Day 379, Year 1: New Auto Pilot Sea Trial Is Successful
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Weather: Beautiful Weather Continues
Location: Pangaimotu Island, Tongatapu Group, Tonga

We moved the mile and a half from the inner harbor in Nuku’alofa this morning to an anchorage off Pangaimotu (pahng-eye-MOH-too) Island. The name means Royal Island and is owned by the Royal Family. It is beautiful here. The motu is a small, mostly uninhabited, palm-covered motu that is completely surrounded by a white sand beach that slopes into beautiful turquoise water. The thatched-roofed Pangaimotu Island Resort is on the southwest tip of the island. The total picture is that of the perfect South Seas island. And as we sat in the open-sided bar and restaurant tonight watching the sunset, we all knew why we are out here. As Doug of Windcastle said tonight, “This is the stuff dreams are made of.”

We left the inner harbor so that we could do the necessary sea trials to calibrate the new auto pilot. Everything seems to be working just right except that our steering is very stiff. That’s nothing new, but we are concerned that the tight steering might have been a contributing factor to burning out the auto pilot motor. Mark will spend more time tomorrow checking the steering mechanism and then we will just have to hope that we can make it to New Zealand before anymore problems arise.

Once we arrived and got settled, Doug of Windcastle came over to start comparing weather information. I already spend an hour and half of every morning listening to and recording boat locations and weather. Mark spends at least that much time each day studying the new weather information we receive. And now we need to start listening to detailed New Zealand weather reports at least once a day and begin downloading weather faxes a few times a day. Figuring out this weather thing surely takes a bit of time.

At this moment our current thinking is that we would leave here on Sunday morning. After tomorrow morning’s weather reports, we should be ready to e-mail our weather router, Bob McDavitt in New Zealand, and see what he has to say about our departure date. By Friday, we should have a pretty good idea of when we will be leaving. Until then, we will continue to study the weather, clean the bottom of the boat again, and take the local ferry into Nuku’alofa to continue our explorations there.

By the way, if we hadn’t had our auto pilot problems we would probably be in New Zealand tonight. Quantum Leap arrived and Procyon and Wind Pony were only 46 miles out at 8:00 this morning. The only report we heard from them other than position and wind speed was that the weather is COLD! Savior Vivre made it in yesterday and they said the same thing. Jade should be in tomorrow and that will complete the arrivals of those we would have been traveling with. Congratulations to our friends on a safe arrival.

061101 Day 379 Tonga, Pangaimotu Island–Arrival