This voyage have come to it’s end. It’s now early March and Misty is up on the hard in northern NZ since a couple weeks. I’m getting ready to leave our exploring vessel that have been my only home now for 1 1/2 years. Ginni is already back to her kayak buisness in Mexico. It is time for me as well to get a job somewhere, probably over seas. Misty will be parked here until further unknown voyages. It feel sad to winterize Misty and prepare to leave it for a longer time, so many memories together. Other side exciting of what will happend after this, new plans to unfold.
I have owned Misty for 10 years by now and it been my base to return back to every year for new sailing adventures. Together we have explored the Pacific coast of Alaska, Canada, United states and Mexico. In 2012 Misty, Ginni and I crossed the Pacific ocean.
Bye for now Misty, you’ve been a faithful companion.
For a while ago a volcanologiest from Dunedin in New zealand contact me after seen my blog about the ”Tonga to New zealand crossing”. He was very curious about the pumice rocks we picked up and got washed up on Misty during the sailing. Big fields of pumice rocks was floating around us during most of the crossing. All sizes from very small, up to the size of a coconut. I sent a bunch of samples to the volcanologiest and he later replied:
”The rafts you saw were products of a large under water eruption, at Le Havre seamount, in July 2012. I am tracking the still-floating rafts with satellite images; it works pretty well, but only for large rafts, so it is important to know when the first pumice arrived at Tonga, or whether any pumices arrived to NZ coasts, for example. You can get information about the eruption at:
If I have had known that these pumice rocks were so important for some scientists, I had collect buckets of them!
1 1/2 month have past since we arrived in New zealand, and so far we only been in the north part. Mostly we been hanging out in the Bay of Island area, were it’s lots of coves and islands to explore. Opua, Paihia and Russell is the towns in this area. At the moment crowded with turists because NZ’s summer holiday peak. We rented a car as well and drove around the northern part of northern island.
Recently we sailed further north to Cavalli islands and to the Whangaroa area, which is even more beutiful. Of a coincidence, an old friend from my hometown in Sweden was heading this way to explore NZ on a motorcycle, which came as a good surprise. We met up with him in Whangaroa and he stayed on Misty for a few days.
The big ”End of the world” happening at 21th of December wasn’t so bad after all, at least not here in NZ. Not even a polar shift so far, and I feel sorry for all the Judgement day prophets who been told everybody what will happend.
Ginni ran into some other local kayakers in Bay of Island, which led to more kayak connections for her. It even gave her some work opportunities, which is good news for both of us. She’s my sugar mamma after all…. NOT! (if I wanted one, I should not have choosen a kayak guide, which is knowed to not be the most well payed people…)
What our plans are for next year it’s hard to say by now. Most likely, I have to bite the bullet and find a job somewhere to extend the budget. Thats life and it’s all ok.
Happy new year, everyone!
November 3rd we left Tongatapu and headed SW toward New zealand. Many boats had already left a few days earlier for this weather window, I think we were the last boat that left Tongatapu. We knew a big lowpressure was developing over Fiji and was coming our way but we were hoping to make some distance down south before that and get away from it. On the SSB radio (single side band) we could get some weather info and also talk to other cruisers thru the ”Drifters net”. What we heard, many of the cruisers that left earlier had to go by motor for several days because no wind at all. We had to motored as well but only for a few hours, then we got a nice breeze from SE.
On the third day we passed Minerva reef, a little spot in the middle of nowere were you can anchor in calm contitions. We did not stop, instead tried to get as far south as possible before the lowfront reached us. The wind continued to increase and the waves started to build. During the whole trip we saw fields of floting pumice rocks (pimp sten), probably from an underwater volcanic eruption somewhere south of us. All sizes, but the smallest made the worst problem for those who were running their engine, the rocks could get sucked up thru the water intake.
A couple of days after Minerva reef the wind and waves was rough, we were in the ”squash zone” between two low’s, one south and one north of us. Later we could hear on the VHF radio the NZ Air force responding to a mayday call from the boat ”Windigo” (we met them briefly in Bora bora), which had capsized and was taking in water. At that point, their position was only 170 nm north of us. The Air force contacting another boat ”Adventure bound” which was about 50 nm south of ”Windigo” and suggest them to turn around and sail back toward ”Windigo”. Poor people, I was thinking, not fun to turn around in this weather, nor sitting in a sinking boat and waiting for help…
Next day, similar weather. For a whole day and night I was feeling very sick. I can somtimes be seasick in rough weather but normally it’s over in a few hours. This was different and I couldn’t keep any food or liquid inside my stomach that day. Ginni otherhand, which normally use to be seasick during most passages, was feeling ok. Thanks to her I could keep my horizontal position and rest most of that day. A few times some bigger waves came breaking from behind and plashed in thru the closed companionway hatch. Saltwater poored in over the instrument panel and over the rest of the electronics. Trying to stop it with a little rag didn’t help much either. Luckely most of the marine instruments was water resistant and survived, but the navigation computer did not.
Finally I was starting to feel better and the worst sea condition starting to ease. Up on deck I found pumice rocks laying around, even up in the sails. A few small things was missing but in general things seemed to be ok.The wind turned to south which made us going far to the west. A couple days later it was flat calm and sunshine. We started to dry things up. The cockpit lockers was full of saltwater, paint cans, epoxy, lubrication bottles, paint equipment etc, was floating around in a mess. Started up the engine and did go by motor for a couple hours, but slowly the RPM went down, the engine seemed to loss power so I turned it off. Later I found it was the injector nozzles that was clogged.
Periodically new rapports about ”Windigo”. A NZ warship and the Hong Kong registrated cargo ship Chengtu had reached Windigo’s position (Adventure bound did as well) but was forced to stand by because to rough conditions. Finally after 24 hours, the NZ warship manage to rescue the couple with help of some long lines. Now Windigo was left to drift around at sea alone. This time I was thinking; Poor people of the next fleet of cruisers, that will sailing down to NZ, knowing it’s a boat floating around somewhere in the dark and risk for collosion… Adventure bound could finally turn back and sail toward NZ.
During the last days the wind changed more to SW. Our westerly position turned out to be favoriable and the last leg took us straight into Opua, New zealand. The sailing from Tonga took 12 days. At the Q dock (quarantin dock), I notice that the rudder was slightly bent and had some cracks in it. In Opua, a few days remained of the ”All points rally”, as we signed up to before leaving Tonga. Seminars, free dinners and games. It was fun to meet up with other cruisers again, some we knew since before and some we learn to know by the radio. We all had some stories to tell.
Read more about Windigo and Adventure bounds story;
We left Bora Bora and French Polynesia at the end of September and sailed west. Because we were already late in the season we decide to not stop in Cook Islands or Nuie, instead head straight for Tonga. The weather was variable, a few days of perfect 15 knot downwind to dead calm, then changing to 25 knots wind on the nose. The already repaired wiskerpole broke again and it didn’t come as a suprise. In Tahiti, I had bought a used spare wiskerpole, but a little to short. Now I had to extend it with what was left from the old one by pop-riveting it together. The sailing took 14 days. We arrived in Tonga’s Vava’u group and checked in to Neiafu which is the capital there. We gained one hour in time but lost one day because we had passed the dateline. Tonga’s motto is: ”where the time begins”.
Tonga is a kingdom of 170 islands and they are devided into three main groups; Vava’u group in the north, Haapai group in the central and Tongatapu group in the south. The main capital is Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu. It’s easy to see it’s much more poor then French polynesia. Boats and buildings are old and well used. In Neiafu we got more information about the customs and immigration rules to New zealand. A little bit suprising we realize that we have lots of food we can not bring into NZ, like dried beans, dreid fruit, lentils, seeds, grains etc. We had pretty much of all that because it takes less space than canfood. Luckely we could sell most of it to Lisa at the Tropicana Cafe’ and a couple other cruisers for a reduced price.
After 4 days in Neiafu we checked out and went out to explore the surrounding Islands in Vava’u. Coastlines of limestone cliffs are riddled with caves. Some you can paddle into and some you have to enter underwater. Lots of nice snorkeling as well. Some hikes on the islands gave us plenty of fruits; Mango, Papayas, Bananas and more. After a week, we continued further down to the Haapai group islands, 60 nm south.
In Pangai (the capital in Haapai group) we had to check in again… just to check out a couple days later, before continuing to the other islands, a wierd system the have in all Tonga groups. Not much to see in Pangai, but the small resturant ”Mariner’s cafe’ was a well visited place for cruisers. Misty’s old worn flag was hanged up on the wall among many other flags as a memory.
Next stop, Uoleva Island was a much nicer place and as usual we explored it by walk, paddle and fin. Along the beach we found a little resort well hidden among the trees. Patti, an ex american and ex cruiser, she and her friend Sammy run this little resort. Just small cabins in the bush, and only few meters from the beach, still hard to see from the waterfront. If you want to escape to a small quiet paradise island in the Pacific for a while and don’t have a boat, this is the place to come to ( http://www.serenitybeaches.com ).
We contiued 25 nm SW to Hafeeva Island ( I sailed Misty and Ginni paddle/sailed her kayak). Great wreck in shallow waters in the bay for snorkeling. Went for a walk into the Hafeeva village, in hope of not being killed and eaten of inhabitans but insted trade some dried beans and seeds for fruit. We ran into Vilitony who turn out to be the minister for Haafeva and the surrounded islands. He invited us to his house where he also had banana and papaya trees. Funny to see locals on this primitive Island, walking around and talking in mobile phones. Still no internet yet.
From Haafeva we continued to Nomuka Island. A historical place where the well knowned ”Mutiny on Bounty” happaned 1789. We also took shelter there for a strong northerly gale there with success. Nomuka have a freshwater lake on the Island, so we carried the kayaks about 50 meters thru the bush and explored the lake as well. The Island beside, Nomuka Iki was unhibated and had a fishingboat wreck on the beach. It suppose to be an old prison on the Island but we never found it. Instead we found lots of coconuts and papaya trees.
From here we sailed the remaining 55 nm down to Tongatapu. This is Tongas most southerly Island and our last stop before New zealand.
The society islands is the western part of French polynesia and it includes 14 islands. The bigger ones and most known are Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora bora. The volcanic Islands are scenic and lush and surrounded of coral reefs. Coming to Tahiti straight from Tuamotus quickly reminds you that you are back in civilization. Lots of people, supermarkets, cars, motorcycles and traffic jam. Most people are very friendly and after we heard mostly negative opinions about Tahiti before getting there, I must say it gave us a better than expected inpression.
After Tahiti we visit Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa and now Bora bora. Ginni paddled between Tahiti and Moorea (17 nm) while I was sailing. It started fairly calm but rapidly changed to more than 20 knots and big seas. Even between Tahaa and Bora bora (25 nm) she paddled but in much calmer conditions. Before this trip, Ginni had to talk me into bring this fullsize unfoldable kayaks onboard, but I have appreciate them more and more. I like our rowing dingy but it’s almost useless if it’s windy and bigger swells. It is also heavy to hoist up and down on deck and often a pain to have tied up beside Misty on anchor. More often we leave the dingy on deck and just use the kayaks to get ashore or go exploring. The only problem is when you need to bring big heavy things to and from the mothership Misty, like diesel jugs for example. Of course it would be possible to tow an inflatable little ”barge” after the kayaks. We also have ideas to make a system to easily mount the kayaks together like a ”catamayak” which even could be sail-able.
Coral reefs can be good or bad. They protect the Islands from big swells which also gives better anchorage. Otherhand ending up on a reef with a boat in breaking waves means disaster and big chance of losing the boat. Fortunately we have not experienced that and hope not to. Just a few days ago we grounded on a coral head (again) inside the lagoon of Bora bora. Here you can not trust the channel markers, nor the GPS so it’s mostly navigating by eye. In this case we were on the way to pass a marker which led into a channel, for a moment the wind and the sun made it impossible to see the bottom clear. We passed just a few meters from the only marker and still it led right up on the coral. This was more a trap than aid to navigation. Luckily a powerboat with a some helpful locals came up a few minutes later and pulled us off. We heard we weren’t the first ones who got stuck here and I’m not suprised.
We seem to always stay longer at any place than we planned to and it starting to get late in the season so it’s high time for us to continue further west. Next stop will probably be Tonga. Our plan is to reach New Zealand before the hurricane season starts in November and it’s still another 2500 nautical miles to sail before we get there.
Before leaving French polynesia and heading back out to the primitive life at sea, we sure enjoy our last baguettes with French wine and cheese.
I spend a little over a month in Marquesas. Visited 3 Islands (Nuku-Hiva, Ua-Pou and Ua Huka), Ua-pou was my favorite, less cruising boats and spectacular mountain peaks around. My 500 nautical mile sailing to Makemo in Tuamotus took 8 days, much longer than I expected because very little wind. I had 3 days with almost no wind at all. Didn’t want to go by engine either because diesel can be difficult to find before Tahiti. Tho I enjoyed my singelhanded sailing and I was not in a hurry. It was actually a good time to get some more perspective of life.
Tuamotus is an archipelago of many atolls spreaded out on a 1000 miles area in a NW-SE direction. In earlier days before the GPS this was not a well visit area for cruisers because of strong current and very low atolls, which are visible only from a few miles distance. Still to enter an atoll can sometimes be exiting because the current thru the pass, and inside an atoll it’s often coral heads spread out like a mine field. It takes a good lookout from above, higher up in the rigging. Best time to enter and to travel inside a lagoon is in the middle of the day when the sun is highest and the coral heads can easily be seen. The climate is perfect, slightly cooler in the water and air and not as humid as Marquesas.
When I arrived to Makemo the ebb current in the pass was like a wild rapid. I had to wait outside for a couple of hours and wait for the tide to change and then I could enter with no problem. Inside the atoll I anchored beside the little village Pouheva which has a small airport close by. Ginni arrived by plane a few days later as planned and it was great to see her again. Stayed at same spot for a few days and then continued to the west side of the lagoon, where we took shelter from the strong wind for more than a week. A good time for some boat maintenance. During the months of July and August the wind can often be strong from SE and even inside a lagoon it can get pretty choppy. It’s important to be on a protected side during the windy days.
We left Makemo thru the west pass and headed for Fakarava 90 miles west. Entered successful the atoll thru the southpass and found a nice anchoring SW of the pass. Fakarava is the second biggest atoll in Tuamotus (after Rangoria) and it’s famous for great diving in the southpass because of many sharks and other fishes. Most of the sharks are reefsharks (white or black tipped) which is in general not dangerous for humans, especially daytime. First we went out to the pass with our kayaks and did some ”kayak snorkeling” (turn the kayak upside down with mask and snorkel) and drifted with the current back into the lagoon. Amazing to see all the colourful fishes, sharks and corals. A few days later we joined Tetemanu diving and did some scuba diving thru the pass as well. After a week we left Fakarava and sailed another 50 miles to Tahanea.
Tahanea is an uninhabited atoll and it is our favorite place so far. We went down to the SW corner and anchored behind a well protected motu (the land around an atoll, made of coral and sand, often with palm trees on it). The water was cristal clear and perfect for snorkeling. From our first experience of coconut hunting we learned that it’s harder to climb a coconut tree than you think. There’s also other methods to get the coconuts down, with long sticks etc. Lots of different crabs live on the atoll and the biggest one, the coconut crab (or Kaveu), can be over a foot wide. Their big claws have capacity to crush a rock. They are meaty and good to eat. We also catch some fish with lure, spear, and scoop-net. We heard about ”lobster walking” along the reef at night with flashlight, though never saw any. Later we realize it might just mean to walk as a lobster instead of actually look for them…
We have heard some stories about the hazards in Tuamotus, where cruisers ending up in big tidal rapids when they enter an atoll or get their anchor chain snapped off after it got snagged under a coral head. For us it seemed to be only successful, until our last night in Tahanea. We were on the way to leave the atoll next morning so we went further NW, closer to the pass and anchored beside a motu on the north side. The wind was light and from the north so the sea was calm. We knew the wind was on the way to turn but should still be very light. A couple of hours later the wind had turned 180 degrees to the SE and increased to 15-20 knots and the swell was getting bigger. We were surrounded of coral heads but I knew we had some room to swing. Just a little bit later – BANG! the anchor had dragged and the stern hit hard on a coral head. Within seconds the engine was running and the anchor on the way up (in situations like this you don’t want to find your anchor stuck under a coral…). Luckely we manage to navigate out in the darkness, thru the worst part of corals into deeper water without hitting anything more. Because there are even coral heads spread out in the whole lagoon, which is not marked on the chart, we turned off the engine and drifted with the wind at 2 knots towards the pass. No sleep that night… At dawn we where close to the pass but had to drift around for another couple hours to let the tide turn. We left Tahanea and the Tuamotus and sailed during 3 days to Tahiti. Later after inspection I found a few dents on the rudder and the hull but luckely without any damage on the steering or propeller. Sometimes you are glad for your choice of a metal boat.
Text and photo by Ginni Callahan
When I was a kid, I broke my foot just before an elementary school class field trip. Instead of participating in the weekend’s activities, I was perched inside a window opposite a bird feeder, where a staff member occasionally came by to offer some informative morsel about the feathered activity I was seeing. I got to drive with the staff member on errands and watch a sparrow hawk hover over a meadow and dive for a mouse.
I was enthralled. However, being an active, busy person, I seldom slow down enough to enjoy birds like that. On our crossing from Mexico to the South Pacific I had time. I took a great interest in birds again because looking for them gave me an excuse to stand in the cockpit and stare at the horizon for hours, which was a good antidote to seasickness. Then I realized that photos were great aids for identification. One could zoom in closer with the camera than with the eye. The photo would hold still long enough to study markings against the Seabirds book. The challenges of taking clear photos of a flying bird from a moving boat, with the dynamic background of the sea, kept me trying.
Our reference is Seabirds: an Identification Guide by Peter Harrison.
On anchor in the Marquesas I fell in love with the flocks of little white terns and their aerial maneuvers. Sun caught them dancing against a dark background of verdant hillside or grey full-bellied cloud. But I couldn’t get a satisfactory photo.
With the mission of capturing their carefree spirit in pixels, I went ashore with the camera on the atoll of Makemo. That started a tradition of wandering about on scraps of land in the South Pacific and photographing birds, and other things that caught my eye.
Below are some photos. For stories about the experience, please visit my blog
List of seabirds seen:
White-tailed tropic bird Phaethon lepturus
Red-tailed tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda
Masked booby Sula dactylatra
Wedge-tailed shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii
Madeiran storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea
Sooty tern Sterna fuscata
White tern (Fairy tern) Gygis alba
Crested tern Sterna bergii
Grey-backed tern Sterna lunata
Great frigate Fregata minorj
Lesser frigate Fregata ariel
Red-footed booby Sula sula
Brown booby Sula leucogaster
Brown noddy Anous stolidus
Black noddy Anous t. minutus
We left La paz at the end of April. It was on a sunday and the customs were closed but we had to go because we had reached our deadline. Unfortnatly we had to stop in Cabo san lucas as well (the very southern end of Baja California) to deal with the customs there before leaving Mexico. Cabo san lucas is a crazy tourist party town as I want to avoid if I can. Cruise ships, charterboats, pangas, jetskiis crowded all over in the bay which makes the anchorage terrible. We filled up diesel, bought the last food and supplies we needed and decleared out from Mexico. We left Cabo the same day as we arrived and headed out at sea. Finally were on the way for real.
First night was a little rough, struggeling on foredeck to tie things up for the long passage while the waves was growing steeper and bigger. Already tired before we left didn’t make it better and at this point we were both dealing with seasickness. The wind was almost on the nose and our beam reach took us more away from our course than we wanted. To tired to start tacking up against hard wind and breaking waves so we decided to ”hove to” (when you bottom reef the sails and put the fore sail across so the boat can not sail but still keep it up to the wind and make a calmer movement), a good decision as gave us some sleep. Next morning we could still see Cabo san lucas in a distance, we hoist the sails and continued sailing south west. The wind was good, around 15 knots from the north.
After a few days of sailing I heard the wiskerpole (the boom that keep the foresail out during downwind) was banging up on deck, it was broken in half. Because of Misty’s sometimes heavy rolling side to side when running downwind it makes it hard on the rig and sails. The boom might even have hit the water. After some searching of spare material I was lucky to find the dingy mast to fit perfect inside the broken wiskerpole and after some more work they were joined together and the rest of the hardware was mounted on to the dingy mast. As an extra back up I lashed a 1” steelpipe on to the wiskerpole to avoid the same thing to happend again. It seemed to work, but the pole was now a little more heavy.
The days at sea goes on without too much different. Suddently after so long time of work and preparing we got lots of sparetime left over. Daily rutines like checking the sails, windsteering, navigation, weather fax, cooking food and watching out for other ships makes the days goes fast. Of course lots of time for reading books as well so it’s never boring. The worst is definately when it’s no wind at all, especially with swell at the same time. Getting nowhere and with the sails flopping hard in the rig can drive you nuts.
Our planned route was pretty much just a straight line between Cabo san lucas and Nuku hiva in Marquesas Islands, though after 14 days when we reached the UTC zone (Doldrums) we started heading straight south to cross it as fast as possible. UTCZ is a long lowpressure belt along the equator, it’s often flat calm or very little wind from various directions. Off and on heavy squalls (rain) as use to bring some strong winds for a short time.We motored thru the most calm areas and after two and a half days we thankfully starting get some south easterly tradewinds. The next day we passed the equator. First week on the southern hemispere the sailing was superb, just like this typical ”tradewind sailing” as many cruisers dream about. Steady wind around 12-15 knots on a broadreach and long big waves as made the sailing smooth. I was starting wonder if this ever will come, after years of sailing my experience is that perfect wind and sea conditions do not last very long. This was almost to good to be true, we hardly touched the sails or the windsteering for days. The last days down to Marquesas the wind and sea was changin, first calm then strong wind as turned south so we had to go up windward. It took in total 25 days to reach Marquesas Islands.
The climate here is hot and sticky, common with short heavy showers which explain the green tropical enviroment. It’s a bit of a culture chock to come from the desert in Mexico to this djungle climate. We came in to Taiohae on Nuku Hiva which is the capital of Marquesas and the official port of entry to French polynesia. Here cruisers gather from all over the world after a long pacific crossing. Fun to see some boats as we know since before in Mexico.
Ginni flew out just a few days after we arrived, she was going for some kayak event up in the states. From here I will continue on my own to the Tuamotus, which is a group of 78 islands, mostly atolls. Ginni and I will meet up there in a few weeks.