Home
Newsletters
Pitcairn Island & Mangareva
Kialoa II Information
From the Beginning...
Frank & Cynthia
Future for Frank & Cynthia
Frank's Resume
Tribute - Lillian Robben

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 and hospitable.

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 places.

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 schedule.

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 the deck.

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 life.

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
e-mail:     frobben@kialoa2.com
Telephone:  916-678-2445
Fax:        Same as above
Address:    1285 Stratford G-163
            Dixon, CA 95620