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Cruise planning for South Pacific Rallies 2010

by David McKay/Sail-World Cruising on 4 Jan 2010
The brains and energy behind the Island Cruising Association - John and Lyn Martin SW
The Island Cruising Association runs rallies around South Pacific Islands and to and from New Zealand, a leg which, depending on the whim of the weather gods, is known to be potentially difficult.

With a history and a following to show that 'they must be doing something right' John and Lyn Martin, who run the association, are again offering preparation courses for the 2010 series of rallies.

David and Andrea Mackay joined one of these rallies a couple of years ago in their 48 foot steel Van de Stadt yacht 'Diomedea', and here is their story:

Diomedea arrived in Opua, Bay of Islands at the end of April where we met John and Lyn Martin, directors of the Island Cruising Association. We had joined the ICA so that we could participate in a rally from New Zealand to Tonga in May.

We were provided with a wealth of information and support prior to departure from Opua, including seminars on weather, safety, passage making, boat preparation and so forth. Membership of ICA also provided significant discounts on chandlery and other purchases. Our clearance out of NZ was made very easy and quick. Duty free food, alcohol and fuel purchases were facilitated.

We arrived in Tonga some six days later and anchored at the beautiful Pangaimotu island near the capital of Tonga. All clearing in procedures were done very speedily on the island as opposed to having to tie up to the filthy, rough and rat infested docks of the harbour.

The ICA had organised for the officials to come to us. A series of social events allowed us to begin establishing friendships that would last for the next six months and some of them for much longer. We also soon learned of the skill base available in the fleet of 20 yachts, giving us a sense of security should things go pear shaped.

Cruising through the archipelago of Tonga was done independently for all participants but the option of meeting up at various anchorages was always available if desired. There was no fixed agenda when 'in country'. Real insider advice pertaining to the islands was given during chart marking sessions

As we had to meet friends in Fiji, we left Tonga independently and what had now become the Pacific Circuit Rally followed us about a week later. In Savusavu, the rally organisers gave us a one hour practical on how to do 'sevusevu' with local chiefs in the villages we were to visit. Highly entertaining and useful.

We eventually regrouped with the rally at Musket Cove in western Fiji in July, in preparation for the passage to Vanuatu. Our week at Musket Cove was marvellous with organised and impromptu social events. Group activities such as scuba diving became easily achievable. Customs clearance was again smoothed with the ICA bringing out the relevant officials to the island, sparing us the considerable bother of having to sail back to the mainland.

Diomedea sailed to the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. Here, entry was streamlined by officials coming to Port Resolution rather than us spending a ghastly day bouncing in the tray of a 4WD across the island. We then had a marvellous cruise the length of Vanuatu, sporadically meeting rally boats at delightful tradewind anchorages.

The jewel in the crown of ICA organisation was yet to reveal itself however. With the rally increased to 39 boats, we departed Port Vila for the island of Ouvea 180nm away in the French Loyalty group of New Caledonia. Ouvea is not a clearance port but for us it all happened and we could stay at this, the most beautiful of all South Pacific destinations. Normally cruisers have to go to the capital Noumea, 2-3 days away. Those wishing to cruise Ouvea and nearby islands then have to make the return trip.

Alas, our stay in French waters was limited and time came for Diomedea to return to Australia. We said our farewells to our friends and had an easy five day passage from Noumea to Coffs Harbour, arriving in early October. Those that remained in New Caledonia cruised around the Grand Terre and then down to Ile de Pins before heading for either New Zealand or Australia. The leg to New Zealand was an 'All Points' rally with cash/goods prizes at the end.

The mix of yachts in the rally was interesting. About half were NZ registered. Of these, most were just having six months off but some were using the rally as a springboard into their world circumnavigation. Of the other half, a few were from Australia. The rest were from all over the world, having arrived in NZ as part of their ongoing circumnavigation. Boats from the UK, Europe, US were well represented.

Whilst one could do this entire cruise independently, Andrea and I felt that the 'cruise in company' method worked particularly well. At an organisational level, a great deal of time and angst was saved. Costs were reduced in many areas. Advice and support was readily available and made many things achievable for us, being relative novices to cruising in these waters.

Personally I learned a great deal from John and Lyn as well as from other rally participants. The camaraderie was fantastic. One night, Diomedea came into Havannah harbour after a 75nm leg to windward in 25 knot winds. Rather to our surprise, a dinghy from one of the rally boats quickly appeared at our stern and we were whisked over for a BBQ that was already in progress. The perfect coda for a hard day's sailing. We partied until late before a good sleep.

Would I go with Island Cruising Association again in the future? Absolutely. Was it cost effective? Beyond doubt. Was it fun? You bet.

Details about ICA can be found at:

The ICA preparation schools are further evidence that John and Lyn Martin know what goes into making for a successful cruise, no matter how long or short. Their preparation seminars are very well attended. For those who are located close enough to benefit, here are the details of the next courses:

Cruising Preparation Schools:

Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st February 2010 In Auckland
Cruising Preparation Schools are limited to five couples giving a small group environment. Although there is a fixed curriculum (see the web site for a full description) there is also plenty of time for question and answer.
Costs for the full weekend course are $350 per couple or $250 single, plus a copy of 'A Guide to Cruising' $50.00 and 'Safety and Emergencies at Sea' $75.00

'Passage Maker' Seminar:

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of February 2010
This is an intensive two day course directed specifically toward safe passage making and covers topics from survival and rescue, heavy weather sailing, emergency equipment, passage planning, weather and a whole host more. (See the web site for a full description)
Costs for the full weekend course are $275 per couple and $200 single. This seminar is held in Auckland at the Marine Industry Assoc Conference rooms in Westhaven. This is our most popular seminar so book early to ensure your place. Bookings can be done on-line at go to seminars, passage maker registration form.

'In Water' life raft demonstration:

Saturday 13th March 2010
Held at the Orakei Dive pools in Orakei Auckland this demonstration covers deploying and survival in a life raft. It's done in the water to give you a 'closest to the real thing experience' so bring along your wet weather gear, your life vest and your crew, everyone needs to find out how, where and when in a controlled environment in the unlikely event the proverbial hits the fan.
Costs are $35 per person with kids under 16 free. The demonstration and lecture runs for approx. 2 hours.
For more information and bookings got to
or phone John 027 242 1088
or Lyn 021 242 1088

'Wise Women at Sea' workshop:

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st of March 2010
The successful Wise Women at Sea Workshops are a two day event held at Hobsonville in Auckland and have been running since 1999. The usual profile of woman that they cater for is the non-sailor who has perhaps been introduced to the idea of cruising by her partner. The first of the next series for 2010 is on Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st of March. It is facilitated by experienced offshore sailor Dale Greenbury [Dip Psychotherapy] and features a number of guest speakers.
Participants will learn about the behavioral and psychological pattern we may experience at sea. They will also learn about the practicalities of preparation of the boat and themselves.
The course runs from 9am to 5pm on both days, with lunches and morning/afternoon tea provided. Cost is $350.00 per person
After completing the program participants will be more prepared and understand that we sail with both body and mind 'We do not function on a vessel in a purely physical capacity. Life on the ocean affects our entire being.'
Ultimately, the workshops aim is to equip women with the tools to feel confident and safe whilst at sea.

For more information and bookings email

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