Picara

09 December 2012 | Opua, New Zealand
03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Neiafu, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Falehou, Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Tafahi volcano, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Falehou, Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Falehou, Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Vaipo, Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga
03 November 2012 | Niuatoputapu, Tonga
21 October 2012 | south side of Samoa.
21 October 2012 | South side of Samoa
21 October 2012 | Apia, Samoa
21 October 2012 | Apia, Samoa
21 October 2012 | Apia, Samoa
15 September 2012 | Suwarrow, Northern Cooks Islands
15 September 2012 | Suwarrow, Northern Cooks Islands
15 September 2012 | Suwarrow, Northern Cooks Islands

We made it!!

09 December 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...

Heavenly coral

03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
Colourful corals exposed on the reef between the islands at low tide.

Beachcombing fun

03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
Sea star snuggles a cucumber on the reef

Another five-star anchorage

03 November 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

03 November 2012 | Neiafu, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
Back to perfectly warm unless you're hauling 40lb of groceries at noon
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.

Picara and her crew LOVE flat water sailing

03 November 2012 | Kunutu, Vava'u group, Kingdom of Tonga
Consistent trade winds mean the weather is much more comfortable
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!
Vessel Name: Picara
Vessel Make/Model: 37' Custom Steel Cutter
Hailing Port: Victoria, BC
Crew: Mike Harris, Marni Friesen
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Picara's Photos -

Who: Mike Harris, Marni Friesen
Port: Victoria, BC