Days 5 & 6 Tonga to New Zealand S34:48:78 E174:32:717
Couldn’t get the computer to sit still yesterday to write this blog (besides not being able to sit still myself!) We had 36 hours in a bit of a breeze you might say – 35 knots consistently gusting to 44 and seas of 5 meters plus the big ones – could have got some wonderful photos if we’d have thought about it. ‘Twas bad to say the least – we had breaking waves crashing on the beam and got knocked over a couple of times with some really bad ones. We had green water gushing over the spray hood every few minutes and flushing down the side decks (we lost all the pumice we had collected on the decks the previous day!). Fortunately we only lost the Danbuoy and had a bit of damage to the bimini. We heard of other boats who lost gas bottles over the side, had sails blown out and one of our friends had his window on the spray hood blown out. Another friend who was about 150 miles behind us hove to for the whole time and is now only going at around 4 knots so will take another week to get there. We had expected some winds but nothing like it was. Scrap of a main sail up and tiny bit of genoa rolled out and we were still doing around 7.5 to 8 knots. Not much sleep and strict diet! All those meals I prepared. Matt did use up a chicken noodle one pot for breakfast so not all wasted. Let’s hope that everyone survives it with the minimum of damage.
24 hour distance: 183.2 miles
After about 36hrs the wind and seas eventually began to abate to around 20 to 25 knots (a mere whisper) just after lunch. The seas also calmed to around 4 meters. We discovered that our SSB radio wasn’t working – looks like its got damp!. Managed to relay our position and conditions to the Pacific Drifters Net and Russell Radio in NZ via friends on another boat about 20 miles away. We didn’t get a reef out of the main until around 7pm but by then the sea had come right down to around 1.5 meters and the wind 15 – 20 knots – what a difference. Anyway we’ve been close reaching on port tack all through the last few days and are now actually in New Zealand waters with 35 miles to our final destination of Opua. I can smell the fish and chips!. It is freezing. This wind must come directly from the Antarctic. (Actually its 14c this morning)..You can tell its cold by the state of the dinghy. Its deflated and hanging in the davits like a used condom! But it’s nice to have more daylight than dark – didn’t get dark until after 8pm last night and light again at 5.30am. Started to hear a bit more of the carnage behind us. A NZ boat was rolled and flooded SW of Minerva reef. A NZ Orion has coordinated the rescue, dropped a life raft, asked another yacht to turn back, (a single hander who left at the same time as us), and diverted a cargo ship to the area. Looks like they are slightly injured but OK and still fighting to keep the boat afloat. An EPIRB also went off in Tongan waters, and we think it may be a Canadian couple that we have met several times. They have a very small boat for this stuff at around 32 ft. Lets keep fingers crossed. All being well we will be alongside the customs quay at 1300 today. Oh! That tropical depression that we talked about at the beginning that was on then off, then on … finally turned on and tracked right across our route behind us. That was always our planning assumption and we had the speed to be well ahead of it. Problem was that a very strong high formed over NZ creating an isobar squash zone, so the nice SE winds we expected were much more vigorous. This has got to be the toughest trip either of us have ever made. Jean says never again, but Matt actually enjoyed it bar the low point two nights ago. Blowing 35 knots, boat constantly awash, wet, very cold, very tired, but fortunately no mal de mer for him. The boat has been great. It handled the worst of the conditions easily and kept us bashing on at 8 knots and more all through the worst of it. Whilst in-mast reefing is not the racers’ dream, it came through for us. We could precisely dial up any size sail at the “push of a button” and with another button, achieve a perfectly complementary foresail. I think we have finally earned the right to call ourselves ocean voyagers, though this is definitely not our thing of choice – and there are a lot of choices! So many thoughts, and so many lessons learned that they will need to keep for a flotsam.
24 hour distance: 175 miles