Sunday, November 20, 2005

Journal Entry November 12 – 19, 2005 – First Week in Kiwi Land

Author: Pam

Kiwi are an icon, and an oddity. These flightless, nocturnal birds are the national symbol of New Zealand and its people. For more information about the Kiwi bird check out this Bank of New Zealand link Our first week has been incredibly busy, you could say we hit the ground running, quite literally.

With the purchase of Starship came a commitment from Frank and Rachel to spend some of their time in NZ helping to move some of our equipment and show us as much as possible about the boat. This process began with the invitation to stay in the v-berth once we arrived. We have not slept on Tournesol since our last day at sea and it looks like we never will again. We are very excited about Starship, but it is also very bittersweet.

We have been getting up with the roosters and making the most of each day. The first order of business was to move our Ray Marine radar system, which took nearly five days to complete the installation. With Frank’s engineering background we ended up with a better installation than we had paid top dollar for on Tournesol. The most exciting component of the installation is the display is now mounted at the wheel. This should be a huge improvement. On Tournesol it was installed down below and sometimes it would be impossible for the two of us to be in three places at once, at the wheel, on the bow and down below. The new placement will allow us to use one of our most vital tools even more effectively.

The next project was to move out life raft. Starship came with a perfectly good and up to date life raft, but ours was partly sponsored by Viking Life Raft and we felt more comfortable with our known entity. In the end our life raft fit better than the one originally installed on Starship. We also switched the Monitor windvanes, the one on Tournesol is the newer model.

The rest of our days were spent going through some of the lockers aboard with Rachel and trying to get a sense of the gear they are leaving behind. We will have our work cut out for us merging two fully equipped cruising boats. Actually, Starship is more than fully equipped, but that is what you get when the owner worked for West Marine before leaving. In between all of the above I started the arduous task of washing every piece of bedding and clothing on Tournesol. It seems it is what you do when you arrive at a marina after not having access to a washer and dryer for over a year. There are two washers and one dryer and loads and loads of laundry. I am not sure when I will be done with it all, but it sure feels good to have everything clean and smelling better.

We have visited Stumpy’s regularly for lunch for fish and chips. However, once I discovered they had marinated Green Lipped mussels, the fish was out and the mussels were in. We also went to town one evening for dinner at Danger Danger and had the $6.00 steak dinner. It is possible that only a place with a huge moving buffalo head will have a six dollar menu. Of course Scott found the head quite entertaining. Otherwise, there has been no time for exploring town, except for a couple of visits to the grocery store. So far I have visited two, Pak n Save and New World. New World is a really nice store and invoked a WOW when I walked though the door. It is very nice to have so many food options and to have a refrigerator (with a small freezer) to put it in. I am very excited about cooking, especially in the much bigger galley on Starship.

On Sunday nights at the Marina there is a cruisers BBQ. You bring a dish to share and your own meat to grill. The marina has a covered area with a BBQ and picnic tables. It was a great way to meet more of the Riverside Drive Marina residents since we have been mostly only traveling the few feet between Tournesol and Starship. The marina is small and very cozy (the boats are very close together), but the people are really nice and it is about a fifteen minute walk to town. I think we have made an excellent choice for our home in NZ.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Journal Entry November 15, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 15 – The Finale

Author: Pam

As New Zealand came into sight our excitement was probably as high as the beautiful mountains along the coast. We spent the night on vigilant watches since we were back in boat traffic territory. We were abruptly reminded about the big guys yesterday while we were hove to in the afternoon a cargo ship came across our stern much closer than I am comfortable with, but it became clear they were coming by to check out what on earth the little sailboat was up to. They crossed the stern and kept on their merry way on our port side, but I must say it was quite a surprise when I stuck my head out of the companionway to see this huge ship close enough to see clearly without a monocular, yikes! In the late afternoon yesterday as we were passing the Bay of Islands we heard a boat call our friends Mary and David on Gavia on the VHF. I tried to call them and was able to have a short conversation before we lost contact. It was fun to touch base and made it even more real that we were almost there. During the night was absolutely freezing and I found myself piled under fleece and pillows when I woke up. I laid down wearing a thick fleece under a fleece blanket and while Scott was on watch he had piled his sleeping bag and pillows on top of me and I was still freezing. I could not get my feet warm, I hope I am not going to freeze to death in New Zealand.

Is it possible the sun comes up here at 0430? Well only if you set your watch back an hour when yon really don’t need to. We finally got the local time sorted out and discovered it was the same time as Tonga, the time we had been keeping. Since we made this error we missed checking in on Russell Radio, a net we added mid passage. We did have it together to check in on “The Rag of the Air” and had the opportunity to thank Jim (the Net Controller) for his support to yachts while at sea. At 0700 we were 13 nm from Whangarei Harbor entrance and sailing at an average of 5.5 knots. Life was looking good. At 0900 Scott contacted Whangarei Harbor Radio and alerted the officials we were approaching the harbor. The radio operator contacted the Coast Guard on our behalf and within an hour they made contact with us on Channel 64 to arrange to meet us at the harbor entrance, to provide assistance down the 13 mile and very narrow river into Whangarei. The morning was beautiful, sunny and working on being reasonably warm. It was the best sailing on the entire passage, except for the evening we left Tonga and we were out in the cockpit for the first time in 15 days. With a few miles to go and now sailing at 3.9 knots we were met by the brightest orange inflatable boat I have ever seen. On board were two Coast Guard volunteers who are members of the rescue team and as they zoomed up beside us we thought we had died and gone to heaven with the orange boat of the century to follow. In other words even we could see it. From the beginning they were awesome, they let us continue to enjoy our sail into NZ without feeling like we were keeping them from watching their favorite Rugby team or a mid morning nap. They hovered around and once in awhile made a circle around us or headed off to check the next compass heading. We continued to sail along under blue skies enjoying the breathtaking NZ landscape. We sailed most of the way into the channel and even made it past the sandbar without getting stuck. They were not about to let that happen, but if it had their nifty boat with the twin 35 horse power engines could have pulled us off with less effort than a sneeze. Once the river began to get narrower they attached a tow rope and our speed picked up to between 7 and 8 knots. We were flying down the river with both sails still up. As we were nearing the customs dock where they were to deposit us, we dropped the sails and they side tied and brought us right up to the dock. We found dropping the sails under tow to be a bit challenging. Well actually all went well with the main, but the jib was difficult to furl properly.

At 1430 we couldn’t have been more excited to throw a line to Conrad (another member of the Coast Guard team) and be tied to a dock in what felt like the middle of nowhere. I assumed we were going to a dock in town to meet the customs officials, but instead we found ourselves tied to a pier that cars can drive on. It wasn’t beautiful by any means, but it was solid and we were almost to our temporary New Zealand home. As soon as we were docked a flurry of activity happened all at once. A small fishing boat approached and the next thing we knew Rachel and Frank from Starship were crawling over the Coast Guard boat to welcome us to Whangarei. It was nice to see familiar faces. They were dropped off by Ray the owner of Riverside Drive Marina (our ultimate destination) whom we had met in Papeete, Tahiti. Since we had not been boarded by Customs yet, Rachel and Frank had to wait on the pier while we went through the formal check-in process.

We said goodbye to Graeme (also goes by Grumpy) and John, our wonderful guides with hopes to see them again while we are in NZ. We came by our Coast Guard assistance and good fortune thanks to Frank Stead, Nick on the yacht Dolphin’s father. We met him in Tonga and since he lives in Auckland he offered to help arrange for someone to meet us, so while arrival into foreign ports is usually our most stressful element our arrival to NZ was trouble free following in the wake of the big orange low vision friendly blow-up escort.

The Customs and Quarantine Officers boarded Tournesol with their clipboards and big black box and we were ready for them to take away all of the forbidden food and other items we have been hearing you can’t bring into the country. The check-in process lasted about forty five minutes and was a piece of cake. They were really nice and in the end they only took a few onions, garlic and the trash. They were not interested in the shells we have collected, baskets we bought in Tonga, wood carvings (unless they have bark) or the microwave popcorn. After all we had heard from other cruisers, it seems their biggest worry is fresh meat on the bone, veggies, fruit, popcorn kernels and honey. They don’t want to introduce any foreign bugs to the environment in NZ. The Quarantine Officer was appalled to learn I don’t like honey, it is a really big part of most New Zealander’s diet.

As soon as they crawled back on the pier with our trash in hand and the onions in the mysterious black box, a young gal from a local radio station came aboard and interviewed us. After she left Mike from “The Advocate”, the local newspaper came aboard with Rachel and Frank and asked if he could interview us as we made our way to the marina, about a 20 minute drive. Since we had officially reached the port of Whangarei NZ, we could now allow sighted visitors to ride along with us the last few miles to our marina. Before we pulled away from the pier, a photographer took a picture for the newspaper, as I said it was a flurry of activity. Pulling away proved to be slightly challenging as the wind was pushing us up against the pier. Once we were free we headed further down the river to the Marina with Frank’s help as navigator. Starship is docked at the same marina and they had made the trip two days ago. Ok, so here it is, we are finally in New Zealand and all has gone great all day and thanks to the Coast Guard we didn’t have to use the engine. We only have to go a few miles and we can finally get all of Tournesol’s engine woes fixed, but not without one more bit of drama. About half way to the marina the engine started to overheat AGAIN! Just to paint the picture we are only a few miles from our FINAL destination, we have a reporter on the boat who isn’t really all that keen on boats and definitely not experienced and we are in the middle of a very shallow channel with nowhere to go but onto a sandbar if we drift. Our options were pretty slim and we were just about to drop the anchor while we consider them, when a very large fishing boat came close enough for us to ask him for a tow. In a matter of moments we were now side tied for the second time today to Melodeon and the Captain, Greg was the epitome of the Kiwi phrase “no worries”. You would have thought he tied small sailboats to the side of his boat every day, he was so calm cool and collected about it. He even offered to let us stay side tied to him once he docked until we could move the boat, he didn’t think he could drop us off quite where we needed to go. In the end he did figure out how to get us close and we bade our thanks again to another unbelievably nice Kiwi. In the hubbub he had also offered us some fresh fish, but there was no time to make the transfer with lines being thrown and the threat of him getting stuck. At 1700, two and a half hours after arriving at the customs dock we were finally 100 feet from Tournesol’s slip at the marina, we were left with figuring out how to get her around the corner. Scott finished up the interview with the now quite overwhelmed reporter, he definitely got more than he bargained for. We enlisted the help from our friends on Gosi and Windsong and with people strategically placed around the dock and on the boats we had to move around, Scott turned the engine on one last time to crawl around the corner. Phew, we made it!!!

Arriving in New Zealand was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever experienced, I am not sure when I will come down. I have been trying to imagine and compare the feeling in advance to the feeling when we left San Francisco and I have decided the bottom line is there is no comparison. After the boat was securely tied up Rachel and Frank whisked us aboard Starship for a champagne toast. We had been planning this moment since we were in the middle of the crossing. Frank made a quick trip to Stumpy’s to get Fish & Chips for us since of course in all of our excitement we had not eaten all day. We spent the rest of the evening saying to one another “we are in New Zealand” or “can you believe we are in New Zealand” or just “Wow”! It is a landfall I will never forget and is probably up there with the day we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Journal Entry November 9, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 14 – Land Ho

Author: Pam

The day turned into night and the wind stayed up (30 knots) and the waves kept coming. We decided to heave to at 0200 to take a break from the bashing we had been getting all day. On one hand it was hard to give up making the progress, but on the other hand both our nerves were on edge from the constant waves crashing into and over the boat (sometimes coming over the bow and sending a shower all the way back to the cockpit) and the violent shaking of the rig as the boat got knocked off course by a wave and headed up into the wind. I was wondering last night if I was outside watching from a distance the seas raging around and over Tournesol while she was flying along at six knots, would I be scared? I am not scared while I am safe inside of the boat, it is just very uncomfortable and nerve racking. We have had several intense moments the past few days and I have found that my adrenalin definitely flowed, but I have reminded myself more than once to just stay in the moment.

We got sailing again around 0500 and found the wind had clocked around from ESE to E allowing us to sail a bit more comfortable course. At 0730 the GPS reported 99 nautical miles to the entrance of Whangarei Harbor. This was a very exciting moment. It marks the last goal (besides the actual arrival) that we set 14 days ago when we embarked on this 1200 mile passage, getting to less than 100 miles. The first goal was to get under 1000 miles, boy that seems like a long time ago now.

We have spent a good part of the day preparing for our arrival. We washed our hair etc… to hopefully look presentable for the Customs Officials. Our first stop tomorrow will be the customs dock where we will go through a much more thorough check in process than we have experienced so far. There are five forms that you have to complete and then they inspect your boat and take away whatever food they do not allow you to bring into the country. We probably don’t have much since we don’t have any fresh meat or veggies, but we’ll see. We know they will take the microwave popcorn, they take all unpopped corn. When we arrive at the entrance of the harbor we may be met by a Coast Guard cutter operated by volunteers to guide us down the thirteen mile river into Whangarei. We also have word the media is cueing up for our arrival. We are most excited about making this landfall and I for one look forward to the opportunity to really assimilate everything that has happened in the past year.

Frank and Rachel on Starship arrived in Whangarei yesterday, we congratulate them on the completion of their voyage. They will be going back to the states in early December.

Oh, I almost forgot I am not the Five Crowns Champion of the New Zealand Crossing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Journal Entry November 7 & 8, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 11 and 12 – Night and Day

Author: Scott

As I am writing this journal, I am positioned sitting on the high side of the boat with my legs stretched out on the opposite settee bracing me rigidly so I don’t fly across the cabin. Pam is sitting on the low side of the boat reading and I am looking down on her as if I am hanging over her in mid air. Outside we are being pounded with waves repeatedly, with the big ones sounding like cannon balls smashing the ocean’s surface (and we are the cannon balls). With each wave strike Tournesol gets thrashed from side to side causing the autopilot (our hero) to compensate and turn the boat up into the wind, giving the rigging a good shaking that makes you picture all the stress points hoping everything holds together. The water rushing by sounds like we must be traveling fast enough to peel the paint off the bottom, yet we are making just six knots. We have already gone through the boat to find all the hidden objects that randomly launch themselves from port to starboard, earlier all of the contents of the dish drainer became missiles hurling themselves into space, as we experienced one of at least three near knockdowns.

When did this all happen you may ask? Weren’t they just complaining about bobbing on flat seas a few hundred miles from New Zealand? Yes indeed when last we posted to the journal we were frustrated from days of variable winds and this was how life continued until last night at 0200. Yesterday, another calm day with warmer weather due to the lack of wind, we made almost no progress. We were both a little lethargic but we managed to go through the routine working on the website, playing cards (Pam came back to tie the match at six all), and we treated ourselves to a big spaghetti dinner. The weather was so calm we were able to feed a small flock of birds from the cockpit that swam by for a visit. We were truly in a wind hole.

This all changed as Pam was on watch and I was sleeping like the dead. The night before I had been kept up by the rig shuddering due to light winds, requiring constant attention, so I was surprised when Pam woke me and I felt the boat tearing along, close hulled, at almost seven knots. Even more disturbing were the flashes of lightening off in the distance. We had just sat on anchor through an unbelievable thunder storm in Tonga and now we both were leery of experiencing similar conditions at sea. We weren’t expected to have strong winds and we already had a reef in the main and jib so I jokingly said the best way to get through a thunderstorm is to sleep through it and I promptly fell back to sleep. An hour later Pam woke me up, it was raining, and the wind had picked up. “I think we are getting in the thick of it”, she said, and just then we were slammed down with a huge gust of wind. I was out of bed in a second checking on the self steering that was forcing the boat hard into the wind with too much weather helm. We felt like we were barreling down a drag strip in a dragster that was driving on only two wheels. Then came the lightening, huge flashes of light with booming thunder and the boat glowed inside. We were smack dab in the middle of an unforecasted thunderstorm with gusting winds in the forty knot range. Our first order of business was to regain our course and relieve the wind vane steering that was seriously over powered. The idea of standing in the freezing rain, tethered tot the boat, hand steering in a thunderstorm, was not at all appealing and as I was grappling with the metal wheel when Pam suggested using the autopilot. We learned in Mexico we have an exceptionally strong autopilot and later learned it was built out of parts used to control the flaps in commercial aircraft. The next challenge was engaging the autopilot. I managed to slither on deck, drenched in seconds, pull the autopilot clutch, and then return safely back to the cabin. While on deck I had my closest encounter with lightening of my life. Normally I can not see lightening bolts, I can only see the flash, but as I lay across the cockpit a bolt hit the water so near that it looked like a nuclear bomb had hit, leaving the imprint of the strike on my retinas for seconds. It was like the mother of all flashbulbs. We set the course and engaged the pilot and soon Trooper (our autopilot) manhandled the boat back to a more reasonable course, greatly reducing the heel of the boat. Chaos eased leaving me and Tournesol soaking. The boat looked like she had been picked up by a sea monster, shaken and given a good dunking under the surface. Pam and I managed to get things cleaned up and then curled up on the settee wrapped in blankets hoping our mast (the tallest thing for miles) would not tempt a bolt from the sky. We eventually found sleep as the storm eased, but we continued to careen on at a savage speed all night and it has not let up yet. We have since further reefed out sails, providing a little more stability, but as the seas continue to rage it is a strong reminder of the power of the sea and the vulnerability of our little boat. For now, all is well onboard and we are about 150 miles from New Zealand. Over the past 24 hours we have been served up with conditions testing the sailing skills we have been tuning since our departure. What an adventure it has been so far!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Journal Entry November 6, 2005 Another Sunday at Sea

Author: Pam

It’s funny how most days are indistinguishable from one another at sea, but somehow Sunday always seems to feel like a Sunday and this usually adds to up to being extra lazy. Maybe the observance of no work on Sunday in the South Pacific finally wore off on us after five months of South Seas Sundays. With that said there isn’t much to report. The wind did change direction around 0300 and we have been sailing directly at Whangarei all day, albeit slow at least it is the direction we want to go.

It was a sunny day and even warm enough to sit in the cockpit for breakfast. At least Scott braved the great outdoors to enjoy his tea and granola bar, it took the groundhog a little longer to muster up the courage. Around mid day we fell off the wind a bit to steady the boat and washed our hair in the galley sink. Though the sun was out there was too much of a nip in the air for a cockpit shower. We continue to work through our food on board, today we had soup for lunch and rice with curry from Trader Joes for dinner. The curry dishes are great passage food, they are packaged in a pouch and you throw them into boiling water (we use seawater) for five minutes. They are seasoned nicely and it couldn’t be easier. I am still continually amazed when the rice comes out ok when the pan looks like it is looking at the starboard side of the boat. Thank goodness for gimbaled stoves, even if they squeak as it is doing as I write this. I am creeping up from behind, Five Crowns stands at Scott 6, Pam 5. Tomorrow will be a big day.

A bit about New Zealand from “Landfalls of Paradise” by: Earl Hines. Two main islands comprise New Zealandthe North, 44,200 square miles and the South, 58, 200 square miles. Both islands are long and narrow, 1,100 miles separating the extremity of the South from the slim tip of the north. No point is farther than 68 miles from the sea. New Zealand lies at latitudes south of the equator similar to California’s position north of the equator and hence has a climate similar to that of California’s coastal region. I guess we will feel right at home in Whangarei which is located on the north island.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Journal Entry November 5, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 10 – The Terrible Threes

Today brought the end of the terrible threes. It took us three days to work through the three hundreds and today around 2000 we crossed from 300 miles to Whangarei to 299, bringing an end to the three hundreds. Not much to report today, it started and stayed cloudy all day. We tacked over to a starboard tack to try to take advantage of the shifting wind (12 knots from the south southwest) and managed to see some two and three knot VMG, finally we were moving again and the weather forecasts is calling for improved wind conditions over the next two days. To occupy our day we worked on the website, read aloud from our weather book, played cards (the brat came back to bring the match to Scott 6 and Pam 4), and overall we were pretty lethargic. Lunch was clam chowder and dinner was a repeat meal of ham, potatoes and corn. I think we have fallen into a complete automatic routine. There may need to be some serious re-emersion therapy starting with a big fat juicy cheeseburger. You can take the boy out of Mc Donald’s but you can’t take the Mc Donald’s out of the boy. (To the tune of ‘California here I Come”)So open up those golden arches because Mc Donald’s here I come!!!

Throw me a life ring because I may finally be cracking up.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Journal Entry November 4, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 9 – The Glamorous Sailing Life…

Author: Pam

Using Visual Passage Planner we had plotted our passage from Tonga to New Zealand and the program estimated in the month of November based on data that is averaged the trip would take 11.9 days at an average of 4 knots of boat speed. It seems that November 2005 could disrupt the averages. The winds are coming from the SE which is not typical (typical winds are from the SW) and of course is the direction we need to go. We have made slow progress on passages in the past, but today may have been an all time low. We sailed 18 miles in 24 hours, we are thinking at this rate we might be in NZ for Christmas.

The day started with Scott laying across his friend the diesel engine for a couple of hours while wearing his best detective hat to try and figure out why there was no water coming out of the exhaust. The raw water pump had acted up in Niue, but he thought he had solved the problem. After tracing hoses, taking apart the water pump and inspecting and lubricating the impeller, he had a brainstorm. We heaved to and he was able to confirm the hose that was the culprit didn’t like being on a starboard tack, it had formed an air bubble in the raw water circuit. Once the hose was cleared and reattached we stayed heaved to and ran the engine to finally feed our very thirsty batteries. While Scott was in engine repair mode he crimped and taped a battery cable on the alternator that also has been part of the recent engine quagmire. We continue to keep our fingers crossed this engine gets us to the marina in Whangarei, where there will finally be a mechanic who can undo all of the work-arounds that have been put into place since arriving in the South Pacific and get this vital entity back to purring like a kitten.

Also while we were heaved to we reefed the mainsail, inspected the rigging and made sure all items on deck were still securely strapped down. It was a good couple of hours spent and we decided it is a good thing to keep in mind for the future. I guess it is fair to say this “break” may have taken away from our progress, but trust me we were hardly moving at the time.

Once we had the boat put back together and were back sailing again I collapsed on the settee and commenced to take a three hour nap wearing a thick fleece pullover and wrapped in a fleece blanket. I had been sneezing every thirty seconds all morning and by lunchtime I had a very achy head. I think I am having an allergic reaction to the mold and mildew that is hiding in all of the secret places on the boat, since we really haven’t been able to go outside for fresh air. I am not very keen on what this possibility could be doing to my system, but I am not keen on getting a cold either. Maybe I am just tired.

Last night we had another first on Torunesol. After over a year of sailing we finally rigged up the lee cloth on the starboard settee. During the past few passages due to rough seas we have found that the person who is on watch doesn’t have anywhere comfortable to sit or be while the other person sleeps on the low side of the boat. This hasn’t been too much of a problem when we are on a port tack, because the port side settee has the table as a barrier, there isn’t even a lee cloth for this settee. So, we scrounged around and found three straps and after connecting them to the lee cloth tied them to the handrail. Scott stayed on the settee all night and thought it was very cozy. We were commenting to each other that it looks like a 24 hour slumber party, both settees covered in bedding all day long. I don’t know if we have said before that we live in an 8’x12’ space, Scott says it is smaller than a prison cell. I asked how does he know that?

With the engine distraction and my head feeling like it was going to burst, neither of us seemed to have an appetite until dinner. We made fried rice with canned chicken and called it a day. Well, at least I thought we were calling it a day. While I was washing the dishes I unfortunately saw a cock roach crawling along the edge of the stove. I screeched (which never solves anything) and tried to squash it I wasn’t sure if I got it or not, but then the dish drainer jumped off the counter and when I bent down to pick it up I saw another one and of course I screeched again. Yuck! Unfortunately all of this commotion happened while Scott was talking to Starship on the radio, but fortunately each event happened while Rachel was talking. He got off the radio and we were both immobilized with being grossed out. We got out the boric acid and sprinkled some around the galley and in the head, but I was creeped out for the rest of the night. First thing on the list when we arrive in NZ, is to bomb this boat. We are constantly cleaning, especially in the galley, I think they stowed away on those cabbages from _ _ _ _. We are considering not bringing any more fresh veggies on board unless you can wash them. So if I looked back over the day, we had no wind, had to fix the engine again, we live in a prison cell and now we have bugs, who said sailing was glamorous?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Journal Entry November 3, 2005 – Starship Encounter

Author: Scott

Today was a full day for just another day at sea in the distant South Seas. During the night we had a bit of a scare because our radar was showing shut down do to very little power. When we checked we realized all of our house batteries were dangerously low, but even more alarming was that our engine starter battery was also very low. Our engine battery used for starting is isolated from all of the house batteries to prevent us from carelessly over using the starter battery and creating a situation where we can not start our engine. The only cause for the low battery level we could determine was that someone inadvertently left the starter battery on and it equalized its voltage with the house batteries. When we attempted starting the engine in the morning we could hear that the battery was just shy of starting the engine, but it did have a solid whining noise. I knew this was not a great situation but I believed we had a good chance to charge the starter battery with the solar panels and all should be okay later in the day. This made for a tense and quiet morning, on top of fighting unfavorable winds, we now had to wait patiently on Tournesol with all electrical devices turned off, hoping we could collect enough power to turn over the engine. Without the engine we obviously would lose auxiliary maneuverability, but we would also loose the ability to generate power at will, and we would have to rely solely on the solar panels. This happened to us on the crossing from Mexico due to engine failure, and we are not eager for a repeat performance. Wouldn’t you know the weather gods would use this opportunity to throw a mixture of heavy clouds and blue skies at us, just for a little added torture. One minute we would show absolutely no solar activity and then the sun would come out and we would rocket up to ten amps. Around 1100 we had generated enough power to give me a reading of 12.3 volts on the starter battery but I still was not sure if it would have the amps necessary to turn over the engine. We both crossed our fingers and I turned the key and pushed the ignition button, there was a struggling whine but after about five seconds the engine managed to turn over. The next forty-five minutes were spent closely monitoring the energy inflow, and eventually we brought our starter battery back to life. To add a little further excitement I noticed our engine was running a little hot and so after we had collected enough power I shut it down to try to work my magic on the engines known issues causing overheating, but this crisis was officially over.

With enough power to use the radio we called over to Startship and learned they had caught up even more and we were now only separated by a few miles. We agreed we should sail within a safe distance of each other and say hello. Rachel said she might be able to spare some eggplant curry if we could figure out a way to get it over to Tournesol. It turns out Starship was motoring and soon they called us on the radio and said they could see us. It took another fifteen minutes before we could see them with a monocular, but there they were, their familiar blue hull racing towards us in the middle of the ocean with no land for hundreds of miles. We hove to so we would be semi-stationary and each boat broke out their cameras for photos of the other boat. The two boats came within audible range at 29° 36.4 south by 173° 53.7 east. Frank did an excellent job of piloting Starship within shouting distance and we screamed hellos and good wishes between boats. Rachel had a plastic bag ready to toss over to us and Pam and I both wanted to take cover, neither wanting to try to catch flying curry. The chances that we would actually catch and not wear the curry were quite slim. Rachel asked if we needed anything else and I not so shyly asked if they possibly had ice or a cold beerBIG HINT. Before we knew it the swag bag had three ice cold beers in it, and we now had more than squishy curry to contend with, now we had the equivalent of a shotput to deal with. The thought of food and cold beer started to cloud my brain and I was dimly aware of Frank talking about finding a rope and bucket as my hands quickly removed the contents from my pocket. Like walking in a dream I strode over to the gate while removing my shirt and inwardly assessing the situation. I had calm seas, with our boat not moving and another vessel to bring me back if I should drift with the current, and that was my final thought before I took a plunge like a rat abandoning ship. I think I shocked Rachel and Frank a little because they seemed a little shocked even after the few minutes it took to stroke over to Starship, Pam is used to this behavior from me. They dropped the boarding ladder and I hung on while I gave Rachel a big wet hug and she handed over the booty. Frank inched Starship a little closer to Tournesol and I returned home with dinner and cocktails in hand. We all had a good laugh and Pam and I ceremoniously opened our beers and toasted Starship. Soon we were all yelled out and we watched as Starship finally turned her stern to us and headed off in the sunset. What an incredible experience, to find friends in such a remote part of the earth with absolutely nothing around, and then to get Fiji Gold beer and homemade eggplant curry. What a day!

After the meeting Pam and I put Tournesol back on course and slowly inched towards New Zealand. The wind dropped to less than ten knots and it soon became evident that we would have to shake the last reef out of the main and change to the larger vane on our self steering vane so we could continue to make some progress. Even with a full main we were creeping along at less than three knots with only about one knot of VMG (velocity made good).
The rest of the day was spent reading about Erik’s trip up Mt. Everest, playing cards (Pam pulled off another win somehow and the match isScott five, Pam three), and generally lounging around. We did eat the curry for dinner on top of rice. Godzilla look out because there is a bigger, badder, fire breathing monster in town. Just have a few bites of Rachel’s curry, blow on the great lakes, and you will have one big empty hole in the ground. Don’t get me wrong, the curry was excellent, but be sure to stay clear of combustibles for at least a day after eating. Sleep was fitful with each of us wondering if the wind would continue to plague our home stretch.