11/01/2010, Midway between Tonga and NZ
We are on the 4th day of our Tonga to New Zealand crossing. We started out in Neifu and headed west out of the same pass we entered in. Chris from Mooneshine, Lee from Jargo, and another sailor Sarah, joined us as far as the Mariners Cave where we dropped them off in their dinghy. They planned to visit the cave and then dinghy back to Neifu or perhaps hitch a ride on another sailboat.
Catching up on our last couple of weeks in Tonga, we spent a good part of it in Neifu venturing out for several days at a time. The main issue has been the weather was very overcast and often raining heavily. Mark did some dives with Cory from Comfort Zone which were quite good. We celebrated a birthday with several other boats with a beach fire on one of the anchorages. Mooneshine finally arrived and we hung out with Chris and Ashley for a bit.
We planned to head out several days earlier but ran into some problems while we were still in Va'vau group. Mark had spent the day in the engine room on various repairs, mostly in overhauling the automatic bilge pump which had been failing to prime itself. As he was finishing, we noticed the generator was over heating. Mark found the impeller had lost some of its blades and replaced it. He then fished for the broken blades where they end up in the heat exchanger and can create blockages.
That was when he noticed there was a large crack on the heat exchanger's cover. We decided to head back to Neifu to get it repaired and that slowed us down by several days. Because the cover is made of bronze, it is apparently not welded but braized. Though we're not sure waht the difference is, it didn't matter because the maintenance guy at the Moorings charter office said we'd have a hard time getting it repaired in town and he thought we would be well enough off using some special epoxy we already had on the boat. With the repair complete, we headed out the next day.
The crossing began quite rough. We had 25-35kt winds from the SE and quite unsettled wave action. We were both very seasick the first several days, mostly sitting put as much as we could. Unfortunately, as we were passing Nukulofa in the morning, Mark found two problems. One, the generator was again overheating. And two, the wind direction gauge had been damaged the night before. We decided to not stop back in Nukulofa as neither was particularly serious and we probably would not be able to get the repairs completed anyway.
For the next day, we ran the engine to charge the batteries when needed while Mark worked on the generator. The issue was that being seasick Mark did not feel like spending lots of time in the engine room and needed long breaks. Also, for some reason the first impeller he replaced has an early failure. Looking back, the issue was that being heeled over so far (which raised the side the generator was one higher), the impellers were having lots of trouble priming themselves and Mark really needed to gob on silicone grease to help the priming and protect the impeller until the water started moving through and lubricating/cooling the impeller. Still, there were at least a couple of times where Mark verified the impellers were correctly primed, only to having them "de-prime". We are not exactly sure what the problem was, but the generator now is working correctly. It was nice that we had 5 spare impellers with us, as losing several has not been a great worry. We'll check with a mechanic when we get to NZ and are completing our other repairs.
The winds have generally ranged from the SE or NE and we've had to adjust the sails several times a day to account for changes in direction. We've been making 5-9kts most of the time, though most recently the wind has shifted more to our port quarter and slowed down and we've fired up the engine to keep us moving. The weather down here can be quite rough and the advice given to us was to keep moving as much as we can so we don't wait around for a big storm to come through. Though we'd prefer to sail as much as we can, we're following that advice.
Today is the first day we are both feeling over our seasickness. The most obvious sign of that was that Dana made a giant meal of corn, potato au gratin, and stove top stuffing (!!!) for dinner. We each probably only ate half of what was made, but Dana figured that we had not eaten much the last few days and it was time to get a load of food in us.
It has been surprisingly cold as we have proceeded south. We had thought we were heading into early spring weather in NZ but it feels much more like winter. We both have pants and sweatshirts on all the time to stay warm. Whoever is on watch in the cockpit is typically covered in a blanket to stay warm. Dana even made up some tea and hot chocolate this afternoon to warm each of us up.
In general, things are going well. We are about at the half-way mark for the crossing as there are about 600 miles more to go. We just emailed in our estimated arrival time to NZ customs, which they request you do. We told them we expct to be in Friday morning, though if the winds don't pick up that will more likely turn into Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.
Tonight, we will pass the 180 degree "date line". That is in quotes because Tonga was already on the other side of the date line: NZ has the same date and time as Tonga. Nonetheless, it is a significant mark for us as we continue on our way.