Adventure on the Katie G

13 November 2019 | At sea
01 June 2019
31 March 2019
31 March 2019 | Annemonet Island, Majuro Atoll, RMI
26 October 2018 | Ebeye, Kwajalein Atoll, RMI
18 February 2018 | Majuro, Marshall Islands
10 December 2017 | Majuro , MArshall Islands
12 October 2017
19 September 2017
08 August 2017
09 July 2017
29 June 2017
28 June 2017
20 June 2017
03 June 2017
25 May 2017
25 May 2017
25 May 2017 | 40 NM from Hiva Oa, Marquesas French Polynesia
24 May 2017

Update no.27

31 December 1969
Karen Thomas
It is Nov.13, 2019 and I am one month away from turning 69 and beginning my 70th trip around the sun. I am excited because on the decade, I celebrate for a whole year - so how fitting to begin the next decade having completed one of my life’s dreams - to sail to far away places.

Yes, I will be “swallowing the anchor,” as they say after we land in New Zealand, and off to new land based adventures. You are probably wondering, ”well that’s all good, but what is Chuck going to do?” And we have a partial answer because, as usual, Chuck is beginning another learning adventure. Never one to gather any moss, my intrepid husband has decided to get more knowledgeable about the sport he is impassioned by and he begins a Divemaster course in Honduras on March 1st. So, enough of the bit about the next dreams and onto a brief synopsis of the last 6 months (almost).

We were over the moon when we got to Fiji on the 2nd of June. Landing in the port of Savusavu was heaven after the time we spent in the RMI, Tuvalu and the Kiribas. Fiji is all one could want in a destination for cruising. Unlimited anchorages abound and the people are forever issuing their “welcome” and “welcome back(s).” After the paucity of food available in many of the destinations we sailed to, Fiji with its overflowing abundance of fresh produce and unparalleled variety of fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices will certainly be remembered as the favourite for me so far in this adventure. Availability of meat is also a welcome treat and they have the best bacon I have ever had. Brings back the memory of what bacon should taste like from my farm girl days. Although we have an amazing selection of food in Canada, I am reminded that homegrown is always better.

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Now I must take a wee break to make the 0600 entry in the log book. Every 3 hours when sailing we do an entry. Always good to know where you are if your electronics go down. Of course that should never happen, but it does and we did have a situation where we lost all our electronics. OMG!! That story is for later. Right now, I must go. See you soon.

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The diving in Fiji is to die for! The colour, abundance of and variety corals and species of fish are, I think, the best I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I think what makes it so spectacular is the way nature has presented its treasure. Little tunnels, alcoves, plates of cabbage (search Cabbage Patch , Rainbow Reef , Fiji on YouTube). The other must see is the Great White Wall, which is also a dive on the Rainbow Reef. We had the pleasure of diving it three times and each time it was different. It is one of those dives that changes with the current and because of the situation and access, it happens at its peak about 3-4 times a month.

Think about diving through a tunnel, to about 90 feet and exiting onto a wall, that begins to turn from black to white as the coral responds to the changing current. As you swim back you see this massive white wall and you start to swim along till you come to the end and then you come into brilliant purple corals. After that there is another swim through and tunnel with an amazing variety of sea life. So very incomparable! I can’t begin to tell you about all the great dives we had. We were so lucky to have experienced the White Wall three times, but it was at the expense of not being able to go to the Lau group of islands.

Our window closed on us for that trip because of a misadventure we had in the little port town of Somosomo on Taveuni Island. We had just come from Viani Bay to provision for the Lau trip . We got into the tricky bay (lots of shoals and reefs) on an outgoing tide and dropped the anchor. We dinghied ashore and found a place to safely tie the dinghy beside a local ferry. There were several people around who were friendly and helpful about what a good place would be to be - both out of the way and still be able to access it on our return. We had a great time provisioning, finding all the needed food for our voyage. We got back to pull up the anchor and head off. We realized we would need our sails up , so we put up the main, went to start the engine and it would’t start, and of course, one switches on the electronics first and their were no electronics! WTH! We just had them, the engine was working. What happened?

Well, the tide was still outgoing and though we would have retraced our path in, via the chartplotter, now, that was not an option. So, we were sitting in a precarious position. Chuck sat a few moments and said, “well, I will switch off the starting battery and see if there is enough voltage to start the engine on the main bank (our batteries which are lifeline and not a good cruising battery we have found in our experience) and see if the engine will start.” It did by jumping the engine from the main bank.! Yeah, one problem solved, now we had to get the anchor up, and wind our way through the coral heads out to the open water.
So , with the engine running, we started to pull up the anchor (main is hoisted and flapping as we try to keep her in the wind to get the anchor up) and in a matter of moments we feel the unfamiliar tug of being caught on a balmie (coral head). So we try the usual finagling around to try to get off, but she is well grabbed. There is no other choice but for Chuck to get all the dive gear out and dive the anchor to free her up. So the current is running strong and he throws a rope around himself and ties onto the Katie G before he goes over as he would not have been able to get back to the boat or swim against the current. He heads to the anchor and it is no time at all till he has us free and comes up. He says, “there was a sizeable shark down there.""

We get underway, with me on the bow, directing through the balmies (coral heads) with a few about turns. We make our way safely out and both breathe a huge sigh of relief. However, we still have no instruments and an unreliable engine starting situation. So on a quick pow wow about our boat-issues and with our weather window for departure limited to the Lau, we abort the plan and head back towards Paradise Dive Resort where we get set on a mooring just at dusk. We head in to the bar for happy hour and are chatting about our day with Alan, one of the owners. Chuck was telling him about the shark, the kind you can’t put your arms around and Alan says, "ohh, that’s the resident Tiger that lives in that Bay. It is well- known that you never swim there after 4:00 in the afternoon (lunch time)".

Well, luckily all our excitement happened about 2:00 pm! So we had a beautiful evening, a great sleep and the group was diving the White Wall in the morning (0530 departure so we joined in - our NO. 3 on the White Wall. We got back about 11:00 and started looking at the weather as the wind had changed. That Bay is a no go with a North wind so although we did not want to leave, we pretty much had to. We headed back to Savusavu. On the way, we still had no electronics but we had sailed that water twice before, so decided we could go into Jacques Cousteau resort anchorage as we had been there many times and were not worried about where to anchor. Of course, when you get there and some boats do not have anchor lights on, it makes for a bit more excitement but all was well. We had a day or two to regroup, get an alternate starting system figured out, hoping we would be able to buy a starting battery in Savusavu (can you believe there was not one available). Then on the way to Savusavu, the chart plotters started working again. We were baffled. Subsequently, we were informed that because of the International Date Line, the chart plotters get totally mixed up as they try to accommodate for the fact you are going back and forth over the IDL with boat manoeuvring etc. as it tries to go all the way around the world too many times. So, sailboats.anchoring etc. In that tricky area often run into that issue. Had we known, we would never have gone in there to provision. The good news is, that we survived and only a few more grey hairs were earned!
When Katie came to visit in late July, we took her to Paradise Dive Resort as that had been our highlight and she wanted to get some diving in. It is a good day sail each way but we made a brief stop in Jacques Cousteau resort as well to break up the trip. The trip was short, but oh so sweet. After Kate’s departure our trip seemed to be somewhat in stall mode, biding time, so to speak, till the next anticipated highlight. We worked on a few boat projects and soon ......

We headed out for Port Denereau to meet Lance who was coming to dive with us. We stopped in a few places to dive along the way, one being Volivoli which is near the famous Bligh Waters. The diving was good but the memorable part was that we were able to get a starting battery from a local mechanic so after we got it charged up, there has been no need to jump the engine anymore. We had a great time with Lance diving out at a Resort called Toko Riki. It seemed that short time flew by as well and then it was off to a few more dive sites in the Mamanucas before starting to prepare for the passage through to NZ.

That brings us up to the current time and I sit writing this by the light of the full moon. Two days of 100% full moon in cloudless skies is a blessing we will remember forever. We will have the waning moon to complete this adventure. This passage, looked like it was to be short and The Sweet RIde. We had cancelled our checkout once because the weather window had disappeared, then a week later, we were able to rebook the checkout and we departed with beautiful winds the morning of November 2nd.

It was a bit raucous but the weather was showing good sailing and 10-12 days before the next low. The winds built over the few days and though we started with 1 reef, we were soon putting in a 2nd reef and sailing with gusts to 30. We seemed to be right on schedule if not a bit ahead with an arrival date of November 10th. Then I got up for my watch about 9:00 pm on November 5th: Chuck looked at me and said that the forecast had changed dramatically: the low that was expected to hit New Zealand November 11th or 12th was now predicted to be full on by the 9th or 10th. It took us just a few minutes to make the decision to stop the boat and wait for a clearer picture. We both felt that we needed to think about what we needed to do to be safe.

We have heard many stories from friends about how treacherous the seas can be during a low and that one just does not want to be arriving in a low. Unfortunately this season, a weather event such as this, combined with boat failure, resulted in loss of life and injury only 20 NM out of New Zealand. So, that night, we got the boat settled in the Hove To position, continued our watches and got the updated forecast in the morning.

The seas were 3 metres at that time but nothing scary. The Katie G rides well and we needed the “one hand for the boat” during the three and a half days. We were glad we made the choice we did. We would not have made it in time and would have been dealing with ugly conditions. Had we not, we would have had to hove to later anyway and likely deploy the drogue. All in all, with the weather deteriorating - and on the advice of Bob McDavit - we actually headed back North from 28 S Lat to 27 North to avoid the aftermath of the low and the big swells. Bob is a professional weather router and has guided hundreds of boats in the area over the years and has put much of his knowledge into print.

We ended up being hove to five and a half days! We were communicating with Gulf Harbour Radio (Patricia and David) by email re our position daily as well as sending Larissa and Gregory (our Emergency contacts) our GPS positions twice daily. We usually do this any time we are sailing. Thanks for all your help these last years, guys! My brother Gregory also sends out these epistles for which I a grateful.

So after many hours of weather collecting, musing, reading, podcasts and card games, watches and eating, we were able to get underway yesterday about 0430 as I said before. We are now closing in on Opua with 271 NM to go so we will be having to slow down to make the daylight arrival the morning of November 16th. As with most sailors, we do not enter an unknown port at night. Having checked the weather this evening again, it looks like we are in for some squalls/rain as we pass through the northern portion of a trough that is dissipating.
And so this wraps these wee journal moments. We would love to hear from you and will have our usual land based email when we get to New Zealand.

We will have the following satellite email address for a bit: sailkatieg@myiridium.net

So send a brand new email (simply hitting 'reply' will never make it through the satellite system) to sailkatieg@myiridium.net

There is nothing like mail to make a beautiful day at sea perfect!

Hopefully we will catch many of you at the golf course this summer, or on a visit from you or by one or both of us to you. Let’s keep in touch. Life is always too short, so let’s celebrate our relationships while we can! Sending all of you hugs and love. It’s been a SLICE!

Karen and Chuck

Comments
Vessel Name: Katie G
Vessel Make/Model: Kelly Peterson 46
Crew: Chuck Gauthier and Karen Thomas
About:
Hailing from Banff Alberta, Canada. We bought the Katie G in Dana Pt. Calif. [...]
Extra: Now we are leaving Mazatlan to head to the Baja and La Paz. A few jobs to do there and then up the islands and back across the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos to put the boat away for the summer.
Katie G's Photos - Main
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Created 9 March 2017