"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.
September 23, 2008
Position: S18 43.32 W174 05.90 Vaka'eitu Anchorage (#16), Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga (Previous VofE - the Goggle Earth picture of anchorage #18 was EXACTLY where Egret was anchored - amazing)
Well, mis amigos, we have settled into a comfortable routine of putzing, socializing, exploring by dinghy and fishing. We had a special day the other day. At 8:30AM three boat crews converged on Egret for a days fishing offshore. (Swedish with 1 guest, Kiwi with 2 guests, along with NPR and NPK - Canadian). NPJ had the whole day to herself aboard New Paige with no home schooling or schedule. Soon after getting offshore and puting the baits out we ran into a family of three humpback whales including a small calf. We pulled in the baits and slowly approached the group staying well off the side of the threesome for pictures. The little one obliged by sticking its head out of the water for a peek at the white fiberglass whale making funny sounds off to the side. Within a short time we ran into two other groups of whales. We didn't get close enough for the spectacular Alaska type photographs of whales breaching or slowly lifting their tails sheeting water before sounding.
After a bit we hooked a small marlin that tore off an amazing amount of line before the hooks pulled. Rats!! It would have been fun to pull a marlin to the transom and take pictures before the release. On the way in we caught a small skipjack tuna (not good to eat) to keep us from getting skunked for the outing. NPJ had invited the whole gang (12) for a fish fry after fishing. Out came frozen fish from other outings so we all invaded NP for the Tongan fish feast. NPR did a superb job as grillmaster delivering plates of yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi and spearfish (bambi). Ho hum. Another great day in the cruising life. It is days like this that make the occasional wave bashing trials or boat bound days because of weather a small part of the overall experience.
Currently we are back in town (Neiafu) to pick up our inflatable dinghy we loaned a cruiser who lost theirs while towing it overnight. We offered to sell them the dinghy or use it until they could buy or borrow one for their trip to Fiji then on to NZ. We have decided to buy a 9-10' aluminum bottom RIB in NZ along with an 8hp Yamaha 2 stroke to replace the Zodiac and engine we lost in Easter Island. If we sell the inflatable dink, fine, if not it's OK. The issue is storage but in the end if we keep it we'll put it back in front of the pilothouse with a cover we had made and put the new small dink on the boat deck next to the CIB. The owners of a local restaurant REALLY want to buy the fiberglass CIB (catamaran ice breaker dinghy) from us to use as a truck hauling building materials to the home they plan to build on a small nearby island. We gave it a lot of thought but in the end we decided the CIB is so practical vs a large inflatable as our main dinghy we will keep it.
Last night was a going away party for our Aussie buddies on Six Pack (30' sloop) who are slowly heading back to their home on Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. They work 3-4 months a year in the coconut seed business and the balance of time they cruise. They have repeated this cycle for many years. Six Pack circumnavigated via Africa but have many more miles here and there. We hope to go to Tasmania (a large island south of Australia) after New Zealand and spend some time there as well. After staying home a few months Six Pack will sail to "Tazzie", cruise for a couple months then will leave the boat and commute back and forth for a year or more. Bottom line: in the cruising business goodbye's aren't always finite. Seeya down the road is more like it. To expand on this a bit, New Paige may well end up in Tazzie as well as Lindisfarn, our Swedish buddies. Fellow Argentina/Chile compatriots aboard N57 Ice Dancer II have also mentioned in e-mails they may visit Tazzie as well. Geesh, we'll need another vacation after that social whirl.
Rainy day today (Sat) here in the harbor mis amigos. We shopped this morning in light rain at times then got our two month visa extension from Immigration. The cost was around $25 USP (U.S.Peso) per person, per month. Shopping included ordering fresh bread baked fo...and poured. The CIB filled up like the bath tub it is. Over the tunnel no less. We called on the VHF an hour after our pickup time to see how long they would be open. They were closed but would wait for us. Great. Yes, they are closed on Sunday (tomorrow). Great again. Soooo, we bailed the dink and ran a half mile across the harbor thru the downpour to Aquarium Cafe's dinghy dock. Splashed up the hill, around the church and down the hill to the Lighthouse Cafe. We had to dodge two pigs and step over the dog in the doorway. We paid for the bread, put it into a dry bag and off we splashed. So ya think cruising is easy doya? Oh yes, we also changed oil in the main this afternoon. Our work for today.
So we're back aboard, clothes are dripping in the shower, the generator is running.......again.....Grrrr, and I'm bored so you'll have to suffer thru a little cruising story. While liveaboards waiting for The Day (retirement) we met a cruising couple aboard a 55', tall, hard chine trawler. They left the Pacific NW to begin a circumnavigation. Between Costa Rica and Ecuador they got mauled in a storm. (hard chine, square transom, small rudder boats don't do well in heavy seas, particularly aft of the beam). They gave up that idea (circumnavigation) and headed east thru the Panama Canal. On the way to the ABC's (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) they got killed again. Eventually they limped into a then friendly Venezuela for a refit to put themselves and the boat back together. From Venezuela they made their way to Ft Lauderdale where we met them. They cruised the US east coast for 1 1/2 years, sold the boat, bought a motor home and 9 months later sold that. The last we heard from them they were going to build a house in the Arizona desert. As an aside, once folks have cruised for any length of time with all its freedoms we don't know of any who have successfully motor homed for any length of time. Before they sold the boat they gave us, among other tings, the dry bag. They used the dry bag in Mexico where they would land thru the surf in out of the way places with dry clothes in the dry bag. Another lesson they passed along was to have a dinghy small enough to RAPIDLY pull it up the beach after crashing thru the surf as well as an engine large enough to power your way back thru the surf. This is how our 9' inflatable and 8hp Yamaha 2 stroke came into being as a second dinghy. Originally we were heading to Alaska via Mexico, etc, before PAE announced the NAR. So there you have it, another Egret sea story.
If you missed NPK's (New Paige Kimberly's) Boat Kid forum on the previous special edition Voyage of Egret be sure and check it out if you are cruising with kids or will be cruising with kids. (Ed. Note: Watch for a new section coming soon to nordhavn.com called "Boat Kid Chatter" featuring Kimberly Allard and fellow cruising kid Ayla Bessemer who is currently cruising the U.S. east coast with her parents on a Nordhavn 43.) NPK just left with mom and dad all suited up in their foul weather gear to a BK party at a local resort.
Early Sunday morning, the first day of spring, we left the harbor with hardly any wind, a light overcast and NO rain. Running at 1050 RPM making 5 knots we chugged between the islands on our way to the next anchorage. Hummmm. No wind = calm offshore and perhaps a good day for fishing. So we speeded up a bit, turned right (west) at the first opportunity and headed offshore. Soon the artificial baits were out back gurgling away and MS and I were enjoying breakfast and coffee in the flybridge. Life was good. We didn't catch any fish but it really didn't matter. It was nice to be back on the water just puttering away hoping for a bite and talking about whatever. Whales were everywhere spouting in the distance. Before long the sky was black on the horizon so we beat feet for shore and the night's anchorage. It was the first time we used our new toy. Our Swedish buddies guest arrived with our new GPS receiver that plugs into the laptop thru a USB port. The small 2" diameter receiver now allows us to take a laptop to the flybridge and have electronic charting whereas before we had to run down to the pilothouse to check if there was a question. This arrangement will be particularly handy entering an unfamiliar harbor/reef entrance when running the boat from the flybridge. We run the boat from the flybridge with its better visibility in order to read the reefs, coral or bottom.
Egret is anchored in Vaka' eitu, #16, described in one guide as the aquarium and another, coral garden. We dropped TK into pure white sand in 22' of crystal clear water spotted with coral patches. The anchorage is beautiful and surrounded on the south by a low island and to the north by a higher island (Nua' papu) with a 210' peak. Between the two is a sea level reef exposed at low tide. Intrepid snorkelers walk the reef at low tide and snorkel the pristine ocean side of the reef. One buddy did just that and got splattered on the coral in the surge when he returned to shore in the wrong spot. He chose poorly. He limped over and guided his sweetie to the calmer landing where he thought he was. We enjoyed a potluck dinner last night aboard the Kiwi boat Vision. Coral Boy whined just a little at first showing his boo boo to those of us he thought cared. We didn't care. Mary's donation to the potluck was coral trout (like a grouper). After anchoring she gave me some leftover rice to dispose of. Not to miss an opportunity to see what might be snapping I started throwing the rice here and there over the coral so see what fish might rise off the bottom. Mary brought her rod up from below and began casting a small artificial lure off the back of the boat. On the first cast she caught dinner. Vision quick fried the trout so everyone would get a bit along with the rest of the meal. It was another good day with boating buddies.
Each morning at 8:30 is the Vava'u cruiser's net hosted by different businesses. Most important is the weather report given by the Aquarium Cafe'. First comes the Tonga govt weather (fairy tale), next is Fiji weather (not bad) then Wind Guru (the best and fairly accurate). Following weather is a plethora of tings including what day the barber comes to town giving yachtie haircuts (at the Bounty Bar), crew positions wanted or required, buy - sell - trade, information or announcements (from town or elsewhere) an example: a representative from Opua, New Zealand - most yachties check in port, will be in Neiafu to answer questions Oct 1-6. The NZ marine trade association is very pro-active in recruiting yachties to visit NZ, and it pays. Most cruisers we know plan extensive refits in New Zealand (including ourselves). Last net items are commercials for local businesses. Our favorite is Happy. Happy picks up garbage on Tue, Thur and Sat mornings at the Aquarium. She charges about $1 per bag (there is no city garbage collection).
Crew positions, wanting and looking for, can be had in most popular cruising crossroads such as Papeete, Tahiti, American Samoa and here in Vava'u. There are a number of young international singles and couples working their way around the world giving their services for free (most boats pay for food) to gain experience and travel. There are pitfalls both ways but if both parties are careful it works out well. Most crew looking for rides don't really care where they go. Here for example, most ask for passage to New Zealand or Australia. Both are great destinations but VERY different. If you go to Oz is is very difficult to catch a ride back to the South Pacific if that is your intention. A couple this morning's net wants to go west or to New Zealand, a pretty wide itinerary.
It is early Tuesday morning, the generator is running.....yup again, clothes are in the washer, MS has her coffee and life is good. Yesterday our Kiwi buddies loaned us their spare outboard, a Yamaha 3hp - 2 stroke. After cleaning enough mud out of the carburetor to plant a coconut tree, it putts along like new so we chugged across the anchorage in our small inflatable, beached the dink then went exploring to the other side of the island. Walking the trail like kids we picked up some large dried seeds growing in a long pod that had long since fallen to the ground. The pods rattle when you shake them. We have a pocket full along with some bright red seeds from another type of pod. So we explored, took pictures of mushrooms that look like trumpet bells, went into a limestone cave, walked the beach on the other side and so on.
A little food for thought. Tonight we're having reindeer meat stew aboard Vision here in Tonga. Where are the Guinness folks when you need them? Ciao.
September 15, 2008
Position: S18 42.77 W174 02.35 Nuku Island, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga (anchorage #8)
Well, mis amigos, the social whirl continues. It all started with an arrival night birthday party for three girls with the same birthday here in this speck of the world. The young ladies turned 23, 35, and 60. Our group of yachties took over the Mermaid Bar in a closed session party complete with a buffet dinner. It was a long fun evening. After cocktails, dinner and so on the dancing started with the 60 year old matching the whippersnappers step for step. We have a resilient group of folks. Those three boats got trashed on the trip south from New Potatoes trying to make an unrealistic party date (unrealistic because of weather). After a day's recovery they were up and at it. We can speak for the Egret and New Paige crew. Getting to sleep that night after our crossing the night before wasn't a problem.
The next night was our Swedish buddies and the following night was a Patagonia reunion with Lindisfarn (Swedish), Six Pack (Aussie) and Vision (Kiwi). We had Argentine and Chilean flags flying, served American Samoan yellowfin tuna along with Tongan potatoes, onions and papaya, Chilean red and white wine, New Zealand and Samoan beer. It was a good evening rehashing wind and ice.
This morning it was breakfast at the Aquarium with New Paige, tonight it's rest and tomorrow is our offshore fishing trip. Geesh. We need a vacation.
Later. The fishing trip got scrubbed because of weather but we did take advantage of the wind and joined our Kiwi buddies aboard the 55' steel sloop Vision for the Friday night sailboat race up and down Neiafu Bay. The race finished with a sprint THRU the anchorage to the Mermaid Bar. Geesh. During wind gusts we hit 9 knots. At the same time we were heeled WAY over. I guess their Naiads weren't working. After watching all the foredeck work going on and my attempting to grind away on the gigundus winches I told them when we got back home I was going to KISS my boat. Geesh again. Mary got to steer a bit so contributed as well. We finished third out of a 10-12 boat fleet. We were nipped at the finish line by a cruising catamaran with around 7 or 8 little boat kids kids jumping up and down on the trampolines giving us a hard time and laughing. Little rats. The fleet gathered at the Mermaid Bar for prizes sponsored by the locals. I believe the prizes were drawn from a hat not according to finish. EVERY participant received a prize of some sort. Great fun.
We first met Vision in Argentina/Chile. We spent some time together in the Deep South before they moved north to Puerto Montt, Chile where they left Vision and flew home to greet their new grandchild. Instead of carrying on to New Zealand they returned back down the Chilean Channels to Ushuaia, Argentina where we renewed our friendship. Kerry had this dream of taking his own boat to Antarctica and would never be closer or younger so he rounded up a few mates and off they went. We loaned them all our secret drawings of anchorages (gathered over the Deep South winter from here and there), charts and so on (there is no good charting, or even ANY charting in a number of places in the Very Deep South). Not only did they cruise Antarctica they carried on to South Georgia Island (where I would rather go than any place on earth), then back to the Falklands and returned to Ushuaia. He and his wife repeated the trip north thru the Chilean Channels and here we are together again as we will be in NZ. (what prompted the Antarctic story was looking at their pictures last night) Those pictures replanted a little seed. Sometimes seeds grow to fruition. Remember Cape Horn? We'll see.
Closer to the equator, Vava'u is a cruiser's dream. There are over 40 numbered* anchorages in the local Moorings cruising guide. The farthest is but 2 hours away. I'm sure the moorings.com website will have more info on this group of islands if you would like to know more. We'll report what we see after our fishing excursion. The next day we'll head out to the anchorages for a bit then return to the village for refreshment and social. We plan to stay for a while so you'll learn what we learn in due course. One item we have not been including are the air temps. Most mornings it is around 77 degrees F (25C), almost chilly with the pilothouse doors open. Unless you are out of the breeze and in the sun it is not hot here at all. Perfect weather.
*The anchorages are assigned numbers so charter folks needing assistance can call the base on the VHF with the anchorage number vs a description. The base sends a service person in a small boat to help with whatever. Yes this is cruising by the numbers but yaknow, the charter folks get to see the same tings we do. If you are considering heading out someday in your own little white fiberglass ship a charter vacation here in Vava'u will certainly keep the fires lit.
This morning we are writing this drivel sitting on anchor in beautiful anchorage #8 (between tiny Nuka Island and Kapa Island). We are anchored in the shallows between the two islands, in about 22' with scattered coral heads and a white sand bottom. Nuka has a single home tucked in the trees and a beautiful finger of pure white sand bar extending into the shallow water. The shallows to the east are full of coral heads (boomies) and a largish reef covering a few acres. White terns and black tern like birds with a gray head are constantly working the small baits being pushed to the surface by schools of a jack type fish. We have caught two. One fish was what the caretaker on Suworrow Atoll called black jack and the other was the most beautiful iridescent blue you could imagine. We released both. New Paige is anchored nearby along with a couple cruising boats we have seen here and there and a flood of charter boats. The girls are going snorkeling this morning while the boys work on their boat bottoms using hooka rigs. After, we'll take NPK fishing like we did yesterday. Kimberly sure loves to fish. Yesterday afternoon we were trolling around the reefs and she caught a larger grouper than her dad. Thrilled would be a weak adjective.
The next morning NPK and dad (NPR) went fishing. NPK caught another colorful little grouper trolling around the reefs. Later we got together to take a look at NP's bottom. Holy moly, NP has an entire eco system growing on her bottom sans a couple hours work the NP crew put in earlier. NP must not have been painted since leaving the factory. NPR said the bottom was spotless until arriving in American Samoa. With two hooka rigs pumping air we scraped and scraped but after a bit YT got a leg cramp and had to give up. Later, NPR gave it another hour. Of course the local fish population was having a Tongan feast swimming in the tide carried flow of goodies being washed along after scraping. The water is super clear and is full of little fish. Mary, NPJ and NPK snorkeled while the boys worked. After nap chores it was dinner aboard Egret with NPR's mahi mahi caught in New Potatoes being served. NPK baked a special cake for the occasion. Another good day mis amigos.
This morning is a rainy early Monday morning here in Tonga, the US-Ca, etc, Sun morning, and we are trying to pump life back into our rapidly failing batteries by running the generator still again.....and again. We are getting VERY tired of turning off and on the refrigeration during all hours of the day and night. We have whined about these batteries before but if you didn't get the first message you need to listen carefully. DO NOT head offshore for any length of time without the freshest batteries possible (and not el junko batteries) unless your destination has batteries you are comfortable with available (do not assume availability - do your internet research first). We killed our original set of Lifeline AGM's in two years thru extreme misuse because we did not know any better or have a proper battery monitoring device (we now have a Xantrax Link 10). We replaced the AGM's with a set of very expensive individual two volt cell batteries (along with a fairy tale 7 year written warranty). Let's just say they didn't work for us (to save you the pain of suffering thru a novel). In Chile we bought a set of American made maintenance free batteries (the worst type of battery for house use - we knew this going in) hoping to make it to NZ. In the end we didn't have any other choice but the generator burn is painful. In NZ we'll take a hard look at anything connected to energy (fuel burn). If it makes financial sense we'll change what ever component/system we need for absolute efficiency. We have no plans to sell Egret or move ashore in the foreseeable future. If the payout takes 5-7 years, so be it. We'll have more on this when we reach NZ, talk to the folks, get pricing and go from there. Anything we look at will be passed along with our reasoning and decision whatever it may be.
During conversation the other day the word 'yachtie' came up, a word we use often in VofE. Yachtie is simply a synonym for cruiser. As a N. American, early on we used the word cruiser/s to define voyagers, both power and sail. In most of the world 'yacht' is the synonym for sailboat whereas in N. America the word yacht means a large powerboat. I always felt the word yacht a bit pretentious for our little white fiberglass ship. In the past, world cruisers were almost exclusively sailboats so the local lingo uses the word yachtie. We are no longer local and have picked up the word yachtie. Bottom line: yachtie - cruiser, same-same. Along those same lines we now call ourselves M/Y Egret, not M/V Egret as in the past. While cruising the Med our buddies on N62 Grey Pearl were told emphatically by a ship, "you are NOT M/V Grey Pearl, you are M/Y Grey Pearl". My take is with ships required to have AIS identification some don't take warmly to a small private boat identifying themselves as a ship (M/V).
Yesterday afternoon MS and I went exploring by dinghy around the nearby islands. The islands are fairly low relief, the highest are under 700' and the majority are 150-250'. All are heavily wooded with tropical foliage. The water couldn't be more clear and the reefs more beautiful. There are corals of every color. We came across one that was huge (around - car size) and bright purple. We are not divers but it is obvious why this is diver heaven. The islands have a number of deep caves cut into the rock by waves. Some are so deep you can't see the end. In one area there were large fruit bats hanging upside down in the trees. Later in the afternoon the bats were flying. We trolled around the perimeters of the islands, at times in light rain soaking up the sights. Vava'u is truly a special place. We still have a month before we feel we should be south staging for the dash to NZ. We'll spend our time wisely.
Today is Tuesday, the generator is running again......grrrrr, and its time to fire this VofE into space. This may be old news to you but the other day when we had wifi access we saw our Suworrow pictures posted for the first time. Check it out if you haven't seen them.
We have a VERY special edition VofE following in a day. Be sure and catch it, particularly if you are a future Boat Kid. Ciao.
September 8, 2008
Position: S18 39.45 W173 59.46 Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
Well, mis amigos, a lot has happened in the past few days. The past days in New Potatoes were spent socializing and touring the village with a group of 10 yachties in a hired truck. We also climbed the highest hill overlooking the island, her reefs and villages. Yes, it was beautiful. During these days it was windy with a large gale force storm down south and east. A VHF plea came from the local 'infirmary/hospital/clinic' for someone to take a patient to Neiafu, Vava'u (Vav ow), the large island group 170nm to the south. The airline isn't flying and it is too expensive to hire a plane for the trip. A smallish Dutch sloop gamely volunteered to give it a go. It turns out the patient came with a nurse, wife, two small children and his father. After loading the gang aboard off they went. The entire anchorage was watching and cheering. Good intentions don't make for good sailing. After struggling to clear the harbor entrance in large seas the sloop's triple reefed mainsail blew out within minutes so they returned and offloaded their very sick passengers.
We had been following the weather for departure with OMNI Bob and there seemed to be a break in two days on Thursday. The patient has a gastronomical blockage of some type and really needed to get to a proper facility and be treated. Coordinating leaving with the health minister, Egret and N55 New Paige volunteered to take the folks to Neiafu on Thursday. New Paige being the faster of the two boats were to take the patient and nurse and Egret was to take the family. We loaded Lucia, Rodney (3), George (1 1/2) and Sheffield (wife, two sons and father in law) on Wednesday evening to be able to leave at first light on Thursday. Prior to their coming aboard Mary prepared the boat for what we felt was going to be four seasick passengers. We gave them our midship stateroom for the most comfortable ride in the boat. Wisely Mary took the precaution to put a waterproof layer under the sheets.
Lucia is the village dental hygienist and her patient husband is the village jail warden (they have 4 offenders in house). Both are here on a three year tour from the Tongan capitol of Nuku'alofa (Nuke ah loaf ah) Lucia speaks good English as do most educated Tongans. Sheffield spoke as much English as we did Tongan. Sheffield did understand a few words of English. Like when I held up a cold beer and said "beer?" he smiled and nodded his head yes. Yup, universal language.
New Paige was to load their passengers at first light on Thursday. The three New Paige crew had worked all day on the bottom cleaning the American Samoan growth off the bottom and running gear to give them a much faster trip. They gave up their midship stateroom as well. In the end the patient slept on the floor with the nurse in bed and a continuous IV swinging overhead. The NP crew slept in the cabin behind the pilothouse.
The wind died as predicted Wednesday evening but around midnight started puffing again. I fired up the laptop to check OMNI Bob's weather and he had sent off an addendum to his earlier prediction saying tings had changed. (OMNI bob's forecast is below). This was really great service from Bob where he continuously monitored the weather even after sending his daily report.
Unfortunately tings were not going to be pleasant, not dangerous but sloppy. There is a BIG difference between 2 meter seas with good spacing and 3.5 meter (11') seas and tighter spacing. 3.5 meter seas were average sea heights with some smaller and some RBG's (really big guys) rolling thru from time to time.
At daybreak up came TK. Mary put our 'at sea' short chain snubber on and cleared the foredeck. We had lifted the dink the night before so off we went. Our guests were in the salon looking a little apprehensive but trying to be brave. It was nearing high tide so there was an extra margin of water depth safety clearing the pass. Off to the right side of the pass a giant surf was crashing on the reef finger extending offshore and white foam was covering the entrance. The entrance was relatively calm so we didn't see any problem and there wasn't except for the depth finder freaking trying to read thru the aerated water and sounding the shallow depth alarm. Once we cleared the pass I came down from the flybridge and started slowly making our turn to the south west to clear the offshore reefs at the southern end of the island. By taking the inside, leeward route we added a couple miles to the trip but this was better than driving thru the waves stacking up in the shallow water as they approached the windward reefs. Once we turned downsea there were BIG smiles from our passengers. Little did they know when we made our turn to just a little east of due south tings would change. And they did.
Any time you near an island the offshore seaway is disrupted by wave compression, wind and wave wrap, current acceleration, tides and a number of other factors lumped together under 'island effect'. Usually in high winds most of these changed conditions occur at once. At one time we were doing 8.4 knots riding downhill in relatively low seas. As we cleared the offshore reefs we got wave wrap coming from around the reefs, high tight seas and an opposing current. We went from a high of 8.4 knots to 5.5 knots in a sloppy sea. Our guests were brave but horizontal. And so it went for a while while we cleared the island and got into deeper water with the interrupted ESE wave set. The waves were just forward of the beam, quite high with some wind chop on top of the swells. Were running at 1600 RPM, not our usual fuel stretching 1350 RPM, trying to keep more water flow past the keel, rudder and stabilizer fins. We had the Naiad Multi Sea II cranked up to the 2/3'd mark, and the ride was as good as it could be.
Back to New Paige. NP left an hour, an unfortunate delay to load her passengers, after Egret. By this time the tide had swung and waves, grande waves, were breaking across the pass. The patient and nurse were fortunately down in the midship stateroom. NPR and NPJ (Roger and Joan) were in the flybridge and NPK (Kimberly - 10) was in the pilothouse. NP has a high bow as well as a higher than standard custom bow rail. The first wave broke OVER the bow and rail, rocketed across the deck to the Portuguese bridge and shot straight into the flybridge. NPR & J got blasted. Its never that easy or just one wave. The next wave was just a big and broke on the now down facing bow. Yup, got blasted again. NPK saw the waves coming so laid horizontal on the pilothouse floor. After those two waves the rest diminished and finally they were able to make the turn putting the waves on the stern.......for a while. The remaining miles clearing the island was predictable. It was a good ride turning to slop.
Lets not forget the whales. After clearing the breaking waves from the surf NP ran into 2 whales just in front of the boat. NPR slowed and turned ending that encounter. Next NP had a whale rise just in front of the boat, JUST in front, so they had to go to neutral and in the process bumped reverse. Their Trac stabilizers automatically locked the fins in center making for 2-3 minutes of uncomfortable roll until NPR figured the deal out. Geesh. Running at night was just luck, good or bad, with a whale encounter. Neither of us wanted to find what happened if we hit one at speed. Of course, we had a bit of VHF chatter about Moby Dick popping a hole in their little white fiberglass ship and Egret coming to the rescue. NP's Tongan passengers were not concerned with our chatter. They felt it was their duty to lay as still and horizontal as possible. All kidding aside it was horrible for them as landlubbers going to sea in conditions as these. Egret's guests were not doing any better.
The weather continued until dark when we had a slight lessening in the wind/waves. At 2:00 AM we got a second and major reduction in wind/waves so from there on the trip was relatively comfortable. An interesting comparison was the different degrees of roll we experienced. Egret had a few 40 degree rolls with 30 degrees being regular for the first hours until dark. NP's rolls never exceeded 22 degrees. Mary and I spent the entire trip together on the pilothouse settee (Egret doesn't have a captain's chair) and well supported. Our rolls weren't bad for us even at 40 degrees. It wasn't the larger waves that would send us over. Riding over the large waves we would just go up and down with a bit of roll as they washed under the boat from the beam. It was the small powerful waves that would break against the port side and trip the boat over the wave on the opposite side. With our forward speed and stabilizers up high the roll didn't last but just a few seconds. Not that it makes any difference, it was what it was, but it would be interesting to know how far each of moved during our respective rolls. We sit lower in Egret pilothouse settee and NP sits higher but with a lesser degree of roll.
Mary and I took turns on watch and sleeping, both scrunched on the PH settee. NPJ was a bit under the weather so NPR did yeoman chores of standing most of the night watch by himself. At daybreak we could see how the seas laid down and the ride was more comfortable. A few hours after daylight Egret's crew came back to life but somewhat lighter and still groggy. The kids were well behaved. Even at the worst there was just a little soft crying. By the time we reached the lee of Vava'u's entrance everyone was up and chattering away. The trips end and LAND were in sight. NPR was a half hour ahead and called for the contact to meet us at the dock with an ambulance. The contact never answered the call but a local American ex pat restaurant owner (Aquarium) answered and met NP with their dink and took the nurse and patient away to the dock and a taxi ride to the hospital. We docked at the harbor commercial wharf and offloaded our crew. Lucia was so taken by it all she couldn't speak. She took off her woven palm Tongan hat and put in on Mary's head. By the time both boats reached customs the coconut telegraph had let the customs officials know of our bringing the family from New Potatoes. I don't think two boats had ever had a more welcoming clearance into the harbor. We were thanked over and over again by the officials.
Leaving out arrival day (Friday) night's social whirl we'll fast forward to Saturday morning. We met the NP crew for breakfast at the Aquarium then walked to the hospital to see how the patient was doing. He (Cecil - Saysel) had already been flown to Nuku'alofa, the Tongan capitol further south in another island group. Again the nurses thanked us profusely for taking care of the locals. Later in the afternoon we met another cruiser who checked into Vava'u customs after Egret and NP was literally in tears telling her story how the officials passed on their thanks to all the yachties who take such good care of the islanders. The yachties add quite a lot to the economy of this small country as well as isolated incidents of personal help.
Another story to pass along those lines, there is a young couple here where the wife is a veterinarian. She has been spaying dogs and cats for free in the islands they visit. Here for example, she spayed one of the customs officials dog.
And we'll leave you with this parting shot at the Moorea (French Polynesia) anchor nazi who somehow made it this far. Yup, the dim bulb who dinghied up to Egret just after we backed down on the anchor to let us know he didn't want to listen to our generator run all night. Unusual for me I was kind (in a moment of challenge like this) and said we were anchoring for just a few hours to clean the bottom and would be moving on. The S/V Warm Rain guy from Seattle was introduced to our table last night by some unsuspecting folks who took a table nearby. NPR said dim bulb was staring at our table all night trying to put together who we were. You could see the tiny wheels turning. Teeny tiiny Neanderthal wheels.
So here we are and here we'll sit for a while. We say in fishing, you don't leave fish to find fish. This place is great and we're surrounded by boatloads of friends and a harbor's edge of funky little dives loaded with dinghys out front. There are three other Ushuaia boats here as well. Monday night it is a Deep South alumnus fish fry aboard Egret. There are more than 50 individual anchorages within just a few mile radius of the harbor. We already know where the three fishing FADs (fish attractant devices) are located offshore. An offshore fishing trip is in the planning stages. Last night was a party ashore, tonight is another, Sunday we rest and wash the boat, Monday night is the fish fry, and we have been here just 1 day. The rough passage is history. You get the picture. Life is good for the Egret crew. Ciao.
Below are OMNI Bob's forecasts. You can see the big change just hours later when new data was available.
Overall, the weather improvement will be slow to occur over the next 48hrs. The strong high ridge to the south will move very little and weaken slowly through Thur/04. The surface trough pattern extending from the Fiji Islands and SE-ward will also remain stationary through Thur/04.
On Wed the trough will begin to make its way over the southern Tonga area and with a slightly weaker high ridge, the winds should come down to the 15-20kt range during late Wed and into early Thur/am. There is still the chance of gusty winds closer to 25-30kts during early morning Wed with ESE-E sea/swell of at least 2-3mtrs. As the day wears on, the conditions should improve to the 1.5-2.5mtr range, but these lower conditions may not be experienced until Wed/night.
As the low center begins to form along the trough, the high ridge should weaken a bit more allowing for an easier wind/sea gradient to develop on Thur. It will take some time for the lightest winds to develop and the ESE-E swells will likely remain at least 1.5-2.0mtrs on Thur, but with an easier wind of 12-18kts and maybe as low 10-15kts developing during the day, you may find that Thursday will be the better day to travel.
At this point, leaving tomorrow (Wed) would allow you to leave during a period where the winds are a bit higher at the outset and gradually easing the closer your get to Vava'u, a pattern we tend to suggest to many Captains. Leaving with the winds slightly higher and continuing as the winds/seas tend to lower/improve allows you to arrive with the more ideal conditions.
There is also the chance of a slightly higher easterly wind/sea and swell pattern returning to the southern Tonga Islands on Friday. High pressure will tend to build over the region again since the trough will weaken across the region allowing for ESE-E winds to freshen over the area. If you left on Thursday, you would have easier wind/seas at the departure and increasing winds arriving on Friday.
Expect along the direct route to Vava'u basis an ETD Wed/03:
Wed/03: E-NE 17-25kt, gusty/30kts, waves build 1.5-2.5mtrs at the outset. Swells ESE-E 2-3mtrs at the outset. Winds tend to slowly subside ENE-E 15-20kts, waves 1.5-2.0mtrs and swells ESE-E 1.5-2.5mtrs during the afternoon-eve hours with ENE-E 12-17kts, waves 1.5mtrs and swells ESE-E 1.5-2.5mtrs toward Wed/night-overnight.
Thur/04-Vava'u: ENE-E, perhaps some ESE during Thur/pm; 12-18kts, Waves 1.0-1.5mtrs. Swells ESE-E 1.5-2.5mtrs thru the day, may lower to 1.5-2.0mtrs by arrival late Thur.
Captain, little overall change in the pattern through arrival. Satellite obs in the area indicate Gusty E-ENE in the 25-30kt range in your area and to the east/north. This, in combination with the easterly swells remaining in the 2.5-3.0mtr range to arrival should continue to make for a "sloppy" ride for the rest of today with some gradual easing anticipated on Friday (until arrival).
September 1, 2008
Position: S15 56.28 W173 46.07 Niuatoputapu Island anchorage (New Potatoes), Kingdom of Tonga
Note: We have crossed the international date line. We have gained an additional day skipping one. N55 New Paige's anniversary was August 26th. They literally missed their anniversary date motoring from American Samoa to New Potatoes. (They left on the 25th, spent one day at sea and arrived on the 27th)
Well, mis amigos, Egret has arrived in the Kingdom of Tonga. First however, let us regress back to American Samoa for a bit to help others who may visit in the future. After clearing the harbor in American Samoa for Tonga we ran the engine up to 1800 RPM to clean debris off the prop. We immediately had a 5 degree increase in engine temperature. I thought our keel cooler had become as fouled as our chain with slimy grass. After diving the bottom in New Potatoes using our hookah rig, (electric air compressor and regulator), we found a different story. The prop was extremely fouled and we had a number of first time barnacles on the aft third of the bottom, particularly the sunny side. The keel cooler was fouled but not to the point of disaster. It took two full hours working on the bottom to clear up the mess. We still have an hours work to do to get back to an optimum bottom. In retrospect we would spend a fast paced week in AS shopping and touring vs the two weeks we spent. We would also start the main each day and give the prop a spin in forward, then reverse while on anchor (as well as the bow thruster). I believe we would have eliminated our bottom/chain fouling plus the slimly, stinky watermaker filter replacement. In the end we either had to make water at high tide or take on suspect dock water. N55 New Paige had the same fouling issues and said they burned 25% more fuel than normal. I believe they are cleaning their bottom today (it is raining and we are all putzing).
The price we paid leaving American Samoa in daylight just before dark was a sooner than optimum arrival in New Potatoes. Eight miles out we jogged offshore (turned around and headed slowly upsea at 975 RPM) for an hour and fifteen minutes then turned around on our original heading at 1050 RPM, the lowest where the stabilizers were efficient. First appeared the conical shaped island of Tafahi. Tafahi has 81 residents with no harbor except a leeward shore anchorage. We trolled baits up and down the windward side of New Potatoes with no luck before entering the harbor. Farther in the distance we saw spouts of a few of the large number of whales wintering in Tonga. Ho hum, dolphins escorted us in. The first dolphins since Chile. The harbor, like so many others, is a patience game of waiting until the pass opens up visually vs wishing the pass to appear sooner. When lined up the pass is straight forward even though a bit shallow in spots (10' or so). The markers are excellent as well as a simple to use range markers on the beach. TK splashed down in 26' of opaque water and held on the first set. Shortly after anchoring our buddies on Grace, the South African sailing catamaran, and N55 New Paige arrived as well. All together there were 13 boats in the harbor.
A few other boats had to clear in as well so we waited while the four Tongan officials (customs, health, agriculture/plant quarantine and one other....police?) made the rounds being deposited by the last boat visited. Yes, you take them to the next boat for clearance. They were quite friendly and we later paid a total of about $50 USP in the main village, 3 kilometers up the road. The agriculture agent was concerned about our fresh fruit and veggies but in the end let us keep them with a promise we wouldn't bring them ashore. Ashore at the treasury we changed our Pesos for Tongan paanga (unit of currency - about 175p to 1 USP).
Our first night here the yachties were invited to join a local fund raising for a Catholic Sunday school. Quite a number of yachties attended. This was the second REAL South Pacific event we have attended (the first was Bastile Day in Bora Bora). Their singing during prayer was a most beautiful melody of voices. NP Roger and I were sitting with locals drinking kava at the time. The kava club could really sing. Kava is a slightly bitter, lip numbing, mildly narcotic drink locals drink by the gallon. Kava is served in a coconut shell half that is passed around. You drink the shell full then pass the shell back to the bowl guy (BG). We were a group of 10 or so and the different shells were kept busy. From time to time a local waiter came by with a 20 liter pail of fresh kava to refill BG's wooden bowl and keep tings going. There were rings of kava buddies circled around the BG's scattered thru the hall as well as outside on a porch. The women didn't drink kava. At the head of our group was the local entrepreneur who has a MACHINE that grinds the kava root to make the brew. In years past women chewed the root and spit the pulp into a bowl. Not my kinda deal.
The kids danced in different age groups to loud rock type music. Their skin was covered in a clear shiny paste that would allow money to stick when it was pressed into the shiny spots. The kids wore traditional costumes and danced traditional dances. They started with the little kids, 3-5, then up in age groups. The little ones got the most money. Some were totally covered from the waist up with money. By the time the big kids danced the money was spent so the locals recycled the money sticking the big kids with dough so they felt useful as well. The locals gave freely as well as the yachties. In all they made around $500 USP. Locals are very generous for those who have little.
The next night a group of 10 yachties went to dinner together at a different type of resort venue. VERY different. We arrived at high tide to go to dinner at the 4 cottage island resort on a small leased island. Well, first you have to swim/wade a 200 yard wide channel across to the small island (it was high tide). For those of us who didn't want to get wet a man met us with a small dink. Dry clothes, back packs and tings were stowed aboard along with a few of us. He pulled the dink across while the kids and very wet adults made the watery trek. Laura the resort keeper met us on the other side and ushered us to the dining room. The view across to the perfect cone shaped island was stunning. The dining room/kitchen building is square with a small kitchen and head. There were a half dozen tables and chairs. The menu was fresh fish or frozen steak. The order was a mix with one kid getting bacon and eggs instead of the missing steak. We had a great night. After counting beer cans and taking what seemed a wild stab at accounting Laura presented us with a very reasonable bill. After paying we waded back across the channel at low tide. A bit different we must say.
Another ting a bit different is the resort itself. It was started 8 years ago by Laura, her wife and their two children. (stick with me here) Two years ago the Tongan airlines went out of business taking away any chance for the resort to succeed. During the interim Laura worked in London (her native home) while the airlines sorted tings out. Currently there are two airlines trying to get started with weekly promises to become operational. Laura returned 6 weeks ago, divorced and one of her boys arriving soon (with one of the first flights) to help. Also during those two years away she became a she. She is fully accepted by the locals and by the yachties as well, just as before. Before dinner we toured the cottages. They are well built modern cottages with materials and furnishings from New Zealand. Rooms are spotless and the bathrooms have modern fixtures. For those who like out of the way places Palm Tree Island Resort would be a treat. Laura is a great hostess and a good friend to the yachties. See-ah's husband Niko could keep you busy for a week or more touring in his van, hiking, fishing, diving and visiting nearby Tafahi. www.palmtreeislandresort.com An fun and off the beaten path three stop vacation would be; Robinson Crusoe Island - Juan de Fernandez Islands Group (Chile), Easter Island, and here in New Potatoes.
Yesterday (Fri) we took three locals out fishing aboard Egret along with New Paige Roger and daughter Kimberly. Our Tongan guests told us about a sea mount where the local fishermen go for tuna. We started late (7:00 AM) (they leave at 4:00 AM in their little outboards) but none the less we found the tuna birds just south of the sea mount and hooked a tuna. ('tuna birds' are a dead giveaway for finding tuna. Feeding tuna push bait to the surface and concentrate the bait to make feeding easier. Birds in turn follow the tuna schools swooping and diving on the baits pushed to the surface) Locals fish with hand lines and home made lures, not two speed reels and roller bearing rods. Our Tongan guests were freaking when the first fish ate and was pulling drag they couldn't stop from going out. I know by the reel sound it wasn't a big fish so kept going. They freaked some more and were shouting in 18 languages FISH ON or something like that. I kept going until we hooked a second fish then slowed down. We caught two small yellowfin tuna, 8 & 12lbs. They were thrilled. Once aboard I immediately grabbed them by the tail and cut the blood line just behind the pectoral fins to bleed. I asked them to cut the gills out and learned something there myself. Their hands were so strong they just ripped the gills (gills contain solid blood that spoils immediately) out by hand and pulled out the guts in one attached piece as well. After we got under way I filleted them but got strange looks from the locals. They wanted to save the heads and carcases as well. They eat everything including the eyeballs. Unlike us, they waste nothing.
After the sun rises high tuna go deep so we headed back with Mary running the boat and Kimberly looking for birds with the binoculars. We were lucky on the way back to hook a nice mahi mahi the girls found under a couple diving birds. One of the locals was struggling with the fish as it turned sideways foul hooked (a foul hooked mahi mahi is like trying to pull in a paravane with a rod and reel). We did our usual running the boat in increasingly tighter circles trick to bring the fish to the boat. When it was close (I was in the flybridge running the boat) I saw a second fish down deep. I raced down to the cockpit and put out another bait. Knowing the drill, Mary hit the throttle and immediately we hooked the second fish. The first was a large cow (girl fish) and the second was a larger bull (boy fish). New Paige Roger was on the boy fish rod and had a tough time when his rod seat broke away from the fiberglass rod itself (his rod & reel). At one time Roger was cranking furiously, one local was holding the reel in place and a third was holding the rod from twisting. So it really does take one Canadian and two helpers to reel in a fish (of course we're not being fair here). The bull was well over 30lbs and Roger's heaviest mahi mahi ever. Kinda cool. Of course NPR is pumped about fishing so we loaned him a proper rod until New Zealand where he can replace his broken girl rod. I don't think NPJ and NPK would be quite as enthusiastic about helping hubby/daddy reel in a grande fish as were the local Tongans.
After re anchoring, NP Joan towed back Egret's dinghy and took the locals to shore with their booty for the day. We gave them the tuna and the heads from both mahi mahi. We also gave them the lure that caught the larger mahi mahi. THAT lure made the local fisherman nearly watery eyed. The two mahi mahi will be served at a picnic for yachties put on by the Department of Ministry at a small local island behind the anchorage.
Last night we went to a pot luck put on for the yachties at a local personalities home. Sea-ah is a government employee. Her husband (Niko) works 3-4 months a year in New Zealand. They are well off by local standards with an old Toyota van, used for hauling yachties or whatever to keep it in gas, have a gasoline generator (there is no local electric other than solar panels) and a small fishing boat. They live in a chain link fence compound with 5 houses of family members. The houses (approximately 15 X 20') are made from corrugated tin or VERY old planks. The house corners are rounded made by bending tin around a coconut tree. They have a large central water cistern filled by rain running off a roof. At night during the potluck they fired up the gen to light a single long fluorescent light. We had a great evening mixing with the yachties and locals. I'm sure they can't begin to comprehend how we live in such relative luxury. It certainly makes us feel guilty. I read a similar story written by Douglas Bernon in Cruising World Magazine describing folks in an unnamed (by me) Caribbean island. He felt the folks there barely held back a veneer of resentment for the yachties. Here we don't get the slightest feeling along those lines. Locals seem to be happy with their lives and it shows. Any of you planning to make the trek west across the Pacific in the future should put New Potatoes on your must see list.
Sat AM we had a young couple over to give them a primer on cruising Chile and the Chilean Channels. We dug out the guides, charts and showed pictures on the laptop. What a nostalgia trip for us. Mary was as fired up as I was. Great fun and we hope they make it. The guy is a former Boat Kid himself. His parents went back to dirt dwelling when his older sister turned 13. (A year early in his opinion). The parents stayed ashore for a while (after a long circumnavigation) and Rob went to university getting a degree. He was doing glacier study for a group and teaching until he saved enough for his own boat and here they are. They hope to find work in New Zealand before they push on. During the conversation he mentioned his parents (our age) are looking to switch to power from sail to make it easier to keep going. Good move.
Sunday was spent reading and putzing in the rain. Sundays ashore in the Pacific is a religious family day in the South Pacific islands we have visited. We are working on our next batch of picture CD's to send Jenny Stern in the Rhode Island PAE office. This will be our last photo's sent until our arrival in New Zealand. It is hard to believe our trek from Gibraltar to New Zealand is within a month or so of being completed. It seems ages ago, but again like yesterday, we left the boatyard in Turkey on our way back across the Mediterranean to Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, a year in the Deep South, Chilean Channels then island hopping to where we are today. You can't possibly imagine what we have seen and experienced along the way except what few words and pictures we have portrait thru VofE. I'm getting ahead of myself so we'll leave this alone for another couple months. Once in New Zealand and settled we'll put our thoughts in print.
Don't think New Zealand is the end of Egret's adventures. We are just getting started. Arrival in NZ is nothing more than a long distance goal planned in Barcelona, Spain during the winter of 04-05. We haven't the slightest intention of going back to dirt dwelling. Many years from now when we aren't physically able to wave bash comfortably we'll probably retreat to the simple cruising of the US east coast and Bahamas. If, toward the end of the big trip we end up marina queens we will still be able to watch the flow of youthful free spirit boaters following their own dreams. If we totter off the dock pushing our walker and don't make it, what the H. Sure beats tubes and bed pans and drooling and the sadness of it all. You get the picture. (the last few sentences were inspired by recent e-mails between Egret and cruising friends about our age. They were asking our long range plans and these sentences were the bottom line of our reply)
Monday PM. This afternoon we attended a 'feast' put on by local officials for the yachties. The feast was held on a small offshore island with no one attending but we yachties and a few locals who prepared the food. There were palm frons cut and used for mats to sit while eating. They roasted two small pigs along with cooking the balance in an underground umu. (native oven) The umu was a shallow pit dug in the sand with what must have been coals as the first layer, then small rocks to retain the heat, a layer of a large starchy root, this covered by tapioca root, and this covered with Egret's mahi mahi wrapped in tin foil with coconut milk and spices. Covering this was coconut husks, then large leaves (normally they use banana leaves but there are none on the island), then a sack material, then dirt with hot coals on top covered by more dirt and the whole deal covered with palm frons. The food had been cooking since early morning. We had seven dinks full of yachties joining the feast along with 6-7 Tongan adults and a few kids. The locals chopped coconuts for something to drink served with a straw. Other coconuts were husked with a sharp stick stuck in the ground and husked in a minute or so by a large local. The afternoon went on and on. After we yachties were finished eating the locals ate. There is no question how these folks get so large by looking at the portions of starchy root, tapioca and meat they ate. One local gave a speech and told the crowd the money for the feast came out of our clearance duties and they wanted nothing from us. It was their way of showing how pleased they were by us visiting their island and helping with their economy. This was our third REAL South Pacific experience and two were on this island.
As we said earlier, if someday you cruise the South Pacific in your own little white fiberglass ship be sure and make New Potatoes your first stop in Tonga before heading south to the rest of the chain. This afternoon we sent OMNI Bob an e-mail saying we would like to leave in a couple days sailing south to the Tongan Vava'u Group of islands (Vav ow). Unfortunately it is time to move on however OMNI Bob's forecast is particularly important for this overnighter. There is serious weather south and east of us with grande seas and a lot of wind. There is much to see in the balance of the Tongan chain before staging mid October to cross to New Zealand at the first weather opportunity.
This VofE is a particularly long posting with subjects all over the board, however it is all part of the cruising life. This has been a good week for the Egret crew. Ciao.