging between 20 and 40 knots. There was however one that lasted only a few seconds, but it measured 74 knots. I was busy washing the dishes in the galley and all the water ran out of the zinc into the bilges. Luckily we have the automatic bilge pump that kicked in and started pumping out the water. It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt much longer and all we could do was praying. It is almost like driving a car and when you brake it starts skidding. You can see the accident is going to happen, but there is nothing you can do about it. All happens in slow motion. We donated our wind charger to the sea during this gust. It was blown off the pole whilst the only piece that remained is the bottom that fits over the pole which I secured in St Helena with an additional bolt. Only one yacht dragged anchor, but luckily the anchor wedged itself into the sand where it got stuck and the yacht did not move afterwards in the gusts that followed.
There were two distress signals, one to the east and one to the South of Tongatapu. The one boat was rolled over and demasted in 10 meter waves. They lost some hatches in the process. The woman on board suffered head injuries. Another yacht turned back to aid them assistance, whilst an aircraft hovered over them speaking to them on the radio whilst help was on it's way. We do not know anything about the other boat, south of Tonga yet. There EPIRB is unregistered and the Tonga Navy was searching for them. We have not heard anything yet.
It looks like the wave height will be down over the weekend and the weather is looking much better for a passage to New Zealand leaving on Monday morning. We will keep a close look at the weather over the weekend and if everything is favourable, will leave on Monday, 12/11/12.
Distance: 229 miles 2 days
The engine on Ntombi is not powerful enought to motor against the current If we try to go out of Apataki whilst the current is flowing into the lagoon. Laurent calculated the correct time for us to exit through the pass - current flowing out - which is after 12h00. We therefore had a slow sail from Apataki Carenage to the pass to ensure we do not arrive before 12h00. Sailing the 10 miles from the boatyard to the pass took us past coral heads and oyster farms. Luckily we did not have to swerve out for any - maybe it was because we sailed in a direct line to the village where the pass is. The pass is well marked with bouys and it was therefore fairly easy to exit Apataki. Definitely not the same experience as our entrance of the north pass.
Whilst at Apataki Carenage we were told of a yacht that was lost on the reef outside the southern pass. The single handed sailor arrived at Apataki during the night and waited for daybreak to enter through the pass. He went to sleep and the currrent took him onto the reef. We saw the yacht when we were leaving Apataki (see photo in gallery).
We continued in fair winds to Tahiti, passing Kaukura atoll. With modern technology and knowledge of the atolls we were able to sail close to Kaukura before we tacked away and about. It looks as if this atoll has a few more motu's (coral sand with palm trees) than Apataki. We passed the atoll around 18h00 on day 1 when the wind started picking up and the waves as well. It is a pity, because the sail during the day was very nice with low wind and low waves.
We are very thankful that we have maps of all the atolls (not all very detailed) on our way to Tahiti. I can understand why sailors avoided this area in the past and why it is known as the dangerous Tuomotu Archipelago. It is much easier with GPS and maps to find your way around the atolls.
When you look at the atoll, you see a motu (a patch of coral sand with coconut trees) and ocean between them. The ocean is however covering (or not) a reef and you cannot sail over it. Some atolls have only one and some two passes where you can enter into the lagoon. Some atolls do not have a pass deep enough for yachts to enter.
The Society island group contains 12 major islands with a windward cluster of 5 and a leeward cluster of 7 islands. Tahiti is part of the windward group and was previously known as Nouvelle Cythere. It is the largest and best known island of the group. Tahiti has an area of approx 400 square miles and is formed of volcanoes connected by an isthmus. The capital city of Papeete is a modern city of more than 128 000 people built around a coastal lagoon. It is also the distribution center for supplies to all of the islands of French Polynesia. Papeete(the Water Basket) is also the home port to the French fleet.
The wind did not get very strong on the first night, but I was still struggling to sleep. It is normally like that on the first night of a voyage. The swells were a bit higher but not too uncomfortable. During day 2 we had a few rainstorms passing which brought the usual stronger wind with no wind after the rain. I became seasick during the very slow sail with low wind. We changed the sails to cater for the strength of the wind and from then onwards it was a very nice sail. I must admit, I can continue sailing in fair winds like this. Unfortunately we had to slow down again to ensure that we do not arrive in Tahiti during nightfall.
Ntombi is sailing like a horse and not a donkey anymore. The new antifouling made a huge difference and maybe our confidence as well. The log is working and the propshaft is not a worry anymore. We are therefore ready for the rest of the journey to New Zealand.
We passed Tetiaora island, which Marlon Brando bought after the shooting of the "Mutiny of the Bounty" in the sixties, around 2h00. I had another restless night (night 2) due to Tahiti getting closer and the worry is always there that you might not wake up when you do fall asleep. I do not want to land up on the reef like the sailor outside Apataki. At 4h00 the lights of Tahiti was more visible and we started making progress to arrive around 7h00. It was an experience to enter through the pass and see the airplane taking off almost over our heads. We had to ask permission to sail passed the airport because the leaving airplane might take your mast with it. After permission was granted we sailed in the channel passed the eastern entrance of the airfield and had to request permission to sail passed the western entrance of the airfield again. We are still waiting for them to grant us permission.
We anchored at Marina Taina and went ashore to find a supermarket and fresh produce. Interesting enough, the lambrib from New Zealand is the cheapest meat per kilo. Even the local chicken is double the price. The baguette (French bread) is subsidised and costs only 50 US cents. When we went back to the boat, the wind was becoming very strong. Johan realised that there is a problem with the little Yamaha engine on the dinghie. After investigation he found that it is not circulating water to cool the engine. It is however almost Sabbath and he will try and fix the engine on Sunday. Johan used his gas barbeque to cook the lambrib inside Ntombi. He told me ages ago that he cannot wait to get to New Zealand to eat a whole lamb rib. Well, New Zealand just came closer than he thought. The wind called Maraamu (SE wind) became very strong and we were unable to move Ntombi to the "yacht in transit" area as indicated by the Marina office. We can now understand why Gilbert wrote in his book, "And the wind carried us" that there were days when they were unable to go ashore. In a wind like this, we will also not be able to go ashore.
The wind died down during the night and we were able to move Ntombi very early in the morning. We were very lucky to find an open mooring in the indicated area. They are normally very scarce. Eric, an ex South African living on his boat at this Marina came to enquire about Ntombi. He recognised the name as Zulu and was puzzled with the New Zealand registration. He offered Johan a lift to the shops but he obviously could not accept because we are keeping the Sabbath.
We watched Dwight Nelson's sermon on the Chosen - why we are a chosen people. We realised how fortunate we are for God to have chosen us to be His children. I also read the chapter of the "Time of Trouble" in The Great Controversy.
On Sunday morning Johan opened the Yamaha engine to find that the impeller is broken. He asked Eric for a lift if he goes ashore. He took us with to the supermarket and Johan stopped at the chandlery shop for an impeller. They unfortunately did not have one in stock and we will have to go to Papeete to the Yamaha agent, or order one through the local chandlery shop. The windpilot that we ordered from Germany will be sent by airfreight on Monday morning (Europe time).
Johan went with Eric and Daphne to Yamaha agent to buy the impeller and fixed it on Monday. We now have our dinghie working and can get ashore as and when we require. The parcel from Germany will be on a flight on Thursday, 4/10/2012. We will therefore spend a bit longer than anticipated in Tahiti.
We got the package on Friday, installed the windpilot. Whilst waiting for the parcel to arrive we discovered that our inner shroud had two broken wires. We decided to replace all the rigging and that was only completed by Wednesday 10/10/12. Checking out proved to be more challenging and we are therefore only able to leave Tahiti on Friday, 12/10/12. The next stop is in Tonga when we will join the "all points rally' group of yacht to sail to Opua, New Zealand.
The Tuamotu Archipelago is home to the Puamotu people. It is an enourmous arc of exclusively coral atolls lying between the Society and the Marquesas groups. The seventy-six islands have a land ara of 343 square miles spanning a distance of a 1000 miles. The first European who set eyes on the Tuamotus was Jacob LeMaire, a Dutchman (1615).
Raroia is probably the best known because of the raft Kon Tiki who landed here in 1947. The Kon Tiki, captained by Thor Heyerdahl, drifted 4300 miles for 3.5 months from Peru. He wanted to proof that the Polynesians could have originated from America.
The French used the Tuamotus for nuclear testing. This program was initiated in 1963. Phosphate was produced at Makatea before it was exhausted in 1966. The income of the area is from Goverment subsidised cobra production and pearl farming.
We left Hiva Oa island in the Marquesas for the dangerous Tuamotus to haul out Ntombi. We sailed past Tahuata island in squally weather. There was only one cat moored close to the white sandy beach, but we decided not to join them.
We had a nice light wind, but it died down during the night. The wind however picked up between 9 - 10 and unfortunately died down again at noon. The ocean was not as rough as it were from Panama to Marquesas, obviously due to low winds.
The log was still not working, even thought the guys did a splendid job scrubbing the hull. We were able to sail at 4 - 5.5 knots in low winds where we were only able to reach 3 knots before the scrub.
When the wind picked up again, we had a very pleasant sail. The wind changed direction to a South Wester which is peculiar for this time of year. There was funny cotton wool type clouds (Altocumulus) earlier in the day, and when Johan researched the meaning, he found that it means a cold front approaching with unstable weather. There was rain storms all around us, but none of them affected us.
It reminded me of the Israelites in Egypt, before they were lead out by Moses. The Egyptians were hit by plagues whilst the righteous Israelites were unaffected. God is great in His protection of us.
The sky was a very unusual colour of blue just before sunset. It was the most beautiful 'painting' of deep blue background and a few white clouds close to us. It seemed as if we will be out of the stormy area by the morning. The water surface was almost flat, as Johan's dream Pacific.
At 21h30 the simrad (autopilot) went into standby mode. We realised that we were in the strongest wind of the whole trip (40 + knots). Luckily we reefed down to no 3 for the night. We were unable to steer Ntombi and we therefore locked the tiller and let her drift. She went south for a few miles during the storm that lasted for 3 hours. The only damage observed in the morning was one glider on the mainsail. God is great in His protection of us.
The wind was still strong in the morning and we decided to rig the stormjib on the mast. We balanced it with a small headsail and were sailing at an average 4.8 knots. We spent the Sabbath listening to various teachings on audio. I also read a few chapters in the Great Controversy. At Sabbath closing we realised that we were sailing too fast and would reach the pass to the atoll in darkness.
We let out ropes at the stern to slow us down, but it did not help. We were still sailing at 5 knots with the ropes, spitfire and very small headsail. Eventually at 23h30 we were heaving-to. It was such a nice, calm feeling inside the cabin. We slept (obviously with watches) until 5h00 in the morning. We started sailing again in very strong wind. A big vessel passed at our stern. We reached the northern pass of Apataki by 11h30. C-maps is a few hundred meters out with their co-ordinates of the pass.
It was a very scary experience. We saw clear shallow water on the side and breaking waves ahead. Some of our material indicated a 130 meter entrance, but they obviously made a 100 meter mistake. The entrance was also not at the expected waypoint. Neither was the leading degrees working, unless we did something very stupid.
I pulled in the headsail, but made a mistake in the excitement and let it out. Luckily I was able to correct the mistake before we reached the entrance whilst motoring. The wind was very strong and dead ahead (South Easter). Johan stayed close to the one side to ensure that he will be able to make a u-turn in the event that we do not find deep water to go through the narrow opening. We however found deeper water (17 meter) and he basically followed the depth sounder. We depth went down to 7 meter and went up again.
Once we were inside the atoll the waves were building up over a distance of 17 miles (the diameter of the atoll) and reached a height of 2.5 meters. As we go over one wave the nose dives in and another wave breaks over the deck. The following distance of the waves were too short. The heavy waves lasted for about 1/2 a mile until we reached a depth of 40 meters. Afterwards the waves were a little better.
We turned to the south east towards Apataki Carenage. We let the headsail out at 70 % whilst the engine was running to help us sail into the strong wind. There are a few coral heads indicated on the C-map chart. I wanted to go and check the distance on C-maps when I saw we were heading straight at a reef. Luckily Johan was at the tiller and could swerve away. Whilst I was on C-maps Johan saw bouys straight ahead and had to swerve once again. These bouys are placed at the pearl farms. Luckily we were able to avoid hitting any of these.
We needed to tack a few times whilst Johan hand steered to Apataki carenage. At 17h30 we enventually reached calmer waters and could see the shore of a small coral island. Alfred met us in his powerboat and indicated a mooring bouy that we could use for free.
What a welcome site and it really looked like "landfall of paradise".
We were exhausted and went to bed early. We did not even went ashore. The following morning we visited the office to make arrangements for the haul out. It was agreed to haul out the afternoon at 13h00. It was done very professionally and it took only 20 minutes before we started with the powerwash. We saw that the antifouling was actually still in good condition after sailing 13 000 miles. The antifouling was done on the Vaal by Peter Watts and he used Sigma Coatings with Ivory primer.
For the first time since I can remember mosquitos are byting me. It started around 16h30 on Monday. Alfred told me that the wind changed direction and that is causing the mozzies. Well, they truely love my blood. They rarely bite Johan and on the odd occation when they do, it is around his ancles and it does not itch at all. A fellow yachtie told me to stay in the sun to avoid the mozzies. Well it helped a bit, the amount on my body at a single time came down to 1 or 2 instead of 4 to 5. Alfred made a fire with dried coconut 'shells' to keep the mozzies away. We continued this practice of a fire at 16h00 everyday. The smoke is apparently driving them away. I had to however use peaceful sleep and I burned mosquito coils inside the boat. During the day and most of the night I also burned my citronella lamp inside the boat.
On Tuesday morning we continued with the preparation for the first coat of antifouling. Johan removed the propshaft in order to put the bearing back in place. He discovered that the fishing line distroyed the bearing. We ordered a new cutlass bearing from Tahiti, which would arrive at the airport in the village 10 miles away on Friday. We applied the first coat of antifouling.
Johan removed the cutlass bearing bracket. He took it with to the airport in the village to ensure that the bearing that we ordered will fit. When it arrived, he sent it back with the bracket for fitment because it is not standard size. Veronica, a French woman who came to collect their boat papers, took it with her to Papeete. All flights to Apataki was cancelled untill Thursday. We will hopefully get the cutlass bearing bracket and fitted bearing back on Thursday.
Walking to the toilet at night I saw seashells moving around. Johan said it is hermet crabs. There is not sand on the beach, only coral sand, which looks more like gravel or fairly big "stones".
The people on the island is very friendly and helpful. The grandfather is still working very hard to prepare copra. He also goes into the village 3 times a week, delivering lettuce and eggs which is part of the grandmothers farming. Alfred and Paulina provided me with fresh fruit like papaja, figs, lemon, lime and very big grapefruit. Their two sons also lives on the island and the elder son, Tony is the owner of the Carenage. The whole family works together during haulouts. Each one knows what is expected of him and they function like a well oiled machine.
We were invited to a pot luck dinner on Saturday evening. There were traditional Polynesian fish salad, rice, cous cous, octopus oven baked and fried, 'herderspastei', coleslaw and dessert was pumpkin in coconut milk and chocolate brownies. Everybody was speaking French most of the time but we still had a very enjoyable evening.
Although it seemed as if we have too much time on our hands waiting for the cutlass bearing, we were very busy every day. We found a water leak that Johan fixed. He serviced the Yamaha engine and found parts seized due to the salt. He replaced the broken glider on the mainsail, fibreglassed the broken batten as well as the drawer. I made a cover for our small scatter cushion, packed the pasta in plastic bottles, scrubbed the floor with fresh water, etc. There is never a dull moment and always lots to do on a boat.
The owner of the catamaran Moemoea Nui (meaning Dream Big) that was hauled out on Saturday told Johan that the recommended route to New Zealand is via Tonga. He has sailed this route a few times already and Johan appreciates his advise.
We will most probably only leave on 25th for Tahiti.
20120901, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France and it consists of 4 island groups, Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Marquesas and Austral islands. The plan is to visit Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, Apataki in the Tuamotu and Tahiti in the Society Islands. The Austral Islands are out of our way and we will therefore not visit them.
The four island groups, comprising of 109 islands, spread over an ocean area of 1.5 million square miles. The combined land area of these four groups is a little over 1500 square miles with an overall population of 245000. Approximately 69% live in Tahiti, part of the Society islands.
The islands are high volcanic islands, except the Tuamotu Archipelago. They are composed entirely of low-lying atolls, except one, Makatea, which is a raised atoll. The Marquesas were discovered by the Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana de Neira in 1595. He named them after his benefactor Las Marquesas de Mendoza from Peru. Cook stumbled upon them in 1774.
There are 6 large and 6 smaller islands. The best known of the Marquesas islands is Hiva Oa, it is also the biggest. it is very fertile and a heavily wooded high island, 23 miles long and 10 miles wide. It is renowned as the last home and burial site of Paul Gaugruin, the French painter, and Jacques Brel, the Belgian singer. They attrack a lot of tourists from both France and Belgium. There is an airport and we saw the airplane arriving and departing a few times during our week visit. The Polynesian name for the Marquesas is 'Te Henua Enata', The Land of Men.
White bread and 4x4's are busy taking it's toll, especially with the woman of the island. Most of the woman are overweight, but the men is more healthy. They still perform hard physical work and also row in the afternoon for excercise. Most of them have a very proud stature. The spoken language is French, and only a handful are able to speak English. Even the police officers where we had to check into the country were unable to speak English.
We went on a tour of the island on a 4x4. The trip took us through spectacular scenery, with wild rugged ridges and deep lush valeys. We also visisted Puamau, the site of the biggest 'Tikki' in Polynesia. Tikki's are stone statues, representing the gods or famous chiefs from the past. There were different tribes living on the island and they practiced cannibalism. They ate the members of the opposite tribe if they caught them. There was a prison on site, close to the "braai" area where they burned and eaten humans. There was also a stage where the musicians would perform. The whole village would gather around for the ritual and the feast. According to the tour guide, there were 100 000 poeple on the island before the Europeans got there. They brought virusses, etc and the local people died out to a mere 2000 at early 1900's.
In Hiva Oa we began seeing heavily tattooed bodies, a feature common to the whole Pacific. In the early days tattoos were a sign of status in the community.
We got 2 local guys to scrub the bottom of Ntombi. They had a speargun available in the event that a shark might attack whilst working on the boat. There were a lot of sharks in the water in the bay. It is not advisable to swim.
We attended Gerard's birthday party on Papillon. It was a delightful evening, although we were a bit lost when they spoke French most of the time. The food was very good.
One of the single handed sailors, Pierre, developed infection from a small cut on his leg and landed in hospital for a few days. The Doctor reckon he would have died if he had not gone to hospital when he did. We got a bit scared and stocked up with anti-biotics and disinfectant.
The French bread sticks, baked every morning was devine. We obviously indulged in a few of those per day.
Great excitement when the police came with their guns on board one of the yachts. They held the skipper and the crew for the whole day, fine combing the boat for drugs. The next day they were back with a sniffer dog. The skipper says he does not know why they targeted his boat. Local speculation is that there were police from Papeete and they practiced their skills. We will never know the reason, but the yachties were a bit traumatised as a result. They just spent 10 days sailing without a rudder, was towed into harbour and 2 days later this ordeal. They are also on their way to New Zealand.
Another single handed youngster is also on his way to New Zealand. He left 2 days before us, but will be island hopping until Fiji before he sails down to Opua in New Zealand.
David, from Rancho of the Seas told us about Apataki Carenage which is much cheaper than Papeete, Tahiti for the haulout of Ntombi. Daniel confirmed the above and we decided to book for haulout in this remote atoll. The pictures look very nice on internet. We desperately need to fix the propshaft and will antifoul at the same time.
I am constantly "correcting" myself. I made a remark previously about Tamarind and that I did not like the taste. Well, we enjoyed Tamarind fresh from the tree and it was very nice. They need to be dry (not green) and the sweet/sour taste was delightful.
On Sunday morning a Volvo 60 boat arrived with 8 woman and 4 men on board. They only spent the night before they left for Fatu Hiva. They are also on their way to New Zealand for haul out and preparation for the Sydney to Hobard race next year.
Frant, with his 3 sons and daughter in law, is also planning to sail in the Sydney to Hobard race with his one son. He bought the fast 44 in New York and is sailing it to Australia. It is a good adventure for him and the boys to 'bond'.
The island does not have any facilities for yachties. There are no public toilets or ablusion blocks. There is however an open air shower which is used by the local people. They come in the morning before work to shower and others use it in the evening. We also used the shower when it was available. Next to the shower is a tiled concrete slab that I used to do my washing. We took some water in a see through collapsable water tank and saw that the water was not very clean. Luckily we did not need to fill our water tanks.
There were no fuel available for sale on the island either. You need to order fuel and it will be delivered with the Copra boat. The islanders were not too clear on the frequency of the boat. Some material stated that it visits the island every 2 weeks. We only saw a tuna boat coming in from Tahiti, selling Tuna to willing buyers.
90% of the population on the island are members of the Catholic Church. We enquired about an Adventist church, but they were unable to understand us. The tour guide was of the opinion that there are adventists, but he was unable to tell us where they meet. We therefore spent Sabbath watching DVD's and reading from Great Controversy. Johan shared information about the Illuminate and Freemasonry with Daniel. He also copied some of the DVD's on the subject from us.
We spent 8 days in Hiva Oa before we sufficiently recovered to continue the sail to the Tuomotu Archipelago for the haul out in a very scenic environment.
20120826, Hiva Oa
Voyage: Pedro de Gonzalez, Las Perlas to Hiva Oa island, Las Perlas
Distance: 3886 nm Time: 42 days 9 hours Average: 3.82 knots
We left the very beautiful island at 7h00 on Sunday morning after we filled our water tanks. When we sailed passed the island, a whale was rolling in the water for us to see. We continued in light wind (10 knots) to pass the privately owned island of San Jose on our starboard side and found a .5 knot current. As we reached the island, two whales were calling and put up a bit of a show for us. These animals were fairly big and I do not want to hid any of those with my boat.
The island is quite big and there are beautiful sandy beaches. A good few bocas on the southern entrance to the bay caused waves to break against it. It was the first time in a while that I could "hear" the ocean. It was with mixed feelings that we left the last bit of land behind us. Just image, for the next 40 odd days we will not see land of people. Time to revive the soul.
The evening brought on lighting and thunder again. We caught a current flowing SW at 1 to 1.5 knots. The wind however died down around 23h00, but only for a short while. It started blowing agains from NNW varying between 9 - 15 knots. Moths and butterflies were attracted by the light on the boat, and we were 50 miles offshore. In the morning we saw more moths flying past Ntombi. And you wonder, how do they survive? and what are they doing this far out at sea?
The top batten of the mainsail broke again. Johan removed it and we saw that it was broken behind the previous repair he did at Shelter bay. It was overcast and rained for a good few hours from noon. Pancake weather, so I baked some. We alternated between steering by hand and the autopilot, depending on the strength of the wind. The autopilot are unable to steer the boat when the wind dies down. We also motored through some windless patches. The wind meter stopped working on day 3.
I woke up in the morning with the words "check". At first, I would not figure out what I needed to check. I listened and could hear the boat was sailing well, the sails were fine, the autopilot was functioning.... and then I realised that it must be dolphins playing outside. I rushed outside and what a spectacular view! Calm ocean, mild wind causing the wind charger to make the most beautiful howling sound. Beautiful because you know there is enough wind for Ntombi to move through the water.
There was a very big school of dolphins all round Ntombi. Some were swimming at the bow, others were 10 meters away, practicing their diving skills. Others were swimming in pairs, flapping their tails and anotehr were swiming backstroke. This continued for an hour.
By the time they left us, it was overcast with clouds all around and thunder rumbling in our ears. It rained and then the wind died on us again for 7 hours. It gave us time to do some maintenance work. We took turns to handsteer. Johan even fixed the water leek at the aft cabin. The angle of the wind is uncomfortable. It is variable and prdominantly a north westerly which cause us to either sail to the coast of Columbia, or the west coast of North America, with the wind on the nose. The wind is also shifting the whole time and we had to constantly tack in order to move a bit west towards Marquesas. We did not get wind in a direction that allowed us to sail directly towards Galapagos or Marquesas. This is going to be a very long passage if we do not find the trade winds soon. First day we covered a good 97 miles with 68 miles on day 2, 48 miles on day 3 and a mere 42 miles on day 4.
We caught quite a big tuna. By the time we reeled it in, something else was more hungry than us and ate half the fish. We therefore threw it back in order for the hungry hunter to continue his feast. It was too big for us, anyway.
I had a fresh water shower everyday in the rain and managed to preserve some rainwater for washing later. Day 4 was a bit more challenging because the rain came at 1800 whilst I got used to a late morning shower. It was still very good and I was even able to wash and condition my hari. Wow, this is luxury galore!
The dying wind and the "wrong" direction caused huge frustration to the skipper. We covered a mere 255 miles in the first 8 days whilst sailing 688 miles. The first 8 days we tried to find favorable winds to take us to Galapagos. We started tacking more frequently to go lower to the equator. Reason being to change the angle of the wind on the bow that will allow us to sail west, south west. Up to day 8 we were either sailing NW or SE instead of SW.
The log stopped working again. The first time we took it out whilst sailing, I was almost hysterical. Imagine you open a hole in the bottom of the boat with a 40 mm diameter. Luckily we have a plug that we insert to allow us time to remove the barnicles. After Johan cleaned it, we remove the plug and he inserts the log again. The only inconvenience is the packing and unpacking of the locker and drying the bit of water that do come into the boat.
On one of the less windy days, there was time to service the engine, polish the stainless steel, replace the o-ring on the toilet, etc. All part of the maintenance duties of a yachtie.
We started to get cold at night, looking for a blanket to cover the body whilst sleeping. I realised that the cabin temperature dropped from 32 degrees Celcius to 27 degrees by day 8.
The cold Humboldt current is the cause of the lower temperatures. We were once again almost ran over by a cargo vessel. Luckily we installed AIS that warned us of the danger. Johan kept watch whilst I contacted the skipper of Royal Klipper to change course to avoid a collision with us. He was very friendly and took action immediately to pass at our stern.
Johan reckon that this was the most difficult sea to sail of the whole trip up to now. The most frustrating part was the low wind or no wind. The wind was also changing 180 degrees in 30 minutes. The swells are uncomfortable, looking like boiling water. The hight of the swells is low, but the direction is not consistent with the wind direction. 6 hours or more during a day without any wind became the norm. One night we wat from 19h00 until 7h00 the following morning without wind and the current pushing us back where we came from.
Sailing is a mind cleansing process where you have 24 hours a day withoug outside company. The radio does not even work. We read the Bible, books about the Bible and listen to teaching about the Bible. Johan said he started longing for the 'trees' in his life - people. Those who provided shelter from the wind and shade for the sun. Most of the trees does not exist anymore because they are in the long sleep. The rest is still as tall but drying out and the tree feller will come and visit them shortly. This also made him realise that he became the big tree to provide shelter and shade. Old wood must be chopped out for the younger to grow tall and the tree feller will be looking in his direction soon.
Looking at the stars, you realise how small you are. You realise who you are that God cares about you? A small piece of dust in the Universe and God loves me? We saw a lot of cracks in our lifes and realised there is only one way to mend it. And God said, if you love Me, obey my commandments.
On day 11 Johan caught a sailfish, 1 meter. It looked so majestic and alive. It jumped out of the water, shaked the tail and dived down again. To reel it in was quite a process. The sails does not allow you to slow down the boat and we did not want to loose the fish. When the fish was 10 meters from the boat, it however came loose. We gave a sigh of relief because neither of us wanted to kill such a beautiful fish.
It reminded me of the old testament times when you had to slaghter an animal as offering for your sins. Jesus dies on the cross for our sins and we do not have to offer anymals anymore. It however still cause great turmoil in me to kill even a fish.
Confused seas is a result of the current flowing from east to west and the wind is blowing from the south to the north around day 14. This caused swells within swells and it looked like boiling water in a kettle First 14 days the wind was blowing from SE and only changed on day 14 to a southerly wind. It feels like the most difficult part of our journey until now. It seems as if every leg of the voyage has some challenges and it is never the same. You cannot use the knowledge acquired and are therefore in a constant learning process. No training course can give you the knowledge that you need, it is only through the practical experience that you learn how to manouvre. Each boat is also different and what works on Ntombi might not work on any other boat.
Day 19 was the first really pleasant day on the Pacific Ocean. The water is not as confused as usual and the sun was shining for most of the day with blue skies and clouds only at the horison. The clouds is just as confusing as the sea. What we experienced until today was clear sky with clouds on the horison but 10 minutes later you had clouds all around you and it stayed like that for days. It was therefore a welcome change to see the sun for the whole day.
Day 22 has some "achievements". We ate the last fresh carrots and cabbage. We opened the last of the coconuts picked up at Pedro de Gonzalez island and enjoyed the sweet juice before indulging in the flesh. We crossed the half way mark from a miles perspective. What a pshychological achievement.
On day 29 we saw a fishing vessel at night and the highlight of day 31 was a school of dolphins passing Ntombi.
On day 37, the distance from Balboa equaled the distance that we still need to sail to Whangarei in New Zealand. Half way in the Pacific!
It is also Johan's birthday and he ordered Fray Bentos meat pies (tinned, bought at St Helena), but the ocean was not calm enough to cook them in the stove top oven. We decided to leave it until we get to Hiva Oa. I cooked rice, mixed with the last onion, mixed veggies and some herbs. Johan added some corned beef for his birthday dinner. We had soda cooldrink, chips and fruit cake as well. We enjoyed a simple birthday party like school kids - they say you become like kids when you get older....
Day 42 and we cannot wait for the morning to see the island. We know it is out there somewhere and if it was light we would be able to see it. What a rude awakening at 4h00 when the autopilot stopped working. I started hand steering whilst Johan tried to mend the autopilot. He struggled and eventually found the problem and fixed it, and he fixed the backup that broke sometime during the voyage as well. I had steered until 11h30 with Johan taking over for 30 minutes at a time for me to take short breaks.
We saw the island only around 9h00 due to the cloud covering it, but went through a number of squalls before we eventually arrived at 17h00, anchored in the little harbour with big rollers. We want to spend at least a week before we continue to the next set of islands.