Part 1 of 2:
Jeremy and Anne Thatcher from New Zealand are poised, ready to embrace the cruising lifestyle with the Pacific Circuit Rally. After 18 months of preparation and planning, their Hanse 415 ‘Athair’ is in prime condition for their first extended ocean voyage to the beautiful Pacific Islands.
The couple joined the Island Cruising Association’s, Pacific Circuit Rally for the valuable support, organization and knowledge they provide during the exciting six-month voyage. And while Anne is looking forward to the camaraderie and fun of socializing at stopovers, she also takes comfort in sailing with a group of yachts with the same itinerary.
‘I have complete confidence in Jeremy and our Hanse 415 however this is the longest passage we have done and going with a group of experienced yachties gives us added backup and safety’.
Jeremy has done plenty of inshore and offshore sailing over the years including crewing on a 63- foot schooner from Fiji to New Zealand and Anne’s proficiency has blossomed throughout their ownership of both ‘Athair’ and their previous Hanse 350.
She says, ‘the best groundwork I’ve done for this trip was our circumnavigation around the north island of New Zealand in 2018 – it taught me a lot about offshore sailing. I’m not nervous about night passages now, even though this time, we will be further offshore for much longer stints. It will be a bit more rigorous, but there are a lot of safety precautions in place.’
Trust in the Hanse.
Jeremy and Anne know ‘Athair’ will keep them safe and comfortable throughout their adventure and the fact that she meets the Category A ‘offshore’ design and build standards cements their confidence.
‘Our Hanse has proven to be predictable and she performs well, quite often keeping up with larger boats so no one passage will take longer than it has to. We also like the wider, stable body that allows her to sail well with less heel adding to the long-term comfort in an extended passage’, says Jeremy.
Rally organisers are keeping the itinerary flexible due to changing weather conditions and to give the fleet an opportunity to explore the endless tropical islands.
First stop is Opua in The Bay of Islands for an in-depth brief, more preparations and an opportunity to get to know the other yachties. Then on to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and back to New Zealand.
Can you tell me about the preparation Jeremy?
‘New Zealand yachts leaving the country on an ocean passage require Category 1 certification – upgrades of on-board equipment, sail wardrobe, safety and navigation equipment. It’s been an expensive and time-consuming process.
It’s taken us 18 months of prep and planning because I’ve done most of the work myself which has really saved on expense. We have upgraded all our safety equipment and additional items to make it more comfortable – six months is a long time. It’s been a huge effort, but I’ve really enjoyed it and learned a lot about the boat.
Some of the Necessary Upgrades:
I built my own water maker because the drought in Pacific Islands over the past few years means we can’t rely on rain. The small villages don’t even have enough water for their own supplies and the bigger centres use water from a creek. Relying on your own water is the best thing to do personally and for the community. I researched, copied off the shelf water makers and ordered the parts on-line from the USA. It was a risk, but it worked out – it actually makes water!
A new selection of storm sails. I also added a third reef, in case of harsh weather conditions.
A big expense was a certified life raft. It’s heavy and takes up a lot of space however we’re happy to have it on board.
Extra fixing points for at sea harnessing and internal grab handles for our stability and safety in rough weather. Plus, lee cloths to keep us from rolling out of bed.
The installation of satellite communication and another independent chart plotter.
New anchor and chain and a selection of drogues and a sea anchor.
A solid boom preventer system, which will stop the boom flying over in the unfortunate event of a Chinese jibe.
Some Additional Upgrades:
An off the shelf wind generator for extra power to work in tandem with existing solar panels.
A Code Zero overlapping headsail which was a complete luxury yet useful because we can use it light winds instead of the motor which takes up precious fuel.’
Jeremy loves to fish so they hope to score a catch wherever they are – at sea or on a mooring.
It will be two months before the fleet have access to a decent supermarket and even though Tonga is the first stop about 7 days away, they don’t want to clear out the tiny stores and take the island’s supply of food so good provisioning has been an essential part of the planning.
Anne says, ‘Jeremy will be a hungry captain, so we’ve stockpiled a lot. There are literally mountains of stores hidden away in cabinets and under floorboards. I’ve even pre-pared meals and filled the freezer with pre-packaged foods.
We have plenty of fresh stuff that will last such as pumpkins, apples, carrots, lemons, sweet potatoes, bananas, powdered milk, cheese, crates of eggs, a million sachets of yogurt and can you believe it – 20 kilos of oatmeal, because it has a long use-by date. Then there’s the dried, canned goods, pasta, rice and potatoes and heaps of herbs and spices.
And of course, we are taking as much wine as possible to wash it all down with. And don’t forget the chocolate for those night-time passages.’
Apart from the normal gas cooktop and oven, Anne has organised a pressure cooker and a sourdough starter, and she looks forward to trying them out.
Both Anne and Jeremy seem at ease. Little wonder – they have done everything possible to make their Pacific Island holiday the experience of a lifetime and there is so much to look forward to.
‘We can’t wait to learn more about offshore passages, explore the islands and meet people along the way. And we are determined to keep active using our paddle boards, running shoes, diving and fishing gear as well as hiring bikes on shore wherever possible.
We’re feeling good. So much organization has gone into this trip, not just for the boat but with the rest of our life. We can finally get out of our everyday routine and have a good break, escape the New Zealand Winter and enjoy essentially three summers in a row’, says Anne
Thanks Anne and Jeremy, we wish you a wonderful, safe trip and can’t wait to hear about your adventures in Part 2 of this story towards the end of 2019.
You can read more about the Pacific Circuit Rally here