Crews of Dona Catharina

This is a gallery of the different crews that have been helping to make our expeditions a successes

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.”
― John Masefield

On the helm

Ready to tack?!!

Ambergris or not Ambergris?

One of the interesting little side stories that happened on our voyages is about whale vomit. Highly priced and thought after by the perfume industry and worth more than gold per gram, a lump of about 800 grams of something resembling ambergris has been  caried on board  of Dona Catharina for a while now.

On our second visit to one of the very remote islands in the South Pacific we are approached, under great secretcy, by a local man. He wants to show us something.  Inside his hut, he unwrappes a 15kg lump of undefinable something, and tells us, that according to his elders, this is of great value, as they think it is ambergris.

On this island with no airport, no regular shipping, no tourism or internet, with virtually no money in circulation, what is he to do with it , how can he possible get it valued , and potentially cashed in .   He can’t pay for a ship to bring him to the capital of his country as he has no money, and even if he could, how is he then going about to try to evaluate his find without the risk of being robbed of it. His world does not know greed or even individual property.

So he makes the decision to cut of a large bit and give it to us, so we can have it evaluated and potentially sold  on his behalf.

Now we have two problems. The first one is to find out what this stuff realy is. This is realy not so easy, as there seems to be no one who can give us a clear answer to  what we have on board. And then, if it would turn out to be ambergris, how do we deal with its value. Are we just to help our island friend to enormous riches, and risk thereby to destroy , what we think , is a functioning harmonious comuity.  Are we to break his secret to his  chiefs, so they can make a decision. Can we trust the chiefs not to become corrupted.  This, I think we can. But would this not mean we misuse the trust our friend put into us. Do we lift us on the morale high pedestal and think we can recommend to the finder how to spend his  potential riches.  Our hope is that his cultural ties are strong enough to use a potential  windfall for the benefit of his island community . Even if we come to a conclusion, how can we communicate  our thoughts with our friend on his remote paradise.

Maybe this is why our attempt to verify this lump have been rather halfhearted and we are still not realy sure what it is that is hidden on board. ( or is it on board?). 




pS, after sending a sample to a England to have it tested by an ambergris expert , we can now report that our worries where for nothing.  The sample can not be specified, but it is not ambergris.





Proposed Dona Catharina’s 2021 pacific island itinerary

navigare est !

Thanks for your interest in joining us on a part  or all of our 2020voyage to the pacific island . Here is the draft itinerary with estimated times and flight options.
We are open to suggestions, but would like to visit it Tanna and our special secret island destination  in any case, as we have already some arrangement with the locals regarding our next visit.
Of course all departure dates, destinations, and arrival dates are subject to weather, and may have to be adjusted accordingly .
Please pass the following information on to your friends , as the upkeep of Dona Catharina depends on funding via networking.
15/08  depart Opua bound for Tanna  in Vanuatu. This will be an open ocean voyage of
About 10 days, and will suit people who’s dream it is to cross an ocean under sail.
25/08 port Resolution in Tanna. We are good friends with the paramount chief of the
And are expected to deliver some donated goods from NZ to his people. We will.
be therefore honoured with privileges the average tourist, visiting the island, may
Not enjoy. But in any case, the highlight of visiting Tanna will be a climb up the
Very active volcano Mt. Yasur. (Google)

01/09 Arrive in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, and proably the most interesting capital     20160928_051235   “City” of all the pacific Islands.. There are direct fights from Port Vila to NZ.
All the populated islands of Vanuatu have small airstrips, and  there are regularly
From Port Vila or Santo.
05/09 Port Vila to Epi island. Again an Island where we have made friends with some of
locals, so we will like have to offload some cargo for them. There is a very good
To snorkel or dive among  sea turtles in Leman Bay.
09/09 short sail to the Maskelyne island on Malekula. This, and the next island of the
Vanuatu chain, as we continue our way nort, are new to us, and we only sailed
Past then, wishing to stop there , on earlier voyages.
11/09 Maskelyne to Ambrym the island that consists of a large active Vulcan.
13/09 Ambrym to Pentecost . It is on this island where the famous land divers live, that
Have inspired the idea of bungy jumping.
15/09 Pentecost to St Maria . Latest by now we will be of ‘the beaten track’, and St Maria
Is unlikely being visited by other yachts wile we are there.
17/09 We will leave St Maria to our very special destination, and I am deliberately not
spelling out its name, as we have an interest its to keep it existence out any lime
light. All I will say, that we have been there before, and that the island itself, and
People on it are very special.

25/09 we hope to arrive in Luganville . The second largest city in Vanuatu, with good
flight or shipping service to Port Vila. Famous amongst divers for million dollar
Point , the place where the Americans sunk a large amount of their ships, tanks,
aircraft, no longer needed after WWII.
27/09 From Luganville , depending on crew wishes, we will either revisit some of the
northern island of Vanuatu, and then make our way south towards Port Vila.
Or we may go for plan B, and clear customs and leave for Noumea We
expect this to be a upwind trip, that may be not so easy, but the reward will be
a relaxing few days in the stunningly beautiful lagoon of New Caledonia  , with its        …………many uninhabited Islands and sand cays and fantastic diving opportunities
And of course there are regularly flight from and to NZ out of Noumea

Other Side Under Sail
15/10 weather window dependent, we hope to be on our way to New Zealand, and
This may be the more interesting passage fore those, who’s dream it is to
experience the adventure of crossing an ocean under sail. There is also a chance
That we may be able to stop on Norfolk Is. but this is very weather dependent,
as Norfolk has no save anchorage, and one has to be on high alert for any shif
In wind direction.
instead of Plan B we may also be back in Port Vila after visiting Aoba Is, Ambrym,
and Epi Is
04/10 we should then be in Port Vila again, were we can refuel, and prepare Dona
Catharina for the crossing to NZ. But we would like to clear customs on  the
15/10 on Tanna Is to say goodby to our friend , the chiefs family of Tanna, and to check
On the progress of the large canoe, that they hope to build with the help of the
donated goods from our earlier visit.
25/10 ETD NZ. but bear in mind, and that includes all dates around the island cruises,
that Dona Catharina can not be run to a exact schedule as her speed and
headings are dictated by wind and sea 20160926_113752


The Vaka Taumako project 2018

Dona Catharina has been contracted by the Pacific Tradition Society to be the saftey and camera support vessel for a traditionally build Polynesian Vaka on its first international voyage from the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu.E95B2139-5621-4962-BF8E-0124D22C7775<img CD016FE8-C8A9-4D3D-B4A2-D3C1466BC212
The Te Puke originates from the Duff Islands or Taumako, where the use of these unique crafts in local waters has been uninterrupted. But an ocean voyage needs crew that is capable to not only sail in difficult swell and wind condition, but also is capable to navigate.

The last Duff island navigators, able of using traditional methods of navigation and who had the skills to sail a Te Puke through the open waters of the South Pacific, have passed away. But they did train up a new crew, and with the help of the Pacific Tradition Society, it is hoped, that these skills are being nurtured and preserved for future generations.
Unfortunately our voyage did not quite play out as we had all wished for.
After waiting  half of November in Lata on Ndendo for the right winds to arrive for , we seemed to bee finally lucky with the forecast of Northerly winds for a voyage south, to Sola in Vanuatu.
To get the Te Puke out of the wind shadows of the Island, we took the Vaka in tow. Even past  the east  end of the island we did not find any winds, so it became necessary to keep towing. Eventually, by nightfall, the promised northerlies arrived and the towline was released. To our surprise, the Te Puke crew was unable to gain any speed, but only managed to sail or drift about 9miles during the night, and by daylight we needed to reconnect the towline, and by noon we where towing the Te Puke through the pass of UtupuaD1D43546-5B12-407F-B914-23A1763EBBCC
It turned out, that, as soon as the  Vaka crew had raised the mast during the previous night, it broke at the foot, and after a jury rigg repair, the meanwhile good brise ripped the traditional mat sail.
Utupua is a beautiful remote, and seldom visited Island. And a deep bay, that cuts the island almost in half would offer protection even in a tropical cyclone. We where warmly welcomed by the villagers on who’s shores we dropped our anchor.  Visitors are rare on this island with no airport.

But the Te Puke crew was eager to press on towards Vanikolo, about 30 miles to the south, because of better family connections, and thefor easier repair option.
After another overnight tow, we got the Te Puke safe into a protected bay on Vanikolo. 3F11039B-A45D-4553-8FBF-547AA1F72771Repairs to the mast where done immediately, and the  damaged sail could be patched with a mat, that had been gifted to the Dona Catharina  crew by friends from Tikopia. I’m sure our Tikopia friend would agree that passing the mat on to the Te Puke was a necessity.
The weather window had meanwhile closed, and there did not seem to be any favourable wind in the near future. For us, on Dona Catharina it was getting late in the season, and so we needed to make the decision to pull the plug, and head south, out of the belt of the tropical cyclones.

The Te Puke crew will attempt to sail the remaining 120 miles to Sola in 2020 and we hope, that they will use the time, to go over their vessel to make sure, she is  more seaworthy next time. We also hope, that they will spend as much hours as possible to improve on their sailing skills, and take their vessel out on every occasion. I’m sure, if they keep working on their skills, the voyage to Vanuatu will come to a sucssesfull conclusion by the end of 20193E68BD2E-0EC6-4DD0-B409-25ED47A817FE

Dona Catharina makes world news

On  our way to Niue we stopped in Beveridge Reef to make some repairs to our ripped sails. The voyage up from NZ was challenging with winds up to 40 kn and high seas.  Twice we have to. The first time within 30 miles of Raul Is, and then again only a day out from Beveridge Reef. It was really a rough passage, and we where looking forward to a few relaxing  days  in the lagoon of this remote submerged atollDSC_0498

But instead of being able to lick our wounds, and have some good snorkling and diving time, we where needed to rescue a British family of their catamaran.

In our first night in Beveridge Reef  I went on deck at 2:30  at night, and saw a light , only about a mile away from our anchorage to windward. Believeing that  the vessel is still in deep water outside the breaker line and to be able to warn them ,I turned the VHF on, only to receive a Mayday call.DSC_0559

They went right over the Reef, and by sheer luck did not pitch pole or break up. And where now sitting high and dry on the rocks, in an outgoing tide.

A family of four, mum an dad, and their 11 year old son and 13 year old doughter. None where injured, and for the time being they where save.  Anyway, it was still dark, and there was nothing we could do at this time of the day to help them, except offer morale support via the radio, and work out a rescue plan for the morning.

A satilite call went out to the NZ  Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington . The Avanti crew had set of their EPIRB, and we wanted to inform the NZRCC  that we belived,  that we could get the situation under control without further assistance from NZRCC. The Dona Catharina crew could not have been more suited to organise and launch  the early morning rescue mission . We had experienced sailors, Greenpeace veterans, and a marine biologist on board. First daylight saw our two ribs head for the wreck of the Avanti.  Our priority was to get the two children of the wreck, and onto the saftey of Dona Catharina.IMG_10

We got within a few hundred metres of the outer Reef with our tendersDSC_0523, but the final contact with the stricken vessel had to be made by wading across the corals . It took Manu some time to fight the currents and waves, but he managed to walk to the wreck, piggyback the kids of the boat into the Avanti tender, and the drift them downwind to our waiting dinghies .

Once the kids were save on board Dona Catharina, where the were looked after by Monika Tina and Kylee, we headed back to get their parents of .

The next three days all crew on Dona Catharina was occupied with salvaging what ever we could on personal  belongings of the shipwrecked family, cooking for now eleven on board, or patching up our shredded sails.  However, The kids weren’t to sad, that most of their school books could not be saved.DSC_0573

Remains to say, that the reason for the stranding would lay in poor passage planing, and the reason for this are some personal problems  that would have preoccupied the mind of the Avanti skipper.

We have left the wreck of Avanti in Beveridge Reef unstripped and unplundered, with the hope the the Avanti insurer, Pantaenius , will make sure on their promises, to remove the wreck completely.  Beveridge Reef is a unique and pristine environment and it would be sad to see the wreck break up and pollute the lagoon .


The Avanti crew has left us, after a 130 mile downwind sail to Niue.

2016 Tikopia expedition

Tikopia 2016

We have been asked by the reknown French film maker, Corto Fajal, and on special invitation of the chiefs (arikis) to deliver and accomodate his team to the isolated island of Tikopia.

Our special mission was also to deliver two water purification plants to the island, so the locals would have access to clean drinking water in the event of tropical cyclones. These units had been fundraised thanks to the help of Corto and his team, and where eagerly awaited on the Island. 

What a very special place with some very special beautiful people. 

Corto’s trailer of the jet to be completed film will give you a glimpse. We can’t wait to see the finished product.