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Chronologically Challenged Couple Cruises the South Pacific

Welcome to our blog.  Here you’ll find stories, pictures and hopefully a little helpful information about traveling around on a small sailboat.

To some, our blog may seem chronologically challenged, but it’s really not.  You see, our resident Capricorn, Cyndi, posts everything in the exact order in which it occurred.  Rich, with his short attention span, posts stuff the moment it occurs to him.  While we’re now in New Caledonia, Cyndi is once again (after going off on a tangent to do information pages about the Marlborough Sounds and Tasmania) writing about our first season in Fiji. Rich has already lost interest in last Monday. To sum it up:

Cyndi is writing about our season in Fiji 2013.

Rich is writing about the here and now, in New Zealand.

Rich and Cyndi

chronologically-challenged-pics

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Simrad ForwardScan (again)

January 14, 2018

Now that we’re settled down in Tauranga, I can knock off a few pending projects. One of them is finishing a video about making satellite maps for our new EVO3 chartplotters. Another is more raving about our new ForwardScan Sonar.

On the way to Tauranga, we did a little sightseeing by boat in the Cathedral Cove area. We’d hoped to anchor there for a night but the swell rolling in had other ideas. It had already been a long day and I didn’t like the idea of backtracking to get out to continue down the coast. I saw a possible way out at the southeast end of the area, but it looked dodgy.

Our route out of the Cathedral Cove area on Navionics charts. (Click for larger image.)

The aforementioned satellite charts didn’t help here much either…

Satellite chart on our Simrad NSS9 EVO3 chartplotter showing the route we took to exit the Cathedral Cove area. (Click for larger image.)

I wouldn’t have tried this path before but now we have ForwardScan sonar. Piece of cake! I could go slow and always turn around or back out if it got too shallow ahead.

And it did turn out to be a piece of cake. We never saw less than about 30 feet of water. I don’t think many sail boats take this path. A man on a jet ski stopped to watch and once we were through, gave us a big two-handed thumbs up. An approaching sail boat diverted to see what we were doing. After much contemplation, he also tried this route.

I’ve said this a couple times before on our blog but I’ll say it again: I don’t know how we did without this. It would have made the things we’ve done in the tropics so much easier! My hair might not be as gray now.

I will say this, just in case I talk anyone into installing this tech: it produces an image that you have to interpret. It’s not an absolute picture of the bottom ahead of your boat but rather data that can be interpreted to show what’s ahead. That said, It’s a brilliant display and I got used to it very quickly but I do feel that this warning is in order.  We’ve posted a couple of videos so you can see what I mean…

Simrad Ruined our Fun
Simrad ForwardScan vs. Bombie

-Rich

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We’re in Tauranga!

January 11, 2018

We rounded the mount yesterday afternoon and got securely tied up at Tauranga Bridge Marina. Wow, it’s good to be home! Here we’ll sit for the next five months or so.

And we hit the ground running. By noon on our first day here we’d bought a new car (well, an old one really. a Nisan Sofia for $800!). We’ll pick it up on Monday. We have a rental until then so we’re mobile. Land life, kind of, here we come! -Rich

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Almost There

January 10, 2018

After a long, long 75 mile motor yesterday that included a lovely boat tour of the Cathedral Cove area, this was our greeting this morning at Rabbit Island (just off Slipper Island):

Sunrise from Rabbit Island

We’re almost to Tauranga with just 36 miles to go to the entrance. We should be in a berth tonight (knock, knock, knock). -Rich

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Still on Passage, Sort of (Kawau Island, New Zealand)

January 7, 2018

(A rare current comment from Cyndi)

First, I’d like to comment on our passage from Noumea:

–Once again, we had rather late departure for the passage between the tropics and the “Lands Down Under.”

–Once again, this was because we were waiting for a decent weather window, hoping to have a reasonably comfortable crossing.

–Once again, we managed to enjoy the wait: with no weather window in sight, we got out and did some really, really nice cruise outings in New Caledonia’s lagoon. The weather gods were kind and (with the exception of a couple of days) the air temperatures were comfortably warm and lovely, probably a big part of why we didn’t feel in any hurry to leave (heat drives us out much faster than cold does, and when the temperature is this pleasant it’s hard to feel in a hurry to go).

We did, however, worry about cyclones and after an MJO pulse upped the possibility that a cyclone could develop, we decided if we didn’t get a weather window in the coming week, we’d go to Australia instead of New Zealand. We even procured Australian visas so we’d have the option to go there if need be.

Shortly after, we heard from Bob McDavitt, our weather router: there was a possible window, but it would not be a straight path to New Zealand. Instead it would involve a sort of arc towards Australia then take a sharp left turn towards New Zealand when the time was right, thus turning a 6 or 7 day passage into a 9 or 10 day passage, exchanging comfort for speed. We’re all about comfort, so we decided to go for it.

It didn’t quite go quite as planned; yet the results were the same in the end. The plan was go SW towards Oz, wait for a high pressure zone with very light winds and seas, then enter it and motor east towards New Zealand in light and variable winds. Some weather patterns changed along the way and we thought we’d cut a corner and get to New Zealand earlier. This is where we ran into two misjudgments on our part:

1. First, we assumed we could easily motor into 5-knot average winds and light seas. We usually can in a lagoon or, say, the northern hemisphere, but the southern ocean has such a mixed bag of swells that it can become like a washing machine. Even in very light seas and wind, our speed went down to about two to three knots every time we tried to head east into the breeze.

2. Second, we underestimated the current we’d have against us. It came from the south and the east, almost like it was taunting us, “Neh neh, bet you can’t make it to New Zealand!” In all fairness to us and our weather router, the currents predictions are remarkably unreliable. In the past, we’ve found even the “sure-bet currents” off the coast of Australia are far, far from being a sure thing. In this case we had between 1 and 2 knots of current against us the entire way.

In spite of the surprises, we ended up remarkably close to the original plan Bob McDavitt outlined for us before we left. The path remained mostly the same, but the reasons for the path less positive than planned. Generally we ended up with the true wind on the beam, the apparent wind ahead of the beam, which, for us, falls into the category of “going to weather.” But with low swells and mild seas, we really can’t complain.

Our Passage. The big green dot is our position each morning. The wind arrows show wind speed and direction with each full barb being ten knots and each half barb being five knots. The wind direction is from barbs to arrowhead.

In all, there were only a couple of really trying times. The first was after we turned east towards New Zealand. We had 20 knots of wind on the beam, which I know doesn’t sound bad but the accompanying swells were uncomfortable. This lasted a day and a half before mainland New Zealand kindly blocked part of the swell and made life so much better.

The other trial was more mental than physical when we thought we had less fuel than we actually did. The feeling of being low on fuel, having no wind, and having current against us brought up a feeling of vulnerability that’s hard to describe. Everyone is afraid of storms, but in it’s own way, days of limp sails and glassy water without enough fuel to motor out of it can be just as frightening. The worst moment was when we started moving backwards in the strong current. What happened to all our fuel, we wondered? Turns out it was still there: when we poured the rest of our fuel into the tank from jugs we found our fuel gauge was off.

Finally near the end of our passage we got a big break: the wind was supposed to go southeasterly as we turned down the east coast of New Zealand but it stayed southwest. Making that last turn to go down the east coast, I told Rich, “I guess we’re going to make it to New Zealand after all.” It never felt like a given until this point as easier-to-get-to Australia always lurked. Yes, the wind was still ahead of the beam, but with the seas blocked, motor-sailing down the coast was easy peasy. By the time the wind did turn southeast, we were close enough to the Bay of Islands that it didn’t matter.

It’s hard to describe the happiness we felt as we motored through the Bay of Islands towards the quarantine dock. All along, we’d told ourselves that it would be OK if we ended up in Australia, but being here now made that scenario unimaginable! It’s not that we don’t want to go back to Australia (we very much do), but right now, this is where we want to be, and making it here felt wonderful.

The next hurdle was getting cleared into the country and settling into a slip at the marina. The question of how long to stay in Opua was answered for us quickly: the marina only had a slip for a few days. We could have moved to a bigger and more expensive slip after that, but we decided to keep going to our destination for the season: Tauranga. But there was an issue: a low was bearing down on New Zealand and we’d have to race it in if we went for Tauranga. It looked too close for comfort.

Monster Low Heading our Way (via earth.nullschool.net)

In spite of the coming weather system, we decided to vacate our slip and make our way south. Realizing it would be too close for comfort to go for Tauranga, we decided that a harbor much closer called Whangaruru looked like a good bet. We found a spot with protection from the northeast, the northwest and the west.

It turned out to be an excellent choice: we had strong winds for about 2 days, but in a 24 hour period the winds went from northeast to northwest and gusted up to 60 knots. During this time we felt safe and secure, although the noise of strong winds kept us up for part of a night. Still, we felt like it was a feather in our cap to ride out one of these “monster” storms at anchor rather than at a marina, a first for us. Below, some video from the beginnings of the storm.

The worst of it came in the middle of the night; so we have no footage of that.

Now, after a couple of days in Whangaruru, we are making our way to Tauranga, taking a longer route than planned and making some stops along the way. We had planned to go straight from Opua to Tauranga on an overnight passage, no stops on the way because of the dreaded and very crowded Silly Season (holiday season). But the Monster Storm seems to have sent, and kept, many boaters at home thus we’ve had room to anchor in our chosen spots so far and hope this continues.

If all goes as planned, we’ll have a day in beautiful Waiheke Island before a stop at Great Mercury Island. We’ll then head south and though the pass around Mount Manganui when the tide is right. When the tide is slack, we can go “home” to our beloved Tauranga Bridge Marina.

After we arrive we’ll be taking a break for awhile, but many blog posts, some of them written on the passage, are ready to be posted.–Cyndi

Note: There are some pictures from our passage here, and Rich’s post about the storm here..

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We Survived!

January 6, 2018

A very strong low just passed over New Zealand and we survived. But the news wasn’t good everywhere else. See for yourselves the news of flattened tents and wayward trampolines!

Oh my, how will they ever rebuild those three tents?! What will the Jackson family do without their beloved trampoline?! This wasn’t our first experience with airborne trampolines: we narrowly avoided them in Australia too.

But seriously folks, this was a bad storm. We anchored in Whangaruru and it was a very comfortable, safe place. We saw one gust to 44 knots but we’re pretty sure there were higher gusts while we had the instruments turned off. A observation station just across the peninsula from where we anchored had gusts to almost 60 knots.

We’re glad it’s passed and though we make light of it here, we’re sorry for the losses others have suffered in this storm. We’ll head further south today with our ultimate goal being Tauranga, about 150 miles south. -Rich

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Noumea to Opua Passage Pics

December 31, 2017

Here are some pictures from our recent passage from Noumea, New Caledonia to Opua, New Zealand. As passages go, it was a pretty good one with just 36 hours of suckage. It was also one of our longest passages at nine and a half days. Not only did we go the long way to avoid bad weather, but we estimate that we lost about 250 miles to adverse current.

Here are some of the highlights that include flat, calm seas, sparkling waters, beautiful starry nights and the shining moon.

Click on any picture to enlarge and scroll through the images.

On Legacy, any passage where you can set a coffee cup down unattended is a good one!

Look Ma, No Hands!

Here’s my favorite position: sitting on the sea berth, watching the radar on our new GoFree app:

Kicking Back While Watching the Instruments on our Tablet with GoFree App

And here’s Cyndi’s favorite part of a calm passage: when the sea quits coming into the cockpit and we can wash away the salt!

Freshly Rinsed Cockpit

-Rich

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Merry Christmas!

We’re spending this Christmas at sea – a first for us – and what a lovely  Christmas morning it is out here! We’re about 300 miles NW of New Zealand  and slowly making our way in glassy, flat calm seas under a beautiful sunny  sky. (When we get internet again, we’ll post some pictures.)

It’s been a mixed bag passage. We’re six days into it (with over three more  days to go) and while we’ve had very nice seas and pretty comfortable winds,  we’ve had to sail into them most of the way so far. To top that off, we’ve  had a huge current against us much of the time, sometimes almost 2 knots. We  went the long way around in the first place to try for a better, less upwind passage, but that extra distance, coupled with the 150 miles or so we’ve  lost to the current has made this a very long ride! We’ve had to motor quite  a bit, if not because of lack of wind, then because what wind we had was on  the nose. We’ve motored enough that were getting a little concerned about  fuel. A few gallons more would sure make a nice Christmas present!

It turns out, even way out here, Santa knows where we are and brought us  some giftwrapped diesel. This morning, we found that our fuel gauge was  reading low and we have about 20 gallons more fuel than we thought. (I guess the lump-of-coal flip side of this is that I’ll have to fix the fuel gauge  when we get in, and oh yea, the mess I made when the tank overflowed while pouring in fuel from jugs was lump-of-coal-ish too!) Even before Santa’s  help, we figured we’d have enough fuel to make it in, assuming the weather  reports were correct (and they haven’t been so far!). It would be a little  close and we’d have to get in a couple of days of sailing. Now, we’re really  in pretty good shape, fuel wise.

If all goes well, we hope to be in Opua, New Zealand late Thursday night or early Friday morning. I’m really getting excited about being back.

Note: any mistakes contained herein are strictly the fault of passage brain  and not my fault, for I am usually faultless! 😉

Merry Christmas and may your new year be faultless!

-Rich

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Goodbye New Caledonia

December 19, 2017 at 6AM

We got underway for New Zealand (Opua) this morning. We’ve had a wonderful time in New Caledonia but it’s time to move on (cyclone season and all).

In about eight days, with a little luck, we’ll be in New Zealand.

-Rich

P.S. We turned the lights off.

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The Deep Blue Lake (Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 20, 2013

One of the most notable features of the Bay of Islands area is the distinctly dark and round body of water we called the Deep Blue Lake. Below, an interactive map of the area.

The Deep Blue Lake
Legacy's Anchorage
Bay of Giants
South Pass
The Jade Pool

Its color stems from it being very deep (and as thus far as we’re concerned not a suitable anchorage). This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth exploring, though. The perimeter had some vividly-colored water amidst its offshore motus, more hidden worlds of beauty to discover. –Cyndi

Below, a collection of photos we took from exploring the area around the Deep Blue Lake. You can click to enlarge and scroll.

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The Bay of Giants (Vanua Balavu, Fiji)

September 19 – 23, 2013

The Bay of Giants is not an official name, just a name we made up for this area. It’s an area of water less than 1/4 mile wide between the islands bordering our anchorage and shoreline of Vanua Balavu.

Legacy's Anchorage
Pass Between Anchorage Islands
Bay of Giants

We first caught sight of it as we went through the pass between our bordering anchorage islands, which felt like entering a different word. Not far in the distance, we could see scattered islets, tall rock pillars that looked like they’d be right at home in Thailand, not something we’d expect to find in Fiji.

On approach, this area is at its most impressive on days with some cloud cover. When the sun peeks out it spotlights the islands while the large mountains in the background remain shaded. The effect is dramatic. (You can click to enlarge and scroll through galleries below.)

Up close, the pillars are imposing, some of them maybe reaching a good 40 feet high (just a guess). In full sunlight the water at their bases turns all shades of blue and green. But cloud cover provides its own beauty: the vegetation on the pillars and the surrounding mountains take on more dimension, and the water beneath the pillars illumines with an ethereal blue glow.

We made several trips here in various light, and all were beautiful. These pillars (in our opinion at least) are one of the most impressive sights in Fiji. –Cyndi

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