Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Delivery trip to Tonga

It is about 1800 nautical miles from the Gold Coast to Tonga, likely upwind against the SE Trade winds all the way. We decided to subcontract that job to Royce Black, who has been the main Seawind yacht deliverer for many years. He has clocked up half a million sea miles, many of them in boats like ours.


Leaving Southport Seaway

Next stop Tonga

We could track her on the AIS, until she leaves VHF range. On this heading she should pass south of Norfolk Island, as recommended by Jimmy Cornell. Tonga is the island on the extreme right of this diagram.

The Grib files look good for the next few days; this is how it should be 96 hours after they left.

Drama at sea

Friday afternoon was shaken by some SMS messages from Royce using the satphone. The first two left me feeling sick in the stomach. The final one was a cause of huge relief.

Good on you, Royce!

One week's progress

SMS from Royce on the Satphone.

ALL DECK HATCHES & SIDE HATCHES LEAKING. We can not use the front cabins as the beds are too wet. Need new seals for all 9. Have stopped nearly all leaks around the front saloon windows by removing a packer from behind each handle.

News from Bob Mcdavitt, aka 'MetBob'.

TD17F  has managed to find its way over warm open seas so that it can deepen sufficiently to have gales around its centre and thus satisfy the criteria to be named as a TROPICAL CYCLONE , TC AMOS.   the  future track of AMOS is still somewhat at the whim of its surroundings  –however it does now appear be  a north-westerly steering field .
Fiji Met service this morning  (Thursday  21 May Fiji date) produced this graphic of its probable future, heading to wards southern parts of SAMOA. image
I sent this to Royce.

He replied:
"Please look at the Gribs for the next 4 days and tell me if problems between us & Tonga or should we alter course to Fiji, New Cal or New Zealand? Safety first. Max wind please."

This seemed like a weighty decision, worth sub-contracting out to an independent expert. MetBob does individual routing reports for a reasonable fee.

MetBob replied:

Hi there David

TC AMOS to west of Samoa is expected to travel SE across Niue area this weekend , so is NOT expected to present any problems to NIMROD going to Tonga.

Today’s data show they are likely to be in SE winds at present, and these winds may turn east then NE during Friday. 

They should go SSE in the easterly winds and SE in the NE winds.

Then a brief calm area Sunday night/Monday morning (Fiji/Tongan time) then new southerly wind good for going to Tonga .

SO it is OK to continue to Tonga , but I am unsure how you can feed all the above info to them via text message—maybe one line at a time.

Grib file for 2pm on Saturday 23rd April

The leaky seals set off a wild goose chase. How to get the right seals in time to carry them with us when we fly to Tonga on 14th May?

A tribe of catamaran 'wise men' helped greatly. What sort of hatches and windows were they? Photos flashed around evoked a consensus. Gebo.

So the seals must be "Webasto P/N 89600600 Rubber seal for deck hatch R163".

Not so fast.

Are the hatches 'Standard' or 'Flushline'?

Standard are 40mm high. Flushline are 24mm high.

The seal suggested is for the Standard hatch, not the Flushline.

Which should it be? Royce was asked, but it is too rough to go on deck to measure. Several people are involved in the hunt. Different Seawind 1160s had different gear put on them. Ours was launched in October 2008, hull number 62.

Eventually we got it sorted, with Royce's tape measure, and help from:

Brent Vaughan
Peter Backhouse
Adam Barrett
Shane Grover
Graeme Nolan
Dave Hutcheson

Thanks to all of you.

And the answer is: 'Gebo Flushline' for all nine hatches and side windows, on Nimrod. The correct seal is 
We actually got the seals replaced in Shute Harbour during a refit a year ago. Since all nine of them have leaked, we suspect that the incorrect seals were fitted. Other 1160 owners beware!

Sunday April 24th

Latest fix from Royce.

A slow 100 miles but we now have 499 to go with Tonga at 074 degrees & our course at 115 awaiting a wind change from our current NNE to SE direction & we should be south enough then to finish on the next tack. Thats due in tomorrow morning.

At last: a win.

Port toilet will full & not empty & has been leaking sea water & blue stuff from base since OZ. Any spares on board and where is the yellow or Q Flag?

Do you want me to bring back the toilet pump motor? And the port wind instrument has also stopped working & I had to disconnect it as the alarm would not stop. Hence no wind speed or direction on any instrument or plotter.

I suggested that the problem was more likely to be a dodgy toilet pump switch, rather than the pump itself.

Nimrod Satphone:
I will swap switches with the one in the other toilet in the morning to confirm

Spare simple switch in electricity drawer left port cupboard could be used for diagnosis. Also multimeter.

Nimrod Satphone:
Hi Dave. Toilet pump working. It is the lower two way switch corroded up. I have installed the single toggle switch from your spares & have it jammed with the top switch screwed on an angle into one of the existing location hole. Old switch soaking in Coca Cola as I write this to try & save it.

Wednesday 27th
More problems. New Satphone texts from Royce.

Lost steering car as all bearings are gone; it jumps off the track when on auto. 174nm to go; carefully hand steering at 5 knots with 1 motor on.

Auto pilot working with steering again after some mods to the steering inspection hatch area until we replace the car & track. I've removed the hatch & put a wedge block/rubbing strip there that stops the car coming of the track. No cosmetic damage as it can all be reassembled  later.

Thursday 28th
They made it!

Royce: "Phone working so it must be around here somewhere?
10 miles from our waypoint then 15 miles to port. 
We can see it, LANDFALL day 16"


Log of the Voyage - Royce Black
Nimrod's Delivery from the Gold Coast to Tongatapu, Tonga.

Departed April 13th from Hope Harbour marina, Southport, Qld at 14.30 after clearing customs and getting supplies and last minute spares for the outboard fuel system.

Motor sailed to Wavebreak Island and then set the jib and sailed out the seaway at 1600 for Tonga.

David was on the break wall to see his baby sail past and we had one last phone call as he took photos.

The wind off Southport was 15-18 knots from the south and with one reef in we set a course at 60 degrees apparent, aiming at Norfolk Island for the first 6 hours.

A second reef in place just before sunset with the true wind now at 18-21 and we were set for a bumpy first night.

Overnight the wind direction changed taking us from 090 to 060 COG and now aiming for Noumea with this course set to stay until lighter winds on Friday the 15th.

1600 hours Thursday has us 154 miles from the Seaway. The rhumb line to Tonga was 1755 from The Seaway.

88.3 hours on the generator prior to starting it for two hours today. No motoring since Wavebreak Island.

Friday 15th  brought a few issues; port nav light out, port tramp coming loose and a number of hatches leaking. We have removed a packer from the forward saloon window latches and stopped 90% of the leaks there.

Both forward hatches over the beds are leaking with us not being able to stop them yet. Night now so will stop her tomorrow and tapes them up.

1400 today saw the auto pilot go into alarm! After going into standby we found that the steering was jammed. From history I have had an auto-pilot jam so we disconnected this first and it was not the problem.

Back to steering history and the cables have worn through the control cases so I disconnected first the port and then the stb and still couldn't move the steering at the inspection hatch under the aft beam.

We then disconnected each rudder from the steering arm and they both moved freely so the problem wasn't in the rudder stocks but the track and car connecting the steering arm to the aft beam.

We disconnected the steering arms off the central car and I had to hammer the car along the track into a plastic container to collect the car bearings so as to remove the 5 screws connecting the car track to the aft beam assembly.

Upon removal the problem was found! The two screws connecting the car to the steering assembly were loose and one had jammed into the track it was meant to slide along.

I filed the damaged area on the track and had to re-tap the threads into one of the holes as it was damaged also and would not let the counter sunk screw head sit flush. With this done I reassembled the car and steering assembly and loaded the track and the bearings into the car very carefully, then re-screwed the track into position and connected the steering rods. The rudders were next with great difficulty as we floated in 2 meter seas then the auto-pilot and finally the steering cables, port then starboard.

A few waves washed through the cockpit via the aft steps making this a wet and cold operation as I was doing it lying down.

1600 saw us set sail again after 5 minutes of motoring to help set the sails. We were 303 miles from the Seaway when this happened and around 550 from Noumea our next alternative port. The 4 hour repair time had us float back 5.7 miles towards Queensland. All OK now and back on course for Tonga.

2300 as I write this with the second ship for the day showing up on AIS. This one the 'La Briantias' has a CPA of only 1.5 miles so I have contacted them and informed them that we are a sailing vessel to avoid any late confusion as the port light is out and we have the anchor light on and he is coming from our port forward quarter. He crossed clear and ahead of us and confirmed we were showing up on his AIS.

Saturday 16th had us in better seas as the wind died back down and we ran a full main sail after shaking out the two reefs just after sunrise. It was a cleanup day and we still can't stop the front hatches from leaking so have evacuated the forward cabins for the aft cabin and the saloon. Plenty of towels on the beds and the cockpit drying line!

A full main all night had us 1250 Nm from Tonga and the port of Nuku Ľalofa at sunrise Sunday and 517 Nm from the Seaway, Qld. We are a bit north of where I would like to have been by about 60 Nm but have not gone far from the rhumb line but this doesn't favour us east of New Zealand when the winds should turn back to the SE, but only time will tell, stay tuned!

Sunday 17th was uneventful with us doing hand washing to get the salt out of our wet clothes from wet beds and wet bags.

Monday 18th morning 3.15 had the wind die out to 4 knots and the port motor was started and course changed to 135 to take south and setup for the next round of south easterlies. 1100 miles to Tonga.

14.45 a nice minor wind change to 9 knots from the south and a tack back to 090.

Got wind information from Willy in New Zealand for the next 4 days this morning and it was very accurate.

Tuesday April 19th and a slow night with 1010 Nm to Tonga at a bearing of 069 at 8am and now 750 Nm from the Seaway.

Awaiting the SE wind change due in tomorrow morning as we only have 8-12 knots at present making for a slow sail.

We are not prepared to change the jib to the number 2 Genoa as both from tramps are now loose as their holding ropes have sheared in many places. This has been replaced by someone without using Spectra which would not have cut through.

Wednesday 20th. 2.30am and a metallic sound landing on the deck!! It has to happen at night, followed by the jib flapping in the 10 knot wind. The shackle connecting the jib sheet and its block to the clew had broken, not the pin coming out but snapped the shackle due to the wrong type of shackle being used here for ocean crossings. We replaced it rather quickly and were under way again. The half shackle was found on the deck, the second half went over the side in 2000 meters of sea.

A slower day yesterday with only 110 miles sailed off the rhumb line course and at 8am 900 Nm to Tonga. We got a bad knock around midday and had to sail south for 20 miles or so before tacking back to our destination course.

3pm and the wind went onto the nose again so back to 140-150 COG, it's 9pm now and we have just sailed 35 miles SSE and are awaiting a wind change due in between midnight and daylight that should have us sailing back towards Tonga or hopefully just below it so we can put a little in the bank. 855 Nm to Tonga at 9pm.

Thursday 21st. Still steering 150 at 3.30am, a couple of false tacks last night as we rounded up over waves and put the 1st reef back in at 1am. We have taken a lot of SSE and currently at 24.45S 169.49E. In between cloud banks and had a moon bow earlier. The first rainbow at night that I have ever seen. Full moon due tonight!

This has been a dead or positioning leg and I hope it pays of this morning with sunrise as predicted! 846 Nm to Tonga.

We tacked back to starboard then port and back again a few time before staying on starboard around 8.30am. Current course 070 aiming between Fiji and Tonga. Midday message from David and Willy about TC Amos which is north of Fiji heading currently towards Samoa. We are sending our position to Willy in New Zealand every 6 hours in case it changes course and we have to also. Alternatives, Port Vila 450 Nm or Noumea 280 Nm. 799 Nm to Tonga at 2.15pm today. Wind 18-20 seas 2 meters.

Friday 9.15am has us 699 to Tonga and in 15-18 knot now with a full standard rig. Shook the reefs from the main around 0600. Course 060 and expected to stay the same most of the day.

Port toilet exit pump has stopped working and the port wind instrument is still playing up. A lot of water over that side as we have been on a starboard tack most of the trip.

4.15pm and still on a starboard tack with 662 to Tonga. Seas are much better today but still around a 2 meter swell. Wind at 15-18 still and a full sail set. We hadn't seen another vessel for 5 days on AIS until a Chinese fishing boat pasted 0.6 CPA just after sunrise yesterday. We tried to make radio contact but had no reply.

Saturday April 23rd. The start of a long weekend back home with ANZAC day on Monday. We changed charts on the table last night and were surprised to find Tonga over the 180 degree of longitude and effectively yesterday!

Tonga lies at 21.08S 175.11W to just outside the Harbour and we left Australia with the intention of arriving on the 26th of April, a day after the public holiday. A sat phone message will confirm that later.

It's 3.30am as I write this with 599 Nm to Tonga. The sat phone message to Valerie confirmed that Tonga is on New Zealand date line and 1 hours in front of NZ and 3 hours in front of Sydney.

2.30 pm now and the port wind instrument has stopped working and gives a constant high wind alarm on the plotter. I have disconnected the Seatalk cable and stopped the alarm but also took the wind direction off the plotter. Back to looking at the masthead manual wind and the compass!

I cleaned out the port toilet today also but the exit motor will not work and is extremely corroded on the outside with what looks like blue oxidation. We are now using the starboard forward toilet which is a bit tricky whilst sailing to windward in 2 plus meter seas.

3.30pm and 550 Nm from Tonga and without another wind shift these last miles will be a tacking game!

Sunday the 24th and still on a port tack and have been all night. The wind has died down to ? As we don't have any wind gear but the forecast wind via SMS on the sat phone said 10-15 but no white caps yet and we are cruising at around 5 knots SOG on a course of 140. At 8am we are 505 Nm from Tonga and will be on this course until the SW wind change due in tomorrow morning around 10am. That should have us set up enough for a starboard tack work to Tonga.

This cyclone has certainly played havoc with the prevailing winds which should have been SW to SSW but Mother Nature is always the boss out here. Our ETA of the 26th will now be closer to the 28th with a fair bit of drying out and laundry to be done on arrival.

The shackle I replaced connecting the jib sheet to the clew came off again last night. Much better conditions so Anton and I removed the front tramps as we were stopped and now have them in the cockpit. No damage other then the connecting rope, which was completely shredded and only had to be cut twice. Will check time and availability of Spectra in Tonga to see if we can refit them prior to flying home.

Fuel levels are getting low. Port 100 liters in the tank and 100 liters in the reserve tank. Only used 60 liters on this side but the starboard is down to 25 liters but with 40 liters in jerry cans to top this up we should be OK. We have used most of the diesel on the generator running this an hour at a time usually twice daily and this is connected to the starboard side. The port motor gets run when we have rounded up to get us back on course or are reefing and using the electric winch to keep the batteries topped up. On our last trip in this region we were going from Port Villa to Brisbane on another Seawind 1160 and in the middle of the first night lost all power. Unfortunately the start battery had been modified to run with the house battery so we had to hand steer from 3am till 10am without instruments or a compass light awaiting the big bright sun which with the aid of 4 solar panels gave as enough to start an engine and then we kept a very close eye on the battery levels after that. We were over 100 miles off shore on a run in 25 knots when that happened!

Back to Nimrod and we just clicked under the 500 mark to 499Nm to Tonga, it's 9.53am Australian time!

ANZAC Day, Monday April 25th and all up for sunrise and our closest show of respect on board was 'Sprit of the Anzacs' by Lee Kernaghan and friends which we played as the sun rose.

A faster night with us clicking into 399 at 6.22am. 18.5 hours for that 100 nautical miles and that’s much better then Saturday’s 30 plus hours for 100 miles but that is ocean sailing and not coastal fuel stops!

Please remember these are nautical miles to a waypoint just west of Tonga and not the actual miles we have sailed each day. Managing the wind changes and sailing strategy play a big part in getting to the destination in the quickest and safest way.

This morning texts via NZ and the sat phone have us in light winds on a port tack steering 090 until tomorrow at 5am when the wind is to turn to 120 degrees and put us on a final course to Tonga on a starboard tack in 15-20 knots of wind. No wind speed on board at present but we a doing 7 knots SOG on seas with light whitecaps meaning 12-15 knots of wind. We have also had a full rig up for the last 3 days and nights with the moon a fantastic help in spotting dangerous looking cloud formations at night that we need to bypass.

ETA Thursday morning if the wind info is correct.  Food supplies still holding out and we are eating well with shared cooking/cleanup duties.

A rework on the aft toilet switches after a text conversation with David and I have removed the lower switch which was left for flood and right for drain and replaced it with a temporary toggle switch for drain only. Rewired the upper switch for flood or seawater in only. Working again for now. Also had a look at the hatch seals and they have not been glued together after instillation leaving a gap for the water to come in from. Sailing and especially cruising in a catamaran certainly does not involve 2,000 Nm of sailing to windward with waves going over the top of the saloon at times so the hatches and tramps have been put under a lifetime of use over the two weeks of this delivery trip. It should be a broad reach all the way home for David and Georgina as they cruise the islands on the way back to Queensland.

Nice winds this morning with it dying out at midday and the port motor was started in overdrive with the Gori propellers. As the seas flattened we changed course from 090 to 060 and furled in part of the jib to keep it off the mast  and sheeted the main in further. Averaging 5 knots at 2,000 rpm. A fuel watching game now until tomorrow mornings expected SW wind change and we hope it arrives early!

5pm now and 345 Nm to Tonga.

Tuesday the 26th and we should have been on a plane tonight. Instead we are 239 Nm from Tonga at 3pm. A slow night under motor in very flat seas.

Today was cleanup day with more washing done and the water maker filling the tanks for our arrival. We put the two jerry cans of diesel into the starboard tank and that is now reading 70 liters on the gauge.

Port tank at 45 liters with 100 in the reserve and our expected 5am wind change is still on holidays in the Pacific and now due in at 2100 today and should remain with us to Tonga with the boat on a starboard tack.

1730 as I add to this and the wind has arrived for the moment. We have shut down the water maker and port engine and are doing 5.7 SOG on a broad reach towards Tonga with light rain. 227 Nm to go.

Wednesday 27th 00.45am and the steering has gone again, this time with it spitting all the bearings out. Nighttime and raining! A great prospect for a successful bandaid repair. A discussion had us just sit the car on the top of the track and hand steer and this was working but with no autopilot and it did come off a couple of times.

A look back through David’s bits cupboard and we removed the inspection hatch on the aft beam and screwed and clamped six pieces of wood, plastic and aluminum into place to keep the roller-less car over the track without it having room to move forward or upwards. This happened at the 191 Nm mark and now at 2pm and 115 Nm in light seas it is still working on autopilot at 7 knots SOG.

A cordless drill is a must in your tool kit with drill bits and an array of screws. These bits have certainly saved us today and through we have had a few issues with Nimrod it is a very well maintained vessel with the right complement of tools and spares. We are sailing again with no motors and our last chance if the steering goes again is to clamp and tie the steering central and motor in with two motors, steering with the throttles. We currently have 65 liters in the two tanks, 30 and 35 plus 100 liters in the reserve bladder tank that we can transfer via electric pump to port tank and Jerry can to the starboard.

Thursday 28th of April 2016, arrival day! 3.15 am Qld time and the sky is just starting to get light here at 6.15 Tonga time.

We are 32 nautical miles from our waypoint just west of Tonga and doing 7.3 knots SOG with one final sea mount to sail over with the depth going from 2000 meters up to 35 meters. We haven't fished on this trip but this would be a great place to troll whilst sailing over. We did have a large school of tuna yesterday morning but were a bit busy with repairs at the time.

Only one fishing boat last night without AIS and our starboard navigation light is not working now either!

About 2.5 hours from our arrival waypoint into the Harbour and the generator is currently going and the final motoring should have the batteries full as we anchor around 1pm local time.

I will have to remove our improvised steering system to take the track and car and one aluminum plate back to Australia to machine up the replacement parts for David to refit on his arrival in May.

Customs clearance formalities and fuel, berthing, laundry, cleanups and boat lockdown to go so we will see how long this takes regarding a flight home!

Friday 2.40 flight home via Auckland.

Home now Saturday morning 9am.


  1. Looking better and Met Bob seems to have been right. Well done everyone! I'll be glad when Ninrod arrives safely, mainly for you and the crew but also so l can uncross fingers and toes.

  2. Great news. Best blog since Jessica Watson

  3. Wow, great to see this post and all that it took to get Nimrod to a magic place!