Tag Archives: new zealand

Weather, a fickle mistress, Arrival, Recap

The weather in these parts can be quite the mess. So we were looking, as many other boats for nice weather windows to leave the ‘cyclone area’ for season and go somewhere “safe” ..

Well I guess there is no really cyclone/hurricane safe place. The systems will just be called by different names to lure you in. We will probably be dealing with typhoons next as we go further west. Ugh,

Anyway, waiting for weather is an extreme exercise in patience, boredom, itchy feet, mental stability all play a role, which might explain things.

In Fiji, we were waiting and watching, a Tuesday looked good – but further looking had winds on the nose. Then a Friday looked good, but had a constrained finish, had to arrive before the following Friday. So why not Thursday .. hmm maybe some on the nose, similar to the Tuesday that we passed on. Then Lola started to swirl around and make noise about coming to Fiji.

Cue “The Clash”, “Should I stay or should I go”.

Leave Thursday so there is a buffer on the Friday deadline. We did this trip last year in nice conditions and it was a 6 day trip, the models were showing 9-10 days for the Thursday or Friday departures. Doing math and redoing math and checking with weather people and routers etc.. It’ll make your head spin. Weather router said, “doable”, not a warm fuzzy by any stretch of the imagination. Doable did sound, well doable.

Thursday got the call, a few other boats were leaving, others were staying. Thursday did have the allure of a couple nice days at the beginning, to get your feet wet on the long passage, And running “away” from the future Lola that was brewing near by gave a bit of weight to Thursday departure. So we cleared customs and departed just after lunch.

Thursday evenings updated forecast after we left, had future Lola (had not be named yet) coming on our path. Ugh more math, double check dates. Want to turn back, more math, nearly 100 miles into 1100 mile trip we could turn back easier than the 90% left in front of us. Decision was, wait till next forecast, continue on. Whew.. next forecast kept future Lola north and not following us. Still had the Friday constrained by cold front from the Tasman sea.

Christine will have her own view of the passage, but for me, a couple nice days for decent sailing, a couple days of pure crap into the winds with demoralizing VMG (progress to destination) followed by a couple good sailing days, and still a looming Friday constraint. So we kept pressing hard and making forward progress with eyes on arriving Thursday, ahead of the Friday cold front. Amazingly enough that Friday constraint has been in the forecast and never wavered one way or another for over a week. We calculated we needed a 6knot VMG (to make 6nm every hour toward the destination) to make it by Thursday. Boat can be going 10knots and only making 3kn VMG which is what was happening on the ‘crappy’ days, where we sailed 80 miles off course because of the wind direction. We made it.

Lola did materialize and did start her way south, kind of regrouped into the forecast you see below. This forecast is for Monday, the boats in the picture should all be in on Friday or Saturday at the most. Just in time to hunker down. Hopefully we will be nicely tied up to a good strong floating dock by Thursday evening awaiting the Friday event that has now tuned into a possible bigger deal with the addition of Lola remnants.

Predicted forecast for Monday.

We averaged 7.3kn for 1200 miles, used a bunch of diesel, broke the jib car, but we made it before the deadline, now time to sleep, clean, secure the boat for 50 knots of wind in the marina.

As the crow files the passage is 1100, we did this in 160 hours so we made 6.8nm per hour as the crow flies. Our VMG goal of 6nm is what we needed to make our Thursday arrival. The 7.3 average was over the entire distance the boat went, of 1200 and change.

Arriving in the dark
Rounding the Whangarei heads at day break

Now back to your regularly curated blog posts.

Passage Time: Fiji to NZ 2023


Matt and I are on passage again.  We will be leaving Fiji and heading back to New Zealand for cyclone season. 

Matt will be live blogging during this 7-9 day passage so I have suspended our previously written blog posts.  They will resume in early November.

Hopefully we will have beautiful days where we can fly this beautiful parasail, but most likley we will be flying our working sails.

Click here to read out our last voyage from Fiji to New Zealand in 2022.

The Plan

The plan is always written in sand during low tide.  But we plan to head west as far as possible before turning left and heading south.

We are part of the South Pacific Island Cruising Rally which just means we have access to a lot of resources we wouldn’t normally have as non-members.  It is not a race as everyone leaves on the window they feel safest departing on.

We’ve engaged a professional weather router, signed up for Passage Guardian who will be tracking us, have our amazing friend Donald Anderson tracking us, will be checking in with Gulf Harbour Radio (SSB) daily, and we will be posting daily.  This is in addition to our new to us life raft, multiple ePIRBS, and loads of safety protocols in place.

We are well prepared.  We ave dozens of meals prepared and pre-cooked in case we have rough seas, have stowed everything that needs to be stored, the first aid kit, ditch bag, jacklines, PFDs are out, the dinghy is secured, and the foul weather is out.

Hopefully, my beautiful the angels will be watching over us for a safe passage.

Voyage: New Zealand to Minerva Reef

Island Cruising Pacific Rally provides very valuable resources to cruisers making the voyage across the pacific.  For those who join the annual rally you get access to dozens of discounts (from marinas, boat parts, food, and clothing).  In addition, you are provided all of the necessary documents and government contacts for arrival/departure from each country and you have access to a professional weather router, and the passage guardian.  So, someone has eyes on you at all times which is a huge relief when you are out at sea.

Viki Moore, the owner of Island Cruising, also arranged for dozens of activities at each country and a super handy guide on the Pacific.  It was really a no brainer for us to join – especially considering how apprehensive I get when crossing the pacific.

Weather Window

We were both anxious to leave New Zealand after being on the dock for over 8 months. But we had to wait for a safe weather window which took its sweet time to form.

We finally get a good opportunity to begin our voyage.  We untie off the Town Basin Marina docks and motor the 12nm down the river to the Marsden Cove Marina which is located 4.5nm from the mouth of the river.  This is where we load up with diesel and gasoline and clear out of the country with customs.

Everything went smoothly.  We were off the Marsden Cove Marina docks by 0930 and on our way to our next country.  Our voyage is approximately 814nm from New Zealand to Minerva Reef South.  Our friend, Rokas from Starlight took this photo as we departed.

Day 1: NZ to Minerva Reef

We left knowing the first day would be “sporty” with 18-20kts of wind but the seas were calm.  Keep in mind that we are flying our new sails and new lines on the boat (ropes).  So, we knew there would be a learning curve.  We opted for an extremely cautious sail plan by raising our main and the jib to only the second reef (which means less sail out).  We were so happy we did that as we made fast tracks in the high winds.

  • Distance to Go:                 631nm
  • Distance Travelled:          183nm
  • Wind:                                    18-20kts from SE
  • Seas:                                     1m, slow and following
  • Speed:                                  Average: 7.4 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                The first green reefing line chafed through while we were using it.

Lucky for us we had our 2nd reefing line set which held the sail.  We tied the damaged line down and waited till daybreak to replace the line with a new one. The main sheet also hit our IridiumGo antennae, broke off the case and the wind ditched the separator.  Lucky for us we caught the case.  It still limps along but will have to be replaced.

A nice send off by a small pod of dolphins.  They did not stay with us too long, but it was a lovely sight to see.

Day 2

The winds were pretty shifty, but we maintained a beautiful sail today.  Our new sails are much quieter than our heavier dacron sails and certainly hold a much better shape!

  • Distance to Go:                 468nm
  • Distance Travelled:          163nm
  • Wind:                                    8-12kts from SE
  • Seas:                                     1m, slow and following
  • Speed:                                  Average: 7.4 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                Nothing – yeah!

Day 3

The wind shifted and died down a lot which gave us an opportunity to fly our largest sail, Big Bertha.

  • Distance to Go:                 349nm
  • Distance Travelled:          119nm
  • Wind:                                    8-10ts
  • Seas:                                     2m, slow and following
  • Speed:                                  Average: 6.4 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                The lighter winds slowed us down, but the beautiful sail was worth it.

Day 4

Where did all the wind go?  Bummer, we lost the wind and when it did make an appearance it was right on our nose.  Had to take the sails down and motor because we could not keep our sails full.

  • Distance to Go:                 226nm
  • Distance Travelled:          123nm
  • Wind:                                    2-8kts from NW
  • Seas:                                     2m, building and hitting us side to making for a bumpy ride
  • Speed:                                  Average: 6.4 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                Nothing

Day 5

The wind shifted again giving us a different point of sail.  We put our reefed main and jib back up.

  • Distance to Go:                 118nm
  • Distance Travelled:          108nm
  • Wind:                                    30kts from NW with gusts hitting 35-38kts
  • Seas:                                     3-4m
  • Speed:                                  Average: 6.1 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                Wow what a $hitty night.  A huge storm was in our way and it brought high winds and big seas.  We dropped all canvas, changed course, and hunkered down all night.  We made 2-3kts headway in the wrong direction, but we are all ok.

I know it looks pretty, but this is one of the rare moments where it was not raining or blowing like crazy.  But as you can see, we are very cold.

We crossed the international date line again.  This time I caught the switch over on our instruments and grabbed some photos for you.  Look at the lat/long changes from 179 99.999 East to 180 00.000 West.

We are pretty tired as we each get sleep intervals of 3 hours.  You grab it when you can.  Since I don’t do well down below, we keep everything that we wear in the salon which makes it a bit of a mess.

Day 6

Our big storm ruined our daily average speed and our chances of arriving at Minerva Reef during the day.  There was nothing we could do except slow the boat down even further.  So, after the big storm, we rolled out a little jib, turned off the engines, and enjoyed a very slow sail.

  • Distance to Go:                 0 nm
  • Distance Travelled:          840nm
  • Wind:                                    8-12kts from SW
  • Seas:                                     3m, still big seas preventing us from putting out too much canvas.
  • Speed:                                  Average: 6.4 and Max 16.1 (surfing down a wave)
  • Broken:                                We grab sleep whenever we can.  The salon is full of blankets to keep us warm.

Our voyage ends with our arrival at South Minerva at dawn.  Using tracks from a fellow cruiser, we went through the pass, dropped the hook, and took a deep breath – we arrived safely.

Matt gave the boat a fresh water rinse as she was covered in salt.  I used ospho to clean all of our stainless around the boat which was also draped in layers of salt.  Then a wee bit of cleaning, a late breakfast, and a nap.  All in all it was not a terrible voyage, but it certainly gave us a run for our money with the shifty winds and huge storm.

This image shows you where Minerva reef is in relation to New Zealand and Fiji, and Tonga.  A 6-7 day voyage in total.

Minerva in the middle of the Pacific

Minerva in the middle of the Pacific

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind actual live events.  This blog post occurred in early July.  Did you read our last blog post on “Sweet as: New Zealand?”