Tonga to NZ – Update 8 Homestretch

October 20 – Greetings again from the South Pacific!

There’s not much new to report today as we continue to close in on New Zealand. We’re enjoying sunny, blue skies today and slightly warmer temperatures than yesterday. A thin layer of sea salt covers everything on deck now. The crew and the boat are looking forward to a good wash down following our arrival. As of 4 pm local time on Saturday we have 210 nm remaining. Our winds have been dropping a bit and we had some strange, shifty conditions this morning just before sunrise. The barometer continues to rise as we approach the high pressure system sitting over the North Island. We’ll sail for as long as we can keep up our speed, but expect to start motoring sometime within the next 24 hours for the final push to Opua.

While cooking breakfast this morning we finished off one of our gas bottles and had to swap it out for the other one, but fortunately the sea state was calm enough to make it an easy task with a willing crew looking for something, anything to do. We also repaired what we think was a minor clog in the forward toilet which was causing the breaker to trip. Some hot water and manually assisting the pump seemed to clear up the problem (fingers crossed). Other than that we’re trying to finish up the perishable foods that would be taken away in New Zealand. Up tonight on the menu is beef & bean chili with cheddar cheese. Everyone is well fed, well rested, and doing fine!

Dave, Kevin, Nick, Mike & John

Tonga to NZ – Update 7

October 19 – Here we go again with another daily passage update!

We’ve had another day of steady east winds at 15-20 kts, making for very nice sailing conditions as we continue ever closer to our destination of Opua. With slightly slower winds, we sailed a respectable 180 nm over 24 hours. We’ve passed the halfway point and have just under 400 nm left to go! The seas were a little more confused this morning after a relatively calm night, but are again settling down this afternoon. After reviewing the weather forecasts, we’ll continue to head slightly west of the rhumb line to anticipate a wind shift and to skirt lighter winds on Sunday.

Everyone has settled into a good routine. A staggered breakfast in the morning, as the night watches catch up on sleep; everyone is normally up for lunch and dinner (today’s menu: grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and baked lasagna for dinner); then the night watches begin anew. Between meals, we read, talk, nap, and keep an eye out for other vessels in our little fleet. Counting Stars has moved out of visual range today, but we’re still in contact via Iridium email with them and the rest of our group. One of the faster boats, Pelizeno, topped 200 nm two days in a row!

We crossed paths with a large pod of dolphins yesterday perhaps 300 meters away, but they didn’t come by to play in our bow wake. We’ve also seen and heard the occasional bird, and other boats have reported large albatrosses flying with them for a while. Nick and Dave were treated to a spectacular sunrise on their watch this morning (pictured).

Dave, Kevin, Nick, Mike & John

Tonga to NZ – Update 6

October 18 –  Following three relatively peaceful days at Minerva Reef the crew was eager to get on our way again, but we had to get back into the passage-making groove. While the wind had been steadily dropping, waves outside the reef were in the 3.0 – 3.5 meter range and somewhat confused with occasional larger whitecaps slapping the side of the boat and sending spray across the deck and cockpit. Yesterday, everyone was feeling the renewed effects of the sea to some extent. Today one and all of our hearty crew are fortunately feeling much better. We’re bundling up more as the temperature has dropped to 60F/15C today.

While departing from the reef, we closed down most of the hatches but left the galley portholes on the downwind side open for a little ventilation. That proved to be a mistake when a wave on the windward (port) side drove the bow down, scooped a bunch of green water, and sent a river of water along the starboard deck and then into the galley. We quickly locked down those portholes and jumped into action to mop up the salty mess. Not terribly fun with moderately large wave swells kicking the boat (and our stomachs) around. Think about trying to read a book whilst inside of a tumbling washing machine. Alas, we got it done!

With 18-22 kts of wind and the sea state steadily calming throughout the day, we were able to keep our speed up over 8.0 kts and pass up several of the smaller boats that had departed Minerva Reef with us. We’ve been tracking along with our friends the McGlynn’s on Counting Stars at about 2 nm for much of the passage. AIS target tracking and communications over VHF have been intermittent and dodgy between us, so we are both planning to have our antennas and radios checked out when we get to New Zealand.

Our distance travelled yesterday was a respectable 192 nm, among one of our fastest days. (The best 24-hour distance to date remains 198 nm on our earlier Marquesas passage.) Not bad! We have 600 nm remaining to Opua, NZ and we expect to arrive early Monday morning, if not earlier. This will be Sunday afternoon for our friends following from the US. We’ll continue to spend our time talking, reading, eating, sleeping, and of course, continually trimming our sails to optimize speed.

The crew is in a great mood this morning as we sail onward under beautiful blue skies and calmer seas.

Your plucky crew,
Dave, Kevin, Nick, John, and Mike

Tonga to NZ – Update 5

October 17 – Hello everyone!

We wanted to provide a quick morning update as we prepare to bid Minerva Reef farewell.

The passage forecast is the best anyone has seen in awhile. The winds and sea have begun to settle down and boats have started to depart the reef for the high seas. We enjoyed another relaxing day yesterday snorkeling the crystal clear waters of the reef. We swam in at high tide against the current. With the amount of water flowing over the reef it was like swimming upstream in a river. But it was primarily a surface current. A quick dive below the surface not only gave us a well-deserved break, but also provided us with a close of view of the extensive sea life living just below the surface and inhabiting every nook and cranny of the reef.

Many people from the 11 yachts in the anchorage got together for happy hour on Rogue (a NZ boat) yesterday evening. All were looking forward to getting underway. Veterans of the passage confirm what we are seeing from the weather reports – it’s going to be a nice trip.

The crew is excited and working quite well together as we make our final departure preparations, stowing gear and finishing our breakfast smoothies and coffee, while the latest weather report trickles down over our Iridium satellite connection. We are anticipating a beam reach sail in 20 knot winds over the next several days. It should be a fast and comfortable few days with a full-rested and relaxed crew. We’ll continue to send updates as we close in on Opua.

Dave, Kevin, John, Mike & Nick

Tonga to NZ – Update 4 from the Minerva Reef Yacht Club

Minerva Reef Yacht Club Hangout

October 16 – Anila and her crew are waiting for our weather window to open so that we can leave the protected anchorage of Minerva Reef, re-enter the open ocean, and resume our track for New Zealand. We expect to depart the reef on Wednesday morning based on the latest forecasts.

We’ve used the downtime today for chores around the boat, passage preparation and crew rest and relaxation.

For tonight’s update, thought we’d take a moment to paint a snapshot picture of our immediate environs.

We sit in a shallow lagoon (depth 10 m), about 5 km across, ringed by a circular coral reef rising a proud 10 cm above the water’s surface. The wind blows a fresh and steady 25 kph from the east. We’re anchored at the eastern edge along with 8 other neighboring yachts. Each vessel points, just yards apart, nose to the wind. Nine small islands of eager human anticipation. Looking out, just ahead, we watch the ocean’s waves breaking on the reef.

After a morning spent organizing the deck storage lockers and double checking all tie-downs, we assembled an away crew for a reef exploration mission. Nick, John, and Mike donned their snorkeling equipment and swam off, against the 1-2 mps surface current, toward the underwater reef to study the tropical habitat. They returned safely, a bit chilly (water temperature 18C), reporting sightings of sharks, clams, and all manner of colourful fish inhabiting the reef.

During their mission, our neighbor Brian (of Counting Stars) dropped in for a visit, and also to bring us a quantity of rolled oats (American: oatmeal, Kiwi: porridge) to replenish our dry stores. Thanks, Brian!

This evening we enjoyed an amazing meal, prepared by Nick, of Tahitian smoked chicken, spiced green beans, and butternut squash. Peach pie and brownies for dessert.

We’re well fed, in good spirits (and drinking good spirits), and are cohering rather well as a crew and as a team. Tonight, we dream of the passage ahead.

Dave, Kevin, John, Mike & Nick

Tonga to NZ – Update 3

October 14 – Welcome to our next New Zealand passage update and thanks for reading!

Anila arrived at North Minerva Reef this morning at 0700 local time. This circular atoll lies 265 nm SW of Tongatapu. The middle of the ocean, yep. We’re anchored in a lagoon and surrounded by clear blue water and a protective ring of reef.

Our wind picked up yesterday afternoon just after we sent our previous update. The wind came from the SSE and slowly built throughout the day averaging 18kts and gusting to 25 kts. The crew was happy to turn off the engine and be rid of the noise and extra cabin heat after a full day of motoring. Our plan to reach the reef by Sunday morning was looking good.

We carefully watched the wind speed and reduced sail (reefing) as the wind built. Our rule of thumb is to start reefing at 15kts and keep reducing every 5kts as the wind grows. This ensures that we don’t overload the rigging and it keeps the heel of the boat to a comfortable level. Of course with growing winds comes increasing waves. The water became more choppy into the afternoon, but fortunately, the waves became more spaced out by sundown giving us a more conformable evening.

We’re eating through our fresh stores since we can’t bring fresh meat, cheese, fruits, or vegetables into New Zealand. “Cookie” Nick whipped up delicious meatball mozzarella sandwiches for lunch, with an encore of Mexican burritos for dinner. We’re finding that it’s indeed true that a well fed crew is a happy crew. Our overnight was uneventful, until the midnight watch noticed that the refrigerator/freezer breaker had tripped. We can eat a lot, but we can’t eat a freezer full of meat in one day… So they woke up a sleeping Captain Dave to take a look at the problem. The compressor was overheating from lack of cooling water, which we fixed by cleaning the seawater strainer and flushing the coolant line. Another problem solved!

For the remainder of the night we carefully trimmed our sails to time our arrival for daylight into the reef. Other boats in our little fleet did the same with Del Solene, Rogue, Bojka arriving together to parade through the passage following Dol Selene. Pelizeno arrived a few hours later. Counting Stars, Suan and another boat had arrived earlier, for a total of 9 boats waiting for good weather at the reef.

Bojka caught a large 30lb tuna enroute, and offered up a chunk to the anchorage. Our hearty crew, still stinging from the loss of our fishing gear, leapt to the radio to take them up on their generous offer. But how to actually collect this coveted fish? With our dinghy on deck, and 18kts of wind, it would be a tricky affair to get it into the water. Undeterred, Nick quickly donned snorkeling gear and set off across the lagoon to collect our prize. Stay tuned tomorrow for our sushi report. Now where did we put that wasabi?

We are now assessing the weather to determine our next move. Given projected winds of 20-25kts and waves of 3.7 meters, we are planning to enjoy the reef until Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning for calmer sailing conditions. The high pressure system over and around the north island of NZ is expected to stay put into next week, which will make for a safe and comfortable passage. This moves our new ETA to Tuesday, October 23rd for arrival at Opua.

Dave, Kevin, John, Mike & Nick

Tonga to NZ – Update 2

October 13 – Hello and welcome to our daily passage update email!

After a successful day of fueling and provisioning in Nuku’Alofa, Tonga on Thursday we were ready to depart on Friday with the weather forecasts looking favorable. After breakfast, we finished the final stowing of items and lashing the dinghy on the foredeck and departed shortly after 11 am. We motor-sailed NW through the reefs of Tongatapu before settling on our SW track towards North Minerva Reef, some 260 nm away.

The crew for our voyage is Captain Dave, Dinghy Captain Kevin Kahl (both from Redmond, WA), Nick Meyer (from Portland, OR), John Howe, and Mike Frampton (both from Christchurch, NZ). Satin, Camille, and Kyra Brennan are not joining for this passage and flew ahead to Auckland on Wednesday.

Our winds were around 10 kts from the NE (directly behind). With the headsail flapping a bit from the swells we decided to deploy the whisker pole to help keep the sail full and help with our forward progress. We continued to motor in order to maintain an average forward speed of 6-6.5 kts since we need to arrive in New Zealand during our weather window. (We want to arrive ahead of the next low system in order to avoid the much stronger winds and sea state that would accompany it.)

Next, we reefed the main sail to take advantage of the headsail, but later when the wind shifted back toward the east we encountered our first serious challenge: we found part of the luff (trailing edge of the sail) had folded over on itself and trapped part of the sail in the vertical track slot of our in-mast furling system. Given the swells and rolling sea conditions, we did not want to send anyone up the mast. While regrouping and pondering a fix, we stowed the pole and reset the headsail. Returning to the main, we decided to remove the vertical fiberglass batten to reduce the width of the sail at the jam point. As hoped, this worked! We were subsequently able to deploy the main and return the batten to its pocket.

We also set out our fishing line, hoping for a free meal from the sea. We didn’t catch anything, then at dusk, while reeling the empty fishing line in, Capt. Dave accidentally let it slip out of his hand and get away, dashing our hopes of fish for this voyage. Oh well, we’ve got plenty of tasty food aboard.

Nick whipped up a delicious “left-overs” stir-fry for lunch, and we ate one of our 2 pre-made lasagnas for dinner. Thanks to contributions from John and Mike, we also have a nice cache of New Zealand chocolates, snacks, and the ever-popular Marmite. Kevin and Dave have been busy briefing everyone on the many boat systems and safety protocols.

Seas calmed in the evening and the wind stayed mostly East, making for easy watches overnight and good rest for all.

This morning we passed through a brief squall, giving us a good rinse off. Fortunately the skies are now clear and we are 105 nautical miles away from North Minerva Reef. We’d like to pop in to take a look, but may not stay long since we’re expecting building East winds and the prospect of turning off the engine for some pure sailing finally.

North Minerva Reef is about 1/4 of the way to Opua, NZ. We’ll have another 750 – 870 nm left depending on the route we take. At current speeds we should arrive by next Saturday, Oct 20th. If we get good winds starting on Sunday we might be able to make it by Friday. As always, the forecasts in this part of the sea aren’t very reliable more than 3 days out so we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on conditions.

You can find our track and current location here:

You can look at the weather on:  or

Feel free to write back with any questions or messages for the crew.

Dave, Kevin, Nick, John & Mike

Avoiding some weather and diving

We’ve been struggling a bit with time and bandwidth to get more posts up and we know you are eager for more updates about our adventure. We’ll have more updates for our travels through the Society Islands, but I think you’ll like some fun dive photos first.

We made our way from Tahiti to Moorea to Huahine, when it looked like some strong winds and weather were headed our way. Take a look at the system from our PredictWind weather app:


We are just west of Papeete in the red area with 25+ knots of wind. We crossed from Huahine Saturday morning July 7th and tucked into Faaroa Bay on Raiatea. It looked well protected from the wind and has one of the few navigable rivers (really creek) in French Polynesia. As we set our anchor, a local man James paddled up in his kayak and encouraged us to come down the river and see his family plantation. Everyone was hungry for lunch, so we made some sandwiches and lowered the dinghy.

After lunch, we hopped in as James paddled over again and guided us through the shallow spots and twigs down the buggy river (oops, we forgot the bug spray again) to the plantation. At this point, we didn’t know if he was trying to sell us some fruit or something else, but he seemed friendly enough and knew the way. We passed several homes and arrived at a concrete ramp near another old boat and a pile of coconut husks.

James guided us up the hill, pointing out pineapples, guava, orange, and a particularly smelly noni fruit that is popular with some locals supposedly.  It looks enticing, but trust me it smells awful. We’re not sure if it was a bad specimen or this is normal. None of us were willing to try a bite after smelling it.


Anyhow, James continued the tour and told us the local legends of the islands and mountains and how they came to be while showing us the rest of the gardens spread across the hills of his family’s property. He even brought us a branch of some tiny red peppers that turned out to be very hot and very good in our Thai coconut fish dinner and picked some oranges from the trees for us. We returned to the river where he opened and shared several coconuts with us and thanked us for coming. We were very grateful for his generosity. He was a happy guy who likes to paddle around the bay and show visitors the land and how they live.

There wasn’t much else to do in the bay, it the wind was predicted to come around to the south-east and shoot straight up the bay so we eyed more protected anchorages in north Raiatea or Tahaa. Buddy boat Manna had tucked into Faaha Bay on Tahaa, but let us know the wind was coming straight in, so we decided to head around to the northeast side of Raiatea to Marina Apooiti for the best protection.

This turned out to be a great decision. While the water is 80+ feet deep around the marina, they had at least 8 moorings available for rent as well as space on the guest dock. We picked up a float as we didn’t want to worry about security or slapping water at the dock.  The marina is also home to the comings and goings of Tahiti Yacht Charters, Sunsail, and the Moorings. We have a feeling we’ll be back someday. They also have WiFi, a laundry room, and a dive operation, Hemisphere Sub. Things were looking up.

While the weather rolled in and we sat in our rainy, but protect anchorage we took care of laundry and email, all the while eyeing the dive boats heading out every morning and afternoon. I also pulled out the folding bike and rode two miles into town at Uturoa to get some fresh bread and investigate rental cars. Finally, with a few chores out of the way (they are never done), we decided to get a rental car for an island tour on Tuesday and book a dive for Wednesday. We’ll talk about the island in another post someday.

Kyra wasn’t interested in diving this time, so I, Satin and Camille signed up. Wednesday morning Camille had a bit of a cold so she decided not to go after all. We met at the office at 8 am to gear up and head to the western reef between Raiatea and Tahaa. Both islands are enclosed by a single reef system. Despite the stormy weather, the conditions were nice around the reef with good clarity.  We saw sharks, bright coral, coral fish, and many other cool sea critters.  Check it out:

After returning they let us know the next dive would be a wreck of the 3-masted schooner the Nordby around the corner from Uturoa. Satin decided not to go, but I can never turn down a wreck dive. It was directly off the bungalows from a shuttered resort and unfortunately, the visibility wasn’t so good.  But there was still plenty to see, and we got to swim through the hull and get close up views of more cool sea life.

Overall we had a great stay in Apooiti and fun diving to go with it.  We can’t believe our stay in French Polynesia will be over soon and we’ll try to catch up on posts during our passage to Rarotonga next week.


Departing for Papeete tonight

We are pulling up anchor from Rangiroa tonight and headed for Tahiti! We should arrive Monday, but might be facing some headwinds. We’ll have better Internet once we get there and promise to upload more pictures.  Here’s our wonderful anchorage for the past few days:


The Wreck of Los Llanitos

After a most excellent Christmas and New Years in Barra Navidad, we thought New Year’s Day would be a perfect day to get some exercise by taking a hike to get a better view of the Los Llanitos shipwreck just around the point from the marina. We saw the wreck when we arrived on December 23rd and were interested in getting a better view. The 731-foot-long bulk tanker left Manzanillo to ride out hurricane Patricia at sea. However, fate had other plans in store for the ship, and it was quickly overcome by large seas and 200 mph winds and washed up on the shore on October 23rd. The oil and diesel fuel it carried were soon salvaged to prevent marine contamination. Meanwhile, the Mexican government is still trying to decide if removing the remains of the ship would be better or worse for the environment.

A day earlier on New Year’s Eve, I attempted a drone reconnaissance flight from the beach around the other side of the steep, rocky Punta Graham which claimed the ship. Due to a combination of software problems and the distance involved, I was unable to get a visual of the wreck. An examination of Google Maps satellite data and aerial drone views showed that it should be possible to reach the peak above the wreck if the roads were still passable.

I was running out of daylight to finish some varnish work and cool off at the pool, so I recruited Satin along with Jake from Sassafrass to join me on a hike the following morning. The shortest route according to Google appeared to be a road heading up and over the ridge from the marina side of the hills. We walked up the steep resort roads toward the ridge. Incidentally, the miles of roads around the resort and adjoining golf course are paved with millions of bow-tie shaped paving stones. We marveled at the amount of labor that must have gone into manually laying these stones.

Unfortunately, we found only dense jungle and steep drainage culverts where we were hoping to find the road. This meant we had to continue over the lower rise and back down to the golf course to attempt to pick up a different road up a neighboring ridge. We were fortunate to pass by the water storage area, whose clearing provided an amazing 270-degree view of Barra Navidad and the Barra Lagoon.

I had scouted our next target road the previous day and knew where it headed up from one of the golf club roads. We found it again easily, and started our way up amongst the overgrown weeds and scuttling lizards who were not especially fond of our intrusion. Things were looking good as we came to a meeting of ridges and forks in the road, including one that continued in the right direction. The more overgrown trees provided much-needed shade, but also more hungry mosquitos and noseeums. We continued on the mostly gentle grade for about another mile when we caught sight of a cell tower and navigation light. The road we’ve been following was also the path for power lines up to these installations.

  • Satin and some random buildings.

Although the vegetation grew thick around these fenced off areas, Jake spied a narrow path around the right side of the navigation light (the left side was a sheer drop-off). We carefully made our way around to find a locked and abandoned house-like structure followed by the crumbling foundation of another, presumably wooden, building which has been long-since reclaimed by nature. We speculated that it may have once been a light-keepers house from the white tile flooring that remained on what was left of the foundation. And the best part was our clear view of the wreck hundreds of feet down from the point awash in the waters against the shore.

Fortunately, the flat tiles and small clearing provided just enough room to get the Mavic Pro off the ground and down for a closer look. We heard the hoots and hollers of people checking out the wreck from pangas far below as the drone descended to the wreck.  The original aft tower is long gone, consumed by the waves. As you can see, the hull is breaking apart and it seems unlikely that it will ever be removed.

Overall it was a great hike with excellent views and I would highly recommend it if you find yourself in Barra Navidad or Marina Navida. The total distance was about 6 miles round trip if you avoid the extra up-and-over path we took past the water storage facility. It’s best to start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and some of the insects, and you shouldn’t head out without good footwear, insect repellant, water, your camera, and maybe a few pesos in your pocket for a cold drink or snack on your way back through Culebra.