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Katipo Voyage

Sailing 5,500 miles from New Zealand to some of the South Pacific islands and back on a Narai MK IV by Don Brazier (Wharram agent in New Zealand).

Narai Mk IV Katipo on the water

It was not a good day May 16th 2011. I had been preparing my 41 foot Narai for months. We were all loaded up and victuals were stowed, we had checked out with customs and were due to depart on the tide from Auckland New Zealand for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. However a last minute check of all systems showed the alternator on my Kubota diesel was not charging the batteries. By 11 pm on that cold, dark night we gave up trying to fix the problem and went to bed in disgust. The next day we removed the alternator and had it bench tested – it was ok ! The marine electrician eventually identified a wiring problem and despondency turned to relief.

A day late I set off, along with crewman Ted, for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Ted had built and sailed a Wharram Ariki many years ago and was keen to sail on a catamaran again. Despite slowly motoring for 3 hours early in the day and sailing against the 3 knot tidal steam round the Coromandel Peninsula we covered 120 miles in the first 24 hours as we left New Zealand behind way over the horizon. A glistening Kawahai fish took our lure and provided a fine meal as we settled down to the rhythm of watches and life at sea. On our second day at sea we saw our first albatross which came soaring alongside us with never a perceivable movement of its wings, they are magnificent birds.

This the longest leg of the intended voyage, took us Eastwards from Auckland in the belt of predominately Westerly winds before reaching longitude 170 degrees West, where we intended to head North to the warmer weather and the Cook Islands. We had some great sailing initially with the wind aft of the beam, dry decks, the sun shining and a couple of Tuna were caught. I had installed a small electric fridge/ freezer and we had the luxury of some excellent precooked and frozen meals which my wife Denise had prepared. We were well stocked with fruit and vegetables which lasted quite well although we were to find that kumara and onions were the ones to last the best. We found it best to eat our main meal in the middle of the day in between two periods of watch keeping. The freezer ran off the 240 amp hour house batteries which were largely powered by seven solar panels giving out a maximum of 180 watts. But with navigational lights, chart plotter, cabin lights, and recharging the satellite phone and lap top computer we had to run the engine for a short while about every three to four days. Later for the 3500 miles after Rarotonga I used the freezer adjusted to fridge mode and found that the solar panels coped fine with no need to run the engine.

Don Brazier at the helm of Katipo in high seas
The wind vane doing all the work

A Whale

The sun was out, only moderate seas and we were sailing at 6 knots, nothing of note in sight. We had been talking that morning about the exact position of the Haymet Rocks first seen in 1863 and only once since just as breaking seas. We should be some long distance away. I was in my bunk below thinking about getting up to go on deck. Ted was on watch when there was an almighty noise like a giant bang, graunch and the whole boat seemed to lift. I immediately scrambled up on deck thinking HAYMET ROCKS to see Ted with a look of awe on his face pointing to a large slick on the surface of the water behind the boat. Seconds after the bang Ted had seen to his right a huge whale tail rise into the air near the starboard stern of the boat as the whale sounded. We checked down below immediately but there appeared to be no serious damage, hopefully just a glancing blow as we rode up over the whale . There are nicely curved and extremely thick timbers along the keel of each hull so it should be fine. But to lift 6 ton of boat sailing along it would have been one hell of a whack. It was good we were not a keeler or a catamaran with dagger boards or things would have likely been very serious!

Parachute

We knew that the good weather would not be likely to last too long and sure enough a gale from the north was forecast. The seas built up and the wind was soon gusting over 40 knots. We were in no great hurry and, not wishing to lose any ground to the South, decided to try the parachute which I had bought from the Coppins Company in the South Island of New Zealand. Ted and I had tested it on one occasion in about 20 knots of breeze some while before our departure and I would advise that this should be done so you have a procedure established. All went well and I was pleased to find that the deployment went at a fairly leisurely pace feeding out the 100 metres of 16 mm diameter nylon warp then 20 metres bridle. No chain is required. The bridles were attached by shackles to galvanized steel bales bolted round each bow. This meant there was no chafe which would have occurred had the bridle bitter ends been led through fairleads on the bows. The tillers were lashed amidships. The boat initially surged backwards as each big sea picked us up. The elastic nylon warp stretched some, then kicked in and pulled us up and over each crest. Unfortunately, the trim tabs down the stern of each rudder, which are connected to the self steering wind vane, came under quite a load as the boat initially went backwards a little and, despite being lashed amidships, bolts sheared in the arms on the top of each one. We repaired these once underway again.

Katipo bow
Bale on bow for bridle attachment

It was a wild, rough night but Katipo’s bows rose to the large, steep phosphorescent capped waves with ease. It was like sitting on a roller coaster at a fun park but if you peered out from behind the shelter of the deck pod you were chilled by the cold wind and blasted by the rain and occasional spray. We chose to retrieve the parachute 24 hours later, when the wind had moderated, by using the anchor winch to wind the warp in until the floating line and buoy from the crown of the parachute could be reached. With care one could motor up to the parachute but we chose not to risk getting any line around the propeller.

Deployed parachute on Katipo
Parachute bridle can just be seen from the bows
Getting parachute bag into bag
We are about to get the parachute back into it’s deployment bag, not as easy as on the lawn at home!

The weather settled and all was well until about four days out of Rarotonga when the intense high which had formed just South of the region of the trade winds caused a squash zone with the SE trades . Fierce East and NE winds developed with bigger seas than either Ted or I had seen in thousands of ocean miles over the years. A large breaking cross sea picked us up, threw us sideways and because the safety catch had not been engaged on the sliding main hatch, it slid back shipping water down onto Ted’s bunk. He was not impressed and again we opted for the parachute, though this time the weather took much longer to abate.

One other lesson was learned – we found in these huge seas the tillers when lashed amidships creaked ominously, so we used pieces of car inner tube on the ends of the lashings to allow a little give. However, the load on the rudders was huge – hour after hour - and although the aluminium- bronze pintles and gudgeons had been tight for the previous 20 years. in the space of the time on the parachute a bit of wear and slop developed. This was mainly noticed later in the islands, as a slight clunking when at anchor in a swell. However I don’t think it became much worse in the subsequent 4000 miles.

Freshly caught fish
A dorado
Island in the distance, dawn sky
We approach Rarotonga at dawn

It is a shame one cannot raise one’s rudders when lying to the parachute – maybe side rudders are the answer! The weather system which had us in its grip is called a Bogi Walu in Fiji and takes a while to subside as we found. The parachute opens a whole new option when sailing. At first, after years of coping and slogging on in high winds and big seas, it seems strange to stop and wait, but its great. Why press on and wear out the crew and stress the boat in strong head winds, providing you have at least moderate sea room and are away from shipping lanes?

Once underway again we were delighted to catch a good size Mahi mahi (or Dorado). These are spectacular fish, an irridescent greeny blue colour and one of the most tasty of the ocean fish.

Rarotonga

At last the craggy outline of Rarotonga showed in the early morning light and before long we were secure in the small harbour with a stern anchor out and two bow lines to the wharf. We had a steady stream of visitors many of whom remembered the Wharram team on Gaia sailing into the harbour in the mid 1990’s. The harbour has little protection from the Northerly direction and a large swell sometimes rolls in.

Ted had been an excellent crew but had to return to New Zealand. Denise, who had been visiting relatives in the USA, flew in and sailed with me for the next four and a half months. My oldest son and his fiancée also flew to Rarotonga for a two week holiday and accompanied us on the next leg to Aitutaki. After tidying up the boat and getting some laundry done (very cheaply washed and dried and worth every cent as we had much wet salty clothing etc) we restocked and set sail for Aitutaki.

At anchor in Avaitu Harbour

Aitutaki

Entering Aitutati was our first experience of a coral pass. We arrived during the night so tacked offshore then back in again to be ready to enter the 40 feet wide channel with our 22 feet wide catamaran in good light during the morning. Forget using your chartplotter – the cmap on our Navman chart plotter proved to be an appreciable distance out and would have neatly led us across the reef (this is the case in many Pacific islands - the GPS position being perfectly accurate but the charts that the chart plotters are based on are some distance out – sometimes half a mile!) My son scaled up the mast steps about 15 feet and guided us easily into the entrance and down the long channel into a small harbour with about enough room for six boats at the most. We set stern and bow anchors and a couple of lines onto coconut palm trees and we were fine.

It is possible for deeper keeled boats drawing more than 1.6 metres, with care, to anchor off the entrance. The occasional yacht did so, staying perhaps a couple of days at the most. This is not wise, however, with a small crew as ideally a couple of people need to stay on board. Unfortunately a large keel yacht was lost on a reef a short while later on Palmerston Atoll, when a mooring outside the reef gave way one night.

Katipo motoring through a pass
Entering the pass - coral reef can be seen to port
Supply freighter, barge and monohull yacht
The supply freighter outside reef and barge in pass

Cook Islanders are a most friendly lot and we had a great time. Unlike Rarotonga, which is fairly busy and commercialized these days, Aitutaki is still a quiet paradise. The Cook islands are allied to New Zealand so most people are bilingual speaking both English and Cook Island Maori. Aitutaki has a huge, beautiful lagoon and while it was not possible to venture into the lagoon with big boats it’s great to explore by tender or one of the few small tourist boats. While we were there the supply ship came and we watched all the activity as diesel, propane bottles and all manner of supplies and food were brought ashore on a long shallow draft barge taking many trips all day and right into the early evening. My son Shay and his fiancée Jo flew back to work in New Zealand after two weeks exploring Aitutaki and having greatly enjoyed kite surfing in the huge lagoon. When they had left Denise and I readied for sea and sailed on to Suwarrow to the North.

Suwarrow was definitely the highlight of the voyage and a place we had planned to visit for ages. It was so isolated – no airstrip, no cargo shipping calling in. You could only go there if you had your own boat. It was declared a National Park and Nature Reserve in 1978 by the Cook Island government. The book ‘An Island to Oneself’ by Tom Neale describes his years on Suwarrow living as a hermit for sixteen years – it is well worth a read. There is also another book by Robert Dean Frisbee who wrote in 1942 about his time there with his children.

Anchorage island nature
Thick bush on Anchorage Island
Don and James
James the caretaker and Don. Like other boats we left a memento of Katipo’s visit

The wild life – particularly the bird life was amazing.. Two caretakers from Rarotonga live on the island during the six month cruising season . They were great characters who keep an eye on things for six months of the year during the cruising season. They explained about the wild life and how the small islands round the atoll were cared for. There are a total of eleven species of birds living there. Sooty terns by the thousands but also fairy terns, frigate birds, tropic birds, boobies (four types), noddies and curlews. There were six other boats in the lagoon and we had some great pot luck suppers with these folk and the caretakers. Large Coconut crabs are on some of the outer islands or motu on the ringing coral reef around the huge lagoon. The pass is by Anchorage Island where one can drop anchor in about 17 metres of water. Five reef sharks were there straight away circling our boat as a welcoming committee. All too soon it was time to leave, bound for Samoa. Once up in the region of the South East trades sailing is generally a pleasure with wind aft of the beam, ideal for catamarans. I had bought a large furling light weather reacher which I set on an aluminium prod pole which kept it out in front of the forestay, We used this sail quite often when the wind was light and unlike our big spinnaker it could be easily furled and then dropped if required within a very short time.

Red sail
The big, furling red reacher was great in light winds

Samoa

With a rising wind we approached Samoa and were soon down to bare poles to try and slow down so as to time our arrival for early morning. There is a fairly new three year old marina in Apia and you are not allowed to anchor out in the harbour. Generally over the years we have never stayed in Marinas but it is worthwhile for a short stay in Samoa. The Marina is within easy walking distance of town and it is a good place to stock up with food and fuel. We stayed longer than expected as Denise unfortunately had to have a root canal filling (ouch!) but we explored the island and enjoyed our stay, including visiting the former home of Robert Louis Stevenson. Many cruisers had themselves tattooed here and certainly it seemed like most of the population, including the women, had at least one tattoo.

Katipo in Marina
In the Marina Apia Samoa
Converted museum
Robert Louis Stevenson’s former house now restored as a museum

In Savaii, the smaller of the two Samoan islands, we had a quieter time, spending a week in Asau harbour. It is a tricky angled pass through the reef entering this harbour and there was a chilling reminder to be careful – a 45 foot keeler with a damaged hull and her keel knocked off lies stripped and abandoned up on shore near the wharf. Samoa seems to have a well ordered society built largely on the village system of which there are many scattered mainly around the coast. Each head man and elders hold sway and the churches also have a large influence on life. There may be as many as three competing denominations of churches in one village.

Wallis Island

The wind had at times been gusting up to 35 knots and we waited for the weather to settle before leaving Asau for the French territory of Wallis and Futuna Islands. We had been warned, and it also states in the pilot book, that strong currents are to be expected in the main pass through the reef to the South of Wallis island where except for a short slack water period of about 15 to 30 minutes the current is always rushing out (due to the fairly constant easterly quarter winds piling water over the reef all the time).

With a 20 knot headwind we motored through turbulence and huge upwellings of the sea as we entered the pass and slowly made headway against the current. Once in, we were to find a large and beautifully clear lagoon. We carefully followed the beacons round the coral reefs to anchor at the village of Gahi. Tourism has not been developed in this Island although the standard of living with the help of French subsidies seems fairly high. The supermarket in the main town Mata Utu had French delicacies imported from New Caledonia which would have been appreciated by the French teachers, medical staff and other officials. There is no public transport but we were usually given a lift by locals when walking into town. Food seemed reasonably expensive but there were no fees payable on clearing in on our arrival. One of the memorable sights was a deep circular crater in the middle of the main island with vertical rocky walls and a very deep lake in the bottom. As you peer down the cliff face white tropic birds circle around below you over the dark forbidding waters.

Crater lake
Deep crater Lake Wallis island
Outrigger canoe on the beach
Outriggers still in use

After two weeks we set off for Fiji. It proved to be a fairly boisterous trip with many rain squalls and 30 knot winds. We hooked a large Wahoo on our imitation squid lure and had to drop the genoa and main to have any chance of getting the fish aboard. It proved impossible to lift the gaffed fish up over the side due to its size, so we dropped the stern ramp and pulled it up there. We filled the fridge and turned it onto freezer mode as we were nearly into Fiji and there would be friends with whom to share our catch. As we entered the Nanuku passage to the NE of Fiji we had a rough night’s sail and hove to in the shelter of Taveuni Island with just a triple reefed main up for part of the night before sailing on to Savusavu.

Fiji

Savusavu is a delightful small town with an excellent sheltered anchorage. There are two mooring areas in the channel, the Copra Shed and Waitui Marine. We chose the latter and were welcomed by their boatman with his beaming smile and shout of “Bula” as he led us up to our buoy. Savusavu proved a good place to replenish supplies and like Apia in Samoa had a large, inexpensive fruit and vegetable market. Mangoes, bananas, coconuts, soursop, papayas, limes and much more.

Large Wahoo fish on board
Large Wahoo (over five feet long)

As usual we met old friends from previous anchorages in other Islands and had a good social time often eating out in the cheap Indian restaurants. Early one morning we boarded the local bus and wended our way over the high hinterland of Vanua Levu and down to the bigger, bustling town of Lambasa . This is one of the major centres of the sugar cane farming. Trucks loaded high with sugar cane stalks rumbled along the roads to queue outside the processing plant. Sooty smuts filled the air from the high chimneys. The bus ride was half the fun and very interesting as it often stopped at small villages where locals piled on board including smartly dressed uniformed school children on their way to school.

The next part of the voyage was SW towards Lautoka in the Southern most large island of Viti Levu. Quite large areas of Fijian waters are not fully charted and reefs are ever present. GREAT care is needed. We were given some reliable waypoints to guide across Bligh Waters and through the inside reef passage. We were lucky with the weather, sunny and steady SE wind often about 25 knots during the day. We took five days for the trip sailing for about five or six hours a day – best after 10am when the sun is higher in the sky and it is easier to spot the coral reefs. The wind went round to the NE on our arrival near Lautoka so we sheltered behind Bekana Island for a couple of days. Lautoka also has a sugar cane processing plant which causes black smuts to settle all over your decks depending on the prevailing wind. We moved on down the coast to eventually moor in the harbour at Denarau. This is a convenient place to stock up with water, food and fuel. It is a busy tourist port providing boat trips to several, adjacent large hotels and also ferries out to nearby island. It had changed considerably since we were last here ten years ago. A total contrast to the up market shops and restaurants is to be found by taking a $1 bus trip to Nadi. This is a bustling typically Fijian town with its mixed Indian and Fijian population. Good variety of food can be found in the supermarkets and as in other towns an excellent fruit and vegetable market with in addition plenty of kava root for sale. Kava is needed for Savusavu ceremonies if you visit the outer islands – it is polite and a requirement to offer kava to the village headman when you seek permission to anchor and stay in bays off their village. The main reason we came to Denerau was to be near Nadi airport as it was time for a crew change, Denise had to fly back to Auckland and Ted flew in to join Katipo for the sail South to New Zealand.

Looking at moored boats through shrubbery in Savusavu
Katipo moored in Savusavu

The trick is to choose a good weather window and there is no shortage of advice. Bob McDavitt from New Zealand meteorological service sends out a weekly email of advice to subscribers to his service which is well respected. There are weather grib files to down load and there is of course much discussion between cruisers who are due to head South to shelter from the cyclone season.

We set off on 24 October 2011 after clearing customs in Lautoka. Once cleared you are required to sail immediately with no further anchoring in Fijian waters. It was evening and darkness fell before we could exit the Navula coral pass and leave the more sheltered seas inside the reefs. One of the two lights marking the edges of the pass was not working but the leading lights on the distant shore were some help. However it was with great relief that we gained the open sea. Relief was short lived as within two hours the wind was up to 35 knots and the seas short and steep. The weather soon revealed items which we had forgotten to properly stow before departure from the relatively quiet waters inside the reefs. But, of more concern, was a sudden loss of wind vane steering control. We found that the trim tab on the port rudder which was connected to the wind vane had come away from its bottom bearing bracket and soon in the vicious seas the trim tab rudder sheared off. It was possibly caused by striking a log. Although I had a spare second trim tab on the Starboard rudder we could not connect it up in the dark and the big seas – so it was back to hand steering. I had forgotten how tiring it can be especially in bad weather. We did three hour tricks at the wheel and were pleased after about thirty five hours when the weather had moderated a little to link up the spare trim tab.

For the majority of the voyage the wind was ESE 25 to 35 knots just forward of the beam and an uncomfortable ride with wet decks and lively motion. For comfort’s sake we kept our speed down with reefed sails. One afternoon the wind and seas kept building, the wind howled in the rigging and we had one gust of 59 knots. By then we had only the storm jib up. We were pleased to see how well Katipo handled the conditions much of the time beam-on to the seas but in the worst of the wind we ran diagonally across the seas with the wind on the quarter. We saw no other boats until reaching New Zealand but later spoke separately to three other skippers on keelers who were in the same weather pattern – each reported freak breaking seas which had broken over their boats, one sustaining much damage to his dodgers and cockpit canvas cover. It was a fairly exceptional weather situation and the grib files showed consistent strong East to ESE winds all the way from North of Fiji to Auckland for days.

At last about two days from our destination the weather moderated and then at last the shadow of Northland in New Zealand showed on the horizon. A fine tuna took our lure which made a welcome change of meal. We arrived after a nine day passage in Opua in the beautiful Bay of islands. Opua is the main check in port for boats arriving from overseas and is full of interesting boating characters and seething with activity.

Notes about Katipo and lessons learned

I thought it may be helpful to give some general information about Katipo. She is named after the Katipo a poisonous spider which is now fairly uncommon but can be found under driftwood on the shore lines in northern New Zealand. I built her and launched in 1988 as a fairly standard Narai IV, except that the hull deck over the area between main beams 3 and 4 was raised to form cabin tops for a chart room starboard and a heads to port. Also the cabin coamings were taken out to the shear line of the hulls to give greater room inside. I chose to omit the bulwarks instead gluing a 3 x 1 inch timber along the gunnel with a cosmetic ply trim at stern and bow.

Rig

The rig is single mast, cutter. As a precaution the all stainless 1x19 twenty three year old standing rigging and bridles were replaced prior to the voyage. Their attachments to the hull chain plates with lashings had been replaced five years before and were ok. They did not need to be tightened during this voyage.

Engine

The engine is a 20 HP Kubota diesel radiator cooled (by air, like a car engine) attached to an hydraulic pump linked via hoses to a hydraulic motor in a small lower nacelle behind beam 2 which drives a 4 metre longtail shaft which is supported by a wire bridle under main beam 4 and can be raised when sailing.

Underneath Katipo
The drive shaft

Self steering

Self steering is by a wind vane to a trim tab on the stern edge of the port rudder. The design was taken from Bill Belcher’s book “Yacht Wind Vane Steering” There is also now a linkage from an autopilot which I use occasionally, to the trim tab on the Starboard rudder.

Beam modifications and Pod

I made a short trip of 7 weeks with my wife and three sons to Tonga in 1994 and at that time had a small bimini amidships between the hulls to give us some shelter when on deck. However it was inadequate in bad weather and was constantly in the way when walking up and down the boat – you either had to duck underneath the bimini or walk round it over the cabin tops on the hulls. So in 2007 I built and installed longer Tiki styled beams which were lashed to the hulls (instead of the original system with bolts and rubber blocks). Beams 2 and 3 are lashed in a similar manner to the Tikis, while beams 1 and 4 are lashed down to large stainless eye bolts with a frapping alongside the beam (see photos). I used this method as I was modifying the classic Narai system, if I was building say a Tiki 46 I would use James Wharram’s Tiki style lashing system.

Beam lashings
Beam lashing on beams 1 and 4
Beam lashings
Beam lashing viewed from above on beams 1 and 4 - Frapping turns can be seen

The extra 2 feet 7 inches of overall beam made it possible to build a central pod between beams 3 and 4 with enough room to walk down either side of it along the central deck. This is much more convenient and makes jobs like carrying an anchor from the fore deck to the stern of the boat when laying out a stern anchor a much easier task.

The engine box was moved from its place where the new pod was to go, to sit in its box behind the mast. To improve the efficiency of the air cooling, especially for the hydraulic oil reservoir tank, I installed some extra 12 volt fans from a car wrecking yard.

The pod can seat a maximum of six people, houses the instruments, engine controls, the winches are at hand and visibility all round is excellent. Installing the small pod has transformed the boat in terms of comfort and the greater beam, while marginally increasing stability, has not affected tacking. One gets the impression that water flow between the hulls is improved, there is not such a peaking wave under beam three as there used to be whilst underway. One must not forget however that making one major change introduces maybe ten other changes that you may not have initially thought about – for example in this case longer rigging, much electrical rewiring, new deck supports etc.

Electric Power

We did not need to run the engine to charge the batteries on the trip down from Fiji to Auckland. Four solar panels on the pod top and four on the cabin tops give 180 watts . This seems adequate, except in really prolonged bad weather, to power the chart plotter, a small electric fridge, navigation lights and cabin lights. We also charged the laptop computer and Satellite phone. The mast tricolour/ anchor light is an LED Lopo light and I have now changed most lights inside the boat to LEDs.

Anchoring

I have a 35 pound Danforth, a 35 pound CQR and a 20 KG Bruce anchor. During the voyage in the Pacific I used the Bruce anchor on 20 metres of chain and 100 metres of 18mm nylon warp. I was lucky in that we had no situations where the anchor dragged or the chain or warp became snagged round coral or obstructions on the bottom. I think next time more chain, say 30 metres, would be better. We certainly heard some horror stories from other cruisers of anchoring problems especially in Pagopago harbour, American Samoa . Apparently there was a lot of debris on the bottom there, washed into the harbour following the last Tsunami.

Communications, weather forecasts and navigation

To gain offshore clearance from New Zealand a thorough Category One inspection is required and a SSB radio or Satellite phone is mandatory. I had an old but still functional SSB with only the most important six channels but decided to invest in a Sat phone too. This proved a great buy and by linking through a subscription to Sail Mail I could download weather grib files every day and send brief emails. In addition I could keep regular skeds once every day with one of my sons in Auckland. We had a fairly old Navman chart plotter and a back up hand held GPS plus paper charts. We also had a back up chart plotter program on our lap top computer and a sextant. We met one cruiser who had his catamaran struck by lightning when in the Caribbean. This ‘cooked’ all his electronic gear, I understand it is in part the intense electro magnetic field that does the damage. What marvellous improvements in navigation and weather access etc since our previous off shore voyage years seventeen years ago!

Water and supplies

We had no water maker but had no trouble obtaining good water in the places we visited. We carried the water in 15 litre and some 6 litre plastic containers which were easy to fill by taking them ashore in the dinghy. One advantage of this system is you know accurately how much water you have used. What we should have organized before we left New Zealand was a rain water collecting system – maybe by putting a lip around the roof of the central pod.

We stocked up with plenty of basic supplies in Auckland and these lasted well. We bought more as we needed them and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables were available in the islands. Interestingly you can buy Cook Island, Samoan and Fijian Coffee - all good. We tried some foods we had not had before like arrowroot – a root crop and the unusual soursop fruits and custard apples. There were inexpensive excellent snacks available in the islands like Taro, Cassava and also Breadfruit chips.

Damage

There was damage to the trim tabs when on the parachute anchor and later soon after leaving Fiji and the failure of the LED mast tricolour light near Samoa. In big seas a couple of the deck slats were loosened when beating to windward, these have since been more securely fixed down with bolts not screws. The whale strike caused a slight dent under the hull keel but also we later found in Rarotonga a small longitudinal stress crack under the main beam one, where it joins the starboard hull. It became no worse for the following 4,500 miles and I have recently in New Zealand taken this beam out to check it and seal and fibre glass the small crack. They are very strong beams so no problems!

Health

Cruising is generally a healthy life. Denise had bad luck injuring her wrist in a fall on a slippery boat ramp and earlier having to have a root canal filling. I lost some weight and came back fitter than when I set out. We had mosquito screens which we could velcro into place on open hatches at night.They were used mainly in places like Samoa where we were tied up in a marina or near the shore. Generally at anchor in a bay the breeze kept mosquitoes away. I noticed that minor wounds seemed to take much longer to heal than when onshore. This was particularly so when on the longer ocean passages – perhaps because one is wet and salty much of the time!

In Conclusion

Wharrams are excellent, practical cruising boats, very sea worthy and with a comfortable motion at sea. So get out there and do it, after a few shake down trips and some careful planning. You will not regret it!

In the words of Sir Francis Drake:

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better”.