Sun Aug 18 14:33 2019 NZST
GPS: 20 14.2992S 169 46.6614E

Position report sent via Iridium GO

Sat Aug 10 15:01 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 18.5S 177 17.3E
Run: 26.6nm (48.1km)
Avg: 159.9knts
24hr: 3836.8nm
Weather: Dam Hot; no wind and sunny

Exploring Western Fiji and Reflections of the Country

We are just about at the end of the Fijian leg of the rally. Our delivery crew, Paula and Bill arrive this afternoon in time to watch the Bledisloe Cup at the Pirate Bar in Vuda Marina, attend the Skipper’s briefing on Sunday and then we set sail on Monday for Vanuatu.

We’ve had Tracy and Aileen with us all week and we’ve explored some of the western isles (Mamanuca’s and Yasawa’s) starting off with Monuriki which was the place where Tony Hanks was marooned in the movie Castaway. Needless to say, we found Wilson and the “HELP ME” sign. Then it was a rollie night at Navandra and then onto Waya. We had some excellent snorkeling at Octopus Resort before moving onto a small village called Yalobi. We did Sevusevu with the 78-year-old chief Tom before visiting the boarding school that serviced the whole island. The boys were playing a game not dissimilar to Marbles, but they were using bubblegum papers instead. There seemed to be over 150 papers between them, so they must consume a hell of a lot of bubblegum!! Finally, it was back to Vuda Marina to start preparation for the ocean passage. There was no wind and dead calm, glassy conditions, so we stopped the boat in 41m of majestic sea and sent the girls in for their last Fijian swim.

The six weeks we’ve spent in Fiji have been fantastic. The people have been so friendly; everyone says Bula (welcome) to you everywhere you go. There used to be tension between the native Fijians and Indian populations resulting in a military coup in 2006, but since the current government has been in power there is now “just one Fiji” as our muslim taxi driver told us going into the mainly Indian town of Lautoka. Tourism and the yacht industry in particular are very important to the Fijian economy, so we’ve been welcomed everywhere we’ve been, but with a genuine warmth you don’t see in other countries. The remote islands, especially in the Lau Group are unspoiled and the generosity of the Host families who look after you throughout your stay with them has been quite touching. The sevusevu process of giving a gift of Kava (Fiji’s unique drink) in exchange for being able to anchor in their bay and visit their island really personifies the whole Fijian cultural experience.

The resorts have been fun, and we’ve allowed ourselves a few little luxuries (spa’s, cocktails, swimming pools), but it’s been the people that have made our time in Fiji so memorable.

And so, it’s onto Vanuatu and whole new experience awaits us. Nickie’s kids are joining us, and we’re going to be climbing some volcanoes. Let the adventure continue

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Mon Aug 5 8:52 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 46.1S 177 11.6E
Run: 0.3nm (0.5km)
Avg: 18.3knts
24hr: 439.3nm
Weather: Overcast SE kt

Its Resort Time

The Yasawa’s is in the lee of the main island (Viti Levu) and is protected from the prevailing SE trade winds. Unfortunately, what goes down must come up; the beautiful sail down the islands meant we had the head back straight into the 20kt SE and short choppy waves. We had intended to make Musket Cove, but after 10 hours and only doing 35nm, we had to put into Vuda Marina again before it got dark (my least favorite passage of the tour).

Serendipity is a wonderful thing; we’ve been having trouble with our house batteries not holding charge. The worst thing was that we’d wake up in the morning and the freezer would be starting to thaw out, so something had to be done. We’d ordered 6 new batteries from New Zealand (through the company that Nickie’s son works for) and scheduled them to be shipped a week before we were supposed to be in Vuda. Remarkably as I sat on the dock looking at some soggy frozen peas, there was a toot toot and a van turned up and delivered the new batteries right to the boat. How good was that.

So, with the new batteries onboard we set sail for Musket Cove and a rendezvous with the girls. Mololo Island has a number of resorts and is home of the biggest sailing regatta in the South Pacific – Musket Cove Race Week (which is preceded by the Auckland to Fiji Ocean race). We arrived at dead low water springs which meant at least we could see all the reefs but made the navigation a bit tight. We dinghied into the resort in time to meet the ferry which Tracy and Aileen were on; they’d already had a champagne breakfast in Denerau and were in the mood to party, so we spent the rest of the day around the pool with cocktails.

It’s been great to stop in one place for a few days and just relax. Tracy and Aileen both brought boat spares, so I’ve installed the new batteries, repaired the Wind Generator and replaced the Alternator belt, so the boat is fully operational again.

We’ve still got a couple days in Musket Cove before doing the Mamanuca islands. The Rally BBQ went off well at the Beach Bar in the resort; we played a game called Kubbs which is a variation of skittles, but with ‘boys v girls’, it turned out to be quite competitive.

We’re off to a place called ‘Cloud9’ today; it’s a floating bar on the outer reef serving beer and pizzas which should be a lot of fun with the girls and then eventually onto Vuda Marina for our Vanuatu departure next week.

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Tue Jul 30 11:49 2019 NZST
GPS: 16 56.7S 177 22.0E
Weather: ESE 5kt overcast

The other side of Fiji – in more ways than one

Since my last post we’ve done a lot of miles and seen the character of Fiji change as we’ve moved further west. We had a pleasant day sail across to Beqa, the home of the famous fire walkers. They perform once a week, and we got there 2 hours after their performance, so missed out unfortunately. We decided to cut our losses and head west; the choice was a night sail to cross the Navula pass in the early morning, or a day sail and stop at an anchorage somewhere on mainland’s Coral Coast. The crew opted for the latter, so we found safe looking bay and pulled in with our 2 rally companions, only to find it was the Shangri-La Fijian (5 star) resort complete with inflatable waterslides in the lagoon. A dinner ashore was in order and then onto Vuda Marina the next day in light winds.

The west coast is on the lee side of Fiji, so offers protected waters and many islands ideal for charter sailing, and resort style holidays easily accessible from Nadi International airport. It’s a 5-star paradise with lots of options and so many people. A complete difference to the Lau Group.

We spent 2 nights in Vuda Marina to sit out a passing rain depression, watch the All Blacks v South Africa in the Pirate Bar and visit the markets in Latouka (Fiji’s 2nd largest city) to re-provision, then it was onto the Yasawa islands.

The Yasawa’s are a chain of islands containing lots of resorts catering from Backpackers to 6-star exclusive retreats. The first night we anchored next to one of my dream boats, a Gunboat 60 Catamaran, the next night in Blue Lagoon (where the Brooke Shields movie was shot) we were next to The Beast (Michael Hill’s (of jewelry fame)) 39m Superyacht which you can charter for USD275K p.w.

We’ve had mixed luck with the fishing. We’ve hooked 2 Mahi-Mahi, the most amazing of game fish which are all colors of the rainbow, and great fighters. Both we managed to loss (one 5m from the boat) due to some rookie errors of the captain. Nickie did however redeem the boat with a small tuna and a fantastic Walu (Spanish Mackerel) which was delicious.

Friday sees the arrival of a couple of good friends who will sail with us for a week, starting with a Rally party at Musket Cove. Let the adventures continue.

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Mon Jul 22 12:43 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 00.5S 178 09.5E
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: Overcast ESE 10kt

Survivors and Manta Rays

So, we’ve left beautiful Matuku and embarked upon another short (75nm) night passage to the Astrolabes/Kadavu area. Conditions were much calmer this time and much more to the crews liking. We entered at the northern end and did Sevusevu at Dravuni island. It was quite a contrast to where we’d come from, as the villagers just took the kava and said you can walk on our beach and those 3 small islands over there, see you later!! No host family, no friendly welcome.

We didn’t stay and moved south to next island which had a 6-star resort on it which was supposedly yachtie friendly. Unfortunately it was full with reality TV series “Survivor”contestants. They’ve franchised the series to multiple countries so there’s almost a permanent stream of would be survivors shipped onto a sandy island for filming each day and taken back to the resort in the evening!!

We’ve been traveling with 3 other rally boats, Amphitreete, Close Encounters and Willpower and were told we could we could visit Buliya island and swim with the Manta Rays in the afternoon, which we duly did. What an experience; they are so graceful in the water, gliding effortlessly with their 7 foot wing span, filter feeding on tiny jellyfish. Afterwards, a little party was in order; so, after many gins and dance playlists later we retired to bed, only to be rudely awoken early the next morning by the film director asking us the get out of his shot. He couldn’t have the Survivors surrounded by yachties because after all they were supposed to be on a deserted island fending for themselves.

Time to move on again, so we headed to a dive resort (recommended by our sailing guide) on Kadavu managed by a South African ex-military guy called Storm. The owners hadn’t invested any money into the resort for a number of years, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Unfortunately, some of the rally fleet who got there before us had drunk all the beer, so a trip to the local town was in order, not only to restock the bar, but also our boat as well. The diving however was what we’d come for. The outer reef had a drop off to many hundreds of metres with hard corals, swim throughs and myriad of topic fish. It had been a while since I’d dived, so the experience was well worth it.

With light wind weather window tomorrow, it’s onto Beqa and the firewalkers.

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Mon Jul 15 11:34 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 09.1S 179 45.1E
Run: 0.7nm (1.3km)
Avg: 4.2knts
24hr: 101nm
Weather: E 16kt a little rain

Back in Eastern Longitudes

Fiji straddles the line of 180 degrees on Longitude, the opposite place on earth to Greenwich in the UK where Longitude was accurately measured by the British Navy. We left Fulanga at 178W and arrived Matuku 179E after a night crossing of 109nm (trivial factor #1 – 1nm is defined as 1 minute of Latitude). The international dateline roughly follows 180 degrees of Longitude, but skirts around islands, so all of Fiji is in the same timezone as New Zealand despite being in both East and West Longitudes. (Trivial factor #2 – American Samoa and Western Samoa are only 50nm apart but are 24 hours apart because the American’s wanted to be on the same timezone as Hawaii).

The reason we’ve been doing night crossings is so we can arrive at our destination in daylight and able to spot the coral reefs. We are now trade wind sailing (the prevailing winds come from the South East in the South Pacific) which is why we started in Tonga and are working our way westward (Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia). This meant a broad reach (15-20kts) with following seas (2.5m) which I called champagne sailing for a catamaran; Nickie thought it was more Lindauer sailing (a cheap NZ fizzy imitation) as we rocked and surfed down the waves much to her discomfort.

The reward however was to arrive with just one other rally boat at amazing Matuku. A high mountained volcanic island where the crater exposed to the sea on the western side making a beautiful sheltered harbor. The coral had grown over the approaches, so whilst the channel was over 60m deep, it was just 1m if you strayed to the left or right. We did sevusevu at the village of Lomati with only 47 inhabitants; both boats were assigned a host family and it was agreed to show us the sights in the morning.

Matuku is one of the few outer islands which is capable of growing Kava (due the rich volcanic soils) and it provides the villagers with their main source of income (much like carving does for Falunga). It takes at least 3 years for the plant to mature and we had arrived in the week that the new crop was being planted. They get up every morning for 5 days at 4am to pray (and sing) for a potent crop (some of the strongest in Fiji) as well as abstaining from drinking over that period. We were taking to the Kava fields, half way up the side of the 1000ft mountain, before climbing it to ‘see the nice view’. Apparently, it’s a bit of a rite of passage for visiting yachties.

Nickie and I can attest that Teva’s not suitable footwear for scrambling up near vertical topic jungle when it had rainy heavily the night before. There is a ‘visitor’s book’ at the top which you can sign if you make it, but just like Everest, there is a “Hillary’s step’ just 10m from the summit with shear drops on both sides. My guide from our host family turned to me at the step and told me the pen he’d brought with him for me to sign the book had fallen out of his pocket on the way up, so I took some nice pictures of Libertalia below in the bay, and left the final assault for another visit.

Our host family were incredibly generous; they provided us with local produce including coconuts, papaya, cacao (chocolate), bananas and oranges, as well as a home cooked meal of fish curry, chicken and stuffed taro leaves – delicious. We reciprocated with Macaroni cheese and sum tum salad (made with the local green papayas). A fabulous and most unexpected stop over.

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Tue Jul 9 11:21 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 08.5S 178 33.0W
Run: 1.2nm (2.2km)
Weather: ESE 12 kt, overcast

The magic and remoteness of the Lau Group

The great thing about being able to do customs clearance at Vanua Balavu (uniquely organized by the Rally administration) is that the rest of the Lau Group is at your fingertips, rather than having to go to the nearest customs port of Savusavu and then beat back against the tradewinds.

We decided to go to the southernmost island first and work our way back up; this meant an overnight passage of 130nm on a close reach resulting in a bumpy crossing in a 13-18kt breeze. This was Nickie’s first night passage on Libertalia and her first solo watch for 23 years (having done it previously in the Caribbean). We did a 3-hours on, 3-hours off rotation and had all the waypoints plugged into the chartplotter; 4 other rally boats did the journey with us, and we could see their navigation lights throughout the night to keep us company. A great shakedown with the crew performing admirably.

Fulanga is a volcanic atoll 4nm wide with 50m cliffs around its rim and a beautiful lagoon inside with lots of mushroom islets (the tide undercuts the islets between the high and low water marks). The only difficulty is the entrance; it’s a 450m long, channel cut into the coral only 50m wide. All the water from the lagoon has to flow through the channel each turn of the tide and slack water occurs half way between high and low tide (delayed due the time it takes for the water to flow in/out). Timing is everything and the reason for the night passage, allowing us to arrive at the pass in daylight at slack tide @ 10am. The waypoints in the cruising guide were spot on and we navigated the pass without incident; not that it stopped us from having a stiff rum once we dropped anchor.

Fulanga is very remote, only getting a supply ship once a month, so they welcome visits from yachties. So much so, that after presently Sevusevu to the chief (explained in a previous blog), each yacht is assigned a ‘host family’ for the duration of their stay. Being Nick and Nickie, Libertalia was assigned Nico and his wife Lucy. They entertained us with some “Royal British Tea” in their home and show us the woodcarvings Nico makes and reed mats Lucy weaves. They have a village collective system where by their woodcarvings and mats are traded for supplies from the mainland via the supply ship. Nico and Lucy have 2 sons studying in Suva and any cash they make goes to their education.

As there were 10 rally boats in Fulanga (the rest of the fleet have scattered all over Fiji, to re-group on the western side at the beginning of August) the village put on feast for us with the customary pig, kava drinking, dancing and singing. What a fantastic cultural experience.

The next day we hosted Nico and Lucy for lunch on Libertalia and cooked them Shepherd’s Pie, followed by tinned Peaches and Yoghurt; all flavors they had never tasted before.

The way of life in the Lau Group is quite unique compared with the rest of Fiji; western Fiji is where all the main stream tourism is located, with 5-star resorts and westernization. It’s been a privilege to sample this way of life and well worth the effort to get here. Now it’s our turn to head westward on the next stage of our adventure.

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Thu Jul 4 15:34 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 10.2S 179 0.9W
Run: 0.3nm (0.5km)
Weather: Intermittent rain E 15 kt

The other Bay of Islands

If you thought the Bay of Islands in New Zealand was special, then you should take a trip to Vanua Balavu. Accessible only by boat, their Bay of Islands has a similar feel to Halong Bay in Vietnam, but the undercut rock formations are volcanic in origin and you can (carefully) navigate your boat into some amazing deep-water locations (see attached photos taken from one of the Rally participants drone). An absolute “Bucket List” place.

It is customary when visiting islands in Fiji to give Sevusevu. This involves making an offering to the chef of the village, which if accepted, will allow you to anchor in his bay. The offering should be Kava (or Yagona as it is known in Fiji); an intoxicating root which has sedative and anesthetic properties. In the olden days, the women of the village chewed the roots and spat them into a collective bowel (Tanoa) where water is added. These days, its ground into a powder form and filtered through hibiscus fibres. Current Yagona prices are USD$200 per kilo and each yacht is expected to offer 0.25kg per island visited.

The Kava ceremony itself involves a strict pecking order (starting with the chef) of clapping (Cobo) and drinking from communal bowel (Bilo); visitors must be appropriately dressed with no knee’s showing and women’s shoulders covered. Once the formal part is over, the exchanging of Talanoa (stories) can occur. A very unique Fijian experience.

The rally had arranged a visit to Susui village, a community of 67 people, which more than doubled with our fleet of 100+. It was a big event for the village, something they’d looked forward to since our last visit in 2017. Sevusevu was performed followed by a dance performance by the local school and then a magnificent feast of breadfruit, cassava, crab, pork, oysters and fish. A great way to end our time in Vanua Balavu.

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Fri Jun 28 8:58 2019 NZST
GPS: 17 11.2S 179 00.0W
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: Rainy SE 20Kt

Bula from Fiji

Another day, another country and another crew. We had a beautiful 2 day (300nm) crossing from VaVa’u to Vanua Balavu; the largest of the islands in the northern Lau Group. Over the centuries the warring tribes of Tonga and Fiji have fought over these islands, but for now it’s Bula from Fiji.

We set off a day ahead of the fleet as we had to meet the once a week flight that was delivering Nickie and whisking Alison home. The trick was to get customs clearance to allow Alison to sign off the boat and make her flight. The only problem was the customs guys were supposedly on the same flight. A classic catch 22. It turned out that customs were already here clearing another rally (called the worldwide ARC), so they were getting an all-expenses paid 2-week holiday in paradise and sorted things out for Alison.

Nickie arrived with her full baggage weight allowance – lots of boat spares, rum and 2 bikinis!! We’ve got 5 weeks to explore the Fijian islands together, before some more friends will join us – time well spent.

First stop was a 3-hour journey up the coast to Bavatu Harbour, a beautiful secluded spot where we climbed to the top of the hill and enjoyed the fantastic views and rainbow showers.

Fiji has a completely different feel to Tonga. The people are much more friendly; a proud race with welcoming smile. They have a wonderful custom called Sevusevu; more on this in future posts.

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Sat Jun 22 15:35 2019 NZST
GPS: 18 39.5S 173 59.0W
Weather: Overcast 10kt SE

Who knew I had a Joker Valve

Today is our last day in Tonga; we set sail for Fiji after breakfast tomorrow. The wind gods have been kind; the forecast is for 15-20kts SE Trade winds on a broad reach which hopefully will allow us to do the 300nm in ~ 48hours. The most important thing is that we arrive in daylight, as we have to go through a narrow coral reef to get into the island of Vanua Balavu at the northern end of the Lau Group. The rule is to approach a reef crossing with the sun behind you, wearing polaroid sunglasses between the hours of 10am and 4pm. That way you can see the coral as the charts in these areas are still the originals that Captain Cook drew up and are not always accurate.

We’ve had ongoing toilet issues on the guest side of the boat, with interesting objects reappearing in the bowl after flushing. The great thing about being part of a rally is that people have vastly different levels of experience and are never short in coming forward with an opinion. Over a quiet sundowner the other night, I explained my problem, as quick as a flash Ray told me it was my Joker valve. I didn’t even know I had a Joker Valve. Apparently, it’s a one-way valve on the outlet of the Head (nautical name for a toilet) which stops all the poo coming back when you pump it out. I rummaged through my box of spares I had purchased from the previous owner of Libertalia and would you believe it, there at the top of the box was a Joker Valve!! A rather messy operation was then undertaken (just before dinner) to swap out the aforementioned Joker Valve, which at the time I didn’t find very funny. I guess that’s where it got its name from; some joker has to change it. Nickie called me later that evening, and upon recounting my afternoon’s exploits, she reminded me of our 3rd meeting in the Caribbean where she visited the St Maarten dock where the boat I was working on was moored, only to find me doing a similar repair, only this time in Speedo’s and Marigold gloves. Nothing changes it seems in the Yachting World.

VaVa’u has been great place to cruise; we had a Tongan feast on the beach with a number of other rally participants and then discovered a floating ‘Fish n Chip and Margarita Bar’ right in the middle of Neiafu harbor – the Canadian who runs it has only been operating 3 weeks but I think every rally member tried him out and Alison’s girls provided a ukulele accompaniment.

The final night is the Rally farewell party at the Mango Café, a bit of an icon in Neiafu. This followed a Rally picnic a few days earlier at Port Maurelle where Andrew got some amazing Drone footage.

And so, onto Fiji; Alison and I will do the 2-day crossing and Nickie will be there to meet us on arrival with another Joker Valve for good measure. You’ll never know when you might need one.

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Wed Jun 19 8:58 2019 NZST
GPS: 18 42.5S 173 59.1W
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: rainy SE 10kt

Birthday on the High Seas

We’ve been in the VaVa’u group of Tongan islands for the last few days, after a beautiful 10 hour, 68nm sail in SE trade winds (15-18kts) from the Ha’apai’s. We were here a couple of years ago to watch the whales, which as an amazing sight. This time, we’re a little early for them, but we did have one breach about 50m in front of the boat when we were doing 8kts, which was a bit of a surprise to say the least.

We picked up Alison’s family (husband Simon, and daughters Sophie (12) and Bella (11)) and have been checking out the sights. The jewel being Swallow Cave; best in the late afternoon as it faces west, you can swim inside a look out into the beautiful clear blue waters and be surrounded by thousands of fish.

It was my birthday yesterday and I was treated to pancakes for breakfast with bananas and Cointeau; not a bad start to the day. There’s a famous Spanish restaurant which we went to last time which I had my eye on for birthday dinner, but unfortunately the owners were on holiday in NZ until the end of the month, so we made do with impromptu birthday drinks on Libertalia. We were moored with 10 other rally boats, so a good time was had by all.

Tonight, we’re off to a Tongan Feast with local host David and his wife; feeding the Yachties is a good income for them and they are always hospitable. We went coconut foraging with them yesterday.

There are a couple more rally events later in the week and then it’s time to say goodbye to Alison’s family and Alison and I to do the 2-day sail across to Fiji where Nickie will be arriving with various spares for the boat. But more on that later

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Fri Jun 14 15:44 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 43.21S 174 17.14W
Weather: Sunny with intermittent showers W 3kt

There’s beer in the Bilge

It’s amazing how thin aluminum beer cans are these days; leave them for a couple of weeks in contact with a little salt water and bingo they erode away and deposit their contents into my bilge!! Oh well, the only thing to do is drink them quicker, I guess.

We’ve continued our island hoping in the Ha’apai’s moving further north. Firstly, we went to Uoleva and had sundowners at the Sea Change Eco Resort. The place had no guests at theh moment but are fully booked from the end of June to October when the Humpback Whales arrive. It’s a pretty short season and Ha’api’s shallower waters make the whale encounters more interactive and less crowded than VaVau.

Then onto the capital Pangai (population 250); not really a metropolis but big enough to get some gas, bananas and organize a taxi for Alex to take him to the airport the following morning (which turned up on time and at the agreed price, well done Tonga). Alex’s last night was at the Ha’api Beach Resort, a place where the rally used to come with an owner who looked like an actor from Australian Underbelly. Pizza’s and beers were a fitting send off for Alex, who flew back to Australia this morning.

Alison and I continued on up the coast to Foa Island where we had some of the best snorkeling yet. The sand was so fine, it floated on the surface tension of the still waters in the lagoon and the fish were amazing.

Tomorrow it’s onto VaVau, a 60nm mile passage to meet up with Alison husband and 2 kids for the week. Onward and upward

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Mon Jun 10 16:09 2019 NZST
GPS: 19 54.4S 174 24.8W
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: Overcast 20kt E

Discovering the Ha’apai Islands

The southernmost island in the Ha’apai is called Nomuka and is 55nm north of Tongatapu, so to ensure we arrived in daylight, we set the alarm for 11pm and motored out of Big Mama’s for a night sail on Friday night. It meant missing the Welcome party (which had been rescheduled to the Saturday), but with Alex having limited time with us we decided to push on. We caught a lovely blue fin tuna just after dawn, which has kept us fed for a couple of days.

From Nomuka we day sailed to a small deserted island called Limu the following day and had the chance to snorkel in the 28-degree beautiful clear surrounding waters. The islands main inhabitants were hermit crabs, which made interesting tracks all over the beach and had a liking for coconuts

With strong NE winds forecast for tomorrow, we’ve taken shelter on the western side of Uiha island. A trip ashore allowed us to walk between the 2 villages in time to see all the kids come out of school and met a fisherman who was busy mending his nets to catch sharks to sell to the Chinese for shark fin soup. Even here the All Blacks are very much revered and most of the young people move to Auckland leaving their aging parents on the islands

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Thu Jun 6 16:40 2019 NZST
GPS: 21 7.52S 175 9.72W
Weather: Hot and Sunny 5kt NE

We’re on Tongan Time

After a week of 4 hour watches it’s been nice to unwind and have a whole night of uninterrupted sleep. Most of the fleet are now at Big Mama’s (there are a couple of stragglers still on route due to repairs etc) and we’re enjoying the local hospitality and doing a few odd jobs around the boat. Alison and Alex have joined the crew and we’ve inflated the Stand-Up Paddleboards and tested those out.

We’ve also discovered that despite Nuka’Alofa being the main port in Tonga, it does not have refueling facilities on the dock. Therefore, we’ve taken the initiative and loaded the dinghy up with Jerry cans, zoomed across the bay and got a taxi to the local Gas Station. After getting 120 litres of diesel, a much lower dinghy made the return journey and we are all set for the next stage of our travels up to the Ha’aipi group of Tongan islands

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Wed Jun 5 10:05 2019 NZST
GPS: 21 7.52S 175 9.72W
Weather: Sunny 15kt SE

We made It – Tonga here we are

Wow what an adventure. After 7 days and 1113nm (just over 2000 kms) Libertalia has arrived at Big Mama’s in Nuku’alofa in Tonga

The second half of the journey was very kind from a weather point of view. We had 15-20kt winds from the NW which tracked around to the SE over the course to 2 days enabling us to sail all the way. We had a close encounter with one of the other boats during a squall in the night, but apart from that, it was only when we approached the Pass getting in Tonga that we saw other members of the Rally.

A couple of boats arrived on Monday, but there was 21 of us that cleared customs on Tuesday. Being a dry boat (anchor to anchor), the first thing that was done when we sighted land was put the icemaker on, such that by the time the anchor was dropped, the rums were ready to be poured

Marcel, Clive and Robin (the delivery crew) leave tomorrow and Alison and my son Alex join me today. Time for a bit of R&R and a bit of boat maintenance.

The one thing that surprised me was the amount of wear and tear you get on passage. Nuts, Bolts, Shackles, even self-tapping screws wiggle loose. When we left NZ, I’d left the anchor remote in the forward anchor locker; half way through to passage, it had bounced loose and was trailing in the water for a couple of hundred miles before we noticed it!! Remarkably when we came to Tonga it still worked, but we did have to splice together a new anchor bridle between the Pass and Big Mama’s as we discovered that previous one had been badly chaffed and needed replacing. Anchor stowage will be reviewed before our next blue water outing.

It’s been awesome sailing with Team Waiheke (Robin, Clive and Marcel), a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Clive will rejoin the boat with his wife Emma in Vanuatu later in the voyage. The adventure continues

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Sat Jun 1 9:29 2019 NZST
GPS: 28 37.0S 179 01.5W
Run: 43.9nm (79.5km)
Avg: 528.6knts
24hr: 12685.5nm
Weather: Sunny 12kt W

Half Way There

The weather window said we had to get north as soon as possible, which meant leaving Opua as soon as there was some west in the wind indicating the departure front was upon us. We left at 11am in the rain for the 2-hour motor from Opua Marina to the inner Bay of Islands where we put the sails up (2 reefs as it was already blowing 25kts). At last we were leaving New Zealand waters with the fleet heading for our initial waypoint some 191nm to the North East. What a first night it turned out to be; 35kts and 3m seas. The noise on a catamaran is incredible as the waves come up between the hulls and crash on the underside of main saloon giving our monohull crew quite a shock. The 4-hour watch system kicked in and by the next morning we’d covered 180nm in the first 24 hours.

Then as expected the wind went light as we passed through the sub-tropical High. This resulting in 39 hours of motoring; we had the fishing lines out and caught a Tuna which made a very good sashimi lunch. The motoring was almost due north to get us out of the way of the next depression hitting NZ in 24 hours’ time. The strategy worked; the winds eventually filled in we set off in an ENE direction on a beam reach using VMG (velocity made good) which is the fastest route to a destination even though you are not actually heading directly for it. The wind was predicted to swing around the SW and we kept waiting a waiting and we were only 50nm from the Kermadec Island before the change occurred bring with it a 33kt rain squall which allowed Libertalia to reach her fastest speed to date of 11kts.

We are now into day four and have just passed the half way mark with less than 500nm to go. It’s champagne sailing conditions of beautiful sunshine and a 15kt broad reach pointing straight to Tonga.

As they say, lets “Send it”. See you in Tonga

To track the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia)


Tue May 28 7:59 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.037S 174 07.17E
Weather: Overcast and rainy NE 15kt

Departure Day

Today is the day; it’s going to be a bit wet this morning, but sunny topical days are ahead

You can watch Libertalia from here

or the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia) from here

See you in Tonga


Mon May 27 13:15 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.037S 174 07.17E
Weather: Overcast NE 5kt

The Ready for Departure

Last night I enjoyed my 3rd Sunday Roast at the Opua Cruising Club; much as I enjoyed it, I don’t want another one any time before November!! The good news is that departure is set for tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday 28th May.

All is prepared, the boat is ready, and the crew are arriving this evening. It’s going to be an interesting crossing.

There is a low passing over the north of New Zealand tonight/early tomorrow with rain and 20kt+ winds straight in our faces (NE). The plan is to get on the back of that low and take the NW winds and head north. The next couple of days have light winds forecast and we’ll be motor sailing with the aim of covering 150nm per day (300km). Our weather guru is telling us to get as far north as possible to get out of the way of the next depression coming across from Australia. There’s going to be a 12-18-hour period over Friday night/Saturday morning where the front will pass over us and things could get a bit sporty. After that it should be moderate SW winds to take us straight to Tonga. All being well we should be there on 3rd/4th June.

You can watch the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia) from here

Here’s to a safe passage and a celebratory rum at Big Mamma’s in Tonga


Sat May 25 11:10 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.037S 174 07.17E
Weather: Sunny, 2kt SW

The Weather Window Opens

This is the end of the 2nd week in Opua Marina and the troops are getting restless. We’ve been watching our weather GRIBs every 12 hours waiting for a window to depart and there hasn’t been one. The good news is if we’d have left on the scheduled day (20th), we would now be sitting in Minerva reef in large swells with plenty of other boats all riding out 25kt winds. A good decision to stay put.

The weather in the Bay of Islands continues to be glorious, light winds and sunny; time for a spot of fishing. I went out with Nev and Sheryl, fellow Leopard Catamaran owners on the rally. Nev caught us lunch, but my efforts were less than satisfactory as all mine were undersize and I had the throw them back. Anyway, the sunsets have been spectacular, and the rum rations has taken pounding.

There’s a great 2 hour walk along the riverbank between Opua and Paihia which kept me amused one of the days this week, but the good news is we’ve got a glimmer of a weather window.

All being well, next Tuesday or Wednesday, we should get on the back of a low coming across the Tasman sea from Australia which will send us northwards. The plan now is to go straight to Tonga where my son Alex and other crew member Alison should be waiting for us. The delivery crew from Waiheke (Clive, Marcel and Robin) will return on Monday for customs clearance and hopefully departure.

Fingers crossed.


Tue May 21 15:04 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.055S 174 07.105E
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: Overcast Southerly 5kt

A Waiting Game

Well we the fleet is still here in Opua (we should have left yesterday) and it looks like we going to be here for a least another week!!

There is topical depression over Fiji which is causing a squash zone between Minvera and Tonga. A squash zone is created when a blocking high pressure (over northern NZ) comes close to a low-pressure system (over Fiji) and the air is squashed between them creating strong winds and large waves. Boats in Minvera are reporting 25kt winds and 4m seas (remember the reef is only 10cm above the high-water mark and offer little protection for the boats anchored inside). The call made by the organizers is to wait where we are – a very wise decision.

My crew arrived on Sunday bringing Zucchini slice, whiskey cake and edam cheese (we have a Dutchman onboard). They stayed for the group photo, drank some of the ship Rum ration and I sent them back home to Waiheke today to be on standby in case the weather window opens.

Looks like I’ll have to download some more books to my Kindle as I sit this one out


Sun May 19 15:47 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.055S 174 07.105E
Weather: Sunny 10kt SW

Here's another site you can track my progress, but the advantage of this one is that I can post to it while on passage over the Satellite

Sun May 19 13:45 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.056S 174 07.102E
Weather: Sunny 8kt Southerly

Rally Preparation Week

We’ve been up here in Opua (the Bay of Islands) for a week now, meeting the rest of the Rally members (there are 38 boats here with 2 joining us later) and getting to know one another. There are 15 kids on the rally (one family has 3 onboard!!); a really nice bunch of like-minded people.

The week has consisted of lots of tutorials to help the newbie’s like me on what to expect on the rally with useful hints and tricks of the trade. This included SUP safety (I’ve got 2 onboard), SSB radio (which I don’t have), IridiumGo satellite communications (which is fantastic), weather prediction software from PredictWind, fishing tips to catch the big one on the trip north and passage planning. We even got up at 5am one morning to have a breadmaking demonstration at the local bakery who have supplied us with frozen dough. I didn’t realize anyone could be that happy at that time of the morning, but Kevin the baker was very pleased to talk passionately about his craft.

I’ve had a few teething problems with the boat (which I won’t bore you with), but needless to say, the fact that they happened before we departed NZ was a god send and the Marine Services guys in Opua have been awesome.

The favorite occupation of all the rally skippers has been weather watching this week and as departure time draws closer, we’re all been downloading our GRIBs from PredictWind and discussing the best route and whether we’ll stop at this amazing circular reef called Minerva (only 3 miles in diameter and 10cm above the high water mark) in the middle of the Pacific ocean, some 200nm (400km) SW of Tonga. If the wind and waves are up, the ocean washes over the top of the reef and into the lagoon which can result in an 11kt outflow through the very narrow entrance!!

So, I’m writing this report on Sunday morning, 24hours before our scheduled departure. Unfortunately, there is a as yet un-named depression forming north of Fiji and its projected path would put it right over Tonga for our arrival with predicted 4m-6m waves. Therefore, we have decided to delay our departure; at this stage we’re unsure how long as the different weather models has the system moving in different directions.

The weather in Opua is fantastic for the rest of the week, and with Libertalia’s crew due to arrive later this afternoon, the fleet is planning some exploring of the Bay of Islands and a few beach parties. More to report later


Sat May 11 15:06 2019 NZST
GPS: 35 19.03S 174 7.17E
Weather: Calm 5kt Southernly

The Voyage Begins

Well the day finally arrived to set sail on this South Pacific sailing odyssey. I’d been watching the weather all week, with a planned departure of Saturday 11th May and had organized farewell drinks for the night before at the new place on Waiheke Island called Found. But like all good plans Mother Nature has her own ideas; there was a rain front scheduled, the timing of which kept moving around on all of the weather models. So rather than waiting for it to pass, I decided to go early and take advantage of the light spell ahead of it on the Friday.

With Alison, Bruce and (another) Nick onboard we set up from Westhaven Marina @ 2.15pm only to have an alarm warning for the Port SailDrive to come on part way down the harbour. After a few frantic phone calls to mechanics and an inspection of the oil, we determined it was a faulty alarm rather than a more potentially major problem and we continued on our way.

The winds were very light, and we ended up motoring the 130nm up the coast overnight, getting to Cape Brett (and the famous Hole in the Rock) just on dawn. The moon was out for the first half of the night and the stars were wonderfully bright once you got away from the light pollution of the city. Hopefully plenty more nights like this ahead (but perhaps with a little more wind). All in all, a gentle introduction to the journey and we got into Opua Marina a little after 10am to be met with other participates on the Rally

With the change in schedule, it meant I was going to miss my own leaving party. Nickie was undaunted and quickly turned it into a Left Party and went ahead anyway. Apparently, everyone had a great time, and I videoed in briefly from my 1st Watch somewhere off Omaha Beach.

This coming week is Prep-Week with activities planned most days; Nickie will drive up on Wednesday, so we’ll have a car to run around to do any last minute chores as well as meet the rest of the Rally members and no doubt plan the next party


Tue May 7 14:25 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 50.4S 174 45.011E
Weather: Overcast, Drizzle NE 8kt

Libertalia Departure date set - Friday 10th May @ 2pm

With some bad weather forecast later in the weekend, I've decided to bring forward my departure up to Opua in the Bay of Islands to this Friday

Not long now

Fri May 3 15:08 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 50.40S 174 45.01E
Weather: Sunny, no breeze

One Week to go

With only 1 week to go, we’ve passed an important milestone – Category 1 certification. In little over an hour, all the necessary safety requirements were ticked off making the 6 months of preparation certainly worthwhile. We also made the local Waiheke paper; they did a piece on the 4 lads from island setting sail for Tonga

The fleet are starting to assemble and a PredictWind page has been set up where you can track all the boats on the Rally from a single location

Provisioning continues, but we’re down to the luxury items such as the Ice Maker and Nespresso machine. Fresh food purchases will be done in the Bay of Isles during the prep-week, along with meeting the rest of the flotilla on the Rally. There is a full agenda of fun activities planned.

The 10-day forecast is looking like the 100nm (200km) trip up the coast from Auckland to the Bay of Isles is going to have winds right on the nose with a potential rain front coming through as well, so it should give Libertalia (and her crew) a good hit out. Alison, Bruce and Jack will be joining me on this first leg, with each of them re-joining me on later legs in Tonga, Vanuatu and New Caledonia respectively.

I’m really looking forward to setting sail; not much longer now

Fri Apr 26 10:26 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 48.4S 175 1.6E
Run: 0.4nm (0.7km)
Weather: Overcast 15kt SW

Two Weeks to go

With only 2 weeks to go, the ‘to do’ list still doesn’t seem to be decreasing, it just seems to be getting longer.

Libertalia spent the Easter weekend around Waiheke, hosting a wine tasting for all my colleagues @ Mudbrick vineyard, as well as going to the Jazz festival. A very welcome distraction from provisioning.

Talking of provisioning, the leg to Tonga is anywhere between 6 -10 days, so I’ve been busy cooking and freezing some yummy evening meals for the crew. Luckily Libertalia has an excellent fridge/freezer so at least we’ll be well fed during the crossing

My Cat 1 inspection is scheduled for 1st May and I think I’ve got everything on the checklist, so fingers crossed. Some of the things I’ve got I hope I never use (Lift Raft, Storm Jib, Sea Drogue etc), but it’s good to know you have them.

Libertalia is heading back to Westhaven Marina tomorrow, where she’ll stay until departure date of Sat 11th May. I have a couple of the crew (Alison and Bruce) sailing her up to the Bay of Isles overnight (a distance of 96nm) where we’ll assemble with the rest of the flotilla in Opua for a week of pre-rally preparations, with lots of activities planned

Thu Apr 11 10:08 2019 NZST
GPS: 36 50.4S 174 45.01E
Weather: Fine

Five Weeks to go

Since the last post, we’ve been very busy getting Libertalia ready for the Pacific Rally, which is now only 5 weeks away. New Zealand has some of the strictest safety regulations in the world; for any NZ registered yacht (which Libertalia is), it has to have a Category 1 safety certificate before customs will allow it to leave the country.

This not only involves a whole list of safety equipment such as EPIRB’s, life rafts, Storm sails, flares, first aid kits, satellite communications etc, but also an experienced crew.

I am dividing the rally into Legs, with different crew joining me for each leg. There are “delivery legs” where the boat crosses ‘Blue Water’ to get between countries, and “cruising legs” where we sail within the island groups themselves.

The first leg is a 950 nautical mile (~2000km) leg between New Zealand and Tonga. The crew for this leg will be 4 of us from Waiheke. Clive, Robin, Marcel and myself all have Blue Water experience, competing in a number of regatta’s including the Sydney-Hobart, Fastnet and Transpac, so I’m really pleased to have “Team Waiheke” onboard.

Departure is scheduled (weather dependent) from the Bay of Islands on 20th May, but there will be a ‘shakedown’ week immediately prior, where the whole flotilla will gather for the first time (40 boats). The week will be action packed, with lots of activities planned, including last minute provisioning and the all-important duty-free grog run (more on that later).

For now its trips to the Supermarket to purchase 3 months’ worth of food (which certainly surprised the checkout staff) and refresher diving courses

Fri Mar 1 8:48 2019 NZDT
GPS: 36 52.707S 174 54.073E
Run: 0.1nm (0.2km)
Weather: Sunny, no wind

Perfect day for refitting the mast with the new rig

Mon Feb 18 14:10 2019 NZDT
GPS: 36 52.708S 174 54.071E
Run: 8.8nm (15.9km)
Avg: 16.8knts
24hr: 402.9nm
Weather: Lovely Sunny Day

With just 12 weeks to go to the Rally and the boat coming up for its 10th anniversary, it's time to get a new rig

Mon Feb 11 10:52 2019 NZDT
GPS: 36 50.40486S 174 45.01209E
Weather: 3Kt S 1018

Located on my berth @ Westhaven

Libertalia - Pacific Rally 2019

This year I am taking part in the Island Cruising New Zealand (ICNZ) Pacific Rally in my yacht Libertalia, and thought I would record my adventures in the form of a blog (this being the first entry).
The ICNZ has been around for about 10 years and organizes yacht rallies in the Pacific every other year. In 2019, the biggest fleet ever, some 40 boats, will be setting sail from New Zealand at the end of May to visit Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia over a 6-month period, returning at Read more...

the end of October before the cyclone season.
We purchased Libertalia last year with the intention of doing the rally and have been steadily upgrading her to meet stringent Category 1 safety standards, a requirement of all NZ registered vessels leaving New Zealand.
She is a 2009 Leopard 40 Foot Catamaran with an owner?s configuration (meaning the whole Starboard hull is for the owner; double berth, large en-suite bathroom and office), while the Port hull consists of 2 double berths and a separate bathroom. She is ideal for cruising the Pacific as she has a large covered cockpit and main saloon which is great for pirate parties.
Libertalia was a legendary free colony of pirates, founded and ruled by Captain Mission, and reputed to have be located on Madagascar. Their motto was said to be ?for God and liberty?, and thier flag was white, in contrast to the Jolly Roger. The citizens were anarchists, waging war against states, attacking ships, sparing prisoners and freeing slaves. Not a bad name for a boat I thought. As we get nearer the time of departure, I?ll give an overview of the rally and what?s instore on this grand adventure.

Exciting Nick - 6 months!! Amazing. As per previous comment, if you need some Ballast/company

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