Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pastoral & Industrial Association Show

OpuaIMG_3268

‘Pastoral & Industrial Association Show’ is a pretty high end sounding name for what we would call an old-fashioned County Fair. They hold them throughout the country this time of year (Spring). The highlight of our visit was getting to watch the working dogs bully the sheep around. Smart dogs – dumb sheep.

OpuaIMG_3281  This guy filled us in on the NZ working dogs and all the sheep dog trials that are coming up over the next few months while his dog waits patiently to go back to work and deal with those evil sheep.

OpuaIMG_3263 With all the rules you have to deal with in NZ some just might call it a nanny state. We had to have our boat AC wiring inspected by a licensed contractor before we could hook up (plug in to shore power) at the marina. This inspection is good for 4 years. We also had to have our extension cord to the dock separately inspected. This one is only good for 1 year.  The weirdest rule is making all the children under 12 walk around in these plastic bubbles so they won’t get hurt.

OpuaIMG_3290 And then there was the safety bull riding with carefully padded paddock floor.

OpuaIMG_3294The fair included judging local baking, flower and crafts entries. I was a little disappointed by the judging for the arts and crafts section. This masterpiece of potato sculpting only got an honorable mention. I couldn’t believe it it didn’t walk away with first.

OpuaIMG_3296 This is still spring down here. The weather changes every few days. You can see the change of weather clouds signaling the next days of wind and rain here.

We finally got off the dock at Opua after buying a new Tohatsu 9.8 two-stroke outboard for the dinghy. Our previous Tohatsu lasted about 14 years and multiple dunkings in salt water (not recommended by the manufacturer). We are carefully doing the 10-hour break-in now. Our sails are all at the sail loft getting some well deserved tender-loving repair and re-stitching. We plan to motor around the Bay of Islands (in NE New Zealand) to visit a few of the anchorages here until our sails come back and then we’ll likely head out to explore a little more of the coast.

Paul

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Passage to NZ Notes

ToNZIMG_3195 This is all you see when you approach North Minerva Reef on a calm day. Minerva Reef, North and South, are atolls that sit in the middle of nowhere, 250 nautical miles from Tonga. In the ‘good old days’ of sextant based navigation the prudent thing to do was to avoid these reefs by many miles. Today, with GPS navigation, they make a nice place to stop to rest up and wait for a good weather window to continue southward on the passage to New Zealand. Plus, it’s so cool to drop your anchor in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a spec of land around you!

In a straight-line from Tonga to Opua, NZ, it is a little over 1,000 miles. We managed to actually sail about 1,398 miles to get there. This includes the stop in North Minerva and then traveling west to about 28*30S 173*14E before travelling south. You travel west for a few reasons – mainly to deal with the SW winds you are likely to encounter as you approach the north cape of NZ and also to try and take any of the fronts which blow up the Tasman Sea from the Southern Ocean north of 28-30* latitude where they should have less punch.

Many of the boats that were on passage with us used land based weather routers. We got our weather by downloading GRIB files via our SSB radio, which show predicted wind and seas over the next few days, and by listening to Gulf Harbour Radio out of NZ. Some of the boats were routed very far west – almost close enough so they could wave at Australia. This added a lot of miles to their route and a lot of extra motoring. It was supposed to make the frontal passages less strong. In practice they got the same thing we did – 25-28kts sustained with 33 gusts on the nose – for 24 hours.  We ended up turning toward NZ as soon as the wind moved a smidgen past south toward the west. This turned out to be a lucky call and we had a good sail into Opua for the last 3 days. It wasn’t lucky like you just won the lottery, it was more lucky like you are driving in a strange part of town looking for an address and you come to an intersection, rather than asking for directions, something intuitive says turn here. In a block and half of driving the address you want shows up – it’s a guy thing.

Our trip to NZ:

10 days from Tonga to Opua including 1-1/2 days in N. Minerva Reef,

1.5 days of motoring,

about 12 hours sailing on a nice reach, all the rest of the time close hauled and beating into it.

ToNZIMG_3211 On the one calm day, we stopped for some swimming in 13,000 feet deep water as a break from our 24 hour motor torture. This is crew Bill and Anne, enjoying the cool water.

ToNZIMG_3236 A pleasant greeting from two Kiwi porpoises showing us the way to customs. This was after the NZ Air Force P3 Orion flew over to check out who we were.

 ToNZIMG_3255 Georgia sitting at the quarantine dock in the morning after tying up at midnight. First onboard was NZ Biosecurity. They managed to go through every locker and confiscate a large trash bag of our frozen food, salami, honey plus some items in the freezer that even we couldn’t identify. Most important, Chris got to keep all her shells.

Paul

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

En Zed

We made it into Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand or as they say it En Zed, last night at around midnight. Cleared customs this morning with the most complete quarantine inspection we’ve ever had. The inspectors could barely lift the bag that they confiscated all our meats, honey,, and various other evil things. It is the NZ War Against Meat Products.

We finally got to crack off the wind a bit for the last 35 miles. Other than that it was close hauled all the way from Tonga.  More latter, maybe even some pics. I need a hot shower and a beer.

Paul

Monday, November 9, 2015

Day 7 Minerva Reef to Opua, New Zealand

Georgia can smell the barn now. We are about 95 miles outside the Bay of Islands. At dawn the wind turned against us and we started motoring a few hours latter. Unless the wind goddess gets really cranky we should be in around midnight tonight. Had a really nice close hauled sail all day yesterday and last night. The small seas make it much more gentlemanly. We served complimentary Mentos after dinner last night and that was a big hit with the crew.

Paul


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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 6 Minerva Reef to New Zealand

Mellow evening sailing closed hauled in 8-10 kts with fairly light seas. This is turning out to be the longest continuously close hauled (sailing tight to the wind) passage I have ever made. Quite a change from the thousands of downwind miles it takes to get across the Pacific. I have given my foul weather gear a good airing after not using them for almost two years. At this speed we should be in some time in the we hours of our Tuesday night (Monday in the slow part of the world). Ripped a towel bar out of the bulk head in the vee-berth yesterday that got unfortunately used as grab instead.
Got an e-mail from friend who are already in Opua. The important news from there is that the
Mediterranean salmon salad in the yacht club is really good.

Paul


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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Day 5 Minerva Reef to New Zealand

Looks like we turned the corner. Yesterday afternoon we stopped adding westerly to our position and tacked to a starboard tack. This pointed us much more south (and some unwanted east) as the wind had gone a little west of south -- very little west. If we stay on this course we will end up in Antarctica. The winds should continue to clock to the SW and then west putting us on a direct course for the entrance to the Bay of Islands, where our customs entry point Opua is. The seas have laid down and it is really a pleasant sail now. With the nasty front behind us this stuff is just like banging your head against the wall, it feels so good when you stop. We were the first boat of the boats near us to tack. I bet a number of them have decided to take the gamble by this morning.

About 310 miles to go.
Paul




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Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 4

Yesterday got a little feisty. The propane bottle ran out. Of course it ran out when we were in 25-30kts of winds and 2.5m seas, not the day before when we were motoring and the seas were flat. To change the bottles I have to open the port-aft deck locker. We turned up a bit to slow the boat and to try and avoid getting any boarding seas while I was changing the bottles. This actually worked well -- butttt - we took a seas on the stern and it tore away our aft deckbox. This is the one that we keep all our dinghy stuff in, such as a 6 gallon and a 3 gallon gas tank. We saw it floating off behind us but I figured it would be too dangerous to try and bring it back onboard in those conditions.
The next exciting thing the seas offered was late at night taking a boarding wave that ended up sending down a river of water on the companionway and into the quarterberth. So much for keeping saltwater out of the cabin.

This morning life has calmed down. The winds are back to the low 20's and the seas are a little more organized. The winds are still SSE. Which means we are still sailing SW close hauled. Sometime latter today the winds should move to the SW and we should be able to tack and point closer to our destination which is 429 miles or so away.

Got an e-mail from our friends in San Fran with all the important news updates -- the key being that they are expecting freezing temperatures in Truckee and that Hillary did not smoke pot with Donald in college.

Paul


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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day 3

Short blog today. We motored for almost 24 hours till we hit the front associated with the low we were trying to go around at about midnight. This morning it looks like we are almost through the front. Winds are blowing 26knots gusting to 30. We are closed hauled in 1.5m seas with a reefed main and the staysail partially furled. Crew has not continued mutiny conspiracy after they were forced to swim in 13,000 feet deep water yesterday afternoon when the seas were glassy.

Paul


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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

N. Minerva Reef toNew Zealand - Day 2

Forgot to mention in yesterdays blog that we past the geographic Dateline with our longitude going from 179W to 179E. So if we dug a hole through the earth we should come out at Greenwich in England on the other side -- assuming it didn't immediately fill with water and completely drain the South Pacific. Yesterday was good smooth sailing. It lasted till about 1am when everything shut down and we've been motoring. The boats about 300 miles ahead of us got hit by the front associated with the low we've tracking and have 25-30 knots winds. It looks like we will skirt around the low and not have to deal with that.

Got the watermaker running while the engine is on, so it just might be hot showers for the crew if they stay inline. Yesterday they tried to replace me with a flying fish that landed onboard and they named the New Kipper.

Paul



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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

N. Minerva Reef toNew Zealand - Day 1

We spent about a day and a half in Minerva Reef. At high tide the anchorage is a little rolly, with the waves sneaking across the reef. At lower tides it is really a very comfortable spot. In the morning the wind had laid down so we launched the dinghy and did a good snorkel on the reef and one of the wrecks. Lots of Giant Clams plus some really large lobster. There were the typical colorful reef fish, but not in great numbers. We didn't see any of the infamous shark population of Minerva.
We left yesterday at about 3:30pm. It was blowing 15 to 25kts all night, so our boat speed has been good. We are heading in a SW direction to get fairly far west to try and avoid the nastiness of a strong low that is headed over NZ. The boats that left Tonga with us and didn't stop in Minerva and are looking at the prospect of heading west and then having to sit out the passage of low before moving on. We'll see how it all develops.
All well onboard -- good soup/stew last night for dinner.
Paul


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

North Minerva Reef

We went through the pass at North Minerva Reef at about 9am today. The passage down was pretty easy with light winds, not too much in the way of seas, and a 3/4 waning moon for half the night. We started out sailing close hauled for most of the first day and then it clocked around to ENE winds, giving us a run for the second half of the last night in light winds.

Minerva is a 3.5 mile wide classic-looking atoll with a narrow, but very clear entrance. We entered using the leading waypoint of 23* 37.08S, 178* 56.247W with no real current in the pass. We are anchored in the NW corner of the atoll (23*37.5S, 178*53.9W) in about 45 feet of water over sand. At high tide it was a little rolly, but now the tide has gone down and it's very snug - even with a decent east wind blowing.

It is really strange to stop at reef with no land in the middle of the Pacific. I was hoping to get in here in time to stop at Denny's and get a Grand Slam Breakfast but it wasn't happening. There's no WiFi or cell service here either. Matter of fact, there's no land here, just a big circular reef the sticks up at low tide surrounded by water over 3,000 feet deep. Weird.

We crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn early this morning. The line where the sun goes to its maximum southern position. I tried to talk the onboard cooks into having Tropic of Capricorn Dogs as a celebration dinner tonight, but got roundly overruled -- think Captain Bligh.

Looks like we'll take off in the morning for Opua in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Its about a 6 day run from here if all goes well. The basic routing approach is to watch the succession of highs and lows that march from under Australia, past Tasmania and into the Tasman Sea. They then curve up and pass over the top of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a parade of highs and lows in swift succession. This means the winds clock around continually on the passage and often get their strongest and most contrary nearer to the north coast of New Zealand, where we're heading. You can take the direct rhumb line straight from Minerva Reef to Opua or head west to a spot about 250 miles north of North Cape, New Zealand, and then turn south toward Opua. The latter approach means that if you get hit by the strong SW winds from a system you take them further north where they are typically less nasty and you have a better angle to sail them into Opua. Of course, then there are the times when there are actually SE winds and going west will make it all much worse. Looking at the weather predictions we're seeing now, it looks like we will head down the rhumb line for a few days and then when we see S and SE winds from a low that is shown on the GRIB files we will head off west, probably going half way to the typical western point. Then as the wind clocks to the SW head straight down toward Opua. Best laid plans... We will see what the weather goddess has in store for us.

Paul


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