Tranquillo’s return

May 13, 2018 | Passages

Copyright Kerry Blaymires August 1999

We are grateful to Kerry Blaymires for sharing his experiences aboard the H28 “Tranquillo” with us.

Waiting at Auckland airport for the flight to Tonga

This story commences in mid September 1998. (Well it actually starts about 35 years ago when something sparked a desire in me to sail a yacht across the ocean… Anyway, getting back to the present…)

One morning the telephone went in my office and on the other end was Jamie Thomas. He asked if I could be remotely interested in helping him deliver a yacht from Tonga to New Zealand for its potential new owner. After asking what type of boat, the number of crew and of course giving it serious consideration for all of 30 seconds, I replied yes depending on the dates. Jamie then went on to explain that it was only a possibility at this stage as the job was dependent on a successful tender being made for the boat by his contact.

Around the 10th of October Frank received advice that his tender had been successful. However, as he was away in Australia on business, he arranged with Jamie to secure confirmation of the gear that was on the boat, determine if the boat was in a seaworthy condition and provide estimates of the final costs for provisioning and sailing it back to NZ verses shipping it as deck cargo. To achieve this, contact was made with Trevor Gregory (the seller) via a phone call to Putaruru, a fax to The Moorings base in Vava’u and then a radio link to Tranquillo which was down in the Ha’apai group, which lie approximately 100nm south of Vava’u. Trevor then put a call through to Jamie here in NZ where all the above was discussed plus what was available in the way of gear and provisions in Vava’u. It was also arranged that Frank would make contact to advise what the final plan would be, upon his return to Auckland on the 19th of October.

On the 20th Frank confirmed that we would sail the boat back and faxed Trevor to arrange where & when we would meet. This only left 5 days to arrange flight details, buy the provisions not available in Tonga, and assemble gear and clothing for 16 days. Initially we talked about Frank going up on the Friday flight to check out what was needed so that Jamie and I could bring it up with us on the Monday. However this did not happen as the boat would not be back in Vava’u until Tues the 27th. We each had a 22kg weight limit on the flight for personal luggage so what do you take ? Well my list went like this:16 pr underpants, 8pr shorts, 12 teeshirts, 1 jersey,1 fleece jacket, 2 hats, 3pr sun glasses, wet weather gear, safety harness, 1set thermal underwear, 3 towels, 3 disposable wp cameras, sunblock, seaboots, 2 pr track pants, thermal socks, books to read, log book, candy bars, GPS & spare batteries, full toilet bag, personal strobe light & torches, tools & spares, sleeping bag, assorted dehydrated meals, 2kg fillet frozen steak, charts of Pacific, chocolate bars, salami etc, not forgetting a 600 pack of baby wipe towelettes.

We arranged to meet at the airport on Monday morning at 06:15 hrs and Robin & I would collect Jamie en-route. I spoke with Frank on the Sunday night and he informed me that he had 2 alarms set and would see us at the airport. At 05:00 our alarm went off. I gave Jamie a call, had a light breakfast, picked up Jamie and got to the airport at the arranged time. Here we waited for Frank to arrive as he had the plane tickets. At quarter to seven we started to get concerned as the flight closed at 7:05am and still no sign of Frank and Alison. We tried calling his home, no reply, his cell phone, the same. All of the other passengers had by this time checked in and been processed through customs. We asked the check in staff to hold the flight open as we were sure that Frank would arrive at any minute, and sure enough he did at 7:06 am! After hurried goodbyes, and a rush though immigration and customs, there was no time for duty free shopping, straight to the plane and aboard. (Actually we tried to buy some DF grog but we were chased out of there by the airline staff! and told to get on the aircraft NOW. What ever happened to the “Island time” concept?

What caused Frank to be late? Well there was a party in his street Sunday night to farewell a neighbour and Frank and Alison did not get to sleep until 4 am, then slept though both alarms and only woke up at 6:30 am in response to the call of nature. Panic ensued as they tried to call the airport to let us know that they were on the way but could not get put through to the checkin desk. Still, in the end the crew (consisting of Jamie, Kerry & Frank) all ended up aboard the “Royal Tongan” service to Tonga via Niue. We departed Auckland at 07:30 hrs on Monday the 26th October 1998 climbing away to the NNE. I am sure that as we flew over Auckland harbour down below on the water, I saw Alan Brown wiping the dew off Skana’s cabin top and Paul Leydon heading out fishing in the inflatable with his thermos of coffee.

As we settled down on board the plane and consumed breakfast, Jamie and I had the opportunity to get to know Frank and he us. Frank had limited sailing experience through chartering and sailing on friends boats and had become hooked. When Frank saw the advertisement in the “Herald” calling for tenders for Tranquillo, he made inquiries as to the suitability of the H28 as a first boat. After receiving confirmation that they are a good safe cruising yacht, he felt that the time was right to acquire one of his own and enjoy fully the sailing scene.

In my opinion it takes a lot of “intestinal fortitude”, to buy a boat and then go and pick it up in a port 1300nm away and sail it home with two relatively unknown characters, even if between the two of them they have 60 or 70 years sailing experience. Of course as we all know the H28 is a great sea boat and Tranquillo has certainly proven herself many times over the years on ocean crossings so there was a certain level of comfort in that alone.

Flying out over the Pacific the weather was clear blue skies and flat seas. About an hour into the flight we saw our first trade wind cloud formations below and the subsequent change in the sea state with the typical cresting trade swells. Descending into Niue 2 3/4 hours after leaving Auckland we saw several cruising yachts at anchor off the town and found ourselves back in Sunday due to crossing the international date line. The air temperature was a humid 32 degrees Celsius which sent everyone, who was “transiting”, heading off to the terminal for cold drinks. We decided to get a photo taken at Niue to record the start of our “adventure”. The first problem was Frank’s camera decided to play up with the shutter jamming open, so no photo. As we got back on the plane, there was a click and the lens shut. The cause: a flat battery. While we winged our way to Nukalofa we had a young boy several rows in front playing “now you see me now you don’t ‘ and we were to meet “Max” and his parents two days later in Vava’u.

Arriving at the international airport in Tongatapu at 1.00 pm (Monday again) we proceeded to customs and immigration. Now to avoid any complications with immigration we had return airline tickets, so this part went well, but when we got to customs they looked at us sideways because of all the gear. After checking through our bags the only item that caused any problem was the 2 kg’s of frozen fillet steak. This, it turned out, was dutiable, so as the purchase price in NZ$ was on the label, pocket calculators were out and fingers flying. The end result: a T$3.70 import duty being charged. The irony is that if we had taken up 20 kg of steak it would have been duty free. Big is certainly beautiful in Tonga!

The next challenge was to get seats on the domestic flight at 2.30 pm from Tongatapu to Vava’u. We had been told in Auckland that the two flights were fully booked, however when Frank spoke with the check in counter he was advised that there could be a slight possibility of seats if some passengers did not turn up and therefore to keep asking. We quickly settled on a strategy of leaving our tickets on the desk in front of the clerk and taking turns every 10 mins to ask for an update. After 40 minutes and presumably to get rid of us he issued tickets for the direct 2.30pm flight. On boarding the aircraft (an old Hawker Sidley from Mt Cook Air ) it became apparent that the plane was only 60% full, so either people do not bother to turn up or there was a lot of freight to carry.

Landing in Vava’u 50 minutes later after flying over the Ha’apai island group, where incidentally I spotted a female whale and calf below in the water, we gathered up all our baggage and negotiated a ride into Neiafu town on a bus.

Now the driver and his side kick were as hard case as the bus. Need a place to stay? No problem we will take you to the “Paradise Hotel” only 15 minutes walk from the Moorings base. This sounded great as “Anna’s Cafe” by the Moorings facility was the agreed meeting point with Trevor and Tranquillo on Tuesday at 1 pm. We climbed aboard the bus and cunningly seated ourselves under the air conditioner at the back, but the joke was on us because as we headed off on the journey into town it quickly became apparent that the R12 gas in the unit had long ago departed to wreak havoc in the upper atmosphere.

The view outside was fairly typical of the islands with coconut palms, taro and plantain planted underneath, banana, citrus, papaya and mango trees and occasionally pineapples. In the Kingdom of Tonga, each family is allocated a plot of land and has to tend it. If they don’t they lose this right and have to work for others, so these plots are vital to their well being. The houses are mostly built out of concrete block, wood or corrugated iron and the yards outside are full of pigs, dogs and chickens. No need for lawn mowers here! Mind you when we were there we did not see any lawns except at the Hotel.

Arriving at the Paradise Hotel the driver arranged our check-in, while the staff found an extra bed for the room (it only had two) and after putting our gear away, we changed and cooled off in the pool outside. Next on the agenda was a cold beer at which point it was decided to head into town, locate Anna’s cafe and see what was available in the way of supplies in the various shops. During the 15 minute walk into town it became evident that Frank was pretty excited seeing his new boat for the first time and also that he wasn’t totally sure what an H28 looked like. Of course as Jamie and I are such a “nice and sincere” couple of guys we took full advantage of the situation and proceeded to tell poor Frank that the 32ft derelict yacht that was anchored in the bay down below was Tranquillo. Frank’s face took on a look that had to be seen to be believed and he asked somewhat hesitantly “Do you think it will be OK to go to sea in? I mean it’s got a piece of canvas over the hatchway! At this point both Jamie and I were having a hard time containing ourselves and burst out laughing. Frank called into question our parentage and then, greatly relieved that it wasn’t Tranquillo, joined in the mirth.

At the Moorings base we introduced ourselves to Bill and Margaret Bailey the managers, who incidentally own a ketch rigged H28 called Noota which is featured in our web site. We arranged with them to store our steak in their freezer, the use of the fax machine, showers and to get the latest weather fax for the area prior to departure. Bill said that Trevor and Tranquillo had not returned from Ha’apai but were due in port tomorrow and we were to meet him as arranged. This organised it was down the steps to Anna’s cafe for a quick (late) lunch of beer and fish & chips then to the shops where we discovered that here you could buy Bully beef in any size tin you want. Also available were treadle Singer sewing machines, camera batteries, and a limited range of canned and frozen goods, plus pots, pans, buckets, mosquito coils etc. Also there was a video store.

Next we located the open air fruit and vegetable market, and then it was back to Anna’s cafe for another beer before heading on back to the hotel. On arrival at our room we found that the air conditioner had done its job and lowered the temperature from 32 to about 18 degrees c. Frank also discovered mosquitos in the bathroom and as he has an allergic reaction to them, he was off up to the reception for some spray. Securing a full can he returned and promptly emptied 3/4 of the contents. This in turn caused all of us to hurriedly evacuate the room, shut the door and retreat to the pool for another swim. Now I don’t know what active ingredients were in that can but it sure had made us all cough when sprayed, and upon opening the door to our suite 30 minutes later not a living thing was to be seen. The building was concrete, with the ceiling covered in woven matting so we hoped that anything that died up there was well trapped and would not fall down on us during the night. After a quick call to NZ to confirm our safe arrival it was pizza for dinner, a movie for Frank and our beds for Jamie and me.

We awoke at 6am next morning to another “shitty day in paradise” clear blue skies and balmy breezes, had a swim, then a shower (which had no water flow or pressure) and fresh fruit, toast and coffee for breakfast.

Now the serious work began. We laid out all the food and equipment that we had taken up with us and checked it off against our lists. Then we added the items along with quantities that we still needed to buy and marked each with the shop(s) where we had seen them for sale. The first list was then compared to the meal/menu plan to check nothing had been missed out. All together there were 3 lists the second containing non food items such as toilet paper, teatowels, detergent, rubbish bags etc, and the third a full survey check for the yacht and its equipment. We planned for 20 days at sea. By now it was getting on for 11am and Frank had gone on into Nieafu to convert some money, meet us back at Anna’s cafe at noon for lunch and await Trevor and Tranquillo’s arrival. ( He was getting really excited by now). Jamie and I packed everything away and headed off to the cafe where we found Frank had met up with the crews of several cruising boats anchored in the bay. At about 1:15pm a small sail was sighted in the passage and soon Tranquillo sailed past and anchored.

Trevor arriving at Anna’s Cafe Vaua’u to meet Frank

Trevor came ashore in the inflatable dinghy, briefly met Frank and ourselves then headed off for a shower before returning for lunch and a chat. His trip up from the Ha’apai group had been a bit rough hence the delay in arriving. It was decided that Trevor would take Frank out to Franks’ new boat, while Jamie & I went back to the Hotel room and shifted our belongings down to the Hotel’s jetty. At 3:30pm they brought Tranquillo along side where we loaded all our gear aboard while Frank checked us out of the hotel. After moving off and anchoring, Trevor gave us a run down on the boat and its equipment and answered all our questions. He then collected his belongings and Frank took him in the dinghy over to a friend’s boat where he was staying the night. (I would imagine that it would be hard to sail your boat into port and 3 hours later hand it over to the new owner collect your things and leave!) As Trevor was moving to the Ha’apai group to open a café and start a new chapter in his life, this probably made it a little easier.

The first job on our agenda was to give the boat a clean from “stem to stern” (sorry Ian!) as Trevor had not had a chance to having just arrived. So while I went ashore and bought cleaning materials, Frank and Jamie went through the boat and recorded where all the equipment was stowed. Following my return we commenced cleaning. At about 7:30pm we all decided that it was time for a beer and dinner, so after fitting the V belt to the refrigeration compressor we hand started the Volvo and motored over nearer Anna’s Cafe.

Tranquillo at anchor Neiafu Harbour

What’s this hand start I hear you say! Well at some point in time someone had taken the dyna start off and fitted a second alternator in its place, hence the only way to start “Methusula” as the engine was soon nicknamed, was with the crank handle! (At times the engine had other names but they are unprintable!) This was a 2 person procedure: one would hold the engine cover doors open and the decompression lever on, while the other swung on the crank handle. When enough inertia was built up a shout of OK was to be heard and the decompression lever released. At this point both members of the starting party would quickly remove their heads out of range, as the crank handle sometimes developed a mind of its own when the engine fired and it disengaged. I must add that the “wee beastie” mostly started on the first attempt because Trevor had just had it overhauled in Auckland and put back in the boat. (This is also why the V belt was not on the fridge compressor.)

After 40 minutes running the freezer box was no colder than when we started and the cause not apparent. It was agreed that we would check with Trevor when ashore for dinner to see if we had missed turning on a valve. Unfortunately he was unable to provide any answers as it had been working fine prior to the motor being taken out and would normally start to freeze down in 30 minutes. A job for the mechanic tomorrow.

Having indulged in a nice dinner and consuming several beers it was 3 men in a leaky boat back to the mother ship. Yes the dinghy had an air leak which we found next morning under the plastic rowlock plate. Pumping it up twice a day soon took care of that! The last job we did before turning in for our first night aboard was to rewire the VHF. This was because it was plugged into a wooden board with 4 standard power point sockets and these had exposed wires at the back. It was also about 18″ long and loose and likely to short out if it got wet. After carefully checking the wiring configuration I connected it directly into the circuit and switched it on. Nothing happened. We turned it off. I rechecked the wiring, all OK so turned it back on. Still nothing. At this point Jamie said Hey! this wire is getting hot you must have wired it up the wrong way round. This I disputed, however I was overruled by the skipper and duly reversed the wires.” I hope you two know what your doing said Frank” we don’t want to blow anything! Silly thing to say Frank! Look the front light’s come on said Jamie, turn the channel to 16 and check it is all working OK! Sadly dear readers, when I turned the channel selector there was a loud “POP” accompanied by the subtle aroma of fused circuitry and the light on the front went out!!! “BUGGER” was all that was heard! (Now this was months before the infamous ad, so we aboard “Tranquillo” claim “pre-emptive use”).

In an atmosphere of disbelief we took the cover off the VHF and discovered that:

(a) we had blown the input resistor and;
(b) Frank headed a department that serviced electronic equipment so was pretty au fait with these things.

Fortunately we had seen a building over the road from the Paradise Hotel which advertised the servicing of electronic equipment, so it was to be off to the workshop with the set in the morning for an attempted repair.

On this note we retired for the night along with the mosquitos, 30 degree heat and hoping for a bit of luck tomorrow.

Wednesday October 28th .98

At about 6am in the morning we awoke to yet another S.D.I.P. no wind, warm air which just made you jump out of the bunk and over the side for a swim. The water was so warm it was not even a shock to the system.

Over a light breakfast of one slice of toast, (this was because Kerry, the bilge boy, only purchased one small loaf while getting the cleaning gear on Tues ), fruit juice and a cup coffee or tea, we discussed the plans for the day.

It was decided that after we all had paid a visit to the Moorings base for a shower, Frank would take “smoky” the main VHF and a little hand held one we had found, off to the “radio shack” to see what repairs could be made. Also to get some wires soldered on to the base of the hand held so we could plug it directly into the switchboard power supply. (This was because the nicad battery was flat and we did not know if it would hold a charge.) Jamie and I would return to the boat and check off the survey list.

So after a quick tidy up of the boat it was 30 pumps of air into the dinghy, then off to shore. Upon Jamie’s and my return to the boat we dug out the bosuns chair and because he is of a “slighter” build than I, he was duly sent to the top of the mast to check the rig. This involved examining, aerials and connections, lights, bolts, fittings, blocks, tangs, shackles, clevis pins and split pins, stays, spreaders and the mast and sail track. We replaced one worn shackle, fitted an extra block for a spare halyard and retaped the spreader ends with insulation tape to prevent chafe.

Next we checked the boom and fittings, hoisted all the sails checked for tears and broken stitching and set the storm trysail up on the mast ready for deployment if needed.

All deck fittings and fastenings were checked along with the stanchions and lifelines jack stays, (these are the webbing straps that run the full length of the deck that you clip your safety harness to, when ever you leave the cockpit). Also the life raft service date and it’s fastenings. Then it was on to the rudder, the gudgeons, and the self steering with its wind vane.

The self steering was mounted on double “A” frame brackets with pintles off the transom and consisted of a 2m long x 45cm wide straight blade with a trim tab fitted on the trailing edge. The trim tab was activated by a shaft with a sliding crank which in turn was connected to a counter balanced wind vane mounted on a tube, this pivoted on the same shaft. To engage the wind vane, all one had to do was set the boat sailing on course then release a weighted lever, (attached to the wind vane tube), which dropped into a slotted round disk that is welded on the trim tab shaft. Fine adjustment was achieved by moving the lever from one slot to the next either way.

We were to find that the self steering worked very well, but it did have two draw backs.

being free pivoting and 2 ft off the stern, it increased the turning radius of the boat when you were motoring and steering with the main rudder, also it needed to be locked in line with the keel when going astern.

2) it moved the centre of lateral resistance aft on the boat and in certain conditions induced bad lee helm.

Anyway to continue, we drilled and pinned one of the pintles so that the blade could not jump off if we hit by anything and also attached a line from the blade to the boat as an added safety measure. It was then on to checking the auto helm, Epirb, bilge pumps, all hoses, gate valves, comparing the onboard GPS to my hand held, swinging the compass, checking the motor over and trying to tighten the stern gland because after running the motor you had to pump grease into it via a grease cup to stop the inflow of water. This was not successful as the nut would not budge, so we added an extra tube of WP grease to the “to buy” list. We also tried again to find the problem with the freezer but ended up concluding that the R12 gas had joined that of the bus air conditioners in the upper atmosphere! At this point I shot into town and bought some braided rope for the spare halyard and several tools that we needed and upon my return we set to installing the halyard.

By the time we had finished it was 11.30am, 350 Celsius down below, no breeze and we were both thirsty and hungry so it was into the dinghy and off to………yes you guessed it! Annas cafe for lunch and to meet Frank.

He had caught up with the American proprietor of the repair shop who promised to have a look at the VHF but did not feel very confident about having the necessary spare parts on hand to fix it. He would also check out the small hand held VHF and wire it up for us and had arranged with Frank to meet him at 9am tomorrow.

After lunch we arranged with Bill at the Moorings for his mechanic to check out the freezer at 4.30pm. and with Don Coleman, who ran the slipway next door to Anna’s cafe, to bring Tranquillo along side at 2.00pm for fuelling, filling the water tanks and loading the food on board.

Frank headed off into town to buy the provisions and meet us back at the top of the steps leading down Don Coleman’s at 3pm. (One of the stores had offered us the use of their small truck and driver to get all the supplies back to the boat.) The captain and I headed back out to Tranquillo and made her ready to bring along side Don’s wharf. When we arrived at 1.50pm there were two vessels already tied up. Don indicated that the outer one would only be 10-15 mins so we just motored slowly around the area while we waited.

Finally at 2.30 we were able to come along side where we took on 62ltrs of diesel and 250 ltrs of water. Both Jamie and I had discussed carrying some extra diesel fuel, because although the manual for the motor said it would only use 500ml per hour @ 3/4 throttle and Trevor had said he only used 1/2 a tank on his trip up from NZ, we both felt it would be prudent to have extra aboard.

At 3.15 there was still no sign of Frank with the truck and goods, so while Jamie stayed with the boat I went back into town to find out what had delayed him.

I found Frank at the second “big” store, ( about the size of a small NZ superette but with 10% of the range and stock) where he was having trouble finding some of the smaller items on our list and had also been waiting for the truck to return. Between us we very quickly completed the shopping, loaded the truck. While Frank and the driver headed back to start unloading, I tried to beg, borrow or find a spare 20ltr jerry can/container to hold the extra diesel. All to no avail as these items are as scarce as hens teeth and worth their weight in gold in Vava’u. There was not even a 5ltr one available. That only left stealing one and as we all will one day return to Tonga this was out of the question and besides it’s dishonest!. Better hope that we have plenty of wind on the trip! and won’t need to motor much.

By the time I got back to the yard Frank had all the unloaded goods on the side of the road and we started carrying them down the 45 steps to the boat.

This took 10 trips each and was Very hot work in 350C heat. All cartons were unpacked on the dock and the items passed to Jamie and Frank on board for stowing. This system keeps cartons off the boat along with those pesky brown insects they can harbour called COCKROACHES.

After stowing everything away we cast off and motored over to the moorings jetty to get the freezer system looked at. Here the problem was quickly identified as no R12 gas. This was remedied and T35.00 later we had the freezer pulling down, although it took both mine and Jamies combined weight on the compressor during adjustment, to get enough tension on the belt to stop it slipping. We decided to keep the motor running until the freezer was as cold as possible which was to prove a wise decision as by next morning all the gas had disappeared again. (The freezer actually held goods frozen for the next 5 days!) While the repairs were under way who should Frank spot on Anna’s cafe jetty next door but young Max and his parents Ulf & Poly from the flight up. After introductions and solving the mystery of who Max had been laughing at on the plane, we invited them to join us for our farewell dinner in Vava’u at the Captain’s Table restaurant. This is located next door to Don Colemans Haulout yard . The Moorings, Anna’s cafe, Don’s yard and the Captain’s table restaurant are all within 100 meters of shore line and use the same entry from the road.

Jamie took the boat out and anchored it while Frank and I had a shower each and got cleaned up. While waiting for Jamie to come ashore I got talking with a fellow cruiser from the USA and mentioned that we were looking for a 2nd hand VHF just in case ours could not be repaired. He said that he had offered a spare one to a friend on a boat out in the bay and would find out if he still needed it, if not he would bring it over in the morning. Unfortunately he could not help me with any spare fuel containers as he was on the look out for some himself.

Over a nice dinner of garlic lobster, Ulf and Poly asked each of us how long we thought it would take to get back to NZ, made a note of the estimates, and arranged to have BBQ with us on their return to NZ late in November, before they headed off home to the UK.

Thursday 29th Oct 98. Departure 11:30hrs

By 6am I was in the water with mask, fins, and snorkel, cleaning the propeller and the bottom of the boat. After about an hour and a half Frank took over from me and finished off the hull. While we were doing this we found that the sumlog speedo cable was broken however we were not too concerned about this as we knew how to measure the boats speed and both GPS systems gave us speed over the ground.

Over breakfast we went over the last minute items that we needed to get, the program for the morning, and made sure everyone was still happy to set sail.

At 8:30 am we dropped Frank off at the Moorings jetty to go and collect the radios and I shot up to the office to get the latest weather map and send a fax off to New Zealand giving details of our planned course, waypoints and ETA.

I rejoined Jamie on board and we motored off down to the main wharf for clearance. An inter-island trader was tied up at the time so I dropped Jamie off on the wharf ladder and spent the next 45 minutes standing off. While I was doing this a small RIB approached and in it was the fellow cruiser I had spoken to the previous day. He had with him a Horizon VHF in good working order which I bought for US$50.00. Without delay this was installed and working fine by the time I went back along side to collect Jamie.

At this point the owners of a Canadian trawler invited us to tie up along side while we went and collected our fresh fruit and vegetables. We found out that they were heading off to Napier in a couple of days.

As there was still no sign of Frank, Jamie and I went up to the markets and paid for the perishables and brought them back to the Boat ( This took two trips on foot). We got pineapples for $2.00, not each, but for a pile of 8, same with the mangoes, bananas, pawpaw, oranges, lemons, limes, pamplemousse, tomatoes, all $2.00 bag, and large water melons $1.00 each. With the help of the stall holders at the market, all the fruit was selected to ripen progressively over the next week, which I might add, it did perfectly.

Frank arrived back at 11.30 and helped Jamie on board with the last of the fruit and veg, while I shot up into town for a 2nd can opener and a potato peeler.

At 12:15 we cast off, cranked up “Methusula” and motored down towards the channel.

As we stowed the last of the fruit, Frank said repair shop had only been able to get the hand held VHF working, so we were very fortunate that I had managed to acquire the Horizon. It was then on deck for our last look at Neiafu as we headed out between the islands and towards the sea. We were on our way!

Leaving Neiafu Harbour for New Zealand looking towards Open Sea
Leaving Neiafu looking back

First log entry: Neiafu Harbour entrance.
Pos: 180.40’s
Weather: Fine
Wind: 10-15k SE
Seas: Slight.
Getting ready to set the sails and have lunch. All’s well!

Frank’s first watch.  First time on the helm of his new yacht.

Log entry: Date: 29/10/98
Time: 14:40 Seas: Smooth.
Pos: 180.44′ s Course: 220om
1740.10′ w Speed: 3kn
Weather: Fine: Very hot! Barometer: 1011.5mb
Wind: 5-10k SE At sea.

We turned the motor off at 14.40hrs after having a light lunch of fruit and salami. Frank wisely wearing some seasickness patches just in case. We have sorted out the watches for the first night as follows:

15.00-18.00hrs: Frank.
18.00-21.00 Kerry.
21-00-00.00 Jamie.
Then 2 hours each until 06.00 when we will institute a 3hrs on 6 off system. We had all better be careful of the sun as the burn time out here is about 12 minutes. Plenty of sun screen needed. We had a fiddle with the self steering and got that working and also the autopilot.

Great sailing. Several islands in sight on the starboard bow.(Late Is)

1st dinner 1st night at sea.

Chicken omelette for tea, followed by coffee after which Frank took the first watch. Beautiful evening just slipping along in light breeze. Jamie takes all of 2 minutes to go to sleep, lucky bugger! Frank’s a “happy chappie” while on watch singing softly away to himself. Something is not stowed properly as it is making a regular knocking sound. Probably a halyard so I will find it in the morning as it is keeping me awake.

Sunset first night at sea

After an uneventful night Jamie and I logged our position as:
Log entry: Date: 30/10/98
Time: 08:30 Seas: Slight/smooth.
Pos: 190.17′ s Course: 220om
1740.46’w Speed: 4kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1012.5mb
Wind: 2kn SSE

We cranked Methusula into life at 08.30 as no wind and had breakfast which consisted of Hubbards outward bound cereal and fruit followed by coffee. Already very hot so those off watch sought out any possible shade. Far too hot down below to sleep. Early this morning when I went up forward I spotted a large MahiMahi hiding in the shadow of the boat. When they spotted me they took off but soon came back. Just stunning colours. Frank was straight away into fishing mode. Out came the fancy lures, special traces, big game braided backing line and 2 meters of 8mm shockcord. The shockcord was in lieu of a rod and reel and designed to absorb the impact of the fish when the lure is taken. Well that was the theory anyway.

We discovered that UHT milk takes about 60 minutes to turn into whey in tropical heat. Still motoring; no wind! 14.00 motor off wind arrives. Sighted two sperm whales late in the afternoon heading across and away from our stern about 100 mtrs off. Wonderful sight but they are “bloody big”. Wind dies at 17.00

Sunset Second night at sea

Baked beans with beersticks for dinner followed by fresh pineapple. YUM! (I guess we will have some wind one way or the other tomorrow!)

We have two islands in sight the “Tofua” group off the port bow and an extinct cone off the starboard quarter. There seems to be smoke being emitted from the Tofua group. Stunning sunset. As darkness fell we could see a red glow from this group and worked out that it was a lava flow. We should pass out into the Pacific proper tonight as we leave the last of the Tonga group behind. A light – moderate SSE wind filled in after sunset so we set all sail (Main, Yankee and Staysail). Sighted two ships lights in the distance tonight, both heading for Vava’u, and they passed us at about 6nm distance. Changed heading to 2300m as this will take us to the north of the north Minerva reefs. It is just beautiful at night when at sea in the tropics, stars everywhere, warm breezes, and flashes from the deep as some large fish chase their dinner. And a moon rise over the horizon! It just leaves you in awe of the beauty of our world.

Last night, we finally discovered what was making the tapping noise, no not a halyard nor a can rolling about, but Frank. As I mentioned before when he was on watch he liked to quietly sing to himself and to stay in time he tapped his fingers on the stainless steel boom crutch which went over the top of the spray dodger. This was made from 2″ tube and bolted onto the deck and cabin sides aft of the rear windows. It transmitted the sound right through the boat and it emerged by the main bulkhead. Problem solved.

Panic! Last night as I was changing watch at midnight with Frank I felt something big run across my bare foot. “Holy shit what was that” was heard to escaped my lips as I grabbed my torch and turned it on, fully expecting to see a small rat or large spider. It was neither, but a cockroach about the size of one of Paul Leydon’s jandals, well…. OK then, 2-3 inches long. We quickly caught it in some handy paper towel and threw it over the stern where hopefully some fish had a tasty treat.

Log entry: Date: 31/10/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Smooth.
Pos: 190.40′ s Course: 240om
1750.44′ w Speed: 0.5kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1013mb
Wind: 5-10k Southerly

The wind slowly dropped as the sun rose and all went dead calm. Swell coming in from the south. Seas oily and surface covered in what we called “whale vomit” actually an orange algae bloom of some sort mixed with volcanic ash. After another Gourmet breakfast of Hubbards grub, papaya and pineapple and the last of the toast we decided to start the engine at 11.00hrs. Rigged up the boom tent to try and give the watch keeper some shade as it was so hot and it is a real effort just to move. When crank starting the motor the person swinging the handle can only spin it over a couple of times before they are covered in sweat and out of breath. Just as well it starts on the first or second try, except when it is still warm that is!.

Fibreglass is bloody hard! Or our backsides are too soft as it is difficult to find a comfortable place to sit, or lay down. After a light lunch of fruit, crackers and cheese and a drink of water Jamie on watch, Frank is asleep on deck when a large Mahi Mahi jumps across the ocean and hits our lure. Ya Hoo! fresh fish for tea. The line goes tight, the shock cord stretches out to the thickness of a pencil lead as the load comes on the rig and starts to turn the fishes head then………..BANG, the bloody trace breaks and off through the ocean jumps our diner along with Frank’s expensive lure, clearly trailing behind. When we recover what is left of the line, the part that is, that did not try to decapitate us when it broke and the shock cord returned at speed to it’s normal size, we found that it had parted where it was attached to the swivel.

Steak for diner, large helping as it will only last until tomorrow night. Engine still on at 18.00hrs. Finally off at 21.00. Peace.

Log entry: Date: 1/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Slight.
Pos: 200.08’s Course: 200om
1760.58′ w Speed: 3.5kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1014mb
Wind: 5-10k Southerly

Another great day. We had a good nights sailing when the wind finally filled in, on a tight reach. Wind slowly dropping as the sun comes up. Where are these trade winds? Iron spinnaker on at 10.45hrs course 2150m, off at 16.00hrs. WIND WIND WIND, the SE trades have finally arrived!!!! We celebrate with steak curry for diner, fresh pineapple, more water, ( we are all drinking 2 litres per day plus what we have in coffee or tea. This is easily measured because of our bottled water.)

Honking along with that champagne sound.

Wind SE 10-15 knots steady, seas slight, honking along under full sail, just great sailing. We moved off the large scale chart of Tonga today and on to NZ14061 which shows New Zealand. 600nm to mid-Pacific way point.

Log entry: Date: 2/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Slight.
Pos: 200.58’s Course: 210om
1780.048′ w Speed: 2.5kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1014mb
Wind: 5-10k Southerly

The wind started to drop off at around 3 am. I did the midnight to 3 am watch so it was Jamie’s turn to have the failing wind during his duty. I have found getting good sleep difficult and I have to say that for a person that can fall asleep in front of TV or even on a plane this is most unusual. Jamie on the other hand just needs to lay down and he goes to sleep, still I guess after you have sailed 100,000 blue water miles you will have sorted out your sleep patterns.

At 06:30 we had breakfast and at 08:00 we started up Methusula as the wind had died right away. Birthday on board today. The best looking and most intelligent of the sailors on board got another year older and the motley crew all sang Happy Birthday.

When we started the motor we dipped the diesel tank and found we had 40 ltrs left so we have used 20 ltrs of fuel since clearing Vava’u and have run the engine for 23 hours. Using .87 ltr per hour. Today we will clear the north Minerva reef system to our south so there should be NOTHING to hit before we sight NZ. ( Land that is.)

Finding some shade while the iron spinnaker is on.

Another hot day and Frank is still working on his tan. I think he might be looking to apply for some “Tribal ” land when we get home. Fat chance Frank! Your accent will be a dead giveaway. Motoring, motoring, motoring. At noon we had 511 nm to mid pacific way point. 24 hour run 70.4 nm. We finally turned the motor off at 1:10pm as we had a 10knt SE wind fill in. Our average daily runs so far are 70-75 nm. Too slow!

Log entry: Date: 3/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Slight.
Pos: 210.59’s Course: 210om
1790.13’w Speed: 4.5kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1013mb
Wind: 10-12k SE

Frank Sunbathing

We re-rigged the cover over the cockpit this morning to try and get better shade for the person on watch. The sun is still very hot. We also have set the staysail and have the Genoa poled out. At noon we took a sextant sight and noted readings. We took a second sight at 4pm and our calculations put us within 2.5 miles of our GPS position.

Sighted more whales today and a pod of large dolphins. They were very wary and only approached the boat after some considerable time and even then kept their distance. Too many encounters with Japanese or Asian fishing vessels we wondered?

Frank had a good 6.5 hour sleep to day which made him late for watch but it was important for him to catch up as we think he has been having difficulty sleeping too. We ate the last of the Papaya for lunch today, they have lasted well.

Log entry: Date: 4/11/98 (Wed)
Time: 06:00 Seas: Mod.
Pos: 230.00’s Course: 200-210om
1790.45’e Speed: 4.5kn
Weather: Fine: Barometer: 1014mb
Wind: 12-15k SE

Wind shift at 10 am to North so we changed to starboard reach. Hot sticky day; could be some rain about. Should reach half way point in voyage tomorrow and our GPS waypoint on Friday. 90 mile run in 24 hours. That’s better!

Hey we hook another Mahi Mahi and guess what? It would taste delishimo if only the line didn’t break AGAIN! Off he swam trailing another lure but this time he was being chased by a big black fish with a fin and a spear for a nose so I guess he ended up as a fishkebarb.

Log entry: Date: 5/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Mod.
Pos: 240.08’s Course: 200-210om
1780.22’e Speed: 5.0kn
Weather: Overcast. Barometer: 1011mb
Wind: 15k N

Heavy rain shower through at 2.30 pm with not much wind, then at 3.30pm heavy line of cloud sighted and this was really stuck down on the sea. This reached us about 30mins later with 25-35kn winds from SW and a short steep sea at right angles to the swell. Reefed main and headsail.

Shitty weather ahead “1st front”

As Frank was off watch he wisely decided to stay below where it is dry, to a degree, but bouncy, while Jamie and I relished the elements. Even several Yahoooo’s were to be heard from “some fool” on the fore deck. This only lasted about 1.5 hours but left us with a confused sea and little wind. Ahead we could see another band of cloud so we decided to start up the engine and head for it to try and punch through before dark. After about an hour the seas abated and the clouds lifted and we had a swing in the wind back to the SSE. We broke the 100 miles in 24 hrs today with a run of 108.2nm.

Log entry: Date: 6/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: slight.
Pos: 250.19’s Course: 200-210om
1770.18’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Overcast. Barometer: 1012mb
Wind: 10kn Variable

At 4am this morning we had another front come through with an associated squall, 3/4 reefed main and staysail only with the headsail all furled away. This lasted about 40 minutes during which time both Jamie and I got soaked through. Only 30 rain drops to a 2 litre pail!. 30 -40kn squall winds but with the seas being beaten flat by the rain. We are now able to confirm that the windows leak! So much for that “bloody plumbers silicon!.” After the squall passed the wind dropped off and went swung to the WSW. Sun came out and we are sailing again at 3-4knts.

Log entry: Date: 7/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: slight.
Pos: 250.49’s Course: 200-210om
1760.44’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Fine. Barometer: 1015mb
Wind: Variable.

At 1 am we sighted a ship on the horizon. This passed 1-2 miles off but somehow our VHF had been turned off, so we lost an opportunity to have our position relayed to Auckland and get a weather update.

Lots more motoring due to no wind. Passed 1/2 way mark Saturday night.

Log entry: Date: 8/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: slight.
Pos: 260.36’s Course: 210-220om
1750.55’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Fine. Barometer: 1017mb
Wind: 10-12kn SE(filling)

On Sunday the 8th we sight a sail on the horizon and tried calling them up on the VHF but we got no response. Weather getting cooler at night. Wind filling in and its getting bouncy but the old girl has hitched up her skirts and has the bone in her teeth. We had to help the wind vane by hand steering during the night as we had the boat running at 6-7 knots. Our phosphorescent wake streamed out astern.

Log entry: Date: 9/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Mod.
Pos: 280.06’s Course: 210om
1740.34’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Overcast. Barometer: 1019mb
Wind: 15-20knReally humming along with a 12 hour run of 68.8nm. At 6pm 24 hour run 125.9nm. An average of 5.24 knots. Turning South.

Log entry: Date: 10/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: slight.
Pos: 290.35’s Course: 195om
1730.20’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Fine. Barometer: 1020mb
Wind: 10-15kn SE

Another good nights sailing. At 08-15am there is a loud Bang and the boat shudders, next a shout from Jamie for help NOW! As I exit the companionway I see Jamie hanging on to the self steering rudder. We’ve hit something with it he said “quick help me” as it has already come off one pintle. As I snap my safety harness on to the cockpit traveller suddenly Jamie and the self steering are shaken violently and the whole boat shudders. We both look over the stern in disbelief! Hanging on to the bottom of the rudder is a large pissed off “Crunchie” (Shark!). It lets go and Jamie & I try to get it back on the pintle, but the boat’s forward speed and the return of the shark for another bite mean we have to stop the boat. Frank brings the boat around into the wind which achieves two things, 1: the shark loses interest as there is nothing to chase and the vortex that was coming off the bottom of the blade disappears. And 2: we are able to get it back on both pintles. 

The shark swims around for one last look and then moves off. After 5 minutes we start sailing again as we can see no sign of the shark but it becomes apparent that he has damaged the self steering trim tab. So after heaving the boat too we unship the assembly and lift it on board being extremely wary of putting any parts of our body over the side. As I mentioned early in this story the blade is 2mtrs long and it takes all three of us to lift it aboard. It is made of solid kauri, covered in fibre glass but there were still deep teeth marks all over the bottom and the stainless bottom pintle on the trim tab has been all but ripped off. We straighten the trim tab shaft and re-attach the bottom pintle with longer screws. We then re-hung it after straightening the top ‘A” bracket which had also been bent. After a liberal coating of grease on all moving parts we are back in business.The shark was either a big Mako or a medium sized great white. My bet is the first. We either hit it accidentally and it then attacked or it was attracted by the vortex off the bottom of the self steering. Either way it provided a bit of excitement for an hour. North Cape 260nm@ 1680 m

Log entry: Date: 11/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Moderate.
Pos: 250.19’s Course: 150om
1770.18’e Speed: 3.8kn
Weather: Fine. Barometer: 1020mb
Wind: 10-15kn 

We have used the motor on and off to try and keep up daily average of miles covered. Barometer dropping. North Cape 159nm bearing 1500 m and BOI 229nm @ 1400m. 

Log entry: Date: 12/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: slight.
Pos: 320.29’s Course: 120om
1720.26’e Speed: 3-4.0kn
Weather: Fine. Barometer:1014mb(dropping)
Wind: 5-10kn. 

Once again we have the motor on as No Wind. At 8.30am dipped tank down to 14 litres diesel. Motor on large part of day as the wind died. At 6.30pm we heard Northland maritime radio on the VHF. We tried to call but got no response. Must be atmospheric spike. North Cape now only 89nm @ 1460m and BOI 162nm @ 1380m .

Should sight New Zealand tomorrow.Log entry: Date: 13/11/98
Time: 06:00 Seas: Moderate.
Pos: 330.33’s Course: 200om
1730.06’e Speed: 3.0kn
Weather: Overcast. Barometer: 1012mb
Wind: 15kn SE.

Just before dawn the flash of Three Kings light was reflected on the clouds. We raise North Cape at 1pm with the boat making good progress. During the afternoon we see several ships coming and going around the top of New Zealand. At 4pm we raise Northern Maritime Radio and report our position. We request that this be passed on to the crew at home, which they kindly do. Swell building from SE and wind rising 20knots plus. At 7pm we are off Hohora and tack out to sea for the night crossing the shipping lanes. During the night we sight 3 ships and manage to avoid them. We would not be a strong radar target due to all the sea clutter. Swells starting to get large and breaking. Wind build to 30 knots. We have 2 reefs in the main, a small amount of headsail and the staysail. Forecast not good. Lots of radio traffic from another yacht near by. He has a coastal vessel near him and is very worried about being run down. A real possibility in these conditions. We go about at 1.30 am and head back towards NZ and discover we are taking water aboard.

It would be fair to say that very little sleep was had by the crew during Friday night. Not only did we have water coming into the boat from two sources, one known and one not, but also the bulkhead beam supporting the mast had a split in it and this was now working due to the heavy seas. This split had been noticed when we took delivery of the boat but we had been told that it had not caused any problems in the past. There was a special pipe and hydraulic jack on board in case additional support was ever needed. When we encountered the first front in the Pacific, this had been installed and had remained in place as a safety measure. The jack was a cheap brand so needed pumping up every 2 hours due to the working of the beam slowly creeping the pressure off.

The source of the water that was coming aboard that we knew about, was from the cowl vents. Now even though these were mounted on large dorade boxes the cowls themselves were held on by hose clips, so it was not possible to turn the cowls away from the seas. This combined with the small drain holes in the dorade boxes soon filled the system with water. We had inserted the plugs into the vents in the deck head, but every wave taken aboard produced a steady spray of sea water. Due to the darkness we could not find the cause of the other water that had found its way aboard, so hopefully the coming day light would solve this mystery. We just pumped the bilge out every half hour or so.

Dawn found 3 very wet and tired crew, a large SE swell and building seas and wind.

“The Captain” Jamie Thomas on watch

We could see land ahead and this proved to be Cape KariKari, so at 08.00 when we were just north of Rocky Island we went about and headed back out to sea.

At this point I think a confession is due. As we intended to make landfall near the Great Barrier and not Northcape, we did not have any detailed charts the northland coast, were we now found ourselves. Yes I can hear you all saying “why not that’s not very good planing”, however in our defence I would point out that Jamie and I discussed taking a “Pickmere’s atlas” of the Northern coast, but in the event did not, as we were led to believe that a chart of this area was on board. This in fact was true but it was a large scale pacific chart and lacked fine detail. The only other Navigation aide was my GPS (a Garmin 48) which has all the major dangers, headlands and islands, listed in its data base.

Needless to say we took no risks when closing the coast.

As we headed back out to sea we listened to the latest weather forecast from Northern Maritime Radio which was for more of the same with a revised forecast due at 16.00 hrs, we had breakfast and a coffee, thanks to Jamies balancing act in the galley.

We now needed to find the source of the other water that was coming aboard.

This was traced to the hand basin in the head which had a common outlet with the sink. Every time we were on a starboard tack the water would surge up the outlet and as the plug was in the sink, when ever the boat went going down the back a wave or swell the water would run up the pipe into the hand basin and spill out into the head area. Turning off the sea cock on the sink outlet soon fixed this problem.

The inside of the boat was wet and you basically had to stay in your wet weather gear to stay dry. Trying to lie down was like being on a trampoline while someone else bounced up and down.

As we headed out to sea we were making 4-5 knots ahead with 2-3 knots to leeward. During the morning we passed 2 ships one of which slowed down to check us out and then steamed on. Lunch was ryvita and topping and I can tell you that the ones with peanut butter do not sit well in the stomach. Yes this did lead to me feeding the fishes.

After taking two sea sickness tablets I managed to get some much needed sleep albeit on the wet cabin sole.

We had gone about at 12.30, well actually gybed about as the self steering rudder was proving to be a real problem when trying to bring the bow though the eye of the wind and waves. This was caused by the centre of effort being moved aft due to the fixed blade and it also acted as a pivot brake when turning the boat with the main rudder.

The weather forecast at 14.00 was for an increase in wind and seas with gusts to 40 knots and seas becoming rough. We had a large ground swell from the east with a wave patten forming on top. At 5pm we found ourselves the middle of Doubtless Bay so gybed about an headed back out to sea for the night. We had made a total of 10nm over the ground towards our revised destination, The Bay of Islands. This over 9 hours and 40 miles of sailing.

We fully reefed the headsail which left us with 3 reefs in the main and the staysail. This resulted in the boat slowing down to 3 knots with a slightly more comfortable motion.

Several boats heading for New Zealand had sought shelter in Tom Bowling bay and we heard them advising Northland maritime radio of the same.

We only sighted one ship during the night and managed to tack about at 01.00am.

Daybreak found us off and east of the sugar loaf (Wekarua Island) in Moukahakaha bay 12 nm east of our last land fall in Doubtless bay. Another gybe had us heading once again back out to sea for the day.

We had set up a radio schedule on Friday night with Northern Maritime Radio, reporting our Lat and longitude, the local sea conditions and how we were fairing. These were twice a day at 08.00 and 16.00.

Tranquillo was now taking green water over the cabin top as we punched our way up and over the swells and seas that were continuing to build and the wind was forecast to increase to 35-40 knots with gusts of 50 knots and very rough seas. This weather system was caused by a “squash Zone” (named by Bob Mc Davit) where the isobars are jammed up between a high and low.

The ground swell was now running at 10-12 ft with 8-10 ft seas on top. Not particularly pleasant sailing conditions. It was in this same weather pattern 36 hours latter that “Woody Goose” went ashore in Great Exhibition bay with the loss of one life and the boat ending up wrecked on the beach.

It was about this time that Frank discovered that all the side lockers behind the seat backs were full of water. We never did find where this came from but suspected the deck to hull joint as later we found a crack where the scuppers were cut through the toe rail. (Footnote: later in port we found that the engine water anti-siphon hose had come off the through hull fitting in the lazzarette just under the hull to deck join, and this allowed water to enter the boat on certain tacks.)

At some stage during the night a wave had ripped the spray doger off 3/4 of the back hoop, however later in the morning Frank and I were able to wrap 3 turns around the hoop and secure it with some cable ties.

Once again we gybed and headed back to shore at 12.00 noon and ended up in the entrance to Whangaroa Bay, just North of Stephenson Island, just 6nm down the coast from where we had been at day break . We had discussed our options on the way back into shore and it was decided that we should try to seek some shelter, clean up the boat and get some badly needed sleep, but only if we could get some local assistance to guide us safely into the lee of some land.

I put a call through to Northern maritime radio and advised them of our position, asked them to advise MAF (Ministry Agriculture & Fisheries) and Customs of our intentions and asked for the VHF channel for Whangaroa harbour. We raised Whangaroa radio and they kindly organised for Colin from the local game fishing club to come out meet us and guide us in. They also gave us a safe course to steer for the entrance to Whangaroa harbour, an area both Jamie and I were unfamiliar with and where Lion Heart was wrecked on false head while being talked in some years earlier. We would not have attempted this without the assistance of a boat to guide us through.

Northern MT radio came back on with a message from MAF that “we were NOT to seek shelter but to make for Opua.” We resisted the urge to pass our thoughts on at this statement, but I logged MAF’s telephone number and asked them to pass on that I would ring when we were in calmer waters and explain our situation. It is to be noted that we had NO intention of going ashore, just to seek shelter and rest to enable us to be able to continue on to Opua and clear in.

We managed to start the engine and ten minutes later sighted Colin and his boat which was heading straight towards us. He circled around us and gave instructions for us to follow him and to watch out for the Reef to port at the entrance. We advised him that we only had 3-4 ltrs of diesel left so needed to get through before the tide turned. At about this time Colin received a vhf call from the NZ Customs launch “Hawke”, which just happened to be on an exercise at the Cavalli islands, and that they were heading for Whangaroa and to tie us up to their mooring buoy off the marina at the game fishing club.

New Zealand has very strict rules about where you can enter a boat into the country and Whangaroa is definitely not one of them. We all thought “s..t this will be interesting!”

We tied up to the buoy, hoisted the Q flag and awaited the arrival of “Hawke” some 40 minutes later.

They came along side and instructed us to move and tie up along side the wharf where they would come aboard and carry out an inspection along with the MAF officer who had driven up from Opua and was not a “happy chappie”.

While Frank and I stayed on board with a Customs officer and the MAF man, Jamie went aboard Hawke with the ships and our papers. After a through rummage of the yacht the customs officer said he could now understand our decision to seek shelter and went back to report his findings to the other officers. It was then MAF’s turn and he carried out a through inspection of the food on board. This involved checking all the lockers( which were full of water) and placing some items into the quarantine bag) He then said it was likely that we all could be prosecuted for entering an “un-designated Port of Entry”. This conversation was then continued on board “Hawke” with the Customs officers, MAF and Jamie. Eventually we were cleared in, thanks to the efforts of the Customs and MAF officers and allowed to go ashore.

Here Colin had arranged a shower, a meal, and a motel room for us for the night. They are really great people in the Whangaroa.

Over diner Frank decided to arrange to leave Tranquillo on a marina berth until Christmas then come up and cruise on down the coast.

After diner we put in calls home to let them know we were back on land and arranged for a ride next day down to Keri Keri in the Bay Of Islands, with some friends of mine where we picked up a hire car and drove back to Auckland, arriving Monday night.

Ten days later we had our arranged diner with Ulf, Poly and Max before they headed off to explore NZ.

Did I enjoy it ? You bet.

Would I do it again ? yes but probably in a bigger, faster boat.

What lessons did we learn?

1: Always trust your instincts, and take extra fuel and charts. You can’t have too much of either (within reason).

2: Don’t get on the wrong side of MAF or Customs. They do a great job but have to follow the rules as set out by the bureaucrats in Wellington, but first always bear in mind the safety of the ship and crew and advise them of your situation. If you need to seek shelter instigate a “Pan Pan” call. This then allows them some latitude, but only if the situation is serious.

3: Always take a fishing rod. It is the only way to catch Mahi Mahi.My thanks to Frank and Jamie for the opportunity to do this delivery and for their comradeship.