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Leg 8: Brisbane, Australia to Auckland New Zealand

November 6, 2019, 2019, 1020 hrs, 26.08 S, 154.42 E, Log: 29,262 miles
Baro: 1020.6, Cabin Temp: 74 F, Cockpit: 76F, Sea Water: 80.3 F 
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 17-24 kt S winds, three reefs in main and genoa, 2.5 m seas and blue skies


We're Amanda, Gunnar, Sophia, Andy, Mike, Val, Pam and John and we're about to set sail across the dreaded Tassie Sea.

Our Leg 8 crew joined us for safety orientation in Manly, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia on Sunday, then came aboard for the expedition noon Monday. As it wasn’t possible to make it 12 miles to the customs dock for outbound clearance, then another 46 miles out the twisting river/bay channel north to the open sea before dark before crew got settled in so instead we decided on a night at anchor. This gave us a great opportunity to hoist sail in 22 kts of wind for a Lifesling overboard rescue demonstration, reefing rundown and helming practice as we tacked north to anchor off St. Helena Island Park. Sadly, we had to skip Amanda’s planned picnic dinner ashore to view the wallabies as continuing 20+ kt winds would have had all soaked getting there by dinghy.

Pam, a very keen and skillful navigator, was Tuesday’s navigator. After spending hours carefully organizing waypoints, charts and tides she calculated we should clear the shipping channel by dark if we moved our 10 am outbound customs clearance appointment to 8 am, which customs cheerfully agreed to. 

We’d been listening to strong wind warnings for the Sunshine and Gold Coasts with winds originally forecasted to reach 35 kts Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, and we did experience winds into the upper 30’s as we sailed north out the well-marked channels under triple-reefed main and genoa but fortunately, the winds held from the WSW directions resulting in flat seas.

Not long after we cleared the Brisbane entrance channel we set a course of NE with surprising comfort and I stood on the aft deck looking around the deck and then as I scanned up the rig I was a little shocked to see our masthead VHF-AIS antenna wildly swaying drunkenly around. We couldn’t determine anything looking with the binoculars, but in a minute Amanda had suited up in foulies and climbing harness ready to go aloft. Gunnar and I were easily hauling her aloft on the spinnaker halyard hand over hand until a few feet from the top when Amanda swung around the back of the mast for better orientation. We then went into cranking mode on the winch suddenly became extremely hard. We shouted a worried warning to Amanda and she instantly discovered that the halyard had jumped the sheave in the block and was now wedged into the blocks side wall. Oh! This was to only be a quick trip aloft so we had no backup safety line rigged!

I hope I get this sorted before dark!

Amanda suggested we hoist the topping lift eye to her so she could re-connect to that. We decided to pull it up without a downhaul while Amanda held the halyard away from the rig at arm’s length. By now the seas and wind were building such that on a roll to windward the topping lift eye swung under the spreaders and stuck fast on a cotter pin at the diagonal attachment. She next instructed us to send up the staysail halyard. After attaching herself to that, she was lowered to free the stuck topping lift halyard so she could attach herself to that enabling her to continue to the masthead. She opted to leave the staysail halyard behind for retrieval on the way down. Finally, at the masthead she discovered the large nut which holds the VHF antenna down had become unscrewed - an easy fix. Spinnaker halyard was then freed, and she was quickly lowered to the deck with all three halyards.

Sunset view over the Glass House Mountains

Not long after Amanda was back in the galley the winds switched more to southerly and continued to build which made me very happy she was back on deck in the nick of time. Our winds piped up to 30-35 creating large seas in the relatively shallow coastal waters, we decided to steer the most comfortable point of sail; wind on the stern quarter, not concerned that we weren’t on the direct course line for NZ. As I watched the fiery sun descended behind the Glass House Mountains, the same mountains we’d seen upon arrival at sunrise 11 days earlier, I reflected on the recent getaway Amanda and I took there...two glorious days hiking and exploring. 

Even though both forecasts from and advised that we should have waited until Wednesday to depart, we chose to leave Tuesday. Bob’s suggestion of steering for to 30S, 170E will take us within 30 miles of Norfolk Island, home of many of the Mutiny on the Bounty mutineers’ descendants so I’m fairly certain the strong winds and large southerly swell would diminish by the time we get to Norfolk.

Andy tucks in another reef under Amanda’s watchful eye

Rock n’ Roll

November 8, 2019, 2019, 2020 hrs, 28.12 S, 161.12 E, Log: 29,643 miles
Baro: 1010.6, Cabin Temp: 74 F, Cockpit: 76F, Sea Water: 80.3 F 
Broad reaching at 6.5 kts in 16 kt NW winds with one reef in main and genoa with flat seas and a nearly full moon

After some rock and roll sailing the winds slowly died and we spent nearly a day under power before our winds filled in from the NW, allowing us to ease sheets and set off on a very smooth broad reach. The calm conditions provided an excellent time for teaching, so I completed Marine Weather 1 & 2 yesterday and this morning Amanda covered provisioning and cooking afloat.

What the Dickens?...the seas don’t look so bad from here.

When running various scenarios on PredictWind, I noticed that if we stopped at Norfolk to avoid the heavy winds and seas earlier predicted, we’d end up with headwinds for the first half of our passage to NZ. I ran a second forecast for a direct passage to North Cape, NZ and was surprised to see it no longer showed 35 kts and 4 meter seas.

Oddly enough, we’ve seen this frequently with multiple forecast models in different areas of the world - a forecast of strong winds and seas in 3-5 days yime, but when the time arrives, the wind and seas have substantially diminished. With this in mind I decided to change course to a direct rumbline for New Zealand’s North Cape, now 750 miles away. Several forecast models suggest we’ll have a six-hour period of winds touching the low 30’s in a couple days, but the sea heights have dropped from 4 meters to 2.6 meters.

November 11, 2019, 2019, 0510 hrs, 28.56 S, 167.52 E, Log: 29,951 miles
Baro: 1007.6, Cabin Temp: 70 F, Cockpit: 67F, Sea Water: 78.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 33 kt NW winds with three reefs in main and genoa 10% of the genoa, 3.8 meter seas

With the first hint of dawn Andy sighted Norfolk Island on the bow and Mike is currently doing an excellent job at the helm surfing towards the lee side of the island. It’s been seven years since our third and most recent visit to Norfolk, and I’m hoping we’ll be allowed ashore to stretch our legs!

This has been the one instance of several years where the forecasted wind and sea height values increased, not decreased as we approach the forecast period. Our course towards New Zealand had been forecasted to be a max of 31 knots but 41 knots, with sea heights of 4.8 meters began to appear. With these predications it’s now only prudent to change course and shelter in the lee of Norfolk for 24 hours. PredictWind forecasts that the system should then be well past us, allowing for a good downwind passage for the remaining 490 miles to Marsden Point Marina, at the Whangarei River entrance.

Conditions moderated yesterday giving Amanda the opportunity to get the crew to familiar with deck walkabouts on her rig check and spares class and me the chance to present our Diesel Engine Essentials PowerPoint seminar. Everyone has been over seasickness for several days, hot showers on the Lido deck were much appreciated, and dinner story time is becoming most entertaining. Although not long after dark we experienced the most spectacular frontal passage of several years with a massive thunder and lightning show, moderately strong rains, winds to 41 knots and large breaking seas fairly close together. It was a little unnerving for some of us but fortunately, wind and seas were on the quarter, speeding us on our way. 

Yet another squall approaching

Gunnar (our true blue Viking) needs no guidance when it comes to reefing

Before departing Brisbane, we didn’t have an opportunity to scrub the antifouling, (too many cautionary shark stories) so we’ve asked our crew to help with that task at Norfolk. Both Australia’s and New Zealand’s BioSecurity are vigilant in trying to prevent the introduction of new invasive aquatic species. They request that you have proof that your antifouling was applied within the last 6 months and they can request you to haul out for a pressure wash if they consider your bottom is foul.

November 14, 2019, 0440 hrs, 32.22 S, 171.26 E, Log: 230,282 miles
Baro: 1010.6, Cabin Temp: 70 F, Cockpit: 67F, Sea Water: 78.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.5 kts in 28 kt NW winds with three reefs in main and genoa 10% of the genoa, 2.5 meter seas

The winds and seas seriously intensified with our Norfolk landfall on Monday with squalls bringing gusts to 41 kts and steep, breaking seas. Crew certainly experienced some exhilarating surfing conditions as we rounded the western tip of the island. We set a course for Cascade Bay on the NE corner as I figured it would offer the best protection from the 3-4-meter SW swell. In fact, we found excellent shelter with surprisingly little swell wrapping around into the bay. We noticed was that the concrete pier had recently been substantially upgraded plus lengthened and now sports a huge new crane while ashore we spied four shiny aluminum cruise ship shuttle boats on trailers and later learned they’d been used for the first time last week.

Land Ho...oh so sweet even if bearing tempestuous squalls

Andy, Gunnar and Pam...their facial expressions tell it like it is!

After anchoring in 40’ off the pier, I zipped ashore with the RIB and chatted with some guys in the process of launching their fishing boat with the crane. They said that as our dinghy had a bridle, they’d be happy to hoist it out onto the pier while we went ashore.

Upon my return to MT, a large ocean-going tug and barge appeared around the southern headland and began entering the bay. Concerned they might be unloading and that MT would be in their way, I returned to the pier. I was told that the barge had already unloaded airport upgrade supplies (one of five trips) in Balls Bay and that they were stopping to drop off crew.

The landing pier at Cascade Bay

Aboard MT we all gathered knapsacks and hiking kit, passports and ships papers. We had no problem landing on the inset steps of the pier and as Amanda arrived at the wharf deck Australian Border Force officers arrived. When they began chewing out Amanda for the fact that we hadn’t emailed them our pre-arrival notification I arrived on the scene (after a precarious 20ft hoist with the dinghy) and explained that we had stopped only to avoid intense weather to the south of the island and that we’d been calling them on VHF for three hours. Yeah, all was forgiven and we were granted shore leave.

Getting the few miles to Burnt Pine township was a cinch – by first car we kindly asked to give us a ride, they were Australians and were killing time before their airplane ride home. They had a hundred questions about our voyage but also informed us that at home bush fires were now encroaching on their suburb and that everyone was on evacuation notice.

Norfolk Island has a fascinating history. Polynesian settlers had been and gone when Captain Cook “discovered” the island, and the Brits used it as a penal colony from 1788 to 1814, building substantial stone buildings that have been restored. Following the prison period, in 1856 the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives were resettled on the then uninhabited island as tiny Pitcairn Island (only 1 by 2 miles) had become overpopulated with over 200 inhabitants. A handful of Pitcairners so missed their isolated island that they returned a short time later and today they number about 50 on Pitcairn. 

Oh...I could work here! Love the eco-vibe! (Amanda)

During both our visits to Pitcairn I met Trent Christian, pre-teen son of Steve and Olive. Trent has lived on Norfolk for quite a few years now, and we’ve always delighted in catching up with him on previous visits, however this time he was out on a job installing windows for the building supply store where he works. Amanda set off to explore town’s artsy shops mixed with dated English trends while I completed more paperwork for Customs after they tracked us down at the supermarket.

Returning to the pier, we discovered the tug PT Fortitude ( and its large barge had anchored quite close to us. We’d chatted to the crew on the pier and after dark upon seeing the tug crew shining spotlights on the barge to ensure it wasn’t too close to us, I called the skipper on the radio, mentioning we’d be standing anchor watch all night and asking if he wanted us to put additional deck lights besides our anchor light. He replied that due to the currents the barge was being very difficult and that they’d shortly be re-anchoring further offshore. The skipper mentioned that they, also, were waiting for the winds and seas to diminish in order to return to Brisbane so I offered to download a share a PredictWind forecast for them.

MT at anchor with PT Fortitude and her barge

Meanwhile crew had had a grand time exploring the Island with Gunnar winning the award for most miles covered having skipped the turnoff for town and ending up crossing the island to the Golf Club which ironically some our crew also got to view when their hitch hiking pickup driver decided that it was a must see attraction (with white sand beach and iconic Norfolk Pines at the old convict prison camp) to be viewed before leaving the island.

Norfolk Islands scenic golf course

Early yesterday morning Gunnar, Mike and Amanda completed sponging off the antifouling and removing a few barnacles from thru-hulls and the rudder while I changed the oil. By 0830 we had the anchor up and set off on a close reach for New Zealand. We’ve had some brilliant sailing and a bit of motoring, but currently we’re prepared for our third and final frontal passage of the expedition, predicted to arrive around 0800 this morning, and to last only about five hours. We’ve already seen several gusts into the low 30’s and the seas have been building steadily. PredictWind is only showing peak sustained winds of 26 kts with seas to 2.3 meters, so with three reefs in the main and a scrap of headsail so we’re prepared.

November 14, 2019, 0440 hrs, 33.03 S, 172.31 E, Log: 230,346 miles
Baro: 1008.7, Cabin Temp: 70 F, Cockpit: 67F, Sea Water: 78.3 F
Broad reaching at 7.3 kts in 16 kt NW winds with full main and genoa, 1.5 meter seas

We’re through what should be our third and final frontal passage of the expedition. This one had thunder, lightning and as I served up pancakes to our hungry crew in the cockpit, massive rainfall! Peak winds were in the mid 30’s and seas were closely spaced and breaking impressively. 

Yet another squall approaching

Do pancakes disappear if rained upon?

The frontal passage was heralded by a 180-degree wind shift before lunch, then the wind dropped off for an hour or so and are we’re now zooming along on a broad reach with surprisingly smooth seas. We have only 210 miles to the customs berth in Whangarei’s Marsden Cove Marina. With challenging conditions below and at the helm we’ve decided to take a break from classes and catch up on sleep.

Sophia undertaking a rig check before nightfall

Measuring a daily run as we close on North Cape

November 22, 2019, 0840 hrs, 36.50 S, 174.446 E, Log: 230,652 miles
Baro: 1020.2, Cabin Temp: 70 F, Cockpit: 67F, Sea Water: 75.3 F
Moored on D Pier, Westhaven Marina, Auckland

Land Ho! At Cape Brett’s iconic “Hole in the Rock with our Leg 8 crew: AKA “Knotty Kiwi’s”

Andy, 70 - I’m a scientist, entrepreneur and sailor. My wife Sophia and I own a 43’ Hallberg-Rassy which we enjoy sailing in the New England area.

Sophia, 68 - I’m a visual artist, a keen skier and a very good grandmother. My website is:  

Gunnar, 58 - I’m from Denmark, where I have my own company and expect to sail around the world in 2-3 years’ time. I and my wife own a 19-year-old Malo 45, a wonderful boat. I have sailed since I was five years old when I got an Optimist. My goal with this expedition was to taste real offshore sailing and to learn the most possible in these 18 days. A lot has been learned, thanks!

Val, 67 - I’m a retired dentist and a fearful sailor and I’m looking forward to sailing north into Canada in 2020 with my husband Mike.

Mike, 69 - I’m a semi-retired veterinary surgeon living on Orcas Island of Washington state. Val and I have a Westsail 32 which we will probably sell and upgrade. We’re looking forward to sailing Desolation Sound and SE Alaska next summer.

Pam, 70 - Amanda calls me Mighty Mouse. I like to believe because I’m agile, strong for my petite size and determined, I can do anything! I love to sail. I sail in the New York City area. We just sold our Pearson 30 and bought a Tartan 41. I race mostly an Ideal 18 and I’ll sail anywhere with the right crew. Have foulies, will sail!

Tessa reminds us all that’s it a MT tradition to dress up as we pass under the Whangarei Bridge

Great conditions meant that we had to move our ETA for the customs dock at Marsden Cove Marina forward three times. In the end we had a nearly full moon and very moderate conditions as we followed the well-marked shipping channel past Whangarei’s Mardsen Point Refinery and then into the narrow channel into the nearby marina.

The customs wharf was empty, and we celebrated with tea and bikkies before instantly falling asleep. We awoke to a brilliantly sunny Saturday morning and by 0900, Bruce, Whangarei’s notoriously efficient and friendly customs inspector was aboard, followed by an equally efficient Bio-Security inspector. 

After topping up fuel we welcomed Mary-Ann and Tessa, Amanda’s nieces, aboard for the 10-mile voyage up the river to the Whangarei town basin. Our crew delighted in the charm of this very famous cruisers town while Amanda and I visiting with her brother, David, his wife Karen and our favorite nieces!

Before heading downriver Sunday noon, Amanda went aloft as it appeared we’d somehow maypoled the halyards. 

Whangarei’s Marina’s quaint waterfront

Bilge pump review and check 

We anchored Sunday afternoon at Urquhart’s Bay inside Whangarei Heads and were delighted to head ashore for a hike through the cows and around the headland to the WWII gun emplacements.

With Mike being a big animal vet I guess it’s not that funny to ask the friendly cows to “moooo on over”

Pam practices her shackle seizing in preparation for her lofty masthead mission with our new spinnaker block

A brilliant 40-mile broad reach south to Kawau Island was our reward on Monday and once anchored Amanda pulled out our trusty Sailrite machine to teach sail repair plus return aloft to change out the spinnaker block. This also proved an excellent time to cover engine room orientation and show how to biocide our watermaker.

Red hazy sunrise over Little Barrier Island due to the severe Aussie bush fires.

On our sunrise trail run on Kawau Island Tuesday morning Gunnar, Amanda and I passed nine wallabies (miniature kangaroos) and word of that was enough to have all of our keen crew asking to be dropped ashore at Schoolhouse Bay so they could look for marsupials on their hike across Kawai Is. to Mansion House, where I met everyone with MT. We then sailed across to Maharangi Inlet, where we anchored for the night and Amanda taught how to end-for-end and re-splice the damaged spinnaker halyard. 

Maharangi was a new anchorage for us, as was Tiritiri Matangi, a famous bird sanctuary island that we’ve been waiting years for mellow enough conditions to anchor off the semi-exposed landing. Everything aligned this time, and Wednesday morning under the command of Val, our Captain of the Day we raised anchor at Maharangi early, making a ten-mile beeline to find relatively calm conditions off the wharf. We anchored in 20’ of water then I ran everyone ashore and managed a brief peek at the nesting Little Blue Penguins before returning to anchor watch. 

Amanda: Tiri is a twitchers (bird watchers) dream. Unfortunately for me most of the birds were new to my repertoire so next time I need to take a better look at the DOC’s web site so I’ll be able to identify a few more species. It also didn’t help that I was so keen to wander as many trails a possible that I found myself at the far north end of the island with only an hour to spare to return to our lighthouse rendezvous…until I chatted with some twitchers who informed me that it was already nearing 11am not 10am...oh no!...I then had to sprint the entire length of the island on the service road...phew! I made it in time.

Tui’s in flax bushes

Tiri’s North East bad it’s not a feasible anchorage

Bravo Andy on your successful MOB

By 1200 and the winds were piping up when our crew returned from exploring with rave reviews. Val made the call to have lunch underway and before long we were off on an excellent fast reach towards Rangitoto, 12 miles SE. Enroute we stopped to practice heaving-to and everyone successfully completed Lifesling rescue maneuverers with Andy not only nailing our overboard newspaper head, but retrieving it with the Lifesling – a first in our 30 years of teaching this procedure!

A “Ta Da” moment on Rangi’s summit.

Once anchored in idyllic Islington Bay on Rangitoto Island, Amanda continued teaching double-braid splicing to three of our crew before several of us headed ashore on a sunset wander to peek in the ole batches and possibly spot an early morepork or perhaps a recently re-introduced native kiwi.

Friday morning, we were all up and in the dinghy by 0600 or so, and excited about our annual traditional “Rangi Ramble” - an hour hike to the top of a fairly recent volcanic cone where we sunshine, breakfast and stunning view of Auckland Harbour entrance await. 

It’s amazing to think that the next America’s Cup race will be held right here in March 2021 and we as we motored up the harbour into stiff headwinds we hoped to see the first of the new foiling monohull AC boats, due to launch any day now, but had to be happy with crossing courses with an older Kiwi AC boat loaded with tourists and seriously over canvassed in the gusty westerly winds.

Before we knew it we were moored on D pier at Westhaven Marina. While Amanda and I checked in with the marina and picked up a rental car, our capable crew cleaned MT from stem to stern. We all delight in a tasty and fun graduation dinner at The Turkish Café in Ponsonby - a long-time favorite of ours which Amanda introduced me to when we first met in 1994.

Friday morning Amanda demo’d relashing our top mainsail slider and then with everyone lent a hand to lower the genoa, then main, to the finger pier where Mike, Gunnar and I inspected, folded, then lashed them, ready for off-season storage in MT’s forward shower while Val removed the battens and Pam prepared to go aloft to spray the new squeaking spinnaker block and seize the shackle.

Hauling out for storage this afternoon. Nearly there!

Ahoy there, Mighty Mouse!

And then – it was over. The final expedition of our 30th season. Amanda and I are now cleaning, repairing, and organizing Mahina Tiare and all her supplies and spares as we’ll be hopping on a big bird home to San Juan Island December 4th. 

What a cracker season we’ve had – Thanks to the so many keen expedition members who sailed with us from many countries and walks of life, the several new exciting islands that welcomed us and the ever growing circle of old friends who graciously share their anchorages, islands, homes, meals, garden produce, music and dance with us.

Also a big Mahalo to all the support crew for Mahina Expeditions and those of you who follow us and share our adventures.

If you’d like to catch up with us, here’s our 2020 Seminar Season. You’re also welcome to drop anchor at Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor and share one of our favorite island hikes, bikes or kayaks.

Seattle Boat Show – January 24-26 

We’ve been invited to present eight free one-hour seminars Jan 24-26 and are inviting anyone interested in joining us for an expedition (or Boat Purchase Consultation) to join us at Jimmy’s on First, adjacent to the main boat show entrance for drinks and/or dinner at 6 pm on Sat, Jan 25.

Vancouver Boat Show, Canada:  February 6 & 7

We’re very honored to have been asked to present both free one-hour seminars February 6 & 7, plus for the first time ever, our Offshore Cruising Seminar Feb 8 at the Vancouver Boat Show. Previous EM’s Tom Hawkins and Margy & Monty have offered us places to stay at Whistler Mountain, so it won’t be all work on this trip!

Anacortes, WA Two-Day Hands-On Cruising Workshop, March 21 & 22

The first offering of this workshop quickly sold out last year, and no wonder? Where else can you find hands-on diesel engine instruction in a tech college facility, sail repair with Sailrite machines, marine electrical lab and rigging and ropework sessions combined with our Offshore Seminar? Don’t forget, there’s pizza, beer and live music at Village Pizza, just down the street from the Marine Tech Center.

Pacific Boat Show in Richmond, CA (SF Bay), April 16-19

What a great program! Nigel Calder will be presenting his new two-day Marine Electrical Systems seminar Friday and Saturday, then will join us Sunday for our Offshore Cruising Seminar. We’re also participating in Sarah Curry’s high-energy Offshore Cruising Forum on Saturday and will be present several additional free seminars Friday and Saturday.

Annapolis Boat Show, April 24 & 25

On Friday we’ll be presenting several 90-minute fee seminars, followed by Amanda introducing the new Sony Pictures documentary, MAIDEN, Friday night, free for all Cruisers University attendees!

Saturday, April 25 we’re honored to be presenting our Offshore Cruising Seminar as part of the Cruisers University program.

We hope to see you at one of these events! Any questions – you’re always welcome to contact us:

Cheers for now,

John & Amanda



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