This is a brief blog because we have left Suva for Opua, New Zealand, one
thousand, one hundred miles away to the south. We are travelling from the
tropics to a temperate zone where spring is only just under way and it will be
getting noticeably chillier as we go.
For the first time since we left the Canaries ten
months ago all the talk has been of weather: isobars, systems, depressions,
anti-cyclones, squashes, bombs and “windows”. The passage will probably take
between seven and nine days and while we can look for good weather at the start
no one can predict with accuracy what will be winging its way across the Tasman
Sea by the time we reach the latitude of North Cape, New Zealand. In the
meantime we must avoid deep depressions, squashes and bombs. We now know it was
a squash that devastated the Fastnet race fleet in 1979, a disaster that has
never been forgotten by sailors of any stripe.
Not wishing to rely on black magic or damp seaweed
we have engaged the services of a professional weather guru. Bob McDavitt has a
high reputation in these parts. He is a senior forecaster with the New Zealand
Meteorological Service who is permitted to use spare office time and the office
computer to prepare detailed voyage plans for sailors in the south-west Pacific.
We were asked to provide details of our intended start time and route and the
characteristics of the boat. Our forecast arrived very promptly by e-mail and
gives a general resumé and detailed predictions every six hours for barometric
pressure, wind strength and direction, boat speed and wave heights.
Bob said “go,” so we went. We shall see. We feel
we have done all we can to eliminate avoidable risk. As I write at dusk on
Thursday we are three hours out of Suva motoring into light headwinds. We are
promised heavier airs from a better direction later and a bit of rougher
stuff ("brace for strong winds gusting to 35 knots", he says) at the tail
end of a squash on Tuesday. Plenty of time to get