Astra Blog: Tonga to Bay of Islands, New Zealand (Pa rt 1) 26.10.08 - 28.11.08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Wed 29 Oct 2008 07:41

Astra Blog: Tonga to Bay of Islands, New Zealand (Part 1) 26.10.08 – 28.11.08



Sunday 26/10/08


After several days of consulting all our weather information we decided that Sunday would have to do.  We had wished to go earlier but the technical hitches had kept us in Tongatapu longer than anticipated.  The morning was spent making the final preparations such as a last hull clean, testing the repaired generator and watermaker and running through the safety brief and watch system. 


Once Jeremy was happy that Astra was ready to depart, the whole crew went ashore for a farewell drink at Big Mama’s with John and Angie.  We finally weighed anchor at 1300 and motored out through Egeria Pass in flat calm conditions. 


Although a decent breeze would have been appreciated, the glassy smooth ocean did enable us to play a game of scrabble and do a little fishing.  Just as the sun was setting the port rod doubled up and the line screamed off the reel.  The 3.5 foot mahi mahi was quickly hauled in giving us the impression he had given up without a fight, only to unleash the fury when Jeremy gaffed him and flopped him on the deck.  The rather energetic fish proceeded to thrash about the aft deck until Ash managed to sit on it long enough for Paul to subdue it. 


As the famous Sunday Roast (beef) was already in the oven, it was decided that the mahi mahi would have to wait till the following day.



Monday 27/10/08


At the 0000 watch change-over Paul and Ash got the sails up and motor sailed.  By 0300 the wind had filled in sufficiently (true wind speed (TWS) of 12 knots) to allow us to turn off the engine and achieve a satisfactory SOG (speed over ground) of 7 knots.  Apart from a rather painful two hours between 0600 and 0800 when the wind died completely, we enjoyed ideal sailing conditions. 


Sally, who was on mother watch, delighted the crew by preparing bacon and egg sanis for breakfast, mahi mahi cerviche for lunch and beef curry for dinner.  Astra kept up a good 8.5 knots SOG all day, heading straight down the rhumb line. 



Tuesday 28/10/08


After rather a bumpy night, most of the crew spent the morning trying to catch up on lost sleep.  At 1300 we had 805Nm to go and had covered 202Nm in the last 24 hours.  We celebrated by having reheated curry for lunch.


At 1700, the wind did another disappearing act we had to call on the donkey once again.  After about an hour, the engine registered its displeasure by basting off the attachment for the fridge compressor hose sending it thrashing around the engine room.  It made a horrendous noise that sounded like the entire engine had exploded into a thousand pieces.  We quickly switched off the engine and Jeremy went to investigate.  He was able to rescue the hose and could not find any other visible damage, so we started up and carried on.  It means that we now rely solely on the generator to charge our fridges; good job that we got our generator mended before departure!


Sally and Ash took advantage of the windless conditions to have a quick game of scrabble.  It was a bit of a one-sided affair as poor Ash had no vowels for most of the game and Sally got two 7 letter words.


After a generous helping of mousaka, skilfully warmed up to perfection by Paul, we had enough wind to get sailing again.  No sooner had those off watch managed to get their heads down, they were recalled on deck to hunt down a grating noise.  This was eventually tracked to the lazarette where it was discovered that the bolts on the autopilot’s hydraulic ram mounting plate had come loose.  Ash quickly took over the helm from Alfie to prevent him from doing any more damage, while Sally and Stef emptied the contents of the lazarette to allow Jeremy to crawl into the depths and tighten the bolts.


Disaster averted, Alfie was allowed back on the helm and Astra was once again sailing at 8-9 knots SOG in the correct direction.  We are staying west of the rhumb line to allow for any low pressure systems that might develop in the Coral Sea.  These can bring seriously strong winds and big seas up from the SW which could cause us serious trouble if we were caught too far to the east.


At 2155 LT Astra crossed 180ºW/E.  Sally, Ash and Stef who were awake at the time celebrated the moment with a glass or two of champagne.  Jeremy and Paul celebrated slightly later during their respective watches!