Sailing The World's Oceans

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Saturday November 5th, 2011 - 17:52 Tonga Local Time “The Land Where Time Begins”

Tomorrow morning we’ll be leaving the land where time begins.  Destination Opau, New Zealand.  It’s about 1,080 nautical miles.  It should take us anywhere between 7 to 10 days.  We’re spending our last evening here at “Big Mamma’s” where Anna aka “Big Mamma” is throwing a BBQ for the cruisers.  Many of us are leaving here tomorrow as the weather window looks promising.

We’ve been waiting here for things to line up.  There is a dominant high pressure moving into the ocean between here and New Zealand.  On paper it appears we should have a nice crossing.  But you never know.  These longer legs can prove exhausting even when weather is perfect.  That’s why Randy is here.  To help me with this longer leg and he’ll be a great help in relieving the “fatigue factor”.

I have a lot to fill folks on about my time here in Tonga.  Being at “Big Mamma’s” has been one of my favorite stops so far.  She’s a wonderful person and we’ve shared much laughter being with her.  I will write about it during this passage.

I also wanted to add that the internet connections in Tonga have been terrible.  Much of the time there isn’t a signal strength to even get an e-mail out.  Actually since leaving Rarotonga I have not had any strong connections to allow me to upload photos.  I have so many pictures between here and there to share but they will all have to wait until we reach New Zealand and I have time to upload them properly to Brenda our webmaster.

Right now, I’m fairly relaxed about this crossing.  Possibly, that’s because Randy is here. It’s a great relief to have his help.  But there are also the normal mixed feelings of nervousness, excitement, anticipation but mostly the unknown of what lies beyond the horizon.

Jake will be sending position reports so check the “Where is Solstice” uplink and I will send an update as soon as I can from New Zealand.

Until then, much Aloha,


Saturday October 29th, 2011- 19:52 Tonga Local Time “The Land Where Time Begins”

We had a great sail to Tongatapu from Vava’u.  It blew about 20 knots consistently but I’m learning that Solstice with her sails reefed in properly really loves that blow.  She likes 12 knots of wind too, or should I say that I like 12 knots of wind.  This passage had our wind more forward of the beam (that’s the mid-section of the boat for you landlubbers) than most of our other passages, which have been mostly aft of the beam. 

With Randy aboard my time off was much more relaxed.  I don’t know if single-handing is easier or harder than with two.  The big difference is that when you are by yourself you don’t really have time to relax.  Anytime you try and lay down you are on edge because you feel anxious about leaving the boat to sail herself.  With somebody else on watch you can lay down and go to sleep with knowing that there are capable eyes topsides makingsure that all is well and that the boat isn’t sailing into a ship or a reef.  The drawback when there are two you are on a set watch schedule.  Knowing that you have to stay awake before you can be relieved I often find myself fighting through the fatigue trying to stay awake until I’m relieved.  When I’m single-handing, I go lay down when I’m tired.  You don’t have to wait for somebody to relieve you.  Of course there is another type of fatigue as a result of getting so much less sleep but it’s different.   So at this point I don’t know which is easier.  Both present their challenges in different ways.  I will have a much better idea after this crossing to New Zealand of which I prefer.

Currently I’m in Tongatapu out by a small motu (reef fringing island) called Pangiamotu at a bar/restaurant called “Big Mamma’s”.  Jake and Jackie decided to go to the inner harbor where they were more sheltered and also where it is more convenient to provision and take care of things in town.  When we were here 13 years ago rats ran ramped along the stone wharf there so I elected to not stay there this time. 

Pangiamotu is a little islet that is like going back in time.  As I’m writing this I’m sitting at a table with an oil lantern on a deck that sits atop the sea.  The sun set about an hour and a half ago and on this Saturday night the few patrons that were here left about an hour ago.  There is a lapping sea that is hypnotic and the radio is playing old songs from the early 60’s.  I just heard a beautiful rendition of the bosa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema” followed by the theme song to “Taxi”.  I’m sipping a very fruity, but good, Savignon Blanc.  Great wine has been difficult to come by since leaving California.  I’m hopeful that that will change when we get to New Zealand.

Pangiamotu (which means Royal Island) is beautiful and has a relaxed almost Hemingway-esqueness about it.  A thatched roof over a deck that stands on stilts over the water shows a lovely view of the cruising boats anchored just off the beach.  The rusted out bow of a sunken ship juts out of the water at a 45 degree angle about 15 yards off the beach.  It looks like a Hollywood production designer placed it there.  In reality, a cyclone sunk the ship back in 1982.  It’s one of many rusted out hulls and sunken ships here in Tonga.  It’s also a reminder of the power of the sea and what’s she’s capable of. 

It’s been great to be here as I’ve been in a strange mood the last couple of days.  That I think has to do with this next passage.  Traditionally this passage has proven very challenging for many a sailor.  I’ve also talked to many a world traveling sailors and more often than not they all confirm that the sea between New Zealand and Australia is the hardest they’ve ever traveled.  We’re not crossing directly between those two on this passage but we’re sailing right through the heart of the Southern Ocean.  So I think I’m in the mode of “Okay, let’s go.  The time is now.  I’m ready, Solstice is ready, and though I can’t speak for Randy, he’s aboard and seems ready too.  So let’s go.”

We’ve been listening over the radio too of other boats that we know that already left for New Zealand.  Some left a couple of weeks ago and they all had a good crossing while others who left only a few days ago have found themselves in 45 knots of wind and 15 foot seas.  One boat was knocked down, another blew out it’s mainsail, while another has taken on a considerable amount of water.  All have been beaten up pretty good.  But so far nobody is hurt and all are still making way and are getting close.

So we’ve been waiting for the right time and what looks like the best weather window.

We have a few last minute items to buy for the crossing.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, some meats, eggs, bread, paper towels, etc. etc. We’re going to try and cook some meals too before heading out so that all we have to do is heat them up once we’re at sea.  This is always a good plan.  We’ve come up with a good menu.  Beef stew with garlic bread, a tomato based meat pasta with fresh vegetables and a baked chicken with rice and stir fry veggies.  We eat well aboard Solstice.  I’m also learning that Randy is quite good in the galley.  That’s always a bonus.

Personally, I’m ready to leave Tonga.  I’m excited to come back here next year and spend some more time but right now I’m ready to get to New Zealand and stay put for a couple of months.  Don’t get me wrong “Big Mamma’s” is wonderful.  And Big Mamma is probably exactly as you would imagine her.  She’s an islander that stands about 5’5”, smokes cigarettes with a long deep slow inhale and exhale.  Between drags on her cigarette she swears in a way that would make any long shoreman proud.  She’s perfectly plump and round.  Though in the US she’d be considered very overweight, here in Tonga they say she’s really “only a medium sized Mamma.”

“I’m a Big Mamma in training.”  Big Mamma rocks back in her chair, tilts her head back and lets out a loud cackle and rocks back and forth in her chair.

She’s quite the character and she makes everybody laugh.  Tues they are celebrating a birthday party for the bar/restaurant.  It will be 9 years old.  It’s supposed to be quite the party.  I will be sure to fill you in on the details.

Until then.

Much Aloha,


Tuesday October 25th, 2011 - 10:59 Tonga Local Time “The Land Where Time Begins”

The northern group in Tonga is filled with 34 thickly forested, elevated limestone islands.  Only 21 of them are inhabited and most of them sparsly inhabited.  We’ve spent the bulk of our time here in the main island of Niafu.  The past 10 days have been spent readying Solstice for the NZ crossing and hanging out and meeting other cruisers and watching the rugby world cup.  They are mad about the New Zealand All Blacks in this part of the world.

We haven’t had enough time to meet locals and hang out with them as most of my time has been spent doing boat related things.

It has been great being among other cruisers who have quickly become new friends.  Througout a lot of our trek through the South Pacific so far I’ve felt like we were behind the pack of cruisers making their way through the different island nations.  That has all changed.  We’ve run into many here in Tonga all awaiting to head South to New Zealand.  We’re no exception.

We left the main city of Neiafu yesterday and are anchored at one of the many uninhabited islands called  Vaka’eitu (prounounced Vah-Kah-EE-Too).  Vaka means canoe in Tongan.  I’m not sure what eitu means, maybe island.  We’re among seven other boats anchored in this beautiful place.  The island is thickly forested with a small jungle like interior.  The jungle goes all the way to the shore in most places except for a few small pristine beaches.  And they are beautiful.

Since we’re planning on being back in this part of the world we let Randy pick an anchorage he’d like to see.  He chose this one.  He chose well.

We’re here for just today as we’re heading south for Tongatapu at dawn tomorrow.  We’ve finally shifted gears and though we may have a few days lay over in Tongatapu we are in “time to leave mode”. 

It’s my understanding that the 1000 mile plus journey to New Zealand from Tonga can be a challenging one weather-wise.  Watching weather and picking the right time to go is crucial.  The low pressure systems that march across this part of the South Pacific can pack a serious punch.  Our plan is to watch weather like a hawk and then go when we get a good window.

Because of that Solstice has to be ready to go at a moments notice.  And she is.  I’m ready too.  That’s what much of the time spent in Neiful was all about and why you haven’t gotten many new updates.  Well that and the fact that the internet in Neiafu is terrible.  I’ve gotten Solstice’s oil changed, rig tuned, fixed some boat hardware and gone over everything.  Mentally, I’ve gotten myself too into “passage making” mode.  But with that said, the normal things still come up.  For one, I’m going to sea with somebody I’ve never been to sea with.  I do believe it will all go great.  Randy has been a friend and neighbor the last few years.  I’m also learning that he’s an amazing cook.  He also is a sailor who has a lot of ocean experience.  Both great things.

I’m also looking forward to the fact that I can go below “to catch some shut-eye” as Captain Ron says, while capable eyes are on watch.

As for now, I’m enjoying the peace of this beautiful anchorage, trying to rest up and am awaiting dawn.  Then we’ll pull anchor and head South to Tongatapu.  That’s about 167 nautical miles from where we are.  I hope to be there in about 30 hours time if we get the right wind.  We’re leaving early to insure a daylight arrival.  My next update will be from Tongatapu, the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga, The Land Where Time Begins.


Much Aloha,


Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:15 Tonga Local Time “The Land Where Time Begins”

Randy arrived in Tonga about a day and a half after we did.  It’s been great having him aboard and catching up with him about all the things going on back home.

I still have some major items to take care of before we head off to New Zealand.  I know too that I’m very behind on updating about how it was in Niue so I will go back to that here.  First a history lesson.

In 1774 Captain James Cook was sailing in the South Pacific on his second voyage from England.  He was more than 200 nautical miles east of the Vava’u Group of Tonga when he came upon a remote coral island.  On three different occasions and at three different locations Cook  tried to make landfall but according to Cook’s own account he and his men were driven back to sea by island warriors “with the ferocity of wild Boars.”  There was also something different about these islanders that Cook had not encountered before – the warriors sneered and brandished their teeth, which had been painted red.  This intimidating reception led Cook to not only sail away and abandon any further attempts at a landfall, but prompted him to name the place “Savage Island.”  This ominous name would stick with the island and, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, would keep sailors away from these shores for many, many years. 

I thought about this story as I sat in the cockpit of Solstice and looked at the incredible beauty that surrounded the island and the harbor.  The water was crystal clear and shafts of sunlight danced in giant spirals beneath the surface which gave an angelic feel to the water.  A completely different experience of when Captain Cook was here 234 years ago aboard his ship Resolution.  Things have changed since then.  I wondered too how much they had changed since I had been here 13 years ago.

 “Niue” (pronounced new-eee) a much less threatening name than “Savage Island”.  means “behold the coconut tree.”  I laughed at the name thinking that these must have been the first words uttered by the people who landed on the island.  Some big Polynesian sailing canoe filled with people landed on the beach and the great navigator who got them there stood on the shore and thrust his arm to the tree on the beach and yelled “Behold the Coconut Tree” or in the Polynesian language yelled “NIUE!”  And that became the name of the island.  At least that’s what my imagination thought how Niue got its name.

We moored off the western shore near the town of Alofi.  Moorings were here when we were here 13 years ago.  In fact, only Niue really had moorings back then.  That’s why they are in such great shape.  They are regularly maintained, not like in Palmerston.  The Niue Yacht Club takes care of them.  Their slogan is “The biggest little Yacht Club in the World”.  They don’t even own a boat.  Keith, who runs the yacht club, was one of the first people we met.  In his late 50’s with a portly mid section and a jovial smile he has a warm and welcoming soul.  He’s a Kiwi and he’s been here about 11 years.  He also seems to deeply care about the island.

Niue is different than any other island we’ve been too.  Just landing the dinghy is different.  There’s no dock or beach to land as the the surf can be rough and surging and the coastline offers no good beach landing.  So they have a crane to haul your dinghy up and basically you set it in a parking lot.  You have to make sure you tie a good bridle for your dinghy.   Once the bridal is secured to the giant clip you raise your dinghy out of the sea with the push of a button.  It sounds simple but it’s really kind of a pain in the butt.  But that’s the way it’s done here in Niue.

Niue is an uplifted atoll of coral and limestone with almost no silt or sand on the surrounding shores.  Because of the porosity of the land there are no rivers on the island and the rain that falls is immediately absorbed into the ground.  There is a giant lense of fresh water under Niue.  I think it’s only a matter of time before some water company moves in and starts producing “Niue” water the same as they do with “Fiji” water.  This water escapes to the sea t and escapes to the sea through underground channels.  It is clean, drinkable and delicious.  And because of Niue’s remoteness, that lense of water and the surrounding ocean is some of the clearest and cleanest water in the world.

Alofi is filled with sun bleached buildings and coconut groves scattered atop rocky cliffs overlooking the bay where Solstice was moored.  Interwoven within this intimate setting are stores, a museum, a post office, churches and an art gallery featuring the work of Mark Cross, an extraordinary artist living the life of a modern day Paul Gauguin.

Diving in Niue is known for sea snakes or “Katuali” (pronounced cah-too-ah-lee) as the locals call them.  Finding them is no great feat, they’re like fish, they’re everywhere..  These black and white banded reptiles are among the most venomous animals on earth.  But that’s a misnomer, their teeth are so tiny that the only place they can bite you too deliver a lethal dose of venom is either on the ear lobes or on the soft tender skin between the fingers. 

 Jake and I did a dive with the “Niue Dive Shop”.  It was run by a wonderful Australian couple.  Niue’s water was as clear and as spectacular as it was the last time we were here.  We went to a place that is affectionately referred to as “Snake Gully”.   The caves and chasms that lay beneath the ocean’s surface here are amazing  You could spend a lifetime and not see it all.  We only had a few days time in Niue as we needed to move west.  Like Tonga, we’re planning to come back and spend more time in Niue next year.

The visibility was vast and crisp like a bright fall day in the High Sierras.  There seemed to be no limit to how far I could see.  Green and blue mushroom corals ten feet round were scattered across the bottom and marched off towards the deeper blue.  Every now and then one of the mushroom tops would come to life and soar effortlessly away from us over the sea floor revealing itself to be a sea turtle perfectly camouflaged against its environment.  Octagonal shafts of refracted sunlight sparkled to every corner of the sea floor as if the sun above were shining through a large kaleidoscope creating a rainbow dance of light and color for all the creatures below.  We dove with with another cruising couple from Austria, David and Sonja.  Our little school of five divers moved through what looked like dark ribbons spiraling downward.  They were the sea snakes and they moved as if in slow motion cascading all around.  A closer look revealed more sea snakes breaking free from the ocean floor and side-winding towards the surface.  They breathe air so they have to go to the surface after about 30 minutes.  They moved with a grace and elegance as they passed one another, some on their way to the surface while others descended back to the depths.  They were indeed everywhere and their relaxed and gentle motion seemed to reflect an almost hypnotic demeanor that melted into my being.  Diving in Niue is one of the most relaxed places I’ve ever dove.  There is something wonderfully peaceful about the energy surrounding the island and the waters. 

On the ocean floor heaps of sea snakes lay intertwined and wrapped amongst themselves in large living meatballs, some the size of a basketball.  These reptilian balls were strewn in almost every crack and crevice of the reef.  Every now and again one of these balls slithered to life and the snakes began to uncoil themselves from one another.   They are true reptiles and they wrapped themselves up in these ball-like gatherings on the ocean floor for warmth.  At least that’s what they told us.  I don’t know if anybody knows that for sure.  Maybe Jaques Cousteau.

Closer to the island the cliffs thrust down into the water and spread out in large ridgelines and chasms with spanning arches and hidden caves.  Sea fans stretched out amongst purple, red and white anemones all vying for a taste of plankton.  Peering from hidden crevices and cracks in the walls were the eyes of timid sheepshead and lobster.  They watched cautiously as we floated by and dropped into an adjacent chasm and soared under a spanning archway.  It was a fantastic display of the ocean at her best with everything swaying, breathing, living and dying in a harmony surrounded by a great sense of peace.  But this amazing dive was only a small part of what Niue offers as an island.

The landscape of Niue’s shores are as spectacular as the ocean that surrounds her.  The next day we rented a car and brought along our friends Heinz and Sylvia.  Another Austrian couple, well he’s from Austria and she’s originally from England but has been in Austria for near 40 years.  They’re sailing around the world on their catamaran named “Mambo”.   Sweet and kind they were a wonderful addition to Jake, Jackie and I.  We drove to the northwest end of the island to Matapa Chasm.

Matapa (pronounced Mah-top-Ah) Chasm was a short walk from the road through thick jungle with a coral floor.  It ends by the sea and back in the day it was the ancient swimming hole of kings and royalty.  Along this path ancient kings and queens had been carried upon bamboo palettes to these sacred waters where only they were allowed to swim.  The roar of the surf floated up along the road and greeted us but as we approached I noticed something strange.  The waters were tranquil along the rocky shore.  I stopped along the shoreline, which was one end of a chasm that had been carved into the likeness of an Olympic sized swimming pool.  Seventy-five foot high limestone walls flanked either side of the pool and at the opposite end a huge boulder was wedged perfectly into the chasm, which blocked the opening to the sea.  On the ocean side, the boulder stood strong as the waves smashed against it.  The sea was knocked down to a gentle flow and rushed around either side of the boulder and filled the pool.  The limestone walls stretched so far upward that they blocked out the sky, leaving only one section above that matched the width of the pool.  The sky pulsed with intense shades of blue and violet in the upper atmosphere and made me feel as if I would be electrocuted if I touched it.  The air turned cool and a wisp of wind slipped into the chasm, across the water and chilled my bones.  We had swam here many years ago and I wanted to once again.  We brought our bathing suits and Jake, Heinz and I all went in.  Jackie and Sylvia were content to enjoy the morning at the picnic table that was set there for tourtist.  I don’t think it was there for the Kings and Queens many years before.

The water washed over me as I immersed myself and once again I was one with the ancient Kings.  The pool dropped deep immediately and I swam out towards the middle.  An upwelling of coldness from beneath swept around me in a surge.  An influx of freshwater flowed up from an underground river and floated to the surface of the pool.  The fresh water that the island absorbed had traveled through a subterranean river and met the sea here at Matapa Chasm.  I looked down and could see the lens of fresh water laying atop the seawater.  Between these separate bodies of water where the salt and fresh water mixed, a weird blur distorted and refracted images as heat does rising from the asphalt of a desert road.   When you dive deep down below you not only swim through this blur but the water temperature changes drastically from the cold freshwater to the warmth of the ocean.  The visibility was beautiful.

I floated on my back and stared up at the sky and the looming chasm walls.  There is something magical about a place where freshwater meets the sea and the building blocks of life are stirred into existence.  I let myself go and took it all in.  I could feel the spirits of the ancient warriors line the edge of the chasm walls above and stare down at me.  Here I was, a palangi (as the islanders refer to us foreigners) from north of the equator, swimming amongst their kings in the sanctity of these waters.  I imagined these warriors tossing aside their war clubs and jumping in to join me in an array of swan dives, backflips, gainers and cannonballs.  A smile spread warmed my heart at the thought.

That evening Heinz and Sylvia invited us over to a happy hour aboard Mambo.  I loved the name of their boat.  I imagined them doing the dance as they sailed.  We discussed the magic of Niue and watched the sunset slip over the edge of the sea.  We also discussed cruising and why we were out here in the first place.  One of the most beautiful things about cruising is the people you meet along your journey and Heinz and Sylvia are no exception.

Heinz made a statement that rang very true to my heart about cruising.  Like Jake and I, many years earlier Heinz took a year off and sailed around the Caribbean from Europe.

“I remember that year of my life more than any other.  So I think that that is life for me.  That all the other years I don’t remember so well.  So I must go sailing again,” he said in his broken English.

As he spoke and explained his emotions about cruising I felt as if his words were spoken by me.  That’s what brought me out here too.  The trip 13 years ago was by far the most vivid of my life.  These last 6 months have been that way too.  Life is different out here and I see the world through another set of eyes.  There is a sense of living on the fringe that requires one to be alert at all times.  Back home I often felt that the every day routine of life just melted into one week after another.  Before I knew it 6 months would pass or even a year in a blur.  Don’t get me wrong.  Life hasn’t sucked or been boring for me from the first trip and this one.  It’s been incredible at times and some of the best years of my life have been in the past 13 years.  It’s just different.  Being out here requires that you are more “awake” for lack of a better term.  The wind shifts and you’re aware of it.  The seas build and you take notice.  And when you’re somewhere new that you’ve never been before you look at it with the eyes of purity, innocents and wonder.  Like a little kid seeing something new.  Simply you’re more alive.  It’s wonderful. 

The islanders call Niue “The Rock of the Pacific”.  It is one of the world’s largest coral islands.  But it is much more than a rock; it is a jewel, as magnificent as an emerald, a diamond, a ruby, and a sapphire all swirled into one brilliant explosion of the living sea.  A magical island filled with everything the imagination can conjure up from the celebrated lore of the South Seas.

I left there for Tonga with a smile in my heart because I know that we’re planning another summer in these South Pacfific islands next year and next year I will be back in Niue.  Until then, I bid Niue a fine farewell and was off to Tonga “The friendly Islands”.

Much Aloha,


Monday October 10th or Tuesday October 11th, 2011 - 06:17  Crossing day #3 from Niue to Vava’U Tonga

I’m exhausted.  The last night in Niue was sleepless because of an incredibly rolly anchorage.  The last two nights out here have been sleepless because I’m single handing.  Vava’U (pronounced vah-vow-ewe but all the yachties pronounce it wrong and call it Vah-Vow) is only a few miles off the port bow.  We’re leaving the most northern edge to port and will sail down to the entrance into the reef on the Westside of the island.  The sun is just starting to rise in the east and the sky is filled with deep grey cumulous clouds.  We’re right under the southern pacific tropical zone.  It moves about shifting from place to place and once again it has moved back west over top of us.  This band of unstable air creates a lot of thunderstorms and unsettled weather.  Because of that and because of nearing the isalnds in the early morning I’ve felt it necessary to stay up and alert.  I’ve tried to grab a few minutes rest here and there but mostly I’ve just laid in the bunk with my eyes wide open and my insides pulsed with an anxiousness that this situation presents.  Just get there safe, nobody get hurt and nothing get broken.  That’s been my moto lately.

The cool thing about this leg is that we sailed or are sailing into tomorrow.  Technically the international dateline is at 180 degrees longitude.  Tonga is actually at about 175 degrees West longitude.  Technically this should still be Monday.  But because the “Kingdom of Tonga” wanted to be the first country to enter the new millinuem they changed their time zone so that they are the first country to see every new day.  I’m watching the sunrise for today Tuesday October 11th, 2011 before anybody else on earth because I’m here still east of the island and I’m out here at sea with nobody else.  Well almost, Hokule’a is watching the same sunrise too.  Together we’re watching this day October 11th, 2011 begin before anybody in the world.  After all, Tonga’s tag line is “Tonga.  Where Time Begins.” 

I wanted to make a quick note to mark my arrival.  We have to navigate within the reef so it will still be a few hours before we get in.  I also wanted to write something to help keep me awake.

The fatigue factor is definitely the hardest thing about single handing.  And of course doing everything on your own.  I will write more about what this entails.  As for now I need to sail the boat.  Until then.

Much Aloha,


Saturday October 8th, 2011- 13:23 Crossing from Niue to Vava’U Tonga

We left Niue after a little over two hours ago.  We had an incredible 6 days there.  Before I get into Niue though I want to wrap up my crossing to Niue from Palmerston.

We rolled out the jib and shut off the engine soon after getting away from the reef in Palmerston.  It was great to be at sea.  The hardest part about this crossing was the unexpected departure which as a result meant that there was no time to rest from the previous crossing.  I went back out to sea as exhausted as when I had arrived. 

Over the next few days we had whales, gales and rainbows.  We struggeled to stay on course and keep the sails filled with wind.  Small squalls rolled by and most of the time their approach sucked the wind out of the atmosphere and the sails.  Just when we’d recover from the one squall and start sailing again another one would move in and suck the wind out of the air.  Over and over it grew frustrating.  We were actually sailing through the South Pacific Convergence Zone.  This is a squall-ridden area in the southern hemisphere that is similar to the Intertropical Convergence Zone north of the equator.  It’s filled with unstable air masses and unpredictable weather phenomenon.  In fact it is the spawning ground for cyclones in the South Pacific during the summer.

Finally we got a little consistent wind and Solstice sailed along nicely at about 6.5 knots.  We were on a starboard tack when the wind died again.  Only this time the shut off presented a more unusual calm.  There was also a lot of clouds in the area but nothing that looked too ominous.  But then things are not always as they appear.  Hokule’a was about a mile ahead as I had been becalmed quite frequently when they some how had avoided the wind shut offs that I was experiencing.  Different squalls moved by each boat differently and at different times and created different wind patterns for each of us even though we were relatively close together.

“Hokule’a, Hokule’a, Solstice,” I called on channel 16.

“Hey Bill you want to go to one, seven?” he replied.

“One, seven,” I switched channels.  “Hey Jake have you guys lost your wind up there?”

“No not really but it is starting to move forward.  SHIT!  I GOTTA GO WE’RE GETTING’ HIT WITH A MAJOR BLOW!” Jake hollered.

“No problem.  I’ll be standing by on one, six,” I said.

There was no reply.  I put the radio down and I went back up to the cockpit.  My handheld radio had crapped out a couple of weeks earlier so every time I needed to use the VHF I had to go below to use the ships radio at the nav-station.  Back on deck the sea was glassy all around.  The jib fluttered back and forth with the motion of the boat with each swell.  It was really just hanging there.

A major blow?  I thought.  There’s nothing out here.  Dead calm.

I looked to the distance to where Hokule’a was.  I didn’t see anything particularly strange about the sea.  But something wasn’t right.  I went over to the roller furling line for the jib and untied it.  I easily rolled it all the way up at a leisurely pace.  Once rolled in I secured it on the cleat.  I looked up at the mainsail.  I already had a reef in the main which gave me comfort.  I took out the binoculars and….

BAM!  WHOOSH!!!  30 knots suddenly hit Solstice’s port side.  With no jib rolled out and a good reef in the main she just sort of leaned hard to starboard, locked in and we started sailing along at 6.5 to 7 knots.  The seas were flat and had a strange calm about them that didn’t suit 30 knots of wind.  But it was perfectly flat and we sailed away comfortably.

Thank God for Jake’s warning, I thought.  A half hour later the wind laid back down to 20 knots.  An hour after that we sailed under a dark cloud bank that showed a brilliant clear sky on the other side with the beginnings of a beautiful sunset ahead.  Solstice and I sailed under the dark canopy and into a spectacular sky and sparking sea filled with brilliant blues, deep reds and golds and a shimmering sea with sunburst sprinkled across the surface.  It was some of the most beautiful sailing I’ve had yet.

The next 24 hours gave us perfect winds.  The last 10 hours we fired up the engine to give us enough speed to make Niue before darkness.  We arrived right as the sun kissed the horizon and I picked up a mooring and had the boat buttoned up well before dark.  The moorings here looked strong, secure and brand new.  The polar opposite than what we had in Palmerston.  It was wonderful to be back in Niue.  And a chance to get some much needed sleep in a calm anchorage.

Much Aloha,






Solstice Log