BAY OF ISLANDS

What a beautiful sleep, I set my alarm for six but the phone battery expired overnight, the alarm didn’t and I awoke  at seven.  Outside the sun was just coming up and it was a beautiful calm morning, such a contrast to the wet windy evening before.  Shortly after my first fresh cup of coffee the Customs man arrived and handed me a bunch of paperwork to complete – say he would return.

The customs formalities were very straightforward – followed shortly after by the bio security inspection.  As I don’t have a fridge on board it was simple as there are no meats or vegetables on board.  After an inspection of the boat and stores the biosecurity man handed me my clearance and the inward formalities were complete.

Next, I motored into the Bay of Island marina and was allocated a guest berth.  Once we were tied up I went to check into the marina where the friendly staff gave me a welcome bag with goodies, a small bottle of rum and useful information. 

Today I just chilled out and didn’t do much.  I went for a decent coffee, visited the local grocery store and got fresh provisions, caught up on my emails, had a wonderful ten-minute shower, did some laundry and the day just flew by.  In the evening, I went to the Opua Cruising Club for a couple of beers to wash down the excellent fish and chips.  

I am sure I will sleep well again tonight.

ARRIVED NEW ZEALAND

The wind overnight was not as strong as forecast so in was a little slower than anticipated, I really wanted to make some miles and reduce the time in the strong winds closer to the Bay of Islands.  It turned out fine the wind picked up in the morning and I had a good thirty knots from the north west to blow me down to New Zealand.  I sailed with the storm staysail and a small jib at an easy six knots with Micky the wind-vane in charge as usual.  What a marvellous friend Mickey has been, keeping us on course in even the lightest winds and never complaining.

We rounded Cape Wiwiki and the outlaying Tikitiki Rock at four in the afternoon in gusty rain squalls.  A rough welcome but one that I relished.  It seemed fitting end to the voyage.  Soon we were motoring up the veronica passage to Opua where we berthed alongside the customs dock just after six in the evening.

A couple of boats came in after me, both New Zealand boats coming back from Fiji.  We all sat at the customs wharf overnight waiting for customs and biosecurity clearance in the morning.  It’s not possible to go ashore until customs clearance has been obtained but I was happy to stay on board and relax.   Now that truce was safely tied up and the voyage finished I had an extra tot of rum, reflected on the voyage and had a good chat to Ngozi now we are in phone range again.  I will sleep in the forward cabin this evening and luxuriate in the extra bed space.

ENOUGH WEST – TURNING SOUTH TO NEW ZEALAND

I haven’t posted a log for a couple of days.  I didn’t have much to say, Truce and I have been beating to the west to get around a am nasty patch of weather above New Zealand.  Same slog day after day.  After three days, we have gained enough distance to start turning to the south and hopefully benefiting from favourable winds on the last part of the voyage.

Of course, now that we have gained our westing the wind has disappeared completely and we are in an area of high pressure.  It looks like we will be motoring for twenty-four hours until we are clear and into a breeze.  I have my fingers crossed that the autopilot, engine and everything holds together until we reach the wind.

The yachts that I met along the way at Tonga and Minerva Reef are still waiting for a weather window to depart to NZ.  That is a good safe tactic if you have the time and provides an enjoyable quick trip in good weather.

I intend to clear through customs in Opua, Bay of Islands.  It’s the closest customs port if arriving from the north and once cleared in I can take a sail down the coast to Auckland.  It will be so good to be back on the spectacular NZ coats again with its snug safe anchorages.

At late afternoon we were six hundred miles from Opua.  If the last part of the voyage goes to plan we will be arriving there on the 26th September.

It seems I budgeted my beer stock just right.  I have sufficient to last until Auckland and an emergency reserve in case of delays or bad weather on the way.  One advantage of the cooler weather is also cooler sea water, beer laid in the bilge is nice and cool to drink now.

The last of my fresh Tonga vegetables has been consumed – only some onions and limes remain.  These will also be gone before we land in Opua, not allowed to bring such stuff into New Zealand.

NUKU’ALOFA TO NEW ZEALAND

This morning it rained cats and dogs.  My walk to the internet café to check the weather was a soggy affair.  Good news, the weather seems to be easing off on the route to New Zealand.

I went shopping for fresh fruit and veg and topped up on additional beer, the stocks were running low after such a long time in port.  I stopped for lunch and had fish and chips – a final Tonga treat.
After lunch I visited the Customs to get the boats clearance outward.  After some repetitive form filling I finally had the required piece of paper and a stamp in my passport.  All ready to go.

Just after three in the afternoon I let go the lines and we were on the way home.

We are now clear of the island of Tongatapu and sailing in a westerly direction – hoping the wind will back around and we can sail more to the south in the morning.  I am heading in the general direction of Minerva Reef.  A stop at the reef may be necessary if the weather blows as forecast on the eighteenth at the top of New Zealand.  We shall see in the next few days.

Its good to be back at sea again after waiting for so long in port.  Beautiful fresh air and a clear horizon.  At the moment the wind is a perfect ten to fifteen knots.  I have reduced sail for the night and we are doing a comfortable five and a half knots.  I hope it holds until morning.

RAIN ON SUNDAY, SUN ON MONDAY

Yesterday was a damp squid.  Rain all Saturday night and Sunday morning.  Sunday was overcast, wet and showery, cool all day.  Onshore it was very quiet, hardly anyone about, shops all shut.  I suppose everyone has gone to church and retreated home, the sort of day you want to have a nice fire and stay put.

Today is sunny with a nice cool breeze.  I walked over to the customs office and enquired about clearing out – particularly if I could clear out and anchor out for a day or two.  The first customs guy said no problem, I could have 24 hours after clearing out.  Then his boss with four stripes came and said no.  I would only have an hour to leave after clearing out and I could not go to anchor.  He said he had problems with other yachts clearing out and then anchoring for days and it must stop.

I would like to go out and anchor for a couple of days.  But if I need to come back into port for clearance its not worth the trouble.  I will hang around in Nuku’alofa until it’s time to depart.

The passing of the rain has unleashed a plague of Mosquitoes.  These are serious insects, cunning and tenacious.  I have the mosquito screens in place buy still they find a way in.  On board I have some mosquito and fly spray from Alaska, it worked fine in Alaska – stopping deer fly without any problems.  But – it doesn’t seem to worry the Tongan Mosquitos, they just keep coming.  One of the disadvantages of being tied up in port.

Later I wandered into town.  Everybody is very friendly and after being here for a few days people are recognising me (and me them) and the greeting are turning into conversations.  So many of the people I speak with have been to, lived in or have relatives in New Zealand.  It seems the remittances from family members in New Zealand plays a big part bin the economy here.

Previously I have extolled the qualities of Tonga bacon.  When walking about outside the main town you can see pigs and piglets running around, foraging all over the place.  They look happy, contented and plump.  Good bacon must be the result of such a life.

CHECKED INTO NUKU’ALOFA

What a night – the weather and sea turned it on.  We had the choice of going fast with thirty knot winds or sailing conservative and reducing stress on both man and boat.  We went the less stress way – it was still a wild ride and a very wet affair, both from the rain and seawater coming onboard.  After four in the morning the wind started to decrease and by six was blowing a good trade wind twenty knots.

First refreshment in Tonga
First refreshment in Tonga

After a long night, I didn’t get much sleep, we arrived in Nuku’alofa at eight in the morning.  The pilot book advises to call the port and customs when one hour out.  I did call but knew it was a waste of time, no one is listening. We entered the small boat harbour and spent some time trying to find a place to get alongside.  Eventually we tied up alongside a fishing boat so we could jump ashore and clear in.

By midday we had completed the customs entrance, paid our harbour dues and found a place to tie up alongside ‘Ikale’, an old converted Gulf of Mexico crew boat.  With the inward formalities over we headed into town to clear Jessica with immigration., ready for her flight tomorrow.

On the way into town we stopped for some fish and chips on the harbour side.  Cheap and cheerful and great fresh fish.  At the immigration office the clearance for Jessica was quickly done and fee paid.  Now with all the clearances complete, fees paid and papers stamped we could relax.

We had a roam around town, found a café to have coffee and cake, the vegetable market, the general market and a few stores along the way.  Then we had a long walk back to Truce for an afternoon siesta – we were both quite tired.

In the evening, we went to a local restaurant on the waterfront and ate fish again – then back to Truce for more sleep.  So ended our first day in Nuku’alofa.

DRINKING RUM WITH OLD FRIENDS

The rain from yesterday evening continued overnight, finally giving way to some sunshine mid-morning.  I spent a few minutes bailing out the pig before we could go ashore – amazing how much water collected overnight.

By ten I had visited the customs and port office to clear out from the Vava’u group.  The tonnage dues came to less than ten dollars, all up the clearance into and out of Neiafu cost one hundred and thirty-one dollars.

Next on the ‘to do’ list was getting some fresh fruit and veg Fresh veg, eggs and topping up on a few dry goods.  The market down by the wharf has an excellent selection of fresh produce where we also got fresh eggs.

On the way back to Truce we decided to have an early lunch at Indigo café.  Our favourite café as they also seem to have decent WiFi.  Eggs and bacon for me and BLT for Jessica.  The bacon here is so good – unfortunately we forgot to buy some in the store.

Just after one in the afternoon we dropped the mooring and headed out of Neiafu harbour with a stiff breeze behind us.  We headed to Tapana Lagoon where a friend, Steve, was moored.  I met Steve last year at Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island in Alaska.  Steve is also headed back to New Zealand but at a far more leisurely pace than mine.

At three in the afternoon we entered Tapana Lagoon and saw Steve’s lovely yacht ‘Rhapsody’ tucked up in the corner, nicely sheltered.  We were fortunate to find a vacant mooring close alongside and before long we were securely moored in a beautiful peaceful little bay, completely sheltered from the easterly trades.

The evening was spent on Rhapsody, chatting, eating and drinking Rum.  We were joined by Linda, a charming Australian lady who is sailing her yacht single handed.  Steve produced a surprisingly good Spaghetti Bolognaise – a great night was had by all.

Tomorrow morning we will rise early to head south towards Pangai in the Ha’apai Group.  We need to keep heading in the direction of Nuku’alofa to make the connection with Jessica’s flight back to Melbourne on the 29th.

LIGHT WINDS CONTINUE TO TAUNT US

Another day of light winds.  Nothing we can do about that – just sail as best we can and enjoy the trip.  I had hoped to arrive in Neiafu early afternoon Monday and clear customs.  Now it looks like we will arrive late evening.  If that is the case I will hang back so we arrive in daylight on the 22nd.

Most of the last twenty-four hours has been spent with the jib poled out to port and the mainsail boomed out to starboard.  A very comfortable way of sailing, we managed to make some progress this way overnight.  This morning we sailed west to find some more wind as promised by the weather prediction.  So far, we have found a couple of small squalls, a refreshing shower, but no wind yet, just slating sails in the sunshine.

At lunch time we passed over an area indicated in the chart as having volcanic activity.  We were hoping to see some bubbles, pumice, volcanic stuff, smell rotten eggs – but nothing, just sea like the surrounding area.

Now that Tonga is just a weekend away we really want to get into port.  This has been a long trip from Honolulu, made longer I think because we couldn’t get a real break in Christmas Island.  We both wanted to get off the boat there and explore ashore, the strong trade winds and exposed anchorage prevented us from getting that break.  So, it almost feels like we have been sailing nonstop since Honolulu.

Last nights movie was ‘Once were Warriors’.  An iconic New Zealand movie.  I only saw it myself last year and it was Jessica’s first time.  Well worth watching once – even if its to see what the Auckland southern motorway looks like with light traffic.  Total Voyage distance 1,241 miles.

HEADING TO SUWARROW

Another wonderful sailing day and night.  We have the wind on our beam and are being pushed along nicely at six knots towards Suwarrow.  Its almost too good to be true, this is the first constant weather we have experienced since departing from Honolulu.  The wind went light for a couple of hours in the early morning but we managed to keep sailing until it picked up again.

Last night we caught a couple of fish.  I don’t know what type of fish they were.  They didn’t look appetising, long slender things with very large eyes.  I suspect because of the big eyes they are night time feeders – anyway, they went back over the side.  We are looking for dolphin fish, we know they taste good.

Last night we had a new take on Thai Chick Pea Curry – concocted by Jessica.  A slightly unconventional dish that tasted excellent.  Despite our pledging not to – we made rice.  Cleaning up was easy really and I suppose we can’t live without rice.

I got a bit bored this afternoon and started rooting around the lockers under the salon settee.  Happily, I came up with six tins of fruit salad that I had completely forgotten about.  Now I know how the squirrel feels when he finds a new stash of nuts.

We have spent the day just relaxing and enjoying the perfect sailing conditions.  Snacking, playing guitar, playing cards, watching movies, reading books.  Nice to catch up on simple activities.  I have not heard any news since leaving Hawaii, I don’t even know who won the Tour de France.  It doesn’t matter at the moment.

As we have missed out our stop at Penrhyn we don’t have clearance into Suwarrow.  I have asked Ngozi to ask the Cook Customs to grant us a clearance on arrival.  Hopefully that will come through before we arrive.

The advance weather forecast for our arrival at Suwarrow does not look too flash.  There is a bit of difference between forecasts, one has twenty knot winds the other 35 knot winds.  We will monitor it daily as we get closer and hope it dissipates before we arrive.  Total voyage distance 270 miles.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND / KIRITIMATI TO PENRHYN

I awoke early this morning, it was too quiet.  On deck all was peaceful, the anchor cable was lying soundlessly in the water.  After days of wind this was a pleasant surprise.  I was now too awake to go back to sleep and it was too early to wake Jessica.

For the next hour I pottered about, putting in some waypoints to the GPS, reading some old news clippings and getting the ships papers’ ready for clearing out from Kiritimati.  Then I made toast and marmalade for breakfast and woke Jessica – who couldn’t complain too much about the time as she was presented with breakfast.

After breakfast we launched the pig and headed into London to clear out with customs and immigration.  This was an easy and pleasant affair and cost us AU$20.  With clearance in hand we set off to do some final provisioning.  We discovered poor quality oranges cost $3.5 each and water was $3 a bottle.  Other items were similarly expensive and we ended up getting not much at all.  I will need to start fishing again.

I found that there are chickens on Christmas Island, I saw a whole bunch running around a yard.  No doubt some enterprising local doesn’t like paying $1.50 for each egg.

When we returned to Truce the wind and sea had picked up again and we had a wet ride.  Once back on board we made ready for sea, lashing and stowing everything in its place.  At eleven o’clock I started the engine and began hauling up the anchor.  By midday we had cleared Cooks Passage and started out voyage south to Penrhyn.

The first hour we sped south on a beam reach at over seven knots.  However, as soon as we cleared the Island the wind went around to the south east and we are back with the wind on the port bow.  Beating into the wind, crashing and banging, salt spray everywhere (thank goodness for the hard dodger) and a strong feeling of Déjà vu.  At the moment we can’t lay the course south and are getting pushed to the west.

Predict Wind weather routing has the wind coming from the east and further down the track from north of east.  That will be perfect.  I hope the wind comes around in the next few hours because I don’t fancy five more days going to windward.  We both had enough of that coming from Honolulu to Kiritimati.  Sailing should be fun, a little bit of going to windward occasionally is OK, but not for days on end.  In the back of my mind I have the option of missing Penrhyn and going direct to Suwarrow if the wind stays south of east.

Apart from my moaning about the wind everything is fine, clear skies with fluffy clouds, fifteen knots of wind and we are making reasonable speed in the general direction of south.  The biggest problems we have now is deciding what to eat for dinner.