SKIE'S THE LIMIT

Beach shack. Bahia de los Muertos (bay of the dead)
Carnival - La Paz
The Mexicans love their artwork - stunning sculpture La Paz promenade.
This Nordhavn 75 was on the bottom a week before this after a post fitted thru hull failed. Nothing to do with the builders PAE
OSTAR - reputedly owned by the worlds richest man. Is this maybe only the tender?
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Nuka Hiva, French Polynesia

Melbourne, Australia, October 9th, 2012

I think that this sure to be my last entry, and all good things must come to a close. The site has been completely put together by myself using the wonderful tools provided by Talkspot. However they have been modifying things over the past 5 years and I am struggling a bit with the new sophistication, so things have gone a little amiss as you probably notice.

SKIE is sitting at Abel Point Marina in our beautiful Whitsunday islands, and tomorrow she gets a new master. We have engaged John Thomley as our skipper to run the boat, hopefully sell her, and move up to a N78 that we have done a deal on subject to SKIE being sold. Engaging John was Margaret's idea as she believes running the boat is too stressful for me and that I should sit back and just enjoy where it will take us. I don't agree about the stress, but she is right about the responsibility side of it. John crossed most of the Pacific with me and accompanied Marg and I from San Diego (where John lives) to La Paz Mx. He is an outstanding person and mariner, and we are looking forward to being with him again.

Margaret and I have just returned from Europe after a month of mainly leisure. Two weeks of this was in Murcurey in Burgundy, France, where I picked up paint brushes for the first time in 51 years and completed 8 paintings. Not sure it will continue but glad I revisited it out of curiosity.

So to sum up all I can say is I have knocked another item off my bucket list, and learnt to be a reasonably competent mariner starting off 5 years ago with nil experience whatsoever, and completely self taught and educated by just gaining experience through miles under the keel (30,000 nm)

People I would like to thank are firstly my great travelling companions and crew who have helped me move the boat around. They have all been so supportive, some great cooks, some great drinkers, and some great fishermen. Too many names to mention of course.

Special thanks to Cindy Diettrich in Tahiti who not only handled our customs clearance, but gave me the peace of mind to leave the boat in Tahiti for a year, knowing she was looking after her.

PAE the builders of Nordhavn's must be commended for the integrity that they built into their boats, and I wish them all success for the future.

Technical help and support came from so many other Nordhavn owners, Dave Harlow from PAE, and the Guru of marine diesels in the US - Bob Senter, who with Dave was standing by with full and attentive support always.

Finally the "Missus". Margaret has always allowed me to do my selfish things and has always said I deserved to after working so hard building a very successful business, so without her support and love it all might have just been a dream.

SKIE, or the new SKIE will now become a holiday home for us, and will be a wonderful platform for exploring in great depth the most interesting place I have ever seen on my travels - The apple Ilse - Tasmania. Dramatically changing scenery, fabulous food and people, and an overnight ferry or an hour by plane from home in Melbourne. What more can you ask for?

 

 Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia April 22nd, 2012.

 Time to go home after 12 months tied up at the Marina Taina, Papeete, Tahiti. The balance of the Pacific crossing is circa 3,500 nm, and we are on a delivery trip to the best country in the world – bar none.  Home is where the heart is of course, but us lucky Aussies have riches in spades in just about every respect.

I’m now too old and very impatient to do so much more in life, so this is a purposeful trip to get just get home. Will miss being uplifted by the beautiful people, always smiling, no aspirations at all for anything that we hold as a norm, but won’t miss other aspects such as boring anchorages all looking the same.

 Our first port call after 4 days was Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to visit Richard Barton and his wife Willi. Richard had us playing croquet on the lawn of their beautiful waterfront home, nice meals, and down to the Yacht Club for Sunday afternoon sport – racing miniature radio controlled yachts around the lagoon. I managed to drown mine, but pledged to do this in the future. All the fun of sailing without getting wet, and your competitor can hear every bit of abuse you throw at them. “Mast abeam”, on a leeward mark in a polite voice, and a response of “rubbish, or bullshit”

 

 

On the side of the road in Raratonga, Richard and John purloin provisions to fight off any scurvy.

Further on from the Cooks we visited VavaU in northern Tonga, and spent 3 days at Port Denarau in Lautoka, Fiji. This was a nice marina and had a Jazz and Blues festival on at the time, but can’t figure out how so many rockers made the bill.

An interesting experience happened here when we fueled. We were at a day ferry fixed wharf and had to fill up before the ferries returned from an excursion out to the Islands. When we take on a lot of fuel we have to alternate tanks being filled every 500 litres (this time we needed 6000 litres) because we start to list badly, but this wasn’t strangely noticeable until we found we were actually hanging off the fixed wharf by a dock line, and reckoned I cut the rope just before it would have exploded.

Fiji I have been to many times when the kids were young, but in spite of political coups going on all the time, it is the best country in the Pacific without question because of the beautiful islands, and guess what – they speak English.

Our last stop on the voyage before home was Port Vila on Efate Island in Vanuatu, just 6 days from far north Queensland, our destination.  Here we enjoyed catching up with a great French family, Marc Besson, his wife Constance, and two young boys, Alexi and Nicco, who have recently sold their 70’ pilot house sailing boat, to a Taswegian of all people. They have decided to settle in Port Vila until the boys need more serious schooling in a few years.

I tied up next to these guys in Cairns Marina three years ago on my Oz circumnavigation, and we hit it off really well. Marc, for a Frenchman, has an Aussie sense of humour and took us to a wine shop that carried a brand that he say’s was named after him – “Arrogant Frog”. Marc was a merchant banker at the highest level in London, and every night he trades – from home, in a completely tax free paradise.

 As I write this I’m listening to that great singer of songs for people that go to sea – Eileen Quinn. She sums it all up perfectly with complete honesty, revealing in clever verse the ups and downs of cruising the world in a pleasure boat. One that brings a tear to Marg’s eye is about “Grandma & Grandpa – went to sea” sung from a grandchilds point of view and says’ “when will they see me”

 

John with our first Mahi Mahi, taken between Tahiti and Raratonga 

Back to the vessel SKIE. She let out her final demonstration of vengeance for being neglected for so long, and told her full compliment of batteries (17) to expire 12 hours before lines were slipped in Tahiti to head home. Five years is what you are told to expect from your Lifeline AGM batteries, and the five years had ticked over almost to the day. What an absolute bummer.

This means that we source electrical power via the main engine alternator when it is running, the generator, or shore power, which will be scarce until we get home and await our full compliment of batteries from the (US $10,000 worth) Ouch! If I bought the same batteries in Oz, just double the price. I’ve often vowed I would like to become a consumers advocate one day, and being a retailer who only imports, I know the ropes and numbers down to a dollar. I’m aware that carrying stock needs some margin, but not carrying it, and charging the margin is highway robbery, borne from the big boat owners who have far more money than sense.

Whilst on the subject, if you take a boat to sea and wish to have a job done – get an itemized quote down to the finest detail – and never leave the boats side as it ‘s being done. It will be rare to see a final price that isn't substantially more than the quote. Before I left for Alaska I had the boat hauled on the Gold coast for a full workover e.g. antifoul, cut and polish, etc. I stayed on the boat and scrutinised every job being done, and presumed my prescence kept everyone on their toes.

 However the final job was an interior clean, expected to take one day, so headed off home south to Melbourne. When I found a bill to do this clean turned out to be $4500, I gained a powerful lesson. In the business world, and particularly from Lawyers, this is called "papering the file". The company that did all the work on my boat probably wondered why a N55 booked in with them that had just arrived from Europe for a full workover, finished up in an opposition yard.

Current issues we have at time of writing is a faulty stop solenoid on the generator, and a sticking float on the low water bilge pump that needs a tap with a hammer to shut off. This is piddling normal boat stuff, and I have gone through the past five years virtually free from any major issue. When my original salesman Brad Smith from Nordhavn said that Dave Harlow the project manager would build me a great boat – he was right.

Now to the deep confession that I’m a typical Nordhavn owner that has a wing engine (emergency) that is treated like a poor relation, i.e. it’s never used. Firstly heading down to Mexico I started her up but she wasn’t dispelling any raw water from the exhaust, and overheated. The intake valve from the seachest was calcified and as tight as a fish’s arsehole, which we know is watertight. Next time was in Tahiti when we found that the huge raw water exhaust elbow was clogged shut with calcium deposits also. Next time we started the wing up just out of Tonga, the packing in the stuffing box seized to the shaft and we had the stuffing gland rotating at 1500 rpm in sync with the shaft.

Our secret weapon on board was Johnny Thomley who is worse than a dog with a bone, when fixing anything, and nothing will beat him – nothing. From diving overboard to stuffing rag into the shaft aperture so we won’t sink, to lying on his guts in the engine room for hours picking out rock hard packing, we (sorry he) finally got it fixed, but won’t test it finally until we get much closer to home.

If I ever had another boat I would have hydraulics off this wing engine for anchor deployment/retrieval, anchor washdown, and thrusters, so this poor relation engine can be exercised as it was built to do.

Main engine (God bless it) has over 4400 hours and the wing 48 hrs, which is sheer neglect on my part.

We are currently heading for Airley Beach via MacKay  (Customs clearance) just south of the wonderful Whitsunday Islands in far north Queensland where we plan to winter SKIE each year in the warmth, which is most appreciated when you live down south in Melbourne.  Marg will meet us there after a couple of days being defrosted at the Hayman Island resort.

My ship board mates, John Thomley (Mr fixit) from San Diego, and close Melbourne friend John Poulakis, have provided such wonderful company, plenty of laughs, and cooking meals, which borders on decadence. If I never eat Mahi Mahi again cooked every possible way, I will die a happy man. I have caused a coup in the kitchen by pushing lamb chops, steaks, chicken, Asian stir fries, mashed potatoes, pasta every style known, - just normal food.

Getting home will see the end of this blog as my priorities in life have taken a different direction now that I’m staring down the barrel of three score and ten on the clock next year. The last 12 months off the boat has given me some new interesting challenges which I have enjoyed very much. Apart from being very involved in the family business, my hobby has been creating theme gardens on our 22 acre weekender. The first one was a 1000 sqm succulent/cacti rockery, which has been filled with everything I can source from around the world. Now is this a sign that maturity is really kicking in? If so, its sure taken it’s bloody time.

My epilogue will be written on this blog for the final post to try and briefly sum up the whole adventure from planning the boat build in 2006, and being on her on the water from 2007 to 2012.

I will be really content if some reader out there may have gained some insight as to what is involved in taking a boat to sea and rack up 30,000 nm – an unabashed, slightly edgy (I hope), and really just an honest account , with hopefully no banging on side - just warts and all. 

This final post will be devoted to my beautiful and loving shipmate wife, Margaret who I remember like it was just yesterday crying out from the kitchen at home in 2007 – “Hey, you told me it was costing a million less” as I sheepishly found something trivial to distract me from a reply.

 

Papeete, Tahiti, March 2nd, 2012

 

Back on the boat today for final shake down prep for the voyage back home to Oz late April.

This is a chance to find a window for any problems found that may need replacement parts that maybe delivered in good time before jump off westwards.

Having been off the boat for nearly a year, it will take some time to get back in the groove and try and remember how everything works. Have brought a new Pilothouse monitor to replace one that died crossing from Mexico. This wasn't easy to get as Samsung stopped making these LCD screens 5 years ago. When I get home I will replace the 3 of them with the latest models and have a blank dash ready to take the new size and configuration. This will be my 5th trip into French Polynesia and the visa situation has been very generous in allowing me to do this.

I have decided that this will be a delivery trip with heads down and bum up, and have engaged two crew to be with me, one paid, and the other a qualified cook. Friends are off the agenda as their restricting timetables and anxieties that go with it interferes with my plans. 

In Tahiti I have been blessed with some now good friends I have met that have taken the edge off the concerns of leaving the boat so far away from home and for so long. Richard and his wife Cindy have looked after me so well I will always be profoundly gratefull to them. Cindy is a shipping agent who cleared SKIE in a year ago, and Richard is a ships pilot captain in Papeete. When bills have to be paid Cindy does it for me in local currency, and I reimburse her.

 

 

One issue I'm looking forward to checking out is that the motor on the Caribe is in fine working order, after replacing a head gasket. How this was blown is still a major mystery to me as I have been careful with it and regularly keep it well maintained.

As a little amusing side note, Johann Keil a fellow Nordie owner (57) currently living in Tahiti wrote to me saying that Tama who maintains the boat hasn't been keeping up with keeping the bottom clean. An altercation ensured, but was resolved before the dooks started to fly. Tama is a giant Tahitian who I would like to have in my corner in a fight, and Johann is a retired gentleman in his 60's. Blood on the wharf was averted with a couple of apologies.

As prep details unfold I will update the blog, so fingers crossed that nothing major has gone wrong due to the boat being inactive for so long.

 

 

Papeete, Tahiti, January 14th, 2012.

Long time since last post as nothing to report of consequence as off the boat back home in Melbourne waiting out the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season. As mentioned previously, the plan is to head back to Tahiti late April for a 3 week cruise to Fiji, via Cooks, Nuie, and Tonga. Go home again for a couple of months for family and work, then across to Vanuatu and leave the boat there again for a couple of months before the one hop to Sydney of about 7 days, and in time for our ritual New Years Eve on Sydney Harbour for the most fantastic fireworks display on this planet. Straight after this we head further south to SKIES eventual home base in Hobart, Tasmania, where she will be in the heart of the best cruising available in Oz in my view.

I have invited the titular head of US Nordhavn owners, Milt Baker and his wife Judy to join us in January 2013 in Tasmania, and they have accepted. Those who have an interest in what "Tassie" has to offer some reading can be found on this blog some time back, or the blogs of Egret, or Opal Lady. The beauty of Tassie in my view is the enormous diversity of cruising grounds in such close proximity. Also we live only one hour away by plane, or an overnighter on the ferry across Bass Strait.

For the next 3 months I have some preparations to attend to away from the boat, e.g. new monitor screen for the pilothouse, satellite compass battery to be replaced (I'm told I may have to unbolt the processor and send it to the US, as the battery - wait for it - is soldered in), and purchase a couple of the fantastic new Dyson fans for air circulation when the aircon is not being used, and get myself in a mental state to prepare for unknown issues that I just know will surface when back on board, as these things happen when a boat is left idle.

My friend Mark Johnson who is currently in the Phillipines on his N55 Myah keeps me abreast with any problems he is confronted with, and being the same boat, but out of the yard a year later than us, it could be his problems may revisit us on SKIE, but then again maybe they won't and we will have a completely new lot. Now these are just normal everyday boat issues that come with boats that have done some miles, or as said previously, boats that are all left alone for some time like ours.

Tamu, who is looking after her at Marina Taina starts up the three motors and let's them run when ever he washes the boat. I haven't got him to load the wing or main as it is a big responsibility to make sure you don't pull the pier down. We are Med moored and have 4 aft lines, and 2 forward which should make a secure hold to engage the transmission, therefore loading up the motors. Diesels need to be run with a load on for good health. Bob Senter tells me when he loads up his motors on his boat when tied up very securely, he cleans the bottoms of all boats in close proximity.

I have heard that a new owners website has been established for N55, N60, and N63's. This is great for the owners, and replaces the N55 HUR blog that I started 5 years ago which withered due to lack of interest, probably because it was becoming stale, and my lack of interest in running it due to being a landlubber for the past 12 months. My outside of work hobby over the past few months (sating an Alpha type personality) has been creating theme gardens at our country property, and we have just completed a 700 m2 succulent rockery, and starting now on a fernery, with a waterfall. Where we live on 22 acres, although very hilly, we have to bring in hundreds of large rocks from 100 km away, not a local rock in sight.

Getting on the boat again will be a little strange, but were sure it won't take long to get back in the swing of things. Margaret will fly in to our destinations for local cruising, but I have plenty of experienced friends available to help move the boat across the rest of the Pacific. Getting people to help is an easy task, and why would you blame them when they can see all of the great places we are going to see.

Next week I'm planning to meet up with Adam & Eve Block in Sydney who hail from San Francisco, and have just crossed the Pacific on their N47, Eden (note the play on names here). I'm going to try and convince them to go to Tassie just so they can stop in at Eden before crossing Bass Strait. They will probably be welcomed by the local brass band.

 

Papeete, Tahiti October 27th, 2011,

Back for a quick holiday on SKIE with Margaret to explore the Leeward Islands, and attend to some boat maintenance issues in advance of the trip home early next year. The expression "Use it, or lose it" certainly applies to boats, and I have found many small problems due to the time of boat inactivity. First one was heading  to the Island of Moorea, to find that the Auto mode on the autopilot wouldn't activate. The problem was that the small battery in the heading sensor, which is in our case the satellite compass, had expired, and after 3 hours of hand steering downhill with 30 knots I experienced an enormous physical challenge and could have sworn that I saw NZ on one the sweeping lurches to starboard as the following sea picked up the stern and took control of our heading. 


The battery has to be replaced by a Furuno technician, so fat chance for this to happen where we are, so out came the manual to reveal how to switch to either of the two backup Fluxgate compasses, which one was activated, then "Bob's your uncle".

Our plans to move onto the other Leeward Islands was cut short as the motor on my backup dinghy was erratic due to a clogged carbie, and the main tender with its 40 HP Yamaha  was back in Tahiti awaiting a replacement head gasket (1 month before it could arrive which shows you that we are still in a third world country), and finally it blows here at this time of year 30 kts, and gusting to 40, and Marg wasn't comfortable, so we jumped on a plane and flew out to Bora Bora to stay at the beautiful Pearl Beach Resort for three days.

Even on land we still can't leave the water.


When we return to Papeete in a few days I have to take the lid off the sea chest and check whether there is marine growth from the outlet to the Wing engine, which is not expelling raw water from the exhaust pipe. This has happened because the Wing engine hasn't been used for 7 months. All of the above apply to the "use it or lose it" principle. In a pique of frustration I enquired whether we could ship the boat home on Dockwise, only to informed that there are no plans for Dockwise to call into Tahiti this year, or next. Damn! 

With this situation I will continue with the dream of seeing the final 50% of the Pacific, but will mean much more prep time on the boat is needed before we leave, and the burden of being in Tahiti, which is a very expensive and frustratingly slow place to do boat maintenance.

Whilst at anchor in Moorea we had a local tourist guide in a dinghy come by with a note from a passenger on the Westhaven which was a big cruise ship anchored close by and only stayed for one night. The note was from Americans Patrick and Miriam Gill who we met in Juneau and Sitka in Alaska last year, where their Selene 54 "Spirit" was moored near us. Shame we couldn't meet up, as those big ships run to a tight schedule. Also we caught up with Cec and Halina Gill, and George and Liz Merakis who are close friends back home, and were staying at a resort only half a kilomtre away from where we were anchored.

At the Marina Taina where the boat is moored in Tahiti, we have been Med moored (stern tied up to the dock) which doesn't suit Margaret as she has to walkdown a skinny, bending, hunk of wood to get on board. How I got our huge suitcase on board is still a mystery on the night we arrived. Still got to get the sucker off again, so fingers crossed.

Arriving back to the marina from Moorea, just offshore, we passed a boat departing which I recognised as being an Australian flagged Marlow 69 "Wanderer". Contact with the marina revealed she wasn't returning, so we got her plum slip, which saves walking the gangplank anymore. Marg is now happy. We are also now stern to stern with Nordhavn 57, Shaka, and Johann Kiel the owner and partner Laurie who we first met in San Diego last year, will keep an eye on our boat. Johann and I get on very well as apart from boats, business and politics has us both on the same page.

Had a delighful dinner and show at the Intercontinental Hotel with Cindy Dittrich who has been our good friend and agent over here, and her Pilot boat Captain husband, Richard. Richard did a tough job for me in the engine room getting that damn acrylic lid off the seachest, only to find no marine life or clogging. This is the third time it has been removed, and I'm happy to say, by others.

 

 

 

 

Richard and Cindy with us for dinner and show in Papeete.

Nordhavn design some great boats, but inaccesability to the seachest is ridiculous. Have absolutely no idea how I will be able to replace either of the bilge pumps in the bilge. I reckon these were installed, then they built the boat around them. Only solution I see is to pull the shaft when on the hard, and find an anorexic, not prone to claustraphobia, person to replace them. To criticise PAE the builders of Nordhavn can be sometimes unfair in an objective and fair sense. No boat, like people, is perfect, and we all must compromise eventually. SKIE has in the main been a dream boat, and I should count my lucky stars that I chose this brand. Heard that PAE is using one of our Kimberley pics of SKIE in their 2012 calendar.

Anyone reading this may like to go into the Pacific Puddle Jumpers website and read an account about one of our German Puddle jumping adventurers coming to grief in Nuka Hiva. He was killed, cut up, and remains burnt. The world headlines were about cannibilism occuring. The island of 2000 people say that cannabilism doesn't exist, and are all shocked that anyone would think otherwise. These are beautiful people and deeply hurt by this sensational story by a German newspaper. They know who did it, and are still trying to find him with the help of the French navy. He is a guide and hunter on the island, so knows his way around.

Back to home now until next April (maybe or not) and see an end to the Cyclone season, then finish off the project heading westwards again. French Polynesia is not prone to Cyclones usually but they have had them in the past. Have a feeling I may be hit with a premium on my insurance policy. 

Lot's of new pics about to be posted if I can only get them over to my Mac Pro.







Return to Papeete, French Polynesia, August 2011


Been a while since this blog has been updated. The original plan was to return back to the boat from home in Melbourne, and continue westwards across the Pacific in June. This plan was scrapped after coming to the conclusion that if the boat was to be tied up somewhere for a while, it might as well be in Tahiti, and not pushed to get south to New Zealand before November 2011 and escape the cyclone season in the Western Pacific.

This break has also given me a chance to immerse myself back into the business and help my son Chris, spend more time with my family, particularly with our daughter and her two beautiful girls returning home after living in the Netherlands for the past four years, be around for some business property acquisitions. Fortunately, but sadly, being around for the passing of my Mother, who died last week at the age of 88. Also just recently, our dog Elliott had to be put down due to the ravages of old age, and is buried in a new garden we are constructing at our country property.

On Thursday11th of August I finally get a chance to visit SKIE to check on how she is fairing, move her to a new slip for more power to run the AirCon which needs to be continuous as we go through the humid season, and check all of the vital small things e.g. strainers, sea chest, etc. This will be for only 4 days as I need to get back to prepare for a months trip to Europe at the end of August, but Marg and I plan to spend all of October cruising the leewards, and catch up with Tamu, Cindy, Phillipe, and Johann & Laurie on N57 SHAKA who is berthed at our marina and been keeping an extra eye out for SKIE as well. I must admit that apart from some anxiety not having seen her for 4 months, she is being well looked after by a number of people. Hopefully SHAKA may join us for a leisurely cruise around the Leewards.

The big plan is to leave Tahiti next March and take our time crossing to Vanuatu, then bring her back home in October to beat the cyclone season, do our regulation New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour, then back finally to my favourite place in the world so far, Tasmania. What transpires from then on is unknown, but by then 33,000 nm will have washed under the keel, and maybe my wanderlust may just take a back seat, but who knows. I still have Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, beckoning to be explored, but have a feeling deep down that this may be on another boat where someone else will be doing the oil changes.

Being back in the business after 10 years away has been great. Everyday is a fun challenge and I'm enjoying the fruits of so many years of hard work paying off in spades. In my office I have a map of the world with orange dots on the places I've been to so far. What stands out is the dots have hardly scratched the surface, and so much more is beckoning. I still drift off and look at the larger Nordhavn's on the market often, then the phone goes, or the email pings, to snap me out of my self indulgent dreaming. Maybe its better to remain loyal to our wonderful SKIE, who has been an absolute worry free joy to have. Who knows?





Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, April 2011

A relative simple (to the legs we've done) 36 hour steam to Papeete, and civilisation at last. Headed straight to Marina Taina close by to downtown and near the airport where SKIE would reside for three or four months while Jim went back to Calgary Canada to his family and back to work as a builder of homes, and me to my own flock (Sheppard's have flocks), friends, and the business.

Now I must say I was a little apprehensive but completely relieved with the reception we received at this marina. Firstly Phillippe the manager couldn't have been more helpful, and put us in the best spot in the marina completely away from any surges that came from the ocean, even though the marina was behind a coral fringing reef. Secondly when we tied up it seemed every boat owner and marina worker came to help us do the tricky manouvre of Med mooring and see we were snugged up safely. I was certainly taken by their welcoming and friendship.

Our wonderful agent Cindy Dittrich appeared straight away and completed our formal entry into French Polynesia, to formalize our first entry done back in Hiva Oa, our first landfall. Cindy made us feel very welcome with her typical German efficiency, as we were only the second registered boat with the Pacific Puddle Jumpers Group to arrive, the first being was another Australian boat who was on a swift delivery getting back home. 

First thing to do was to get a cleaning crew on board, and then was when we met Tama, a giant Tahitian, who looked after 12 other boats on the marina. Tama had little English, but was a professional captain, had a cleaning crew, was a diver, and the main man at the marina. I engaged Tama to take responsibility for SKIE for my time at home, and with Cindy kindly keeping an eye out for SKIE as well.

The whole marina and it's people were very friendly, had some nice restaurants close by which we ate at quite often, and consequently met many new friends. When I return I have booked into a dive shop at the marina to get my training and certification as a scuba diver, and can't wait to visit some of the training dive sites just a stones throw away.


Being to so many places and marinas over the past 4 years I would say that this marina is the most welcoming I have ever been to, and clearly the most delightful people I have met so far. This is not to detract from many other great places we have been to including Alaska, the west coast of USA, and of course Mexico, but this was better than any marina we have back home in my book.

This has also got me thinking about basing SKIE here for quite some time, as it has so much going for it as a jump off place for the Leeward islands such as Moorea, Raiteira, Hauhine, Tahaa, and Bora Bora, so very close by.

After a week in Papeete I steeled myself to go home for a reality check, and to get home to hug my family that I had not seen for 4 months, apart for Marg being on board for a while for the trip down to Mexico. I was also excited for the return of our second daughter Melanie, and our two beautiful grand daughters, Isabella and Alessia, coming home from Europe after 3 years, and thankfully for good. 


Nuka Hiva, Marquesas to Fakarava Atoll, Tuomotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

This was a small voyage compared to the 16 days to Marquesas from Mexico, 540 nm and about 4 days. As usual our stout little Nordie held up her part of the bargain and flawlessly got us to our destination without one hiccup. Now with just the two of us, Jim and I stood our watches 3 hours on, 3 off, and life just rolled on. Having one of our LCD monitors die on us on this leg meant we operated now just on two, one running MaxSea Time Zero, and the other with the Furuno Navnet vx2 black box radar /plotter.

This meant we could only see one of our two radars, but as we have hardly seen a radar return since we left Mexico, this was no big issue. When I bought the boat I elected to go down the route of not buying the expensive $12,000 Furuno monitors, and instead put in 3 x Samsung 19" LCD monitors at $450 each. These have served me so well for now over 25,000 nm, so now I will get the latest technology replacing them, and use the old ones as drink trays or steps to the high cupboards.

I have blank dashboards stored away on the boat,  which means I can cut in new shapes for any changes I wish to make for new electronic gear or rearrangement.

Arriving at Fakarava Atoll was without any drama in spite of a strong ebb current running at the NW opening, we just cut through the short chop, then into the flat water inside the atoll. It was a nice change to see a couple of charter boats once inside, dropped the pick, put some steaks on the barbie, the mandatory bottle of red (or two), and had a long crash in the cot. Jimmy has been great company, though still grappling with learning his knots

When we awoke the next morning we found the local cruise ship Paul Gaugin anchored close by which reminded me of being back in Alaska. This day we went ashore, had a look around for a couple of hours, then back to SKIE to plan our final 36 hour trip to Papeete, Tahiti. The little village was quaint, but having the Paul Gauigin visitors ashore, spoilt it a bit. Too many French on board on board for my money, who often failed to respond to our friendly and customary "Bonjour" as we passed. What is it with these people? (SORRY)
 

Marquesas, French Polynesia, 12th April 2011

Well we finally arrived to the beautiful Island of Hiva Oa, all the way fromthe bottom of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, a trip of 2,620 nm
16 days on one heading with virtually the same wind strength blowing from the same direction, and probably the only gratifying thing with all of this was the sense of achievement, therefore satisfaction of having a boat with everything switched on and working every minute of the day and no real issues to deal with. The trip was just a means of achieving rewards that are to come later when we explore the destination fruits ahead of us all the way back to the land of Oz.

Not too many things went wrong, and if it did I had Jimmy (Mr fixit) to work on it. One particular problem was a leak in the Hi pressure line with the watermaker, and Jim attended to it like an expert, just as a relentless house builder would do, except I wasn't going to sue him if it didn't work.

I will be prepared to profoudly claim, that for me personally, this 16 day passage was the most boring thing I have ever done in my life, would never do it again, and would talk anyone out of it if they had a choice to find an alternative. The only positive thing to come out of it was I had a chance to read my cook books.

Clearing in with the Gendarmerie in Atuona, Hiva Oa, with the help of our sweet Marquesian agent Sandra. Sandra is married to a Frenchman who made guitars for a living. We stayed 4 days to renew our personal batteries and get our land legs back. Rick left the boat unexpectedly for home, so Jim and I set out  from Atuona and sought  an anchorage at Baie Hanamenu on the north west side of Hiva Oa, which was more like Mexico, and completely devoid of anything green around the hills, except for a coconut plantation in the valley. We stayed one night here, then off to Ua Pou, a very scenic island slightly off a direct route to Nuka Hiva.

About an hour out of Baie Hanamenu, we discovered a sail boat closing rapidly on us from astern which didn’t seem to add up. We were doing 7.5  kts, and this boat, without Class A, AIS, seemed to look bigger the closer she got when passing a mile or so off our stern and pointing almost directly towards Nuka Hiva. When we got to Nuka Hiva three days later we were to find our ghost ship was the futuristic 120’ charter yacht named “Ghost”. Later on we were to discover that this monster could get up to 23 kts with the right conditions -awesome!

After three very pleasant nights at Hakahau, Ua Pou, we had French guests for dinner from a neighbouring sail boat. Eric, Marielle, and their two beautiful daughters 5 & 3. Eric and Marielle are both doctors and are cruising the world helping out people in remote locations. I certainly hope to run into them again in the future heading west. Ua Pou is a beautiful place to visit with its towering eroded volcano plugs always buried in clouds. The people were again so friendly and made us feel welcome as we find wherever we seem to go.

Next we arrived at Taiohae Bay, Nuka Hiva after a small steam, checked in with the Gendarmerie, then touched base with Regina who was our agent there. Regina was kindly going to receive our spare 10 micron John Deere on engine fuel filters coming from the US. I made a bad miscalculation thinking that the John Deere Agent in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico would have stock of both filters needed, as they said they had, instead of only having the 2 micron, so we proceeded to go to sea without a spare which was risky, but the 10 micron one was installed in San Diego , and we had been taking on only very good fuel in Mexico.

I would put this down as my biggest blooper ever on the boat. When the filters arrived by Fedex, and duty paid, the cost was about 4 times more than if I had of prepared better, but actually nothing compared to clogged filters. One comfort is that fuel being returned to the engine from the fuel reservoir has been polished so many times by the three filters, including the 30 micron Racor, then maybe not such a big problem, but dumb on my part just the same, so I gave myself a good talking to.

After 3 nights in Taiohae Bay we replaced both our on engine fuel filters early in the morning, then faced one of the biggest challenges yet for us on SKIE, and that was to Med moor (anchor dropped from the bow  and backed up to tie off from the stern) to a rough concrete ships wharf where the sea was surging like crazy. This was to  to take on 2000 litres of fuel that I reasoned was the prudent course to take, even though we had enough onboard to get to Tahiti.

Now this was one tricky pucker exercise as I had to have the anchor set carefully out off the bow that would allow us to ease back and get close enough to the wharf, but not slam into it.  Jim had to jump for a ladder on a surge to take mooring lines to tie us up. This meant I had to be increasing the anchor scope to get close enough for Jim to jump off the swimstep with lines in hand (one in his mouth), and these enormous surges picking us up constantly, and with me sweating at the cockpit control pod (thank goodness we have one), ready to push the hammer down to go forward back towards the anchor to keep us off the concrete.


Half way through the refuelling one of the two aft mooring line snapped, and we went hurling forward towards the anchor, pulling the hose out of the filler, me holding the nozzle with one hand, and the other on the throttle, screaming our 70 tonnes back to the concrete, but not too close though. This was hopefully before we lost the hose overboard , which we fortunately didn't . We managed to secure two new lines,  but doubled this time, complete our fill, and passing to Jim, who was still stranded on the wharf, my credit card and other papers in a ziplock bag on the end of a boat hook to pay for the fuel and get the fuel discount authorisation (He had to come back and ask me for the pin number for the credit card though)

Getting Jim back on board was again going to take some pucker, impeccable timing, and serious good luck. Jim made a skillful leap, and away we went full throttle forward. Only damage sustained was a bent swimstep stainless steel staple that hit a large rubber mooring fender, and maybe just a few years off my life, but it was a great adrenaline rush, supported my long held theory that if it gets scratched or bent, it can be fixed.

A catamaran stood off us for a while but decided after the show we put on that it just wasn't worth it. On reflection it was an amazing experience and now sits up there with my Bass Strait crossing in 2008, hitting my pet rock in Fords Terror, Alaska, and getting into an uncharted cyclone shelter in the Kimberley against 8 kts of current.

Great fun and further notches in the belt of learning. Why I love these experiences surely must defy normal logic, but I'm wiser by far. Don't ever think that you will ever know it all. The sea has mysteries being thrown at you all the time, and there is always something around the corner ready to test your mettle.

 

ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) and the equator  March 31st 00.00.0 – 131.10.004 W

Day 11 has just ticked over and we are on track to get in to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas in the 16 days we estimated. Most of what governs our speed is fuel burn rate, and this is the number one planning criterion.

To say that the trip has been completely uneventful is an overstatement. We have only sighted one ship crossing our bow miles off en route from China I imagine to the Panama Canal, and this is just it. No sound or sight of anything apart from an odd Booby wanting to hitch hike on our pulpit.

The trip all the way to the equator has had the wind constantly behind us from the NE, and this has varied from 10 – 30 kts. 30 knots was hardly discernable to the way the bost handled with the wind and sea from behind, and unless we looked aft and saw the sea behind us, it was hard to tell what was happening. Currently as I write, the only wind is on the nose, and is just apparent, as we are making our own wind.


This is the major time for motoring for the sailboats, and why they used to call it the Doldrums. The ITCZ is where the trade winds and northern and southern Pacific high pressure zones converge, often bringing clouds, rain and thunderstorms, and wind from all directions. My good friend and weather man Clark Straw in La Jolla CA said we were blessed, as every snotty bit of weather seemed to lay down before us. He said that I must have the luck of the Irish.

So what does Rick, Jim, and Peter do all day? Quite frankly very, very, little. We have watches to keep which is 3 hours on, and 6 hours off. Watch keeping is about making sure we were pointed in the right direction, and that the thing that is driving us is a fit, healthy, and non complaining, single John Deere  engine, which I am very emotionally close to.

The watch keeper has the job of inspecting the engine room every hour to confirm everything is in order and we follow a check list. Jim who is new to boating of this type was so fastidious with this chore, that I often worried that he wasn't going to come out of the engine room, he took so much time with his exemplary attitude. 

We have two independent radars in operation all the time, one set at 36 miles, and the other at 8 miles. Both have guard alarms set up so that if anything intrudes into our preset area, we will know about it with bells and whistles going off. Our AIS was also alarmed if a ship came within 5 miles of us. Which never happened of course, as we were completely on our Pat Malone out there. One thing we didn't look at was depth as it was very deep out there, everywhere.

Reading is our main off watch preoccupation. However I personally couldn't read anything but cook books, and as I said many years ago that one day if I had the time, I would learn to cook properly. Well this is happening finally, as I certainly now have the time. I’m not interested in learning to cook anything but fairly exotic things, particularly Asian, and trying to get around using limited ingredients has me building an enormous shopping list, but don’t expect that this will be fulfilled in the Marquesas, and will have to wait until Papeete that has a big Asian population. 

 
Pacific Ocean –March 23rd 17.46 N – 114.5 W

We are finally settled down to the rhythm of making a 16 day nonstop trip to the Marquesas in French Polynesia, and just passed our last bit of land being 3 small Islands four hundred miles SW of Cabo, and belonging to Mexico.

As our major game plan is to conserve as much fuel as we can, we are now burning, and never before experienced by SKIE, half the usual fuel consumption at 3.5 gals per hour, giving us a tick just under 7 kts in speed.

My original calculations were that we should get to the Marquesas  with 30% of fuel in reserve (about 700 gal or 2,700 lts). Our full capacity is 2350 gals or 9000 litres. I need to emphasise that if we don’t get this right we will be in a spot of bother as there is nowhere to get fuel along this very lonely route, in fact nowhere to get anything, even help.

 A fellow Nordhavn 46 Puddle Jumper, Stormhaven, with Don and Paulie Grover on board, took 8 x 50 gal deck drums to supplement their existing tank capacity. It’s just great to meet other Nordhavn owners who bought their boats to go seeking adventure, and instead of using them as floating caravans as most I have met in the US, but then different strokes for different folks I guess.

We are concentrating on eating the perishables first, and when we can see some room in the fridge, planning meals will become easier. If I’m not reading South Pacific guide books, I’m scanning recipe books, and really can’t see myself getting into a real book until this epic stage of the journey is over.

We have had two fishing lures out for the past 3 days and snagged something big as all we could retrieve was a shredded wire trace. Our aim is to catch a nice Wahoo or Mahi Mahi and try out some of the recipes I have been collecting. Sail fish were not on the agenda, and we had a couple dancing in the air on their tails which was a great sight, but unproductive for the freezer if we could land one (not)

SKIE has been humming along just beautifully, but will need to close the main down soon and check the oil level, so this will give us some badly needed hours use for the wing engine while we wait for the oil to cool down a bit. Our main engine burns a bit of oil which the experts like Bob Senter says should be expected as being normal, so half way across we only needed a 1.5 litres top up.

I have just switched the Auto pilot over to WORK mode for the first time ever. This means that any course adjustments that needed to be made due to current, wind, etc, that takes us off course will be done automatically. In the past we have always made a hand adjustment to keep on track, meaning we have to be on our toes all the time, but with 2200 nm still ahead to go and no land to hit, we should be OK to relax on this one.

 



Three days to lift off. La Paz - Mexico March 15th 2011

In all the years in business I have heard about guys my age putting notebooks and pens by the bed for nocturnal inspiration. Always thought it was a sign of poor memory and attitude. I'm finally doing it now as the stakes are ramping up, and I now have two other souls on board to be responsible for, and I take this very seriously.


I love Mexico - PERIOD. I think it's because of being in La Paz (the peace)
I have met the most amazing guy Rolando. This man is of a Mayan ancestry, and is smarter than any other mariner I have ever met. He was first mate on a seriously big boat for a number of years, but misfortunes caused by the US meltdown has put many of these guys off work, and now some just washing boats like he was doing. Introduced by our new found friends Douglas and Jerry Cochrane on N46 "Four Seasons" and hailing from Oregon US, we now share his services together, although I'm hogging his time a bit too much.

La Paz MEXICO - March 1st - 9th, 2011

We arrived in La Paz after spending 3 nights staying in Marina San Jose Los Cabos which is at the end of the very dry, barren, but spectacular Baja Peninsula which stretches all the way down from Ensenada just under the US border, and 880 nm south.
 
This very new marina could probably be one of the best in the world because of its uniqueness, with beautiful gardens and promenades filled with amazing paintings, photographs, and sculpture. At a handy little $200 a night for a slip, I suppose a bit of art may dull some of the pain.

Moving North for probably the last time for many years to come, we are now staying at the new Marina Costa Baja which is about 6 nm north of La Paz. This is also a fabulous marina, but about a third less $ than Marina San Jose Los Cabos, and is included in a grand new resort which is currently totally devoid of paying customers, and I'm told, mainly due to  the fears of unrest and violence with drug wars in Mexico, and that boaties are the first to go down on their uppers, once debt is reeled in.
On the Baja Peninsula you are in one of the worlds most unique places with absolutely decent, god fearing, family oriented, smiling sweet people. I'm referring to the Mexicans, but not quite the same with some of our American so called mariners, who really are caravaners in my book and why they buy a Nordhavn is beyond my comprehension. Hats off to Paullie and Don Grover who left 3 days ago on their N46 to cross the Pacific. Farmers like these two from Wyoming are still the backbone and link to the  real American past and the culture that built the country. I have a feeling they are gone for good, mores the pity.
Back to Mexico, it's such a damn shame that press propaganda can inflame and promote such unfounded fear, which hurts the prosperity of these people trying to clamour out of third world status.

We have had our old mates Clark and Suzy Straw pay us a visit for a week from La Jolla near San Diego. Clark and Suzy crossed the Pacific in their Mason sailboat "Final Straw" in 2002, where we met them in Brisbane in 2007 after their cruising for 5 years. Clark is a weather man, radio man, and a good all round computer geek. This was on top of marking our  dance cards for the best places to go in the Pacific. We enjoyed their company very much, but Marg took my place in the business world and flew to Milan Italy to meet our son Chris, and put some heavy metal to the floor with buying shoes and handbags for our 2011 summer season.

We did get out to Ilsa San Francisco for a couple of nights which was very nice. I tried out my unused Anchor Buddy to keep the dinghy off the beach, but need to get some chain to get the anchor in deeper. I think this will work well in the South Pacific, but then I have my secret weapon in reserve - my "Port a bote" which could be my ever best boating purchase.

Everything about this crossing is equipping the boat  with the concept of redundancy, i.e. if something falls over and becomes redundant - you have another one as back up. Most planes have this.  

Most electronic issues reported earlier have been fixed, a completely clogged valve fitting from the seachest to the wing raw water intake, replaced (praise the lord we found it then) so I think we are pretty well on schedule to cast our lines at last in 12 days time for stage one of the adventure.

When Marg said goodbye to me, and with tears in her eyes said "Please be careful"
I didn't say what I wanted to say in my usual cynical way, but, "Why don't you say this when I drive down the mountain from our home every morning"

Folks, I'm talking about reality odds and statistics here. Going to sea is like going into a relatively safe time capsule. Those who argue otherwise are ignorant sensationalists, who have absolutely no idea of what the truth is really about, and unlikely to have ever been there, then even worse, the participants that want to amplify the real truth to make them feel a bit taller or something.

My crew arrive next week, and I hope I impress them with all the prep work I have done (Rolando is in the engine room with a tooth brush just now, but will say I did it all)
Until next time. 



Magdelena Bay, Baja Peninsula, Mexico – February 19th 2011.


After 600 nm heading south in 5 days, we are seeing some system failures with our electronics. Firstly the boats PC crapped out. This happened once in Alaska last year, but this time we are at sea and no friendly expert help available.  The PC is there to drive my MaxSea Time Zero navigation programme. We got the PC working again after downloading Windows, but alas my MaxSea can’t be found with all my charts. We are not flying blind of course as I have two other systems, Navnet reading off C-Map charts, but it is very clunky and unsophisticated, and I just love my MaxSea TZ tools.
The second problem is the Sat Phone runs a PBX system throughout the boat via a docking station connected to a large aerial, and now that has gone on the blink, so the phone has to be undocked and taken outside if I want to receive or make a call. And finally my Iridium 9555 backup Sat phone will not allow me to connect to emails via the internet for some strange reason. I hope to hell that I can find someone to fix all of this in Cabo San Lucas, or La Paz, otherwise I’m going to have to fly someone down from the US to help out.

Marg and I have John Thomley along with us, and you would have to go a long way to find a nicer and more capable bloke. John looked after SKIE in San Diego for us for the 4 months we were home, and Margaret has been cooking up some great meals for us and John can’t get the smile off his face. She is I must admit, a great cook, and when I ask her how she learnt to cook this, it is always her Mum and Grandmum, but with her interpretation adapted to meet my love of chilli and curry.

It is fairly well known amongst boaters that the two most important things to have on a boat are duct tape, and cable ties. I believe the 3rd one is Blue Tack as it allowed me to secure my three hockey puck aerials out the pilothouse window and onto the brow as a temporary measure. Also my docked Sat phone has this small connector that was bent and not making contact, and no matter how much probing, squeezing and prodding I did, it still wouldn’t make contact, but at 0300 one morning I sat bolt upright in bed with a brainwave. Could I lassoo that little sucker with dental floss into position then put the phone into its cradle? Yes bingo – it worked. My son in law Mick has a name for this concept, but it’s not politically correct to mention it here.

Conditions for our 36 hour trip from Ilse Cedros to Baia Magdalena has been up there with some of the best I have ever experienced. No wind, flat seas, and better still it’s getting warmer. We are currently 50 miles offshore, and have only seen one boat all day, and have heard not one single word on channel 16 on the VHF. This is in great contrast to the US , Canada, and Oz. We are in a part of the world that is still 3rd World, and the Mexicans don’t even respond to Maydays so I’m told, so I better get used to it for where we are going it’s going to get worse.


San Diego US to Mexico – 14th January 2011

 After bringing SKIE down from Seattle I went back home to Melbourne for four months to help in the business and attend our son Chris’s wedding. This the longest  period we have not been on her since she was delivered to us back in June 2007.

This was certainly a busy time for me, and Margaret flew into San Diego three weeks later giving me a chance to attend to getting SKIE shipshape for the Pacific crossing which is looming so very quickly.
Acquiring spares was a big chore as well as having her hauled for cleaning, running gear inspection, and zinc replacements. I also had two new kelp cutters fabricated out of stainless steel as one of the originals fell victim to a Canadian log and snapped off. A kelp cutter is a sharp blade that cuts kelp that may try and get between the hull and the stabiliser fins. Our stabilisers  are affectionately known by Margaret as Sammy, and when every time we head to sea, her first question is whether Sammy is on, and the second is whether I could switch on the generator so she can do some washing. Stabilisers are just like flaps on a planes wings that you see moving up and down as a plane is taking off and landing,  and on a boat this counters the natural rolling motion through digitally controlled hydraulics.

We finally left San Diego on Monday 14th of Feb with our final destination La Paz, Mexico, where I plan to jump off from to head westwards to home. In San Diego we met up with some old friends, Clark and Suzy Straw, whom we met in Brisbane after their five years crossing the Pacific on their Mason sail boat “Final Straw” which follows on from “Last Straw” their previous boat. However I’m not convinced that another “Straw” will come along as Clark was salivating over some of our upcoming adventures, and convinced me to slow down and take our time. I saw the light and agreed with  this common sense position, and now our return home will be 18 months at the least, if not longer. Clark and Suzy are joining us for a week in Mexico and Clark will get me up to speed on my SSB radio hopefully.

The plan is to leave the boat in French Polynesia, go home for a couple of months, come back and cruise to Fiji via the Cooks & Tonga, go home from Fiji, then back to get Skie down to NZ before the cyclone season starts in November. Then in March 2012, sail up north to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, New Britain, etc. Still working in the business requires me to be in Europe twice a year, and this year we are relocating our office/warehouse and have to find a property to buy.

Whilst in San Diego we made a visit for the third time to a beautiful Nordhavn 76 that is on the market, and we are exploring the possibility of upgrading in size, but this is a different proposition as it will require full time crew, so Margaret and I just have to sit down and draw up the pros and cons as an exercise. The downside for me is that a lot of the fun for me is the challenge of passagemaking, and all the planning and preparation that goes into it. Margaret likes the idea of letting someone else do the worrying, and cleaning. Etc.

Every day I spend on the boat I’m learning something all the time. I’m absolutely flabbergasted  by how little I know after running her for 23,000 nm. My learning curve has been steep as it is, but having so little problems so far has robbed me of some knowledge gaining acquisition. I have said before that if something goes wrong, then read the manual, but I have been spared so far, but as night follows day, I’m know I’m heading into an expected time frame when things start to wear out.

Just taking on so many spares has alerted me to what can go wrong, and I have been helped by “Lugger” Bob Senter, and Barry Kallendar from Seakits to this end. For example, a spare stainless steel raw water elbow for the generator. What is that, where is it, why does it fail, and finally how in the hell can this fat old shoe salesman get in there and change it.