Friday, November 16, 2007

November 14 Opua NZ

We left Tonga as planned on Saturday morning, November 3 at 9:30 am motoring off in flat calm seas and no wind with a flotilla of other sailboats. Tom was not happy with the forecast – little wind for the foreseeable future and a predicted 100 hours of motoring. In the end the forecast was right on. We had almost no wind, calm seas, mostly sunny days and all in all a very pleasant passage. As Amy (who has been known to get seasick) put it, “I expected it to be a character building experience that I survived. But I actually found myself smiling and enjoying it.”
The photo shows dawn as we were approaching landfall in New Zealand. Beautiful.

We completed the passage in 190 hours (just under 8 days). We had the engine running for 92 of those hours and 1 – 1.5 knots of adverse current for 6 of those days, which is not what you want. Especially when your autopilot isn’t functioning and you have to hand steer every one of those engine hours. (Most long distance cruise boats – us included - are on some form of autopilot 24/7, your set your sails and your course and the boat does the rest.) Even with three of us to share the load, it was more challenging, slower, and tiring than usual, but the upside was we got a lot of practice at the helm.
The highlights of those eight days: catching and eating a tuna on the first evening out and being “buzzed” by a C-140 from the New Zealand Air Patrol about 250 miles from land. At first it was frightening to see a low flying plane just miss your mast in the middle of the ocean. Just after that the plane made radio contact with us and it became apparent they had all the itinerary information we had filed before leaving Tonga. It was reassuring to know New Zealand was out there looking for and expecting us. We felt the weather change from tropical to temperate and the days grow substantially longer as we moved south. How refreshing to enjoy the warmth of the sun (instead of avoiding it!). How different to be putting on layers of clothes and blankets (instead of pulling them off as fast as possible!).
We’re happy to be here. There is a lot of boatie celebrating going on in the little town of Opua. It is great to be on land, tied up to a dock, with most of the comforts of home within walking distance. The Bay of Islands is a picturesque and charming area of small seaside villages, striking vistas, green hills, small islands dotting the sound, lots of sailboats. Things are well-organized and predictable. The Kiwis are very hospitable. There are stores filled with things to buy, tap water is drinkable, and the climate is like home – mostly cloudy, rainy, windy and cool.
Here a few statistics. In the past five months we:
· Travelled 3500 miles (at just under an average speed of 7.5 miles per hour)
· Visited five countries, set foot on 26 islands
· Spent 22 out of 154 nights at sea on passages
· Spent one night tied up at a dock, no nights on land
· Maximum winds while underway: 30 knots
· Maximum seas: 18 foot swells
· Got sick once (Ellen)
· Got sunburnt twice (Tom)
· Took three hot showers (Ellen 3, Tom 0)
We will head south about 200 miles to the city of Tauranga in a few days. In Tauranga we will put the boat in a marina, make arrangements for various repairs and alterations, and leave for a visit to the States.