Opua to Papeete

1 March – Marina Taina, Tahiti

Easing in to the lagoon via the Passe Taapuna at 0745 on Mon 27 Feb  local time, the trials of the last couple of weeks seemed to drift away. Calm turquoise waters, lush green hillsides, and people. Met by Mel and Tania, and the team at Tahiti Crew, we docked, had coffees and the most delicious croissants, and just stood, chatting and taking a breath.

We haven’t been idle. The job list to address the damage initially loomed large over every conversation and decision on what to do. Great team effort, and a decent choice of trades via the Tahiti Crew, our guardian angels here in Tahiti, has meant that we’ve largely knocked the jobs off. Apart that is from the two biggest, repairing the #3 and adding hanks so we can use it on a plain wire forestay, and putting a repair in on the stem (for the forestay) that will be safe and strong and will get us to the UK. These simply take more time as every decision needs to be double checked and agreed before moving forward. Mel brought a new forestay in as baggage on her flight from Sydney, somewhat amazed given its weight and shape.

In amongst getting work done we’ve managed to make a navigational pilgrimage to Point

Venus where Cook came to observe the transit of Venus. This during a tour partly centred around following up on Tone’s Tahitian heritage – I kid you not, an amazing yarn, ask him about it.

So onto tomorrow and thence next week. Tomorrow we’ll put up the new forestay and check it’s length against the stem template which should be being dry fitted in the afternoon, and we’ll refit the boom having taken it off to get access to the ever troublesome reef jammers. Assuming all goes well with the dry fit, and the #3 repair, we are tentatively scheduling departure towards Panama for early next week. We’ll be 7 for the next leg, sadly losing Jo, Martin and Tone. Sad for us, but perhaps more relief for the boys after the voyage.

“Adventure: an undertaking, possibly risky, with an uncertain outcome.” An adventure it has been, and what could be better than taking on such a thing with a group of your oldest mates. Thank you guys.









27 Feb – Course 335 / Speed 6kts / Wind 305 15kts

Long port tack, we’re approaching Tahiti, some 20 miles off the southern coast. The weather, never having been helpful, is true to form at the last, the wind veering so we can’t make the lagoon entrance without tacking, and threatening us with a huge lightening show to the south of us. Planning on making the lagoon entrance just before 0800 local so we can dock shortly afterwards at Marina Taina.

26 Feb – Course 002 / Speed 5.4 kts / Wind 305 12 kts

Getting there. Having to work hard for it though, dodging squalls and battling the gusts and lulls around them. 175 miles to go to the lagoon entrance.

Lifejackets. Modern sailing/racing lifejackets are light-years ahead of those we wore on Grandee back in 1995. Compact, self inflating, they have lights that activate on contact with water (yes just like the airlines) but better. Two lights, one on a little pylon so it sticks up in the air, but even better, one inside the inflated bladder which makes the whole thing glow a bright fluro green – its much easier to see the whole glowing green bladder than a point light. The jackets have a hood that you can pull over your head if the waves are particularly vile to help you breath. Our jackets also have an AIS homing beacon in them which is activated when the jacket inflates. The beacon immediately registers its position on the boats navigating screen so we can back track and find them if need be. Finally they have an integral harness with crutch straps and two tethers attached, a long and a short, tethers with clips so you can clip yourself to the boat if things are rough. Extra security.

Our cruising rule is lifejackets to be worn sundown to sunup while on deck, and anytime the breeze goes over 15kts. 15 kts is a lower threshold than for racing, but in the context of short handed sailing, and the fact with 15 kts of breeze doing 8 kts to windward, it’s easy to have apparents well into the twenties which is plenty. So you can imagine we spend a lot of time in these things, and while the designers have done their best, there is no getting away from the fact that they are basically uncomfortable and hang heavy after a long watch. They also occasionally go off, to the complete surprise of the wearer. Cuts was sitting in the cockpit, minding his own business, at the end of a very wet watch of torrential rain when, with a loud pop, his bearded startled face was suddenly framed in fluro glowing green and the AIS alarms going off in the Nav station. Nothing more than so much rain it set off the auto inflate. At least it works, but it also tells you how much rain we had…

25 Feb – Course 000 / Speed 4.7 kts / Wind 300 9knts

Sunshine, the occasional squall with a bit of rain, and progress. Somewhat more slowly than we would like, but that’s what you get with our reduced sail area in lighter winds. Our first sight of land since leaving NZ, we’re passing the island of Rurutu, some 315miles from Tahiti.

Clear skies, the first and last watches of each night have resumed the “sport” of competitive star gazing: who can first spot the International Space Station, a satellite, an aeroplane or (extra points) a train of Elon’s starlink, with the occasional shooting star for good measure. No help from your ‘phone’s star-app allowed Martin. Why first and last watches? That’s when the space hardware catches the last or first rays of the sun just after sundown or just before sunup.

24 Feb – Course 020 / Speed 6.5kts / Wind 325 6knts

450 miles to the corner of Tahiti. And yes there was a chorus of “500 Miles” as we dropped through that milestone.

A better day. We’ve finally broken free of our nemesis weather system (although it could still be seen dark and menacing to the south all day, at one stage sending an arm of cloud over us, as if to try and draw us back in). Happy to say it seems to be receding at last. Sunny, very warm and somewhat humid we’re dry, clean thanks to deck showers using the hose and deckwash spray gun, and very well fed thanks to Cuts and Ian catching an enormous wahoo. Pan fried fish, peas and chips for dinner and a bottle of beer. Luxury. Now we just need some wind… we’ve been motoring, and latterly motorsailing, all day, we’re low on diesel. cross your fingers for us.

23 Feb – Course 007 / Speed 5.6knts / Wind 090 6.5knts / Barometer 1010

Horrible horrible morning. Just as we thought we were breaking out of the wall to wall rain and mist, a valley of clear skies ahead, two dark grey arms of our nemesis reached around us, both sides, and drew us back in. And then it really rained.
Finally about 1500 local time this afternoon we edged out of the clouds, and managed 5 hours of great sailing skirting the eastern edges of the rain squalls to our west, making about 7-8 kts at Papeete. We had our own unforecast channel of breeze, generated by the rain system to our west, giving us an unexpected boost. Right up until dark when we got sucked back in. The breeze backed, lightened and the nightmare all started again. This time we’ve bitten the bullet, put the engine on and motored into the wind to head east and back out the edge of the rain. Successfully so far, we’re sailing again. And out of the rain. Fingers crossed.

22 Feb – Course 335 / Speed 7.5knts / Wind 040 18kts / Barometer 1009

Wind has been all over the clock in the last few hours 350-110, 7 kts to 27kts, accompanied the whole time by drenching rain. We must have been very bad in our previous lives or something. I was going to say at least it’s warm, but a couple of days of wet everything plus 24deg and 9 humans does not equate to anything to be too positive about…

21 Feb – Course 350 / Speed 7.5knts / Wind 085 12-15knts

Pancakes for breakfast to celebrate Tone’s birthday. Given we are operating on Tahiti time, Tone actually gets Two birthdays, just as Lindsay and Ian did. A Sydney one and a boat time one. Cake tomorrow for his official birthday.

Good sailing day. Despite being under-powered as we can only fly a staysail rather than a full jib, and we’re not going to hoist a full mainsail given the damage to the forestay, we’ve been bowling along on a close reach all day at between 7 and 8.5 kts. Weather warm but overcast mostly, we at least haven’t been rained on like we were a few days ago, a relief as the boat gently dries out. About 850 miles to go, 4 and a bit days we hope, provided we get wind, something that can be hard to come by in the latitudes between about 20 and 12 south. Fingers crossed.

20 Feb – Course 340 / Speed 6.7knts / Wind 060 14knts

At last some sunshine. All the sodden gear from the last week or so was spread out on deck, must have looked like a laundry. A bit of a spring clean down below, wiping down walls and floors, liberal sprays of vinegar, and a bit of smalls washing has made the boat and its crew altogether more pleasant to be near. No mercy shown, any stray wet smelly items, jettisoned by unanimous decree.

At one stage we had genoa staysail, 1 reef in the main (don’t want to go full main without a proper forestay), mizzen staysail and mizzen up and were ghosting along at 6.5kts in 9 kts of breeze, that extra mast a bonus in our damaged condition. 1000 miles to Tahiti.

19 Feb – Course 000 / Speed 5.2knts / Wind 340 4knts

It’s stopped raining!
About 4pm we came through a front like cloud into a space where we could see the horizon (ie not mist) and even some patches of blue sky for the first time in it seems 3 days. Celebration! All our very wet, wet weather gear spread out on deck, lots of personal washing going on of selves and gear, and a lovely roast dinner (thank-you Tanya and Mel for the pre roasting, well done Ian and Gen for the onsite production) with a small glass of wine. Luxury.
No wind though so the Cummins rumbles away pushing us north. Sorted Audrey out by isolating the new key pad, and yup, sure enough that was the issue, so even Audrey is having a good day.

18 Feb – Course 025 / Speed 4knts / Wind 340 24knts

Was going to give Audrey a ticking off for my commentary today after she started playing up, including not shutting down when asked but have realised its the B&Gs new autopilot controller to blame. Brand new 3 weeks ago and it’s let the rain in and blown Audrey up. Had veg chilli today, excellent. Pasta pesto and peas yesterday, chicken stew before that and beef stew (most excellent) before that.

17 Feb – Course 016 / Speed 6.2knts / Wind 290 8kts

Long day. Been up the mast twice. Finally sorted out the staysail halyard so can sail but now there’s no wind. It’s been damp, misty and occasionally very wet all day and everything is wet, even the logbook as a damp scribe dribbled rainwater all over it. Grr. Anyway, two steps forward: staysail halyard and decision to head towards Tahiti, one step back: first reef spinlock jammer clearly useless/broken as it won’t even grab the fattened, rope-paint painted reef line. A job on the list to be done inTahiti as it involves taking off the boom 🙁

16 Feb – Course 005 /  Speed 5.5knts / Wind 290-300 15-20knts / Barometer 1007

Tacked over to starboard  and headed NW last night when we realised that motor-sailing with just the trisail up (broke the staysail halyard last night, sigh…) meant we were rapidly losing ground on ex TC Gabrielle’s front. So bit the bullet and headed up into it. A bit torrid for a while – 40kts for a bit but the seas took a while to build, and we were reasonably quickly through it, so a good choice. We are currently in 15-20 kts from the NW as the winds back after the front, it’s damp and a bit foggy as you’d expect, seas are taking time to drop away. Can’t fix the staysail halyard until they do fall away as going up the mast in this sea state would be difficult. So until then we potter with a trisail and the engine. I must say thank goodness for Audrey who has redeemed herself mightily these last 24 hours – hasn’t missed a beat since tweaking the autopilot program and bleeding the hydraulics. What fun it is to be at sea, never a bored moment. *Audrey is the nickname for the autopilot

15 Feb – Course 080 / Speed 7knts / Wind 027 25-28knts / Barometer 1016.7

Torrid 24hrs. Forestay pulled off at the stem – we had #3 up, foils and furling unit flying around attached by the masthead and the #3 sheets. Ran downwind, got it all under control then cut the sail off at the luff as by then the foil sections had parted company down the forestay. Sorted, pulled in tight, allowed us to get some rest. Today we ran downwind as slowly as we could and piece by painful piece pulled the foil off the forestay, and got back to a useable forestay which at least now is doing some part of its normal job. Long day, it took us 8 hours to accomplish, well done everyone. So now we are rewarded by 25-30 kts on the nose as we try to gain some northing as well as easting to allow the remnants of Gabrielle to slide under us before we can turn up north and perhaps west.

14 Feb – Course 095 / Speed 8.5knts / Wind 040 18-22knts

Getting cooler, the long port tack continues, slowly freeing (very slowly) and our average speed is climbing. Comfort level still low to moderate at 25 degrees and occasionally 30+ as a big wave rolls through. At least the distressing crash when dropping off waves has almost gone. Depends on the driver…
Big thank-you to Ian today, spent much of his off-watch splicing in an extra piece of cover over the 1st reef line where it goes through the jammer – couldn’t work out why the first reef wasn’t holding and had to be kept on the winch. That was until I got the verniers out and realised the line is too small, 14mm instead of 18mm like I asked for. Grrr. Don’t get me started on how we ended up with 18mm Spinlock jammers for the reef lines, that’s a whole different pain in the head. Anyway, onwards. We can see in the sky behind us the high cloud formations pointing to Gabrielle’s presence, and are wondering how Opua is faring, we hope ok, such a good spot. Awesome RecipeTin Eats ricotta and spinach bake pasta roll thingamys. Very filling, very tasty. Great meal.

13 Feb – Course 105 / Speed 8knts / Wind 050-065 20-24knts / Cloudy, occasional cloud lines with light rain

Going ok. Tough sea state with NE and SE seas plus the occasional random giving the trifecta – BOOM as we leap off into the void left behind. Had a more gentle start to the day with 12-15 kts so full main and #3, but normal service has resumed with 2 reefs and the #3. Still tough going, hardish on the breeze but at least now making some semblance of a decent course. When conditions are like this its a bit eat-go on watch-steer-off watch-chores-sleep with the occasional cup of tea or a coffee thrown in. So real food is an absolute moral boost. Butter chicken tonight was superb.

12 Feb – Tacked! Course 130 / Speed 6.5 /Wind 070 17knts

Better day. After 20-25 on the nose and grey we had a 15-20 on the nose and sunny. Its amazing how 5kts less windspeed on the nose makes life a little easier. Day was spent (mis)-identifying Albatross. Martin is keen to identify a new species he can name after himself. We have been speculating on said albatross’ behavioural characteristics…

Following a magnificent red thai chicken curry (thank you Patsy!) with rice and veg (well done Tone), it being Sunday (and the breeze having backed to 075), we have tacked. We begin the long board south and east. Magic, big smiles all round, and the cacophony from falling gear and plates etc (lodged comfortably on starboard tack, dislodged by tacking over onto port) was relatively light, well done everyone for heeding the warning.

11 Feb – Speed 7.4 060 / Wind 20-25knts 115

Hard fought yards east today trying not to get pushed too far north. Gabrielle has much to answer for. As laughingly suggested yesterday it is looking like we might tack over onto port sometime tomorrow, Sunday and then begin what we hope will be a long port tack, a bit more eased. Life at 20 degrees heel is never pleasant, particularly because as the days have worn on with consistent 20kts plus from the same direction, the seas have been building. What was quite pleasant work yesterday and even this morning, in the sun, is now wet, a pounding, with the occasional big gouts of water over the deck finding its way down below through ventilation and hatches. We plough on. Well done to the dinner cookers (meat balls and mash) and washer-uppers.

10 Feb – Speed 7kts course 060 / Wind 22kts 104

So that’s the end of the introductory phase then: gone from champagne sailing (even had a spinnaker up) to 2 reefs and the staysail, beating into 22-26 kts. So it goes. Still making good easting to do our best to avoid the clutches of Gabrielle, we await the wind backing to allow us to tack and head south and east. “When do you think we’ll tack then Paddy?”, “Sunday?” Dinner: Thai fish cakes, rice, veg and lashings of sweet chilli sauce!

9 Feb – speed 7.4 heading 084 / Wind 15kts 280

Sunny day, broad reaching in 20kts plus of breeze with the occasional gybe to keep us heading east and south. We crossed the dateline this morning about 0300 so here we are in yesterday. Actually we’ll keep going on NZ time until we’ve moved further east and then adjust our ship’s time as well as date.

Audrey the autopilot has started complaining and it looks as if one of the hydraulic ram seals isn’t as new as it was, possibly letting a bit of air in, so we’ve spent a bit of time adjusting settings, bleeding the hydraulics and checking her over again. So far so good, she’s doing a decent job, just a bit over zealous at times.

End of the day, the breeze has dropped away as forecast, so we’ve hoisted our newly mended cruising ‘chute and are making good speed slightly deeper to the wind. Well done Roger Hall of Norths Opua. Great mend, hardly noticeable, and a better sail for his thoughtful upgrades.
Great vegetarian chilli. Thumbs up all round.

8 Feb –  COG 120, SOG 9.5kts / Wind 20knts, 270

Good day’s sailing, breeze has held in well. At one stage we had #3, genoa staysail, full main, mizzen and mizzen staysail up trucking along at 9.5 kts in 14-16kts of breeze. Interesting day from a tactical perspective. Cyclone Gabrielle, as she is now known, has thrown a curve ball at us. How fast is it, can we out run it, what will it do to the other systems we are entangled with?
Broadly our decision has been made and can be summarised as: keep rolling, work hard to get enough easting in to stay clear of Gabrielle. The secondary decision is then how far south to aim to try to get some advantage from the northerly flow which should (should) eventuate between Gabrielle and the high pressure building ahead of us. We’re aiming roughly at 45s and about 157w, however that is about 10 days away, an opening move if you like.

7 Feb – COG 106 M SOG 9.5kts / Wind 12kts 210 M / Baro 1007

Departed Opua 1140 NZDT, 2240Z.
Motored most of the day with wind 290 and very light until dinner was being served (of course) when breeze finally swung around to SW and built to 12-15kts. Now bowling along at a decent lick.