DAY 13 ON THE FROM TONGA

This morning the wind finally died at ten, just ripples on the water.  We now have a huge spreading calm patch to get through before picking up the strong north westerly winds that will take us the final step to Opua.

The Yanmar engine has been running since the wind left us. Maybe it will be running for the next day as well – if the diesel lasts out.  So, we are making slow progress and now expect to arrive on Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday night.

I haven’t seen much bird life today.  I think the birds like some wind to play with, just like us sailors.  In the distance I saw another boat this morning, don’t know what it was, not a big ship or yacht so maybe a fishing boat.  The first boat I have seen since departing Minerva Reef on the 15th.

When making pasta last night one of my gas bottle ran out.  One that I had refilled in San Francisco back in June.  Amazing how long these gas bottles last, must be the best value fuel out there.

My food stock is getting low now, at least the stuff I want to eat.  My diet for the next days until port will be boring pasta, noodles, cereal and the occasional tin of something.

Last night we changed clocks to Summer time in New Zealand.  To celebrate this occasion, I am having an extra tot of Mount Gay Rum for sundowners this evening – I still have two fresh limes from Nuku’alofa.

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.

THE LONG ROAD BACK TO NEW ZEALAND

The anchorage at Minerva Reef turned out to be very peaceful, despite my initial misgivings.  I had a great rest and felt very refreshed this morning.  And what a morning, a glorious sunrise, warm sunshine and crystal-clear waters.

Sunrise, Minerva reef.

No sound except the distant thunder of surf on the reef.  I breakfasted in the cockpit on my last Tongan Papaya, such a pity that papaya doesn’t keep for more than a few days.

Later in the morning another yacht sailed into the lagoon and came over to say hello.  On board was Lance, also solo sailing from Tonga, heading to New Zealand.   He had also been waiting up in Tonga for a couple of weeks and also decided to stop in Minerva and wait.  It felt very good to have company in such a remote place.

I slept on the idea of sailing to the west before heading down to New Zealand.  Yes, I have decided to give it a go.  At least I will be moving and doing something – not just sitting waiting.  The plan is to sail to the south west before heading west, hopefully to sail above the strong southerly winds heading up from the south.  If that manoeuvre goes to plan I should then be able to turn and zig zag my way to New Zealand.  It going to take 12 to 13 days possibly – there are some light and variable patches along the way as well.

Before sailing out of Minerva Reef I went across and had a chat to Lance.  Like me he is frustrated and said he planned to stay at Minerva until the next low has passed New Zealand.  We wished each other well and I motored out of the lagoon.

As I was departing Minerva Lance called me on the radio, asking how far west I planned to go.  He said he may follow me to the west tomorrow.  I suspect he also felt the loneliness and isolation of Minerva when I had departed.

So, we are on the way again.  Sailing to the south west with light following winds.  Not going very fast, the following sea is rolling us around and spilling wind from the sails.  It feels good to be on the last leg of the voyage.