11-07-09Shawn the wood workin’ wizard finished Bobbie’s harp Saturday morning & we hauled anchor & motored out from the main town anchorage & anchored in a nice quiet remote anchorage to prepare for our big passages to Minerva Reef & Tonga.We scrubbed all the sea life from the dingy at the beach with a sand covered scrub brush at the beach; it took a while.We stowed the kayaks properly & spent a few hours making our house a voyaging vessel.On Sunday morning at about 11-08-09 we set sail for Minerva Reef.
We had a great sail to Minerva Reef with aft winds for the most part, we only had to motor about 9 hours the whole trip, we arrived at 11-11-09. We were ripping along at over 9 knots for a few hours the first day; our first day’s run of 162 miles was close to our all time high 24 hour run or 172 miles.The winds died out just like Bob Mc Davitt & the weather gribs forecast but on the last day of the trip we got a lucky un-forecast batch of good sailing winds that sailed us right up to Minerva Reef.Along the way we normally troll for fish using our hand line & a stout trolling pole.The lure on the pole rig had been bitten off about a 1000 miles ago & I have been too lazy or reluctant to tie on our last lure, so the first day out I decide to use our last lure $$ lure.It has a metal leader wire & heavy metal nose to keep it just under the surface while trolling, I wanted to put this heavy duty $$ lure on the strong hand line so it wouldn’t get munched away.I then put the trusty old one eyed lure with over 2000 miles of dragging thru the water on the stout trolling pole; it has caught a few fish but mostly just goes for a ride.Without getting even a bite for nearly a 1000 miles, the trolling pole gets a huge bite within one hour & the trusty old lure is gone :-O
Minerva Reef is the most intriguing anchorage we’ve ever been to so far ever.Of course we’ve been to beautiful anchorages with gorgeous tropical jungle foliage… but the ultimate vast remoteness of this place along with the most perfect weather day makes for quite an enchanting place.It is almost an atoll, in fact a sinking atoll; most of the reef is awash during high tide & there is absolutely no living vegetation… no palm trees :-O
Check out Minerva Reef on Google Earth at location
23deg 39.488S178deg 54.085W
The first day I snorkeled out from the boat to the reef just in front of the boat.The water was very clear with visibility down to the anchor in nearly 50 feet of water.The reef is completely under water at high tide except for a few old coral block rocks.At low tide the reef is a foot or two above the main water level & snorkeling right up to the reef I found lots of fish living in the creviouses just under the reef’s edge.
The infamous sail from Tonga to New Zealand turned out to be quite pleasant compared to what some folks have endured. Two of the three days from Tonga to Minerva reef was an unexpected & pleasant 8 to 10 knot down wind run in calm seas. We spent a nice relaxing week at Minerva Reef enjoying the 'anchoring on the moon' like experience. We walked the coral reef at low tide & collected a bucket of tasty sea snails & found the rusting hull remains of a ship wreck, even found a couple of it's rivets. We snorkeled an interesting coral formation on the inside of the reef near the 'new' light house & later snorkeled the pass out in the open ocean area of Minerva Reef. It was a bit freaky to anchor the dingy in the pass, with its constantly fast moving current flowing out & the anchor not set in sand but just barely hooking a rock.
After 6 days in Minerva we set sail to Opua New Zealand, the first few days were absolutely calm & easy, we were making nice fast smooth daily runs. Most boats on this passage navigate to point a bit more west than the direct line to New Zealand. During the first part of the passage we sail with the E to SE trade winds that we have been sailing with through our South Pacific voyages, however once we sail south & out of the tropics we begin to encounter the SW winds, at that point, approximately 30S, 175E, we turn with the wind & head straight into Opua New Zealand. We were about 3 to 4 days out at this point & we happy to be finally sailing directly to our destination, unfortunately about 8 hours later the wind shifted back to the SE causing us to tack back to our westing angle. If we would have just kept sailing that extra 8 hours in the western direction by this time we could have had a decent wind angle to sail directly to our destination. So after 8 hours towards our destination the wind shifted & we then had to sail 8 hours back towards the west, so that's 16 hours & getting absolutely no where. After about 36 hours of tacking back & forth we were getting feed up with not really getting much closer so we began to run the engine at about half power just to enable us to motor sail real close to the wind.
After running the motor for a few hours a hose broke on the motor were the raw ocean water that helps cool the engine. We shut down the motor & I replaced the hose with a used spare hose, we start the motor to test the replacement hose, it holds well, the wind is blowing good for sailing so we shut down the motor & don't need the motor until the middle of the night. Several hours later the replacement hose quietly begins to leak & much water had sprayed all over by the time I noticed the leak. Again I re- installed the hose but we were able to sail until daylight. During the night after this the jib halyard broke causing the roller furling jib to slide down & get sucked into the ocean, we had very challenging time getting the sail back on board; it took an hour & a half to get it all squared away with the jib now tied to the deck. The winds had been 20 to 25 knots so we had been sailing with our stay sail out & at this point the wind was in the high teens so we had the jib out full along with the stay sail; now we were sailing with stay sail, a reefed main & our mizzen sail. The winds increased to 18 to 25 knots so we weren't missing the jib sail at this point. However, at this point we notice that the main sheet block connection at the end of the boom is lifting out precariously close to coming off, 3 of the 4 screws that hold the main sheet block in place are striped & not holding the end plate.We then rig up back up lines to keep the boom from breaking away in a violent fury; not the stuff dream passages are made of but we’re still on top of it all.
The next morning the wind angle was still coming directly from our destination, so with the replacement hose previously installed we started the motor but quickly noticed that the over board exhaust which is supposed to have a steady flow of raw coolant water along with the exhaust fumes did not have much water at all; in fact the water flow was about 90% down & what little water that did get thru was steaming out :-O We checked the raw water filter & noticed it contained a bunch of jelly fish parts, we cleared all of that & cleared the hose from the thru hull to the filter but still the overboard exhaust did not have a good water flow. We checked the impeller & the heat exchanger & of course the water flow was good at the broken hose just pass the heat exchanger. There must be a blockage in ether the exhaust manifold, where the raw water passes thru its own water channels separate from the motor's exhaust. Just after the manifold it the exhaust mixer, a cast iron part that mixes the raw water & the motors exhaust.
At this point were about two days out & still not able to sail the direct line to our destination so we decide to cautiously run the motor in a low RPM in order to sail real close to the wind & actually sail straight to our destination.After a couple of hours we noticed even at this low motor speed the engine temp is rising higher than we should allow it, we had no choice, we would just have to sail all the way in.Finally when we were about 15 miles out we get the call from a New Zealand ‘warship’, not requesting permission but informing us that we will be boarded.All of this just moments after I had found & fixed yet another leak on the motor, the boat was a complete disaster of a mess which needed a quick ship shapen’.During the high winds the boat heels over so much & water sprays so much that Robin’s ports had leaked enough to keep him from using his bunk along with the person on watch can arrange cushions so sit comfortably while bashing away at the sever angles; the cushions were falling off the settee area anyway :-OSo in a flurry we get the boat somewhat ship shape just in time to the arrival of a high speed 150 foot ‘warship’ which deployed an impressive assault dingy that speed over to us & dispatched a pair of sea commandos.All of this was so fascinating & the young ‘commandos’ were very courteous, it all turned out to be a welcome diversion to the monotony of the recent motor issues.
We told them about our motor issues & that we couldn’t sail real close to the wind at low wind speeds because of our jib sail being out of commission after the jib halyard broke & part of the sail torn from it’s top connection rope slot. At this point we were hoping that the motor would be ok at low RPMs, but less than two hours of motoring later we again saw the motor temp approach the max operating temp so we shut her down & actually had some decent sailing at very close to the direct line of sailing to our destination.Then around 10 miles out the wind died so we motored for about 20 minutes until the wind now strangely clock back hind us so we raised our down wind gennakar sail.At this point we are now contact ‘Maritime Radio’ on the VHF radio & let them know about our impending arrival to customs & our propulsion issues, they took this into consideration & allowed us to anchor at our choice & just to call them to inform them of our safe arrival.
After almost two hours the wind died to 0, at this point we just drifted until the wind got back up to 6 knots, so at times we could sail about 3 knots.Then the wind died, after about a half an hour it cycled back up to 6 knots.We repeated this cycle for another 5 miles, then were able to catch the local wind shift so we could sail with staysail, main & miz, before it clock right on our nose & died.We crossed our fingers & motored about 35 minuets in the dark to our closest anchorage & set the hook.
The next day there was perfect sailing winds in the flat protection of the ‘Bay of Islands’, so we took a nice sail all the way to the customs dock.We cleared customs then anchored near by & dingied to the cruising club for an American style Thanksgiving feast.
The next day on the advice of a highly recommended mechanic, I did an oil change to the motor & removed the exhaust mixer part for inspection, at this point the motor’s manifold seems to be in need of replacement as well.While removing the mixer we discovered one bolt came out without the need for a wrench as the manifold’s threaded hole was half way rusted out, two other bolts broke off & stuck in the manifold.We will be here for a while as these parts ether have to found on the other side of the planet or custom made locally at the busiest part of the year for boat work :-OIt’s kind of freaky to be stranded at anchor without the use of the motor.After a week in the same spot we began to notice that at low tide we are gently touching down into the soft mucky muddy bottom.The only sign of being stuck to the bottom was when the wind would shift & the three shallow draft catamarans moored near by would turn to face the wind, we would be stuck to the bottom.There are two low tides a day here ,at the lowest of tides we would be sitting in 4.7 feet of water & our draft if about 5’ 4”… a really freaky feeling that put an extra twist on our nerves.We figured that this would be a good time to get hauled out & keep ourselves busy with boat work in the boat yard; at least the hard work would keep us from stress of being stranded without the motor & getting stuck in the mucky bottom everyday.
After a full month of extreme boat work we are done with the hard stuff. While waiting for the motor parts to come in we hauled our boat into the boat yard for it’s every other year’s bottom paint. At our home port boat yard they had a haul out deal that made it more cost effective to let the boat yard do the work but down here in the land of ‘do it yourselfers’, we saved a bunch of $ by doing it ourselves…wow what a marathon of work.We also patched up a bunch of chunks, cracks & scratches that came with the boat & then Bobbie painted the bow, or course before the paint could go on 6 years of rust from the ‘stainLESS’ & brand new chain that fully rusted in less than two years had to be removed along with the gooey mess our old fenders leave on the hull when we deploy them.This kept us at a break neck pace for seven full daze, working late into the long Nz summer nights; the sun sets after 8:30 & doesn’t get dark until after 9:30 :-OOn the last two nights & one day, we spent suspended really high up in the lift so our drop keel could be fully extended for bottom painting.It was quite un-nerving to be so high up in the lift, with the thoughts of several boats back home that had slipped off their lift.
The custom manifold & sea water exhaust mixer came in the last days of our haul out & when we splashed back into the water we spent a couple of days at the service dock while I put all of the motor pieces back together.After a month of non stop boat work we were rewarded to the sound of our big diesel purring contently with the new $$ manifold, exhaust mixer & new hoses.The next day we got our chain back from the re-galvanizers so it looks like new again, then we motored away from Opua where we had been stranded for the entire last month & spent the night in Russell, the sight of Nz’s first bar, ‘the hell hole of the pacific’.Russell is now a cute little touristy town with harbor boat rides gift shops.
The next day we sailed back to Opua in a nice following breeze where we will be playing music at the cruisers Christmas party.After Christmas we plan to sail & anchor around the Bay of Islands & be back for the New Years fireworks displays & parties.Then we’ll head north about 40 miles to explore that area before returning for the tall ships celebrations on Jan 9th.
We brought our instruments to the Christmas party, Bobbie played lovely Christmassy music while the cruisers entered & we all brought our own drinks & side dishes.Eric from Nataraja spent the entire day before preparing the ham & turkeys & the entire day of Christmas BBQ’ing with the skill only a professional chef could pull off.In fact the feast was so scrumptious that it rivals the best we’ve had; in impressive feat in that he just cooked for about 50 hungry cruisers.
12-26-09We sailed out of Opua & out to one of the further out islands in the Bay of Islands where we hooked up with our long time kid boat friends Whisper.Scotty found a place where the fish are big, tasty & easy to spear fish.This was the best spear fishing I ever had.In the Sea of CortezMexico the spear fishing was better than any part of the south pacific but still required a fair amount of tricky fish hunting skills.In the south pacific there were so many sharks competing for the speared fish it was a very dangerous situation & un-nerving to be both the hunter & the hunted :-OAlso there were enough places where the fish poisoning issues of ciguaria seemed to add to the un-inspiring spear fishing ambitions in the south pacific.
We stayed out this beautiful anchorage until the end of the year :-) We enjoyed hiking in the hills of the two islands we anchored near.The hills were covered with thick grass that grew in fluffy clumps over two feet thick which made for a comfy seat to flop down for a good rest & great view of the area.After a few days the Whisperians took off for provisions & then our friend Glen from VinSang came along.Later that day our new found Kiwi friend Stu came out with his friend & we had a nice night of party aboard VinSang.
At the end of the year we sailed back to Russell for provisions & to attend the Russell boat club New Years eve party.That night at we enjoyed the fine fireworks display from our boat; they bring a barge out in the wide bay channel to shoot off the fireworks.