Leaving the Tropics for New Zealand
A Halloween Departure but the
goulies and ghosties didn't get us, 1080 miles to go.
We are currently half way to New
Zealand and so far the seas have been fairly benign; winds at 20+ knots have
been strong rather than comfortable but are now easing and are from a very good
direction, days have been sunny. We have achieved a wonderful average of 6.5
knots with occasional bursts of 7-8 when we quickly take in sail as this is hard
work on the rigging and us. Alas this is our fourth night and the wind has now
dropped so we are having to motor-sail. Normally we would wait for the wind
until we are too frustrated to wait any longer but on this occasion we have
started to motor sooner rather than later as the weather window we have found
will only last so long before it is slammed in our face. This passage is
notorious for having trade winds to start, calms in the middle and, if timed
wrongly, nasty depressions with strong westerly winds off New Zealand. The trick
is to time it so that a depression has just gone and a period of calm weather
has taken charge. Well we have had strong trade winds, now it is dropping off so
we shall see.
The weather has started to become
cooler and as I write I (Chris) am wearing socks and long trousers for the first
time in over a year.....my knees feel very odd! We have also rediscovered
something I remember called a “duvet”. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn
yesterday morning and later on crossed from the western to the eastern
hemisphere. It all feels very symbolic as we near the goal of our 18 month
cruise. Assuming we manage the last 500 miles or so, we will have achieved a
long term ambition. Overall it has been much simpler than either of us imagined.
We wonder if perhaps we should have visited Easter Island ….or gone via Cape
Right from the start I haven't
really felt totally confident that we would make it. An old piece of advice from
the days of sailing ships is that you do not write “to” somewhere but
“towards” your destination in the Log Book. There are just too many
obstacles that can get in the way. In Tonga the French yacht whose dinghy we
bought was lost on a reef, a Dutch yacht had a fire on board and is now having
to spend the cyclone season in Tonga which does have good hurricane holes but
they are not foolproof. On a Canadian boat the skipper had a nasty series of
mini-strokes whilst in French Polynesia and since then they have had various
rig, engine and steering problems. This is a wooden boat and our last email from
them said that they had sprung a plank and were having to hand pump the bilge as
well as hand steer the boat. They were so tired that they were heaving to at
night rather than carry on which makes their journey last twice as long, they
will go no further than Tonga. We hope they made it safely.
Partly because of this lack of
certainty, we had set ourselves a brisk timetable and have gained a reputation
as a quick boat....not in the sense of fast passages but in that we are always
moving on. We have been voyaging for only 18 months, all the other UK boats we
know of have taken at least a year longer and have stopped in Trinidad or the
USA for a period en route. Perhaps we can now relax a little and become
“Cruisers”. We have met numbers of this breed who have been away for 7 years or
more but stay in one place for months on end and explore inland. We shall of
course be doing this ourselves in New Zealand and will now almost certainly be
taking our time next season to explore the western Pacific and such delights as
Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu before moving on to Australia.
We have had to do lots of
motoring, 20 hours on and off over the last 32.
at around 21:30 hours we got the weather trough we didn't want. There was a
sudden wind-shift and within 10 to 15 minutes it swung from north west to south
west putting us head to wind so we had to change course or motor into it. We
decided to make a long tack as motoring into headwinds is something neither of
us enjoys. Hence for 12 hours now we have been running parallel to New Zealand
instead of towards it! We have been lucky in some sense though as we hear on the
SSB and VHF radios that other yachts ahead of and behind us have experienced
much worse conditions with very strong winds in some cases and heavy rain,
whereas we have had slightish wind and just a sprinkle of showers.
to cool down and I (Lorraine) have resorted to wearing socks and slippers! Welly
boots in the cockpit now as it is almost continuously damp. As we go further
south the layers of clothing increase. We have talked about the diesel heater in
romantic terms -sad!
The radio net
weather gurus in New Zealand have been contradictory about the extent of the
trough, one says it will end today, the other says it will go on for another 24
Number one was
right, at about 10:30 hours the big shift back came and we have been able to
tack back onto our course for Opua, our port of entry in NZ. We are back to
strong south easterlies of 21+knots, so not wonderfully comfortable as Gryphon
II is quite heeled over in a rather lumpy sea with reefs in both genoa and
mainsail but we are moving toward our goal again.
We tested the
diesel heater and it is still in good working order although we haven't used it
– yet. We wondered if the dreaded corrosion might have got it. So much stuff
corrodes in the tropics that there is an ongoing programme of maintenance to
combat it, this is particularly important for things like our SSB and VHF radio
aerials. The most annoying corrosion is to electrical deck fittings like the
plugs for the anchor winch controller and the wind generator which are proper
sea fittings but deteriorate quite quickly with constant use in the baking or
humid and ever salty conditions.
We finished the
last of the 36lb Wahoo the day before yesterday but happily this afternoon we
caught 2 tuna in quick succession. The first one rolled in at a small 6lbs, we
are not sure what sort, it had pale blue and silver horizontal stripes from
shoulder to tail along the back and a silver belly, we have caught these before
but they are not in either of our fish books, any suggestions? The second was 11
lbs and definitely an albacore with the extremely long ventral fins that are so
distinctive. We had 4 happy birds following us whilst the butchering was done
which is about the most wild life we have seen for days.
It is 02:20
hours, my watch and it is 60º farenheit, I've got all the gear on but my legs are freezing! I hope
Chris is warm in his bunk, I'm resorting to hot cocoa. The compensation for
moving out of the hot north is that the days are much longer, we have got used
to 12 hours of darkness since way back in the Cape Verdes so having light until
20:00 hours is a real pleasure as well as a saving on our domestic batteries.
The nights on this passage, however, are very dark as there has been no moon to
speak of and plenty of cloud cover masking the stars.
The iron sail is on, we want to make our new landfall at Opua in daylight
tomorrow but wind has dropped and we still have137 miles to go so we need the
engine at the moment but hope the wind will return. The great bonus this morning
having come through the trough is that the sun is beaming down chasing away that
60º fright I had last
land at 6.30 as the sun rose and shortly after as I was sat on the loo I heard
the unmistakeable squeaking of dolphons and ran on deck to find a great posse of
dolphin playing around our bow.
What a welcome
to New Zealand! We hoisted our giant New Zealand flag and the yellow quarantine
Zealand authorities take their borders very seriously and we were visited by a
large naval warship. On arrival at the marina we were boarded by 3 officials who
were principally interested in fresh food . You are forbidden to bring in any
fresh fruit or vegetables, honey, meat and various other
products. Fortunately fresh tuna is exempted!
The landscape of
the Bay of Islands (and the temperaure) are very reminiscent of Cornwall with a
dash of Scotland thrown in.
MADE IT TO NEW ZEALAND!
Note woolly hats!