Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Best Cruise Ever

The simplicity of life afloat is a distant memory now.  On Moku pe’a our two biggest daily concerns were where we were going that day and what to have for dinner.  Life ashore is more complex.  Once back home my time was immediately consumed with long overdue tasks like catching up on seven months of mail, getting the yard cleaned up, unloading Moku pe’a, shifting her back to local sailing mode, and cleaning up from the cruise.  The calendar is full with hiking, tennis, holiday parties, doctor’s appointments, and trying to get back in shape in my spare time.

After five voyages to the tropical South Pacific, I feel like I have experienced it all.  This adventure was about filling in the gaps missed in previous trips, and I think we saved the best for last with Vava’u and Raivavae.  Vava’u is a cruising sailor’s paradise and Raivavae one of the most spectacularly beautiful and unspoiled spots on earth.

I’m getting very picky in my old age about who I will go to sea with, and I was fortunate to have three great shipmates for the long passages in Rocky Young, Matt Dyer, and Tony Hoff.  I was also lucky enough to have my best friend Dave Schaefer and my daughter Kendra both join me for a week of cruising in Tahiti.  But this cruise would not have been a success without the tireless support of my wife Lori.

Ocean sailing is not Lori’s thing.  She gets seasick so couldn’t join me on the passages, but she was there for two months of cruising in Vava'u’s protected waters and another month in Tahiti.  She was also managing our household while I was away.  She saved the day when she brought down a new headstay and roller furler to replace the damaged gear in Tonga, and she stepped in and handled communications when the sat phone acted up on the way home.  Her days at home were consumed with shore support activities for us, and on the boat she was always enthusiastic and involved.  Lori wins the MVP award.

The only significant problems we had were one bad house battery and a stranded headstay, both occurring on the first leg of the trip to Tonga.  The battery was bad luck – it was brand new.  The stranded headstay was no big deal, but it was bad timing having it occur in the middle of nowhere.  Fortunately, we discovered it a week before Lori was scheduled to fly down to join us and she was able to bring a new one with her while we limped in to Vava’u.  We had no other significant problems.  None.  I haven’t even pumped the bilge since we departed from Tonga 5,000 miles and four months ago.  Moku pe’a is ready to go again…. Tomorrow.

Our Raymarine electric autopilot steered Moku pe’a for the entire voyage with flawless precision.  The pilot can’t anticipate wind and waves, it can only react to being pushed off course.  In that respect it is not as good a driver as a skilled helmsman.  But the autopilot pays attention 100% of the time, never gets sleepy and nods off, and never gets confused in the black of night.  Its reliability, dependability, and predictability make it an invaluable tool.  We had a windvane that could have steered the boat if the electric autopilot failed, but we never needed to use it.

The most remarkable aspect of the voyage was the near perfect weather we experienced.  Nearly seventy percent of the passages were broad reaching or running.  Part of our good fortune can be attributed to accurate weather forecasts and our use of them to optimize timing and routing, but we were just plain lucky for most of the trip from Tonga to Raivavae, and most of the trip from Bora Bora to Hilo.  That kind of luck is rare.

It was also notable that we only saw three other vessels during our passages, and I don’t think any of them were fishing boats.  The number of fishing vessels encountered at sea had steadily increased during my previous passages and I expected to see at least ten of them this time.  I have equated the increase in the number of fishing boats out there with the steadily decline in the number of fish we catch during passages.  Our catch continues to decrease which tells me there are less and less fish out there.  I was surprised that we didn’t see any fishing boats.   

Moku pe’a sailed approximately eight thousand miles at an average speed of 5.9 knots.  Our best day’s run was 173 miles, worst day’s run 78 miles, and average day’s run 141 miles. We visited four countries, seven archipelagos, and approximately forty islands in seven months.  We cruised around some of the loveliest islands on earth, made some great new friends, had memorable experiences, and lots of laughs.

Folks have been asking me what’s next, and I really don’t know.  I’ve done just about everything in the tropical Pacific Ocean that I’ve wanted to, and I’m not sure I want to sail outside the tropics.  I hate being cold.  Perhaps Lori and I will try some land based adventures for a while.

Thank you for sailing along with us on the best voyage of my life.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

20 November - Safely Home


Moku pe'a charged across the Molokai Channel wing and wing with a double reefed mainsail and triple reefed jib. We jybed onto port tack just outside of Moku Manu, sailed into the Sampan Channel, and at 135PM pulled into the bulkhead at KYC.

A bunch of friends were waiting for us and helped celebrate our successful cruise. It was great to see everybody again after being gone for seven months! Many thanks to Kim Ickler and Georgia Schmidt for the beautiful boat lei, Bo Wheeler for the great food, and Robin Kudlich for the beer and champagne. The party lasted until well after dark. The pitcher of mai tais that I was handed upon stepping ashore clouds my memory a bit, but I woke up at home this morning in one piece, and went down to the club to find the Mighty Moku pe'a resting calmly at the bulkhead.

I couldn't be prouder of my eighteen year old vessel. Other than our headstay and battery problem on the first leg, we had zero gear issues. Moku pe'a performed flawlessly and brought us safely home. I had been thinking before the trip that perhaps Moku pe'a wasn't the best boat for a voyage like this, but I was wrong. She was perfect.

I am still shocked by how lucky we were with both weather and equipment. It makes me wonder if perhaps my Dad was out there watching out for us.

I was also lucky enough to be able to share the experience with great shipmates. Rocky Young, Matt Dyer, and Tony Hoff were ideal voyage partners, and it was wonderful to share the interisland experience with Lori Lloyd, Vicki Dyer, Dave Schaefer, and Kendra Leary.

I'll probably have one or two more posts. I still plan to look over my log and do some summarizing for the trip, but I'm not sure when that will occur.

Many thanks to you all for following along and sharing the experience with me.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

19 November - The Final Leg Home

0600 position 21-21N 156-57W. 8 miles north of Kalaupapa. 46 miles to
Kaneohe.

On Monday morning we checked in with the Hilo Port Captain, did some more
provisioning, and got another five gallon jug of diesel. After that we
figured it was appropriate to pay our respects to the Mayor of Honoka'a,
Aaron Phillips, so we drove up and inspected his job site repairing the
Hamakua ditch. Very interesting project. Then we headed up to Waimaea
where we visited with Leslie Hess Kissner, my next door neighbor growing
up on Kaneohe Bay Drive, who is the Executive Assistant at the Keck
Observatory offices. Leslie showed us around and then we met Aaron after
work at the Big Island Brewhaus where we sampled some award winning ales
and had dinner.

At 6AM Tuesday I kissed Lori goodby and we weighed anchor for Kaneohe.
Remarkably, we had to power off and on for five hours until the trades
filled in off of Lapahoehoe. Not what I would have expected with 25 knot
trades forecast. Hawaii's big mountains appeared to have created a local
weather system that overpowered the forecast trade winds.

At 730AM we caught the first mahi of the cruise. He was pretty small, but
I'm still happy. It took seven months and eight thousand miles of sailing
to catch that mahi. We snagged him on a Fred Morelli special. Thank you
Fred! That was the last uncompleted "must do" item on the cruise agenda.


The trades eventually filled in with a vengeance though, and we charged
across the Alinuihaha Channel, over the top of Maui, across the Pailolo
Channel, and as I post this we are screaming down the north shore of
Molokai with a double reefed main and just a scrap of a jib set.

It's been a cold and windy night. I even had to dig out the bunny
slippers to stay warm.

It is looking like a 1PM arrival at KYC.

Monday, November 17, 2014

17 November - Relaxing in Hilo

0600 position 19-44N 155-03W. At anchor in Radio Bay, Hilo.

After we got the boat tied up and put away and had breakfast we tried to
head over to Customs to check in. The port security changes since 9/11
have really messed up Radio Bay. We couldn't get out of the Harbor on
foot from the dock we were tied to. It is all fenced off for harbor
security. After tromping around on shore and finding ourselves trapped,
we launched the dinghy and paddled over to a little park on the south
shore of the harbor where we could get out. We walked over to customs,
did our paperwork, and returned to Moku pe'a.

Julius and Susan from Emerald Steel were at anchor in the harbor when we
arrived, and they paddled over for a visit. They recommended anchoring
vice tying to the dock since you have to dinghy ashore to get out anyway
and one of the boats tied to shore got a mouse infestation. That was
enough encouragement for us, so after filling water we moved out to an
anchorage next to Emerald Steel.

Lori arrived on schedule at 130PM, rented a car, and found us with no
problem. It was wonderful to see her again.

After we got Lori settled in we dinghied over to Emerald Steel for a
visit. It was fun to tour their home made steel Spray replica. They will
be in Hawaii for a year or so, and I believe we were successful in talking
them into spending some of it in Kaneohe Bay. Their voyage north wasn't
as pleasant as ours taking 26 days in lots of adverse winds.


We went to Ken's Pancake House, Aaron Phillip's favorite diner, for dinner
and then back to the boat where I finally was able to get some sleep.

Yesterday we took a road trip up to the hot spring/tide pool on the Kau
coast and to the volcano where we hiked across Kilauea Iki.

There are small craft warnings in effect and the forecast is for strong
trade winds and a big north swell the rest of the week. This throws a
monkey wrench in our planned leisurely cruise home. Our planned
anchorages in Nishimura Bay and La Perouse Bay won't be any fun in the
strong winds and big swell. Lori isn't interested in survival cruising
either, so she is planning to fly home. Tony and I will sail directly to
Kaneohe staying well east of the channels which should keep us out of the
strongest winds. It will take us a day and a half to get home. We're
planning on leaving Tuesday morning and should arrive at KYC late
Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

15 November - Land Ho!

0600 position 19-44N 155-03W. Tied to the dock in Radio Bay, Hilo. Day's
run 120 miles.

At 1015AM we got to within seventy five miles of land in the Hawaiian
Islands, the geographic limit of Moku pe'a's insurance policy. She is
insured again! Now I can stop being careful.

We spent twenty two hours on port tack sailing into Hawaii from the south.
Unheard of! The trade winds south of the Big Island are probably some of
the most reliable winds in the world. This is probably the first and last
time you will ever hear of that happening. The cause is a low pressure
system moving to the east north of us. Sound familiar? It's similar to
the low we latched on to that took us from Tonga to Raivavae.

King Neptune put on a fireworks display to welcome us home. As it got
dark the lightning started. The Sea King was more enthusiastic than we
wanted though. Some of the lightning was scary close to the boat. It is
disconcerting to be the only thing sticking up in the sky in an otherwise
flat ocean in a lightning storm. I don't know why more boats aren't hit.
Moku pe'a continued her lucky streak and we escaped unscathed. No need
for caffeine to stay awake last night! We had quite a bit of rain as
well. As we approached Hilo the rain and lightning stopped, the clouds
disappeared, and the stars and moon came out.

When we got to within fifteen miles of Cape Kumukahi at 8PM the wind shut
down and we powered off and on the last thirty five miles into Hilo. We
finally turned the engine on for good at 5AM, dropped the sails, powered
in, and were tied to the dock at 6AM. We've got lots to do like clean up
the boat, check in with Customs, and get ready for Lori's arrival this
afternoon. Just under eighteen days, almost exactly the same as our two
previous passages between Hawaii and French Polynesia. This was the
smoothest, lightest wind passage I've ever made though. It was a good
one, and I'll summarize more tomorrow.

Friday, November 14, 2014

14 November - Deja Vu

0600 position 18-19N 153-34W. 122 miles southeast of Hilo. Day's run 118
miles.

The wind has been behind us and light all day so it was slow going. The
spinnaker went up at 6AM and we sailed on a broad reach with it until it
looked like the wind was starting to pick up. It took a lot of attention
to fly the kite as the wind was up and down and there was a large north
swell to contend with. We dropped the kite at 4PM and poled out the jib
which was easier to deal with. The wind stopped building almost
immediately so it was slow going into the night, and by 10PM the wind had
lifted us well above our lay line so we jybed to port. Since then we have
been moseying along toward the Big Island. The wind is supposed to
continue clocking to the southwest and our speed should increase as it
comes forward.

I finally found the right lures for the conditions. I put on the two
smallest lures I have, both red straight running resin heads, and they
both caught today. We threw back the first ahi and aku since they were
too small, and kept the next small ahi for dinner.

Twenty eight years ago almost to the day I was in just about the same spot
on a passage from the Marquesas. We were rushing to get into Hilo on a
Friday afternoon so we could clear customs and not be stuck on the boat
for the weekend. We were on my Ranger 33, Eleu, and as we approached Hilo
the wind died, as it often does, so on went the engine. After a few
minutes the temperature buzzer came on so we shut her down and sailed in.
If you haven't tried short tacking in the channel into Hilo's Radio Bay,
it is not for the faint hearted. It's similar to short tacking up to the
KYC bulkhead. But we made it in and cleared customs just before they shut
down for the weekend. After we got settled I tore into the engine and
determined that the raw water inlet into the exhaust mixing elbow had
become clogged with precipitate - a common problem with Yanmars. I
cleaned it out with a coat hanger and we were up and running. Good times.

It's a Friday and we are racing to get into Hilo, but the heat is off on
clearing customs. They are now open on Saturdays until 2PM and we will
probably arrive sometime early Saturday morning.

Lori is flying in to Hilo Saturday to join us for the sail to Kaneohe. I
can't wait to see her!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

13 November - Sat Phone Miracle

0600 position 16-50N 152-14W. 238 miles southeast of Hilo. Day's run 145 miles.

We had very steady eight to twelve knot winds today that slowly lifted us from a beam to a broad reach. Seas were mild and we spent all day comfortably sailing at full speed under full sail directly toward Hilo. The wind lightened during the night watches, so progress slowed, but we are on track for a Friday night arrival.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we have lots of time on Moku pe'a to think, and I've been thinking about why the sat phone data connection crapped out without warning, and why it miraculously started working again this afternoon. Lori tried to help us solve the problem and spoke to pal Rick Villalobos who has the same model sat phone. Rick told her about a feature where one could send an autoscripted text message with the phone generated GPS position embedded in it. Lori asked me to give it a try. I was unaware of this feature, and through playing with it learned that I could also send text message sized emails even though the phone's data function wasn't working. Hence the abbreviated blog posts for a few days. But I couldn't get the phone to even display our GPS position, let alone send a text with the embedded GPS position as Lori requested. Instead I got the message "Display of Lat/Lon is prohibited in your current location". Strange. The phone manual says that the phone still gets the GPS position, but the ability to display the position on the phone is prohibited in certain areas. And now that I can all of a sudden send and receive data again, I can also display our GPS position on the phone. Coincidence? I don't think so. I think INMARSAT screwed up and restricted phone use to voice only (no GPS, no data) in the area we just passed through.

Tony says it's not a screw up. There's something special about the large empty area of the Pacific Ocean we just sailed through, like maybe it's "Area 52", and the government has restricted activities there. It's a big secret though, and that's why we've never heard about it. What do you think?

The conventional methods of catching fish weren't working on the Mighty Moku pe'a so we pulled out all the stops. Today was Portagee lure day. I put away the conservative conventional lures and got out the gaudiest, most shockingly colored lures I could find. One was a jet with fluorescent green and orange skirts and the other a green lure with red and yellow feathers. Alas, they didn't work either.

Sadly, Tony's aku were gone when the sun came up this morning. I guess they got tired. Here's what he has to say about it:

TONY'S TUNA TREATISE

Over 1,800 miles, we saw the same phenomenon: little aku or some kind of tuna, ranging from the size of your hand to the size of a large tennis shoe (these are small juveniles of this species), jumping out of the water, feeding on inch-long baby flying fish and/or other baby fish. This happened a lot near the boat but we could also see them a long way away from the boat when the water was calm. We could also sometimes see them swimming alongside the boat, easily keeping pace and even darting ahead quickly to chase the prey.

This happened across hemispheres, across the West Equatorial Current and the north and south Equatorial Counter Currents, in all kinds of weather and sea state. The size of the hunters and their prey and their behavior was very consistent the entire way. Over such a large area, this is quite remarkable.

Noodle says I claimed these fish swam with the boat all the way from Bora Bora. Okay, so there was that sleep-deprived morning when I was certain I saw one wearing a Bora Bora Yacht Club T-shirt. I think that one was Genevieve and she looked quite good in it.

But here's the thing: If you see an aku jump once every minute, and you assume you see that fish only once before it falls astern and is replaced by another that jumps the next minute, etc., and you extrapolate that over the big part of the ocean that we sailed, the total number of these fish is Huge. If, on the other hand, you see them keeping pace with the boat, and then some, and you are seeing the same fish jump five times over five minutes before it falls astern and is replaced by a new one that you see jump five times, etc., and you extrapolate that over the big part of the ocean that we sailed, then the total number of fish is 20% of Huge. This is still mind-boggling.

Such are the profound musings in Moku pe'a's bouncy cockpit in the middle of the night.

Today, 350 miles from Hilo, was the first day there were no aku. Although Noodle is excellent company, it's lonelier without Genevieve and the others. I wish them well.

Tony

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catching Up - The Lost Blogs

As you may be aware, the Mighty Moku pe'a has been without sat phone email capabilities since 4 November. We've been trying to make it work every day without success. Then today, 12 November, it started working again for no apparent reason. What follows are the blogs for 4-12 November. Sorry about the SNAFU.

4 November - A Sad Day 0600 position 2-03S 149-18W. 879 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,353 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 165 miles.

The mood aboard Moku pe'a was subdued today. Rocky, my friend and shipmate for the longest leg of this adventure, lost his son on Saturday. It is incomprehensible what a parent must go through in such a situation. Our hearts go out to Rocky and his family and we can only try to will them the strength to carry on.

After 2 days of northeasterlies the wind started to clock as forecast and lifted us up to our desired heading just east of north. We've started to ease sheets and have moved the jib lead out to the rail. The wind is steady at about ten knots. Our speed has picked up and we are consistently sailing between six and seven knots. The seas are flat and there are no squalls. It doesn't get any nicer than this out here. We should have these conditions for another day before the wind lightens and continues to lift us, and then we will probably have to head up to the northeast to maintain speed. Other than
the expected fluky winds in the ITCZ, it should be all downhill from here into Hilo.

We are about five days away from the southern edge of the ITCZ, or doldrums. The ITCZ is poorly organized and 250 miles wide right now in the area where we need to cross it, and it could take us a few days to get through. Let's hope the forecasts become more favorable as we get nearer to it.

There was quite a bit of marine life out here today. Tony had some dolphin playing in the bow wave last night. We sailed by a bird pile working some bait fish on the surface just after noon. I had what looked like an aku hit the fish line this afternoon. The hook didn't set so I went to pull the line in to check the lure for damage when he hit a second time, but again the hook didn't set. Just as well. I don't care much for aku. A little later another fish hit but didn't hook up. Once again I was pulling the line in when it hit again. This time I could see the dorsal fin of a small billfish so I got the line in quickly. Don't want those guys messing with my lures. On my Ranger 33 Eleu off of the Marquesas I watched mesmerized as a single marlin took four of my lures one at a time before I wised up and pulled in the fifth handline intact.

5 November - Crossing the Line 0600 position 0-23 N 148-36W. 1,030 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,224 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 152 miles.

At 229AM I was sitting in the cockpit enjoying my morning cup of coffee and contemplating life when I heard a "thump" up near the bow pulpit. I looked up, and in the nearly full moonlight could clearly see the silhouette of a crowned, long haired old man armed with a trident balancing miraculously on the foredeck as the boat pitched in the small but confused seas. "Uh oh. Here we go!" I thought. He stomped aft along the deck leaving a trail of disgusting smelly seaweed for me
to clean up later.

I stood as he entered the cockpit and he bellowed "By the blood of Poseidon, can't you manage to cross the equator at a civilized hour? I was just getting busy with the misses! I hope you've got a good reason for interrupting me!"

"Greetings, Your Majesty," I said. "Welcome aboard. I am truly sorry about the hour, but we can't control what time we get here. We are at the mercy of the winds and seas, and that's your department."

"Hmmm, so it is," replied the Sea King. "But Moku pe'a crossing the line AGAIN! Don't you guys have anything better to do?"

"Your seas are the finest spots on the earth, Your Highness," I pleaded. "There is no place we'd rather be."

This seemed to placate the old bastard, and after a moment of thought he said "So it feels like there's a pollywog aboard. Where is he?"

Tony had, in fact, been awakened by all of the commotion, and came sheepishly on deck. "Good morning, O' Great Sea Lord. I'm honored to be in your presence," said Tony, clearly sucking up to King Neptune.

"Good morning, indeed" responded the crusty codger. "And why should I allow you into the realm?"

I jumped to Tony's defense. "Tony is a fine sailor," I stated. "He has crossed your ocean many times under sail and has the greatest respect for your winds, waves, and creatures… and he likes the BeeGees."

The Sea King now eyed Tony warily. Perhaps it was the BeeGees comment that had taken him aback. He was probably wondering if Tony was psycho and decided to handle him with kid gloves. "Uh, OK. Welcome to the Kingdom. Let it be known by all that Tony is now a Shellback and hereby entitled to all of the benefits of Shellbackdom!"

With the expected business concluded I thought His Royal Highness would make his departure, but we all stood around looking at each other in an awkward silence. I finally broke the ice by asking, "Can I get you a drink, Your Majesty? Perhaps a shrimp cocktail?"

"No thanks, Skipper," he replied, "but there is something else. My records indicate that this is your tenth equator crossing under sail, and I want you to know that you have just joined a pretty exclusive club."

"Does the club have a name, Your Highness?", I asked, hoping that it didn't include the words "idiots", "morons", or "fools".

"Nope," he said, "Just wanted to acknowledge your accomplishment."

"This wouldn't have anything to do with the remarkable weather you gave us for the Vava'u to Raivavae passage, would it?" I queried.

"In part," answered the Sea King. "Also, it is widely known that Moku pe'a is a fine vessel. She always does her best, has risen to every challenge, and never lets you down. She has earned a break, and I wanted to take it easy on the old girl."

"She is a grand lady and has been a faithful partner in my adventures these past ten years," I opined. "Thank you for taking care of her."

With that, the Lord of the Seas slipped over the side and was gone. I wondered if that was the last time we would meet.

6 November -A Different Point of View 0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles.

Tony had a little bit different take on the equator crossing. Here it is:

A couple of nights ago, I was sleeping peacefully, Moku pe'a's gentle rolling and the the sluicing of the ocean inches from my ear providing a lullaby. Suddenly, there was a huge commotion out on deck. An unrecognizable clamor accompanied by a thundering voice to be heard intermixed with Noodle's quieter tone. The booming voice was saying, "How DARE you! Where is he! Where is he! Noodle, you know me well enough! Any Pollywogs that enter my realm must have my PERMISSION to pass! Place him before me IMMEDIATELY!"

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and hurried to the waist of our little ship. Silhouetted in the shaft of silvery moonlight that sparkled on the water was the most imposing figure I've ever seen. He was extremely tall, every bit as old and crusty as I had imagined. He was draped in some kind of cloak of ripply material that dripped seawater. He certainly smelled to high heaven! He wore a huge crown that made him look the more imposing, and he carried the most lethal looking trident. The crown and trident emitted a soft metallic rattling sound in the trade wind. Of all his frightening features, the strangest was a single glowing eye in the middle of his forehead. The great Neptune himself! "There you are, you scrawny little Pollywog!" he boomed, the salt spray showering from his lips. "How DARE you enter my realm without my permission! Justify yourself to me IMMEDIATELY!"

I trembled from head to toe, believing that at any second, he would make sashimi of me with that vicious trident. I stammered, "Oh Great Neptune, please forgive my intrusion. All my life I have been wanting to become a Shellback. I have traversed your seas and marveled at your creations. I have benefited from your generosity and suffered from your wrath. I humbly beg of you, sir, that you accept me into your realm as Shellback so that I my leave behind my inferior status as Pollywog."

"Pppfftthhh!" he spluttered. "Scant reason for me to accept you into my great realm." But his tone was softening a bit. "Noodle you and I have known each other for many years. Is this quivering bit of ogo limu truely worthy?"

Noodle listed off some of my limited ocean experience, embellishing a little, and explained that he thought my heart was ready. The old man's tone soften slightly more. "Aaack, Noodle, I'm inclined to turn him down. I see too many of these unworthy scabs wishing to enter my realm these days."

Noodle looked him square in the eye and said, "Sir, he really does have the beginnings of seawater coursing through his veins, and he loves it out here in your realm. Just look at that silly grin on his face, despite his terror of becoming sushi at any moment. Besides, he actually likes the Beegees."

"Oh, for crying out low. All right then," he grumbled. He turned to me. "Since Noodle and I go way back and he vouches for you, and since you have been wanting to cross the equator by sailboat all your life and have been working towards it, and since you are old and probably could not cause me much trouble anyway, I accept you, finally, into my realm as Shellback," he growled. "You may forever leave behind your status a Pollyiwog. But don't screw it up!"

Elated, I scurried below to ponder my new status. I was relieved I had not become nigiri appetizer for Neptune's family. As I left, I heard the old man and Noodle discussing a tenth (!) equator crossing and the last odd words, "Have you heard about their latest comeback tour...?"

If you don't believe the great King Neptune himself actually visited Moku pe'a, I have video.

And that's how Tony saw it…..

We have been unable to exchange email over the sat phone for two days now, and it is frustrating. When we try, and we have tried often, we get the error message "Temporary Network Error - Please Try Again Later". The phone works fine for voice transmissions as I've spoken to Lori twice. Hopefully we can get this worked out. I know there are folks who look forward to reading this with their morning coffee.

The past few days have been glorious sailing. Flat water, close reaching, light air but just enough to keep us sailing at full speed, and all in the right direction. We have gone full watches without adjusting heading or sails at all. Unfortunately that came to an end just after I came on watch at midnight last night. The wind had been dying during Tony's evening watch and it crapped out completely during mine. The engine went on at 125AM and we have been under power ever
since. The last grib we got said that the wind should clock around to the south, but not die off completely.

Just before we crossed the equator Tony saw what I believe was the first ship of the entire cruise during his morning watch, a container ship heading south. Tony decided that it was probably on the LA to Papeete run based on it's location, heading, and configuration.

At 10PM we passed the half way point in the voyage. It is all downhill from here!

There has been quite a bit of sea life out here around the equator. Both Tony and I had dolphins playing by the boat during our evening watches. I hooked a couple of tuna during my afternoon watch, but they came off before I could boat them. I've also seen tuna jumping close to the boat chasing prey. There are more birds about than there were earlier in the passage.

7 November - Moku pe'a Only Sails Downwind 0600 position 5-34N 147-43W. 1,346 miles north of Bora Bora, 955 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 166 miles.

The wind started to fill in from the south, so at 6AM we set the spinnaker and shut the engine down after five hours of powering. The spinnaker stayed up until shortly after noon when a large squall looked like it was going to hit us. We did the conservative thing and dropped the kite. The squall ended up missing us, but the wind was increasing so we poled out the jib and kept charging along until 6PM when the wind came forward a bit and we got rid of the pole. Tony sailed his night watch under full sail, but the wind increased during my night watch and by the time Tony came on deck in the morning we had two reefs in the mainsail and one in the jib.

Just after noon we sailed through the most distinct and turbulent current line I have ever seen at sea. I was lucky enough to capture it on video. The nearest land was more than 500 miles away. Perhaps it was the southern edge of the equatorial counter current.

During my night watch I could see lightning in the northwest. Perhaps the ITCZ?

8 November - Heading for the Barn 0600 position 5-34N 147-43W. 1,346 miles north of Bora Bora, 955 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 166 miles.

We sailed as deep as we could on starboard tack all morning, and then poled out the jib at noon. We had a double reef in the main all day, and 2 reefs in the jib in the squalls, with a full jib in between. Just after Tony came up for his early evening watch it started to rain, and it rained almost continuously all night. Tony complained that his hands were so wet for so long that the skin was pealing off. I was chilled to the bone and had on my hoodie sweatshirt under my foul weather
gear. It was continuous squalls all night long, with wind strength varying from nothing to 20 knots and sixty degree shifts. It required constant attention since we had the jib poled out first on starboard tack during Tony's watch, and then we jybed at midnight and I sailed my entire night watch on port tack.

Our progress is remarkable considering we are spending a lot of time parked up during the lulls. Moku pe'a feels like a horse that is headed for the barn. She is probably as anxious to get home as I am.

9 November - In the Zone 10-09N 146-47W. 1,627 miles north of Bora Bora, 752 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 117 miles.

We continued running in light air during Tony's morning watch, but the wind was slowly dying off. By the time I came on watch at noon it had crapped out completely. We ran the engine for twenty minutes in the early afternoon, but then the wind filled in from the west, and we sailed until 3PM when it died again. Engine on for three hours and when Tony came up at 6PM it filled from the east. The seas died off at the same time, and Tony had a gorgeous light air reach in flat seas and full moon for his evening watch.

We were caught in the equatorial counter current all day. In the middle of the stream we were headed due north, but our track over the bottom was twenty three degrees. That's quite a current! It also made the seas bumpy and confused. As we got further north, the current velocity decreased, the choppy seas decreased, and our track over the bottom slowly returned to due north. Interesting to see it on the chart plotter. Our compass course was true north all day but our track is a large arc.

We are starting to get concerned about our fuel consumption. The full day of powering at the beginning of the trip didn't help. We siphoned our spare jerry jug into the tank this afternoon, and that leaves us with about twelve gallons. That's not enough to power all the way through the ITCZ. Hopefully this wind continues.

Tony had a dream the other night that he and I were sailing with a saucy young French girl in cutoff jeans. She was joking around and laughing with us. Her name was Moku pe'a.

10 November - Heaven on Earth 11-58N 147-27W. 1,727 miles north of Bora Bora, 644 miles south of Hilo. Day's run 116 miles.

Eight to twelve degrees north latitude is the heart of the ITCZ. It is usually miserable here with thunderstorms, sloppy and confused seas and wind from all directions. We've been under power for the last two hours after the wind died, but for the previous thirty four hours we enjoyed some of the most beautiful sailing ever. Close reaching in absolutely calm seas, four to eight knots of breeze, dolphins playing under the bow, full moon at night, some interesting clouds but no rain. We're not breaking any speed records, but we are making good progress. For a whole day the wind was out of the east allowing us to sail directly north. Then over a ten minute period at 440PM today the wind slowly backed to just east of north, knocking us down until we were aimed right at Hilo. It looks like we may be out of the ITCZ, but this recent calm concerns me. Time will tell.

It was fascinating to see how the current has affected us. Our compass heading from 8AM yesterday until 440PM today was directly north. Our track over the bottom for that period looks like a large even arc though, with a heading of 026 degrees true at the southern end and 346 degrees at the northern end. This was all caused by current, first the equatorial counter current which sets to the east, and then that disappeared at 10N and was replaced by the normal tropical Pacific Ocean
westerly set. By my calculations there was two knots of easterly set in the south which slowly died and was replaced by a one knot westerly set in the north.

We're still on our first of two fifty gallon water tanks and since we are two thirds of the way to Hilo, I decided we could be a little more lax on the use of fresh water. There was still some hot water in the tank from all the powering we did yesterday, so I took a hot shower this afternoon. So nice. I'm looking forward to those regularly at home.

The winds were light but steady during my afternoon watch so I spent the time doing boat projects. I repaired the foot of the jib that had chafed, defrosted the refrigerator, rebuilt some damaged lures and cleaned and reorganized the lure quiver.

11 November - Slow Going 13-12N 148-37W. 1791 miles north of Bora Bora, 542 miles southeast of Hilo. Day's run 101 miles.

At sunrise yesterday I could see small tuna jumping and feeding all around the boat. We're talking six inch long tuna. The sea was very flat so you could see them a long way from the boat. They continued jumping and feeding until sunset. I put the lures out since I thought there might be something bigger out there. The little tuna must have had a laugh at my lure selection. We've caught so few fish that I'm trying everything including some old homemade plugs I put together forty years ago.

The wind teased us all day long but kept dying and we ended up powering three times for a total of nine hours. We would have powered even longer, but we only have enough fuel left for about twenty hours of powering, and we need to conserve fuel. The wind finally filled in from the northwest, the direction of Hilo, at 6PM. We tried both tacks and settled on port as being a bit closer to the mark. Over the course of Tony's night watch the wind slowly lifted us until we were almost laying Hilo when I came on watch at midnight. Nothing changed during my night watch.

12 November - Trade Winds At Last! 15-02N 150-35W. 1791 miles north of Bora Bora, 542 miles southeast of Hilo. Day's run 159 miles.

The ITCZ is characterized by large confused seas, constantly variable winds but mostly calm, rain, thunder and lightning. It is usually found between latitudes 8N and 12N. In my ten Pacific equator crossings the ITCZ has never been the same twice. It has varied in severity from 2 hours/12 miles wide to 4 days/240 miles wide. This ITCZ crossing was a strange one. We had typical conditions for about 9 hours/40 miles at 9N, but then we had smooth seas, clear skies, and steady easterly winds for 36 hours/120 miles. I speculated that we might be through the ITCZ at that point, but it wasn't to be.
We then had another 36 hours/120 miles of light and variable winds with smooth seas and clear skies before the NE trades finally filled in at 6PM yesterday. So the total width of the ITCZ this time was 3+ days/280 miles, but most of it was atypically pleasant. It is always and interesting experience.

We have been thundering along since the trades filled in yesterday. The winds have built slowly to about fifteen knots, and we don't expect them to get any stronger. Lori is giving us voice forecasts over the sat phone that she has extracted from the gribs for our expected location the rest of the way into Hilo. The winds should slowly lift us and lighten a bit allowing us to ease sheets and have a pleasant reach the rest of the way in.

We are down to about a quarter tank of fuel left. That's enough for about ten hours more powering before we'd have to shut down to ensure we have enough left to enter Hilo harbor. Fortunately, the forecast indicates no more powering will be necessary before we make landfall. We'll be able to get more fuel in Hilo.

The little tuna are still jumping everywhere. There is much speculation aboard about the Mighty Moku pe'a about why there are so many and why they are so small. Yesterday's theory was over fishing of large tuna left lots of tuna prey which has resulted in a baby boom. Tony has had a lot of spare time to think about this, too much spare time, and today he theorized that the same few tuna have been with the boat the whole time. He claims he recognizes them individually and has given some of them names. He says if we catch one we can tell because it will have a Bora Bora Yacht Club T shirt on. I have my doubts. We've gone 175 miles in the thirty six hours since we first sighted them. I don't think they could keep up with the boat for that long, and why would they want to? Are they going to Hilo too? Don't fish have to sleep? How can they follow us if they are asleep? Also, we can see them feeding constantly as they jump after prey. They'd have to be able to digest food as fast as a food processor to be the same fish. Any other theories?

Via Inmarsat: Small Aku Still with Us

0600 11/12 15-02N 150-34W 392NM Hilo. 159NM 24hr. Trades at last!
Sprinting for barn. Slow lift and build until beam reach 15kt. Sml aku
still with us. Tony says it's the same fish. They must be tired! Looks like
Hilo 11/14 PM

Sent via Inmarsat. The mobile satellite company

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Via Inmarsat: Fresh Food Pau

0600 11/11 13-12N 148-37W 542NM Hilo. 101M 24hr. Slow going, saving fuel.
Powered 3X 9hr tot. Wind filled in 1800 5kt NW. Slow lift until almost lay
Hilo at 0000. No chg. Sml aku jumping 0600-1800. Seas flat, fresh food pau,
digging thru cans.
Sent via Inmarsat. The mobile satellite company

Monday, November 10, 2014

Via Satellite Phone: Slow but Perfect

0600 11/10 11-58N 147-27W 644NM Hilo. 116NM 24hr. Heaven on earth. Wind
dying, under power last 2hr but prior 34hrs Kbay flat, 6kt wind, clear
skies, full moon, dolphin. Slow but perfect. Neptune kind but wont give us
fish.

Sent via Inmarsat. The mobile satellite company

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Via Satellite Phone: ITCZ pau?

0600 11/ 9 10-09N 146-47W 752 NM fm Hilo. 117NM 24hr. 6AM-6PM ITCZ.
Squalls, rain, wind 0-20 fm 0-360. 6PM-6AM beautiful reaching.  Perhaps Hilo 11/14.
Sent via Inmarsat. The mobile satellite company.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

8 November - Headed for the Barn

0600 position 8-15N 147-10W.  831 miles south of Hilo.  Day's run 164 miles.

No email since satellite phone's data text capability is still not working, fortunately voice is for now.  Moku pe'a has jibed to port, flying along wing and wing.  Rain squalls all day, wind speeds 0 to 20 and shifting 60 degrees. The big decision when through the ITCZ (intertropical convergence zone or doldrums) will be to continue getting east or head straight into Hilo.

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 November - Email Down

0600 position 5-34N 147-43W.  955 miles south of Hilo.  Day's run 166 miles.

Apologies for lack of communication while the satellite phone data text is not working. Moku pe'a reports they crossed the equator and King Neptune came aboard.  The spinnaker was up for 6 hours yesterday.  They expect to arrive in Hilo next week Friday or Saturday.

3 November - The Other Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles.

3 Novem33 November - The O3 November - The Other Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles 

south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles.ther Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles 

south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles. November - The Other Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles 

south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles. ber - The Other Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

3 November - The Other Kind of Grib

0600 position 4-42S 149-58W. 715 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,499 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 138 miles.

We had to deal with the northeast winds all day again today and they
pushed us to the west until we were in the proximity of Filippo Reef and
its surrounding shoals. I hate Filippo Reef. Kara and I had to deal with
these "phantom reefs" during our sail south in 2011, and we were forced to
tack away from them in the dark back then just to be safe. We only came
to within twenty miles of the easternmost reported shoal today, so it
wasn't a real problem, but it brought back unpleasant memories. Filippo
Reef and three other nearby shoal spots were each sighted individually by
vessels between 1865 and 1926, but their existence was never confirmed
thereafter. Hence the "phantom reef" description. They are all still on
the charts.

We seem to be done with squalls for a while so the wind is steadier in
both direction and strength. We had a reef in the main this morning, but
shook it just after noon and have been under full sail ever since.

I got an email from Lori yesterday in which she indicated that her Uncle
Joe in Jackson, Wyoming, who reads the blog, had emailed her asking the
definition of "grib". I'm using lots of nautical and technical terms in
the blog that many readers may not be familiar with, and "grib" is one of
them. I apologize for using terms you may not understand, but I'm trying
to write the way I talk, and that's the language we use out here.

If you don't understand a term I use, you can probably get its definition
by just searching on it in Google. But please, don't do that for "grib".
I've just learned from pal George Losey that typing "grib" in an internet
search can lead one to believe that it is an acronym for "Gay Related
Irritable Bowel Syndrome".

I can just picture Lori's Uncle Joe typing "grib" into Google, getting the
definition above, and calling out to his wife, "Gainsy, get over here and
look at this!" No wonder he decided to contact Lori for clarification.
One can get lonely out here on the high seas, but not THAT lonely… Look
further down the list. I'm not sure what the acronym stands for exactly,
but the grib I'm talking about is a graphical computer generated weather
model that I receive daily via email. It gives us forecast wind speed and
direction for our areas of interest.

Tony laughed so hard when I read this to him that I thought he was having
a seizure.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2 November - Northeast Trades?

0600 position 7-01S 149-57W. 579 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,635 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 127 miles.

It has been generally pleasant sailing for the past twenty four hours.
The reefs have gone in and out with the squalls as we sail along on a
close reach, but the weather has started to become more stable and for the
past six hours we've been living with a full main and jib in about nine
knots of breeze. The only problem is the wind direction - northeast.
This band of northeasterles was forecast, but come on, we are in the
middle of the southeast trade wind belt. It isn't right! The winds have
forced us to head west of north and we are giving up our hard earned
easting. We will have to make it up as we get closer to the equator where
the wind is forecast to clock around to the southeast again.

Tony had a sooty tern that was determined to land on the wind generator
during his evening watch. He didn't want to see it get hurt so he stood
on the stern shooing it away. He even knocked the bird away with his hand
at one point, but it didn't give up. It must have been pretty tired. The
bird finally succeeded in flying into the spinning blades from which it
didn't survive. Bummer.

I glanced up during my early morning watch to see the light of the moon
silhouetting a small cloud in the east. Wait a minute, the moon had just
set in the west. As I was coming to that realization, the last bits of a
shooting star appeared from behind the cloud and died out. That was a
bright one.

The sun is now at about 14 degrees south and as we speed away to the north
the days are getting shorter. At the beginning of the passage I would see
the glow of dawn before 4AM, but now I'm not seeing it until after 430.
Both days and nights are cooler now too. It's getting a lot easier to
sleep below on the off watch.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

1 November - The King of Squalls

0600 position 9-04S 149-27W. 467 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,761 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 147 miles.

At 920AM we were sailing along on a broad reach under full sail when Tony
called down below to me, "I think we may want to put in a reef before this
squall hits." By the time I got on deck, it had hit, and hit hard. As we
reefed the main and rolled the jib the wind stayed one step ahead of us,
and within ten minutes we had three reefs in the mainsail and just a scrap
of a jib up. The wind was well over thirty knots, and then it started
raining. We were both worried that the bimini was going to blow right off
of the boat. The squall lasted for an hour before it finally decided to
move on. That was one of the biggest and ugliest squalls I've ever sailed
through. It was surprising considering the benign conditions before and
after.


Otherwise it has been pleasant sailing, close reaching along in about ten
knots of wind. We've had to deal with occasional smaller squalls and had
to roll up the jib a bit in the midst of them, but nothing too bad. The
wind has slowly backed from south of east to just north of east as
forecast, and we've fallen off a bit and are headed more or less directly
north.

The King of Squalls had come through right in the middle of my morning off
watch and interrupted my sleep, so I was tired and grumpy all day. Tony
gave me some relief by cooking a great dinner and sending me to bed half
an hour early. I woke up at midnight completely refreshed, and decided to
reward his generosity by baking a batch of triple chocolate brownies
during the midnight watch. Tony is a good man, and likes both chocolate
and the BeeGees.

Early last evening we sailed past Caroline Island thirty eight miles to
the west. There aren't any more islands between here and Hawaii so it's
open ocean the rest of the way.

Friday, October 31, 2014

31 October - Slow Going

0600 position 11-28S 149-52W. 322 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,898 miles
south of Hilo. Day's run 108 miles.

It was very pleasant sailing all day with flat water and just enough wind
to keep us moving along at about four knots. We are not going to set any
course records that way, but given the choice between that and slamming in
heavy winds and seas, I'll take the slow road any day as long as we are
not slatting. We are slowly putting a little easting in the bank as we
work our way north. The easting will help in the expected heavier trades
north of the equator, and besides northeast is the fastest point of sail
in these conditions.

There was lots of me time today. I rebuilt my canvas bucket by hand
stitching it together and got a lot of reading done.

Tony sailed past a manta ray basking on the surface during his morning
watch. That's the only sea life we've seen in the last day.

The good times lasted until 1030PM when a big squall rolled through and
sucked all of the wind out of the atmosphere. We powered for four hours
until the wind started filling in from the southeast, and since then have
been zipping along on a broad reach under full sail at six knots. Perhaps
we've gotten out of the light air zone?

The gribs have really been wrong so far on this passage. This is the
first time that I have seen them so far from reality. They have been
saying that we would have light to moderate but steady easterlies since we
departed Bora, yet we've had to power for twenty six hours. Right now the
gribs say we should have fourteen knot easterlies and we are seeing eight
knots from the southeast…

Thursday, October 30, 2014

30 October - Smooth Sailing

0600 position 13-07S 150-34W. 215 miles north of Bora Bora, 1,990 miles from Hilo. Day's run 124 miles.

The wind finally filled in enough to sail at 830AM and we shut the engine down after powering for twenty three of the previous twenty four hours. Since then we have been close reaching to the north east under full sail. The wind has been slowly increasing, as forecast, and we are seeing speeds over six knots once in a while. The seas are still very flat and there is no water on deck, but a small left over wind chop from the north has given us a little jerkiness to the ride. Moku pe'a is happy to be sailing again. She doesn't like powering any more than I do.

We are madly consuming our fresh vegetables before they start going bad, so it was a salmon salad for dinner. It was too hot to cook anyway.

The sun during the day is brutal. Even under the bimini the heat radiates and the sunlight reflects off of the waves. I'm staying below while I am off watch in the morning and trying to hide from the sun during the afternoon. It will probably get even hotter as we pass under the sun's latitude. The sun is south of the equator and heading south now, so in a couple of days the worst should be over and it should start to cool off a bit. The water temperature is almost bath warm and will likely continue to warm until we approach the equator. At least that makes it easy to dump that first bucket over your head at bath time.

I'm waiting to take my daily bath until after 430PM when the heat isn't so bad and I won't start sweating again. I'm keeping all of the windows in my cabin open to keep the air circulating and keep it as cool as possible, but it is still difficult to sleep in the heat.

There's not much to do. Nothing has broken so there's nothing to fix. I took the opportunity to dry out the forward cabin while we were under power and all the windows and hatches were open. I'm working on an improvement to my homemade canvas bucket and reading a good book.

Tony has slipped right in to the routine effortlessly and is enjoying the ride so far. He is humoring me with my six hour watch system, something he had never tried before. We spend a lot of time talking about boat projects. He is getting his Islander 44 ready for a South Pacific cruise in a couple of years and still has lots to do on his boat. I like talking about it, but I'm glad it's him doing the work and not me.

From Tony - So I arrive in Bora Bora after 21 hours in transit and hop on the ferry to Vaitape. The day is dazzling, with the classic profile of Mount Otemanu watching over the lagoon. As we approach the little ferry harbor, there is the Mighty Moku pe'a anchored all alone and regal at the entrance. Noodle is on the dock waiting for me. It was great to see him after 18 months, or so I thought. We dinghy out to the boat, meet Kendra, and stow my gear.

The day is still sparkling, except for a black squall in the southwest, headed straight towards us and Mt. Otemanu. Noodle and Kendra exchange knowing glances that I later determine meant, "Let's put the newby crewmember through the Initiation Hazing." Noodle suggests a "hike" up to a nearby gun emplacement on one of the arms of Otemanu. We dinghy ashore.

The "hike" ends up being along the "road" through Vaitape. This is the biggest (only) town on Bora Bora. It is glued to the slopes of Otemanu where she meets the lagoon, leaving only a narrow passage for the road through town. It is always full of cars, trucks, busses, taxis, scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs and chickens, all trying to squeeze by one another.

Boy, am I gullible! Remember the black squall? It backed up against Otemanu, its mists swirling around the craggy peaks. It started raining and it was soon dumping at a rate of 16 inches an hour. This turned the dusty road into a mud pit, with deep puddles everywhere. The crowds continued to move through it all, though, with everyone, including chickens, screeching to a halt when oncoming cars stopped each other to exchange pleasantries. It wasn't just the timing of the squall that was the
hazing, though. I was relegated to the back of the line so the mud that was flung off the back of Kendra's and Noodles slippers caught me right in the kisser! Confirming my growing suspision that this was a hazing and that these two know the squall timing intimately, the rain stopped and the sun came out just as we got back to the dinghy dock.

Nah, really, Bora is beautiful and fun. It was so good to see Noodle and Kendra. Mt. Otemanu is truly awe-inspiring, towering over everything, the lagoon colors are amazing, and Noodle's snorkelling spot was just beautiful! There were so many different types of butterfly fish, all paired off for Springtime. Even Vaitape has its charms and the people, dogs, and chickens all seem cheerful.

Now at 06:30 we're making 7 knots in a squall generally on course for our waypoint area at 10N 145E, which gets us through the ITCZ at a good point to pick up the NE trades. Maruru, Bora Bora! And thank you Noodle for showing me around!

Tony

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

29 October - Homeward Bound

0600 position 14-58S 151-30W. 93 miles north of Bora Bora, 2,095 miles
from Hilo

Tony arrived at the Vaitape pier on schedule, and after we got him settled
in aboard we tried to go for a short hike up to the WWII gun emplacement
that protects Bora's entrance channel. Both my Uncle Len Leary and James
Michener, who wrote "Tales of the South Pacific" were stationed in Bora
during WWII and had something to do with the construction of the gun
emplacements around the island. I'd been up to the gun before, but we
bushwacked to get there. While on top we saw a road that led down on the
other side of the hill though, and because it had started raining (of
course) we decided to try to find the road up to the gun instead of
bushwacking. We never did find the road, but got a good long hike, and
rinse, instead. "Not one of your best ideas ever, Dad," was how Kendra
summarized our adventure.

I kissed Kendra goodby as she climbed aboard the airport shuttle ferry at
445PM for her trip home to Hawaii. It was a good visit, and six days
aboard Moku pe'a was "the perfect length of time" for Kendra's liking.
We'd had enough of the rocking and rolling off of Vaitape as every cruise
ship shore boat passed by, so we weighed anchor and headed to our favorite
spot behind Toopua Island where we had a calm and pleasant evening.

On Sunday I took Tony on a drift dive off of the north end of Toopua where
the current rips around the end of the island. This spot has the best
diving in Bora's lagoon. All of that current makes for lots of sea life,
but it is difficult to even hold your position in the water, so we dinghy
up current, jump in, drift past all of the scenery, and then dinghy back
to the anchored Moku pe'a. It was such a lovely day that we decided to
sail around the island to Bora's back side after our snorkel adventure.
The winds were only about 4 knots out of the north, so the sail took all
day, but we anchored at the south end of Motu Roa, about as far as one
can sail in the lagoon, just before 3PM.

Monday morning found us with no wind so we powered back to Vaitape, filled
fuel and water, did laundry, shopped, checked out with the Gendarmes, and
finished the day anchored off of Toopua getting the boat ready to depart
for home early the next morning.

We departed Bora Bora at 730AM after Tony's famous apple cinnamon pancakes
for breakfast. Things looked good at first. We had the engine off after
twenty minutes and sailed out Bora's channel with the wind out of the
north. We short tacked up the western reef of the island until 9AM when
the wind died off and we had to turn the engine on.

We've been motor sailing ever since with just a brief hour long stint
under sail during the afternoon watch. There has been just enough wind to
keep the sails full and they are giving us an extra knot of speed. The
water is flat, as flat as I've ever seen the Pacific Ocean. Like Kaneohe
Bay flat. The day was stunningly beautiful. Just a few puffy cumulus
trade wind clouds over the mountain tops and a few scattered around at
sea. The air was so clear we could see the tops of the clouds as they
fell away over the horizon. Tupai was clearly visible to port with
Tahaa, Raiatea, and Huahine to starboard. They all slowly disappeared as
we moseyed (a Rockyism) to the north and by sunset all that was left was
the tip of Bora's peak above the horizon behind us.

We had the fish lines out all day first hoping to pick up an ono as we
short tacked up Bora's barrier reef, and perhaps a mahi later, but no
luck. We did pass a school of tuna feeding on the surface during the
afternoon but surprisingly there were very few birds about at the time.
It's unusual to see a fish feeding frenzy like that without any birds.

The sky has been perfectly clear all night, great for watching shooting
stars. All the hatches and windows are open so it has been cool below.
It is great weather for sleeping, eating, reading and relaxing. What wind
there is has slowly clocked around allowing us to come up to a heading
just east of north, perfect.

According to the gribs we should have had enough wind to sail today, with
more tomorrow. I hope the more part is correct. I don't like powering
this early in the trip, but it sure has been pleasant and an easy
transition into a voyage.

Steady as she goes (a Mattism) on the Mighty Moku pe'a.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

25 October - The Best Day Ever

0600 position 16-32S 151-45W. On a mooring off of Bloody Mary's
Restaurant, Bora Bora Lagoon

"Today is the best day ever!" announced Kendra on Friday morning. "I
pooped AND got an email!"

Travel in general, and ocean sailing in particular, can mess with one's
regularity, and Kendra did not escape. Apparently her system returned to
normal and she was pleased to discover a message from her boy friend after
our daily sat phone email hookup. It's the little things that make life
special on the Mighty Moku pe'a.

The weather has been pretty dismal for most of Kendra's visit with lots of
rain. On Thursday morning it looked like it might be clear though so we
rode our clown bikes the twenty miles around Bora's coast road. Once we
got about five miles into it the heavens opened up and we completed the
ride in the rain, but at least it was warm.

I pulled off a critical victory in yesterday's cribbage game, and the
tally is now 4 - 2 in Kendra's favor. There is still a chance that I'll
get out of this with my dignity intact.


Last night we had an outstanding farewell dinner for Kendra at Bloody
Mary's, and made it back to the boat just before it started pouring. The
bucket that I use to weigh down the dam for my water catchment system has
about six inches more water in it this morning than it did yesterday.
That's lots of rain, and probably a full water tank.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

23 October - Moku pe'a Only Sails Down Wind

0600 position 16-31S 151-46W. At anchor in 20', sand bottom, In the lee
of Toopua Island in the Bora Lagoon

"Hey Kendra! How was your swim?"

"Oh my god! I ran into a ray that scared the crap out of me!"

"Sting rays are harmless. They are not like sharks that might want to eat
you."

"Tell that to Steve Irwin, Dad."

"Steve Irwin was messing with the ray. They are harmless if you leave
them alone."

"It was still terrifying. It made me swim faster. Don't make fun!"

And so it goes on the Mighty Moku pe'a.

We motor sailed the rest of the way around Raiatea ending up in Haamene
Bay on Tahaa where we spent two nights. We arrived early enough in the
afternoon to rush in for some of Chester's world famous poisson cru coco
at the Mac China Snack Shop washed down with a Hinano.

I nearly burned up the Mighty Moku pe'a that night grilling chicken. Note
to self: Don't use a paper towel in lieu of a hot pad on the barbeque.

The next day Kendra went for a morning run, and in the afternoon we hiked
to the pass above Haamene. That evening we got to enjoy Chef Bruno's
specials at the Tahaa Mai Tai with creme brule and Irish Coffees.

I had messed up the schedule by spending two nights in Haamene, so at the
crack of dawn Wednesday we were under way for the Coral River on the
opposite side of Tahaa. I figured if we completed our Coral River snorkel
early we could book it over to Bora the same day and get back on schedule.
Alas, after we got back to the boat following our Coral River swim the
wind hadn't shifted from its forecast westerly direction - exactly the
direction we needed to go. Four knots of breeze right on the nose. Not enough to sail in, but enough to slow us down. But Kendra convinced me that we'd be bored
staying put all day, so we departed for Bora at 11AM.

I'll be darned if the minute we cleared the Tahaa lagoon the wind didn't
shift ninety degrees to come out of the south at ten knots - perfect
direction and strength for a pleasant full speed sail directly to Bora.
Moku pe'a must be descended from Noah's Ark or something. This boat is
blessed. We dropped the hook in the lee of Toopua at 3PM.

Kendra claimed that she didn't remember how to play cribbage, but she is
currently ahead two games to one. Looks like it came back pretty fast.

From our anchorage we can see the island of Maupiti twenty miles to the
west. I told Kendra about the time her mother and I sailed there twenty
eight years ago.

Maupiti's entrance channel is treacherous, particularly when the surf is
high. All the water that comes in over the reef must exit the lagoon
through the channel. Combine high surf with a strong current out a
narrow, shallow channel and it is dangerous. Some pals who lived on Bora
told us that the surf was small enough the day we wanted to sail to
Maupiti that the channel would be no problem. So off we went, catching a
nice mahi on the way, arriving at the Maupiti channel at 3PM to find it
closed out due to the too big surf.

We could do the prudent thing, turn around and beat back to Bora or chance
it and try the channel. Against my better judgment I decided to go for
it. With full sail and engine going full speed we headed in. We
encountered the full force of the ebb current, about four knots, just as
we arrived at the shallowest part of the channel where the waves were
breaking. Since we were going six knots, that made our speed over bottom
about two knots and kept us in the danger zone way too long. However, we
made it through and had a great time in Maupiti.

We didn't have refrigeration on the boat back then, and had to get rid of
about ten pounds of mahi. After anchoring we waved down a passing boat
full of locals and tried to give them the fish. They didn't speak a word
of English, and we didn't speak any Tahitian or French, so it was
difficult communicating. At first they refused, thinking we wanted to
sell it to them. Once they realized that it was a gift they gratefully accepted. Problem solved, and we thought that was the end of it. Not so. The next day they showed up with their boat
filled with coconuts, papaya, banana, lime, pomplamouse, and breadfruit
for us. What goes around comes around.

Monday, October 20, 2014

20 October - Kendra's Here!

0600 position 16-55S 151-26W. At anchor in 9'sand bottom, Nao Nao Motu,
Raiatea.

Friday's forecast was for winds from the northwest, so after breakfast I
hauled the anchor and set off between rainstorms for Tahaa with a double
reefed main and full jib. We had to tack downwind to reach the southern
tip of Bora's fringing reef, but then it was a beam reach across the
channel to Tahaa. Caught a ten pound aku about half way across but let
him go. Aku are more trouble than they are worth. Another slightly
larger sloop had left the Bora lagoon about half an hour in front of me,
and I had fun reeling them in all the way across the channel. As I passed
them in the Tahaa entrance channel the three Frenchmen aboard ignored me.
Yep, kicked your butt.

I anchored for the evening at the head of Apu Bay on a 35 foot deep
"shoal" spot in the otherwise 100+ foot deep bay. I have seventy feet of
three eighths inch chain and a thirty three pound Bruce anchor on the end
of my anchor rode. It is the anchor recovery that is a pain in the okole
for anchorages that are over fifty feet deep. When it is deeper than
that, the transition from the rope to chain on the windlass is problematic
with all the weight hanging down. So I'm always looking for a shallower
anchorage and am grateful when I find one.

On Saturday morning I sailed in to Apooti Marina where I had the guest
dock all to myself and spent the rest of the day shopping, cleaning, and
getting ready for Kendra's arrival. The periodic stop at Apooti Marina is
very convenient for filling water, emptying garbage, and restocking the
boat now that the community has made it more difficult to do these chores
elsewhere. Worth every penny. Bright and early the next morning I
launched the dinghy, finished preparations, and dinghied to the airport in
time to see Kendra's plane touch down. It was sure good to see her again!

We dinghied back to the boat, got settled in, and set off for Nao Nao at
the southern end of Raiatea.

With moderate northwesterlies blowing, it seemed like a good idea to do a
counterclockwise circuit of Raiatea, so we sailed out into the ocean west
of Raiatea and headed south. The sea was pretty bumpy though and Kendra
got a bit uncomfortable, but two hours later we were back inside the
lagoon sailing south. We found three other boats at Nao Nao this time but
there was still room for us out on the reef.

Some kind of front must have come through because it blew hard and poured
rain all night long, but Monday morning dawned bright, clear, and calm.
As I send this Kendra is off on her morning swim along the shore of Nao
Nao.