Location:Kawau and Tiritiri Matangi Islands, New Zealand
After topping up water tanks and giving the boat one last wash, we threw off the dock lines and motored quietly out of Marsden Point Marina.Tayrona was happy to be out sailing again after a week in the captivity of a dock.Her exuberance was felt somehow by the ocean gods who sent fair winds and a dolphin pod to ride our bow wake south to Kawau Island.Along the way I picked up an island on radar that wasn’t supposed to be there according to the charts.It was the wrong signature to be a boat.Something wasn’t right, and we approached wearily.Turns out it was a house!
The island of Kawau is a twenty mile sail from Whangarei, home to a historic manor and the ruins of an 1840’s copper mine.Things are pretty low-key when it comes to exploring on your own and we nosed around the fancy mansion ground and industrial ruins with touristic impunity.
Another twenty miles south the island of Tiritiri Matangi is a bird sanctuary. The squawks and growls that emanated from the vegetation were something out of Jurassic Park. The sea life was pretty good too, with green-lipped mussels, burly Red Moki, and Bull Kelp dancing in the swell.
In the evening a small commercial fishing boat anchored next to us in the empty little cove.The two Kiwis aboard shouted for us to come over, and when we dinghied up they gave us two big snapper, saying they saw the US flag on the back of our boat and thought we might be hungry after sailing all that way.We offered to trade them some cold beer for the fish, but they insisted they couldn’t drink on the job so we brought them home made muffins early the next morning before they pulled anchor and went back out to sea.
June 2nd saw the high wind which had previously swept the Tuamotus and filled our kites in the past days calming.It’s time to head to Tahiti.Liza and Felix have flights to catch and Miranda and I have a good deal of work to do on the boat that we’ve been neglecting.It’s been terrific ignoring minor problems in favor of diving and kiting and snorkeling all in the same day.That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?But the TO-DO list grows longer little by little as the salt air and general wear and tear take their toll on everything.We need a week of civilization, or more specifically, a hardware store.A grocery store wouldn’t hurt either.
Made a couple lunches and a couple dinners to have in the refrigerator so no one had to cook in the two day passage.Said goodbye to our friends on Namaste who we’d been kiting and diving with for the week. We pulled anchor without incident. Our three meter anchorage had low, scattered coral heads and we floated the chain to avoid them. We rounded the long shoal finger just inside of the Fakarava pass and exited easily even with 2 knots of incoming current. Outside the pass we put up the spinnaker and ghosted along slowly for an hour, then doused it and motored, then flew the spinnaker again just at dusk. So much work, this sailing life. Now we’re on the downhill run to Papeete. A little rain accompanied us along the way.
June 3rd, our second day on passage to Tahiti trailed behind us like our wake astern.At the end of my watch the wind died and the spinnaker sagged over the deck.I pulled it down and fired up the girls.We motored most of the day in zero wind.Really ZERO wind.The Pacific was glassy, and besides a few gentile rollers lifting the boat there was nothing but our forward motion courtesy of the diesels.The wind filled in come evening, and just before dinner we were again sailing, now on a beam reach.A cargo ship, the Chiquita according to the AIS, steamed by us off our starboard at 18 knots, coming within a half mile.We haven’t seen a real ship in months!
Liza and Felix caught a tuna and cleaned it for dinner!We put it with rice and veggies and sat on deck watching the sky afterwards. Miranda spent some time digging coral out of her knees from kiteboarding into and through the coral ‘bommies’ in Fakarava. Much easier if you just go over them.
Now it’s another gorgeous, cloudless night sailing under a full moon bright enough to put charge through the solar panels!
Sighted Tahiti the morning of June 4th.The tall green of the island and its massive dimension contrast starkly with the low, tiny motus of the atolls we’ve been frequenting.It’s pretty amazing to think that there were islands like Tahiti on all of those atolls, once tall and green, now ground into sand and swept out to sea as the coral reefs build into low motu and remain.Pretty neat geographical evolution.You can really see the scale of geologic time.Don’t blink.
The wind built steadily throughout the night.This morning I woke to the pleasantly rocky ride associated with good wind.We’re up to 15 knots of wind abeam and are nicely making way, topping out at 8 knots.The boat hums happily with a low vibration when we approach hull speed.Feels good to be moving fast; I’m humming too.Funny how one’s mood is so synced with that of the boat.She’s like another entity among us.Like I need one more female personality aboard!(kidding, kidding!)
Cumulous clouds cap the verdant peaks as we round the north side of the island. Eventually buildings spring into view and other boats bounce along the choppy sea. We prepare for making port. Just before we pass between the (backwards) navigational buoys we called the harbor control and were given clearance to enter the port. Were they going to fire cannons at us if we didn’t call? We sidled up to a finger pier in the new municipal marina that’s still under construction without incident, despite my rusty docking skills. I think we just sailed to Tahiti.
Well I was hoping to like Panama City more than Colón, but while the city itself is nicer, the anchorage kind of sucks. It’s packed and every five minutes a tug, pilot boat, or tourist barge throws enough wake through the anchorage to knock things off tables and annoy the piss out of you after a while. Also, the area has 4 or 5 meter tides, and heavy current associated with them. Everyone’s boat reacts differently to wind and current, so at some point in the changing tides various boats are feathered in different directions and don’t lay nicely threatening collisions.
Our first night a holler yanked me out of a deep slumber and I was on deck and fending off a boat before I was actually awake. Pulled in some chain and stayed up watching the boat doing a devil spiral like our wind generator. In the span of an hour the boat swung stern to wind, right across our stern, spun at the end of its chain, caught the wind with its hull and sailed through to the other end of its chain before flipping back around and being carried by current back toward us. Freaky. I slept on deck with one eye open.
Shipped Liza and Felix off to see their friends and do some surfing.Also brought the dinghy motor in to be service by Manuel, who works for Tohatsu motors.Our dinghy has gone from annoying to completely non-functional in the past few weeks and rowing in the hot Panama sun has been less than fun.
He started it up, as best one can do that these days, and diagnosed a ruptured fuel pump. We left the motor with him and took off an hour later bound for Las Perlas! The Las Perlas island chain is located a nice 35-mile sail from Panama City, and it was a great way to escape our less than desirable anchorage in the city.
Pretty good sailing with Mom and Denny in 15 knots of wind on a broad reach. Never thought I’d be able to share this experience with Mom. Thank you Scopolamine patches.God bless pharmaceuticals. Also cool to hear Denny’s sailing stories.
About two hours in we got a bit on my new squid lure! Denny and I hauled in a 5 pound tuna! My first catch (that I landed)! Finally!
I think I’ve been using lures that are a bit too big. It was an exciting catch, and then we set to work intoxicating the fish with a shot of alcohol in the gills and a knife to the brain. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had a knife to the brain when I’ve been passing too much alcohol through my gills too. Impressive to see how many little squid and sardines were in this guy’s stomach.
The wind died along the way, so we motored to Pacheco, the northern most island, arriving just before sunset. The wind then picked up and the current ripped through the island cut. Plus it smelled like cormorant poop. I made the call to move one island south despite the oncoming dark. I’m glad we did though we had to maneuver through a mooring ball field before anchoring south of Contadora.
In the morning we moved south again to the cut between Chapera and Mogo Mogo. The name of the island was worth going in itself! We even got to dig out our spinnaker and try it out along the 5-mile trip.
Found ourselves a tall sandy beach to swim to and lounge in the shade. Eventually we made a game of throwing crab apples at crabs the scuttled along the beach. Then after smelling the apples and finding the pleasant, Miranda took a bite of one. It tasted like sweet apple, so we all followed suit with a small nip each. A few minutes later our mouths were all fiery and scratchy. Stupid move. It went away. But stupid move.
Really interesting to deal with the big tides. Didn’t sleep hard again as we spun and feathered in weird ways all through the night.
Bagels for breakfast! It’s interesting what sort of American goodies you can find in Panama thanks to the canal. I worked on the rudders and wired the LEDs for the new inverter. Took all morning, of course. We got suited up and snorkeled right around the boat. Couldn’t go far with no motor for the dinghy and high current. But we had great sea life despite the bland, sandy bottom. Five or ten big stingrays worked the bottom, and troops of puffer fish doted on them as they fluffed the sand. Two long, green eels free swimming on the bottom, a party of 100 starfish, schools of jacks and other fish all added to the fun. The water was surprisingly cold! We’ve been spoiled in the Caribbean!
Cocktail hour, dinner and cards on a calm starry evening rounded out the night.
Motored back from Las Perlas in calm seas back to the crowded, rolling, annoying anchorage of Panama City. Did my dissatisfaction come out just then? Spending a week prepping the boat for the push to Galapagos. Exciting times and a lot of work ahead!