Sailing South Pacific trip of a lifetime for young trio

Three young men from the Comox Valley went on the trip of their lives, sailing across the Pacific Ocean in a ship called Mojombo. The most recent time we wrote about Mark Stevenson, Chris Balfe and Cory Nelson, they were in French Polynesia last summer.



Three young men from the Comox Valley went on the trip of their lives, sailing across the Pacific Ocean in a ship called Mojombo. The most recent time we wrote about Mark Stevenson, Chris Balfe and Cory Nelson, they were in French Polynesia last summer.

They travelled another 6,000 miles through the South Pacific before they arrived in Brisbane, Australia, after sailing a total of more than 11,000 miles. The following abridged account begins with an e-mail from Stevenson, beginning at Suvarov, part of the Cook Islands.

“There are definitely lots of sharks here! Two or three are circling the boat at all times, waiting for scraps maybe? They actually weren’t too bad when we were spear fishing, but there is a place called “shark beach” where they feed them and as soon as you step into the water they rush at you, just black tips, but four or five feet long and in only six inches of water, it’s really cool.”

They spent a few days in Suvarov and then continued onto Tonga, about another week or so crossing. Chris’ mom and sister joined the boys and the boat for 10 days in Tonga. Thoughts on Tonga from Cory:

“It’s pretty sweet here, I must say. Nice town, a little rundown in some places but this is one of the poorer countries that we will be seeing, with no outside support from bigger countries.”

Mark on Tonga (Mark had been sailing in Tonga with his parents in 2002):

“Yesterday we snorkelled around Kapa island and then went to Swallows Cave in the dinghy. It’s definitely as cool as I remember! It goes way back in there, and everyone was able to come and explore all the way in, despite the bats. It’s awesome to be back here! I remember more than I thought I would.”

Cory on Tonga:

“Today we snorkelled at Coral Gardens, which lived up to its name, beautiful. I saw my first shark since the Cooks, it was a white tip, but I didn’t let the girls know. I told them after and they thanked me for not saying anything. When I win the lottery I’m taking you down here and we are going to do a charter. it’s just like the Gulf Islands, or even around Comox, except with coral and palm trees.”

After spending almost two months in Tonga, the boys sailed to Fiji. It was about a five-day passage.

From Fiji, Cory sent a message to his family to pass onto his relatives that says it all:


“I’m on a sailboat travelling here and there around the South Pacific. Accompanied by my best buds Chris and Mark, we are currently anchored off of the port town of Lautoka on the West Coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. Most of the places we have visited I’m sure you haven’t heard of. Some of the highlights have been: making it to San Fran in one piece, preparing ourselves for a life of retirement on the Baja, 18 days at sea to find the Marquesas Isles with their majestic peaks and waterfalls, the tranquil lagoons of the Tuamotus, the ginormous waves of Tahiti, pretending to be a guest at the Hilton Bora Bora, spear fishing with the sharks in the Cooks, the caves and humpback whales around Vava’u in Tonga, and a little peek of city life now that we are in Fiji. Along the way the people and hospitality have been amazing, not to mention all our fellow cruisers we have met, 50 per cent of which seem to be from Victoria! Small world. Unfortunately we are running low on time and have to be in Australia by November. We still are looking forward to checking the surf here in Fiji, re-enacting Cast Away on Monuriki, (now commonly known as Tom Hanks Island), the volcanoes of Vanuatu and then finally the crossing to Australia and work … yes work.”

After about a month the boys sailed to the island of Tanna in the Vanuatu Group. Mark’s parents were able to join the boat and sail for a couple of weeks with the boys. Then Chris’ dad joined them for the crossing to New Caledonia and then onto Brisbane.


Mark e-mailed from Tanna, Vanuatu:

“Tanna is an incredible place! Like the Marquesas almost, but even more traditional. They live in grass huts and use magic stones, chew their kava, etc. and the volcano was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen. We went up at night not expecting much only to find jets of lava and hot molten rocks the size of cars being blown hundreds of feet in the air!”

After almost a month in Vanuatu, time was running out and the boys had to get out of the Pacific because cyclone season was about to begin. Three days to New Caledonia, a couple of days there, then a week crossing to Brisbane. They found a marina up the Brisbane River and all got jobs in restaurants on the river. Then the floods came.

Mark’s e-mail after the flood:

“It was a harrowing experience to be in the middle of all the devastation resulting from the Brisbane flood. We just got out of the river at the last minute before the dam broke and the cars, and sidewalks, and boats and whatnot was carried away down the river. No longer able to work at the restaurants, which will be closed for a while, so we are concentrating our efforts into refurbishing the boat and will put her up for sale. We have had the best adventure that anyone could have but we have run out of money with no real way to make more to continue. However, we are happy with what we have done and looking forward to coming home and beginning another adventure, whatever that may be.”

On March 21, the boys sold their Mojombo to a wonderful family who plan to live aboard and cruise the South Pacific. They will travel for another few weeks through Australia and then are coming home to summer jobs on the Island. They may be home by Easter and their families are so happy and proud of them.


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