Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Lautoka, Fiji, Opua, New Zealand - Log #14, Leg 7-97

Nov.25, 1997 0500
Latitude: 34.41S, Longitude: 174.08E Log: 10,661 Water: 67.3 F, Air: 64 F
Opua, New Zealand: 39 miles @ 160M Winds: 19 kts SW Close reach @ 7.5 kts

Fijian sunrise, Navada Is.

Dawn is bringing New Zealand's rugged coastline and offshore islands into view. As we've closed on the Bay of Islands winds have increased until we have two reefs in the main and jib and we've passed three sailboats in the last two hours. It's hard to believe that our last major passage of our season will be over in just a few hours!

Just six nights and 1100 miles ago we sailed from Fiji into a stiff sou'easter of 30 gusting to 36 knots. Our Leg 7 crew signed up for heavy weather on this passage which they experienced, along with some serious seasickness, right from the start. After 48 hours winds had moderated to a gentle 15 knot beam reach and everyone had gotten their sea legs.

Dec. 1, 1997 0945 35.15S, 174.11E Log: 10,737 Water: 66F,Air: 72F

At anchor, Orokawa Bay, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
In normal years the passage from Fiji to NZ guarantees stiff conditions as fast-moving cold fronts attached to low pressure cells come roaring across the Tasman. In "World Cruising Routes", Jimmy Cornell states, "Weather conditions on this route can be extremely variable and the reports from several yachts which have made this passage in recent years show that one can expect anything, from motoring in flat calm for several days, to gale force winds from ahead, or a pleasant reach all the way."

Concerned with the possibility of early cyclones generated by El Nino, this year many of the boats made the passage to NZ early, in October. Several experienced one frigid southerly gale after another with rough headseas.

For nearly all of the month of November, a huge elongated high pressure dominated 30 degree south latitude, often extending from 160E to as far as 120W. This band of high pressure forced the low pressure cells which continuously track eastwards around the south polar stationary high pressure further south than usual and prevented their "tails", the fast-moving cold fronts from whipping across the 20-30 degree south area where yachts were making their voyage south in. The result was that the 100 or so boats making the passage in November had exceptionally calm weather, many, including MTIII having to motor for three or more days in either total calm or light headwinds. Today, six days after we made landfall, the same condition persists with winds under 10 knots all of the way from NZ to Fiji. Weather forecasters are chalking this up to effects of El Nino.

Our crew was disappointed! They expected heavy weather which they got (up to 36 knots) as soon as we left Fiji. Unfortunately, by the time they had gotten over their seasickness, conditions became calm and pleasant, not what they had expected. However, when 80 cruisers from different boats which had arrived in Opua gathered at the Opua Cruising Club for a gala Thanksgiving turkey dinner, without an exception they were all extremely thankful that the passage which some had been dreading for years turned out to be a cakewalk, with the most serious problem being running out of fuel and being set toward Australia in the strong currents and light winds.

We have used the days after arrival in the Bay of Islands for practicing everything from reefing and sail trim in gusty 20-25 knot localized conditions to teaching windsurfing, splicing and going aloft. We've had plenty of anchoring experience as we have cruised among these rugged islands, often stopping to explore more than one island per day.

Leg 7 crew included:

Dave Mumper, 54 a professional forester from Gig Harbor, WA whose wife Carolyn was on Leg 6. Here's a word from Dave:

"Upon arriving in Fiji I met a smiling Carolyn who had gained new confidence. It was a total reversal of roles for her to now boost my confidence for my upcoming ocean passage. This role reversal with Carolyn taking the lead will no doubt be the highlight of my trip."

Blain Garrett, 48 is a professional forester from Thorne Bay, Alaska who is a first-time natural sailor and is interested in possibly buying a boat to travel the world searching for new places to surf. "I am amazed that passage making is so easy and totally enjoyable. I would like to say "HEY!" to my twin brother, and BULA BONG killer waves in Fiji!" Blain spent a week surfing in Fiji before coming aboard and airfreighted his surfboards to New Zealand where he plans on checking out the surf before heading home to winter in Alaska.

Jim Robarts, a 40 yr old iconoclast and computer-type from Seattle joined the expedition "to develop heavy weather skills he hopes to never need while exploring the Ring of Fire in his Crealock 34, "Miracle Girl". Though he believes that learning is the ultimate pleasure, he is pleased to find the magazines wrong and that unlike so many other disciplines all this stuff about wind, weather and waves won't be outdated in a few years.

Karl Buhl, 44 is a marketing consultant from Redmond, WA who recently took delivery of a new Hallberg-Rassy 42. He and his wife Jackie spent a week diving at tiny Qamea island before Karl joined us in Fiji and are looking forward to taking a friend's sloop from Gothenberg to Stockholm thru the Swedish canals this spring.

Colette Sparacio, 53 is an ER RN from Whidbey Is., WA who loves adventure and who earlier made a non-stop passage from Washington to the Marquesas.

Jack Sparacio, 55 is a CEO who is looking forward to spending more time on the water and less in the office in the next 2-3 years. Jack and Colette just put their well-equipped Tayana 37 on the market and are looking forward to delivery in '98 of a new Hallberg-Rassy 42 which they ordered two days before departing to join us in Fiji.


Cindy Lu taking a sextant shot. leg 6-97.

El Nino Update:

Radio New Zealand just announced that eight are confirmed dead and 11 people are still missing on Manihiki from Hurricane Martin. This last week Osea with winds to 80 knots scored a direct hit on Mopelia, Maupiti, Bora Bora and Raiatea with major damage. Yachties reported 18 of 24 people on Mopelia were killed, but the Radio NZ news didn't mention that, saying only that no lives were lost on Maupiti and Bora Bora although many homes and town halls on both islands were destroyed. If predictions hold true, the Cooks and Society Islands will have extensive damage from multiple cyclone hits, but Fiji will have fewer than normal.

To The Next Log Entry:
Log #15 - 12/21/97

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