REST, RECUPERATION AND TIDY UP IN OPUA

Today was dedicated to clean up and chores on board Truce and taking it easy.  In beautiful calm sunny weather, I set about tidying the boat.  Stowing all the bits and bobs that I had been using on passage and stashed in the quarter berth for convenience and ease of access from the cockpit.

On the passage from Tonga we used the engine far more than usual to get through the extensive calm patches.  All the running meant that the scheduled one-hundred-and-fifty-hour oil change became due sooner than expected.  Changing the oil isn’t a job I like, it’s always messy sucking the old oil out of the dipstick hole.  With a bag full of rags, the job was accomplished and Mr Yanmar now has clean oil and a new oil filter to keep him happy for a while.

Another session at the laundry means that we have fresh bed linen and towels on board.  The last laundry session was in Honolulu and the supply of clean sheets and towels had been exhausted – laundry was definitely due.

I don’t know where the day went, time flies when your having fun, but soon it was happy hour and time for some refreshment.  I got myself cleaned up and headed down to the Opua Yacht Club – just a short walk away.  Nice to sit out on the deck overlooking the harbour as the sun goes down.  The sand-flies also enjoyed dining out on my body.

I was back on-board Truce in the early evening as I plan to sail south tomorrow.  I checked the weather, tides and put a course on the chart, with a list of available stops and shelters on the way.  Not sure yet where I will go tomorrow.  I am heading south down the coast towards Auckland, first I need to get around Cape Brett and then have an idea I may stop in Whangarei.  We shall see tomorrow how it plays out.

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.

ENGINE OFF AND SAILING AGAIN

No wind this last twenty-four hours and the engine has been running constantly.  The diesel bunker is getting low now so I was grateful when the wind finally showed up just after noon.  Since then we have been sailing nicely straight down the track to Opua in beautify weather.

In anticipation of the big blow this evening and tomorrow morning I have hanked on the storm staysail.  A no nonsense robust little thing, built like a brick outhouse.  I hope it’s not needed but better to rig it now than be fighting with it in the dark on a pitching deck and a howling wind.

This morning I saw another yacht ahead and to Starboard.  They are now astern, I can just see the tip of their mast showing above the horizon.  They may catch up later as I usually ease off at dusk so I can rest easy during the night.  They are on the same course as me to Opua so we may meet up at the customs dock.

During my morning walk around the boat I noticed a few small squid that had come on board during the night.  This seems to validate my theory about flying squid.  They were perfect eating size, I wish I had got to them when they were still fresh.  The bird life is back again this afternoon, they came back with the wind.  Good to have company but the albatross has not been back.

DAY 13 ONWARD 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.

10,000 MILES WITH TRUCE

Banging to windward all last night and today on starboard tack.  Getting to New Zealand is a battle, every mile must be won.  I am not complaining – some are still in the north waiting for a break in the weather and one yachtsman is sheltering at Raoul Island.

The daybreak this morning was beautiful and the day is sparkling but the wind is cool from the south west.  I am seeing more birdlife today, this morning we were visited by an albatross.  The bird circled a couple of times before flying alongside, looking us over with the beady eye of the ancient mariner.  What majestic animals.

This morning I was completing our voyage records and discovered that today Truce and I have just completed 10,000 miles together today.  We did 2,700 plus miles last year between Canoe Cove and Glacier Bay in Alaska.  This year we have done over 7,200 miles across the Pacific, from Canada to New Zealand.  I would say we know each other quite well although I still have much to learn.

Now less than 300 miles to Opua.  But we still have a calm patch and a gale to get through.  The maximum forecast winds for Tuesday have just increased from thirty-nine to forty-two knots.  Oh boy – I don’t fancy that.  I will hank on the storm staysail tomorrow.

WORKING TO GET SOUTH

It’s a good job I made muffins yesterday – it would never have happened today, conditions are far too boisterous.  The day started out with a rain squall and front just after midnight.  Then a strong south west wind and swell set in and we have been using it all day make our way south the best we can.  Our starboard bow is in the weather for a change, pushing aside the SW swells and sending a deluge of spray all over the boat.

We are still looking at an ETA into Opua on Tuesday.  Hopefully just ahead of the thirty-nine knot winds that are forecast.

I was thinking about the motion on board Truce today and realise she is very light compared to when we started the voyage up in Canoe Cove.  Then we had on board provisions for six months and the weight of cases of soft drinks, beer, drinking water bottles, tinned and bottles provisions – a great weight.  The fuel levels are now quite low and water is about half full – no wonder the movement is lively.

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.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Last night at midnight we passed through a weather front.  As we approached the front we were becalmed and motored in windless conditions for an hour before picking up the wind from the south east.  When the wind filled in it had some force, we had a boisterous sail to mid-day with more benign conditions since.  There was some heavy spray over the boat which has helped wash the dust and grime from Nuku’alofa away.  The topsides are sparkling now.

The weather forecast is firming up, looks like we continue heading west for three more days until making the turn for the south.  I can see light at the end of the tunnel now and can start thinking of an ETA into Opua.

After lunch, I had an afternoon siesta.  It was so good I went back and had another one.  Well it is Sunday, the day of rest.  Sunday is also the designated day for personal grooming, shower, shave, haircut and scrub down.  I have not had a hot shower since leaving Honolulu – I am looking forward to that luxury.

For sundowners this afternoon I changed back into long sleeved shirt and track pants.  It’s cool in the cockpit when the sun goes down.  It feels like the south-east breeze is bringing cold air up from the Antarctic.  For the cool weather I have switched to whisky and water.  Very nice, I could have taken another one but resisted as I need to stay alert.

A NIP IN THE AIR

Last night was cool, for the first time since Hawaii I had track pants on with a long-sleeved fleece shirt.  We are certainly out of the tropics now and I can expect more cold weather when we hit the south westerly winds later this evening.  I will dig out my thermals tomorrow – just in case.

Its only seven hundred miles to Opua in New Zealand but I can’t sail there direct due to weather.  So, we continue our foray to the west.  The sailing weather had been light but pleasant after a bit of rolling last night and we have kept moving nicely in the light airs.

For the past couple of days I have been cutting bits off my stock of carrots.  There is some rot that is turning them black and wet.  Unfortunately, the carrots are now so far gone as to be unusable.  I ate what I could (should be seeing well in the dark tonight) and disposed of the remainder.  The bread I bought in Tonga has also gone mouldy.  In fact, all the fresh food I purchased in Tonga is deteriorating quickly.  I suppose that’s the price you pay for nice fresh food without preservatives or radiation sickness.  No doubt if I had bought the food from an American supermarket it would still be looking fresh a month from now.

This evening I am expecting to pass through a front and the current northerly wind will swing to the south and increase.  Already I can feel a difference in the sea so I suppose the action is only a couple of hours away.