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Leg 7, 2002 : Suva, Kadavu, Mamanucas, Lautoka, Fiji

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Our time between Legs 6 & 7 was a treat. As soon as Leg 6 ended, we headed into town with our old friend and taxi driver, Abdul, to reprovision before departing early afternoon to return to Musket Cove.Amanda's parents, Lesley and Robert Swan had booked a bungalow at Musket Cove and were comfortably settled in when we went ashore late Monday afternoon. It was a delight to visit, sharing walks, swims, and generally relaxing together. Leslie had been working for months spinning and dying wool, collecting knitting needles and pattern books and she and Amanda spent hours chatting. Robert enjoyed a break from building houses and boats and relaxed reading, windsurfing and snorkeling.

Amanda, Bob and Lesley enjoy a sunny morning

Before we knew it a week had passed and we headed back to the mainland to Port Denarau Marina, near the airport for a last meal ashore and to see them off home to Tasmania. If any of you want a great adventure, their Swanhaven Bed and Breakfast is located on Bruny Island, just offshore of the entrance to Hobart.

Saturday saw us back at Vuda Marina for early morning market shopping and collecting spares parts and mail from Leg 7 crew. Monday dawned hot and sunny with an eager crew waiting on the dock and as we went through introductions and reasons for signing up for the expedition, each of our Leg 7 crew mentioned "heavy weather" as a reason for selecting this leg. From past experience, we had little doubt that they would have plenty of heavy weather on this passage from Fiji to Auckland, New Zealand.

Once we'd cleared customs and loaded gear aboard, we slipped our lines and headed back to Musket Cove. By now you must get the idea that really enjoy this little island paradise, and you're correct! We wanted this crew to experience the white sand beaches, protected anchorage, great hiking and exploring on Malololailai Island. After completing most of the orientation, we headed ashore for the pool and dinner. We arrived for curry night - every conceivable type of curry with Indian garnishes and great deserts made a memorable first evening.

The morning of Day 2 started with early orientation after which we gave crew a couple of free hours to hike and explore the island before leaving the mooring and heading toward Tavarua Island, surfers paradise! I had heard of this famous surf camp island and sailed past it for years, but this time we anchored so crew could delight in some tropical snorkeling before we set sail out the pass toward New Zealand. Rich Everett, a friend who works for West Marine in Watsonville was staying on the island and came out to see us off, bubbling about the awesome waves and claiming that life ashore was rather ritzy for a surf camp.

We had hoped to slip out of Fiji in the calm, sunny conditions we'd been enjoying, but that wasn't going to happen, as the wind increased to 20 knots, even in the lee of Tavarua as we raised anchor to set sail. We could see a huge dark front line offshore and by dusk the winds were at 27 knots, gusting to 35, and the seas were confused, short and steep. Every single time we have departed Fiji for New Zealand, we have experienced the same stiff SE winds and seas that seem to funnel between Viti Levu and Kadavu. The SE wind direction meant that we weren't able to hold a course for New Zealand, but my main concern was just to keep the boat as smooth as possible, easing sheets slightly and falling off onto a close reach in the boisterous conditions.

All but Nancy and Jim succumbed to seasickness, even though we had all prepared by taking Compazine suppositories. Amanda triple reefed the main and I rolled the headsail quite small, yet still we pounded along through the uneven, heaving seas at well over 6 knots. Not one word of complaint was heard, no one missed a watch or turn at the wheel, and Amanda and I kept busy emptying sick bowls down the head.

You might wonder why we didn't wait for a less windy day for departure? I had been very closely watching the weather trends for this passage since we left Honolulu, and for the first time this season, the summer weather pattern had established itself over the Tasman Sea, with high pressure cells crossing at the latitude of New Zealand, forcing the intense and serious lows far to the south. The boats that had left for New Zealand earlier this year, hoping to avoid early El Nino driven tropical cyclones, that never materialized, ended up frequently getting thrashed by the intense lows as they made landfall in New Zealand.

I saw, and Commanders' Weather confirmed, a fairly good overall passage window including what looked to be moderate landfall conditions, 6-7 days out, so we decided to depart, knowing full well that we would have some stiff headwinds. Leon Schulz who helps us nearly daily with forecasts from his home in Sweden thought we should wait a couple of days for less headwinds, but I chose to go ahead.

Day 4, Friday, November 21, 2002 2200
Position: 25.16S, 172.26 W, Log 64,185 miles, Baro 1019+, Cabin temp: 75F
Motorsailing closehauled at 7 knots in 13 knot ESE headwinds. 607 miles to Opua, New Zealand

For the first time in three days everyone is totally over seasickness. We tell people to expect it to take up to three days to feel totally right, and this passage was no exception. Sue was still feeling nauseous this morning, in spite of three days of Compazine, and asked for more suggestions of what else she could try. I asked if she would like to try Sturgeron, an over the counter seasickness medication available in Europe and Mexico, but not in the US. Within 15 minutes she felt better and within an hour she was singing and turning into a real Chatty Kathy in the cockpit. Sturgeron is not approved by the FDA, but many cruisers swear by it. An article in Ocean Navigator mentioned that the drug can exacerbate certain heart problems, so I am reluctant to recommend it, but I think it does have its place.

Once again, we have a first class crew, all ready to do more than their part and all interested in learning everything possible during the expedition. Here they are:

Nancy Bell, 54 After taking a Learn-to-Sail course in the BVI's, she came back to North Carolina, quit her job as a psychiatric social worker and bought a 20' Flicka sloop. One summer she trailered her Flilcka to Maine and lived aboard and cruised while not working as cook aboard a 110' schooner. Six months a year Nancy runs a bed & breakfast and the other six months she away sailing. Nancy and her husband

Frank Bell, 57 recently purchased a Shannon 38 that fueled a passion for adventure so they sailed to the Bahamas and Caribbean soon after purchasing their boat. Frank has been a crop duster, a military pilot and he and Nancy have flown their Twin Comanche to Kodiak Island, Alaska and Central America. Frank runs a children's summer camp for 500 kids, started by his father in 1922. Getting kids excited about outdoor activities is a passion with him. Their own kids are 26, 24 & 21 and out of the nest.

John Ferguson, 63 of Potomac, Maryland is an investment councilor, father of eight and grandfather of seven. He races his 15' Albacore in at least 50 races per year, runs marathons and dreams of competing in the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii soon. John has already signed up for our Tromso, Norway to Gothenburg, Sweden leg in 2007, even though we still haven't found a 2007 calendar to set the dates.

Jim Mathieu, 61 lives 2,500' above Denver in the Rocky Mountains, recently retired from 32 years at Lockheed and is considering an HR 40 or 43 to see more of the world under sail. He would like nothing more than teaching his grandkids to sail on his own boat.

Steve Dyer, 54 lives south of Seattle where he is a firefighter. He has been adrenalin junky for 30 years, is a former member of the Army Exhibition Parachute Team, Golden Knights and has enjoyed skiing, scuba, and motorcycles. Since high school he has been reading sailing magazines and dreaming of ocean cruising. Six years ago Steve and his wife Sue started sailing with Wind Works sailing school, and now they are totally hooked!

Steve would like to place an order for an HR 43 tomorrow, but is waiting to make sure this is something his equally adventurous wife,

Sue Dyer, 53 wants to share. Sue is a high voltage kind of girl who has done 1500 parachute jumps, has a commercial pilots license and has flown helicopters. Her passion since childhood has been horses and a few years ago they bought five acres, built a house and barn. Steve built her a living space in her three-horse trailer that she tows to endurance rides and horse camps. Her baby is a ten-year-old half Arab, half Hanovarian, named Tanzer and he's a bay gelding. In another life she sold broadcast advertising for radio stations, but she'd rather talk about horses now!

November 26, 2002 0600 33.45S, 174.12E Log: 64,698 miles, Baro: 1017 Cabin: 73F
Motorsailing closehauled at 6.7 knots into 20 kt SSE headwinds. Bumpy. 90 miles to go!

In World Cruising Routes, Jimmy Cornell says that this passage can have absolutely any type of winds speed and direction, he's right! Usually we experience some very fast sailing on this passage, but this year after the first couple days of fast and hard sailing on the wind, the winds dropped off. When they returned, they were almost exactly from the direction we need to go. As we know from many years and about nine times of making this passage, we want to minimize our time in this area, famous for volatile conditions, so rather than tack back and forth, we have been motorsailing for the past few days. We did get some great broad reaching and even once had time to rig the preventer before the wind switched.

Watching and teaching about the weather has been fun with lots of weatherfax charts arriving daily, plus

Sue searching for Bonkers
detailed forecasts from our friend Leon Schulz in Sweden and Commanders Weather in New Hampshire. Twice a day we check in with Des Renner who runs Russell Radio, a volunteer weather and tracking service for yachts making the passage to New Zealand.It has been interesting to plot the position of our friend Keith on his J 130, Bonkers. Although he left two days ahead of us, we have nearly caught him. Although able to easily cover over 220 miles per day off the wind, he has had to keep boatspeed down to 5 knots so that the boat doesn't slam too much while going upwind.

Approximately 450 yachts will have just made or are just completing their passage to Opua, New Zealand so we expect to see many friends in the dramatic anchorages around the Bay of Islands.

Leg 7, 2002 Update 2

Our New Zealand landfall couldn't have been more spectacular. The stationary high pressure that had been giving us SE headwinds provided brilliant sunny weather, and even some smooth broad reaching as we closed on the coast on Day 7. A favorable current and the good wind meant we kept moving our arrival time earlier and earlier. Originally we had hoped to just arrive at the Bay of Islands at dusk, but as it turned out we were all the way down to Opua and tied to the quarantine dock in the gorgeous new 233 slip Opua Marina ( two hours before dark.

Crew gather for an arrival photo, Opua, N.Z.
Customs officers in an inflatable boat had passed us in the bay, asking us to remain onboard until they arrived to clear us into New Zealand the following morning.

We tied Mahina Tiare then had a quiet evening, feeding the ducks and enjoying the sunset. Amanda and I were proud of our crew. They had met and triumphed over seasickness and fatigue and had all stayed on track and kept up with our fast-paced teaching schedule.

Once cleared in Wednesday morning, Day 9, crew enjoyed long hot showers and the excellent laundry in the marina building, plus watching the Louis Vuitton Cup races at the always-friendly Opua Cruising Club situated next to the marina.

Customs and Immigration
Officers clearing us into N.Z

The new Opua Marina

We declared Day 10 a free day, and crew took off in all directions while we

Des Renner at the controls of Russell Radio
caught up on boat maintenance and visited with Des Renner who through Russell Radio has helped 400 boats this year alone with weather reports and routing suggestions. We also enjoyed a lovely evening with the O'Leary's, special long time friends of mine now living nearby.

Day 11 we motored across to lovely Russell, a small old whaling town dating back to the time Lahina and Levuka were in their heydays. Now full of interesting art galleries and restaurants, we kept running into old friends. The day was sunny and surprisingly warm, but as school holidays hadn't yet started, the town was very quiet.

We next anchored off Roberton Island, a marine reserve and enjoyed hiking up to the summit for a spectacular view of the Bay of Islands.

Crew gather at the top of Roberton Island
Day 12 we had an early morning departure for a very rough trip past Cape Brett and a few miles down the coast to Whangamumu, an abandoned whaling base. With sunny warm weather we hit the beach and hiked up to the ridge for a spectacular view. After a refreshing swim we had plenty of time for Amanda to teach splicing both three strand and double braid.

M.T anchored in Whangamumu Harbour

Day 13 was another early morning departure, so early that as we were getting underway we nearly forgot that Amanda was in the water (pre-dawn) swimming laps before we got underway. We had a mix of sailing and motoring down the coast to Whangarei, ( where we motored 12 miles up the river to the colorful town center. Although we were a day early for the slip we had requested, Sandy, the assistant Harbour Master said we could stay on the visitor's slip for one night.

Sue, Christine and Nancy plot
our track to Whangarei

Whangarei has long been famous for it's outgoing and friendly attitude toward visiting foreign yachts. This year the boatyard and marine services company owners are again inviting all overseas yachties to a welcoming barbecue party with guest speakers including the mayor (also a cruiser!) and just about every marine tradesperson in town.

Whangarei town basin and river

M.T tied up at Whangarei town basin

Lou Sabin, the harbourmaster and a good friend of Amanda's father Robert told us that so far in 2002, over 230 foreign yachts had come upriver to enjoy the charms and services of this friendly town. Lou has been hard at work improving the harbour over the past year with extensive dredging, new visitors

The Whangarei Marina managers Lou
and Sandy with Cruisers Party Invite
wharf and a new toilet-shower-laundry block on the far side of the harbour. Lou said although the harbor was totally full, yachties who complete their refits soon head back downriver for further cruising grounds, and as yet he has never turned away a yachtie seeking moorage.

We enjoyed a visit by Amanda's aunt and uncle who brought her 90-year-old grandmother down to see the boat.

Day 14 we motored back down the entrance of the river to a favorite anchorage of ours in Calliope Bay.

Another early departure on Day 15 was brought to a halt when Steve discovered a live seahorse clinging to the anchor chain with its tail! With some very gentle persuasion, Steve managed to unwrap its tail and relaunch it unharmed into the bay.

Steve rescues a seahorse
from the anchor chain

Some great sailing and Lifesling practice in the morning gave way to light airs and motorsailing in the afternoon and we reached our goal of Kawau Island with plenty of hours to spare before darkness.

We had recently read that Lin and Larry Pardey were home at North Cove on Kawau Island, so we anchored off their dock. We invited them aboard for dinner later that evening, and then motored around the corner to Mansion House Bay, one of my all-time favourites. New Zealand's first Governor built a real mansion on this picture postcard island, then stocked it with all kinds of exotic animals. As we hiked the well maintained trails, inquisitive wallabies stopped hopping to stare at us and tame peacocks followed us around. After a good hike we motored back to North Cove for a swim and more Lifesling practice.

Mansion House, Kawau Island

Sue practices retrieving Steve from
the water using the LifeSling

Lin and Larry joined us for babootie before inviting the entire crew ashore to see their little boatyard, Mickey Mouse Marine, and newly-remodeled batch (kiwi for waterfront cabin). We enjoyed hearing their stories of recently rounding Cape Horn and watched the start of their new Storm Tactics video.

Lin and Larry Pardey's property at Kawau Island

Lin and Larry welcome us to Mickey Mouse Marine

Crew enjoying a tour of Mickey Mouse Marine

Day 16 we stopped in the fancy Gulf Harbour Marina,, and were amazed at the size of the yachts that had come down for the America's Cup.

Gulf Harbour Marina

Day 17 was a busy one, and we covered celestial navigation, storm tactics including towing warp and transitioning to the Galerider drogue and setting storm staysail and trysail.

Christine practices sextant navigation

Sue attaches the Galerider drogue

Retrieving the Galerider drogue

Nancy attaches the storm trysail

Storm staysail and trysail set on M.T in the Hauraki Gulf

Crew display their graduation certificates

Somehow we managed to stop at Rangitoto Island, an extinct volcano at the entrance of Auckland Harbour for a hike up to where we could watch America's Cup boats out practicing followed by our last swim off the boat of the season. We even had time to enter and slowly tour (with permission of port control) the spectacular America's Cup Village Marina on our way into Westhaven Marina.

America's Cup headquarters

Empty Alinghi base the yachts are out practicing

Christine, one of Amanda's best friends and ex-racing skipper had joined us in Opua for the trip down to Auckland and invited us into her yacht club, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to view the America's Cup and check out their very cool clothing store. Nearly all of us spent too much money on very smart shirts and jackets.

Crew pose with the America's Cup
at the Royal N.Z Yacht Squadron
Our final crew graduation dinner was at a favorite Turkish restaurant up in Ponsonby district, and then our eager crew stayed awake long after I crashed, watching the Queens Birthday Storm video.

This had to be the most dedicated crew of the season because even on the last morning while they were packing bags they volunteered to help us take the headsail off the furler to see how it is done.

All too soon crew were headed up the docks to taxis and rental cars and off on adventures of their own. Frank and Nancy were excited about two weeks of overland travel on the South Island, starting in Christchurch. They hope to make it all the way down to Stewart Island, south of Invercargill.

I can't believe our 13th season is over! It passed so quickly. Well, it's thank you time again. Many thanks to our 2002 expedition members who were so eager to learn everything possible about ocean cruising.

Special thanks to Tracy McClintock who answers questions and keeps our office so much better organized than we do.

Melonie Walter, our new web designer has totally updated our site and taken it to the next level, plus she's a sweetheart to work with.

Robert Crist at Great Getaway Travel has done a super job of taking good care of many of our expeditions member's air connections. She is a jewel!

Vickie Vance at HR Parts and Accessories has rushed us little bits and parts several times, and we sure appreciate her incredibly conscience attitude.

Leon Schulz in Sweden has again done an excellent job helping us with weather analysis and forecasts for this season.

And a special thanks to all our friends at Hallberg-Rassy yard in Ellos who have built us a boat that at six years and 62,000 miles still looks like new.

Now the real work begins for us. We haul out Monday morning for dry storage until May 1st when we start provisioning for Leg 1-2003 and will clean every nook and cranny on MT in the next few days. I think we may squeeze some time to watch the Louis Vuitton Races and maybe even a trip to Murawai, our favorite beach where I first asked Amanda if she would like to sail with me to Antarctica.

We still have some berths available for our 2003 expeditions, so just email us at to double check which legs have openings before sending in your application.

Our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars are an excellent exposure to how to realize your cruising dreams.

Here are the dates: Seattle: March 15 & 16, 2003
San Francisco: March 22 & 23, 2003
Annapolis: March 29 & 39, 2003

We look forward to Nigel Calder's excellent contributions at each seminar, and look forward to meeting you at one of the seminars.

We also look forward to presenting several free seminars at Atlantic City Sail Expo, January 9 12, 2003 and at the Seattle Boat Show, January 14 19, 2003.

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