Friday, May 20, 2011

Passage Summary

Here's a recap of our passage from Whangarei, New Zealand to Savu Savu, Fiji.

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
Gal/Hr: ~0.45

Expected trip duration: 8 days
Actual trip duration: 11 days

Expected distance traveled: 1197 Nm
Actual distance traveled: ~1490 Nm


Thursday, May 19, 2011


We arrived Savu Savu this morning. It was very calm and overcast, so we motored.
But that was just fine.

We sailed 300nm longer than the rhumb line, which was 900nm. Doh!

The entrance formalities,were extensive Several officials came aboard:
Quarantine, Immigration, Customs, and Biosecurity. All were a pleasure to deal with.
We haven't been ashore yet, but the landscape is lush.

More about the town next time.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

FINALLY, the Trades

Oh wait, never was just a teaser... Then..., back to motoring.
After part of a day on a pleasant broad reach in 15-18kts, our reef and blade were a perfect fit. We still made 7-8kts.
It was sunny too, so we got some solar charging. For the first few days, the cloud cover was so thick
that we got little solar power. So we had to run the engine daily.

Oh well, it's better than bashing to windward. And we got a little laundry done, though it took ages to dry.
Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the wet rugs, growing who knows what. ugh

Last night we saw a fishing boat. It was brilliantly lit, we could see it for miles off. Mike says it must have been a squid boat.
They probably didn't see our tiny light, as they were probably blinded by their own lights.
It was a reminder to keep a good watch.

On the radio this morning we heard more of our (wiser) friends leaving NZ on a nice broad reach.
(What day is it anyway?) A couple gannets came by to give us the once over.

Our landfall is still undecided, could be Lavuka or Savu Savu, depending on where we can make a daylight arrival.


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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wash Rinse Repeat

Yesterday was the same thing all over again. Will it never end? we wondered.
Well of course, it did. Now very light wind. So we motored, which gave a good opportunity to clean up the mess down below.
Lots of stuff has salt water on it, so we need to wash them in fresh water. However, it's so humid, not much is drying....
It is an opportunity to swap out torn jib for #4.
So with 2 reefs (due to torn main) and #4 jib in light air, it's slow going.
Maybe we can motor some more. Too bad we lost that fuel jug overboard a few days ago.

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On the heaving bosom of the ocean

We've been slogging to windward for 6 DAYS! Winds mostly 16-22kts NNE We're on double reef (lost top batten) main and the jib is rolled down to the size of a storm jib, just to keep the boat from pounding too hard. moderate seas. (2meters) a few refreshing showers. Pilot charts say wind is never out of the North here. (must request refund)
We've made 610 nmiles in 6 days,with 590nm to go..There's a stalled high to east. So no matter where we go,we get northerlies.
Bill says we may get 24 hours of southerlies tomorrow. Big deal

We considered waiting at Kermadecs or Minerva Reef. At Minerva, we'd have to deal with invading Fijian Navy.
Though since we've notified arrival in Fiji, maybe no hassle. But anyway we're pressing on. The boat's meant to go to windward,

The boat is mostly closed up and very stuff and everything is salty and damp. ugh.
It's not hot, but warm and muggy. Bill managed to fix MOST of the leaks. Doh!
We should have checked our horoscope before leaving not the gribs and pilot charts. Doh!

Mike Webster (RAYC-SYC exchange) is super crew. He's made this trip many times.
Once on his BOC boat. He said he beat for 7days. Imagine.that!

We have friends around to suffer with. incl Paikea Mist (Van BC) and {Passages) Maple Bay.
I bet it's refreshingly cool in PNW.

It's really hard to write on bouncing heeling boat. And I'm writing on Bill's laptop and the font is very small and hard to see. So forgive typos.
On this board we still get leaks into the nav station so we need to stow laptop a lot..

Kathi and Bill Cuffel

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Watching the Weather in Whangarei

Will we or won't we?  What day?
May 4th.   Looks like spaghetti to me.


We had a great sail from Great Barrier Island to Whangarei to prepare for our passage to Fiji.
The entrance to Whangarei River is guarded by the spectacular peaks of Bream Head.  Whangarei is a great cruisers' town.  The moorage is very sheltered, up a river.  There is great shopping of all kinds near the marinas.  The terrain is flat so we can ride our bikes. 
Whangarei Town Basin
It's a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. 

After diligently working on the boat every day, we needed a day off.  Our friends Gloria and Michael from Paikea Mist (Vancouver), drove down from Opua and took us to Whangarei Falls for a short walk through the forest.
Whangarei Falls
Friday night we went to a talk by Mike Sanderson, a Volvo Ocean racer, maxi-boat driver (Mari Cha III and IV).  Mike Sanderson's website  The event was a fund raiser for a local junior dinghy sailor and hosted at Onerahi Yacht Club.  We had visited there many years ago with our friend Allen Smith.  Unfortunately, Allen passed away before we returned to New Zealand, but it was nice to meet some of his friends at OYC.
Bill and Gary Underwood.  Bill won a bottle.

Great Barrier Island and the Big Blow

Little Barrier Island and the Pigeons (look more like shark's teeth)
As we arrived in Port Fitzroy, a fellow fishing from his sail powered kayak brought us a beautiful snapper he just caught.  He and his wife were camping in a cleverly converted bus.  We spent several days sitting out a long lived, wind storm, which blew up to 50kts offshore.  We were confined to the boat for several days, so we read a lot and did arts like splicing, and fixing stuff.
Bill splicing in the Man Cave
 It didn't rain a lot, so when there was a break in the wind, we took walks ashore.  The island is very rugged, with very steep slopes and dense forest.
Beautiful scenery, large and small

Cruising the Harauki Gulf and out to Great Mercury Island

We had heard about the beautiful beaches at Great Mercury Island.  It's situated on the outside of the Coromandel Penninsula, so we waited for settled weather to approach.  We stopped at Port Charles, a quiet bay at the northeast tip of the Coromandel Penninsula on the way.  It's a big open bay, with only a couple fishing boats inside.  There are few houses and baches along the shore, but very quiet.  It seemed like we were at the end of the world.
aPasture Sea Views
The next day we pushed on to Great Mercury Island.  It was as described with beautiful bays and beaches.  Most of the island is a sheep farm, with some forest land at the south end.  There were few other boats around.  In fact we were completely alone the first night.  However, the next day a handful of other boats showed up.  The main bay is really big, so we were very spread out.  It's hard to describe how peaceful it is, with fresh clear calm autumn air.
Waiting for a Haircut

We did make a short side trip over to Opito Bay and the Hole in the Wall rocks.  More empty beaches and bays, with just a few sports fishermen about. We motored all day due to no wind.  We spent another night back at Great Mercury before heading back up to Great Barrier Island.
Frisky Dolphin Escort
Aotea (Great Barrier Island)
We had a great time at Great Barrier back in February and were looking forward to exploring more of the great big island.  This time we called in at Tryphena Harbour.  It has a ferry dock and a few business and homes scattered around.  We explored ashore and by dinghy.  After having to cook all our meals for a while, it was nice to eat out.  We had terrific giant fish and chips for dinner and a nice lunch at the cafe the next day.

The next day we moved up to Whangaparapara Harbour.  It's a smallish harbor well protected from the north, where the wind was expected from.  There were several boats in there, including 3 french cruisers.  That was kind of unusual. 

We left there this morning and actually sailed!! north to Port Fitzroy, a series of very sheltered bays and inlets, to sit out an expected wind storm.  The forecast is for 40kts, gusting 50kts tomorrow.  Yowsa!