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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 Whyte, 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.

Musket Cove anchorage, marina and $3 drink island

Mahina Tiare ready to go to sea - Musket Cove

Amanda shows the crew how to rig the high life lines

Lyall tells old surf stories as we pass Tavarua Island

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.

Linda and Lyall practice the ever pesky bowline

Doug enjoys his trick at the helm with perfect conditions

Anyone for wahoo?

The welcoming daily mid ocean swim

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.

Northland landfall

A welcome tuna, phew, a change from wahoo

Crew are all smiles as zoom into the Bay of Islands

The welcome committee

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.

Opua Marina

Customs agents Jo and Alan clear us into N.Z

Seared tuna for dinner, sashimi for lunch

Vicki takes a moment to enjoy the coastal walk to Pihia

A leisurely lunch stop

Still hungry, Vicki decides to cook Lyall in an old whaling pot

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.

Crew strike a pose on 90 mile beach

Lyall, the die hard surfer checks out the waves

Sand Surfing

Go Vicki Go!
Click here for video clip.
Surfer Dude races the crazy Welshman

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.

Damaged furler

Damaged luff rope of headsail

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.

Vicki keeps us well informed of dangers and depths

Mast lookout gets blast with 50 knots

Brad enjoying an exhilarating time at the helm

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!

The famous hole in the rock at Cape Brett

Mahina Tiare and Hawk at anchor in Whangamumu

Beth and Evans

Leg 8 - 2004 Update 3
December 12, 2004, 0700, Log: 85,265 miles
On the hard in the boatyard in Auckland, nearly ready to head home!

Once we had the anchor down next to Hawk in Whangamumu, Beth and Evans invited us all over for morning coffee. Our crew eagerly launched the dinghy, looking forward to meeting a couple whose books and articles they had followed for years.

Cape Horn and Patagonia dominated the conversation as Beth and Evans had just sailed from Cape Horn, around South Africa to Perth, Australia, NON-STOP! They then sailed across the entire south coast of Australia to Tasmania where they visited Robert and Lesley, Amanda's parents, and then on to New Zealand. After a winter in the Auckland area they were setting a course around the top of the N.Z.'s North Island and down to the fabulous Marlborough Sounds area and eventually Stewart Island, south of N.Z. Their next plan is to sail from New Zealand to Alaska in 2005, we're hoping to meet up with them again, perhaps in Victoria, Canada!

Whangamumu provides some spectacular hiking along a ridge overlooking the coast, and everyone of our crew headed up the coast for a good tramp, stopping by the abandoned whaling station on the way back.

Crew hike up to the ridge at Whangmumu

Native N.Z bush

On Sunday, November 28, we got a pre-dawn start on the passage south to Calliope Bay, just inside Whangarei Heads. I told crew that only those on watch needed to get up, but this entire lot of eager beavers were on deck, ready to go in the dark! It sure is fun sailing with people who are up for any adventure!

With strong SSW winds gusting into the 30's we had three reefs in the main by 1000 and anchored with moderate protection in Calliope Bay by 1300. We had hoped to hike up the hill and try and locate Alvah and Diana Simon's home, but powerful SW winds buffeted the anchorage, and so Amanda taught splicing and sail repair instead.

The following morning we waited until 0730 for a flood tide to motor 15 miles up Whangarei River to the famous town basin. Our crew successfully dodged a huge oil tanker leaving Marsden Point refinery and a loaded bulk carrier leaving the port wharves, plus got an intensive lesson in river navigation.

Heading up the river to Whangarei

Our good friends Lou and Sandy in the harbour master's office found space for us alongside the main wharf, instead of out on the pile moorings so that we could all come and go without the dinghy. The 8' tidal range and lack of a floating dock meant that we had to take turns adjusting lines and fenders and our crew made up a funny sign, trying to sell MT, fully crewed! They enjoyed having sidewalk cafes and shops pier side exploring Whangarei. This used to be a real backwater, with broken down abandoned wharves and warehouses and high unemployment. What a turnaround the town has made, with a lot of very switched on civic boosters. They tore down the old warehouses, dredged and added moorage for visiting yachts, built a stunning harbour front of Victorian buildings including showers, laundry, harbour master's office and lots of little shops, and now the town basin is a main tourist attraction. Whangarei itself is booming, with the old buildings being replaced with attractive new ones, streets blocked off and turned into parks and virtually no unemployment. At least a hundred overseas yachts spend the summer here, away from the northern cyclone season, and most spend time doing refits bringing millions of dollars to the area. There is also a very busy yacht and shipbuilding industry here. The biggest problem is the demand for apprentice boat builders outstrips the capacity of the local polytechnic boatbuilding school!

M.T tied to the wharf in Whangarei

Local architecture in the town basin

Alun befriends a local café regular

Crew get creative. I think we've been in port toooo long

We waited for the tide on Monday, pushing through a little soft mud on a couple bends in the river

Doug enjoys the view of a passing headland
before reaching deeper water. The 60 miles south to Kawau Island was sailed hard, but fortunately with the winds abeam although a solid 30 and gusting higher. Every one on Leg 8 relished the sailing conditions and eagerly took turns reefing and unreefing, keeping our speed up to make our anchorage before dark.

As it turns out, we made excellent time, and had the anchor down in Schoolhouse Cove by 1700. In no time we had the dinghy launched and we all headed ashore to explore this historic island, previously owned by Governor Gray. Mansion House, his 1850's home is a museum, complete with Victorian gardens, and the island abounds with the exotic animals he imported from around the world - they are all just running loose!

A wallaby (miniatures kangaroo) gets ready to bounce away

A peacock struts in the formal garden

The Mansion House garden

The Mansion House garden

Tuesday morning was a great time for teaching going aloft to check the rigging, except that it was still a little gusty and rolly, but this was one strong crew!

Crew going aloft

We then set sail down Hauraki Gulf past the site of the America's Cup course towards Rangitoto Island. What a perfect spot to practice Lifesling Overboard rescue. Every time we teach this procedure our crew is amazed at how simple and fast the Quick Stop system works. After hearing "Man Overboard" and seeing the wadded up newspaper victim fly over the lifelines, the helmsman simply turns the wheel half a turn to windward, leaves the wheel, carefully walks back to the port stern quarter, tossing the Lifesling in the water and returning to the wheel. By this time the boat has gone through the eye of the wind, the headsail is aback, and their job is to simply steer to pass closely by the newspaper "victim". Once past the victim, they put the helm over again, circling as one would to pick up a water skier until the Lifesling reaches the "victim". At this point they stop the boat by heaving-to, lock the wheel, and walk back and pull in the Lifesling. It really works!

We also practiced storm tactics of towing warp and setting and retrieving our Galerider drogue. Vicki and Linda did the entire drogue set and retrieval without help from the guys and ended up clowning around afterwards.

Alun takes yet another reef

Vicki and Linda perfecting the launching of the Galerider

Vicki and Linda perfecting the launching of the Galerider

Not long after setting anchor in Islington Bay, an extinct volcanic caldera, our crew was off on the two hour hike to the lava caves and to the top of the crater which has a fabulous view of Auckland City.

Alun and Doug check out the lave caves

Auckland City as viewed from the top of Rangi

Amanda and I weren't quite as energetic, but enjoyed a hike to part of the coastline we had never explored, and peering in the windows of the 60-70 year old historic "batches" or holiday cabins that are slowly disappearing as the park board gets its way.

Amanda peeks inside an ole kiwi batch

Most of our keen crew enjoyed a swim in the 58 degree water before Amanda prepared a fantastic gourmet feast for our last dinner of the season on board.

Vicki tests the waters

Weather briefing with Bob

Leg 8 crew had more interest in learning about weather than any crew this year, so I emailed Bob McDavitt of MetService New Zealand and shortly after we arrived in Westhaven Marina, we all headed to his office for an excellent briefing of how the weather in this part of the world works and how the forecasters make predictions and draw the weatherfax charts. We look forward to a similar briefing next May 3rd with our Leg 1-2005 crew.

That evening we enjoyed an excellent dinner at the same Turkish restaurant in trendy Ponsonby district above Westhaven Marina and crew hiked back, exploring town after dinner. Friday morning our crew aced the expedition test, packed bags, and then even after the expedition had ended, helped me remove, fold and pack away the mainsail and genoa. Talk about dedication!

Linda and Brad were now sure that ocean cruising is for them and we told them to look at Niagara 35's, Esprit 37's and Wauqiez Pretorien 35's once they get home from New Zealand. I fully expect to meet them out here one day! Doug and Lyall aren't sure of their cruising plans, but are looking forward to chartering with their families in exotic warm locations. And it was very exciting to hear everyone making plans to meet aboard Vicki and Alun's new Nautical 38 that will arrive in time to feature in the Seattle Boat Show a year from now. Also a special thanks to Vicki for allowing us to use her images on this update...hence all the star appearances of Alun.

It was great to end our 15th season on such a high note. Sure we were exhausted, but their appreciation and enthusiasm really made the expedition special.

Merry Christmas!

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