Our Ever-Changing Backyard--Sailing with Scoots

23 June 2019 | En route to Savusavu, Fiji, from N. Minerva Reef
20 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef
17 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
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

A mechanical bull, scheming for arrival, lovely sailing weather

23 June 2019 | En route to Savusavu, Fiji, from N. Minerva Reef
Vandy
Hello! We've been having a good passage from N Minerva. Time has a funny way of running all together, when we're on passage, and it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't sent an update since we left. Sorry about that!

We expected strong winds and 2 meter high, beam-on seas when we left the pass at Minerva. In actuality, the wind had eased a bit and the seas were only about 1.5m and just aft of the beam....so better than expected. But oh! was it bumpy! In addition to those 1.5m swells, choppy waves from two or three other directions also vied for attention, which made the ride like one of those mechanical bulls you see in cowboy bars. Oy. Moving around required hanging on with both hands like being on monkey bars.

The entire fleet at N Minerva Reef - all 9 boats - emptied out on Friday the 21st. Some left in the morning, others in the afternoon. Some were heading to Fiji, others to Tonga. SCOOTS, Rewa, and Gone With the Wind all left at about 4 pm, having calculated that our boats would need about 2.5 days to cover the distance to arrive on Monday morning. And so we three partners in crime exited the pass within a few minutes of each other. GWTW, a 52-foot catamaran, and Rewa, a 65-foot monohull, eventually passed us during the first night out.

We - as well as the crew of Cetacea - having been keeping in touch on the China Net each morning and evening, as well as sporadically throughout the day and night over the VHF radio.

Our goal is to reach Savusavu early on Monday morning, June 24. To do this, we'll need to modulate SCOOTS' speed, an interesting exercise over 2.5 days and more than 400 miles. To this end, we've put one reef, or two reefs, in the mainsail; taken the reefs out; run the motor; adjusted the sails, repeated as needed. It's certainly been an interactive trip!

After the first bumpy night, the sea conditions moderated, the ride became more comfortable, and the sailing has been stupendous! The weather has been fantastic - the wind - though backing from the East to the NE, which made the sail a close reach rather than the hoped-for beam reach, was a pretty consistent 12-15 knots; and there was not a squall in sight! The days have been sunny and the nights starry. I got to see my buddy Scorpio again, with his sharp stinger and red heart. Eric saw a bright, blazing meteor. So it's been good.

This morning, the rising sun illuminated the southernmost Fijian islands along our path - Totoya and Manuku. Land ho! We've long since passed them by, as we sail north into the Koro Sea. Savusavu, the town where we'll clear in with Customs, is about another 100 miles distant. As of right now, it looks like we'll arrive at the entrance to Savusavu Bay at about 7 am.

Dave and his crew on Rewa are several miles to the east of us; Cetacea is within eyeshot, also to our east. Liam and Annie on Gone With the Wind, changed their plans and have diverted to the west side of Fiji, to Port Denarau, to clear in there instead. Tomorrow evening we, the crews of Rewa and Cetacea and Where II, and whomever would like to join us, will raise a Fiji Bitter or Fiji Gold or Fiji Vonu to celebrate our arrival in Savusavu.

Where we are right now: 18 20.58'S, 179 46.37'E

**Remember, you can follow our daily progress at Yachts in Transit www.yit.co.nz, where I post our position and details every day.

On our way again

20 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef
Vandy
Hello! After three lovely days in North Minerva Reef, it's time for SCOOTS and her crew to move along. In a couple of hours, we'll pull our anchor up out of the sand, motorsail out of the pass, and head for Savusavu, Fiji. The trip should take about 2 1/2 days. I'll send reports along the way. Cheers, Vandy

Passage to the Tropics - Day 5: Arrival in Minerva Reef

18 June 2019 | North Minerva Reef
Vandy
Hello! SCOOTS dropped her anchor in North Minerva Reef today at 420pm local time. All is well on board, but the crew is tired. I'll update tomorrow.

Position: 23 37.89S, 178 53.67W

Passage to the Tropics - Day 4: Happy Father's Day, the China Net

17 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Vandy
Hello! We've had a lovely day and night here, since I last reported. The nearly-full moon was very bright last night. It turned a swath of sea into a golden road, sparkling with moon-shine, leading from the horizon to right where SCOOTS slid through the calm water, and lit up the rest of the sea over a vast distance. It backlit the towering cumulus clouds that loomed nearby, replacing their otherwise sinister presence with a soft, friendly glow.

The sea has been calm, and the wind very light, for the past day or so. That's nice for sightseeing, but not so good for sailing. A couple hundred miles from our destination of North Minerva Reef, we either had to slow down to arrive at the pass into Minerva at dawn in two days, or speed up to arrive before sunset in one day. Being no good at slowing down, we pressed Yanmar the Magnificent into service. He's been doing a great job of moving SCOOTS toward Minerva Reef at a speed that will allow us to enjoy sundowners there with our friends tomorrow evening.

This morning, Eric awoke to find Father's Day emails from both of our kids. Eric and I had forgotten that today is Father's Day in the States, but Kelly and Nick remembered. Well done, guys. You made your dad's day.

In addition to the usual long-range radio net that we participate in - The South Pacific Cruisers' Net - whose participants cover a few thousand miles, we have also set up an informal radio net among some of the fleet of us who left Marsden Cove last Thursday. Eric dubbed this the China Net, for reasons that I'll soon explain. Current participants include Liam & Annie on the boat, Gone With the Wind; Dave, on the boat Rewa; and Gail & Tony on the boat Cetacea. It's fun to chat with someone on another boat twice a day, to see how things are going with them.

As an aside, you may remember Dave and Rewa from my reports of our passage from Fiji to NZ last Nov/Dec, during which we and Rewa were in visual and VHF contact for the whole way. Well, once again, also by happenstance rather than by design, we're traveling in close proximity.

OK, so why the China Net? While we were all still in Town Basin Marina, in Whangarei, Liam - who, along with Annie, is Australian - began to amuse Eric with some Aussie rhyming slang. For example, the phrase "I'm gonna hit the frog," for an Aussie, means "I'm going to leave." Why? Well, it means to "hit the road." "Road" rhymes with "frog and toad." But instead of saying, "hit the frog and toad," it's just shortened to "hit the frog."

Another rhyming slang that Liam taught Eric was "china," as in "you're my china." This means "you're my best mate." Why? Well, "mate" rhymes with "china plate." But instead of saying, "you're my china plate," it's just shortened to "you're my china."

And so, because our informal net is composed of good friends, including the Aussie who shared taught us the rhyming slang, Eric calls it the China Net. Which I think is quite apropos.

Here are today's numbers... The Numbers at Noon: 6/17 Position: 26 32.11'S, 179 22.51'E Course: 026T Speed: 7 knots motorsailing Water temp: 73F Air temp: 74F Barometer: 1019 Wind: 7 knots SSW Seas: nearly calm Miles gone: 626.5 Miles to N Minerva Reef: 196.7 Miles last 24 hours: 168.3 (7 knots avg)

Passage to the Tropics - Day 3: Moderation, the magic latitude, my new electronic friend, butter, and earthquake

16 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Vandy
Hello! Last night's pleasant sail was a nice contrast to the previous night's raucous one: we enjoyed moderate wind of 12-17 knots on the beam from the west, and small waves of 1 meter or less. Very smooth, very consistent, very quiet. SCOOTS hummed along at 7-9 knots the entire time.

Last night, we crossed 30S. This is a special latitude for yachties traveling north and south in these parts, because for some reason, the fronts and troughs that are attached to the Lows that swirl around in the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and sweep across this stretch of water, seem to carry less oomph north of 30S, than they do south of it. Once you're north of 30S, the talk is that fronts that you encounter *tend* to be less severe , and you're less likely to get (though not immune to getting)sternly whacked by a front. For all the press 30S gets, you'd also expect to see rainbows and unicorns on this side of it.

What we got was a drastic reduction in the wind speed, from the 20-25knots that we'd seen the night before, to the 12-17 knots that I already mentioned. No kidding, that actually happened, right around 30S.

We had no drama today of any kind, in fact I'm having a hard time finding things to report about.

I can report how thrilled I am with our new Iridium GO satellite phone. The impetus for getting one stemmed from my difficulty in downloading weather forecasts and sending emails over the SSB (Single Sideband Radio - our usual method of acquiring forecasts and email while at sea) during our last passage. It seemed like a good idea to have more than one method of communicating while at sea. We can make calls on it, and send and receive texts, BUT, best of all, we have access to data, delivered to us by a constellation of Iridium satellites that encircle the globe. (That would be all the way around the sphere, for you flat-earthers.)

This morning, the wind did as it was forecast to do, which was to change to a direction that was right behind us, and drop in velocity. It's forecast to stay light for most of the rest of our passage, with maybe a bit more filling in in a couple of days. We'll see about that. For the moment, Yanmar the Magnificent is purring away, moving us forward at 6 knots. The waves are still less than 1 meter and the air is warming up. In fact, I've been going barefoot all day. AND, the butter has started to soften.

Oh, here's something interesting: this morning I received an email (yes, by using the Iridium GO) from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), informing us that at 1055 local time, a M7.4 earthquake occurred in the Kermadec Islands. Based on the data, there was no threat of a tsunami. But what makes this interesting to me is that the Kermadecs are only a stone's throw away from us, maybe 200 miles to the east. That's a pretty big earthquake.

That's it for today's report. Below are the numbers for the past 24 hours.

The Numbers at Noon - 6/16 Position:

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

14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
Vandy
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
Vessel Name: SCOOTS
Vessel Make/Model: Able Apogee 50
Hailing Port: San Francisco, CA
Crew: Eric and Vandy Shrader
About: We've been living aboard full time since September 2014. We sailed to Mexico with the 2014 Baja Haha and had fun exploring Mexico until April 2016, when we turned SCOOTS west and headed to the South Pacific. As of late Nov. 2016, SCOOTS and her crew are exploring New Zealand.
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Added 12 April 2017