If at first...

Fri 24 Jul 2015 00:41
33:48.5S 174:56.98E

It has been frustrating. First it took for ever to get the boat work completed, as you know from the last blog, and then we've been having to wait for a weather window for three weeks. Now, if you know it's going to be three weeks then that's fine, you just go and do something else like explore South Island and go skiing. But it's not like that, you check the predictions and your hopes get up for a few days time. You provision, fill up the water, send off the customs forms and get excited. Then another little depression bubbles up in the Tasman, and bubbles up a bit more, then turns into a stinker and we realise we can't go when we'd hoped, but start hoping for when the stinker has passed, so you provision again but then another little depression starts to bubble up and... so on.

I shouldn't complain. It is mid winter here, one should expect bad weather, it's a bit like trying to sail away from Scotland in January. But, when I was starting to feel there was no way we could fit even one more can of provisions on the boat, a lovely 5 day window opened up, on the tail of a deep depression so there'd be good winds to race us North for the first two days, after which we'd have light winds as the following high came through, but by then we'd be so far North any new depressions would pass under us so there'd be no worry. We were all set to leave on Monday. Brilliant. Well, it wasn't quite Monday, the stinker had a sting in his tail that hadn't gone through yet so it was Tuesday. No worry, we'd waited this long, one more day was no bother.

So customs came aboard and checked us out and off we went! Jon's first proper ocean passage, 1100 miles, yay! We got down the river and out into the chop fine but then Otto (our auto helm) started to struggle. Then died. Now, obviously we can steer, and we have a wind self steerer which can steer too, as long as the winds aren't too light from behind, and as long as there is wind. Motoring across the high with little or no wind we'd have to hand steer. We were tempted for a moment to go on, but it wasn't sensible to leave a first world country, where parts and skills are available, with a broken auto helm. We turned back.

This meant we needed to bring the sails in. On the passage down we'd found our jib getting harder and harder to furl, it was just stiff so we had it serviced, new bearings put in, greased, checked over and put back on again. We were looking forwards to seeing how easy it was to furl now so I pulled on the furling line with a will. Nothing happened. I pulled harder and it then came easily, but instead of furling it had unwound the foil from the furler! A bearing race dropped down and littered the foredeck with pins and ball bearings. Very not good. No worry, we were heading back anyway, we'd just drop the sail on deck and sort it out when we got back. This was easier said than done as the halyard jammed in the clutch and Jon had to climb up and force it through foot by foot whilst Phil wrestled the flapping jib on the foredeck.

So we headed back in, calling ahead to let them know we were coming, but we'd checked out of the country so we had to come back onto the Quarantine berth. Happily the Customs man was understanding of our situation and was happy for us to do what we had to to get things fixed, without having to check back in and then get checked out again, as long as it didn't take too long. We were working to a deadline anyway, as we so didn't want to miss this weather window! The folk as Marsden Marina were great, lending us their car and helping in any way the could. The excellent Zane at Enzed made up new hoses for Otto and Rick at Lusty and Blundell shipped a new pump up from Auckland for us and Matthew of C Spars worked non-stop all day to get our furler back as it should be - a retaining pin had been left out when it had been put back together. We installed the new pump, bleed the hydraulics, re-commissioned Otto and slipped the lines on Q dock 11 am Thursday morning. Phew. We'd missed the two days of good wind but if we motor sailed we'd get North enough before the next blow came through.

So that's what we've been doing: motor sailing. It's noisy but the running engine keeps the boat warm and dolphins and penguins kept us entertained as we went. The night was split: everyone's first watch was full of stars and their second filled with sparkling phosphorescence.

It feels so good to be back at sea and finally on our way.

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