New Zealand Bound !
Its hard to stop the passage to New Zealand dominating all we do and talk about . The next 1000nms will take us to a point halfway round the world from where we began.. The end of the first years of planning, the beginning of the next. We are all waiting for the right ' window'. The weather is particularly volatile at this time of year when the Antarctica is nearly at its coldest after the winter. Strong fast moving weather systems develop in the Tasmanian Sea and move north, coming into contact with warm air from the tropics, giving strong winds. Crossing this bit of sea calls for good timing and one can't help feeling like a hedgehog trying to cross a motorway. The good news is there is lots of information and advice available, most of it free, given by experienced people happy to help. We now have a reasonable forecast although its impossible to accurately predict weather for the full duration of the crossing. .its time to leave Paradise.
With all tanks full and the fruit and vegetable nets groaning under their weight,and not knowing quite how long it will take, we set sail. Within an hour of pulling up the anchor , Bob catches an enormous Wahoo, large enough for supper every night all the way to NZ!
We knew the first few days would not be perfect sailing weather ,after 3 days of beating into rough seas, we decide to head for Minerva Reef, 300 nms south west of Nukulofa . Like a car park in the middle of the desert, this circular reef offers a place to stop in the middle of nowhere. The only way to see it is by the waves breaking over the submerged coral, either side of a narrow pass into the lagoon. Once inside, the crystal clear water is flat and calm. To be able to stop in this amazing place overnight felt like an extraordinary privilege. The only way here is by boat and the only sign of human existence are the other 5 boats tucked in the far corner of the 3mile wide lagoon.
Heather and Jon on Evergreen had arrived the day before, and took us in their dinghy to the edge of the reef for a closer look. At low tide the water lapped over the 100metre wide reef, into the lagoon, like an infinity pool. We walked accross the shallow water dotted with small rocks protruding above the surface. On the outer edge, the ocean rollers crashed into the reef wall ,a few metres from our feet, awesome! Underwater, abundant sea life moved about in magnified clarity along the reefs inner edge. The sandy bottom enhanced the blueness of the water and the crisp outline of the rocks and coral. Jon ( master spotter of unusual creatures), found a charming Octopus playing 'hide and seek' as he changed colour and texture in front of us.
After a good nights sleep, a few boat jobs and the prospect of a developing low catching up with us, we reluctantly continued on our way, vowing to come back to this very special place one day.
In complete contrast to the first 3 days, the sea is now calm, the wind is invariably light and we motor all day .Wahoo and engine noise are becoming rather repetitive, but we have no prospect of an alternative to either at the moment , the wind is virtually non existent, and the Wahoo is not.
Rafts of floating pumice, discharged from an underwater volcano, pass by us in large patches. Most of it is well broken up, but occasionally a large 'rock' floats by on the surface, very strange! Apart from blocking up our scuppers and engine filter, it hasn't posed a problem yet .
As we gradually move south of the Tropics the nights are cooling down rapidly, time to dig out the fleeces,socks and duvet. The longer daylight hours combined with a full moon are making night watches easier, only another 650nms to go!
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