Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

Tue Jun 11 17:18 2019 NZST
16 46.698s 179 20.015e

1500 hrs 11 June 2019. You must be wondering, what the heck are we doing since I last reported our arrival in Savusavu on 2 June. We're doing was cruisers do most: sailing from port to port to buy parts. Since arriving I noticed our house batteries would charge up, but would not hold the charge. As it turned out, I made a calculated mistake by trying to massage another cruising season out of them. They're 8 years old. While that's a good run, the mistake not replacing them in NZ is costing us about 40% more to purchase the batteries here. They've been ordered from Nadi, the western side of Fiji (we're on the eastern side). I expect them to arrive via ferry probably early next week. And that's why we're still in Savusavu. Fortunately the batteries are Trojan T-105's, a model that is available pretty much throughout the world. I need six of them. In order to protect Fiji's own battery production, US made Trojans attract a 30% import duty. So much for free-trade agreements. Other than food shopping, and eating out at the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we haven't been doing too much else. The weather hasn't been exactly flash. Been raining a lot. That makes for hot, humid days and nights. My sweat glands have been working overtime. The hatch and companionway mosquito netting I bought in NZ has been great. Around 5pm every evening we put them up, and don't have to spray the boat with repellent. Can sleep throughout the night without mosquitos buzzing our ears and us slapping ourselves silly while half-asleep. Of all the years I did that, I don't think I ever hit one mosquito. But I woke up looking like I went the distance with Mohammed Ali. If you'd like to communicate with us, we have internet. So you can send us emails to our land email addresses.

Sototale (see you later). John


Mon Jun 3 9:45 2019 NZST
Run: 42.1nm (76.2km)
16 46.698s 179 20.015e

0900 hrs 3 June 2019. We're here. Arrived Savusavu 1600 hrs yesterday, 2 June 2019. You can let out that breath you've been holding for the trip statistics. Here they are: OVERALL NZ - FIJI TRIP STATISTICS Distance - 1256nm Time - 220.25 hrs - 9 days 4.25 hrs Engine On - 95.5 hrs - 3 days 23.5 hrs Average Speed - 5.7 kts (including slowing down to arrive Minerva & Savusavu at correct time) NZ - MINERVA LEG STATISTICS Distance - 829nm Time - 142.5 hrs - 5 days 22.5 hrs Engine On - 42.5 hrs - 1 day 18 hrs Average speed - 5.8 kts MINERVA - FIJI LEG STATISTICS Distance - 427nm Time - 77.75 hrs - 3 days 5.75 hrs Engine On - 53 hrs - 2 days 4.8 hrs Average Speed - 5.5 kts SEA LIFE STATISTICS - No dolphins sighted. One flying fish on deck. No fish caught.

The whole trip actually lasted 19 days because of the 10 days spent in Minerva waiting out storms produced by tropical depressions roaming around.

MOST AMAZING STATISTIC OF ALL: Thoughout the entire 1256 nm trip we never once took a wave onto the boat. This was the most benign passage from NZ to Fiji ever. The major factor for this was Gulf Harbour Radio.

In that regard, Leilani and I want to give a big thank-you to David & Patricia of Gulf Harbour Radio. Their comments about the weather (they don't give advice) helped us determine weather windows, and avoid sailing in the tropical depression weather. We encountered several yachts first hand, and heard about others, who did not heed their comments, and they paid the price by being caught out in horrendously awful weather. If you're sailing in the S. Pacific, you should be listening to GHR regularly. And if you're a regular listener, you might want to give a voluntary donation to help defray equipment cost and internet and electic charges incurred by GHR to provide their invaluable service. Go to their website for info on how to make a donation. Again, thank you David & Patricia.

Bula Vinaka John


Sun Jun 2 7:54 2019 NZST
Run: 84.8nm (153.5km)
Avg: 6.7knts
24hr: 160.3nm
17 21.448s 179 31.898e

0730 hrs 2 June 2019. Good morning to our last day at sea. Last night was exhausting. We actually had to stay awake during each of our 3-hour watches. Since we were in the midst of islands, and potential other traffic, we couldn't even catch catnaps as we do at sea. Additionally we had to constantly monitor our speed to arrive on time. It's actually easier to sail at sea than around land. In any event, we'll be in Savusavu by 1600.

Bonaire trailed us throughout the night and continues to follow. Actually, they've been with us since leaving Minerva. First time we've had another yacht sail along during a passage. Normally we don't see anyone.

Yes, there's still no air. Yes, we continue to motor, and will do so all the way in. At least it's not blowing 30 kts like at Minerva.

Next post will be from the dock - with our all important and always interesting passage statistics. I can hear you holding your breath all the way out here. One statistic to hold you over: no sealife, porpoise or flying fish, spotted. Sad. Cheers, John


Sat Jun 1 19:12 2019 NZST
Run: 71.2nm (128.9km)
Avg: 6.1knts
24hr: 145.4nm
18 34.093s 179 44.341e

1800 hrs 1 June 2019. Welcome to our last night at sea. ETA Savusavu is tomorrow afternoon at 1600 hrs. We are keeping the boat at about 5.2 kts so we arrive no sooner and possibly incur overtime charges should the officials wish to come early afternoon. With very light 5-7 kts winds, and motoring, it's relatively easy to control our speed. We've been motoring since 1500 hrs yesterday. Will be glad to get in and turn off the engine.

Dragged two fishing lines through the Koro Sea for 9 hours today. Sadly no fresh sashimi. Will try again tomorrow. For the astute naigators among you, you'll notice we are back in the eastern hemisphere, having crossed the E-W longitude meridan very early this morning. So we're back to today from yesterday, with tomorrow coming soon, which until recently would have been today.

See you in Savusavu. Cheers John


Sat Jun 1 7:27 2019 NZST
Run: 81.6nm (147.7km)
Avg: 7.3knts
24hr: 174.1nm
19 34.347s 179 59.117e
Weather: 0700 hrs 1 June 2019. Beautiful sunny morning. Wind, 3-5 kts NE. Sea flat. Cloud cover 30% with big cumulus clouds all around on horizon. Baro 1012 having fallen from 1015 in last 24 hrs.

0700 hrs 1 June 2019. While the weather has been exceedingly calm, we've had an otherwise eventful last six hours. At 0100 this morning, Leilani spotted a vessel that turned out to be a stealth Asian fishing vessel. I say stealth because it didn't have AIS, and wouldn't answer my radio call. I say fishing because it had a large white spot ight swinging around. I say Asian vessel because they are the only ones that would have been that far out of Fiji waters. At 0500 Leilani spotted another fishing boat, but this time someone actually answered my radio call. Definitely Asian. Hardly understandable, but he acknowledged seeing me, and said he would turn starboard to pass port-to-port. I really hate meeting them at night because you never know (and can't see) if they have long nets trailling right across our path. In any event, all went well.

Second event was right after sunrise, at 0630, I got to sing out all mariners' favourite call - Land Ho! I spotted the southern Fiji island of Matuku at 25 miles away on our port bow. It would have been seen sooner, but not in the dark,. The next island we'll see will be Totoya, on our starboard bow.

It's been a long trip, but we're finally in Fiji waters. It feels like we have arrived home. Copra Shed, the marina facitility in Savusavu, has a berth reserved for us. The same one we always get whenever we are there. Leilani over the past years has showered the manager with gifts, so she pretty much gives us what we ask for. And all the workers there know us, and are probably looking forward to the cakes Leilani makes for them. We've asked that Siterie, the laundry lady, put aside all her washing machines because we have heaps of dirty clothes. Peo and Siti, the two dock helpers will be waiting to help us tie up on the berth. Yes, it does feel like homecoming.

Cheers John


Fri May 31 20:12 2019 NZST
Run: 74.3nm (134.5km)
Avg: 5.9knts
24hr: 141.5nm
20 43.050s 179 42.506w

1900 hrs 31 May 2019. Today was a mixed bag of sailing and now motoring. Had superlative sailing conditions up to 1500. The wind was slowly melting away and it finally was not enough to maintain speed above 4 kts. We have a 4 kt rule: if boat speed drops below that, the motor comes on. I know there are purists who will sail no matter how slow. But I subscribe to the idea that weather comes in patterns: good is followed by bad is followed by good, etc. While it might seem good to bob around sailing 2-3 kts, but sooner or later, you will get run over by the bad. So when it gets slow going, I put the peddle to the meddle and get going to wherever I'm going before the bad arrives. The downside is not being hypnotised by the sound of water streaming by, and the woosh of air propelling the boat along. Instead it's the deadening drone of the engine. Oh well, at least I'll get in before the storm arrives. Our goal is to arrive in Savusavu between 1600 & 1700 Sunday. Even though that is after hours for official check-in, and would be subject to overtime charges, the check-in officials will not come to the boat at that time. They're not going to interrupt their Sunday evening family time just to fill out papers with some yachtie. So we'll sit on the dock at the Copra Shed until Monday morning when the officials show up. And since that will be during normal check-in time, no overtime charge. Now that the motor is on, it is much easier regulating our speed so we arrive at the correct time. If we arrive too early, the officials could come to the boat, even though it's a Sunday. Arrive too late, and it's dark. So we have to arrive juuuuuust right.

It's definitely warmer. I'm now sailing shirtless and in shorts only. I love the tropics. And with that, I'll send this and get back to my watch. Cheers John


Fri May 31 7:36 2019 NZST
Run: 79.3nm (143.5km)
Avg: 6.4knts
24hr: 154.7nm
21 45.544s 179 25.233w

0715 hrs 31 May 2019. Okay, here we go again. We had a perfect night of sailing with beam or slightly aft of beam ESE 10-15 kts winds, and SE 1.5 mtr swell. Yacht Bonaire is abut 3 nm to our starboard, and well in sight. She left about an hour after we did and caught up throughout the night. It's a much fast 16mtr yacht, so that was expected. Another, Anahada is over the horizon headed for Suva. Sunday is our ETA. It's just a matter of what time of the day. Our average speed up to now has been 5.5 kts, so if that continues it will be late Sunday. I'm on my watch, so it's time to catch up on sleep - ha ha ha. Cheers John


Thu May 30 19:18 2019 NZST
Run: 55.2nm (99.9km)
22 52.445s 179 07.500w

1900 hrs 30 May 2019. We departed Minerva Reef at 1030 this morning. Since then the weather has been magic S. Pacific tradewind sailing: SE 10-15 kts, seas have decreased steadly from 2 mts to 1 mtr, and we're ghosting along at a stately 5.6 kts average. There is no moon or clouds, so the stars are out in all their glory. When you look up at the uncountable twinklings, you fully understand how insignificant we are. This is the kind of night that poet sailors have waxed on about down through the ages. Not being a poet, and barely a sailor, I am wholly unequipped to adequately describe the existential beauty of it all. To say it is beautiful is an understatement like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground, or the Mona Lisa is a nice picture. To say it's awe inspiring is just too cliche. It transcends awe inspiring as Mt. Everest transcends a child's sand castle at the beach. I feel priviledged to be a witness to it all. I hope we have a couple of more nights like this before we reach Fiji. Cheers John


Wed May 29 10:54 2019 NZST

0830 29 May 2019. This is our last post from N. Minerva Reef. We depart first thing tomorrow morning for Savusavu, Fiji. It's about 425 nm and will take about 72 hr, give or take. Weather is forecast to be light ESE winds, 10-15 kts. when we depart. If so, that's perfect. We're expecting light winds the whole trip, and will probably be doing some motoring. I'll post as we proceed so you can keep up with us.

Today, in fact right now, there is 0.0kts of wind, the entire lagoon looks like a mirror, and the water is so clear we can see our anchor chain laying out in about 13 mts of water almost to the anchor, and we have 70 mts of chain out. What a difference to the several days of 30-34 kts winds, and many other days of 25-28 kts after we first arrived 10 days ago. Where once we had 22 vessels here, over the last 3 days many have left. About half are going to Tonga, and the rest to Fiji. There are 3 boats (including us) leaving tomorrow for Fiji. A couple of Tonga boats left today, and probably the last will leave to tomorrow. Then the reef will be empty awaiting the new arrivals.

Last night we had our last N. Minerva Reef Yacht Club radio trivia game. I hosted the questions on Fiji history and culture. I took the information from the unimpeachable history book titled, Lonely Planet Fiji. Hey, when you're sitting in the middle of the ocean, it's tough getting to a better stocked library. All up we had 4 trivia nights, and they were enjoyed by all. BTW, the most interesting question / answer was: The Guinness Book of World Records names Ratu (Chief) Udreudre as the holder of the record for most people eaten - 872. Don't know how that was confirmed. Maybe Hannibal Leichter and Jeffrey Dahlmer might contest it.

On that yummy note, I will get back to work on my tan, and await lunch. Leg-of-man anyone? Cheers, John


Mon May 27 11:48 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0800 hrs 27 May 2019. Sorry about missing a post yesterday. I tried all day to send using my Winlink program with no success. Also tried this morning with same result. I believe there is something wrong with Winlink. Anyway, I?m sending this via Leilani?s Iridium Go program. Nothing like having backup programs to send/receive emails. Yesterday the wind was up and down between 20 & 26 kts. This morning so far, the wind is the lightest since arriving, around 14 - 17 kts. It?s supposed to come down through the week. Latest weather forecast calls for possible departures on Thursday or Friday. Will confirm that as the week progresses. This morning a single-handing lady on Careena called for help to enter Minerva. She sustained damage in the horrendous weather the last few days coming up from New Zealand. Her headsail curling system is broken so she can?t fully take down her headsail. She also ran out of water as her watermaker broke and couldn?t replace the small water capacity in her tank. She wanted help to come through the pass, and put someone on board with water and help drive the boat while she takes down the headsail so she can anchor. Of course, vessels jumped up to offer assistance as you?d expect. Two vessels are meeting her at the pass, and by dinghy, will put two people on her boat. Fortunately, conditions are ideal for her arrival: light winds, sunny skies, and low water, making the entrance boundary clearly visible. Never a dull moment. For the last two evenings the N Minerva and S Minerva Cruisers Association has held radio Trivial Pursuit games. What happens is a host boat picks a subject, asks the questions then gives multiple choice answers. At the end, answers are given, and kudos given to the winner. The first one was on the history on the Minerva reefs. It was very informative. For instance, after Tonga and Fiji argued over ownership, including blowing up lighthouses each would construct, Tonga finally won ownership recognition through international consensus. Then Tonga, being the ever shrewd bargainer, offered to trade the reefs for the Lau Group. Fiji declined and both countries have since fallen into mutual recognition of their territorial rights. Last night I hosted the Trivial Pursuit game on seamanship trivia. Tonight, another yacht is hosting on the subject of Polynesia. Our stop has not only been relaxing, it?s also been educational. That brings you up to date. Stay tuned for further adventures in paradise. Cheers, John


Mon May 27 11:45 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0800 hrs 27 May 2019. Sorry about missing a post yesterday. I tried all day to send using my Winlink program with no success. Also tried this morning with same result. I believe there is something wrong with Winlink. Anyway, I?m sending this via Leilani?s Iridium Go program. Nothing like having backup programs to send/receive emails. Yesterday the wind was up and down between 20 & 26 kts. This morning so far, the wind is the lightest since arriving, around 14 - 17 kts. It?s supposed to come down through the week. Latest weather forecast calls for possible departures on Thursday or Friday. Will confirm that as the week progresses. This morning a single-handing lady on Careena called for help to enter Minerva. She sustained damage in the horrendous weather the last few days coming up from New Zealand. Her headsail curling system is broken so she can?t fully take down her headsail. She also ran out of water as her watermaker broke and couldn?t replace the small water capacity in her tank. She wanted help to come through the pass, and put someone on board with water and help drive the boat while she takes down the headsail so she can anchor. Of course, vessels jumped up to offer assistance as you?d expect. Two vessels are meeting her at the pass, and by dinghy, will put two people on her boat. Fortunately, conditions are ideal for her arrival: light winds, sunny skies, and low water, making the entrance boundary clearly visible. Never a dull moment. For the last two evenings the N Minerva and S Minerva Cruisers Association has held radio Trivial Pursuit games. What happens is a host boat picks a subject, asks the questions then gives multiple choice answers. At the end, answers are given, and kudos given to the winner. The first one was on the history on the Minerva reefs. It was very informative. For instance, after Tonga and Fiji argued over ownership, including blowing up lighthouses each would construct, Tonga finally won ownership recognition through international consensus. Then Tonga, being the ever shrewd bargainer, offered to trade the reefs for the Lau Group. Fiji declined and both countries have since fallen into mutual recognition of their territorial rights. Last night I hosted the Trivial Pursuit game on seamanship trivia. Tonight, another yacht is hosting on the subject of Polynesia. Our stop has not only been relaxing, it?s also been educational. That brings you up to date. Stay tuned for further adventures in paradise. Cheers, John


Sat May 25 11:00 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0930 25 May 2019. Boats are like living things. When everything is working, and the boat is moving as it should, the crew will know it and feel at ease. However, it there is a new, strange noise, or the boat moves unnaturally, the crew will immediately know, and jump up from wherever they are and dash around to determine the cause. Of course, problems usually happen in the middle of a black, dark, night, howling wind, pouring rain, and choppy, bouncy seas causing the boat to hobby-horse. That's what happened to us at 0100 last night. Both of us were sound asleep when we heard a loud bang, and the boat started to vibrate. I leaped out of my bunk in my sleeping attire and charged topsides. I immediately made my way to the bow to check the anchor system was holding. Confirming all good there, I returned to the cockpit and noticed horrible vibration. Quickly surveying the wind generator, which was spinning full speed in the wind, it was obvious one of the three blades was missing. I got the generator turned away from the wind, and sure enough one blade was gone. While climbing up on the top of the stern rail to reach the generator with a rope to tie off the the remaining blades, I accidentally hit the Iridium GO antenna, breaking the plastic cover off, exposing the actual antenna inside. Murphy's Law.

Being a well stocked sea-going yacht, I have necessary repair items. For the generator, I have 6 spare blades, so I can make two sets of blade changes (all 3 blades need to be changed simultaneously to remain balanced). Due to the bouncy conditions at Minerva, I will wait until I get to Fiji to make the repair. The blades are the same ones that were on the boat when I bought the boat 10 years ago. So they are over ten years old. Over time the sun and salt enviornment degrades the blade material. Coupling that with all the high winds we have had over these past 4 days, I believe the blade simply broke off. I discount it having been hit by a bird (which can sometimes happen) because I haven't seen any birds here since arriving. Although it could have been a flying fish.

The Iridium GO is our satellite modum used to text, and send & receive email with our computers. So it was essential I repair the antenna. For that repair, I have heaps of a general repair kit no yacht should leave the dock without: duct tape. I taped the cover back on and it works great. Once in Fiji, I may look to make a more permanent fix by using underwater epoxy putty to glue the cover on.

With the boat essentially well again, there is a good chance we will leave for Fiji tomorrow. Virtually all the boats here are of the same mind. We'll wait for a final weather report tomorrow morning just to confirm no negative change.

Now I'm going to catch up on all the sleep I lost last night. Cheers, John


Fri May 24 11:03 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

1000 hrs 24 May 2019. Throughout yesterday winds were E 26-29 kts. Around 1800 hrs they piped up to sustained 30-34 kts for more than an hour. Then back down to an average of 28 kts throughout the rest of the night. This morning we awoke to (relatively) balmy 22-24 kts. Weather forecast has winds slowly coming down over next couple of days. According to this morning's Gulf Harbour Radio forecast, Sunday may be a do-able time to sail to Fiji. We're keeping an eye on this.

Yesterday afternoon we had another 2 arrivals; one yacht, and a Tongan navy vessel - which could very well be the entire Tongan navy. Interestingly, both left this morning. I could almost understand the navy vessel leaving. But the yacht? It turned out it had arrived from Tonga, stopped here overnight, and is going to S. Minerva today for a few days, and then on to New Zealand. That's right, going the wrong way for this time of year. Glad I'm not on that boat. Had the inaugural N. Minerva Reef cruisers net this morning. It turned out to be very informative. Got some good info on a couple of navigation apps I've never heard of. As soon as we get to Fiiji, and internet, we're going to download them. For our cruiser readers, they are: OVITALMAP, and Atlas of Fiji for Mariners. The former is world-wide cover, and the latter only Fiji. They come highly recommended and endorsed by several members of the NMRCN. What more authoritative source than the NMRCN is there? One other app mentioned was Orbit. It tracks in real time the position of the Iridium Go satellites relative to your location, so you know when they are overhead. That can be valuable to know so you can maximise download effectiveness of your IG.

One yachty on the net asked if anyone wanted to dive the pass today. Another noted in these conditions, and the fact throughout the day the tide is going out, if they dived, they'd probably end up in New Caledonia. I believe there was a re-think on diving the pass.

That's it for today. Stay tuned for further adventures at N. Minerva Reef. Cheers, John


Thu May 23 11:21 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

1030 23 May 2019. The dominant issue continues to be weather. Whether and when the weather will moderate. Since yesterday and up to now, and what looks to continue through tomorrow we have 25-29 kts E winds. Has gusted to 33 kts. During low tide, when the reef is exposed and blocks the incoming surf and surge, the boat sits comfortably still, only sailling around on the anchor chain because of the wind. High tide is a different matter. The water surges over the reef causing very choppy conditions and the boat bobs, sways, jolts, and rocks around as if at sea. After 3 days of these conditions, we are used to it. Forecasts don't show much of a break in the weather until after the weekend. I guess there are worse places to be. Give me a moment and I'll come up with a few.

Since yesterday, our community has grown by 4, to a total of 23 yachts. The 3 who came in yesterday and 1 today all got thrashings in the horrible weather conditions. They would have all left 2 - 3 days after we did. At that time the weather forecasts would all have shown conditions to be unfavourable to depart NZ. One has to wonder whether the yachts were actually watching the weather. We know of one more yacht trying to make Minerva. Yesterday at 1600 hrs it was 180 nm S of us and taking a beating. We have been told conditiions were so bad the yacht hove-to (meaning it stopped its progress and is essentially drifting). It's a heavy weather technique to wait out storms at sea, give the crew a rest, and minimise possibility of boat damage. Unfortunately conditions will not be improving until after tomorrow. I really feel sorry for them. As we who go to sea all know, but for the grace of Neptune, there goes us.

Tomorrow one of the yachts is starting the N. Minerva Cruiser's Net. Cruiser's radio nets are popular in many places where yachties congregate. The moderator gives weather, social, and any other kind of announcements that would be of interest to the yachts. On some nets, there is a "buy-sell-trade" section. Leilani realised she hard boiled all our eggs. Now she wishes she had saved a few raw ones to make a cake or brownies. So tomorrow she is going to offer to trade hard boiled eggs for raw ones, but only if they will deliver. I'm hoping to find out where the lobsters are hiding.

Again, with no opportunity to get off the boat, it's reading, movies, and nappiing on our crowded agenda. Cheers John


Wed May 22 9:09 2019 NZST
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

0830 22 May 2019. Last night can be described in one word: wild. Throughout yesterday winds were SE 18-20kts. Looking back now that was downright calm. Last night sometime before midnight winds went E and blasted up to 30-32kts. The boat rocked and rolled as if still at sea. Wait a minute. We are at sea. With the sun this morning the winds have come down a bit to 25-26 kts. Latest weather report has it this way for next two days. Doesn't look like anyone is leaving until early next week. The weather was so wild last night, and the water in the lagoon so choppy, this morning I found a flying fish on the deck. The first and only one this season to gasp its last breath on our boat. Amazing. We sail 840 miles without one landing on the deck. And then at anchor one jumps aboard. Or maybe it was blown aboard. Another amazing fact, we sailed 840 miles without any water coming onto the deck. Last night the deck became awash with spray from the winds blowing water horizontally across the boat. With everything wet on deck, tt looks like we sailed through a storm.

I'm always amused, intrigued, or downright mystified by names people give their vessels. Today I heard one that has become a favourite. It belongs to a yellow catamaran here named, Banana Split. It makes me chuckle just saying it. I love it. She's owned by a Frenchman who has cruised on her for 45 years. That is not a misprint. He says his girlfriend of 40 years doesn't like doing passages. So she flies home to Paris and returns when he gets to a port. Maybe that's why their relationship has lasted so long. Banana Split - chuckle, chuckle. No reef walking today. Looks like another movie day, some reading, and of course, keeping up my napping muscle memory training. Cheers John


Tue May 21 14:39 2019 NZST
23 38.617S 178 53.599W

1100 hrs 21 May 2019. Second day in Minerva. Our little community has grown to 19 yachts, all snugly bobbing in wavelets washing over the reef in 20kts of E breeze. Actually it's quite comfortable. Our boat is moving just enough to remind us we are anchored in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. We've tossed around more at our marina berth. The only down side today is it's clouded over so the weather is a bit dour with no sun. But as the saying goes, the worst day anchored in the middle of the ocean is better than the best day at the office. Of course, that onlyl applies until the worst day actually shows up. Speaking of which, the weather looks like it will keep us here through the weekend. The tropical depression persists in milling around N of Fiji. Weather models differ as to its future track. One shows the TD moving eastward and thus missing our vicinity. Another shows it moving more southward coming close to us. At least forecasters are not as bad as politicians. Forecasters sometimes actually agree.

Because of brisk weather and bumpy sea, no one is putting their dingy in the water to go ashore to play. We've been watching movies, and doing a bit of reading. Later this afternoon, I might attempt the ever popular activity of napping. If I don't keep up with that regularly, I lose muscle memory. Cheers John


Mon May 20 12:51 2019 NZST
Run: 77.2nm (139.7km)
Avg: 4.9knts
24hr: 118.8nm
23 38.617s 178 53.599w

Welcome to Minerva Reef. Remember from a post or two and a couple of hundred miles ago wherein I said I wanted to control boat speed so we would arrive at the pass as close to sunrise as possible? Well, we sailed right up to the entrance at 0700 just as the sun broke the horizon. Am I good, or what? Had a beautiful full moon night of sailing with 12-14 kt winds on the beam. As we turned up 30 degrees to head toward the pass, the wind magnamously backed 30 degrees so we could keep our beam reach. Yes, I guess I am good. This is our third trip to Minerva, I guess that makes us Minerva Reef veterans. The weather today was another perfect S. Pacific day of clear blue skies, just as clear blue water, balmy 13 kts wind, and comfortable anchorage. Comfortable for now, at least, until the bad weather hits, if it does. There are 13 boats here so far, but believe more are on the way. With a 2.5 x 3 mile lagoon, there is plenty of room for everyone. After 6 days at sea, we're enjoying our first day of true rest and relaxation without contorting our muscles with isometric energy to get around the vessel. We can actually walk the length of the boat without holding onto something. It's the little things that making landfall enjoyable; even if landfall is a reefed lagoon in the middle of the ocean with no land for hundreds of miles.

Speaking of bad weather, the latest from Gulf Harbour Radio is the tropical depression is still hanging out, but no one knows quite for sure where it will head. GHR suggests to stay in Minerva until further notice. Could be a couple of days, or week. That's cruising.

I know you all are waitiing with anxious anticipation for our trip statistics. So here they are: Arrived at Minerva Reef pass at 0700 hrs.

Anchor down 0830 (with 100 mtr of chain - we don't intend to drag in big winds) Total trip miles - 829 nm Total trip time - 142.5 hours (5 days, 22.5 hrs) Average speed - 5.8 kts (would have been higher except we had to moderate speed for arrival time.

Total engine run time - 42.5 hrs Dolphine sightings - 0 Flying fish sightings - 2 Now's time to catch up on all that lost sleep. Cheers John & Leilani


Sounds fabulous! Looking forward to hearing more.
Sun May 19 21:15 2019 NZST
Run: 74.5nm (134.8km)
Avg: 5.3knts
24hr: 127.3nm
24 32.700s 179 36.913w
Weather: 1815hrs 19 May 2019. Wind SE 12-14kts. Swell SSE 2 mtr. Cloud cover 30% cumulus. Baro 1016 steady. COG 026T SOG 6 kts.

This is last post until after we are anchored in North Minerva Reef tomorrow. Today was another superlative sailing day. Beam reaching in 12-14 kts wind, with boat speed consistently in 6-7 range, and even going into 8 kts. AG glided through the water like a curling stone over ice. It's going to be hard giving up that for sitting out a possible gale in Minerva. Latest weather reports are not encouraging. The tropical depression is still above Fiji and moving S slowly. Over next 72 hrs it could go SE and come close to Minerva. I'm sure I speak for everyone out here when I say I hope the weather people get this forecast wrong like they do so many others. I don't relish sitting in Minerva for several days in strong winds.

The more observant of you will notice a couple of things about our current position. First, we are above 25s latitude, so officially in tradewind territory. Second, we crossed the date line and are now in W longitude. Minerva is just over the line. Since we don't plan to be here long, we're not changing our calendar. We'll just pretend it's yesterday. Or is it tomorrow? Who knows, and who cares when you're sailing the salty seas.

With that, I'm going to catch some sleep until it's my turn on watch. Cheers John & Leilani


Sun May 19 7:12 2019 NZST
Run: 82.5nm (149.3km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 157.1nm
25 30.819s 179 51.692e
Weather: 0630 hrs 19 May 2019. Wind SE 8-10 kts. Swell SE 1.5 mts. Cloud cover 0% overhead, but cumulus on eastern horizon, and cumulus & cirroculumus on western horizon. Baro 1016 steady. COG 026T SOG 5.5 kts.

Last night was a bit bumpy as the wind for the first time this trip was forward of the beam. Early this morning the wind has gone more SE and dropped in speed considerably, though it is now again on the beam or slightly aft. Last evening yacht Atla was nearby, but has disappeared off AIS. She said she was headed for Minerva. This morning yacht Rebel has appeared. Haven't spoken with her yet, but she is on a course to Minerva. From radio contact we know Exocit Strike, Loupan, and Mi Corazon are just over the horizon out of AIS range also headed for Minerva. There is a considerable armada converging on Minerva over next 24+ hours. As I'm writing, a cargo ship is passing well astern headed for Brisbane, Australia (I say Australia for benefit of my geographically impaired US readers). Vessel-wise, it's been quite active. In fact, I can't remember another trip where we have seen so many other yachts. It's almost like rush-hour traffic out here. Our speed is down considerably in order to time our arrival at Minerva tomorrow morning after sunrise. That will be our main job throughout the next 24 hrs. Okay, time to get some sleep. Cheers John & Leilani


Sat May 18 18:36 2019 NZST
Run: 75.4nm (136.5km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 156.7nm
26 35.005s 179 16.422e
Weather: 1800 hrs 18 May 2019. Although these are current conditions, they prevailed throughout the day. Wind SE 12-14kts. Swell SE 2mtr. Cloud cover 0%. Baro 1017 steady. COG 026T. SOG 6 kts.

I know you are getting tired of me saying what perfect sailing conditions we are having. So I won't. Okay, I lied. Today was another perfect day of S. Pacific sailing we all dream about. Perfect 12-14 kts wind on the beam. Swells on the stern quarter. No water over the rails. Spent the day lying in the cockpit enjoying the sun licking me all over with warm rays greatly iimproving my tropical suntan. All couldn't be better.

But . . . There's always a but in the toilet.

The but in this case is a developing tropical depression over Fiji. TD's are storm ratings just below Cat 1 cyclones. It's predicted to move SE over eastern Fiji on Monday, and continue a SE track that will probably affect Minerva Reef. Predicted packing 30+ kt winds, and big seas. I feel like George Clooney approaching the perfect storm. There are a number of boats, I've heard up to 20, which are headed to Minerva to ride out the storm. That's where we're going. Our ETA is Monday morning. In fact much of today's perfect sailing was trying to keep the boat speed down so we don't arrive before sun-up. Will keep you informed as situation develops.

I want to take this opportunity to thank David & Patricia who run Gulf Harbour Radio. David is a retired meteorologist, and they have sailed around the world on their own yacht. They are well known and respected throughout the cruising community. They broadcast every morning M-F between 1 May and 30 November (the cruising season) giving highly informative weather forecasts. Yachties listen in with rapt attention to get the latest forecast to help them make sailing decisions. Because of the impending TD, David has graciously sent out forecasts via email today and will do so tomorrow (their usual off days). While there's nothing we can about the weather, it is nonetheless immensely helpful to know what is coming. By combining what David publishes with looking at our own weather charts we download, can make better informed decisions about how to best meet different weather conditions. Thank you, David & Patricia.

Cheers John & Leilani Cheers John & Leilani


Sat May 18 7:03 2019 NZST
Run: 86.4nm (156.4km)
Avg: 6.4knts
24hr: 152.5nm
27 33.650s 178 43.668e
Weather: 0650 hrs 18 May 2019. Wind SE 12-14 kts. Swell ESE 1 mtr. Cloud cover 90% overcast with intermittent drizzle. COG 030T. SOG 6 kts. Will be slowing down over the day to time arrival at Minerva after sunrise.

Finally cut the engine last night at 2300 after 23 hrs. The quiet has been nice. Had a calm, gentle sail throughout the night with 7-9kts SE winds on a broad reach, and no seas. Wind has come up this morning - see above weather section. Will time our arrival at Minerva as soon after sunrise as possible. Yacht Meerbaer has been sailing with us all last night, but is falling farther behind this morning. Probably headed for Minerva lke all the other yachts out here to avoid that nasty storm over Fiji on Monday / Tuesday. Will be iinteresting to see how may yachts actually turn up. Time to get some sleep. We do more sleeping in the day than at night because we keep a slightly looser watch during the day. Will be good to get to Minerva so I can catch up on all the missed and interrupted sleep since leaviing NZ. Cheers. John & Leilani


Fri May 17 17:27 2019 NZST
Run: 4032nm (7297.9km)
Avg: 341.7knts
24hr: 8200.7nm
28 40.237s 178 04.585e
Weather: 1700 hrs 17 May 2019. Wind S 12-14kts. Swell S 2.5mts. Cloud cover 30% cumulus. Baro 1016 steady. COG 027T. SOG 5.8 kts

Our fantastic sailing ended last night at 2400. Been motoring since. A combination of too light wind for a while, but mostly today the wind began to move from SW to S where it has stayed. That puts the wind directly behind us, making it as difficult to sail as if the wind was directly in front of us. Waiting for the wind to move more SE which should happen late tonight, early tomorrow morning. Then we can sail all the way into Minerva Reef which we anticipate reaching on Monday morning before lunch. As I mentioned in last post, there is very ugly depression scheduled to hit Fiji on Monday or Tuesday. One could call it a mini cyclone. We'll wait for that to pass before heading to Fiji.

Wild life observed: Dolphins - 0 Flying fish - 0 Ocean birds - 4 (we're 480 miles from NZ!!) Cheers John & Leilani


Fri May 17 5:39 2019 NZST
Run: 4176.2nm (7558.9km)
Avg: 339.5knts
24hr: 8148.7nm
29 39.875e 177 28.312e
Weather: 0515 17 May 2019. Wind SW 7-9kts, swell SW

0515 17 May 2019. Wind dropped off last night so at 2400 hrs the engine went on. Just turned it off, but wind not really up enough. So the engine will go back on when I finish this post. Weather-wise, it was another glorious, clear, starry, moon-lite night. Speaking of weather, there is an ugly depression forecast to hit Fiji the day before, or day of, our arrival. So we made a command decision to head for Minerva and wait it out. We expect to arrive Minerva Monday morning (after sun-up). That's after having to slow down because if we went usual 6kts average speed, we'd arrive around 0200 Monday morning. Speaking of speed, up to now we have been averaging better than 6kts, and had our best last 24 hours of 154nm. Oh, I almost forgot. I am reintroducing a feature of my posts from our last trip. Counting the number of dolphins and flying fish spotted. Unfortunately, the numbers have not improved. So far, the counts are: Dolphins - 0 Fyling fish - 1. PS. None have landed on our deck in these past 413 miles.

One other thing that has not landed on our deck is water. That's right, we have taken absolutely no wave water on deck. Just shows the magnificent sailing conditions we've had.

Cheers John & Leilani


Thu May 16 17:21 2019 NZST
Run: 90.3nm (163.4km)
Avg: 7.7knts
24hr: 183.7nm
30 45.423s 176 56.198e
Weather: 1700 hrs 16 May 2019. Wind W 12-15kts, swell SW 2mtr, cloud cover 20% and clear, baro 1015 falling steadly throughout day, SOG 6kt, COG 015T.

Another great sailing day. Still trying to decide whether to stop at Minerva Reef, or carry on to Savusavu. Getting reports of some dicey weather in Fiji around time we would arrive if we carry on. Will give it another day of analysing weather reports before making final decision. This morning we encountered a cargo ship headed our way. The captain kindly altered course so as not run us down and passed safely port-to-port. The catamaran Mi Corazon passed us about the same time as the cargo ship headed to Minerva. That about encompasses all the news today. Cheers John & Leilani.


Thu May 16 5:33 2019 NZST
Run: 86.5nm (156.6km)
Avg: 7.2knts
24hr: 173.7nm
31 57.170s 176 19.243e
Weather: 0500 16 May 2019. Wind W 14-16kts. Swell SW 1.5 mtr. Cloud cover 5%. Baro 1017. COG 025T. SOG 6kt

Enjoying some of the best sailing ever. Winds first half of night up to midnight were gentle 9-12 kts. Since midnight they have increased to 14-16kts, Direction perfect at about 100-110 degrees. We averaged 6.25 kts for past 12 hours with speed high 6kts into the 7's steady. For us that is great consistent speed. Really putting the miles under the keel. Seas are gentle from our stern. Boat movement is miinimal. Bright moon all night. Since setting about an hour ago, the stars are out sprinkling the sky like fairy dust. Let's hope it continues. Cheers John & Leilani.


Wed May 15 17:36 2019 NZST
Run: 78.5nm (142.1km)
Avg: 6.5knts
24hr: 155.1nm
33 08.379s 175 51.008e

1700 hrs 15 May 2019. Today has seen a continuation of very benign sailing conditions. Light SW winds 8-12 kts. Highest we saw was 15 kts. Long period rolling SW swell of 1.5 - 2 mtrs. With wiind and swell behind us, we haven't taken any water on deck. We're averaging about 5.8 kts speed, which, considering the light conditions, that's not bad for our heavy vessel. Sun out all day, but still too cold to disrobe enough to work on my tan. All I can say is I hope Neptune continues to grace us with his kindness.

Saw another yacht this afternoon - "Takata" which left from Opua yesterday. It's headed for Minerva Reef.

Leilani's got dinner ready, so will sign off now. Stay tuned tomorrow.

Cheers John


Wed May 15 5:27 2019 NZST
Run: 74.2nm (134.3km)
Avg: 7.1knts
24hr: 170.4nm
34 15.532s 175 37.362e
Weather: 0500 hrs 15 May 2019. Wind SW 8 - 15kts. SW swell 1 - 1.5 mtr. 100% cloud cover. Baro 1010. SOG averaging 6 kts. COG 003T.

0500 hrs. Been sailing since 0215. Boat movement much nicer - not so rolly. Winds have been up and down between 8 & 15 kts SW, but boat speed has averaging 6.1 kts since leaving yesterday. Sleep deprevation already setting in. We're doing 3-hr watches through the night. At my age I miss 10-12 uninterrupted hours sleep. Only 7-8 more nights until I get those kind of hours again. Although I'll be catching up during the day when we do much more relaxed watches. Only 1 more hour until my watch is over. Looking forward to jumping into a nice warm bunk. Cheers John


Tue May 14 19:00 2019 NZST
Run: 54.2nm (98.1km)
Avg: 5.7knts
24hr: 136.7nm
35 14.477s 175 05.737e
Weather: 1830 hrs. nil wind. 1-1.5mtr NE swell. 0% cloud cover. 1002 baro. COG 031T. SOG 6kts

It's 1830, and been at sea 8.5 hrs, motoring the whole time in nil wind. Sea a bit rolly. Weather chart shows motoring through tomorrow morning, with wind to fill in by lunch time. It'll be nice to turn off the motor in exchange for the sound of sea and wind. Nights should be bright with the moon waxing to full in a couple of days. Due to the benign weather start, neither of us are seasick, and feel pretty rested. Speaking of rested, I'm off watch so I better get some sleep before going on watch at 2100. Cheers John & Leilani


Tue May 14 9:28 2019 NZST
35 50.199S 174 28.089E

Farewell NZ. We just checked out with customs. As soon as I send this post, we will be untying from the dock, and head for Fiji. Weather has come down from 25-30kts last night to 0 this morning. Makes for nice motoring so we can get our sea legs again. Cheers John & Leilani


Mon May 13 10:29 2019 NZST
35 50.199S 174 28.089E

Weather window finally. Jumping off tomorrow, 14 May, headed for Savusavu, Fiji. Usual trepidation before any ocean crossing, including whether the weather will actually be as good as forecast; will all boat systems continue working throughout the trip; how seasick will we get; will my tan be filled in by time we arrive. Forecast for first 24 hrs is motoring. That always makes it easier to get used to being at sea. Then, hopefully, comfortable winds from the southern quadrant as we head north. Wouldn't know it from the big storm that came through last night where winds in the marina regularly hit 30kts, with gusts to 40. The storm front continues its march across NZ today. Even in 25-30kt winds now prevailing, there are some hardy souls (using as polite term as possible) still going to brave the conditions by leaving today. Stay tuned as I will be posting regularly throughout the voyage, when I'm not working on my tan.

Cheers, John & Leilani


Thu May 9 10:21 2019 NZST
35 50.199s 174 28.089e

Yesterday (8 May) filed a post which I understand some of you may not have received. Se here it is again.

We officially began our trek northward today (8 May), leaving Gulf Harbour and checking into Marsden Cove Marina, about 60nm away. The purpose is to be ready to leave at moments notice when the next weather window opens. For those who don't know, Marsden is an official checkout port from which to leave NZ. There is some indication that a window may open on Monday or Tuesday. If so, we're now poised to jump off. Will keep you apprised when we actually leave. Cheers, John & Leilani


Wed May 8 17:18 2019 NZST
Run: 57.2nm (103.5km)
35 50.199S 174 28.089E

We officially began our trek northward today (8 May), leaving Gulf Harbour and checking into Marsden Cove Marina, about 60nm away. The purpose is to be ready to leave at moments notice when the next weather window opens. For those who don't know, Marsden is an official checkout port from which to leave NZ. There is some indication that a window may open on Monday or Tuesday. If so, we're now poised to jump off. Will keep you apprised when we actually leave. Cheers, John & Leilani


Fri May 3 8:42 2019 NZST
36 37.397S 174 47.298E

3 May 2019. Greetings. We have reactivated our iridium satellite system in preparation of departing for Fiji. This email is a test that all is working. If you're so inclined, you can send my an email at following address acknowledging receipt of this one: johnhimmelmann@yahoo.com We're sitting in Gulf Harbour Marina, our home marina, waiting for a weather window. Next week doesn't look good, so hoping for following week. Once we leave, we'll start regular posts of our progress.

Cheers John


Amazing Grace - Amazing Grace - 621 Jun 2019

6 June 2019. 0730 hrs. This begins our 4th day in Savusavu. Got the wind generator fixed by installing 3 new blades. Yesterday refueled with diesel. Still waiting to get our laundry done. Big backup of cruisers with 2-3 weeks of dirty, salty clothes awaiting a run through the washing machine at the Copra Shed Marina. At this rate, the laundry lady can retire soon to a nice apartment overlooking Monaco. While it's still a long way out, mid next week looks like a potential weather window Read more...

to make the Falaga run. Us and a swarm of others. With all the boats saying they plan to visit, I give the place another year at most before it's overrun, and the character and serenity will be lost. I remember first visiting Savusavu in 1995. There were 3 boats here, one was us. Now 50 or more boats can be here at any given time. A couple of years ago, I counted almost 100 before I lost sight of them down the creek. I guess that's progress. And a new super yacht marina is being built here. In a few years Savusavu will have all the character of Denerau - if you think McDonalds brings character to a location. Right now we're enjoying Savusavu like in years past. Sototale (see you later), John

Amazing Grace - Amazing Grace - 403 Jun 2019

  4 June 2019.  This is a test of a new feature on YIT - Blog.  Thank you.

Amazing Grace - Awaiting good weather

At Gulf Harbou Marina; watching weather.

Amazing Grace, Tashiba 40