Sunday, August 31, 2014

31 August - Landfall in Paradise

0600 position 23-52S 147-41W. At anchor off of Rairua Town, Raivavae Lagoon

As dawn approached we could see the lights of the villages on Raivavae which confirmed our GPS position. I know the GPS is
accurate, but I am always nervous approaching a new landfall in darkness. What if the charts are wrong? They rarely are
off by more than a few hundred yards even in third world countries, but it is still comforting to be able to confirm the GPS
position with bearings on identifiable landmarks.

I also sighted the loom of some lights astern, which I mistakenly assumed were lights on Tubuai, the next island to the
west. It turned out to be the inter-island steamer also headed for the pass at Raivavae but moving a lot faster. His
timing was perfect, and we followed him into the pass and into the anchorage off the town of Rairua just after dawn. You
know you are not going to run aground if the 200 foot ship whose track you are following doesn't.

When I realized it was a ship astern of us, I turned on the running lights. Yes, I know we are supposed to have the running
lights on at night, but we usually don't. There just isn't any traffic out here, and our own running lights make it
difficult to see if there is anything else out there. If we see something we turn the lights on. The running lights worked
fine when I turned them on, but fifteen minutes later the stern light (the one showing the steamer that we were there)
burned out. Uh Oh. Quick, tie a flashlight to the back stay and make sure it stays aimed at the steamer so they don't run
us down. Never a dull moment on the Moku pe'a and one more thing to fix.

There was one other yacht in Raivavae, a French catamaran, but we've seen no sign of life aboard. Shortly after completing
SOP1 (except the beer part), we relaxed, had breakfast, and I took advantage of the hot water generated while powering into
the lagoon to take a hot shower. Heaven. Then we launched the dinghy and went ashore to try to check into the country.
Turns out the Gendarmarie is closed one day a week, Saturdays, and today is Saturday, so we gave up on that and rode our
folding bikes fifteen miles around the island. Afterwards, our butts and legs were sore, but it was nothing that a couple
of beers couldn't cure.

Foremost in our minds was putting the forty pounds of ahi in the ice box to good use. If we procrastinated too long it
would go bad. We are eating all we can (it's grilled ahi belly tonight), but we had to get rid of at least thirty pounds of
fish. Our plan was to try to sell or trade it for local art or beer, and we made inquiries at all four small markets around
the island during our bike ride. Very little English is spoken here though, and we don't speak French or Tahitian so we
were unsuccessful in making a deal. We did find one nice gal who spoke understandable English at the market closest to the
boat, and she was nice to us, so we gave her twenty pounds of ahi. Matt made a pal on the pier while I was out on the boat
fetching the ahi. Matt was trying to ask how we could get water for the boat, but due to the language barrier the local
thought that Matt was thirsty and gave him a store bought 2 liter bottle of water. That was a pretty nice gesture, so we
gave ten pounds of ahi to him. What goes around comes around. We have no expectations, but we are hoping that somehow our
generosity with the fish creates something noteworthy. Stay tuned.

I don't recall if I mentioned previously that the water in Tonga was the worst tasting potable water on the planet. I
couldn't drink it straight, and had to disguise it for four months with crystal light to make it palatable. It is still in
our tanks, and I can't wait to be rid of it. Matt shared the bottled water his new pal gave him with me, and it was
fantastic. I forgot how good pure water tastes. I'd almost rather drink good water than beer…. Almost…. Unfortunately, we
are going to have to wait until we get to Papeete to get more drinking water. There's none readily available here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

30 August - The Best Passage Ever

0600 position 23-49S 147-41W. Off Raivavae

More of the same beam reaching today in light southerly winds and pretty
smooth seas. The wind came forward for about an hour during Matt's
morning watch and for a while we were concerned that we wouldn't lay
Raivavae on starboard tack. But it lifted us back up and more, so it has
been an easy reach into the island.

Matt is being his creative self with the ahi. Last night it was delicious
seared ahi steaks with a mayo-shoyu-wasabi-sugar sauce, pasta, and slaw.
So ono.

As I write this in the wee hours of Saturday morning, we are creeping in
toward Raivavae with just a double reefed mainsail up and sheeted hard
trying to go slow so we don't arrive at the lagoon entrance pass before
first light.

The trip here from Vava'u has been the most satisfying sailboat passage of
my life. What conventional wisdom says is a 1500 mile beat to weather
that only a masochist would attempt was for us a downwind sleigh ride
better than almost any Transpac Race. We were certainly lucky with the
weather, but we timed our departure and purposely sailed hundreds of miles
south of the straight line course to put ourselves in a position to get
lucky. Had we left when we were ready and sailed a conventional route,
most of the favorable winds we enjoyed would have passed us by and this
trip would have been weeks longer and a whole lot less enjoyable. I wish
my father, Bob Leary, a Transpac Race weather routing pioneer, could have
been here with us. He would be as pleased as we are.

The masthead light is out and one of the solar panel support tubes got
bent by a breaking wave, but these will be easy to fix. Otherwise, the
Mighty Moku pe'a came through the passage unscathed. I am grateful that I
had a partner with Matt's skills, focus, and commitment to get us through
the sketchy periods. I suspect the repair list would be a lot longer if
he hadn't been here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

29 August - Monster Ahi

0600 position 23-56S 149-41W. Day's run 139 miles. 110 miles to Raivavae

This afternoon showed us some of the nicest sailing weather ever. Beam
reaching under full sail in about nine knots of wind from the south.
Fully powered up, sailing at over six knots, with sheets eased and not
healed over very far. It has warmed up a bit too. I had on a single
sweatshirt and shorts. Matt was having such a good time during his
morning watch that he didn't want to go below and stayed on deck for a few
extra hours.

Matt had just gone down for a nap at 3PM when a fish hit, a big one, on
our long hand line. We managed to wrestle in and land a fifty pound ahi!
It was caught on a Fred Morelli special lure. It was the biggest ahi I've
ever caught. It took the both of us to lift the fish aboard with the
gaff, and then a couple of hours to clean and pack on ice. Looks like
we'll be sharing fish with the locals in Raivavae. Can this trip get any

Dinner was ahi sashimi, seared spiced ahi, rice, and cole slaw. And it
was good.

As the evening wore on the wind became lighter and spottier. Matt got a
light easterly wind for a couple of hours and was headed north toward
Tubuai. It glassed off for a while at midnight, then filled back in from
the south, and we were able to get back up on course. Since then it's
been pleasant beam reaching at hull speed. We should have this weather
all the way in to Raivavae.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

28 August - The End is Near

0600 position 24-09S 152-13W. Day's run 159 miles

The wind stayed out of the southwest all day. Wind speed was up and down
with a downward trend. We rolled the jib in and out all day long, and
shook the second reef just before noon. The wind started to get fluky at
about 11PM, and at 2AM it died completely for over an hour. Normally we
would have turned on the engine until the wind filled back in, but it
looks like even at top speed we will arrive at Raivavae just after sunset
on Friday evening. I'm not entering the lagoon at night, so we wouldn't
go in until Saturday morning anyway. Since we'll likely have about twelve
hours to kill, there's no point in powering, so we waited out the calm and
it slowly filled back in from the south at about 330AM.

We are all caught up on sleep, and there's not much that needs to be done.
The boat has held together nicely. Nothing to fix except the damn
masthead light (my nemesis) which went out again the other night. This
time I think it is the bulb. I have a spare and will replace it in
Raivavae. We had our first cribbage game of the voyage this afternoon.
It went well…

Our discussions center on planning the next meal. We have both (Matt
especially) been creative with what's aboard and have enjoyed some great
feasts. Yesterday morning it was eggs, spam, and rice. The day before
banana pancakes. Last night we enjoyed lentil soup and grilled cheese
sandwiches. Rumor has it tonight's dinner is corned beef and cabbage. We
are both really looking forward to that first beer after the anchor goes
down in the Raivavae lagoon.

In Tonga Lori and I developed a couple of SOPs (Standard Operating
Procedures) for the Mighty Moku pe'a. SOP1 concerns the actions to be
taken when anchoring for the evening. SOP1 is as follows:

1. Roll up jib, drop and furl mainsail
2. Drop anchor, set, and secure
3. Secure engine
4. Secure main halyard to toe rail
5. Put on mainsail cover
6. Put fish (zinc for keel protection) overboard
7. Have the first beer of the day

There was much discussion during the development of SOP1 on the sequence
of events. I was of the opinion that item 7 should occur first, hours
before the next item. We are, after all, on vacation. Lori, being more
conservative and having different priorities, insisted that item 7 occur
last. You can tell by the listed order who prevailed.

As you can imagine, Matt wasn't too pleased when he learned about the
existence of SOP1, but he is a team player and went along with it. And
since we are creatures of habit, we are continuing with the use of SOP1
for this leg of the voyage. No beer until the anchor goes down. I'm sure
Lori will be pleased to know this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

27 August - A New Record!

0600 position 24-15S 155-06W. Day's run 173 miles

Yesterday morning we thought we'd be jib reaching, but the new 6AM grib
files revealed a change in the forecast to winds from further astern than
previously predicted. The forecasted weather the rest of the way in to
Raivavae also keeps improving. I can't believe it.

We ended up sailing with the jib poled out for thirty two hours. The wind
had been very shifty, and if it came forward too much the poled out jib
would back, which is a bad thing. If the wind came aft too much, we would
jybe, which is also a bad thing. It is a lot harder to sail wing and wing
than any other setup and requires someone next to the autopilot at all
times to make sure bad things don't happen. Sailing wing and wing is very
fast though, and it allows us to sail dead down wind, if that is where we
are trying to go. The wind finally backed far enough at 1PM today so we
weren't pointed where we wanted to go anymore, and down came the pole.

After the pole came down the wind slowly backed from the west to the
southwest and eventually lightened until this morning found us with the
apparent wind on the beam, under full jib and double reefed mainsail,
reaching directly toward Raivavae. It also looked like we had a favorable
current of about one knot.

These great sailing conditions helped produce a record day's run for the
Mighty Moku pe'a of 173 miles! That's a 7.2 knot average speed. Not bad
for a thirty five foot cruising boat with the autopilot steering. Our
previous best day's run was 170 miles set when Matt and I sailed from Bora
Bora to Hawaii in 2011.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

26 August - Swabby Blog

0600 position 24-12S 158-15W. Day's run 160 miles

It's my turn to write the blog today and it's the perfect morning to do
so. What a difference a day and a half makes. After challenging
conditions 1 ½ days ago, the high winds on the high seas that Bill wrote
about, the southwest winds diminished to a whisper and then to nothing
Sunday evening. [pause for fish strike… catch and release 8lbs aku] I
wrung the last of the wind out of the atmosphere and Bill fired up the
engine. We motored over flat water and under a cloudless, starry sky for
the last half of my watch and most of Bill's.
I find the slow speed of motoring and the slapping of the steadying
mainsail to be frustrating but I did get some rest in the stable, if noisy

I woke up at 5AM Monday morning when Bill backed off the throttle and
slipped the transmission into neutral. Soon the engine was silent and we
were sailing in just enough breeze to keep the sails full. I looked up
through the companion way and in the loom of the masthead light the wind
indicator pointed to wind from the northwest and we were on port tack.
This isn't supposed to happen. Bill said, "just as predicted." Predicted
or not, this wind is very favorable and fortunate for us, and very rare.
We are sailing from left to right on your screen and for most of this
voyage we have been blessed with winds from the south and southwest. A
typical wind in this part of the world, and a very unfavorable one for a
boat sailing to the east, comes from the southeast. The northwesterly we
sail with now is just the opposite of that. It is exceptionally lucky for
us and it is exceptionally rare. These "chance" winds are probably the
same winds that carried the polynesians eastward in their migration across
the Pacific.

In the first hours of my watch I sailed on a broad reach in very calm seas
in 10 knots of breeze. I watched the dawn blossom in the east into a
gorgeous citrus sunrise. It was tangerine and reminded me of the orange
fleshed limes that Lori and Vicki picked on Pangaimotu Island. The sky
was a checkerboard of cotton clouds on a blue field. We voyage for days
like this. By noon the seas had developed into lazy and infrequent 16
foot swells that were easy to sail over. We gybed twice and were
overtaken by a line of squalls but the northwest wind persisted as we
sailed wing on wing into the late afternoon. At 2030 we were again
overtaken by a line of rain squalls and this time the wind shifted to the
southwest and our exceptional northwest winds were gone, probably for good
this trip. Raivavae, here we come!

Monday, August 25, 2014

25 August - Unsettled Weather

0600 position 24-13S 161-09W. Day's run 128 miles.

The wind direction stayed out of the southwest all day, but slowly died in
strength. Matt unreefed sails one by one during his morning watch, and I
did my afternoon watch under full sail. We were sailing along nicely all
morning, but by the mid-afternoon there were five minute long holes in the
wind where our speed dropped well below six knots. Wind and boat speed
continued to decrease, until we gave up trying to sail at 9PM and turned
the engine on. After eight hours of powering, the wind started to fill in
from the north west at 5AM, so we shut the engine off and are ghosting

I must confess that until today I harbored the impossible dream that we
would make it all the way to Raivavae without ever sailing to windward.
It is amazing that we have made it this far. We are over half way there
now, and it is beginning to look like the next weather system will carry
us the rest of the way in. It should arrive sometime tomorrow morning and
start with a tail wind that slowly backs from west to south to east over
the next few days. The last day or so of the voyage will likely be with
the wind on the nose. We'll see.

This is a pretty barren and lonely part of the ocean. We've seen no sign
of human presence on the planet since the single ship I spotted the first
evening out of Vava'u. We are outside of any shipping lanes that I am
aware of, and the closest land is the southern Cook Islands 200 miles to
the north. We've seen dense patches of flying fish but only a few birds.
I had a booby visit two days ago and an albatross stuck around for a few
hours today.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

24 August - Behind the Front

0600 position 23-59S 163-28W. Twenty three hour run 153 miles.

The morning gribs showed that we were as far south as we needed to be, so
we turned left fifteen degrees and set the jib on the pole. We screamed
along to the east for twelve hours, surfing with the following sea in
winds that ranged from fifteen to twenty five knots. We got some great
Gopro video of Moku pe'a at her best. Just before the 6PM watch change
we started getting headed, and what looked like a massive squall was
approaching. Matt noticed that the air was noticeably warmer. That
should have been a sign. We decided to get rid of the pole and jib reach.

Just as the dust was settling from our rig change, everything went wrong.
First the spinnaker pole, which was still clipped to the mast in case we
wanted to use it later, came unclipped from the mast and started shooting
around the boat like a spear. As we were dealing with that, the squall
hit. Turns out it wasn't a squall at all. It was a massive weather
front. The wind went from twenty to forty knots and the boat rounded up.
Matt was trying to hang on to both the boat and the pole on the foredeck.
I was trying to roll up the jib and get the boat under control…. After
securing things we realized what we were dealing with. Behind the front
the wind was shifting over forty degrees randomly for nearly five hours
and puffing from fifteen to thirty knots. We put a third reef in the
mainsail and left up just a scrap of jib to deal with it. Breaking waves
were hitting the boat. It was not fun. Conditions started to improve
about 10PM, and I rolled out a little more jib on my midnight to 6AM

Matt got the worst of it again on his evening watch, so I decided to give
him an hour off by setting the clocks ahead an hour before the end of his
6PM to midnight watch. Clock resetting has to be done sometime during the
trip so we might as well do it when someone has earned a reward.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

23 August - Windy, the Wind

0600 position 23-42S 166-13W. Day's run 156 miles.

It was a tough day. Matt had the worst of it on his 6AM to noon watch.
The wind and seas kept building until we had thirty knots from just aft of
the beam. The winds were no problem with a triple reefed main and jib,
but the seas were very large and confused. The waves would occasionally
combine at the wrong moment to break right on Moku pe'a and we'd get
slammed. Water everywhere, including down the main hatch just missing the
computer, so I put it away in a plastic bag in my cabin and only just got
it back out during my morning watch twelve hours later. We ended up
bearing off twenty degrees from our desired course which made things a
little drier, but the wind stayed up most of the afternoon before
gradually dying back to the point that we could shake the third reef in
the mainsail at midnight and come back up to course. No harm done. We
didn't break anything and the boat is beginning to dry up.

Perhaps we were a little too aggressive in our dive south to hook into
this passing low pressure area. The gribs predicted twenty four knots of
wind in our location, and that may have been pretty close, on average. We
were getting five minute periods of thirty knots and then five minutes
closer to twenty knots for most of the day. Strange how it cycled up and
down. The gusts were colder and came from further left. It was probably
upper level winds dropping down to the surface. I think we've seen the
worst of it though. The forecast for tomorrow shows the same wind
strength, but from further aft which is more manageable.

As I write this I can tell that a flying fish just came aboard on the deck
over my head. I can hear him flopping around in the scuppers. Oh boy, I
get to touch another one of those slimy smelly bastards…

Friday, August 22, 2014

22 August - On the Freeway

0600 position 23-11S 168-59W. Day's run 155 miles.

The wind continued backing and building, and at 630AM we jybed to
starboard tack, still running wing and wing. We put a reef in the
mainsail shortly thereafter, and by 9AM the pole was down and we were
broad reaching heading slightly south of east. Just after the noon watch
change a big squall rolled through, so we put a second reef in the
mainsail and rolled up some jib anticipating an increase in the wind. The
wind, about twenty knots, hit with the rain of the squall and we scooted
off toward Raivavae. We have been screaming along on a broad reach ever
since. The apparent wind is right on the beam and goes up and down with
the squalls. We have been rolling the jib in and out to compensate for
the changes in wind strength but have stayed with two reefs in the

It is cold down here. As I write this I am wearing two sweatshirts,
shorts over long underwear bottoms, wool bunny slippers, and a skiing hat.
No icebergs sighted yet, but we are keeping an eye out.

It is hard to believe that we are running before a southwest wind towards
the east in the tropical South Pacific. This isn't supposed to happen.
The current forecasts indicate that we should have wind from the western
quadrant for the next five days. Somebody pinch me.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

21 August - Working to get South

0600 position 22-05S 170-30W. Day's run 132 miles.

By 6AM we had been lifted up to a heading of south east, and that was high
enough to both continue to get south and make some actual progress toward
Raivavae. The wind continued to lift and lighten all day. The reefs came
out and the sheets were eased and by late afternoon we were fighting to
keep our heading south of east broad reaching in the light airs. It was
beautiful sailing in fairly flat water and sunny skies.

At 115PM we passed through a distinctive current line running south west
to north east. On the north west side of the line the seas were rough,
apparently moving along the line to windward, and on the south east side
of the line the water was calm indicating current moving with the wind.
There was even rubbish swirling along the line. Strange to see something
like that with the nearest land over 140 miles away. The chart showed
that we were on the eastern edge of the Tonga Trench. Perhaps it was some
kind of upwelling from there.

Matt did a fabulous job of sautéing the awa for dinner. He and Lori both
have a talent for using whatever they find in the larder to make great
meals. They should compete on those TV cooking contests.

At 840PM the wind finally died completely, and we turned the engine on.
The seas and clouds disappeared along with the wind, and we powered on a
glass smooth ocean with nothing but stars overhead. Our grib files
provide a daily wind forecast. Today's was for light air from the north,
which we had most of the day. Tomorrow's forecast is for light airs from
the west. What the gribs don't show is how the wind transitions between
the two. I had hoped for a gradual backing of the wind around to the west
that would have allowed us to continue sailing. Instead the wind died.
However, after six hours of calm the wind slowly filled in and at 430AM
we were able to shut the engine off and sail again. The new wind had
filled in from the north west so as soon as it stabilized we put the jib
on the pole and ran off before it wing and wing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20 August (Again) - Heading for the On Ramp

0600 position 20-37S 173-15W. 125 miles south of Vava'u, Tonga

We departed Port Maurelle at 845AM and headed south with a single reefed
main and jib in a fifteen knot easterly wind. Following the track Lori
and I sailed when we visited Maninita Island, the southernmost in the
Vava'u group, we left Tonga behind at 1045AM. The fish started hitting as
soon as we cleared Maninita. First something hooked up on our Fred
Morelli special, but it came off before I could get it to the boat. A
couple of minutes later the same lure hooked up, and this time we landed
a nice five pound awa. That's plenty of fish for a couple of meals so we
decided to pull in the lures. Just as we were pulling them in we passed
through a school of rainbow runners. Both Matt and I hooked up. Both our
fish came off and Matt hooked up for a second time, this time landing the
fish which we returned to the sea. Now we know where the fish are in

Once clear of the land the sea was small but confused, and it has remained
that way since with quite a bit of water on deck. The leak in the port
forward opening port, which I thought I had licked, has returned. I will
work on it again at the first opportunity.

The wind has slowly backed from just south of east to north east as
forecast allowing us to slowly head up from our original southerly heading
to a south east heading. We are sprinting south for the freeway that will
take us to the east when the next low pressure system approaches in a day
or so. It is looking like the optimum place to make our left turn will be
at latitude 22 south, but that may change with the forecasts.

It was too bumpy to cook the awa for dinner so we had mac and cheese and a
salad. Matt saw what was either a UFO or a very strange meteorite during
his 6PM to midnight watch. I was typing the blog during my midnight to
6AM watch when I heard a noise on deck. As soon as I got into the cockpit
to investigate I knew that a flying fish had come aboard due to the smell.
Those have to be the worst smelling fish on the planet. I found him, a
big one, in the leeward scuppers and threw him back. At 230AM we passed a
ship heading north. Otherwise the evening was uneventful, just the way we
like it. Moku pe'a likes it too. She is romping along and loving being
at sea again.

At some point early in this trip we cross the date line from tomorrow into
yesterday. I've decided that today is dateline day, which brings us back
in sync with everybody in the USA. That's why it's 20 August here for the
second time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

20 August - The Adventure Begins

0800 position 18-42S 174-02W. At anchor in 28 feet, sand bottom, Port
Maurelle, Vava'u, Tonga

We spent a total of three nights in Port Maurelle, the last two in the
company of Steve and Pauline from Rum Doodle. On Saturday night they
invited us over for dinner, cocktails, and stories aboard their boat and
we reciprocated Sunday night. A great time was had by all. At dawn on
both Sunday and Monday we could hear the whales singing for about an hour.
At first I thought they were cows braying, but you couldn't hear it on
deck, only when down below. Then they started making very strange sounds
and it was obvious that it was humpback speak. On Monday after coffee Rum
Doodle departed for the Coral Garden and we headed back into Neiafu to
prepare to depart Tonga.

Monday afternoon we filled the boat with diesel fuel and water at the
Moorings dock and did most of our shopping. Monday night we had a
cocktail at the Aquarium and dinner and drinks at the Bounty Bar. It was
tough to say goodbye to our new friends, but it was time to move on.

Tuesday we checked out with the officials, Port Captain, Immigration, and
Customs, did our fresh food shopping, and departed again for Port
Maurelle. After anchoring it was time to prep the boat for sea by
deflating and stowing the dinghy, installing the self steering windvane,
jacklines, and man overboard gear. A last swim in one of the loveliest
spots on the planet, a cribbage game, barbecued steak dinner, and a movie
before bed.

Today we begin the real "adventure" part of the trip. Until now our
voyage has followed well established routes. Nobody does the trip from
Tonga to Tahiti though. The only other people I know that have done it
are Larry and Sherry from the Ark Gallery. Two of his fifty five
deliveries were from Tonga to Tahiti, one of which took forty days. But
their trips were back before sailors had access to excellent weather
forecast models. We are hoping that these models will help us to find and
sail in favorable winds for our passage to the east against the normal
trade wind flow. Our goal is to make it to the Society Islands in less
than two weeks, but our hope is that we will be able to make it to
Raivavae in the Australs, a seldom visited paradise about 400 miles south
of Tahiti.

We timed our departure for today because the weather models are showing a
low pressure area approaching from the west and passing to the south.
Down here in the Southern Hemisphere the wind circulates around low
pressure areas in a clockwise direction. That means that if we can
position ourselves to the north of the passing low we will have winds from
the westerly quadrant which will allow us to sail downwind to the east.
The only problem with this strategy is that the lows usually move faster
than we can, and after a few days they will leave us behind and we have to
deal with the weather that follows. We are not sure what that weather
might be at this point because the models aren't too accurate more than a
week out.

Please wish us luck.

Friday, August 15, 2014

16 August - We Miss our Girls

0800 position 18-42S 174-02W. At anchor in 28 feet, sand bottom, Port
Maurelle, Vava'u, Tonga

Rum Doodle arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we met them at the customs
dock. Lori had become great friends with Pauline and Steve when they were
in Kaneohe Bay, and I was glad to finally meet them. We helped them get
settled on a mooring after they cleared in with the officials, and then we
all went out to dinner at the Aquarium.

The girls flew out yesterday morning, and we miss them already. Lori and
I had a great time exploring Vava'u over the past 2-1/2 months, and I may
not see her for another 3 months if she decides to skip Tahiti. We also
had a great time with the Dyers over the past two weeks, and it was
difficult for Matt and Vicki to say goodby. The girls are travelling
together though, and are scheduled to spend a couple of days in Auckland
on the way home. Watch out New Zealand!

As soon as the ladies departed Matt and I dug into the grib files to look
for our weather window for departure. There was a patch of light air
passing to the east that we could have jumped on to, but we were about a
day late hooking into it, and it would have been really difficult to
provision, fill water and fuel, and clear out with the officials all on
Friday afternoon. So we decided to wait for the next disturbance to pass
and jump on that one. Right now it is looking like August 21 or 22 for

Since we weren't departing immediately, we decided to get out of Neiafu.
Three days there is enough. We sailed out to Port Maurelle and had a
quiet and peaceful evening. It was so still in the anchorage last night
that we could hear the whales breathing behind us. It sounded like they
were right behind the boat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

14 August - Winding Down in Vava'u

1300 position 18-39S 173-59W. At anchor in Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga

Matt loves his fishing, so when the Dyers are aboard I delegate the chief
fisherman's role to Matt. The Dyers have been fishing furiously since
they arrived aboard Moku pe'a, but hadn't had much luck except for the aku
caught off of Hunga, which we threw back. They had been trying many of
the lures aboard, but when we departed Kenutu decided to revert back to
our proven but trashed Randy Reed specials. Sure enough, five minutes
after putting out the hand lines we had a fish on. Matt and I weren't
positive on the species, but it looked kind of like a kahala. We later
found out that the locals here call it an "awa". We saved it for dinner.

We headed into Old Harbor and anchored in front of Makave Village so we
could dinghy ashore and walk to the annual Vava'u Agricultural Fair at the
high school. We arrived at the fair just as the King was arriving, and
Lori got a response to her wave and smile from him as his limo passed.
The half hour of speeches in Tongan were a bit boring, but otherwise the
fair was very interesting with all of the fish, produce, livestock, and
crafts that are produced locally. And what a crowd. It seemed like
everybody in Vava'u was there. We almost felt like locals as we saw a
number of folks we knew including Kolio from Lape Island, John and Sela
from Helala Vanilla Farm, Craig and Anna from Pickity Witch, and some
vendors that Lori knows from the open market.

That night it started raining, and it continued for the next two days. We
did manage to catch a lot of rainwater to fill our tanks and dilute the
foul tasting municipal water. But after two days of being stuck below
decks we were going stir crazy so on the third day we pulled up the hook
and sailed in twenty plus knots of wind and rain back around Vaika'eitu so
Matt and Vicki could swim the Coral Gardens without having to cross the
reef. After sailing twenty plus miles for the day we anchored for the
night in Port Maurelle, which the Dyers hadn't seen yet.

The next morning as we were drinking coffee in the cockpit we could see a
boat's mast over the top of the islands to the west! The boat was a big
one, and as it got closer we could see that it was a big catamaran. We
didn't realize how big until we saw the crew, which looked like ants, on
its deck. It came in to anchor in Port Maurelle just behind a nice forty
plus foot sport fisherman. When we departed that afternoon we sailed by
the sport fisherman for a look. On the back it said "Y/T Hemisphere", and
we had an inconclusive debate about the meaning of "Y/T". A few minutes
later we sailed by the big catamaran, and the name on the back was
"Hemisphere". It became suddenly apparent that the "Y/T" stood for "Yacht
Tender". The big cat's tender was far bigger than Moku pe'a…. When we
got back to Neiafu later that day we googled "Hemisphere", and it turns
out that she is the largest sailing catamaran in the world at 145 feet
long and 45 feet wide. She's available for charter for those of you with
some spare cash lying around.

Back in Neiafu we had lots to do to get organized for the girls'
departure. Shirts to buy, laundry to be done, propane to refill, a trip
to the "fakaleiti show" for Lori and Vicki, and a whale shark lecture at
the Aquarium. We are keeping an eye out for "Rum Doodle", Pauline and
Steve's MacGregor 65 that cruised through Kaneohe Bay and spent time at
KYC in May, who plan on arriving in Neiafu today from Samoa on their way
home to Brisbane. Tonight it is slow roast beef at the Aquarium and quiz
night at the Bounty Bar. The girls depart tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

8 August - Kenutu Again

1600 position 18-42S 173-56W. At anchor in 25 feet off of Kenutu Island,
Vava'u, Tonga

After a day in Aisea Beach we sailed to Nuku Island to anchor and snorkel,
and then moved a few hundred yards to Falevai Tahi Village where we were
sheltered by the Kapa Island headland for the evening. We took a beach
walk the following morning and then sailed in to Neiafu for water and
provisions. We enjoyed rum punch and "Po Boys" for dinner at the Bounty
Bar and after a night on the hook took off for the Vaka'eitu lagoon where
Matt and Lori snorkeled the coral garden and we spent another night. On
the way there we had a way too close encounter with a humpback that
surfaced just a couple of boat lengths in front of us. The whale saw us
at the last minute and accelerated to avoid a collision, but I was already
diving for the autopilot to turn it off and make a hard left turn to miss
him. It was way too close.

We have been experiencing strong trade winds since Matt and Vicki arrived
which is less than ideal for seeing all of Vava'u's hot spots. Lighter
winds would be better, but we are making the best of it. Kenutu isn't a
great anchorage when it is windy, but it is a must see so we sailed out
here today, walked across Kenutu, and dinghied to Umuna, the next island,
to see the sink hole cave.

The Dyers are great cooks, and they bring a whole different repertoire to
our galley. Matt grew up in Hawaii and loves local kine food. Yesterday
was musubi day, and they used some Tongan chicken hot dogs to make hot dog
musubi, which was delicious. Good thing we have plenty of spam in the
food locker!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

4 August - Escape From Hunga

1600 position 18-42S 174-00W. At anchor in 31 feet, Aisea Beach,
Pangaimotu Island, Vava'u, Tonga

The wind howled over our heads as we sat at anchor on the eastern side of
the Hunga Lagoon for four days. It was over thirty knots most of the
time, but we were protected in the lee of a 100 foot cliff. It was far
too windy to move, but we made the most of it, hiking to the south end of
Hunga Island, dinghying across the lagoon to the anchorage on Fofoa Island
and exploring ashore, playing cribbage tournaments, watching movies,
reading, relaxing, and telling stories. When we left the lagoon this
morning, we had used the place up.

The strong trades were finally forecast to drop a bit today into the high
twenties, so after departing the lagoon we set a double reefed main and
scrap of a jib and headed back for the main entrance channel into Vava'u.
Once clear of the island of Hunga we really got hit with nearly thirty
knots of wind, and of course a fish hit at the same time. With four souls
aboard we could divide and conquer, so the Dyers dealt with the fish and
Lori and I dealt with the sails.

The fish turned out to be a five pound aku, which we returned to the sea.
It was caught on the same lure that has caught all of our fish here in
Vava'u. The poor lure getting a bit beat up.

We beat into the channel and after three tacks came up to Nuapapu Island
where we doused sails, turned on the engine, and powered into the cliff
next to Mariner's Cave. Fortunately Mariner's Cave is on the western
side of the island and there was a lee behind the cliff which provided
shelter. Matt and Vicki went into the water for a try at the cave. It
was pretty surgy and the tide was high which made entry into the cave a
bit challenging, but Matt made it in and out safely.

With sails up again we beat past Port Maurelle with its fleet of eleven
boats at anchor and Tapana with twelve boats and sailed into a protected
anchorage off of Aisea Beach on Pangaimotu Island. Along the way we
passed a pod of humpbacks on the surface off of Katafunga Island.

We are very happy to be here. The high cliffs protect us from the wind,
the bottom is sand and free of coral that might foul the anchor, the water
is calm and clear, and we have it all to ourselves. I'm not sure why the
fleet bunches up in Maurelle and Tapana when there are even better
protected anchorages like Hunga and Aisea Beach that are empty.

Friday, August 1, 2014

2 August - Fish and Fishermen

1600 position 18-42S 174-08W. At anchor in 30 feet, Hunga Lagoon, Vava'u,

We were scheduled to meet Matt and Vicki Dyer in Neiafu in a couple of
days, and we didn't want to have to do the entire ten mile sail in a
single day, so we departed Tapana for Port Maurelle. About a mile into
the sail, in the middle of the pass between Taunga and Kapa, we hooked
into our second fifteen plus pound spanish mackerel on our Randy Reed
special lure. This one bled all over the boat to Lori's dismay, and even
after hours of cleaning I can still see some blood spots on the bottom of
the bimini. We didn't want to clean the fish in the tranquil and clean
water of the Port Maurelle anchorage, so we dropped the hook behind Sisia
Island for an hour to get the fileting done. Port Maurelle was crowded
with eleven boats, but we found an open spot for the night.

The whales had shown up in force, and just before sunset we had one
headstanding with it's tail in the air for about fifteen minutes right
outside the anchorage. The next morning, on our way into Neiafu, we had
to alter course to avoid them.

The fleet had gathered in Port Maurelle because thirty plus knot trades
were forecast for later in the week and Port Maurelle is an ideal spot in
those conditions. We had to get into Neiafu though to meet Matt and
Vicki, so we picked up a mooring when we arrived there rather than
anchoring so we'd be more secure in the heavy winds.

Matt, my favorite fisherman, and Vicky arrived by taxi at the Aquarium
right on time and we enjoyed drinks, dinner, and swapping stories with
them before we returned to the boat to settle in. The next morning we
took them ashore so they could enjoy the experience of shopping in Neiafu.

We have really been looking forward to showing Matt and Vicki the best of
Vava'u, but they arrived during a period of unsually heavy trades, so our
anchorage options were limited. We didn't want to go to Port Maurelle
with it's crowd of boats, so we sailed instead to the Hunga lagoon which
we have had to ourselves for the past two days. Matt wanted to fish on
the way out here, but I wouldn't let him because there's no room for more
fish in the icebox. Yesterday we hiked to a secluded beach on the south
end of the island, and today we dinghied across the lagoon to our favorite
anchorage at Fofoa Island.

There has been a lot of cribbage games, a lot of talking, a lot of
laughing, and a bit of drinking since the Dyers have arrived. Nothing but
fun, and it is a continuation of the fun we had with them in French
Polynesia three years ago.