Saturday, 13 July 2013

Nitidus comes home

Nitidus comes home: Hawaii to Vancouver
A personal diary by David Warnes
Thursday 6 June Waikiki
I joined Nitidus at about lunchtime. My holiday was over, the car had been returned and Ann had disappeared through security heading for Los Angeles, Jude in Boston and eventually home. It was now time to get on with what had brought us to Hawaii in the first place. 
 When I arrived Kosta and Sergiy were still fizzing about their trip from Kona. It had been a fine reach in the lee of the Hawaiian chain but across 6 acceleration zones which gave them more wind than they would have liked. Add to that a large Southerly swell and the conditions were in place for a fast trip, and they fairly flew. All that was capped by an entry into Waikiki Marina with surf on either side, the swell pushing them in and the excitement was complete. Even a couple of days of routine maintenance had not dimmed the experience.
Nitidus rafted up in Waikiki

The boat was much as I remembered her when I left her in Bora- Bora  in 2012. However the sails are away being repaired and strengthened, the gearbox and propeller have been reversed as forward speed failed in Bora-Bora after I left, and there are numerous other little changes which are always being made to a yacht in use.
 Our neighbours are a varied bunch to say the least. Inside we have Bill who single and double hands his Westsail and intends to follow us to Seattle a couple of weeks after we leave. Ahead we have a his-and -hers top range charter, and outside of them a mad buch of Aussies who have trashed their boat by driving it upwind from Osaka and are repairing furiously, but in spurts, in an attempt to get to the Transpac on time; and ahead of them a couple of Americans whose boats are being repaired but show no signs of visible change or movement. We are a positive centre of organised activity in all this.

Friday 7 June Waikiki
Kosta hired a car and we all went to Westmarine to return some unnecessary stuff and buy other bits and pieces. After that it was Costco for the bulk of our provisions which Sergiy and I loaded aboard whilst Kosta went for the sails. Lunch out, then collect extra diesel in cans, spare gas for the cooker, and waterproof our oilies. And that lot took all day.

Saturday 8 June On Passage
This morning we rigged the sails, tied up the diesel cans, checked and retied lifelines, did last minute shopping, said our goodbyes and slipped at 1000 hrs.
We motored easily out of the harbour and the entrance was a doddle, almost a flat calm and nothing like two days ago when the surf was high on either side of the channel markers. We quickly set the jib and rolled away down wind at 5-6 knots. Downwind is SW and not quite the way to shorten the 2300 miles we have to make to the NE to get to  Vancouver! There is however method in this madness as at this time of the year the winds circulate around a dead area N and E of Hawaii and it is necessary to keep favourable winds to get us N of 40 degrees and into the Westerlies which will take us to Vancouver. That is the theory, and although it is lovely to be on a moving boat again, it does seem odd to be going in the wrong  direction!!
Kosta takes us out of Waikiki

Being the oldest crew member the other 2 thought I should have the easiest watch, and I did not try to change their minds. So by the time my watch was ending we were beginning to round the island, and so we hardened the sheets and began to move into the acceleration zone between Oahu and Kauai. By the time I came back on watch it was the Nitidus I remembered, leaning to the wind, crashing into the waves at 6 kts with water pouring off both side decks. But we were clawing our way N and easily avoiding either a tack or a close encounter with Kauai. At about 2100 a loom of lights appeared in roughly the direction of Kauai but it stayed at more or less the same bearing and yet it looked like floodlights. At 2200 hrs I called Kosta and we thought maybe it was Seine-netter attracting fish. Kosta checked the radar and declared that whatever it was it was more than 16 miles out. It wasn't, and at 2230 hrs a trawler steamed astern of us by a mere 200 yards. Scary, Scary. We must not make that sort of mistake again! 

Sunday 9 June  On Passage
I woke to find Oahu and Kauai below the horizon and the boat ploughing on just W of N at 5-6 knots. the Hydrovane was taking care of the mundane work of steering so we busied ourselves adjusting sails and tying down loose bits of kit to make the boat tidy, secure and to remove chafe. We had the excitement of a fish strike but no fish!
 The wind is about 12 knots from just N of  E and looks set to continue for the next few days. We are still heading slightly W of N but the motion is easy and we are heading towards the Westerlies at 40 degrees N. Whether we will be happy when we get there remains to be seen as the forecast for that area now is very unsettled. But for now life is easy, even boring, which is good for my shoulder.( I broke my collar bone last week when a wave dumped me on a beach in Kauai). The only downside is that I am not feeling hungry, and am a little queasy, not sick but just no appetite. It will pass.
The Hydrovae steers us through the Trades
My watch, from 8-midnight was very hard as I was dog tired and it was a struggle to stay awake. In this regard it is fortunate that Nitidus does not provide dry, comfortable accommodation for her watchkeepers! After the alarms of last night this one was blissfully uneventful.

Monday 10 June  On Passage
After a wonderful nights' sleep I awoke feeling greatly refreshed and hungry. The morning was cloudy with the odd shower of light rain, but the wind was steady from the E and we continued to broad reach slightly W of N, still under the jib alone. We are making 5-6 knots with no effort whatsoever . The Hydrovane sees to the steering, the jib pulls us along and the boat has very little heel. Crossing the seas there is lots of up and down and rolling movements, but no crashing, banging and slamming. We could probably come up another 10 degrees without changing the motion but this is a very comfortable ride. I tell myself that the degrees of Easting lost now will be easier to recover at higher latitudes as the curvature of the earth makes the absolute distance between degrees less at higher, than at lower latitudes. Let us hope that the Westerlies at 40-50 degrees N will be as kind as the present Trades.
  Great excitement at 1800 hrs, Sergiy caught a Mahi Mahi so there is no doubt about what is for dinner. When we went South, Gennady caught one and marinaded it raw. It was delicious. Our quick dunk in vinegar doesn't come close or do justice to the fish, but it was still nice. 
Quite a boisterous night, but easy as the Hydrovane took the strain. We are now making good progress North.
Going North 

Tuesday 11 June   On Passage

The morning was bright and sparkly and it was a pleasure to be alive. The wind was still steady 15-20 knots from the E which makes our course to N both fast and easy.
 We had  a visit from a brownish coloured albatross who gave us a wonderful flying display, contouring the waves, pirouetting on a wingtip and playing in the turbulence behind the sail. I tried to feed him some of our excess fish but am unsure how successful it was. He did alight a couple of times but whether that was for our discards or something else was impossible to tell. After a couple of hours another albatross appeared and they flew around each other a couple of times before disappearing in opposite directions. I guess albatross' are happier with their own company. After a half hour on our own, one of them, or perhaps a different bird altogether, came back to keep us company.
 We got weather from Julia and Gennady who agree that this weather will continue for another couple of days. Let us hope they are right. They also predict a subsequent veering S and reducing in strength which should make it easy to recover some of the Easting. There is a static area of very light variable winds about 120 miles across where the Trades begin to fail. We hope to be able to skirt  this area to the W and N, but light winds mean much uncertainty. So far the Trades have held up well and this uncertain area is 5-600 miles  ahead. It is however a harbinger that this idyllic, easy run will not continue for ever.
Sergiy tops up his tan
Wednesday 12 June  On Passage

Today has been a day of lighter winds and for much of the time our speed has been 4-5 knots instead of the previous 5+. It is always frustrating when progress slows, and even more so if it stops! Kosta has a plan to set the main when we approach the area of light winds. I don't know why that precludes its' earlier use, but he is resistant to using it earlier. So far our daily mileages have been very satisfactory, 120-130 miles a day, and the ride has been easy so there are no problems. It is not how I would do it but I am not Kosta and it is not my boat. 
The wind decreased slowly throughout the night although Kosta had a short squall of 26 knots during his watch.

Thursday 13 June On Passage
I woke and the boat was definitely under-powered, she was wallowing in the swells and making only 3 knots. I think the motion woke Kosta too, so we had breakfast and prepared the lighter genoa. The change was done in true sailing fashion, hoisting the new sail outside the set jib and then recovering the jib. It was not a fast change but done without snags and nicely. For me with my sailing background of having a reliable engine, it was unusual but then sailing without the main is unusual for me. The genoa is old and needs to be gentled but for now in 10 knots of wind it is pulling the boat along beautifully and Nitidus feels much more comfortable.
 The daily weather shows the area of uncertain winds moving E by about 120 miles when we reach our turning point in a couple of days time. Behind this area light southerly winds are predicted so we will need all the light sails we can get then. Maybe we should just make what N and E we can when we can, just ensuring we stay out of the area of predicted calm.
Spot the albatross
 This morning we were visited by another albatross, a tropic bird and either terns or petrels.
After a couple of hours a squall threatened so we changed back to the small jib just in time. A couple more hours of satisfactory progress and we were wallowing again. This time as it was getting towards evening we set the main, which is much easier to get down at night if necessary, and Nitidus started to move again.
 The boat feels feels a different boat with the main and jib set. It has better balance and more consistent drive as both sails seldom lose drive at the same time. To improve matters further the wind picked up to 14 knots and we shot N at an average of almost 7 knots. It was a joy!
 I would not like any readers to consider that my ideas on what sails to carry etc, when they differ from Kosta's decisions are a criticism or a source of friction; they are not. When I say or imply "I would have done.........", I mean just that, and there is always more than one way to skin a cat! So far Kosta's decisions have resulted in an almost textbook passage and I have every expectation that this will continue.
 One event of immense importance which I almost forgot was the ablutions. On a small boat the sight, sound and smells of your companions are always with you. But when you begin to smell yourself it is definitely time for action. So between changing back to the small headsail and the arrival of more wind I strip washed in the cockpit. I hope it is now better for everyone, although being tolerant souls they did not complain.
The fragile genoa doing sterling service in light airs
Friday 14 June  On Passage

I was awoken by the sound of the engine being started and it is an event sufficiently rare as to bring me instantly awake. The wind had died again so engine assist was deemed in order. After about 1.5 hours, a few useful miles under the keel and a few useful amps in the batteries, the wind returned and we sped N again at 6 knots under sail alone. We have 15 knots of apparent wind at 60 degrees on the starboard bow giving us a fine reach. The main is over the port quarter and well vanged down so there is no boom lash, and no chance of an inadvertent gybe. The peak of the main breathes with the  swells so there is very little pressure on the sail; indeed so little pressure that we have no  more than 15 degrees of heel. And yet the boat flies N at 6-7  knots without effort or stress; it is lovely to see and feel, long may it continue.
 Of  course it didn't continue and during the evening the wind moderated so that our speed dropped to about 4 knots, and early the next morning it died completely so Sergiy had a watch with the engine. The engine only produces about 5 knots at any sensible level of fuel consumption so any progress above 3 knots makes using the engine not worth the candle.

Saturday 15 June  On Passage
The engine clattered away about 3 ft from my ear for the last part of the night, but after a very short space of time you just blank it out. This does not happen however with the swishes, gurgles and swooshes of the water going past your other ear 1ft away. Any significant changes in these noises wake you very quickly.
The wind picked up slightly as the morning settled and we were making about 3.5 knots under jib and double reefed main. At about 1000 hrs we changed headsails to Kosta's fragile genny and our speed went up to 5 knots on a very satisfactory course of 15 degrees. All more or less in the right direction!
Those of you who are bothering to read this may well be wondering why not unreef the main in light winds.The answer is that the main is made from heavy sail cloth and the pressure of a light wind is insufficient to prevent the sail falling to windward when the boat rolls in the swells creating a situation of lost drive, dangerous wear and great noise. By keeping the main reefed the fullness, area and height are reduced as is it's tendency to fall to windward, but without greatly reducing the trailing/leech edge of the sail. The big light headsail can stay full and the extension of the main pushes us, really pulls us, along.
We had a visit from about 10 dolphins who detached from a much larger pod about half a mile away. They played for a while but were quickly bored by our gentle progress, so they left to rejoin the main group.
That was a dolphin that was

Off to the W are cirrus mares tails and denser cloud behind. It looks like a typical depression so we should have more wind within 36 hrs.
 It was a day of very light winds and a period of 8 hours when we had almost no wind at all, and certainly under 5 knots. but even so we managed a very creditable 116 miles in the 24 hour period. The boat slips quietly through the water on days like these and it seems as though we are getting nowhere, but we are.
 We held the fragile old genoa into the night but at midnight it was decided to return to the working jib, which we did quickly and without drama.
During my night watch the petrels were chittering around in the dark. What do they find to live on 1000 miles from land as they dart and flit this way and that across the waves? And when, where and how do they sleep?

Sunday 16 June  On Passage
The wind settled at 8-10 knots ESE. We have caught a small tuna for supper, sorted out the veg and discarded bad bits, done a rough stocktake of food and water, and gone to full main for the first time this trip.
Tuna for supper
We are making 5-6 knots and heading NE directly for Vancouver. Long may it continue. As we head N the temperature has dropped steadily and a night watch now necessitates nearly full foul weather gear. Not to keep dry but to keep warm,. Gone are the balmy tropical nights, this is much more bracing.

The wind is shifting steadily but slowly from ESE to SSW so the days run should be impressive.

Monday 17 June  On Passage
I woke to grey skies and a light overcast from horizon to horizon. The good news is that the wind maintained it's strength and we have continued through the night at 6 knots or better in the right direction. All that is necessary to keep the boat on course is the occasional twitch to the Hydrovane and a re-trim of the sails. It is sailing without effort in a level boat which is dry inside and out, and going in the right direction. It must be a record.
The day's run was 152 miles, excellent progress.
   So how do we pass the time when there is so little to do?
We keep watch, we chat about families and friends, sometimes we put the world to rights, we talk of places we have been and boats we have known; always boats! We also eat well, drink a lot of tea (coffee is low), watch movies, read books, play backgammon, listen to  music and at odd times write a journal. And the days just roll on.
At 1500 hrs a cargo vessel lifted over the horizon. It was the MTC Glory bound for China. We checked that they could see us on their radar and the affirmative was encouraging.
 The wind freshened to 18 knots during the night and during mine and Kosta's watches we drove on at 7 knots through frequent light rain. With Sergiy the wind rose again and the main was dropped. For a while good progress was made with the jib but with the dawn the wind died and changing tack, upping and downing sails made no difference, progress stalled.

Tuesday 18 June   On Passage   
The morning was as dismal as the night with light rain showers and a dying uncertain wind. Sometimes there is enough to dimple the surface of the ocean but mainly the swells have an oily look which is not a good omen. The weather gurus say that this is with us for another 3 days, meanwhile we head in the right direction on the engine looking for wind. And after lunch we tried a couple of tacks and found a groove going E at about 4 knots which we held all night.

Wednesday 19 June  On Passage
Two messages last night to say that Nigel, my youngest son, and Sharon's baby has arrived safely. Leon David Warnes may he have a long and happy life. A proud and relieved Grandad.
For Nitidus the grey overcast and drizzle continues. the light winds make for a slow but easy ride. The forecasts from Gennady and Julia suggest that this will last for at least 24 hrs and NE of us is a nasty depression which needs to clear away before we push N. There is much uncertainty and discussion because the wind circulating around this depression is pushing us further S, hardly the way we would choose to go, but to tack and head N risks running into nasty weather and if the depression is slow to clear it may block the onset of the W-WSW winds by a further day. There are too many unknowns to have confidence that any decision we make is for the best. We will probably play safe and stay on this heading losing Northings but staying clear of the bad weather N and E of us. We hope to make up the Northings quickly when the South- Westerlies arrive.
  During the morning the above discussions were long, intense and laced with 'ifs and buts'. Over lunch the wind shifted a further 10 degrees pushing us even further S and the unanimous and immediate decision was, tack. So we are now heading at 5 knots 20 degrees E of N, within 15 degrees of out desired course. What a difference a wind makes! The wind continued to veer all the way round to S so we ended up running with the wind on our quarter directly for Vancouver at 7 knots. However all good things come to an end and the wind rose so we had to drop the main. Unless there is a major change this is how we will stay for the night. That we did, and made good progress until morning when the wind dropped to less than 10 knots from SW slowing the boat to under 3 knots and rolling it's way N and E. The night's rain has reinforced the wetness of the last few days and the inside of the boat is decidedly damp.  

Thursday 20 June  On Passage
Less than 10 knots SW is a useless wind as the boat is difficult to sail in these conditions. There is not enough speed for the Hydrovane to steer properly and the sails flop about with the rolling on the swells. The swells are left over from last night's blow and we are rolling 25 degrees each way. The rolling also disrupts the auto pilot and makes it difficult for it to hold a course, so we are hand steering. In addition we are running in and out of fog banks which reduces visibility to less than half a mile, which is no distance at all; 3 mins to avoid a ship doing 18 knots!
After trying a variety of sail configurations we gave up and ran with the engine. This has the disadvantage that it is impossible to hear any other ship approaching, but the advantage that it gives us a chance to dry out our waterproofs and get the dampness out of the boat. Everything is damp and clammy after 3 days of rain and drizzle, not wet just damp. And with the engine we can run the radar which is a comfort.
 The weather gurus say stay East. We believe them but it would be nice to know why, probably the depressions to the N are not moving. On my evening watch we got wind but it only lasted for an hour and then we were back with the engine which ran all night.
Immersion suit familiarisation. Or did I win the ship's famcy dress competition?

Friday21 June  On Passage
After breakfast we refueled from the cans on the deck. We have about 50 hours of fuel left. This will give us about 250 miles and there are 950 to go, so we need wind. Julia and Gennady agree that 15-20 knots of wind should arrive from the SW this evening and last for a couple of days. The galling thing is that there is wind to the south of us whilst we make our way through banks of mist with none!
 Halfway through my morning watch we got the merest breathe of wind from the S. It is only 6 knots but is enough to ghost along ESE at 3 knots. The sky is clearing from the S so we hope that the wind comes.
 We have ample food although it may get a bit monotonous towards the end as fresh is running out fast.
 The wind didn't last but lunch and a movie saw it return slightly stronger but it came with steady rain just to make our day. Moreover it didn't last and left us becalmed.We didn't use the engine because we need at least a days fuel supply to manoeuvre in the region of Juan de Fouca strait which is a busy shipping area, and with at least 9 days of uncertainty and no guarantee of wind at the end of a period of motoring, we decided to keep our day of engine for later. We do have stronger westerlies forecast for tonight and for the next 3 days so that should change the situation.
  The Westerlies did not arrive, there were a couple of times when the fog flowed horizontally across our headlamp beams and we thought that they had come, so we  hoisted the sails, but after about an hour the wind died leaving us becalmed again. So up went the sails and down came the sails. The result was frustration and disappointment and a very wet crew. The fog was incredibly thick with wraith-like streamers of water which quickly soaked everybody and everything which came into contact with it. So we and our oilies were soaked again and all our efforts resulted in about 2 miles gained.
  The word calm is really a misnomer for a sailboat without wind. In mid ocean there is normally a swell and this will induce a roll of anything up to 40 degrees each way. It is not a silent thing either and Nitidus is at the noisy end of the scale. If the sails are up to reduce the roll they slat back and forth with each swell, a clatter of sliders followed by a whoomphing bang as the canvas tightens on the other side. This happens about once every 5 seconds. It is also a quick way to destroy the sails so they don't stay up long under these conditions. Even with the sails down the halyards slap and bang against the mast and Nitidus's wire halyards are extra noisy. The running backstays click and tap against the spreaders and the fence wires, the boom creaks and groans even when vanged down, and the swell booms under Nitidus's retrouce transom. Inside anything which can slide and roll and bang to a stop, will. The boat is a cacophony of sound, none of it pleasant. Samuel Coleridge Taylor's ' silent as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.' could not be further from the truth.

Saturday 22 June   On Passage
 Another false alarm with the sails and another period becalmed. We all look to the West! At 1000 hrs the fog cleared and the wind arrived, not a shed-load, but 10 knots which took us NE at 4-5 knots. The atmosphere on the boat lightened. after yesterday sloshing around in the swells, today we go fairly quietly, steadily and purposefully on our way. In recognition of our changed fortunes I did my dhobi!
 During the afternoon the wind strengthened and steady progress became a swooping rush. It lasted through my watch but became stronger still through Kostas' so reluctantly the main was dropped. However we still make 6 knots in the right direction.

Sunday 23 June  On Passage
 We continue our way NE to Juan de Fouca with a W wind steady at 20 knots. We nearly caught a tuna but it flipped off when Kosta was getting it on deck and another got away when it saw the boat. There was disappointment all round at our lack of success, but a little later we caught a fish, nobody knows what it is, but I think it is a large Pollack. So we have fish for supper after all.
Kosta with the mystery fish

The wind has held and we are making great progress. It is very lively motion but nobody is complaining. The fish was delicious, firm white and flaky; we had it with mashed potatoes and salad, and for afters strawberry jam sandwiches and cocoa.

 It is now cold at night and also during the days when there is no sun. Getting ready for watch involves layers of clothes, scarf, hat and gloves until you end up looking like the Michelin man.

Monday 24 June  On Passage
 The forecast was true and the wonderful West wind continued to blow and we rollicked our way NE. The forecast for the next few days is not so good as it is due to reduce and back SSW, so progress NE may be difficult. However we are enjoying what we have got. There are about 700 miles to to run to Juan de Fouca and it would be nice to get them done. Another period of fickle light winds and calms we do not need.
 This afternoon the sun came out on Sergiy's watch and shone a glittering path to windward. The sea was agitated and looking along the sun line was an amazing sight. The Westerly swell was HUGE, probably 200 meters crest to crest with a lift of about 10-15 meters. These glittering valleys and hills were constantly appearing and disappearing under their own movement and the action of cross swells and chop. Crossing these monsters we hardly feel them, just the odd conjunction of the 3 motions which sometimes lifts the stern and slews us off course. The main up and down is so slow as to be imperceptible, but when you end up on a crest and see the moving, filling, heaving valley it is breath taking. Thank goodness we are going downwind!
The photo does not do justice to the sight. We are at the summit of one crest and the next crest is the skyline

 The evening shift was a dream. The skies cleared and we saw our first stars for 5 days, the clouds illuminated by the full moon were dramatic, but best of all the wind picked up to 20 knots and we fizzed NE at 7 knots. Kosta got the short straw and had both a downpour and frustratingly variable winds, and by Sergiy's watch the wind had moderated further but steadied to give Nitidus a gentle 5 knots NE on course for J de F.

Tuesday 25 June  On Passage
 A delightful morning of sunshine which turned to overcast by lunchtime. The boat goes steadily NE at 4 knots, not like yesterday but fine never-the-less. Overnight we sailed from a blue ocean to one which is greenish-grey. I have no idea why although the water temperature has dropped by a degree.
 At mid-morning we had an alarm when a whale surfaced not 10 meters from the boat. It was about 35-40 ft long, so the same size as the boat, and had a broad scimitar shaped dorsal fin. We think it was a Brydes. It didn't stay for more than a breath and I next saw it 200 m astern, but we started the engine anyway to discourage further attention. During the rest of the day and throughout the night the wind dropped further but we still managed to hold N at 4 knots. We are getting close to the point at which we need to gybe to head E for J de F. If the wind shifts to the S that will do it.

Wednesday 26 June  On Passage
 Overnight the wind shifted and so this morning we gybed the boat. After a doubtful start of indeterminate wind we eventually picked up speed and made 5 knots for J de F. We had a few periods when there was insufficient wind for the Hydrovane but for most of the day and night we made satisfactory, if unremarkable progress.

Thursday 27 June  On Passage
 It was a good night, a better morning and a really cracking afternoon; a steady 7 knot average for J de F. Everything is crossed that this wind continues. We were visited by a pod of about 7 whales this morning. They were the same species as as a couple of days ago, but none came closer than 100 yards, however we started the engine to discourage them, not wanting a really close encounter which could seriously damage the boat
Sergiy saw a ship on his watch and I saw a guillemot, or Canadian equivalent, on mine. Signs of land?
The wind did not hold. On my evening watch we went under a line of cloud and the wind shifted such that a direct course for J de F was no longer possible. However if we tack we will be even worse off, so we will just bash on and hope for a better shift! 

Friday 28 June  On Passage
Well there was a further shift during the night but it was even further to the E and we are now barely making any progress to J de F at all. The weather is grey and rainy and the mood on board is similar. After the last week of excellent progress this setback is a disappointment. All the more so as the prevalence of East winds in this area at this time of the year is extremely low. We are just very unlucky that a strong wind from the East has arrived at just the wrong time.
After breakfast we considered the options and came down in favour of Port Hardy on the North tip of Vancouver Island. We can lay a course there and with this wind we should be in by tomorrow night. It means a long extra section through the channels to get the boat home but is better than sitting out a gale 250 miles off J de F. There are 2 complications: Firstly there is a major wind shift to the SW is forecast. It could change everything but will probably arrive too late. Secondly my son Chris, who is working in Calgary, has said he will meet us in Victoria on Sun 1 July. Victoria on 1 July is just not a possibility now, so we need to give him a firm RV before he leaves for Victoria.

Saturday 29 June  On Passage
During the night the wind went solidly East and strengthened. We put up the main and made very good progress towards the Scott Strait at the N end of Vancouver Island. My son Chris is unable to meet us as the drive is too much for a weekend. The same is true for Julia so there will be no welcoming committee at Port Hardy. It is a disappointment as I would have loved to have seen him, but it also means we are not tied to anyones' schedule other than our own.
 The wind strengthened and veered all day so by nightfall it was blowing 20-25 knots and we were averaging just under 7 and on course. When the wind went 28-30 knots and the boat never dropped below 8, Sergiy and Kosta dropped the main. We still make 6 knots on course with just the jib.
Going North to the Scott Strait

 By morning the seas were large and breaking but we we continued to swoop away downwind. We have increasing numbers of seabirds; guillemots, auks, and a black equivalent of a European gannet. They are wheeling and diving, contouring the waves and generally chilling out in groups on the surface. We have also seen a couple of coasting cargo ships so land is close somewhere behind that veil of mist and rain. Strangely I have not smelt it, in the Med any approach to land gives distinctive smell from the the sooty, seweragey odours of the cities to the sharp herby tangs of the islands. But here there is nothing it must have been washed away.
Sergiy in the Scott Channel
We raised the Scott Islands at 1015hrs through mist and rain but after all this is Canada.
The Scott Islands and Strait
Clearing the channel and rounding the point brought us into a whole new world. The water flattened, the wind dropped and shortly the sun came out. What a treat! 
It has however been an eventful arrival as we hit what we think was a whale shark, and what we know was a log in quick succession. Fortunately there is no serious apparent damage from either encounter, but in the case of the log we were very, very lucky.
 The wild life is amazing, apart from the numerous birds, we have seen a couple of Sea Otters lolling on the surface. Also beautiful are the green pine covered hills which line the sides of the fiord which is shining in the sun. There are Sea Eagles everywhere and rafts of little black diving ducks who paddle furiously at our approach and eventually bottle-out on the surface and dive.

The other side of the Scott Strait
Port Hardy is not after all a port of entry for customs and immigration in spite of what is written in the Sailing Directions and Pilot Books. A very helpful lady officer from Ontario(!!!) checked us in by phone and gave me, via Kosta, an immigration entry number. What a difference to the USA.

We looked around Port Hardy which is a town of wide open spaces at the end of the road, pleasant but unremarkable. We were none the less very pleased to be there. We shopped for the coming few days and had a celebratory meal, steaks all round. Sergiy leaves tomorrow to see his girl friend and get back to work to earn some money. Kosta and I will take the boat down through the channels behind Vancouver Island. It will be different that's for sure.

Sunday 30 June  Port Hardy to Port Neville
We were up early awoken by a raucous Jackdaw. Breakfasted, said farewell to Sergiy, shopped for more food and diesel then out into the misty channel to try to make Chatham point before the light goes at 2230.
Leaving Port Hardy
We hope that we can make Chatham because we have a forecast which gives us a strong wind from astern and a 4 knot tide with us for most of the day. We dodged the floating logs at Port Neville harbour and entered a glassy, misty calm. It was like sitting in a world of luminous grey with only the odd lazy pod of Pilot whales and seabirds to show that there was other life around.

After lunch the mist cleared but the wind did not arrive and the GPS and log show that the tide is running against us. However the scenery continually improved and became dramatic as we entered Johnson Strait. We finally got our wind and tide about an hour from Port Neville so decided to call it a day there. We dodged more logs and cruise ships to dock at 2100 hrs.
And so to bed.
Mountains on Vancouver Island from Johnson Strait

Monday 1 July  Port Neville to Campbell River

The view across Johnson Strait
Port Neville is a beautiful inlet off the |Johnson Strait. It is pine fringed, little populated, has a dock to tie to and glorious scenery.
The dock at Port Neville
The only way in or out is by boat but the modern world is never very far away and they now have internet access and cellphones from the aerials on the top of the mountain in the picture above. This access has had the effect of stopping the seaplane mail service which used to run before,

Today we have to pass Seymour Narrows where the tide streams at up to 10 knots if we get it wrong! After yesterdays experience with the tide we are less than totally convinced that 1900 hrs will be slack water. However we don't have a better option. On close examination of the sailing directives it seems that Johnson Strait has significant surface ebb(against us) for 15 hrs in 24 and a partial ebb for a further 3. No wonder we had problems yesterday, to go easily S and E with the tide here one needs to be a submarine.
Just as we were about to leave a couple of locals came to chat and they suggest that we modify our plans and stop at Browns Bay to wait for slack water, and this we intend to do.
Steering in Johnson Strait

After yesterday's perplexing and frustrating journey, today, which we expected would be difficult, was a breeze. We were away at 0900 to a misty channel which soon cleared to give magnificent views of close mountains on the Island side and distant mountains on the mainland side. The sun shone, the wind blew from astern and the current eased us on our way. the tide rips and rapids did not impede us or cause problems and we arrived at Browns Bay just North of the Seymour Narrows with nearly 4 hours to spare before slack water. We tied up at the marina, checked our slack water calculation at the office, we were correct, and had a beer in the restaurant. All very civilized and no charge for parking! We got out of the marina with difficulty because of the lack of reverse power in Nitidus but without real drama. We passed the narrows at slack water and headed for Discovery Marina at Campbell River. We found a berth, tried to check with the office but it was closed and wouldn't open before we needed to be off to catch the tide in the morning. We had a nice meal, good wine and a firework display to entertain us. What a glorious day!

Discovery Marina, Campbell

Tuesday 2 July  Campbell River to Half Moon Bay

We were out of Discovery Marina early to catch the tide and looking forward to a 20 knot tail wind to fly us down to Half Moon Bay. At the south end of Quadra Island we went through an armada of little boats fishing. There must have been more boats than fish! We set the sails and the wind dropped, we spent a fruitless couple of hours pottering around waiting for the wind called GODOT. Eventually we ran the engine and headed inside Texada Island and finally made Half Moon Bay at 2000 hrs. We came here to see an old friend of mine from Sandhurst days. John was sitting on his terrace having a drink with a friend when we turned up unannounced. Never phased we were made welcome and fed and watered in style. It was really good to see him again and as we were passing....     Suzette, his wife, arrived after a couple of hours having been to the cinema with friends. We chatted and remembered old times for a bit longer and then John ran us back to the boat in his car, to avoid the local bear!
We needed to be up early in the morning to get in to Point Roberts before the US Customs and Immigration get stroppy. So Kosta was going to set his alarm for 0438 hrs but changed it to 0435 when I burst out laughing.

Wednesday 3 July  Half Moon bay to Point Roberts
Leaving Half Moon Bay

We were away before sunrise to avoid low water and get into Point Roberts in good time. We had a clear forecast for NW 15-20 knots, but after yesterday were reluctant to believe it. However after 2 hours on the engine with 10 knots apparent from the quarter we put up the sails and and sailed downwind. With the exception of logs in the water and a vicious chop off the entrance to the Frazer River it was an uneventful passage. We were in Point Roberts Marina by 1330 hrs and cleared customs without any problems so had a beer to celebrate.
We, mainly Kosta, prepared the boat to be left, and we chatted to All Kosta's friends on the pontoon. An interesting crowd. Whilst we waited for Julia we looked at the neighbouring boats and Kosta gave their histories and pedigrees. Julia arrived at about 1700 hrs and we headed for home for a long overdue shower and and a night in a bed, but not before Canadian Immigration had a panic about my entry status. But all's well that ends well. as the bard says.

Monday, 2 July 2012

New Zealand

New Zealand

1/2 February 2012  Tahiti-Auckland
                                                      We were up with, or even before, the larks to catch the flight to Auckland.It was a painless journey and we were on the ground by just after lunch but it was 2 Feb as we skipped a day crossing the IDL. Immigration and Customs took an age as the Kiwis are very strict about deliberate or inadvertant introduction of alien species into their country. Our walk in the forest at Papette sparked a flurry of searching and boot cleaning. It was tedious but I have more sympathy with the objectives than I do with the confiscation of nail files from old ladies in the name of security which is what happens in UK and US. The car hire was a bit off-beat, we booked it over the internet, and we ended up with a old but comfortable Mazda with paintwork well past it's prime which suited us perfectly. We found the hotel which Alex had booked for us and gave her a ring. Alex is the Grand daughter of Pirko Ham who I have known since 1964, when I was a young 2 Lt and she was married to Sid our Tech QM, and when she heard that Ann and I were going to New Zealand she suggested that we meet with Alex her granddaughter who stayed on after her mother and stepfather returned to England. I had not seen Alex since she was 3 and then only for about 30 mins so it was an unusual meeting for all concerned.
 The whole family, Alex, husband Glen and daughters Anastasia and Trinity came round to the hotel for about an hour and they were lovely.
Glen took the girls home and Alex took Ann and myself to a choir rehersal at her Destiny Church. Which is an evangelical social group with lots of enthusiasm and modern music. Not my scene at all, but the schools have a great record of getting bursaries to university for kids who would otherwise be unlikely to get that far in education, and even non believer me was made very welcome. The church and music obviously play a very large part in Alex and Glen's life. If you would like to here more of their music try googling 'Freeday'.

3 February 2012   Auckland
                                            We decided to go into the city centre by train to avoid parking and navigational problems.However we had problems at the station and in the event it would have been easier, faster and cheaper to  have just driven, but Hey ho. The train ended us up on the waterfront so we wandered along looking at some amazing boats and buildings and getting the swing of western style traffic again after laid back Polynesia. We had a trip through the Maritime Museum and took a ferry across the harbour to Devonport, appropriately enough the home of the NZ Navy. The town was delightful and had a certain Victorian charm after the bustle and skyscrapers of downtown Auckland. We climbed a hill on the advice of a chap we met on the ferry, and it was well worth the hike. It was a 360 degree panorama of inlets and islands, peninsulars and bays, ports and cities and countryside. A great lookout even on a grey day.
A view from Mt Victoria
And then we had lunch in the Sierra Cafe to remind us of our mountains at home and our granddaughter in England.
In the evening Alex and Glen came round and we all went for dinner in the revolving resturant at the top of the tower in Auckand. Nice meal, lovely evening.

4 February 2012  Auckland - Hamilton
                                                           Alex and Glen said that they were taking the children for a walk the following morning and would we like to join them. Yes we would. So I dug out my disinfected walking boots and off we went. It was only a short walk up one of the remnants of volcanoes which pepper Auckland. It was a nice stroll and a pleasant way to say adieu to the family.
Then Ann and I were off heading South, once we got the hang of the road signs. We headed for Raglan and Kawhia along country roads. It was like driving through an under populated Wiltshire with the odd burst of exotic vegetation. The road sides were covered in yellow daisies, the banks were in the blue and white of agapanthus and there were drifts of orange montbretia everywhere. When you added tree ferns to the mixture it was a very pretty drive.

 We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls, a 55m single drop, not in the Papette league but it was a nice break and was well done as a tourist attraction.
As it is a holiday w/e  all the places on the coast were booked solid. It was fortuitous really as when we finally got to Kawhia, where we intended to stay, there was a very noisy festival in full swing so we were well out of it! The inlets on the Tasman Sea side are like stretched versions of the S Devon rias with acres of sand and mud at low tide and picturesque headlands and points at high water. We headed back to Hamilton to find a motel in which we had great success, and church for Ann which was not so successful.

5 February  2012   Hamiliton Area
                                                    After church for Ann we walked around a lake in Hamilton. I admired the contestants in a beach volley ball contest. and then we went off to Lake Karapiro for lunch.
When we arrived at the dam there were numerous other families picnicing and watching speed boat racing. We joined them but were very little wiser about the racing which was very noisy and, I thought, distinctly unexciting. We left after about an hour and went to the Maungatauri Kiwi Reserve. This has been created out of a range of hills which has been surrounded by a 'pest-proof' 2.5m high chain link and electrified fences with deadlock entrances. All this in attempt to preserve some native habitat. The farm land runs right up to the edge of the reserve, with cow pasture, an enormous fence and then an abrupt transition to fern forest. It is a very strange even a weird sight more Stalagluft than nature reserve. The walk around the reserve was pleasant but uninformative and needless to say we saw no Kiwis as they are nocturnal.
 There are '000s of cows, lots of milk tankers, but so far we have seen nothing that looks like a milking parlour. They must hide them away!

6 February 2012 Rotorua
                                       After a potential disaster when the credit card was refused we eventually got it sorted, paid and left. The Anglesea Motel was a great place to stay nice helpful people, good facilities and reasonable prices. The drive to Rotorua was pleasant but unspectacular. At Rotorua the smell of H2S in the air was unmistakeable and sometimes powerfully unplesant. We booked into a lakeside motel and went in search of entertainment. We took the cable car part of the way up Mt Ngongotaha, watched various groups being launched in a gigantic swing with lots of screams and yells, and we had a go on the luge carts which was good fun.
 Back at the motel we saw that there was a thermal area only 500m from the motel so we spent the rest of the day looking at steaming pools and popping mud pots.

7 February 2012  Rotorua
                                        We still had not seen a geyser in operation so we went to the Wei-o-Tapa thermal park to watch one that spouts to order! The guide dropped some detergent into a fumarole and after about 2 mins the geyser erupted and ran for about 45mins with pulses of spray 4-10 m in height. the detergent breaks down a surface layer between water at 90 and water at 150 which results in instant boiling and steam. It was a good show and we have seen our geyser- Lady Knox.
After the geyser show we walked through the thermal  area with it's boiling pools and rocks and water coloured red and yellow and orange and green, indeed a veritable coat of many colours.

By now we were just about 'thermalled' out so we headed back to Rotorua by way of some normal lakes set in beautiful wooded country. There was time for a walk and a swim at Blue Lake and then back to the motel.

8 February 2012  Rotorua - Whangamatta.
                                                                We headed out for Mattamatta and the Hobbiton set for 'Lord of the Rings'. It wasn't my idea of a must do but was on Ann's bucket list so off we went. I think you have to be a Tolkein fan to either love it or hate it, and I am not a fan so felt neither. The set was inventive and much as I would have expected. It must make the owners of the land a fortune, much more money and less hassle in punters than sheep!
After Hobbiton we headed North for the Pacific coast and the Coromandel Peninsular. I wanted to go there because the name has such an exotic ring to it. At first I was disappointed as the towns and countryside were very similar to what we had seen before, pleasing, manicured, but nothing different. Then at about 5 o'clock it was time to look for a room and we drove into Whangamatta. The town was much as before, but the setting was just wonderful. Whangamatta sits behind a long sandy beach which looks out to off shore islands, and is bounded on either side by deep protected estuaries with moorings and anchorages aplenty.  The estuaries run back into steeply wooded hills. It really was a lovely spot and I wished we could have stayed longer but there is a plane to catch.

9 February 2012    Whangamatta - Coromandel
                                                                         We left Whangamatta with a few regrets at such a short stay and headed up the coast to Hahai and Cathedral Cove. The coast road on the East side of the peninsular is nothing of the sort and views of the sea were few and far between. We waited to get into Hahai whilst a tree was cleared, and the parking at Cathedral cove was manic, so hopes were not high. However the walk along the cliff and the cove itself were just lovely and well worth the effort.
We swam and lazed in the sun, walked back up the cliff and lunched on the grass with lovely views of the coast and cliffs and islands, green in a blue sea.
  From then on we bounced from country to coast, hills to estuaries all the way up to Coromandel Town. It is a quirky tourist place which sits in the corner of a wide bay bounded by a peninsular and a string of stunning islands. We found a smart motel and wandered out to look at the boats moored along the river and found them all parked in the mangrove fringes.
Dinner was Green lipped mussels, to be repeated, and stone cooked main course, not to be repeated!

10 February 2012   Coromandel - Auckland
                                                                   There seemed to be a lot to do around  Coromandel but again time was pressing so we went over the hill to fantastic views of the Firth of Thames. The road dropped to sea level and followed the sea all the way to Thames, a moderately large town at the head of this enormous gulf. We had a look around and then moved on. We ate our lunch at the shore birds centre, didn't see many birds there but that was rectified shortly afterwards when we saw thousands of birds on the sand and mudflatsof the western shore. We also stopped for a walk along the beach at Orere Point, and then headed for our airport motel.

  We had arranged to meet Alex and family at Bucklands Beach so Ann dived into Googlemaps and came up with the goods, and we got there in good time. We were  greeted by the children like long lost uncles/aunts and warmly by Alex and Glen. Ice creams all round and a chilly walk back to the car and our time in NZ was drawing to a close. They escorted us back to our hotel which was nice. They are a lovely family and I hope we can stay in touch.