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The Big Boat  

March 20, 2017. Steve Sommerville made the move to The Big Boat, and his Festina Lente, a Falcon 24 home ported at Whangari, New Zealand will be looking for a new home. Steve's story and pictures of this move follow - minor edits.

Hi Ron.

I'm still here. My Festina is up for sale.  My plan was to take her to Tonga in a couple of years......

Now, what has being written here is the truth. No story making - I have skimmed parts. This journey has been so huge, a life changer, it's hard to keep it short, many photos to go thru.

 An opportunity came up to purchase a 41 ft Formosa (http://sailboatdata.com/viewrecord.asp?class_id=2208).  Her owner, an American 73 yrs old, had her for 40 odd years and brought his son up on her. When he was 14, the  mother left the yacht to give the son the needed education. He kept sailing. But they stayed best of friends.  He has cruised her around the world 3 times.

Here's a photo.....

We thought we'd start the show with this beauty, we'll come back to her...

These pictures are not in chronological order

Click on them for a larger image

In American Samoa 2014, after being there a year he had a massive heart attack - they found him 3 days later. And there she lay. End of July,  2015, my boss calls me, an email had come in about a yacht for sale. Says "Steve this is your yacht." Took the details home, showed my partner Jill and pondered.  It never left my mind.

Every act in OUR lives seemed to point to her. Then emails coming in about her, etc.  We had to go see her.

 Aug 2015 we flew to Pago Pago. Met with the owner's ex wife.  And saw her.  We expected a mess but not what this poor boat had gone thru -  she was a mess. rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.  Teak work Black from mould. White paint black from mould.  Everything full of crap.

Saw her, felt her pain, went back to our hotel, had a large Gin or 2, and a sleep. Went back onboard later and started to see past the rubbish, the piles of gear, and the mould.

Yes! Over there is a spare Aries wind vane! The lockers had everything a cruiser needed.  Many spare stainless fittings. Need to say here she had been ransacked 5 times in 3 weeks. While in Police protection! Even his laptop had been wiped clean.  His son who owns an internet business could not get anything out. She was illegally lived on -  a lot happened to the poor girl.

Then we noticed the beautiful carvings on the head door, and more on another door.

Click on these pictures for a large image

Wow. But she felt so nice, dirty, but I felt home. After a week of clambering we decided - yes - we would buy her. Did the deal. Bought her unencumbered and  no costs for her Pago berthage, as Police issue, etc.

We flew home with a lot to do, wasted no time in re-booking my one way flight back in 3 weeks time. Finding/ gathering  my vast range of sailing gear, radios, new inflatable liferaft, everything I thought I needed.  Then crated up and shipped there to arrive a few days after I arrive - to give me time to start the cleaning.  A lot of doubters saying  Don't Do It! This is a 1500nm trip home. Solo.

After 2 weeks  I was ready to go.  No fresh veggies and fruit, only tinned food to live on. Went to clear port. Then the truth comes out - "don't leave your boat".  You owe us $1000.00 "Excuse me".  That started a week of hell. No onethere  I needed to see. They  were "Off the Island" Being told by ex owners just sail out just sneak away. No I wont. Then I'm at the authorities mercy if they round me up. With the history of the yacht. YES they would.

Working with a lawyer who is turned out, not liked on the Island......Can't leave the boat or your gear will be stolen.  Or leave for as short a time as possible. As it would be stripped.



Could not get a Bill justifying the $1000. Jill was being told on the phone about the "deaths" there of yachties. She was at the point telling me just to come home.  Afraid of me staying there.  After a week of door banging walking around a corrupt hovel with $1000 us in my wallet. Keeping the yacht in my sight the whole time. Met a lot of leaders, lawyers, anyone, no one would help. Seemed someone did not want the yacht to leave.

The Monday after I took it in my own hands to see the Police Commissioner.  He rang the lawyer telling him sort it. I left the office thinking, awesome, I'm going home.  But, nothing that day.

Tuesday,  I'm on the way up to the Commissioner's office again when an elderly cruiser commented . Quote "Do you know you are living on death row there?" Three solo sailors had died on their boats. One man died of 'natural causes' found floating beside his yacht with passports and fuel cans missing. His boat sunk at its berth a few days later - mysteriously. It's still there sitting in full view on the bottom. All this happened around the wharf area where I was tied. What can I say......

At the Commissioner's office. He was magic - kicked ass actually. He set things in motion and people whose venom I saw last time we met were nice as pie. Ever so helpful. So I set out with a final lunch and nice Gins as a send off.... hehe

Motored into  large seas out the Pago Entrance and gales from the East. My 'new' boat settled in lovely. No fear just relief to get out of that place.  I shut the motor down not knowing that was the last time I was to use it on the trip.

Four days out in the afternoon hit something.  I was working in the galley when there was a tremendous Whang and a shudder. Raced up on deck -  nothing to be seen. So came to the conclusion maybe a big shark or something resting on the surface? The boat is 13 tons, not stopping for anything.  We had 800 nm down thru to Tonga waters. Lovely trade wind sailing. The girl set a pace and kept  it.

Click here for a larger image

Dodged a tropical cyclone by miles. I could see it on the horizon. It is then I discovered when trying to outrun the storm I found the gearbox use seized - stalled the motor. It was also then I learned that the weather was behind me.  Storms over New Zealand leave a large void in between. That's how it was here - becalmed 5 days 400 miles out from home, living on cans, not the best, no nutrition. After a front I had to steer the boat for 38 hrs, as the vane stopped working - this combined with some breakages was getting a bit worrisome. The wind, when there was any, was coming out of the direction I want to go. It would come up and die.

My partner Jill contacted New Zealand Maritime Rescue. (Not International Rescue.) And they put me on a watch every 4 hrs, a really valuable service, very level headed and just there, keeping 'us' to a sleep schedule, which I needed. Still the wind didn't help. We were 107nm off NZ when the wind turned to the SW which was good. Then, I realized the vane head was backward. In my tiredness I fixed that and settled in.

I had a good talk to a fellow yacht from Fiji passing thru and cruised with them for the day. They peeled off to Opua.

 I was enjoying my homeward stretch at 7 knots, sailing beautifully, expecting to be home in a number of hours. And then wind died at sunset.

I spent the night trying to work her closer to the south. Dawn I was off Tutakaka on the Northeast coast of New Zealand, about 25nm from home, totally becalmed.

I contacted the Coastguard within VHF range and Jill had arranged a tow into the marina.

 At dawn there was no wind in the forecast a tow was organised to Whangarei Harbour and Marsden Cove Marina. They arrived with some fresh food and 2 crew and we  took the yacht over.  Cannot speak high enough of them, wonderful.

After 21 days sailing from Pago I stepped onto the floating pontoon emotionally  glad to be home but also bugger the trip is over. But to a welcome and congratulations from the coastguard crew. I had done it. Priceless!!!!!

What an adventure. My first offshore, fulfillment of my dreams. My first 'Large Yacht' , And just doing it!I had planned what I thought was needed from A-Z. Boxed it, shipped it. Everything I had planned was right. I would not have changed anything.

The only true failure was the gearbox. And that was it -  the bearings seized solid. I had run her at the wharf for hours in drive. I would have been home a week earlier had it worked. But the load and heat must have being the final straw.

Arrived home with 3 cans of food.

What an adventure. My first offshore, fulfillment of my dreams. My first 'Large Yacht' , And just doing it! I had planned what I thought was needed from A-Z. Boxed it, shipped it. Everything I had planned was right. I would not have changed anything. The only true failure was the gearbox. And that was it -  the bearings seized solid. I had run her at the wharf for hours in drive. I would have been home a week earlier had it worked. But the load and heat must have being the final straw. Arrived home with 3 cans of food.

 But would I do it again. Like a shot. It was the most amazing experience The highs. The lows, amazing realizing how happy I was, and found peace -  until the wind died - I found myself 579 nm out in the Pacific.  haha.

Fear of being out there alone - none. Didn't see one ship, nothing. Amazing.

American Samoa don't go there. There is nothing in the place, but the corrupt and dirty, not for tourists. The harbour looks clear but full of Echoli - you cant swim in it. One resort  has the water treatment next door.  Turds around the beach. The domestic water is Echoli. Only drink bottled water. All the water I took was bottled from elsewhere, dont even scrub your teeth from the tap. It is not a nice place, very evil in fact. Could go on but wont, Just be warned. Just found out another of the yachtsman I met up there was found dead on his yacht.  Well,

 It could have being me if I had stayed. My yacht ending up sitting on the bottom,  sunk at a wharf.

 From me, The Advice is - Do your homework. prep yourself, and the boat. Have confidence in her, wear it as YOUR suit of armour.  Don't be afraid. She will look after you.

 What did I achieve. Traveled to a far off land purchased a nearly derelict yacht. Sent my gear and lived my dream trusting a yacht-  I didn't even untie from the wharf before I left in her

Met some great people as well - not all bad there.  Experienced my offshore ambitions -  the highs the lows, Wow - DO IT!!!!!!!!

Now the real adventure has began. We spend a lot of time out on her - we love her. Slipped her on our return, scrubbed and rectified a few things, antifoul, and scrub and scrub, and scrub.

She is where we are, happy.

This led to another discovery - found some Gold onboard her!  5 Krugerand!  Then it hit me -  what else had been removed? Who  knew it was onboard, or was a lot removed and did they just missed  this treasure.

She is our little pirate Boat, our treasure ship, we fly the skull and crossbones with pride. Everyone admires her looks. even pass close alongside to see her. And with pride I say .

She is mine.











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