Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Best Cruise Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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