April 1 - July 31, 2007

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HIGHLIGHTS

Big changes to Eagle's Wings

The Stormy Pacific

Beveridge Reef -- three weeks on a desert island. Without the desert. And without the island.

Swimming with the Sharks

Catching GIANT lobsters

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April 1 - July 2, 2007

Back at the Boat Yard

After our visit home, closely followed by a month long tour of New Zealand, we got down to work on the boat. We had big plans.

Ray Roberts' Riverside Drive Marina provided a perfect setting for boat work. Sailors from New Zealand, U.S., Canada, France, and Germany all had their noses to the grindstone, working to get long lists of projects accomplished. We greatly enjoyed the camaraderie.

Beth with Jimmy and his keel

Jimmy (a Kiwi), had recently retired and was finally completing a boat that he had started about 20 years ago. Jimmy had molded the hull of his boat "Spirit Wind II" (in background) back in the 1980s.

Now it was time to put the keel on and see if she would float.

Jimmy plans to spend the next few months finishing the inside of the boat and will be ready to sail next year.

Dianna and Rob sealing their teak decks Diane and Rob (left) of "White Swan" caulking their decks. Gwyn (right) of "Aloha" doing some serious surgery to his engine compartment. Gwyn emerging from his engine compartment

The sailors at Riverside hold a weekly potluck/cookout -- a perfect opportunity to meet new friends and experiment with new dishes. Beth made terrific sushi rolls for one of the potlucks. We used tuna we had caught, vacuum sealed, and frozen in December. You would never guess it wasn't fresh -- a real tribute to the vacuum sealer.

Putting on the layers Making the roll Finished sushi rolls

Sushi rolls are surprisingly easy to make. You lay out a small bamboo mat and place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the mat. Next you place a nori (seaweed) sheet on top of the plastic and spread "sticky" rice on top of the sheet. Finally you lay small strips of fish and vegetables (like carrots, cucumber, or avocado) on top of the rice (above left). And then you carefully roll up the sheet and contents, peeling back the plastic as you go (above middle). After you are done with the roll, you slice it into 1 inch pieces and voila -- you have sushi rolls (above right)!

Eat with soy sauce, wasabi (horseradish) and pickled ginger.

Perils of the Dock

Joe of "Maggie Drum" spent several days trying to capture a rat who had climbed aboard his boat -- always a risk at a marina.

Joe and Cindy could hear this guy moving around behind their cabinets at night. Understandably, they were obsessed with getting him. He finally put his head in a trap.

It's a dog eat dog world.

Joe with defeated rat

A few weeks later, a boat from Australia pulled into a slip at the marina and a HUGE tarantula jumped ashore during docking maneuvers (it actually brushed the arm of one of our friends who was helping with the lines). Yikes! New Zealand doesn't have any poisonous animals, but Australia certainly does. Many are much worse than tarantulas. Can't wait.

Back To Work

Shocking as it may sound, when we first arrived many of our sailor friends complained we weren't working hard enough! Well, early in our stay, we DID spend lots of hours hiking the local trails, building up our endurance for the upcoming tour around New Zealand.

Once we got back from our trip, though, we didn't take a single day off for over a month, and only about two days in the second month. One of the crazy things about this lifestyle is that you often work much harder than you would if somebody were paying you.

However, we gladly hired many of the excellent local tradesmen to help with the work. For the past year we had absolutely no outside help on board (well, a few bits of advice from fellow cruisers and long distance help from folks back home) -- anything that went wrong we fixed. Now, with skilled help available for the first time in about 8,000 miles, we happily surrendered our independence.

We made two major, and many minor, changes to the boat.

ENERGY PROBLEMS

Big energy hungry Glacier Bay compressor and motor We had been running our Kubota generator three to four hours a day ever since we left the US. The problem is that our big, very powerful Glacier Bay refrigeration compressor (left) needs to run that much every day in the tropics, and it draws so much electricity that the batteries can't keep up with it. So if the freezer runs, the generator has to run.

The generator makes lots of heat and noise, and uses about a gallon of diesel every three hours. But the worst thing is that it shakes like crazy and parts keep falling off it. The basic little two cylinder diesel is very reliable, but Ken has constant trouble with the belts, and the water cooling, and the various electrical hookups, and the exhaust system, and on and on. And on.... Basically he was spending all his time fixing the thing.

Our hardworking, Rube Goldberg of a generator. Hardworking, but troublesome generator

Also we can't leave the boat for more than 24 hours, since the freezer/genset combo needs to run every day. We have an automatic startup system for the generator, but we're too scared to use it --because parts keep falling off the generator. Things could get interesting real fast if we weren't on board.

So we came up with a two part answer.

REFRIGERATION

Our two little Frigoboat compressors hiding under the spice rack We decided to install two small "keel-cooled" compressors (on middle shelf in cupboard at left) in addition to our big Glacier Bay system. These compressors resemble the one that drives your home refrigerator, but they cool themselves by circulating the refrigerant through a small bronze "keel-cooler" outside the hull. (Home systems use air cooling, but that doesn't work very well on a boat in the tropics.)

The keel-cooler avoids the need for a separate, energy hogging water pump, as well as all of the maintenance and risk involved in bringing salt water into the boat for cooling.

With help from Chilltech, Steve of Burch and Mason, and Greg of Alloy Stainless Marine, we installed two Frigoboat keel-cooled systems.

Ken installing the spaghetti factory of wires for the new freezer and refrigeration system. Ken sorting out the Frigoboat wiring
Scoping out new refrigeration runs The Frigoboat system consists of long thin evaporator plates and we (with help from Greg) hung the new plates on top of the existing holding plates. Steve of Burch and Mason came up with a brilliant idea of running the new refrigerant tubing through the edges of the existing vacuum insulation panels. This approach allowed us to maintain the integrity of our current insulation,

We left the Glacier Bay system in place so that we could freeze a lot of food in a hurry if we needed to. Also we like the redundancy.

Our new system uses less than half the power of the Glacier Bay. Best of all, however, it spreads that electricity draw out over the whole 24 hours of the day, so the batteries can keep up. The big Glacier Bay compressor would draw about 50 Amps when it ran, and sometimes as much as 70 amps. That's asking too much of our battery system, forcing us to run the generator when it ran.

The control panel for the combined systems looks like something out of NASA. Mission control

Now we just needed some way to replenish the batteries without running the generator.

SOLAR PANELS

Solar technology has come a long way -- the latest panels are 50% better than those from just a year or so ago. We bought four big Sanyo panels -- about four square meters total. (In total, a square about 6.5 feet on a side.)

Theoretically we now have 800 watts of capacity. That means we could get as much as 60 amps from these panels! (In practice the most we have ever seen is about 50 amps, and typical noon production is more like 40.) But that's a lot!

We even get some power when it's raining.

Nick welding bimini joints

Terry, who owns Alloy Stainless Marine in Whangarei, helped us strengthen our bimini to support the panels at sea. He and his employee, Nick (at left) did a great job. Eric of Palmer Canvas made us a nice bimini cover for the new frame.

When the job was done, Karl, Riverside's expert travel lift driver, gently set the bimini-solar panel assembly back onto our boat using the travel lift. Remounting bimini frame with solar panels attached
Solar panels make us almost energy self sufficient Solar panels cranking out the amps on a cloudy day. So far our best one day power production is about 244 amp hours, or 3.2 kilowatt-hours.

To put all these numbers in perspective, as long as we're in a sunny place we can make enough electricity to make drinking water (from salt water) and to power our refrigeration, a big freezer, energy-efficient lights, a computer, and the various pumps and other gadgets that we need to operate EW. All from sunlight falling on a space about 6.5 feet on a side. With no fossil fuel. And no pollution. And no moving parts!!!

So maybe there's hope for the human race after all.

Oh, and we can leave the boat, because all this happens without our help!

In practice we still run the genset some, because we are energy hogs. But we don't really need to.

On the down side, we added a lot of weight and windage aloft. We'll have to see how that works out.

OTHER PROJECTS

We also punched through a big list of other important items.

We bought a new primary anchor (120 lb Rocna). Our big 110 lb Bruce will be a nice spare. The Bruce was a good anchor but it dragged in deep water in Tahiti. The Rocna (at end of anchor platform at right) has a great reputation. Massive Rocna anchor

We got some help from Rob, Mike, and Ben of Steelcom (and advice from Don Melcher of HF Radio in California) to improve our short wave radio installation. We ended up moving the tuner and replacing some components. The radio now works better than ever.

Dave and Bill of Calibre Sails serviced all of our sails, making needed repairs. Barry of Northland Spars and Rigging swapped out most of our standing rigging, installed a rigid furler for our staysail, and made adjustments to our gooseneck fitting.

EW's weight made the wheels bow out on the travel lift.  Yikes! The yard hauled our boat, as several tasks could be done only with the boat out of the water. We were the second largest boat the marina had ever hauled! We were scared, but with Karl on the travel lift and under Ray's watchful eye, everything went smoothly.

We lived on "the hard" for a few weeks while work progressed. Dave of Marine Services fit a new cutlass bearing and repacked our rudder. Gavin of Pacific Gloss applied new bottom paint and put a special coating on our prop and shaft to thwart marine growth.

The bucket at right drains the water from our kitchen sink. Everything becomes much more awkward and difficult on the hard.

We went back into the water after two weeks, which felt like months.

New bottom paint and prop speed on prop
Ken removing boat yard grime with our powerwasher Washing off the grime accumulated from our few weeks on the hard. We were SO glad to get back in the water. Many sailors we met lived on the hard for months and even years! Wow, that takes resilience.
At low tide, it felt like we were back on the hard! We were certainly sunk into the mud. At low tide, we were stuck in the mud

After we got back in the water, we discovered that our power winches had "frozen". One wouldn't turn at all. It took Ken several hours to even get the housing off -- a job that normally takes about 30 seconds. Inside we found a cement-like substance coating many of the bearings and gears.

We're not sure, but we think that our synthetic grease may have caused the problem.

Strange debris in winch Cement-like substance froze winch bearing race (left). Beth had to use fine sandpaper to get the really tough particles loose. Polishing winch gear

Beth spent a week cleaning all nine winches, a job that normally takes a few days.

Beth in her "winch workshop" (below left). Winch stem before cleaning (below middle), winch stem after cleaning and polishing (below right).

Beth in her makeshift winch cleaning workshop Winch stem before cleaning Ken loves that Betty Crocker smile

 

By the time we got to New Zealand, the quality of the water we made had fallen off a cliff -- just barely drinkable. So Ken took out our entire watermaker system and brought it in for servicing.

The Spectra dealer said the membrane had suffered "massive acid damage" and "the worst biological death I've ever seen." Does that sound like a problem?

We think that the extremely fertile water between the Galapagos and the Marquesas probably caused the damage.

Watermaker in need of repair
Beth and her favorite job -- fixing the head Beth, with her old nemesis. Head leaks have been a persistent problem.

Really Weird Boat Problems

Most boat problems we solve right away. But by the time we got to NZ, we had accumulated a few really tough ones that defied all logic. In NZ we finally found solutions to three of the worst ones, all of which turned out to have very simple, logical solutions that were completely different than what we expected. If you like intellectually challenging problems, read on, otherwise skip this bit.

1) The Heater

Our diesel heater (right) had failed to light for at least two years. We'd turn it on, it would crank up and blow cold diesel mist out the exhaust, but no flame and no heat. Finicky Webasto heater

The unit has a sophisticated self-diagnosis system that blinks out a problem code with LED lights, so back in 2005 Ken had crawled into the very tight space near the heater, copied down the code and then looked it up in the manual. The code translated as "Failure to Light." Very helpful.

Ken checked that the unit was getting fuel. It was. He checked the ignition plug. It glowed cherry red -- plenty hot enough to light diesel.

So Ken called the factory service guys, who told him to take the burner out and clean it. Ken did that and then reinstalled it -- a very hard job because it meant bleeding air out of the whole coolant system which runs in hoses around the boat. No luck.

So Ken ordered a new burner and replaced the old one, bleeding the system again. No luck.

So we sent the unit into the factory. They said it worked fine. Got it back, reinstalled it, bled the system. No luck.

Then we sailed away from Newport, went to the tropics, and didn't use the heater for over a year.

Unfortunately, New Zealand gets pretty cold, so Ken knew he had to get the thing working this year.

Finally, Ken figured that the diesel must not be dripping on the ignition element. So he took off the plate that the unit was mounted to, and checked behind it. Turned out that the rubber mounts had gotten old and sagged, so the unit didn't quite sit straight -- it was about 5 degrees out of plumb. And that was enough to make the fuel miss the element and go right out the exhaust.

So he replaced the mounts, and now it works fine. Who would have guessed?

Comparison of distorted and new mounts Deformed heater mounts (far left and center) compared to new mount (near left).  

2) Impeller Problems

Over the past six months, Ken had replaced the impeller (a little rubber paddle wheel -- shown at right) on our genset water cooling pump at least seven or eight times. Each time it blew, the genset would overheat and get really hot before its emergency shutdown circuit would turn it off. One time it got hot enough to damage the exhaust hose. One of many broken impellers

Ken tried everything to stop the problem. Usually a blown impeller means a clog in the water system, so Ken checked the whole cooling water system piece by piece, but didn't find any problems. He finally decided that the pump was worn out and was not making a good seal with the impeller, so it wasn't getting enough suction, wasn't pumping enough water, and was allowing the impeller to get too hot. Eventually the impeller would fail.

So Ken took the pump to a machine shop when we got to NZ. The shop took the pump apart and found a tiny little washer that was on the wrong bolt inside the pump (probably from one time when Ken had taken the pump apart). The washer pushed the inside plate that sits against the impeller slightly out of line, so the plate and impeller didn't make a good seal. The shop took the washer out, put the pump together and tested it. Works fine, hasn't failed since.

Guess we call that one "operator error."

3) Air Bubbles

From the start, our watermaker has been plagued by air bubbles. The bubbles appear in the line going out of the first "pre-filter" housing and proceed on into the big pump, where they "cavitate" (explode), thereby gradually ruining the pump head. Ken has already replaced the pump head once. Pump heads cost about $600 in the US and about twice that in NZ (measured in US $).

Ken tried tightening the filter housing, replacing the o-rings, replacing the filter housing, replacing the filter housing again, replacing the hoses, hose clamps, plumbing elbows and joints. He also tried swearing and banging his head against the bulkhead. Nothing worked, although head banging made the problem seem less critical.

Finally, in NZ another cruiser asked if our pump created a vacuum around the filter housing. So Ken got a vacuum gauge and checked. Sure enough, the powerful pump was lowering the pressure below atmospheric to suck water through the filter. The low pressure caused dissolved air to bubble out of the water, the way a soda fizzes when you open the can! So there had never been any air leak!

The solution is to add a tiny, low power "boost pump" in front of the filter housing -- adding just enough pressure to keep the air from coming of solution. Ken has installed the pump, but it isn't wired up yet -- we'll let you know how it works.

Minor Problems

Before we left Chicago over two years ago, we bought lots of rechargeable batteries, thinking they would be an economical way to power many of our battery-operated devices. The rechargeables have been a real disappointment. They discharge rapidly even when not in use, don't produce adequate voltage, even when fully charged, and die completely after a year or two.

A big, expensive pile of useless batteries We decided to scrap the whole bunch (left) when we discovered many of the batteries had leaked (right) and looked ready to explode. Guess we'll stick with regular alkalines. Rechargeable battery about to leak

 

Another unexpected failure -- the sealing boot on our aquadrive joint in the propeller shaft tore and we had to send the whole unit in for repair, just as we were ready to depart NZ.

Now we carry spares for this problem. With each problem solved, the boat gets a little heavier.

Torn aquadrive boot

 

Nasty mold hiding behind stored bags Beth disassembled some of our storage areas and found a healthy growth of mold on the vinyl side and ceiling lining. Surprisingly, mold is not a problem in the tropics -- it pops up in cooler climates where the water condenses out of the air. Fortunately a few squirts of Tilex got rid of this little ecosystem. Beth on the warpath

Diversions

Once we got into working on projects, we took very little "time off". But we did enjoy the scenery from the boat.

Morning in Whangarei Mornings often were calm and peaceful (left) and the evening sunsets were full of color (right). Scarlet sky at sunset

 

Adorable kingfisher surveys his domain

Our boat was at the end of the pier and we had a great view of the mudflats nearby. This kingfisher and his mate set up house nearby, and we loved watching them swoop around, scooping up tiny crabs.

 

Barefoot boys

We also got to watch some great Tom Sawyer action as kids fished and played on the nearby pier.

The boy on the right discovered it's a lot easier to go down a muddy boat ramp than back up. Fortunately a nearby adult hauled him out with a rope.

Learning about the "slippery slope"

We took a few short local hikes and were never disappointed with the beauty and diversity of plant life.

Fern sporting spots Feathery ferns rocking in the wind Delicate folding leaves

 

Giant fungus is as hard and tough as the tree -- or Ken's head. Giant tree fungus

 

We stumbled on a little artist colony during one of our hikes and enjoyed talking with an artist about her collection of giant candelabras and amphorae. Artist hard at work
Vibrant weekly farmers market in Whangarei

We also went to Whangarei's great farmers' market. We got real spoiled with all the fresh produce.

We liked the name this guy gave his "free range" egg booth -- "Poultry in Motion."

We went to a few rallies to learn about New Zealand politics. The two big burning issues were (1) a proposal to regulate vitamins (along -- gasp -- Australian lines), and (2) a proposal to outlaw spanking. (Or "smacking" as the Kiwis call it.)

We found these issues delightfully innocent and down to earth, compared to US politics.

Stirring up passions at the vitamin rally
Parting with our beautiful mountain bikes was tough

We did a little house cleaning and sold or gave away some unused items. Very reluctantly, we sold our pair of folding bicycles at a sailors' flea market (left). We hadn't used the bikes ONCE on the trip. Truthfully, the traffic in places where we could have used them was too crazy.

We just didn't have room to carry the bikes if we weren't using them. We sold them to some cruisers on a boat about half our size!

Friends Moving On

While we were up to our neck in projects, a steady trickle of boats started leaving to head back to the tropics. As usual, we were one of the last to leave.

Anna Maria and Ernst with Galatea The weather turned colder (we were glad the heater was working) and people headed to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, or Tonga. We had met so many fantastic people, like Anna Maria and Ernst of "Galatea" (left). It was hard to say goodbye -- we probably would never see many of these folks again.

Alvah Simon (right) wrote a book called "North To The Night", a gripping story about the Arctic winter he and his wife, Diana, spent on their 36-foot boat "Roger Henry", voluntarily trapped in the ice.

Diana said "no more Arctic winters," so this voyage they are only going to Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands for the summer.

Some people really like to push the limits.

Alvah preparing to reinstall his transmission

 

Alvah and Diana getting ready to depart Alvah and Diana (left) set off in unsettled weather. But just as they left, a gorgeous full rainbow filled the sky -- a very positive omen! Alvah and Diana leaving with a good omen

July 3 - July 14, 2007

Passage To Beveridge Reef

By the time we left, it was early July -- and winter in New Zealand. By now we were using the heater every day and we skated on the frost coating the dock on some mornings. Luckily, we never saw snow.

We said our goodbyes to the few remaining folks at the marina. We planned to return to New Zealand next hurricane season, so we arranged to store our car with one of the locals.

Maori legend says the rocks on the top of the far peak are a man, a woman and the woman's two children, running away from the woman's husband. It felt great to be back on the water again, even if we were just motoring down a river. This was the first time we'd traveled anywhere on our boat since December. We hoped we'd remember how.

Most of our friends headed to downwind locations like Fiji or New Caledonia. But we headed northeast to the little island country of Niue. We wanted to visit some places we blew by last year, when we sailed directly from Moorea (near Tahiti) to Fiji. Hopefully we could visit Niue and Tonga before heading back to New Zealand for hurricane season.

Under normal conditions going to Niue would mean beating into the SE trade winds -- too hard to do. But we left just as a low was hitting New Zealand and were able to run with favorable W and NW winds. (But pretty miserable weather.)

The sky was certainly ominous when we left. We thought this cloud looked like the bottom of our boat, complete with keel! Cloud that looked like Eagle's Wngs underside!
Building seas It didn't take long for the low pressure system to hit us. The waves built and we saw a continuous parade of squalls. The closest we got to fireworks on July 4 was the lightning in the distance.
Beth was content listening to "books on tape" on her ipod during the rough weather. Ken was bolder and tried reading a book. He promptly got seasick -- only the second time he's actually lost his cookies on passage. Listening to books on tape on an ipod
Rigging heavy weather wind vane paddle With the boat blasting along, Ken rigs our heavy weather wind vane wind paddle. The wind vane handled the rough conditions beautifully.

The weather around New Zealand was really intense. A big high pressure system down in the antarctic was sending wet, freezing air straight up to mix with the burning desert air coming off Australia. This combination went on for weeks, spawning one storm after another -- often only a day or two apart.

This weather blocked a lot of sailors who were trying to follow the conventional route to the northwest, to places like Vanuatu and New Caledonia. But we could use the northwest winds to go northeast, so we kept going.

The big "X" on the weather faxes below mark our progress over three days early in the trip and you can see the big high stuck in the Tasman near the lower left portion of the faxes:

Our position on July 4 marked by X Our position on July 5 marked by X Our position on July 6 marked by X

The sails got a real workout (so did we) -- we made 10 sail change maneuvers in one day! The wind blew at sustained speeds of 25-30+ knots for days. The highest reading we saw was 38 knots -- the most wind we've see underway so far. We ran with the staysail and three reefs in the main, going fast in the right direction.

It all seemed relatively calm when seen from the inside of our pilothouse:

Building seas Angry seas Lots of rain

But then something unexpected happened. One of those big lows developed into a monster just as it approached New Zealand.

By July 10 we were pretty far north, but New Zealand really got whopped by the low (big spiral just to the left of the northern tip of New Zealand). The north island saw hurricane force winds for about 24 hours. There was a huge amount of flooding and one of our friends almost lost their boat when the Whangarei River (where we had been all season with our boat) flooded its banks. Fortunately everyone was ok. Our position on July 10 marked by X

 

Sun finally shows itself for a beautiful sunset Finally the weather calmed down and we even saw the sun again! Multi-colored sky at sunset

 

Light reflecting off clouds at sunset Unsettled conditions often generate the best sunsets. Beautiful pacific sunset

The temperature wasn't too bad. The water started out at 53 F and steadily climbed as we moved north. By the third day the water was at 66 F. It wasn't long before we shed long underwear and jackets.

With all of the rough weather, we didn't see much wildlife -- a few petrels, an albatross, a couple of dolphins, and several flying fish. And we didn't see or hear much human life either. We spotted only two boats since leaving New Zealand -- one called the "Asian Adonis".

Yellow bolt rope poking through tear With the clearing conditions, we shook out the reefs in the main. But as we raised the main, the luff of the sail caught on the plate of a rope clutch at the mast and made a tear along the luff. At left, the yellow bolt rope pokes through the tear.

 

Ken making sail repair Ken took advantage of the clearing conditions and made a repair. The tear was not in a load bearing area, but we were worried that it could spread. Ken balancing to get at sail for repairs

 

Ken's repair should last the season. Ken showing off his repair job

We had planned to make landfall at Niue, but the winds were predicted to be out of the NW for our arrival. Niue has only one place for boats -- a mooring field that is exposed to the NW through SW. We wouldn't be safe putting in there until the winds shifted back to their normal SE tradewind direction.

We diverted to a tiny atoll, called Beveridge Reef, 130 miles SE of Niue. The atoll has good protection in all conditions, but it's so obscure that there aren't even any good charts of the place.

Hand drawn chart of Beveridge Reef

Fortunately Bob of "Armorel" had given us a hand drawn sketch chart (left) of Beveridge Reef, made by other sailors. And we found another sketch chart (right) from Jeff of "Victoria".

Note that these charts don't really agree!

Another sketch chart of Beveridge Reef drawn from a radar image

 

Ugly weather off our stern As we approached Beveridge Reef, the weather turned ugly again.

We got to Beveridge late in the afternoon of July 12 -- too late to attempt an entry into the lagoon. We really needed the sun to be high in the sky and clear conditions to spot coral heads. The next day was cloudy and rainy, so we couldn't go in then either.

We decided to sail back and forth near the atoll and fish! We hadn't caught any fish yet on the trip -- we'd had two big ones on the lines, but they both got away.

Ken admiring large reel While we were in New Zealand, Ken upgraded some of our fishing components. He swapped out one of the reels for a much larger version (left) and installed some proper outrigger clips (right). Proper outrigger setup

 

Ken also rigged a holder for all of his key fish tools -- spike, filet knife, pliers and alcohol, We had all the gear in place -- now all we had to do was catch a fish! Fish tools ready and waiting
Ken with mahi mahi It didn't take long to snag a nice mahi mahi. We made sushi for dinner, ceviche for snacks, and froze the rest. Even though we were itching to make landfall, catching the fish made sailing around for an extra day well worth the delay.

We finally made the run into the lagoon on July 14, with nice bright sun and light wind. The air temperature was about 80 degrees and the water a beautiful cobalt blue -- those steely gray waters off New Zealand are a distant memory.

Ken climbed up on the whisker pole above our sail stack to get a better view of coral heads and other possible obstructions. Ken looking for coral heads
Turbulent water all around as we go through the pass We both had our hearts in our throat going through the roiling water in the pass. If you misjudge the pass, you're toast. And it's not like we had any official charts to tell us the way.
But once we got through the pass, everything quieted down and we saw gorgeous clear water. We could see right down to the 35-40 foot bottom. Looking back towards pass
Beth with walkie talkie We used new voice activated walkie talkies to communicate with each other. That technology made the pass entry and anchoring task much less stressful! What an amazing difference to be able to communicate clearly with the other person.

July 14 - July 31, 2007

Beveridge Reef

Beveridge Reef is one of the weirdest places in the world. It's a coral atoll -- meaning that a volcano once stood here, towering high above the water. But volcanos, being bubbles of hot rock, often "recede," sinking gradually back into the earth. Eventually the top of the volcano sank beneath the ocean, leaving a big crater. (This is one of several reasons that you shouldn't buy real estate on top of volcanos.)

In the meantime, however, coral had grown up around the coastline of the island, and as the island sank slowly into the sea, the coral grew slowly upward. As long as the coral could grow as fast as the rock sank, a coral reef would remain near the surface, forming a hollow circle around the old coastline.

The coral won't grow above the water's surface, so the reef stays just at sea level. Some older atolls collect enough sand and drifting debris to form low islands, complete with palm trees and such, but that hasn't happened yet on Beveridge.

So, in the middle of nowhere, in water that is thousands of feet deep, you end up with an almost invisible barrier reef, a shallow lagoon (about 40 feet deep in this case), and nothing else.

It's like a desert island, but without the desert and without the island.

Here's the view:

Eagle's Wings anchored in the middle of the ocean at Beveridge Reef Eagle's Wings anchored in magical Beveridge Reef.  

Everywhere you looked -- water, sky, or surf.

Looking forward Views from Eagle's Wings looking forward (left) and aft (right). Looking aft

 

Looking starboard Views from Eagle's Wings looking starboard (left) and port (right). Looking port

We had planned to stay in Beveridge only for a few days, while we waited for the winds to stabilize in Niue. But we absolutely fell in love with the atoll and ended up staying for three weeks! This place turned out to be our most favorite cruising spot ever.

Beveridge is way off the beaten track, and for the first week and a half of our stay, we were the only boat there. We climbed on the pilothouse top after dark to watch the stars. No lights for more than a hundred miles -- we even saw some shooting stars.

The place was kind of a paradise, in a weird way. It was very protected, had great anchoring in good deep sand, and it was loaded with fish, big lobsters and giant clams. But to stay here for long you had to make your own water and power. And provide your own place to stand. Hey, we can do all that!

Chores

But first, back to work. After being at sea, we had generated lots of laundry.

One of five loads of washing Beth gathered all of our dirty clothes, towels, sheets, long underwear, and hats and spent almost an entire day washing it all. It was great to be able to pack away the warm clothes we used on our passage from New Zealand. Hanging the laundry

 

Ken spent a morning disassembling and drying out the computer -- he had spilled a glass of port wine on the keyboard the previous night (while enjoying his first drink since leaving NZ) and the flood shut the machine off. Fortunately the machine worked after his meticulous cleaning effort.

Ken was horrified about the whole incident. Port is irreplaceable out here.

Drying out computer
Noodle bugs Beth continued her cleaning binge and found a package of pasta infested with little bugs. We fed the noodles to the fish, who didn't seem to mind the bugs.

We did work on some other projects -- Ken changed belts on the Kubota and tracked down some lighting issues in the boat's interior and Beth tackled the leaking heads -- AGAIN! We finally created some of our own gaskets from neoprene, and they seem to work better than the factory parts.

But mostly we relaxed, read, and explored the atoll. We felt like we were where we wanted to be and there was no critical project that needed attention. It was great to be able to slow down.

Lobsterfest

Bill and Yvonne of "Windsong", friends we met at Riverside Marina, had visited Beveridge Reef two years ago and told us we could catch lobsters there.

Ken on the hunt for lobsters   We were totally clueless about how to catch lobsters, but we set off one day hoping to find some lobster hideouts. We didn't see a single one.

Then Bill emailed us with great lobstering tips and we tried again. You can find lobsters at night walking along the top of the reef (at low tide) or you can find them during the day when they are hiding in holes near the surf line.

We went out again at low tide and hunted for lobster. Even at low tide, there was a good surf breaking over the top of the reef, due to storms many miles away. You had to be real quick and stick your head into a hole as the water retreated, before the next big wave pounded you.

Bracing against the surf Ken hunting lobsters in the surf Getting in position to look in hole

 

Waiting for the surf to retreat Checking for lobsters Getting in position with lobster snare

Ken saw numerous lobsters in several of the holes and we took two back to the boat for dinner.

Ken with lobster catch

We cooked up both lobsters (left), but the large one (right) was more than enough for the two of us. We cleaned out the meat from the smaller lobster and made lobster bisque the next day. It was fantastic!!

We thought this guy was big, but we hadn't seen anything yet.

Giant lobster fed the two of us

Hazard To Navigation

If you are not expecting to find a reef in the middle of the ocean, it can be bad news. Over the years, many boats met their demise on Beveridge Reef.

"Liberty", a recent wreck of a fishing boat, perched on the reef about a 1/2 mile from our anchorage. We set out to explore. Heartbreaking wreck of "Liberty"

 

"Liberty" wreck getting washed by the surf We motored near the wreck in our dinghy and snorkeled up and onto its deck. It was very eerie being inside. Checking out the inside of the wreck

 

Big fishing line reel with line still intact

The boat had been completely stripped, except for the large reel of fishing line. Some of the windows were still intact. This must have been a recent wreck.

Standing in her pilothouse, we imagined the chaos and fear as "Liberty" pounded up on the reef.

Looking forward from the steering compartment

 

Big tangle around prop and rudder We don't know Liberty's story, but we saw a massive tangle of fishing line on the propeller and rudder when we peered under the boat. Maybe it got fouled on its own line and lost steerage as it drifted toward the reef??

Underwater Delights

After being land bound for almost 6 months, we were thrilled to get back in the water. We love to snorkel and the reef has lots of fish and coral. We saw so many beautiful fish -- many of them new to us. We also saw a sting ray and many sharks.

Here's a collage of some of the underwater wonders.

Drummers swimming on top of the reef Shy hawkfish Achilles Tang

 

Whitemouth eel Eel (left) and shrimp (right). Shrimp

 

Cornet fish showing distinct pattern This cornet fish tried out two different color patterns as we moved closer. Same cornet fish with markings gone

 

Coral beauties Gracefully shaped coral Coral explosion

 

Large coral cluster We've never spent much time trying to identify coral. But the beautiful coral gardens in Beveridge Reef got us interested in learning more about coral. Looking up over a coral garden, submerged just inside the edge of the reef

 

We met up with a gray reef shark whenever we went to our lobstering spot. We suspected it was the same shark each time. One time he moved in quite close, but we didn't have our camera. Gray reef sharks have a pretty aggressive reputation in the Pacific, but this guy would just cruise by, check us out to see if we'd caught anything tasty, and then verrrry casually move on.

Beth remarked that he was starting to seem like a pet. Ken didn't think the shark saw it that way.

Gray reef shark
Ken trying to look tough Ken took to carrying a pole spear when we went out. Not so much that he ever expected to use it, but just to help maintain an air of macho determination. Sharks are pretty good judges of body language, and if you look scared -- well, you start to look like lunch.
Beveridge had the clearest of any place we'd snorkeled. Very handy for spotting sharks... Orange spine unicornfish showing its spines
White tip reef shark checking us out We saw lots of white-tipped reef sharks (left). White tips are pretty harmless (the reef variety that is, the oceanic variety are a different matter), and they usually just checked us out and went away. During the day, that is.

Sharks at Night

But we made one nighttime snorkeling trip and all of a sudden things were completely different. First we saw one white tip, his eyes glowing like coals in the beam of our dive lights. We ignored him and kept going, although it was hard to stop looking around to see where he was. Then there were two, gliding in and out of our lights in the inky darkness. Then there were three. OK... we were officially outnumbered.

We beat a hasty retreat to our dinghy, trying all the time to look reeeal cooool -- like we never planned to stay any longer anyhow.

These guys weren't looking to eat us. They assumed we were hunting, and they were hanging around to make sure they got a piece of the action. That was easy to see once we were back on the dinghy. But in that dark water...

That was our last night snorkel at Beveridge.

New Friends

After being alone for 9 days in Beveridge Reef, we spotted a small sailboat coming into the lagoon. We motored over in our dinghy and met Ozkan on "Kayitsiz". "Kayitsiz" is a hand-built 28 foot modern day Bristol Channel Cutter. Ozkan sailed single-handed all the way from Turkey, using only a sextant to get his position. Quite an accomplishment!

Several hours later, Neal of "Full Moon", a Canadian single-hander, also arrived. "Full Moon" is a 29 foot Cal 2-29. The two sailors had met recently and were traveling in tandem.

"Eagle's Wings" with "Full Moon" (left) and "Kayitsiz" (right). Eagle's Wings flanked by "Full Moon" and "Kayitsiz"
Beth with Ozkan and Neal It was fun having the atoll to ourselves for a while, but we hadn't seen another soul since leaving New Zealand almost 3 weeks ago. We were ready for some company! The two guys were absolutely delightful and we had a great time hanging out with them. Beth and Neal both saw the fabled "green flash" one evening while sitting on Ozkan's boat at sunset. This was a first for both of them.
Soon after Ozkan and Neal arrived, a nasty gale hit us. We had sustained 30+ winds for over two days. At the storm's peak, we saw 41 knots of wind. Our anchors all held, but the conditions put a damper on socializing. No one wanted to be out in their dinghy in those conditions! Eagle's Wings and friends in gale

As soon as the weather cleared and the surf died down, we went lobster hunting. We hit pay dirt in one hole, where we found more than 10 lobsters!

Ozkan with normal sized lobster The guys pulled some of the lobsters out of the hole by hand. Ozkan wrestled out a giant lobster (right) -- by far the biggest we had ever seen. Ozkan and Ken with giant lobster

That evening we had a lobster feast on our boat. The giant lobster was enough to feed the four of us. We froze the rest.

Ozkan with gigantic lobster The lobster was WAY to big to fit in any of our pots, so the guys cut it into pieces and we cooked it in two pots. It was delicious! Ozkan trying to put lobster in pot

 

Neal saying goodbye from "Full Moon" Neal (left) and Ozkan (right) left the next morning for Niue. We sure missed those two! Ozkan leaving on "Kayitsiz"

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Beveridge Reef but are ready to move on. Next stop: Niue.