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Leg 6 2018, Update 2


November 26, 2018, 1800 hrs, 36.50 S, 174.44 E, Log: 221,222 miles
Baro: 1012.0, Cabin Temp: 67 F, Cockpit: 68 F, Sea Water: 68.2 F
Westhaven Marina, Auckland, New Zealand

Liferaft orientation

Our stable and good sailing conditions held, not just to Opua, but all the way to Auckland – until the final morning of the expedition when the skies truly opened!

We had gorgeous sailing for nearly the entire passage but at the end we motorsailed half a day slipping through light headwinds and avoiding a large confused swell that was due to occur.

Happily sunny skies prevailed for landfall in the Bay of Island as we sailed through the many islands Amanda had first sailed to with her family as a child, past the towns of Russell and Paihia to dock at Port Opua Marina’s quarantine dock.

Smiles all round as we hoist the Kiwi flag

Even before customs-immigration and bio-security officials showed up, a greeter from Port Opua handed us a welcome bag with lots of goodies including a tiny bottle of whiskey!

Russell waterfront where crew enjoyed lunch at the historic Duke of Malborough Hotel.

Port Opua has just finished a major expansion, adding 1/3 more large berths, many suitable for catamarans, to the south end of the marina. As all the 15-meter berths were taken, Mahina Tiare appeared a bit lost in a 20-meter slip conveniently located down the dock from the office, showers and café.

A new feature is the Cruiser’s Lounge; a large lofty room adjacent to the showers with free wi-fi, comfortable sofas and desks which always seemed to be busy. It also set a high bar standard that our crew were to seek at other marinas as we cruised south.

Winetasting lunch Omata Estate

Crew enjoyed numerous adventures – hiking two hours along the shoreline boardwalk to Paihia, dinner and quiz night at the cruising club with other new arrivals, taking the ferry to Russell and checking out a vineyard for lunch.

Meanwhile Amanda and I rented a car to reprovision as bio-security requires that all fruit, veg, meat and eggs are either consumed before arrival or incinerated.

Friday we sailed over to Roberton Island, just a few miles past Russell. It’s a wonderful island park with a short hike to the top of the hill and brisk waters for the brave, like Will, Mike Jim and Amanda, to swam from the beach to MT.

Roberton Island hilltop view of the anchorage

MT’s just a little too tall to pass through the hole in the rock

Enroute to the abandoned whaling station of Whangamumu we sailed past iconic Cape Brett and the hole in the rock. Well, motorsailed, as the wind deserted us! Ashore we spent several hours climbing the hill for stunning views, plus explored the remains of the whaling station.

Whangamumu is always a quiet respite from the bustle of the Bay of Islands

Boiler remains from the whaling station

Picture board explaining Whangamumu’s whaling past

Caroline and Captain Fatty

Saturday we had a 55-mile passage south to Whangarei Heads and surprisingly we had another light wind day. At 0800 we picked up the AIS signal of Ganesh, Captain Fatty and Caroline Goodlander’s Wauquiez 43. We always enjoy Fatty’s monthly columns in Cruising World and last saw him several years ago in Whangarei on his previous circumnavigation.

Our crew chose to check out the nearly-new Marsden Cove Marina over anchoring in nearby Calliope Bay and enjoyed showers and exploring the area before we headed 12 miles up the river to Whangarei Town Basin the following morning.

We had two stowaways on board that morning, Amanda’s 8 & 10 yr old nieces Theresa and Mary Ann, who are natural sailors, thanks to many adventures aboard their nan & pop’s various cruising boats.

It’s all go as the new bridge opens up to let up through

There’s always a reason for dress up on MT

Whangarei Town Basin

Cookies and Champagne all round with the marina office staff

Whangarei Town Basin Marina was chokka with cruisers settled in for the cyclone season, but fortunately a boat decided to leave just before our arrival and the always-helpful marina staff alerted us so we had a marina berth instead of being rafted to pilings.

Upon checking in with harbormaster Brian Caulton, we were assured that the marina and city still sponsor the amazing Meet & Greet barbecue dinner. Not only that, harbor assistant Nalene was inviting arriving cruisers to a Christmas potluck at her nearby farm!

Whangarei felt like it was booming with two new boatyards and several new marine service businesses all catering to refitting visiting yachts and ships.

Fishing lure class as we rig new gear for next season

Tuesday we waited for high tide as we’d had to plow mud on the final stretch coming up the river and after a little motoring the wind filled in very nicely, giving us a gorgeous broad reach UNTIL...just as we were making the turn around Cape Rodney to line up on Kawau Island, a humdinger of a squall came that had us reefing the main and genoa at the same time in driving rain.

Gusty NW winds were forecasted all night, so we tucked up in Schoolhouse Bay and enjoyed a wonderful fish tikka dinner with the wahoo we’d caught a week earlier.

Kawau is one of Amanda’s and my all-time favorite islands as there are untold numbers of trails for running and hiking which we did at first light. After breakfast our crew spent several hours hiking and exploring (and getting lost, but that’s another story!) before we set sail for Gulf Harbour Marina for the night.

Time to shake a reef as the morning squalls settle down.

Just keep knitting Stephanie!

Our celestial navigation sun shots required patience as clouds occasionally blocked the sun, but while sailing south from Kawau all our crew mastered using the sextant and the sight that we reduced after anchoring was fairly close to our GPS position.

Mike takes a sextant shot

Ahoy there!

Rangitoto Island, an extinct volcanic island park that acts as a breakwater for Auckland Harbour, was our final anchorage and on a very warm and sunny afternoon we all went ashore, after going aloft for rig check, to explore this home to many native bird species.

Rangi Ramble was a crazy idea of Amanda’s a few years ago and it’s always proven a hit with our crew who hardly grumbled about loading up into the dinghy at 0630 for the 2.5-hour return walk to the top of the mountain for a spectacular view of Auckland Harbour and the surrounding city. After enjoying breakfast on the overlook a group of chanting Maori elders arrived, stopping to touch noses (Maori tradition) and shake hands before explaining that they there to release two three-week old kiwi chicks who would be joining the other 72 on the island.

DOC (Department of Conservation) has spent years eradicating introduced species so that native birds, like the kiwi, can reproduce, rest and thrive on this island park. We have great admiration and respect for DOC’s work in parks and wildlife around NZ.

Several of our hearty crew dove into the bracing waters of Islington Bay to cool off after our ramble and before we knew it, it was time to raise anchor and head for Auckland. We tied up for a couple hours in berth the tall ship Spirit of New Zealandthat Amanda used to work on so she could visit with Spirit’s office crew and our crew could explore the bustling waterfront. Colleen, Jim’s wife, had arrived from Florida to join him for two weeks of land exploring and she eagerly joined us for the final trip into Westhaven Marina and crew graduation dinner at our favorite Turkish Café in Ponsonby where everyone jovially discussed our passage and further explorations in NZ.

MT at Spirit’s downtown berth beside the Maritime Museum

Saturday morning our crew set to work packing their bags and cleaning cabins while making plans to meet up with each other in the South Island.

And suddenly - it was all over! Our 29th year of expeditions has been a great success! 

Now we’re busy preparing Mahina Tiare for haul out day after tomorrow and five months of dry storage during the southern hemisphere cyclone season.

Thank you time!
Thank you to all 2018 expedition members for sharing great energy and adventures!
Thank you Tracy for running our office better than we do when we’re home while we’re at sea.
Thank you Melonie and Chris for doing an always awesome job with!
And thank you Magnus Rassy and the crew at Hallberg-Rassy for building Mahina Tiare which is still going great after sailing the equivalent of NINE world circumnavigations!

We invite you to continue following Amanda’s Instagram/Facebook posts while we’re on land until April 2019 and most importantly, invite YOU to join us at one of the following boat shows:

Chicago: Jan. 10-12
Toronto: Jan. 19-20
Seattle: Jan. 25-28
Richmond, CA: Apr. 4-6

Happy Holiday Season!

Leg 6, 2018, Update 1


November 9, 2018, 0430 hrs, 21.17 S, 174.56, W, Log: 220,210 miles
Baro: 1012.0, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 80 F, Sea Water: 76.8 F
(down from 83 F in Fiji!)
Beam reaching at 7.2 kts in 15kt ESE winds: single reef in main and three in genoa
30 miles to Ceva-I-Ra, also known as Conway Reef

For the start of an El Nino episode, we had surprisingly stable weather in Western Fiji and the occasional welcome rain showers turned the normally brown and dry slopes of Malololailai Island, where we spent most of our 20 days off between legs 5 & 6 a verdant green. We anchored at Musket Cove and played catch-up on boat maintenance, applying three coats of varnish on MT’s caprails after removing all hardware and power sanding, cleaning and waxing the topside and cabin side, and sanding deck areas where the SEMCO sealer had started to flake and applying three coats of sealer.

It wasn’t all work though, as each morning we enjoyed trail runs exploring Malololailai Island. We’d gotten married on the beach, twenty years ago, at Musket Cove Resort, and most afternoons just before sunset we’d head in by dinghy to swim laps in the infinity pool overlooking the beach and anchored yachts. The adjoining restaurant features organic produce from its garden and relaxed and friendly dinning and I especially enjoy their Indian buffet each Monday night.

Sadly Cyclone Winston gave the resort a thrashing but everything looks better than ever with a new thatched hut/beach bar on the marina sandbank and a gorgeous new main building with reception, boutique, grocery store and bistro that the Malolo Cats (catamaran ferries) docks at. The amazing thing is that there is no charge for anchoring, using the dinghy dock and resort facilities. Moorings are also available and we utilized one on a windy afternoon as it offered more shelter; the cost was the equivalent of US$8.

Mid-point in our time off, as a reward for completing the varnish, we took a 15-mile side trip to Port Denarau Marina located on “the mainland” (Viti Levu Island) north of Nadi International Airport. It was a treat plugging into shore power to top up the batteries and to be able to wash the boat down. Denarau is a well planned residential and hotel development with a boatyard and small shopping center adjacent to the small marina. Small marina, but LARGE yachts, several over 100’. We were most interested in picking up supplies at the three marine stores, but also enjoyed shopping for new boat show outfits and Amanda chose the brightest matching bula shirt & dress imaginable! Late afternoon we enjoyed a hike out to the Sheraton which we had anchored off 15 years ago, and on the spur of the moment decided to have a beachside dinner there.

Upon our return to Musket Cove after our overnight Port Denarau adventure, we were surprised how few yachts remained. There were eight empty moorings, fewer boats anchored off, and the small marina was nearly empty. Four days before our Leg 6 crew were due to join us, we returned to Vuda Marina, fueled up, filled propane and started provisioning.

With an excellent weather window, nearly a dozen yachts were in the process of clearing out with customs and immigration to set sail for New Zealand on Tuesday, November 6. Previously yachts had to go 15 miles north and anchor off Lautoka’s busy commercial wharf to clear customs, which was frequently a slow process. Recently, both Vuda Marina and Port Denarau have become customs ports of entry, and now customs and immigration officers travel to the marinas upon request, making clearance much simpler and faster. We appreciate that the government is working with the marinas to make everything easier for cruisers.

Monday afternoon was safety orientation and Tuesday morning crew joined us before our 10 am appointment with immigration and customs. Soon we were cleared, ready to depart and six of the marina and restaurant staff were on the dock, singing, as they do to all departing yachts, the Fijian farewell song, Isa Lei. We truly love Fiji and the Fijian people and the farewell song brought a tear to my eye, but we’re both delighted we’ll be returning next year.

Upon exiting Malolo Pass, adjacent to the famous surfing island of Tavarua, we expected, and were not disappointed to have 20-25 kt, gusting to 32 kt winds. Bob McDavitt had mentioned a 3-meter southerly swell from the previous day that was forecast to be dying down, the remnants of which gave us some very choppy and confused conditions, causing several of our crew to become seasick. We worked hard to keep boat speed under 7 kts with two reefs in the main and only a small bit of genoa out and didn’t try and hold to the rumbline, instead heading off to the SW so we’d take the choppy seas more on the beam. The passage forecast we’d received from and from both predicted beam and close-reaching conditions most of the way to Opua, New Zealand.

Slowly conditions improved with winds and seas diminishing to the point we’ve been making great time. We had one serious gully-washer of a squall last night, but otherwise have had remarkably clear skies. Generally, we’d expect to see a steady progression of lows to the south, moving across the Tasman Sea and toward Cape Horn, with fronts attached fronts extending northward as far as Fiji. With the start of an El Nino episode occurring now, we expected more convective activity with powerful squalls – instead, a series of substantial blocking high-pressure cells have stuck just north of NZ, providing remarkably stable ESE trade wind-like conditions extending much further south than normal.

One of the yachts clearing out and heading south mentioned they hoped, conditions permitting, to stop and dive on uninhabited Ceva-I-Ra (AKA Conway Reef), 200 miles SSW of Fiji. Checking out the chart we discovered that the sailing course MetBob had recommended would take us directly past this tiny islet, so we’ve decided to try and anchor off and go for a snorkel on Ceva-I-Ra, now just 30 miles away. We had to slow down last night, but now with an ETA of around 1000 hrs, we should have excellent visibility

November 12, 2018, 0640 hrs, 29.06 S, 174.28 E, Log: 220,695 miles
Baro: 1021.0, Cabin Temp: 69 F, Cockpit: 69 F, Sea Water: 70.3 F
Close reaching at 7.2 kts in 15kt ESE winds with a single reef in main and three in genoa
380 miles to Nine Pin Rock, New Zealand!

Katrina, perched on the mast pulpit was the first to spot a speck of white on the horizon at 0900 as we neared Ceva-I-Ra Reef. Upon sailing closer, we saw that the same shipwrecked 130’ longline fishing boat we’d seen in 2009 was still perched on its side, high and dry on the sand bar, but the bushes and greenery we’d previously seen looked like they’d been sandblasted and denuded of leaves. With a steady 17 kts of wind we dropped sail and cautiously motored along the rugged coral reef, carefully watching the depth. We ended up anchoring in 24’ depth at 21.43.809 S, 174.37.818 E. With uneven (and beautiful) coral heads covering the bottom, I was careful to let out only 2 to 1 scope, hoping to avoid having the anchor and chain fall into a chasm between the coral heads. Upon snorkeling forward, I saw our Ultra anchor perfectly hooked the edge of a substantial coral head and the chain wasn’t touching to coral at all. I snorkeled a few boat lengths astern to check out the sandy break in the coral that Amanda noticed, but since we only planned to stay a brief time, we stayed put.

At mid-ocean reefs we frequently see swarms of sharks, but here we saw only one 2’ long black-tipped shark who seemed totally uninterested in us. All of our crew took turns snorkeling, two for the first times in their lives, and were blown away by the beauty of the coral and number of fish.

After showers and shampoos on the aft deck we carefully unhooked the anchor from the coral head without damaging it and set sail on a glorious beam reach. Minutes later we hooked and with difficulty landed a wahoo (Spanish Mackerel) nearly as tall as Amanda. The ENE to ESE winds have held for the past three days. Occasionally the wind has come forward, briefly and we’d had to tuck in reefs a few times, but for the most part we’ve enjoyed brilliant skies during the days and a new crescent moon at night. Bob McDavitt just announced in his free weekly Weathergram that the weather looks stable for making landfall in NZ for the next ten days – which we’ve never heard him say before. We are expecting to have to motorsail through the remains of an old cold front tomorrow, but then the forecast calls for broad reaching under sunny skies for our landfall on Wednesday.

The stable weather has allowed us to keep up with our busy teaching schedule and yesterday Amanda covered Rig Check, Spares & Knots while I covered Storm Tactics with PowerPoint.

Here’s our first class Leg 6 crew:

Will, Mike, Amanda, Stephanie, Jim, Jean-Francois and Katrina preparing to set sail on Leg 6 from Fiji to New Zealand

Stephanie, 48
I own a consulting company and live in Sandpoint, Idaho and have been sailing for 20 years. I race on J/70’s and J/80’s in Sandpoint, San Diego and Seattle and am working on obtaining my captain’s license. I intend to combine my love of sailing and travel and cruise around the world.

Katrina, 60
I live in Virginia where I raise cattle with my partner, Johnny. I sailed as a child and fell in love with bluewater sailing at age 19 when my brother and I delivered a 50’ ketch from Singapore to Florida. I’ve made many passages from Bermuda to Annapolis and one to the Azores but farming has taken up most of my time for the past 20 years and I think it is high time I get back on the water!

Jean Francois, 68
I am a retired former hospital administrator from France. I used to sail around Brittany and I own a 27’ Fantasia sloop which I am now restoring. Sailing aboard MT for an important passage is a huge experience and the fulfilment of some long-time dreams.

Mike, 62
I’m the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho city attorney and own J/70 and J/80 race boats which I actively campaign, but want to try cruising and maybe someday sail around the world. I like challenges and seeing new places. I’m looking forward to exploring the South Island of New Zealand upon completion of this expedition. I am very grateful and blessed for the life I have.

Will, 34
I’m a management consultant living in the Wash. DC area and I’ve always loved the water and sailboats. I just completed building a 17’ wooden John Harris-designed sailing dory. Previously I worked in Afghanistan in national security. My experience there taught me that life is very precious. I’ve dreamed of crossing oceans my entire life and I want to sell my condo, get a boat and sail around the world.  

Click HERE to read's voyage forecast for their passage to New Zealand and Click HERE to read's forecast


Leg 6 Itinerary

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