Leg 8 - 2003, Update 2
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Charging Through the Night!
Leg 8 - 2003
Noumea, New Caledonia to Auckland, New Zealand
November 8, 2003 0100 25.48S, 166.24E, Baro: 1019+ Cabin Temp: 73F
Closehauled, double-reefed in 18kt easterlies. 205 mi to Norfolk Island
It's finally calm enough that I can sit at the nav seat without having to hang on with both hands, so I can let you know about our latest adventures enroute to Opua, New Zealand.
Our crew came aboard Wednesday at noon with 25 kt winds whistling through Noumea's Port Moselle Marina. A cold front had just passed Tuesday, and as usual, strong SE trades followed close behind. All of our forecasts (Leon from Sweden, MetService NZ, Commanders' Weather and the grib files) said the same thing: depart Thursday, expect headwinds to start with, slowly moderating as we sailed toward the center of the high that followed the front that had just passed us.
MT tied up quay side in Noumea
So, we rocketed through safety and overall orientation Wednesday afternoon and concentrated on navigation Thursday morning. By noon Thursday we'd cleared customs, paid our marina bill and set sail. The 12 miles through the lagoon waters required motorsailing, close on the wind, but once we cleared Passe Boulari we unrolled some headsail, shut the engine down and headed south. We actually steered SSW, to make it a little more comfortable.
We always warn people signing up for either Leg 1 (NZ to Tahiti) or our final leg back to NZ, to expect seriously challenging conditions. That wasn't an overstatement regarding our conditions Thursday night or Friday. Winds gusting to 34 knots, swells refracting off New Caledonia and a north-south running undersea ridge made very confused sea conditions, with half the crew (including me) succumbing to seasickness. Crew has had some great heavy weather helming and reefing experience, and everyone is over their seasickness and doing an excellent job steering.
Gradually the wind has backed to the east, moderating to 18 knots. If it weren't for the occasional CRASH as we hit one of the left over SE waves squarely on the bow, conditions wouldn't be too bad. The update from Leon and latest grib files show a fairly good weather pattern for the rest of the passage.
Silver Ruffian, a sturdy-looking unpainted aluminum 45' schooner left just two hours before us, also bound for Opua, so we enjoy chatting with Eileen and Ken every morning and evening. Eileen was captain of a NOAA research ship and met Ken, a cruising sailor and early-retired actuary from London at the Balboa Yacht Club bar. They dated over SSB radio and email for a few years before she retired from NOAA and joined Ken aboard for a life of cruising and adventure. We are now 18 miles ahead, but hope we don't get out of VHF range, because it's fun to keep in touch with them. They were the first yacht to answer our invitation in Malekula, Vanuatu to come to the kustom dance at Banam Bay.
Here's our sturdy Leg 8 crew:
Sam Parker, now aboard for his sixth leg, took time off between Legs 7 & 8 to fly to Queenstown, New Zealand and explore a little of the South Island's wild and rugged west coast. Sam hails from Newport Beach, and Palm Springs, CA and it is always a joy to have him aboard.
Leg 8 crew - Sam, Doug Leila, Mike, Linda, Doug and Matt
Matthew Callopy, 38, is a sailor from windy Chicago who owns a fleet of sightseeing boats as well as a Saga 43. He buys and refurbishes old buildings and is one of the keenest sailors we have ever have aboard. This guy relishes the thought of getting up in the middle of the night to tuck a reef in on a heaving deck with fire hose blasts of seawater!
Leila Bright, 62, grew up on a small island off the coast of Maine, next to the Hinkley boatyard. No surprise that her last boat was a beautiful Hinkley Pilot 35. Leila is an architect specializing in residential design and lives in Rye, NY. She crossed the Atlantic on the square-rigger Soren Larsen a couple years ago, an unforgettable experience, she says.
Linda Dawkins, 57, lives in Simi Valley, a suburb of LA, and recently retired as a e-learning consultant manager for an on-line learning company. She is real excited about selling their home and starting on a life of sailing adventures with her husband Mike of 29 years, and having their three young grandchildren join them in exotic ports.
Mike Dawkins, 57, will retire next year as a special agent and former SWAT team member for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Linda is happy that he is no longer crashing through doors and getting shot at, but is now a firearms instructor. For as long as he can remember, Mike has dreamed of sailing adventures. They just ordered a S& S designed Hylas 49, that they will take delivery of next year. They plan to cross the Atlantic and have already asked Matthew if he will crew for them on the crossing!
Doug Carlton, 57 is a retired investment banker from Waccubuc, NY who now runs a part-time investment service. He grew up sailing with his family on Long Island Sound and he and his brother still own the classic Allied Seabreeze 35 that their father bought new in the late 60's. Doug's dream is to cruise having his kids, aged 18, 20 & 23 and his brother and kids crew for him, while his wife Leigh is interested in flying and meeting them in different ports. He has looked at Farr 50 Pilothouse, Bluewater 56, Amel 53 and HR 53 as possible boats.
Leg 8 2003, Update 2
November 23, 2003 2200 Lat, Lon, Log, Baro, Cabin Temp
At anchor, Islington Bay, Rangitoto Island (14 miles from Auckland Harbour)
Another season (our 14th) is nearly over. I'm sorry I've gotten behind on these updates but our primary computer's hard drive died just when we arrived in Opua, New Zealand.
Let's pick up the story where I left off...
Our winds held around 25 knots, occasionally gusting 30 as we approached Norfolk Island on our third day out of Noumea. We had hoped to stop, but the SE winds made Norfolk's two primary anchorages very exposed to wind and swell. We sailed past the W side of the island, around the SW corner and had a look at Sydney Bay, where we had explored the prison ruins on our Leg 7, 1998.
Sydney Bay - Norfolk Island...now you see it
...now you don't ...as the swell rolls in
Huge swells breaking along the shoreline made it totally impossible to anchor there so we sailed back along the W side of Norfolk, looking for a sheltered anchorage. Anson Bay, which on the chart looked like the most protected in an easterly wind, was out of the question due to several submarine telephone cables making landfall there.
We found a small, unnamed bay on the middle of the west side just south of Puppy's Point that had a passable anchorage in 60' of water. Once anchored I jumped in the water and went hand-over-hand down the anchor chain until I could see the bottom, which turned out to be smooth sand and grass. Commanders' Weather had suggested stopping for 24 hours to allow for more favorable winds. so we decided to have a go at staying put. We had an amusing radio chat with the Australian Customs officer, giving him our position and intentions. He said we were welcome to stay for the night without any formalities but we would require a visa to go ashore. With 8 surfers riding the waves on the point to the south of us we had no burning desire to land ashore although crew keenly took a brisk swim and hot shower before settling in for a quiet evening with anchor watch.
Crew stand lookout as we search for an
anchorage on the west coast of Norfolk Island
The following morning we set sail for New Zealand, but by late afternoon the wind went light and variable, so we were forced to start the engine. It seems, when making the passage to New Zealand, we frequently end up racing a cold front and this year was no exception. It was three days later as we approached the northern tip of New Zealand, sighting the Three Kings Island lighthouse at sunset that the wind started to shift to a more favorable NW direction. By dawn we'd switched off the engine and set the preventer, and as we passed Nine Pins Islands, that mark the northern edge of the spectacular Bay of Islands, the wind moved forward to the beam and increased to 30, gusting 37 knots!
Linda rides the waves as we surf the coast of N.Z.
Blasting into the Bay of Islands
We didn't reef, due to the visible approaching front line, and pushed MT hard, surfing past the village of Russell at 10 knots! Everyone was hooting and hollering, and for the longest time frolicking dolphins surrounded us.
We nearly beat the cold front, but not quite. As we entered Opua's spacious new marina, the heavens opened and the winds increased. Soon we were safely tied to the quarantine dock, and AJ, the jovial customs inspector came aboard asking how Amanda's parents were doing in Tasmania. It was great to be back in New Zealand. Our crew loved the hot showers (Doug used up all the water,
Leila is all smiles at the helm
though!), the laundry at the head of the dock and the little Opua store just north of the marina. Crew hiked and hitchhiked all over the Bay of Islands, and meanwhile we made arrangements to go by Dune Rider 4WD bus (www.dunerider.co.nz) to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of NZ that we had just sailed past.
500-year-old native kauri tree
John and Brenda O'Leary, long time friends of mine had sold their logging business west of Auckland and purchased the Dune Rider bus business a few years ago. We all (plus four other yacthies) piled into John's sturdy Mercedes Unimog early one morning and were off on a wild and bumpy 12 hour trip up to the top of New Zealand.
First stop was a kauri forest where John showed us the NZ native bush that he so loves, including magnificent 500-year-old kauri trees.
The Dune ider stands her ground on 90-mile beach
The two John's load up Doug
See Doug GO!
The Tandem Pro's - John and Amanda
At Ninety Mile beach John cut off the highway and drove for miles along the edge of the surf line, stopping at some huge sand dunes for dune surfing! After struggling to the top of a high sand dune, we jumped on boogie boards and went screaming down the steep dune face towards the river below. What a rush!
Cape Reinga was amazing. We could see the turbulence and overfalls where the Tasman and the Pacific met, and with the bright sun and clear weather, it felt like we were on top of the world. We stopped at an insolated beach for a picnic and swim before driving south along the east coast.
The Fish and Chips Mafia
Buss driver John enjoying his chip buttie
Fish and chips at one of the few restaurants in the far north was our dinner, and a stop at an orchard in Kerikeri gave us the chance to restock MT's fruit bowl.
"Arrghhh"...hail the pirates, we still be sail 'in.
Soon we were sailing south with stops at Whangamumu, Whangarei (where Amanda's aunt and uncle came to visit) Kawau, Waihike and now Rangitoto. What incredible sailing we have had, hardly any headwinds, but LOTS of W and NW winds, coming off the land, and averaging 25 with gusts to 40, we have been reefed down and screaming every day.
Scenic views of vineyards and olive groves from Te Motu vineyard.
The boys chat with Debbie on the finer points of running a vineyard
We've also enjoyed some fun land excursion including a trip on Waiheke Island to Te Motu vineyard for an afternoon wine tasting and chat with owner Debbie Dunlevy.
Sunday was windy and drizzly, so we didn't go ashore on Rangitoto, but I decided to spring the test early to keep this crew on the edge. Needless to say even without warning and study time they passed with flying colors. Today Amanda and up braved the rain and fog and raced up Rangi summit in record time before challenging the crew to a final morning swim.
Matt suds up for the last time before taking the plunge
Only Matt was rugged enough to come to the party, partly because every Friday he free dives in Lake Michigan to check his fleet of boats.
Leila and Amanda pose before their past saling ships
As we blast the last few miles up Auckland harbor, in more rain, crew are very jovial in anticipation of a few days in the big city. Days of seasickness and challenging night watches are far behind as as showers, Starbucks, Steinlargers and shopping beckon.
A quick swing past the Maritime Museum was a trip down memory lane for Leila and Amanda as Leila crossed the Atlantic on the tall ship Soren Larsen in 2000 and Amanda worked on both the youth training tall ship Spirit of New Zealand and the Pride of Auckland sailing cruise yachts. Over the next few days we plan to finish our teaching with rig check and take a trip out to Muriwai Beach to see the gannets and continue with our wine tasting.
Doug up the rig
Mike and Leila winching Doug aloft
The gannet colony at Muriwai Beach
Gannet bird at rest
For Amanda and I it's the end of another successful season...and quick look back on the past 10,000 miles and 32 crewmembers brings a happy smile to our faces. We're now gearing up to haul out Friday and pack MT up for 4.5 months (although Amanda has just launched herself into a new knitting project) and a season back in the U.S. so we hope to see you soon at one of presentations. We are scheduled to speak at the
Seattle Boat Show, January 16-25 and
Strictly Sail Chicago, January 29-February 1st.
If you're interested in joining us on a future sailing expedition, please consider joining us (and Nigel Calder) for one of our three weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars as a first step preparing you for offshore cruising and our expedition. Here are our 2004 dates:
March 13 & 14, 2004: Seattle
March 20 & 21, 2004: San Francisco
March 27 & 28, 2004: Annapolis
Click here for more info on our Weekend Offshore Cruising Seminars,
Or, click here to view our exciting 2004 South Pacific Sail-Training Expedition Schedule