Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Pastel Corals at Tatafa

We discovered another lovely beach to explore at Tatafa: an uninhabited island .  I found the cutest little bright red hermit crab walking around on the beach.  He was a very photogenic little guy and I followed him for awhile.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Telekitonga - Our Last Anchorage of the Season in the Haapai Group

On our last night in the Ha 'Apai group we anchored off Telekitonga.  The day we arrived the swell was coming from a rather unusual Southwest direction and the West side of the island had the most violent shore-breaking surf we have seen.

It's not typical to see such breaking waves on a beach.  Normally a barrier reef shelters the beach.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dive Bombing Birds of Tofanga

This is our second visit to Tofanga.  We stopped here in August and liked it so much we came back.  On our previous visit it was whale-central.  At least 3 times a day I saw whales breaching and swimming. This time nada.  We think they have all headed back to Antarctica.
Flying over my head after coming towards me then turning up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dissapointing Dive, Bonus Blowhole

For the last few weeks we’ve been criss-crossing Tonga’s Vavau group checking out known dive spots and exploring some on our own. Overall, we’ve been disappointed in the condition of the reefs. We were spoiled by the reefs in the Hapaai group. We are making preparations to head back there with our friends on Mango Moon.
Seeking healthier reefs here we decided to check out a seamount we could see on satellite images. It was in deeper water a few miles East of our anchorage. We loaded up the dinghy with our scuba gear and took off to find it. We were heading upwind through some chop that made the ride bumpy and unpleasant.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Swallows Cave

We decided to move over to Port Morelle and Mango Moon moved with us. Port Morelle is a very popular anchorage and typically very crowded because of it's central location.  Upon arrival we saw that the herd of kid boats were there.  About 8 boats that have kids on board move from anchorage to anchorage en masse so the kids can be together.  We love having kids around but have avoided the herd because they take up all the room wherever they go.  I counted 10 boats in the anchorage when we arrived.  By contrast, we would see no boats for 10 days at a time in the Haapai group.
Rich modeling his custom made whale t-shirt on our short sail to Port Maurelle.  Mango Moon is in the background.

Uonukuhihifo. One of Our Favorite Anchorages in the Ha'apai Group

We sailed away from Toluku and headed to Uonukuhihifo.  That name is difficult to remember so I call it "hi hi fo fum"!  Winds were light so we motor-sailed to gain speed.  We saw at least 20 whales along the way.  

The red tag is Uonukuhihifo.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ew Ew Vava'u! Mango Meetup

We left the Hunga anchorage and headed for the pass between Vaka Eitu (#16).  Our friends on Mango Moon joined us here and we snorkeled coral gardens together.  The cruising guides spoke highly of coral gardens.  We had to dinghy from our anchorage over to an island across from us.  We anchored out in about 6 feet of water and swam to shore.  Then we had to hike across the exposed reef because it was low tide.  We don't like walking on the reef but sometimes you can't avoid it.  This particular one had tons on sea cucumbers laying around barely covered in water.  IT was difficult trying not to step on any of them.  I found a blue sea star totally exposed with no water on him.  I had my gloves on so I picked him up and carried him to a shallow pool of water.  I'm not sure how long they will survive with no water on them.  I feel like they are baking in the sun so I always take them to safety.  
Once across the reef standing at the edge we had to do some gymnastics to get in.  The grooves of coral presented a way in safely.  The waves were crashing up over the coral at our feet and the best way to get in was to jump in between the finger grooves where the water was about 6-8 ft deep.  It wasn't too bad.  We jumped in with fins in our hands then put them on once we cleared away from any coral.  I think a storm must have hit coral gardens because there was more dead coral than expected. None of the cruising guides spoke of this so I assume something happened since they were written.  There were spectacular patches of cabbage coral and their were quite a few reef fish swimming in schools.  Large schools of a small black fish.  I couldn't tell what kind of fish it was.  The topology under water was interesting.  Many finger grooves that you could meander in and out of.    There was an enormous anemone with many clown fish swimming around.  They have such personality, I can't help but interact with them.  We could hear whale song really loud here.  It was so loud I thought if I swam just a little further I would see one.  But, I never did.
A really healthy patch of corals

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Healthiest Dog in Tonga is at Hunga Haven Resort.

After our dive we sailed over to the Blue Lagoon (#14).  What a beautiful place.  There are reefs almost completely surrounding the lagoon.  It was near high tide and the waves were breaking over the reef - making it too rolly for our tastes.  After about a hour of rolling we decided to go around to Hunga (#13) which is a more protected anchorage.  We stayed at Hunga for 2 days.  There wasn't a lot to do since the nearby snorkeling wasn't as good as other areas.  There were a couple of tracks to hike up adjacent mountains - if you wanted to do that.  I enjoyed the sail to Hunga as there were quite a few whales along the way and some interesting wave breaks against the steep-sided islands we passed.   Overall the Western edge of the Vavau group wasn't a favorite.  
Inside the Blue Lagoon

Monday, August 27, 2018

Luangahu Island

On Aug. 22nd we left Tofanga and sailed to lovely little Luangahu.  It is a beautiful little island.  You can walk all the way around it in about 15 minutes.   
Luangahu at sunset

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Best Whale Encounter Yet

Yesterday was our best whale encounter so far! We had several dozen sightings and 4 groups were breaching!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tokulu Island

On our charts the little island of Tokulu looked appealing. It’s not adjacent to an inhabited island - which means there might be less fishing pressure. Our cruising guide didn’t mention the island and we could find no mention it on the Internet. We’d probably have the place to ourselves. But that hasn’t been a problem here in the Ha’apai group. We’ve only seen one other yacht in the last 3 weeks.

To determine if Tokulu would make a safe overnight anchorage we first looked at satellite images of the island to find if there were any locations we could anchor on the leeward side. The winds were predicted to come from the West and Southwest for the next two days. 

This is the view of the island using our electronic charts. You can see the yellow track marking our path. We sailed to the island, motored upwind to lower our sails, then motored around to the Northeast corner.

Whale Swim Bust!

We just picked up anchor and we're leaving Numoka Iki for a small island called Tokulu.  I doubt we will have internet for a while out there. The cell service here isn't so hot for uploading photos.
Rich on the look out for whales!
We hired Whale Discoveries to take us out for a whale swim.  Unfortunately none of the whales were interested in staying around with us.  It was an overcast day and we noticed that the whales weren't out playing when the sun isn't out.  I was happy that we did find whales at four different times.  I had my full wetsuit on the entire time and I was freezing.  The wind was blowing and without the sun to warm us up it was miserable.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Nomuka and Nomuka 'Iki Islands

This is Nomuka and Nomuka Iki (little Nomuka). We anchored between the 2 islands.  There is another small island off the tip of Nomuka Iki with a cluster of manicured trees that resemble a large hut. That little island had an encircling reef that was a great place to snorkel.  Large breaking waves made it challenging on the windward side.  But fun!
We are anchored between the 2 islands.  This is looking at the East end of Nomuka Iki.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Aug 2018 - Kelefesia Island, Tonga

We spent the last 4 days at our first landfall in the Ha'apai group: a small island called Kelefesia. It is a beautiful place. It’s about what you would picture in your mind as a “lovely tropical island”. The water looked like glass in every shade of blue and turquoise
Shot before the sun came up.

Walking around the Capital City Nukalofa, Tongatapu

We had a few errands to run in town yesterday that had us walking all around the city of Nukalofa. My iron levels run too high and I needed to get blood drawn and sent to a lab.  Visiting a hospital earlier this week we were told to visit a local physician who accepts walk-ins in a clinic. 

Local school

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Tongatapu - Big Mama's Yacht Club

The kingdom of Tonga has 4 main island groups.  We are in the southern-most group: Tongatapu.  Specifically, we are at Nuku’alofa the capital of Tonga.  Tonga has approx. 174 islands and this group has 30-46 islands.  The royal palace is located here as well.  Most of the population is Polynesian.
Rachel our local friend and taxi driver.  She was a lot of fun!

Friday, July 20, 2018

We have arrived in Tonga!

We cleared into Tonga yesterday which marks the end of our first major passage with just the two of us. We left New Zealand on June 23rd and sailed for 6 days to North Minerva Reef. We stayed at Minerva Reef for 3 weeks and then sailed 2 more days to get to the island of Tongatapu which is the capital of Tonga.
Bye NZ!  Whangarei heads as we sail past.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

July 2018 - Gorgeous Beaches in Tonga

We arrived to Tonga in early July 2018.  Our plan was to spend some of the sailing season in Tonga and then sail over to Fiji for the remainder of our time.  However, we enjoyed Tonga so much that we spent the entire season there with the whales and the many uninhabited islands.

North Minerva Reef

We cleared into Tonga yesterday which marks the end of our first major passage with just the two of us. We left New Zealand on June 23rd and sailed for 6 days to North Minerva Reef.   We stayed at Minerva Reef for 3 weeks and then sailed 2 more days to get to the island of Tongatapu which is the capital of Tonga.
Aka is the boat anchored on the left.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Whale of a Day

We had a whale of a day.  When I put the coffee pot on this morning I heard a whale blow right beside the boat.  Looking out the back I saw a whale surface about 20 feet from the stern right under the dinghy.  It was the small one - twice the length of the dinghy - maybe 25 feet.  I called out to Michelle who was sleeping in after a late-hours session with Photoshop.  I've never seen Michelle leap into action so quickly and so early and  I bet it took less than 30 seconds for her to get from the berth to the side of the boat with lens cover off and eyes wide open.  

By mid-morning the winds settled down below ten knots and the reef lagoon was as smooth as a swimming pool. Standing on top of the salon you could see the entire two mile diameter reef and clearly make out the entrance a mile away.  We haven't had enough sun to allow us to run our water maker off solar power so we decided to motor outside the reef and troll some fishing lines while we filled the water tanks. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lobsters, Sharks, and Whales...oh my

After 3 straight days of mixing epoxy, layering fiberglass, mixing epoxy, layering fiberglass, the rudder looks incredibly strong.   With dozens of layers of glass and epoxy it's probably the strongest part of the boat right now.  It's certainly not going to come apart again.  I'm a little concerned about its asymmetrical shape.  We'll need to do some sailing to find out whether a significant imbalance exists at the helm.  In other words: "she might be pulling to the right".

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Cruising: "The practice of repairing a boat in exotic locations"

It's hard to believe we've been here at Minerva Reef for over a week.  Yesterday we circumnavigated the whole reef.  I looked for lobsters for an hour at one spot. I  finally found some huge ones under a coral bommie - but they were well out of reach.  Now I know why everyone is hunting them with a small spear gun or hawaiian sling spear.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Something's Rong with the Rudder

The last several days high winds caused us to hunker down.  It gave me a chance to finish installing our Automatic Identification System (AIS).  The AIS broadcasts our boat name, speed, heading, and other info.  It also recieves this info from other boats, projects their path, and warns of a close approach.  We've been able to receive AIS but we weren't transmitting ourselves.  We were surprised how many cruisers have a transmitting AIS.  We were also surprised at how useful the system can be.  At this anchorage there are about a dozen boats spread across a half mile.  A glance at the AIS on our tablet tells us who arrived or departed.  Last night a boat lost power coming through the reef entrance.  Four or five of us dashed across the atoll to stand by in case they needed aid.   Darkness fell right in the middle of the whole operation.  AIS provided a way of identifying each other and ensuring everyone made it back to the anchorage.  

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Michelle took this photo at night.  That's moonlight on the water.  You can see the night time anchor lights on our neighbor boats.  There was no detail visible in the raw image but after some of Michelle's Photoshop magic it looks like a daytime shot. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Arrival at North Minerva Reef

We arrived at North Minerva Reef at 9 this morning.  It's a 2 mile diameter atoll with the reef exposed only at low tide.  There are about a dozen boats here already including several we spoke to on VHF during the passage.  We are anchored on the windward side about a hundred yards from the reef.  The surf crashing on outside of the reef creates a continuous distant roar.  Like the sound of a jet taking off at a nearby airport - but continuous.  Tomorrow we'll explore a bit and try to get some aerial images with the drone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

NZ to Minerva Reefs - Day 5

We gained a day today. We crossed the International Date Line so we....uhhh....sailed into yesterday I guess? We'll have two Wednesdays this week? Wait a minute, the dateline doesn't always follow the 180 degree meridian. Come to think of it, we had a full moon last night and I was at the helm for long stretches staring at the spectacle. I never saw that thick black date line. Still figuring it out the dateline thing. 

Each day when I'm writing a post Michelle passes me a thumb drive with several "images of the day". I can only attach one photo at a time and they take forever to upload over the satphone - preventing me from checking weather and emails. Everyday it is difficult to pick the best shot. She really has her photographic game on. Yesterday there were 3 amazing shots. I'm sure she'll do a best-of-voyage post when we get somewhere with broadband. Today's image was shot with her on the side deck looking straight up. I was inboard holding on to her sailing harness since she was using both hands on the camera. 

The sailing harness is a auto-inflating life jacket. Ours have a locator beacon and strobe light. If someone goes overboard the beacon triggers an alarm on the boat. The beacon position appears on our electronic charts. We have strict rules about when we must wear the harness. 

The winds have tapered off so we won't make it to Minerva by sundown today. We'll find a safe location to park the boat overnight and enter the reef in the morning with favorable light. We "park" the boat using an ancient technique called "Heaving To" . Google it! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

NZ to Minerva Reefs - Day 4

We are 600 miles into our passage with 200 left to go. The wind shifted more behind us and picked up. We reduced sail to slow down. We hope to make it into to the North Minerva reef at about Noon tomorrow. 

Thanks to Ben Siebert and Laurie Jensen for letting me know my posts are showing up. And thanks to Ian Smith for telling me where to find lobsters at Minerva Reef! We look forward to reading comments when we get to Tonga (and Internet) in a few weeks. Right now we are "posting blind". 

Cue the sound of angels singing...

Monday, June 25, 2018

NZ to Minerva Reefs - Day 3

This is the third day of the passage.  Michelle said it feels like the fourth day.  I agree.  We are tired.  Excited and happy.  But weary.  The motion of the boat has us continuously tensing unfamiliar muscles to balance ourselves. Just washing dishes provides a Pilates workout. 

The scale of the environment is awesome and sometimes intimidating.  It is BIG out here.  As I write this our boat is running along roughly parallel to the ocean swell.  The waves are smooth and broad, perhaps 4 boat lengths between wavetops.  The seas are 8-10 feet high but appear bigger.  The swell passes right underneath us like a slow motion conveyor.  We slow down a bit when we sail up onto the back of a wave while it lifts us like a floating bottle cap.  We sometimes accelerate and surf down the backside and round up a little - abruptly turning the boat off course then back in a few seconds.  It's actually tamer than some of the day-sailing I've done on the Great Lakes.  Talk about steep waves!  But this time around it's my house being tossed about.

The beauty of this place is hard to describe.  Last night the moon was back-lighting the wavetop foam as brilliant white accents on the dark gray waves.  As we head North closer to the tropics the ocean is becoming a brilliant "Pacific Blue".  The colder, nutrient-rich waters around New Zealand are more on the green-brown side of the spectrum. 

We've talked to several other boats underway. In the middle of writing this I talked to a guy named Rich on sailboat "Legacy".  He was familiar with Pogeyan having met the previous owner in Western Samoa years ago.  We see boats that transmit automatic identification signals (AIS). They appear on our electronic charts as a blip with the boats name, heading, speed and nationality. It's comforting to know there are others out here crossing the big blue pond with us.

It was more beautiful than this photo.  And this photo ain't bad...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

NZ to Minerva Reefs - Day 2

The winds have picked up and so has the temperature. We started out with 3 blankets at night. Now one is sufficient. We reefed (reduced sail) at sundown yesterday and again at sunrise this morning. 

Michelle shot this sunrise photo while hugging the bimini frame to steady the shot. The boat is pitching all over the place. We toss little squares of non-skid shelf liner material everywhere we might set an essential the morning's coffee cup. 

Our new Engle portable fridge sits under the cockpit dining table loaded with frozen meat. It only draws 2 amps but the new load is just enough to require us to run the generator for an hour each day. We have a kilowatt of solar panels and have never had to use the generator previously. The days are short right now here in the Southern Hemisphere. Winter Solstice was a few days ago. We'll get better solar output when get closer to the Equator... I hope.  We need a latitude adjustment! 

You can follow our progress at 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

NZ to Minerva Reefs - Day 1

We've been on passage for a little over a day. There was very little wind at the start of the passage so we had the diesel rumbling through the night. While we were still "driving a motor boat" we passed close to the Poor Knights islands to reconnoiter the coves and dive spots for later use. Michelle got some really good photos with "golden hour" lighting just as the sun set. 

This photo was taken just before we hoisted our sails this morning - at about 10 AM. The first few days on passage my mind can't believe what my eyes see. I keep seeing the farthest clouds as distant land on the horizon. We see the sailboat Danika on AIS running parallel with us. We'll look for them at Minerva. 

We are on a really nice beam reach for the last several hours. Michelle is painting a watercolor of a sea turtle to hang in the salon. I'm fiddling with the sails and contemplating throwing out a few lines to catch some dinner. All is well.

Sailing away from New Zealand heading to Tonga - 2018

June 23, 2018

These photos go back to the very beginning of our sail. They are as we left Marsden Cove Marina where we checked out of New Zealand. We sailed out right into the beautiful headlands. I’ve posted photos of this area before so you will likely recognize the landscape. Our first day out the wind was low and we motored all day. The seas were so calm that I was able to do an oil painting on canvas without too much trouble. Good thing I did it right away because the next few days the seas were big and we were sailing. There was no way I could have a steady hand. Though it may have made an interesting abstract with lines jumping all over the canvas! We were very fortunate with the weather for our entire sail to North Minerva Reef. There were 3-4 days of decent sized seas (but nothing crazy) where we averaged about 8.5 knots and Rich was usually trying to slow the boat down by putting less sail out.

Sunrise as we left Marsden Cove marina.

New Zealand Poor Knights Islands June 2018

June 23, 2018

These photos of the Poor Knights Islands were taken at the beginning of our passage from New Zealand to Tonga. Rich altered our course just a bit so we would pass right by them just as the sun was setting. We arrived right at the lovely “golden hour” lighting. It was a pretty spectacular setting to say the least. A bit chilly but it is winter here in New Zealand.

The Poor Knights are about 10 miles off the coast near Whangarei. They have been a marine reserve for the last 40 years. Rich went diving there last year and it was cold but interesting. There was a lot of underwater vegetation resembling kelp. The Poor Knights Islands are the long chain you see in the distant photo. Viewed from the mainland they resemble a disabled knight in armor lying on his back.

View all our sailing photos visit

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A "day off" hike up Mt. Manaia

After 6 weeks of non-stop boat projects we had our first day off. We hiked up nearby Mount Manaia. It was a lovely clear day so I took the drone along to get some footage from the top.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Fall morning flight over Whangarei Town Basin

This is some drone footage from Whangarei Town Basin on a clear Fall morning. There are many boats here prepping and provisioning for the annual migration North to the tropics. 

You can see our friends on Mango Moon hoisting their new main sail as I fly up the river.  Last night the temperature dropped to 45 DegF. It's time to go!

Click here for the video

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Going Back in the Water!

Pogeyan goes back in the water tomorrow morning after 14 months sitting on blocks here at Norsand Boatyard. I really like the way Norsand sets blocking to support catamarans.  They use big wooden cube blocks about 2 feet on a side.  At each support location they slipped softer material between the blocks and the hull.
The yard put her on the hydraulic lift Friday so they could apply bottom paint to the locations where she sat on the blocks. It rained and blew up quite a stink on Friday night - rocking the boat around on the lift. Not a lot of movement. Just different and unsettling.  We'll sleep better with her bobbing in the water again.
We put a serious dent in the boat projects. I've not worked with my hands this much in years. I am so totally wiped out at the end of each day!  I fell asleep at the galley table last week and woke up in the middle of the night. I'm loving it!
Next we head a few miles up the river to Town Basin where we'll finish pre-passage projects and get our new canvas. Then some shakedown trips and more prepping for the passage to the tropics.
I've got to say the view off the stern is about as good as it gets for a boatyard. I've been back here 3 weeks and I'm still caught off guard by the beauty of this place.

Probably the last photo with the yellow canvas

Going up on the trailer lift so bottom paint can be finished

The view off the back is pretty pleasant for a boat yard

You can see some of the old bottom paint

Our brand new folding props with a fresh coat of Prop Speed

They lift exactly where the manufacturer recommends.  I checked.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Heading back to the Real World

It's finally time to head back to Pogeyan.

We are checking off the last few items from our to-do list before we jump on a plane to Auckland.

Last visit to the storage unit.....check