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!