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Nancy Morrison


Passage to New Zealand

On Thursday, November 9, we (along with several boats) pulled up the anchor at 9:00 a.m. and headed to the pass to leave North Minerva Reef. Outside the pass, we put up our mainsail with two reefs and then unfurled the jib. On port tack, we aimed for a waypoint just west of South Minerva Reef. We were on a very close reach at first but later the wind came more from behind and we sailed on a beam reach. Once we passed South Minerva Reef, we aimed for a waypoint that our router, John Martin, had provided, which took us slightly west of the rhumb line to Opua, New Zealand.

This shows our track as we leave Minerva Reef

Day One was eventful from a boat-issues standpoint. First, the pin on the autopilot RAM sheared off and we lost the ability to steer with the autopilot. Johno hand-steered for an hour while Pat went down into the lazarette and replaced the pin. Next, a familiar groan associated with the rudder stock resumed. We had not had problems with it for some time. We opened the port and lubricated the area associsted with the groan. When we did that, we noticed that the four bolts that hold the stock were loose and there was a lot of play. We tightened those bolts.

The seas were big and the wind was in the high teens or low twenties, so the boat was heeled over and bouncing around. Dinner flew off the stove and ended up on the floor but I served it anyway. Later that night, the line that held the anchor in place snapped, and the anchor was riding about four feet below the bow, trying to crash into the boat with every wave. We ran forward to secure it.

For the first twenty-four hours of the passage, we logged 161 nautical miles, which is very good for Aldabra. That’s an average of 6.7 nautical miles per hour. On Friday, conditions stayed very much the same, big seas and ample wind. I had been sleeping on the port-side settee while we were heeled over and I must have put too much pressure on the table because the legs came out of their bases. Everything on the table went flying to the floor and everything under the table shifted from the port side to the center of the boat. While Pat was on watch, Johno helped me put the table right and reorganize everything, and then I tied things more securely. Rather than risk dislodging the table again, I started sleeping very comfortably on the starboard settee.

The bilge pump was going on regularly for seconds at a time. We were taking on water, most likely at the bow. It was not because of the anchor mishap, fortunately. We were taking on water through the anchor windlass opening and perhaps from underneath the bow roller. None of it was threatening the safety of the boat but it would need to be investigated in New Zealand. Coincidently, other boats around us were reporting water coming into their boats. This kind of passage is going to expose issues that might go undetected in more benign conditions.

Johno is rarely seen all bundled up but the passage was getting cold

Pat in his foulies

Bundled up

During the night on Friday, conditions intensified a bit. We had 25-30 knots of wind. It was wet and cold, with fish flying into the cockpit. Johno had to hand steer on his shift. Dinner ended up on the floor again but was still served. We also occasionally lost our GPS info for up to 20 minutes, which meant that we lost our position relative to the other boats on the water.

Johno’s shot of sunrise on Saturday morning

On Saturday morning, our mileage for the previous twenty-four hours was 159 nautical miles. It was a very windy day with very big waves. We continued sailing with a double-reefed main and a bit of jib pulled out. At one point, we were heeled over so much that the forward sink overflowed into the boat because water was being forced back into the boat from the thru hull.

Going into the evening, we were starting to sail more upwind. We slowed the boat down to manage for that wind angle and the big waves. At some point, we suspected that the anchor had come loose again. When we went to the bow to investigate, we noticed that the furling drum was bent forward because we had over-sheeted the jib. Afraid that we had damaged the forestay or the furling system, we furled the jib and sailed for the rest of the night with just the main. We also noticed that waves had broken two stanchions on the port side. We removed the full jerry cans of fuel from the stainless-steel rack on the port side, and secured them in the cockpit to take the stress off the broken railing.

On Sunday, November 12, the morning brought mellower conditions. We had sailed all night with no jib, but Johno had run the lines so that we could put up the storm jib. As soon as I woke up, we ran the spinnaker halyard up to the bow to back up the forestay. Then we hoisted the storm jib. The winds and the seas built during the day. We reached the intermediate waypoint that our router had provided, and started heading for a new waypoint that he thought would help us avoid an unfavorable current. It was slow going with the reefed main and the storm jib. During the previous twenty-four hours, our mileage was just 125 nautical miles.

On Monday, November 13, during my midnight to 4:00 a.m. shift, the winds were subsiding. I had to run the motor to keep us on our line to the waypoint and to keep us above 4 knots of boat speed. I would keep the motor in gear during light winds and put it into neutral when squalls would pass through and bring stronger winds. Our mileage for the previous twenty-four hours was 119 nautical miles. Later in the morning, we ran a new furling line for the regular jib and started using it instead of the storm jib. That helped our boat speed as we sailed all morning. In the afternoon, we motor sailed for several hours.

Sunset out on the water

Johno took this sunrise shot on Tuesday morning

Tuesday started out very mellow with lighter seas and winds. Then the winds and seas started to build. We started sailing on just the reefed main and no jib. It was another 119 mile day. The wind stayed strong all day and into the night. Eventually we tacked over to starboard. Slowly, as we got closer to New Zealand, the seas started to flatten a bit. We turned the motor on before midnight to stay on course.

On Wednesday, November 15, we got to the entrance of the bay at 3:30 a.m. After being in remote locations for so long, it was interesting to listen to all the radio traffic. There was one boat chiding a tanker because it failed to respond to a radio request when they were on a collision course. And then the maritime authorities of New Zealand managed a rescue, which kept me engaged for more than an hour. Johno took the helm at 4:00 a.m. and we continued through the harbor to Opua.

It took us about an hour and a half to get to the quarantine dock. We didn’t quite know where we were going so we ended up on the quarantine dock for superyachts. But the Customs and Biosecurity officials were fine with seeing us there. It took the better part of the day to check in, but we had a good experience with both sets of officials. Later that afternoon, after we were checked in, we took the boat into the marina, and Steve and Sharon from Szel helped us with our docklines. That night, we went to the Opua Cruising Club for drinks and dinner and met up with boat crews we had made the passage with as well as crews we hadn’t seen for some time. It was great fun.

The marina in Opua is very nice. On Thursday morning, Pat and I took advantage of their exceptional laundry facilities and did several loads of laundry, while Johno went for a hike. That evening, we returned to the Opua Cruising Club for another fun night of socializing with all the friends we had made over the last several weeks.

Johno took this on his hike in Opua

The next day, on Friday morning, we checked out of the marina and cast off our dock lines at 9:00 a.m. We motored out of the bay and then sailed downwind, with winds in the high teens, to the entrance of the bay that leads to Whangarei.

Sailing through the Bay of Islands

The scenery on the way south was gorgeous and we had a lovely sail, anchoring in Urquhart Bay just before dark, along with the sailboat Taku. We had a late dinner and slept well before pulling up anchor at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday to motor up the river to the marina in Whangarei. Midnight Breeze was right behind us and we went through the drawbridge together.

Aldabra going through the bridge opening on the way to the marina in Whangarei

After getting settled into our slip in Marina Whangarei, we took showers and then joined some other cruisers at The Judge restaurant in town. We had a very nice visit with Dale and Katrina on Womble, who we hadn’t seen since we were in the Tuamotus in August of 2022.

From Sunday until Wednesday morning, we worked on the boat during the day, getting ready to leave it for a few weeks. During the evenings we visited with cruiser friends, including Dale and Katrina on Womble, Richard and Caroline on Midnight Breeze and Jamie on Szel. Right before we left, we moved to another slip.

Our marina in New Zealand

Then, with our boat projects completed, we hopped on a bus for Auckland. Once there, we took a cab to a hotel at the airport, spent the night and caught our planes back to the States on Thursday afternoon. We arrived early on Thursday morning, just in time for Thanksgiving festivities.

Passages, Places

Passage to North Minerva Reef

On Wednesday, November 1, we sailed in nice conditions out of the pass on the western side of Tongatapu and then continued on course to North Minerva Reef in nice conditions until early afternoon. At about 2:00 p.m., the wind went light and shifted direction. We shook a reef out of the main and furled the jib so we could motor sail for a while and charge the batteries. About an hour later, the wind picked up and we shut off the motor and unfurled the jib. We put the second reef in the main. We sailed through most of the night with two reefs in the main and the jib partly furled. Johno unfurled the jib completely during his watch at 4:00 a.m. 

Night sailing on the way to Minerva Reef

On Thursday, Novembert 2, we continued sailing with good speed with a double-reefed main and a full jib. In the afternoon, we couldn’t hold our course, we were being pushed to the east. We jibed over and sailed for three hours before jibing back. At that point, we had a perfect angle for continuing on to Minerva Reef. After my shift ended at 4:00 p.m., Johno started hand steering and got the boat moving very fast. He clocked 10 knots of boat speed at one point and was having a great time sailing. At 8:00 p.m., Pat took over and we slowed the boat down for the night by furling the jib a bit. Later, we took the main down and just sailed with a reefed jib. When I came on watch at midnight, I calculated that we could go a bit faster and still get to Minerva after daybreak, so I unfurled the jib completely. My shift was uneventful except for hailing one boat that didn’t have AIS and was on a collision course with us. We sorted that out and sailed smoothly until arriving at the entrance to the reef. By that time, Johno was on watch and he furled the jib and took us in through the pass. We anchored on the northeast corner with Szel and Blue Beryl, Amae, Elixir, Blue Marine and Jollity. Midnight Breeze, Susimi and La Vida anchored on the southeast corner but joined us the next day. It was a windy day inside the reef.

Getting ready to enter the pass at Minerva Reef

Saturday, November 4 was a cold and gloomy and windy day. We went to lunch on Blue Beryl, enjoying Ota Iki and sashimi. That night we had lobster for dinner, which Alex had given to us.

On Sunday, many of us took our dinghies over to Pogeyan, and Richard escorted us outside the pass to snorkel what he calls the Blue Lagoon. Richard and Michelle have been coming to the Minerva Reefs for years and are very gracious hosts, showing all of us newcomers where to go. That night, we had a huge potluck on their boat. There were 38 people, having a great time visiting and eating.

Potluck on Pogeyan

We had thought that Monday, November 6 would be our day to head for New Zealand, but the weather routers postponed it. Instead, Johno and Max from Elixir and Isabela from Blue Beryl went lobster hunting and brought back ample lobster for dinner.

Successful lobster hunt

Johno and his lobster

They repeated the hunt the next day, taking lots of other cruisers with them. Again, we enjoyed a lobster dinner. Before their Tuesday hunt, most of the boats in the anchorage (we had now moved to the southeast corner because the wind had shifted) went in their dinghies with Richard to explore the reef while it was exposed by the low tide. We all stood around on the reef and visited, our first time walking in several days, and possibly our last time walking for a week.

Hanging out on the reef

Boats anchored at Minerva Reef

Boats anchored at Minerva Reef, taken from the top of the mast on Aldabra

We all had lots of conversations about when to leave, and even thought we would leave for New Zealand on Wednesday. But on Wednesday, the weather routers agreed that Thursday would be a better day. So Wednesday was spent on the boat, a very gloomy, windy, rainy day.

Passages, Places


On Sunday, October 15, Johno and I arrived at daybreak at the entrance to the Phia Passage on the eastern side of Tongatapu. We took our sails down and motored quite a long way through the passage until we arrived at Pangaimotu island. Many cruising boats were anchored there and we joined the crowd.

Pangaimotu near Big Mama’s

The anchorage is in front of what was once Big Mama’s restaurant, before the Tsunami. Now Earl and Mama offer services to cruisers who anchor there. They will shuttle people a mile into town. They offer their BBQ, tables and chairs for cruisers to picnic. And they help out in many other ways.

That night, after we had afternoon naps, we joined many cruisers, included Blue Beryl, Szel and Second Set in a potluck BBQ at Big Mama’s. We met new people, including Kristel and Philipe on Amae, and remet people such as JB, Ana and baby Olivia. We had previously met JB and Ana in the Marquesas, before Olivia was born.

On Monday, October 16, Johno and I went to shore and joined up with Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl on a walk to find the offices where we could check into the island group. We first went to the Port Authority office to pay the port fee. Then, we went to the Customs office across the street. There we got the paperwork that we would need for when we cleared out of the country. From there, we walked just over a mile to town. We checked out the public market and then had lunch at Friends Café, in the oldest building in the city.

Friends Cafe in NukuAlofa

After walking back to the dinghy, we motored the mile back to the anchorage. On Aldabra, we baked brownies that we took that night for a pizza dinner on Blue Beryl with Amae and Szel.

On Tuesday, October 17, we took 10 jerry cans and boarded Second Set for a ride to the wharf. Chip had permission to pull up to the wharf and, with the help of local “fixer” Olini, shuttle jerry cans of fuel from the gas station to the boat. We then syphoned fuel into Second Set and refilled the jerry cans to take back to Aldabra. Amae was there with us to do the same thing, and Jamie on Szel was there for moral support. We then all returned to the anchorage on Second Set and took our filled jerry cans back to our boats. Later that afternoon we had beers on Second Set with Chip and Kristina. It was really windy.

On Wednesday, it was still really windy so we stayed on the boat all day. That night, we had drinks and dinner on Szel with Jamie and Fiona, a delightful evening. Blue Beryl was on their own that night because Yvette was flying out early the next morning and the new crew, Fred and Isabela, were joining the boat.

On Thursday morning, we took our dinghy over to Szel and tied it on, joining Jamie and Fiona for a trip to the harbor. With much help from Johhno, we got Szel secure inside the harbor, anchored with a couple of lines to shore. Johno and I then took the dinghy to the dinghy dock and walked into town and had lunch at Friends Café. Jamie and Fiona joined us a bit later. From there, Fiona took a taxi to the airport to fly to Australia to see her son. And shortly after that, Jamie’s new crew, Steve and Sharon, arrived from the airport. While we were in Friends, we started meeting people. Karenza, whom we had met in Neiafu showed up on her way to the airport to go to Fiji to join a boat. We also met Uili Louisi, who runs a climate change NGO. Our trip back to the anchorage was very wet because the winds and seas continued to be whipped up.

On Friday, we stayed on the boat and did some projects. Johno cleaned a large portion of the boat bottom, which would need to be very clean before arriving in New Zealand. We then had drinks and appetizers on Yuva with Jim and Perry to celebrate Jim’s birthday. We had a lovely evening with them.

On Saturday, October 21, Johno and I took the dinghy back into town. We shopped and had lunch at Friends. We saw the folks from Traveller, Saorise, Amae and others. Jamie and Steve and Sharon from Szel joined us later. We walked the mile back to the dinghy with our provisions and stayed on the boat for a bit before returning to shore to pick up Pat, who was coming from the airport by taxi in the late afternoon. After Pat showed up, we helped Szel tie there lines at the wharf and then headed back to the boat so Pat could get settled in.

On Sunday, the day to be discreet if you are going to work on the boat, Johno and I worked on cleaning the boat bottom. I used one scuba tank to clean the keel and rudder and another to clean the prop and shaft. Johnno and Pat replaced a diode on the windass motor. That night, we joined other cruisers for a BBQ at Big Mama’s, which included, Amae, Sea Wind, Yuva, Taku, Midnight Breeze, Susimi, Pangea, Traveller Saorise and Tin Lizzy.

Looking out at the anchorage from Big Mama’s

Cruisers at the potluck

With Pat on the boat, we were ready to head to New Zealand, but the professional weather routers were telling us it wasn’t time yet. So along with the other boats, we waited. On Monday, we sewed new telltails on the mainsail and finished cleaning the boat bottom. On Tuesday, we stayed on the boat all day and made preparations for a passage. On Wednesday, we went to shore with two dive tanks to get filled and one propane tank. We were successful with the dive tanks but had to wait to get the propane tank filled. Next, we walked the mile to town so Pat could see it. We stopped at the post office so Johno could send a postcard and Pat could buy a stamp. We then had lunch at Friends before stopping by the market.

Shopping at the market

Walking with our grocerie along the waterfront

That evening, we had drinks on Szel with the Blue Beryl crew. Pat and I were home by 10:00 p.m. but the party itself went well into the night.

Party on Szel

From Thursday through Sunday, we just waited for the illusive weather window. We all found ways to amuse ourselves, some projects, some exploration, some reading.

On Monday morning, October 30, we got up early and went to shore to check out of the country. We started by walking to the fuel station to get a couple of jerry cans filled. And we went to a bakery we had just found out about. We bought all kinds of yummy things. Then we went back to the dinghy to drop off the jerry cans and got the propane tank to refill at Tonga Gas. Once that was taken care of, we went to Customs to check out of the country. That completed, we walked back to the bakery to buy more goodies and then went to Friends for one last smoothie. We bought a few last-minute provisions and then took a taxi to the dinghy. Once again, the ride back to the boat was choppy and windy and we got drenched.

Final lunch at Friends

On Tuesday, October 31, our weather window still had not materialized so we went back to town again to shop at the bakery and the market and the butchery. We had lunch at Friends and then returned to the boat. That night was very windy and one of the boats in the anchorage was dragging and about to hit another boat. Paul on Susimi alerted us by radio, and Johno and I got in the dinghy and woke up the dragging boat by pounding on their hull. They managed to get their boat moving forward just in time. We were never able to wake up the boat that was about to be hit.

On Wednesday, November 1, we were all set to leave the anchorage at the recommendation of our weather router. But it was super windy and we weren’t sure it was a wise decision. Szel left at 6:00 a.m. and reported adverse conditions outside of the pass. But by 10:00 a.m., the winds had abated and we pulled up anchor. Several other boats left around that time, Amae, Taku, Blue Beryl, Susimi and Midnight Breeze. Following a bit later were Elixir, La Vida, Blue Marine and Kaia.

Leaving Tongatapu

Passages, Places

Tonga’s Ha’apai Island Group

On Wednesday, October 11, Johno and I arrived at the Ha’apai group of the Tongan islands and were anchored in the Haano anchorage at about 4:00 p.m., after a couple of attempts to anchor. We saw whales on the way as well as once we were anchored. Sea Wind, with Lars and Suzane aboard, came in a short while later.

Looking from the boat to shore in the Haano anchorage

Looking from shore out to Aldabra and Sea Wind in the Haano anchorage

We had a quiet night in the anchorage. The next morning, we explored the beach and snorkeled on the nearby reef. On our way back to the boat, we stopped by Sea Wind to meet them. We had seen them in Neiafu but had not become acquainted. Later that day, Rowan and Jenny on Pole Pole joined us in the anchorage and we stopped by to meet them as well.

Johno’s shell find on the beach, two of the shells are homes to deadly creatures

On Friday morning, October 13, we pulled up anchor and motored to Pangai, the main village of this island group, to check in with Customs and Immigration. We anchored outside the harbor and took the dinghy in. We walked to the office and took care of the formalities. On the way back, we stopped at a couple of small stores before heading to the dinghy and back out to Aldabra. We pulled up anchor and motored to the anchorage near Tofanga Island. Johno explored on land while I hung out at the boat.

On Saturday morning, we both went to shore and walked around the larger of the islands in front of the boat. After returning to the boat, I went in the cold water for a bit and Johnno snorkeled around for a much longer time.

At noon, we pulled up the anchor to head to Nuku Alofa in the southern island group of Tongatapu. We had wanted to spend more time in the Ha’apai group, but when we looked at the weather coming up in the next several days, we realized that we would be late to pick up Pat in NukuAlofa if we didn’t start that day. We chose the midday timeframe because we wanted to clear the island group in the daylight. The winds were strong and favorable and we were out of the hazard zone by 5:30 p.m.  Because the winds were so strong, and we were going so fast, we realized that we would get to Tongatapu several hours too early. So, during the night, we  slowed the boat down to a snail’s pace so we would arrive at the pass after daylight.

Events, People, Places

Tonga’s Vava’u Island Group

On Wednesday, September 20, we officially checked into Tonga. We were in the northern island group, Vava’u, which is a paradise for cruisers. The group is made up of multiple islands, higher in elevation than the low-lying atolls of some island groups. There is one large town, Neiafu on the island of Vava’u, and then there are lots of small villages scattered around. There are dozens of places to anchor, either alone or with other boats. The town of Neiafu has much to offer if you have time to explore, and it is a gathering place for ex-pats and cruisers, along with native Tongans.

A main building in Neiafu in front of the small boat marina

That night, we had dinner at Mango, a restaurant on the waterfront that has a good-size dinghy dock. (The folks at Mango get a lot of business from the cruisers and they let us dock our dinghies there even if we aren’t eating there at the moment.) Dinner was with Yvette and Alex on Blue Beryl, but we also talked with Kristina and Chip from Second Set and Craig and Dawn and Jeanie from Russula.

The next day, we went to town again to explore. We started off looking for a bakery we’d heard about, walking away from the main town. Soon, a man stopped in his car and asked us where we were going. He then drove us to the bakery, and after we discovered that their goods were sold out, he drove us to a market that sold bread. It turned out that I had given him some rope the day before, down at the wharf. He repaid that kindness by driving us around.

After doing boat maintenance projects for the rest of the day, we had dinner at Kraken, another waterfront restaurant, with Blue Beryl and Szel and dozens of other boats. It was quiz night, run by the daughter of the owners, and everyone had lots of fun.

Yvette and Jeanne Socrates at Kraken on Quiz Night

On Friday, we went to town so Tom could shop for gifts. While he and Linda were at the public market, I went to Immigration to get letters for Pat and Johno so they could fly into Tonga without return tickets. I also extended my visa so it wouldn’t run out before our departure from Tonga. We had lunch at a shop that makes custom T-shirts and cooks nice goodies. Back at the boat, Blue Beryl and Szel stopped by to say farewell to Tom and then we took him back to shore to catch a taxi to the airport.

On Saturday, Linda and I went to shore to the public market and bought baskets, then had a late breakfast at Mango. In the afternoon, we went to the small boat marina to catch a shuttle to the boatyard. The owners of the boatyard were hosting the first event of a multi-day festival for the cruisers. We got a tour of the boatyard facilities and were treated to beer and sausages. It was a great time to see some old friends and to meet new people.

Sunday is a special day in Tonga, which is very serious about religion. You are not allowed to work or play. Linda and I stayed on the boat as required, but we did run the storm jib and the trysail up just to check that they were set to use. I have never used either of these sails, but they might be necessary on the upcoming trip to New Zealand. That night Blue Beryl and Szel came over to Aldabra for dinner.

One of the churches in Neiafu

On Monday, Linda and I started the morning at the market, buying baskets. We also did more boat projects before attending the opening dinner for the festival, which was at Mango. The food was good and it was a big social event for all the cruisers, making new acquaintances and renewing old ones.

Opening dinner at Mango

The next day, Linda finished packing for her flight back home. Then we went to the Basque Tavern for a festival-sponsored breakfast. We had just enough time to eat before Linda’s taxi came to take her to the airport. Like Tom, she had made many new friends on this trip and they were all sad to see her leave. After breakfast, representatives from various New Zealand businesses and government agencies briefed us on things we needed to know to enter New Zealand.

I spent the afternoon taking care of laundry, reorganizing the boat and doing a bit of shopping. Alex and Yvette had me over to Blue Beryl for cocktails because they thought I might be lonely. The three of us then went to Kraken for pizza night, another festival event. We got there pretty late so the pizza was almost non-existent. We ordered some food and started planning for the sailboat race scheduled for the next day.

On Wednesday, September 27, Alex and I went to the race committee meeting at Mango at 9:00 a.m. The race was to begin from Mango. Competitors were to run from the restaurant, get in their dinghies and go out to their boats. To speed up our start, one of our crew members, Daisy from the sailboat Traveller, was in her dinghy, waiting for us with the motor running. Alex and I jumped in and Daisy ran us to Blue Beryl, which was quite close to the restaurant. Alex had prepared Blue Beryl by removing the lines from the mooring ball and tethering the boat to the dinghies we had attached to the mooring ball. He just had to attach Daisy’s dinghy, unclip Blue Beryl and we were off. It was a very strategic start.

The race was quite fun. We sailed with Alex, Yvette, Daisy, Kim and her daughter Liz from the sailboat Tranquility, Fred, who would be crewing on Blue Beryl after Yvette flew to New Zealand, and me. We sailed very well and it was a lovely day for racing. We were passed by two or three very fast racing monohulls and a couple of very fast catamarans, but we were pleased with our performance. At the end of the race, we motored to Mango and Fred jumped off and swam to the restaurant to log us in. Later that evening, we attended an after-race dinner at the Basque Tavern, where lots of fun prizes were given. Daisy and I left at a reasonable hour, but a lot of other people made a late night of it.

On Thursday, September 28, the festival activity was an all-day culture event. We were taken in buses from the main town of Neiafu to the other side of the island. There, the Tongan tourist organization had prepared a beach party. We helped prepare some of the food before it went into the Umu, the underground fire. We visited with fellow cruisers and local Tongans, and we were treated to singing and dancing by local children. There were also competitions that the cruisers participated in, such as spear throwing and juggling. The event was a fundraiser for the library, which offers all kinds of activities for the local children. These children performed at the event.

Public library, Neiafu, Tonga

Preparing the Umu

Preparing the food that will be cooked in the Umu

The children at Culture Day

Dancing at Culture Day

Boys dancing, the money being put in their clothes goes to the library

Children singing

The next day, I went to the Falaeu Deli and ordered prepared food for the passage to New Zealand, to be picked up before leaving Neiafu. I then went to a few small markets and found some food provisions before returning to the boat to bake banana bread. That night we attended the closing dinner for the festival, at Kraken, which included a live auction that benefitted two local charities. It was a roaring event with lots of participation.

Wild night at the charity auction

On Saturday, September 30, Alex, Yvette and I went whale watching. The other participants included one cruiser and two couples that were visiting Tonga by land. While out on the boat, we saw many whales spouting and breaching in the distance. And one whale breached right next to the boat. But it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that we got into the water to swim with a mama whale and her baby. We were divided into two groups of four and we each got to get in twice. The experience was magical.

Swimming with a baby whale

That night we had dinner at Mango with Bob and Sarah from Rhapsody, to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. While we were there, Mike and Daisy from Traveller, Craig and Dawn from Russula, and Thomas and Daniel from Saorise stopped by and joined us.

On Sunday, October 1, I left the mooring ball in the Neiafu harbor and followed Blue Beryl outside of that bay and over to Port Maurelle, a bay not too far away. After Alex and Yvette had anchored, Alex came over to Aldabra in his dinghy and helped me drop my anchor. It was nice to get out of town and to be in a more remote bay. That night we had a delicious potluck on the beach with a few of the boats.

The next day, Yvette and I went to shore to explore. We walked to one town and then doubled back to another. We didn’t meet very many people but we did stop by a small resort and talked to the owner and the chef.

Tuesday was a cold and windy day with some rain. I changed the oil and the oil filter in the diesel engine. Alex came over and put a block on the mast for a halyard for the storm jib. Later, Alex and Yvette and I went in their dinghy to see Swallow’s Cave and one other nearby cave. That night we had pizza on Blue Beryl with Bart and Kim and Liz from Tranquility.

On Wednesday, I discovered that my foot switch for my anchor windlass wasn’t working. Alex came over to assess it, and rigged up a toggle switch that bypassed the foot switch. He then helped me pull up the anchor, and both boats left Port Maurelle and went over to anchorage #16. (For convenience, most of the anchorages in the Vava’u group of Tonga are numbered.) It was very windy and rainy there, but that night, a lot of the boats in the anchorage had a progressive get together where they gathered for 30 minutes or so on each boat for cocktails and snacks. I had already planned to cook dinner for Alex and Yvette, so we stayed on Aldabra and had a nice dinner.

On Thursday, we took my dinghy to a beach near the reef, then swam through breakers to get to the outside of the reef. It was a pretty challenging swim and I got winded. I was wearing the wrong fins for pushing through waves and strong current. Once we got to the other side, it was beautiful, but we didn’t stay that long before heading back to the beach. As we were getting ready to head back to Neiafu, the resident of that island came out with some papayas, and then Yvette and Alex went to his house for a visit. After they came back, Alex helped me pull up my anchor. I then drove by his boat and he dived off Aldabra and swam to Blue Beryl while I continued out of the bay. They passed me at one point and I then pulled out my jib and sailed on a broad reach most of the way back to Neiafu. I rolled in the jib when I turned the corner to head to the mooring balls. I followed Blue Beryl until they picked up a mooring. They then called on the radio to let me know that Jamie from Szel was in his dinghy, holding a mooring ball for me. I motored over to him and he helped me attach my lines to the ball.

On Friday, Johno arrived from the airport by taxi in the early evening. We took his luggage back to the boat and then met up with Szel and Blue Beryl for dinner at the Basque Tavern. Johno was tired from traveling so we left around 8:30. Alex and Yvette stayed quite late and had lots of stories for the next day.

On Saturday, October 7, Szel and Blue Beryl left Neiafu, bound for the Ha’apai island group and then south to Tongatapu. Johno and I went to the market, where he bought baskets. (Linda and I have spread our addiction for Tongan baskets to Alex, Yvette, Tom and now Johno.)

Just a small representation of the Tongan baskets that have been acquired

We went to the Falaeu Deli and picked up our order for prepared food. Then we got 120 liters of diesel fuel. We did this by tying the dinghy up to a dock, carrying three jerry cans each up a long, step set of stairs, walking through someone’s yard, and then walking up the road a short way. After the fuel station worker filled up the cans, we went inside to pay. The matriarch of the business was not going to have us walk those jerry cans back to the stairs. She had her son pull the car around and put our jerry cans in. He then drove us back to the house and helped carry the cans down the stairs. What looked to us like a two-hour ordeal took about 20 minutes, thanks to this very kind Tongan man and his mother. This kindness is something that happens more often than not in Tonga. Our last stop for the day was the T-shirt store, where we had lunch.

On Sunday, the day of rest and not walking around town, we cleaned the foot switch for the windlass and Johno reinstalled it. We also changed the watermaker filters. The rest of the day was relaxing and at the end of the day we had sundowners on Rhapsody and then dinner at Mango.

On Monday morning, we joined Sarah and Bob of Rhapsody for a whale watching trip. Also on the trip were Bjorn and Annelie from MaricX and Jim and Perry from Yuva. Our experience was similar to the previous whale watching trip. We motored for hours before finally getting in the water with a mama and baby. The baby seemed delighted to play with us. And the mama would stop and rest and let us entertain her youngster. Another great encounter with migrating whales.

Along with many images in this blog post, Johno shot this video

Although it was spectacular, and we did not seem to harass the whales, I think that will be the last time I participate in this activity. On one hand, the Tongans are very respectful and restrained with the whales. Still, we followed them in a boat for hours before they stopped to play. I have to think that they would be happier if left unmolested. We all had dinner together that night at Kraken.

On Tuesday, October 10, we checked out of the Vava’u island group before trading a couple of bags of dried beans for produce. (New Zealand will make us throw out the beans when we get there, so we wanted to put them in good hands. The woman we traded with was very happy.) Then we went back to the boat, untied Aldabra from the mooring ball, and headed out of the bay. We motored over to Mariner’s Cave where Johno jumped in the water and I stood off with the engine running on Aldabra. Johno swam, looking for the opening to the cave, but the tide may have been wrong and he did not go inside.

We then motored south to anchorage #40. It was in front of a small island with a reef, but very exposed to the high winds. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, although another boat came in and shared the spot with us. At 4:00 the next morning, we pulled up the anchor and motored around a rather large reef area before putting up our sails and pointing south toward the Ha’apai island group. It was a good sail, a close reach with wind in the mid teens.

Passages, Places

Passage to Tonga

On Tuesday, September 12, Blue Beryl and Aldabra motored out of the Suwarrow pass and around to the west side of the island before we turned and put up our sails. From that point on, we went 118 miles in 24 hours. Conditions slowed us down and we motorsailed.

On Wednesday, September 13, the seas were big and on the beam, with considerable wind. We had two reefs in the main and and the jib was furled partway in. The night was fairly mellow and comfortable. Thursday was an uncomfortable day but the night wasn’t too bad.

On Friday, we logged 135 miles for the previous 24 hours. At 4:00 p.m., we had 336 miles to go to the northen tip of the Vavau group, where we would turn a corner and head around in protected waters toward the pass into the island group. We sailed in big seas that day but we were pretty comfortable, 5-6 knots of boat speed in 14-17 knots of wind. We had a reasonable night and were able to stay on course.

Saturday wasn’t a bad day. We logged 126 miles in the previous 24 hours. The seas had abated a bit and the winds were in the low teens during the day.

On Sunday, we had logged 128 miles in the previous 24 hours. The winds and the seas started picking up. By midday, conditions were intensifying. We had an intense night, sailing with no main and a tiny bit of jib out. It was one of those uncomfortable sails that you just want to be over. We rounded the tip of Vavau at 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning. The seas were still big but within about 5 miles, the island started protecting us and the seas flattened out, evening with strong winds brought on by a cape effect.

Because we had just crossed the international dateline, Monday was now Tuesday for us. So it was on Tuesday, September 19, that we entered the pass, just behind Blue Beryl, who had slowed down and waited for us to go in with them. Both boats wound our way to Neiafu, the main town in the Vavau group. Several other boats were at the wharf waiting to check in because it had been a three-day weekend, so we each found a mooring ball, expecting to wait until the next day to check in. Kristina from the sailboat Second Set came over on her dinghy and helped us find a mooring ball. We were moored by 9:00 a.m.

Although we hadn’t checked in, we went ashore that afternoon to get money from the ATM and drop off our laundry at Bubbles. We looked inside a couple of the grocery stores, then stopped by the Basque Tavern for a beer, along with Alex from Blue Beryl.

That night we had a very nice dinner at Kraken with Blue Beryl and Szel to celebrate our arrival. The next day, we got up early and took Aldabra over to the wharf to check in. We stayed there for a few hours while we took care of the check-in formalities, picked up our laundry and got some fruit at the nearby outdoor market. Then we returned to the mooring ball, ready to begin our visit to Tonga.

Passages, Places

Passage to Suwarrow, Cook Islands

On Monday, September 4 at 10:00 a.m., we pulled up anchor at Penhryn Island and headed across the lagoon to the pass, exiting closely behind Szel and Blue Beryl. We all put up our sails and headed to the island of Suwarrow, also part of the Cook Islands. Although we were officially checked out of the Cook Islands, we had permission to stop over in Suwarrow, which is a national park, with just two rangers living there.

As we started out, the seas were bumpy and the winds were in the mid-teens, sometimes higher. We were making good time but the winds were moving from our beam to aft of the beam, putting us on a broad reach. At around 4:00 p.m., we put a second reef in the main and furled the jib in a bit. Blue Beryl sailed passed us right then. It was a bump night and none of us slept much.

On Tuesday, September 5, the seas were still bumpy, with 2-2.5 meter waves, and the winds were getting lighter. By noon, we had made a 138-mile day. We took the second reef out and wind started letting us point more directly to Suwarrow. We could still see both of the other boats on AIS.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the winds stayed light all day, aft of the beam. I took the reef out during my watch on Wednesday morning, but we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Suwarrow.

We got to the anchorage a little after noon on Thursday. John Blair from Ballyhoo stopped by to say hello. We then put the dinghy in the water and went ashore to check in with the rangers. Harry and Tana (my spelling). The process was easy because of our check-out in Penrhyn. We gave them a six-pack of Sprite and a six-pack of Coca Cola. We had heard that they were craving it so we bought some when we were still in Tahiti. To thank me, she gave me a grass broom she had made.

We had dinner that night on Aldabra with Blue Beryl. It was nice to be anchored in flat water.

There were quite a few boats in the Suwarrow anchorage, and the rangers told us that they had been so busy checking boats in and out that they had not had time to do their ranger work. So on Friday, we went ashore with some of the other cruisers and helped clean up an area between the beach and the rangers’ house. Later that evening, the rangers hosted us for a potluck with all the other cruisers. We had fish that Alex had caught and coconut crab that the ranger had caught. Other people brought tasty food and it was a nice evening.

Grilling coconut crab

The rangers, Harry and Tana (my spelling)

Tom enjoying the beach party

Alex grilling fish

The group of cruisers at the beach party

The next day, Saturday, September 9, we mostly stayed on the boat. I helped Tom patch a hole in the dinghy. Linda and Alex worked on sorting through and upgrading our fishing gear.

On Sunday, we transferred some fuel from jerry cans to the diesel tank. I tried to clean the boat bottom, but it was so bad I only got the waterline. I baked a cake and later we went and swam with manta rays on a nearby reef. That night we celebrated Yvette’s birthday on Blue Beryl, with Szel and Aldabra.

Alex and Jamie posing with the pizza Alex made for Yvette’s birthday

On Monday, Alex brought over 30 gallons of diesel fuel, to get us to Tonga if we  had to motor much. Tom fixed the location of the boom bales to improve our reefing system. Several boats left the anchorage, heading to either Fiji or Tonga.

Aldabra and Blue Beryl were the last two boats to leave the Suwarrow anchorage

Even though we had not been in Suwarrow long enough to explore this paradise, the winds were threatening to keep us there for more than a week unless we left right away. So on Tuesday, we went ashore to say goodbye to the rangers.

Saying farewell to the rangers

After we said goodbye. Linda and I walked to the other side of their motu, which faced the pass. We watched as Szel went through and took a few pictures of the island.

Szel heading toward the exit of the pass

I then baked some bread and cooked some sausages and we pulled up anchor around 2:00 p.m. Szel had already left in the morning and Blue Beryl left right before we did.

Passages, Places

Passage to Penryhn, Cook Islands

On Saturday, August 26, Blue Beryl left Bora Bora on a very windy morning, and Aldabra and Szel left about 1:30 p.m. We were headed to Penryhn Island, part of the northern Cook Islands group. Szel is a very fast SunDeer 64 and she left us in the dust immediately. Blue Beryl and Aldabra were pretty even at times, although Blue Beryl headed to the left of the rhumb line and Aldabra attempted a more direct course to the island. We passed them during the first night and then lost AIS signals for both Szel and Blue Beryl by morning. We kept up with the two boats on a What’sApp group chat.

At the beginning of the passage, the seas were lumpy and the winds were in the high teens. In our first 24 hours, we averaged about 5.5 knots.

On Sunday, the winds were down in the low teens and the seas were flattening out a bit. We were having a comfortable sail with speeds around 6 knots and sunny skies. We continued to have no sign of the other boats and we were starting to be pushed to the west.

By Monday, we were in a slow slog with light and shifty winds. We ran the motor several times when the winds got too light. That night, we had some good wind but it was coming from directly behind us, which is not favorable for Aldabra. With swept-back spreaders, we can’t let the main go far enough forward to optimize for downwind sailing. Thus, we carried on by sailing a little bit to the left of our course or a little bit to the right of our course.

On Tuesday, we had wind but still from behind. We decided to try to put up two jibs, one on each side, with the main down. Linda drove while Tom and I spent a couple of hours working on getting the spinnaker pole up and the boom out and each jib in place. Right as we completed the setup, the wind shifted and nearly died and we had to take everything down. We motored for a while with no sails. In the evening, we put the main back up but we were motoring with the sail slapping around.

Yvette sent us a picture as she celebrated her birthday underway

Wednesday was a frustrating day with lots of motoring. Finally on Thursday, August 31, we arrived at Penryhn and went through the pass in the late morning. There was a lot of current but we managed to navigate into the pass and then take the long way around, in the lane for larger boats, to arrive in the anchorage in front of the town. Szel was already there.

Almost immediately, a boat showed up with the local authorities for Customs and Health. After we filled out the paperwork and paid some fees, they left and the Biosecurity guy came onboard. We filled out something for him and paid his fee.

The anchorage was very windy and choppy and we stayed on the boat that night. Blue Beryl showed up later in the afternoon and came for a visit in the evening. The next day, we went ashore to continue the check-in process, but we also ended up checking out as well. Andrew, the Customs officer, checked us out of the Cook Islands, even though we would be staying in Penryhn for a few days and then going to Suwarrow. It simplified everything for us and would make our entrance into Tonga less complicated.

After we checked out, all three boats went over to the village on the far side of the atoll. Anchoring in the late afternoon. Aldabra and Szel stayed on our boats but Blue Beryl went to shore to a warm welcome by the villagers.

Aldabra in Penrhyn

Rainbow in Penrhyn, with Aldabra and Blue Beryl

The next morning, Alex, Yvette and Tom went to shore. Alex and Tom worked on a couple of motorcycles that hadn’t been running for ten years. They got them running. Yvette went with the wife of the pastor to her house so Yvette could do her laundry and have lunch.

Alex and Yvette riding a newly repaired motorcycle

Linda and I went to shore a bit later than the others. We first stopped by Szel and invited Fiona to join us, which she did. We got to shore and started walking around, not really seeing anyone. Fiona and I got separated from Linda and found the guys working on the motorcycles. Meanwhile Linda met a family and went to their house for a visit.

Once we all found each other again, we visited Yvette and the pastor’s wife, giving the pastor’s wife a bag full of gifts, mostly for the children. After returning to Aldabra, we found things on the boat that were needed by the family that Linda had befriended so we went back to shore to give them to them.

Dinner that night was on Szel. Jamie had caught a sailfish and he seared steaks for us. We also had rice, tuna sashimi, tomatoes with feta cheese, and brownies and ice cream for dessert. It was a very fun evening.

Fiona sent us this pictue after Jamie caught the sailfish

Dinner on Szel. Not everyone in the picture

On Sunday, September 3, we all put on whatever we had that was white. (Tom decided that he didn’t have anything suitable, so he opted to stay on the boat.) The rest of us went to shore in our all-white garb, stopping first at a house that had lots of hats. Some of the hats the women were wearing were not white enough, so they loaned them white hats. Then we proceeded to the church.

Tom took this picture of us getting ready to go to church in our whites

We went inside the church, which was very beautiful inside and sat down in the back. The women were practicing their singing from their seats in the pews. After a bit, Alex went outside and figured out that the children, in another building, were practicing their singing, and it was beautiful. So we all went over and listened until right before church was to start. We then went back to the church and sat in for the sermon. The pastor was very welcoming, said that we were now family, and blessed our journey.

Because of the strict rules about behavior on Sundays, we went back to our boats for the rest of the day. Alex and Yvette did go back to shore in the evening, after the restrictions were lifted, and had a very warm goodbye from the islanders. They also returned the visitor’s book that we all wrote in.

Photo we left in the Penrhyn village visitor’s book

On Monday, we didn’t end up going to shore to say goodbye. Instead, we prepared for the passage to Suwarrow. At 10:00 a.m., we started across the lagoon to exit the pass, shortly after Szel and Blue Beryl. We all put up sails and headed to Suwarrow.

Inland Travel, Passages, People, Places

Huahine/Raiatea/Tahaa/Bora Bora

As we sailed away from Tahiti on Friday, August 11, we weren’t sure where we were headed. We could sail over to Moorea and spend the night. Or we could do an overnight to Huahine. (Yes, we had checked out of French Polynesia, but we planned short visits under the radar to some of the other Society Islands. By checking out in Tahiti, we could have Tahiti Crew take care of the process.)

As we sailed in the vicinity of Moorea, we decided to just keep going to Huahine. The first hours of the passage were in 18-20 knot of wind and big seas. Conditions mellowed out during the second half of the trip.

On Saturday, August 12, we arrived in Huahine around 10:00 a.m.  We were lucky to find a free mooring ball in the anchorage near the pass and close to the town of Fare. Naps were the first order of business. Before that, Sarah and Bob from Rhapsody stopped by and we made plans for dinner. We went ashore around 4:00 p.m. and walked around before meeting Sarah and Bob for dinner at the Huahine Yacht Club. The cocktails and the food were good and it was a fun night. Rhapsody left the next day.

Linda and Trevor enjoying their welcome drinks

Tom took this picture from the Huahine Yacht Club

Huahine Anchorage

On Sunday, we had a lazy day on the boat. Trevor and Linda swam out to the entrance to the pass to see a whale. Blue Beryl came in and anchored near us. We barbequed steak on the boat and played cards that night.

On Monday, we went to shore and made arrangements to rent scooters on Wednesday. Dinner that night was on Blue Beryl. Tuesday was a holiday in French Polynesia and nothing was open. We stayed on the boat all day.

Dinner on Blue Beryl, Linda took the picture

On Wednesday, the crews of Blue Beryl and Aldabra rode scooters around the island. We rode for only three hours but it was a great way to see the whole island.

Sharing a coconut on the scooter ride

Trevor and Linda


Yvette and Alex

Stopping at a lookout

A view of another bay. That’s the cruise ship Wind Spirit

After lunch at the Huahine Yacht Club, we took the boats (Aldabra and Blue Beryl) halfway down the island to a different anchorage. It was a windy, rainy night and we did only a little bit of exploring the next day before picking up the anchor and going down to the anchorage at the end of the island. There were a lot of boats there. It was really windy. But Trevor and Alex got to kiteboard, and it made them very happy. After they were finished, we pulled up anchor again and went back to an anchorage near town.

Trevor enjoying a dinghy ride

We liked Huahine. The town of Fare had a nice vibe and it would have been easy to stay longer, but we had a lot of ground to cover and none of the crew had unlimited schedules. So, on Saturday, August 19, we left the anchorage at 7:00 a.m. and sailed to Raiatea. The winds were in the mid-teens and we sailed on a broad reach with just the jib. We arrived around noon and picked up a mooring ball across from town, got in the dinghy and headed across the channel to shore.

We got ice cream bars at the grocery store and started a bit of a search for motor oil for my next oil change. I should have bought it in Tahiti, but I forgot. The gas station was closed so we walked down to the operating base for Dream Yacht Charters to see if we could use the mooring ball we were already attached to. At the base, we were told we needed to provide a 6-pack of beer. So we walked back to the grocery store, bought the beer and then took the dinghy to the base. Once we presented the 6-pack to the base manager, we were told that they could no longer allow us to use the mooring ball. He told us that it was prohibited by local authorities. He got on the computer and showed me where we could anchor. I gave him the 6-pack anyway and headed back to the dinghy. We returned to the boat and headed north through the east channel and up to the east side of Tahaa to an anchorage on the reef. Blue Beryl joined us there, as did a few other boats.

On Sunday, we continued north on the east side Tahaa and rounded the island from east to west. Then we headed south down the west side of Tahaa to the Coral Gardens. It was quite windy but we found a decent place to anchor next to the reef. Blue Beryl arrived a bit later and we snorkeled the Coral Gardens in the afternoon.

The Coral Gardens are a small pass between two motus on the outside of Tahaa. You can walk up one motu and then slip into the water and follow the current through the coral. It is quite picturesque. I went down, then swam back against the current to go down again.

On Monday, August 21, Aldabra and Blue Beryl left Tahaa and sailed over to Bora Bora. We left at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in the early afternoon. It was a nice sail, with the spinnaker, until our spinnaker halyard broke and the spinnaker dropped into the water. We gathered it onto the boat and continued on in through the pass. After wandering around a bit, we attached ourselves to mooring balls in front of the Bora Bora Yacht Club.

Aldabra in Bora Bora

The sailboat Szel with Jamie and Fiona was also on a mooring near us. Linda and I took the dinghy over to see them for a visit. Later that evening Aldabra and Blue Beryl had drinks and dinner at the Yacht Club and Jamie and Fiona came later and sat at the table next to us. We chatted a bit before we left and they had their dinner.

Dinner at Bora Bora Yacht Clug: Alex, Tom. Trevor, me, Linda and Yvette

On Tuesday, August 22, Trevor went up the mast to retrieve the halyard that had frayed and broken.

Trevor up the mast

Then we followed Blue Beryl as we motored around to the back side of Bora Bora, through very narrow, shallow channels. Trevor drove and we picked our way through, sometimes within an inch of touching the bottom. In a catamaran, the trip would have been a breeze, but with a deep keel, it was quite nerve wracking. In the end, we arrived at a beautiful anchorage. We explored the motu on foot and in the water, and had a dinner party that night with Blue Beryl on Aldabra.

Crusing around the island

The next day, we had a swimming race between the two boats. Alex represented Blue Beryl and Trevor represented Aldabra. Trevor was handicapped in two ways. He was wearing his snorkeling mask instead of swim goggles. And he was wearing his swim trunks. Alex, with no swim trunks and with swim goggles beat Trevor by a small margin. But they were both completely spent.

After the race, Aldabra headed back around the island, following our track from the day before. After picking up a mooring ball in front of the Yacht Club, we took the dinghy to town to find out about a ferry for Trevor to get to the airport. After sorting that all out, we found a restaurant for lunch and a gas station to buy motor oil. Then we went back to the boat so Trevor could pack. Linda took him back to town later that afternoon so he could take the ferry to catch his flight back to Tahiti. He then spent the night in the Tahiti airport and caught a flight the next morning to San Francisco. (Once home, Trevor began his job search and rather quickly landed a job in his field.)

We had a quiet night on the boat. Then on Thursday, Tom and I went to shore early to hand over our laundry to Julie, a very nice woman who picked it up in her car. Back at the boat, we did some cleaning and reorganizing, along with paperwork to enter the Cook Islands. We had dinner that night at the Bora Bora Yacht Club and retrieved our laundry from Julie while we were there. We also took showers there and dropped off our trash.

On Friday, August 25, Linda and I took the dinghy into town to fill up a jerry can with gasoline and buy 2-stroke oil and some groceries. It was a windy day and we spent the rest of it on the boat, stowing things and otherwise getting ready for a passage. Alex came over and inspected the rigging and gave me a report on areas of concern.

At his suggestion, we connected the inner forestay and the starboard running backstay. We pulled the port running backstay back to a car on the rail because it was getting chafed on the spreader. It was a very windy and rainy night and we stayed on the boat.

On Saturday, August 26, Jamie of Szel and Alex and Yvette of Blue Beryl came over for a weather meeting. We all decided to leave that day for Penryhn Island in the Cook Islands. We were now saying goodbye to French Polynesia.

Passages, Places

Transition in Tahiti

On Thursday, July 27, Johno, Trevor and I motored from Moorea over to Tahiti in light air. We couldn’t get a slip in Marina Papeete and the free anchorage near Marina Taina was crowded, so we anchored in a good spot in the airport anchorage. Friday was a rainy day and we took the dinghy over to the dock at Marina Taina and caught a bus to the airport, where we picked up a rental car. We drove back to Marina Taina, where I dropped off paperwork to renew my Carte de Jour at Tahiti Crew. We also dropped off used motor oil, recycling and trash.

Our next stop was the Tahiti Museum. I try to take everyone to this place. It’s newly reopened and offers a myriad of displays about the migration of people to Polynesia as well as the cultural history of each of the island groups. Afterwards, we had lunch at Casa Bianca at Marina Taina and then walked over to Carrefour to buy groceries, a luxury after so many weeks in the Tuamotus.

Saturday was super windy and we didn’t leave the boat. On Sunday, Ludo Martinez, a welder, came out to the boat to talk about rewelding a cross-piece for my davits.

Davits with broken weld

Then we went back to get the car and drove to Marina Papeete to talk to John Blair on Ballyhoo. He was offering to give us his slip as he departed from the marina. Because the marina is first come, first served, the way to get a slip when it’s really crowded is to coordinate with someone who is leaving. John also told us about a couple of airplane wrecks out near the airport anchorage and we resolved to check them out. We had lunch at the brewery restaurant not too far from the marina and then went back to Taina and parked the car before heading back to the boat.

On Monday, we snorkeled on the smaller of the wrecks. As we were looking for the larger one, the wind and seas came up and we bailed on that one.

Wreck of small plane near the airport anchorage

Johno in the wreck

Trevor in the wreck

Someone built a desk at the wreck

Trevor at the desk

Back at the boat, the wind kept building, gusting to 35 knots. We stayed on the boat for the rest of the day, asking John Blair to postpone his departure from the marina, which he did.

Finally, on Tuesday morning, August 1, we pulled up the anchor and headed to Marina Papeete, arriving shortly after 6:00 a.m. John was out of the slip but idling in the marina so that no one could get past him to take the slip. We headed on in and one of our new dock mates helped us with lines. It was a tight fit. Due to a slight lack of communication, the bow sprit bumped into a rubber bollard, with no damage to either boat or bollard. We finally settled in and got the lines tied off. We were in our new home, the main attractions being real showers and water to wash the boat. It was the first marina Aldabra had been in since leaving San Diego. Because of the marina’s proximity to downtown Papeete, it also offered an easy way for any of us to go exploring.

After taking real showers, we walked around the downtown market and went to the fabric store where Johno found fabric he liked and Trevor eyed some he might buy later. Afterwards, we walked toward Marina Taina and then caught a cab so we could retrieve the rental car from Marina Taina. As soon as we got the car, we toured around the island.

View from the beach on the far side of Tahiti Iti

Hanging out at the beach in Tahiti Iti

Later, back at the boat, which was quite visible to anyone walking along the waterfront, we had a surprise visit from Jeff from Infinite Grace, whom we had met back in Aratika. He had flown from Rangiroa for an urgent dentist appointment. It was nice to catch up with him.

On Wednesday, August 2, we used the car again to tour around the island. After dropping our mainsail off  to be repaired at the Tahiti Sails loft, we drove to Tahiti Iti and went up to the lookout there.

On Thursday, August 3, we drove Johno to the airport at a very early hour. Then Trevor and I went to Marina Taina and did laundry. It was so early that we had no competition for the machines. Afterwards, we went back to the boat in Marina Papeete. Trevor then walked around town and I joined him later for a second walk. We had dinner at a restaurant near the marina with Don and Gloria from Windswept, also from the Santa Cruz area.

Aldabra at Marina Papeete

The view from Aldabra at Marina Papeete

Friday, August 4, was my birthday. Trevor and I snorkeled on the larger plane wreck. While we were there, Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl stopped by in their dinghy. Later, when we were back on the boat, they stopped by and we made plans for dinner. Trevor and I washed most of the boat exterior before taking a few down hours before dinner. At around 5:00 p.m., Alex and Yvette joined us and we walked to the brewery restaurant. We had a very nice dinner and some beers, and they gave me the gift of a blue beryl stone. I was very honored.

On Saturday, we all went out to the big plane wreck again. The plan was for Trevor to use my dive gear, but when he got into the water, the regulator had a leak. He dove with just his snorkel gear while Alex and Yvette used their scuba gear. Afterwards, Trevor and I worked on washing the bottom of the dinghy. That night, the restaurant in front of the boat played really, really loud music all night.

On Sunday, August 6, Trevor and I made final preparations for our new crew, helped Blue Beryl with their dock lines as they came into the marina to get water, and met up with some new friends from California, Doug and Michelle on a catamaran in the marina.

On Monday, August 7, Trevor and I took the car early (4:30 a.m.) to pick up Linda, his mother, and Tom, my friend from Mexico and San Diego. I’ve grown close to Tom and his partner Helen over the last few years and was excited that he and Linda were going to be on the boat for the next leg of the journey. We took them back to the boat to get settled and then we went with Alex and Yvette and Doug in the car to see about getting my regulator fixed and to get our cooking gas tanks filled. My only choice was to buy a new regulator, which I did. Then we had to drop off the cooking gas tanks at a different location from what we had planned. Afterwards, Trevor, Alex and Yvette took the car to tour the island while I hung out on the boat with Tom and Linda. We all had dinner that night at the brewery.

The next day, Trevor and Tom worked on installing the Starlink system that Linda had brought in her luggage. Trevor swapped out two refrigeration modules that Linda had brought and he installed new fans for the watermaker feed pumps.

On Wednesday, August 9, we left Marina Papeete around 7:00 a.m. and headed over to Marina Taina.

The waterfront view at we went from one marina to the next

Our welder had arranged for us to have dock space so he could work on the davits. It was a tight squeeze to get in, but with his help along with a couple of other guys, we got the boat turned around and situated so he could work. We were right at the entrance to the docks, in front of the Casa Bianca restaurant. Ludo thought that the work would take two days, but he was finished by noon. Linda and Trevor took the bus back to Papeete to get the rental car and then did some touring while Tom and I worked on the boat.

The next day, Tom and Linda went to the Tahiti Museum while Trevor and I shopped at Carrefour and brought two cartloads of groceries back to the boat. It’s not a long walk between the store and the marina. Later, we all went downtown to look around and picked up the cooking gas tank. Back at the marina, we put the mainsail back on the boat and had dinner at Casa Bianca.

On Friday, August 11, we checked out of the country, with the help of Tahiti Crew. We also took delivery of some duty-free wine and liquor and checked out of the marina. We took a final run to Carrefour and then took the boat over to the gas dock. Unfortunately, they closed for lunch after filling up the boat in front of us, so we had to wait until after 1:00 p.m. to get diesel fuel. Finally fueled up, we were out of the pass and headed toward Huahine by 2:30 p.m.

It felt funny to say goodbye to Tahiti, knowing that I would not be returning. It isn’t my favorite place in the world, but I had spent considerable time there over the last year, and was growing quite used to it.