Saturday, May 31, 2014

31 May - It Rains in Tonga?

1200 position 18-42S 174-02W. At anchor in 28 feet, sand bottom, Port
Maurelle, Vava'u, Tonga

Late yesterday afternoon I went after the mystery meat and started
trimming off the fat. By the time I was done, it was less than half
original size, but looked edible. We grilled it, with some salt and
pepper for seasoning, and it was fantastic, some of the best lamb
ever had! Along with a salad made with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and
cucumber from the Neiau Open Market and some grilled garlic bread, we
ourselves a feast.

It was supposed to be movie night, but the heavy dinner knocked us
out so
we called it a night early. During the middle of the night it started
raining, and it hasn't stopped for long since then. Not a heavy rain,
just a drizzle, but enough to make us want to stay put for the day.
weather report says this is likely to continue until tomorrow, so
will probably be a cribbage tournament aboard the Mighty Moku pe'a
afternoon and then movie night later on.

One of the cruiser friendly features here in Vava'u is the "Cruiser's
Net", a daily coordinated communication between commercial operations
cruisers on VHF Channel 26 at 830AM. There is a repeater station on
highest hill on the main island so there are no dead spots in the
group, and the net provides weather, news, commercials, and
communications between boats and with business and government. This
morning on the news it was announced that eighty plus percent of the
population in Tonga is overweight making the country the most
in the world. I suspect products like last night's lamb has
something to
do with it, and I doubt that a local would have trimmed off any of
the fat
before consuming it.

We will likely stop our daily blog posts now that things are settling
and we shift into relax and enjoy mode for the next two and half
months in
Tonga. Instead we will likely post a couple of times a week as
noteworthy events occur

Thursday, May 29, 2014

30 May - Port Maurelle

1200 position 18-42S 174-02W. At anchor in 28 feet, sand bottom, Port
Maurelle, Vava'u, Tonga

Clay Hutchinson, who told me about it, was right. Port Maurelle, named
for the first European to make landfall in Vava'u, is a gem. Located just
six miles from Neiafu, it is a gorgeous protected anchorage with a
beautiful white sand beach ashore, great diving, and fantastic views in
all directions. I think I could stay here forever. The cruising guides
say that it is one of the best spots in strong trades, and that's what
we've got going now so we were surprised to find it empty when we arrived
this morning at 1130. Shortly after we put the hook down we were in the
water exploring, and now we are back in the boat warming up.

It is cool here as we enter the Southern Hemisphere winter. A bit cooler
than it would be in Hawaii at this time of the season. We are wearing
sweatshirts at night. The water, however, is warmer than it is in Hawaii
which makes getting in it a lot easier. I still get cold easily in the
water, even here, so about fifteen minutes of snorkelling is all I can
take before I start shivering. I suppose I don't have enough insulation.

We plan to spend the next 5 nights exploring different dive spots and
anchorages before returning to Neiafu to meet Lori when she arrives on
June 4th.

Tonight's big experiment will be with the frozen mystery meat we found in
one of the local stores that they called "lamb". It didn't look like lamb
to me, but we bought some anyway and will be trying to make a meal of it
tonight. If you never hear from us again, blame the lamb.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

29 May - Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

0600 position 18-39S 173-59W. At anchor in 16 feet, coral and sand
bottom, Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga

I can recall two times in my life where sensual experiences have stuck
with me forever, The first was the taste of a Mountain Dew soda as it
slid down my throat after a three day swim/hike down the north shore
Molokai at age 17. Two high school buddies and I had pushed ourselves
the limit of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion before that iced cold
Dew helped mark the end of our ordeal. The second was the feeling of
first hot shower in more than three months at the Oa Oa hotel in Bora
after cruising off the radar through the sparsely inhabited islands of
South Pacific in 1986. We didn't realize how much we missed hot
before we had one. I remember the euphoric feeling of the stress
my body as the hot water poured over me like it happened yesterday.

I believe I may have just experienced the third indelible memory with
steak dinner we had tonight at the Mango Restaurant here in Neiafu.
has been over a month since we have had red meat of any kind, with the
exception of what ever might be included in a can of chili and some
(the other white meat?). Otherwise we have been red meat free since
departing Kaneohe. Kara, my vegetarian daughter, will be proud of me
that, but I have felt like I was slowly dying. My bad for not
something to fill that gap, but I didn't and the canned "corned meat"
available in Niuatoputapu didn't appeal to us. We have been on a hunt
a real steak since arriving yesterday, and today discovered what we
believe, so far, to be the only real steak available in Neiafu at the

It was a superb pepper steak, smothered in a bernaise sauce with a
potato, green beans, and onion rings accompanied by a glass of
smooth merlot. The restaurant's owner, Gray, originally came to Tonga
from New Zealand as the King's personal chef, and two Kings later he
still retained by the royal family as a consultant when visiting
dignitaries drop in for official visits. As you can imagine, the
ambiance, and food was impeccable. Our server was the prettiest gal
have seen since arriving here. Rocky noted that they even had piano
playing (on the stereo system). I do not think I will ever forget the
feeling of bliss as I bit into that steak for the first time.

The rest of today was equally successful. Lori got the headstay and
roller furling gear ordered. We are hopeful that she will receive it
time for her to hand carry out here when she flies in next week. We
all our laundry done so we are sleeping on clean sheets again
And Rocky got to see a live NBA playoff game this afternoon at the

This cruise has been a bit challenging so far, first with our
issues and now with our headstay failure. However, we are truly
with good friends, and many of them came to our assistance in trying
solve our problems. Brian Rush, Tony Hoff, Greg Gillette, Munch
Macdonald, Tom Clark, Ty Pryne, Fuzz Foster, Larry Stenek, Ron Dodini,
Matt Dyer, Gordon Goldsmith, Lou Scheer, Jeff Dunnavant, Wayne Millar,
George Nottingham, and Steve Theodore helped us work through these
problems. Even T-Bone, who used to work for Fuzz but now works for
Nautical in Florida, helped when we called them for roller furling
Many others also offered their assistance from Leilani Himmelman in
Zealand to Tim Dick in San Francisco. We are grateful to you all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

28 May - It's A Small World After All

0600 position 18-39S 173-59W. At anchor in 16 feet, coral and sand
bottom, Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga

A front decided to come through while we were hove to offshore waiting for
the sun to come up. The wind shifted to the west, so now instead of being
in the lee of the island we were on a lee shore, the wind came up, and it
started pouring. Fortunately we were being conservative and had plenty of
sea room and with just two reefs in the main we were rigged to handle the
big winds. The pouring rain and 100% overcast also kept it from getting
light until later, but at 7AM we could start to see things so we ran off
and into the maze of islands that is Vava'u. We zigged and zagged the
seven miles into Port of Refuge Harbor which must be the most protected
natural harbor in the world. The anchor was down at 830AM and our voyage
to Tonga was over.

It remained rainy and overcast all day long, but I had to go up the mast
to get some critical measurements for Lori's headstay replacement project
and we also had to go ashore to check in with customs. Still only four
strands broken on the headstay so things didn't get any worse on the trip
south from Niuatoputapu. We found customs after going ashore but it was
during their lunch hour, so we hiked up the hill to the Tropicana Café
where we bumped into our pal Tom from Maine that had brought us fruit in
Suwarrow. They had arrived with the rally fleet the night before.
Interesting that the rally fleet all decided to come into Vava'u in the
middle of the night trusting their GPSs (and more importantly the charts)
to be accurate. I suppose the fleet manager had been here before and
could confirm the accuracy of the charts/GPS positions. They all made it
in fine, but I didn't have that navigational confidence so I still think
we did the right thing by waiting offshore. I had a hamburger for lunch
(no steak on the menu), but I couldn't guarantee that there was any beef
in that burger.

After lunch we checked in with customs, bought some limes in the open
market, and headed over to the Aquarium Café where they reportedly had
free WIFI. This was a much nicer place than the Tropicana, they did
indeed have free WIFI, and their hot brownies were wonderful with a beer
chaser. We met the owner Mike, who's wife Lisa is a 1978 Kailua High
School graduate and the cousin of Paul Silen, my next door neighbor
growing up and lifelong pal. Mike and Lisa stay at Paul's house whenever
they are in or passing through Hawaii. It is a small world.

I'd been almost 24 hours without sleep and was falling apart, so we headed
back to the boat. On the way we walked through the Bounty Bar where there
was a live NBA playoff game on the television. Rocky loves his NBA and
would have loved to stay and watch the game, but he took pity on me and
came back to the boat where I promptly passed out.

Monday, May 26, 2014

27 May - Vava'u at Last

0600 position 18-37S 174-06W. Hove to off of Vava'u

Last night after it got dark I said to Rocky, "Look, you can see the loom
of the lights in Neiafu."

"How big a town is it?" He asked.

"Well, you might be able to find your piano player there," I replied.
Rocky's quest for an air conditioned bar with a piano player continues,
and this time I think we are on the right track.

We've had a tough couple of days sailing under reefed main only, but we
have made it to Vava'u and the mast is still standing. The wind did end
up backing to the east as predicted by the gribs which allowed us to come
up to our desired course. It was bumpy and wet the entire way with swells
from three directions and lots of wind. We had to weave our way through a
line of shoals that extended the entire 167 mile distance from
Niuatoputapu down to Vava'u. Most of these shoals were 100 feet deep, but
why take the chance? This afternoon we sailed within sight of two
islands, Fonualei and Toku. We averaged better than four knots for the
passage, not bad for only a single reefed main set. But we are very
thankful that the wind direction cooperated and we could reach the entire
way. If we had needed to go on the wind we might not have made it at all.

When the sun comes up we will power in to the maze of sixty islands that
makes up Vava'u and begin our two and a half month adventure there. It
won't be all fun and games though. We've got to replace the headstay and
roller furler. Lori has been working frantically to get them organized so
she can hand carry them with her when she flies out on June 3. Our first
order of business after arrival will be to go back up the mast to get some
crucial measurements she needs before ordering parts.

Rocky and I are looking forward to finding a bar, listening to some piano
playing, and ordering some steaks.

26 May - Limping to Vava'u

My satphone email service indicated that this post was sent yesterday.
I've since found out otherwise.

0600 position 17-16S 174-03. 78 miles from Niuatoputapu

Fixing the mast head light had been on our to-do list for too long and we
were in a smooth anchorage, so Rocky pulled me up to work on it right
after we completed our morning email exchange. I fiddled around with the
light and got it working and while I was up there took the opportunity to
do a rig check. I was dismayed to find that four of the nineteen wire
strands that make up the head stay had broken where they exit the swage
fitting on the top of the mast. This was not good. If four were broken
it was likely that all or some of the others were fatigued and about to
break also. This wire holds the mast up and supports the jib roller
furling system. If it fails, down comes the mast.

There was zero possibility of getting it fixed in Niuatoputapu. I had
incorrectly stated in a previous post that a supply ship arrives there
monthly. I since found out that the ship arrives quarterly, and the next
one is due in a week or so. No way could we wait four months to get this
fixed. We needed to get to Vava'u. We had planned to leave for Vava'u
first thing Monday morning because the weather looked good on Monday and
Tuesday, with winds from the east and north east for our 165 mile sail due
south. On Wednesday the winds go back to the south east for an indefinite
period so we want to be in before then. The winds today weren't ideal,
nineteen knots from 114 degrees true, but if we left today under shortened
sail we could be pretty sure of arriving before the south easterly winds
return on Wednesday.

So that was what we decided to do. Sia had invited us to go to Sunday
lunch which apparently was a whole village affair. We were looking
forward to that, but had to cancel to make our departure.

Most of the load on the head stay comes from the horizontal pull of the
jib along its entire length. Eliminate the jib, and you eliminate most of
the head stay stress. So we took off the jib, folded it up, and put it
below. Then we took the spinnaker halyard, jib halyard, and topping lift
to the bow and tightened them as much as we dared to further reduce the
load on the head stay. In addition to reducing the head stay load, these
lines will hopefully keep the mast standing if the head stay fails. Then
we got the dinghy on deck and departed at about noon. We set a reefed
main, headed around the west end of the island, and hardened up for

It took some experimenting to figure out how to sail Moku pe'a without the
jib, but we have averaged a little better than four knots since our
departure. It has been bumpy and wet and uncomfortable, but the head stay
and mast are still there. We have seas from three directions and the wind
is just forward of the beam at about eighteen knots. Conditions should
improve as we get further south.

We are in contact with Lori every twelve hours, just in case, and are
looking forward to a sunrise arrival in Vava'u on Tuesday.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

25 May - Noodle and Rocky's Excellent Adventure, Part 2

0600 position 15-57S 173-46W. At anchor in 32 feet, sand bottom,

My wife, Lori Lloyd, has a unique ability to make the world an extremely
small place. She is unusually friendly with strangers, and it often only
takes about three questions from her to determine that they know someone
in common, are related, or something uncanny like that. I'm not talking
about strangers in Hawaii. I mean strangers sitting next to you on an
airplane between mainland cities. She is also unbelievably supportive of
me and my passions, like sailing. She can't voyage with me due to
seasickness, but spends much of her time while I am away researching the
ports I am visiting and sending information to me by email.

This morning I received an email from Lori containing information about
Niuatoputapu that she had discovered in some cruiser's blog from 2005. It
described a local woman named Sia that had befriended the cruisers, given
them fruit, and hosted them at a Tongan feast. In typical Lori Lloyd type
small world fashion, it turns out that Rocky and I had met Sia yesterday
while in the customs/immigration office paying our fees. She wasn't
working there, just having lunch with someone who did. She offered to
share some of their lunch with us, but they were munching on octopus
tentacles and it didn't look too appetizing, so we politely declined. She
asked us if there was anything we needed, and we mentioned that we were
looking for fruit. She said she might be able to help us, and that we
should monitor channel 16 later to discuss it. She ended up calling us at
4PM, and we made arrangements to meet this morning.

The cruising guides we've read said that the locals prefer goods in trade
rather than money, so I asked Sia if there was anything they needed that
we might have aboard. "Cooking oil and fish hooks", she replied, " or
anything else you can spare." So we went ashore this morning with a two
liter bottle of olive oil and about a dozen fish hooks. That's half of my
olive oil supply, but I can replace it in Vava'u. We met at her house,
which is only a few years old replacing the one that was destroyed by the
2009 tsunami. She gave us some beautiful papaya and some bananas, and we
spoke about their struggles since the tsunami and the coincidence with
Lori's email. She well remembered the folks who wrote about her.

After our visit with Sia, Rocky and I weighed anchor and powered about a
mile to the anchorage just to windward of Hakautu'utu'u Island, an atoll
on the fringing reef outside the harbor. It was a beautiful little island
where we met some locals from Nuku'alofa and Vava'u who were working for
the Red Cross here on Niuatoputapu. We walked around the island and got
in the water but the snorkeling was poor. It was also very windy and a
lee shore, so we didn't stay long powering back to our anchorage off of
town at 2PM. After the hook was down Rocky broke my winning streak at
cribbage. Damn.

Friday, May 23, 2014

24 May - Noodle and Rocky's Excellent Adventure

0600 position 15-57S 173-46W. At anchor in 32 feet, sand bottom,

After a pancake and Canadian bacon breakfast we cleaned up the boat, and
I dinghied ashore to await the officials. At nine o'clock they arrived
and I brought them, a gal from customs/immigration and a guy from
agriculture, back to the boat. These officials are not boat people and it
seems that they are all quite large. Getting them into the dinghy, onto
Moku pe'a, and then back to shore without dropping any of them into the
water is a success all in itself. I was also concerned that we might have
a paperwork problem because our customs clearance papers from Christmas
Island listed "Cook Islands" as our next port of call. We went to the
Cook Islands, but as you recall, there were no officials on Suwarrow like
we expected, so we couldn't check in and out there. We didn't want to
tell the Tongan officials the truth for fear of being caught in the
bureaucratic version of the "Twilight Zone". I can just picture it, "But
sir, you went to the Cook Islands. You must produce a clearance document
from that country." So instead, we told them that the wind was too
strong from the wrong direction and we couldn't get to the Cook Islands so
came here instead. That satisfied them, and our official entrance into
Tonga went without a hitch.

This island was badly damaged by the tsunami resulting from the earthquake
off of American Samoa in 2009. Many homes and buildings have been built
since then replacing the ones destroyed during the tsunami. The island
has no power distribution system, so the island is dark after the sun
sets. Most of the roofs have catchment systems for collecting fresh
water. The government compound, which houses the bank, post office,
customs, immigration, and high school, has a generator that powers
computers, printers, and cell phone chargers during working hours. There
must be a cell phone tower with its own generator on the peak of the
island's mountain. The locals (government officials anyway) use cell
phones for communication. We biked to the bank after our clearance
officials departed because we needed local currency to pay our clearance
fees. I noted that the bank teller called someone, probably the bank's
office in Nukualofa, to get the current exchange rate. So they also
apparently have a microwave or submarine cable connection with the other
island groups in Tonga to facilitate communications. After changing money
and paying our clearance fees we got on our bikes and went on "Noodle and
Rocky's excellent adventure", a bike tour around the island.

We didn't have a map, but figured the island isn't that big. How lost
can we get? We did find the island's "supermarket" on the corner of
"Main" and "Broadway" down town. We entered in search of fresh fruit. Of
course, without electricity there is no refrigeration, which limits the
supermarket's inventory options. Canned and packaged foods, much like you
would find at the bottom of Moku pe'a's storage lockers, lined the
shelves. The only fresh fruit they had was watermelon, and I couldn't fit
one of those in my backpack. Rocky bought a warm soda, and we continued
on our adventure.

Main Street also housed the only gas station on the island where fuel is
dispensed from 55 gallon drums with a hand pump. The two attendants gave
us a cheerful hello as we passed on our clown bikes.

The long and winding road led us to the extreme end of the island where we
found the "international airport", a grass strip complete with grazing
horses. I'm not sure you really want to fly into Niuatoputapu if you
don't have to. I don't think you have many options for air travel here
anyway. It didn't look like the strip is used very much. The stacked
empty 55 gallon drums indicate that the same system used to fill vehicles
in town is used to refuel planes at the airport. Your other commercial
option for travel here is the monthly inter-island cargo ship. It is due
in just over a week which helps explain the empty shelves in the
supermarket. In the airport "terminal" we found an island map posted on a
wall that showed a "major road" leading the rest of the way around the
island, so we decided to take it.

The major road turned out to be an overgrown four wheel drive track,
similar to what you would expect to see in an episode of "Lost". After an
hour or so of kidney jarring, back straining, butt aching pedalling, we
arrived back at the village where we started the day's adventure.

It's not fair for me to bring up cribbage only during the good times, but
I have now won three in a row. From a dismal 8-3 tally a few days ago the
score is now 8-6, almost respectable. Rocky has mixed feelings. He is
pleased that his tutoring is showing some results, but is upset that his
tutoring is showing these results.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

23 May - Niuatoputapu

0600 position 15-57S 173-46W. At anchor in 32 feet, sand bottom,

It is never easy. Over the previous twenty four hours the wind backed
from east to north to west to south, and this morning it continued backing
and ended up coming out of the east again as we made our final approach to
Niuatoputapu. Down wind in light air, just like our final approach into
Christmas. It delayed our arrival a bit as we tacked downwind, but we
were off the channel entrance at noon and were anchored off of the
island's pier at 1230. This is a wonderful anchorage. Great holding in
the lee of the island, very protected from all directions, and beautiful
with the views of Tafahi, a high volcanic cone island five miles to the
north, and the island and motus of Niuatoputapu. The anchorage could hold
hundreds of boats easily and safely, but this time we are the only boat
here. Google "photos Niuatoputapu" for an idea of what it looks like

After relaxing and having a celebratory beer, we cleaned up the boat,
launched the dinghy, and Rocky took me ashore where I assembled one of our
folding bicycles so I could go chase down some officials to get us checked
in to Tonga.

I had a very interesting bike ride the mile and a half into town. There
are at least a dozen free roaming pigs in all of the yards here. They are
often out on the street and appear quite tame and happy as they graze and
forage for food. I also passed some horses on the street that appeared to
be wandering free. What I didn't see was any human productivity of any
kind. I saw some people, but they weren't doing anything at 2PM on a
Thursday. I missed the turn off for customs and immigration so had a good
tour or the south half of the island. I never saw any kind of a store
either. Strange. I eventually backtracked and found the officials who
decided that 2:45 was too late in the day to check us in so we have an
appointment at 9AM tomorrow.

Many thanks to all who responded for the excellent advice on my electrical
issues. I am still trying to figure things out here, but have much better
handle on the problem. At anchor things become less critical because I
only have a single significant load - the refrigerator. Autopilot is off
and the computer can be shut down when we aren't communicating or watching
a movie. Last night we watched "Anchorman 2". You might want to skip it
if you haven't seen it.

A good night's sleep makes everything seem better. Wish us luck with
Customs, and after that we are talking about a bike ride around the

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

22 May - Another Challenging Day

0600 position 15-51S 173-13W. Day's run 124 miles. 31 miles west of

We are three for three now on having a tough time of it the day before we
make landfall. Christmas Island found us becalmed, Suwarrow found us
beset by squalls, and we've just dealt with some kind of a front here on
our approach to Niuatoputapu.

The wind had been slowly backing to the north as predicted by the gribs,
but then at about 2PM it came right out of the west as the front hit us.
Of course, we are trying to head west, so the best we could do was forty
degrees or so south of our desired course. The seas built. We were
slamming to windward. Reef in, reef out, slow going, and lots of rain.
Finally at about 8PM the wind shifted to the south west, we tacked, and
could finally head west again. Of course, we were slamming worse than
ever in the left over chop from the six hours of west wind, and it was
still raining. After the sun set it was pitch black outside in the 100%
overcast and rain. It was hard to get perspective to stand up let alone
get a feel for direction in the shifting winds. Rocky had the worst of it
on his watch. After I came up at midnight, the left over chop from the
west finally died off and the moon rose under the cloud cover behind us.
The wind continued to back to the south, and we could ease sheets and
reach for the barn.

When I came on deck at midnight, Rocky commented on how it was getting
cooler, and I put on my sweatshirt tonight for the first time since
leaving the area of the Hawaiian Islands. We are close to the beginning
of the Southern Hemisphere winter, and we are starting to feel it.

The gribs indicated that we'd have to deal with some kind of system
passage, but the pretty arrows on the chart plotter made it look so easy.
Matt and I are hoping to hitch on to a few of these frontal systems when
we head east for Tahiti in a few months. These systems move to the east
and if we position ourselves correctly we should be able to ride the
westerly winds we were just fighting. We'll see.

We should arrive in Niuatoputapu about 11AM today. I had never heard of
this island until I started my research for this trip. It is part of the
northernost of the four Tongan Island groups, and is often used as the
port of entry for yachts arriving in Tonga from the North. The anchorage
is supposed to be calm and safe and the island beautiful. I can't wait to
see it.

Lori has received questions about how we deal with man overboard. I've
already discussed what we would do if a crew member discovers that his
shipmate has become separated from the boat. That is the worst case
scenario, so we take reasonable precautions to ensure that nobody gets
separated from the boat.
It is mandatory that anybody whose feet leave the cockpit floor when on
deck alone is clipped to the boat with a safety harness. The harnesses
can be clipped to jacklines that run bow to stern on each side of the
boat, or to backstays, toe rails, or hand rails in the cockpit. Harness
requirement may become more restrictive in bad weather at the discretion
of the skipper. Moku pe'a has a low swim step with a ladder at the stern
that can be easily reached from the water if directly behind the boat.
The boat also has an emergency web ladder, a gift from Mike Morelli, that
is tied to the leeward corner of the transom. The web ladder has a loop
that hangs down and if pulled, the ladder deploys. If the lone watch
stander falls over while clipped in, he should be able to grab either the
rope ladder or built in ladder in the transom or make enough noise to get
the attention of his shipmate who can then help with his recovery.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

21 May - Land Ho!

0600 position 15-10S 171-12W. Day's run 131 miles

Fresh foods like cheese, meats, and eggs will be confiscated if there are
any left aboard when we reach Niuatoputapu, so at 1130 this morning I cut
up some of our remaining cheese and took it and some crackers on deck to
share with Rocky. We were sitting there enjoying our snack and I glanced
at the horizon to the north. "Huh, that looks like…. Holy Cow (not the
exact word used)! It's an island!" I could clearly see the outline of a
high island. It looked like a single volcanic cone. Navigators aren't
supposed to be surprised by stuff like land, so I took a bearing, rushed
below, and fired up the laptop and navigation software (we have been
shutting it down to conserve energy). Sure enough, it was Tau Island, one
of the easternmost Samoan islands. And sure enough it is a 3100 foot high
volcanic cone. It was twenty six miles away. Tau Island was right where
it was supposed to be, but I hadn't anticipated that we'd be able to see
it from that far away.

This afternoon I was entertained by little aku jumping all around the
boat for a number of hours. We were also accompanied by three tropic
birds that were diving for fish from about 100 feet up. I suppose the
tropic birds and aku were feeding on the same thing, but I never did see
the bait fish. Just after sunset a boobie decided that Moku pe'a would be
a good place to rest for the evening. Rocky was doing a wind check and
found him perched on the windex on top of the mast. We yelled and shined
our flashlights on him and he took off. Next he tried to land on the wind
generator. Lucky for him the blades weren't turning. We had to yell and
shine our flashlights on him a number of times to scare him away. The
bastard even crapped all over the bimini and dodger before he was

Rocky was able to see the loom of Pago Pago, American Samoa which was
about forty miles to the north during his evening watch but the moon had
risen by the time I came up at midnight providing too much ambient light
for me to see it. I did see a ship on my early morning watch though. It
was heading north, perhaps for Pago Pago, and passed astern of us.

The wind has slowly backed around to the north, just like the gribs
predicted, but we have had to live with squalls every hour or so that
produced dramatic changes in wind direction and strength, and rain. It is
keeping us busy on watch.

We receive our weather information by email over the sat phone. A free
Internet service called "Saildocs" extracts whatever weather data we
request from NOAA's world wide weather model, attaches it to an email, and
sends it to us daily. This is all done by a computer based on a coded
request that I submitted. After we are done messing with the satellite
phone for the day, I'll extract the weather, or "grib" file, from the
email we received and import it into our navigation software on the
computer. I can then see the weather forecast for whatever interval I
requested from Saildocs. For this passage I requested a 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7
day forecast for the part of the ocean we are interested in. Each
forecast looks like a bunch of arrows on the chart that indicate wind
speed and direction over the area between our starting point and
destination. We have to deal with whatever comes our way, but knowing
what kind of weather we are going to have in the future allows us to
optimize our routing to take us to our destination as quickly,
comfortably, and safely as possible

Monday, May 19, 2014

20 May - Moseying

0600 position 14-29S 169-04W. Day's run 119 miles.

"Hey Rocky, what's happening?" I asked as I came on deck for my afternoon

"Just moseying", he replied. And that's pretty much how today went, just
moseying along. Wind from almost directly behind us all day, never more
than ten knots, sometimes down to about three knots. We spent most of the
day wing and wing and did some reaching later in the afternoon when I
thought the wind was coming forward as forecast. But the wind came aft
again and died. At least the swell has died down too, so there is no
violent slatting, just mild slatting.

We passed by Rose Island, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Wildlife
Refuge, about fifteen miles off at sunset. Why does the U.S. have a
wildlife refuge out here more than 4000 miles from the continental U.S?

Our wind generator is useless in these conditions and the solar panels
can't keep up with the load, so we powered for an hour this morning and
again this evening to charge batteries and get us down the road faster
than we can sail. However, we need wind. We don't have enough fuel to
power all the way to Tonga.

The refer started working again when I turned on the engine this morning
and it worked all day until the voltage got low again overnight. More
voltage seems to hide whatever problems it has, but I still don't think
low voltage was the problem since I measured it at the unit and voltage
was within spec there. This afternoon I rigged a jumper that runs
directly from the negative house battery terminal to the negative bus
behind the control panel bypassing a main disconnect switch and perhaps
other connections that are hidden away. It might have helped, but nothing
obvious and the voltage still surges as the autopilot engages. I'm going
to leave it on for a few days to see if things improve. If not, I'll
switch it over to the positive side of the panel feed circuit and see what

Something hit one of Randy Reed's lures this morning just after I put it
out. I was below at the time and didn't see the fish, but the skirts got
trashed and the lure has been relegated to "injured reserve" status. The
leader got all nicked up as far as two feet away from the hook. Billfish

On hot, calm days like today a cold beer sure would be nice, but no booze
is being consumed while at sea during the trip to Tonga. There's plenty
aboard, but Rocky and I are taking this opportunity to dry out a bit.
We've discussed it, and both agree that we probably consume more than we
should during our daily lives ashore. It's just so easy, and fun, to stop
by the yacht club bar on the way up from working on the boat to have a
beer with the boys… and then another… We've also both lost friends and
family to the bottle. It won't hurt us to take a break. And another
plus; after a few days without beer I don't smell as bad.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

19 May - What Would Captain Cook Do?

0600 position 13-54S 167-07W. Day's run 117 miles

This has been a tough day first trying to figure out what is wrong with
the autopilot and now the refrigerator is acting up. The refrigerator
has stopped working and I'm getting three different fault codes indicated
low voltage, overcharge, and I don't know what. I've checked at the unit
when it is trying to run and voltage is fine. I have never added freon
to the unit so it can't be overcharged. Sigh. I've sent an email to
the manufacturer for help. In the meantime, we are losing what is left
of our refrigerated food. That is not too big a deal though because we
had planned for it to be almost all used up when we arrived in Tonga

I did discover a poor wiring connection (that I had originally installed)
for the autopilot behind the main panel. It actually fell off as I was
messing around back there. I'm not even sure if I touched it. I repaired
the connection so hopefully that was the problem with the autopilot,
although we are still seeing voltage drops when the actuator turns the

I figure if my hero Captain Cook can work through these kinds of issues
then so can I.

I was in kind of a fog all day. I was chasing down these electrical
problems during my morning off watch and didn't get but thirty minutes
sleep. Rocky was kind to me tonight though. He let me sleep an extra
hour and a half past the end of his watch to catch up. Any of you who
have ever been to sea know what a big deal that is. He had been on watch
six hours already, was supposed to be off at midnight, and stayed up until
0130 when I woke up on my own. What a guy.

There was a low pressure system that passed through Tonga today moving
east to the south of us. It has interrupted the normal trade wind flow
and we have seen lighter winds today. We were still running wing and wing
all day, but had to heat it up to the north to keep from slatting
excessively. Very pleasant sailing. Looks like it may be light winds all
the way in to Niuatoputapu.

We played cribbage again today and I lost again, but it was close this

Rocky has been seeing the moonrise lately during his early evening watch.
Moonrise at sea can be spectacular and also frightening if you don't know
it's coming. Thirty seven years ago I was in this same part of the ocean
aboard Bravura on a passage from Fanning Island to Western Samoa. There
was no wind so we were under power. I was on watch one pitch black night
with Gary, and we were taking turns driving while the other dozed on the
floor of the cockpit. At about 0300 Gary woke me shouting at the top of
his lungs, "They are running us down! We are being run down by a ship!"

I lept up to see what all the excitement was about, and there, directly
behind us, was the moon peeking through some gaps in the clouds. Gary had
seen it first as just a speck of light as it peeked over the horizon, and
assumed it was a ship. But the light grew quickly in size and intensity
until Gary was convinced that disaster was imminent. I knew immediately
that it was the moon because I had made the same mistake as a kid, and you
only make that mistake once. "That's not a ship, you moron, that's the
moon", I said, repeating verbatim the words a good friend had used with me
years earlier.

15 May - Suwarrow at Last

Sorry this didn't get posted on 15 May. My sat phone email manager
indicated that it transmitted properly. Apparently it did not.

0600 position 13-15S 163-07W. At anchor in 32', sand and coral bottom.
Suwarrow Atoll

The first two thirds of the passage were lovely. Last third, not so much.
We are both glad it is over.

A huge squall nailed us at 0800 this morning. That's happened a lot in
the last few days, but after this one passed we were left wallowing for an
hour in the vacuum behind it. We knew we were cutting it close making it
in to Suwarrow before the sun got too low as it was. Removing an hour of
sailing time being becalmed just added to the tension and uncertainty. We
were not going to give up though, so we worked as hard as we could to keep
the boat moving until the wind filled in again. Steady winds never did
fill in again. The gribs said we'd have sixteen knots from the east, but
wind strength varied from three to thirty knots and the direction swung up
to forty degrees all day. That squall was the first of many we had to
deal with. For ten hours it was jib in, jib out, head up, fall off, reef
in, reef out. I didn't sleep after the squall hit, and we were never
certain until about 1500 that we'd make it in time, but we did.

We arrived at Anchorage Island, Suwarrow Atoll at 1600 to find two other
cruising boats moored here, a forty foot catamaran and fifty foot sloop.
No sooner had the anchor gone down than we were surrounded by about a
dozen four foot long black tipped sharks. Deja vu all over again, and we
weren't even cleaning fish this time! The sharks have stayed with us.
Even after dark we could see them circling the boat. Looks like "man
overboard" here would have more dire consequences than if it occurred at

We cleaned the boat up, popped a couple of beers, played a game of
cribbage, had some dinner, and went to sleep. Dinghy launching,
socializing with our neighbors, and checking in with the authorities (if
any are here) can wait until tomorrow. Now it's time for some overdue

Rocky adds the following: "Today was a special day for me. Some of you
are quite familiar with the talent of Bill Leary others not so much. I
got to witness and help out a little bit with a sailing force. To explain:
We estimated anchoring at Suwarrow tonight. Well the wind and squalls
were playing havoc with those plans. When we sailed out of one squall with
all the wind sucked out we were down to two or three knots. This was
severely messing with the plan. Bill's (Noodle) eyes became steely and
mere slits. Noodle has moved from cruise mode to race mode. He was not
going to let the clock beat him. For the next ten hours he rarely sat
down. There were adjustments to the sail trim at least every few minutes
more and more as we came in and out of squalls. He needed to do all
himself so as to save time, rather than explaining just how much he wanted
the sheet to come in or out; It was just a thrill for me to watch the
focus and intensity studying the sails constantly for any wrinkle or
bubble that should not be there for maximum performance. It is easy to see
why he had such a successful racing Career. At a go Noodle."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

18 May - Niuatoputapu or Bust!

0600 position 13-39S 165-09W. 122 miles from Suwarrow Atoll

Wait a minute, you say. It's not the 18th of May, it's the 17th. Ah,
that depends on where you are. Somewhere in this passage to Tonga we will
be crossing the international dateline and it will be tomorrow today, so
we decided to adjust our clocks and our calendars when we left Suwarrow.
It puts the clocks more in sync with the sun's position now compared to
when we left Hawaii and we won't need to change anything once we arrive in

In my last post I neglected to mention one of the most exciting and
meaningful of yesterday's experiences. Clean sheets. We are well past
the half way point, time wise, of our journey and we have two sets of
sheets for each of us aboard the boat. As dry below as Moku pe'a is,
there is still salt everywhere, and it gets on everything, including our
bodies and especially our feet. After you get in and out of bed a few
times, you've transferred some of that salt from your feet and legs to
the sheets and from then on the sheets are constantly sticky and damp.
Yuck. It just gets worse and worse until we either wash the sheets or
replace them. So we slept great our first night at anchor with clean
sheets. However, I've already been in and out a few times and they are
starting to get sticky again. Sigh.

Last night Tom, a rally cruiser from Maine that we met, came over with a
pomplamouse (jabong, pomelo) and a couple of limes for us that they had
picked up in Bora Bora. Ooooooh. Of course, we invited him to help us
get rid of one of the limes by mixing it with rum and we had a great time.
He's on a Swan 51, the oldest, cheapest ($500K), and as he is so proud of
saying, fastest boat in the rally.

We put the pomplamouse in the reefer and had it for breakfast this
morning. So good. Then put the dinghy away, cleaned up for sea, and had
the anchor up at 1000. We departed Suwarrow's pass just as another boat
was entering. It really is crowded out here! Left turn past Anchorage
Island, jybe at Turtle Island, put the jib out on the pole, and we were on
our way dead down wind to Niuatoputapu, Tonga, 638 miles away.

Late this afternoon we spent about twenty minutes sailing though an area
full of feeding birds and tuna. We could see the tuna (looked like small
ahi to me) jumping, hitting the surface, and darting around just below the
surface all around the boat. Flying fish were scattering and I saw one
get picked off by a bird in flight. Nice to know that there are still a
lot of fish in some parts of the ocean.

We hooked into a nice seven pound rainbow runner off of the point at
Turtle Island this morning and had him for dinner sauted in a garlic, lime
(no lemons), butter, caper sauce over pasta with a little parmesan cheese
and green beans. Outstanding.

This downwind sailing is what the "Coconut Milk Run", the annual sailboat
migration from North America to New Zealand, is all about. No tipping, no
water on deck, seven knots of speed in the right direction. I could get
used to this. Rocky wanted me to be sure to mention how stunning it was
tonight. Full moon, wing and wing, slip sliding down the face of the
waves, perfect no shirt temperature on deck. Hopefully it will be just
like this all the way to Tonga, but the gribs say that a low passing to
the south will mess it up for us for during the second half of this leg.

The only thing that marred tonight's perfection was some problems with the
autopilot. It shuts down and restarts, effectively going from "active" to
"standby" mode due to undervoltage at the control module. You can imagine
the excitement when that happens and the boat spins out…. I've studied
the problem, and there is a momentary voltage drop at the main electrical
panel whenever the autopilot actuator engages to turn the wheel. If the
batteries aren't completely topped up and there is a large load on the
system (autopilot, refrigerator, computer, and some lights all on), then
the voltage gets low enough during the momentary drop at the autopilot
(10.5 volts) to shut the unit off. Note that voltage at the batteries was
12.1 volts, an acceptable level. An instant after the autopilot shuts off
the load goes away, the voltage rises above 10.5 volts, and the autopilot
restarts going to its default standby mode. I think that either the
wiring between the batteries and the panel is too small (because we are
seeing both the momentary voltage drop there and voltage at the panel is
approximately 0.3 volts less than at the batteries) or there is excessive
resistance in a connection somewhere between the batteries and the panel.
Could be on either the positive or negative side of the circuit. When it
gets light I will try to jump both sides of the panel feed circuit to see
if I get any improvement and hopefully isolate the problem. Any of you
electrical engineers/electricians/electronic geniuses have any ideas for
me? Respond to the blog or email Lori if you do and it will get to me via

Friday, May 16, 2014

16 May - Not Far From the Madding Crowd

0600 position 13-15S 163-07W. At anchor in 32', sand and coral bottom.
Suwarrow Atoll

We were both up at first light anxious to explore. After a pancake
breakfast we launched the dinghy among the dozen sharks that were still
circling Moku Pe'a and went over to visit the monohull. Turns out the two
boats are cruising in company and arrived earlier the same day we did.
The Austrians aboard had been ashore, and the island was currently
uninhabited. Excellent. No formalities and no fees. So we went ashore
for a look-see. Tom Neale's house has been replaced by a more modern one
in the same location. His concrete bust is still there. The book
exchange is still operating but in the new house, and a new two story
structure has been built nearby for the official caretaker who is likely
to arrive any day now. A sign ashore indicated that "Suwarrow National
Park" is open from 1 June to 1 Nov which explains why no official is here

Rocky and I met the German couple from the catamaran on the beach. Nice
folks who have been cruising for 4 years now. We decided to walk the
perimeter of the island both to identify landmarks from the books we had
read and to look for glass balls. Rocky was going to take a swim in the
spot Tom Neale identified as his favorite swimming hole, but the presence
of a black tip shark changed his mind. We swam instead on the leeward
side of the island where the water was calm, clear, and shark free.

While we were ashore an armada arrived. Eight boats, part of some around
the world rally, came in and anchored. I was pleasantly surprised that
they all appeared to know what they were doing and none felt compelled to
anchor too close to us as is often the case. These rally guys have big
bucks. Most of the fleet is in the million dollar range. We are by far
the smallest and cheapest boat here in the anchorage. A passerby would
look at the fleet, point at us and say "What are THEY doing here?" We are
the only boat with laundry hanging on our lifelines because we are the
only boat without a dryer.

After our adventure ashore we went back to the boat for a work day. We
both did laundry. I tried to fix two nagging window leaks, tightened the
steering cables a little more, calibrated the speedometer, repaired some
chafed stitching on the mainsail luff, wiped down floors and bulkheads
with fresh water, and gave Rocky a haircut. Be sure to tell him how great
it looks the next time you see him. The mast light, which fixed itself
after being out for a few nights, has decided to go on strike again, but I
am going to wait until we get to Vava'u to fix it. The anchorage is a
little bumpy here and I'd rather go up the mast in smooth water.

The water here is incredibly clear. I went to the back of the boat at
midnight and in the moonlight it looked like the water was only a couple
of feet deep. I could see the coral heads and sand clearly defined on the
bottom. Quick, turn on the depth sounder for a check - thirty two feet

I recall a similar experience on my first visit to Moorea in 1976. The
full moon's light reflecting off of the sand bottom eight feet below the
boat made the crystal clear water completely disappear. I took the
dinghy out for a paddle on that perfectly still night and it looked and
felt like I was floating in the air.

You may be wondering why I haven't mentioned cribbage much lately. Guess.
Rocky is now up eight games to three, which defies all odds. He's
keeping track. I'm just grateful that we aren't playing "Gladiator
Cribbage", where the loser dies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

14 May - Racing to Suwarrow

0600 position 12-17S 162-36W. Day's run 163 miles

I thought my sailboat racing days were over, but after doing some
arithmetic this morning I realized that if we put the pedal down we could
make it into Suwarrow before sunset on 14 May. So for the past twenty
four hours Moku pe'a has been a little race boat. All that really means
is we are setting a bit more sail than usual to hopefully squeeze a little
more speed out of the old gal. That also means we need to pay pretty
close attention to things so we don't overload the autopilot or get caught
by a squall with too much sail up. Even though we've been working harder,
you'll note that we didn't have our best day's run yesterday. That's
because the average wind speed was a bit less and we found a couple of
light patches where we slowed down to five knots for a while. It doesn't
take many of those to affect the day's total milage.

So far so good, and at 0600 we have approximately 64 miles to go. If we
can maintain speed we are looking at a 1600 arrival in Suwarrow. Except
for those light spots, the wind has cooperated, varying in strength from
eight to thirteen knots on the beam, and the confused three swell system
has disappeared leaving us with a small swell from the same direction as
the wind.

The second fish of the trip was landed this afternoon, another aku.
Didn't much feel like aku for dinner so we let it go. This one was caught
on a lure that Randy Reed gave us. So far the Morelli and Reed lures are
tied on productivity.

We landed a nice sized black ulua as we were entering Suwarrow's pass 28
years ago on Eleu. After we were safely on the hook in the lee of
Anchorage Island, I finally got around to cleaning the fish. I did it in
the cockpit, and after I was finished I threw the carcass over the side.
It hit the water, and then within ten seconds there was a huge commotion
next to the boat. We looked over, startled, to see three four foot black
tipped sharks fighting over the ulua's remains! The sharks must have been
attracted by the blood that drained through the cockpit scuppers as I
cleaned the fish, and were just waiting under the boat for something to

Note to self: Be careful about swimming in the Suwarrow lagoon….

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

13 May - Manahiki and Rakahanga

0600 position 9-53S 161-20W. Day's run 163 miles

Two atolls twenty miles apart, Manahiki and Rakahanga, lie just to the
East of the rhumb line between Christmas Island and Suwarrow. When I was
setting our course out of Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to
sail between Manahiki and Rakahanga and have a look as we passed by. So
that's where we've been heading for the past four days, but this morning
the wind and sea really came up and it became quite uncomfortable and wet
aboard our little ship. Even with a double reefed main and triple reefed
jib she was on her ear, rounding up in the confused sea, occasionally
pounding, and shipping a lot of water. The direct course to Suwarrow was
ten degrees further to the West, ten degrees further off the wind, so we
gave up on the Manahiki fly by idea and altered course for Suwarrow. What
a difference ten degrees made. Sailing was pleasant again, the decks were
a lot drier, and we weren't pounding or tipping.

The squalls stopped just before noon giving us a nice break, but they
started appearing again twelve hours later. I hate squalls. We quickly
roll up a bunch of jib as the squall hits and the wind increases, hoping
we don't have too much mainsail up for the autopilot to handle in the
heaviest puffs. The squalls usually last for about ten minutes with heavy
rain accompanying the increase in wind. So far, so good, but there have
been some nervous moments because we never know with certainty just how
much wind a squall is going to give us.

Two weeks ago at the beginning of our voyage the night watches were in
nearly total darkness. There was no moon and the only light came from
the stars, when the clouds weren't hiding them, and the phosphorescence
lighting our wake. The Milky Way was spectacular, and when I came on
watch at midnight it was directly overhead and aligned North-South, almost
like street lights showing us where to go. It was headlamps and flash
lights to trim the sails and organize lines in the cockpit. The moon has
slowly completed half of its monthly cycle since then and is now nearly
full. The difference is striking. We can see and trim the sails by
moonlight, and only the brightest stars and planets are visible. I know
the phosphorescence is still there in our wake, but I can't see it in the
bright moonlight.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 7-27S 160-05W. Day's run 167 miles

At 0800 a huge line squall stretching from horizon to horizon marched in
from the East. The wind increased to 25 knots, and Moku pe'a got a much
needed fresh water rinse. Unfortunately, that squall brought the end to
the good times. Since it passed the seas have become confused with swells
from the North, South, and East. The South swell is making the boat ride
like a bronco as she charges into them. We've seen more squalls with the
wind increasing in them as they pass. The wind also swings forward and
aft about 15 degrees, but is generally just aft of the beam, a good
direction for speed. We had one reef in the main, but all day long I'd
been considering the second reef. We were right on the edge of needing
it, but you don't want to rush into anything. As a result we had plenty
of power and plenty of speed all day and most of the night and covered a
lot of miles. However, at 0300 a big black squall nailed us and made the
reefing decision easy, and we've had two reefs in ever since.

Our destination on this leg of the trip, Suwarrow, is a magical place. It
is an atoll seven miles across with about a dozen motus on the fringing
reef. The largest motu, Anchorage Island, was the home of hermit Tom
Neale, who lived alone on the island for a number of years in the 1950s
and 60s and wrote the book "An Island to Oneself" about his adventures
there. Suwarrow is also written about extensively in the book "Isle of
Desire" written by Robert Dean Frisbee, a famous South Seas author. Rocky
is reading, and I am re-reading both of these books before we arrive.

Anchorage Island is about the same size as Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay,
½ mile long by 300 yards wide. The island lies adjacent to the pass
through the reef on the Eastern side of the atoll. Yachts find protection
from the trade winds anchored in its lee and there is a beautiful white
sand beach with overhanging coconut trees on that side of the island.

The only visitors for many years after Tom Neale departed were yachts, all
of which had read his book. Tom's house was treated as a shrine, and
yachtsmen maintained the structure and kept the yard and path to the beach
cleared. There was even a life sized concrete bust of Tom installed along
the path to his house with the words "Tom Neale lived his dream on this
island" inscribed. This is how Alison and I found Anchorage Island when
we arrived there twenty eight years ago on our Ranger 33 Eleu. There was
no other human within 200 miles, and we had the island to ourselves for
two weeks. Magical.

Tom's bedroom had been maintained the way it was the day he left, with the
bed neatly made and his machete with "Neale" carved in the handle hanging
on the wall. Chicken skin stuff. Another room had been converted into a
library/book exchange for the visiting yachts. In those days before
laptop computers, DVDs, and Kindles, hard copy books were one of the few
sources of entertainment and cruisers were always anxious to swap for new

Alas, nothing lasts forever. The Cook Islands government decided that
they needed an official presence on Suwarrow since so many yachts were
visiting, and in recent years I have read that they have a couple of
officials stationed on the island during the cruising season. I don't
know what we will find when Rocky and I arrive, but I still expect magic.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 4-46S 159-20W. Day's run 149 miles

We reached the halfway point on our voyage to Vava'u, Tonga at 1045 this
morning. It's all downhill from here! Winds in the South Pacific have
been steadier in strength and direction than the North Pacific, and no
squalls so far. Sometimes a whole six hour watch goes by without an
adjustment to sail trim or heading. We just keep zipping along steadily
at six knots with full or single reefed main and jib. Wind is from the
East and creeps up to 15 or down to 6 but usually it is right in the
middle. We could probably get another knot of speed if we pushed, but
then the boat would be tipping, and the autopilot would have to work
harder, and it would be wetter on deck, and we'd have to pay closer
attention to things. We are in cruise mode and are quite happy here.

I am amazed at the efficiency, reliability, and quietness of the SeaFrost
refrigeration unit I installed last year. It uses the same amount of
electricity as a small incandescent light bulb, makes ice, and keeps
everything else cold. I also installed solar panels to supplement the
wind generator when I put the refrigeration system in the boat thinking
I'd need the extra juice, but now I think the panels were unnecessary. As
good as the refrigeration system is, it still needs to be defrosted once
in a while, so I did the defrost at 0300 this morning and did a general
clean up of stuff in there. I threw out the last of the spinach and
cucumbers as they were too far gone. Interesting that the English
Cucumbers we took to Tahiti unrefrigerated three years ago lasted longer
than the refrigerated ones this time. Apples and oranges have been very
popular and we are just about out of them. We are both pretty much
foraging for breakfast and lunch and only do a real dinner every other
night or so. Not much exercise so not much hunger. And it is hot which
doesn't help the appetite. We were hoping for fish tonight though. Had
two strikes today but no hook up. That's three in a row; unusual. So the
fish line came in at 1700 and I made a spaghetti dinner instead.

I love my midnight to 0600 watch. It is my busy watch. It starts with
some pleasant banter with Rocky as he heads off to bed, "See any ships?
Anything interesting happen? How's the book you are reading?" We'll
discuss progress made and trends in wind speed and direction. One of us
will usually tell a quick story that gets a laugh from the other. Then I'm
on my own, and I check the horizon and take a look at sail trim and how
things are set up on deck. I'll eyeball our track on the computer and
try to figure out what kind of mileage we are looking at for day. All that
can consume close to an hour. Then it's time for my daily cup of coffee.
I take my cup and a piece of chocolate and sit in the cockpit for another
hour or so enjoying the quiet, the stars, and phosphorescence in our wake.
As I'm sitting there I try to figure out what I'm going to write about
for the day's blog post. I'll put in ten minute sessions on the computer
periodically for the rest of the watch, composing the blog, responding to
Lori's last email, checking our track, or strategizing on the optimal
course and weather ahead. At least once every ten minutes I'll pop up and
scan the horizon and look for squalls or anything else that might affect
us. I check sail trim if something feels different or if I haven't
checked in a while. If I run out of things to do I'll make an attempt at
solving a Sudoku or read my book, but usually I'm too busy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 2-22S 158-42W. Day's run 149 miles

At 0600 yesterday morning King Neptune came alongside riding on the back
of a dolphin. "What? Moku pe'a again? Can't you guys just pick a
hemisphere and stay there?" yelled His Royal Highness. And "What are you
doing showing up at this ungodly hour? I haven't had my coffee yet!"

"Sorry Your Majesty", I called back. "We live up North, but like to visit
your islands to the South. We beg your pardon for the intrusion into your
realm. There's also some confusion here time-wise. We're not even sure
what day it is anymore."

"That's OK", the Sea King barked, "The Moku pe'a is a fine ship and she is
welcome here, but you keep bringing these damn pollywogs along, and they
are seriously messing with my vibe! By the way, it's Friday."

"A thousand pardons, my King", I replied. "Some aboard may not have
crossed the equator before, but only the finest seaman and shipmates sail
on this vessel and they are worthy souls."

"Hah! We'll see about that", exclaimed the Sovereign of the Seas as he
deftly leapt aboard. "Bring me the lowly scum!"

Rocky, to his credit, was not the least bit intimidated by the crusty old
bastard who had just come aboard, and he called out, "It is I that you

"I know that! I know everything! I'm King of the bloody sea, but what I
want to know is why I should allow a guy named 'Rocky' unfettered access
to my Kingdom? What kind of a name is 'Rocky' anyway? Do you see any
rocks out here?"

"Rocky is my nickname," he replied with confidence, "and it is a name of
strength. Rocks are hard, sailors fear them, and who doesn't like their
cocktails 'on the rocks'?"

"Well I suppose so" said the Oracle of the Oceans, his demeanor softening.
"If Noodle will vouch for you then I suppose you are OK. Let it be known
to all that Rocky Young is now a shellback and all in my realm shall
welcome him! Let this certificate be evidence of this fact", and he
handed Rocky a document attesting to his new status.

With business concluded, the Master of the Maritime, mumbling something
about needing to hurry so he wouldn't miss a rerun of Gilligan's Island,
leapt back aboard his dolphin and disappeared below the waves.

"Golly Rocky", I exclaimed, "You got off easy. He didn't throw food on
you or anything. Maybe it's all the recent litigation on hazing. Do you
suppose they have lawyers out here?"

"Could be", said a visibly pleased Rocky because he hadn't been abused at
all by the Deity of the Depths. I could see he was thinking about where
to hang the certificate on his 'I love me' wall at home and he added
"Since it IS Friday again, I think I'll just take the day off."

"Wow," I thought to myself, "Rocky sure is going native…"

About 0900 Rocky was on watch (he decided not to take the day off) and a
school of dolphin spent about fifteen minutes entertaining him.

Later in the day when the sun was over the yard arm, Rocky and I broke out
the equator celebration goodies that our neighbor Hiromi had given us. We
toasted King Neptune, our lovely wives, the Mighty Moku pe'a, and spilled
a drop into the sea in honour of my hero, mentor, shipmate and father, Bob
Leary, and Fred Grantham, Hiromi's husband.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 0-00S 158-00W, 124 miles from Christmas Island

Rocky had hoped to find a hotel lounge type bar in London, a posh air
conditioned place with an entertaining bartender and Billy Joel clone
playing piano in the corner. When that didn't pan out, he searched high
and low, but there was nary a lemon or lime to be found in London town.
Depressed that his planned cocktail hour would now be both relegated to
the boat and lacking a vital ingredient to make it a success, he was
rummaging through the liquor locker and stumbled upon the booze lei that
Lori gave us as departure gifts. In them he found two mini bottles of
limon rum and two cans of tonic. Limon rum tonics were produced to
enhance the sunset watching, and they were good., and we didn't even miss
the limes, and Lori saved the day..

Rocky and I were anxious to be on our way, so after a great breakfast of
scrambled eggs and hot dogs, that Rocky had purchased in London the day
before, we launched the dinghy and headed in to shore to officially check
out of the country at 0800. There was only one minor problem, none of the
three full time customs officers was in the office at 0830 when I finished
with the Prell/Immigration lady. Were there any planes or ships arriving
or departing today? No. "Well, it IS Friday…", she offered as
justification. After watching me wait for an hour, the tax lady in the
next office drove to the closest customs officer's home and retrieved him
to check us out. This was probably a pretty good shakedown for what we
will experience in the Cook Islands and Tonga, also third world countries,
so I need to get comfortable with it. As Lori likes remind me when I
start to get worked up over things like this, "Remember, this is not your
country and you are a guest. They do things differently than we do in the
US." True. True. When I returned to the dinghy after being gone for
almost two hours Rocky just laughed and said, "I figured somebody you
needed to see wasn't there."

Just to further cement Christmas Island's third world status, sailors
should note that all charts of the island are out of position by
approximately ½ mile. Our GPS chart plotter had us anchored in the middle
of downtown London.

At 1030 the anchor was up and we had a delightful sail along the eight
mile long western edge of the atoll and into the open ocean. The forecast
showed easterly winds from eight to fourteen knots all the way to
Suwarrow. That's pleasant sailing with the wind just aft of the beam, and
so far that is what we have seen.

I hadn't even finished putting out a hand line just after setting sail
when a fish hit threatening to pull it out of my hand. No hook up though.
I'm not sure how things would have turned out if we had hooked up.
Unfortunately, we've seen no action at the lures since then other than a
few diving birds.

We just crossed the equator a couple of minutes ago. The damn thing got
caught on the keel as we sailed over it, but we managed to quickly free
ourselves without slowing down. I can see King Neptune approaching the
boat now, and he doesn't look happy…

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 2-00N 157-29W. At anchor in 28', sand bottom. Christmas

We started making noise this morning on the VHF at 0800, and the boarding
party finally showed up at 1100. We cleared the paperwork gauntlet at
1145, almost a day and half after it should have been completed. It was
quite a circus. We were anchored off of the pier when the VHF came to
life announcing that the officials were about to arrive for us to pick up.
So I jumped in the dinghy, pulled on the engine starter cord, the cord
handle came off, and the cord retreated into the engine, out of sight.
Damn! So I rowed the 200 yards to the pier, picked up two very large
officials and rowed them back to Moku pe'a. Rocky rowed in to pick up the
third very large official since they all wouldn't fit in the dinghy in one
trip. Apparently government workers are well fed on Christmas Island.
Formalities were relatively painless. No apologies for making us wait a
day and a half, but they did indicate that they were "busy" the day
before. As we ferried them in to the dock one at a time the female
immigration officer noticed a bottle of Prell shampoo in the cockpit,
admired its smell, and asked if she might have it. After making us wait a
day and a half? Right.

Upon receiving emancipation, Rocky and I moved the boat a mile and half up
the beach to the anchorage off of London. We'll have to clear out with
customs tomorrow at their office in London, it is the metropolis of island
life, and there is nothing happening anywhere near the pier. After
settling down off of London I repaired the dinghy motor and we went into
town to explore. There wasn't much happening in London either. There
were a few stores with refrigeration and Rocky bought some hot dogs and
oranges. Rocky asked if there was a pub or bar in the area, got a funny
look and the response, "If you want to drink, you buy beer in the store
and take it down to the beach." I figured out where the customs office is
and we returned to the boat, pretty much done with Christmas Island.
We'll return to town tomorrow to check out and be on our way.

One item of interest. As I was filling out the paperwork the officials
noted that I was getting the date wrong, indicating that it was the 8th of
May and not the 7th. Seems we crossed the dateline in sailing due South
from Hawaii. The country of Kiribati is stretched out over almost 2000
miles of ocean, East to West, with Christmas at its Eastern end. Makes
sense for it to be the same day throughout the country and since most of
the country is West of the 180th meridian, they tweaked the dateline way
to the East around Christmas Island. After we depart tomorrow the
calendar goes back to Hawaii time because we will cross the dateline the
other way on our sail Southwest to Suwarrow in the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 2-00N 157-29W. At anchor in 28', sand bottom. Christmas

One of the words that came to mind the other night when we saw the loom of
the Christmas Island lights in the distance was "civilized". Now, I'm not
so sure. We had the anchor down at 0800 and at 0815 called "Christmas
Island Radio" on VHF Channel 16, as all the guidance recommend, to request
clearance into the country from customs and immigration. We spoke to
someone official on the radio, gave them vital statistics, and were told
to stand by while they contacted the officials. We are still "standing
by" a day later. We've called them numerous times on the VHF to make sure
they haven't forgotten about us. I even went ashore for a bit and tried
to get their attention that way, but the pier yard gate guard and the
Harbor Master sent me back to the boat to wait for the officials.
Civilized indeed. As you recall, we timed our departure from Hawaii so we
wouldn't arrive on a weekend requiring the payment of overtime to the
officials. Perhaps this is a conspiracy and they are planning to keep us
"standing by" until the weekend to wrest that overtime pay from us? Time
will tell. Stay tuned.

It is hot here. Africa hot. I don't remember Palmyra or Fanning, which
are only a few hundred miles away, being this hot. Perhaps it is El Nino
rearing his mischievous head? The heat of the air makes the ocean feel
great and we have both been in for a swim. The heat also makes an iced
cold beer taste great. We both broke down under the stress of the waiting
and boredom at noon and had our first beers of the trip. Definitely worth
waiting for.

As we powered into the anchorage this morning we were surprised to see two
"raft ups" of large ships anchored in the roadstead. There were four
ships in one raft and two in the other. They looked to me like fishing
factory ships with some of their fishing fleets tied to them. Almost
looks like a small version of Middle Loch in Pearl Harbor with the
mothballed ships. I had read somewhere that the sale of their
territorial fishing rights to others is a significant income source for
Kiribati. These ships are probably related.

After dinner we had movie night (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and a
full night's sleep. I could get used to that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 2-07N 157-30W. Day's run 78 miles. 3 miles North of NW
Point, Christmas Island

This has been one of the slowest and painful 24 hours that I can remember
in sailing. Our track on the GPS plotter looks like a street map of the
Old Pali Road. Wind direction has been all around the compass, but it is
primarily from the North. Not bad, since we are headed South you say, but
when there is less than 4 knots of wind, downwind is not the direction you
want to sail. It is the incessant slatting of the mainsail that is the

Normally we would have given up and turned on the engine far sooner, but
there was no point in that since we couldn't make it to Christmas Island
before sunset yesterday. Why power in there in the dark just to have to
sit offshore and wait for daylight to safely anchor? So instead we tried
to sail for eight extra hours in next to no breeze and a confused swell.

There were squalls everywhere all day, and we were engulfed by a few.
Some had wind in them and some took away what little wind there was. They
all had rain. As we closed on the island more and more birds came to
visit us. We couldn't see them in the blackness, but could hear them
calling all around us. Even though we are near the equator, it was quite
a bit chillier tonight than it has been. Perhaps it is the dampness from
all the rain, or maybe the rain is bringing cooler air down from aloft.
Both Rocky and I had sweatshirts on after dark.

The loom of Christmas Island's big city, London, came up over the horizon
at 2300, and continued to brighten as we closed in on Northwest Point. We
finally turned the engine at 0440 for the last ten miles to the island.
We can just see land as it gets light now, and we should round the point
in about an hour. If all goes as planned the hook will be down in the
roadstead anchorage at about 0900. Then we get to deal with Kiribati
Government officials. Oh boy!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

I apologize that we didn't get a post in on Saturday. We had problems
with the sat phone connection and I couldn't tell if the post went through
or not. To keep things in sequence, what follows are the posts for
Saturday, Sunday (a repeat), and today.

3 May 0600 position 8-06N 157-06W. Day's run 123 miles.

All day the wind gradually died down and backed to the North forcing us to
head up to keep the boat moving. By midnight the wind was down to 6 knots
from the NNE. It was very pleasant sailing, but we were heading 30
degrees to the East of Christmas Island, and boat speed was below 5 knots.
Fortunately, after midnight the wind started clocking and increasing and
we are now heading straight for Christmas again doing 7+ knots in about 10
knots of breeze. The forecast says that we are supposed to have 18 knots
of wind from the ENE tomorrow. We'll see. We also seem to have avoided
any ITCZ effects, at least so far. This is typically the latitude where
we would encounter the ITCZ if it is active. We see lots of confused
vertical cloud development, which is typical of the ITCZ, but so far it
doesn't appear to be affecting the wind, and we haven't had any rain or

It is getting a lot warmer now. No more sweatshirts at night, and we are
trying to find ways to keep air circulating in the boat without risking
letting sea water in. When the wind and sea are down we are opening the
dodger window and ports on the leeward side of the boat. We've got the
shades on the hatches pulled to help keep the boat cooler during the day.

We saw a lot more bird action today with a few groups of boobies coming by
to check out the boat and the lures dragging behind us. We had 3 bird
strikes on the lures. The boobies would do a couple of fly bys before one
of them dives into the water and grabs the lure. The "snap" of the
clothes pin as the line goes taught gets my attention and causes my heart
to race for a second until I realize that it is a bird and not a fish.
Then the pull gets to be too great and the lure is jerked from the bird's
beak. He squawks a protest, shakes his head in disgust, and takes off
flying. I believe that each bird strike today was a different bird, but
boobies are incredibly stupid animals. I've seen a booby dive repeatedly
on my lures for what seems like hours. Each time the lure was pulled from
his beak until finally he hit it just right, the hook set, and he was
dragging behind the boat in the water. I pulled him in, managed to get
the hook removed without hurting the bird or myself, and threw him back
in the water. He sat there for a few seconds regrouping, then took off
and proceeded to start diving again on the lures.

At 1700 we decided on a spaghetti dinner and I was fully involved in
preparation when Rocky yelled that we had a fish on. We put the cooking
on hold, landed the fish (a nice 20 pound aku), cleaned up the bloody
mess, and got back to cooking. The last thing we needed was a fish right
then, particularly since we were committed to a different dinner. Note to
self: Pull in the fish lines before starting dinner. So we rushed
through dinner and cleaned the fish before it got dark. It'll be fresh
aku for dinner tomorrow night. The fish was caught on the same Fred
Morelli special lure that won the Molokai cruise fishing tournament in
January. Thanks Freddie!

I was sitting in the cockpit at 0200 this morning enjoying my daily cup of
coffee when a school of dolphin stopped by for a visit. It was pitch
black out so I couldn't see them, but they were so close you could hear
the quick rush of air as each took a breath and the sounds of their
splashes as they jumped around the boat. We are definitely entering an
area of more sea life. Still no fishing boats though.

4 May 0600 position 5-35N 157-23W. Day's run 151 miles

At 0600 I was just getting ready to wake Rocky to go on watch when a
squall hit. We quickly progressed from 6 knots of wind and full sail to
one reef in the main, then one in the jib, then a second reef in the main.
When things settled and the squall cleared it was blowing 18 knots from
the ENE, just like the grib files called for today. But it didn't stop
there. The wind continued to build into the early afternoon and by 1400
we had 3 reefs in the main and jib. It was probably blowing just under 30
knots. Now this is the North Pacific Ocean that I remember…

It got very bumpy during the evening and stayed that way. Rocky says it
feels like we are riding a bronco. My guess is we are in the equatorial
counter current which sets to the East and would make the seas lumpy. The
wind backed off to the high teens during the night, but boat speed stayed
over 6 knots so we left the third reef in the main and just unrolled a bit
of jib.

I should have known that praising the reliability of the sat phone the
other day would be a mistake. This morning we had a funky connection.
Some emails went out and some came in, but the software says the blog post
didn't transmit. Rocky suggested trying again, but I'm not going to get
sucked into that game again. Kara and I often gave it "just one more try"
on our 2011 cruise and once ended up with a $30 phone bill for the day and
the same problem when we were done. I remember Lori's comment the
following day, "How come you sent me the same email eight times?" Turns
out the email was sent, but it didn't register as sent on my laptop
software. So if you didn't see a blog post yesterday, Lori will let me
know and I'll resend yesterday's post tomorrow.

I'll probably jinx this too by talking about it, but I believe we have
left the ITCZ behind us. The skies are organized and mostly clear now.
There's lightning out there somewhere though. Every once in a while a
flash off in the distance lights the sky a bit. Hard to tell where it's
coming from, hopefully behind us. Not bad at all, just one big squall and
wind all the way through.

Rocky and I rehashed procedures for man overboard the other day. He said
his biggest fear is coming up on deck and finding that he is the only one
on the boat. It's my biggest fear too, not because I can't handle the
boat alone, but because my crew mate in the water has absolutely zero
chance of survival unless I do absolutely everything perfectly to effect
his recovery. Key is marking the position where you discovered him
missing, and then retracing your path exactly until you find him. We lost
a man overboard in the '87 Transpac on Merlin. We were going 15 knots at
the time with the spinnaker up, and as Murphy's Law dictates, everything
went wrong in trying to get the spinnaker and staysail down so we could go
back to pick him up. By the time we got the boat under control and turned
around, our man in the water was out of sight, and it was my job as the
navigator to find him. Terrifying. But we found him and the story had a
happy ending.

It is looking like an arrival at Christmas Island late tomorrow or Tuesday
morning. The forecast is calling for decreasing winds but we're hopeful
that they won't drop enough to slow us down.

5 May 0600 position 3-24N 157-22W. Day's run 131 miles. 85 miles to
Christmas Island

The word of the morning was "squalls". They were all around us marching
along with the wind, but if one got close enough then the wind increased
from its usual 12 knots to over 20 knots. We left a double reef in the
mainsail, which was fine for the heavy stuff, but it left us a bit under
powered in the lighter air. Jib size was easier to adjust. In 12 knots
it was fully unrolled, or close to it, and when the squalls hit we fell
off to near DDW long enough to roll the jib up with a double reef which we
shook out after the squall passed.

Fortunately the squalls ended at noon, and for the next eighteen hours
we've enjoyed lovely broad reaching in winds that slowly dropped from 12
to 6 knots. In the wee hours of the morning the wind has become so light
that we've had to reach up to keep from slatting and we are now sailing 30
degrees above the direct line course to Christmas Island.

Bravura only spent 10 days in Tahiti after winning the Transpac race to
there in '76. We had to get up to Honolulu for the "Round the State" race
that August and couldn't afford any more time in French Polynesia. The
custom built boat had been launched just a few days before the Tahiti race
started, and as you can imagine there were a number of new boat "bugs"
that we discovered during the race. One of them was that the head would
clog approximately every third use, and the "you clog it you clean it"
rule was in effect. Not me, thank you. I used the bow pulpit for my
business the entire race. We found another new boat bug a day out of
Tahiti on the way to Hawaii. One of the engine hydraulic drive hoses
started leaking where it passed through a bulkhead and we lost all of our
hydraulic fluid. We patched the hole but didn't have enough spare fluid
to refill the system. What to do… Turns out we did have a whole lot of
Wesson Oil aboard. We filled the system with it, and it worked, but we
figured prolonged use would likely damage something so we saved our engine
for motoring into the Ala Wai, and sailed all the way to Hawaii. As
Murphy's Law dictates, because we didn't have an engine we also didn't
have much wind and it was a long slow trip. We sailed right by Christmas
Island one afternoon. I could see it in the distance but we couldn't take
the time to stop because of our deadline in Honolulu. We made it to
Honolulu with 2 days to spare before the Round the State race, and the
engine worked fine entering the harbour, but we joked on the boat that we
must have smelled like a MacDonald's deep fryer.

I've been looking forward to visiting Christmas Island ever since I first
saw it on the horizon 38 years ago. Unfortunately, it's not looking like
we are going to make it into Christmas before dark today due to the slow

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 5-35N 157-23W. Day's run 151 miles

At 0600 I was just getting ready to wake Rocky to go on watch when a
squall hit. We quickly progressed from 6 knots of wind and full sail to
one reef in the main, then one in the jib, then a second reef in the main.
When things settled and the squall cleared it was blowing 18 knots from
the ENE, just like the grib files called for today. But it didn't stop
there. The wind continued to build into the early afternoon and by 1400
we had 3 reefs in the main and jib. It was probably blowing just under 30
knots. Now this is the North Pacific Ocean that I remember…

It got very bumpy during the evening and stayed that way. Rocky says it
feels like we are riding a bronco. My guess is we are in the equatorial
counter current which sets to the East and would make the seas lumpy. The
wind backed off to the high teens during the night, but boat speed stayed
over 6 knots so we left the third reef in the main and just unrolled a bit
of jib.

I should have known that praising the reliability of the sat phone the
other day would be a mistake. This morning we had a funky connection.
Some emails went out and some came in, but the software says the blog post
didn't transmit. Rocky suggested trying again, but I'm not going to get
sucked into that game again. Kara and I often gave it "just one more try"
on our 2011 cruise and once ended up with a $30 phone bill for the day and
the same problem when we were done. I remember Lori's comment the
following day, "How come you sent me the same email eight times?" Turns
out the email was sent, but it didn't register as sent on my laptop
software. So if you didn't see a blog post yesterday, Lori will let me
know and I'll resend yesterday's post tomorrow.

I'll probably jinx this too by talking about it, but I believe we have
left the ITCZ behind us. The skies are organized and mostly clear now.
There's lightning out there somewhere though. Every once in a while a
flash off in the distance lights the sky a bit. Hard to tell where it's
coming from, hopefully behind us. Not bad at all, just one big squall and
wind all the way through.

Rocky and I rehashed procedures for man overboard the other day. He said
his biggest fear is coming up on deck and finding that he is the only one
on the boat. It's my biggest fear too, not because I can't handle the
boat alone, but because my crew mate in the water has absolutely zero
chance of survival unless I do absolutely everything perfectly to effect
his recovery. Key is marking the position where you discovered him
missing, and then retracing your path exactly until you find him. We lost
a man overboard in the '87 Transpac on Merlin. We were going 15 knots at
the time with the spinnaker up, and as Murphy's Law dictates, everything
went wrong in trying to get the spinnaker and staysail down so we could go
back to pick him up. By the time we got the boat under control and turned
around, our man in the water was out of sight, and it was my job as the
navigator to find him. Terrifying. But we found him and the story had a
happy ending.

It is looking like an arrival at Christmas Island late tomorrow or Tuesday
morning. The forecast is calling for decreasing winds but we're hopeful
that they won't drop enough to slow us down.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Moku pe'a Report

0600 position 10-09 N 157-17W. Day's run 150 miles.

Ever since we cleared the effects of the islands we've been heading five
to ten degrees above the rhumbline course to Christmas. The grib files
showed slightly stronger and more Easterly winds to the South and I wanted
to bank some Easting so we could fall off a little when the winds
increased and clocked. More recent weather files aren't showing quite as
much wind ahead and I think we have enough in the bank, so at 0600 we
turned right to the direct heading for Christmas, and we plan to head
straight in from here.

The wind slowly increased all morning to 15 knots at noon, so we put a
reef in the jib to go along with the one in the main and the boat stood up
straighter without slowing down any. Shortly thereafter the wind started
a decreasing trend so we shook the jib reef at 1300, main reef at 1600,
and the speed got down to near 4 knots at 2200 when the wind started to
come up again. Since then we've been zipping along at full speed under
full sail. No change in wind direction.

We passed the halfway point to Christmas at 1345. Should be a Monday or
Tuesday arrival at this rate.

The current is surprisingly variable out here. The autopilot is driving
to a compass course, but the boat's track over the ground slowly turns
left or right over the hours as the East/West current component changes.
I wouldn't have expected that kind of current variability out here in the
middle of the empty Pacific. If we had human helmsmen we would chalk up
the track changes to differences in driving style, but that variable is
removed with auto driving.

Our satphone email connection has worked perfectly for four days running.
I have been reluctant to say anything for fear of jinxing it, but this
aspect of the journey is remarkably different than my last trip South.
The connection is a team effort with Rocky in the cockpit aiming the phone
at a geostationary satellite over the equator and me at the computer
pushing buttons. When it goes smoothly, which it has so far, incoming and
outgoing emails all get transferred in about a minute and we are done for
the day. When it doesn't go smoothly, as was often the case for Kara
and me in 2011, we'd spend hours trying to make the connection. The
hardware and software on my end hasn't changed. I wonder if Inmarsat, who
operates the satellites, and/or Astrium, my service provider, have
improved things on their end? Or, maybe we have just been lucky so far…

I skipped the cribbage game yesterday to try to change my mojo after Rocky
skunked me the day before. It seems to have worked as I eked out a win
today. He remains one game up in the tally.

Alas, no fish again today and no fishing boats or birds sighted either.
We've got great lures and we are swapping them out to present a variety of
tantalizing tidbits to entice even the most finicky fish's pallet. Must
not be many big fish in this part of the ocean. We have seen some flying
fish though, and this morning at 0400 I saw what looked like a glow stick
lying on deck in the darkness. A flash light revealed a dead flying fish.
Must have been full of some kind of phosphorescence that was not pleased
about its host's untimely demise. He kept right on glowing until it got
light at 0500.

I could also see lightning flashes off to the South just before dawn.
Must be the Inter tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ. I am sure hoping we
don't have to deal with lightning.