Privateer World Voyage Journal

October 21, 2014 30 Degrees South

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

October 21, 2014
30 31′ S
170 54′ E
SOG 5.0 kts

We finally crossed into 30 degrees latitudes today!  Right now we’re motoring through a weak low pressure area.  For the past two days we’ve been beating mercilessly into strong southerly winds and choppy seas.  Privateer is balanced out perfectly for upwind sailing so no windvane required.  Looks like the southerlies will finally settle down a bit and we can expect motoring for the next few days as a high pressure pattern develops.

We lost our fridge compressor to saltwater damage when the locker it was in unknowingly flooded while the boat was heeled.  Unfortunately it was mounted on a shelf with no drain holes!  Today all of our fridge food went into the sea…

Nice sunny afternoon today.  We took the opportunity to clean up the boat and bring her back to ship-shape after all the southerly slop.  Slow mileage made good these last two days as we’ve been tacking into 20-24 knots of headwinds

October 19, 2014 Velella Velellas

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

October 19,2014
28 16′ S
171 46′ E
SOG: 4.0 kts

We got under “D-sail” at 0330 hours this morning (engine).  Our beloved SE trades finally pooped out as we slid off the back of the high.  It was a great 600 mile tack!

As I write this, we are witnessing a great natural phenomenon.  I caught a glint on the waves out of the corner of my eye this morning.  As we drew near, we discovered it was a unique jellyfish–I believe they’re called Velella Velellas.  They have an air sac or something that they inflate above the water, and “sail” across the ocean on the winds.  As the sun came up we saw that there were literally millions of these tiny creatures covering the whole surface of the ocean!  They look like little clear earlobes, and twirl around in the wind.  We motored past them for hours and hours.  And now at sunset we’re in another swath of them.  Every 2-3 square feet of ocean has one on it right now.  Definitely something I’m going to Google when we get to land!  They make me think of my friends Rob and Kai, who have a boat named Velella Velella.

We are over 1/2 way to Nelson NZ now and positioning ourselves westward for the approach.  We’re in a pretty veriable weather pattern right now, and expect a few days of motoring and a few days of beating into the southerlies associated with a low moving up the NZ coast.

It’s finally getting chilly at night!  It feels so good to put the woolies and slippers back on, and sleep cool again.  And the cold is also chasing away the “toilet bugs” that have swarmed in our ship’s head for the past 6 months.  For those of you who don’t know what the toilet bugs are, they are little black gnats that live under the rim of our toilet.  They’re too quick to swat and they land all over any food that you leave out, and mate in these conga-lines on the counter-top.  They will not be missed!

October 18, 2014 Pleasant Sailing

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

October 18, 2014
26 22′ S
172 39′ E
SOG: 6.0 kts

Very pleasant sailing today in E-NE winds 15 knots on the quarter.  We’re still making westing to give the North Island of NZ as wide a berth as possible.  There’ll likely be some weather next week and we need a lot of sea room.  Tuning into the nets today, we can hear all the boats around us reporting their positions.  One is only 28 NM away!

The seas really evened out today and we dried more of the boat out.  Had my last south pacific coconut and chucked the husk over the side.  The last three days we’ve made really good mileage: 151, 154, and 145 NM on our 24 hournoon-to-noon sights.

Running off now at 120 wind angle with full jib, staysail, and double-reefed main, making 6-7 knots with occasional surfs of 10.4 knots.  Privateer really likes this angle and combo–I do too, because all we have to do is roll up the jib and we’re ready for any winds to 30 knots.

October 17, 2014 Coasting Along

Friday, October 17th, 2014

October 17, 2014
24 17 S
173 57 E
SOG: 7.0 kts

We’re coasting down the wave trains in the easterly winds.  We’re on the back side of the high now, and the seas have really evened out.  We took advantage of the day and sorted out the mess from the previous two days.  This morning I attempted our first hot meal, but the LPG solenoid burned up (our last spare) and for awhile it looked like we’d be eating cold food for the duration of the voyage!  I managed to jury-rig a new fitting sans solenoid, and we are cooking again.  I didn’t even get wet working on the bow!  What a difference a day can make.

We’re really knocking back the miles, another 158 noon-to-noon from yesterday.  The nights are growing colder as we head south into the higher latitudes.  We’re aiming just shy of Norfolk Island before we turn eastward to close with the west coast of NZ’s North Island.

October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

October 16, 2014
21 59 S
175 39 E
SOG: 7.2 kts

Strong winds and a very rough sea today.  By noon we were down to double-reefed main and staysail, making 8 knots on a beam reach.  We covered 158 NM noon-to-noon since yesterday–one of our better runs!  Things are finally starting to settle out a bit, but we haven’t been able to cook a hot meal since our lobster tail dinner in Fiji waters.

We took many breaking seas over the decks and into the cockpit today–and discovered all of our clothes lockers had standing water in them!  Nep also had an “interesting” time using the head 🙂  His book on Leningrad got soaked so we pitched it into the cockpit, where it rapidly turned to pulp and got sucked out the scuppers.  Oh well–it’s flattening out now and we will clean up after a needed rest!  Privateer really is an amazing little ship.

Checked in with “Rag of the Air” net today.  There are several other boats in our vicinity and the forecast is shaping up well for the next few days.  We’ve cracked off and got the winds behind us and are looking forward to a downwind run!  Sunny skies and clear nights continue as we push deeper into the high.

October 15, 2014 Southbound Through the High

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

October 15, 2014
19 43 S
177 16 E
SOG: 6.5 kts

We’re blasting through the swells and chop across the leading edge of a massive area of high pressure.  Right now it’s a bit uncomfortable because the wind is 30 degrees forward of the beam (translate: wet decks and 20 degree heeling angle).  But the skies are sunny, it’s 80 degrees, and we’re on a good heading for NZ.  As the high moves eastward, our winds will shift more easterly and we can crack off and flatten out the boat–hopefully in a day or so.

Last night Nep cooked up some lobsters that the Fijian fishermen gave to us.  They were delicious!  As we sailed by the glow of Suva in the distance, we dined on lobster tail and leftover birthday cake!  The winds fell flat and we motored most of the night through the Kadavu Passage.  At first light we rounded the last cape and found the wind on the open sea, knocking back the miles.

We joined the net “Rag of the Air” today and are logging our position with them daily.  It’s a good one because they give you a personal weather forecast, as well as conditions for the entire South Pacific.

October 14, 2014 Privateer to NZ!!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

October 14, 2014
18 07 S
178 45 E
SOG: 5.0 kts.

Nep and I are motor-sailing in light winds and drizzle through the Kadavu Passage tonight, after departing Levuka at 1200.  We had a great customs check-out procedure (very easy) and gave the last of our kava to some fishermen, who in return gave us two big lobsters!  We are excited for the passage, and Privateer is all battened down and ready for the open sea again.  The forecast shows several good days of trade-wind sailing beginning tomorrow around noon.  We’ll keep our finger’s crossed!

Kelsey is in Suva tonight looking for masala dosas (Indian crepes) and will fly to NZ ahead of Privateer–better for the baby!  She’s looking forward to being in the land of milk and honey (and veggies!)  Nep and I hope to make Nelson NZ in one passage, provided we get a good forecast, which should make about a 1600 mile passage of about 12 days in an ideal scenario.  We’ll be sending a daily update from the high sea.

October 5, 2014 Makogai

Monday, October 6th, 2014

October 5, 2014
17 26′ S
178 57′ E
At Anchor: Makogai

We are resting up on Makogai Island, making putting Privateer into tip-top shape for her upcoming voyage to New Zealand.  I’ve been studying the weather fax bulletins and familiarizing myself with the various weather and position-reporting nets.  Privateer has never looked so good, after all her ocean voyaging.

Today we went snorkeling among the largest giant clams we’ve ever seen!  Curled into a fetal position, one could easily fit inside these clams.  I stuck my arm into one of them and the force of the water shooting out of its valve as it closed itself blew my arm right back out of the clam!  The meat inside the clams is an iridescent rainbow of colors and patterns, each one a different hue of purple, turquoise, red, and electric blue, and lime green.  They pulse as the water pumps through their massive valves.

There are also many turtles in the lagoon, and the islanders here maintain a turtle-breeding pond before releasing them into the lagoon.  Makogai is a pretty unique place.  Until 1969, the island was a giant leper colony.  We got a tour of the leprosarium–vast ruins in the jungle.  We saw the concrete remains of a movie theater, jail cells (the lepers were known to “misbehave badly”) and a massive graveyard up the side of the mountain with thousands of concrete crosses.  It reminded me of the big gold mine ruins in Alaska, but with a different twist.

Kelsey and I are enjoying our last few days in tropical paradise before the change to the temperate latitudes!  Climbing coconut trees, watching the giant bats fly overhead at sunset, jumping off the boat into the beautiful crystal clear waters…

September 26, 2014 Matuku to Levuka

Monday, September 29th, 2014

September 26, 2014
18 09 S
179 11 E
SOG: 5.4 kts

We’re on a nice beam reach, 12-13 knots of easterlies, headed to Levuka.  Just the jib rolled out and we’re gliding along at 5-6 knots as the Monitor steers us through the gentle swells.  We stripped down our primary winches and re-built them in Fulanga, and they are clicking smoothly again.  They were packed with rock salt and dust after being at sea for so long!

The other night Kelsey got a surprise when she went to take a shower–out of the lazarette leapt our missing Coconut Crab!  It had been in there for about 10 days and came out fighting.  This morning we released him on the beach in Matuku, in a nice grove of Coconut trees.  We knew he hadn’t jumped ship and swam to shore…

Last night we had Indian curry dinner with our friends on Tuuletar after a day of snorkeling with the sea turtles.  For the past two months we’ve been hanging out with 3 other boats, all with crews our age.  It’s been great to meet new friends from all over the world!  Mark on Tuuletar has been showing us how to use the SSB radio and it has opened up a whole new aspect of cruising–and greatly increases our margin of safety!

The 100-mile passage tonight is a significant one for Kelsey and I–it is the last big sail we’ll have together BB–before baby.  Just the two of us on one last quiet night watch under a warm sky of stars.

September 17, 2014 Skull Caves and missing Coconut Crabs

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

September 17, 2014
19 05′ S
178 41′ W
SOG: 5.8 kts

We are under sail with jib alone, making way for Matuku Island, 100 miles distant.  It should be a quick overnight sail, and the Monitor is easily steering us along, with 15 knots of wind at our backs.  It was hard to say goodbye to Fulunga today!  Last night we celebrated with music, Fijian dancing, and kava in the village.  This morning our friend Teii hiked us up to a cave in the jungle behind the village.  We crawled through a small hole in the volcanic rocks.  Inside, the cave opened up into a chamber about the size of the Apollo 13–and it was stuffed with skulls and bones!  I counted at least 40 skulls in the central heap, and many more stared down at us from the walls of the cave.  Many were bashed in, like they had been clubbed.  Interestingly, no one in the village knows who put the heads in the cave, or who they were.  Some of the femur bones were pretty good size, and my guess is they were Tongans.  The skulls still had their teeth, and can’t have been that old… Teii says that Fiji is full of caves like this one–real remnants of the cannibal past!!

The other night our friends Michael and Sophie on the “Wanderlust” and I hunted for coconut crabs after it got dark.  We found 5 or 6 under the palms, and took them back to the boats before they ripped eachother to pieces in the sack.  We took two back to Privateer and Wanderlust took 3, and we put them into separate buckets.  We were planning to eat them the following day.  After dinner on Wanderlust, however, we found the coconut crabs had escaped Wanderlust’s “chilly bin” (what Kiwis call a cooler) and had crawled up into the rigging!  Kelsey and I returned to Privateer and one of our crabs had escaped too!  It moved a whole pile of lead dive weights and pushed the lid back just enough to get out!  We still can’t find the crab and suspect it may be in some corner of the boat, lurking for us when we least suspect it.  We didn’t sleep very well, listening for any rustling sounds in the cabin.  The villagers told us the crabs can swim, so it might have slipped overboard and made a break for it.  They also tie a string to their bodies and hang them from the trees to prevent escape–something we learned the hard way…  We decided that they were working pretty hard for their freedom, and so we returned them to their beach the following day–all except the one that is still at large…