At the time we left, the weather models were showing mostly light winds, so we bought two extra jugs of diesel to carry on deck. There was a high to the SE of Fiji creating some north winds in that area, but it was expected to move off. It didn't.
We left Marsden Cove Marina and beat up the New Zealand coast. Late evening, the wind went light and we motored north, still expecting favorable conditions soon. The next morning found us on a beat again, and the morning's weather models showed that the wind would be on our nose for 2 - 3 more days.
For most of the passage this trend in the forecast continued. As good as the GFS weather model seemed to be on our way down to New Zealand, it seemed to be off on the way back north. The big fat high SE of Fiji inexplicably expanded to the north rather than move off to the east as is normal, leaving us with strong north winds. The South Pacific Convergence Zone lie across our path with favorable winds to the west, which would have been great if we wanted to go to New Caledonia, but we were worried about the SE trades returning when the high moved off, so we kept to the east as much as we could.
The pilot charts showed the occurrence of north winds in May to be very seldom, and then, only force two on average. I think the pilot charts may be in need of an update.
If the winds weren't on our nose, they were just light. At one point, we began to worry about running out of fuel as we motored through the convergence zone, but then the wind filled in from (you guessed it) the northeast, and we continued sailing to weather.
The most wind we saw was about 34 knots. During the night, one of the extra fuel jugs broke loose from its lashings and was washed overboard. (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry).
The boat went fast to weather (7 to 8 knots), but it was pounding very badly and we needed to slow down, Even with two reefs and the jib rolled down to a #3, we were too fast. Without a jib, the boat wouldn't climb to weather at all. We were able to get the speed down to a comfortable 5 knots by rolling the headsail down to the size of a storm jib.
After this phase, I went forward to check the boat over, The pin that secured the anchor to the bow roller had fallen out so that the anchor was only held in position by the tension of the chain around the windlass. This had NEVER happened before, so I replaced the pin, and added a lashing to secure the anchor just in case. I also discovered that the lashing that held the fender boards in place along the lifelines had nearly chafed through and had to be replaced. Worse, we discovered a vertical tear in the main, just below the 2nd reef point, and a badly weakened horizontal seam in the jib. So we changed down to a #4 jib (why didn't we do this before?, I ask) and continued on with a double reefed main.
I can blame the tear in the main on operator error, and have already fixed the issue that lead to the tear. We eventually got brave enough to fly the full main, and the tear didn't propagate. I will do my own repair rather than make an otherwise unnecessary early trip to Suva.
We were joined on the passage by Mike Webster of Auckland. We met Mike about 12 years ago through an exchange between the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and the Seattle Yacht Club and have stayed in touch ever since. Mike was a joy to have aboard and made our life a lot easier. He actually WANTED to stand long watches in the middle of the night and wouldn't get us up if we didn't hear our alarm over the engine noise. I felt bad about coming on watch late, but appreciate that he was so willing to stay on deck.
Miraculously, NO electronics died on the passage. This is a first for us.
As expected, we continued to have some trouble with leaks, but much better than on prior passages. Despite my efforts in New Zealand, we continue to have a leak down the wiring access hole under the instrument bar, which pours water right into the nav station. We were able to keep this under control by thoroughly plugging the holes under the dodger. I'm starting to understand why most offshore cruisers opt for hard dodgers on their second offshore boat.
Ventilation below decks is a problem when all the hatches have to be closed to keep out the water. Things are hot and humid and nothing will dry out. We are now looking at a way to mount a fan in one of the hatches under the dodger to force some fresh air below decks.
We made our passage in a cluster of five other boat and were within about 100 miles of each other for most of the trip. These boats had some of their own issues, so we feel pretty lucky by comparison.
Passages had both jib sheets on the yankee come loose after a soft shackle chafed through. At the time they were experiencing 40+ knot winds. The clew on the sail couldn't be reached from deck level and they had quite a time getting the sail under control. John is quite black and blue from the experience.
In similar conditions, the roller furler line parted on Imagine. Stewart had an ordeal getting the now fully deployed jib under control, and in the process, one of the jib sheets got wrapped around the prop. At our suggestion, they tied an underwater video camera to the the boat hook (the famous Capaz Cam) to access the damage. In calmer conditions, Stewart went in the water to cut the line free using a knife lashed to the boat hook. Scary, Scary, Scary. Fortunately, he finished the job without getting his head bashed in by the pitching hull and without being noticed by the pelagic wildlife. And, one of the dodger windows was blasted out be a boarding sea.
More by luck than planning, our position more to the east kept us away from the heavier weather that they experienced.
Here are some statistics:
Engine hours: 76
Fuel consumed: ~34 gal
Expected trip duration: 8 days
Actual trip duration: 11 days
Expected distance traveled: 1197 Nm
Actual distance traveled: ~1490 Nm