Sunday, June 11, 2017

Are We There Yet?

The ultimate ‘Are we there yet?’

How was the trip? They asked.

Boring, Beautiful, Exciting, Hot, Cold, Wet, and sometimes Wild.

Leaving Opua was like heading off on a highway, there were yachts everywhere, all racing North as fast as they could – we’d most of us been waiting nearly 3 weeks from our initial departure date of May 6th. There were a lot of boats like us sailing off independently as well as the 20 odd yachts left on the Island Cruising Association (ICA) Pacific Circuit Rally.
The first 24 hours was a great intro (if a bit lumpy) to our Ocean Passage, we had a big long ocean swell coming at us from the north and a brisk breeze coming at us from the South West. We managed to have a good start averaging over 6 knots for the first day and a half before the wind started to die off.

We had chosen to leave in a weather window that would see us catching the tail end of a low pressure system and its associated southerly winds before going through the middle of a high pressure system where there would be no wind and fair bit of motoring to get to the South Easterlies of the trade wind belt near the Islands.  This is a typical weather pattern for this part of the world, weather systems divided by troughs or fronts coming at us from the Tasman Sea.
Wild Sweet carries 300l of diesel in her tank plus we had 60l in jerry cans to top up with if we needed. At the rate of 2.2l/hour we had a reasonable amount of motoring covered off. Good job too.

The first day it was all about getting our sealegs, the wonder of being on our way at last and bedding down all the rattley bumpy things stowed in lockers. Preparing our first radio report for our 1700 check in on the SSB with Peter Mott at Northland Radio we had to make sure we had all the info in the right order as he had about 50 boats on his roll call every night and was to enter the info into a database then email our family back home as we radioed it through.

We saw a huge pod of dolphins, some stayed with us a while to play in our bow wave as we neared the 12 mile territorial limit of NZ waters and the end of my telecom mobile coverage.
Then we were on our own.

After the 1700 SSB check in we had to sort out a watch system so there was someone awake and on watch 24 hours a day. We ended up with
1700 – Radio sched with NLR
1830-2130 first watch – Kerry on, Phil off
2130-0030 second watch – Phil on, Kerry off
0030-0330 third watch – Kerry on, Phil off
0330-0630 fourth watch – Phil on, Kerry off
0630 Kerry on watch to do SSB radio sched with Gulf Harbor radio at 0700
0730 Weather forecast from Gulf Harbour radio
Position Plot at 1200
Lounging around, playing I-spy (I spy with my little eye something beginning with S!), trimming the sails, or staring at the horizon trying to not feel queasy.
Rinse and repeat for 11 days more or less.

So –
Boring? Yes by God, it was the Ultimate ‘are we there yet’ scenario when we were motoring 24 hours a day for 4 days on the trot, then a day of sailing, then another day of engine, this time into a heavy northerly swell which mixed up the fuel so well all the shit that lies at the bottom of your tank
(you know it does..) got sucked up into the filters and the motor splutters its last ….

The MOST AMAZING sunsets and sunrises especially over the flattest, oily swells, the sky reflecting so perfectly into the sea with colours that only nature can provide in such brilliance and combinations.
The Milky Way arching overhead and mirrored in the boat’s wake, phosphorescence shooting out like a rocket trail from the rudder.
Shooting stars falling into oblivion, the night sky so dark, the horned moon setting in its tangerine glory, so brilliant as to appear so close you’d think the devil himself was peeking over the horizon.
The random patches of glowing green efflorescence that could only be mysterious sea creatures just below the surface,  no shape or form, just a ghostly glow drifting past.

Only slightly cooked :|


Sunset/ Crescent Moon

Bowling down 3 metre swells at 9 knots in the dark, the trusty Hydrovane keeping our course without fault.
Watching an actual cold front come across at 3am, the horizon disappeared, the rain and black cloud gave the impression of being in a big grey bag, floating in space with no relation to what was near, far, sea or sky.
Watching tuna jump all around the boat, casting a rod out to have the whole 100m of line stripped from the reel in an instant! – That was not a skipjack tuna…
Checking out the Albatross as they came to check us out, one even landing on the windspeed indicator at the masthead and hitching a ride with us. Very curious creatures, they would spend hours flying around the boat trying to land on bits of it.


Sighting land after 10 days at sea, a foreign country no less.

Hot/Cold – we left NZ as winter was starting to bite. 9 degrees at night, still 20 odd in the day though. The water temperature rose from 20 degrees in the BOI to 30 degrees here in the tropics. The first half of the trip I was wearing my North Sea oil rig issue orange suit on night watches.
 The last few nights of the trip it was shorts and shirt.

Not a great deal of rain, in fact only one lot of showers as we got swallowed up in a trough between the cold front and the next low pressure system. Wild Sweet is such an excellent sea boat we (Phil) only got splashed in the cockpit a couple of times.  It got a bit wild for us when that trough went across so we hove to for the night and waited till it all settled down, we had to slow down anyway to allow us to arrive in the morning rather than after hours and there’s no sense in getting yourself bashed around for the sake of it.

Lifejackets/Harnesses are not necessarily designed with women in mind! My one was extremely uncomfortable and had to keep adjusting it around my lady lumps so, ladies, make sure you buy yours after trying a few on. I’m sure they are not all made equal.
Even if you don’t get sea sick (we don’t) then anti nausea tablets are very useful for the first day or two of a passage till you get your sealegs. We have some that dissolve on your tongue and work really quickly.
Precooked, frozen and vacuum packed meals are where it’s at.
Carry spares of your spare fuel filters, we had to change out our 3 fuel filters mid ocean, luckily we were at a comfortable and relatively flat point of sail, it was still a good half day with Phil upside down in the engine compartment swearing a lot and both of us getting covered in diesel.

Two radio schedules may seem a bit overkill to people who do this trip every year. I had arranged with Annette at Far North radio to check in every evening but we had trouble raising her so in the end we had a morning informal check in with Patricia at Gulf Harbour Radio who would enter our position and comments into our YIT page followed by a decent weather report and associated discussion by David.
The Northland Radio evening check in was great to keep track of other boats we knew of who had left around the same time as us. Plus Peter would then email our position report to our chosen shore based person who would then pass on to interested parties.


Wild Sweet in the background, Cold Fiji Gold Beer and frosty glass in the foreground at Waitui Marina Savusavu


1 comment:

joeandgudrun said...

wow great adventure!
can't wait to hear more, living vicariously through you Kerry.

Gudrun & Joe & Boys

The Hotel California

Savusavu was chosen as our arrival port because it has a relatively easy entrance, is yacht friendly and we had heard great th...