Well, suffice to say we made it to New Zealand! The last three days were a long hard slog, but we finally tied up to the quarantine dock at Opua at 3am, 9.5 days after leaving Neiafu. The straight-line passage is approximately 1200 NM, but we racked up just over 1400NM after all the tacking and zig-zagging. Continue reading “Landfall – Opua, New Zealand”
The last section of Bob’s passage forecast looked relatively straightforward. As we headed south to New Zealand we’d encounter a weak front from the low passing to the east, and then we’d take advantage of the winds from the high coming through. As the southerly winds came in we’d go west, then as the westerly winds came in we’d go south and so make our way into Opua in light winds. Simple. Continue reading “You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Passage to New Zealand”
“Slow down you move too fast,you’ve got to make the moment last…” Well, it seems that someone wanted to send us that message. After boarding the Vava’u – Opua one-way express and finding ourselves rocketing along for three days, that same someone decided to throw a switch and we came to a grinding halt.
It’s a strange mixture of emotions – on the one hand disappointment that our forward momentum is seriously curtailed, but on the other a kind of relief to be able to get some respite from the slamming and banging and bouncing and cursing.
So here we are on Day 5 of our passage to New Zealand, doing the equivalent of a sedate trot in a horse and carriage, both iron sails working and nary a breath of wind to be seen. It’s a big blue wasteland out here, and it’s a bit lonely being at the back of the pack. No other ships, no dolphins, no whales. just the occasional jellyfish floating past and the odd basking shark on the surface. Even the radio is silent, with the SSB net operators hanging up their headphones for the season. Geez, it’s not much fun coming last!!
Last night before the wind completely died we worked hard trying to get any kind of decent angle to sail – the fickle wind danced around the compass, giving us plenty of work. I particularly hate the graveyard shift from 2-5am, and true to form last night it was miserable. I spent the whole three hours gybing to and fro, furling and unfurling the jib, tweaking everything I could, all in miserable driving rain. But today the sun came out and the wind died completely so we had an enforced day of rest with no sail trim to worry about. We spent the day reading, doing small boat jobs, blowing out the fresh water hoses of all the sediment that got stirred up during our three days of bashing and crashing, marvelling at the sea birds swooping and soaring over the water like slalom skiers, and generally being happy to be out here on the water. Oh, and having a long overdue shower!
Bob has told us that the wind should return in the early hours of tomorrow morning, so we’re hoping he’s on the money because the drone of the engines is starting to get a bit wearing…
with any luck we should be making landfall in New Zealand late Fri 11th or early Sat 12th. I’m starting to get excited about all the goodies we’ve been missing – fresh orange juice, green vegetables, any kind of recognisable meat, decent cereal…the list goes on. Oh, and we may need to stock up on some more wine and beer, the ships’ stores are getting perilously low….”warning Will Robinson, warning”….
Bob’s the man. THE man, when it comes to planning a passage to or from New Zealand. Bob McDavitt that is, the weather guru who’s been advising and routing countless boats to and from the Land of the Long White Cloud for many years now. Given the tricky and unpredictable nature of this passage, it was a no-brainer to us to use his expertise in planning this trip. It’s always nice to know there’s someone out there with access to the latest high-tech weather info if we need it.
He’s a patient man, is Bob. He was all set to work out a route for us nearly 3 weeks ago, before George’s brain exploded. Since then we’ve been staying in touch, giving him updates on our progress – “maybe next week”, “no, not yet, sorry”. The Go/No Go decision was becoming excruciating as the days ticked by. Finally, after Bruce’s sterling efforts with the ladies from the Real Tonga airline we had our new course computer for the autopilot and installed it Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning after doing some basic calibrations we dropped the mooring and motored out into the bay for the sea-trial. But no sooner did we put it on “auto” than we got an alarm and message “auto-release” and the thing went back to ‘standby’. What???? Nooooo!!! Back to the mooring we went, where we searched the manuals to try and identify the problem. Nothing seemed to make sense, we called John our friendly Raymarine technician in Australia who was equally non-plussed. In the absence of any useful ideas we went back to basics – unplugged everthing, checked the connections,re-connected it, re-did the calibrations, said a few heartfelt prayers and left the mooring again for a second attempt. We held our breath as we put it on ‘auto’ – it worked! No alarms, no problems, just a bit of tweaking of the settings so we weren’t wandering around our course like a drunk on George St. After an hour or so of going up and down the bay and round in circles we reckoned George’s brain surgery had been successful. “Good news Bob, we’re outta here!”.
The forecast looked good, although the leftover winds and swell from cyclone Tuni were still hanging around. Bob would have preferred us to wait until Thursday to leave, but we were itching to go. Wednesday we raced around, checking out of Tonga (again!), doing last minute provisioning and saying farewell to our cruising buddies who were staying in Vava’u for the cyclone season.
By 2pm we were ready to drop the mooring again (getting good at this by now!). We tucked two reefs in the main and headed out, holding our breath that George would live up to his promise of being well and healthy. He was a little unsteady on his feet to start with, but some extra tweaking fixed the problem and he’s now better and faster and more responsive than he ever was before. Long live George II !!
So we’ve been out here in the wild blue yonder for just over 48 hours – it’s been fast, furious and very bumpy, with winds in the 20-25kt range most of the time, and big big swells initially. Thankfully they’re starting to subside but every now and then a monster comes along that throws a few tons of water over the cabin top. But George is handling it like a pro, and we’re very relieved. The only problem now is that we’re well ahead of Bob’s schedule, and even with the sails reefed down we’re galloping along at 8-9 kts. The winds are supposed to be easing…sometime…who knows when…so for now we’re hanging on and enjoying the ride while it lasts. New Zealand here we come!
I’m sure that’s how the song goes and just where I ended up!
Our new (refurbished) autopilot took just an amazing three days to go from London to Nuku’alofa the capitol of Tonga and there it sat waiting patiently to get uplifted (that’s airline talk for putting it onboard – don’t you just the hate the American influence!) to our waiting hands in Neiafu a short 45 minute flight. As easy as it sounds it turned out to be one hell of an effort to finally receive it. Continue reading “Down on my Knees, Begging you Please – Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga”