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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Leg 2, 2002 Honolulu, Hawaii to Tahiti

Update 1
Day 7 July 22, 2002 0300 9.57N, 151.07W
Log: 58.990 Baro: 1011 Cabin Temp: 85F
Beam reaching at 5.3 kts in 9.3 kt NE winds.
1499 miles to Rangiroa, Tuamotus

Welcome to our satellite log updates for this season of expeditions, sailing from Hawaii to New Zealand in six legs. Although we immensely enjoyed our last three years of voyages from Auckland to Alaska and home to San Juan Island, then down through Panama, across to Sweden and up to Spitsbergen, through Europe and then back to Panama and west to Hawaii in February, it's a joy to be sailing back to the South Pacific.

Mahina Tiare is in great shape - we had a busy two weeks cleaning, re-outfitting and provisioning her. As this was the last time we will be near a West Marine store for three years, we replaced all her SeaGel batteries (4 8D & 3 Group 31) nearly all running rigging, one GPS and added an Iridium satellite communication system. Provisioning was a breeze, thanks to a three-week old Costco near Honolulu's airport.

Welcoming Leg 2 crew aboard at Hawaii
Most of our work was accomplished while moored at the Hawaii Yacht Club in Waikiki and we sure appreciated the generosity of club harbormasters Ron DuBois and Archie Shelton. For both Amanda and I, the HYC brings back tons of great memories. It was from the same berth that I set sail aboard Mahina, my little Vega 27 in 1974 for the Marquesas and South Pacific, and Amanda, at age 15 arrived in the States for the first time with her family aboard Swanhaven II, the 38' sloop her family had built in Auckland.

For us, putting to sea at the start of an expedition season is a relief as we've done all the work on MT possible until the next break between crews, there won't be any more phone calls or faxes to deal with, and there's the adventure of meeting new crew and setting sail again.

As expected, it was rough after leaving Honolulu. The channels in the Hawaiian Islands lived up to their reputation and it wasn't until we cleared the lee of the Big Island that we had less-confused wave patterns and started to get our sea legs. Amanda and I were both seasick for the first time in a couple of years, as were half our crew. That seems like ages ago, now that we've had some superb sailing - days of close reaching in 12-20 knots, at times surrounded by dolphins. We hadn't caught a fish until today when Amanda and Ed hooked seven and landed four mahi mahi!

Katy practicing celestial navigation

Our teaching schedule is on track, and our goal is to cover everything possible (except for going aloft for rig check) before Rangiroa so there will be maximum time for snorkeling with the sharks, renting bikes, running on the beach, checking out the two villages and maybe sunset fluffy drinks at the resort.

Everyone on this leg is considering ocean voyaging on their own boats so they are highly motivated to learn everything possible which makes teaching very rewarding for us. And nearly all of our crew are or have been involved in teaching so we're having some great discussion on effective teaching techniques, both for young people and adults.

Here's our Leg 2 crew:

Ed Epstein, 47, is an avid outdoorsman and a middle school science teacher in Denver. He is a back-country skier, snowboarder, fly fisherman and sails his Montgomery 15 on lakes around Denver. One of his life goals is to share ocean cruising with his grandson Jackson in a few years.

Bob McPeek, 58 has made this expedition his retirement present for 39 years of teaching and high school administration. Bob keeps his Nonsuch 30 on San Francisco Bay and lives in the mountains above Monterey. As his wife is from Kauai, they plan on spending more time at her family home on the beach there now that they are retired.

Marvin Fritts, 57 is another keen outdoorsman, mountain climber, skier and sailor. How he finds time to be Sea-Tac airport's operations engineer is a surprise! Marvin sailed as engineer on Exxon oil tankers for nine years and has been itching to spend more time at sea since then. He sails his Catalina 27 out of Tacoma, Washington.

Bruce Logan, 59 lives on Salt Spring Island, just 15 miles north of our home on San Juan Island. He retired as Colonel from a fascinating job in the US Army before moving to Vancouver and setting up a management consulting business. He is now semi-retiring (again!) and looking forward for more time to sail and travel with his wife Elaine. He and his brother, Dave share a Chesapeake 32 which they sail in Puget Sound and Canadian waters.

Katy Burns, 41 is a semi-retired software engineer from the San Francisco Bay area for whom this expedition is a break in the middle of a 3 month Tibetan Buddhist retreat in the south of France. She and her husband,

Tom Burns, 46 enjoy sailing their Colgate 26 on windy San Francisco Bay. Tom gets to travel around the US and overseas instructing engine mechanics for a major U.S. airline.

Our overall sailing strategy for this leg was to head to 0 North, 145W, Jimmy Cornell's suggested turning point in World Cruising Routes, to get enough easting before encountering the SE trades south. That all possibly flew out the window a few hours ago when we received an email from our good friend Leon Schulz in Sweden who looked at the weather charts on the internet and suggested we would actually have more southerly headwinds if we continued our planned course. He suggested a direct course for Rangiroa, instead! We've asked Commanders' Weather ( and Rick Sheema ( for forecasts but have already changed to a direct course. You can check our weather as well through our new link.
Update 2
Day 13 July 29, 2002
7 18S, 148.51W
Log: 60,064 Baro: 1010 Cabin Temp: 84F
Broad reaching at 7.4 kts in 17-20 kt ENE winds, 465 mi to Rangiroa

Our unusual E and now ENE winds, contrary to the normal and less comfortable ESE direction have held, and increased so that we covered 178 miles, noon to noon today. We haven't seen any squalls since 2 degrees north, and the miles just keep slipping by. After nearly a week without a fish, Ed, our keen fisherman was overjoyed to land a large mahi mahi this morning.

Steering on a beam reach with seas up to 8' requires the crew to learn a different response skill than the previous week of close-hauled helming, and now after a few days, they've become quite competent at staying on course whilst maintaining speed. With only a few tiny trade wind clouds, the sun is intense and I keep dreaming of getting the awning rigged the minute the anchor goes down in Rangiroa to provide shade and coolness for everyone.

Pollywogs to shellbacks - Equator Crossing
Amanda organized a fun equator crossing party, where pollywogs are turned into shellbacks. We have a copy of an article on the ceremony, and even certificates that John Graham (Antarctica 1996 expedition) sent us. As Bruce had mentioned missing red meat and coffee and someone else had mentioned a drink at the bar, once we reach land, Amanda marinated Spam in instant coffee and rum, and each expedition member had to tell a story, joke or poem before downing the Spam (thanks Larry Maher!) and becoming a shellback. It was all good fun and we ended up with everyone in the cockpit singing songs after dinner.

It's always interesting for us to watch how the group dynamics evolve on passages. As expedition members

Bruce celebrates his equator crossing with Spam!
become used to the motion and more confident in their abilities they begin talking of their personal cruising dreams and plans. Marvin didn't want to plan on even looking for a boat to upgrade to until he had completed a difficult passage and was sure he liked crossing the ocean on something smaller than an Exxon tanker. Today he was asking about boats designs and wondering which to look for first, the crew or boat. I encouraged him to look for the boat now, so he will have a couple years to get it outfitted and hopefully find an adventurous woman to share cruising adventures with. Katy and Tom are talking about having a boat built in Europe and possibly joining the ARC (Atlantic Race for Cruisers) for their first passage. Ed is now positive he loves cruising, just not sure of the timing with his teaching career. Bob is quite sure that he will now accept the offer of a colleague school principal friend to crew to the South Pacific with him. Bruce is sure he doesn't want to do another long ocean passage, but is talking about signing up for one of our inter-island legs next year.

Mahina Tiare has been shining - she revels in charging through confused seas, never pounding, always the perfect lady. Today she turned over 60,000 miles on the log, the equivalent of two circumnavigations. We have become quite fond of and attached to her, and look forward to giving her varnish a good sand and four fresh coats once we reach Moorea, after this expedition.

Update 3
Day 15, July 31, 2002
13.01S, 147.58W
Log:60,410 miles, Baro: 1012, Cabin Temp: 84F
Broadreaching at 7.1 kts in 12 kt ENE winds, 118 miles to Rangiroa

I awoke minutes ago to the sound of the main sheet (located just above my bunk) being eased then winched back in, then the same with the jib. This crew that has been contently enjoying the passage are now in a race against sunset tonight. If they win, we'll slip in Tiputa Pass at Rangiroa on a flood tide just before sunset. If the wind goes any lighter, we'll spend 12 hours hove to and cutting donuts well offshore, away from the coastal currents. Of course we could motorsail to ensure an early arrival, but that would take the fun and the challenge away. If we make it in the pass this afternoon it will mean that we will have sailed 2,300 miles in 15 days, two days faster than expected! The ENE winds instead of traditional ESE winds south of the equator have spelled a much faster and smoother passage than expected. That's great, because it means more time for exploring the Tuamotus.

Ed and Marvin are ambivalent about arrival. They are thriving on the excellent sailing we've had - so much so that they spend most of their off-watch hours standing on the aft deck with a hand to steady them on the backstay, just reveling in the moment and enjoying every second, not wanting the passage to end for anything, not even an exotic tropical island.

Navigation class on coral atoll landfalls

Class before landfall is always one of the most exciting, and this morning's should prove no exception. We will go over progressively more detailed charts, ending with the excellent but expensive French harbor charts of the pass and anchorage, and with Charlie's Charts of Polynesia, a cruising guide that Amanda and I have helped publisher Margo Wood in Vancouver update five times. We also have Maptech raster charts and Nobeltec Passport vector charts of French Polynesia, running on Nobeltec's latest Visual Navigation Suite and will make sure that all crew are up to date on the latest in electronic navigation. None have used electronic charting before and several are skeptical (great!) but as we believe the prudent navigator uses all tools at their disposal, we will have each expedition member plot the passage to Tahiti both on the latest French paper chart and electronically, just as we would do if this was a tricky passage in Norway or Alaska.

Our sequence for navigation follows: first plot the course on the paper chart, recording the waypoints in the logbook and entering them in our new Garmin GPS. Second, enter the exact course and waypoints in the Toshiba laptop, using it as a way of double-checking that none of the courses take us too close to land, which in this case include several low and dangerous coral atolls. Expedition members will plot our hourly positions on the paper charts, and I will have Nobeltec running at the chart table continuously, so I can easily double check everything. This triple-check system has worked flawlessly for us. Lest you think we are abandoning traditional celestial navigation, rest assured we are not! We had all the crew taking sun shots with the sextant today, and will work on latitude by noonsite again today before teaching how to reduce the sites.

Our daily weather forecasts from our special friends Leon and Karolina (Leg 5-2001 expedition member) in Sweden temporarily come to an end today as they head to Holland tomorrow, off on an exciting three week sailing adventure with their young children aboard a borrowed HR 312. This will be their first adventure in an area with very strong tidal currents and shallow and shifting channels, so we look forward to getting emails of tales of adventures once they are back home in Sweden. We're also eager to hear their reports of the unveiling of the new HR 40 at Hallberg-Rassy's Open House in late August. They (and several other ex-expedition and seminar students) have HR 39's on order and now have the option of switching the new and radical HR 40. It's hard to believe that a year has passed since we were aboard Mahina Tiare at the last Open House in Ellos, Sweden and as we sail the South Seas we wish everyone attending this years event an enjoyable weekend.

Update 4
Day 19, August 4, 2002 , 1200hrs,
17.22S, 149.26W
Log:60,721 miles, Baro: 1012, Cabin Temp: 90F
Broadreaching at 5.5 kts in 12 kt SE winds, 12 miles to Papeete Harbor.

Tahiti Beckons!
Since dawn this morning, the rugged green folds of Tahiti's windward coast have beckoned. A minor front went through in the early morning hours with our first rain and headwinds, but now the winds have backed and we've been sailing nicely ever since.

Ed checks Tiputa Pass for tidal current

Sunset landfall at Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa
After 15 days at sea, Rangiroa was a whirlwind adventure, starting with landfall and anchorage at sunset to the sound of beating drums. Kia Ora Village Hotel has been hospitable to yachties since founder Serge Arnoux came out in his Boston Whaler in 1975 to invite me to anchor off his small thatch hut resort and join him for dinner. Years ago he sold the hotel to Sofitel, a large French hotel chain, but we were happy to see they still allowed us to use their dinghy dock, rent bikes and enjoy the restaurant, and over-the- water fluffy drinks bar. Early the next morning Amanda and I cleared us in with the Gendarme and our eager crew hit the beach running, or cycling, to be exact.

Rangiroa is a tiny chain of islets, no more than a few hundred meters wide, with ocean reef on one side and sheltered turquoise lagoon on the inside. Rented bikes make the six miles to the village of Avatoru a joy and expedition members cycled to town together for a pizza and beer lunch, with a stop for a tour of a pearl farm. Bob and Bruce looked for South Seas black pearls for their wives and Katie chose a smart necklace of keishi pearls. Amanda and I looked through the modest Chinese grocery stores in the village and decided that for once, we didn't need anything, as Amanda's onboard supplies looked far better than anything ashore.

Marvin manning the Lifesling
Several expedition members joined me for power snorkeling in the pass. We dinghied out into the ocean against a four knot current, hopped into the water and held on to the dinghy as we were swept a mile along into the lagoon, passing an eel, manta ray and thousands of fish, but no sharks.

Lifesling practice was much more realistic than when we use wadded up newspapers, as this time crew took turns leaping in the water, unbeknownst to the helmsperson who had to rescue them with the Lifesling. Lots more fun, especially in 83 degree crystal clear water.

Man overboard rescue
Saturday morning was an early one; Amanda and I went for a run along the windward beach at 5:30, arriving back at the bakery by 6:30 for fresh French baguettes before dinghying back to Mahina Tiare for a swim. By 0800 the anchor was up and we were sailing for Tahiti! Instead of covering the 200 miles in our previous record of 24 hours, we have had light and variable winds, with some motorsailing, BUT WHO CARES! Tahiti lies ahead.

Mahina Tiare enjoys the calm turquoise waters of Rangiroa's lagoon

Departing Rangiroa thorough Avatoru Pass

August 4, 2002 2100hrs 17.34S, 149.37W, Log: 60,743
At anchor off Maeva Beach, Tahiti

We made it. At 1445 we sailed through Papeete Pass cruised the length of the harbor admiring the new expanded area for yachts to tie stern-to along Papeete's waterfront. There were the fewest boats downtown Amanda and I have ever seen here, but soon discovered that the Maeva Beach anchorage, 6 miles from town, was crowed. After filling up with fuel and water at tiny Marina Taina and completing a thorough scrub down to remove three weeks of baked salt spray we anchored off the Marina on a shallow shelf, not far from the outer reef. Everyone went swimming and we all enjoyed the sunset behind Moorea and a fabulous spice seared tuna that Ed landed this morning.

Early tomorrow morning Amanda and I will catch a 20-minute bus to Papeete to clear into Tahiti and to sign our expedition members off the boat. Once port formalities are finalized we'll complete the last of our expedition study topics and all zip to town for a fun final crew dinner at our favorite crazy Italian restaurant, Lou Pescadou and decedent deserts at Le Trucks on the quay.

Starvin Marvin and Tom place their crepe orders

Marvin's desert didn't last long

It's been a great expedition, with lots of learning and teamwork, thanks and appreciation.

Continue on to Leg 3 of our 2002 Expedition ->

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