Ensenada to New Zealand
Bay of Islands, New Zealand, February 1998
We have been in New Zealand, Bay of Islands, since 27 November, arriving
the day after a big Thanksgiving dinner organized by the recently arrived
US cruisers. It is a lovely area here and the New Zealanders are very gracious
We took Kialoa to Auckland (110 miles south) for a couple of weeks, then
returned to the Bay of Islands for Christmas. Among our friends are a very
nice British couple who are traveling on a traditional gaff rigged ketch
named Norn They have two children Tara age 9 and Zack age 12 who have become
good friends of our children. For Christmas a very nice dinner on Kialoa
was shared with Norn and others, anchored in Matauhwi Bay off the historic
town of Russell. A sunny and warm day (yes, it is summer here).
The Russell Boat Club sponsors an annual Tall Ships Regatta, January 5 this
year. Kialoa II qualified both by being older and having two masts and we
were encouraged to enter. I cleaned the bottom (the water was cold and growth
a bit heavy), changed the 4 blade prop for the 2 blade to reduce drag, and
recruited a few friends to help sail. No spinnakers allowed so no big crew
problems. The day was nice, sunny with light breeze, maybe 10 knots. We
used the big #1 genoa which originally belonged to Kialoa III and which
I had had cut down to fit Kialoa 2. The sails set well, we made good speed
and were first to finish by about 20 minutes. The start was a magnificent
sight with almost 100 boats, a number with square sails, many gaff headed
ketches and yawls. Mostly older boats, many of which were very pretty and
sailed with everything up. On handicap we finished 12th, had I made better
decisions on a couple of tacks we might have saved 5 minutes and been about
4th. After the race the club put on a "hanji", a feast cooked
in the ground Maori style, with two bands playing into the night for dancing
and general festivity. A relaxed, low key annual event which was a fine
experience and displayed the New Zealander's penchant for hospitality.
It has been over two years since I have written a newsletter, life in a
house in Dixon is not as interesting as sailing amongst tropical islands.
With Cynthia and myself on Kialoa II are three of Cynthia's children, Maria
(10), Adrian (16) and Dalreen (19). We are all fine and have been greatly
enjoying ourselves sailing around the South Pacific between interesting
Getting back to the beginning, in March of '96 we moved Kialoa from San
Francisco 100 miles up the river to Sacramento, the capital of California,
and I began repairs (engines and mechanical). We were living in my home
town of Dixon, close to my mother, the kids going to school, and generally
enjoying old friends, new friends and the farming country of California.
In November '96 we took Kialoa to the Baja Naval boatyard in Ensenada, Mexico
for painting and more extensive maintenance. There Cynthia and I, son Adrian
and friend Matt Johnston, along with 3 to 5 boatyard men worked on Kialoa
through April 97. We enjoyed Ensenada, relishing the fish tacos, ceviche
and other seafood for lunch from stands off the street, the little apartment
where Cynthia and I stayed and the excellent restaurants. We formed a number
of friends among other sailors and the local Mexican people. However, the
work on Kialoa was more than I anticipated and we were rushed and behind
On the second of May we finally left Ensenada for Pitcairn Island, a remote
speck in the South Pacific famous as the refuge of the Bounty mutineers.
On board were Matt and his wife Judy along with our children Maria (9),
Adrian (15) and Dalreen (18). After stopping briefly at Guadalupe Island,
near Mexico, we arrived at Pitcairn 27 May. We had an easy and pleasant
passage, after crossing into the southern trade winds (7 degrees latitude
north of the equator) we even had a week without adjusting the sails. Day
after day of warm, balmy winds on the beam, a beautiful sky at night slowly
unveiling the southern stars, glorious sunrises, and occasional visits by
schools of dolphins and other sea creatures. All in all one of my more idyllic
ocean passages. Only as we neared Pitcairn were we reminded of less benign
conditions when we were caught with rising winds and had to struggle to
drop the large jib with the rail under the water and waves washing across
Pitcairn is a beautiful tropical island and we were given a warm welcome,
especially as I had visited there twice in 92. It was really good to meet
again Jay and Carol Warren, Steve and Betty Christian and others. The tropical
plants, trees and fruits strongly reminded Cynthia and the children of their
home in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the anchorage is rough and difficult, making
me very nervous for any longer visit. After one night we left the three
children on Pitcairn, Maria joining the 9 other children (there are presently
only 35 permanent inhabitants) in school while we sailed to Mangareva, 300
miles away and part of French Polynesia.
Matt and Judy left us in Mangareva to return to the US, and we were joined
by John and Lynn Salmon and Mike Halasz for a visit to Pitcairn. We were
gone 20 days and also visited Henderson Island, a World Heritage site, with
John and several people from Pitcairn.
Mangareva, one of the Gambier group of islands of French Polynesia, is also
a beautiful place and after returning there with the children we stayed
for a couple of weeks. It was a bit cool and rained almost every day. We
visited the small main town of Rikitea, hiked around the various islands
a bit, visited a pearl farm and enjoyed the company of both the locals and
the yachts anchored there. Very pleasant.
Sailing by ourselves, just family, we arrived in Tahiti, 900 miles to the
northwest, on 12 July. The annual "fete" was in full swing and
on entering at night we had anchored in the middle of the canoe race course
and early in the morning were asked to move. Papeete is a sophisticated
city, prosperous and a long way from the simple places like Mangareva. It
appears that many wealthy Europeans are building vacation homes on Tahiti
and her neighboring island of Moorea and the appearance and culture of the
area is changing (as are most places, both a curse and an opportunity).
Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay on Moorea are probably the most beautiful places
in the world to anchor a yacht. It is marvelous to watch sunrise over the
craggy peaks while tucked into a deep bay with the roar of surf pounding
over the reef in the distance, and smell the fragrances of the lush tropical
forest growing on the steep slopes.
We were joined by Richard Packard and his son Benjamin, and after a few
days in Moorea we left on a visit to some of the atoll islands of the Tuomotu
group, about 400 miles to the east. Benjamin got on very well with our children
and we greatly enjoyed their visit. We stopped at Rangiroa, spent a week
on Ahe visiting friends who operate a pearl farm, and then to Fakarava,
the old administrative center of the Tuomotus. These atolls consist of specks
of coral reef, not more than a couple of meters in elevation, covered with
palm and pandanus trees and a variety of scrub vegetation, which in turn
surround a lagoon of maybe 30 meters depth, with sparkling blue water and
often a navigable pass through the reef to the interior. They were once
volcanic islands which slowly were eroded to below the sea level, all that
now remains is the surrounding coral reef which grew slowly over the millennia.
The natives once led a simple but hard life, now these islands seem to be
in a bit of an economic boom, many pearl farms have been established and
portions of the lagoons are covered with buoys and rafts supporting thousands
of hanging lines with probably millions of oysters. The little coral reefs,
called motus, have buildings with working and living quarters, and lights
at night. So another part of a simpler and more natural existence is giving
way to daily work, powerful outboards rushing around, videos for relaxation
from the stress, and vacations to Papeete, Paris, New Zealand and the USA
as rewards for the loss of the former beauty and richness of sea and plant
Our last stop was at Kauehi, a little less spoiled. We spent several idyllic
days anchored off an uninhabited motu, camped on the shore with the kids,
drank out of coconuts and grilled fish over a camp fire. Little sign of
people about, except on the Sunday when we were visited by several Tahitians
on a government boat, there to tend to the sea buoys, who on their day off
combed "our" little motu for coconut crabs. They were moderately
successful and found about 7 of these beautiful large crabs who climb coconut
trees and can open coconuts with their claws. They are reputed to be delicious
and have been hunted mercilessly such that now they are scarce. We were
offered a couple but I did not feel right in taking and eating them.
After another couple of weeks in Tahiti we moved on through the beautiful
high islands of Huahine, Raitea, Tahaa and fabled Bora Bora. Good experiences.
We left Bora Bora 30 September, in what was supposed to be decreasing wind.
In fact the wind increased in strength and we had a fast and somewhat wild
ride to Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands. Cynthia and the kids
found it easier to be in an English speaking country again and we thoroughly
enjoyed our week there. Nice place, pleasant people. I met an old friend
and seasoned sailor, Nancy Griffith, who had recently lost by a fire her
cargo ship which she operated among the Cook Islands. We arranged that she
would join us in Tonga for the trip to New Zealand.
A perky English lady called to Cynthia from the dock in Rarotonga inquiring
if we wanted any crew. Dawn was a travel agent with Lufthansa who was traveling,
and Cynthia invited her to join us to Tonga. We had a lovely trip arriving
at the northern Vavau group of Tonga on 16 October. It is amazing how different
the various island groups are, all similar in their gross characteristics,
but still quite different in the local cultures, the detailed appearance
of the islands and vegetation, and in the geographical layout and the ease
and charm of sailing from one place to another. The Vavau group had a large
collection of sailing yachts, cruisers if you will, and we had the most
sociable time of our trip there (which has continued here to New Zealand).
It is pleasant, easy sailing to the surrounding islands in the group, local
people run restaurants and taverns in the various anchorages and villages,
all in all a very hospitable and friendly atmosphere. There might have been
a hundred different boats around and we formed some good friends.
After sailing though the middle Tonga group, the Ha'api's, and on to the
capital at Tongatapu, we left 15 November for New Zealand, joined by Nancy
Griffith and her son Robert. Shortly out of Tonga Robert caught a very nice
15 kilo Mahi-Mahi, which he filleted and we froze for many meals to come.
There was little wind and when we came to Minerva Reef, only 1 1/2 days
away, we entered the lagoon and waited. In some ways being in this lagoon
was like being back in one of the lagoons of the Tuomotu atolls, except
there was no land at all surrounding us, at least at high tide. Anchored
out in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by blue and only the waves crashing
on the submerged reef to remind you are in a protected area. At low
tide we could walk on the exposed reef, looking for sea animals, and swim
in the warm water which washed over the reef and into the channels along
the side of the lagoon. Quite a few fish, and also small reef sharks which
are supposed to be harmless but made everyone a bit nervous. Robert caught
one lobster, which we greatly enjoyed, but no luck with further hunting.
At night the moon was full and this made hunting for lobsters with flashlights
a failure (although a wonderful experience to be out on the reef at night).
After 5 days and little wind we left, using a spinnaker to help us along
in the light breeze. And we had an easy 7 day sail here to New Zealand,
no strong winds as might have been the case. Near New Zealand Robert caught
a very nice 30 kilo yellow fin tuna, followed by a couple of small tuna
- we are still eating this fish from our freezer.
I made a major decision while on this trip - I am going to retire from sailing
life and sell Kialoa. This is not easy, I had no such intention when we
left. The reasons are varied, somehow I feel like I would again like to
do something a bit different. I want to travel and explore without the burden
of caring for and maintaining a yacht - with Kialoa it is difficult to be
free while in interesting places. With Cynthia I would like to live for
a while in Sri Lanka, and tour India and experience some of that vast and
old land and culture. I would like to have time to write a bit as well,
what about I do not know. Further, Kialoa is too large for just me and Cynthia
to either sail or maintain, to voyage on her requires more people and constant
planning ahead. I still love all that activity, the challenges associated
with making long voyages on Kialoa and the satisfaction of carrying out
so many demands and tasks, but I have begun to think I may be missing out
on other things. It must be time for a change. So we are working on selling
Kialoa while here in New Zealand.
Adrian and Dalreen will shortly return to California, to Dixon and go to
High School. Cynthia, Maria and I will remain in New Zealand for the time
being, carrying out some work on Kialoa so she will be ready to be shown
for sale, and traveling to the South Island.
We are all fine and in generally good spirits with no reasons for complaints.
We send our best wishes for 1998 and would love to hear from you, and maybe
arrange to meet someplace and time. Please keep in touch.
New Zealand Tel: (64)25-283-0864
New Zealand Add: C/O Austral Marine
PO Box 11031
Whangarei, New Zealand
Home Page: http://www.kialoa2.com
Fax: Same as above
Address: 1285 Stratford G-163
Dixon, CA 95620