Position report sent via Iridium GO
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
To track the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia)
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
To track the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia)
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
To track the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia)
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
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
To track the whole rally fleet (including Libertalia)
Position report sent via Iridium GO
Position report sent via Iridium GO
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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.
http://thepirateempire.blogspot.com/2017/12/as-i-have-mentionedbefore-go... As we get nearer the time of departure, I?ll give an overview of the rally and what?s instore on this grand adventure.