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August 2018

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With reports this month from Defiance's visit to Fakarava; Bonnie and Paul's change of course for Romany Star; the amazing story of Element towing a disabled boat almost 700 miles — much of it under sail — and Cruise Notes.

Defiance — Cross 45R
Bill and Sandy Edinger
Freaking Awesome Fakarava

We are sitting in a blue aquarium with incredibly clear aquamarine water that reminds me of an old green-blue Coke bottle. The water is still and flat-calm. Even with six or seven other yachts moored nearby and some diving operations in progress, everything is perfectly quiet, as if nobody wants to break the spell.
Below the boat swim schools of fish and black-tip sharks. The white sand bottom is only 20 feet down. There are coral heads all about. It was so stunning, we all went snorkeling after our morning coffee.

Welcome to Fakarava.

We are tied to a mooring near the South Pass of the atoll and we can just hear the surf over the motu a few hundred yards away. Later today, Stan, Sandee and daughter Annie are set to go diving in this pass, which is considered one of the top spots in the world. When we took the dinghy near the pass yesterday, the water was cobalt blue and you could easily see the coral and fish down 50 feet or more!

We enjoyed great sailing conditions on our 533-nm passage from Nuku Hiva. Just as we thought things couldn't get any better, they did! The last 24 hours of our passage, the wind and the seas dropped. The boat felt like it was at anchor and we could open the hatches and portholes for air. We had full main and reacher, ghosting along at wind speed between 7 and 8 knots. Awesome! One of the nicest passages ever!

After 70 pleasant hours underway, we arrived at the North Pass around 10 a.m. and made our way to the main village of Rotoava. For those of you who haven't been to an atoll, it is interesting in many ways. First, the shore is exactly what you would imagine a South Seas isle to look like: coconut palms, large shade trees and a mixed shore of sand and rock. Low buildings, mostly homes and small stores, line the single road that runs north to south on the east side of the roughly rectangular shaped atoll.

The motu — the land portion — is nine square miles in area, but none of it is wider than about 1/4 of mile, so you can walk across to the ocean side in minutes. The entire atoll is about 32 miles long by 15 miles wide. The center is largely navigable and fairly deep if you don't mind dodging occasional uncharted shoals and coral heads.

We went ashore and walked around the village to get oriented. Everyone was friendly and there was very little traffic. We soon noticed that there were as many dogs as people! The dogs were all of dubious parentage but friendly and well fed. Sandy and Annie got their dog and puppy fix and we moved on before we had a canine stowaway! The homes are modest but generally well cared for and many had large, tidy yards.

Those of you who are well traveled know that every place has its olfactory signature. Marin County has manzanita and eucalyptus. Asia is sewage and charcoal fires. In Polynesia, it's flowers.

The village has a couple of stores, a school, church, government buildings and of course a few restaurants all open at odd times and hours. There are some dive shops and an enterprising yacht services company that provides a place to access the Internet (slooow), rent bikes, get your laundry done, and of course get boat repairs done.

After a couple of days, we chugged 10 miles south to the Pakokota Yacht Club, which is a small Pakokota with a few bungalows and a main house. The owner has installed some free moorings and welcomes yachties ashore for food and drink. Annie and her comrades from Sea Casa joined a group of Puddle Jumpers for a get together and made some new friends.

We then proceeded the rest of the way south to one of the highlights of the trip — a drift scuba dive of the South Pass. Well, OK, Stan, Sandee and Annie did the drift scuba dive. Sandy and I did the chicken version with fins and snorkels.
As the name implies, on a drift dive, swimming is optional — you're carried by the current. So first you need to make sure that it's going the right way; in this case, incoming into the lagoon. (The dive shops discovered they lost too many clients if they did it the other way.) Sandy and I jumped in about halfway through the pass (and I stayed tethered to the dinghy, which just floated behind us).

Wow, what a ride! We drifted over a carpet of brilliant coral with multitudes of different fish, rays and sharks. It felt like flying as we zipped over the bottom with the strong current and just watched the aquatic panorama zoom by. I couldn't help reliving childhood dreams of flying like Superman!

As we had for our whole visit, we spent the evening lying in the forward nets after dinner staring at the incredibly bright Milky Way and the stars — the Southern Cross off our bow and the Big Dipper off our stern; We're too far south to see the North Star. The full moon had just passed by a day or so before.

The literal translation of Fakarava is "beautiful" or "making things superb" – both of which apply. But for us, Fakarava stands for 'freaking awesome!' It is, by a large margin, our favorite stop in our Polynesian travels.

Then again, we're not done yet. Next stop, Rangiroa.

— Bill 6/13/18

Romany Star — Ohlson 38 sloop
Bonnie Wagner and Paul Moore
Change in Direction
San Francisco

After 28 years, 3 Puddle Jumps and 60,000 miles of cruising Romany Star through the Pacific, Paul finally made it to New Zealand! Our 2017 cruising season took us from Hawaii through American Samoa and Tonga, to arrive in New Zealand on November 1, 2017. We have been here ever since.

As first-timers to New Zealand, we were a bit shocked at how nice and welcoming everyone was. We hail from touristy big cities in California, and can never imagine folks back home lending a car to freshly arrived foreign yachties! This extreme of hospitality is partly a result of arriving in the much more rural northern part of the country, where the sheep-dotted green hills look like The Shire and everyone seems to know each other.

We rented a car to enjoy some touristing, wine tasting, and a very smelly but fabulous hot spring in the Bay of Islands area.

The whole country goes on summer vacation from Christmas through January, so we beat the crowds by sailing up to the lovely and less-visited Whangaroa Harbor. This large, many-lobed bay has such a tiny entrance between two bluffs that Captain Cook missed it entirely. The scenery is like Canyonlands dropped into a much wetter environment.

The farmed sweet Japanese oysters now encrust every rock. A local warned us to follow the limit by taking "only" 150 oysters per person per day!

As we sat out a weakening hurricane in that protected bay, we decided to skip our planned sail to the South Island, and fly instead — a first sign we're not as tough as we used to be.

We bused south to Wellington, which is a very fun city that is mostly small enough to be walkable. Among the highlights there were a tour of the fabulous Weta Special Effects Studios (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, etc), and experiencing the weather that earns the city its nickname, "Windy Welly".

We flew on to the South Island and prepared for our long-planned reservation on the deservedly famous Milford Track — a four-day, 33-mile hike across some of the most scenic terrain in the world. Then disaster struck: Bonnie twisted her knee the day before our hike began. She was game to attempt the first few miles, but had to turn around and leave Paul to hike over the pass on his own. Even with the injury, our visit to this pristine area was a highlight of our time in New Zealand, and we'd recommend anyone to prioritize the Fiordland district.
We stuck with a car rental and Airbnbs for the rest of our tour of South Island, as Bonnie was not up to hiking or camping. Luckily, many of the sights, and even the glaciers, are visible from just off the road.

Paul, old motorhead that he is, really enjoyed paying homage to Burt Munro's "World's Fastest Indian" motorcycle where it is lovingly displayed at a hardware store in Invercargill. We wished we'd allotted more time to explore Dunedin, which seemed like a really interesting city, and we wished for more budget to appreciate the best pinot noirs in Otago.

By the time we regrouped at Romany Star, we had some decisions to make. Bonnie's knee was not getting better, so we started the medical process to investigate that. It turns out that New Zealand has universal accident insurance, which all citizens and visitors buy into with taxes and visa fees. This arrangement paid for nearly all of Bonnie's medical care, including a surgery and physical therapy. We are extremely grateful for the foresight that prompted New Zealand to create this program, and to extend it to foreign visitors in addition to their citizens.

The surgery to repair a meniscus tear took place on May 2. It was a success — now Bonnie just needs to take it easy for the long recovery. The medical situation kept us in Whangarei Harbor for the rest of our stay in New Zealand, as a rocking boat is not helpful to a delicate knee.

We also finished a conversation that had been brewing for a while about our greater direction in the world. Bonnie has greatly missed teaching. Last year we arranged a small project to provide new computers to a remote school in northern Tonga, and this year we will deliver those computers. But Bonnie wants to feel that she's accomplishing something to make the world better every day, not just a few days a year. Paul figures nearly 30 years on the same boat is probably enough, and is ready to come along for a new adventure somewhere else.

So, shockingly, the cruising-optimized Romany Star is up for sale this year. The plan is to sail to Hawaii and on to Seattle, starting in mid-June. So if anyone wants to grab a kitted-out offshore cruising boat, please email . She's been good to us, and will be good to whoever falls in love with her next.

We plan to be the SSCA cruising station hosts in Hilo once we've found a non-erupting home base, so look us up when you sail in.

— Paul 5/16/18

Readers — Things have changed since this was written. The good news is that Bonnie's knee has improved and she is off crutches. Also, she has taken a teaching job in Hawaii. The bad news is, Paul's attempt to depart New Zealand for Hawaii ended before it really started. While motorsailing the 12 miles from Whangarei to the customs dock, Romany Star accidentally hit a steel pylon sticking out of the water. Damage to the bow is mostly cosmetic, thanks to the Rocna anchor's taking the brunt of the blow. But it will take time to fix.

So the plan remains the same, but the timetable has been adjusted. Paul will catch a ride on a friend's boat to deliver the donated laptops to Niuatoputapu. After that, he'll fly to Hawaii to be with Bonnie for a while, then back down to New Zealand in February or March to work on the boat. "Bonnie will join me in June to take Romany Star on a final cruise into the tradewinds, up to Hawaii and then Seattle," he says.

Element — Catana 417 cat
Schmidt family and friends
Towing the Line

On March 27 — day 12 of their crossing from the Galápagos Islands to Hiva Oa — Shaun and Sherrie Schmidt's Catana 471 catamaran Element made a course change to the north. The diversion would mean light to no wind, which was the reason they had sailed south in the first place. But that was trumped by the universal law of the sea: They were heading 400 miles dead downwind to go to the aid of a disabled boat.

In addition to Shaun and Sherrie, the crew aboard Element for their Pacific Puddle Jump crossing were daughters Paige (14) and Jordan (8), as well as Manuel and Nadja, German cruisers they had met and befriended the previous year in the Med.

Element had been in contact (through radio patches) with the CS 36 Vata, owned by Canadians Tim and Karen, since the 24th. At that time, Vata had reported losing their rudder about 800 miles from the Marquesas, but by the next day, they had rigged a jury steering system and were making progress, albeit slowly, toward their destination. Thanks, but no assistance needed.
On the 27th, Vata reported that, at their current speed in the light wind conditions and with no rain in the forecast, they might run out of fresh water. Having anticipated such an eventuality, Shaun immediately changed course to intercept and provide what assistance they could, including possibly towing.

After more than 72 hours of sailing and motorsailing in mostly light winds, Element reached the disabled vessel. Upon their arrival, the look of relief on Karen's face said it all. She and Tim had been slowly drifting along with their jury- rigged steering and drogue for nearly a week. The boat had also begun to experience electrical issues with their alternator and portable genset, becoming totally dependent on solar power. With the significant drop in wind, and the ever-present swell, Vata rocked back and forth incessantly and had been drifting at 1.5 knots off course from the Marquesas.

In the days leading up to the rendezvous, Shaun and Manuel had discussed the setup to tow Vata, and had prepared it on the trampoline. It consisted of a 120-ft, 1-inch-diameter floating line used for stern tying in the Mediterranean. That was connected to two 45-ft, 3/4-inch lines that had been purchased in preparation for tropical storm Brett that brushed by Grenada. Those were configured in bridles off Element's twin transoms using the Catana's four oversize stern cleats.

To get the line to Tim, Shaun approached Vata in a large, sweeping arc while a looped, floating messenger line with a small fender at the end was deployed aft. Tim caught it with a boat hook on the second pass.

Once everything was connected, Element very slowly took up the slack in the towline and began to pull Vata along. Shaun decided to try it at low engine speed for 24 hours to test the towline and bridle system while winds and seas were light. SOG was 3.5 to 4 knots. Shaun insisted that Vata's sails not be used, so as not to have them inadvertently sail into Element's stern; and to leave the drogue in place to help keep Vata's stern perpendicular to the waves.

The next morning after chafe checks by both boats, Element's jib was unfurled and the engines shut down. Vata was being towed under sail, while still maintaining the 3.5 to 4 knots SOG, nearly DDW, all through day 17.

On the morning of the 18th day, the crew of Element began to feel the figurative as well as literal drag of the situation. After sailing at 8 and 10 knots through much of their trip, 3.5 knots wasn't cutting it. So after morning chafe checks, Element unfurled its second foresail and ran wing on wing with both headsails, gaining a bit over a knot in boat speed.

As the sun dipped low after another day at sea, the Element crew voted unanimously that a sunset drink on the normally dry boat would help ease the suffering. From that night on, 14-year-old Paige took the helm as the sun set, while the adults ventured out to Element's trampoline for a sundowner.

By day 20, with just over 100nm remaining to Hiva Oa, the wind and sea conditions had lightened to the point that the foresails were flogging in the gentle swell. It was time to stop messing about and hoist the spinnaker.

We should say here that two spinnaker hoisting attempts earlier in the trip had not gone particularly well. Both ended in severe wraps: once around the furled headsails and another time around itself — and the skipper — as he tried to untangle it. The spinnaker would eventually be packed away a couple days while the crew regrouped, and while Element broad reached with main and genoa at a little less than optimum speed.

But this time, when the spinnaker burst from its sock during the tow, it filled beautifully . . . just like we knew what we were doing. To the Vata crew, we're sure we must have looked like old pros, especially when we looked down at the chartplotter and saw 6 knots. Woohoo!

. . .Wait! Is Vata still attached? Okay, good. . . Woohoo!

But as the day wore on, the wind continued to die down and after the day's sundowners, we dropped the spinnaker and started the engines to make the last push to Hiva Oa.

In the early-morning twilight of day 21, the outline of the island emerged.
Vata 'fendered up' and Element shortened the tow to allow for a tighter turning radius. Shaun did a 'drive-by' survey of the anchoring situation, and then made the final approach.

There was a lot more that could go wrong than right, but again, the Element crew came off looking like old pros. With patience and a little luck, Vata dropped her tow at just the right time, and both boats were able to successfully anchor in 30 feet of water with good holding.

The following day the two crews enjoyed getting to know each other a little better over lunch at a cruiser's hangout, with the bill taken care of by Vata. Later that day, Element gratefully accepted diesel offered from Vata's jerry cans followed by a quick sundowner with Tim, before departing south for Fatu Hiva.

Vata has since undergone repairs, and the crew of Element recently met up with Tim and Karen again in Papeete, Tahiti, after spending more than a month visiting five atolls in the Tuamotus.

— Shaun 6/6/18

Cruise Notes:

By the time Mike Priest and Kellie Fennessy's Marina del Rey-based Taswell 56 Dash arrived in the Tuamotus, crewman Justin Connolly had steered more than 1,000 miles, six to nine hours a day, for six weeks. And he'd developed a whole new attitude about driving. "I would like to take this opportunity to apologize publicly to Bryce Benjamin, Alicia Minana and every other skipper for whom I have ever crewed as bowman," he says.

"For those who have never driven a 30-ton sleigh before, it's a job and a half. While there is a piece of tape that lets you know when the wheel is "straight," that has zero relationship to the boat's going straight. The wheel is actually there to advise the rudder to begin making suggestions to the boat about a course it might follow if it feels like it. Introduce a 20-knot wind and 12-foot swell, and very often the boat doesn't feel like it. You then have to swear and pull with all your might. As a result, on a good day, a look at the boat tracker after one of my watches reveals a child's drawing of a twisty country lane. "So Bryce, Alicia and all other skippers, I apologize for getting a little judgy from the bow those times you zigged when victory asked for a zag. Going forward, I promise my glances back will always say, "Better you than me."

King Neptune has been busy the last couple of months, showing up aboard Puddle Jump boats at the equator to bestow shellback status on lowly former pollywogs. Some families, like the Vawters (Cameron, Anne, Adelaide and Isa) of the Mason 43 Banyon, augmented this ceremony with special treats. None were more hard-earned than Anne's 'equator cake.' First off, some of the ingredients were buried, and it took some major excavating to find them. Then, while whipping the eggs and oil, a wave hit the boat and dumped everything all over the counter and on top of the fridge. While cleaning that up and starting over, Anne says, "I forgot to add an ingredient, so after it was in the oven, I had to pull it out, get another bowl and pan dirty and add in the ingredient." Then she forgot to turn on the oven again. Then a heavy pan on the back of the oven caused it to over-gimbal, so when she pulled the cake out to rotate it, it had partly poured out of the pan and the rest was occupying about half the pan — at an angle. "At each disappointing stage I had a little girl at my heel telling me it was going to be okay, eagerly helping me clean up, hugging me (sometimes both at once) and displaying the best attitude of gratitude. The girls affectionately dubbed it The Wave Cake and we had a great time decorating it and celebrating our equatorial crossing."

There's another one! A couple of months ago we mentioned 'reverse' commuter cruisers — folks who park a boat in the Bay and fly here from a faraway homeport. (That other mention was of the Craven family, who live in England but sail here.) Now we've learned there's another: Eddie and Susan Harrison's Dufour 310 Harizon. The Harrisons live in Chicago, where they sailed the Great Lakes before heading west in 2015 to try some saltwater sailing. They sailed the Bay for a couple of years before joining last year's Baja Ha-Ha. The boat is currently back in Sausalito. Eddie and Susan fly out frequently to sail the Bay (and visit both sons and their families who live here). But come fall, they'll again join the Ha-Ha, and Harizon will again be crewed by friends from the Great Lakes. This time, they're planning to keep going, south to Costa Rica, then the Canal, then . . . who knows?

On their continuing South Seas adventure, Sandy, Anne and Bill Edinger of the Cross 45 trimaran Defiance (see lead story in Changes) had enjoyed a picnic ashore in Moorea in June. On their return to the anchorage, the wind had come up making for a choppy ride. "We were drenched in a matter of minutes, which isn't a problem as the water is warm," says Bill. "However, we couldn't see where we were going! We soon realized that putting on our masks and snorkels helped us see and breathe! We were able to carry on at full speed, hampered only by our laughter at how silly we must have looked to the locals going by in their big panga-type boats."

Like many 'noobs', Mario and Dianne Calvi of the Beneteau 43 Bella Vita had a terrific first Ha-Ha. They particularly enjoyed sailing in company with so many other boats. "After a number of ocean passages in relative solitude, being surrounded by other boats made this one very unique and special," says Mario. "I will never forget the cluster of tiny AIS icons on my plotter that constantly surrounded our boat, day after day, night after night. Boats that, in many cases, we had never seen sailed by people whom we had never met before, but who soon became familiar and comforting presences in our lives. By the time we met them on shore and in Cabo, we felt like we had known them for decades." The original plan was to bash back to San Francisco in June, but the Calvis decided instead to berth the boat in Paradise Village Marina while they returned to the Bay Area for the summer. Come fall, they're looking forward to "more sailing and more margaritas!"

"While the scene had a certain charm, one couldn't help but think the 1960s met Apocalypse Now," writes Kristi Ficek of the Island Packet 485 Caesura of their strange encounter on Ua Pau. They'd been exploring ashore with the buddy-boat crew of Reverence — six folks in all — when they spotted a sign reading 'Choko-Mann.' At the top of a steep road, they entered a small villa and met its owner, Manfred, a tall, mid-70s, white-haired German expat who regaled them with tall tales of his Hemingway-esque life. "Then the goods came out," says Kristi, "and we were in heaven. Small squares of dark creamy deliciousness, truffle filling served up on a communal spoon, and tin after tin of chocolate with crisped rice, nuts and coconut. Just when our tastebuds couldn't take any more, out came his crowning achievement . . . passion fruit-filled truffles aptly dubbed 'ladykillers'. Despite the OSHA violations, the man knew his chocolate and had obviously spent a lifetime perfecting the art of pleasing women. Manfred sent us off with a friendly wave and a mischievous wink at the girls."

Arizonans Stuart and Robyn Pikoff had so much fun crewing on Louis Kruk's Beneteau 42s7 Cirque last spring that they rejoined 'the Circus' late last year — with a special surprise. Robyn had discovered a place online called Urraca Private Island/Monkey Island: an eco lodge that doubles as a monkey rescue facility. Lou immediately set a course from his current base in Red Frog Marina in Panama's Bocas del Toro archipelago, and they were able to wriggle their way through the reefs into the anchorage, which Louis describes as pleasant, secure and offering spectacular views of the Zapatillas. The visit exceeded everyone's expectations. "Thanks to Robyn's inspiration, I've been able to share this gem with all my guests," says Louis.

A couple of friends from San Francisco and several members of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Dive Team boarded Kurt Christofferson's Deerfoot 62 Emma in La Paz in June. The occasion was a two-week, sailing-diving-fishing trip out to the islands. Espiritu Santo was the first stop, where they spent several days diving the wrecks of the Fang Ming and NS03.

Kurt is a certified diver but felt a bit outclassed in the company of very experienced friends. "I dove with bigger tanks, but when I came back to the surface, my dive buddy would still have plenty of air. Everyone else would pop up 20 or so minutes later. It was very humbling."

The hot fisherman on the boat was Rob Norton, who also did a lot of the food prep. They caught plenty of fish, too, including four nice ones as they sailed over an underwater cliff on the way to Isla San Francisco. "We ate ceviche for two days," says Kurt. Emma got as far up as San Evaristo before heading back south to end the trip. Upon return to Marina Palmira, the adventure ended with a great meal and margaritas at El Molinito. From there, Kurt was picking up another crew for the sail up and across the sea to San Carlos, where he will keep the boat over the summer months.

"Shark Drags Woman Into Crocodile Infested Waters!" screamed the headline. We don't normally get sucked into silly Internet tripe — but, well, sharks and crocs; a boat could have been involved, right? So as your faithful servants of truth and justice, we checked it out. Surprise surprise — more tripe. The young lady in question was hand-feeding nurse sharks off the back of a tour boat in Northwest Australia when one of them clamped down on her finger and dragged her in. While it's true that the area is noted for the large saltwater crocs that live there, this girl's companions pulled her back aboard so fast we're surprised she even got wet. Nurse sharks are generally slow-moving and not aggressive (and they all scattered as soon as she hit the water), but they are sharks, they can get big, and they do have lots of teeth — albeit tiny ones. They also reportedly have a suck reflex equivalent to an industrial Shop Vac. Her finger came out a bit the worse for wear, but it will heal. And she doubtless learned a lesson we learned (the hard way with a horse) a long time ago: Never hand feed anything that's bigger than you.

We were really looking forward to meeting Graham and Terry McGlashan of the Vancouver-based F-41 trimaran Jazz at last year's Baja Ha-Ha. Alas, although they were signed up, mast issues — major ones, apparently — caused them to postpone. "The new mast should be here this month," says Graham, "which will give us a few weeks to shake down in the beautiful Pacific Northwest before heading down the coast to this year's Ha-Ha."

So once again, we can hardly wait to meet the McGlashans and check out Jazz — the first-ever Ha-Ha boat powered by electric motors!

Missing the pictures? See the August 2018 eBook!


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