Our Next 30 Years

04 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
02 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
28 October 2017 | 35 18.8'S:174 07.3'E, Q-Dock, Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, NZ
26 October 2017 | 32 50.1'S:174 35.0'E,
25 October 2017 | 31 16.8'S:174 32.7'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
24 October 2017 | 29 45.9'S:174 35.8'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
23 October 2017 | 28 04.2'S:176 12.3'E, South Fiji Basin
22 October 2017 | 25 53.2'S:175 41.1'E, South Fiji Basin
21 October 2017 | 22 50.4'S:175 32.4'E, South Fiji Basin
20 October 2017 | 20 05.3'S:176 08.9'E, SW Fiji Waters
19 October 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
11 October 2017 | Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji
01 October 2017 | Mololo Island, Fiji
30 September 2017 | Mololo Island, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Lavuka, Ovalua, Fiji
19 September 2017 | Levuka, Ovalua, Fiji
26 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
24 August 2017 | Savusavu, Vanua Levu Island, Fiji
09 August 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji

Fiji to NZ Passage Summary

04 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
Looking back at our passage and hearing the reports from the other cruisers as they arrive from the tropics, helps to put things in perspective. The bottom line is that like with an airplane, any landing you can walk away from is a good one. For cruisers, it is also important that you don’t break anything. In our case we had no issues. Others have not been as fortunate. Shorter passages are always better. Ours was 8 days (2 days shorter than last year). Others that left in the same weather system we did came in about 20 hrs earlier than us by motoring about 1.5-2kts faster than we did (4-4.5kts for us vs 5.5-6.5kts for them). Cruisers that came down in other weather systems did the trip in as little as 6-7 days and others 7-10 days. Those that did the trip in the shorter time frame saw heavier winds and sea-state than we did for greater periods of time than we did. In the grand scheme of things, both Cindy (and Jen) are probably very happy with the trade-off of calmer seas and a longer passage time. While I would have liked to have sailed more and motored less, in the grand scheme of things, we would have to consider this a good passage.

(Thanks to SV Whistler for the picture as we were getting ready to exit Navulu Passage into 25kts and 2.5m seas for our first day going south.)

Sharing with Friends is Always Fun

02 November 2017 | Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ
Once again, we were fortunate to have friends join us for the passage between Fiji and New Zealand. Our good friends Brent and Jen from Austin have spent time with us on the boat most every season. This year they elected to do the passage to NZ. We were lucky to get a few days in the islands before leaving on the passage, and we arrived in NZ early enough for them to see a little of NZ before returning to the US.

While it is impossible to experience a passage any other way than just doing it, you do get the bad with the good as Jen found out. Unfortunately we started the passage with the roughest conditions (25kts T, going upwind into 2.5m seas), but the last 4 days were very calm (lots of motoring), allowing Jen to bounce back and be able to enjoy night watches, sunsets, and the positive parts of an ocean passage. Brent was a real trooper during the first 24hrs, and helped make the passage much easier for me (and Cindy)..

I especially enjoy their sense of adventure. They jumped at the opportunity to go out to some of Fiji’s finest surf spots, including Cloud Break, Wilkes and Namotu Left. While we were all quite humbled with the experience we had a great time giving it a go - them on surfboards and me on the standup paddleboard. While neither Cindy nor I joined them for their marathon hike to Pahia, Russell and back, they had a full day of enjoying the Kiwi outdoors.

Thanks Brent and Jen for the company, assistance and above all your friendship!

Day 8 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

28 October 2017 | 35 18.8'S:174 07.3'E, Q-Dock, Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, NZ
Pulling a rabbit out of your hat. This time yesterday, I would have never believed we would be in Opua tonight. After all the motoring we were doing and to have a knot or more of adverse current pushing on you much of the day limiting progress to 3kts at time, I was convinced it would be Sunday before we ever saw NZ. And, I was wondering what I had done to make Neptune so angry when our weather router informed me that we had just missed the last of the wind. So what happened? Miraculously the current turned favorable in a big way. All of a sudden we were motoring at 5.5kts vs 3 knots. While we were never able to just sail, we had multiple opportunities to motor-sail, including today coming into the BOI under spinnaker at 6-7kts. This all meant that instead of motoring at 4kts or less, we were motor-sailing at 5kts and more! And as if to say "no hard feelings", we were welcomed to NZ by a pod of whales blowing and playing at the surface for what seemed like forever. I guess it's true - better to be lucky than good.

Day 7 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

26 October 2017 | 32 50.1'S:174 35.0'E,
Slow is boring. And when you get bored, people get creative. So I couldn't say I wasn't surprised when we received an email from SV Whistler to us and SV Mango Moon, who were all (at one point in time) within 60nm or so of each other. The email was a challenge, disguised as an invitation, to join the North American South Pacific Fishing Tournament. They were very inclusive with the rules allowing points for sightings of albatross, sea mammals, as well as actually catching fish. If you were able to take a picture, you got extra points. FullCircle responded with a resounding - we're "on like donkey kong" (I was told that response was important for purposes of trash talk intimidation in response to the challenge).

When I am bored however, I find that there is only one thng to do, and that is take a nap. The older I get the more I appreciate a good nap - any time of day actually. This, now our second day of motoring, will become yet a third day of motoring tomorrow, because we are going so slow when we are motoring. How slow you ask. Well we only cover about 200nm over the last two days! To add insult to injury we have picked up an adverse current of 0.5 to 1kt of boat speed, slowing us down even more today. And then, we get the news from our weather router that because we are moving so slow, we will miss the wind out ahead of us and leave us motoring for yet another day (at least). So if you are counting that means that we will not arrive Opua until Saturday night late at the earliest, and more likey Sunday - because we are bored, going slow motoring, rather than having fun sailing fast. Oh well - more time for naps.

Day 6 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

25 October 2017 | 31 16.8'S:174 32.7'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
You can't get there from here. When last you heard from SV FullCircle, we were trying to get south by going west. Unfortunately our day continued to progress with no end in sight from our folly. I re-reviewed the grib files, re-read the forecast and guidance from our weather router, and reviewed our limited options. We could continue going west to get south. We could tack away and go east to get south, or we could pack up the sails and motor headlong into the seas and wind to get south. Since I didn't have anything else to do we tried each option to see which would be the best. Motoring into the seas and wind was slow, and the measured VMG (Velocity Made Good) confirmed that this option was slower than going west to get south. We tacked and tried going back east (from where we came) to get south and found that the current was against us making the course ove ground terrible, as was the boat speed. Again, the VMG confirmed that this option was not an option. That lef t us with our answer - keep going west to get south. This option emphasized a specific personal characteristic that I seem to be lacking - patience. After a second round of discussion with our weather router we were assured that we would get to the calm winds which we would then motor for several hour and then re-emerge in a favorable wind to carry us southward. Well gues what? By 11PM (local Fiji Time) our wind died. We turned south and motored for 2 hours and then at 1AM (local Fiji Time) as if by majic, the winds filled in and we began sailing off in a "southerly" direction. We now accept why the shift took so long to get to us - it was the fact that we were still "on Fiji Time" (as in no worries - it's Fiji Time).

After today, and the new grib (weather) forecast, I'll be happy if we make Opua by Sunday! Patience - have patience .....

Day 5 - Port Denarau, Fiji to Opua, NZ

24 October 2017 | 29 45.9'S:174 35.8'E, 30 deg South Benchmark
Deja Vu all over again. This is our third passage from the tropics to NZ, and we always reach this point somewhere south of the 30 degrees South benchmark. We are sailing into southerly winds and instead of going south we are going west. Not encouraging looking at our VMG. Then there were the groans overnight as we were sailing hard on the wind at 8-10kts in 2m seas. "No, it isn't as bad as the first day out" I kept responding, but no one wanted to listen. At first light we did put a reef in and settle the boat down a bit. The wind is dying and will get to a point where we will start motoring in a few hours as we approach and cross a kigh pressure ridge. At that point we will head directly to Opua and wait for the wind to fill back from the SW so we can motorsail and/or sail again.

So here is how we chose to determine when the wind had reached west of north so we knew when to gybe yesterday. First, we estimated the wind direction watching our masthead fly (the apparent wind direction) and knowing our heading. When we thought we were about there, we gybed the main and assumed a dead downwind heading. We then used the boats heading to tell us the wind direction. We were a little off initially, but close enough that we could continue a little off of dead downwind before gybing the jib over and continuing. So how would you do it?

Today we covered 141nm, but as I said earlier a lot of the miles were east to west vs north to south. So we have now fallen a little (maybe 3 hrs or so) behind on our 7 day passage benchmarks (we had actually been ahead until today). Given the forecast I don't know that we will be able to keep the pace for a 7 day passage completion, so we may need an extra day. Cindy says no problem - we have plenty of food!
Vessel Name: Full Circle
Vessel Make/Model: 50' cruising catamaran designed by Garry Lidgard
Hailing Port: Austin, Texas
Crew: David and Cindy Balfour
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S/V FullCircle

Who: David and Cindy Balfour
Port: Austin, Texas