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.

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.

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.