Well….it’s been a crazy ride here to New Zealand! We have been busy resting up and getting the boat back to livable conditions but here is a “wordy” recap of our passage.
There is a general rule/recipe for this passage, as we were told, and that is to head a bit west, towards North Cape (the north tip of New Zealand) and then tack back towards the Bay of Islands, headed a bit SE. This “rule” is to try to avoid major low and high pressures that can create what are called “squash zones” that bring big winds, confused seas, and lots of squalls when the two pressure systems meet. The farther west you go, the systems have less tendencies to crash into each other…….well we did pretty much the opposite : )
This passage is/was all about passage management….the farther South you go, the winds and sea conditions are quite different and change frequently unlike the trade winds we have been experiencing from Mexico to Fiji (almost consistent wind coming from the East or South East with the exception of the SPCZ which brings no wind and squally conditions and can move up and down south of the equator).
We saw 8 days out on our weather sources, there was a low pressure system that could form up by New Zealand right about when we had planned to make landfall…however, it can be a crap shoot what the weather will do exactly that far out to accurately forecast but the wind looked good between now and then (first sailing close hauled and into the waves and then we hoped for a beam reach as the wind was supposed to clock around to the SE all about 20-25 knots and seas only about 2-3 meters) and we thought we could make good speed and move comfortably….hoping to make landfall before, if at all, the low pressure systems had time to build…. we didn’t make it and got caught in the build up.
Additionally, the winds were coming from the East and against the “recipe” we decided to head/point East, into the wind and swell, rather than heading West. Further, we would “sluff” or slide to the West anyways as the wind and swell blow/push us in a westerly direction….so for us we needed to move East to compensate for the sliding that would occur. Also because with the possibility of the low pressure system forming a week later, the system would bring winds directly ahead of us which translate to us not moving forward at all even with the engine at full power so we didn’t want to position ourselves too far West over the rumb line otherwise we would have to “beat” into the wind…imagine 40 knots of wind and trying to run forward….then add flapping sails because the wind can’t fill them …. not a situation we wanted. Well it turned out the wind never clocked to the SE which means we were unable to experience a beam reach (wind angle is about 90 degrees to the boat) which is a more comfortable and faster ride through the waves. The result was we were constantly sailing close hauled (wind angle at 30-60 degrees to the boat) which means the waves were too and would crash on our quarter bow and bring sea water over our dodger and into our cockpit, making the boat “slap” down on the waves and you would feel it throughout the boat.
It may seem like I am making it ALL sound horrible….in truth and now it is over with, it was not THAT bad (maybe it’s like having a kid?!) and on the positive side of things, Trevor and I and Slow Flight made it safely and I think as smartly as we could keep in mind we have never experienced conditions like this EVER! We learned what we should do next time and we learned that we can do it again…not that we want to!
I tried to take a photo everyday but these photos won’t come close to how it was but I trust you can use your imaginations : )
Saturday Day 1 – As weather is generally hard to predict, a few days out you can reasonably count on weather sources to be semi-correct. With that said, we knew we had a day or so of squalls and lighter winds due to a system just outside of Fiji so, fueled up and not afraid to use it, we motor sailed all day to keep up speed and a pace to move quickly through these systems.
Sunday Day 2 – The swell picked up from the system before us…when there are big winds the seas build but it’s a bit delayed…I still can’t wrap my head around all the weather phenomena that goes on but it happens this way. We headed a bit West to try to keep the sails full and wind and waves are still on our quarter bow. Wind was about 18-24 gusts to 30 knots…full jib, main and mizzen up pulled as tight as we could to keep them full as the wind angle is still 40-60 degrees to the boat. Every time we would hit a big wave we would go down the other side and the sails would flap. When Trevor pulled the main up our wind turbine blade was snapped off by a rogue dutchman line so Trevor had to fashion a spare halyard to keep the wind turbine from spinning…otherwise the weight of the wind turbine and it’s bracket shook the mizzen mast and could damage not only the mizzen mast but the turbine it self. Thankfully it was only the blade that snapped and not the entire turbine. We started to get water weeping inside the boat and would every other shift ring out towles we would lay out to catch the sea water. Basically it was like a bouncy house without the balls and WET! AND….to top it all off our silverware drawer got stuck closed and we only had 1 fork out…I guess we are eating finger foods.
Monday Day 3 – Sun finally! But it was getting colder. I was wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt during the day even in the sun…Trevor still in denial wearing shorts and a t-shirt (lol). We sailed West over the rumb line and even though we had great sailing conditions (turned the engine off), sails full and wind angle at 60-100 degrees and moving fast, at the pace and angle we were going we would of been 60 miles West of the rumb line and as discussed above, we didn’t want to be that far off so we decided to tack and head directly East…more uncomfortable as it changed our wind angle back to a close haul (30-60 degrees) and not making miles in a Southerly direction but in hopes that the wind angle would shift later on that week..suffer now rather than suffer later. On a good note when we tacked our silverware drawer got unstuck : ) On a bad note, we started the engine back up when we took the 90 degree turn east to help our speed going into the swell and our engine would rev up all by itself! If we didn’t have the use of the engine….I don’t want to think about it. Trevor had to change both primary and secondary fuel filters, bleed the fuel lines…it seemed to work thank goodness : )
Tuesday Day 4 – By this time it was about 3-4 days until we made landfall so weather is better forecasted and we knew now that the low pressure system will be forming …exactly where and how fast it was moving was still up in the air but we could tell either way: The winds picked up and we are still managing the water that is seeping into the boat. We finally turned off the engine (again) because we could sail just as fast as we could motor with a sliver of jib out, reefed main and mizzen.
It was time to think about how to deal with the low pressure system. Should we heave too (basically setting the sails in a configuration where you have stability but you are just floating) or should we come into port with bare poles and motor or try to sail with a double reef main only for more speed possibly or should we try to anchor out in a close by bay when we see land and wait out the system or go directly to the marina inland through a channel? We decided to keep going as there was a chance we could stay in front of the promised system. What we wanted to avoid was coming into port in the middle of the night (timing) or while the wind is blowing 50 knots (very bad) in a new country where we have no idea what the local topography can alter wind conditions.
We had a great few days sailing but I personally couldn’t enjoy them with all the anticipation of this low pressure system and exhausted with worry….I couldn’t stay in the moment! Trevor was great but it caught up with him a few days later.
Wednesday Day 5 – Oh Shit!
Thursday Day 6 – Winds were now a consistent 20-30 knots with gusts up to 40. Waves were still 2-3 meters but hitting us hard as our speed range was 6.5-9 knots over land with only a double reefed main. We have to leave the cockpit to reef the main sail so we had to decide when the best time to do this was to keep good speed/balance on the boat but not compromise safety and try to reef a heavy main sail in 40 knots of wind…. we reefed early even though having less sail out could mean a slower speed if the wind died down. Slower meant being out in the low pressure system longer but reefing in heavy winds could mean Trevor overboard…we opted for slower! Further, when we rolled our jib in, the wind was blowing so hard we had to roll it in under a lot of pressure so it was too tight and a small triangle of sail was left out. This is not what you want in these big winds as the wind could catch that triangle and “accidently” UN-furl your jib which in this situation would be horrible….too much sail is not a good thing!
Additionally, Trevor had to go up to the bow and secure our anchor…it was already tied off and cinched down by our windless but because there was an inch of give the water would push up the anchor and slam down onto its bracket on the bow as we slammed into a wave….it felt like a sledge hammer hitting the boat every time this would happen so he ingeniously tied a line from the anchor to the mast to keep it in an upright position to prevent damage to our hull as our anchor weight 77 lbs. We also lost our starboard bow light as a wave knocked it off…it dangled for quite some time but finally let itself loose.
We hailed Martime Radio via our SSB to report we were 48 hours from making port in New Zealand. It was cool to talk to someone…and know if we had any issues we could maybe reach someone. It was not necessary required but we read it somewhere it is best practices to do this.
So there I was in the cockpit looking out, worrying about something and I see a mast in the background! I thought immediately “someone must be in need of help because who would be out here in these conditions?”. It was SV Me Too about 2 miles away from us. We hailed them on the radio to chat. It was so good to hear their voices!
We also found out our friends from SV Sky Blue Eyes (Karl and Julie) coming from Tonga to New Zealand had made landfall that day and spirits were high. We all would chat almost everyday on our Iridium Go!satellite devices checking in on each other…thank you Karl and Julie! We were so close….
Friday Day 7 – Sorry no photos…we had almost no sleep, ate just snacks and water. I took a few video of the sounds we were hearing with our Go Pro as it is waterproof. We basically just endured the day. Winds 35-40 knots…gusts up to 50 knots. We had to keep track the rate we were being pushed west as we were getting closer and closer to the rumb line and as discussed before…if we crossed over the rumb line we would of had to motor into the wind which means we could have full engine on and our speed could be maybe 1 knot…we didn’t want that so we kept pointing east, close hauled, slamming into waves and wind at only about 40-60 degrees to the boat to keep us positioned properly…at this point (the winds never turned to allow for a beam reach which would of been more comfortable and faster).
We had to hail Maritime Radio once again when we were 12 nautical miles from land to report the time and place of our arrival in case it had changed from our last contact with them.
Saturday Day 8 – Landfall! We docked at the Quarantine Dock at the Bay of Islands Marina at about 8am. BUT….. Before that Kimi had a serious moment! According to our charts, we were within sight of land at around 4 am. Unfortunately we were in the middle of a squall and land and rain both show up as yellow on our radar so we kind of lost our perspective on where we were to go into the bay and into the marina. Trevor thought we were there…I thought we were here…on and on so we decided to not try to go to the marina until daylight…probably one of the better decisions we had made. However, this squall followed us wherever we went and I knew we were so close to land but couldn’t see it… I just screamed at the squall like a crazy person I am: “Is that all you got? what you got more to give? Fine….dump your stupid rain on us… I don’t care..what’s a little more water in this boat…What? You got more?…” On and on I went until the sun came up about an hour or so later. Trevor thought I lost my mind and I probably did…. not denying it!
When the sun came up we could make out the edges of land and started our way into the Bay of Islands. We thought when we were inside the Bay the swell and wind would of settled due to the land mass around but that is not what happened. It blew 20 knots all the way into the marina and the wind waves were very short periods so super choppy. We finally dropped the double reefed main and headed down the channel to the marina.
We made it! So did our buddy boat SV Me Too but they arrived 12 hours later. They made the decision to anchor out just north of the Bay on Friday night. We were so excited to see them tied up to Q Dock Saturday evening and greeting them at their berth in the marina after checking into the country. I could not hold back my tears of joy and emotions were running high as we were still recovering ourselves. Clay and Briley….. thank you for keeping our spirits up during our crossing and we are so proud of you two!
Up next…boat work (more? OMG yes…too much)… All Points Rally events, and getting to know New Zealand!