About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Landfall Opua, New Zealand

Highest point on Minerva Reef?

We finally had to tear ourselves away from Tonga, the hurricane season is approaching and we are getting excited about all the hiking we would like to do down south.  We had a dramatic first day at sea when a thunderstorm overtook us.  The torrential rain and wind was one thing, but I came a little unglued when I watched lightning strike about 200m behind the boat.  That’s close, too close!!!  The next three days were light sailing and we even had to motor to get into Minerva Reef.  This was an interesting stop.  Minerva is actually two reefs (north and south; we stopped at North Minerva) with the coral forming a ring like an atoll, but there’s no actual land.  Not a palm tree or even a shrub to be seen.  The reef makes for a protected anchorage, but without land in sight it feels like you’re anchored in the middle of the ocean.  At high tide when the seas are rough it gets a little bouncy, but still pleasant.  We had a few days to soak up the experience and walked on the reef at low tide as it dries out, with only the surge of the waves washing across the reef which is nearly half a mile wide. 

Heidi enjoying the easy sailing
We were not the only yacht holed up here, but all five boats left together as the weather “window” had opened.  The passage to New Zealand can be rough and has a notorious reputation, so there was lots of discussion and every GRIB file and weatherfax was analyzed by all of us novice forecasters.  For the very fast yachts it’s a little easier to decide when to leave, but for us small and slow craft, it can be dicey.  It isn’t the conditions as you depart that are the worry but the chance of a strong low pressure or frontal system as you get further south, where the storms pack more punch.  Well the weather gods were with us and we had a lovely passage!  In fact we had our spinnaker up for 2 days of light wind sailing.  It was the first passage where we sailed in sight of other boats the whole time (ie Narama kept up with bigger yachts!).  We enjoyed seeing dolphins and albatross again, in fact the wildlife increase the further south we sailed.

Some passage stats:

North Minerva Reef to Opua New Zealand distance:  800 nm
Best 24 run for Narama:  126nm
Worst run: 106
Time sailed:  7 days
Engine hours:  14
Sail changes:  10
Exploring the tidepools of Minerva Reef

Snorkeling in Vava'u

We spent six weeks in Vava’u (Tonga) and loved it.  We were in the water snorkeling nearly everyday and managed to identify 158 species of fish (well Heidi did, Stephen has an aesthetic appreciation).  Rather than bore with a long species list we put together a slide show of underwater images.  The soundtrack is a recording of Humpback Whales singing that we managed to record on a flat calm day without any boat traffic around.  We thought it was fitting to give you, dear reader, the virtual experience as we did often hear humpbacks singing while we were underwater!