Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Sun 5 Nov 2017 03:01
We left Tonga on Saturday morning for the passage to Opua. This is sometimes referred to as the great lemming leap, as boats which have so far been running down the fairly consistent trade winds have to leave these behind and start dealing with the variable sub-tropic weather of successive lows and highs which track across from Australia. The weather routing advice was that Sunday or Wednesday would be a good times to leave, and as we wanted to stop at Minerva Reef on the way, for the experience of being anchored in the middle of the ocean, we went a day early. The stop would also give us a rest and a chance to reappraise the weather. The weather pattern normally is such that lows and highs alternate, coming across the Tasman Sea. The highs can squash the lows giving areas of high winds which are best avoided. In general, taking a route which goes southwest to a latitude of 30S and due north of New Zealand puts you in a good position to avoid the strong winds but then pick up the SW winds on the approaching low to do the last 200 miles south.
Of course we got a different weather pattern, and two weeks after setting out we are still getting our weather from the same high pressure which has become almost stationary east of New Zealand. This did mean that once we realised we were going to get easterly winds all the time we could head straight to Opua with no dogleg in the course, this saved us about 100 miles. We did however have to motor for about 70 hours total to keep us moving in the calms.
Minerva reef was an interesting experience. It's about a mile in diameter and at low water the reef can dry to about 1 metre and the water inside is almost perfectly calm. You can anchor safely protected from the seas which break on the reef but you still feel the full force of the wind. We had a very comfortable night there but felt no desire to go ashore on the reef itself or to go snorkelling with the sharks.
Inside North Minerva reef
As we sailed south the temperature steadily fell and we found ourselves digging out clothes that hadn't been worn, probably since leaving Spain, waterproofs came back into use and even wellie boots. A bit of compensation was the day's becoming noticeably longer.
Every evening we checked in by long range radio with Peter at Northland Radio. Peter runs a check in service for yachts on passage; you call with details of your position and a report of weather conditions and he logs this. He is prepared to check forecasts and contact friends and family, he holds your details and if you fail to report in will alert the rescue services. An excellent service which is free although donations are welcome.
Another boat, Solace, set off about an hour later than us and we were in contact with them all the way across seeing them at least once a day within 5 miles. They arrived in Opua about an hour before us and were able to talk us in and take our lines as with the wind behind us and tide taking us away from the quarantine pontoon it was not an easy approach. It was also 5.00 in the morning and pitch black with no moon.
We waited on the quarantine dock and at about 8.00 the customs/immigration officer arrived, checked the paperwork and stamped the visa into our passports, we had officially arrived. Next was Biosecurity to check that we were bringing nothing of biological/ecological danger into the country, meat, veg and dried beans being of particular worry also moths, ants and termites. Walking boots had to be inspected and the tent which has been stored onboard since we left England. All cleared we were able to move into the marina.
Alongside the quarantine dock
Cloudy and cold in New Zealand.
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