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Fiji to New Zealand Day6 – and a little more..

Eat it or Loose It ..

So this voyage has been faster than we expected. The trip south is never an easy one, weather changes every 5 days or so. So forecasts are notoriously wrong.

But we still have a day or so to go, can’t spoil the trip already.

Another day, another 100+ miles or so we hope. The drone of the engines (both) running hot, pushing faster than our ‘normal’ diesel conservative mode. Trying every thing we can to arrive either Opua or Marsden (Whangarei) in the day light.

Day starts off as is should, the last bit of, the very last bit of Jimmy Dean was used to make the last Egg McMuffins for breakfast.. Tasty and sad all at the same time.

Morning time, engines running for hours on end, its time to give them a check up. Stop one, for a bit and let the oil rest to see the level, check the belts the fuel filters etc.. Make sure we are not being mean to the life blood of the boat on an ocean without wind. First port, then starboard and all is well. Nothing out of the ordinary. Get side tracked for a while while port is cooling. Checked weather and distance and speed. No matter what we did, it would be near impossible to arrive either Opua or Marsden with daylight. Dusk would be a good bet at Opua.

Coins were tossed, reality set in.. never started the second engine, and just used the conservative forward effort. Said we would arrive at 11pm. So technically there isn’t much difference between 11pm and 4am in terms of light and safety. Moon would provide the same light either way, 1/2 moon at that.

Couple of boat projects along the way, nothing major, just something to keep the energy flowing and keep from falling asleep. Washed this, cleaned that, glued this, checked skies and instruments for hopes of wind.. Good day but darkness was setting..

Uh-Oh.. new territory. Taking a short cut to the destination. Seemed fine. Plenty of water, no rocks or islands in the way. Accidentally zooming in .. spot a that says “area to be avoided” on the chart. Huh? What does that mean. Normally there is a ‘note’ on the paper chart to explain that. Digital charts say the thing, but then when you zoom in, you can’t find where to look for the “note”.. So after searching, best to just not cross the line.

Hour goes by, checking agin on a different device.. the ‘note’ is for cruise ships and things over 50 meters wishing to cross over a marine reserve. We would have been fine. So add another hour to arrival.

We can see the island, or rock of New Zealand sticking out of the water at 50 miles out. That lots of hours of seeing where you want to be but still waiting to be there. And then the sun goes….

TechNerd: I see a cargo ship on the screen. Will it go into the bay were we want to go. Please let it go that way. We have no tracks to follow to get to through the dredged channel. We have charts but its dark, very dark. The prudent sailor would find an alternative. The sailor that just wants a cold beer on anchor makes different decisions..

The cargo ship eventually decides to head in. Great, I use the electronics to record his path. Now I have a path of a huge ship to follow while red and green blinking lights try to help as well.

Whew, made the long part… now the technical part to find the small path to the marina. Again, it’s still dark, there are no street lights now. Just a silent version of ‘Tom Tom’ (for those with the first gps brains) .. Luckily we have a saving grace. Another boat “Only Time” is also trying to get in, we briefly met in Musket Cove, Fiji and know they have done this trip before. Quick chat on the VHF radio and we get to follow them in to the marina.

Okay, we are doing 5mph, with sunglasses on night trying to find a parking spot at Walmart. Oh my. Just then the Walmart greeter jumps out and says, WELCOME. Scares the “blank” out of you and its just the channel marker you just about ran over.

We make it in, pucker factor in full effect the dock is full. Decide to take a different dock “Only time” takes 1/2 then helps Sugar SHack take the other 1/2.. its 3 AM .. Customs dock for 2, now has 4 catamarans for breakfast.

.. all good.. a nice cold beer and out like a light but need to be up early for the officials.

….

Overall 1100 miles
7.2 average
Just over 6 days, for something we expected 10 possible with the crazy weather that is possible.

Morning comes as does the bio security guy. All our favorite meals are now gone. The pulled pork made Christine cry. But we did finish the gumbo and Jimmy Dean.. They just mainly wanted the meat, so we should have had pork chops the day before instead of the egg plant parmigiana that we could have kept. Oh well.

All good, we are allowed to stay. After clearing in .. headed to Whangarei..

Rain, Winds, Calm, Waves, Seas, Sun, Clouds .. I think we had it all.

Arriving Whangarei and trying to pull into our slip, we bounce off another boat.. but that story is for another day… Current and wind are sometimes very silent.

Welcome to New Zealand. French craft beer and local rose wine for dinner.

[tag Live, Passage, Underway]

Fiji to New Zealand Day5 – Poof and its gone

The champagne is gone, the bottle must have broke.

Cruising along comfortably and its time for breakfast and we know we are going have to change directions a bit today with the rain clouds all around and gray skies everywhere, there was bound to be action. So a big breakfast was necessary..

Once again enter Mr Jimmy Dean! Dangerously low now, but at least the customs office won’t get to confiscate the treasure. A nice big breakfast of Texas Migas (well some Malaysian chips for tortilla chips), Jimmy of course and anything else that sounded like Migas that needed to be used before arrival. Yum.. served over Fijian tortilla – close as it gets out here.

Gray clouds, everything is gray. Gone are the blues of the pacific, just grays. Some darker than the rest, those dark ones are dropping water from the sky so avoid them. Rain means a wind shift of some sorts. We were getting set to Jibe through all the gray and trying to avoid the rain droppers to cut across and minimize our time being wet.

There were 3 other boats on our make shift AIS setup that we could see. Also navigating the maze of thunder showers. Visually I spotted what looked like a good opportunity to cut behind a thundershower that just passed but infront of the next one back. Was patiently waiting, and waiting on the passing shower to go by. Taking forever. Hmm. Radar alarm goes off. Go check the radar, sombiotch. That thing is huge, 6 miles long and at least 2 miles deep. Well lets just slow down some and let it pass faster. Bearing away a bit to give us more time. Well the thing gets closer and closer, what was 6 miles from us was now getting closer to 3 miles. Okay, lets just drop the sails and let it do its thing, we’ll motor across.

Roll the foresail (jib) no worries. Turn into the wind to drop the main, now the wind is kicking upper 20s, mainsail get stuck on the way down. First time since we’ve owned the boat it doesn’t come down smoothly. Now we have bouncy seas and lots of wind and sail that won’t come down. I go to the mast to investigate and climb up on the boom and was able tug on the sail and bring it down. Not to bad. Now to tie the main down, I notice that the top batten, where the sail attaches to the cars that slide up and down the mast had an issue. The pin that holds the slide to the sail was dangerously close to going swimming. The pin is normally secured by a cotterpin/split ring that prevents the pin from leaving of its own free will. Well the cotterpin took a break at some point and went swimming without asking. Silly thing didn’t know there was not a lifeguard on duty. Oh well he knew the risks.

Now holding on for dear life with one hand for me and one on the pin the struggle started. Bouncing back and forth, up and down and trying to get leverage to pull the pin or to complete re-insert the pin, either would have been fine, the pin was bound pretty tightly needed a tool or something help. Christine brought me some things to try eventually, a large and I mean large screw driver I was able to re-seat the pin and go in search of the spares. Found em, now back to the bucking bronco to thread this needle with one hand and not dropping anything.

Success, sail still onboard and now completely attached again we will be ready for the wind when it returns in our favor.

We motor on through the clouds, look back at our track and the track of the neighboring boats. No one had fun, they all went different directions to fight their own battles. And then continue on.

Later that evening we are still motoring along, we tried to sail again several times but the wind was too fickle with its directions or speed to provide adequate speed to arrive in New Zealand before the ‘approaching front’ with high winds that we want to avoid. So motoring is the call being made by us.

We chatted on our evening SSB (radio) net with our friends boats behind us, and several hours after our fun, the found the rain system and had also resorted to engines. Made for a nice restful sleep and evening watch as there wasn’t much wind, the waves were moderating so it was just the dull roar of the diesel being burned to keep you awake. Staying awake with nothing to do is always a challenge for me.

Gone is the Champagne sailing, enter the day of the dry-suit. Its cold and rainy, at least most of me stays dry and warm with the layers under the dry-suit.

[tag Live, Passage, Underway]

Fiji Bound Day #11 – Squally Tuesday / Spinny goes for a dip.

After a beautiful night time run with the spinnaker running all night. Day broke and there were some dark spots appearing on our sunny days. A really dark spot off our port side where the wind was coming from. Looked like rain was already falling.

Christine is the net controller this morning. The net is time and frequency on the SSB radio where all sailors from around French Polynesia can checkin for safety and local advice and basic jib jab chatting. This Tuesday is her last day as a controller and there are lots of boats checking in, so just before the net we took the spinnaker down so _IF_ the squall got closer I wouldn’t have to interrupt the net. All good squall came and went with some wind and rain and Christine received a bunch of accolades for running the Tuesday slot for the last couple of years.

The day wasn’t the best on the passage, patches of blue sky. Wind was a bit strong for the spinnaker and the waves were building. But the boat was doing fine, every hour or so we’d take a hard look at the skies to see if would hoist the spinnaker again, but ended up just going slow and I was napping quiet effectively.

One hour just rolled into the next, until the sky looked inviting and the wind has stayed down for the past hour. Time to hoist the small spinnaker again. All was going to plan till the spinnaker decided it had had enough of me and decided to jump ship and go for a swim. What a fickle little guy. Yes, I know Sugar Shack is heavy with all our live aboard gear, but its his job to just pull the boat along. I guess he had had enough and needed to cool off! Grrrr..

So now that means we have to coax him back on board with uplifting banter and jovial promises of going on a diet, and when that didn’t work brute force ensued. Some profound language I’m sure was used as well. The connection inside the sock that the spinnaker lives had failed but luckily everything was attached to the boat. With the boat cruising along at 5 knots its impossible to pull a wet bed sheet for Shreck out of the water.. The jib was still pulling the boat forward so we had to roll that up and that was enough slowing the boat down that we were able to pull it all out of the water. Now waiting on daylight to see the state of the spinnaker.

So we were going to knock out some more miles with the spinnaker between dark clouds to give us a little wiggle room on the Thursday arrival (Friday in Fiji) so that we can avoid overtime charges for the government officials to come out to the boat to check us in. We will have to see what our options are for speeding up in they day time. Probably not going to take the short-cut through the islands and reefs as we will be hitting them at dark, opting instead to go for the Nanuku Passage as its the widest on the charts and doesn’t add too much to the distance to go.

180 miles to go to our waypoint, then another 5 or so to get to the town to check in.

[tag Live,Passage,underway]