Posted by: catamarantwooceans | November 1, 2010

Fiji to New Zealand

25.10.10 – Monday – First step in leaving Fiji is customs and immigration for departure clearance. On the way ashore a young man on a yacht named “Slowly”calls us over. He is selling a lot of stuff from his boat. Would we like to take a list and consider? I put it in my pocket. “I’ll look at it later”. During the wait at customs I glance through the list. There is a name at the bottom: Alon Badt. Alon is clearly an Israeli name! Later, as we walk the town I spot him among the crowd.  

with Alon

Sure enough he is from Israel, sailed in from Tonga with an in-operative engine and now wants to sell the boat. He heard about me and “Two Oceans” from Nila Sahar, an Israeli yachtswoman also sailing the Pacific. A pity we had no time to chat some more; We were in a hurry to go out!

Our course took us north of Kadavu, an island south of Viti Levu,  to a waypoint 2 miles west of the island, 66 miles away. At the beginning the sea was relatively calm, wind around 20 knots so we had good speed. Passing Kadavu and turning  directly to Opua, NZ the game took a turn. Big waves, winds anywhere from 18 to 30 knots apparent and remember – we were sailing close to the wind so it was not at all pleasant. Another factor was the constant rain, heavy at times, making everything aboard damp. We knew we will have to endure this for something like four days!

26.10.10 – Tuesday – No change in the weather. Just before noon we get Bob McDavitt’s “Weathergram”. BMD is a meteorologist in the NZ met office and is considered a Guru for weather in the Pacific. You can subscribe to his weekly analysis which is free and among other weather info gives advice on the suitability of the coming week for crossing from Fiji to NZ. He says this week is O.K if you can put up with the “Enhanced trade-winds and bumpy ride”. Bob! You forgot the rain!

At 1500, 24 hours after departure, we clocked 144 N.M, not bad with all the waves and reefed sails.

27.10.10 – Wednesday – More of the same except that the wind freed a little giving us more speed. Around noon the sun broke out from behind the clouds painting the scene blue to replace the depressing grey. 24 hours distance covered was 167 N.M.

Around 1800 I discovered a rip in the main-sail, close to the third reef leach point. I had to climb into the lazy-bag and repair it using a special sticking tape. Neither pleasant nor easy in the prevailing conditions! Still, I had the presence of mind to ask Volkmar to take my picture doing it. These are two of the ones he took. 

Up to the lazy-bag

Not happy up there!

28.10.10 – Thursday – This was the watch routine we kept: Night starts at 2000. First watch is two hours and then three hours until 0700. We found out we wanted to have shifts during the day too, being quite tired with the boat’s violent movement and the lack of regular sleep.

When I started my watch at 0400 I found two flying fish in the cockpit, cleaned them and put them in the freezer for lunch. 

Tasty!

 I was comparing this leg to the 3000 mile Galapagos – Marquesas thinking how relatively easy the longer one was only because the wind was mostly from the stern. Here we are going against the sea and that ugly banging of the low bridgedeck will make sleep difficult and drive you crazy.

During the day I climbed the boom again, this time to re-arrange the aft reef lines which seemed to be chaffing against each other. At 1500 we checked our progress; 164 N.M in the last 24 hours, we have 581 miles to go.

29.10.10 –Friday – A phenomenon that I forgot to mention is that of waves climbing on top of us. There are two types: one that comes from slightly ahead and rolls up the salon top, making you feel like you are in a submarine; The other hitting us broadside, pouring into the cockpit and filling it with water. Those make it necessary to have all apertures closed, save for the salon door, which we keep partially open in order to exit, look around and do whatever is needed for the operation of the boat.

A Kiwi I met in Panama told me that the normal, good weather swell in NZ is three meters high. We get some of those here and they come close to each other! I timed them at a certain point and found that they were only 4 seconds apart. I wonder how a monohull will behave under those conditions.

At 1500 we were 407 miles from Opua marina having sailed 174 N.M in 24 hours, mostly with main in 3rd reef and jib in 2nd! The barometer has gone up 8 milibars since yesterday confirming our entry into the Big Fat High over New Zealand. This high is bringing cold air from down south and the evenings are cool. No more T- shirt only as you go out to check for traffic at night. We are trying to have normal life in our bucking and banging home. We have regular meals, a hot one every evening.

Volkmar is reading his book on Hinduism, taking notes and consulting his dictionary often (the book is in English). Speaking of language: Volkmar’s English is a bit basic so we went over the names of some of the items relating to sailing so as to have a common vocabulary. One of the phrases I mentioned was “keeping the boat in the groove” which means in the right configuration for the best possible performance. During one night, when the sea has all but stopped us I heard Volkmar say:”The boat is not in the grave.” I taught him some Hebrew slang words and the one he liked best was “Balagan” which means a mess, big disorder, so sometimes he mutters:”Big Balagan”. He taught me to say:Alles im grunen bereich” which means:”All in the green sector” used to indicate that is all is ready to tack, for example.

our moto

  He has a special procedure of donning his safety harness, which looks so complicated, I tried taking a picture of it.

Volkmar in harness

He is a fun guy and we get along very well, I am lucky to have him as crew.

30.1.10 – Saturday – New “record” for wind speed today – 32 knots. The waves continue to roll. They washed some rope ends from the mast base to the starboard deck. I also noticed that a rope in the port forward trampoline has become loose. At a rare moment when the wind abated a little, I went to fix the lot at the cost of wetting my jeans. 24 hour’s distance was 176 N.M, that’s 7.3 knots average.

31.10.10 – Sunday – Volkmar wakes me up for my watch at 0100 with the words:”The GPS does not have a target and the boat is standing”. So first I make the boat sail again (it got stuck in irons, which means – against the wind) and then take a look at the GPS and see that it lost fix, which is a worse situation. Putting it off and on again does not solve it. What’s happening? The end of the world? I turn back to look at the instrument’s antenna and incredibly it is not there! Took out the spare GPS we have and after some moments of anxiety it gives the position. We connect it to the computer and have all we need.

More squalls and big waves hit us during the day. During all this we had a constant escort of Terns, flying aerobatics in our wake. At some point some Albatrosses joined in, magnificent birds! In one of the pictures the state of the ocean is clearly visible.

Albatross

King of the ocean sky

 In the evening a gust reached 38 knots, prompting me to drop the mainsail. After it had gone there was a temptation to just go on with engines only but we resisted it and raised the main again. The spare GPS started playing tricks on us. It refused to “talk” to the computer, probably the connecting cable between them, which had the cabin door close on it inadvertently packed up. We had to use the small Garmin and transfer the information to the chart on the computer manually. Day’s run – 171 N.M.

1.11.10 – Monday – The wind direction did not allow going straight to the entrance to the Bay of Islands and Opua. When first light came we were drifting too much to the west. When it was time to make a tack I realized that this was simply not realistic. The wind and waves, combined with our deep reef will not support the tacking game, so engines started for the final leg to destination.

First light also revealed the extent of the damage to the port trampoline. I was afraid some of it will fall off, entangle in a propeller, stopping an engine or even both! The sea was too rough to go forward and secure it. I had to wait until we got to the calm waters of the bay. Look at that picture!

Trampoline

At 0845 we entered the Bay of Island and finally could relax. We could and did shut the engines down and proceeded under sail.

Bay of Islands entrance

We followed the Veronica channel and at the end we found Opua marina and the customs quarantine wharf. The last challenge was tying to that wharf with the wind 90 degrees to it at 18-20 knots.

Summing it up: the worst voyage that I have ever had! Six days and 20 hours of “washing machine”, wet, and sometimes  scary ride, although not without some moments of glorious wild nature.

What now? A lot of maintenance work to arrange and then home for about two month. Back to NZ in January 2011 for more of the above, a little sailing and a road trip.

Until then – this is Miki signing off.

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