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Picara
We made it!!
12/09/2012, Opua, New Zealand

We arrived in NZ on Saturday, Dec. 8th after a surprisingly pleasant passage from Tonga.
Over the last several months there has been much discussion, apprehension, weather pattern dissection and general anxiety around this last leg of the journey, so we were prepared for the worst but ended up having an easy passage of a total 10 days at sea.
We left Nuku'alofa, Tonga on the 26th and had a pleasant sail for two days, then pulled into Minerva Reef on the morning of November 28th and spent two days there in the company of four three other boats. It is a strange sensation to be anchored in the middle of the Pacific with no land in sight - though at low tide you could walk/wade on parts of the reef.
On Nov. 30th we left the reef and had a gentle day and a half of sailing until the wind died and we fired up the engine. Then it was almost two days of motoring through the high, in calm seas. For the first time we started watching movies on the computer during night watch which is a good way to stay awake! (Of course we would be frequently checking the horizon throughout the movie for any other ships). Then some more pleasant sailing in 12-15 kt NW winds on the aft quarter until the evening of Dec. 6th when the cold front we had been anticipating finally hit, bringing gusty and squally SW winds of 20-25 which slowly backed around westerly and got stronger, blowing around 30 kts for just about 12 hrs on Friday, then slowly diminishing back into the 20 kt range. Seas got somewhat rough during the height of the blow but Picara sailed fast with the wind around the beam and a triple-reefed main with staysail and a tiny scrap of genoa out.
We approached the NZ coast in the wee hours of the morning on Dec. 8th, still having a bit of a wild ride but as we got into the lee of the North Island we noticed the seas smoothing down even as far as 25 NM out.
It was still dark as we entered the Bay of Islands at around 4 am. We watched the sun come up and sniffed up the scent of green trees and cold dirt (as opposed to palms and sand) as we made our way in with light winds and smooth seas in the inshore waters.
By 7:30 am we were tied up at the Quarantine dock in Opua and telling sea stories with our friends who had just completed the crossing with us!
Hooray!
More tonga updates and NZ soon to come...

12/09/2012 | dad/Norm
Kia Ora & congratulations. Sounds like you had some exciting sailing and a "warm' welcome
12/09/2012 | Mom/Susan
Don't know what Kia Ora means but better say it anyway. Good to hear from you and so glad you are now officially down under. See you soon. Love you both Mom/Susan Dad/Peter
12/10/2012 | Camilla
Yaa you made it no problem, all that worrying paid off ; > Picara and her crew are very capable. we enjoyed watching you on yotreps and miss you tons. Much love C&D
12/25/2012 | Andrea
Merry Christmas and a happy new Year
Love , Andrea & Kai
12/26/2012 | Jen & Fran
Hope you had a great Xmas and wonderful plans for New Years!!

Take care - Jen & Fran
Heavenly coral
11/03/2012, Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga

Colourful corals exposed on the reef between the islands at low tide.

11/03/2012 | fran and jen
Great pics guys! Wish we were there with you.
11/03/2012 | camilla
Wow love the healthy coral ! Miss you
11/03/2012 | Mom/Susan
What a beautiful pic of coral. Glad to see and hear your update. See you soon. Love you and miss you both
11/04/2012 | Serge & Sheila
Hi you two, i have to admit that i have been avoiding your blog because it causes terible fits of uncontrolable jealousy!! so now i,m all caught up and very envious. we are looking forward to tonga october 2013. love and miss you, S&S
Beachcombing fun
11/03/2012, Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga

Sea star snuggles a cucumber on the reef

Another five-star anchorage
11/03/2012, Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga

We spent three days at Kunutu on the eastern side of Vava'u where the big ocean waves crash into their first islands for hundreds of miles. These islands are actually old coral reefs that have been rammed upwards by volcanic activity. There is dense foliage on most of the islands but near the edges they are very sharp, uneven and full of holes! There were three small islands near our anchorage, joined by a reef system that dried out at low tide and made for fantastic beach walks. Very cool to stand on the just-barely-uncovered reef and watch the waves crash on one side with the tranquil lagoon on the other.

Traditional ocean-going Vaka sailing in Neiafu harbour
Back to perfectly warm unless you're hauling 40lb of groceries at noon
11/03/2012, Neiafu, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga

Tiny Neiafu is the largest town in the Vava'u group and it sits in a very large and protected natural harbour. Since it is central to some of the most pleasant sailing to be had in Tonga, it has become a huge cruiser hangout, with most of the west-bound South Pacific fleet ending up here at some point in the season. For many boats this is one of the last stops before New Zealand, and people tend to relax here for a while to get ready for the next leg of the journey. Dozens of boats are sitting on moorings in this very deep harbour, but we were lucky to find a good anchor spot on a shelf right in front of town.
It has been fun to pull in here and recognize many of the boats we've met along the way. We have been reunited with friends we haven't seen since Mexico and the Marquesas, and met new people whose voices we had heard over the radio but had never met in person.
It is a friendly town with a number of good cafes and restaurants and a great produce market, but a pretty limited selection as far as other grocery needs.... Though this is not a problem for us as we need to eat up all of the lentils and rice we have on board before the New Zealand biosecurity folks take them away (no kidding!)! The best thing to do is get the town chores done ASAP and move out to the gorgeous anchorages.

11/03/2012 | camilla
I really love this picture. Those sails are so beautiful.
11/04/2012 | Dad/Norm
Neiafu sounds like a great place - almost sounds like a place to settle into (semi-perminently)!??
11/05/2012 | warren
These are some amazing shots and yes I am jealous. Great blog - really enjoying it!
Picara and her crew LOVE flat water sailing
Consistent trade winds mean the weather is much more comfortable
11/03/2012, Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga

After almost two weeks at Niuatoputapu, by early Octover it seemed the weather for our next leg was as good as it was likely to get. We headed off early one morning into about 20 kts ESE, bound for Tonga's Vava'u group, another 180 NM trip. We had a close reach for the first twelve hours or so, and then the wind backed a little more to the east and we were able to reach along for a bumpy but reasonable ride south.
What a pleasure to pull into the Vava'u archipelago the next afternoon: a little bit like coming home, since this was the first closely-spaced archipelago we have been to since we left Canada. Of course, there are no palm trees or mangoes or 27 degree Celsius waters at home, but if you squint at the scenery on a gray day, there are some similarities. We do have humpback whales at home, just like here though - in October this area becomes a whale nursery as the little ones are building their strength for the trip back to colder waters. We sighted one just as we came into the northern entrance to the islands.
There are more than 30 anchorages within about 20 square miles here, and it is all in protected, flat water with trade winds blowing most of the time, so the sailing is a real pleasure. You can even tow the dinghy without worrying about big waves chucking it around. Nice and easy.
Thanks to the Kiwi catamaran Moonwalker for the photo!

11/03/2012 | Mom/Susan
Home looks very comfortable and the weather looks wonderful. Glad to hear even nice grey days are filled with wonder. Enjoying your blog. xoxo
11/03/2012 | Myrna/Mom
What a cheery picture to see picara, blue sky & water, canadian flag & the trusty dinghy in tow!! Happy Sails!
11/04/2012 | Bubba
Your adventure continues!What a pleasure for us to follow your trip. Now I feel we don't have to sail!. The Picaralooks like a postcard. Looking forward to seeing you both in Tasmania. The Dad

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