22 November 2012 | New Zealand
Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu island, Tonga to Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Total miles: 1052
Average speed: 4.0
Max: 122 Nm on day 9
Min: 64 Nm on day 3
Time: 11 days 1 hour
Motor: 111.1 hours 41.8% of this journey
The South Pacific has an interesting weather pattern. You get high and low pressure systems following each other and the low's bring very strong wind with very high gusts. The high pressure system brings low winds with about 3 days of calms. There is normally a low pressure system crossing the path from Tonga to New Zealand every 5 to 7 days. Everybody therefore warned us that we can expect to encounter one "storm" on this passage. Our experience of the low coming through whilst at Tongatapu (74 knot gust) caused everybody to be a bit nervous about the trip to New Zealand.
We therefore studied the weather maps very carefully and waited for the "correct" window to start sailing to New Zealand. We saw 2 high systems following each other, without any lows (storms). This is actually the perfect window for this trip, except that you can expect to motor quite a bit. We left Tongatapu island along with 9 other yachts. On the first night there was quite a few yachts around us and it was interesting to see how they moved during the night. Some sailed on a more westerly course to stop at Minerva Reef whilst others went ahead with the advantage of size, speed, etc.
We were three boats of similar size and speed that stayed together for most of the voyage . Daniel, from Angeline, got the weather prediction daily from his Dad in New Zealand. He would then contact us and Privateer with the update. Sometimes we could not hear Angeline, and at other times we were unable to hear Privateer. We were however able to get the weather update from either of them. It was the first time during the 14000 mile journey that we were able to stay in a group sailing together.
We sailed in light winds for the first 4 days before we started motoring to get out of the calms. We sailed through patches of coral drifting on the water, looking like islands. There were very big coral (like a baseball) between the smaller pieces.
We sailed with full sails in the light wind and Ntombi was making good miles. It was such a delight with low seas that we were convinced she is the best boat on the voyage. The bigger boats fell behind due to their weight constraint. Whilst motoring on one of the calm days, we heard a strange noise from the prop-shaft and it was growing loader. I was unsure what caused the noise and I decided that it would be advisable to double check the cutlass bearing. We therefore took the sails down, stopped the engine and waited for Ntombi to get to a standstill in the middle of the ocean. Luckily the waves were almost non existent and I took my snorkel gear and dived down to inspect the cutlass bearing. Francina was almost hysterical when I went into the water. The cutlass bearing was still fine and there was no need for her to worry about me.
On Monday, 19 November the barometric pressure was 1016 and rising. On Tuesday 20 November the barometric pressure started falling whilst it was overcast and we sailed through patches of rain. We realized that there is a low pressure system coming through and we can expect stronger winds. On Wednesday it was raining and the wind became stronger with very strong gusts. We reefed down and were still sailing over 5 knots. The wind however changed to a South Easterly and we were unable to sail directly to Kerikeri in New Zealand. We were either sailing to the east or to the west, but not making any way towards our destination. The connector of the one glider broke, as well as the stack pack fastener. Francina's sewing of the stack pack fastener on the voyage to Tonga was not very well, because it was the same one that came loose. At 17h00 we decided to heave to and wait for the wind to change or ease to 10 - 15 knots. We were able to get some sleep before we started motorsailing at 23h00 to arrive in Opua at 9h45 on Thursday, 22 November 2012, still raining.
The breakwater is the Q-dock where you have to moor for the clearing in process to be completed. The breakwater is not connected to land at all and there is a toilet for the boats without holding tanks. When we approached the Q-dock we saw Angeline was already moored and Daniel helped us with our mooring lines. Biosecurity was already waiting for us to get on board to complete the documents and relief us from any seeds (beans, popcorn, etc) and fresh produce, which is not welcome in New Zealand. Next in line was customs, which also represents immigration. Lastly, the representative from Security came on board to find out if we are carrying any drugs. He explained the process and told us that the last step in the clearing in process is the sniffer dog. They however never brought the dog on board. When we were cleared, we moved to a walk on mooring in the marina.
We had to visit the marina office for the formalities there and discovered that we needed insurance in order to be in the marina. We therefore had to go to The Marina Shop to take out insurance on Ntombi. We also had to visit the customs office to complete the process of importing Ntombi into New Zealand. Our passports were stamped and we are therefore in time for our Permanent Residency visa to be effective. Only a few years to get citizenship.....
It is ironic that we started this very long journey in March on Francina's birthday and we completed it on my late Dad's birthday.
Two main islands comprise New Zealand: North Island with 44 200 square miles and South Island, with 58 200 square miles. Both islands are long and narrow and 1100 miles separates the northern and southern extremities. No point is farther than 68 miles from the sea. The country is predominantly mountainous. As huge and permanent as the mountains seem, New Zealand has changed its shape many times, for it is a region where the earth's crust has long been changing. This is particularly true of the volcanic and thermal area. The remarkable thermal activity is most spectacular at Rotorua, where geysers spout and mud pools bubble and plop like boiling porridge.
The hot shower and 'no movement' on Ntombi allowed us to sleep right through the night. We did not even woke up once, which is a first in 8 months! The next week or two will be spent working on Ntombi, seeking employment, sourcing a car and sorting out a few administrative challenges for SA, like SARS returns, etc. Luckily Bill from "The Marina Shop" has kindly offered his car for us to use to go to Pahia, Kerikeri and/or Whangarei. We also met a few South Africans in the marina and the towns close by, ready with advise.