Passage to New Zealand
This was our second attempt to sail to New Zealand. The first time it was a failure, only me to be blamed, 40 miles out of Tongatapu we turned back. Due to anxiety and stress combined with the terrible motion of the boat I was badly seasick, collapsed and cut my brow on the right eye and bruised the left. 10 miles out of Nuku'alofa, Graham called a PAN PAN Medico on VHF Radio. Julia, on Papillion responded to the call and sprang into action. She teamed up a professional skipper, John, with an Orthopedic Surgeon, Jean, into a day charter boat to meet us outside the reef. John took over the navigation, as Graham was exhausted, and Jean nursed me until we got into the harbour. Here an ambulance organized by Julia was waiting for us. It really didn't need all that, but it was great to get all the help! Nuku'alofa Hospital was superb; they were prompt and very friendly. Obviously we provided great entertainment for all boats in the anchorage as it was all broadcasted on the VHF main channel. After cleared from hospital I just had to deal with the embarrassment of a black eye and the curiosity of the other yachties.
Amazing how the rain and strong winds that lasted for more than a week cleared up very quickly, leaving a sticky and humid air. Early morning we did the last shopping and last check on the weather. On the way back to Nomad Life, a procession of yachts was already going heading out through the pass. We left at midday. Once through the pass Graham hoisted the sails and off we went, with engine, as there was no wind.
The wind gradually increased and we reefed the main sail. The first time in one year and half we were beating against the wind, the motion on the boat was awful. Sleeping was impossible and going below deck was avoided like a plague. Papillion and Irie were on VHF range, so we were receiving weather information. The wind would decrease a bit and come more from East. All good. Being tired of the motion on board, we decided to head to Minerva Reef. South and North Minerva Reef are two atolls between Tonga and New Zealand. Both are submerged even in low tide, but it is possible to anchor inside, in 10 metres.
Approaching Minerva the wind decreased. The breakers could only be seen from 3 miles away. The entrance to the lagoon was straight forward and we dropped the hook soon after clearing entrance. Amazing the blue transparent water and just to be anchored in, what seems like, open ocean. After a sleep, swim and some lunch, we left at 4 pm. We were tempted to stay the night, but we knew that on this trip, we had to keep on the move before the weather deteriorates.
No wind. It would have been an uneventful day if it wasn't the engine. Apart from an oil and water leak, now we also had a diesel leak. Graham fixed the problem, now we have to monitor the engine.
Still no wind, the seas look like a mirror, so flat that it resembles a lake. It has been a beautiful sunny day. On the SSB net there were talks of gales forecasted for Sunday, with winds of 30-40 knots.
The day was a mixture of sunny cold weather, gradually deteriorating in the afternoon. Mid-afternoon I woke Graham; it did not look good out there. The sea turned choppy and uneven, the wind increased to 25 knots, so the mainsail was reefed. Again it was very uncomfortable on board and cooking was a challenge. On SSB we heard the latest weather forecast from Garth on Dream Keeper. By Sunday, the wind will be strong, 30 knots or more. We are 360 miles from NZ and looking good to arrive Sunday. Although we are keeping a minimum of 5 knots, with engine if necessary, it will depend on the wind direction to arrive on Sunday.
With the SE winds we are unable to head south. We are very close to the infamous 30°S, bellow this latitude gale can happen quite often. At 6 pm the wind calmed down and the engine went on.
For the first time in one and half years we are freezing. I got out gloves, boots, wool hats, pullovers, socks, even with all these clothes on still cold. The temperature is 17°C at night, but the wind is steel cold. According to the weather forecast, there is a low front coming through, the further South we can be the better. We are really pressing hard to get as South as possible but the wind direction has to change. There is 224 miles to go.
Finally the wind turned to E and we have been heading south for the last 30 hours. Yesterday the wind increased and now we are flying at 7 knots! The estimated time of arrival is today midday, 50 miles to go! We are very excited. Now we have radio contact with Russell Radio in Opua, for whom we have to report before arriving. So glad that we are almost in, we were very lucky to have had a wonderful trip.
Arriving into Bay of Island is quite breath taking, masses of land all around, hills with pine trees and greenery. There is a great feeling of returning once more to civilization. We can't wait to gorge ourselves with variety of food, fine wines, be in a marina and have proper shower after more than 6 months. For all the boats that arrived there is a great feeling of achievement and relief that this trip is over. We spent the following day celebrating together with Scholarship, Irie, Robin's Nest, Sol Searcher, Dream Keeper.