KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Ten
New Zealand - Fiji Passage, Part 2

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GoBackTo NZ-Fiji Passage Part 1
17 September 2003Reports #7 & #8, Nice Day and Another Front
19 September 2003Reports #9 & #10 Big Ugly Spinnaker
20 September 2003Report #11 Propane Scare and Boatspeed
22 September 2003Report #12 & #13 Last Two Days
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This page covers the second part of our New Zealand to Fiji passage, between September 16 and September 22, 2003. It is comprised of our SailMail e-mails complemented by photos along the way.

17 September, 2003 -- Reports #7 and #8, Nice Day and Then Another Front Passes Through

Passage Report #7
Date: 16 Sept 2003
Time: 0800 NZST
Position: S26deg33min E174deg29min
Speed: 4.5 knots (yay, the GPS and knotmeter agree, thus no current)
Course: 035degM, beating
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 537nm
Bearing to Navula Passage: 002degM
Last 24 Hours: 97nm :-( see below
WindSpeed: 10.3kts
Wind Direction: N
Waves: slight on a 1m swell

After starting out miserably, yesterday ended up being a really nice day. The wind shifted to the NW and lightened up a bit (down to a pleasant 15 knots), allowing us to shake out all the reefs and now slightly bear off directly towards our Fiji destination. What a difference ten degrees makes in terms of sailing comfort! The seas diminished, but still had about a knot of adverse current...

The highlight of the day was that we each took a hot fresh-water shower, the first one in a week (sure beats a sponge bath). Now, if we had a watermaker onboard, we could really be civilized...

We had a beautiful moon all last night, the winds were down to ten knots and the seas were calm - perfect, except that the wind had shifted to the north, had dropped to below 8 knots (boatspeed 3 knots), and we were now sailing 30 degrees east of our destination... at least we both got plenty of relaxing sleep.

This morning we're still off course, but having a great sail.

If you stop hearing from us, don't fret. The kluge I have put together would make Rube Goldberg proud: for this to work, the signal needs to get from the transom-mounted whip antenna, through the antenna tuner (which I'm finding doesn't like a moist antenna), to the transceiver, then to the Pactor modem, out on RS232, through a RS232-USB converter into the Macintosh and then into the PC emulator within the Mac (which also needs to recognize the RS232/USB conversion - a source of frustration until I figured out the correct startup sequence) and finally into the AirMail software. So, if you don't hear from us it probably just means that salt air got into the software :-)

Hope y'all have a great day, just as we're having!

Passage Report #8
Date: September 17, 2003
Time: 0800NZST
Position: 25deg32minS by 175deg59minE
Course: temporarily 042, will be 354 as the wind drops
Speed: 9.7knots (GPS)as I took the readings.
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 459nm
Last 24 Hours: 108nm (includes 7 hours of being hove-to and about 1-1/2 hours in the squalls)
WindSpeed: 24-31kts
Wind Direction: SW
Waves: Confused on top of a number of intersecting 1-2m swells

Ooooh, this is 'interesting'! After a lovely day of sailing, yesterday evening ended on a sour note with very bouncy confused seas, to the point that we hove-to again late last night. The predicted front hit us a little early at 0515 this morning (it was still dark with an obscured moon), whapping us with 30+knot winds and horizontal rain squalls. I had already put in the fourth reef when we hove-to, so when we got hit I resorted to the now tried-and-proven technique of leaving the main up but locked off to one side with the preventer, furling the jib, starting both engines, and slowly powering into the squalls. The main keeps the bows from being blown off. After the front moved past just a short while ago, we were able to turn towards Fiji (more or less) and are presently running with jib and 4th-reefed main. Averaged 8 knots in the past hour, the winds are in the high 20's, and KatieKat is behaving admirably as we surf down the still-confused seas at speeds ranging from 7.5-10.5knots. Very smooth and all under autopilot. Fun! Kathy just allowed that she'd rather be in an office staring at spreadsheets...

Bye for now - off to make breakfast.

[Weather Map]This weatherfax clearly shows the predicted front which hit us. No surprises.

[Lightning Rod]A battery cable attached to the mast and terminated in a copper pipe which gets put into the water serves as our poor-man's attempt at grounding the rigging for lightning "protection". Reminds me of an ant asking the person up above who is about to step on it to "please move over a little bit". Have no idea if it works, but it makes me feel better that at least I tried something, inasmuch as the Seawind is basically ungrounded. Hope I'm not aggravating the situation...

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19 September, 2003 -- Reports #9 and #10, Big Ugly Spinnaker

Passage Report #9
Date: 18 September 2003
Time: 0800
Position: 23deg43minS by 176deg19minE
Course: 354degM (directly for Lautoka)
Speed: 5 knots (see below)
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji:
Last 24 Hours: 113nm (see below)
WindSpeed: 6-8 knots, slowly rising
Wind Direction: EastSouthEast
Waves: 6"

Good Morning, World! It's a beautiful sun-filled light-airs no-seas spinnaker kinda day.

Well, we zoomed along for a while yesterday morning, revelling (or, in the case of Kathy, Monkey-clutching) in the high wind broad reaching. Still, with a fourth reef in the main, 11.5 knots peak and 8 knots sustained for a couple of hours is not too shabby for a fully-loaded 10m cruiser, especially if one considers the unsettled seas. She'd easily have been over 15 knots if I'd shaken out a couple of reefs. After a while I stopped playing and placated Kathy by taking the main down completely and we proceeded under jib alone as the winds gradually eased. The day ended with light airs, so our average speed again was low :-(.

Last night was a beautiful star-filled-sky night, and when the moon came up the seascape was wonderfully illuminated. Uh, we had no wind, and motored slowly (<4kts) throughout the night on the placid sea.

This morning, the wind having clocked around to the eastsoutheast, I decided to try reaching with our BUS (Big Ugly Spinnaker). So, while Kathy was asleep down below (she doesn't like the thing) I put it up and it works! I always wondered if it was too billowy to reach with, but as I type this at 0830 we are reaching along at 5.2 knots in a 8.9 knot (true) breeze. Thank you, Craig!

Life is never dull... just as I finished typing the above, the wind alarm (set for 12 knots true) sounded off, waking Kathy (whose eyes grew larger when she saw the BUS). Anyway, since that's my pre-defined windspeed limit for this chute, we proceeded to lower it, only to have the spinnaker sock funnel get stuck up there and the spinnaker tried to lift me up off the foredeck. Happily, I have a winch on the mast, so a little of it's oomph (technical term) overcame the snag and the BUS came down peacefully. We've now put up the blue spinny and are reach/running at this moment (0912) at six knots in 13 knots (true) wind. Lovely blue sky and water and the moon's still up there. Hmmm, maybe a simultaneous moon and sun sight...
'Nuff. Hope y'all have a great day!

[Big Ugly Spinnaker]This is our Big Ugly Spinnaker, here drawing asymmetrically. It's a tall but very narrow chute, and is perfect for the normal mode of running dead downwind and sheeting to each bow.

[Big Ugly Spinnaker Head]This photo shows the spinnaker sock and the funnel which was temporarily stuck up there. Using the winch would either clear the snag or tear the chute. We're lucky, sometimes.

[Blue Spinnaker] [Blue Spinnaker Attachment]

Our blue spinnaker, also being flown asymmetrically. The bow attachment is simply a line tied around the anchor roller. Works just fine.

[944 Low]If you look closely, you'll see a rarity: a 944HPa (mbar) low south of New Zealand. You don't ever want to be sailing in conditions with such closely-spaced isobars! We're happily sailing in light airs in the high between NZ and Fiji, as predicted four days ago.

Passage Report #10
Date: 19 September
Time: 0900
Position: 21deg37minS by 176deg34minE
Course: 356degM
Speed: 7.3 (GPS) and 7.1 (knotmeter) - finally no adverse current!
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 223nm
Last 24 Hours: 123nm(GPS), 136nm(knotmeter), despite 12 hours on jib alone!
WindSpeed: 14kts
Wind Direction: East
Waves: Unpleasant - 2m swell with lots of bumpities on top

Uh, hello. I'm typing this at 0430 to keep awake. Not a nice night... yesterday, which started off wonderfully, gradually deteriorated from a comfort standpoint: the winds clocked around to the east and rose to 15-20 knots which is a perfect direction (since we're heading north this gives us beam reaching) - with one problem: the seas! Convoluted, confused, unruly... these are the words that come to mind. Not particularly large, just messy. Finally figured it out: there's an adverse current of about 1-1/2 knots and there are seamounts around. Despite our great boatspeeds on the knotmeter, the GPS readings were sure disappointing! After spending yesterday morning reaching with the spinnaker, we took it down when the wind clocked around and put up the mainsail. As the wind increased I kept putting reefs in simply to SLOW US DOWN because it was so bumpy. By late afternoon we were still zooming along at 8+knots (6.5 GPS) with the fourth reef in the main (!), and it was time for a pow-wow: we wouldn't get to Lautoka before the end of the day Saturday without driving hard, but we were so miserable that we figured Sunday would be just fine so we took the main down completely and spent the next twelve hours dawdling along under jib alone, but still awfully uncomfortable in the ocean's wiggles. Kathy let me sleep a long time, but when I came on watch at 0330 the wind had lightened up (12 knots) and at the sight of 3 knots boatspeed accompanied by the miserable bouncing, I figured since we're going to be miserable anyway we may as well go faster (besides, the latest weatherfax now showed a low popping up to the SE of us in two days) so I put up the main (third reef) and our speed jumped to 7.4 knots as the wind simultaneously increased to 15! Actually, the boat's motion smoothed out (relatively) with the increased speed and now the GPS and the knotmeter agree which means the adverse current is gone... Gawd, this must be boring you to tears... :-)

We crossed the 13,000nm on the GPS on KatieKat during the night (boat log reads 11673 because I often don't plug in the transducer for short hops).

Would you believe that we haven't seen another ship or boat since we left the coast of New Zealand! It's a big empty ocean out here.

We stay in touch with Russell Radio in New Zealand on the SSB twice a day. Des does a fantastic job of keeping track of the cruisers and providing timely weather updates. Priceless.

I almost stepped on a large flying fish that had the misfortune of landing on our aft deck. Now I know where that unusual thunk came from...

Shut up, Joe, and post this! :-)

Be happy,

[Piggy]Despite all my grousing about comfort - here's proof that the Seawind's motion is acceptable: Piggy, simply sitting on a little rubber non-skid, didn't budge throughout the entire voyage! Try that on your average monohull!

[Dead Fish]Poor fish. Kathy didn't exactly want to find out how tasty it was, even though Slocum enjoyed them.

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20 September, 2003 -- Report #11, Propane Scare and Boatspeed Discussion

Passage Report #11
Date: 20 September 2003
Time: 0900
Position: 19deg55minS by 176deg49minE
Course: 358degM
Speed: 5.4kts (GPS), 6.1kts (knotmeter)
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 121
Last 24 Hours: 104nm (see BOATSPEED discussion, below)
WindSpeed: 13kts
Wind Direction: E
Waves: about 1/2m on 2m swell; at least two intersecting swell patterns; bumpy

Propane Scare
Ah, excitement we don't need. While talking with Altair (the monohull which left NZ with us -they're approaching Vanuatu) on the SSB yesterday afternoon, both Kathy and I detected a very strong odor of propane gas. I instantly ceased transmitting, shut off the propane bottle master valve, and proceeded to do the sniff test in every place we have propane routed to. Nothing was on, all compartments down below were odorless, and the mystery unfolded... I checked all the propane plumbing routing and it all looked good and was odor-free, and I hung over the transom to see if there was a problem with the externally-routed piping under the bridgedeck - all looked good. We were discussing how our diet would now be altered by having only cereal and sandwiches for the next couple of days when Kathy screamed out and pointed at the spare propane bottle: now in the sun, it was venting clouds of white propane vapor! Mystery solved, and a tribute to the way Seawind mounts the tanks that they are completely exposed. We had just had the bottle filled before departure and for the first time I didn't observe the filling - the tank had seemed a little heavier than usual... in NZ the tank is filled by weight without venting. Anyway, I took the bottle out on the foredeck (we were beam-reaching) and let out what I hope is enough propane to preclude a recurrence of the problem. Whew! Altair stayed on the radio until we checked back in with them - thanks, Paul and Suzette - we didn't go boom!

[Propane Tank] [Venting Hose] [Venting Fan]

The culprit: the spare propane tank. Fearful that some of the propane may have been sucked into the aft compartment through the transom vents, I pulled out the old fan and ducting and aerated the compartment for a few hours. The propane-powered hot water heater and the SSB tuner and antenna connections reside in that compartment, but the hot water heater is always turned off, unless we're taking a shower.

So much emphasis is placed on the 24-hour run that one of these days I'll try to see what KatieKat can do in a speed trial. For now, we're cruisers, which means we want to be comfortable and typically try to SLOW DOWN instead of zooming around (what a change from my past life!). Anyway, just for grins, I checked yesterday's 0500-1700 run, just after I put up the mainsail and just before I took it down at dinnertime. We simply had a triple-reefed mainsail and jib for the entire day, the boat steering on autopilot in GPS "Track" mode towards Lautoka, and we were generally comfortable all day with a 12-16knot breeze on the beam. The boat wasn't being pushed at all, as in these winds a full mainsail would be the norm and I'd be expecting boatspeeds at least 60% of true windspeed. The 12-hour run, according to the GPS, was 83nm (85 according to the knotmeter). Extrapolating this, it shows 166nm for 24 hours would be a completely effortless piece of cake with three reefs in the mainsail. Take the reefs out and we'd be easily over 200miles/day. Back to reality, we want to be comfortable so we slowed down for dinner and a good night's sleep :-) and we took the mainsail down for the night. As I type this a little after 0900, we have just put the mainsail back up (third reef), having hove-to all night long under backwinded jib alone.

Our timing is off and the high overtime customs fees for arriving on a weekend means that we will probably heave-to about 20 miles off the coast tomorrow (Sunday) and plan on arriving in Lautoka on Monday morning. In the meantime, we're just comfortably dawdling along. It's warm, and the comforter has been stowed away.

Y'all have a nice day, y'heah!

[14.7knots]This photo, taken back in 2000, shows that KatieKat is no slouch - the boat was steering under autopilot as I sat by the table trying to capture the averaged-GPS speed. The mainsail was fully reefed (4th reef).

[Boat and Wind Speed]Let you do the math for this combination. Considering that KatieKat is a fully loaded cruiser, this photo (taken today at 2:36pm) of True windspeed and boatspeed shows that the Seawind is a good light-airs performer, even with stock sails. Yes, had the full mainsail up.

[GRIB]A sample of the GRIB charts we've been using all along the passage, received as e-mails and decoded by SailMail's software. Here, the nice beam-reaching conditions we experienced were clearly predicted.

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22 September, 2003 -- Reports #12 & #13, Last Two Days

Passage Report #12
Date: 21 September 2003
Time: 0800
Position: 18deg27minS by 177deg07minE
Course: 358degM
Speed: 3.7kts
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 31.2nm
Last 24 Hours: 91nm (purposely going slow)
WindSpeed: 6.5kts
Wind Direction: E
Waves: just now diminished after a bumpy night

Another uneventful day on our way to paradise. Last night we saw a freighter and a fishing boat - the first sign of civilization since we left New Zealand.

The lonjons, the unused seaboots, the sweaters and jackets, and the woolly socks have all been put away. The foul weather gear never came out... come to think of it, in 3-1/2 years of this cruising I only wore the seaboots once (crossing Bass Strait) and the foul weather gear also only once (in a storm front when leaving Hobart in winter). Perhaps this stuff should be part of my next weight reduction exercise?

We're purposely dawdling, as we intend to make landfall at Navula Passage early tomorrow morning. When we decide to stop later this afternoon, I have a few alternative heaving-to experiments I want to play with.

After a bumpy night, this morning the adverse two-knot current has diminished to only 0.3knots and the seas have smoothed out so it is downright pleasant out here! Beautiful sunshiny cloudless day. This morning we're going to be pulling out the detailed charts of Fiji and reviewing the exact course into Lautoka.

The boat has been doing wonderfully, with all systems functioning properly (knock on wood). The boat has certainly withstood all this bouncing better than we have, and I can't say enough about how comfy the main saloon is for passagemaking.

We still have plenty of water left, so we'll be taking showers today so we can be permitted into the country.

Presumably, tomorrow's Passage Report will be the last one...
Hope y'all are having a pleasant weekend.

Subsequently, the ocean current was going in our direction, and finally the GPS was reading faster than the knotmeter. Of course, now we didn't need it...

[Sea Boots]Unused and unneeded, these boots have now been stuffed back down inside a locker.

[Lazy Jack Line]That yellow line (shown flopped outside the sailbag for the photo) is used to pull the lazy jacks down and forward. Without it, I found hoisting the mainsail without the engines virtually impossible as the sail would invariably snag on one of the lazy jacklines. Thank you Stephan for the simple implementation suggestion.

I was unable to send off this last Passage Report via SailMail because the SSB was unusable in the marina.

Passage Report#13
Date: 22 September 2003
Time: I dunno
Position: Prone. Our location is inside Vuda Point Marina
Course: n/a
Speed: zip
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: I dunno, it's back there somewhere...
Last 24 Hours: who cares, we hove-to for the night
WindSpeed: it got into the 20's this afternoon and it's howling out there right now
Wind Direction: SE, I think
Waves: San Francisco Bay conditions in the lagoon

Last night we arrived at the entrance to the reef at dusk and hove-to in nice quiet calm conditions. We were so zonked that we fell asleep right after dinner, only to be rudely awakened by the boat crunching on the reef when the wind shifted in the middle of the night... JUST KIDDING! But, not that farfetched a story, and a very real possibility...

We entered Navula Passage at dawn today, and sailed to Lautoka. Dropped anchor in the quarantine anchorage, unshipped BikeBoat (our SeaCycle pedal-powered catamaran dinghy) and I went ashore to complete the formalities with Health, Immigration, and Customs. After that, a quick walk to town and an ATM for local funds and it was back to KatieKat and a bumpy upwind sail to Vuda Point Marina. Along the way we were flagged down by some fishermen waving their gas can - we refused the huge fish they offered for the petrol we gave them (Kathy in horror at what we would do with the thing...). At the marina we were literally squeezed in between two other boats in a Med-tie. Just finished tying up before dark and we're too overwhelemed to do much. Kathy fixed a quick chili dinner and I think we'll sleep like babies tonight.

I'm typing this as I'm munching dinner and hoping the SSB works in the marina so I can send this off.

Let's see: we started with the GPS at 12056nm in Opua and in Lautoka it was 13305. We departed Opua on 9 September 2003 at 7:00pm and dropped anchor in Lautoka at 11:00am. Overall, a slow trip, but quite a safe one.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience in reading these missives. It was a fun trip, and we're now looking forward to a whirlwind Fijian vacation before moving on... cyclone season starts soon, and we'd rather be in Australia by then.

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