Leaving NZ 18.03.2011

Tue 22 Mar 2011 04:57
37.40.230s 176.10.666e
It was hard to leave NZ, a great place and we will miss Cherie, Eric and Oscar and Darcy and family. The sailing to leave was hard too, lots of rain, on the nose wind with channels, islands and rocks to miss. All followed by sunshine and a high sitting over us leaving us completely becalmed. We went backwards when the tide changed. Two days of easterlies had us sailing in the wrong direction with rougher seas. By the fifth day we shouldhave some suitable wind (fingers crossed) and we can really start sailing to Panama.
Fingers crossed didn't work. We have a problem with the wind-vane steering system and have no choice but to go back in to New Zealand. Pouring with rain and in an easterly gale Murray unfortunately mis-read the buoy lighting and we ran onto a sand bank. A Pan Pan message brought some local knowledge which helped us work out which direction to go when the rising tide refloated us a little later. The weather is so foul everything is wet. Normally we would huddle under the sporay hood and let the Hydrovane do the work, but with that out of action we've been more exposed while helming. The only sensible place to sail to was Tauranga (not at all where we wanted to go - see earlier blog about Mount Maunganui) and we will be here while we carry out the various repairs but we think we have well and truly had our share of things going wrong, so we should be alright from now - touch wood with crossed fingers this time!
The storm which forced us to come in was forecast as around 20 knots, but was more like 40. The customs officer who came to check us back in again said you regularly have to double the forecast strength. The currents into Tauranga are ferocious as well, preventing a stern to berthing to make the repairs easy, so we had to wait for slack and turn round then. To top it all Caroline had a touch of food poisoning from eating out in Auckland and struggled to do her watches (reduced to one hour for both) into Tauranga.