Voyage of the Ika Roa – Heather Whelan

(1 customer review)


Voyage of the Ika Roa, by Heather Whelan. A real life adventure story of how a couple with no boat-building or sailing experience built a catamaran and sailed it from England to New Zealand in the 1970s. This is the author’s true account of her journey, where she learned to sail along the way and fell in love with the land, cultures and people of the Pacific.

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Synopsis for Voyage of the Ika Roa

In Voyage of the Ika Roa, Heather Whelan relates the story of how she and then husband Tim built a boat and sailed it from England to New Zealand. The couple had no boat-building or sailing experience, but they set to and built Ika Roa, a Wharram-designed catamaran. The boat was built in their back garden in the English Midlands, as far from the coast as you can get. When finished, Ika Roa was launched into the River Trent, from where the couple navigated their way to the North Sea and then around to Falmouth.

After a winter living aboard in Falmouth, the true voyage of the Ika Roa, eventually started with a trip across the Bay of Biscay, to the rias, bays and ports of Spain and Portugal. The Atlantic crossing took the Ika Roa and her fledgling crew far from land for the first time.

From there, author Heather Whelan relates the adventures the couple had in the Caribbean Islands, Venezuela and the Dutch Antilles before they arrived at the Panama Canal. The transit of the canal was fraught with difficulty, both bureaucratic and mechanical. Their first landfall in the Pacific was at the Galapagos Islands, where the couple saw giant tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, tropic birds and other creatures endemic to the island group.

While cruising the Pacific Heather became fascinated by Polynesian history and the islander’s way of life. Ika Roa’s design  was based on Polynesian voyaging canoes, so she was  interested to discover more about the outrigger canoes and waka she saw in the islands. Visiting remote atolls, such as Palmerston, were highlights of the trip. Ika Roa spent some time anchored in the almost-inaccessible lagoon while her crew were guests of the islanders.

Friendships among the cruising community and with locals enriched the journey. Many of the yachties the couple met early in their voyage were travelling the same routes, and they became great friends with the crews of several boats. In the Marquesas, Ika Roa’s crew joined several other yachties and explored a hidden cave, reputed to be the resting place of the bones of a medicine man. Adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (of Kon-Tiki fame) had written about it and the friends decided to explore further.

Finally Ika Roa arrived in New Zealand after sailing more than 10,000 nautical miles. This had been a voyage across two oceans and Tim and Heather had visited dozens of countries and islands. Two years after leaving Falmouth in England they had arrived in what was to be their new home.

Read more about the author, Heather Whelan here on her website


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1 review for Voyage of the Ika Roa – Heather Whelan

  1. ddbrazier

    I greatly enjoyed reading this book. It certainly is a very inspiring story of how a young couple followed their dream, achieved so much and had so many adventures, despite initially having no sailing
    experience. Quite by coincidence while they were sailing the oceans my wife and I were building a similar catamaran in New Zealand and met Heather and Tim after their arrival. We were able to hear first hand about their voyage and later sailed the Pacific Ocean ourselves.
    Don Brazier

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