Category Archives: Passage

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]

Passage: French Polynesia to Fiji

It feels like we have been preparing for this long passage for months.  Way longer than the actual passage.  But it’s all in the preparations to make for a smooth and easy sail.

Matt posted “live blogs” during the passage (which took place in June 2022) so I will try not to duplicate him, but if you are interested in reading them (he is super funny).  Click here to read the first of his 12 posts during our passage.

We left from Bora Bora and our friends from Askari managed to get a departing photo with the Bora Bora caldera in the background.

Departing Bora Bora

Departing Bora Bora

Trip Details

  • Departure Date and Time: Saturday, 4 June 2022 at 12:30pm
  • Miles to Destination (as the crow flies): 50
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4213 and Starboard: 4374
  • Estimated Arrival Time: 19 June 2022 (Fiji is 22 hours ahead of Tahiti so we lost a day)

Shifts:

Matt and I do 3 hours on and 3 hours off for passages.  Basically, Matt works the 8p-11p shift, I work the 11p-2a, Matt is back up 2a-5a and I am up from 5a-8a.  During the day we rotate however we want (sort of light schedule).   Averaging 5 hours of broken sleep a night is challenging at best.

Day 1

We purposely picked this weather window because it had light winds for the first few days.  This is crucial for me because I am prone to sea sickness.  Having light winds allows me to slowly get my “sea legs.”   Weather predictions are really guessing as they are often wrong.  But usually the first 3 days are somewhat accurate.  Four different forecasts had us going way North increasing our cross track to over 100 miles (meaning we went over 100 miles out of our way to ensure we stayed in the wind zone).

Forecasts Routing

Forecasts Routing

We flew wing on wing (main sail on port and jib on starboard) and then tried to fly the parasail.  We lost sight of land at dark, just a mere 6 hours after we started our passage.

Day 2 & 3

Lovely days with light winds.  We flew the parasail for most of the day and managed to maintain a 6.5 boat speed.  Another boat showed up on AIS (radar) called Moondance.  They were mirroring us which was odd.  We headed to port, then they did, we headed to starboard, then they did.  We eventually lost them and left them in the dust.

Parasail

Parasail

We leave French waters and enter Cook Islands territory.  The closest island is Suwarrow which is south and still over 300nm away (2-2.5 days).

Crossing into Cook Islands

Crossing into Cook Islands

Day 4:

A rather large squall came through in the wee hours of the morning bringing over 35kts of wind and super strong, large rain drops.  Just as we finished dropping all the sails, the winds picked up to 35kts and the rain pelted us.  It was a downpour and both Matt and I were soaked to the bone.  We motored during the worse part of the storm and then it left us with no wind when it passed.   Drat, we ended up using the motors for close to 20 hours.  Since it was a motor day, I made chocolate chip mint cookies.  We need all the sugar and caffeine we can get to keep us awake during the night shifts.

Day 5

We finally broke the 1000nm mark.  Yeah what a relief.  In addition, we reduced our cross track bringing us closer to our destination.

Medium Spinnaker 150m

Medium Spinnaker 150m

At night we rely a lot on our instruments.  We are running weather forecasts on Matt’s computer, we have radar on (bottom circular diagram), Vesper Marine, and B&G instruments all running at the same time.  In addition, we have 2 iPads that are running different charts.

Day 6

Two things to celebrate: (1) We reached the half way mark of 832 nm to go.  Of course, that is as the crow flies and does not take into account that we have to sail around islands (vs through them).  The second thing we celebrated was a beautiful pod of whales.  I saw a spout and thought was that a spout or just the wind kicking up sea spray?  It turned out to be a spout.  At least 4 whales played around Sugar Shack for about 20 minutes.  One came alongside our boat and then went under the boat.  Super cool, but holy h3ll that could have been disastrous if he breached the surface while under Sugar Shack.

The photos are not very good as I was frozen in place when they breached.  But they were there, I promise.

Day 7-8

We alternate between our medium spinnaker, the parasail, and the working sails.  Depends on the winds and gusts.  We had particularly calm weather and decided to swap out our sails.  As we hoisted the medium spinnaker a gust came up and made a slight tear at the top.  We had to bring her down to avoid total destruction.  Matt was able to repair the sail and get it back in the rotation a few days later.

On a good note, we caught (2) male mahi mahi in the afternoon.  The first line went “zing” and as we went to pull in the other lines a 2nd line went zing!

These are the winning lures that caught our tasty fish.

Day 9:

We enter the waters of Tonga.  I sure wish Tonga was open but alas she is shut down due to Covid still.  So, we sail on through longingly looking at the beautiful islands from a far.  Kidding we can’t see anything as it is way too far away.  But the longing is still there.

Day 10:

Another beautiful day on passage.  We were changing sails from the jib to the parasail when we had another little mishap.  Matt was raising the sock (with the sail inside) as per usual.  However, I noticed that the sock looked empty so I shouted at Matt to stop, but he couldn’t hear me over the roar of the wind.  I stepped up my vocal cords and got his attention just as the entire parasail came out of the sock and into the sea.  Holy cow!

It is 3am and raining.  We are both at the bow trying to pull in the sail.  Just as we got the sail onboard, the sock goes under the boat.  You’ve got to be kidding!  We manage to salvage both the sail and the sock and bring them back to the cockpit. What happened?  Well, there is a shackle at the top of the sock that holds the sail inside.  That shackle opened up and we nearly lost the sail.  Lucky for us, an easy fix.

Day 11

We make our first land sighting at 122nm to go.  Super cool to see land after being at sea for 11 days.  The islands are far off in the distance, but you can certainly make out the beautiful mountains.  We had a very squally and rainy day today which makes it hard to fly the lighter sails (spinnaker and parasail) which make us go faster.  But we continued on averaging 5-6kts for the day.  Today was my last day as net controller on the Poly Mag Net an SSB radio net that I’ve been volunteering for over the last 2 years.  It was hard to let go.

Day 12

We arrive into the island of Vanua Levu and go to Savusavu bay to clear into customs.  We arrived around 10:30am which was 11 days and 23 hours after we picked up the hook in Bora Bora!  Not bad, not bad at all!  We had anticipated it taking 2 full weeks and we made it in 12 days.

Trip Details:

  • Miles to Destination: 1,664
  • Actual Miles Sailed: 1,777
  • Average Speed over 12 days: 2
  • Max Speed: 9
  • Engine Hours: Port: 4233 and starboard 4384

We motored about 20 hours with the majority of that time being right after the large squall on day 4.  The rest of the time we were able to sail.

Here is our track from French Polynesia to Fiji.

French Poly to Fiji Track

How did I entertained myself?

I read 3 books, I watched Season 2 of Bridgerton and S1 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and watched 2 movies.  Of course, there were lots of games of solitaire and word puzzles too.

Some beautiful moon pictures.  The moon came out during the second half of our passage and lit our way through the darkness.

And a collection of sunset photos during our passage.

Sunsets during passage

Sunsets during passage

We prepare to vamoose from French Polynesia in our blast blog.  Events from this blog occurred in early June.  Please note that our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.