Thursday, 20 November 2014

Gulf Harbour "Yachts in Transit" and Passage Preps

Blog update to follow but just to let know folks that we have been updating the Gulf Harbour "Yachts in Transit" website. Hopefully it works.

At Minerva Reef with a few remaining boats. Preparing to depart bound for Whangarei, NZ tomorrow (Sat NZ time). Hull cleaning time with the kids looking out for the local tiger shark. New (new to us anyway but a lot newer than our 32 year old Frankenstein spinnaker) spinnaker bought off another cruiser yesterday installed into a sock but looks like we will not get to try our new toy as forecast is 850nm to windward next week. Beer can diesel drip collection system installed for our leaky injector pump.


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Monday, 17 November 2014

Tonga to Minerva Reef (and a special friend to greet us)


After two nights and three days, we have arrived at Minerva Reef. Our passage provided a little bit of everything from bouncy two-reefs-in-the-main close reaching on Saturday to glassy-ocean motoring today.

All of our friends left Tonga within a couple of hours of each other on Saturday morning, and we had several within VHF range for the entire passage. After months of feeling like we were the only boat on the ocean while offshore, it was kind of surreal to look out on the horizon and see sails or lights. Deanne (SV Exodus) was kind enough to organize an afternoon HF radio net, but we actually checked in via VHF because we were all so close!

As with the last couple of passages, I was seasick for much of this trip, so Doug and Max took the lion's share of watches and food preparation. The kids seem to like it when Max cooks ... he always finds something yummy in the cupboard [nutrition however takes a hit when I cook ... I figure they will not get scurvy over a few days.]!

Although our freezer is pretty full of fish already, we couldn't resist putting our lines out once we started hearing the fishing reports from our friends, and sure enough, a nice-sized mahi mahi was kind enough to take our lure. (I think one of the other boats must have caught its mate, because it seemed that we were sailing down "dorado alley": this is what everyone was catching!) Fish caught on passage is OK to take into NZ, so we don't mind if we have lots when we arrive :)

Even though it was bouncy, and hard on the people aboard, the winds the first day were great for Fluenta - we averaged 6.7 kts. The winds tapered on day 2 so that we were squeezing every last ounce of drive out of the boat. During the afternoon radio net, the others reported a mix of motoring and sailing. We sailed until about 11pm, then as the winds dropped further and backed to the point that we weren't even pointing at our destination (ie negative "VMC" Velocity Made on Course) we started our engine. Ever the optimist, I hoped that we would motor for a while, and then (despite a forecast to the contrary) the winds would fill in and we would sail the rest of the way. Instead, when I came up to the cockpit mid morning, the seas were as glassy as I have ever seen them, and the wind was hovering between 2-3 kts. Along with five other boats, we motored into the anchorage just after 4pm.

We had hardly set our anchor and started the post-passage chores (lines coiled, tethers & harnesses stowed, dinghy & outboard launched, cabin tidied) when there was great excitement on the aft deck - a huge tiger shark had just swum by Fluenta. We have seen lots of sharks over the last few months, but we have seen nothing like this. It was easily twice as big as any shark we have seen before. We watched him for a few minutes as he circled our boat just below the surface of the (incredibly clear) water, then went on with our chores. A short while later, we heard similar shouts from a neighbouring boat - they had spotted him. Before long, three boat families (ourselves included) had converged on SV Nirvana to watch the shark (and film him on GoPro cameras, of course!). His tail fin was taller than the dinghies we were arriving in, and he seemed to have a penchant for bumping into them. It would seem that this shark knows a dinghy when he sees one! The cries of excitement from the children reminded me of the soundtrack of an amusement park - constant shrieks of excitement. The kids did laps of the upper deck as the shark did laps under water. Nirvana had just caught a big grouper, and as it was filleted and the carcass thrown overboard, the shark came in for the feast. We figured that he was at least as long as our dinghies, which put him at around 11 feet. He was a heavy, menacing creature, and no one was in a rush to go snorkelling anytime soon! He actually bumped our dinghy as Doug and Johnathan were bringing it around from one side of Nirvana to the other, and it seemed like he was following Nautilus's dingy as Hans went over to pick up Katrien and bring her back to Nirvana. A visit from a shark is definitely a quick way to get to know your neighbours! {Aside - I just read an email from our friends from Niue who passed through Minerva a week or so ago - they were feeding a "3-4m shark" from their stern - it seems like this shark makes friends with all the yachties!}

Dinner tonight (and lunch as well) was bbq'd mahi mahi with pasta and veggies (it is so nice to have fresh veg after so many weeks without them!). Lunch was a first for us - it was so calm that Max bbq'd the fish while we were under way. We will be here in Minerva for a few days, and then as the weather shapes up for our passage, we will head out to Whangarei, NZ.

Love to all,
At 2014/11/17 5:40 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 23°37.73'S 178°55.73'W
At 2014/11/17 5:40 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 23°37.73'S 178°55.73'W

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Tongatapu, Tonga

Greetings friends & family,

Our time in Tonga has flown by, and we are hours away from weighing anchor to leave for New Zealand via Minerva Reef. There are a couple of dozen boats here at Tongatapu (Pangiamotu - Big Mama's Yacht Club) and I think that most are heading out within the next 48 hours. It seems that we have the weather window we have all been waiting for.

I had hoped to take the time to "bring you with us" during our stay in Tonga; I had wanted to describe in detail each feast, each day of the sail repair, each trip "to town". Alas, this short note will need to suffice. Each day was filled from morning to evening. I assume you have already seen Max's photos of the sail repair that we completed; this took six full days, and it felt a bit like I was right back to working full time in terms of staying on top of daily chores... then I needed the rest of the time here to catch up again! Suffice to say that we supported Big Mama's kitchen while the repair was ongoing. Doug & Benjamin became fast friends, as they hung out together while Victoria and I sewed for the first three days, then Doug took his own turn at sewing later in the week. We couldn't have done such a solid repair so quickly without the advice from our friends on SV Totem, or the tools from our friends on SV Exodus. The support of the cruising community has once again been humbling, and we look forward to opportunities to "pay it forward"...

Our stay at anchor offered many chances to socialize with friends old and new. We enjoyed several potlucks and traditional Tongan feasts. We were even invited to help cook on Wednesday evening - everyone took some food ashore, and we cooked it collaboratively into traditional Tongan foods. My favourite was the "raw fish" - as with Mexican ceviche and French Polynesian "poisson cru", three kinds of fish (tuna, parrot fish, and snapper) were marinated in lemon juice, then combined with tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, and coconut milk. So good!

There were about a half-dozen kid boats in the anchorage, so the kids have had great fun playing with their friends from earlier in the season (and we finally met up with Exodus - yeah!) I hardly had to hold Benjamin, because each time I showed up ashore, one of the girls would come and ask if they could take him ... he would be returned to me, grubby but happy, upwards of an hour later.

We had a few chances to go "to town" (just over a mile away by either dinghy or small "ferry" - we often chose the ferry, as it was the drier of the two!). Checking into Tonga was a bit of an adventure, as we had to spend four hours tied up to a concrete dock, but checking out was easier because we just had to go to the offices in person. Doug, Benjamin, Victoria and I combined checking out with shopping for a few provisions and visiting the local farmers'/artisans' market (can you ever own too many black pearl trinkets??)

We (I) are ready-but-nervous for the upcoming passage. Everything looks good for nice (but potentially light-air on day 3) sail to Minerva reef, where we (and quite a number of our friends) will spend a few days, and then it also looks like it is shaping up for a good run to NZ. We (Max) have been checking systems, cleaning prop & bottom, inspecting the rig, and stowing like mad to be ready for this next leg of our journey. Our current intention is to leave in the morning to ensure the most daylight on the day we arrive (likely two nights and three days).

Love to you all,
At 10/30/2014 5:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 21°07.70'S 175°09.63'W
At 10/30/2014 5:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 21°07.70'S 175°09.63'W

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Tonga in Photos

A collection of photos from our short time in Tonga.  Most of the photos were taken by Doug who is crewing with us for the Tonga to New Zealand leg.
Big Mama Yacht Club (Doug Munn Photo)

The view towards Fluenta (Doug Munn photo)

Big Mama's Yacht Club (Doug Munn Photo)

Most importantly, we finally caught up with SV Exodus so the kids could play together. Halloween costumes. (SV Exodus Photo)
Most importantly, we finally caught up with SV Exodus so the kids could play together.

Benjamin helping with the stowing.

Artist at Work: Victoria sketching the boats in the anchorage now that the wind finally stopped.

Doug teaching the kids to use the bosun's whistle while Johnathan raises the Tongan courtesy flag he made with Nancy from SV Gitane when we were still in Mexico.

As part of the passage preparations - checking out the storm staysail and trysail

Doug trimming the trysail in 2 kts of wind.

Victoria's sketch of SV Sequoia

There was lots of wind ... the kite surfers take advantage of it.

Big Mama teaches Tongan (Doug photo)

Snorkelling off the wreck (Doug Munn Photo)
Snorkelling off the wreck (Doug Munn Photo)

Snorkelling off the wreck (Doug Munn Photo)

Dancing at the Earl's birthday party (Doug Munn Photo)

Another sunset in paradise (Doug Munn photo)

Coconut Milk being prepared for the feast (Doug Munn Photo)

Big Mama chopping tuna for the "raw fish" dinner. (Doug Munn photo)

Big Mama teaching Tongan cooking (Doug Munn photo)

Parrot Fish for the raw fish dinner (Doug Munn Photo)

When the wind shifted some of the boats were a bit close (we think the little boat could be a tender for Koa, the 50' catamaran) (Doug Munn Photo)

Fluenta at anchor (Doug Munn photo)

Benjamin playing the banjo and tambourine (Doug Munn photo)

Taking the ferry to town to do the provisioning (Doug Munn photo)

This little piggie went to ... dinner ... (Doug Munn photo)

And, another sunset in paradise (Doug Munn photo)

Piggy for Dinner (Doug Munn photo)

Departure Pig Roast (Doug Munn Photo)

Doug, Benjamin and Bessie.

Nuku'alofa Sail Loft (or More Adventures in Boat Maintenance)

On the way from Niue to Tonga I managed to backwind the leach of the main briefly and a nine foot seam on the main separated.  After a bit of a battle we managed to furl the main back into boom and carried on under genoa (or staysail when we hove to for a few hours).  We contemplated bending on the trysail but as we were downwind most of the way to Tonga we did not bother.

Benjamin helping with the repairs once we were at anchor.

The Seam in Question (SIQ) 

Our friend Doug, who is doing the Tonga to NZ leg with us, helping get the main off the boom.
The likely culprit - the bent flange is what we think caught the thread on the seam.

Unfortunately Nuku'alofa is not a hot bed of cruising and there is no sailmaker here.  So ... Jamie on SV Totem to the rescue via email  (Not only do they have a great blog, Behan's writings are published on Sail magazine's SailFeed)  ... Despite being in the middle of a hectic yard period himself in Thailand with his Stevens 47 and family of five he provided detailed repair instructions.  Jamie is a sailmaker with experience with everything from the top end of racing to our more mundane cruising requirements.

Jamie's instructions were as follows (reprinted by permission from Totem):


Sew if sewing by hand it's difficult to get enough threads per inch passing through the sailcloth. With 3 rows of triple stitch, you have something like 25 to 35 points per inch passing through the sail. So you'll need to do get the seam back together, and then reinforce the overall seam strength.

1.       You'll need a flat space to work on. Ideally space is a bit more than split length and minimally 3' to 4' wide. If doing this on deck, you'll get by, but it's tight.
2.       Cut across the leech tape a couple inches above or below where the split is.
3.       Curved seams are made by taping a straight edge to a drawn curved line. Usually the lower edge of the upper panel is straight and the upper edge of the lower panel has the curve.
4.       Being that it’s easier to work from the straight edge, and assuming that is on the upper panel, setup the sail so that the upper panel makes a flat area (as in 2 dimensional flat, no shape) for the length of the split and 12” to 18” wide.

You’re in it now!

1.       Hopefully the split edge is close to straight, while the cloth remains flat. If yes then use a straight edge or string as reference to make that edge straight. Use sail repair tape the tape the edge down. If not repeat this with the opposite panel, as maybe it is the strait edge.
2.       Once you have a strait, flat panel edge, measure the width of the seam, where it is still together.
3.       Every few feet along the seam, make a tick mark that is the measured seam width. When done use a straight edge or string to draw a straight line that marks the seam width.
4.       Started at the luff end of the split, hold roughly  12” inch sections of the panel from the other side of the split to the drawn line. Careful not to over tension cloth as you don’t want to mess up the flat panel. At the 12” increments, make a tick mark that crosses both panels. Then make note of when you reach the leech if the 2 panels line up or not.
5.       If the leech edge line up you have done prep well. If not, give the sail to the locals to use as a tarp
6.       Just kidding.
7.       If not lined up, the note if runs past or is short and have another go with the tick marks (use a different color) adjusting slightly one way or the other.
8.       Phew – it lines up so you still have a sail


1.       Sticking the thing back together isn’t hard, but making sure it doesn’t come apart before sewn is the challenge. This is a really important step – if it comes apart mid seam… well it’s gets trickier or you start over.
2.       So, do a trial with double sided tape (sticky on both sides) or super glue to see what work best. It may help to use acetone to clean the seams first.
3.       If super glue is best, when you apply only do a length that you can hold down without it moving until it cure. Oh, and super glue cures with warm moist air, so if you have a heavy breather onboard put them to work breathing a cure into the glue
4.       Okay, time to stick it back together, start again at the forward end of the split.
5.       Oh, and don’t worry much if the leech edges aren’t perfect – close is ok.


1.       At this point you really have a nice tarp, that the locals would love.
2.       Probably the safest option is to handsew a straight stich down the middle of the seem to be sure it stay together. Have one person on either side of the sail to go faster. The stitches don’t need to be to close together as you get bonus point for being timely so you enjoy where you are.
3.       As mentioned, handsewing will take forever to get enough stitches so this is when you bust out Dacron and 3m 4000 fast cure. It’s band-aid time.

Boo boos need band-aids

1.       It would be nice to know what Dacron you have: similar weight to sail, warp or fill oriented, etc. But shirt of that we’ll assume it fill oriented.
2.       We want to make 12” (or even 15”) wide Dacron strips. If the Dacron is very much lighter than the sail weight then we may have to make 2 sets of band-aids – let me know. So if fill cloth, measure 12” up from the Dacron roll edge for a 5’ length. Cut on the line so you have a 12” wide x 5’ long panel. Then repeat so you have 2 band aids – enough for the length of the tear.
3.       Make a tick mark at each panel end, mid width (6”). Then place the band-aid on the sail, at the leech, so that the tick marks line up on the edge of the seam (so 6” of band-aid are on either side of the seam). Mark and trim leech edge of band aid to match the sail edge.
4.       Make sure that the sail and band-aid surfaces that will be bonded together are clean – acetone if you have it.
5.       With 4000 fast cure, you want as much bonding as possible so you have to gauge how much you have so you don’t run out before you reach the end.
6.       Run one bead of 400 about ¾” of an inch in from outside edges.
7.       Run as many bead running across the width of the band-aids as you can. Use a sine wave pattern, with 1-1/2” to 2” gaps between each wave. If you have plenty of goo, make smiley faces J.
8.       Stick down the first band aid. It’s help if you have a piece of wood or something flat to put on top and with some weight so the goo spread. Do this with the 2nd band, so they’ve spanned the entire length of the split.
9.       Now go have a beer. Don’t touch until nicely cured.
10.   If bonded well, the 4000 is way stronger in shear than any amount of hand-sewing you can do – and it’s flexible.

Palm and needle time

1.       This may be a good time to put Master and Commander on.
2.       Straight stitch isn’t as strong as zig-zag. A straight stitch near the edge of the band-aid is okay, because it’ll prevent the band-aid from getting peeled off by line.
3.       The band-aid effectively makes the seam 12” wide so you have plenty of area.
4.       Draw lines on the band-aid marking wear the original seam is.
5.       I’d hand-sew a row on the original seam, so about ¾” wide – make it modified zig-zag so there is 2 hops in each zig and zag.
6.       On the band-aid, I’d do 2 more rows on either side of the seam (so 3” apart) for about 3 to 4” nearest the leech. Then from that point, you can drop it to 1 row per side of the side for the remaining length.
7.       For finishing the leech tape, hand-sew it back in place. Then cut a piece of Dacron that is twice the leech tape width and 12” long. Fold in half along the width and place over the leech at the band-aid. Hand-sew in place.

A few tricks for hand-sewing

1.       Draw a line for strait stich or zig-zag shape that you want to sew. It’s faster following a line.
2.       If material is hard to go through, use a drill with very small bit, and drill a hole at each needle hole point. Don’t drill through the deck!
3.       One person on each side of sail goes faster.
4.       Use the smallest size needle that you can, but if bending/breaking it then it’s to small. The point is to keep the needle holes relatively small.
5.       Thread – not sure what you have. V92 or V138 would be good. If lighter weigh use double strands.
6.       Once you reach the end of a hand-sewn seam, and if you haven’t gone insane yet, hand-sew your way back again.

Oh ... that doesn't look to hard ...  Of course trying to do this onboard would be really unpleasant. Big Mama offered the use of the bar floor at the yacht club but this was going to be a multiday endeavour. So in the end we rented on the Big Mama's Fales (small very rustic cabins) and turned it into the Nuku'alofa Sail Loft (sorry if you googled this looking for a real sail loft in Nuku'alofa).

Nuku'alofa Sail Loft
Liz started with the tools we had onhand to put an initial seam matching the original holes (pulling the needle through with pliers most of the time) to keep the two parts together.    We then made a huge patch with spare dacron and all of our remaining 4000.

This was going to take a very long time with the tools we had ... so Tim from SV Exodus to the rescue ...  He leant us his two Speedy Stitchers and miles of good thread.  Not only that but he helped Liz with many hours of patient stitching.  Victoria acted as a bobbin under the sail for several days to speed the process.  She was only stabbed a few times.  Having Doug here made this all feasible as he kept for Benjamin for hours and hours so I could help Liz or work on other projects on the boat. Doug also helped with many hours of sewing.
Tim and Liz working in the sweat shop.
Victoria helping measure the seam.
Note the beer bottle are to hold the mosquito coils !

Doug working on his technique.

The Speedy Stitcher x 2 ! (Thanks Tim !!)

Adding the sacrificial patches to cover the chafe damage

The nearly completed repair.

The leach repair

Luckily there were really large spiders to eat the other big bugs
Done !

The repaired sail put back on Fluenta

Pangaimotu From the Mast Top

We have been here just outside Nuku'alfoa, Tonga for over week fixing the mainsail and otherwise preparing for the next passage.  All the normal inspections and preventative maintenance for a longer passage are done: engine, sails, etc.  Some photos from the rig inspection:

Pangaimotu: the royal island and the home of Big Mama's Yacht Club

Looking for my razor.