Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Update 1
November 3, 2010, 0700 hrs, 30.59 S, 169.24 E, Log: 143,967 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 70 F cockpit 65 F, sea water 68.2 F
NE winds 22-26 kts, 9’ subsiding seas
Beam reaching at 7.4 kts with triple reefed main and genoa


Aerial view of Port Mosselle Marina

Amanda and I certainly enjoyed our time off in New Caledonia between Legs 7 & 8; exploring several new anchorages and catching up with local friends. When Celine, whose family has lived in Noumea for many generations said, “There is no economic crisis here!” she was serious. Construction cranes dot the city and many fancy new buildings have popped up since our last visit seven years ago. The price of nickel, the #1 export has never been higher and the country is moving toward a referendum for some increased autonomy from France.

What hasn’t changed is the incredibly helpful and friendly attitude of Port Moselle Marina staff. Although their guest dock usually had a waiting list, they did everything possible to accommodate visitors. When a good weather window appeared Sunday Oct. 24, it seemed like half the dock made plans to clear customs and set sail the following morning; mostly to Australia but several boats were headed home to New Zealand. We enjoyed meeting Heather and Hugh Reynolds from Tauranga, NZ on their handsome S&S lookalike 39’ Pacific sloop, Pau Hana and set up a radio sked to exchange position and weather information.

Our crew came aboard at noon on Monday the 25th, and we pushed off at once for the small park islet of Nge, six miles away near Dumbea Pass that we would be exiting the lagoon through. Amanda and I had visions of a sheltered anchorage for the night. We’d have a leisurely lunch and afternoon snorkel to clean the prop and bottom in between safety orientation and crew unpacking, followed by a nice meal and good sleep before putting to sea in the morning. By the time we arrived at winds were ENE 25, gusting 30 and thankfully are able crew managed to snag a mooring on first try.

The forecast for the next 6 days called for close-hauled to close reaching conditions for the first day or so, then backing more to the NNE, perfect for us. I knew it would be a rush to get crew ready but they appeared keen for a challenge. We had a quick lunch followed by speedy unpack of bags and detailed safety procedures. Then we were off out the pass before sunset. We had a rough start, with the seas refracting off the island and all but a couple succumbed to seasickness. Not to be daunted by mal-de-mer everyone stood their watches, doing a superb job steering Mahina Tiare as crashed on through the dark night. By midnight the wind had dropped to 20 and the seas started to subside a little.

Tuesday morning it was brilliantly sunny. After breakfast I started the engine to charge batteries then proceeded to do my customary engine room check. Something smelled hot. I checked the alternators, thinking a belt could be slipping but they all felt fine. In looking around I thought the recent touch up painting I’d done might be the culprit but again all was well and I closed the engine room door. About five minutes later the engine high temp alarm went off and when checking the engine again I felt the raw water pump, it was HOT!

After shutting the engine down and waiting for it to cool a bit I removed the pump cover to find, for the first time ever, that the impeller had lost all of it’s vanes. Bummer. The broken vanes would be in the oil cooler, located in a very difficult and tricky place to work on, and would partially block the water flow.

To determine that water impeller was receiving water I removed the hose from the raw water thru-hull and slowly opened the valve. Judging by the resulting geyser of water I quickly determined there was no blockage outside the thru-hull. Next I removed the lid of the strainer basket which I had recently cleaned. I re-lubricated it screwing it down tighter then replaced the impeller. Upon starting the engine there was no overboard water flow. Darn! Thinking there might be an air leak in the strainer basket; I shut the thru hull, removed the strainer lid, filled it with water, then opened the thru-hull as crew started the engine. Success! But when we shut down and restarted the engine six hours later there was again no water flow out the exhaust.

Pulling out Nigel Calder’s Diesel Engine Maintenance book, I noted Nigel says the only thing that should cause all impeller vanes to be destroyed is lack of water flow. I had recently replaced the raw water pump (the seal had been dripping on the previous pump) and installed an older rebuilt pump. Figuring that perhaps the older pump may not be able to establish and keep a prime when we are on port tack. I switched hoses to bypass the strainer, located above the waterline, and everything has worked fine since. I have two spare pumps aboard but they both need to be rebuilt once we reach NZ so hopefully this will work until then.

A forecast from MetService NZ Wednesday morning called for 30 kts, gusting 35 SE headwinds for the last two days before our arrival in NZ. We then ordered a forecast from Commanders’ Weather which confirmed MetService’s. Amanda and I both knew this would make for an extremely difficult, rough, cold and wet landfall. Upon checking the chart we decided to fall off and sail for Norfolk Island, 153 miles straight south. With sheets eased and 22 knot NE winds we flew along at well over 7 kts, dropping anchor in Sydney Bay located on the S side of the four by six mile island. It’s a picturesque bay with impressive cream-painted stone prison buildings of Kingston, a stone breakwater-jetty and white sand beaches. We anchored off the jetty where the depth was only 25’ with a flat coral plate bottom, the water crystal clear and the anchorage was sheltered, at least in the current SE winds. Two other boats making the same passage, Pau Hana and Claude William followed a few hours later.

Aerial view of Kingston. We anchored in the bottom left corner.

Jimmy Cornell’s new World Cruising Destinations states that as Norfolk is an Australian territory all visitors must have a visa, with the exception of New Zealanders. However, when the very friendly customs and quarantine inspectors met me on the jetty to clear us in, they had no interest in visas but simply said, “Welcome to Norfolk, we hope you have a great time here!” Once we snorkeled down to check the anchor, we (all but Amanda, who had volunteered to stand the mandatory anchor watch) hitchhiked the two miles to Burnt Pine, the township on this small island of 1800 people.

Norfolk was uninhabited when the British attempted to establish a colony in the early nineteenth century. The colony proved uneconomical to support and was soon moved to Tasmania. The second settlement was a brutal penal colony and the extensive stone buildings that remain today were built by prisoners. After the prison was closed the island lay uninhabited for a short time before the British decided to resettle the then-overcrowded (200 people on a 1 x 2 mile island) Pitcairn Island. A few of the Mutiny on the Bounty Pitcairn descendents couldn’t bear to leave their homeland, and several who were relocated to Norfolk became homesick and returned, but the core of Norfolk’s current population are descendents of Bounty mutineers whose language closely reflects what we’ve heard on our two earlier visits to Pitcairn.

The buildings and breakwater of Kingston

Hugh from Pau Hana consults with our crew on the upcoming weather

A view of the fine anchorage from Kingston wharf

Upon returning to MT we set a stern anchor from the dinghy to enabling us to take the large swells on the bow instead of the beam for they were rolling us back and forth.

Friday we took turns going to town and Amanda and I picked up some freshly baked bread and treats while our crew arranged a half-day tour for the following day.

Mahina riding out the swells

The wind had swung more toward the east and large rollers started coming through the anchorage late Saturday morning. After class we ditched the stern anchor and I elected to stay on the boat with Amanda while crew enjoyed an excellent tour of the island. Early afternoon we were both stir-crazy after being cooped up on the rolly boat so we went ashore. We were hoping to check out the prison settlement museum and cafè but both were closing due to poor turnout in the windy conditions.

While we were standing on the wharf watching the surf a Pitcairn descendent who runs a charter fishing boat climbed down the stone steps to fill a large pot of corn on the cob with sea water. He asked if we would like to join him and his buddies up on the hill for a few drinks. When pouring rain started someone found the boat shed key and we moved inside. Before long a sizable party had formed as more mates, dressed in various outdoor work attire, arrived. The corn was delicious and so were the shearwater eggs. The legal four week season for collecting shearwater eggs had just opened and a few lads had just returned from nearby Phillip Island with a large bucket of eggs. As we stood in the boatshed chatting and munching it was interesting hearing the guys talk and joke between themselves in the Pitcairn dialect.

Amanda enjoying shearwater birds eggs with locals

Sunday morning the swell had really come up more but it didn’t deter Pau Hana from attempting for New Zealand.

Amanda and Martha were keen to go to the local farmers market in town and when we mentioned that we were heading in for that, Dean Burrell, a local friend of Hugh and Heather’s, offered to give us a lift up to town as he was currently on the wharf. The first thing Dean said was, “Would you like to have a look at the anchorage at Anson Bay, on the NW tip of the island? It will be much more protected” It was an extremely generous offer and as we looked down from the cliffs we saw no breakers or rollers just a calm and protected (if somewhat isolated) bay with an attractive sandy beach.

Trent Christian and John at the Sunday market

At the farmer’s market I finally caught up with Trent Christian, a direct descendent of Fletcher Christian who was only 15 when I first met him on Pitcairn about 25 years ago. Now Trent has a family who were huddled from the blustery condition in the cab of his tiny truck as he sung and played the guitar, selling his music CD’s to the visitors.

When we returned to Sydney Bay the breakers along the shoreline were HUGE and the now four other boats that were also in the anchorage were in the process of trying to raise anchor to proceed around to the lee of Anson Bay. One of the yachts had their chain break at a connecting link just before they tried to raise anchor and we had our hands full pulling up the stern anchor from the dinghy which entailed me to go diving to unwind it from the coral. In the large swells we managed to remove the outboard motor but decided to partially flood the dinghy and tow it rather than lift it aboard in winds gusting in the mid 30’s. As we raised anchor I certainly felt that we’d overstayed our welcome and it brought back memories of the last time I’d been in such a precarious anchorage many years ago on Easter Island.

Looking forward from the cockpit, through the breaking surf, to Kingston

John prepares to dive on the stern anchor to free it from coral while Johan and Jim stand by to pull retrieve it

Earlier Martha had laid out course and entered waypoints in the GPS just in case we needed to move in the middle of the night, so navigating along the reef-strewn coast wasn’t difficult especially as it was downwind. What a delight to arrive in Anson Bay!

Although there were still occasional strong gusts whistling over the island the bay was much calmer and the beach was inviting. We all took an afternoon nap before marine weather class.

Cliffside view of the yachts anchored in Anson Bay

Early the next morning Amanda and I landed through the surf, scrambled up the trail and went for a run to the bluff on the north side of the island. The seas were huge and impressive out to windward and any thoughts of setting sail that afternoon promptly went out the window. Amanda taught rig inspection and rigging spares, I completed marine weather and covered storm tactics and after lunch crew were ready for a hike ashore. Not wanting to risk swamping the dinghy, I dropped them between surf breaks to wade ashore. They said they weren’t heading into the pub in town, but just going for a walk along the cliffs.

By the time the tail-enders of the crew had reached the road the front runners had already thumbed a truck for a ride to town. It was only when they arrived in town did they realize that all but Brad had left their wallets behind. At the Sportsman’s Club Brad’s Speedos were not appropriate club attire and he was hurried into Michael’s spare dry shorts. He presented his only Aussie bill, a $50 note, from his socks in a ziplock bag asking what the cheapest beer was. A round of Tui beer left $25 and Brad said, “We can either use this for the taxi (there is only one) or buy another round”. They ended up hitching back Anson Bay; the locals thanking and even hugging them for letting them give them a ride! Can there be any friendlier island than this, anywhere?

Jim and Doug riding in the bed of a truck loaded with palm seeds

Here’s a cheap tui beer on the Sportman’s Club

Gee where those beers worth this wade in and out of the dinghy?... Yeah, too right mate!

Our plan was to leave first thing Tuesday morning, which we did. We had quite rough conditions until we got east of the 180’ shelf that extends over 50 miles north and south of Norfolk. For the first half day or so we were fairly close-hauled, but now we are flying along on a beam reach steady on 8kts with a healthy boost from the current. At our current rate it looks like we should arrive at the quarantine dock in Opua sometime Friday.


Update 2
November 13, 1600, 0700 hrs, 30.59 S, 169.24 E, Log: 143,967 miles
Baro: 1019.1, Cabin Temp: 70 F cockpit 65 F, sea water 68.2 F
NE winds 22-26 kts, 9’ subsiding seas
Beam reaching at 7.4 kts with triple reefed main and genoa


Our favorable wind conditions for the rest of the passage to Opua just kept getting better, with our speed increasing until we were concerned about arriving in the early dark of Friday the 5th of November.

In preparation for the passage crew uniformly donned on Transderm Scop patches and we’re happy to report a 100% success rate.

Pau Hana charging along.

MT reefed down and well in her stride

As expected, a minor frontal passage occurred as we were entering the Bay of Islands bringing rain squalls with gusts to 36 kts, but as they were from astern we reefed down and continued flying along. The wind only dropped off as we passed the small colonial town of Russell so we proceeded up the estuary to Opua under motor.

By 0730 we were on the Quarantine dock of the impressive Opua Marina and by 0800 a woman from Quarantine dropped by forms for us to fill out. Soon she returned, collecting the few prohibited food items we had left plus our garbage. Customs followed and after a rummage about the boat and a few questions we were free to move to our assigned marina slip. The previous day I had emailed our ETA to Opua Marina office. They mentioned they really appreciated the heads-up so they can plan for berth allocation as they expect several hundred arriving boats within a month period of time.

Our crew was delighted to find showers, laundry and a neat little café at the head of the dock while Amanda and I tackled our list of boat chores. First off was picking up two replacement AGM batteries for our bow thruster, dropping off two engine water pumps with David Lowes, the very well-organized Volvo & Yanmar dealer located next to the marina office, and finding a refrigeration technician as the freezer had stopped working two days earlier. We were hoping he could try and recharge our freezer, which for the first time in 13.5 years had (we surmised) lost its charge of gas. Dave recommended and called a mate who put two other jobs on hold and came right down. Within 20 minutes Trevor King had checked our system for leaks, recharged it and pronounced it A-OK! Trev thought that perhaps the valve used to charge the system had been slowly leaking – in any case, it is working better than it has in years; with the compressor running only very occasionally.

Just across the road from the marina is a cruiser who has started a used-cars-for-cruisers business with guaranteed buy-back. For $30 he was happy to rent us a car so Friday evening Amanda and I headed to the nearest supermarket and packed the car with provisions and treats for our final week’s sail down the coast to Auckland. The Opua Cruising Club had a hearty turnout for the evening race and the club was hopping with families for the evening fireworks display on the jetty to celebrate Guy Fawkes.

Saturday our crew took the ferry across to Russell, the oldest town in New Zealand and a former whaling port, while we completed boat projects and later met them with the boat in Russell before sailing to nearby Roberton Island.

Minutes after the anchor was down our eager crew were in the dinghy and we hit the beach for a hike to the top of this park island which has a commanding view of all of the Bay of Islands. Sunday morning after running to the top of the island and back Johan, our rugged Swede, joined Amanda and I for a brisk swim ashore and then splash around the lovely tidal lagoon pool with an interpretative snorkel trail.

Amanda and Doug tuck in a reef

We taught Communications Options while enjoying an excellent sail down the spectacular coast to Tutukaka; a tiny hole-in-the-wall harbor with excellent marina. Amanda’s parents, Robert and Lesley along with her brother David, his wife Karen and their two-year old daughter (the apple of Amanda’s eye!) Mary Ann joined us for a great dinner at the trendy local Schnappa Rock Café.

David, Karen, Mary-Ann, Lesley and Amanda

Mary-Ann and Robert entertain Michael, Brad and Johan

Michael takes a sun site

Going Aloft, Rig Inspection and Rigging Spares including Winch Servicing were taught on Monday by Amanda before we set sail for Kawau Island, 45 miles down the coast. While under sail we covered Celestial Navigation, Electrical Power Systems and Amanda judged reefing skills until the wind piped up to the point where were concerned about damaging the main.

With flat water and sunny skies we enjoyed flying along the coast right to the entrance of North Bay on Kawau. Here Lin Pardey showed our crew around their interesting little boatyard and cabins after which she and Larry joined us for a fun dinner with many funny stories.

Around noon we set sail for the iconic volcanic Rangitoto Island, 30 miles to the south, practicing taking celestial nav sights and pausing for serious Lifesling overboard practice which our crew easily mastered. We were surprised to find only four boats anchored at Rangi, the closest quiet anchorage to downtown Auckland city nine miles away.

Taleisin secure and loved at her kiwi home berth

Lin and Larry along with crew after a merry dinner aboard Mahina Tiare

Are you guilty of one of these variations of clothing etiquette as seen here aboard MT during leg 8?

Sunny anchorage in Mansion House

Amanda instructing crew on the finer points of our Port Townsend sails

It’s often more comfortable to sew at the table, bringing the piece of sail that needs attention down the center hatch, than to muck around with the machine on deck.

Tuesday morning we headed over to Mansion House bay where we dropped the genoa for some real hands-on sail repair instruction, reattaching a spreader patch that had come partially unstitched before hiking ashore on Kawau Island.

Early Wednesday morning our crew rallied to Amanda’s “Rangi Ramble” challenge. By 6am all were in the dinghy with various breakfast food and utensils spread between knapsacks for the one hour hike to the summit of this extinct volcano. Needless to say at the summit we enjoyed a spectacular quiet windless morning view of Auckland city whilst noshing on fruit loaf, cereal, fruit and yogurt.

After practicing two storm tactics; towing warp and drogue, we motored into Auckland with westerly headwinds and occasional drizzle, detouring for a peak at the Maritime Museum and former America’s Cup Village, now renamed Viaduct Basin Marina and chocka with 100’+ mega yachts. For a homecoming challenge Amanda did her infamous Viking warrior princess haka much to the bemused looks from all within viewing range.

Doug and Brad prepare the GaleRider drogue

A Turkish toast with our waitress Yasemin, Amanda, Cindy and Crew

Westhaven Marina had a berth for us and after showers and a look around ashore we enjoyed a great dinner at a nearby Turkish restaurant, joined by Jim’s wife Cindy.

Friday morning our crew helped unbend the mainsail and fold it on the dock before cleaning their cabins, packing up and heading off onto new adventures. Everyone but Johan, who was due back to work, had scheduled extensive time for exploring New Zealand, with Brad taking the cake – his wife Gay was joining him for five weeks of adventures around New Zealand.

Here’s our Leg 8 crew:
Brad, Jim, Johan, Michael, Martha and Doug

Brad Gibson, 51
I just retired from practicing law in Seattle. My wife Gay and I own an Island Packet SP Cruiser, Abby Normal, and plan on sailing the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay, Alaska this summer then join the Baja HaHa in 2012. We both started sailing Lasers and windsurfers in 1994 and are excited about venturing further afield.

Jim Converse, 50
I am a builder from Vermont and my wife Cindy and I sail our 24’ Pacific Seacraft Dana on Lake Champlain. Being landlocked we don’t have much chance for blue water passages so this expedition was a great way for me to experience ocean passagemaking. I’m sure this experience will be helpful in determining what boat I’ll purchase next.

Johan Bengtsson, 52
I am a physicist from Sweden now living on Long Island, NY. I own an Ericson 38, which I bought while living in the SF Bay area, which we have sailed and raced for several years. My current goal is to do the Bermuda Race shorthanded so I thought it would be a good to get some hands-on training for skippering my boat on race, plus gain more heavy weather skills.

Michael Wilson, 60
I was raised in New Zealand but have spent most of the last 35 years in Canada. When I was 25 I bought a 25’ folkboat boat in England with the intention of sailing her to NZ. One week later she was rammed and sunk by the British Navy. With the funds they paid for sinking my boat I purchased a 29’ wooden sloop and sailed her to Annapolis, MD with a buddy. We had no electronics, no toilet and only a plastic sextant for navigation. After a 35 year hiatus I am just getting back into sailing and this passage to Auckland has inspired me to buy another yacht.

Martha Towle, 39
I am a mum of four daughters living in Vancouver, BC. My husband and I have owned sailboats for the past 15 years and currently are outfitting a Stevens 47 on which we plan to move aboard next April and sail to Alaska, then Mexico. I joined this expedition to build confidence and skills for sailing offshore.

Doug Towle, 54
I am an engineer and programmer living in Vancouver. My wife Martha and I plan on sailing to NZ in a few years and I wanted to get experience in this area with people who really know what they are doing.


Amanda and I would like to thank the many people who helped us through this year:
Tracy McClintock who keeps our office running smoothly
Melonie, who keeps looking so great
Our friends at Hallberg-Rassy in Sweden who built a fabulous boat for us that still looks sharp after
144,000 miles.
Vickie Vance at HR Parts & Accessories in Sweden who keeps us supplied with spare parts
Carol Hasse and her gang at Port Townsend Sails for building us sails that can easily go 50,000 miles
Selden who always follows through rapidly with replacement parts
West Marine who are always there when we need boat gear
The folks at Halfmoon Bay Marina who take care of MT whilst we’re away
AND – our many expedition members from all around the world, plus you, our log update readers!

Shortly we will be leaving MT with her summer full boat cover on and heading to Sydney, Australia to visit and sail with Anne Reeckmann and Gary Holmes, Leg 4-2004 expedition members. We also look forward to meeting Barry Henson, Leg 8-2000, our editor at Australian Yachting magazine which we now write for each issue. Then we’re off home to San Juan Island to prepare for boat shows, seminars and wintertime kayaking adventures!



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