2004 August: New Zealand to Sitka, Leg Three: Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii to Sitka, Alaska

Click the thumbnail for the Hawaii to Alaska photos

We seemed blessed by fine weather for the beginnings and endings of our ocean passages. So it was for our final leg to Alaska. We topped up our fuel tanks with 330 liters of diesel at the Ko Olina Marina west of Honnolulu, in the afternoon of August 5.

Under full main and jib, our course was 9 degrees magnetic, in 15 to 22 knots of easterly winds, we beat around the northwest cape of the island of Oahu. By 8 PM the wind had veered and we were able to ease our sails and set a rhumb line course to Sitka.

The seas were a bit bumpy, as they usually are close to land, but there were no underwing slams. The North Star appeared ahead, and the northwest shore lights of Oahu shone astern to starboard. Phosphorescent critters were being washed by the waves up and down our front windows. We sailed under full main and jib, with a beautiful sunrise off our starboard bow.

The wind and seas were more comfortable during the second night. We saw no other ships on the radar. The front windows were leaking with every wave that washed over them. Just a few drops. We managed it with towels under the windows. The hatch over the laundry room leaked a few drops onto the workshop bench top.

On the afternoon of Augugust 7, and we were 2005 nautical miles southwest of Sitka, Alaska. The winds and seas eased a bit to 12 to 14 knots. We could not complain because so far the engines had been silent, and the seas were coming down a bit. The blue skies and fair weather cumulus clouds were beautiful over our deep blue sea.

The jib headfoil had separated again, just above the feeder. The anchor windlass remote control was not working when we tried it for hoisting the reacher halyard.

The weather forecasters were calling for lighter winds for the next few days as we cross the High pressure system. Then we expected to sail into the westerlies, with a few fronts passing through, on our final approach to Sitka.

A booby bird visited us on the second day out. At night we sailed with the North Star above our port bow pulpit.

North of the Hawaiian Islands, we skirted the Musician Seamounts, with names like Prokofiev Seamount, and seamounts named after Gluck, Sibelius, Ravel, Grieg, Khachaturian, Debussy, Mussorgski, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Rosinni, Bellini, Strauss, and more. These are the names of many of our favorite composers. ADAGIO felt right at home in this musical region. To the northeast of us was a region of seamounts called the “Moonless Mountains.”

I had been preserving our fresh produce by cutting, pureeing and freezing the peaches and strawberries, making banana ice cream and banana/chocolate cake, paring and cutting up the cantelopes. Tropical temperatures are hard on delicate produce. Steve had to bring out and activate our back-up PC, as our new PC stopped working. No worries, as we could make it to Sitka with our GPS if necessary. And we had backups for the GPS, as well as paper charts.

On Monday, August 9, we entered the Pacific High pressure system, and lost all but two knots of our wind, with a rising barometer. The sea at sunset reflected the pink sky in an undulating silver surface upon which tiny flying fish glided for great distances. We were motoring, under bare poles. All sails were furled. We had decided to spend some of our diesel fuel in these conditions to make progress to the north, with the best value for our fuel expenditure. In other words, we are motoring at our greatest efficiency, making the most distance for each gallon of fuel.

The prognosis is for light and variable winds for the next two or three days, then we hope to pick up the southwesterlies that flow along the northern side of the Pacific High pressure system. Our progress is still good, averaging 185 nautical miles per day. Our distance is 1790 nautical miles to Sitka.

One after another uneventful days of reading, napping, standing watch, enjoying the beautiful fair weather cumulus clouds and occasional rainbow, was quite a contrast to conditions during legs 1 and 2 of our journey.

We had sighted no other boat since departing Hawaii. We pass the occasional round, red, rubber fishing float. Bill advised us to keep a look out for the Japanese glass fishing floats which are collector’s items. They would be easy to spot on the calm sea each morning.

On the morning of August 10, we were advised by our weather router that we could slow down, conserve fuel, and let the favorable winds come to us. We began motoring on one engine at a time, making 6 knots of boat speed over the ground, in 5 knots of headwind.

Bill landed a beautiful El Dorado fish. Dinner was sashimi and

Poisson cru. Six nice-sized pieces of fish went into the freezer. This was a welcome addition to our diet, and relieved the hum drum-ness of our passage. The Dorado is the fish that our leg 1 and 2 crew member Vanessa had said that she would release if she hooked one. We kept ours, but the colors that it displayed were amazing, ending with its body colored a brilliant yellow.

The forecast was for a few more days of light winds, but a low pressure

system to the north of us was sending large-ish swells our way. Fortunately, they were meeting our bows rather than our beam ends. The ride was smooth, but sometimes I was not sure where the floor was underfoot, as the boat rose and fell in the swells. The surface of the sea in the afternoon was dotted with thousands of By-the-wind-sailors, Vellela vellela I think is the scientific name. These four inch jellyfish sport a blue sail which sticks up out of the water into the wind. Off the coast of California, the sail has evolved so that the prevailing wind will blow these jellies offshore. But when the wind changes direction, there will be millions of them washed up onto the California beaches. I could not tell in which direction they were sailing, but they were definitely all going the same way. Callum says that the vellelas in Australia are a stinging variety.

On August 11 we were still motorsailing with full main and jib in beautiful weather, clear skies, a light breeze, and a brief shower this morning to wash off the salt, then more sun to dry ADAGIO’s decks.

We altered our course a bit to the west, to avoid a stationary low pressure system located to the north east of us, in the southern Gulf of Alaska. This morning we finally had a sailing breeze from the southwest, but it did not last all day. High pressure systems surrounded us, bringing light and variable winds. The forecast was for several days of wins from the northerly direction, which will slow us down, but the seas were still less than 2 meters in height. The air was becoming pleasantly cooler as we proceeded north.

Today we were occupied with various boat projects on deck, taking

advantage of the fine weather. As we hoisted the reacher on its two part halyard, we were plagued by twists in the halyard, so we spent several hours raising and lowering the halyard, twisting the line as it entered the mast, to remove the twists. Dorothy noticed that when we had re-installed the furling line for the mainsail, we had led it through the wrong hole in the bottom of the boom, and it was chafeing on the metal. Luckily we discovered this before the line was damaged. Dorothy took it off and installed it correctly.

The wildlife sightings were a beautiful white tropic bird which flew in circles around the boat, and a large shearwater.

We tacked to windward in light airs, and watched rainshowers on all horizons, but blue sky ahead. From time to time we found ourselves sailing as much as 40 degrees away from destination.

We hoisted the full mainsail and jib before lunch after receiving an email from our weather router recommending that we head in an easterly direction to 39N latitude 148W longitude and hold there until August 16, 00 hours UTC time. This would allow him to determine if a new low pressure system forming in our vicinity was going to move NW or SE. A stationary low to the north of us was deepening also. Our strategy was to stay south and east of the worst wind, then make our way north along the east side of the low as it dissipated. We were sailing again and conserving fuel. Another beautiful day, and we wanted to keep it that way.

On Friday the 13th we had been cruising along under full mainsail and reacher, but our weather router alerted us to a low pressure system forming in our vicinity. We prepared for the strong winds and heavy seas by

taking two reefs in the mainsail and stowing the reacher in the starboard

bow locker. He recommended that we change our aim point to 37N latitude 136W longitude, and travel as fast as we could, at 8 kts or greater.

The weather forecast called for:

“New low 41N 140W 1000 MB. Forecast winds 25 to 35 kt. Seas 8 to 14 ft within 300 nm S semicircle.”

The wind eased, and it was impossible to maintain 8 kts boat speed. The low was forecast to form diirectly north of us, and put us probably within the 300 nm S semicircle of strong winds and high seas. A high pressure system to the east of us was strengthening and could produce a squash zone along our route.

On August 14 we were letting ADAGIO have a little fun surfing once at 18.8 knots with two reefs in the main, in rough seas. Other surfing runs were 16 kts and 17 kts boat speed, in 25 to 32 knots of wind speed.

Because the North Pacific High was located more south than usual, the north Pacific Ocean was spawning low pressure systems like a boiling soup pot. On August 15 we had been sailing off course for several days, dodging lows and fronts. The weather finally calmed and we were able to set our course heading directly for Sitka, about 1100 nautical miles and 6 to 7 days travel if our speed held. We waited until after we had passed through a weak trough and watched the barometer before setting full sail again. We sailed into a favorable current which was pushing us in the direction of our destination. By dinner time we were flying along again at 9 knots boat speed under reacher in 20 knots of southwesterly wind.

We might have to slow down or detour yet again as we headed north, to avoid bad weather. We did not want to beat up the boat and her crew, and most particularly the cook who required non-violent motion in order to prepare the meals. So far we had not had to resort to eating out of cans.

It seemed strange that our latitude was the same as San Francisco, and the

distance from our position to San Francisco was just about the same as our

distance to Sitka. We were 900 nautical miles from San Francisco, 1000 nautical miles from Seattle, and 1125 nautical miles from Sitka, Alaska.

In the wee hours of the morning on August 16 we put two reefs in the mainsail as the winds increased, gusting to 30+ kts in rain squalls. We furled the jib a few hours later. The jib foil had separated again above the feeder. Several days ago, Callum had tied it top and bottom to hold it in place, but to no avail.

By noon we had set the full mainsail and reacherin 17 knots of wind speed. We altered course to sail directly towards Sitka. During the night the winds were light and we motorsailed with one engine and all sails set. You would not believe what beautiful sailing we have been having, traveling 190 to 200 nautical miles per day.

On the morning of August 17 we had following winds of 15 to 19 knots true wind speed and following seas, moving us along at 9 to 10 kts boat speed. The seas were down from the 2.5 meters of the two previous days. At 0700 hours, we were 760 nautical miles and 3 to 4 days south of Sitka. The favorable winds were forecast to continue, punctuated by a low pressure system passing us to the west soon bringing 30 knot winds from astern. We would furl our headsails and take 2 or 3 reefs in the mainsail before the low passed over us. The sky was overcast with light rain. The barometer was slowly rising as we headed NNE, away from the forecast location of the approaching low.

The forecasters were predicting no fog along our route. We had expected to see more shipping, but so far only two ships had been sighted. We kept our radar turned on throughout the night hours, and during the day in poor visibility. We had been sleeping better in the calmer sea conditions, and with the engines turned off, it was even quieter.

We organized and folded our backup paper charts, noting the many islands along the coast of SE Alaska. Sitka has several marinas, but word came back from our inquiries that there was no room for ADAGIO. The marinas were full, and had long waiting lists. We might have to anchor near the New Townsend Marina, but could certainly come alongside the fuel dock for fuel and to board Kim and her family when they arrived. Our wonderful dinghy would be our taxi to and from shore while we re-provisioned for our expedition to Glacier Bay. We were enjoying the last of our mangoes from Hawaii.

When the forecast gale arrived after lunch on August 17, we had furled the large reacher and reefed the mainsail early, down to the second reef. By dinner time the winds were in the 30’s gusting to more than 35 knots. Steve surfed ADAGIO at 17+ knots boat speed. Two hours later we had taken in the third and fourth mainsail reefs. This was the first time we had sailed with four reefs in the mainsail. ADAGIO still raced along covering 215 nautical miles in 24 hours. The seas were very rough, estimated at 8 to 11 ft high. We were getting a lot of practice furling and unfurling our mainsail with the in-boom furling system, and believed we had the geometry and forces very well figured out. No more dramas, knock on wood. Winds and seas had been from astern, and we were making good time. We could not ask for more.

By August 18 the winds were lighter and the seas had gone down. We were cruising along under full main and reacher, but we were unable to make wind that was not there. Stronger southerlies were forecast for the next day as another low approached from the west.

Dorothy’s log entry for 6AM, February 18 read: ” It was a very rough night with winds in the 30’s and very rough seas. This morning the seas are still rough and a bit confused. Wind is down into the mid to high 20’s.Still sailing under 4th reefed main and full jib. The furled reacher stayed furled throughout the night and still looks secure this morning. Not much sleep was had last night due to the motion and sound of the gale. Overcast with occasional rain.”

The forecast was for gale conditions in our area for another 12 hours. Before noon we had hoisted the full main and set the reacher in 17 knots of southeasterly wind.

Our Aussie crew member, Callum, was wanting to have a few days to explore

Sitka before flying to Vancouver on Augugust 22, so he had been working hard to keep the sails trimmed and our boat speed up. Our other crew member, Bill Twidale from Hawaii, had been able to contact his wife Maryann on the HF radio from time to time.

This is a large, empty ocean. We were hoping to encounter no shipping during yesteday’s gale when visibility was very poor. This day we sighted two ships nearby, but had expected to see more.

We heard that Sitka was experiencing a heat wave, but out at sea the

temperature was pleasantly cool, and we turned our electric underblankets on to pre-warm our beds each evening. It sounds decadent, but we would not be without them. Kim had been telephoning marinas in SE Alaska and in the Puget Sound area, looking for a marina where we could leave ADAGIO for the winter. Sitka marinas were full, and we were being advised that a boat left in SE Alaska during the winter months needed a care taker, or someone living aboard. If we could not find berthage that we felt was secure up north, then we would bring ADAGIO south to the Puget Sound area, close to where Kim lives. Perhaps we could even do some winter cruising. After all, ADAGIO is now our only home.

On the morning of August 19 we hoisted full main and reacher. Callum conversed with a pod of Dal’s porpoises playing on ADAGIO’s bows. The weather forecasters reported that there was a stationary High in the vicinity of Sitka.

Early morning on August 20, Dorothy’s log entry read: “180 nm in past 24 hrs. Sun peeking through the clouds of a clearing sky in the east. Clouds and convection to the west. Last night the orange! crescent moon hooked its tail into the horizon and slowly disappeared, criisp and bright, after the sunset allowed the bright red ball of the sun shine red and hot beneath the layer of clouds that have covered our sky all day. Is this a sign of clearing? We have 224 nm to Sitka, 1 day 5 hrs at this speed.”

At dawn on August 21, we were 28 nautical miles south of Sitka, and expected to arrive after lunch. The mountain peaks along the coast appeared out of the clouds, 27 miles away. Mount Edgecumbe is a volcano-shaped peak rising over 3200 feet near the entrance to Sitka Sound. It looks like Mt. Fuji, and we were headed directly for it. The snow-covered mountain peaks of Chichagof and Baranof Islands graced the horizon off our starboard bow. A more beautiful day for arrival in Sitka could not have been designed.

Three black-footed albatross have been circling the boat all morning.

These birds nest and breed in the Hawaiian Islands. They are all black with a white vertical stripe between their beak and their eye. A flock of what looked like small black petrels flew past, in a great hurry to go somewhere important.

As soon as we had sighted land, our crew member bill said quietly,, “Now it is time to look for logs.” Zing! Of course, I had forgotten. Bill spotted the first large log, and we dodged it. Several others were

spotted, so we were vigilant, assigning one person to look out for logs at all times. Sometimes the logs are made easier to locate when birds used them for a rest perch. There were many false alarms when a large piece of boa kelp was floating on the surface.

At 3:45 in the afternoon of August 21, the clearing sky and a forecast for 48 more hours of fine weather made our entrance into Sitka Harbor a piece of cake. The harbor master found us a berth that was 30 feet wide. ADAGIO is 27 feet wide, and I measured it several times while Steve and crew brought the boat around the outside of the marina and to the berth. It fit just a touch looser than a glove, and we were very pleased. Mission accomplished.

Bill and Callum would depart on August 22. Bill was worried about a hurricane that was headed directly for his home in Hilo, Hawaii.

Our daughter Kim and her family were due to arrive the evening of August 25.

2004 July: New Zealand to Sitka, Leg Two: Bora Bora, French Polynesia to Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Click the thumbnail for the French Polynesia photos

On the 4th of July, 2004, ADAGIO was clean, repaired, polished, reprovisioned and the crew was exercised and rested. We hoped to depart Bora Bora on Wednesday, July 7, after checking out of French Polynesia, getting our bond refunded at the bank, and buying duty free diesel fuel. We expected to have favorable southeasterly winds for the first five days, followed by light winds in the vicinity of the equator, and finally northeasterly trade winds for the last third of our passage to Hilo, Hawaii.

While in the light winds, we would try to make as much distance possible in the eastwardly direction to position ADAGIO at a comfortable wind angle (aft of the beam) when we reached the northeasterly trades. We expected to be in Hilo around July 22, give or take a few days.

As we waited for our departure date to arrive, we went out in our fast “expedition” dingy ALLEGRO most days, snorkeling in numerous places around the small islands (called “motus”) near Bora Bora, enjoying the multitudes of tropical fish, and the spotted rays which glide and “fly” above the white sand bottom of the channels. Baguettes, pain au chocolat, and tarts au fraises (strawberry tarts) have been frequently on our menu.

One of our favorite haunts was an internet Patisserie where one could browse the web while nibbling on a French pastry. Before our departure we phoned to order a dozen tarts au fraise, and misunderstood that the tarts would be ready by noon, but it turned out that it was noon when the shipment of California strawberries arrived, after which time the tarts could be assembled by the pastry chef. On the way back to the boat I bought five fresh vanilla bean pods from a woman’s roadside produce stall, and later wished I had bought more. They were soft and fragrant.

Click the thumbnail for the Bora Bora to Hawaii photos

On the morning of July 7, we were still experiencing wind and rain from the cold front that had passed through overnight. The sky cleared, but when we departed Bora Bora at 3 PM the true wind speed was 32 knots from the southeast. For ADAGIO, these were perfect conditions for a speedy passage.

Sailing on the starboard gybe four hours later, it was a bit rough and rolly but we were making good time. Our boat speed wandered from 9.5 to 11.5 knots, as the wind speed wandered from 25 to 34 knots. We hoisted the mainsail to the second reef and discovered that we had attached the two-part main halyard with twists in it, so we lowered the main, untwisted the halyard, reattached it, then hoisted the mainsail to the first reef. We unfurled the jib, but when the winds reached 30 knots we furled the jib again.

The winds stayed in the 20’s for all the next day, and ADAGIO zoomed along at 10 and 11 knots boat speed. Our first 24 hour run was 203 nautical miles. The weather forecast showed a convergence zone to the north of us which could bring poor visibility with rain and possibly a few squally thunderstorms.

By the morning of the third day, the seas were down a bit and the wind had decreased to 13 to 24 knots. A light rain shower at dawn brought a full double rainbow off our port quarter. The clouds were clearing. We were three and a half days sail south of the Equator, and two days from where we expected to encounter the South Equatorial Current. The wind stayed in the 20’s and the seas got up to 3 meters again, giving us a good second day’s run of 223 nautical miles, under jib and one reef in the mainsail. After dinner, ADAGIO surfed at 14+ knots of boat speed in 25 knots of true wind speed. The wind speed seemed to increase for an hour or so just at sundown, and we had 28 knots of wind at 9 PM. A sky glow off to port was thought to be the moon setting.

Fair winds and Following Seas! We finally found them. During the third night at sea we sailed out of the South Pacific Convergence Zone with its rain, wind and

lightning. By morning the wind was light and variable, and the seas were down from 3 meters to 1 meter. By 0730 hours, the wind had filled in from the east, and once again the reefed sails were filled and drawing. A second convergence zone was ahead. We would have to cross it, so we would not be raising full main and reacher until we had left it in our wake.

We all slept better in the calmer conditions. Our position was 520 nautical miles south of the Equator and 420 nautical miles due west of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands. There were a few rainshowers ahead, but overhead the sky was blue for the first time since our departure. The weather report described very rough seas to the south of us, sent north by a deepening low to the south. We were glad to have made such good time away from that area.

By the afternoon of July 10, a light wind had filled in from the northwest. The barometer had fallen 4 points in the past 2 hours, which was a puzzle. A few high cirrus clouds and some altocumulus clouds were about. Fair weather cumulus clouds rimmed the horizon ahead and some convection clouds lay astern at a great distance. The Line Islands (Kiribati) lay 250 nautical miles to port. We furled the mainsail and jib, and motored with the two engines at 2500 rpms.

Our books, iPods, and remaining strawberry tarts and Pain au chocolat from Bora Bora, kept the crew happy. We wished we had bought more mangoes before departure, and the melons and bananas were ripening quickly. The green tomatoes were turning red at just the right rate for our consumption. A few tropic birds flew nearby after departing Bora Bora, but we saw no birds while at sea. We missed seeing the albatrosses. ADAGIO’s decks and windows had been rinsed by the night’s rain. This was cruising!

During his routine inspection of the rigging, Callum discovered that the threads of the Reef-rite boom tension rod had sheared off at the aft bulkhead, and the nut was gone. There was no way to jury rig a repair at sea. Callum wedged a softwood block forward at the mast to prevent the rod from chewing up the mast.

Steve used our Iridium satellite phone to telephone Kevin, the maker of our Reef-Rite in-boom furling system. He told us that the broken rod was not essential to the system, and said we could hoist the full main and go sailing. Reef-Rite would send us instructions for repairing the reefing system in Hawaii. Meanwhile we were to sail with the mainsail fully hoisted or fully furled, but not reefed.

So we were sailing under full main and jib, in 9-10 knots of wind, making 6.6 knots of boat speed over the ground. Our course took us to the south east of the Big Island of Hawaii, so that when we encountered the NE trades, the wind and sea would be on our starboard quarter. The winds stayed light, and we cacluated there to be twelve more days to Hawaii at the current 6 knots of boat speed, motorsailing with one engine under full main and jib.

After fresh banana sorbet for lunch in the warmer weather, Vanessa improved our view of the world by catching a lovely tuna fish for our dinner. We prepared Polynesian poisson cru and consumed our last fresh mango and strawberry tart.

On Monday, July 12, we were having more of the same, with the seas out of the northeast now, in line with the wind. The barometer was steady. The morning’s sunrise, at 6 AM sharp, was a mirror image of the previous evening’s sunset, followed by a clear blue sky, dotted with fair weather cumulus clouds. Our position was 222 nautical miles to the equator, estimated sailing time of 1 day 16 hours. Our progress was slowed a little by 1 knot of contrary current. According to the chart, we are under the influence of the South Equatorial Current, which flows from east to west. The true wind speed has been about 10 knots all day, with languidly rolling swells all around us. The evening’s photographs were added to our growing gallery of atmospheric displays. A typical tropical stunner — lingering powder blue at the horizon and powder pink above the puffy clouds, after the blazing sun had set.”

The radar had been absolutely empty for two days, showing not even the ususal reflections off of rough seas. The wind was filling in from the northeast, occasionally swinging around to the east. We received an update from our weather router Rick Shema. He advised a new aim point of 10N latitude 145W longitude. A frigate bird was flying overhead. A few more clouds appeared in the sky. For lunch we had mango sorbet after our turkey sandwiches on baguette. We kept the boat speed above 7 knots by motor sailing occasionally with one engine when the true wind speed dropped below ten knots.

The jib foil separated again, about 1/3 of the way up. Two of the black sections opened and closed as the sail worked in a seaway. It would not be a problem if we did not have to change headsails. Callum wondered if the gap could pinch and perhaps tear the jib fabric when the jib was furled.

Our passage through the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) (formerly

known as the Doldrums), had been uneventful. Winds below 10 kts lasted only 24

hours, and no squalls or thunderstorms were encountered. We were now

sailing under the influence of the “Divergent Easterly Trade Winds of the

Equatorial Dry Zone”. Our progress north was being boosted by the North Equatorial Counter Current.

On Tuesday, February 13 we expected to cross the Equator — a first for ADAGIO and her crew. Conditions were superb. We were experiencing winds greater than forecast. Instead of 3 to 10 knots, we had 10 to 14 knots, and the seas were lower than forecast. What more could we have asked? The wind was even veering, so we expected to be able to set our huge reaching sail.

North of the Equator we would encounter the Intertropical Convergence Zone

(ITCZ), which has a reputation for more squalls and thunderstorms than the

SPCZ, and we would be influenced by the North Equatorial Current.

At night the stars and Milky Way were so bright we had to put on our

starscreen before going on deck. We had not seen a ship since departing Bora Bora, but we monitored the radar vigilantly. Our little sailing island was visited by a gannet and by a very tattered looking Frigate bird, who looked as puzzled to see us out in the middle of the ocean as we were to see it. We occasionally mistook flying fish for small birds because they were airborne for such a long distance.

Monday’s sorbet was mango. On Tuesday we tried pineapple. These treats were made from the excellent fruit puree’s from Bora Bora, and wished we had bought more. We had never imagined how delicious pureed banana drink could be, and it also made delicious sorbet. We also wished we had bought more New Zealand apples in Bora Bora — the excellent grown-for-export Pacific Rose apples, each one a beauty.

Out came our Hawaiian Cruising Guides and maps and charts. We spent most of our time reading, sleeping, dining and being entertained by the bantering and sparring between our Kiwi and Aussie crew members. It was like listening to a foreign language, as many of the jokes flew right over our heads. But if they were happy, we were happy. It was such a pleasure to have two such keen sailors, hard working and good humored, aboard.

We sailed across the the Equator under full mainsail and reacher at about 4PM on Tuesday, July 13, but the King Nepture ceremony was upstaged by the generator overheating and shutting down about 15 minutes before we crossed the Zero Line. The King found himself in the machinery space with pollywog Steve fishing for impeller bits in the cooling water. Bits were located and removed, but by the time all was once again sorted, the Equator had passed under our keels, and we were in the Northern Hemisphere.

Instead of feeding the traditional ceremonial green goo to Dorothy and Steve to celebrate our first crossing of the Equator aboard ADAGIO, Vanessa landed another tuna for our dinner. I remembered to take the southern hemisphere compass unit out of our hand bearing binoculars and replace it with the northern hemisphere unit.

During the evening the Equatorial South Counter Current was really ripping, east setting at 2 knots. A ship passed us 4 nautical miles away on the starboard side heading south. We were not alone on this big ocean after all.

The morning’s sunrise was the usual spectacular, 360 degree panorama, beginning with the pink sky all around, and concluding with the blazing appearance of the sun coming up from the horizon. Above it all danced the crescent moon and the planet Venus. We were motorsailing under full main, jib and one engine, making 7.5 knots boat speed in 10.5 kts true wind speed. We hoped to be able to set the reacher, if the wind stayed at 10 knots.

The days had been very hot, but with extensive high cirro-stratus clouds covering most of the sky, we hoped to have a bit of a respite. Our giant reacher sail served as a huge awning, shading the boat from the sun in the afternoon. The cockpit was a pleasant, breezy and cool place for us to sit out of the sun, reading our books and watching the ocean go by.

When the seas were calm, the reflections of the sunset’s blazing sky in the undulating seas found us floating in flames licking at the hull. A small flock of boobie birds flew around and landed several boat lengths to starboard in the firey slick.

In the late afternoon Vanessa spotted a dolphin, leaping, swimming on a reciprocal course to ours. He was heading south. At 8 PM the Big Dipper and North Start were low on the horizon off our port bow and the Southern Cross had disappeared beneath the southern horizon. The stars in the Milky Way were quite remarkable.

We began receiving weather forecasts from the meteorological service in Hawaii. Most interesting to us was the location of the thunderstorms in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which was positioned between us and Hawaii. We would begin to experience the weather of the ITCZ in a couple of days. On the morning of July 14, the weather report located the Intertropical Convergence Zone as a line between 7 and 8 degres N latitude and between 140 and 157 degrees W longitude, directly across our route. The forecast was for scattered strong thunderstorms within 60 nautical miles of of the ITCZ west of 148 W longitude and isolated moderate thunderstorms elsewhere within 120 nautical miles of the zone.”

No sailor enjoys sailing to windward. Keeping the winds and seas coming from behind us makes for a much more comfortable ride for the crew and less stress on the boat. We stayed south of 30 deg South latitude after departing New Zealand, to stay in the westerly winds. Now we were staying east of the longitude of Hawaii, so that when we reached the Northeast trade winds, they would be on our starboard stern, and not on our bows. Another reason to stay east of the rhumb line to Hawaii was that the Intertropical Convergence Zone between our present position and Hawaii was more active, with more powerful thunderstorms, west of 148 W longitude. We expected the thunderstorms would be less vigorous if we were to cross the ITCZ at 145 W longitude.

At dawn on July 15, Callum was operating the port side electric winch normally as he stood at the top of the steps going down into the cockpit, unfurling the reacher. Dorothy had just come on watch and was standing in the doorway to the cockpit watching, unbelieving what she was seeing, as the reacher sheet fouled as it exited the self tailer, wound around the top of the winch, and destroyed the entire self tailing aparatus, breaking it into bits. Callum quickly stopped the winch, leaped into the cockpit, and began disassembling the mess. We did not have a replacement part aboard, never expecting such a freak accident to occur. This left us with one electric winch rather than the usual two to operate our gigantic sails.

The wind speed remained at 12 to 13 knots out of the southeast, and our boat speed stayed between 8 and 10 knots. But the true wind angle continued to increase, and a strong east south east setting current set in, so we were soon sailing dead downwind. Up went the spinnaker with the full mainsail. By afternoon the sails were flogging so we lowered the spinnaker and furled the mainsail, turned on the engines and motored into light winds. By the next morning we saw thunderclouds to port and starboard, the wind speed dropped to three knots.

In the morning Vanessa set the fishing lines and within 10 minutes she had caught a 17 lb tuna. Steve helped land it and Dorothy filleted it. What delicious sashimi was immediately consumed, and then poisson cru for lunch. Tonight we will poach some of the fish in soy, rice wine and sesame oil and serve over a bed of lemon rice with snow peas and chopped scallions. “It’ all swings and roundabouts”, said Vanessa.

On the afternoon of Friday, July 16, our position was 500 nautical miles north of the Equator and we were crossing through the Intertropical Convergence Zone which was full of thunderstorms. From our cozy saloon we could see rain clouds all around us. Some were shaped like the nasty roll cloud of the Australian “southerly busters”. But so far we had received only light rain, and variable winds. The seas were a bit rough. We expected to be out of the ITCZ and into the northeasterly trade winds sometime during the next day.

All sails had been furled, in anticipation of strong winds in thunderstorm cells. Both engines were pushing us towards our destination. At the speed we were traveling, our range under power was about 690 nautical miles. We were covering about 175 nautical miles per day, against an unfavorable current. We would ordinarily been preparing to set our sails again, but due to a Low Pressure system located near 9 degrees N latitude 136 degrees W longitude to the east of us, there was a chance of strong northerly winds rather than the northeasterlies we had expected. In the afternoon, we increased engine revolutions to to 2700 rpm to raise the boat speed to 8 knots in order to stay west of the storm system which was moving WNW at 10 knots.

The next morning the wind filled in from the southeast, and was soon blowing 20 knots. We turned off the engines and hoisted the full main and jib. The sky was clearing, and we would soon be exiting the ITCZ. Cumulus clouds were all around with heavier clouds off to port. Blue sky lay ahead. The radar screen was clear. We estimated four and one half days to Oahu at our present rate of speed rate. The barometer was lower than it had been for a long time, at 1007. Steve had set our course to make landfall in Honolulu rather than Hilo so that we would have an easier time obtaining the boat parts we needed to effect repairs to the tension rod in the boom and our electric winch.

We began to see more birds, including the masked booby, the beautiful Hawaiian petrel, and an elegant sooty tern. One small petrel was sitting in the water, struggling to pick up a big fish it had caught.

We were really moving along now, making 9 kts over the ground in 16 to 18

knots of true wind speed, over a 1.5 meter swell, with a comfortable motion.

The apparent wind angle was 90 degrees. ADAGIO carried her full mainsail and jib. Puffy white cumulus clouds all around, deep blue sea and powder blue sky.

We could not ask for more. Why was I reminded of Bernard Moitessier when he

decided he enjoyed the sailing so much, that he continued on around the globe for another half circumnavigation, rather than finish the race? He must have been experiencing sailing conditions like this. We were going to be sorry when such good sailing conditions were over. In spite of her disabilities, ADAGIO was not exactly limping along.

The true wind speed had increased to 25 knots, and our boat speed was 10 to 13 knots. We had covered 196 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. A few small rainshowers appeared on the radar. It had been a bumpy night. We altered course 20 degrees to leeward to ease the pounding until the wind speed fell back to 20 knots, at which time we returned to our course to steer 305 degrees to Hawaii. The seas seemed steeper and the waves closer together. This might be due to the contrary current. The front windws had seeped salt water a little bit over night.

We were not trolling a fishing line because yesterday’s fish provided enough food for several days. Steve sent an email to the Hawaii Yacht Club to request a berth for a week. Friends had told us that with our San Francisco Yacht Club reciprocal privileges, it will be our best bet. We were also scratching our heads for the names of people we might know who live in Honolulu, to help us source some of the boat parts that we needed. I was disappointed that we would not be visiting Hilo and the Big Island to see the volcanoes, but Alaska called.

We hoped to depart Honolulu for Sitka before the end of July. Friends in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand reported having ice on the decks of their boats, and frost in the fields. Steve turned on our generator so that we could run the air conditioner. In spite of the tropical heat, the cockpit in the shade was pleasant for reading and watching the sea go by. It was relaxingly uneventful out on the ocean, just sailing along, savoring the serenity before we entered the hubub of Honolulu.

On July 19 we awoke to a beautiful morning, and as Vanessa said, conditions were “fab”. It had been peaceful sailing through the night. The night before had been windy and a bit rough, but over the past 24 hours we had been cruising along at 9 knots, reeling off the 200 nautical mile days again. The northeast tradewinds were steady and predictable. We just trimmed the full mainsail and jib for an apparent wind angle of 95 degrees and sailed on mile after mile. We had been at sea for almost 12 days, and I was afraid our crew were becoming bored. They had each read over a dozen books, and listened to our audio books during their watches. Only three more days to Honolulu at the rate we were going.

Rainshowers were gathering off to starboard. ADAGIO could use a fresh water

rinse. Several flying fish left their slimy scales stuck to the decks and windows during the night.

The weather forecasts looked favorable all the way to Honolulu, with the

exception of a “Shearline trough” located north of Hawaii and moving slowly towards the southeast. It would be nice to have fair weather when making landfall on Thursday, July 22. Our friends in Hawaii recommended a new marina located to the west of Pearl Harbour. The marina could fit us in, and it shares a harbor with the largest marine shop in Hawaii, where we hoped to find the rod required to repair our mainsail furling system.

We were keeping an eye on the progress of a tropical depression which had formed far off to the east of us. It was moving slowly, and we expected to be in Oahu before its arrival. We were reacquainting ourselves with tropical weather systems after having sailed for several years in the higher latitudes.

The morning of July 20, less than 2 days from Honolulu, the northeast trade winds of 17 to 20 knots blew us along at 9 to 10 knots boat speed. By the same time the next morning, we would be at the southern corner of the Big Island of Hawaii, which is called South Point, the southernmost point of the United States. I hoped to see the red of the volcanoes as we approach during the night. We needed to stay about 25 nautical miles offshore to avoid the strong winds that wrap around the coast.

Our planned route would take us south of South Point, northward along the Kona Coast in light winds and flat water. We would begin crossing the Alenuehaha Channel as far north as we could, to get a good angle on the increased winds and seas in the channel. We would pass south of Maui and Molokai, and north of Lanai. The channels between these islands can be rough due to funneling winds. Lastly we would cross Kaiwi Channel to Oahu.

Sailing downwind along the chain of Hawaiian Islands promised to give us spectacular views during the daylight hours. We were not allowed to anchor at any of these islands until after we had checked in at Honolulu with Customs and Immigration, so we would just enjoy watching the scenery go by. As soon as we had rounded South Point, we would be in the lee of the Bit Island, sheltered from the northeast trade winds, and could motor all the way up the Kona Coast. Crossing the Alenuehaha Channel is best done very early in the morning or even better overnight, when the winds and seas in the channels are at their lowest strength and height. The channels between the islands are wide, so the navigation would be straight forward.

Our menu planning was dictated by an effort to consume all the best frozen meats and fresh produce that we did not wish to have confiscated by the US Department of Agriculture. They could have the beef if they wished. The frozen chicken that we purchased in Bora Bora had been imported into French Polynesia from North Carolina, USA, so I expected that I would be allowed to keep it.

At 0730 hours on Wednesday, July 21, we had rounded South Point and were motoring up the west coast of the big island of Hawaii, in 2 knots of breeze, steering to compensate for the 2 knots of current which was pushing us towards the shore, and keeping a sharp lookout for “FAD”s, Fish Aggregating Devices.

The Coast Pilot writes: “For reasons unknown, fish in the N and W Pacific Ocean frequently gather in schools under floating objects. FADs may be as sophisticated as floating devices, often buoys, with electronic equipment attached for tracking or as crude as floating logs or other objects. The FADs in Hawai’ian waters, established by the state, are yellow, 6 feet across at the base, and show quick flashing yellow light atop a 5-foot steel pole. The buoys display 12-inch white letters. These buoys frequently break loose and/or become unlighted. Mariners are advised to use caution when in the vicinity of the FADs.”

During the night Callum noted, as we passed it by, a FAD that was not on our chart. The chart shows numerous FADs inshore of our course, mostly within the three nautical mile limit. We stayed three nautical miles offshore. I spotted what might have been a FAD off to starboard, also not on our chart.

We were unable to see the Big Island to starboard because it was shrouded in mist, and the sun had risen behind it, shining in our eyes as we look towards the island. I was surprised to see the sun low in the sky as it rose, as I had expected it to be blocked by the volcanoes Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Eight nautical miles to starboard, we passed by the famous Kealakekua Bay, where there is a monument marking where Captain James Cook was killed by the natives in 1779. Another attraction of this bay is the Marine Conservation District and Underwater Park in Ka’awaloa Cove, where visitors can swim over the healthiest coral in the Hawaiian islands, and abundant tropical fish. Dolphins, manta rays and humpback whales frequent the bay.

After motoring half way up the west coast of the Big Island, we succombed to impatience and curiosity, and headed out across the Alenuihana Channel towards the island of Maui. Pronounce it however you wish, we called it the “Hallelujah” Channel. The cruising guide warns that the channel crossings can be very rough, and are best made during the night or early morning, at the north end of the channel. What the heck, we had been crossing oceans, and this was just a channel. Our risk was, however, calculated, as the trade winds were not “reinforced”. We crossed in 5 hours, from noon until 5 PM. The seas were rough, but we averaged 9 to 10 kts boat speed.

We entered the Alalakeiki Channel between the island of Kahoolawe to port and Maui to starboard. The wind funneled between the two volcano peaks of Maui, whipping up the seas, but as soon as we were in the Auau Channel between Lanai and Maui, the seas settled down and we spent an hour soaking up the beauty of an extraordinary sunset and crescent moon, and preparing dinner before reaching “The Slot”. After dark, the house and street lights on Maui looked just like lava flowing down from the crater, fanning out over the valley, and into Maalaea Bay.

At 8 PM the wind increased and the seas roughened as we came out of the lee of Maui and were exposed to the winds funneling through the Pailolo Channel. Our Coast Pilot writes: “It is reported that the junction of Pailolo, Auau, and Kalohi Channels, locally known as The Slot, is subject to high winds and dangerous currents.” I shut down the engines, and we sailed under full main in 15 to 26 kts of wind, boat speed 9 kts. A ship approached from the Pailolo Channel and passed ahead of us.

During Steve’s watch beginning at 9 PM, four tugs towing barges were on the radar screen at the same time. During her watch, Vanessa dodged several more tugs and their barges. These vessels travel at night to avoid the strong afternoon trade winds, just as we were doing. It made for some nail-biting moments. The tugs and tows are well lighted, but cannot maneuver, so we had to wind our way between them. Our Fujinon Techno-stabi stabilized binoculars really paid off in these situations, where identification of the running lights, distance, direction and speed of travel of such long obstacles is essential. In the early morning we crossed the Kaiwi Channel from Molokai to Oahu, motoring in calm winds and seas. Honolulu and Diamond Head were off our starboard bow at sunrise.

At 8 AM on the morning of July 22, we hailed Ko Olina Marina at Barber’s Point and spoke to to John. He said to hail the marina on vhf radio channel 71 for entry instructions. We were told to tie up to the fuel dock, port side to, and go up to the harbormaster’s office to check in. The Ko Olina Marina is west of Pearl Harbor, about 15 miles from Honolulu. Steve met with U.S. Immigration officers, and the Department of Agriculture representative came for our French Polynesian meats after lunch (during which we managed to consume some of the steaks). We were allowed to keep our meat from New Zealand, as well as cooked meats and sandwich meats. We handed over much of our fresh produce, then moved ADAGIO to berth D-92 which was an end tie. We had all the resort privileges and there are swimming beaches within walking distance. The cook’s night out found us feasting at one of the resort restaurants.

My sister Mary Jane arrived on the big bird, on which she is a flight attendant to show us the town. First stop was Waikiki Beach. I forgot to take my camera, but in the end was glad. The many-ring circus that is Waikiki is beyond description and beyond photography. You just have to see it yourself. We found a ring-side table at a small cafe/bar on the beach and gazed out over the beautiful sea and beach where every imaginable water sport, water fashion, water craft and water-loving person were cavorting, weaving in and out amongst each other as each “caught a wave”, and no one getting killed. We gasped and smiled. What a sight it was!

Over the following weeks Callum labored over the forestay, Steve labored over the boom repairs, and they both labored over the electric winch repairs. Parts arrived from the US mainland and from New Zealand. We rented a small car and drove to the north side of Oahu to see the surfing beaches. Unusually, Sunset Beach was calm enough for snorkeling. we picnicked on sushi. A very large seal lumbered its blubbery mass up into the sunshine on one of the beaches in front of our amazed eyes and posed for our photos. What a beautiful island. We spent many happy hours snorkeling in the man-made, fish-filled lagoons along the shore between the marina and the Ko Olina Resort. Every week or so Mary Jane dropped in for visits and more touring.

Vanessa departed for her homeland and left a big, gaping hole in our party. We hope she enjoyed her passages from New Zealand as much as we enjoyed her company and sailing skills, good humor, friendship and common sense.

Callum got into the swing of things in tropical America, and kept us informed about his world-wide search for a fast, adrenaline sail boat. Bill Twidale arrived from Hilo, bearing parts and mail packages, and joined in, readying ADAGIO for her final leg to Sitka, Alaska.

2004 June: New Zealand to Sitka, Leg One: New Zealand to Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Click the thumbnail for the passage photo gallery

Final preparations for Tahiti

The fine weather was also perfect for working on ADAGIO, and we were beginning to be careful how we used the water from the water tanks at the house. Having no buyer for our house was not so much a worry because we were happy to have our home to live in while we were unable to live aboard ADAGIO.

Our crew members were beginning to sign up. Our Australian friend, the professional deep sea diver Callum, agreed to crew for us from French Polynesia all the way to Alaska. Also our friends Bill and Maryann, who had sailed with us from New Caledonia to Australia in year 2000, wanted to crew for us from Hawaii to Alaska. We were very pleased.

I began cooking stews and soups for our passage, while I had a regular kitchen, plenty of electricity for slow cooking, and a big freezer. It also took care of dinner every evening. I poached a large chicken that had I bought at the Russell Saturday market. It was huge because the farmer told me that he had to keep it longer than planned while he waited for the processing plant to open again, and the chicken just kept growing!

We were hoping that ADAGIO would splash down again the first week of May, during the full moon high tide. I was savoring those final days in the house. The weather was beautiful, and our garden was filled with flowers and birds. We planned to live aboard ADAGIO at Ashby’s Marina in Opua after she was launched.

Two days before ADAGIO was due to “get wet” again, our realtor brought a prospective buyer to see the house on short notice. For months I had been keeping the house gleaming, and this woman came while the main living areas were re-arranged so that I could complete a complicated canvas sewing project for the boat. The bed was not made, but the kitchen was cleaned up, the garden looked great, and the sun was shining. It just goes to show you that in spite of one’s best laid plans sometimes things just turn out differently. This woman bought the house in June as we were sailing to Tahiti.

Leg One: New Zealand to Bora Bora, French Polynesia

June 7 0803: The rising tide gently floated ADAGIO off the Opua Marina boat ramp where the house moving truck had left her at low tide. It all happened earlier than expected. High tide was officially at 10 PM, but she floated at 8:30 PM. She is lighter than usual, with empty water and fuel tanks, few provisions, and also as a result of our taking off a lot of heavy books and items we had not used during our first three and a half years of cruising.

After cruising in New Caledonia and Australia, we had sailed ADAGIO from Hobart, Tasmania, back to her boat builder, Allan Legge, in the Bay of Islands for repairs and upgrades. Now we wanted to cruise aboard our sailing catamaran in the waters of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia.

We rejected the idea of shipping ADAGIO to Vancouver. Instead we invited friends to crew for us and looked forward to some exciting blue water sailing, invaluable experiences, and exotic destinations. ADAGIO could do it. Could we? We believed that with the right complement of crew, we would have a safe and enjoyable voyage. Our fantastic Kiwi friend and catamaran sailor Vanessa accepted our invitation to crew from New Zealand to Tahiti. Our Australian friend Callum, sailor and diver extraordinaire, agreed to join us in Bora Bora and stay aboard until Sitka. Our circumnavigator friend Bill planned to join us in Hawaii for the leg to Sitka, one that he had made three times already.

Steve purchased a used Iridium satellite phone, so we would have telephone contact with the rest of the world at all times. We subscribed to a medical service which provided us with instant medical advice at sea for all of our crew. Most importantly we hired Rick Shema of Weatherguy.com to help us with the weather routing.

Choosing our route had been a topic of our discussions with many of our experienced cruising friends over the past year. Some described how they had sailed due north through the islands of the western Pacific, then over the top of the Pacific High to Alaska. Inspired by John and Amanda of Mahina Tiare II, we had chosen a route from New Zealand via the Austral and Society Islands of French Polynesia, then to the Hawaiian Islands, with our final destination at Sitka, Southeast Alaska. Such a routing breaks the 7,500 nautical mile voyage into three almost equal 2,500 nautical mile passages, with landfall in first world countries for effecting repairs if necessary, restocking our provisions and taking on and letting off crew. Our plan was to make first landfall in the beautiful Austral Island of Raivavae, but it was not to be.

Vanessa spent several days helping us pepare the boat for departure before we took on one thousand litres of duty free diesel fuel. During several day sails we showed Vanessa “the ropes”, before a frontal passage brought wind and rain, whetting our appetites for our tropical destinations and signaling that it was time to load aboard ADAGIO the final supplies of fresh produce and meats.

As we sailed past Cape Brett, two Bottle nose Dolphins named Badjelly and Two Step swam out to say goodbye to Vanessa. She had made good friends with the dolphins over the years as part of her tourism business Carino Sailing and Dolphins aboard her beautiful red sailing catamaran CARINO.

We departed the Bay of Islands, New Zealand the first week of June, with a five day forecast for rough seas, mostly swell from the Southern Ocean with some wind wave. The first night found us sailing with first reefed main and full jib, before following winds in the 20’s. Under the sky bright with stars an egg-shaped moon rose up from behind the edge of the sea. At sunrise the sky became pink astern, a very soft pink with powder blue below, as the sky bightened ahead. The sun sent its rays streaking skywards from behind silver-lined clouds, and I put on my sun glasses, at 7:20 AM.

By day three, the sun was shining and the wind was from the south, allowing us to sail a broad reach directly towards our destination. Our initial course had taken us due east from New Zealand along 40 deg south latitude to stay south of the Kermadec islands. Good progress was being made — 400 nautical miles in two days, in bumpy seas and through a few small rain squalls. Albatrosses circled. Some days there were five all at the same time. I attempted to capture their grace in my camera, but the waves kept rolling us around.

A big High pressure system, positioned to the west of New Zealand, gave us a good weather window forecast for four more days. If we could keep up our speed, we might just be able to ride the High all the way to Raivavae.

It was really wonderful having a third person aboard. We each stood watch for three hours, then rested for six hours then were back on watch for three hours and so on. It might sound like a lot of sleep, but most of the sleep was light, due to the motion and the noise of waves against the hull. The quarter moon, quite bright in the sky ahead, provided a visual reference, and helped to maintain our situational awareness by other than our electronic instruments. I loved it that we sailed into the sunrise in the morning, and into the darkness at sunset. When we crossed the international dateline, it was yesterday again.

About five days out of Opua, getting emails out became a challenge. We sailed out of Sailmail HF radio range – too far from Oz and not yet close enough to Hawaii. Also we had no luck connecting to any of the Ham Winlink stations, though we tried a dozen. So for a while we had to use the Iridium sat phone and Inmarsat-C for email.

The Adagio crew stayed well-rested, well-fed, warm (with electric under blankets on the beds and diesel heat), and smelled good after hot showers. We were looking forward to seeing the low pressure system lurking to the SE of us finally get unstuck and move off. It had been sending swell waves towards us giving us a total sea state on the beam of some three to four meters high.

ADAGIO surfed from time to time at 13 knots boat speed in 30 knot gusts in squalls, under starry skies. Bright, sunny and dry days stayed with us until stato-cumulus clouds moved in. Wind speed stayed mostly 15 to 22 knots, stronger than forecast, allowing for some fast sailing until we had to put the brakes on.

Speed up: Our tactics had been focused on minimizing the effects of a tropical low which was forecast to form near Fiji and then move down across our track. Since we could not predict the low’s track with precision we had to allow for the possibility that it would cross our track west of Raivavae. So we put up full main and reacher to make as much easting as we could, and to have the option of ‘hiding’ in the safety of the high pressure system which was over New Zealand and strongly ridging out towards our position.

Slow down: The weather models converged enough to give us more confidence in their forecasts. We changed our tactic to slow down until we were confident the low was passing ahead of us to the east of Raivavae. We stowed the reacher and reefed the main, aiming to hold our speed down to 5 to 5.5 knots until we reached an aim point of 33deg S 162deg W, on June 14, when we would alter course direct for Tahiti. Forecasts called for moderate winds but a continuing strong swell during our trip to Tahiti. Three meter seas continued and a Royal albatross followed in our wake, swirling and dipping its wing tips. The following day a black browed albatross was circling. The sun was setting earlier and earlier each day, as we had decided to not reset our clocks.

The brand new vectran line that served as our reacher traveler failed as the splice came apart. We stowed the reacher with all hands on deck. Once again, it was wonderful to have Vanessa aboard to help. We replaced the line with the old spectra reacher sheet run through a snatch block on the starboard bow and cleated off to the port bow. This rig would probably hold if we needed to put the reacher back up. Boat speed still exceeded 8 knots under jib and full main, when the true wind speed was 14 knots but dropped to 7 knots when wind was at 11 knots.

While on watch we listened to audio books. With Vanessa handling more of the foredeck work, I could concentrate on meal planning and cooking, and still stand my share of the watches. The wind veered and backed, as we sailed into and out of squalls which brought little rain until June 13 when ADAGIO received a thorough water blasting. The winds eased a bit after the rain, and we enjoyed a brief respite from the seas.

The big fat high pressure system over NZ provided us with fine SE winds in the 15 to 20 knot range. The low pressure system no longer posed a hazard, so ADAGIO lifted her petticoats and carried us once again swiftly across the bounding main. We would sail directly to Tahiti, hoping to arrive by the weekend, and could practically smell the fresh baguettes. Under spinnaker during the day and then under our giant reacher during the night hours. The improvements to our mainsail furling system had been well tested and we are delighted to report that we can indeed reef while sailing downwind!

Having sailed out of the territory of the albatrosses, we were soon being accompanied by beautiful black and white storm petrels, enjoying the warmer air temperatures, bright sunshine, fair weather cumulus clouds and rainbows. The sunrises and sunsets were something to behold. Steve was alarmed one night by what appeared to be a large cruise ship on the horizon, all lit up, but not being detected by our radar. Then he realized it was the rising crescent moon behind low clouds!

Winds were forecast to stay “fresh” and seas in the three to four meter range. Unfortunately with two wave trains, the seas were rather “bumpy”, and we were thankful to be aboard a wide catamaran which does not rock and roll, and we could continue to make good speed. The cockpit stayed dry in spite of seas washing up the front windows and over the top of the coach roof. When we wanted to work on deck, we turned the boat downwind and the foredeck stayed dry.

By Wednesday, June 16 we were still under the influence of the strong high pressure system, which was ridging to the southeast. Northeast of the High was a convergence zone with poor visibility in showers and isolated thunderstorms. We would have to cross the Convergence Zone to get to Tahiti.

After we had set the first-reefed mainsail and jib, a small squall came through and blew 32 knots. The jib tack shackle distorted and came loose. Steve and Vanessa went forward to replace the shackle while the wind abated to 15 knots.

The weather forecast called for winds SE 20-25 knots with gusts to 35 knots, rough to very rough seas, as we crossed the S. Pacific Convergence Zone. We kept an eye on the barometer. A squall brought winds up to 34 knots and rain. ADAGIO surfed at a boat speed of 16.5 knots. The barometer was falling.

When I relieved Vanessa at the nav station on Thursday, the winds were in the 30’s, but soon decreased to the high 20’s. It had been blowing like this all morning. Seas rough, but on our starboard quarter. Squalls were all around. The sun was trying to peep out from behind a cloud ahead. The wind had become a bit less changeable. No squalls nearby. Vanessa said that in the guest cabin she felt as if she was sleeping under water, with the sea flowing beneath the hull and waves washing over the deck above her berth.

Beginning Thursday evening the squalls became more frequent, bringing winds in the high 20’s and low 30’s with rough seas. The barometer continued to fall as an area of gales slowly moved across our course. We tried to keep the apparent wind angle at 90 degrees, but due to the rough seas, we frequently sailed at 100 degrees apparent, to take the pressure off of the sails and rig. But for the problem of a small island, Maria Island, to leeward of us, this would have been just fine. In the conditions that we were experiencing, proximity to an island, to windward or to leeward of it, is not a good idea, due to the danger of very large waves. We tracked a large ship as it crossed our course 16 nautical miles astern. During my watch I tried to decrease some of the eleven miles we had fallen below course, by keeping the apparent wind angle close to 90 degrees. There must have been too much pressure on the sail. We should have reefed again.

In a squall with gusts exceeding 32 knots, ADAGIO surfed to 18 knots of boat speed. Heavy rain squalls were frequent. The wind backed and then veered repeatedly. The boat was being thrown all over the place and seas were sweeping over the coach roof.

Two hours later all hands were standing in the saloon at the change of the watch, and we heard a flapping noise. Looking up through the hatch in the coach roof we saw that the mainsail had torn across the middle. All hands on deck! We suited up and prepared to furl the main as best we could. Steve manned the lines and winches, Dorothy peered into the front of the boom, shouting instructions to Steve from time to time to raise the boom a bit more, and Vanessa helped Steve in the cockpit. The sail came down nicely, but we had to raise the outboard end of the boom 12 inches. Fortunately, the leech line had not parted and was guiding the aft portion of the sail into the boom and around the mandrel. The sail was torn above and below one batten, which was still attached to the leech line. The last three battens Dorothy had to push to starboard because they were bowed with the convex side to port, so they would go into the boom. It is amazing that we were able to furl the torn bits of the sail so smoothly, and the still intact leech line made it possible. The sail was torn from leech forward about 3/4 the width of the sail half way up with the first reef in. One very long batten had completely torn away from the sail fabric above and below it, and the batten remained in its “pocket”, which remained attached to the leech line. When we had furled all but about 1.5 m of the sail there was a loud “POP”, as the furling line came apart from the webbing on the mandrel. Steve secured the mandrel with the pawl pin. Within hours of furling the mainsail, the gales subsided and the sky cleared.

We continued sailing under jib and engines in 4 to 5 metre seas, and winds in the high 20’s, so it was a bit rocky and rolly, but we were all fine, standing our watches, and getting rest while off watch. I baked a loaf of bread in the bread machine — our favorite: Whole wheat and dried cranberries. Next we baked banana bread with chocolate chips to cheer up the crew.

A few hours after we had stowed the torn main, and turned on the engines, the port engine overheat alarm sounded, so we turned it off, planning to investigate the cause when conditions were a bit more settled. In spite of her shortened sail plan, ADAGIO continued to make 200+ mile days. Squalls surrounded us and the seas were large but fairly regular. Occasionally a beam sea would slam the starboard side of the boat, or a wave would hit the underwing. ADAGIO handled it well, and it was amazing to see how much motion and noise we had become accustomed to. Outbreaks of sunshine. Drops of water coming in at the top of three maybe four of our front windows. The barometer continued to fall. The weather fax showed that the convergence zone of squalls was passing near Tahiti.

We approached Tahiti on a bright sunny day, surrounded by dark blue seas with curly white tops, rising up over our starboard transom then passing under ADAGIO, sometimes noisily. ADAGIO leaned and dipped gracefully and then surged ahead. The surrounding clouds were dissipating, so there was not much chance of a rainfall to wash the salt crystals from the decks. The tall mountain peaks of Moorea were sighted first, and two hours later, the loom of the island of Tahiti was visible on the horizon.

In reinforced trade winds of 25 to 30 knot winds, we maneuvering our “tennis court” alongside the concrete wharf with just one engine, and dinged the port bow slightly. The harbor master allowed us to tie alongside the new wharf as we were unable to maneuver to “Med-moor” on the Yacht Quay where the other cruising boats were tied stern to the dock.

We dined on mahi mahi fish at an outdoor cafe, and returned to the boat before dark to get some well-earned rest. As soon as we were in bed, the cat burglars arrived. We set off our light alarms to scare them away. But they kept coming. One guy tried to break in to one of the overhead hatches in the salon while Steve was shining a searchlight in his face. It was not a pleasant experience. Finally they stopped and left us in peace. In the morning the boat was covered with muddy barefoot prints. We had stowed everything and locked all hatches, so all they took was Vanessa’s favorite Team New Zealand hat. We found that the cat burglars who were trying to break into the boat were more stressful than was our recent ocean crossing.

Papeete is a necessary evil, with noise and dust, and major construction projects changing the harbor all around. Nonetheless, we were happy to have arrived in port after a safe passage. And we were very grateful that Vanessa was with us. She is one terrific person, a very skilled sailor of catamarans and monohulls, easy going personality, bright, intelligent, just the best!

On Sunday morning Steve walked to the Patisserie to buy us breakfast tarts and pain au chocolat. Monday we checked in to the country, delivered our mainsail to the sail loft in town and located a Yanmar mechanic to help Steve troubleshoot the problem with the port engine.

The gigantic French/Polynesian super marche’ provided us with two hours of entertainment, looking at the shelves full of exotic imported French goods, mountains of excellent produce, cooler shelves full of New Zealand meats, more coolers full of French cheeses, bakery shelves full of baguettes and pastries, and aisles of bikinis, seashell jewelry, and a whole range of department store stuff. We provisioned mostly with fresh produce, with the baguettes stuffed into our backpacks.

By Tuesday afternoon we were motoring the five miles across the “Sea of the Moon” to anchor in Cook’s Bay on the island of Moorea for some R&R.

Cook’s Bay is surrounded on three sides by sharply peaked mountain spines of ancient volcanoes, fluorescent green in the misty rain that was falling. There are small resorts dotted along the shore and a paddling canoe center at the head of the bay.

Anchored in one of the most beautiful anchorages in the world, we have been happily working on boat tasks, getting the outboard motor to run smoothly, doing a few rigging tasks, as the weather was partly sunny, and partly showery.

In search of a snorkeling spot, we took ADAGIO out to the anchorage near the reef at the mouth of the bay, but could not find a place to anchor that looked safe, among the eight or so other boats already anchored there, so we returned to our anchorage at the head of the bay. Not long afterwards, a small squall came through, with winds of 30 knots. Better not to be hanging around reefs in that kind of wind.

After a quick trip back to Papeete to collect our repaired mainsail and new crew member Callum Watts, and buy more provisions (including 20 pain au chocolat and 17 French tarts, pamplemousse (Polynesian grapefruit), fresh pineapples, melons, green tomatoes (they ripen quite quickly in this climate), 4 baguettes, frozen duck breasts, and many liters of fruit juice, we were planning to sail overnight to the islands of Taha’a and Raiatea. But after phoning the French met service for their English language weather forecast (40 knots of wind, thunderstorms, big seas), we decided to stop instead in the now familiar anchorage of Cook’s Bay and wait out the storm.

We set 50 meters of chain and 10 meters of bridle in 20 meters depth, but in bucketing rain and wind gusts of 40 knots plus, we were awakened at 2 AM by the GPS anchor drag alarm. Just before 4 AM the storm was upon us, and we had anchored in 20 meters of depth with not enough scope on the anchor rode. So it was all hands on deck, and in rain and wind, and dark of night, we retrieved the anchor, moved into shallower water, more protected from southerly winds, and deployed 50 meters chain and more than 50 meters of nylon rode. Our crew Vanessa and Callum managed the anchor windlass and bridle, while Dorothy payed out the rode from the anchor locker, ensuring no tangles or hockles would jam in the windlass. Steve used the engines to position the boat from inside, as he watched the crew working on deck through our gigantic windows. We formed a bridle out of our two reacher sheets, tied to the nylon rode with rolling hitches.

After the anchoring was completed, we re-fortified ourselves with pain au chocolat pastries heated in the oven while we waited to see how the boat would lie to anchor. The weight of the chain helped keep the anchor dug into the mud, and the nylon rode provided stretch to cushion the pull on the anchor in the gusts. There were no swells because we were anchored towards the head of the bay and the length of fetch over the water was only about a kilometer. I could feel the boat surge forward and back as the nylon anchor rode stretched in the 40 knot gusts and recoiled as the wind eased. We maintained our position, as we could see on the radar where Steve had set up variable range marker rings, showing us precisely our distance from shore and from the other boats. By 6 AM the sky began to brighten, and the sun was soon shining through the clouds of a clearing sky with rainbows painted across the fluoro green cliffs from which waterfalls cascaded. The wind was still blowing in the 30’s at 7 AM, and we were happy to be safely anchored in a sheltered bay rather than on the high seas, sailing towards a reef-ringed island.

Our new crew member, Callum Watts is a professional deep sea saturation diver. That means he regularly dives to depths of 120 meters, in a dive suit through which warm water is circulated, and breathes a mixture of helium and oxygen. He is also trained to operate remotely operated deep sea vehicles (ROV’s). He told us that one day when he was waiting on the bottom of the ocean for gear to be lowered down to him, a spider crab 4 feet high walked past him. During another deep dive, he walked onto the back of a 15 foot wide manta ray which was buried under the sand. The ray began to swim, and Callum rode, as on a flying carpet, he says, until he fell off the back!

Vanessa and Callum immediately acquired each other as targets for the Aussie and Kiwi humor that those of us who do not live in the Antipodes find it difficult to understand. They teased each other mercilessly, and Steve and I frequently would be at a loss to even understand what they were talking about.

On June 28 we raised anchor, put two reefs in the mainsail, and departed Cook’s Bay for 125 nautical mile sail to the islands of Raiatea and Taha’a, before winds of 25 knots. Twice a large fish struck one of our fishing lures, but we were sailing too fast, and the line broke. Dorothy and Vanessa baked a loaf of banana cake with chocolate chips and walnuts, a treat for late night watch standers.

Just after nine PM we anchored in Baie de Pueheru on the northwest corner of ile Taha’a in 24 metres depth. Vanessa and Callum tied icicle hitches to connect the bitter ends of the bridle line to the nylon anchor rode. We deployed 50 meters of chain and about 50 meters of nylon rode. We had considered anchoring in several other bays, but did not like the reefs located near the centers of these bays. The Baie Haamene was described in the guide as experiencing “Rafales violentes” when the wind outside the bay was 20 knots or so. The cruising guide writes that we should find 8 to 12 meters deep water over a sandy bottom in some of the bays, but all the bays are 24 meters deep or more. We had considered anchoring near ilot Tehotu where the snorkeling was said to be quite good, but instead we chose to anchor ADAGIO in a safe cove, and take our dinghy ALLEGRO across the channel for snorkeling expeditions among the islets which dot the fringing reef.

Astern of us the mythical island of Bora Bora provided an extraordinarily beautiful foreground as the sun set ablaze between the two mountain peaks which form the island’s famous profile. On June 30, as we were raising our anchor, two cruising boats anchored ahead of us in the narrow bay, and we had to ask a sailboat from Aberdeen to motor forward so that we could bring up our chain and anchor which was beneath their boat. We exited the lagoon through the pass in the reef against a two meter swell, in 20 knots of wind, and quickly dogged the front window hatches as blue water washed over our large front windows.

After a fast sail under our big reacher, from Taha’a to Bora Bora, we picked up a mooring belonging to the Bora Bora Yacht Club in the small bay just south of Point Farepiti. The full moon was rising in the cleft between Mt Paihia and Mt Oteman, the two highest peaks on the island, once again bringing us an extraordinary sunset. The Bora Bora Yacht Club is a funky, thatched roofed building with a dock for dinghys, a very welcoming staff, a lovely garden, and cold beers. The host and hostess recommended a good restaurant, called in our reservation, and arranged for the restaurant to carry us in their van to and from the restaurant. Callum treated us to the four star restaurant, Top Dive, in a beautiful traditional style hatched roof building with soaring ceiling, white marble floors and azure swimming pool, provided us with a meal fit for a Polynesian king — the best of France and Polynesia! A performance of Polynesian dance and song, by dozens of dancers in a large outdoor arena, part of a week-long festival entertained us on Thursday night.

In preparation for provisioning for a departure for Hawaii, we browsed in the several small grocery stores and the small roadside vegie stands. The woman behind the seafood counter offered to hold several fresh baguettes for us, fresh from the oven. Steve discovered an internet cafe/bakery called l’Appetisserie, from which we ordered lots of tarts au fraise (tarts made with California strawberries) and lots of pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants).

Vanessa and Callum worked above and beyond the call of duty, patching with epoxy the several dings in the hull from the concrete wharf in Papeete, cleaned the hulls and polished all the stainless pulpits and fittings on deck. Our speedy expedition dinghy, ALLEGRO, carried us to the south end of Topua Iti island, close to the “Manta Ray Pit”, for views of moorish idols, Regal angelfish, butterfly fish lemon peel angelfish, and the highlight: groups of spotted rays, cruising the depths, outlined against the white sand bottom. Vanessa described a close nose-to-nose encounter with a spotted ray at the edge of the channel. “Giant Moray eels” were abundant, slithering between the rocks.

By rental car we drove around the island, inspecting other anchorages and seeing how the locals lived. Many waterfront cottages had on the beach either an outrigger canoe or an outrigger dinghy, which the locals hoist out of the water using simple manually operated wheel lifts. We celebrated the 4th of July in the lively company of American cruisers, aboard the Amel Super Maramu Millenium 53′ s/v DOODLEBUG from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Vanessa decided to continue on with us to Hawaii, and Callum planned to stay aboard all the way to Sitka. Our weather router advised us that July 7, our grandson’s seventh birthday, would be a good weather window for departure, after the passage of a cold front. We needed to resume our voyage “North to Alaska” while the seasons were still favorable.