Our Next 30 Years

16 February 2018 | Austin, Texas
30 November 2017 | Austin, Texas
04 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
02 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
28 October 2017 | 35 18.8'S:174 07.3'E, Q-Dock, Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, NZ
26 October 2017 | 32 50.1'S:174 35.0'E,
25 October 2017 | 31 16.8'S:174 32.7'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
24 October 2017 | 29 45.9'S:174 35.8'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
23 October 2017 | 28 04.2'S:176 12.3'E, South Fiji Basin
22 October 2017 | 25 53.2'S:175 41.1'E, South Fiji Basin
21 October 2017 | 22 50.4'S:175 32.4'E, South Fiji Basin
20 October 2017 | 20 05.3'S:176 08.9'E, SW Fiji Waters
19 October 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
11 October 2017 | Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
01 October 2017 | Mololo Island, Fiji
30 September 2017 | Mololo Island, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Lavuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
26 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji

This is why ....

16 February 2018 | Austin, Texas
Each year while we have been in the South Pacific people ask us why we make the 1,000+ nm sail from the tropical islands to New Zealand and then back again. The risk of a cyclone in the tropics during this time of year is real as Cyclone Gita is demonstrating. Damage to US Samoa and Tonga was significant. Luckily, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia avoided direct hits. It appears that the path of Gita will take it to the west coast of New Zealand where it is likely to bring lots of rain.

This is just one (but a major one) of the reasons we choose to summer in New Zealand.

Looking Back - 2017 Cruising Season

30 November 2017 | Austin, Texas
Now that we have had a chance to catch up with our family and re-establish our “dirt” life for a few months, it is a good opportunity to look back at our 2017 cruising season and review what worked and what didn’t aboard the boat.

Sea Hawk BioCop Bottom Paint. This was the second season for our bottom paint and it did great. This paint is more of a “hard” ablative paint, and has held up well to the monthly wipe downs that we (try to) do with a soft cloth. The soft growth comes off easily and while we have seen some small barnacles they also pop off easily. We have continued to have problems with the adherence of our original epoxy barrier coat, so this year we will be taking the bottom back to the fiberglass hull, fairing, and reapplying an epoxy barrier coat and bottom paint.

Maretron WSO100 Weather Sensor. Our Maretron weather sensor failed (materials of construction) the end of last season, so we removed it and worked with Maretron to replace the unit. We re-installed the re-built sensor when we returned and all seemed good - for about a month. One morning we noticed that while we were getting data from the sensor, neither the wind direction nor the wind speed was correct? Cindy returned the unit when she came back to see our new grandson, and Maretron replaced the failed circuit board component. We re-installed and the unit was up and running again - for about 2 months. I went up the mast and removed the unit and re-installed it, and miraculously it was working again. However, a month later the unit stopped working, yet when we removed the unit from the mast head and tested it at a drop at deck level, we found that the unit worked properly? For now we are assuming that the wiring run up the mast is just long enough to work without a power-tap - some-times. We will add a power drop to this wiring run, and hopefully get the unit operating more consistently. I will say that while it has been frustrating, Maretron has been good to work with.

Cruising laminate jib. After 3 seasons we had our cruising laminate mainsail fall apart (material of construction). This year it was time for the jib to fall apart (material of construction). We had been told that one of the downsides of laminated sails was that you get no warning that it is time to replace them. That was our experience, as we left NZ thinking they were in good condition, but planning that we would replace the sails the next season. Unfortunately we had to send the jib to the sailmaker in Fiji (Marshall Sails) not once, not twice, but three times for repairs. With a little luck and babying, the sail did get us back to NZ, but it was DOA. As planned, we will be replacing the jib with a new North 3Di sail for 2018. Our experience with both our own sails and other cruisers that have had laminated sails is that they are not a good choice for cruising in the tropics. The good news is that both our screacher and asymmetrical spinnaker are still in good shape.

Red Inflatable Standup Paddleboard. My iSUP had a seam failure the first season. Red (the manufacturer) was quick to replace the board with a new one. This year Cindy’s iSUP had a seam failure. Once again, Red was quick to replace the failed board with a new one.

Cruise RO Watermaker. When we recommissioned our watermaker this year, the boost pump impeller needed to be replaced. Then, once we started producing water, the quality was not as good as prior years (500ppm TDS vs 150-200ppm TDS). Working with the great folks at Cruise RO Watermakers we went through a troubleshooting process to determine that 1) our pressure relief valve had failed and 2) our membranes needed to be replaced. We lived with the product water quality (600ppm TDS is the top end that is acceptable) through the season, but will be replacing the membranes and the pressure relief valve when we commission the system next season. This season we came across a number of cruisers dealing with watermaker operational issues. After listening to their situations I am happy we have a Cruise RO system.

Dinghy and outboard. The connector on the outboard fuel line at the motor started leaking, requiring that we change out the newer, longer fuel line with the original shorter fuel line. We will get a new OEM connector for the Tohatsu outboard so that we can use the longer fuel line. The outboard carb gaskets also started leaking, highlighting the need to 1) follow the manufacturer’s recommended service guidelines and service the carb annually, and 2) keep a carb kit as part of our spares. Towards the end of the season I started the outboard and noted that very little water was coming out of the raw water outlet. While I was trying to get myself to accept that I was going to have to take the lower unit apart and replace the impeller, another cruiser came by and suggested that I take a piece of wire and make sure that the outlet was clear of any salt deposits that might be plugging the outlet. Sure enough, as soon as I reamed out the outlet the water flow returned to it’s normal strong stream! The dinghy has been abused over the years and we have never gotten around to having chaps made to help protect it. The last two months of the year I battled trying to patch a small leak. Eventually I was able to take care of the leaks using 5200 at the recommendation of another cruiser. We have committed to get chaps made for this coming year, with the hope that we can extend the lifetime of our dinghy tubes.

Rudder compartment hatch covers and other changes/replacements made last year. The modifications that we (BlueFix Boats) made last year finally got our rudder compartment lockers water-tight - yeah! We are really happy to have this issue addressed! The replacement stbd motor-controllers and motor have worked as expected, as have the replacement 12VDC house battery bank and 144VDC propulsion battery bank (Discover AGM batteries).

During the year I was reminded that I really liked our new (2 year old) North 3Di mainsail. The sail has a great shape and has performed really well for us. Our Shake Siphon, while very simple really makes fuel transfers easy. The other thing that worked really well for us this year were our new Google Fi phones. They connected easily both in NZ and Fiji, providing both local as well as international phone service and data. In Fiji we bought a local data SIM card (Vodaphone) and put it in an unlocked phone to create a local hotspot to connect to. We continue to use our Weber BabyQ grill with GrillGrates, 2-3 times a week while cruising. This year it got a new burner tube and will get a new grate this coming season - after 7 years of use, that’s not bad! Many cruisers commented that if their grills worked as well as ours, they would use it more often.

Fiji to NZ Passage Summary

04 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
Looking back at our passage and hearing the reports from the other cruisers as they arrive from the tropics, helps to put things in perspective. The bottom line is that like with an airplane, any landing you can walk away from is a good one. For cruisers, it is also important that you don’t break anything. In our case we had no issues. Others have not been as fortunate. Shorter passages are always better. Ours was 8 days (2 days shorter than last year). Others that left in the same weather system we did came in about 20 hrs earlier than us by motoring about 1.5-2kts faster than we did (4-4.5kts for us vs 5.5-6.5kts for them). Cruisers that came down in other weather systems did the trip in as little as 6-7 days and others 7-10 days. Those that did the trip in the shorter time frame saw heavier winds and sea-state than we did for greater periods of time than we did. In the grand scheme of things, both Cindy (and Jen) are probably very happy with the trade-off of calmer seas and a longer passage time. While I would have liked to have sailed more and motored less, in the grand scheme of things, we would have to consider this a good passage.

(Thanks to SV Whistler for the picture as we were getting ready to exit Navulu Passage into 25kts and 2.5m seas for our first day going south.)

Sharing with Friends is Always Fun

02 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
Once again, we were fortunate to have friends join us for the passage between Fiji and New Zealand. Our good friends Brent and Jen from Austin have spent time with us on the boat most every season. This year they elected to do the passage to NZ. We were lucky to get a few days in the islands before leaving on the passage, and we arrived in NZ early enough for them to see a little of NZ before returning to the US.

While it is impossible to experience a passage any other way than just doing it, you do get the bad with the good as Jen found out. Unfortunately we started the passage with the roughest conditions (25kts T, going upwind into 2.5m seas), but the last 4 days were very calm (lots of motoring), allowing Jen to bounce back and be able to enjoy night watches, sunsets, and the positive parts of an ocean passage. Brent was a real trooper during the first 24hrs, and helped make the passage much easier for me (and Cindy)..

I especially enjoy their sense of adventure. They jumped at the opportunity to go out to some of Fiji’s finest surf spots, including Cloud Break, Wilkes and Namotu Left. While we were all quite humbled with the experience we had a great time giving it a go - them on surfboards and me on the standup paddleboard. While neither Cindy nor I joined them for their marathon hike to Pahia, Russell and back, they had a full day of enjoying the Kiwi outdoors.

Thanks Brent and Jen for the company, assistance and above all your friendship!

Day 8 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

28 October 2017 | 35 18.8'S:174 07.3'E, Q-Dock, Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, NZ
Pulling a rabbit out of your hat. This time yesterday, I would have never believed we would be in Opua tonight. After all the motoring we were doing and to have a knot or more of adverse current pushing on you much of the day limiting progress to 3kts at time, I was convinced it would be Sunday before we ever saw NZ. And, I was wondering what I had done to make Neptune so angry when our weather router informed me that we had just missed the last of the wind. So what happened? Miraculously the current turned favorable in a big way. All of a sudden we were motoring at 5.5kts vs 3 knots. While we were never able to just sail, we had multiple opportunities to motor-sail, including today coming into the BOI under spinnaker at 6-7kts. This all meant that instead of motoring at 4kts or less, we were motor-sailing at 5kts and more! And as if to say "no hard feelings", we were welcomed to NZ by a pod of whales blowing and playing at the surface for what seemed like forever. I guess it's true - better to be lucky than good.

Day 7 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

26 October 2017 | 32 50.1'S:174 35.0'E,
Slow is boring. And when you get bored, people get creative. So I couldn't say I wasn't surprised when we received an email from SV Whistler to us and SV Mango Moon, who were all (at one point in time) within 60nm or so of each other. The email was a challenge, disguised as an invitation, to join the North American South Pacific Fishing Tournament. They were very inclusive with the rules allowing points for sightings of albatross, sea mammals, as well as actually catching fish. If you were able to take a picture, you got extra points. FullCircle responded with a resounding - we're "on like donkey kong" (I was told that response was important for purposes of trash talk intimidation in response to the challenge).

When I am bored however, I find that there is only one thng to do, and that is take a nap. The older I get the more I appreciate a good nap - any time of day actually. This, now our second day of motoring, will become yet a third day of motoring tomorrow, because we are going so slow when we are motoring. How slow you ask. Well we only cover about 200nm over the last two days! To add insult to injury we have picked up an adverse current of 0.5 to 1kt of boat speed, slowing us down even more today. And then, we get the news from our weather router that because we are moving so slow, we will miss the wind out ahead of us and leave us motoring for yet another day (at least). So if you are counting that means that we will not arrive Opua until Saturday night late at the earliest, and more likey Sunday - because we are bored, going slow motoring, rather than having fun sailing fast. Oh well - more time for naps.
Vessel Name: Full Circle
Vessel Make/Model: 50' cruising catamaran designed by Garry Lidgard
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
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S/V FullCircle

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas