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Goodbye, Hello

On Sunday we got to say goodbye to some friends and hello to friends we’ve recently shared last and final farewells.

The goodbyes went to Imagine, Passages and Boree who were among a number of boats who made the decision to head north yesterday.  When I’d looked at my sources of weather information all I saw was two days of motoring followed by winds on the nose.  The problem is there is more than one source for the weather and certainly more than one brain looking and interpreting them.  We all have different needs, boats and preferences and all this adds up to a decision to stay or go.  A bit of the radio chatter as the boats left made it sound like they were riding off into a rough ride.  I hope, for their sake, they’re not.  But sooner or later we all go.

Paul made his planned return to Auckland.  We walked with him to the bus stop and waited with him.  Once he’d left we wandered around the hilltop roads and made our way down to the coast path that connects Pahia to Opua.  We soon ran into David and Marian from Kilkea and stopped to chat with them.  Sooner after that we ran into the Blue Penguins who we’d recently said our final, final last goodbyes to as they were headed to New Caledonia.  They were going our way so we walked with them back to Opua.  Ben, like me, is fascinated with the whole mentality of the departure decision and wants to write something up on it.

In the evening we had David and Katie from Troutbridge, Kay and Fergus from Paleides (another recent last, final, never again farewell) and Mike and Ann from Callisto over for curry and a few drops of wine.  It ended up being a late one for all and, as ever, a good time was had by all.  And guess what the recurring theme was last night.

The weather.

So what’s it looking like for us now.

The Thursday/Friday opportunity still stands and is now favouring a Thursday afternoon departure.  There’s a trough/front coming over and we simply take off right behind it where we can expect northwesterlies or even westerly winds for a few days.  I’ve morbidly played around with a possible departure tomorrow (Tuesday) riding the northeasterlies up to the north of New Zealand and then sail the following northerlies eastward.  We’d then have to take the coming front out at sea.  I would probably lose favours with the Admiral if I chose that path.

Fiji-itus should be a recognized disease.  Sooner or later the prospect of another day in Opua basin crushes the spirit and the pull of the islands overcomes every other need of mind and body.  I suspect we saw an outbreak yesterday.  But I can feel it in my fingers (they’re cold).  I may be going down with it too.

Leaving NZ?

Another forecast. Another decision. Our general plan of leaving NZ is simply to get out of Dodge when we can, make some distance north and east then take each day as it comes. Even if we have to sit there for a day or two. As long as it’s safe to do so.

So here’s today’s local forecast.

Squall warning. Waves may rise rapidly during squalls. Friday: Northeast 20 knots rising to 25 knots gusting 35 knots this morning. Changing northwest 20 knots this afternoon, then easing to 15 knots this evening and to 10 knots tonight. Squalls of 45 knots possible until evening. Moderate sea becoming rough for a time this morning, then becoming slight this evening. Poor visibility in rain, with some heavy and thundery falls until evening.

If we were out at sea and had no choice and this came down on us we could deal with it.  We wouldn’t like it but we’ve done it before.  Does it make sense to leave land with this happening?  Easy answer.  No.  In all good conscience I cannot set sail into possibly dangerous weather while we are close to shore.

So we probably won’t leave today.  We’ve got to let this one pass.  We had planned to fuel up and check out early morning.  I will at least delay this until we get a longer read on today’s weather but as I said, chances are we won’t leave today.

Looking out to tomorrow it’s not looking so good either.  The low pressure system to our SW is now projected to come a little further north than yesterday’s forecasts were suggesting.  This puts a more northerly component into the winds we can expect over the next couple of days.  We would have to sail extremely close to the wind to make some decent northing.  Yesterday the seas were flat.  We know this from the folks who motored up from anchorages on the coast.  I don’t mind sailing close hauled on flat seas but not those kicked up by squally weather.  So, if tomorrow’s winds remain just west of north (as they are currently predicted to be) tomorrow won’t look good either.

But this is all on a hair trigger which is this low to the SW.  If it stays a little further to the south that is all we need to kick us up northwards.  So now it’s a waiting game.

That was the weather.  Now the news.  I’ll summarize.

Customs were notified of our probable departure today.  Paul arrived.  We borrowed a car from Phil and drove to Opua for lunch and fresh food collection.  In the evening we went ashore for dinner at the yacht club.  A few more of the puddle jumpers have arrived.  Two new comers to Opua were Callisto and Boree.  Nice to see them.  Everyone was talking about the weather of course and possible plans for leaving.  There were many opinions and all were good to listen to.  Also there were Imagine, Passages, Paleides, True Companions, Blue Penguin, Avante, Curious and many others.  I totally violated my no drinking night before passage rule.  It doesn’t seem to have mattered.


Back to Russell

We had a relaxed start to the day. We didn’t have a lot on our plates so there was no rush. We read a little and I tackled another Euler problem, finding a smarter algorithm than the last time. I checked on our part and it was still on hold in the East Midlands so I escalated my concerns to their support service hoping to encourage things along.

After breakfast I took a look at the shaft seal again. It had been dripping a couple of times a second all through the night. I squeezed in a liberal amount of grease in three separate places and stopped the leak. We tried some gentle turns of the shaft in forward and reverse and things looked good.

Leaving the access to the shaft seal open we set sail for Russell. We made 5 knots in 10 knots of wind which was simply impossible on our old set of sails. It’s really quite exciting to have such an improvement. I checked the leak while on the move and the drip had returned. I wondered if squeezing the seal might work the grease around so I tried that. I learned this was not a good thing to do as the drip returned with a vengeance. At least the containment tray/tube was working well and all the water was taken cleanly away to the bilge. We soon anchored in Matauwhi Bay around the corner from Russell not far from where we anchored here previously.

Back at the shaft seal my only option was to squeeze yet more grease between the shaft and the seal. The leak again stopped. This time we performed some aggressive testing and the drip did not return. The battle between man and leak may go on but I feel that I’m gradually winning the war.

The weather was fine so after a brief lunch we went ashore to walk to Russell and wander around town. We visited the mission/printing museum and took a tour around. It was interesting but it made me feel very sleepy. We walked around town some more. I checked out a couple of stores to see if I could get another irrigation syringe as the one I’m using to drive the grease deep into the shaft seal is getting a little battered and worn. No luck with that but I did bump into the Blue Penguins and had a chat with them.

Back on the boat I rechecked the leak. It was still dormant so I put back all the gear under our bunk. Helen set about making our seasons supply of chillies while I set about some serious testing of our new hammock. This was the first time in weeks I’ve really been able to slow down enough just to spend some time chilling out. I put on some music, cracked open a beer and settled down for a couple of hours of contemplation and occasional snoozing.

After dinner we returned to Russel to meet up with Tracey, Lew, Dave and Helen to watch the rugby in the pub. It was a great evening. Good beer, good conversation and good rugby. Lew and Helen are both in medicine and we had a fascinating conversation regarding what medical instruments would be useful for further attacks on the shaft seal. Helen’s specialty is urology and she of course came up with the idea of a catheter syringe. Makes me wince to think about a tool like that but the idea sounds sound to me. They’ll be back at work on Tuesday and if we’re still looking at staying in the area for a few days then they’ll mail us some.

This morning I’ve checked the weather forecasts for the next week. As it stands it doesn’t look good for a departure this month. A couple of deep lows are forming and dancing around the west of New Zealand but seeming to stall. The second one could bring in some very strong weather a few days from now. The trade winds between here and Fiji have collapsed and show no signs of reforming. None of this is conducive to departure. The systems may decide to join and head off east in which case we’ll need to be ready to head off behind them.

I’ve checked on the progress of our new shaft seal. It’s been to and now left Germany. I received a response from the courier. They expect the part to be here on Tuesday.

We’ve decided to stay put today. It’s time to slow down a little. We may even perform sea trials of our new kayak.

Life is good.

Last day in Whangarei

What a day. We started the day with one last wash. The genset started ok but not with the zest we know it can with a good power supply. It’s battery was getting tired. A quick decision was made and it was off to the battery store to buy and then install a new battery. When I moved the original battery I tucked it way out of the way which meant pulling loads of stuff out of the generator compartment and then squeezing myself into a very tight place to work. Glad we did that as the genset starts perfectly now.

Next task was to head for Opua to sell the car back to Phil from Cars for Cruisers. I had an agreement with Rob and Ruth from Albatross III to head up to Opua too and give me a ride back. Just before leaving we bumped into a young lady from the NE US whose on a traveling trip and was looking for passage up to Fiji. We offered to take her up to Opua and back to investigate things there and learn a bit more about making what she was trying to do work.

On arriving in Opua I let Lauren off to explore the area and agreed to meet up at the Fish and Chip shop at noon where I’d promised to buy lunch for everyone for helping out. The deal with Phil went through smoothly and soon I was walking away with a cashable check.

While waiting for Lauren to show up I bumped into Andy from Zephyrus which was a pleasant surprise. We chatted for a while and I asked about people looking for crew. He had a good lead and shared it with Lauren when she found us. About 12:30 Rob and Ruth turned up having seen some friends. Unfortunately the Fish and Chip shop in Opua had closed down so we headed off to Pahia for the banks and shops there. Half way there I realize I’d left my GPS unit somewhere so we headed back finding it with Phil.

Leaving the others to look around I first went to Westpac to cash the check using my passport to prove my identity. She had to call Phil to verify the check was ok to cash and he approved with the caveat I owed him a GPS unit. She found the explanation of his remark quite funny. My next stop was the ANZ bank to deposit most the cash keeping enough to pay for our new kayak.

With all the financials handled I found the others and bought all Fish and Chips on the waterfront which turned out to be overfilling but delicious.

Rob took us north out of Pahia for a different route back to Whangarei. A few miles out of town I realized I didn’t have our folder containing our boat papers and passports. Not again. So back into town we went. I checked first at the Westpac. The teller grinned hugely and went to the safe to retrieve my passport. I found the folder in the ANZ where I’d left it. Where was my head???? I checked to make sure it was still in the right place physically. I think my brain had already set sail.

No more mishaps beset us as we traveled back to Whangarei. Rob helped me collect the kayak which we placed on the boat. Helen had spent the day making a clean boat immaculate for the evening’s party. By now there was not much time left. I performed a few small jobs around the boat before showering and soon after folks began to show.

All in all we had the pleasure of welcoming the crew from Albatross III, Attitude, Blue Penguin, Boree, Callisto, Clara Katherine, Division II, El Regalo, Imagine, Jackster, Leu Cat, Marquesa, Proximity, Sail Away, Scream, Sea Mist, Sidewinder, Stray Kitty, Tahina, True Companions and Tyee along with one or two marina neighbours. That was about forty people at once. It was a great test of our through hulls as we were down about 6-9 inches in the water. We didn’t sink.

This morning we woke fairly early and after doing last minute internetty things we dropped of our key to the shower block and headed out. As we headed down the river the winds were light and behind us. And cold. We motored on batteries alone for about 30 mins before turning on the generator. Near the river mouth we caught sight of True Companions ahead of us and called them on the radio to greet them.

As we rounded the heads we hit a dead patch and used the opportunity to raise the new main. We crossed our fingers hoping for wind as we really wanted to see how our new sails would perform. We didn’t have to wait too long and soon we were in winds that were to vary between 10-20 knots as we headed up the coast. We were gobsmacked by the improved boat performance. Before the boat speed would fade below about 12 knots under main and jib. Now she was achieving above 1/2 wind speed all the way down to 9 knots on the beam. We’ve never seen it so good.

We have found a couple of issues. The reef points on the new main are higher up than before and now the 1st reef only has a turn of spare line at the winch which is not enough to reef on the fly. We also have new modes of vibration on the luff of the main which we need to figure out how to handle. Apart from that everything seems to be in amazing shape. It feels like we have a new boat.

Our original plan had us making our way up the coast in smaller steps. With reduced wind tomorrow and nasty northeasterlies forecast for Friday we’re aiming to cover as much distance as we can today and complete the trip to the Bay of Islands tomorrow where we can find shelter from any type of wind. Our goal for today is the Whangamumu Bay which we visited last November.

We’ve now settled into a pleasant sail up the coast putting on and taking off our warm clothes as the sun goes in and out. We have about a knot of counter current but we’re doing well against it. We even have a line out for fish but nothing caught yet. We’ve shed the land life and are back on the water.

Passage to New Zealand – Day 1

We’ve had an encouraging start to this passage. The winds, as predicted, did shift around enough for us to not only gain the rhumb line but to also let out the sails for a more comfortable ride. Overnight the swell, which always lags the wind, shifted too so we stopped crashing into the waves so much. All good. The wind forecasts are also coming in as good as we could hope for. We have pretty much a beam to close reach for the next few days in around and about 20 knots of wind which we will sail well in. The 7 day forecast even shows the stationary high in our way dissipating providing the hint that we may be able to sail all the way in.

All the boats that left yesterday are sailing for either Whangarei or Opua (mostly the latter) so we’re all close by. We always had sails on the horizon around us and Kilkea in particular took station 2 miles off our port and stayed there overnight. this morning within spitting distance of us are Attitude, Blue Penguin, Boree, Illusion, Imagine, Kilkea, Tin Tin and Larabeck. Quite a crowd.

Unfortunately, Sea Mist had to turn back. Outside of the reef at Tongatapu they noticed the stitching coming apart around the clew of their jib. They decided to turn back and effect repairs. We heard from them this morning. They have found a possible place to get it repaired. Our fingers are crossed that they can make it out in this weather window but it is tight. A low pressure system is chasing us down which will make things bumpier and wetter for them.

We had a little problem with our job too but nothing serious. I noticed some more of the stitching for the sun strip had come undone. Fortunate this was close to the furler so I went forward and stitched it up leaving the sail out. It was a bit awkward as I caught a few waves as well as catching my finger with the needle a few times.

More excitement came in the afternoon when we were briefly accompanied by some pilot whales. I rushed for my camera but they didn’t stay long enough to pose.

Sailing to New Zealand is a bit like playing dodgems with the weather systems. Given that it’s getting colder we’ve elected to use a little diesel on the way to provide some comfort in terms of warmth and to avoid loss of speed due to regeneration. If we need to slow down we’ll regenerate but not unless we need to. Our sailing angle to the wind is screwing up the wind gen as the wind spilling of the main spins it around and we get no useful energy from it. That’s a pity as we’d do pretty well in these wind speeds.

We’re currently managing to average just over 6 knots which puts us on an ETA for arrival next Thursday on the 8th. We’d always hoped to arrive before the weekend so this is a nice comfortable margin.