Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
13 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
12 June 2019 | Marsden Cove Marina, Ruakaka, NZ
06 May 2019 | Paradise Taveuni Resort
04 March 2019 | Koro Island
05 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
01 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
30 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
29 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
28 November 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
26 November 2018 | Port Denarau Marina, near Nadi, Fiji
18 November 2018 | Makogai Island, Fiji
27 October 2018 | Rukuruku, Fiji
22 October 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
21 September 2018 | Leleuvia Island, Fiji
23 August 2018 | Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji
20 August 2018 | Nukobuco Island, Fiji

Passage to the Tropics - Day 2: Requiem for a sail, lots of wind

14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
The day began with light wind, mostly from behind us. We took down the mainsail and put up two of our headsails - our big Code 0 sail and our jib - wing on wing, to catch the wind. This works really well, is much quieter than having the mainsail up in these conditions, and we don't have to worry about accidentally gybing it if the wind switches from one side of the boom to the other. Later, when the wind came more forward, we took down the jib and put up our staysail, on the same tack as the Code 0.

We like our Code 0. It has worked hard for us over the past 6 years, and has some scars to show for it: Back in 2014, as we were sailing down the Pacific Coast of Mexico, our spinnaker pole broke. In the ensuing melee, the guy (one of the ropes holding the ends of the spinnaker) got loose and went zinging past the forestay, where the Code 0 was furled up quietly, minding its own business. As the guy went zinging past, it burned a hole through the Code 0, all the way down to the metal furling rod, leaving a series of holes in the sail that, when the sail was opened, looked as if it had been on the wrong end of a machine gun. We patched all the holes, and put the Code 0 back in action.

Then, in 2016, as we were crossing the Pacific, flying the Code 0, it swept across in front of the mast, getting caught on our foredeck light, which protruded forward from the mast about twenty feet up. The sail tore almost completely across, as it tried to free itself from the light. As Eric and I stood on the deck, looking up at the carnage, trying to figure out how to get the sail off the light, and then down off the furler, the sail gave one more herculean effort, ripping the foredeck light off the mast, and flinging it into the sea, freeing itself in the process. We were then able to pull the sail down, whereupon it spent the remainder of the trip across the Pacific in its sailbag.

When we got to New Zealand several months later, we took the Code 0 to a sailmaker in Opua, to see if it could be salvaged. To our delight and surprise, the sailmaker said that he could fix the sail, but that there were probably only a couple more years of life in it. He made a really nice repair, and our Code 0 was back in action, helping to move SCOOTS along to more destinations.

Today, two years later, our Code 0 was doing just that: catching the wind and moving SCOOTS north toward Fiji. The wind was still light - well below the tolerance of our Code 0. I was standing in the cockpit, looking up at the sail, when BAM!, the sail exploded. A gust must have caught it, and in an instant, a portion of the clew (the corner of the sail where the sheets - ropes - are tied) separated from the rest of the sail, still tied to the sheet. The rest of the sail - still attached to the furler - began flapping in the breeze, as pieces of sail detached and fluttered down to the ocean.

It was a very sad scene.

But we didn't have time to ponder it. Immediately, Eric and I jumped into action, furling what remained of the Code 0, and pulling in the sheet, still attached to the clew of the sail. We put on our PFDs and harnesses, clipped in, and then, as I hoisted the Code 0's cover up over the messy furling job, Eric climbed up onto the pulpit and, holding onto our jib forestay with one hand, and a boathook in the other, proceeded to stuff and prod the wad of sail into the bag as I raised it. All of this operation made more interesting by the 2 meter waves that rocked the boat. Yes, this is our life sometimes.

We eventually got the sail tucked into its cover, where it now rests, permanently retired from duty. It had a good life, our Code 0. It got to see a lot of the world, as it moved SCOOTS along over many sea miles. I guess that's all a sail would really want.

We put up the jib alongside the staysail, which, with the forecast of more wind to come, was what we would have done anyway. As it got dark, the wind began to rise. During the night, it was consistently 20-25 knots, with some periods that were 25-30 knots. Fortunately, the waves didn't rise with the wind, staying at about 2 meters. The two headsails worked great, moving SCOOTS along at 7-9 knots, with one burst of 11 knots (a record for us). All in all, it was a loud, rollicking night.

This morning was sunny, and still windy, but the direction had changed from SW to W, so we took down the staysail and put up the main (with one reef), and continued on our merry way. An albatross did a flyby. I get excited every time I see one of them. They're SO BIG!

The Numbers at Noon: June 15 Position: 31 27.12'S, 176 44.36'E Speed: 8.8 kn Course: 019 T Wind: 16kn Sea: 2m swell SW, with 1m wind waves Clouds: 40% (which means 60% sunshine!) Sea temp: 68F Air temp: 67F Barometer: 1014 Miles gone last 24 hours: 159 Miles total: 297.5

Passage to the Tropics - Day 1

13 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Hello from the South Pacific Ocean about 150 nm from the northern tip of New Zealand! All is well aboard the good ship SCOOTS, as her crew regain their sealegs and remember how to sail her after six months in port.

We left Marsden Cove Marina near Whangarei, NZ, at noon yesterday, along with 16 other voyagers, most of them our friends, and all eager to ride the favorable weather window that was forecast between NZ and the tropics. It was quite a parade that left the marina, one boat getting underway after the other, for the better part of an hour, with some conch blowing, horn tooting, and "see ya laters." A very festive end to our summer stay in New Zealand.

The first part of the trip was kind to us recovering landies...very light winds and almost-flat seas. We fired up Y the M and motored across the sunlit water. Awhile later, though, this being the Northland in New Zealand, gray clouds gathered, floated over, and rained on us for the next six hours or so. Oh well, it was a glorious start, anyway.

With more than a dozen sailboats traveling nearby, our night watches required more than the usual amount of attention to the chart plotter. Throw in a couple of cargo ships and a cruise ship - who had the job of avoiding all us boats who were strung out along the coastline - and some fun conversations on the VHF radio with friends on boats nearby, it made for an interesting night.

We'd put a reef in our mainsail last night when I came up for my 10pm watch, because of some blustery wind that accompanied a squall. Being surrounded by squalls, I thought it would be a good idea to shorten sail. However. That was the only wind we saw that was higher than 10 knots for the rest of the night, and not wanting to wake Eric up during his off--watch (sleep is golden when we're on passage), we spent the night going slow or relying on Y the M.

This morning the sun was out again and the wind was up a little - 10 to 15 knots from almost right behind us, with 6 foot waves from our port quarter and beam. A bit rolly. Friends of ours on a catamaran complained that it was bouncy. I had to laugh...monohulls like SCOOTS roll, and catamarans bounce, with the waves. We each choose our poison. We took down the mainsail and put up our Code 0 and jib, wing on wing. We ended up taking the jib down and relying mostly on the Code 0, which is moving SCOOTS along quite nicely.

I'll check in again tomorrow.

The Numbers at Noon 6/14/19: Position: 33 52.44 S, 175 38.58 E Speed: 7.7 knots Course: 012 T Water temp: 66.2F (it was 60F when we left, so that's an improvement) Wind: 15kn SW Sea: 2m swell from SW Miles in last 24 hours: 138.5 Miles to go: we don't know yet, but at least several hundred. We haven't decided whether to head for Savusavu, Fiji, or North Minerva Reef.

Getting Ready to Leave for Fiji! :D

12 June 2019 | Marsden Cove Marina, Ruakaka, NZ
Vandy Shrader

After a lovely summer and fall in New Zealand, SCOOTS and her crew are preparing to leave for Fiji tomorrow. We've been watching the weather forecasts for several weeks, and NOW is the time to go.

Lots of other boats...maybe two dozen or more!...will be departing New Zealand tomorrow for various tropical locales. We'll have lots of company as we sail north for the next 5-7 days.

I'll do my usual daily check-ins here at Sailblogs, so you can see what we're up to.

You can track our progress at Yachts in Transit www.yit.nz, where I'll also be reporting each day.

And, Eric will be updating our position at Winlink as well, which shows our position on the "Where We Are Right Now" link on the right-hand sidebar.

See you out there!

Paradise Found

06 May 2019 | Paradise Taveuni Resort
Vandy Shrader
After leaving Koro Island, in early September, we sailed north and found Paradise. Actually, it was pretty easy to find: it was marked on our charts.

Tucked into a nook in the western coastline near the southern end of the island of Taveuni, Paradise Taveuni Resort truly lives up to its name.

Taveuni Island in Fiji

Paradise Taveuni Resort

Severely damaged by the same cyclone that ravaged nearby Koro Island, Paradise Taveuni Resort has rebounded, rebuilt through the hard work and dedication of its owners and staff. (Link to Paradise Resort.)

The first hint that we were really going to like this place was when Alan, one of the resort's co-owners, answered our call on the radio as SCOOTS approached the resort. Things began well and just kept getting better.

"Good afternoon," I said. "Do you have any moorings available?"

"Let me check...." a pause. "I have two."

"Great! We'll take one. How much do you charge for a mooring?"

"They're free."

"Free?! Cool!"

"I'll send someone out with a kayak, to hand you the mooring line. See you soon."

This was the first time - ever - that we had had someone hand us the mooring line. Usually it was just one of us on the bow, hanging over the lifelines, swiping at the loop on the mooring line with a boat hook, and then pulling it up on deck to tie it.

We were going to like this place.

After SCOOTS was secured, we took our dinghy to the small rock-and-cement platform where the resort's dive boats load and unload guests, and which serves as a dinghy dock. Following the footpath up the hill, we emerged onto an expansive grassy lawn, planted with a profusion of tropical plants. Palm fronds rustled in the light breeze. Collared lories, a kind of multicolored parrot, squawked in the lofty flame tree, and swung upside-down on the branches. The sun was shining, and the air was a pleasant 85F. Around the lawn, tucked into small jungles of greenery, stood several bures (huts), accommodations for the resort's guests.

Covered patios perched near the cliff edge, overlooking the boats in the mooring field, and the Somosomo Strait beyond. What a gorgeous place!

SCOOTS in Paradise

We walked through the large, covered outdoor restaurant and entered the main building to a chorus of "Bula!"s from the resort staff, and introduced ourselves. Mags, the manager on duty, told us that the crews of boats moored at the resort are treated as resort guests. Which meant that we ran a tab the whole time we were there, and were able to use the resort facilities as if we were staying in one of the bures. The staff learned our names and knew which boat we were on. It was such a friendly and welcoming place!

During the two weeks that we stayed at Paradise, we had a truly fabulous time.

We enjoyed birdwatching,

A red shining-parrot

bass playing,

Eric and our friend, Martin, from s/v Acapella, playing bass on SCOOTS

walks along the coastal dirt road, usually accompanied by the resort's two dogs, Brownie and Beethoven, who both like to chase cars - yikes!

Walking with the boys

snorkeling, including a ride on the resort's dive boat out to the world-famous diving spot, Rainbow Reef, where we snorkeled with our own guide,

exploring around the village

We encountered an LDS church with just the essentials: a sign, a meeting hall, and an outhouse

celebrating 31derful years of marriage,

helping our friend, Karen, distribute free reading glasses to some of the local residents,

lots of tasty meals in the outdoor restaurant, where we socialized with other visiting yachties and interesting land-based guests from all over the world.

One day, we made a visit to Bobby's Farm - also known as Nabogiorno Farm - an ecological reserve just up the road from Paradise Resort. Besides learning about some of Fiji's native flora and fauna, I was really hoping to see an orange dove, a shy and seldom-seen bird that inhabits some of Fiji's northeastern islands and has been seen on Bobby's Farm.

Here is a photo of an orange dove taken by our friend, Alison, who has seen one. I haven't seen one yet.

We saw a lot of birds at Bobby's Farm - many-colored fruit doves, vanikoro flycatchers, kingfishers, orange-breasted honeyeaters, black-faced shrikebills, slaty flycatchers, spotted doves, and a dozen red shining-parrots - but not any orange doves. Cyclone Winston had devastated much of his property, Bobby said, felling trees, stripping vegetation down to the bare earth, flooding, and spraying salt water all over everything. Prior to Cyclone Winston, there had been two orange doves living on his property, a mated pair. They survived Winston, but perished at the claws of feral cats a few days later. Oh well. Clearly I wasn't going to see an orange dove today.

Bobby spent several hours showing us around his property, sharing his love for and knowledge of the local flora and fauna. He told us that he had been practicing conservation and natural farming on his property for 37 years, where his family has resided for several generations. He is hoping to raise funding that would allow him to reach out to local students and residents, to invite them to his properties for ecological programs and to teach them about the natural world around them.

On our walk, which took a couple of hours, Bobby showed us lots of interesting things...

...a grove of fruit trees (mainly citrus), where he's employed a system of propagation known as "air rooting," which we'd never heard of. Here is what he does:
(1) Cuts a ring around a stem and removes the strip of bark.
(2) Puts some soil close underneath the barkless ring on the stem. (I don't know how he does this.)
(3) Waits.
According to Bobby, the plant will sense that the end of one of its twigs is no longer receiving nourishment. Sensing soil nearby, the twig will grow roots down toward the soil.
(4) When the roots have grown a bit, Bobby cuts the branch off below them and plants the rooted twig in the ground.

Bobby also told us than when he strips the twig while the plant is fruiting, the fruiting hormones are already present in the twig, so when the twig is planted, it will produce fruit the first year.

...quite a few huge, old-growth hardwood trees that had fallen during the cyclone which he was in the process of converting into lumber, for use as building materials on the island. This was a tough job, as many of the trees had fallen in areas of dense jungle

...how to sip coconut water through natural straws - hollow sticks broken from a nearby bush - from some green coconuts that Bobby had hacked open with a machete. While we sat there, several red shining-parrots came around, hoping for some crackers. Bobby obliged

...that the middle of a sprouting coconut contains a spongy material that he calls "natural birthday cake." It does actually taste a bit like cake!

...how quickly termites can repair a breach to their home: Walking by a termite mound, Bobby pierced it with a small stick, creating a hole. Termites rushed out and swarmed all over the mound. Later on our walk, when we passed by the termite mound again, the hole was gone, the termites having repaired it so well that we couldn't even see where it had been

...what a cacao tree and pods look like. Bobby cut open one of the pods and gave us some cacao seeds to suck on: The flavor was sweet and slightly sour; and nothing like chocolate

...a tree that produces a sweet/sour fruit right from its trunk, rather than on its limbs, and

...several large species of fern that seem to be growing upside-down, with their supports on top of the fronds, rather than underneath.

When we got back to Bobby's house, his wife had made us a lovely Indo-Fijian lunch, many of the dishes containing fruit and vegetables grown on their property. We had enjoyed a very educational and pleasant morning, even without seeing orange doves.

The mooring field at Paradise is usually flat calm, nicely sheltered from the tradewinds from the southeast or east, which tend to blow most of the time. There's only one thing that turns Paradise into Hell: a northerly wind.

When we had been at Paradise for about a week, the wind shifted and began to blow from the NE, funneling along the western shore of Taveuni, kicking up a considerable amount of chop. When the chop reached the mooring field, the dinghy dock became too treacherous to use, as the area around it became a washing machine, and the moored boats began to hobby-horse on their moorings, which was not only very uncomfortable, but also threatened to rip the mooring anchors from the bottom.

Clearly it was time to take SCOOTS somewhere else. "Somewhere else" was Viani Bay, about eight miles away, across the Somosomo Strait, where the anchorage offered shelter from the strong northeast wind. We called Alan on the radio and told him that we were heading across to Viani Bay and would be back in a few days, when the wind switched back to southeast.

We enjoyed five days in Viani Bay, a lovely place worthy of a blog entry of its own. Sadly, I probably won't write one, so I've included some photos as a poor substitute. But you'll get a flavor for the place.

SCOOTS in Viani Bay

Banyans near shore where I went kayaking

Some boys who helped me launch my kayak off the beac
I went looking for an orange dove there, too, but didn't see one.

When the wind blew from the southeast again, we sailed back to Paradise, where we enjoyed another week of bliss.

SCOOTS holding up the rainbow

Paradise Lost

04 March 2019 | Koro Island
Vandy Shrader
*Though SCOOTS and her crew are hanging out in New Zealand until May or June, I've posted a blog about the time we spent at Koro Island, Fiji, from last September. Enjoy!*

We'd decided to visit Koro Island next, exiting the reef through Makogai's nebulous NE pass, rather than its main pass, to the west. The morning was calm and sunny as we pulled up SCOOTS' anchor and motored toward the pass, Eric at the helm and I at my usual post on the bow, both of us with handheld radios. Visibility was superb, and as we passed the first waypoint I was able to see the coral heads lurking nearby. Eric kindly told me when we were going to be making a turn, because it's kind of nerve-wracking to be heading straight for a reef. The waypoints were spot-on, and though I was holding my breath, we transited the pass without any drama. Hooray for accurate navigation!

I was really excited as we approached Koro Island about six hours later. Having read about Koro's verdant jungles, vibrant bird life, the eco-conscious Koro Seaview settlement, and the inviting Dere Bay Resort, and seen them in so many beautiful photos online, I couldn't wait to experience them. Maybe the resort would even arrange a birdwatching trip!

Makogai and Koro Islands

As we neared Koro, I called Dere Bay Resort on the phone number listed on their website, to inquire about tying up to one of the mooring buoys they manage in the bay. No answer. A little while later, I tried again, with the same result. No problem; we'd just tie up to a mooring buoy and sort it out with them later when we dinghied in. I grabbed our binoculars, and scanned the bay for mooring buoys and found two: one with a boat already tied to it, and another floating unoccupied nearby. As we made for the unoccupied mooring, we realized that the boat was Pilgrim, whose crew of Sheryl and Ron we hadn't seen since last year. It would be fun to get reacquainted with them.

Where SCOOTS anchored in Dere Bay

As we approached Dere Bay, on the northwest corner of the island, the hillsides and the resort's dock – a long, elegant structure that features prominently in photos on the resort website – began to come into focus, I realized that something was off. None of it was like the pictures I'd seen. Though there were some areas of jungle on the hillsides, there were also large grassy patches where trees had been ripped out, and large swaths of brown, composed of dead and defoliated trees and denuded soil.

Swatches of brown and green

The dock was neither long, nor elegant, but instead had been severed into two shorter docks – and these canted at alarming angles – with both the thatch-roofed palapa at the end, and a long middle section missing completely.

The dock from the Dere Bay Resort website

The dock as it now is

A few of the homes comprising the eco-conscious settlement stood intact on the hillsides, but all that remained of many others were foundations or a few cement support beams or just an empty, roofless, windowless husk. Though some homes were being repaired, many were in various stages of being reclaimed by the jungle and the weather, after being ruthlessly ravaged by Cyclone Winston two years earlier. In fact, I learned later that the villages at the north end of the island had been especially hard-hit.

Clearly, the storm had done more damage to Koro than I'd realized; none of it is reflected in the websites for either the resort or for Koro Seaview Estates.

After SCOOTS was secured to the mooring, I took advantage of the settled conditions; I floated our kayak and paddled around the shallow lagoon, peering down through the clear water to look at the extensive coral reefs below.

Some parts of the beach were bouncing back

Eventually I paddled toward shore, hoping to see some of the birds behind the tantalizing calls I'd been hearing. Homing in on the raucous sounds, I floated in the calm shallows near shore, scanning the trees with my binoculars. I was soon rewarded with a flash of maroon, and then a tease of blue, which soon revealed themselves to be a parrot! And then another. And another. I had some great views of the birds, which were red shining-parrots, large birds with green and blue wings and tail, and – in the variety that lives here on Koro – a deep maroon throat and chest. A stunning contrast – made even more spectacular by the bright sheen of the blue and green feathers. No wonder they're called shining parrots!

A shining parrot!

The main resort building itself looked intact, from our vantage point in the bay, but the true test came when we dinghied ashore, later in the afternoon. After swinging by Pilgrim to say hello, we tied our dinghy to the remaining section of dock near shore, and waded to the beach through knee-deep water. (The reason why the resort dock was so long is because the water is very shallow – much of it even dries out at low tide – for a long way out.)

The main resort building didn't look too bad, having either withstood much of Winston's wrath, or been repaired. Inside, we encountered a group of about a dozen ex-pats who live on Koro. Through no planning of our own, we'd managed to arrive during their weekly happy hour. Good timing! For the next couple of hours, the few employees who still worked at the resort were kept busy serving beer and wine, while we enjoyed chatting with the islanders. Some regaled us with harrowing stories of their experiences on Koro during Cyclone Winston, others reminisced about the days when they'd explored the South Pacific aboard their own cruising boats. As far as I could tell, the resort is now just a meeting place for locals; I didn't see any paying guests. No birdwatching trip was going to be booked. And I've since learned that the property is up for sale.

After happy hour, we stood on the dark beach pondering the state of the tide (it had gone out) and how best to get our dinghy back to SCOOTS (across several hundred yards of ankle-deep water). By now, the wind had come up and so we had the added luxury of being slapped with choppy waves as we slogged through the shallow water pulling our dinghy behind us, occasionally tripping or banging our shins on big chunks of debris that were hidden beneath the surface. At least the water was warm. When it was finally deep enough for us to use our dinghy, we flopped our drenched selves in and took off across the black water toward SCOOTS.

The next day, Eric and I went ashore to explore a bit on foot. As we walked on sandy paths and cracked concrete roads, we encountered several dwellings that had clearly once been quite posh, but which now had been abandoned to the insects, vines, and elements after being severely damaged by the cyclone.

A house left in shambles

We also happened upon a row of cute beachside huts, most of which were in good condition, all sitting empty as though they were waiting for tourists to return.

Cute little huts

That night we enjoyed dinner at the resort (prearranged the day before, to make sure they had enough food) with the crew of Pilgrim. We tied our dinghies to the cross-members of the dock pretty far out, hoping that there would still be enough water to float them when the tide went out during dinner, and then clambered up the wooden cross-members to the dock planks for our walk to shore. After dinner, we were happy to see water under the dinghies; not enough for us to use our outboards, but enough for us to row into the wind and chop, until we reached deeper water, farther out.

The wind blew hard for most of the time that we were at Koro, which unnerved us a bit, as, not being scuba divers, we had no way of assessing the condition of the mooring to which SCOOTS was tied. For this reason, we're always more apprehensive when SCOOTS is tied to a mooring, than when we're anchored. But this time, we were especially on edge because the two remaining moorings had been through a major cyclone and were no longer being maintained by the resort. And no matter which way the wind blew, SCOOTS always seemed to have her stern pointed to a coral reef.

After two days, we were ready to say goodbye to Koro. We slipped our line from the mooring, motored out of Dere Bay, and set our sails for the island of Taveuni, Fiji's Garden Island.

Arrival in NZ, including an unappreciated free boat wash and light show

05 December 2018 | On passage from Fiji to NZ
Dec 3-4.

After a day and a night, the fast, noisy, rolly, splashy beam reach was beginning to wear on us. Yes, we were making great time, but trying to live aboard with those conditions was somewhat sporty. Though it was a whole lot better than bashing to windward! The forecast indicated that northwest winds would eventually fill in, moving the wind angle (which was now west) behind SCOOTS' beam, making a broad reach, which is a more comfortable point of sail, than this beam reach.

A couple times an hour, Eric would tease me, �"When is the northwest wind coming?�" My answer was always the same: �"It'll be here by this evening.�" At which point he would give me a �"yeah, right�" look. I'd studied the forecasts; the wind was going to turn northwest eventually.

Sure enough, just as we were finishing dinner, the wind slowly began to clock around, ever so slowly creeping away from west, toward the northwest. Three hours later, when I woke up for my first watch, the first thing I noticed was the silence. The second thing was the steady motion of the boat. Yes! The wind had come in from the northwest! SCOOTS was on a broad reach! Cue the angels' singing. When I poked my head up into the cockpit, where Eric was finishing his first watch, I was surprised to find that SCOOTS was screaming along at 8-9 knots, with hardly a sound or a bump. Excellent!

We enjoyed this lovely broad reach all night long and into the morning, making great progress toward New Zealand without all the noise and shenanigans.

One of the absolutely delightful aspects of this passage has been the unexpected company of our cruising compatriot, Dave, who was single-handing on his lovely ketch Rewa. We left Denarau Marina a couple of hours apart, each with our own plans. Cruisers usually expect to be out here on passage alone. Even if we hoped to travel with another boat, the problems inherent in trying to maintain similar speeds in all conditions over the course of several days would make it prohibitively troublesome. But through some quirk of fate �- and probably also some complicated mathematical equations having to do with boat speeds and such �- our two boats managed to stay within one to ten miles from each other, for the entire passage. Without either of us making any changes to our own plans. It just happened.

And it was so much fun! Several times a day, and even in the wee hours of the night while we were doing our watches, we chatted on the VHF radio, about all sorts of things. When I wasn't able to get Grib forecasts over the HF radio, Dave, who has an Iridium sat phone, called over to give us a synopsis of the latest weather that he'd downloaded. For fun, Dave came up with some contests �"Guess what time we'll arrive at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.�" It's been really great, having someone else to interact with, out here on the ocean.

During our passage �- which I've already admitted earlier wasn't ideal from a weather standpoint, but was doable and was the best we could hope for in the coming weeks �- we kept a very watchful eye on the progress of the Low pressure systems and their associated fronts. In order to have a safe �- and maybe even a comfortable �- passage to New Zealand, we needed to be at the right place at the right time, with regard to these weather systems, for the entire week.

For instance, that Low that formed and spun in the Tasman Sea while we were on our way did, in fact, move south and weaken as it was forecast to do. But then it got sneaky. On the day that we were scheduled to arrive in northern NZ, the Low was forecast to re-strengthen in its new position in the south and, like a spiteful brat, throw three or four new fronts up north toward us. One of them looked like it was going to form an arc over the top of NZ, just as we arrived. If we were fast enough, we might be able to get underneath it before it formed. Go SCOOTS go!

As the sun rose on our last day, and NZ was in our sights, it looked like we had successfully outrun the final front and threaded all the necessary weather needles along the way.

And yet...

As dawn was approaching, I noticed that, every once in awhile, some of the clouds to the west of us briefly lit up. Was it the beam from the lighthouse on North Cape reflecting off the clouds? No, that was too far away. As I continued watching, and more clouds lit up, a sinking feeling came over me. That was no lighthouse; that was lightning.

During all our time in the South Pacific, we've seen very little lightning; and had none around us. Now, here, in New Zealand, were we going to sail through a lighting storm?! Yes, apparently we were. I'd expect this in Panama, but in New Zealand?! I woke Eric up a few minutes early and together we readied the boat for the possibility of a lightning strike: we disconnected our HF antenna from its tuner, attached a pair of jumper cables to the main shroud and let them dangle over the side in the water, put our various portable electronics into our green metal �"lightning�" box and the oven, and girded our emotional loins for the storm.

Had we been at anchor, we would also have disconnected our VHF antenna, but since we were sailing in an area of relatively heavy boat traffic, with decreased visibility, we left it on not only so we could communicate with other boats, but also because the antenna also carries our AIS signal, which sends our position to other boats, and allows us to see them. Already, before dawn, I'd had three communications with the helmsman of a Chinese cargo ship that our AIS was indicating would come too close to us. We eventually sorted out our respective courses, and passed about a mile apart.

With rain bucketing, and lightning streaking down to the ocean in every direction �- sometimes quite close by, the thunder shaking us only a few seconds after we saw the bolt �-Eric took a position under the dodger near the chartplotter, where, with the radar going, he monitored the storm's position and tried to steer SCOOTS around it or, when the storm grew to engulf us, through areas that weren't as dense. I couldn't watch, and since there was nothing I could do, to help Eric or to guarantee that SCOOTS wouldn't be struck by lightning, I went below and took slow deep breaths, trying to be calm. Eric would occasionally call down, to tell me what the storm was doing. We each weathered the storm in the way that suited us.

We eventually emerged from the storm, our nerves frayed but our electronics intact. A few miles to our west, Dave and Rewa had also emerged from the storm untouched. I had never been so close to lightning; Eric told me afterwards that some of the lightning strikes had been so close that he could hear them �"sizzle�" as they streaked down to the water. Yikes.

Once the storm was behind us, the wind turned from the southwest, which was in front of us. We sheeted our sails way in, and turned on Y the M to help out. With only about 20 miles to go, and no significant waves to pound into, as the wind was off the land, the ride was pretty comfortable. Dave brought Rewa close and we took photos of each other's boats and chatted on our handheld radios. He even tried to send us a message via paper airplane. Alas, it ditched in the ocean.

At 7 pm, Eric slid SCOOTS over to the Quarantine dock at Marsden Cove Marina, I jumped off with the spring line, and just like that, our passage was over. We had arrived! A few minutes later, we caught Dave's lines when he brought Rewa into the space just behind us. With our Customs clearance scheduled for the next morning, the rest of the evening �- for the few hours that we could keep our eyes open �- was spent on board SCOOTS, the three of us sharing a celebratory drink and creating a dinner using meat and produce that the Biosecurity people would certainly have confiscated in the morning.

The next day, after clearing in, Rewa and SCOOTS made the trip up the Hatea River, to the Town Basin Marina, where many of our friends �- some whom we hadn't seen in a year �- were waiting on the dock to catch our lines and welcome us home with hugs and champagne. I love this life!

Position: 35* 43.49's 174*19.64'e
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.
SCOOTS's Photos - Voyage to San Francisco
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Added 23 November 2013