passage ponderings ~ an email

May 2014

The following is an email I sent after 19 days at sea and a safe arrival to the Australs.

Subject: Passage Ponderings

Date: 22 May 2014 02:33:14 -0000
From: KF4IVI
Date: 2014/05/22 02:33:16

Hi all,

Now that we are safely at anchor, I’ll spill my guts about it all. Sorry if it’s a bit wordy, but I began writing this while we were underway. It’s grown quite a bit since, and I’ve wondered if I should even bother sending it. But why not? So, have a seat, & maybe a drink, and have a read! And, in case I lose you before the end . . . we owe a big THANK YOU to our onshore weather/radio team, Dad & Bob, and another big THANK YOU for all of you who worried & prayed for us. It’s a great comfort knowing we have all of you there for us.

When we first realized that we were going to have to do a passage from NZ to the Australs, I cringed. After having been relatively stationary for 5 months, the idea of doing a 2200 mile passage right from the start was far from appealing. There was little choice, and we were going to have to bite the bullet.

As always, I began researching the weather patterns and talking to people who had knowledge of this part of the world’s oceans. The results started making me quite nervous. Every blog post I read described nasty weather and seas, resulting in a cold, wet and prolonged passages. Every person I remember meeting in French Polynesia who had come that way had described it as a horrible passage. Every person I spoke to or emailed, replied with remarks such as, good luck, that’s a rough one, has a catamaran ever made that trip? or the look on their faces said it all.

The main school of thought for traveling northeast out of NZ, against prevailing winds, is to actually drop south first (sometimes as low as 40 S), and stay in the lower latitudes until near 150 W. Supposedly, there are westerlies that can carry you the distance, and then make a turn for the north. Although, not one person that I talked to who did the trip had westerlies. It is said and written not to go above 30 S until 150 W. However, sailing at those latitudes guarantees that you suffer through at least one low pressure system. They say that everyone gets at least one.

Just when I thought my anxiety about the passage couldn’t get any higher, the first boat to go (who we know personally) was knocked down and destroyed (separation of the deck from the hull). He had to abandon ship and be rescued. Later, we learned that he managed to keep his boat afloat for 5 days with his EPIRB until a freighter picked him up and returned him Auckland. I continued to watch weather system after weather system, and began to wonder if there would ever be a clear run to the Australs. The next group of boats went, and I finally just got word from one of them. They said it’s not a passage they ever want to repeat. They had many days of 4 meter seas and 30+ kt winds. We weren’t ready to go when they’d gone, and shortly after their departure, there were still quite a few tropical lows forming and moving through. A local Kiwi had remarked that it was still too unsettled out there. I continued to stress.

Then, I got word of a sailing tactic that sparked my interest. Use a low pressure system to sling shot you across part of the distance. In the past, if someone had ever mentioned purposely sailing towards a low pressure system, and through frontal boundaries, I would have said that’s crazy, especially near the Southern Ocean! But now it was all making sense, and I began to see our opportunity develop.

A large low pressure system was gradually approaching NZ, and it would be positioned just right for us to ride the northern edge of the system. Our track was planned, and a possible departure date was set. Then, just as we were getting ready to depart, the low pressure system grew in size and expanded a lot further north. It was huge, BUT it meant we could ride out of NZ on a more northern route, away from being miserably cold. We would immediately head NE and position ourselves for the low.

We had a plan, but I still feared the worst case scenario, as with L’Antillaise. I reviewed heavy weather storm tactics, and we made sure the boat was ready to handle the big stuff. All safety gear was checked. I couldn’t sleep most nights prior to the passage for fear of the worst.

On the morning of our departure, we were the ONLY boat departing from the Whangarei area (and anywhere else, as far as we knew). There was an eerie calm, like the calm before a storm. Our Customs officer asked us if we were sure we wanted to depart. We said yes, and he told us not to hesitate turning back and clearing back into NZ if we changed our minds. (One boat had gone out 2 days prior, and was just returning when we docked that day.) Then, the officer needed a photo of our boat, for search and rescue purposes. My heart couldn’t take it anymore!

Then, one person changed everything for me, for us. An Australian catamaran named Citrus Tart was on the dock next to us, waiting for their weather window to Fiji. We’d become familiar with this boat in Tonga because he won several regattas, and he rode the same low pressure system from Tonga to NZ that Sueño did. We knew he had experience and knowledge. I mentioned the system we were looking at, and he became quite interested. I reviewed my thoughts with him, and he kept nodding. He likes to use low pressure systems, and when he gets that one low dealt to him, he either does a slow run with it, or heaves to. Not a big deal. He doesn’t understand why people get so uptight about this leg. Also, he and his wife enjoy the calms. They don’t motor, except when necessary, and when it’s flat calm, they go for a swim and enjoy a glass of wine while they wait for the wind. We also learned that while he has a fast catamaran, and wins races, he only keeps a 5 knot average on passages. They like to stay comfortable and be good to the boat. I was inspired, and I had a new confidence for what we had chosen to do.

Our plan was put into motion. We had a few days where we could turn around if we needed. However, once the low pressure system arrived in the NZ area, there would be no turning back. North would be our only escape.

As you all know, along with weather input from my Dad and Bob, every day consisted of strategic moves. I’m still amazed at how many low pressure systems came and went. So many times, I’d think of the one we’d have to deal with, but thankfully that time never came. We went against the grain by not staying south of 30 S until 150 W. We went with the wind, made easting when we could. The choice to start a northeast course was a difficult one, but based on knowledge of possible north winds when we’d need to head north, we finally made that early decision. Soon, we found ourselves on a rhumb line for our destination, and were able to hold close to it for the rest of the passage.

Sure, we dealt with many squalls, but nothing we haven’t had before. At every moment, I’d wait for something to go wrong. Sure, we had leaky escape hatches, but we knew how to keep on top of the situation. We also started having an electrical issue, and were looking at a potential battery charging problem . . . which could turn into a VERY serious situation! Wil stayed on top of the battery charging, with the idea of returning to an alternator charge, if need be. This was the first real test of our new autopilot. Would it work for the duration of the passage? I was having “twinges” with my gall bladder for about a week. Would it cause debilitating pain? Would I need air rescue? What would break when we weren’t expecting it?

Then, we received word of catamaran One World, a kid boat we’ve been familiar with since Panama, and the kids had played together in Moorea. About 2 weeks ago, she sunk 20 miles off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, just as they were completing their passage from NZ. Fortunately, the kids were not onboard (the mom and kids usually fly to distant destinations), and the crew was successfully rescued in the middle of the night. We know that the captain and crew are having emotional difficulties, but we don’t know the whole story. THAT was a wake up call to the fact that a passage is not over until it’s over. On the same day, we also got word of another boat we know who was dismasted 400 miles out of Galapagos on their way to Marquesas. Later, we learned of the boats enroute to Tonga and Fiji who had horrible conditions, and many of them ended up stuck in Minerva Reef still having to deal with horrible conditions. Flour Girl had been among those boats, and because their main halyard broke and their main ripped, they continued on towards Fiji, without stopping in Minerva. Meanwhile, we were having the best passage we’d ever had!

Savvy sailors, a good onshore weather/radio team, good sailing tactics, a whole lot of luck, and a guardian angel. With low pressure systems that left us alone, and nasty squalls that would literally split up and go around us, one has to believe we were being looked after. After such an excellent passage, especially one with such a horrible reputation, it would be easy for a person to become overconfident in their abilities. It’s a great feeling to have accomplished such an incredible feat. However, Mother Nature’s oceans must continue to be respected and feared. Without fear, a person can become complacent and careless, resulting in the unthinkable. This passage was not without fear, and it took a lot of courage.

The final relief and joy didn’t come until we’d successfully navigated the reef entrance to the anchorage. Sure, we were excited to see land, and fish alongside the reef as we approached the entrance. But, we still needed to stay on our toes. This was new territory, and things could still go wrong. In fact, our starboard engine didn’t put out water when I first started it as we got close to the reef! Fortunately, we have 2 engines, and it didn’t take long to get water flowing through it again.

We discuss a lot of this with the kids. When we were coming across the Pacific and through French Polynesia the first time, the kids constantly stressed about the passage to NZ. Then, they were pleasantly surprised by how good it was . . . regardless of having fevers, a vertigo-ridden dad, and a non-working autopilot! They’ve learned that we thoroughly study the passages before doing them. They’re learning that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. If they were worried about this passage, it never showed . . . regardless of its reputation and the loss of 2 boats.

So, here we are. Back in French Polynesia, and thrilled to be here. We accomplished the toughest passage of our lives, and now we’re in a country we absolutely love. We’re warm, we’ve had a swim, and this is a beautiful place. The people are extremely warm and friendly, and we have unlimited access to baguettes, pain au chocolat & pamplemousse. While we miss all of our buddy boats, at the same time, we’re looking forward to exploring on our own and enjoying quite a bit of quality family time.

Hoping there are enough radio waves to carry this email to you! 🙂

Jenny & the rest of the crew
At 5/20/2014 10:19 PM (utc) our position was 23°20.50’S 149°28.47’W

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new zealand ~ final days in Kiwiland

March 14 – May 1, 2014

a quiet CBW yard . . . except for all the Oystercatchers

Time to get a move on. The number of days delinquent in posting to the blog is rapidly growing. Regardless of how tardy I am, I thoroughly enjoy re-living our travels with every post.

Our final days in New Zealand were a blur of activity. We had just splashed after our haul-out, and Cyclone Lusi made her presence. This was the only time in all of our cruising years that our 40-kg (88-lb) Rocna anchor dragged. We were anchored in the Port Nikau Basin where the bottom is pure muck.

The anchor drills began at 3 o’clock in the morning when the winds went over 40 knots. While the winds remained severely gale force throughout the wee hours of the morning, the boat would gradually and constantly drag backwards. Once an hour for 3 hours, we had to re-anchor the boat in horizontal, storm driven rain. The conditions were too rough to seek safe anchorage elsewhere, so we needed to tough it out where we were. We sat in the main salon and watched the boat’s position on the iPad’s Navionics app. Each time we reached our pre-determined boundary within the basin, it was time to start the engines and hoist the anchor. Due to the tremendous noise from the wind and rain, this was one time when only hand signals could be used during each anchor drill. By 6 a.m. the winds began to subside to a more manageable speed, and we were finally able to get some rest.

a mix of Variable Oystercatchers and South Island Pied Oystercatchers

Anyone who owns a building with a roof is constantly busied with trying to shoo away the Oystercatchers (Variable and South Island Pied). While they are beautiful birds, when they collect in large numbers on rooftops, the area not only becomes noisy, but also quite smelly . . . especially if you’re downwind from them!

Te Aroha


Te Aroha










The family aboard s/v Te Aroha were extremely warm, welcoming, and helpful during our stay in the Port Nikau basin. They are pouring their hearts and souls into the restoration of their 104-year old wooden vessel made from a single kauri tree, but the money is running out.

s/v Sueno anchored nearby ~ Port Nikau, Whangarei


the last days before parting ways











s/v Sueno and s/v Full Monty remained anchored together until it was time for our final good-byes. Before the sale of their boat and a flight back to Quebec, the Sueno family was headed to the South Island for some land travel and camping. After multiple rounds of hugs, we went our separate ways. They drove away in their van, and we moved our boat to Parua Bay for some much needed rest and preparation for the 2200-mile passage to come.

fishing in Parua Bay

Our final two weeks in New Zealand were spent anchored in Parua Bay. We needed the down time to get the boat and our minds ready for what could be the toughest passage to date. Sailing northeast against prevailing winds from New Zealand to the Australs in French Polynesia has a nasty reputation, and we needed to be prepared to the best of our ability. I spent everyday, and multiple times a day, studying the 10-day forecasts from a variety of sources and watching for an acceptable weather window.

During this time, we were anchored near our good friends who had loaned us their car. They, again, opened their hearts and home to us. We were able to use their laundry facilities and showers, as well as their car for grocery and fuel provisions. We shared many special times together during our final week. These dear friends had become our home away from home, and we were going to miss them terribly.

s/v Yindee Plus also dropped by for a final visit. They had just splashed after a 6-month refit at Norsand, and they were on their way north to Opua where they would set up for their passage to Australia. They too had a lot of preparations, but we were grateful to see them one more time. They had also become great friends, and we’d known each other since our first season in Maine. While we know we’ll see each other again, the next time will be much farther down the road. They too will be missed.

optimist dingy races on Parua Bay

Another issue I needed to tend to before our departure was my possible “grumbling appendix”. A friend felt sure it was my gall bladder, and not my appendix. He convinced me to go for another ultrasound, and we found he was right. My gall bladder wall was thickened indicating a condition that had been going on for some time, and there appeared to be a few small stones. On one hand, I was relieved that it wasn’t my appendix. On the other hand, I could still have a major gall bladder attack while at sea. My chances were better, but I still had to be prepared. We made sure that our ship’s medical kit had everything we could possibly need in the event my gall bladder decided to misbehave. In addition to a fully stocked medical kit, I provisioned with gall bladder friendly foods, as well as vitamin supplements and energy/electrolyte drinks. I was still nervous. This would be a long and tough passage, and if I went down for the count, life in the Southern Pacific Ocean would become complicated and unpleasant to say the least.

in Parua Bay, looking South to the Nook & Whangarei Heads beyond


Motukiore Island ~ Parua Bay








Once all was ready, and an appropriate weather window opened, we watched our final sunset over the land of Aotearoa. The following morning, we would depart early for Marsden Cove where Customs would give us our clearance papers and send us on our way. New Zealand will forever live in our hearts and memories.

at anchor in Parua Bay


a setting sun and . . .


a clear sky to come









our final Aotearoa sunset ~ good-bye New Zealand


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Categories: cruising kids, electronics, nature & wildlife, safety & health, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

new zealand ~ a few of our favorite things

April 2014

a few of our favorite Kiwi things

Feijoa fruit: Loved by us all, we’d purchase these fruits by the bag full at the Whangarei Grower’s Market.

Sultana Bran: The New Zealand version of Raisin Bran

Manuka Honey: Known for it’s health benefits and really yummy!

Marlborough Wines: While we never got to visit this South Island vineyard, I definitely enjoy drinking the wine!

Mac’s Beer: Our most purchased beer until we started brewing our own. Now our home brew is housed in all the Mac bottles we collected!

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from a child’s eye: passage to new zealand

Tonga to New Zealand

by Justine, written at age 14

We were leaving. I stood in the shade of the Pacific blue bimini that covers our large cockpit, my right hand gripping the rough wood of one of the two twin tables for balance as the floor beneath my feet started to move. I was facing the stern of my home, a sturdy Privilege 48 catamaran, watching as the turquoise water steadily darkened to the sapphire blue of the endless ocean and the white sand beaches with their green and brown palm tree hair got smaller and smaller. The engines hummed in my ears and vibrated the ground beneath my feet, while the sickly smell of exhaust activated some part of my brain that caused my heart beat to quicken and the butterflies in my stomach to flutter. We were leaving. Once again my family and I were headed out to sea. We were about to attempt the Tonga to New Zealand crossing, the passage nearly all sailors heading west dread. It was a trip that required an eye on the weather at all times, for fear of being caught in the rumored storms that could dismast a ship. It was a right of passage, and we were about to go through it.

However, luck appeared to be against us. It was either that, or we were given an extra hard test. The day before the anchor was pulled up, I suddenly developed a fever. So, the next day, with 84 to 86 degree temperatures, a fever, a rocking boat, and the knowledge that we were heading out on what was to be most challenging passage yet, I spent most the day in my bunk. I felt as if I was burning from the inside out and the outside in at the same time. Also, as I had discovered on the Galapagos to the Marquesas crossing, fevers increase the feeling of seasickness, and I always feel seasick on the first day of a passage. I was miserable to say the least. Though, I wasn’t the only one to suffer. During one of the few times I left my cabin on that first day, I found out my brother, Colin, had come down with a fever as well. I found myself thinking, “If this is the beginning of the crossing, how is the rest of it going to turn out.” Little did I or any of my family know what was in store for us.

By the second day, things started to get interesting. That day the autopilot broke and refused to be fixed. That meant hand steering all day and all night for ten days straight. At that point my fever had lowered enough for me to help my parents by taking my turn at the helm. Colin’s fever chose to do the opposite and rose to 103 degrees. It was only day two and already we were at the crossroads. Did we want to turn the boat around and head back to where we could be near a medical center and work on the autopilot, or did we want to keep going? It was not a decision to be made lightly. In the end we chose to keep going.

On the third day at sea, my fever had completely disappeared and Colin’s had lowered. The air temperature had dropped four degrees from the first day, and continued to drop as we headed south. Despite the fact that it was summer, I was used to a steady temperature, so to me it felt as cool as the first days of autumn. Fate, however, wasn’t done testing us yet. At sometime during that day I had just entered the salon (living area) when my mom said to me, “Dad’s marbles are loose.” That’s our code for saying when my dad gets vertigo, a condition that makes him feel like the world is spinning. In a way, the world had already been spinning as the boat was tossed from side to side by the waves. The feeling of vertigo combined with a rocking boat could have only been terrible. I watched from the doorway as he sat on the wooden grate beneath the helm in his bright red foul weather gear. With his hands on the wheel, he stared fixatedly at the compass, his eyes never leaving it. One glance upward would send the world spinning again. It was going to be a very long trip indeed.

While the first three days were an unorganized blur, the last seven days were an organized blur and I noticed more. By the fourth day, the rocking and sounds of the boat had become familiar once again. There was the ever constant whoosh of the waves and the singing of the wind as the boat went up, down, and side to side like some sort of bizarre roller coaster. The tightened main sheet seemed to never stop creaking as the boom swung back and forth, waving to the waves. Bang, bang, bang went our hull as we slammed head on into the waves and beat into the wind. Salt coated everything in a blanket. Of course, everything was blue. The blue ocean and blue sky were all there was. We were just a speck of white in a world of blue. These are the things I love and hate at the same time. When I’m at sea my life is a paradox. It’s neither good or bad, but somewhere in between.

It was day five when the squalls hit. I was standing at the helm on my watch when I saw something that looked like a dark gray wall. I said to my dad, who was standing in the door to the salon, “Those are some really dark clouds.” He came to my side to look and suddenly froze before dashing back inside. He quickly returned with my mom, who relieved me of the helm. I retreated inside to avoid getting in my parent’s way and turned to watch them. They barely got the sail pulled in in time. Before I knew what was happening, the sky had turned black and the wind began screaming. Instead of just going up and down the waves, we were going up, up and down, down. Then the rain came. I’d never known it to rain so hard at sea. It hammered down on the windows as if trying to break through them. We’d had squalls before, but I couldn’t recall anything like this. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t feel afraid. The squalls continued throughout the night and the waves remained nine to fifteen feet high in the morning. It wasn’t bad, though, and we were okay. A boat was dismasted that night, however, not by the squalls, but by faulty rigging. Maybe there was nothing to fear from the NZ crossing after all.

On day ten I awoke to the sound of tapping on the hatch above my bunk. The sun had barely risen (a time much too early for me), but I climbed out of bed anyway. Still in the oversized t-shirt I was using as a nightshirt, I climbed on deck with my brother and mom to see— land! After ten days of nothing but blue, there was land at last. New Zealand was so different from what I’d expected. Instead of the green mountains of French Polynesia and Tonga, it consisted of gently rolling hills that were beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and brown. The land stretched on for miles in either direction until it faded out of sight. The smell of it was different too. After months of smelling musty tropical plants and salt, the smell of NZ took me by surprise. It smelled of animals! Not the scattered goats, pigs, and horses we’d come across in our travels, but lots and lots of animals. It wasn’t a bad smell, but rather something that reminded me of trips to my grandparents’ farm.

first sight of New Zealand's North Island just before sunrise

The land wasn’t the only spectacular thing. Within minutes we were surrounded by hundreds of common dolphins. They swam in front of the bow in an unorganized procession, welcoming us to their home. They smiled, whistled, flashed their yellow sides, and danced. Weaving around each other and leaping into the air, they put on a show. We cheered as they jumped and laughed as they slapped their tails on the water’s surface. Eventually, as the dolphins spread out, it truly hit me: we had done it. We had completed the New Zealand crossing. With that thought in my mind, I took the helm and steered the boat toward safe harbor.

a common dolphin swimming along side as though welcoming us to New Zealand


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Categories: cruising kids, passages, uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

temporary interlude


street art in Honolulu ~ POW! WOW! x Hokule'a

“In order to be a Navigator, you have to be fierce” ~ Mau Piailug

Throughout our time in the Pacific, we have crossed paths with the Hokule’a and the many people involved with her. She has managed to intertwine herself into our lives, and has become a fascination and a love.

Watch “The Talk of the Sea Video” and learn more about the Hokule’a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

As for the crew of the Full Monty, life has gotten quite busy for the time being. Boat maintenance, a temporary job, homeschool, and preparing for a visit from family. Therefore, my blogging will resume around the end of April. To those of you who are following our every step, I apologize for the longer delay. In the meantime, the kids have some compositions they have written that relate to our cruising and things they have learned along the way. It will be fun to see it from their eyes!

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Categories: navigation, newsworthy | Tags: , | 2 Comments

new zealand ~ haul-out & maintenance, the good & the bad

February 11 – March 14, 2014

Other than the brief beaching in Opua for the thru-hull repair, it had been nearly two years since our last haul-out. Along with a small handful of maintenance jobs, the ole gal was in need of some bottom paint, and it was also high time to give her steel skeleton of a rudder some fiberglass and shape.

Having a work space available for fiberglassing the rudder was a priority. We had asked Norsand if we could rent a spot in their yard in order to finish our rudder, and they weren’t able to accommodate us. Fortunately, CBW (Cat & Boat Worx) was more than willing to allow us to use a space in their shed to get the work done.

Several days before the scheduled haul-out at CBW, we moved the boat down to the basin at Port Nikau where the haul-out ramp was located. We used this time to prioritize our out-of-the-water jobs, acquire all necessary supplies, and get the rudder job going. Since the rudders have 8-foot shafts, and the tractor lift can’t lift us high enough, it was necessary to drop the rudders while still in the water. (After Tonga, we have plenty of experience dropping and installing rudders now!) The good rudder would be used to create a template for the final shape on the new rudder. Also, while we waited for our haul-out, Wil took the new steel rudder to a machinist shop where they cut away any unnecessary steel, leaving behind only the shaft and the existing gussets.

The next minor challenge we faced was having to steer our rudderless boat onto the lift. Being a catamaran with two engines made the task easier, but it still required a little practice. Moments before the tractor came to fetch us, we hauled anchor, and I practiced steering the boat without rudders. I did a variety of maneuvers which included driving a small circle, stopping, and backing. Since there was a 15 knot wind, I also practiced holding the boat in position. Without rudders, it was amazing at how quickly the boat responded to just a slight bump of the throttle. I had to be extra careful not to give too much throttle, as well as compensate for the quick response.

When the time came to drive up onto the lift, it was like I’d driven into a lift without rudders in a 15 knot wind many times before. I was able to hold the boat in position and make necessary adjustments while Wil, the kids, and the yard crew secured the boat, placed blocks, and made sure the boat was ready to lift. It was beautiful!

Unlike all of our past haul-out experiences, this yard crew had us stay on the boat while they lifted and moved it. This was a good opportunity to listen for unusual noises and make sure everything was ok. As the boat reached the top of the ramp, that’s when it happened. CRACKKKKK!!

The kids and I were inside when we heard the crack, but we couldn’t tell where it came from. I yelled for Wil, and we immediately started looking for the source of the sound. We looked at walls, floors, and doorways. We opened and closed doors to check for anything out of whack. We couldn’t find anything wrong.

our rudderless boat on the lift & in dire need of bottom maintenance


The boat was already halfway to the yard when the cracking sound happened again. This time we were all right there, and this time we saw what it was. Our single remaining good escape hatch was cracking!! (We’d lost the other escape hatch on the Caribbean Sea, and we still had not found a replacement.) Now, the foam blocks that had been placed between our boat and the steel beams of the lift were being flatten under our 20 ton weight, and the steel beams were completely against the glass, cracking it and bending the hatch frame. There was nothing we could do. It was too late. The damage had been done.

escape hatch cracking under pressure from the steel beam



hatch no longer level

hatch frame bent more than 1/2 inch


We had mixed feelings. Sadly, our hatch was cracked and damaged. At the same time, we were actually a bit excited about the damaged hatch. This time someone else was responsible, and maybe it meant that we could get a set of matching hatches that worked. Of course, we’d pay for the first hatch that had been stolen by a wave, but now there would be one source for glass and parts for both hatches.

a dirty bottom!

CBW was very good about documenting the damage with us and deciding on a course of action. Fortunately for CBW, we only wanted the yard to purchase the glass and make sure we had a square hatch frame. We wanted to handle the installation ourselves. We also let them know that we would raise the salon floors to check for any hidden structural damage. Luckily, the fiberglass and stringers seemed to be fine under the floors.

In the end, the entire cost to us for replacement of our lost escape hatch was $150! Brand new Goiot hatch parts would have totaled about $1500. However, we obtained new acrylic through a hatch company that the boatyard uses and found $18 Goiot handles at All Marine. What a deal!

waiting for her place in the yard

After a power wash to her bottom, the boat was moved to her reserved location in the yard, and there was no hesitation on our part to start tackling our out-of-water priority list.

The kids were excited because s/v Sueño was just a few boats down from us in the yard. For the next three weeks, a routine was established. Nathalie was working on a certification for her work, so each morning she would take all the kids to the library to do their schoolwork. Wil and I would work on our boat without having to worry about the kids, and David would work on Sueño. The kids would come home for lunch, and then they’d all get put to work on assigned boat jobs. Once the kid chores were completed, the boatyard would come alive with kids running and playing all over the place. Occasionally, they’d all go down to Norsand to play with the s/v Yindee Plus boys, or the Yindee Plus boys would join the chaos at CBW. Sometimes, we’d let the kids burn their energy at the Whangarei Aquatic Center or at the Town Basin playground. Having multiple kid boats hauled at the same time simplified boatyard life and made it a lot more fun! Every one of us also enjoyed weekly boatyard BBQs and free, long, hot showers each night.

only 2 months after its cleaning on the beach

Priority out-of-water jobs consisted of:

  • scrape, sand, and paint the bottom
  • fabricate, glass, and shape new rudder
  • install newly fabricated bushing for new rudder
  • add zincs to new rudder
  • compound and polish the hulls
  • dinghy maintenance & repairs: clean bottom, repair rub rail, remove rust stains, patch leak, change impeller & oil (upper & lower) in engine
  • re-bed escape hatch frames
  • install new glass, handles and weatherstripping for escape hatches
  • install new cutlass bearing
  • clean & grease a dripping drip-less shaft seal

Other jobs that were also completed during the 3-week haul-out:

  • a new used jib was fitted & purchased ($1350 from Sailbrokers)
  • mainsail was taken for some restitching & reinforcement
  • installed newly fabricated genaker sheave at the mast top
  • replace one drip-less shaft seal (leaked on launch & we needed to be re-hauled for a night)

dinghy maintenance & repair

In order to complete the rudder fabrication, Wil was able to buy (for cheap) spare pieces of foam which he glued together to form a “case” for the steel rudder skeleton. Once the two sides were created, he used a Sharpie pen to outline the skeleton before using a grinder to carve out the spot for the steel. The next step was like making an epoxy glue sandwich. With a thick layer of epoxy glue (West System 403) smeared across the foam, he pressed both pieces together and left them clamped overnight. Next, a grinder and homemade calipers were used to achieve the appropriate shape and measurements. Once the rudder had its shape, it was fiberglassed, faired, and bottom painted, and zincs were added. Since the new rudder shaft was 38 mm, compared to the previous 40 mm, a new bushing was made and a 38 mm steel rod was used to appropriately place the new bushing.

existing rudder was used to obtain proper measurements for new rudder

steel skeleton placed in foam










foam epoxied together & sanded

homemade calipers to help check dimensions








Actual installation of both rudders occurred right before launch when the tractor backed our stern over the top edge of a rock retaining wall to allow for the extra distance needed to re-insert the 8-foot shafts. This was a nerve-wracking move because the ground was wet, and we had to be positioned where the lift wouldn’t sink into the mud and cause us to slide backwards down the rocks. With Wil standing at the base of the rocks and under the stern, and myself in the engine room, we installed the rudders as quickly as possible. For the new rudder, the spacers needed some minor adjustments, so the rudder could reach its secured position and not have its leading edge touch the hull. This took a few tries before the rudder was right and was a perfect match to the other rudder! My heart raced during every second that Wil was underneath the stern of the boat. We were all relieved when the boat could finally be pulled forward to the hard asphalt.

Ahhhh! Looking MUCH better! ~ ready for rudder install & launch

Next stop was the launch ramp. After 3 weeks of continuous hard work, we were thrilled to be headed for the water. Compared to the 3 years out of the water prior to cruising, this had been a breeze, but we were still exhausted. At the same time, we knew it wasn’t over until we were floating free from the boat ramp. Something in our gut must have reminded us of this fact because moments after being lowered into the water, we had to be hauled back out for one more overnight in the yard.

The drip-less shaft seal in the starboard engine room was leaking. During our haul-out, Wil had removed the seal, cleaned it, and packed it with grease before replacing it. However, at this moment, it was quite obvious that the maintenance had not been enough. We quickly learned that the seal was way beyond worn out. While still on the launch ramp, I made phone calls and was able to locate the part. By that evening, Wil had installed the new one, and we were ready for a round-two splash the following morning.

Once we were floating and back on the hook, our bodies relaxed, and we looked forward to some physical recuperation. Nothing better than the sound of water lapping at the hull to aid in the rejuvenation of mind and body. BUT, yet again, there was no rest for the weary. A second cyclone was on its way!

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new zealand ~ trouble in paradise

January 23 – February 11, 2014

Brief Abstract: Cold and rainy, a depleted cruising kitty, no job possibilities, a minor car accident for Wil, and excruciating abdominal pain for me. We had suddenly hit a major low point in cruising. Thankfully, amidst it all, we were among good friends who helped us through.

sailing canoe moored on the river near Whangarei


With my parents’ visit and Cyclone June behind us, it was time to direct our focus toward some much needed boat maintenance, as well as a job hunt. Over 2 years of long-distance, offshore cruising was taking its toll on the boat, and the cruising kitty was nearly depleted. Whangarei seemed like a good place to get ourselves back on track. After all, New Zealand had been our goal. If things worked out according to plan, we’d find jobs and possibly stay for more than just one season. But, when does anything ever go according to plan?

During a brief interlude with s/v Sueñ0 in Parua Bay, we took a few days to organize the next phase of our lives. Since the Sueños had a van, they were kind enough to give us rides into town. One day, in addition to helping me deliver our torn jib to Calibre Sails, Nathalie dropped me at the laundromat, and we did some grocery shopping together. Nathalie was also pricing supplies for new salon curtains, and asked if I would like to have the job of sewing the curtains for Sueñ0. I was thrilled at the prospect!

Eventually, Sueñ0 needed to move up the river to CBW (Cat & Boat Worx, now Riverside Boat Worx) for their scheduled haul-out. At the same time, s/v Yindee Plus was in the yard at Norsand, just a mile up from CBW. While we were trying to decide which boatyard would best suit our needs, we chose to take advantage of the extra kid time, and we anchored near the boatyards.

an aerial view of the Whangarei waterfront

Boats tend to anchor near Norsand while waiting for their haul-out, or if they need a brief stop in Whangarei. We anchored near Norsand (at red buoy H2) in order to be a little closer to town, but it was still a good 2-mile walk to the nearest business district. Fortunately and thankfully, from our friends in Parua Bay, we were able to borrow their spare car for the remainder of our New Zealand visit.

Along with getting the boat ready for haul-out, Wil also began job hunting. He was offered a job with a landscaping company, but because his position was not on the New Zealand Immigration skill shortage list, he couldn’t accept the job. An immigration officer told him that if he were under 30 and/or if he was just looking for holiday work, it would be no problem. This was the beginning of what felt like a spiral downward.

Around this same time period, Wil was on his way into town when he ended up in a minor car accident within a roundabout. He had not seen any vehicles in the roundabout when he entered. Suddenly, he heard squalling of tires as a car accelerated to make it past him. Both vehicles were unsuccessful in their defensive moves, and Wil ended up hitting the back of the passing car.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, the mother of the kid who was involved in the accident saw the whole thing, and she was not a happy camper. She immediately ran over and let a few choice words fly towards Wil. Wil was extremely apologetic and eventually everyone calmed down. As more details became available, it was learned that the other car involved was not registered and had no insurance.

Details were complicated, but in the end, everything worked out. Wil was able to repair some of the damage to our friends’ car, and the insurance company on our side was able to handle a claim. And, since the car we were borrowing was old and had plenty of its own issues, our friends weren’t concerned with the minor dents to the fender. We could breathe a sigh of relief . . . even if it was only for a brief moment.

I was standing in the salon. Both kids were doing school, and Wil was standing nearby. The sharp pain in my abdomen came on without warning, taking my breath away. Everyone looked at me and knew something was wrong. I could barely stand or breathe and had to get to my bunk to lay down. I attempted to palpate the painful area just to the right of my belly button, but the rebound pain was excruciating. There was not a position to help ease the pain. I curled up on my left side and tried to focus on taking shallow breaths. The painful pain lasted for about 30 minutes before it gradually subsided. However, for the next couple of days, I didn’t feel completely well, and there was an occasional nagging ache.

This was finally a time to let my family in on a bit of news. I had actually had two previous episodes prior to this one. However, no one was onboard with me when they occurred, they weren’t nearly as severe, and I’d only thought they were due to something I’d eaten. The most recent had been in Tonga about a month before.

I’m stubborn about going to doctors for myself, but after a chit-chat with Sue (s/v Yindee Plus) who is a nurse, I finally decided to see a doc. My biggest fear was the possibility of appendicitis. The pain was on the border between the upper right and lower right quadrants, and not always in the exact same spot. My mom, who tends have bizarre presentations of some common illnesses, had suffered intermittent abdominal pain for a year before having an emergency appendectomy. Was I following in her footsteps? It would not be safe for me to go to sea if there was a strong possibility for a ruptured appendix.

After a visit to the doctor, some lab work, and an ultrasound, I was diagnosed with a “grumbling” appendix. Nothing was totally conclusive, and the physician could only give a best guess. A doctor friend of ours wasn’t satisfied with the results, and he felt sure that I was having problems with my gall bladder. Either way, choosing a course of action, as well as deciding whether to return to sea in my condition, was stressful to say the least.

anchored near Norsand on the Hatea River ~ looking south toward Ship Repairs NZ & CBW


We had major choices to make. The rain continued to pour. We were cold, broke, and with illness. Should we stay in New Zealand? Should we go? Where should we go? What should we do?

Every day for a week, we looked at the world map on the wall, we reviewed all possible world cruising routes, and researched job possibilities everywhere from New Zealand, to Australia, to Thailand, to US territories, and even mainland USA. Each day we came up with an idea for where we could go and what we could do, and each day our ideas changed. We did our best to think outside the box. Finally, there was one idea that brought smiles to all of our faces. We all became very excited about our new idea, and some of us even jumped for joy.

Hawaii . . . we would go to Hawaii! Hawaii was warm. Hawaii was known for good surfing. We would be US citizens in a US state without immigration issues. Hawaii had plenty of jobs available. Best of all, we would get to do a return trip through French Polynesia on our way to Hawaii! Immediately, we thought of all the French Polynesian islands that we loved, as well as all the places we had to miss because we had run out of time. We would get a second chance. We had a new goal, and it didn’t matter to us in which order we would see the world. Indonesia and Thailand could come at a later date.

A plan was laid out. For the time being, I put my tummy aches on the back burner. After all, if it was a “grumbling” appendix, there was nothing I could do about it until it spoke up again. We focused on what boat work would be done during our haul-out, and we enjoyed the time we had left with our cruising buddies. We continued to live life in Whangarei, and life felt good again.

Noemie's birthday (s/v Sueñ0) celebrated with friends at the local pool


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new zealand ~ tropical cyclone june

January 19 – 23, 2014

the approach of June


Didn’t we go to New Zealand to avoid the cyclones?

Tropical Cyclone June was bearing down on New Zealand, and we needed to find safe harbor before her arrival. Once a brief category 2 storm, it was possible that we would only receive her remnants, but for our own safety, we were going to assume the worst.

The clockwise spinning storm was moving from New Caledonia in a south-southeasterly direction toward New Zealand’s North Island, and we were most likely in for a direct hit.

As the storm drew closer to our area, weather forecasts became more specific to our location. The cyclonic weather event for us would begin with northeast winds to 45 knots. Gradually, the winds would clock to the northwest with winds to 65 knots. It was looking like we were going to experience the strongest side of the storm. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the northwest quarter of a cyclone is the most dangerous quadrant.)

Bostaquet Bay on the southern side of Kawau Island became our anchorage of choice. We did not want to be against the mainland with the 45 knot winds out of the northeast, and we were trying to avoid areas of wind funneling through the hills. Plenty of swinging room was important since we were going to put out all 200 feet of our 1/2-inch chain. And, we didn’t want to worry about anyone else dragging into us.

When we first entered Bostaquet Bay, there were a handful of beach goers and power boaters enjoying the last of the good weather on the northwest side of the bay. There were two other sailboats tucked into the northeast side of the bay. We chose to anchor near the local beach goers. It would only be a matter of time before they would all go home for the day, and then we would have the spot to ourselves. This side would also provide protection from the strongest winds.

Our plan seemed feasible at the time, but as the day progressed, the wrap-around swell from the east continued to build in the anchorage. With the easterly winds, we sat bow into the swell, and we weren’t uncomfortable at all. However, we began to think of our future when the winds would clock to the north. Northerly winds would force us to sit uncomfortably with our starboard beam to the swell. Not fun in a multihull!

The boats on the other side of the anchorage had made the better choice with regard to swell. After observing their side of the anchorage, we made the decision to relocate. However, we didn’t want to crowd the other boats, and we still needed our swinging room. We managed to find a spot against the eastern side of the bay. We were quite close to the rocks, and there wasn’t as much swinging room as we would have liked, but based on the forecast wind directions for that night, we would only swing away from the shore.

a wallaby sighted while we waited for the storm

We weren’t in our new location for very long before we heard Wil call out that there was a monkey onshore. A monkey? As far as I knew, there were no wild monkeys in New Zealand! What in the world was he seeing? We all ran up on deck to see what the “monkey” was.

At first, I could only make out the long, bushy tail. I could see how that could be mistaken for a monkey’s tail. We all took turns looking through the binoculars, trying to figure out what we were seeing. Finally, the animal moved into an open space on the rocks. It was a wallaby!

We had finally gotten to see a wallaby on Kawau Island, and we were all quite excited. We watched the wallaby move around on the rocks until there wasn’t enough light left in the day. Then, we settled in for a long and windy night.

During the night, there were a few fishing boats that were offshore toughing out June’s winds. However, they eventually sought refuge near us behind Kawau Island. We were amazed at how they were able to navigate to the shallower waters amidst the storm.

Throughout the following morning, the winds gradually diminished. A beautiful, calm lull came over the area. Was it the eye of storm? We knew that June wasn’t finished with us yet. The strongest winds were still to come.

looking toward the mainland from Kawau Island

The wind started to shift, but it was still light. We were starting to swing towards the shore, and we knew it was time to relocate. The other two sailboats hoisted their anchors and departed the bay. We had been thinking that we would just return to the northwest side of the anchorage, but their departure had us ponder other options.

After evaluating our situation, we decided to make a break for the mainland where we would be even more protected from the northwest winds. Goldsworthy Bay, just around the corner from the familiar Algies Bay, seemed like a good choice, so we made a run for it.

As we neared the mainland, we noticed two other sailboats in Goldsworthy Bay. They were the same two boats from our previous anchorage. Great minds think alike!

near Kawau Island ~ a calm between wind bands ~ fishing boat arrived during one set of strong winds

We sat out the remainder of Cyclone June in Goldworthy Bay. We were well protected, and even ended up with a free wifi signal that reached the boat!

Later, we learned that the Snells Beach area had been one of the hardest hit by Cyclone June when her northeast winds and waves battered the coastline. Tropical storm force winds had been clocked at 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph / 54 knots), and damage had been left in her wake.

We felt fortunate for our good anchorage choices, and our confidence in our 40 kilo (88 lb) Rocna anchor had grown even more. We had just experienced our first Southern Hemisphere cyclone, all was well . . . and we had gotten to see a wallaby!

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new zealand ~ auckland

January 15 – 19, 2014

being treated to a slip in the Viaduct Harbour

As we backed into our assigned slip in the Viaduct Harbour, we breathed a sigh of relief for having a newly instated insurance policy. There was a smaller racing sailboat with a carbon-fiber bowsprit just to our starboard side as we backed into our corner slot. We never touched a single part of the race boat, but we held our breath until we were safely tied off. Whew! Once we were squared away in the marina office, we all took off for lunch at a nearby pub and a walk to explore the area.

O'Hagan's Pub ~ near the water & free wifi

Here is a little tidbit about myself when I step foot in a big city after being remote for such a long time, and I have spoken with other sailors who experience the same thing. Cruising in remote areas is generally quiet and peaceful. Our minds become accustomed to a certain level of solitude, but we are still tuned in to noises that alert us of potential trouble or dangers, such as the weather or different boat sounds. Suddenly, throw us into a big, bustling city, and our senses become overwhelmingly overloaded.

My brain was keenly aware of every sound my ears heard as I walked up an Auckland sidewalk with Wil. My eyes couldn’t move fast enough to take in every sight. Cars zooming up the street. People brushing by on the sidewalk. Horns honking. Music booming. Sirens blaring. Traffic lights flashing. Doors opening and closing. The list goes on. It doesn’t take long before I can’t even function. I can’t make a decision. I can’t focus on us and what we’re doing. I become panicked and just want to get away from all of it.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to deal with this sensory overload. Breathe and temporarily remove myself to a quieter spot in order to get a grip. On our first day in Auckland, I had to do just that. We saw a Katmandu store just ahead of us, and having been in one in Whangarei, I knew it would be familiar to me. Grabbing Wil’s arm, we ducked into the store. Almost immediately, my muscles began to relax as I focused on browsing through the clothing racks. There were only muffled sounds of other shoppers, and I could not hear or see anything going on outside. Once I was re-focused, we returned to the outside world and continued on our way.

Auckland's sky tower


Sir Peter Blake's Steinlager II


Steinlager II










It wasn’t long before we were able to be reunited with our s/v Sueño buddies. They had dropped Nathalie’s parents at the airport, and they were free to stop by for dinner. As always, it was great to hang out with them again!

card games & iPods


enjoying a good visit








For the next few days, not only did we enjoy the sights of Auckland, but we also cherished the last moments of my parents’ visit.

fern leaf design on a Kiwi cup of coffee


a gorgeous Eggs Benedict!




church converted to a home


black swans in Herne Bay










Auckland's sky tower and city lights










Viaduct Harbour pedestrian bridge


s/y Mondango




s/y Mondango 2








Friends Pete and Rae (s/v Saliander) had left their boat in Hawaii while they returned home to Auckland for the holidays. They were our own private tour guides for a day, providing us with one of their “tiki” tours of Auckland and its surrounding areas, as well as a little bit of family history.

view of Auckland from Savage Memorial Park

Savage Memorial Park

Savage Memorial Monument


fishing buddies catching up ~ overlooking Rangitoto Island










a single tree at Mt Eden


walking Mt Eden's volcanic cone ridge line










Maori Warrior in Kaitaka Cloak



The Glass Box Cafe & Bar





a mime bridal dress in suitcase





One day was spent walking and souvenir shopping in Auckland with my mom. It had been over a year since we’d done the “girl” thing together, so it was a special time.


the complete mismatch


KZ1 at the New Zealand Maritime Museum














Many unique structures and buildings add to the beauty of Auckland.

an optical illusion ~ Which is crooked? The ground or the port-a-johns?


information containers & ATM machine








sidewalk past ASB Bank HQ office building


unique siding on ASB Bank HQ




metal structure at Wynyard Quarter


moon over Auckland














My parents were scheduled to fly out of Auckland early on the Sunday morning. To our surprise, Ironman Auckland was commencing on the exact same morning. There were notices of numerous street closures, and the swim portion of the event would take place right past our boat! Finding an exit plan for my parents was tricky, but we settled on walking them to a point where they could pick up a prearranged taxi cab.

plenty of signs to announce the Ironman Auckland event

At 4 a.m. on the morning of my parents’ departure, crowds were gathered by the water’s edge. We woke to the hum of their voices and cheers. We all got to watch the swimmers kick off the event before we needed to rush my parents to their cab. The event was exciting to see, but we were sad to see my parents go. It was all over far too quickly.

from our corner slip, we had front row seats for the start of Ironman Auckland!


swimmers preparing to enter the water


swimmers waiting for the start signal


Ironman swimmers entering the Viaduct Harbour








Once my parents were gone, and the Ironman swimmers were done, we exited the Viaduct Harbour for our next adventure. Cyclone June was due to hit the area the following day, and we needed to be ready for her. Never a dull moment for the Full Monty crew!

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new zealand ~ the rest of the way to auckland

January 14 – 15, 2014

torn jib already furled ~ reefing the main as winds increased to 35 knots


Departing Kawau Bay for another short hop south, we knew we would be in for a bit of wind. And, of course, it would be on the nose, no less! Southeast winds were forecast to be about 15-20 knots, and based on our growing knowledge of the waters surrounding New Zealand, we knew to expect more. I was excited because this was the perfect chance to show my parents what our boat could do!

My dad was at the helm for most of the day. Even as the winds grew, he seemed to be completely content in his element. Wil and I only stood by for when further reefing became necessary.

This was the moment when our 21-year old jib decided it had had enough. While the jib was already partially furled, we were in the process of furling it more when nature told us we’d waited too long. Rrrrip! That was the end of that sail! We knew we were on borrowed time with the jib, and we were in a good location for a replacement, so for the moment there were no worries. We further reefed the main, and continued on our course.

As usual for our day hops, we had no idea where we would end up for the night. We would have to stop short of Auckland, so we could enter during daylight hours the following day. Also, since we’d be going into a marina for a few days, it had almost slipped my mind that we didn’t have boat insurance. I needed time to find a liability policy ASAP. Using a weak internet signal received by our antenna atop the mast, I was able to fill out online forms for The Marina Shop Marine Insurance (Opua based) prior to our arrival in Auckland.

That night, we were able to seek shelter from the wind in Sandy Bay on the northwest side Motutapu Island. While our anchor was snug and we were all comfy inside, other boats in the anchorage dragged multiple times, and we heard a Pan Pan call on the VHF for a sailboat about 10 miles out with engine trouble. The next morning under calm winds, we were able to complete the final leg to Auckland and into the Viaduct Harbour where my mom wanted to give us the gift of being at a dock for four days. What a treat!

Sandy Bay, Motutapu Island ~ calm the following morning


coffee mug in front of the helm while we haul the anchor




early morning fishing line deployment





looking toward Rangitoto Island ~ Rangitoto is Maori for "Bloody Sky"







Rangitoto Island is one of Auckland’s most recent and largest volcanoes.

special purpose beacon ~ western Rangitoto










Auckland skyline from afar

welcome to Auckland!


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