WINTER SOLSTICE NEW ZEALAND

 21st June and the shortest day of the year.  Its wet and cold in Auckland and work on Truce has declined to a snail’s pace.  My casual job at Burnsco, travel for Marine Consultancy work and the short daylight hours all conspire to keep me off the boat for days at a time.

From now on the days will get longer and hopefully more productive.  I have a long list of maintenance jobs I want to complete this winter before my next summer of adventure.  The boat needs painting inside and out, the mast needs refurbishing, the rigging needs replacing and there are a thousand and one small jobs on the radar.  One of my major tasks is to skim off the top layer of the deck and apply new epoxy and glass fibre cover.

To keep the decks dry and protected I have put a plastic shrink wrap over the boat.  It cost a few hard-earned dollars but is a lower cost option than hauling out into a shed and allows me to work on the boat at the dock.

Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson
Inside Shrink Wrap. Photo, Ray Penson

Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz
Boat Cover and Access Door. Truce.nz

So far this winter I have refurbished the toilet area or head to give the correct nautical description.  Everything looks nice and clean with crispy new white paint and sanitation pump.  I am also in the process of painting the inside of various lockers and cupboards, a very time consuming, messy and convoluted process.  A small leak in the filler hose for the Dickenson cabin heater had caused the outside of the ply tank to become saturated with diesel.  I will replace the old tank with a new aluminium one and the previous lingering diesel odour in the wardrobe will be no more.

Refurbished Head. Truce.nz
Refurbished Head. Truce.nz

 Next week I will be travelling to Saudi Arabia for a short job, it should be quite warm and put some heat into my old bones.

 After that I am looking forward to getting stuck into the refurbishment and planning for the next seasons trip to the South of New Zealand.  At the moment my idea is to sail up the East Coast and around North Cape before heading down the West Coast to Golden Bay.  From there to Fiordland and Stewart Island before returning up the East Coast to Auckland.  My plans are pretty sketchy at this stage but one thing I don’t want to happen is to have any deadlines or schedules – just go with the flow.

SLOW ROAD TO TONGA

Since yesterday the winds have been light from the east.  We have managed to keep the boat moving along, also got a bit of breeze through the boat to cool things down a bit.  Noon to noon run of just over one hundred miles came as a surprise as I thought we had done even less.  We have less than a thousand miles to go to Neiafu.

Rigging Spinnaker pole at sunset
Rigging Spinnaker pole at sunset

Apart from the light breeze the weather is perfect.  Last night Jessica cooked a great pasta dish for dinner after which we watched Dumb and Dumber under the stars in the cockpit.  Good to have some banal humour after frustrations of light wind sailing.

The fishing is not going too well.  I am using smaller lures hoping we will catch smaller fish.  So far, we haven’t caught anything but have two lures smashed to pieces and the triple hooks straightened out.  So, I presume big fish still take small lures – they just don’t get caught by them.  I will persevere in the hope of landing a small succulent dolphin fish.

Next weeks weather is looking a harsh, we have three days of twenty to twenty-five knot winds and four-meter seas.  There is no way around it.  If the wind and seas come from the right angle we can make good time but it will be a bit uncomfortable for a while.  Then, as we approach Tonga the forecast is for very light winds – maybe we will use the engine rather than hang around if it happens.

This morning, during my pre-noon siesta, I was half asleep dreaming of being in a hotel room with a king size bed, clean crisp sheets and bathroom with unlimited shower water.  Then I realised I haven’t slept in a bed since April.  Jessica says we should treat ourselves to a night in a hotel room in Tonga.   Total voyage distance 646 miles.

A WONDERFUL SPARKLING DAY

As I departed the anchorage this morning it was just getting light and still a bit chilly.  The early start was to catch the ebb through Hiekish Narrows – which we did but it wasn’t very exciting.  The day brightened up as we travelled down Finlayson Channel, nice crisp air and bright sunshine and great scenery.  Humpbacks were feeding again, I saw two groups, so many around now.

We branched off Finlayson Channel and ducked into Jackson Passage to take us across to Mathieson Channel.  Jackson Passage has tight narrows at the end, we went through just after low water and had two meters underneath, it would be very tight on a minus tide.  Once through Jackson Mathieson opened up and it was a nice motor down to Perceval Narrows where the tide rips twisted Truce around, but this time no knocking noised from the propeller strut, the splint is working.

After heading across to Reid Passage I have anchored in Oliver Cove, a small pool off the side of Reid Passage.  The sun continued to shine until sunset and I sat in the cockpit fishing and enjoying the last of the Alaska Icy Bay IPA from Juneau.  I caught a couple of flatfish, don’t know what they are so back they went, just fishing for fun.

Tomorrow I will refuel in Bella Bella and see if I can get some fresh food.  I stopped at Bella Bella on the way north, it’s a convenient stop and the library has WiFi.  Total voyage distance 575.5 miles.