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Old 08-12-2008, 13:28   #1
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Mid-Pacific Fuel Drop

Robby and Lorraine Coleman have, for many years, lived aboard their gorgeous Angelman ketch Southern Cross, built from lines drawn by Hugh Angelman in the 1930s. Her keel was laid in a Hong Kong shipyard in 1958, and after the work was completed there, the vessel was placed aboard a freighter and transported to California, where final commissioning took place.

One morning in the early '60s, the brand new vessel entered her element, at last. Here's a link to the page on Robby's website that details this vessel's history:

"Hawaii - Yachts, Boats for Sale - Hawaii - Caretakers - Aloha Yachts, Inc. Aloha Couple"

In 1990, the vessel passed into the capable hands of Robby and Lorraine, who began a careful, complete restoration. Today, the "old girl" looks better than ever. For the past several years, the Colemans have lived aboard, and sailed, Southern Cross in the state of Hawai'i. In June of '07, they sailed out of Hawai'ian waters on a voyage to and through the South Pacific.

First stop: Tabuaeran (Fanning Island). They had been there several months when, one morning in early December, last year, another vessel was carried by the current onto the fringing reef and destroyed. The American couple aboard, with their cocker spaniel puppy Snickers and Gulliver the macaw, swam 200 yards to the beach. They had saved themselves, but the boat was a total loss.

The Americans managed to get themselves back to California, but the animals were left behind. Because Robby and Lorraine had created a strong bond with the destitute islanders, they were asked by the local policeman if they could do anything to save the animals so that he would not have to kill them, as his superiors on a distant island had commanded.

Many of you know the story of how that turned out, but if it's new to anyone, the thread will bring you up to date.

This past summer, the Colemans had come to the end of their allowed time in the islands known as The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced KEE-ree-bahs), where Tabuaeran is located. Their intent was to sail through a few of the other island chains en route to New Zealand by the time cyclone season had arrived.

The voyage to NZ proved to be difficult for the many vessels making the trip this year. Last night, I received an email from Robby and Lorraine that provided some detail on what they had had to deal with before arriving successfully in Opua on December 1st. Of particular note to cruisers is the section detailing the fuel drop from a passing cruise ship, and doing it in very unstable seas.

* * *

From their email:

"It is necessary to point out that a fuel drop at sea is no easy task. The cruise ship pulled up within a hundred feet behind us to pick up our empties, and the captain kept the bow pointed toward us and the seas. Often her big bullet shaped bulb, (supposed to be under water) would lunge from the sea pointing like a massive cannon at us as the vessel lifted her bow skyward, and quickly sank into the sea followed by the entire bow that slammed through the crest of the following wave, only to heave upward again spilling mega-gallons of seawater over the deck. I was too busy talking on the handheld VHF radio to the captain and trying to stay out from underneath her to take video and its difficult to find words to describe the fear and awe that surged through Lorraine and myself during the ordeal.

"After they picked up our jugs with a grappling hook on a long piece of line, we motored around behind them only to watch a similar scenario repeated as her lower center stern deck area dipped way below sea level and lunged upward over and over spilling tons of ocean off the sides. The crew was higher and dry on the port side deck and lowered our full jugs (and goodies) 30 feet into the wild sea. We motored up behind and Lorraine grabbed them with our boat hook while I kept our bowsprit from smashing into the immense heaving stern. (Better than anything at Disneyworld!) We lost one bucket full of goodies (the handle broke) so we circled again and grabbed it as SC rocked heavily in the waves. This was certainly a job for 20-somethings!

"Our new friends steamed off and the rest of the evening was spent securing everything as the buckets and jugs tried to slam each other off the boat like billiard balls. We wolfed down fresh eggs and sausage and hove to waiting for the seas to diminish so we could continue south the following morning.

"It is also noteworthy for those who have not been in such a seaway, that filling diesel from jugs the next day in a bouncing tossing boat and pouring them carefully through a 5" diameter "Baja filter," without getting any salt water in the fill hole is not a piece of cake but we managed to get enough in to make the final approach and landing without spilling a drop in the ocean which we both revere, love and respect.

"We do not a have a modern autopilot but use Caesar, our tiller pilot that attaches to our steering vane. He only works in calm seas, which fortunately arrived as we motored closer to Opua. At 0200 on the first of December, we arrived outside the entrance to Bay of Islands. We had not slept during the day, and were not comfortable entering the unknown harbor and channels at night so we stopped the engine and drifted and took turns snoozing till 0600. Then, we steamed into the bay under a gorgeous red sunrise and down the long channel to the quarantine dock in Aotaeroa, the last Polynesian island we will visit this voyage.

"Southern Cross preformed excellently throughout the extended voyage. Seawitches are one of the finest cruising boats ever built. She has multiple easily handled sails (Lorraine hauls up the main no problem). When we do motor, SC cooks along at 6.7 to 6.8 knots on flat seas. Unfortunately we thought we could sail most of the way and did not fill our 35 gallon bladder tank before leaving Tonga. Had we known how much motoring would be needed to get to New Zealand (a Sun Deer 56 motored 4 days out of 8, and one fellow said "The dinosaurs died so we could all get to New Zealand") we would have carried as much diesel as we could. And it is noteworthy that SC heaves to very well, which made our passage much more comfortable. It's noteworthy that 2 other boats broke goosenecks, and at least one suffered a knockdown, but we were the only one with the 180 degree wind shift that blew out the mainsail. The ripped main and broken gooseneck are easy now that we are here.

"Will write more about the weather this year that messed up many yachties trips, not just ours. Love and Aloha, Robby and Lorraine"

* * *

For those contemplating living aboard and cruising, but wonder what it's like, the above can give you some idea. Clearly, it isn't always easy, but if you love the sense of freedom the liveaboard lifestyle can provide, as Robby and Lorraine so obviously do, you'll never regret your choice.

"Your vision becomes clear only when you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens."
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
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