02 May 2019 | Whangarei Marina
22 November 2012 | New Zealand
27 October 2012 | Tongatapu
28 September 2012 | Tahiti
09 September 2012 | Apataki
01 September 2012 | Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas
14 July 2012 | Pedro de Gonzalez, Las Perlas
20 June 2012 | Curacao Spaanse waters
20 June 2012 | We left Bonaire at 24h00 in order to arrive at Curacao during daybreak. The sail was very bumpy due to the direction of the waves in the strong wind. We did not sail with the main, but only the headsail with the pole. The wind was mostly from the stern
17 June 2012 | Kralendijk, Bonaire
23 May 2012 | Chaguaramas, Trinidad
20 May 2012 | Storebay, Tobago
15 May 2012 | Scarborough Tobago
30 April 2012 | Fortaleza, Brazil
26 April 2012 | Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
02 May 2019 | Whangarei Marina
Johan & Francina Botha
C'est la Vie has undergone a total transformation. She was redecorated in green to suit her new name. New sails were added to the outfit. New gadgets were installed and she is seaworthy at last. The authorities allowed others to use her name, which forced the renaming of C'est la Vie to Ntombi. The young girl has grown a couple of feet, and the height increased with the breadth. She is not as young anymore, but her experience sailing from South Africa back and forth in the Atlantic to Mediterranean and Caribbean seas, Panama channel and crossing the Pacific to New Zealand give us confidence that she will be able to sail to Fiji this season.
Ntombi to Darwin
23 September 2018
Johan en Francina
Sadly we upgraded to a much needed bigger yacht. Life was getting a bit difficult without the needed headroom to stand up.
We bought C'est la Vie as a project boat and are almost at the end where we can sail her to Great Barrier island and others. Exploring the seas around New Zealand.
Ntombi was handed over to her new owner who planned to sail her to Darwin. She should be in her new home by now.
22 November 2012 | New Zealand
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.
Tonga updated 9/11/12
27 October 2012 | Tongatapu
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.
28 September 2012 | Tahiti
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.
09 September 2012 | Apataki
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.