Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

27 November 2017 | Opua, NZ
26 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
25 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
24 November 2017 | On passage between Fiji and New Zealand
23 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
22 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
08 November 2017 | Suva, Fiji
07 October 2017 | Mana Island, Fiji
17 September 2017 | Castaway Island, Fiji
11 September 2017 | Wadigi Island, Fiji
04 August 2017 | Akuilau Island, Fiji
24 July 2017 | Nadi, Fiji
17 July 2017 | Port Denarau, Fiji
09 June 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Fiji
07 June 2017
05 June 2017

Life on the horizontal again

27 November 2017 | Opua, NZ
Vandy
We arrived in Opua at noon yesterday, tying up to the crowded Customs dock, joining the long line of other recently-arrived boats awaiting clearance from NZ Customs and Biosecurity officials. Unaccustomed as we are, to returning someplace we've previously been, we enjoyed the experience of sailing past familiar landmarks (Urupukapuka Island! Paihia! Russell! Opua!), seeing familiar species of seabirds (shearwaters! petrels! prions! gannets! gulls! cormorants!) and arriving at the familiar Customs dock at the marina, where we encountered some of our cruising buddies (Free Spirit! Pilgrim! Enough! Local Talent!).

Kelly, you asked if it feels like coming "home"; yes it does. In Whangarei, we have favorite restaurants, friends we're looking forward to seeing; even a car, Baxter, waiting for us in a field behind the Norsand Boatyard. I awoke this morning to the melodious, flute-like song of a tui, and KNEW it was a tui.

Our passage from Suva to our waypoint just outside the Bay of Islands took us 6 days and 2 hrs, giving SCOOTS an average speed of 7.25 knots for the entire trip. Speaking of SCOOTS, she gave us another safe and fast passage, converting the wind into forward motion and ignoring the waves' obnoxious behavior. The first thing we did after checking into the Bay of Islands Marina was to give her a good soaking with fresh water, washing off six days' accumulation of salt and squid slime.

After we docked, I did my usual goofy, "Look, I can stand on one foot!" flamingo pose, an act that would be injurious if attempted while underway. After almost a week of living on a slant, it feels wonderful to live on the horizontal again: I don't have to prepare before attempting to pull something from the lower portions of the fridge, having Eric hold the top shelf to keep it from guillotining my forearm as I reach deep; I don't have to calculate where to put things that I'm using to prepare a meal, so that they don't fly onto the floor, or where I can stand so that I remain in the galley when SCOOTS rolls with a particularly large wave; I don't have to brace my hands against the door of the head (bathroom) while I'm using the toilet. Such luxurious living, this life on the horizontal. I'll bet you land dwellers don't even think about that, as you live your horizontal lives 24/7!

We'll be using our time in the marina to accomplish the rest of the post-passage cleanup: laundering lots of salty clothes and towels, cleaning all the surfaces that were dampened with salt water that found its way inside during the prodigious and repeated deck washings, reorganizing all the items that shifted (or were tossed, thrown, or tumbled) during the passage; moving all the storage items from the forward cabin back to their usual spot in the aft cabin (where we slept on passage).

About a week from now, we'll make the short trip to Whangarei, where SCOOTS will rest while Eric and I fly to the States for a few weeks over the holidays.

That's it for now, from horizontal Opua.

Cheers.

The Promised Land

26 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
Vandy
SCOOTS and her crew have entered the Promised Land! No, I don't mean New Zealand, though it is a very nice place, and we will be there in just a few hours; I mean the area south of 30 degrees S, where the wind - which now comes from only one direction, the NE wind having vanquished the SE wind - has backed off a bit but is still strong enough to move SCOOTS along at a good clip, and the waves have diminished and become much more sportsmanlike. SCOOTS is racing along on a beam reach, her motion so smooth that I don't know how fast we're going unless I glance at our gauges or watch the water whooshing past her hull. We haven't had to adjust our sails in over a day, and, more importantly, No more saltwater deck washes, hooray!

Our Grib charts predicted these conditions for this part of the ocean days ago, and Eric and I looked forward to them as we and SCOOTS traversed the more boisterous conditions encountered during the first five days of our passage. As the weather router on our boat, I love it when predictions come to fruition. It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it makes me look good.

Another benefit of sailing in the Promised Land, is that life below decks gets easier. As SCOOTS' heel angle subsides and the unpredictable bounces and rolls disappear, we no longer have to walk from handhold to handhold and the activities of daily life - like cooking meals - are easier to accomplish. Think about it...if your boat is heeling, all of the horizontal surfaces in your boat are also heeling. This means that all the horizontal surfaces in your galley are now diagonal surfaces, adding a whole new element to meal preparation: if you put something down on one of your formerly horizontal surfaces (of which I admittedly don't have many, this being a boat galley, not a gourmet kitchen), and you haven't wedged it or braced it somehow, it's going to slide off. Guaranteed. I have some nonskid mats, and they help, but even they were overcome by the conditions prior to entering the Promised Land.

Once entering the Promised Land, I felt that I was up to the task of preparing our belated Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know what the heel angle had been previously, but today it was down to 13 degrees or less; manageable, but still requiring some foresight and careful planning and placement of items. I made baked pumpkin (aka "pumpkin stuff" in our family) from the last two wedges of a pumpkin given to us by our friends in the village of Naseuseu on the island of Beqa, in whose lovely bay SCOOTS was anchored for a few weeks.

And I roasted that chicken.

I was going to make some veggies, and open our can of cranberries, to round out our Thanksgiving feast, but Eric pointed out that we would probably have a hard time keeping all that corralled on our plates, the conditions still being far from horizontal. He also likes to tell people that I enjoy cooking at sea, more than I do when SCOOTS is in port, and much more than I did when we lived on land. He is correct on all counts.

So as the afternoon waned, and SCOOTS skimmed merrily along her course, Eric and I sat in the cockpit - still up under the dodger, in case a rogue wave tried to splash us - plates on our laps, and enjoyed some delicious roast chicken and pumpkin stuff. Truly, this is the Promised Land.

SCOOTS' position this morning....fewer than 20 miles from the Bay of Islands. SCOOTS will be tied up to the Customs dock in Opua by lunchtime. Kelly, we'll think of you as we sail past Paihia. :)

Cheers.

Coyote Wind

25 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
Vandy
Coyote played with the wind all day, taking it from NE to SE,then back again, keeping us on our toes as we continually adjusted our course and/or sails with the changing conditions. (In Native American mythology, Coyote is represented as a trickster.) The meteorological - rather than mythological - explanation for this is that we were in a slight convergence zone.

A convergence zone is an area where winds of two different directions come together and fight for dominance. If the difference in competing wind directions is large, you can get some pretty nasty weather as they duke it out.

The convergence zone we're currently in is slight, the difference in wind directions not that great, so the upheaval caused by the contention isn't that turbulent. What we get is that ever-changing wind direction, accompanied by clouds, mild squalls, and a little rain now and then. (Sadly, not nearly enough to wash SCOOTS' salty decks.)

On our Grib charts, where wind direction is indicated by arrows indicating the wind direction, the arrows to the east of our location were tipped ever so slightly to the SE and the arrows to our west were tipped ever so slightly to the NE; the arrow in the middle, where SCOOTS happened to be sailing yesterday, was horizontal, with its head pointed to the west indicating East wind. Kind of like the average of the two other winds, right? Well, in reality, things aren't working out quite like that.

Unfortunately for the SE wind, I know from the forecast that the NE wind is going to come out the winner. But in the meantime, it's putting up a good challenge, keeping the crew of SCOOTS busy. I can just hear Coyote's yipping laughter over the sounds of the wind and sea.

I went on deck again yesterday and am happy to report that the foc'sle has no more visible water in it anymore, the bilge pump having sent it all back into the ocean where it belongs, and keeping up with any new ingresses.

I am also happy to report that as we crossed over 30 degrees south - which I was calling "the promised land" as our Grib charts indicated that the wind would fall below 20 knots and the waves would diminish to 2m or less - these things did in fact happen. At the moment, SCOOTS is sailing along at between 7 and 8 knots in 15 knots of ENE winds, across mostly well-behaved, 1 meter waves. Some waves still feel the need to slap SCOOTS as they go by, showering her deck with spray. There are some in every crowd.

I'm definitely going to cook that chicken today.

SCOOTS' position this morning (31* 42s, 177 29e)

Some highlights from the last 24 aboard SCOOTS...

24 November 2017 | On passage between Fiji and New Zealand
Vandy
-Another boisterous day: lots of wind and mixed seas up to 3m, described by another sailor as "unsportsmanlike". An apt description. Moving around required going from handhold to handhold; we sat on the low side of the boat, or wedged ourselves into corners. In the cockpit, we huddled under the hard dodger (LOVE that hard dodger!) to avoid being soaked by the salt water that continually soaked the back of the cockpit. But we're making good time...we were going 7-8 knots most of the day. SCOOTS could have gone faster, but we held her back to try to minimize the volume of water washing over her bow. This because we were concerned that the foc'sle (sail locker) might be taking some water through its hatch.

To this end, I put on my harness, and bathing suit, and went forward to (1) see whether the bilge pump in the locker was spewing water out its outlet in the hull (it was), (2) see whether there was water in the sail locker (there was), (3) collect the staysail sheet (line) that had come loose and draped over the low side of the boat, and then rig both staysail sheets, and 4) tidy up the deck a bit, coil and secure lines that had come loose. We started by slowing SCOOTS down so she tended to ride over the waves, rather than bash into them, which kept me pretty dry on deck.

-Eric wrote a song during one of his watches, a bluesey piece he calls "The Gulf Harbour Blues," (Gulf Harbour Radio being the station we check into and listen to each morning for weather).

-During the night, as we sailed past 28 degrees south, the wind went from strong and from a pretty constant direction to fluky in both strength and direction. As he came off his watch, Eric joked that Coyote the Trickster is running the weather at the moment. LOL I think he's right. We're doing our best to adjust the sails and keep as close to our desired course as we can. But at least the waves have become friendlier...they're only about a meter now, rather than the 3 meters they have been for the past few days. Moving around the cabin should be easier now, and maybe we can also venture out from under the dodger today.

Anyway, things are good aboard SCOOTS as she closes within 375 miles of NZ. As I write this, the sun is rising, a big apricot peeking out from behind some clouds at the horizon. It's going to be a lovely day. I've started thawing out the chicken I'd intended to make for our Thanksgiving dinner. I think conditions might be reasonable enough that I can cook it today or tomorrow. If we don't eat it before we arrive in NZ, the nice biosecurity men will likely take it from us and put it into their big black official biosecurity trash bag. Which would be a real shame.

SCOOTS Day 4 position: 28* 51s, 174* 38e

Cheers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
Vandy
It's been another wet and boisterous day aboard SCOOTS, but we're still making good progress toward New Zealand. I'll bet you never fell out of your kitchen and landed in the chair in your office. LOL, I did. One hand for the boat, Vandy. The sun came out and we had blue sky to accompany the 20 knot winds and 2.5 m seas. Pelagic seabirds - shearwaters and the like - have started to make an appearance. The water is 73 degrees now...way below Vandy-approved. We'll pass the halfway point sometime this morning. We've started wearing long pants and sweatshirts/jackets during our night watches. I'll be digging out the rest of our cold weather clothes soon. Sadly, the conditions are too bumpy and rolly for me even to attempt to make a Thanksgiving dinner. We'll just have to do it later, when things smooth out.

While on watch last night, I compiled a list of Things I'm Thankful for, Right here, Right now... ..hatches that don't leak ..the presence of an experienced sailor, mechanic, electrician, and lover on board with me ..SCOOTS' high freeboard ..lots of dry clothes ..a hard dodger with a dry space underneath ..a dependable autopilot ..pre-prepared meals that can be eaten in bowls ..handholds ..hot coffee in the morning, hot meals in the evening ..the second reef in the mainsail ..furling headsails ..access to weather, email and other sailors via our radios ..a strong, fast, sturdy boat ..a strong body, and a strong stomach ..the sunrise every morning, stars at night ..beautiful, magical bioluminescence ..waves that, while choppy and gnarly, aren't more than 3m high ..the knowledge that I won't be in these conditions for more than a few days ..off-watch sleeping periods ..working bilge pumps ..my PFD and safety harness ..a life that allows me to make a list like this

And of course, I'm thankful for my family and friends. Thanks for sharing Thanksgiving with us today.

This morning SCOOTS is at 25* 20's, 175* 26'e.

Cheers.

All is well

22 November 2017 | On passage beween Fiji and New Zealand
Vandy
We left Suva two days ago, bound for Opua, NZ, about 1050 miles away. Sailors say that a passage can be either comfortable OR fast, but not both...let's just say we're making good time. Conditions are a bit wet and bumpy, not conducive to long stints down below in front of a computer, so I'm not going to bore you with all the details of our trip thus far.

Here are our 24 hour positions on Day 1: 20* 32's, 177* 24'e and Day 2 23* 20's, 176* 15'e

I just wanted to let everyone know all is well aboard SCOOTS.

Cheers, Vandy and Eric
Vessel Name: SCOOTS
Vessel Make/Model: Able Apogee 50
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed to Mexico with the 2014 Baja Haha and had fun exploring Mexico until April 2016, when we turned SCOOTS west and headed to the South Pacific. As of late Nov. 2016, SCOOTS and her crew are exploring New Zealand.
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