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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Leg 8 - 2004 Fiji to New Zealand

Update 1
November 17, 2004, 0100, 19.09S, 176.52E, Log: 84,949, Baro: 1014+, Temp: 86/79 cockpit Beam reaching at 7 kts in 17 kt E winds, single reef in main, two reefs in jib. 957 (out of 1060) miles to Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand.


And what a great start we've had. Every time I can remember setting sail from Fiji for NZ, I recall SE headwinds between 35 and 40 knots. This time our winds have been east, averaging just under 20 knots and the seas have been modest. We have two crew still facing the challenge of seasickness, but the rest our Leg 8 gang are doing very well and were all eagerly lending a hand to land our first fish in months, a nice 25 lb. wahoo.

Amanda and I really enjoyed our extra long (11 days) time off between Legs 7 & 8 with nearly a week spent anchored next to Swanhaven III. Long hikes and beach walks, meals aboard and barbecues ashore at Musket Cove's $3 bar were all shared with Amanda's parents, brother David and Stuart and Jeanne, friends and neighbors of Robert and Lesley's from Bruny Island, off Hobart, Tasmania.

Wednesday Amanda's mum and Jeanne flew back to Tasmania, Friday David flew back to Wellington and soon after Robert and Stuart set sail for Tasmania, over 2,000 miles away, with a first stop in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Saturday morning we motored the 11 miles from Musket Cove to Vuda Point Marina and our good Muslim friend and taxi driver, Abdul, met us and whisked us away to the Lautoka public market and grocery stores for a last minute shop. Sunday we completed boat projects in the morning and met with crew to start safety briefing in the afternoon. Yesterday Abdul took me to Customs when they first opened, and Immigration came to the boat before lunch to stamp passports and give us our outbound clearance.

We have been watching the weather patterns for months for this often difficult passage to New Zealand, and our sources (Commanders Weather and Met Service NZ with custom forecasts) and the Fiji Met Service all predicted the modest conditions at the start of the passage that we have been having.

We've asked our crew to introduce themselves:

Leg 8 Crew: Lyall, Doug, Linda, Brad, Vicki and Alun

Linda Attaway, 50
I'm a landscape architect from Seattle and enjoy skiing, sailing and scuba diving (my newest sport). I have a Ranger 20 sailboat that has been the source of my sailing adventures for the past 24 years. This expedition is my celebration of my 50th birthday and a chance to enjoy ocean sailing. (Linda and partner Brad arrived several days early and enjoyed some outrageous scuba diving).

Brad Nelson, 51

I love to sail, ski, hike and many more outdoor activities. We are considering getting a larger boat and going cruising, using this trip to cement our goals.

I am a superintendent for a general contractor specializing in fixing damaged buildings. Linda and I find ourselves sailing in all kinds of weather on our wee yacht when our friends are all motoring and we hope this trip will strengthen our skills.

Lyall Howell, 50
I am a father of three with an interest in cruising with my family. A life long love of the ocean and now three boys and an active wife make sailing all the more attractive. After a few charters in protected waters I wanted to get some passage experience and instruction.

(Lyall is a long-time surfer; earlier in Southern California, and now off the Oregon coast (burrrr!)b. When we sailed past Tavarua Island, the famous surf spot next to Malololailai Island he told us stories of surfing there in the early days before the tiny island was world famous. Lyall is an anesthesiologist in Portland, OR)

Vicki White, 39
My primary pre-occupation would be my role as a mother and chauffeur to my two sons. On the side, I work as a feline veterinarian. I live in Calgary, Alberta but have enjoyed chartering sailboats in British Columbia as well as the BVI and Tahiti recently. My wise husband introduced me to the lifestyle with fine dining and fancy marinas but now it's time to find out what I'm made of and whether the offshore life is for me.

Alun Cooksley, 46 (aprox.)
Despite living in landlocked Calgary, I have sailed intermittently since I was 16. To quote a sage, whose name I forget, I learnt that all ills are cured by salt - sweat, tears or the ocean. I expect than an expedition like this may provide all three!

My wife Vicki and I intend to sail with our two boys Evan and David, on a Nauticat 37 which we have just ordered after checking out the factory in Finland. I love other outdoor pursuits - we ski in the winter as a family and now intend to sail together. Sometime down the road we may take off somewhere on our own boat, but not in the immediate future. Right now my life is a good balance as my work as a veterinarian compliments well the other passions and pursuits. Bula! (Fijian greeting)

(Alun emigrated from Wales to Canada fourteen years ago)

Doug McDonald, 58
I am an instrumentation engineer for an electronic manufacturer and I live in Everett, Washington. I began sailing two years ago with the objective of getting a boat myself. I'm still exploring what type of sailing best suites me; and that is my main objective for being on this expedition. I currently sail a O'Day 32 and crew on a J-92 for local racing.

Leg 8 - 2004 Update 2
November 23, 2004, 1500, 35.14S, 174.06E, Log: 85,072, Baro: 1009-
Beam reaching at 8 kts in 25-30 kts kt NNW winds, single reef in main, two reefs in jib.
Entering Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

What a sail we're having! We've been racing an intense frontal passage that is supposed to slam this coast with headwinds to 45 knots tonight and our winds have been building. The sailing is a treat as our last two days at sea held light winds astern so we decided to motorsail through the calm to make port before the cold front.

Upon leaving Fiji we experienced moderate conditions starting out with a beam reach and weather patterns that agreed with all our weather sources. After the initial adjustment to night watches and hand steering it only took a round of popcorn, a wahoo and ocean swims for the crew to settle into shipboard life. Sunny blue days, morning class and Alun's jokes were the order of the day and only two crew suffered mall de mer, a rather stubborn variety that took some days and a variety of drugs to shake.

We caught a gorgeous fat tuna as we made landfall and now bottlenose dolphins have been keeping pace with us. They take great delight jumping up in the air, turning to look at us, then splashing us upon landing! Others are zipping back and forth under MT's keel, smoking past at least twice as fast as the 8 kts we are making. On our starboard beam the wide expansive lawns of Waitangi Treaty House stretch up the flagpole, and on our port beam the historic whaling port of Russell is now visible. It is exciting to be sailing back into the Bay of Islands after a year and 13,000 miles.

November 28, 2004 1600, 35.15S, 174.17E, Log: 85,104, Baro: 1012 At anchor, Whangamumu Bay

We arrived at lovely Opua Marina before Customs and Quarantine officers went home for the day, and in just 20 minutes we were all cleared into New Zealand. The following day, after doing laundry and internet in the marina, crew took off exploring. The hiked the coast to Paihia for souvenir shopping and a local seafood lunch before catching the ferry to Russell to wander the town and museum.

Thursday, they took an all day 4-wheel drive trip with to Cape Reinga, the very northernmost tip of New Zealand, stopping to explore an ancient kauri forest, 90 mile beach and to boogie board down the sand dunes, plus big feed of fish and chips on their way back down the coast.

While they were off exploring, Amanda spent several hours at Mahina Tiare's masthead, repairing a problem with the furler. A connecting bar that holds two headfoil extrusions together came apart, damaging the internal plastic liner and ripping the sail. The local rig shop had the spare part and eventually Amanda got it all sorted out.

Yesterday another front was blowing through and we had to wait until a temporary drop from 30-35 to 20 so that we could back out of our slip in Opua Marina. As we sailed out the bay, the winds increased to a solid 50 kts, gusting 59! With only a tiny bit of jib flying, MT surfed along at over 8.5 kts. Vicki did an excellent job of navigating, continuously keeping track of the numerous unmarked rocks, reefs and dangers as we zoomed along. We found a semi-protected anchorage for lunch before sailing to a super-protected bay for the night.

This morning at 0600 the day liked bright and still and when I asked Amanda if she was ready to ashore for a run, she said, "We should really set sail now, since southerly gales are forecasted and our next stop is down the coast to the south". So in minutes we had the crew up, dinghy up and anchor up and were under way. We had a great sail, tacking all the way into protected Whangamumu where we found Hawk; Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger's racy looking Van de Stadt 47. The last time we shared an anchorage was in Kinsale, Ireland, four years ago!

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