20th-31st Oct – Passage to New Zealand

A lot of talk amongst the cruisers at Nuku’alofa is around a suitable weather window for the passage to New Zealand. It seems to be a passage that many are concerned about. I studied the weather and waited for the strong southerlies we were experiencing to pass before deciding on a departure date.

Friday morning saw me taking the ferry across from Pangiamoto island to Nuka’alofa to get my clearance papers to leave. Harbours dues paid in one office then to Customs for clearance. Shopping for a few provisions and that back to the boat on the ferry.

Provisioning for this trip is a little difficult as New Zealand restrictions are strict on what you can take in, for example no fruit or vegetables, dried pulses popcorn etc etc so you need to stock up on just what you need but no more, tricky when the passage could take from 10 to 15 days depending on winds and weather.

Back at the boat I quickly readied for sailing and left by 2.30, just enough time to exit Tongapatu by the Elgia channel and be clear of all he reefs before sunset. The Elgia channel has a distinct lack of markers of any kind so its eyeball pilotage assisted by electronic charts on the ipad. The electronic charts have to be treated with caution as along with most of the Pacific islands they can be as much as 300 metres out in position.

It was just then a question of settling down to the routine of a long passage. For the first days the winds were light with some calms so progress slow and my first noon to noon run a disappointing 71 miles, but gradually we got  better winds in both strength and direction.

Strange stuff in the sea

Had a bit of disaster on the night of the 5th day. I had been running under light winds of about 8 knots with a pooled out yankee and main. At sunset despite the light winds as a precaution as I normally do I had put a reef in the main and taken a few rolls in the yankee. Just before midnight as I was taking a short nap I awoke with the boat heeled well over, the wind shrieking and torrential rain, It were a wild and stormy night. Turning out I  rolled away the yankee with a struggle and reefed the main down to the third reef, By the time I was done I was soaked through.

Next morning I discovered that the yankee had ripped which was a blow but I could swop it out for the working jib that I carried and in the event that was a good choice of sail for the wind for the rest of the passage .

On the 8th day , a lovely sunny day with a good wind and pretty flat seas, I spotted a sail astern and it turned out to be my friends Jan & Richard on Morpheus so we were able to chat on the vhf for a while before they overtook me. My daily runs were improving, 99 miles, 107 miles, 134 miles and now I was about 70 miles from the Bay of Island. By sunset I was doing over 5 knots and just 43 miles off so I slowed the boat down by reefing the main more and finally dropping the staysail as I didn’t want to arrive in the dark. By dawn I was 10 miles off and although I could see the flesh of the light on Cape Brett the coast was coyly hidden in cloud and murk.

Bay of Islands landfall

The weather though gradually cleared and the coast revealed as I entered the Bay of Islands and made my way into Opua. There were lots of boats about. Midmorning saw me alongside the customs pontoon  to await customs clearance and quarantine. No problem with this, and then to a berth in the marina.  A bit tricky this with a wind astern and some tide too but berthing successfully accomplished without hitting anything.

Safe in the marina

Great I had done it – an 11 day passage of 1034 n miles which means I had sailed 7478 miles across the Pacific to arrive in New Zealand. A beer or two is in order tonight I think.

Opua totem