Adventures of Maia | Blog
An adventure, sailing and cruising throughout the world with Laura, Dick and Ellie.
Sailing, Blog, cruising, MAIA, Sceptre 41, sailboat, fun, adventure,
paged,page-template,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post-php,page,page-id-347,paged-2,page-paged-2,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode_grid_1300,footer_responsive_adv,qode-content-sidebar-responsive,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-10.1.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.12.1,vc_responsive

Monday, July 1 was departure day from Savusavu. That morning we had another provisioning session, stocking up on food and other necessities as we would not be near stores for the foreseeable future. We were heading out to explore some of the Northern outlying areas. If weather permitted we would also head to the Northern Lau group. Early afternoon once Maia was shipshape, (everything put away and stowed for sea), we motored to a nearby anchorage in front of Jean-Michael Cousteau resort. It was wonderful to jump in the water and swim! The water was cool and refreshing. We also had fun rowing around in the dingy, during a beautiful Sunset. We were eager to explore Fiji!

Our first cruising destination was Viani Bay, east of Savusavu, still on the Island of Vanua Levu. It is a beautiful big bay on the Somosomo strait, which is known for its amazing Scuba Diving areas, the Rainbow Reef, (with the White Wall and the Cabbage Patch). We were excited to meet up with Starlet, Harlequin, and Peregrine, and have friends to play with. Starlet graciously took us out a couple days to the Reef and while they dove, others of us snorkeled. We would take a dingy out from the mother ship Starlet and snorkel in amazing spots where the coral is alive and vivid, with a diversity of fish. We had several awesome days out. 

One night at Viani Bay resort, we had a wonderful dinner prepared by the resort, another night we had a super fun July 4th celebration, a potluck with good ol’ American food, potato salads, coleslaws, potato chips, BBQ chicken, sausages, cake prepared by the resort and flares lit for fireworks!!! Several mornings we had Yoga on the beach, led by Tessa, another cruiser. It was wonderful.

One afternoon we helped replant the reef. The reef inside the bay had been damaged by Cyclone Winston, Jone and others from Viani Bay resort regularly come out to re-plant the broken stag coral. It’s a simple process of finding the downed coral and re-cementing it to a coral base. After planting, Jone took us on a tour of the reef, and on the outer edge we found some beautiful coral with a wide array of fish. On the following Sunday, Dick and I snorkeled the reef and enjoyed a beautiful calm afternoon. He paddled over on the standup board and I motored over in the dingy. After our enjoyable snorkel, it was super calm, so I rowed the dingy back to the anchorage. It was super fun getting back behind the oars. (Great training, for my sometime in the future, Grand Canyon river rafting trip :-). 

After a week in Viani, we motor sailed to Catherine Bay on the island of Rabi. As there were several reefs we needed to pass through, as well as Islands to navigate around, it seemed the prudent thing to do 😊. Part of the pull to Catherine anchorage was swimming with the Manta Ray’s and we caught up with Harlequin there. The Manta’s are known to be feeding in the pass, while the tide is flowing. Harlequin took us out and anchored on the outside of the pass and then we motored the dingy to the top of the reef, over the side 3 of us went, while Henk manned the dingy. We quickly floated with the current and soon spotted a Manta Ray. Now it was game on! We all climbed back into the dingy and motored back up to the top of the pass, against the current. While in the dingy we began seeing the Manta’s wings coming out of the water. We would watch where the Manta’s were and then jump into the water and try to swim with them. It was quite the adventure and we were able to get a few pictures. Henk experienced a close-up as we dropped him right in front of one of these beautiful creatures.

Lisa and I also walked on shore one morning and enjoyed seeing the village of Buakonikai. There is a large Methodist Church, that is a grand and beautiful landmark from out on the water. However, up close it is somewhat tired looking, but it was busy that morning with a women’s fellowship meeting. As we wandered through the village, we met a couple of locals, one lovely man gifted us bananas.

We were told Albert Cove, on Rabi was a beautiful anchorage and we found it so! The water was a gorgeous tropical green and it was backed by a large crescent sand beach. Our first evening we were invited for dinner aboard Starlet, with Harlequin and Midnight Sun. (Our first time meeting John and Wendy.) Dick scuba’d one day with Mark from Starlet and enjoyed swimming deep around the large coral bommies. While down there he noticed that the fish did not dart away as they do when snorkeling. While he was “diving” I went snorkeling on the wall outside the reef. We enjoyed our time immensely at this picturesque tropical paradise, spending more time snorkeling, walking on the beach, socializing, while seeing many rainbows and watching beautiful sunsets.

Generally, each day, we are looking at weather. We have a “Predict Wind” subscription that we use with our satellite device, IridiumGo when not in cell range. The weather gribs provide all sorts of details, wind, rain, swell. We find it a necessity as we travel to know when to sail from one spot to another, or to pick out protected anchorages or know if a storm is on its way. While here in the Northern sector of Fiji, we were watching to see if we would get a “weather window” to sail / motor to the Northern Lau group of Islands which are Southeast of us. Here in Fiji, the Tradewinds generally blow from the Easterly quarter… East, Southeast…. So, we were hoping for either a lull in the winds or a westerly breeze to make the one-day journey “uphill”. To set up for this we will move south to either Taveuni or Qamea to shorten our sail to Vanua Balavu.

After 4 days at Albert Cove it appeared the winds would be easing, and we would have an opportunity to sail to the Lau. Harlequin, Starlet and Maia headed back to Catherine Bay. That afternoon we had a “muster” and decided on a plan of action. We were going to anchor on Qamea which would give us an easily navigable route away from the anchorage, for our 8-10 hour sail to Vanua Balavu. As we had been away from civilization for a while, the fresh food supply was dwindling, so a stop at a market was necessary. We also wanted to scout the route out of the anchorage, as we would have a pre-dawn early departure to arrive at Vanua Balavu, Daliconi Village during mid-day. That next morning Starlet and Harlequin would head to an anchorage on the Island of Taveuni, get a taxi to the town of Somosomo and do the provisioning. Maia would sail ahead and scout our passage for our 0400 departure. We all would meet up at the anchorage on Qamea in Naivivi Bay!

Our strategy worked and everything went according to plan. On Monday afternoon, once we were all snug in the anchorage, Lisa and I had a wonderful paddle through the Mangroves surrounding the little inlets, we heard birds singing, and enjoyed our up-close time in Nature. We discovered that the inlets led to small villages spread in and around Naivivi Bay.

The following morning, at 0400 Maia, Starlet and Harlequin were motoring out of Naivivi bay and were on our way to the Northern Lau Group!

We arrived in Savusavu on Friday, June 21 (our days will be getting longer here in the Southern Hemisphere, Happy Solstice)! After we were visited by Health, Immigration and Biosecurity and given clearance, we strolled into town to find an ATM and reconnoiter Savusavu. Our main task of the afternoon was to get Fijian dollars and take our payment to Revenue and Customs. It was a beautiful sunny, humid day, which unfortunately meant that walking around town was hot and uncomfortable, we had arrived in the Tropics!

After our exploration around the busy city of Savusavu, we went back to the Copra Shed Marina “Yacht Club” for cold drinks and an enjoyable dinner with friends from Starlet and Harlequin. Lisa, Jennifer and I set up a date for Saturday morning at 9:00 am to go to the Town “Farmers” market and do some other shopping.

The Town market is just up the street from the marina, about mid-way through town. We wandered through the groups of locals hanging around in the park and bus centre. The market is spread over a fairly large area, stretching from the Bus Centre to Namaka Creek. Closest to the street are seemingly makeshift “booths” with pop-up’s or tarps as roof for shade. The fruits and veggies are spread out on tables and most vendors seem to be selling similar produce. Some have only a few items while others have a wider selection. As we wander through the 50 or so vendors, we buy a few things here and there. As we are wandering around, I retreat to the shade whenever possible, as I am already feeling the effects of the heat and humidity.

We make our way into a more permanent structure, which is constructed of wooden posts with a tin roof, where additional vendors are located. Here we see more of the same produce being sold, but also find a woman selling her jewelry, and a kava vendor.

As our provisions of fresh food on Maia were low, I continued to purchase more produce and am getting fairly overburdened with all my purchases. I look out from the market into the harbor and I notice Maia is close by! I message Dick as we have internet, and he comes by in the dingy and relieves me of all the purchases including a flat of eggs!

The girls & I continue our morning outing. As we are leaving the market, I see a guy selling mandarin oranges. I buy a stack of about 6 and have a snack. The mandarins look green but are very juicy and refreshing on the hot morning. We make our way towards a dance event we were told about from the lovely customs official. When we arrive, we are disappointed as it appears to be an event put on by a chicken and snack company, who are selling junk food and currently no one is dancing. Is it because of the heat of the day?

We decide to do more shopping and make our way through town. After stopping in several stores and buying more things, ($3 liters of Perrier in glass bottles!) we come upon a jewelry store, Jennifer had wanted to stop into. As we enter, we are greeted by a vivacious young girl (4 yrs) who is bouncing off the walls. Her mother, the young shop keeper apologizes as she says her daughter is usually not like this. As I am enjoying a chair, I spy the culprit of the overly enthusiastic young lady, orange soda! (This brings back memories of Trevor’s 5th birthday party, where orange soda was served, and the energy of the party increased at least 10 fold.)

Mark met us at the Jewelry store, and we headed to the Kava store. Not impressed with the quality, we made our way back to the town market. By this time, I was done, over-heated and I looked it. (My face was all red and I had been wiping sweat off of it for several hours.) I called Dick and he dingyed over and picked me up. When I got aboard, I took a cool shower and a nap, and I felt better once I woke up.  

On Sunday afternoon we went to a Fiji cruising seminar by Curly. Curly is well known in the cruising community, he is originally from NZed and has been living and cruising around Fiji for many years. He talked about his favorite routes and gave us waypoints for different passages down to the Big Island, Viti Levu. It was informative and were glad to have the resource available if we choose to stay in contact and get future routing information. 

While sitting in Maia’s cockpit one afternoon we notice a sailboat puttering nearby. As we look at the transom, we see the boat name, Sweet Dream, then we see the hailing port, PARK CITY, Utah!!! We call on the radio, introduce ourselves. As it turns out Frank Larsen (Lars), lived in our Park Meadows neighborhood, before starting to cruise. (Lars with his crew Laura are also sailing around the world, but at a much quicker pace on the World Arc.) As circumstances had it, they left the harbor that afternoon and we did not get to meet in person.

Monday was a business day, finally meeting with the marina staff, applying for our Cruising permit, getting a local sim card for internet access and more. We were slowly acclimatizing to the heat and humidity. We were hoping to get on our way quickly to start cruising, however it wasn’t until the following Monday that we were on our way. Besides waiting for our cruising permit, some rain and wind arrived, which made us stay put a little longer.

On the Sunday before we left a Cruise Ship arrived in Savusavu. It was fun to see the Marina and Village transform. Outside of the Marina along the sidewalks, 20 or so booths were set up with Crafts and tourist paraphernalia. There was a band playing from 11:00 am into the evening at the Marina. We enjoyed strolling through town and drinking some cold ones at the Marina bar.

June 9 & 10, Day 1-2:

We are continuing to sail westward (and northward) on the great Pacific, traveling from Opua, New Zealand to Savusavu, Fiji! We expect a 7-10 day journey with a possible stop at Minerva Reef. We are on Day 2. We left the dock yesterday, Sunday at noon. We motored out of the Bay of Islands marina, then anchored while Dick cleaned the bottom. After being in the Marina for two months there was build up on the bottom, including lots of barnacles. Dick was able to tryout his new toy, a diving hooka. (It is kinda like scuba gear, but the compressor stays on the boat, so it is easier to swim around). After the Captain was happy with the bottom cleaning and had taken a hot shower, we pulled up anchor at 1500 and departed the Bay of Islands. After 6 plus months, we are leaving New Zealand! On the AIS we could see sv Tioga (with captain Frazier, who we met in Tonga), further ahead was sv Whisper and sv Ice Bear. We have all scattered, the last boat we saw on AIS was Ice Bear early this afternoon. So far, our patience waiting for a weather window has paid off!

It is now Tuesday at 0200, I have another hour on my night shift. The weather has been calm and gentle. We had no wind until this evening around 2100, when I came on shift. The wind began picking up, so out went the genoa, engine went off and we started sailing! We had been “motor-sailing” (when there is little or no wind, commonly we sail with one or two of the sails out, the sails may provide a little propulsion, but most of it comes from the engine.) Having a sail out also helps the boat stabilize a bit against the swell. Tonight, we’ve had wind between 8-16 knots. Since it is right on the nose we’ve been sailing close-hauled and had to tack once so far. It feels great to have the engine off and sails out. 

It is always difficult at the beginning of a passage, luckily, we have had good weather. I’ve been feeling tired, and sometimes wondering, why are we doing this? I know I am not the only one who has a hard time adjusting back to life at sea. At the beginning of our journey (2016) we met sy Anna Caroline (a Dutch couple) at the northern end of Vancouver Island who had sailed all the way from Holland to British Columbia. They talked about how the first several days of a passage is always hard, they joked about always wanting to sell the boat. We have never felt that distraught, but I do wonder… Are there people who do really enjoy this? (If you do, please comment!)

Thursday, June 12; Day 3-4

1200 Here we are, out on the wild blue Pacific! When I crawled out of the quarter-berth this morning, Dick said look ahead. Much to my surprise, there was a sailboat at about 10 degrees, she was going to be passing our bow, about a mile ahead. Dick had been tracking sv Ice Bear, for a while. They first appeared on our AIS and then when they were about 3 miles away, Dick could see them on our radar. She looked beautiful in the deep blue water with the beautiful light blue sky, scattered with clouds behind. We called and chatted with them on the radio, all was well aboard with their 3-person crew. Ice Bear was one of the boats that left Opua with us and are also on their way to Fiji.

I feel a little piece of mind knowing that other boats are in our vicinity. We also have an email check-in group with others that left Opua in the same weather window. Last evening, we heard that another boat who had left Opua on the same day, had put out a Mayday distress call. (This was downgraded to urgent.) They had lost some of their rigging, so their mast was compromised, but were working on a fix and felt they had enough fuel to make it back to Opua. (This did change, they ended up abandoning ship and were airlifted to shore, leaving their boat out at sea. The boat was recovered several days later! Uggg)

Today is a beautiful sunny day, with a few clouds around. We’ve had good winds from the South West, 15-20 knots all day. We’re sailing at a broad reach and Maia is enjoying speeds of 6-8 knots. We have a reefed main, full genoa and staysail set. Swell is 2-3 meters from the SE, so we are getting some surfing in. Spirits are high as we make our way North. We are about 2 days out from Minerva Reef, we will stop there if it behooves us. 

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had a front come thru that brought afternoon showers and a lull in the wind. Dick took a lot of the afternoon shift, while I caught up on sleep! By sunset the front had passed, we were sailing again, had a peaceful night, a waxing moon that set around 0100, then a starry sky filled the night.

Meals have been going well, as we froze meals before our journey and filled up our new Engel freezer. It has been nice to pull meals out each day for dinner and then easily cook them in the oven or on the stove top. Tonight, we’ll have chicken soup and quesadillas (with fresh avocado). We’ll probably snack on some of our homemade pickles, for appetizers :-). For breakfast we eat separately (as I am sleeping in after staying up on my shift until 0300-0430). We’ve been enjoying Lala’s (that’s me) homemade granola. For lunch we also prepare our own, whenever the mood strikes us. 

Saturday, June 15; Days 5 – 6

Friday, day five we had lots of wind, beautiful sailing weather and a clear almost full moon. As the winds blew from 18 – 23 knots, all day (and night) the swell got lumpy and made it difficult for moving about and sleeping.

Lighter winds returned this morning and the swell has mellowed. We turned the engine on at 1100 and have been put, put, putting all day (into the night). The weather has warmed, and it felt Hot this afternoon! No foulies (foul weather gear) worn today! 

It is a quiet and calm night, and the clouds are spread across the sky. The moon has peeked out a few times from the thin clouds that give a pinkish tint to the sky. The moonlight shining through the clouds, gives off enough light to see all around. With the calmness, there is a distinct 360 horizon. 

The night shifts have gone well. Is this because of the long naps, the fullish moon? Why do I (Laura) get energized at midnight, 0100, 0200? Listening to podcasts, writing, playing word games, all seem to help with the late night / early morning awakeness. Sometimes, I “daydream” as I gaze at the open ocean, moon and stars. Seeing a shooting star seems to deliver a small bolt of light and energy into the quiet night.

It is now Sunday at 0420 and South Minerva reef is 10 (cautious) miles off to our Starboard side. We will be heading into the reef pass on the north west side of North Minerva reef and will enter after dawn using the GPS waypoints we used (and confirmed) during our visit last October. 

Sunday, June 16; Minerva Reef

We entered the pass at 0800 and made our way to our old anchorage on the NE side. Sel Citron was also anchored there. We tried to give them a wide enough berth so they did not feel imposed upon. Sel Citron has been part of our email check-in group, we were hoping to meet them later in the day and possibly get a little socializing in. 

It took us a bit of time to get the anchor down, (finding just the right spot.) Also, had to gaze and be amazed at the clear beautiful water. I called Dick up on deck to see the heap of chain sitting on the bottom, that we could clearly see 30 feet below. 

We had a delicious Sunday Father’s Day brunch, followed by naps, although I found it hard to sleep. It was so quiet, hearing only the sound of the waves hitting the reef and the bubbles coming up from the bottom of the boat. It felt wonderful being anchor down inside this seemingly calm reef. 

We decided to get the dingy off the deck and get her ready, so we could escape the confines of our 41-foot tiny home. We found this a warm process, and both jumped in the beautiful warm greenish, blue tropical water. Captain Dan from Sel Citron stopped by to share his stories of hunting the crayfish and invited us to join him and his crew for dinner at 1730 ish. We continued to enjoy our quiet afternoon, checked the weather and discussed boat projects that should be completed before leaving Minerva reef. We had an entertaining evening on Sel Citron. It was great to get off Maia and party with the “boys”. They had fresh fish for appetizers, huge crayfish (lobster) tails for dinner, we brought a salad, Dan made a tasty dessert and plenty of wine was shared.

Monday, we caught up on some extra sleep, made water with our watermaker and diesel generator. Dick worked on the Genoa reefing line that was chaffing. We checked the weather and got in touch with Bruce, the weather router, who confirmed that leaving Tuesday morning around 1000, would be good to make it to Savusavu by Friday afternoon. We hoisted the dingy, tied her on deck and got Maia ready for our continued passage to Fiji.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and full moon rise with Minerva Reef all to ourselves. Quite the surreal experience being the only ones enjoying this magical place.

Thursday, June 20; Day ???

At 1100 the wind is blowing slightly, the swell has gained a little punch, we are motor-sailing with the main and genoa. By tomorrow, Friday afternoon we want to be into Savusavu! Because of this, we are on a time schedule. Fiji is strict about check-in, if you are outside of “regular” business hours (M-F), overtime charges apply. Currently, it’s hard to just sail, because our speed goes way down and then we are worried about not arriving on time. So, we are motor-sailing, but the engine is driving me CRAZY! It’s probably a combination of everything, bigger swell = queasy stomach = sea sickness = feeling super crappy = seasick meds = tiredness = crankiness & negativity ☹

We spotted land by 1200, the southern Fijian island of Mataku! We still had to sail North, to an approved port for check-in. In the afternoon the wind picked up, and we started sailing! Unfortunately, along with the wind the swell also picked up. We took turns on the helm, alternating with napping, though I napped more and by late afternoon we had a nice steady wind with bigger swell (2-3 meters), we were bumping around quite a bit. We’d been sailing 7-7.5 knots all afternoon; we were now making great time with arrival into Savusavu by early morning. By the time I started my nightshift, we were able to furl the genoa to make things a little more comfortable. Our max speed for the day was 10.6!!!, with an average speed of 6.47 – wow, that’s a good sailing day!

Friday, June 21 (Happy Solstice, we are going into longer days 😊)

Around 0500 we rounded Karo Island and then had a straight shot for Savusavu. As we neared the Island of Vanua Levu, the winds slowed, and we leisurely made our way into the Savusavu Bay. We called the Copra Shed Marina on the radio several times, but only received a reply when were almost in front of the Marina. The good news was that they had a mooring ball available for Maia. The even better news and surprise was that our friends Lisa and Henk, from Harlequin, were there and tied up to the dock! (They had left New Zealand about 6 weeks earlier.) Also, awaiting our arrival was Jennifer and Mark, mv Starlett, who had left New Zealand a day before us.

The marina guy, Siti motored out to us in his small tender, pointed us in the direction of the mooring and handed us our mooring ball line with a winning smile. He let us know that we would first be visited aboard by Health. Because another sailboat arrived just before us, the health officer would visit them first and then come to Maia. We took the dingy off the deck, mounted the motor and got it ready to motor the officials to and from Maia. We had just finished getting the dingy ready when the health officer was dropped off on Maia, from our new neighbor, also checking into Fiji. After we answered the officers questions, he filled out forms, warned us about not drinking the tap water, and keeping protected from Mosquitoes, he signed us off and told us we could take down the quarantine flag! Dick dingied him into the dock and we awaited the visit of the Immigration and Biosecurity.

Our visit with Immigration and Biosecurity went well. The officers were friendly, questions were answered, forms were completed. We were cleared to move about in Savusavu. We still had to apply for our Cruising Permits so we would be allowed to visit the outlying islands.

When we enter a new country we purposely enter with little or no fresh produce, eggs, honey as these are items that are commonly confiscated. However, the little we had, was not taken :-). (Yea, I got to keep my New Zealand honey!) 

Our next task was walking into town, finding an ATM to purchase Fijian dollars!

It appears this Blog Post is a long time cometh. What to say? We’ve stayed busy during our mostly, land life in New Zealand!

If you are “friends or followers” on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve been able to watch our travels through the pictures we’ve posted during our Blog hiatus. For those of you who are not on social media, or those who would like more details about our journey, please follow along for a synopsis our 7 months in New Zealand. 

It was so exciting to arrive in New Zealand (on November 12, 2018)! It was a place we’d always wanted to visit, and here we were, at the Bay of Islands Marina, in Opua, New Zealand. The most amazing part was that we had SAILED from the US to New Zealand! When we arrived on the Quarantine dock, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our good friends from Summer, Muskoka, & Harlequin, who had all arrived earlier that afternoon. It felt great to be on the land, in a first world county. We were quickly cleared in by health, biosecurity, and customs and made our way to a slip in the marina and we were able to move about on land! It was great after spending 8.5 days at Sea and 11 in Minerva Reef, we were happy to climb off Maia and wander around the Marina and the little community of Opua!

We spent from November 12 to January 29 in the Bay of Islands. Our first couple days we got our bearings and began to adjust to our new land life. It was spring and the weather was warm. The day after we arrived, our good friend Helen, from Nighttide, offered us a ride to the nearest grocery store (a 15-minute drive). A couple days later, Helen and I continued our shopping spree a little farther away in a town called Kerikeri. We went into some Op Shop’s (2nd hand stores), smaller shops around town and to a farmer’s market. It felt good to be able to enjoy well stocked stores.

Dick and I got our bikes off Maia and took rides on the rail trail, (which starts at one edge of the Marina). What fun to be on land, riding on a trail, through beautiful countryside! We also began exploring the area by foot on the other nearby trails. Our first weekend in NZ, we were invited by our friends Laurel & Leo (sv Summer) to a rural cottage on a working Dairy farm, near Donnelly’s crossing, about a 3-hour car ride West! We were treated to a spectacular drive through the beautiful green rolling hills and farmland of New Zealand. We stayed in a lovely 2-bedroom cottage. What a treat to sleep in a bed and take long hot showers in a private bathroom! On Sunday we went on a road trip and explored the Waipoua Kauri forest. It was an amazing experience to hike among the majestic ancient Kauri trees, the biggest one we visited Te Matua Ngahere, whose girth is 52 feet and has been living for over 2000 years! 

After our first land exploration of New Zealand, we decided to have a muss and discuss our 6 months visit to New Zealand. (We have these meetings regularly to plan our time.) What places do we want to visit? What things do we want to do? What boat projects will need to get done before we sail North in May/ June? Our project list goes on and on (it’s a lot like house projects, but the project list seems to keep growing on a boat, living in a saltwater environment tends to wreak havoc on things). New projects get added to the list as we are sailing; when we realize that things are not working the way they should, improvements need to be made, some of which are for safety.   

We’ve already mentioned a few friends that we were happy to see when we arrived, but we kept running into more friends at the Marina that we had met along our South Pacific journey. It was so fun to see everyone and re-connect. Our social calendar was quite busy for a while, a highlight was having a surprise birthday party aboard Maia for young Adrian’s sixth birthday, (sv Yonder). It was awesome seeing the excitement through the eyes of this amazing young man. 

On November 20th, Dick and I decided to rent a car and go explore the “big city” of Whangerei, about an hour drive south of Opua. We had heard it could be a good place to take Maia and spend time at one of the Marina’s. We had a pleasant time scoping out the area, but the rainy weather did not help with our decision to keep our home base in the Bay of Islands. 

On November 22, we enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner at the Opua Cruising Club with some of our US and Canadian friends! On the 23rd we had a fabulous girl’s bike along the rail trail to Kawakawa, (a 22 km round trip ride) and enjoyed a lovely lunch at a restaurant named Elaine’s. 

The month of December went by quickly. We did some exploring in the “Northland” by ourselves and with friends. We took drives and went on hikes & ferry rides to tour the area. We took the ferry across the bay and drove to the town of Russell and took a long drive back around to Opua, driving through the forests and farmland. We drove to Kerikeri, did some shopping and visited Rainbow Falls and took a beautiful serene hike along a small part of TeAraroa, “the long pathway”. (Backpackers will hike this path across NZ from tip to tip!) We went to the Thursday afternoon Paihia farmers market and the Saturday morning Packhouse market, shopped at more “Op” shops (thrift stores). We drove west to Hokianga Harbor and took the ferry across from Rawene to Parnell and explored more of the rural northland. 

For my birthday weekend (December 9th), we traveled to Auckland and enjoyed a 2-night hotel stay and toured the city on foot. We walked around “Auckland Central”, Albert Park, out to the waterfront, the Wharfs and Viaduct harbor area. We checked out Marine stores and enjoyed some yummy restaurant meals. We went to the Grey Linn’s farmers market. We made it back to Bay of Islands Marina for a delightful time with friends, celebrating my birthday with a little party. It was a beautiful evening and we gathered on the Marina grassy area where we enjoyed the summer weather, ate, talked and played a little bocce, and enjoyed sweet treats (2 gluten free cakes) brought by friends. 

For the Christmas Holiday we untied from the dock spent a couple stormy days at Roberton Island, a mere 2-hour sail from Opua. We met friends from Muskoka, Harlequin and Manna for a Christmas Eve celebration with a potluck dinner aboard Muskoka. Besides the wet and stormy weather, we had a lovely time. We took a couple walks on shore, enjoyed the amazing lush green scenery and gorgeous rock and sand beach. When we left Maia to dingy over to Muskoka for our Christmas Eve celebration, it was pouring rain. We had a wonderful dinner, with singing of Christmas carols afterward. As the weather was expected to go from bad to worse, we headed back to the marina and enjoyed a lovely Christmas dinner aboard Maia with our friend Leo. It was a pleasant way to spend our first (“summer”) Christmas away from our family.

January was a big work month. We hauled out (took Maia out of the water) to work on her bottom and a few other projects best done “on the hard”.  We had the bottom paint removed and sanded down, “smooth as a babies butt” and Dick put on an epoxy “barrier coat” and new hard bottom paint, that we hope will inhibit growth on the bottom and be better for our precious environment. We had the diesel injectors replaced, propeller serviced, new zincs installed, the keel bolts re-torqued, installed a new prop shaft seal, had the bow roller replaced, a new vang gooseneck installed, and, and, and! Dick replaced 3 of our 7 new port lights and replaced our leaky water heater. 

Laura’s big project was replacing our old bimini (shade covering in the cockpit). The undertaking began by watching Sailrite You Tube videos, studying all the steps to the process. Once comfortable with the stages, Dick and I jumped in on patterning, and sewing our new Bimini. A big shout-out to Sailrite who provide You Tube video’s for boat sewing projects. (Their prices on materials are also great.) We changed to a new color, “linen” which is a tan. The new Bimini looks great, next up will be the dodger and panel to connect the two.

Also, during January we prepared Maia for our sail South to Auckland and beyond. We planned for our land travel to the South Island in February and had a little fun biking, hiking and hanging out with friends. 

On January 29, we got back “out there” and had a wonderful 4-day sail to Auckland. It felt great being back on the Pacific and exploring New Zealand by Sea! My favorite site during this trip was sailing around Bream Head, with it’s beautiful dazzling cloud formations. 

We had a memorable February as Trevor and Macie came for a month and we toured New Zealand. They flew into Auckland, where we were currently located at Westhaven Marina aboard Maia. We began the vacation month with a sail to Waiheke Island and an overnight in Man O’war Bay. We had a nice visit ashore at the Winery. The weather was warm and sunny, a perfect start for our summer vacation.  

Next, we flew to Christchurch and rented a motorhome for a two-week tour of the South Island. Trevor had a list of things to see and do, so, we began checking things off the list. We saw a lot of amazing things, Forests, Glaciers, Waterfalls, Rivers, Beaches. We hiked as much as we could and kayaked in Milford Sound in the Fiordland, which was spectacular. We drove as far south as Dunedin on the East coast and as far north as Punakaiki on the West coast. We saw many wonderful things. 

After our 13-day tour in the Motorhome, we dropped Dick off at the Christchurch airport (he flew back to the States for a 3-week visit). We rented a Camper Van for our last week of touring in New Zealand. Trevor, Macie and I had a great week as we explored our way back to Auckland. We spent a little time in Marlborough, exploring some of the beautiful vineyards. Then we took the ferry from Picton to Wellington, over to the North Island. I splurged for a night in a hotel in Wellington, as always it was great to sleep in a “real” bed and take long hot showers. We visited a hot springs and went to a couple beaches to finish off the list of places to visit, as we drove northward. 

Once Trevor and Macie had flown away☹, I had a week until Dick returned. I was able to rest, relax and play hostess to Laurel and Leo who stayed aboard for a couple nights. Once Dick arrived, we prepared for our 3 week “sailing vacation”. We had a lovely time sailing out to Great Mercury Island, south to Cooks Bay, back North to Great Barrier Island and eventually back to Opua. It was splendid, sailing from anchorage to anchorage and exploring a wee part of New Zealand coastline. 

Next, Laura went back “home” to the states to visit family and friends while Dick returned to boat projects. For Laura it was wonderful to catch up with people and live the land life for a while. It was a whirlwind month with stops in LA, Utah (Salt Lake & Park City), Chicago and San Diego. 

Dick had his “work cut out for him”, projects included; installing the final 4 port lights, new stanchion bases, rebuilding bilge pumps, installing 9 batteries, including a new start battery, leisure furl maintenance and upgrades, installed new outlets and, and, and! It ended up being a good thing Laura was gone while Dick worked on projects, as he was able to spread out in our “little house”. It saved a lot of time by him not having to put tools and project makings away each evening. It wasn’t all work and no play for Dick, luckily friends invited to dinner and the Cruising Club for darts and Trivia nights. He spent his birthday with Laurel and Leo and went to sail Fiji and sail Indonesia seminars. (Thanks Dick!!!!)

Once Laura returned in mid-May, the project list got whittled down to only the required necessities before we set sail. A new NEMA cable for chart plotter was installed, steering cables were tightened, new shelves were built above the new battery bank for additional storage, and, and, and! As it usually goes, simple projects take longer. We twice re-installed the mainsail, as our friend and rigger, Leo, noticed that our sail was too long, once he had taken the time to get it fully lashed onto the boom. (Previously we had always had to stop before it was fully raised). We decided it was best for the mainsail to go back to the sail maker to get 6″ trimmed of the top.

There was also lots of administrative work to do, updating of charts and the chart plotter, bills to pay, studying of Fiji charts and taking care of entrance requirements, final Facebook and Instagram posts to post and Blog to write! We also began seriously watching the weather, as we’re waiting for an good “weather window” for our 10+ day sail to Fiji. 

Wednesday, Day 1
We are on our way to The Bay of Islands and will be checking into New Zealand in Opua. How exciting! We have been looking forward to this for a long time. We had anchor up at 10:10. Six boats left the reef this morning, with this “Minerva Flush” cycle. Only three boats are still in the anchorage. We had a great 11 days in Minerva and now that our weather window arrived, it was easy to say TTFN …ta ta for now 🙂
It was fun motoring out of the reef, thru the pass. We saw 9 knots of speed over ground (the overall boat speed), with 5.6 knots thru the water (which means the water was rushing out of the lagoon with us thru the pass). It looked like a river with a big tongue, leading us out. It feels great to be back out on the water and sailing! Finally we have wind and mellower seas. We expect a 5-7 day passage.
We have about 14 knots of wind and are currently speeding along at 8 knots with a full main, full genoa and staysail! Seas are around 2 meter (six feet) from the SE, but feel fairly comfortable. (I did take a Meclizine HCI for sea sickness and am feeling good!)
Our mileage on day 1 – 170 nm, a record on Maia!
Thursday, Day 2
It’s a beautiful day, with a few clouds about. We are having a fun time sailing at 6-7 knots. The swell continues at about 2 meter, but we have some wind waves today, so it has become bumpier. Last night, we had one small squall that kept us on our toes. We have not seen any other boats, it appears we are on our own at the back of the pack.
It was nap time and I was trying to sleep! Ugh! BANG… drift off to sleep…. BANG… (waves hitting hull). Drift off to sleep…. Creeeeak, creeeeeak… (sails being adjusted). Rocking and rolling…. Am I truly longing for a ‘quiet’ night with the motor running????
We started an informal SSB net at 1700 local (utc 0400). We are checking in with other boats who are also on their way to NZ. The boats who are participating are a couple days ahead of us, so we generally have a light copy (hard to hear) on the others, luckily sv Pauline Claire has a strong signal, so they are able to “relay” to the others.
Mileage on day 2 – 148 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Friday, Day 3
I woke up from my evening nap and Dick said “look quick”! I was just in time to see the new moon set, it was a beautiful orange color and was going down just after the sun. Thinking ahead, this means that we will have moon glow at beginning of evenings for rest of passage! This will be during the beginning of my night shift. We are doing six hour nights shifts. This seems to work well for us as we get a good sound sleep during our time off. I am on from 2100-0300 and Dick from 0300-0900. During the days we take turns at the helm, both of us generally take a couple naps.
Currently light winds are blowing 8-10 knots, we are sailing along at 4-5 knots. This is my favorite weather, calm seas,  quiet night. Stars all around, the constellation Pleiades (where Maia gets her name) is playing hide & seek 🙂 Orions belt is out, big & strong.
We are feeling good!!! Excited with the great weather we have had so far. I am drinking my first cup of Green tea on the passage, and opened up our last dark chocolate bar (from Carefour in French Polynesia). Yummy! This should help me stay awake until 0300, when Dick takes over.
We are sailing with a full genoa, staysail and full main. Our plan is to turn on the engine when our speed slows to 3-4 knots.  At 2300 (11:00 pm) our speed is 4.5, the true wind speed is 10.3. Our estimated arrival is 3 days, 15 hours.
During the day today, the swell had calmed, and Dick took a 3 hour nap! It really helps our sleep when the sea quiets. Both the boat noises and bumpiness settles down. This afternoon the current was 2-3 knots against us, our speed over ground was 6 knots and the speed thru the water was 8. It is always a little frustrating, when this is happening.
As we have not seen any boats on AIS or on radar, it appears we are on a slightly different course than most of the others. We know other’s boats are nearby. Besides the radio net contact, we have been communicating vis sms messaging and email. When we receive other people’s positions we mark them on our mapping program. This afternoon we heard the NZ Air Force on the VHF radio with sv Goldina confirming their last port and when and where they expect to be checking into New Zealand.
Mileage on day 3 – 142 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Saturday, Day 4
We had a beautiful day today. Winds around 3-5 knots all day. Calm seas with a big rolling swell. The engine has been on since last night at 0100. Temperatures were in the 70’s! Enjoying the warm while we have it. (Currently we hear it is around 60 degrees in Opua.) Feeling blessed to have this amazing weather as this passage has a reputation of being difficult.
We had a lovely dinner with sautéed eggplant and onion with fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric. We also had a cabbage salad. We are using up the fresh food as we will not be able to take it into New Zealand. This was the last of the eggplant, garlic and turmeric.
The sunset was gorgeous and then I was able to enjoy a sliver of La Luna for about an hour before she set. Again she was orange, I thought I had seen the last of her as she disappeared behind a cloud on the horizon, but there she was again, gone and then back again. It was quite a light show.
We have another beautiful clear night. Sparkly luminescence is gracefully dancing off the hull of Maia as we glide through the peaceful sea. The stars are bright all around. There are a couple of large star clusters up above that have appeared the last couple nights in the dark sky. They remind me of the black holes in the movie Interstellar.
Mileage on day 4 – 156 nautical miles. It is looking like we may arrive in Opua on Monday!
Sunday, Day 5
We had a gorgeous day, with just a few clouds. Late last night (or should I say early morning) we had our first boat appear on AIS, her name is Gioel. She was 9.2 nm away, she has sailed our way and was 2 nm away at 10:00 am. She looked beautiful with her sails on the horizon.
The winds have remained calm, so we are still motoring. However, the seas have become a bit bumpy. We are wondering if we are getting swell wrapping around the North cape!
We heard from sv Sedna who is 100 miles from Opua that they had chilly, cloudy weather this morning, with some rain, fog and mist. We are about 100 miles behind Sedna, in this gorgeous weather! Yeah!!!
At 5:20 pm, we turned the engine off and sailed while we prepared dinner. The last of our sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onion and ginger sliced and diced with a few herbs, then put in the oven for roasting. We added our final 4 potatoes to the oven for baking. Now that the weather is cool enough we have been using the oven regularly.
By 1900 the engine was back on, speeding along at 7 knots with our sights on arriving on the dock in Opua tomorrow! I crawled in for a nap while dinner cooked. Once we were both in the cockpit we lit our “Fireboats” and watched them drift behind us. It was fun seeing the flame and occasional sparks as they would go up and then down out of site, then up again, sometimes seeming like they would stall for a moment before continuing on. We were amazed at how long the first flames lasted as it drifted further and further behind. (For our Fireboats we saved a few wine boxes, paper towels filled with bacon grease and a variety of other discarded paper products (no plastics, of course!) to smash into the boxes for this occasion.)
The night felt cooler, La Luna disappeared a little early behind a large low lying black cloud on the horizon. The stars, star clusters and luminescence are as beautiful as ever. We were leaving a beam of luminescence behind as we speed towards landfall.
Mileage on day 5 – 155 nautical miles. We will arrive in New Zealand tomorrow!
Monday, Day 5.5
At 8:00 am we had only 50 miles left to the coast of New Zealand! We have 100% cloud cover and some drizzle. By 9:00 the sun was peeking out and the drizzle was gone.
We begin hearing more chatter on the VHF radio. Between the radio and messaging our friends, we realized that most of them would be arriving early afternoon to the Quarantine dock in Opua. You are required to stay on the dock until you are cleared and at which point you proceed to the Marina dock, mooring or anchorage and then you are free to move about the country!!!
Our plans were to arrive around 5:00 pm, stay on the quarantine dock overnight and get checked in the next morning. However, knowing our friends would be on land inspired us to put the pedal to the metal! We increased our rpm’s from 2200 to 2500, which increased our speed from 6.2 to 7.4 knots. Our estimated time of arrival was 4:00 pm. Hopefully, early enough to get checked in.
Land Ho at 1042!!! We can begin seeing the outline of the shoreline and craggy hills just above the horizon. We are seeing more boats on AIS and hearing more radio chatter.
At 1:45 pm we are entering into the Bay of Islands, a moon shaped bay. The coastline appears to be jutting up out of the ocean floor. Rocks of all different sizes and shapes abound. White foam appears as the swell smashes up against the coastline.
Sails are in all directions, Begonia 3.0 nm behind; Giocel 0.6 nm ahead, Mazu 4.2 nm ahead, we assume that all are sailing to the Quarantine dock at Bay of Islands Marina.
I become a photographer, shooting pictures with our 3 “cameras”. Usually, none are able to express this natural beauty seen by our own eyes. Hillsides and cliffs covered in many different colors of green. Lush rolling multi-colored green hills, some adorned with carpets of a bright, almost fluorescent green. Brush and trees of dark green growing all over the rock. One tree is growing sideways off the hillside. When it lets go it will plummet down into the sea below. The sky has now cleared with a few low lying clouds about.
Dick is navigating through the bay. We can see at least 5 sailboats around and as we get in closer you can also see a variety of power boats, most appear to be fishing. We prepare for arrival, setting up our fenders and docking lines.
At 4:00 pm we arrive at the “Q” dock! We see Laurel and Leo from sv Summer motioning us in to the open dock in front of them. Then Scott, sv Muskoka and Henk, sv Harlequin appear to take out lines and tie us up! We have landed in New Zealand and our friends are here to greet us! Woohoo! As Laurie, sv Muskoka and Lisa, sv Harlequin arrive there are hugs all around, I hand Dick the camera to take a picture with my girlfriends! He snaps a quick shot, before the officials break us up and ask us nicely to get back aboard. We have arrived!!!!!
Our bio-security and customs clearances were quick, efficient and convenient. We had been to a talk in Tonga about entering NZ and had picked up a packet with the forms, which we had filled out and ready to go. Brian, our bio-security officer started the process by getting our approval for using a camera to check the bottom of Maia, then asked for our paperwork on bottom paint and cleaning which we had ready to show. Dick pulled out his computer to show him pictures of the bottom cleaning, he remarked about the clear blue water in Tonga and how great the photos were. Brian took a quick look around the boat, and had us open a few storage spaces. Then he began asking us questions about food. We we aware of the foods that were not allowed, so we had eaten them up or put them in the trash. Brian began his questioning, “Do we have…”, we would say “no”, “Do we have…”, “no…” He made a comment that “we were making his job redundant”. He quickly noted that our bicycle tires had been cleaned, when we asked if he wanted to see the hiking boots, he said he already knew that they had been cleaned and there was no need for us to get them out. 🙂
Next up was Customs. While Dick worked with Gary on our clearance, I asked if I could be excused to call the marina to see about a berth on the dock. Gary said sure and that I could contact them on VHF channel 73. Within 10 minutes, Sariana had set us up with a berth. As the office would be closed by the time we moved to our new home, she said she could give us a temporary code access number. She wondered if we had a phone, she could text the number to us. I said no, how about email? Gary overheard and said to just have her text the number to him! Voilà, we were all set. We were cleared to move about in New Zealand!
Final mileage from Minerva Reef – 806 nautical miles
Total time – 5 days, 6 hours

We had a great time in Minerva Reef. It was nice to have an 11-day break after the not-so-fun passage from Tonga. Last night and this morning we were bucking around quite a bit when the big swell mixed in with the wind waves! Our anchor location in Minerva Reef was 23 37.8S 78 53.7W, we were near the lighthouse. We have been waiting for a good weather window to continue South for the 804 nautical mile journey to Opua, New Zealand.
We have found that It is well protected here. We have had some really nice sunny and calm days, temperatures near 85. Then super windy days, with winds up around 15-18 knots, and gusts up to 24. This causes lots of wind waves, and at high tide we get a little swell over the reef, but the anchorage has felt secure. We have been mostly enjoying the cooler temperatures, it is in the low 80’s today :-). We finally are not sweating when we are moving around and our coconut oil is not liquid anymore. We first got out the fleece blanket, then got out the wool blanket! We have become such whimps living in the Tropics.
At low tide, a couple of coral sand spits open up, a big one is near the Lighthouse where we are anchored. We had a potluck one evening on the coral sand beach! Sv Lattitude Adjustment had caught fish, and sv Pauline Claire brought in a bbq, so we had fresh barbecued fish! The following night we had sv Summer over for dinner. Leo had hunted and caught a lobster! It was a great appetizer to our nice meal. After dinner we played a couple rounds of Chicken feet dominos, it was a fun night.
We are getting low on eggs and fresh produce, but have plenty of food, including dried legumes, grains, fruit and for backup, cans a plenty. We are trying to eat up all the food that we will not be able to keep once we enter New Zealand, (eggs, cheese, produce, meat, dried legumes…)
We have a few boat projects and lots of other things to keep us busy. We have ventured around the reef a little, walked, snorkeled, paddleboarded and took the dingy out exploring. We have seen a variety of fishes and have tried to identify a few; we saw grey sharks, schools of Blueline snappers, Angelfish, Rainbow or Surge wrasse, several Spotted trunkfish and a Stingray with a super long tail (with 2 Remoras cleaning it). There is colorful coral here and there, but nothing to write home about. 🙂
Some of the Yachties, snorkeled outside the pass and said it was awesome. Beautiful coral, sharks, big parrot fish and lots of smaller fish were highlights we’ve heard about. Friends who fished there have stories about the sharks stealing their catch, so future visitors to Minerva, beware!
We look at the weather several times a day, examining, trying to decide when to make the jump. We have also been using a weather router, Bob McDavitt, who is aware of our parameters. We have heard from him every couple days. Of course, weather is the main topic of conversation here at the reef. Many of us use weather routers, we share their information and what we are seeing from our downloaded gribs. Then each boat makes their decision when it is right to sail on.
It has been quite the Merry-go-round, boats in and boats out. The big exodus of boats is nicknamed the Minerva Flush. If you are one of the boats left, you question your decision to stay (or their decision to leave 8:0)! This is also known as the analysis-paralysis of Minerva Yacht Club. We have had up to 10 boats in the reef, and as few as 4. Some boats left in what seemed to us like crazy weather, ,high seas and adverse winds. We have heard from several of them that it was a tough passage, but they have arrived in New Zealand!
On Sunday, another group left thru a calm high, with some big swell (bye Summer!). From what we heard, the swell was not too bad, but the light winds make for a long journey and generally lots of motoring! We are definitely hoping for calmer seas on the next part of the passage. I did not feel well (sea sickness) for most of the 4 day journey from Tonga to North Minerva. :(. We are waiting for steady SE winds and reduced swell and it looks like our weather window is arriving!
Also on Sunday, mv Sea Witch arrived. There were only 4 of us boats left in Minerva. Sea Witch is one of the few motorboats out doing a similar journey as ours. We had met Jorden, the captain in Papeete. When we stopped over to greet them, they gave us a fresh pineapple and a bunch of bananas! What a wonderful world!
In preparation for the passage I made a big batch of granola, a fresh batch of dill pickles and will be preparing a couple more meals later today. The domestic goddess is alive and well.
We had more 7 boats arrive today, including our good friends, Muskoka and Harlequin! (Very exciting!) It appears the Minerva Yacht Club will be operating in full force. Tonight we are having an annual meeting aboard Muskoka! It also looks like we will have some company heading towards New Zealand, as tomorrow, Wednesday we will be leaving Minerva Reef!!!

We are on our way to New Zealand! We left the Vavu’u group on Tuesday. It is about a 10-14 day passage, but we expect to be stopping at “Minerva Reef”. As we understand it, weather fronts come through every week or so and we could experience some boisterous weather. We will stay at Minerva until it looks like another good weather window to Opua, NZ.
-Night Three
As passages go, this one so far wins for steady winds and seas. The wind and swell is on the beam (side of the boat). The winds have been blowing 15-20 knots and the swell is 2-3 meters. We have been getting bumped around, as such, I have not been feeling good for much of the journey. Dick even felt queasy the first night. I do a lot of sitting in the cockpit, sleeping and listening to podcasts. Just writing this is making me feel “off”.
We left Neiafu on Tuesday afternoon. We chose this “weather window” as it was important that we could sail at least as far as Minerva Reef. We only have enough diesel to motor approximately 500 nautical miles (approximately 4 days), which if necessary would be during calm days on the passage from Minerva Reef to Opua, New Zealand.
You might be asking, “Why would a sailboat be thinking about such things?”  Well, as we have mentioned before safety is a concern of ours. Sailing in safe weather is always our goal. The passage from New Zealand is tricky, because they have weather fronts that come through about every 5 days. Sailing Maia, we have found that our average speed is between 5-6 knots, so when we are planning our passages we generally use a speed of 5.5 knot speed to plan our passage. At an average of 5.5 knots it will take us 5-7 days for the passage from Minerva Reef to Opua. Which means there is a chance that we will need to pass thru bad weather. That is unless we get some really good winds for part of the trip and then when the wind are light we can motor!
Rocking and rolling and rolling and rocking. Ugg, I do not feel good.
-Morning four
Our morning four and I am feeling better. The swell is down, we only have a big one (or two) that really pushes us around every couple minutes. This morning laying flat on my back in the middle of the quarter berth, I felt myself slide along the sheets to the low side of the boat with one of the big rolls.
We will be arriving in Minerva Reef in a couple hours! Am I feeling better knowing that relief is nearby? For me this was the worse time I have ever had. Is it because the seas are worse or my body is functioning differently these days? To help not feel so bad before we leave on a passage, I try to eat well, hydrate myself by drinking lots and lots of water, stay off caffeine and alcohol for a few days. Oohh, but the chocolate chip banana bread was to good not to snack on before the trip. Hmmmmmmm
-Afternoon Four, 1600 (4:00 pm)
We are anchor down in Minerva Reef! It is beautiful here. We anchored in the E-NE side of the bay, currently it is most protected from the seas.
Here at Minerva, at low tide you can see the reef all around. In high tide you see the waves breaking on the other side of the reef! It feels kind of like a desert island but with no land or beach to walk on.
Passage info: 417 NM (nautical miles), 3 days 3 hours

Wow, time flies when your having fun! It is very hard to believe that we have been in the Vava’u island group for six weeks. We have had a marvelous time and have spent the last week preparing for our passage to New Zealand.
We enjoyed our time in Neiafu harbor and other nearby anchorages. We regularly came back to Neiafu to stock up on food before heading back out. We also enjoyed the Bluewater Festival here in town, hosted by the Vavu’u Tourism Association, a couple local businesses, the Bay of Islands Marina and Whangarei Marine Group from New Zealand. There were lots of cruisers around and they offered fun and informative events. We raced a few times on sv Harlequin and had a blast. Sad to say goodbye to Conner, he put Sea Casa up on the hard, and is headed back to LA to work until the next season.
We tended to be in Neiafu, on quite a few Weekends. It is interesting to see how town changes on different days. There is a great open air fruit and veggie market, located on the waterfront. The best day is Saturday when they have a bigger variety of produce. I loved getting a fresh young cooled coconut to drink, when done with the shopping. We enjoyed stopping by Coffee and Tees, a coffee and t-shirt shop, that has a huge variety of T-shirt designs and a selection of t-shirts to chose from, to make your own shirt. Dick and I each got a couple, so now we have official sv Maia crew shirts!
While around town we saw a variety of local customs. We had the opportunity to view two funerals in which they have a marching band and mourners walking down the main street in a procession. We also were able to view the Tongan team spirit as on one Saturday, the Tongan team was playing Australia. The craziness began on Friday, as we saw people dressed up in red and crazy costumes. On Saturday there was a parade of trucks and cars with locals hooting and hollering, music blasting driving around town all morning. During the game on Saturday night we could hear the fans screaming while sitting on Maia in the anchorage.
Each anchorage we went to was beautiful, Port Maurelle ‘#7’, had a beautiful crescent shaped bay and beach, and the best snorkeling within swimming distance of Maia. We spent about a week in Port Maurelle, there were some strong winds blowing and it was nice and protected. We snorkeled a lot of different days and saw so many amazing things. (More specifics can be found in the previous blog post.)
One day we walked from the beach through the forest into the nearby village of Falevai Tahi, located on the SW tip of Kapa Island. We wanted to visit the school as Helen, (sv Night Tide) brought school supplies to donate. We had trouble finding the school, however a local women, Leiti, graciously walked us there. As we arrived, Leiti called out, we were greeted by Ella, the school teacher, three children and a couple cute puppy dogs.
They came out of Ella’s house located next door, to the one room schoolhouse and were all very excited and grateful for the donations. Ella showed us books that another boat had donated. Helen asked if there was anything in particular she would like for the school and Ella said she would like blocks with numbers on them for the younger children. We thought if we come back this way next year it would be fun to bring them to the school.
We spent about 5 days at Kenutu Island (anchorage #30). It is located on the eastern edge of the Vava’u group. It is sandwiched between Umuna island to the North and small, Lolo island to the south. To get there you navigate around the SE point on Ofu island, then up ahead you leave a large coral head to port, then you turn East and steer for the south end of Kenutu, being careful to avoid coral patches, and proceed through a narrow reef gap, where we saw depth of only 6 feet below our keel. This zig zagging to avoid the damaging coral heads and reefs, took all of our attention, which made getting into the anchorage that much sweeter.
As we neared the anchorage we could see about five boats already there. Over the radio we spoke with Muskoka and Manna who advised us of the best locations to drop anchor in the beautiful water located just inside the reef. The ocean waves were booming and bursting over the reef, a large blow hole was exploding amongst the jagged cliffs. Through the island passes you could see waves and water hitting the sides of the rock and splashing up, over and around.
We spent some time exploring the area. On our first afternoon our friends from Yonder; Carli, Rob and their young son Adrian, stopped by on their way to explore the small blowhole on the Southwest corner of Lolo island. Rob had been there 10 years earlier and had found a mostly hidden small blowhole. He was taking Carli and Adrian for an adventure and I asked if I could join along.
We anchored the dingy inside the reef and swell and hiked through two foot deep water to the spiny rocks. There was a blue and black sea snake slinking though the rock. Rob calmly told Adrian to stay a couple feet away and they started climbing, I followed and carefully made my way up the sharp and steep rock. Once on top we could look down about 20 feet into a cavern, that was about 40 ft by 40 feet around with a fairly flat landing. On the far side it dropped off and you could see water splashing up through, from the Ocean.
Rob climbed down first, Carli followed while Adrian and I enjoyed the view from above. Every once in a while waves would splash up through a small fissure and from the other side and fill the basin with a foot or two of water. The water exploding through the fissures were 10 – 30 feet tall. So awesome!
Adrian got up his nerve to join his parents below. Rob secured a rope for easier ingress and egress, however I chose to stay above, take some photos and watch the family enjoy themselves!
Another day at low tide we decided to venture over to the big blowhole, also located on Lolo. Laurie from Muskoka graciously offered to be our guide. We carefully dingyed over in the low tide and anchored the dingy in a small eddy and walked gingerly through the reef to the island. We climbed up and over through the spiny, sharp knife-like rock. Once on top we had a beautiful view of the anchorage and as we walked towards the blowhole could see the ocean swells on the other side. We climbed around and enjoyed exploring while waiting for the blowhole to do it thing. Finally we got a big spout that got us all wet! Down we climbed and decided to continue the exploration over on Kenutu.
Kenutu Island is covered with brush and trees, there is a small trail that leads from the beach through a canopy of greenery that leads up and over to the ocean side of the island. From there, the views are impressive as you look down 200 feet to the crashing ocean below. We explored a bit on the plateau, but chose not to follow the trail that leads further along the cliff.
One afternoon four of us girls; Laurie, Lisa from Harlequin, Julie from Manna and I got together to learn and play Canasta (a card game, I remember my grandma Gladys playing). We had a super fun afternoon, laughing, nibbling on snacks and enjoying each others company. At one point I had an epiphany, that this is the image I have of what you do when you really “retire”. I guess we have made it!
Our last day in Kenutu, Dick and I snorkeled on the reef near the anchorage. We saw lots of sea cucumbers, sea urchins and a variety of smaller fish. The water was a little cloudy, however when we started swimming towards Maia, I saw a Sea Turtle! As soon as it saw me, it quickly turned and swam the other way.
On our way back out through the pass (with only 6 feet of water under our keel!), we noticed a small boat anchored nearby, as we got closer we saw a diver pop his head out of the water. !#*~!*# This added additional stress to the already tense situation.
Our next adventure was to Vaka’eitu/ Coral garden (anchorage #16). This was easier to get to, but you still needed to be careful when entering the anchorage as there was a reef to cross. Using our B & G chart plotter and Navionics on the Ipads, we proceeded in without a problem. We were so excited to see sv Summer was still there!
The first afternoon I snorkeled with Laurel and little sister Maya at the reef near our boats. While I was swimming, Dick was visited by Rosalie in her kayak, one of the little girls (age 6-7) who lives on the island. She asked if we had any rice. Dick gave her a baggie full and would not take the money she tried to give him. Another day she came back and asked if we had sugar. I gave her a bag of brown sugar and noticed she quickly opened it and was eating it in her kayak on her way back home. 🙂
Our second day, we decided to have a beach day with sv Summer and see about swimming out past the reef to the “Coral Garden”. It is located on the ocean side of the reef. We had heard it was amazing. We first looked at low tide to see about swimming off the reef, but decided to wait. We contacted Conner and he recommended swimming out thru the surf at high tide. This was a little frightening to me, as I do not have much experience with surf. With Laurel and Dick by my side we did it and were treated to an stupendous array. The coral was very much alive and wherever we swam saw different colors and types. As for fish we saw a variety of Snappers, Fantail Pipefish, Moorish Idol, Threadfin Butterflyfish, Saddled Butterflyfish, Wrasse’s, Cornetfish, a swarm of Mexican Goatfish and possibly a Cabrilla (this one was hard to identify).
Two days later we went back to the Coral Garden and swam out at low tide, with our guides from Muskoka, Manna and Harlequin! We were treated to much the same variety, however Dick spotted an Octopus, and I got to see it as it crawled back into a rock hole. We had more time so we swam a large part of the reef. It was magnificent!
Our final outing was to Hunga Haven, (anchorage #13). On our way to the lagoon we spotted some whales (just for a moment). The lagoon is lovely, we had a sunny and calm day one. We had a fun snorkel outside the pass, however Dick was almost run over by a local boat that was overloaded with at least 20 passengers. (We heard a similar story by another friend, so if you snorkel in Hunga Pass keep a watch out!)
We left Hunga more quickly than expected, as we saw that there was a good weather window coming up for the passage to New Zealand. Back to Neiafu we went, one last time, to prepare for the journey Southward.
We decided to check out of Tonga in Neiafu, as we heard Nukalofa in the southern island group did not have as good provisioning options and purchasing diesel was difficult. In Neiafu, we shared a taxi and borrowed diesel jugs and went to the gas station. Purchasing fuel was simple and easy! Check out was easy also. They did require the yacht to be tied up to the dock (as it was a windy day, this was the most difficult part. Thanks to Rob and Adrien from Yonder, for being there when we needed you!) Once docked you walk to the two story building nearby, pay a small fee in the upstairs office, then fill out forms in the customs office. The customs official stamps your passport and you are ready to go!
We are a little disappointed that we never got further South in Tonga. We heard that the snorkeling in the Ha’apai group was fabulous! Also, more recently that Nukalofa has a Costco type store, a great coffee shop, good restaurants and purchasing fuel on the dock was easy. Maybe next season we will explore the rest of Tonga!

We are in Tonga, the only Kingdom in the South Pacific. It was dubbed “The Friendly Islands” by the early explorer Captain James Cook. We have found it to be so. 

We arrived in the Neiafu harbor around noon on September 13. There was no need to call ahead on the radio. Once we entered through the Channel markers we saw wharfs up on the left. The closest one was the “Fisherman’s Wharf” also known as the “Customs Dock”, and had a few yachts and fishing boats tied up to it. Yachts are requested to go to this dock when checking into the country. Once you are docked with your Q (quarantine) flag flying, the officials will come down to your boat. 

(The dock is located before the Cargo Containers. If there is not a space at the dock, it is recommended that you raft up to another boat. It is a high overhanging concrete wharf, best at high tide. If there is an international flight arriving, we’ve heard you may have to wait a while. 🙂

Check-in was rather painless. Once we pulled up to the “Customs dock” / “Fisherman’s Wharf”, the customs / Immigration official showed up within 15 minutes. There were a BUNCH (10-15) forms to fill out. While doing that, health and quarantine came by. We paid $60 US, as we did not have any of the local currency. It would be about T$100 (Pa’anga, local Tongan currency). 

In addition, the customs guy asked for a donation for his daughters school, we donated $5 and then he negotiated a bottle of rum from us.  As he was reviewing the paperwork, he asked , “Do you have any hard liquor?” Then went into a discussion about how he likes to relax after his 6 days of hard work, yada yada yada. (We also heard he got 2 bottles of hard liquor from someone else and several others said they donated fish to him. This is our first time an official has asked for something extra. We have heard stories from other yachts in other countries being put in similar situations.)

Every morning at 0830, there is a cruisers net on VHF channel 26. It is run by the local businesses. We enjoy tuning in most mornings to hear the weather and local information which includes events, boaters assistance, a buy (wanted) and sell section. We were excited as got a $100 scuba tank, regulator and BCD. (Will help with the ease of boat cleaning.) Another score was a large (1-1/2″) stack of free paper charts for Australia! We also 

A volunteer group called Vava’u Radio also monitors channel 16 and 26 and are there to provide assistance to Mariner’s. During our stay we heard them help with a couple medical issues and a charter boat grounding. It is very comforting to know they are available if needed. 

We were anchored in Neiafu harbor for a couple nights. It felt great to be at anchor in a calm harbor after our passage. Our first night I joined friends for dinner at Mangos, a restaurant located on the waterfront. It was fun to catch up with Helen, Ian (Nightide) and Conner (Sea Casa). 

On our second day, we dinghyed across the bay and tied up on the end of a finger dock, in the small boat basin (the closest dock to town). We met a Yachtie couple from New Zealand on the dock who helped us get our bearings. The first order of business was to drop off garbage (T$5). As we still needed to get local currency, our new friends, graciously paid for our garbage and then walked us up to the main street and showed us around. We stopped at an ATM to pick up cash, went to the open air market and bought some lovely fresh produce, purchased Digicel sim cards for internet access, and a few other goodies including wine. 

It is a cruisers paradise here in Vava’u. After two nights anchored in the main harbor, we moved over to Port Maurelle, anchorage #7 and met up with our friends on Muskoka and Harlequin. (We had Cream of Wheat cereal to deliver to Muskoka, that we had purchased for them in American Samoa!)  

When we arrived at Port Maurelle a mooring ball was available. It was so much simpler than anchoring! A local came by and collected T$15 for the length of our stay. It has been windy for several days, but this bay is nice and protected. 

We had a wonderful week stay as we enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, a little standup paddle boarding, socializing with friends, catching up on extra sleep and as always working on boat projects. 

We snorkeled at a nearby cave our first afternoon, went to “Swallow’s Cave” another day and snorkeled close to the anchorage several other days. We marveled at all the sea life we saw, including a variety of angel fish, lobsters, lion fish, butterfly fish, damselfishes, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, surgeonfishes, blue starfish, nudibranchs, clownfish swimming amongst the sea anemone and egg sacks that looked like red poppy flowers. We also saw a crown of thorns starfish, which is absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately has caused widespread damage to coral reefs. 

One afternoon as we were working on a boat project on deck, I look out on the bay and saw a whales spout. We jumped in the dingy and motored over to the vicinity of where we had seen the spout. A whale watching boat was also there and we had an enjoyable 20 – 30 minutes watching a few Humpback whales swimming around, coming up to the surface and diving back down. It is magnificent to see their massive humps and their beautiful tails as they make their dive down. 

We left Apia, Samoa last Monday and arrived in Neiafu, Tonga on Thursday. It was a 360 nm passage. We sailed in nice weather for the first 40 hours, then motored in calm conditions for about 4 hours. 

Late afternoon on day three, we saw a line of dark clouds on the horizon that we are heading directly into, we got hit with rain and winds up to 30 knots. We were motor sailing close hauled with a reefed main. Waves would hit the hull and cascade up over the Dodger and Bimini and find their way into the cockpit. As I was feeling a little off, Dick took the brunt of the duty, with a mid-night till 0800 shift. (I tried to take over several times, but he kept saying he was ok.) He was such a sweetheart!

The next morning it was a real treat arriving to lovely lush islands and multiple anchorages which appear to be everywhere in the Tongan Vavu’u group.