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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training
Leg 4

Leg 8-2011 Update 1

November 5, 2011, 0620 hrs, 30.41 S, 162.04 E, Log: 152,343 miles
Baro: 1020.7, Cabin Temp: 71 F cockpit 69 F, sea water 69.6 F
Close reaching at 8.1 kts in 14 kt SSE winds, nearly flat seas and clear skies
Single-reefed main, full geona

EXCEPTIONALLY FAST AND FINE SAILING TOWARD NEW ZEALAND!

We planned our three weeks off between Legs 7 & 8 to give us plenty of time to get Mahina Tiare well-prepared for our first-ever crossing of the Tasman Sea, time to visit friends and past expedition members and just as importantly, time to explore Queensland’s mountains, hinterland, outback and coasts.

Studying rental campervans online available at the last minute, I came up with what I felt was a good compromise; a little larger and hopefully more stable than the small camper we’d rented in NZ a couple years earlier. As the small campers were sold out I thought the enlarged camper with self-contained head and shower would be a benefit and clicked the option online. But when Amanda stood in the rental carpark and eyed the size of the assigned camper she freaked requesting the agent find something smaller. No luck, all of the small vans were taken and cost nearly as much. She quickly dubbed our camper “Big Beastie” and we hit the road under a dark cloud of gloom.

Our first trip was a few hours south to Coolangatta to visit Stewie, the “Vegemite Kid” from Leg 5. A keen surfer, Stewie lives in a quaint pole cottage perched on a hillside where he doesn’t have to get out of bed to check the morning surf! Poor Beastie didn’t even come close to hiding away in Stewie’s cul-de-sac so we got to enjoy the comforts of his guest bedroom in case we broke the law by camping in a residential area. Except for our getting over colds, we would have gladly accepted his offer of a morning surfing lesson though instead enjoyed a zany Zen workout and beach run with his mate Paul followed by their ritual espresso at a local waterfront café.

With Amanda reading and researching potential adventures we then headed north by-passing Surfers Paradise and Brisbane eager to get off the busy motorway and out into the country. An old logging road just below a spectacular scenic lookout in the Glasshouse Mountains discovered and explored by Captain Cook, was a soul restoring retreat we’d been seeking. At first light the next morning we headed back to the lookout for a morning run and explore of the mountain top area that provided panoramic views to the coast and hinterland. After a leisurely shower Amanda started to bond a little with Big Beastie and was thankfully soon affectionately calling her BB...making my life less gloomy.

We had a delightful day exploring the Glass House Mountains and the quaint towns of Maleny and Montville to the north. Our second night was unforgettable. We both have fond memories of camping by mountain rivers while exploring NZ’s South Island, and Amanda figured that the long winding Mary River that followed the Old Gympie Rd and railway line might provide some neat places to park. As we came over a very rickety 1880 wooden and iron rail and vehicle bridge we spotted four campers and caravans (travel trailers) parked in a little campground on the riverbank. The campers all waved and shouted for us to stop which we did. We’d stumbled upon a very friendly group of keen Australian country music aficionados and musicians — all retired, in their 60's or 70's, and all really enjoyed traveling around Australia by campers while attending music festivals.

The campsite was free and provided by the local ranching community. Over the evening barbeque our fellow campers explained that they were attending a country music festival along the road at the nearby village hall but were camping by the river to avoid the 500 plus campervan attendees. They soon promptly took turns playing guitars and singing and when a station wagon arrived tooting and waving they warmly welcomed the addition of a 12 year-old part aboriginal girl from a near by farm. Charise had stopped by on her way back from performing at the music festival with her younger brothers to join in a few guitar sessions.

After a few newbie camping questions from Amanda and I our new friends they promptly pulled out books, maps and guides and showed us their favorite places for “free camping”. These folks avoided pay campgrounds like the plague and somewhat reminded us of cruisers, always trying to find new places to explore off the beaten paths. One couple had circumnavigated Australia three times, and in the same way cruisers pass around boat magazines they set about sharing the latest traveler magazine listing campers for sale and sites to explore.

Our six days went too quickly. We didn’t make it as far north as Bundaberg but instead delighted in a surprise stop at Maryborough at the mouth of the Mary River. First settled in 1847 it quickly became a bustling port and is one of Queensland oldest cities. Many of Australia’s free settlers entered through the port including kanaka labour to work in the sugar plantations. Today it’s a treat to wander about the many restored buildings that are also home to Mary Poppins of ‘Supercalifragilistic’ fame.

A real highlight was visiting Shane & Nicole Collins and their kids, Neisha, Jackson and Jessica near Noosa. We first met them at the last Hallberg-Rassy Open House that MT was displayed in. They had traveled from Australia to purchase a used sistership to MT. They spent three years sailing to the Med and then across the Atlantic and Pacific before we enjoyed meeting them again last year in Tahiti. They sold Grace in NZ, flew home to Australia and the kids were really enjoying being back in school, but still missed cruising a bit. Shane and Jackson took us on a tour of their favorite surf beaches which were stunning — miles and miles of white sand and surf, but few people.

We then went on and checked out harbors and marinas at Mooloolaba and Scarborough before arriving back at Manly Boat Harbour with a week to provision and tackle small maintenance chores before the start of Leg 8. A bonus for us was being invited to dinner by Leg 4-11 expedition members Kate and Jon Fawcett, and then being able to attend a suturing class at the city hospital where Jon teaches.

We had been watching the weather for the challenging Tasman passage for months, and everything lined up perfectly for us. The day that our crew arrived for safety orientation it was blowing 35 with gusts to 50 offshore, so it looked like we would leave on the tail of the front with maximum good weather window.

Departing Brisbane is complicated by a 40 mile fairly narrow, shallow in places and shifting channel, and the fact that Customs has to board, inspect and issue outbound clearance the day the vessel departs, with no stops allowed after departure.

Tracey Emery, head of yacht inspections came down with a colleague as early as possible and by 11 am we slipped our lines and headed out the river channel. We had flat seas and excellent following winds and at 1800 we rounded the north end of Moreton Island and set sail for New Zealand. Winds were light and seas leftover from the frontal passage were large and confused so as we motorsailed SSE several of our crew succumbed to mal de mer. Thankfully by Wednesday morning conditions were improving and MT was charging along on a broad reach and things kept getting better, UNTIL...

Commanders’ Weather (www.commandersweather.com) had given us a very detailed passage forecast that predicted a frontal passage on Thursday with gusts to 30-35 kts, our third day. All day Thursday we were zooming along in perfect broad-reaching conditions, but at 1400 we noticed a very black and high squall line to the west which slowly began creeping towards us. The barometer started dropping rapidly as the black wall approached closer and we were soon hearing crashes of thunder as bolts of lightning struck the ocean on either side of our bow. We quickly reduced sail whilst studying the clouds and radar trying to find a path of least convection to pass through. Then came the torrential rains with thunder all around us and the surface strikes of lightning neared. We repeatedly changed course to try and penetrate the system as it soon became impossible to avoid. We were surprised at the width of the slow moving front and it wasn’t until 2300 that the rain stopped and skies started to clear.

Since then we’ve had remarkably fine conditions and although we’ve had to motor some it’s less than expected in seas that have been amazingly smooth with clear starry nights and sunny blue days. This crew has gotten lots of reefing practice and their helming and trimming skills improve daily. We’ve had increasingly bracing deck showers, twice, but on Amanda’s advice have been waiting until we were a bit further off Australia’s notorious big sharky coast for our mid-ocean swims. This afternoon Peter spotted what we think must have been the remains of a large whale with dozens of seabirds feasting on it.

mahina expeditions

Leg 8, 2011 Update 2

November 10, 2011, 0250 hrs, 35.10 S, 174.08 E, Log: 152,981 miles
Baro: 1018.1, Cabin Temp: 71 F cockpit 61 F, sea water 65.8 F
Beam reaching at 7 kts in 13 kt SSE winds, totally flat seas and clear skies with a full moon!
Single-reefed main and geona

BAY OF ISLANDS, NZ, HERE WE COME!

What an incredible, amazing Tasman crossing we have had! The moderate 1021 high has stalled with its center just NW of New Zealand’s North Cape providing smooth seas and excellent sailing conditions for the past several days allowing for plenty of in-depth classes.


Peter takes a noon site

        Crew really enjoy Amanda’s new sail design and trim class
Crew really enjoy Amanda’s new sail design and trim class


Miss Fish surveying the stomach contents of a chubby albacore tuna
The 3 meter southerly swell died out a day before we approached Three Kings Islands and the northern tip of New Zealand giving us an excellent, but bracing opportunity for a final cleaning of MT’s antifouling and prop before arrival. As a bonus we’ve been catching more fish in the past three days than all year. Fortunately this crew loves fresh sashimi and Amanda’s fish recipes.

Earlier the forecast had predicted that we would be beating into 20+ kt headwinds for the last 80 miles after rounding North Cape, but instead we have been enjoying SW offshore winds with absolutely flat seas. We’ve been reefed down all day so as not to arrive at Opua Marina’s quarantine dock before dawn this morning, but MT does not like going slow, and neither does our keen crew!

Tonight’s conditions have been perfect, with few ships, a full moon and flat seas. We are still getting used to the cooler conditions, digging out shoes and socks for the first time since departing NZ last May. As we are arriving two full days before we planned, we have been thinking of all the neat places we can add to our sailing itinerary over the next week.

 

November 17, 2011, 0250 hrs, 36.46 S, 174.53 E, Log: 153,155 miles
Baro: 1018.8, Cabin Temp: 70 F cockpit 71 F, sea water 65.8 F
Beam reaching at 7 kts in 20 kt SSE winds, flat seas and clear skies
Single-reefed main and triple geona

APPROACHING RANGITOTO ISLAND

Our landfall in Opua was picture perfect and we sailed nearly all the way down the channel, arriving at the quarantine dock at 0500. New Zealand’s quarantine and customs officials have to be the friendliest and most efficient in the world, and after clearing we were happy to learn there were still slips available in the marina. Our crew headed for showers, laundry, coffee and beers (not sure of the order!) and then off exploring.


Fun times catching up with Jim and Katie
Amanda and I were delighted to catch up with Beth and Norm Cooper, (Leg 5-2009) whose Saga 43 Sarah Jean was moored just down the dock from us. They had just purchased Gertie, Katie and Jim Thomsen’s beloved campervan and were off on a grand adventure. Katie and Jim’s (Leg 1-2007) HR 40 Tenaya was moored on the next dock and we enjoyed a lovely dinner together in nearby Paihia while hearing of their plans to circumnavigate NZ this season.

Our crew hiked into Paihia along the coastal pathway and took the ferry across the bay to Russell, an old whaling village. After a couple grocery runs Amanda and I met them there with MT and after exploring some of the shops and historical buildings we then set sail for Roberton Island, four miles away.


A picturesque bay on coastal pathway
It seems that every year we have exceptionally fine sailing conditions enroute down the coast to Auckland, and this year was no exception. Warm days, 20-30 kt offshore winds with fairly flat seas meant we were flying along. We bypassed our usual stop in the old whaling station of Whangamumu opting for gaining a few more miles down the coast and anchored in super-protected Whangruru for our first time ever. A short walk over the peninsula took us to Bland Bay: a large crescent sandy beach where we enjoyed either walks or runs along the wild shoreline.

Our next stop was Tutukaka and a silted harbour entrance and falling tide meant that we’d best make it into the marina on a heel to avoid getting stuck in the mud.


Mark and Robert perch on the boom to aid heeling and a faster approach to a cool brew
Lesley, Amanda’s mum drove a half hour from their new home in Whangarei to kidnap Amanda Sunday night while we enjoyed an exceptional dinner ashore in Tut. We had an early start Monday morning, then great sailing to the Whangarei River entrance. Thirteen miles upstream we side-tied in the gorgeous little town basin, packed with visiting yachts from many countries.

Whangarei has such a good reputation as a place to refit that yachts come from as far away as Europe for major refits. Amanda and Lesley met us at the dock and we headed to the closest chandlery, armed with Lesley’s Tahiti list. Robert, Amanda’s dad, had an accepted offer on. a 2006 Moorings Beneteau 432 in Raiatea, 130 miles west of Tahiti, and was in the process of surveying it. Lesley’s task was to gather the needed gear, wait for the all-clear signal to wire the balance of payment to the seller, and then fly up to join Robert. As cyclone season is approaching towards the end of December, their plan is to set sail as quickly as possible for Rarotonga. After a quick pit stop they’ll continue home to New Zealand. We are really hoping that next year they’ll again sail to Fiji so that we can cruise in tandem as we’ve enjoyed doing three times in the past.

Once Lesley was sorted it was time for nieces. Mary Ann is fast approaching three and is such a busy bee always chatting and dancing. She remembers Mahina Tiare from her visit last year and is very excited about telling everyone that soon she’ll soon be sailing on Poppa’s new boat Gracias and catching fish with Nana. Theresa at 10 weeks is still very much a baby much to the delight of her mum Karen and Amanda brother’s David.


Mary Ann practices her knots with Amanda while Karen holds an amused Theresa.

        Crew really enjoy Amanda’s new sail design and trim class
MT sailing by the quaint Whangarei town basin with harbour office and Reva’s restaurant

Urquharts Bay provided a quiet spot for winch maintenance...
Urquharts Bay  provided a quiet spot for winch maintenance and a hill hike
and a hill hike

A frontal passage was forecast to pass yesterday when we’d plan to sail the 45 miles from Whangarei Heads to Kawau Island, and right on schedule we got 30, gusting 33 kts off the beach.
Our crew got lots of reefing practice as Mahina Tiare  picked up her skirts and flew down the coast.
Our crew got lots of reefing practice as Mahina Tiare picked up her skirts and flew down the coast.

Surprise dinner guests last night were Lin and Larry Pardey, just back from a three month North American book and boat show tour, promoting Lin’s latest book, Bull Canyon. It is always a treat to catch up with them and learn of their latest adventures.

November 26, 2011, 15300 hrs, 36.47 S, 174.53 E, Log: 153,174 miles
Baro: 1015.1, Cabin Temp: 72 F cockpit 71 F, sea water 65.7 F
At Anchor, Islington Bay, Rangitoto Island

We enjoyed a quiet anchorage at Rangi and first thing in the morning our crew joined us on our annual Rangi Ramble, an hour hike to the top of the extinct volcano overlooking Auckland Harbor, followed by a mountaintop breakfast and a hike back to the boat and a swim. What a way to start the day!


Gareth takes in the view of Auckland City from the summit of Rangi

        On our way out of Izzy   Bay we practiced towing warp and  then setting the Galerider drogue.
On our way out of Izzy Bay we practiced towing warp and then setting the Galerider drogue.

With tide against 30 kts of wind our final leg into Auckland Harbour was a wet one.
With tide against 30 kts of wind our final leg into Auckland   Harbour was a wet one.
With tide against 30 kts of wind our final leg into Auckland Harbour was a wet one.
With tide against 30 kts of wind our final leg into Auckland Harbour was a wet one.

Our final dinner together was at our favorite Turkish café in trendy Ponsonby and the final morning following breakfast Peter and Mark graciously helped us remove and fold up the main and genoa for storage.

Leg 8 Crew
Our keen Leg 8 crew - Declan, Angie, Peter, Robert, Mark and Gareth dressed for Halloween

Gareth Hughes, 49
I was born in Bogota, Columbia where I live with my family and see to the family business in heavy machinery, dredging and agriculture. I’ve been interested in sailing since I was a child but had little exposure to it until we bought a Tayana 37 which we kept in Miami. That’s all about to change as I’m prepared to make a big step now towards long distance cruising.

Peter Hoogenboom, 52
I live in Eugene with my wife Patricia and work as a software project manager at the University of Oregon studying issues relating to literacy. I hope to buy my first boat within the next three years, but in the meantime, I am building my confidence and experience. Peter recently completed a seven month cross-country bicycle expedition.

Declan O’Sullivan, 46
I grew up in County Kerry, Ireland and started dingy and keelboat sailing in my early childhood. My family was involved in the marine industry so sailing was our primary family sport. I have sailed on and off for the past 30 years and currently sail a Corby 29 in Singapore. I own and manage a Singapore-based financial recruiting agency called Kerry Consulting.

Mark Oliver, 43
Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Alberta seeds for a love of sailing adventure were planted by reading my father’s collection of sailing books and magazines. I started racing Hobie Cats in the early ‘90’s, progressing to coastal cruising in BC and then Australia when my wife and I moved there in the mid-‘90’s. After a ten year hiatus from sailing due to moving and starting a family, we started chartering again a couple years ago in the Caribbean at my wife’s urging. (Marie-Claude joined us on Leg 5 earlier this season). We are interested in expanding our sailing horizons and determining what future sailing plans our family will pursue. Mark is a project manager in the petroleum industry and enjoys aerobatic flying.

Angela Montemurro, 55
Although originally from Ontario, I now live in Burnaby, BC where I work as an accountant/administrator for an engineering firm. Robert and I plan to start cruising in the near future and this expedition is something I’ve dreamed of doing for many years.

Robert Moran, 62
Robert just retired from an engineering career and has introduced Angie to sailing. He now owns two boats, a Pearson 10 Meter and a Fraser 41 and is trying to decide which one to outfit for their cruising plans. He has toured extensively from the Arctic to Florida in a classic Aeronca Champ plane which he restored.

After taking a couple days off to rest, clean and visit friends, this past week we really launched into our list of repairs and maintenance. Here’s what we accomplished: had the liferaft repacked, entire Whitlock/Lewmar steer system serviced, bow thruster receiver replaced, injectors serviced, coolant replaced, 12 volt monitor replaced, varnished toerails, removed and serviced frozen halyard winch, replaced engine hour meter, weatherfax taken in for repairs, curtains and slip covers laundered and hull waxed. Whew, that was a busy week!

Now we’re enjoying a couple quiet days back at Rangitoto Island, although it’s blowing a hoolie, before heading for the boatyard to haul out for the season.

2011 was one of our best season in many respects with excellent crews, some new islands and anchorages and thanks to the La Nina weather patterns, which are forecast for next year as well, some of the best sailing we’ve ever seen.

I am quite busy with Boat Purchase Consultations now and we’re making final arrangements for our boat show seminars in Toronto, Chicago, Seattle and Oakland. If you’re attending any of these shows do let us know you’ve been following these expedition logs we’ll be onhand at a table outside the door before and after our seminar presentations.

Sincere thanks to the following: Tracy who keeps our office humming, Melonie who posts these updates, West Marine who sponsor our seminars and the crew at Hallberg-Rassy for building amazing boats.

We have berths on most of our 2012 expeditions, but they are filling earlier than ever, so if you’re interested in joining us next season, drop us a note.

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