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"Egret" N4674 - Scott and Mary Flanders

Ed. note: On February 10, 2011, Scott and Mary Flanders, on board their Nordhavn 46, Egret, arrived in the Canary Islands. In doing so, Egret became the eighth Nordhavn to circumnavigate the globe. It had been four years, five months since the couple departed Gran Canaria, intent on seeing as much of the earth as possible, although not necessarily with an end goal to circle the globe. Voyage of Egret documents the Flanders’ entire trip, an endless adventure that has put them in touch with the most fabulous places and interesting people. Much route planning and forecasting was required in order to get to some of their ports of call. But the days of detailed planning are over…for now. “Egret” is now back in Fort Lauderdale, the place the couple called home for so many years, and, ironically, the starting point of their world wide cruising escapade that began with the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. They currently travel hither and yon, sometimes by boat, sometimes not. Here, the latest update from the Flanders as they keep us continually apprised.  

Date: October 21, 2008
Position: S35 18.94 E174 07.22 Opua Marina, Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand (North Island)

Crikey dix mis amigos, have we been busy little bees. Just today we ordered a 100 amp 50/60 cycle battery charger to replace the wimpy 50 amp charger we have now. We ordered a 10' 2" (3.10m) Aquapro aluminum bottom rib (Hypalon) with an 8hp Yamadog 2 stroke outboard. And bought a bunch of tings from the local marine store (Cater Marine). Oh yes, we also bought a car. Yup. We were heading to the office to check on wifi when a sailor dude (actually a very well known US sailor) asked if we just arrived. We said yes and he said they were leaving in an hour, would we like to buy a car? Welllll, we had planned on buying a small camper but for $700 USP who could go wrong? So now we have a Honda station wagon of some sort with new tires, a fresh inspection sticker and a full tank of gas. After a test drive up and down the parking lot we did the deal. Mary signed the papers and they split. WOW!! We'll still buy a camper but with the mileage the little car gets and its shape and how little we paid it is a good deal. The good ting is whenever we do leave we'll just sign over the papers to the Vision crew to use and when we come back we'll get it back. So, we'll always have a car in Kiwiland.

The little inflatable we have used all along is cleaned up and is on the dock for sale. If it sells, fine, if not, it's OK. Storage is the issue but there is a place behind the Portuguese bridge under the pilothouse windows where we strap it in place in its storage bag and is out of the way. Tomorrow (Mon) is a trip to Auckland to pick up our Lifeline AGM batteries. We are not only replacing the el junko house bank batteries but the original Lifeline AGM's for engine start and gen/wing start. The two engine start batteries still work perfectly but now is the time. Tuesday afternoon we have a Yamadog mechanic coming to pick up the CIB engine and get it idling again. It is an electrical problem of some kind and I don't do electrical. We have it off the CIB and we'll lowed it down with the boom when he arrives.

We are moving quickly because on October 28th we leave for the States. We'll see family, make the doctor rounds and attend the Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show. Less than 3 weeks after we return our two boys and their families arrive for the holidays so we'll be busy. The really good news is we are able to get a slip until the first week of January. There is a huge wait list but because we are here we got the slip. The holidays thru February in the Bay of Islands is the busiest time of year. It is not only the typhoon avoiding yachties but the locals all flock to the BofI for that time of year. After tomorrow's trip to Whangarei we'll know if we can get in there after the first week of Jan. If not, we may just start cruising again. We'll patch up the fridge and freezer and let it go until fall when the yachties flee back to the So Pacific and it slows here for the winter. At that time we'll see if we are going to replace the SubZero's with holding plate refrigeration or just refurb those.

So enough of the present, let us look at the trip from Gibraltar to New Zealand. The stats are:
Total distance traveled from departing Gibraltar, September 15th, 2006 to arriving Opua, New Zealand, October 16th, 2008. 18,253.5 nautical miles Mileage from Puerto Montt, Chile departing April 30th, 2008. 8076.3 Average speed from Puerto Montt to NZ. 5.9 knots Our highest recorded speed was 14.9 knots. We can only guess this was recorded while surfing down a wave or perhaps in a short stretch of current. In truth we don't have a clue. This supercedes our previous fastest speed of 13.4 knots in Hell's Gate, New York City.

An interesting stat was the average speed from Chile to NZ. The 5.9 knot average includes spending 12 hours in a storm making 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 knots in the wrong direction, all anchoring and engine warming plus putting around anchorages here and there. We based our overall mileage in the stats below based on 5.8 knots to be conservative and accurate as possible. At sea we average between 6.1 and 6.2 knots when stretching fuel running at our usual 1350 RPM. (Most N46 owners in most situations run much higher rpm and correspondingly higher speed) The next paragraph is an updated version we first did during 2006. These interesting figures are 100% accurate based on Egret's travels. Most every other cruiser traveling more normal routes would have fewer days of weather than the few Egret experienced as well as fewer days between a day's run from a safe harbor. The only exception would be if there are SCHEDULES involved. Schedules compromise weather.

MOST long distance cruisers spend the FAR majority of their time safely within a day's run (24 hours) of a protective harbor during their cruising years. Egret's little Lugger (main engine) has 7113.6 engine hours over a period of 7 years, two months and twenty one days since delivery. (To be accurate we were liveaboards for six months prior to retirement. Those few miles/hours are assimilated into the total). At a conservatively estimated average speed of just 5.8 knots Egret has traveled 41,258.8 nautical miles, crossed the Atlantic twice and have now crossed the Pacific. Of those miles, roughly calculated, we have spent just 85.65 days outside a day's run from a safe harbor. Eighty six days in seven years and three months. (2639 days or .03258% of the time) Including those days we have had just 9 partial days of bad weather (.00341%). (1 Gulfstream crossing - 1 Turks and Caicos to Dominican Republic, 2 in the Med (only because of a SCHEDULE), 4 off the Argentine coast, 1 nearing Easter Island) The first four days were by our choice. The last five were NOT our choice. So, there were just 5 partial days of nasty seas that were not our choice in the hands of Ms Ocean and the ONLY 5 days outside a days run from a safe harbor. (.00189%) Of those 5 days NONE were beginning to approach survival status. (00.000%) You get the picture.

So back to the present. We drove to Auckland yesterday and picked up our Lifeline AGM batteries. With them we received an owners manual. Well guess what?? @.%&#(*+$ We replaced our original Lifeline's after two years because we thought we killed them thru abuse and not having a proper reporting system. During the meantime we replaced the AGM's with a set of VERY expensive lead acid batteries with individual two volt cells.......along with battery boxes, new cables, etc. After much grief we replaced those with a set of el junko batteries in Chile. So, if we had this simple piece of paper do you think we would have saved the approximate 5K USP we spent on two sets of batteries, cables, etc.? Perhaps. For those of you with AGM's and don't know I'll quote the manual.

"Equalizing and Deep Discharge Conditioning Charge.
Charge @ 15.5 volts for 8 hours (with appropriate explosive gases warnings) Equalizing should only be done when the battery is showing symptoms of capacity loss or from inadvertent deep discharges. In the event equalization is necessary, make sure to go through the normal charge cycle. Once the battery is fully charged, begin the equalizing".

Yesterday's 4 hour drive to Auckland certainly threw us off the deep end learning to drive on the left and one particular turning situation. We rented a large Honda mini van for the trip. Returning with over a half ton of batteries behind us made for VERY careful driving. To be passed by a half ton of batteries wouldn't be a treat. Of course MS was pointing out all the beauty NZ has to offer (the wench). We took the coastal road until we joined highway 1 into Auckland. All YT got to see was a zillion turns and lotsa kilometers of highway. Also while in Auckland we got to tour the Manson anchor manufacturing facility. Pretty impressive. I had to keep my hands in my pockets while walking by the shot beaded stainless steel anchors that are similar to TK (Manson Supreme). Interesting, the anchors have a large holding surface per pound/kg in the larger anchors. Lotsa holding for relatively little weight. Hmmmmm. (www.manson-marine.co.nz)

Today shed of weight we took our little Honda beater car (HBC) out zipping around the countryside like pros. The countryside is as pretty as Mary said it was. We stopped in the little town of Keri Keri and strolled up and down main street. Yup, we found the local ice cream shop. We're gonna like this place.

Next day. So lets get up to date and fire this VofE into space. Jenny Stern (PAE) will be leaving soon for the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show so we need to send this in before she gets buried with show duties. We have installed the 100 amp battery charger but it isn't wired yet. I'll do that tomorrow after the batteries are installed. We have a couple young guys with young backs for the heavy lifting. The 10' Aquapro in hypalon isn't in stock and won't be for months so we ordered a 9' Lancer hypalon/aluminum bottom rib instead. That will be ready when we return from the States. The 8hp and 3hp Yamadog motors will be in tomorrow. The Trace inverter we killed when we changed water pumps will be sent off tomorrow to Auckland for repair. (Whale type fitting let go....grrrrr) We have a date to haul Dec 5th for a quickie one coat paint job before we cruise south during the summer. Returning for the winter we'll haul again and do the repairs we have postponed. AND there are a number of lesser jobs going on as well. Busy little bees.

We'll be at the boat show on Thursday, Friday evening for the Nordhavn owners party and probably again Saturday. Part of the show time is social, part is work. We'll probably do a boat show impression but after we'll be doing personal tings so VofE's will slow for a while until we return. After we return we have a flurry of tings to do before our sons and family arrive mid Dec. We'll keep you posted on boat repairs or upgrades. These are lessons you will learn after living magazine or internet cruising for years before it is Your Time. It you took your time and went back for a year or more quick scanning VofE's you will see what it REALLY takes to cruise full time. We don't leave things out so you can get an idea what it is truly all about. We'll leave you with this recent Forum Request. It speaks for itself.

We recently received a number of similar Forum Requests as the one below. We are very happy to receive them as Forum Requests are our only link to the outside world of VofE feedback. The point we made in this reply is something we should share with everyone. There is a BIG PICTURE in what Mary and I are doing and I believe this describes it well. It is not about us, there are lots of us out here, it is about you. This Forum also exemplifies how international we yachties are. Jean-Louis is a Frenchman working in the UK, writing an American living in New Zealand. You get the picture.

Date: October 21, 2008
Name: Jean-Louis
City: Macclesfield
State: Cheshire
Zip: SK11 7NA
Country: GBR
Subject: Just... Thank you!
Questions: Hi Marie and Scott,

Congratulations, you made it again!
New Zeland is another step and I wish you a very good time there. I keep reading you almost everyday and just want to say, thank you. You are the real people, I hope beeing able to meet you some day, you are such an inspiration.> I really want to follow your tracks, hopefully in 3 or 4 years.
Jean-Louis

Jean-Louis,
thank you very much. Mary and I have had a grand adventure these past few years. However, lets look at the big picture. We are just one mom and pop couple in a large, slowly moving parade of boats traveling here and there around the world. If you follow your heart in a few years you too will be part of this parade and find we are no more special than you and your other. The only difference is we write about it. Nothing more. This year over 450 mom and pops will arrive in New Zealand. Every boat is following a dream that is important to them. We hope you too will join this group when it is Your Time. Scott & Mary

So there you have it. A few more days in The Life, a few numbers to ponder and a little inspiration to come join us......all of us. AND thank you Jean-Louis and other well wishers for the inspiration to continue VofE. Ciao.

 

October 17, 2008
Position: S35 18.94 E174 07.22 Opua Marina, Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand (North Island)

Well, mis amigos, by early morning we will be alongside the customs quay in Opua. These last miles flew by with the wind swinging behind the beam and a favorable current. At times we were rocking along at 8+ knots. In fact, we have gone so fast instead of a questionable daylight landfall (before dark) we now have slowed to have a just after daylight arrival (same day). Our kind of deal. Our Kiwi friends on the 55' steel sloop Vision arrived this evening and had a great downhill ride from North Minerva reef. It appears we'll go thru customs at the same time.

Mary has been cleaning all day and preparing for customs inspection. What eggs we don't eat in the morning will get pitched along with frozen meat and a stack of other tings. The bottom dwelling critters in our wake have already gotten a bonus. I wonder if the yachtie return in the spring is their Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one? The chandeliers and service crews have to be rubbing their hands together in anticipation for the season to start. In our case, as soon as we land we'll go into a buying frenzy while the US Peso is strong. The Season used to be the same way in my old Ft Lauderdale business. The megayachts would return from Europe, most aboard dockships these days, for an overhaul before heading south to the Caribbean for the winter. After a slow, hot summer we got the first sniff of business in October getting ready for the Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show (end of October). Business would remain strong thru June. In July it was like you turned a switch.

As we close shore seabirds have increased in numbers and species. We even spotted our old Deep South friend, the black browed albatross. We had a few more royal albatrosses and a host of small sea birds. We're getting anxious now. OMNI Bob has been spot on with weather. Weather concerns are behind us, the at sea routine continues but not for long. After arrival, Egret's at sea time will be limited to day hops for the next year or so. Exactly the same when we decided to winter in Argentina/Chile. I know Mary's mind is working overtime. Instead of resting off watch, (it is late evening) she just popped up to the pilothouse with ideas for thisas and thats. I know she will be tired when she comes on watch at midnight. I'll get up early so she can get some sleep and we can both be up for landfall. Over the past few years we have had a few special landfalls; Nantucket, after our first 1100nm offshore trip by ourselves, Bermuda, Azores and Gibraltar on the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally, Grand Canaria, Canary Islands after leaving Gibraltar on our trip to the Deep South, Salvador, Brazil after crossing the Atlantic from the Canaries, Ushuaia, Argentina after the trials of the Argentine coast, Cape Horn, Robinson Crusoe Island (Juan de Fernandez Islands off Chile), Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, and now New Zealand. Obviously there were many, many more landfalls but these we listed were special. (to be completely accurate, we tried but didn't land at either Cape Horn or Pitcairn Island)

When it is Your Turn you will have special destinations and landfalls as well. In the beginning they will be modest adventures as we all had. Don't think these easier challenges aren't important because they are. They are all part of your tutorial as you gain confidence and skills AND comfort. What we do is not a competition. You will not be judged. ALL that is important is you take it easy and enjoy yourself. ALL that is important is you take it easy and enjoy yourself. (this is not a typo but worth repeating) If, after a couple years or more you decide to cross an ocean, fine. If not, it is OK. We recently met a couple in a nice, older sailboat. They have been many year 'around the buoys' racers and weekend cruisers. However they had no real cruising experience. Seven months after leaving the US west coast and 1000nm from New Zealand she is ready to bail. Another dream dashed because they weren't ready. Had they have put in a couple years traveling to Alaska or Mexico and THEN crossed the Pacific, things would be different. (they are US west coast folks) Both would be more comfortable. You get the picture.

Egret was flying downhill heading for the barn the last day and a half. At times we reached 8.4 knots in a gentle following sea. At 0440 YT spotted (Mary was off watch) our first glimpse of New Zealand, the lighthouse beacon from Cape Brett. The light came and went as the rain showers moved thru from the west giving our little girl a fresh water rinse as we neared shore. It is fit and proper she arrive sparkling instead of caked with salt. With an hour to go and with land starting to materialize thru the first gray light Mary got up to see New Zealand for the first time. We both took loooong hot showers, ate breakfast, raised the paravane poles, lowered the fenders in place for a port side tie and were ready for arrival at the customs berth. The clouds went away and the sun came out as if to show off this beautiful spot in the world. Bay of Islands is just that. The mainland reminds us of Chiloe' Island, Chile, parts of Nova Scotia and Maine rolled into one. Super beautiful. Our C-Map and Map Media charting were both spot on. A night entrance would have been easy. The channel is well marked plus we had an overhead picture of the entrance from the Opua brochure we received in Tonga. We arrived at the customs berth at exactly 9:06 AM, 16 October, 2008. I had to chuckle to myself. The numbers, 906, are part of one of the reasons we are here and part of another life. I won't elaborate. Our Kiwi friends on Vision were ahead of us having arrived the evening before. We parked behind them and congratulated each other on a great trip down. They said this was their best trip from Tonga south ever AND best sail....... ever. That says a lot considering they have been gone these past 5 years traveling from NZ, to Japan, Aleutians, Alaska, south to Chile, Argentina and ultimately to Antarctica and South Georgia Island.

Customs was painless but thorough. The agriculture man took our dried beans (lentils and black beans), and other things but left more than the customs brochure said. Tongan art, baskets and bone carvings were on display but were dismissed with a wave......thank goodness. I believe what helped was being pro active, displaying the questionable items, having the seats up showing our canned goods under the settee, as well as concentrating our liquor in one place (they are very liberal here). Mary had pre-cleaned our hiking boots and sea boots soles from any possible dirt/seed contamination and had them on display in the forward stateroom. We understand and completely agree with their thorough inspection. New Zealand is geographically removed from the rest of the world and should be pristine, but isn't. Over the years NZ has been left with others' careless dumping of non native animals, plants and aquatic growth.

We hit the ground running after checking into the marina. Opua is a tiny village of 500 folks. There in no ATM and one restaurant that was closed. With the Vision crew we borrowed a car and drove to the next little town and changed money, had lunch and hit the grocery store. Returning we chugged a quickie brew but all 4 were failing fast. Last night we had a tuna sandwich, some REAL Greek yogurt with cherry sauce on top (a reminder from our visit to the Greek Island of Samos and the Blue Chair restaurant), then hit the sack. It was not yet 8:00. Before drifting off I told Mary I would get up early and write. Yeah, right. We got up at 8:00 this morning.

So, Egret has arrived in New Zealand after planing the overall trip during the winter of 04-05 in Barcelona, Spain. Egret has traveled a lot of miles and seen sights few in the world have seen. We'll do a statistical wrap up and other details in a future VofE. Now all we can say it has been quite an adventure we never dreamed of when we took possession of our little white fiberglass ship, August 6th, 2001. We both hope from the bottom of our hearts you allow yourselves to to the same. It will change your lives as it has changed ours.

None of this happened by itself. PAE (the Nordhavn folks) built us a tough little girl that has NEVER let us down. In the worst of the worst there was never a question she wouldn't take care of us. During the Argentine coast storms she suffered terribly but emerged without the slightest damage. Not even a gel coat stress crack. Nothing, nada, zip.

The Lugger folks built Egret's little iron heart that has NEVER missed a beat. She has 7113.3 engine hours of 100% efficiency. With the original injectors......original everything but oil, filters and belts.

OMNI Bob, Bob Jones 866 505-6664 ocmarnav@aol.com for being with us from Gibraltar to Cape Horn to New Zealand. Professional weather forecasting is another form of insurance. Boat insurance and comfort insurance.

NONE of this would have happened without MS (my sweetie). She is the best of the best of the best. Thirty nine years worth. You get the picture.

So there you have it. VofE will continue but at a slower pace while Egret is a Marina Queen. Don't think this is the end. We are just getting started. We will bash a lot of waves together. See a lot of sights until it is Your Time. Then it is up to you. It will be Your Turn. Ciao.

 

October 14, 2008
Position: S30 00.58 E178 23.21 (376.2nm to go)

Well, mis amigos, YT has been on watch for a while this late afternoon watching the dynamics of the waves, how our little white fiberglass ship deals with them and how tings are in constant change. So, we'll take the time to describe this one moment in Egret's trip to New Zealand. As you remember, early on we had a dream trip with slight swells and very little wind or boat motion. That changed last evening when a front blew thru bringing short, tight and steep smallish waves. They were like speed bumps and we had to reduce speed three times to be comfortable and killing our speed in the process. As the night wore on the wave sets became more established in direction, higher but with a greater period of time between waves. The wind and waves were from the SSE, just a bit off the nose. After daylight the waves matured even more, rising even higher to near 2.5 meters but again were not steep. We resumed our 1625 RPM and were still comfortable but with the wind on the bow, around 25 knots, we were slowed quite a lot. Before we left Nuka' alofa we dropped the paravane arms (the birds are not in the water) in case of Naiad failure so we would be ready to go and not have to go onto the boat deck in heaving seas. The upside is if we are running with wind aft of the beam we get a big push from the extra windage of arms down vs up. If the wind is forward of the beam like now we get killerated. So we are being killerated speed wise but comfortable. That was before. Now the wind is trying to swing to the SE with even a bit more wind, up to 30 knots. So now we have occasional large wave sets from the SE mixing with the established waves from the SSE. Our set and drift has gone from 3 degrees to port we reported in calm seas to 13 degrees. Our motion is not as predictable but so far so good in the confused seas. There is a lot of spray with the pilothouse glass being constantly washed in heavy spray. It is mesmerizing to watch the bow push water around and shoulder seas out of the way. Little tough girl shaking salt. There are little tough girls like Egret and girl boats like............. This is no place for a girl boat. Not even now and its not bad.

The good news of the day was an e-mail from Opua Marina saying they will have a slip for us. We'll stay there a bit before moving to Whangarei for a few months. We plan to leave for the States in late January and attend the Miami Boat Show mid February then return to Whangarei. From Whangarei we'll cruise south to South Island and then on to Stewart Island, south of South Island. At the beginning of winter we will probably return to Whangarei. (Whangarei is 2 hours drive north of Auckland)

Last night (its early am) we had to break out the coffeecarryometer. Long time readers of VofE are familiar with the coffeecarryometer but for you newbies I'll explain it once again. The coffeecarryometer (CCOM) is a measuring device finding its roots back during the time when the Spanish were plundering South America. It is a simple device based on the degree of difficulty (similar to olympic diving) of carrying a cup of coffee from the galley fires to the poop deck. Or in Egret's case to the pilot house. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 is no problema, 10 is grande (big) problema. Last night, depending on the judge and participant, the CCOM was hovering around the 7-8 mark. In spite of everything Mary still fixed a full meal of steak, mashed potatoes and other tings. She is the best!!

Another ting that came to mind last night was an Egretism called Aquarium Glass. Aquarium Glass (AG), is when spray is no longer spray but so heavy it appears to be like looking into an aquarium thru the pilot house windows. We didn't approach AG last night but did have heavy spray. This morning the winds have diminished to the 20 knot range and the seas, though still confused, have dropped to the 2 meter or less range from up to 3 meters of pure slop and occasional RBG's (really big guys) rolling thru. During the height of the confusion and wind we could see white foaming waves race along lit by the moon and crash against the port side. Kinda cool actually watching them come from a distance knowing they were aiming at you. Lotsa water, big slap, no problema. During the night we varied RPM, sometimes as little as 50 RPM and at other times up to 100 RPM. Currently we're running 1615 RPM (she (Egret) didn't like 1650) making 6.2-6.4 knots. The bottom line is the miles are receding to nearly half way. At this moment we have 634.8nm to the Bay of Islands, down from over a thousand.

During the night I heard a familiar 'thwak' against the side of the house. A first for the Pacific but quite common in the Atlantic we found a large flying fish laying on the side deck. They jump toward the running lights for whatever reason. During the Atlantic crossing to Brazil, on particularly heavy FFN's (flying fish nights) we would gather the largest in the morning and Mary would cook them for breakfast. We would gut and scale them and fry them whole in olive oil until lightly browned. The mild tasting white meat falls away from the skin and backbone similar to a small trout. Our crewman, Master Angler Steve, could really wolf them down.

Sitting here today YT was watching the seas going thru their gyrations and constant changes. The wind picks up, the seas follow after, the wind diminishes or changes directions and the seas follow suit. At times they are confused and again at times they are directional. Finally, as predicted by OMNI Bob the winds slowly backed to the SE and then to the E. Surprisingly the seas went to the east without the cross chop normally associated with a moderate wind swing. It has been comfortable all day except for a short while when we had largish, following quartering seas. I tried something new with the Naiad controls. The right knob says following seas under the dial so we gave both of the dials a big crank nearly to the stops. Big difference. We would still corkscrew a bit but much less than before. Cool, someting new learned.

This morning we were visited by a sea bird we have never seen. It was a cross between a tern and a small albatross. It flapped its wings more than an albatross but soared the same way as well. It was beautiful with distinct black and white color splashes on its wing backs. I found it in the bird book.....a Cape (Painted) Petrel. Also, we had a second newbie and a grand one at that. At first we thought it was a wandering albatross but later found it to be a royal albatross, the largest of the albatrosses and common around New Zealand. There were a pair working the water this afternoon around Egret. One was HUGE.

The miles are winding down. Today we went sub 400nm to go and crossed into E longitude. So we are officially on the other side of the world....in the southern hemisphere. Who woulda guessed 7 years ago? We have 3 more days to go, so 3 more days to completely fill the freezer with fresh fish. We need just 1 or perhaps 2 more. We'll see if the seas cooperate but OMNI Bob forecasts they will diminish from now until arrival so we'll put a couple small baits out and see what snaps.

Mary announced a great idea today. We are arriving in NZ so much earlier than we originally planned we'll have time to get flights to Ft Lauderdale for the boat show and not go to the Miami Boat Show in February. We need boat parts of course (doesn't every boater?). Sooner is better than later so if we can get tickets we'll be gone shortly. This means we'll be at the N Owners cocktail party Saturday night. Perhaps we'll see some of you there.

We hope VofE sheds a little light, a ray of hope for your future. Particularly during these past two weeks. The sellers of news are at the top of their game howling at the moon. However, in all this noise is a bit of real truth. Personally, Mary and I would rather be at sea where life is simpler and peaceful vs the droning of noise. Good luck to us all these coming weeks. Ciao.

OMNI Bob's forecast is below.

Along the direct route to northern New Zealand, expect:

Mon/13: ESE-E-ENE 13-21kts, gusty 25kts waves 1.5-2.5mtrs with lowering swells S to SE 1.5-2.0mtrs that become more SE-ESE 1.5-2.0mtrs during Mon/pm.

Tue/14: ENE-NE 12-20kts, waves 1.0-1.5mtrs, occ 2.0mtrs at times. Swells ESE to E 1.5-2.0mtrs. Winds easeing NE-N 12-18kts and possibly as low as 10-15kts with waves closer to 0.5-1.0mtrs through Tue/eve-night.

Wed/15-arrival: NE-N 10-18kts, waves 0.5-1.0mtrs. Swells ESE-E-ENE 1.0-2.0mtrs.

 

October 10, 2008
Position: S24 03.33 W177 22.12 (800.3nm to go)

Well, mis amigos, we'll bang out a quickie VofE before the weekend and our last weekend before arriving in New Zealand. It appears we will arrive 6 days from about now (2:00 PM local on 10-16) Remember we are a day ahead of N America. So far this has been a dream trip. We have had calm seas and little wind so far, AND we have a waxing moon getting brighter each night. We have been running between 1625 and 1700 RPM and averaging around 7 knots, plus or minus due to current. The day we left we were visited by a pod of 8-10 jet black pilot whales. We went right thru their milling about but they went down and didn't reappear. We have also seen humpback whales in the distance and one breaching in a huge splash. Our course is 197 degrees magnetic and the heading is 194 degrees magnetic. So we have just 3 degrees of set and drift and another reason of our great speed. If the bottom were its normal super clean we would be going even faster.

So lets talk about navigation for a bit. To set our course we placed a first waypoint well outside Duff Reef off Nuka' alofa, then a second waypoint in the middle of the bay leading into Bay of Islands, New Zealand, a distance of a little over 1000nm. When we get closer we'll fine tune the Bay of Islands waypoint. We use two navigation laptops. One has C-Map charts installed, is running all the time but is our backup computer. The main navigation computer has C-Map charts running as well as Map Media charts on a split screen. Both run on Max Sea navigation software. When we put in a waypoint it draws a line to each waypoint from the previous waypoint as well as a cross track error line on each side of the course. Green to Starboard, Red to Port. We also run north up on all our navigation (not course up) We have learned a big lesson in the South Pacific. It is not like the Atlantic with no surprises. We follow the little red boat on 100,000 scale not 1M. I set our two waypoints then used a 1M scale to check the rhumb line for obstacles. There were none. Guess what? Mary was scrolling down the rhumb line when she found an island with our rhumb line running right thru it. Its called Ata Island and is 309 meters high. It reminds us of Juan de Fernandez island off the coast of Chile. I have never heard or read anything about Ata Island. Imagine a sailboat sailing along a night with no radar and drove right into this sheer cliff rock. They go boom, they sink!! (we scanned the shore with binoculars just in case this did happen and someone was ashore)

North and South Minerva Reefs are the same but off the rhumb line from Tonga or Fiji. ZERO resolution until you drop down to 100,000 scale. The only way we found the location is with waypoints from a friend. We moved the mouse to the location watching the lat-long on the little information box then zoomed down. Yup, plenty of detail but you normally would never find it except on radar if you were lucky or saw it during the day. Bottom line here is you really need to be diligent when cruising this area, particularly without paper charts like us.

When diverting past Ita Island (our course went thru the island) we drove thru a huge flock of tuna birds. Yup, we caught a 15lb or so tuna we have never caught before. While in Moorea I took a picture of a chart with tuna of the Pacific, then took full frame individual pictures. It appears to be an albacore tuna. The best of the best. We'll see tonight. Except for a little front while passing the island we have had super calm seas and little wind. The fish have been cooperating with a 20lb mahi mahi per hour or two dropping by. We have gotten so lazy and have so little freezer space left we don't try to hard to bring them aboard. Just 5 minutes ago one got off when I decided to drag it a while (Mary is sleeping below) before bringing it in for a fillet and release. In my old fishing days we would have been thrilled to have a 20lb mahi mahi for the DAY. Watching the sea mounts go by on Map Media charts KNOWING they are loaded makes me crazy. However it isn't worth the risk of bad weather to catch more fish.

We have gotten two e-mail quotes on Lifeline AGM batteries while under way. One quote is very good and we'll arrange to pay for them as soon as we land in Opua. One item crossed off the list. A super big bonus we haven't had in past few years is the US Peso is strong against the NZ dollar. Last year it was .83 N - USP, earlier in Vava'u it was .67 and now has dropped to .62.

After sunset YT was up from nap chores and was standing in the head when the right rigger went off. From the sound of the reel it was a big fish. Timing was poor. So, asap I was out and on the rod. All I saw was a HUGE splash so ran to the flybridge to get tings going. Mary was on the rod. We started the circle routine but the fish was so far out I needed to give her a hand. She ran the boat and I shouted instructions. We regained lots of line and it was give and take for a while but in the end we ran over the line and that was the end. This fish was a large blue marlin, well over 300lbs, perhaps even 400. This is the second large marlin we have left a lure in along with some line. This may sound funny to you but we don't want really large fish but obviously don't have a choice what decides to snap. Pulling large surface baits brings a larger overall return but at the price of an occasional large fish. We'll now pull smaller sub surface baits to fill the freezer then will quit fishing. We sure could use Master Angler Steves' help on this crossing. MAS reeled in many a fish aboard on our crossing from the Canary Islands to Brazil. To release a large marlin would take more than Mary and I. It is easier to gaff and kill a marlin than release it. However, I hope to never again kill a billfish of any kind during my fishing days. I killed my first sailfish and first marlin...that's enough.

New Zealand takes all fresh meat in quarantine inspection so we'll go thru the freezer and keep just enough for the next days and throw out the rest. We departed earlier than we intended so have not only our meat but some from our friends on Vision who left ahead of us. Mary precooked spaghetti sauce for quickie meals in case the weather was nasty so most of that will have to go as well. NZ also takes fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, honey, canned South American meat plus quite a list of other tings. We'll throw overboard the obvious and take a pro active measure and put anything we feel may be taken on the salon table for easy inspection. Also before landing we'll scrub the bottoms of all our shoes and boots. They check that as well so no foreign seeds come ashore. The Kiwis try hard to keep their country as clean as they can. Feral cats, opossums, and rats have taken their toll on indigenous birds and animals. For example, the kiwi bird is extremely rare now except on Stewart Island, south of South Island.

We have had light and variable winds today from every direction but with no appreciable waves or wave direction. We have little motion aboard. We would love to divert to Minerva Reef to check it out and yup it up with Vision but we can't let this good weather window pass. Dinner this evening was super fresh albacore tuna. Yes it was as good as it gets. AND we have 3 bags left. AND mahi mahi, and yellowfin tuna... You get the picture.

Shortly after typing the last paragraphs the wind went to 25 knots on the bow pushing up choppy speed bumps. We have reduced RPM three times to smooth tings out. Currently we are running 1485 RPM. Speed ranges from 5.5 to 6.4 knots depending on currents. It's early morning here and time to fire this VofE into space.

Below is OMNI Bob's latest weather forecast.

Along the direct route to northern New Zealand, expect:

late Thur/night-Fri/10: Shifting ENE-NNE to NNW 08-15kts, waves 0.5-1.0mtrs with confused swells 1.0mt thru Fri/morning. Gradually shifting NW-SW to SSE 12-20kts, waves 1.0-1.5mtrs with confused-S'ly swells 1.0-2.0mtrs through Fri/eve-night.

Sat/11: SSE-SE 12-20kt, gusts to 25kts possible. Waves 1.0-1.5mtrs, could reach upto 2.0mtrs at times. Swells: SSW-S 1.5-2.5mtrs.

Sun/12: SE-ly 14-21kt, upto 25kt and gusts. Waves 1.5-2.0mtrs. Swells SSW-S 2.0-2.5mtrs, briefly upto 3.0mtrs expected Sun/am. Winds should tend to shift more ESE-E 14-21kts during the pm/hrs.

Mon/13: ESE-E-ENE 13-21kts, waves 1.5-2.0mtrs with lowering swells S to SE 1.5-2.0mtrs, then SE-ESE 1.0-2.0mtrs during Mon/pm.

Tue/14: ENE-NE 12-18kts, waves 1.0-1.5mtrs. Swells ESE to E 1.5-2.0mtrs early Tue/am, lowering ESE-E 1.0-1.5mtrs during Tue/pm.

Wed/15-arrival: NE-N 12-18kts, waves 1.0-1.5mtrs. Swells ESE-E-ENE 1.0-1.5mtrs.

We will continue to watch this pattern and update accordingly. Please keep us advised of your position daily while enroute. B/Rgds, Bob/OMNI

 

October, 9, 2008
Position: S21 14.08 W175 30.20 (998.9nm to go)

Oct 1
Unhooking and releasing the marlin

Well, mis amigos, we have been a bit lazy lately. We have had a daily rounds of social get togethers for lunches and dinners here and there. With the season winding down we are all trying to stuff in as much as we can in the last days before moving on to ultimately staging for the dash to New Zealand. This year nearly 500 boats will be making the trek south. The yearly drill is everyone gets together in southern Tonga or Fiji and becomes a weather guru. Boats psyche themselves up and leave in herds making their way south. This is not an easy trip at times and every now and then boats get caught in a 'bomb' that shreds the fleet. We plan to leave with OMNI Bob's blessing for North Minerva Reef, about 270nm south of Tonga with a relatively easy entrance to the north and sit for a bit fishing and enjoying the area. Minerva is a coral atoll with no land mass in the middle of nowhere. More on that later.

We left you on the last VofE when we were going to visit the local school in the beautiful three island setting where NP and Vision were anchored. We did just that and met the teacher and student. Yes, 1 student. She was taking finals. If she passed she too would go to school in the big town of Neiafu just up the creek a couple miles. We left fresh fish with the teacher and the NP crew donated school supplies for the school kids standing around. The island has 35 families with just 11 present during the week. When kids go away to school the families move with them to be close and return on the weekends. Family is everything here as we found in much of the Pacific. What these people do, how they eat, where they stay is a mystery to me but somehow it seems to work out.

We returned to the main harbor for final provisioning and pick up our cannibal forks, (remember? One fork for eyeballs and one for brains), and to see folks before they left. We checked out this morning for the Ha' apai Group (middle group) of Tongan islands. The check out fee was 37.50 Tongan or about $21 US Pesos. First we visited Immigration, then Customs then the Port Captain who levied the charges. The whole deal was quite painless and efficient. With the upcoming good weather window and quite a few cruisers moving south at the same time we had to wait in a cruiser line. Along the way we said our goodbyes to the different shop owners and restaurant owners we befriended during our time here. It's sad to leave but also exciting to move on to another adventure.

The main island of the Ha' apai Group and where we check in is Lifuka Island. From there we will explore a bit before heading south to Nuku' alofa, final provisioning and taking on duty free fuel for the dash south. When we leave Lifuka Island for Nuku' alofa we don't have a clue.

Sitting in the rain the other day here in the harbor with wifi access I perused the nordhavn.com, Pennant Program list of participants. The Pennant Program is a deal where Nord owners get pennants for different levels of mileage, coastal or ocean. There were 90 some participants at the time I looked it up that cumulatively have traveled well over a million nautical miles. Can you imagine what these boats have seen? And this is less than 25% of N's produced. Ya know, Egret is a very, very small part of what is going on in the N cruising world. Please don't think any more than what it is, we just talk about it. Nothing more. Most N folks go quietly about their business with untold stories. Stories I wish more would write about because they are all interesting. Checking others' destinations is looking into others' dreams. Low mileage or high mileage are both interesting. Obviously a few stand out but that isn't the point. What is important is these 90 some boats have gone places that inspired them and led them on their own personal voyages of discovery. I think the whole deal is pretty cool. Inspiring. Invigorating. Makes me want to go cruising so at midnight tomorrow night we'll leave for Ha' apai (about 67nm). Now it's your turn.

We'll leave the main harbor anchorage early tomorrow (Tue) and anchor close to an easy exit to the ocean. Mary will prepare the boat for sea and I'll use the hooka rig (air pump) and thoroughly clean the bottom for the trip south. I'll also change the zincs so we'll not have to haul for a while and stretch the bottom paint we put on in Puerto Montt, Chile. (Remember that, sitting on the drying grid against the wall using the 18' tides to paint the bottom? On the last tide we were tilting AWAY from the wall. Geesh.)

Later...yes we left the harbor, yes it was raining, yes we got wet, no it wasn't cold and yes we went to our old good buddy, anchorage #8. #8 gives us easy exit to the ocean and crystal clear water for cleaning the bottom. After anchoring the sun came out and it was another beautiful day in paradise. It was also paradise for the 700 billion (sound familiar?) tiny seed barnacles on the bottom. I don't know if these were planted in American Samoa's polluted harbor or here in Neiafu's polluted harbor (not nearly as polluted as AS) An hour and half in the chilly water using the hooka rig (and NO wetsuit - too lazy) YT had had enough but the bottom was much better, not perfect but better. I did get the prop super clean. We'll give it another go down the road. We also called NPR and gave him the bad news.

At 11:15PM Tue evening we pulled TK and headed out thru the islands to the open ocean. Of course we had to give a narrow drive by past one of the hands on hips glaring anchor nazis. I know that turkey lips could hear our 4 blade, 28" wheel thumping next to his ear while he lay sweating in his clammy little cave. Oh well. At 12:12 this morning (Wed) we cleared the last headland leaving Vava'u. We headed offshore to an exaggerated turning mark making super sure we won't come close to something harder than water unless we have the poor luck to blast a whale sleeping on the surface. We have now turned to a 178 degree heading for our first waypoint off the island group to the south. Mary is down below getting a bit of rest before her watch at 3:00AM. Because it will be daylight a little after 6:00AM we'll do 3 hour shifts instead of our usual 4. At daylight we all come to life and if it is as calm as it is now we might even put a couple baits out and see if there are any snappers about. A nice wahoo or mahi mahi would do nicely. We still have a ton of yellowfin tuna. Ho hum...again.

Next morning. Hummmm, lets see...we ordered mahi mahi, OK, how about 20lbs or so? Yup, after a couple hours trolling off went the left rigger and soon a nice fat mahi mahi was aboard. It was the first time Mary gaffed a large fish. She took her time and did a perfect head shot. I helped lift the fish over the cap rail. Except Ms Fish didn't think she should be aboard and proceeded to smack everything in sight with her tail including YT's legs. YT was doing the Bo Jangles from one side of the cockpit to the other to keep out of the way. We weren't prepared a bit. No bucket of sea water for clean up and no wet towel to put over the fish's head to settle tings down a bit. Finally we organized a towel, chicken Mary retreated behind a closed salon door, and we got the fish settled down. Yup, we filleted and released that ocean beauty. It will be a fish fry in Opua for sure. Later...The mahi mahi had two healing wound marks from billfish. It takes a serious billfish to try and eat a 20lb mahi mahi. Were billfish on their way?

Speaking of Opua, we totally rearranged our plans while at sea and have set a course for Nuka' alofa, the capital and southernmost island group of Tonga to check in/out then take on duty fuel for the trek to New Zealand. We'll land in Opua, Bay of Islands, North Island. There are two issues going on. One, the batteries are becoming nearly impossible to keep up with if we want refrigeration and secondly, if we arrive on or before October 18th we'll get a significant insurance reduction. (Go figure, it's safer most years to arrive later but it is what it is. Two attaboy's to the insurance company.) OMNI Bob, Bob Jones ocmarnav@aol.com, 866 505-6664, the professional weather forecaster that has been with Egret since Gibraltar said preliminarily there seems to be a weather window opening fairly soon south of 25 degrees south (we are at 21 degrees south). We'll have a bit of easterly fresh breeze for the first bit (240nm) but it should be better later on. Obviously Bob will watch this closely as departure time comes near. We'll miss not going to the Ha' apai Group of islands but we never say never.

After changing course we were chugging along enjoying the diminishing seas when the right rigger went off. This time it was an approx. 250lb blue marlin heading for Japan/Alaska or somewhere north. I grabbed the rod but it wasn't to be. On large fish there are no individual efforts. It must be a team effort. Mary tried her best running the boat to do what I was croaking while trying to keep line on the spool but in the end the fish took so much line you could see gold beneath the last few yards of 80lb test line. Pop, and that was that. So away went the rod and now we are down to one rod until we can respool the second. This left one bait out fishing. Left rigger this time. Mary was on the rod and I headed for the flybridge. Yup, another billfish, a smaller but feisty striped marlin and all over the ocean greyhounding and burning all those precious energy units. We did the decreasing circle routine. Slowly Mary regained line and within a half hour I could see a flash down deep. We put the boat in dead idle downsea on autopilot and went to the cockpit to help. Mary huffed and puffed and eventually brought the 600 lb. leader within reach. Billfish 'light up' when they are excited. While close to the boat the vertical bars on the marlin's sides glowed a brilliant blue as well as the tail and pectoral fins. (Striped marlin...get it?) It was if you turned on neon lights. The fish was tired so I was able to pull it up over the swim platform and remove the hook and send it back to fight another day. I estimated the beautiful fish to be around 165lbs (75 kg). While unhooking the fish I noticed a fishing tag stuck fairly recently into its back. I would loved to have recovered the tag and sent it in but the fish needed to get back overboard so off it went.

So now we add a striped marlin to the list of fish Mary has caught that were larger than any I caught (nor have I caught a striped marlin). In order of size: striped marlin, mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna, genuine red snapper, mutton snapper, bonefish and german brown trout. I am very, very proud of her.

Twenty five minutes later the left rigger went off again. It ate like the striper but after two passes never came tight to the rod and finally left. Lets think about this for a minute. Here we are trolling at way below billfish trolling speed (5.5 - 6.4 knots depending on tide vs an optimum 8.2 knots) with a long distance mom and pop trawler. We are pulling two baits instead of four or six. AND without the usual teasers (splashing baits without hooks to imitate escaping baitfish). Could you imagine being here in Tonga in a proper long distance sportfisherman, fishing not the rhumb line but the dropoff edges, seamounts and so on. Today could have been a 6-10 billfish day. Tomorrow you could be exploring white sand beaches and fabulous coral formations under water. It would be a good life, just another variation of The Life.

Since dark and pulling in the bait we reduced speed to 1200RPM at around 5.3-4 knots so we don't arrive early for the course winding thru coral patches to Nuka' loafa. Mary is below trying to sleep after today's excitement. She will come on watch at midnight. The seas are calm with a slight chop, it is cool, the radar is set at 6nm with no targets and all is well.

The night was calm until dawn but we had to jog back and forth for a couple hours before there was enough light to read the inshore water and leave the deeper offshore water. Busy day today (Thur). We checked into Nuka' alofa and checked out at the same time. After running around getting a duty free fuel form from a second customs office, making our deal with the BP fuel depot down the street, getting a 3500 paanga advance on our debit card for fuel, getting a ride to immigration, taking a taxi back, fueling, we were ready for an icy cold beer. Yup, a run on sentence but it represents our day...run on. Our only breaks were a few minutes of social and lunch. There were no fees to check out. Fuel was about 5.05 US Peso/gallon ($1.328/liter). This is the most we have ever paid for fuel but it is still cheaper than NZ without their duty free price. We only get NZ duty free price when we leave. We are nearly full so this fuel will last us for quite a bit of the coming year.

Initially we anchored outside the breakwater and dinghied in to where the cruising sailboats were moored. For fueling we entered the breakwater, dropped TK in 14' (mud bottom) and backed to shore. Prior to upping anchor we dug out two Chile stern lines from the lazarette. After anchoring inside Mary tossed the shorelines to a yachtie who put them around bollards at the top of the narrow levy. The truck didn't have a working meter so they used a calibrated stick with water paste on the bottom to show us the fuel load (1500 liters - 395 US gallons) put in one cell of the tanker truck for us. We used the dinghy to transfer the fuel hose back and forth. (Water paste changes color when it contacts water.)

We are now under way with 1008nm to go to our entrance waypoint off the Bay of Islands, North Island. We may deviate 40nm from the rhumb line to North Minerva Reef, 270nm SW of Nuka' alofa, if weather closes in between us and NZ. What took a while to figure out was our Bay of Islands waypoint location. We double check everything when entering waypoints. The mileage didn't add up. We re-checked everything but no change. To make a long story short, NZ is EAST longitude, not west like we have been using for the past months, including Tonga. Currently we are running at 1625 RPM making 7.0 to 7.4 knots depending on current. The paravane arms are lowered and ready to go just in case. Since upgrading the Naiad stabilizers to the latest Multi Sea II electronic controls they haven't missed a beat. In NZ we will replace the fin shaft seals.

After leaving Nuka' alofa we wrote down a number of stats we will incorporate into our trip final analysis. Lotsa details, lotsa miles. It is hard to believe this is our last long run in a trip starting in Gibraltar, Sept 06, or did it start in Marmaris, Turkey, April 06...or did it start May, 04 at the beginning of the NAR...or did it really start August 6th, 2001 when we took delivery of our little white fiberglass ship? If all goes well this trip will take a week. After catching our breath we'll write a super VofE edition with details, feelings and so on. Let us say this, however. This is just one trip, albeit a long one. NZ isn't our final destination by any means. We're just getting started. Ciao.

 

October 8, 2008
Postistion: S18 45.18 W174 00.80

Oct 1
CIB's Stidd helm chair

Well, mis amigos, Egret is back in anchorage #8 sitting in a misty rain. We dropped in 24' and sent out 125' of chain. We're sitting in 70' of clear water over some scattered coral. After anchoring we sent a little fishing jig down where the bad boys live near the bottom with a couple pieces of rotten bacon stuck on the hook. Within a few minutes we had a nice fat grouper on board. Dinner for two......again. Ho hum.

The past couple days we have been following the melt down of the U.S. banking system on the internet while in harbor. Hummmm, lets see; S&L deal, Dot Com deal, Enron deal and now this. ALL with NO penalty for the Big Guys (corporate greedies or government watchdogs asleep on watch) orchestrating the downward spiral of the US economy. Sad. I'll say no more.

Last night (Friday) we were off to the yachtie races again aboard SV Vision. New Paige Roger and long time Kiwi buddy of Vision's were on the foredeck working the genoa during jibes. SV Iris John and his guest were on the huge genoa winches and Kiwi Jan was on the mainsail winch under the pilothouse dodger. We got balked at the start but once that 55' hunk of steel got under way in gusts up to 30 knots we powered past all the betterstarters to the first mark......except for a beautiful blue Kiwi sloop skippered by a young and talented Kiwi lady. Blue Kiwi Lady (BKL) was as fast upwind but we were faster downwind. After the long first leg the course took us THRU the mooring field to the turning mark of two Moorings Benateau's (geesh), then 90 degrees across the course where we closed on BKL, 90 degrees to stbd to the downwind turning mark where we were up their pipes (sorry, that an automobile racing term - exhaust pipes), then a tacking dual back to the finish. Blue Kiwi Lady was good, Vision was good, HOWEVER, we finished a half boat length back regaining all but the important part of the poor start. As that American driving legend in Talladega Nights said, "if you're not first......you're last". We were FIRST to tie off to the buoy where Vision dumped their anchor and chain for the race, AND first to pop the suds. They lost.......big time. Yup, we won in what counts.

While in town we picked up our way cool shirts at Tropical Tease. Cynthia (Cindy), an American ex pat, has a tee shirt shop with a twist. Her largest sellers are Tongan dirt shirts. Cindy takes high quality tee shirts and collared shirts and soaks them in Tongan dirt and water mixed into a rust colored mud for over a week, soaks them in sea water overnight to set the color then gives them a fresh water rinse. We loaded up with dirt shirts. Mary bought some collared shirts with the Egret logo on the front (small, above the pocket), Tongan Dirt Shirt on one sleeve and an abstract warrior design on the back along with a couple tee shirts with the Egret logo on the back. (Tongan warrior, whales, turtle or Vava'u map are the most popular shirt back designs) I got collared shirts with Egret on the front, Tongan Dirt Bag on the sleeve (yup, dirt bag taken from a mis stenciled shirt instead of a bag) and a map of Vava'u, Tonga on the back. I also got a few tee shirts with Egret across the back and Tonga Dirt Bag on the front. If you would like a gen u wine Egret shirt or e-mail Cindy your artwork I'm sure she could custom make whatever you wanted. Cindy's shirts are as original and unique as we have ever seen. tropicaltease57@yahoo.com (phone 676 71-271) (no website on her card) When we get back into town I'll give her permission to use the Egret logo for VofE readers. New Paige and N55 Myah loaded up as well as a bunch of other yachties.

Sunday was fishing offshore with the Vision crew and their guest. No fish but lots of whales, including seeing a whale up close that was lifting its tail high out of the water, cupping it on the way down, then smacking it on the water with a HUGE splash. The whale did it repeatably, first belly down as usual then upside down. Yup, it rolled on its back and continued to smack the water including cupping its tail when upside down to make a larger splash. Wild!! And yup again, we have pictures taken on motor drive thru the sequences. I'm sure in time the sequence will appear on the VofE website under Pictures.

Then it was back to the anchorage, bit o' grape with Vision before sunset, dinner then IT HIT THE FAN. Big time!!! Perhaps I should say the fan hit us. We set the anchor to the west initially in an unusual westerly breeze. We set on the shallow shelf (20-24') between the two islands and backed hard to the east. Around 10:00PM a violent front hit with heavy rain and gusts to 50 knots. We haven't seen 50 knots since leaving Chile. (Vision saw 55 knots) For quite some time the winds were sustained near 40 knots gusting higher and lower. The front first hit from the west then rapidly clocked around to the usual SE. There were boats anchored in #16 (coral garden) west of us that got hit first. It didn't take long before shrill panicked voices were shouting on channel 16 about "lost our anchor", we're dragging and so on. Soon it hit us, the main anchorage in Neiafu and the different anchorages around Vava'u. Panicked voices were the norm. I doubt all of the first time Pacific voyagers had proper anchors, proper for 50 knots, or had seen 50 knots. The saving grace was most of the boats in Neiafu harbor are on moorings. We got pounded for about 2 hours then it dwindled to the 20 knot range and now this morning it is still and another beautiful day in paradise. Mary got up first and came back laughing about our chain woven its way around a couple coral heads and TK doing its usual deal. Egret wasn't going anywhere. I took a picture of the chain in the clear water (24') using a polarized filter. You could see we weren't going anywhere. Same for Vsion. Of course during the blow we had the shallow depth and deep depth alarms set tight and radar zoomed down to 1/16nm. There is an Aussie megayacht anchored nearby. During the blow they suddenly moved to the west. Just guessing they dropped their second anchor and a ton of chain. Once set they didn't move. One of the more popular floating docks in town got shredded.

After the fact we found out what happened to N55 New Paige in an anchorage around the corner. Like us they set to the west. When the front hit the wind blew them near a lee shore in shallow water. They managed to break their anchor loose to reset to the SE but when moving offshore the anchor stuck again and that was it. NP was tied to the bottom by 300lbs of polished stainless steel. They had two choices; dump all the chain or ride it out using the engines (twins). Motoring around surrounded by reefs with no visibility during a blow of unknown duration isn't a wise thing to do so they kept one engine in gear with the rudders hard over and jogged for the hours of the blow. In their anchorage it was particularly bad. Apparently they had waterspouts blowing thru giving them NO visibility. What saved the day was their oversize Furuno radar zoomed way down and an infrared thermal imaging camera. The camera looked thru the blowing water and gave them perfect triangulation on the nearby islands in addition to the radar. Roger said the camera paid for itself that night. All the local fishing boats on the west side of the island (usual lee side) ended up on the beach. The locals were out at 4:00AM at high tide leveraging the boats back afloat.

The next morning we motored over to NP's anchorage and anchored nearby. We were the only two boats in the anchorage. This is a three island group tied together by strips of white sand. One white sandbar goes under water at high tide. You can't imagine the beauty of this place. I'm going to include the lat - long of this anchorage on this VofE so hopefully Goggle Earth will give you some idea. So its a life of beach walking, snorkeling, swimming, and a bit of fishing. I took out a light fly rod (7 wt) that hasn't seen daylight since retiring, washed off the dust and gave it a go. Lets see, one baby grouper, one permit like fish and a small barracuda. Not bad for fishing in an aquarium for an hour. While walking the beach the other day Mary and I came upon a Tongan couple sitting in the shade. We said hi but MS only had on her bathing suit so we didn't go over. NPR&J did stop by a bit later and struck up a conversation. It turns out he is a noble, was educated in England and was a member of the Tongan government until recently when his father passed away and he returned to oversee HIS three islands and its folks. Pretty cool. He told NPR&J there are 25 folks living on the island during the week and 50 on weekends. He invited us to visit the local school so this morning we will do just that.

Early yesterday morning NPR and I took their dink into town so he could approve the artwork for their shirts and so on they are having made. We had to wait for 10 minutes while they screened a couple test shirts so we wandered next door to the high end, high quality gift shop specializing in Tongan art. We wanted to close the door and tell the owner we'll take it all. If you saw the art in a museum at home you would appreciate it for what it is but when you have traveled thru the S. Pacific and have seen the different interpretations of war clubs, canoe paddles, ceremonial paddles, fish hooks carved from whatever local bone or wood and so on it means more. An Easter Island tourist trap near the moai quarry had a carved wooden fish hook that I passed on thinking I could get one in town....not to be. In town the hooks were junk. The hook at the quarry was a traditional work of art and original design. Bottom line: no hook. Back to this shop in Neiafu. She (the owner) has several very old Tongan designs of fish hooks carved from sperm whale jawbone that comes from the remnants of the whaling industry in Fiji. To save you the pain of caring on about a fish hook lets just say I bought one. This is the first piece of jewelry I have ever bought myself......ever. Obviously I'm not a jewelry person but this is special. I believe NPR is going to buy the ceremonial paddle on display (in mahogany instead of the traditional black) to put in the salon. The paddle is a super beautiful, intricately carved piece. We will also buy two Fijian cannibal forks (carved handle with 4 tines in a square). Yes, the Fijians were cannibals. One fork is for eating eyeballs and the other brains. Great conversation pieces. Another interesting item on display are Tongan design carvings from mastodon ivory. With global warming and more snowmelt in Siberia, streams are exposing mastodons from 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. If you are interested in Tongan art there is a beautifully illustrated book available on Amazon. The Art of Tonga, Keith St Cartimail, ISBN 0-8248-1972-1

Yesterday afternoon Vision moved into the anchorage. It was dinner for all last night aboard New Paige. Dinner was turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce with NPK's cookies and MS's cherry pie for desert.......on anchor in Tonga. Not bad mis amigos. However, after dinner we watched a sobering film called Crude Awakening. NPR being a former oil patch guy just nodded his head the whole time. What we're not being told by our respective governments is scary. (The poor dears' goals are re-election, not the truth in this case)

So there you have it. A few more days in The Life. What will today bring? A visit ashore to the local school for sure. Ciao.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. The other day on a hike up the hill to an abandoned resort we found a treasure burried in the rubble. While dumpster diving YT found a beautiful blue Stidd helm chair so installed it in the CIB to replace the swivel seat we lost in Bora Bora. MS now has her own Stidd, Egret's only.

 

 

 

 

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