Photo: Rafts of fluttering shearwaters enjoy the calm conditions at dawn with Hen Island beyond
It is good
to be back in New Zealand. As we came within a couple of hundred miles of Marsden Cove, I was quite surprised at how strongly it felt as though we were coming “home”.
Arriving at the Quarantine Dock at 8:10 am on Saturday (25th November), we joined SVs Maya and Philiosophy. Still, despite being the weekend, we did not have to wait long for the friendly and efficient Bruce (Customs and Immigration) and Mike (Quarantine) to check-in all three boats. We were soon in our slip and almost immediately Brent from the marina was kindly taking us to the grocery store at Ruakaka to replace all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we had to use-up before arriving in New Zealand. Needless to say, once the cold items (including a frozen turkey for Randall’s belated Thanksgiving feast) were stashed in the fridge, naps were a higher priority than putting the rest of the groceries away. And finally, I wallowed in the luxury of a hot shower for a full 10 minutes. While this soul-drenching experience was sufficiently satisfying for me that I was inspired to write a poem about it (I know, it does seem like a rather unlikely topic for poetry), poor Randall could not get his tally-card to work and had to make-do with a cold shower. Four loads of laundry the next day, have made a significant dent in the backlog of items needing to be washed and tomorrow we will be hosing-down the outside of the whole boat, including the sails.
Friends on various other boats had already reached New Zealand safely (French Curve in Opua and Devocean in Whangarei – both having had fast and furious passages), or are arriving over the next couple of days (Scoots from Fiji and Local Talent and Bob from South Minerva are all going to Opua but eventually moving to Whangarei). Gail has been regaling us with how fabulous the snorkeling was at South Minerva where they stopped for a few days. While I was very pleased for them, it did make me a little regretful that we had not joined them there for at least a day. But our horse was heading to the barn.
We started on our passage on Saturday (18th November), as intended, and were very happy that, once we were clear of North Minerva Reef, we could shut-off the engine and start sailing. Initially in the west-southwest winds, we could not sail in the south-southwest direction directly along the rhumb-line to New Zealand. We either had to go due south or even south-southeast which took us within 130 nm of the Kermadec Islands. After three days, however, the wind backed to the east-southeast which then allowed us to tack and point in the right direction. Other than a bit of a lull on Tuesday when the wind backed, the wind strength was between 15 to 22 knots which allowed us to sail close-hauled at a good 5 to 7 knots much of the way. The waves were quite sizable at times and from varying directions, so it was a lively ride but there was nothing scary.
We had to motor for the last 22 hours because the wind-speed dropped as we approached the massive high-pressure systems (1035 mb) sitting over New Zealand. But with the diminishing waves, this allowed me the comfort to be able to do some tidying and cooking on our last day at sea, which was really quite useful. It also allowed us to sleep better and arrive in good spirits with sufficient energy rather than thoroughly exhausted. We assumed that the high pressure system would bestow warm, cloudless weather on the weekend but it has actually been mostly cloudy, with a few light showers, and disappointingly chilly. Still, summer is, supposedly, on the way…
Passing Bream Head on our way to Marsden Cove
Now we have to develop an itinerary the next six months. We plan to visit the US for about six weeks in late February (just before Randall’s 3-month visa expires) but exactly where and when we will visit various friends and family-members has yet to be organized. In New Zealand, we will visit Helen and Tony in Auckland, rent a car and tour around the North Island (including meeting Nikki and family in Wellington), and have the boat hauled for an insurance survey and some work on the rudder. We hope to spend the holiday season in Whangarei Town Basin but we hear that the marina is pretty crowded so we shall see. We have plenty of things that we would like to do here but, other than the trip to the US, we can be pretty flexible about when we sail north to cruise in the Bay of Islands and south to revisit the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. It is good to have options but I look forward to seeing a plan emerge from them.
In the meantime, we hope that those of you in the US had a good Thanksgiving week. We will be catching-up with you with our Turkey dinner on Tuesday, which we plan to share with the lovely Swiss family on SV Maya. We have had a wonderful cruising season in “The Islands” and we have much for which to be thankful.
I have added the blog entries with photographs for Samoa and Wallis that I could not post until back in internet-land, so please go back to the post for October 13th to catch-up on those adventures…or, at least, to look at the pictures. It feels very good to have the blog up-to-date. I will probably be posting less frequently now that we are back in New Zealand, except when we move around.