Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and their OVNI 395

15 November 2021
05 November 2021 | Marsden Cove Boat Yard, New Zealand
22 October 2021 | Marsden Cove, Whangarei Harbour, New Zealand
19 October 2021 | Opua, New Zealand
16 October 2021 | Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
14 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
12 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
11 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
10 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
09 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
08 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
07 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
06 October 2021 | 250 miles SW of Fiji
05 October 2021 | 120 miles SW of Fiji
04 October 2021 | West of Fiji
30 September 2021 | Denarau, Fiji
29 September 2021
29 September 2021 | Mana Island, Fiji
24 September 2021 | Musket Cove, Fiji
22 September 2021 | Namotu Island, Fiji

That's All For Now Folks

15 November 2021
Graham Walker
This will be our last blog for the current adventure. Barracuda is all tucked up and will be receiving TLC in the Marsden Cove boat yard.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey and for your comments and questions. We have loved having you with us along the way. We hope you will join our next adventure in about a year's time - all being well.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. It took about 48 hours and four flights, from leaving the marina to arriving in Glasgow. We are looking forward to spending a year at home with family and friends.

We are now back in Scotland - and yes Mum, if you are reading this, we are eagerly awaiting your return home! Surprise!

On the Hard

05 November 2021 | Marsden Cove Boat Yard, New Zealand
Graham Walker
Sorry. Major blogging gap. We got side tracked.

So, what news from Barracuda?

We spent about a week in the marina starting to dismantle and pack up the boat. It is a slow, deliberate and time consuming process and not the best part of the journey; but we have to do it right to make life better when we come back. We are working through a long list of small repairs, improvements and general maintenance. There is a surprising amount to do after living on her for two years, and knowing that we will probably not be back on board for 12 months, we are being extra-puntilious.

After about a week in the marina we lifted Barracuda out into the boat yard and moved off the boat to stay in a 'bach' (New Zealand-speak for small holiday cottage), just a mile away. We have now been spending our days working on the boat and our evenings back at the bach. With the boat high on stilts and nearly wrapped up (no water, no heads, no power and a lot of rain) we are glad to be spending our evenings ashore.

There are some substantial bits of work to do. The rudder is now off the boat and lying on a pallet in pieces. The Kiwiprop (our excellent composite feathering propeller) will shortly come off and go to the manufacturers for a service. The gearbox has been removed and is in the workshop, to try to correct an issue that has plagued us since Panama. The engines (both inboard and outboard) will get a really thorough service. Our primary life jackets have been sent off to the Crewsaver agents in Auckland for some repairs and much of our other safety gear needs to be serviced or replaced (time expired). We have some small joinery repairs to attend to.

We are aiming to get some paintwork done on the boat here, on the hull and the topsides. Twelve years of antifouling needs to be taken off (soda blasted) and the hull stripped down to the epoxy. The epoxy then gets repaired as needed, and then the new primer and antifouling goes back on. With the topsides, we have been promising Barracuda a nice paint job for a while as the paint has lifted or bubbled in places, a common problem with aluminium boats. We are now waiting for quotes for that. How far we go with the topsides painting depends on how the pricing comes in. The mast probably needs to come off for all this, which gives us a chance to thoroughly inspect it and do any repairs needed. Once we have a clear plan for what is to be done, who is going to do it and when it's going to happen - then, we will book our flights home.

We have engaged a lovely local lady to look after Barracuda whilst we are away; she will do monthly checks to make sure all is well. Part of our challenge here is that we don't know how long we will be away for. Once we leave we can't come back until the borders re-open. We are, effectively, betting that they will be open by this time next year - but it's a strange world and that may not happen. So while we are hoping for the best, we are preparing for the possibility that it may be a long time before we can get back.

We are hoping that our final work plan will be in place by early next week... watch this space.

The End of the Road

22 October 2021 | Marsden Cove, Whangarei Harbour, New Zealand
Graham Walker
We left Opua a couple of days ago and headed south. There was a very strong wind forecast for Friday and over the weekend and we were keen to get down to Whangarei Harbour before the weekend, to start making plans for haul out. We had a good trip along the Northland coast thinking we must come back and explore all this properly – it looked stunning – but were determined to get as far south as possible on Thursday, to get ahead of the weather. We dropped the parking hook at dusk and spent the night in the very protected Urquhart’s Bay before slipping into Marsden Cove Marina yesterday morning, just as the wind was really starting to blow. We arrived in the marina in 30 knots of wind, which was a tad stressful. So we finished our last passage on this trip half way round the world in full oilies in the chilly wind and rain, and were just glad to get tied up and down below to get the heater on and celebrate with a nice cup of tea.

Marsden Cove looks like it will have all the services we need to get our work on Barracuda done, and all the locals have been ultra friendly - though it may be a slow process getting things lined up, especially given the current weather conditions. Northland was released to COVID level 2 a few days ago but some new cases announced today could mean going back up to level 3, at which point nothing can really happen; our haul out, scheduled for next Friday, is dependent on us staying at level 2. So we will see what the weekend brings and take it from there. In the meantime, we are hunkered down on board, sheltering from the cold, wind and rain.

First days of Freedom

19 October 2021 | Opua, New Zealand
Graham Walker
Following two days and nights on Q, clear COVID tests, a biosecurity inspection, alien food removal, a sniffer dog search, customs inspection and two health inspector visits - after all that, we were released from quarantine yesterday and set free. Yay! It really was a very thorough process and the various agents were as nice and friendly as can be. There was a moment of stress when the dog found either narcotics or gunshot residue in the after cabin. Luckily, it turned out that there wasn't a hidden arms or drugs stash - just accumulated kava fumes.

We have now moved over to Opua Marina for a couple of days to catch up and draw breath. Last night we celebrated our arrival along with Venture Lady by having fish and chips down by the pier, with the beady-eyed gulls. When did we last have fish and chips in a paper poke! Delicious.

One of our first observations is the number of non-NZ boats and crews we are meeting who are all saying they have been stuck in New Zealand for nearly two years. During the time they have been 'stuck' we have managed to cruise and enjoy a lot of the Pacific, but the issue for them is rather different. So long as they were already here in NZ they seem to be able to stay here, subject to regular visa / customs extensions. If they sail away, they can only come back on economic grounds, ie, they promise to spend a lot of money on a refit. Also, if they leave, where do they go? Australia won't take them because they don't need cyclone refuge (they already have it in NZ). They could go to Fiji but what are they to do at the next cyclone season when they can't go back to NZ? Otherwise, their routes are limited to Indonesia (very limited access) or all the way into the Indian Ocean. If they leave their boats here and fly out, they absolutely can't return until the rules change. In a sense, we have just landed ourselves with the same problem - so the bet we are placing is that things will have normalised when we want to come back in a year's time.

Day 12 to NZ & Landfall

16 October 2021 | Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Graham Walker
We woke on Day 12 to the glorious sight of the hills of Northland rising out of the grey south western sea. It was a cracking day, bright and crisp with just a light breeze, and we were able to sail down the North Island coast towards Opua. As we neared the Bay of Islands a Customs launch greeted us and announced that they would be escorting us all the way into harbour. They briefed us on what to expect at Opua and led the way in.

At the dock in Opua there were a couple of gents in high-vis jackets waiting to take our lines – all in gloves and masks. They explained the rules for being on Q (quarantine) dock: no leaving the boat, no contact with others, and no letting the resident possum aboard. Our buddy boats (Site Office and Enola) are moored a full boat length behind and in front of us, so all we can do is call to them over the water. Venture Lady arrived later in the night, so that’s our group all in. We were very tired, and dead to the world by 9pm.

This morning a group of masked and gloved officials arrived to do our customs paperwork, run us through bio-security, take away our ‘at risk’ food and confirm the bottom of the boat was clean. We were then taken ashore by launch to have our Covid tests done. These were the most ‘comfortable’ Covid tests we have ever had – thank you. Then back to the boat where we must stay until the results come in (hopefully by Monday). All being well we should be released then and can plan our next steps.

This has been an extremely well organised process. We know that New Zealand puts a great deal of effort into developing their systems for receiving yachts and crews. So far we have counted 13 people involved in our reception – all strictly following procedure. Well organised and very welcoming.

Having lost a lot of our food to biosecurity we were able to call up the local grocer’s shop who arranged a delivery of fruit and veg to the marina, who then ferried it out to the pontoon for us to collect, contactless. And they say we can pay them when we get released – thank you, Opua General Store.

Bay of Islands is stunning – there are far more boats here than we expected and beautiful houses dotting the indented shore and green hills. This is one of those iconic, dream sailing destinations and coming in here felt a bit like coming into Panama.

Today we were brought a SIM card and were able to get online; thanks to everyone for following our blog and for your lovely comments. It makes us feel very connected with friends and family who are a long way away.

Distance travelled: 1,310 miles
Hours motored/motorsailed: 90.5 hours
Latitudes crossed: 17.8 degrees
Time taken: 11 days 5 hours
Best bits: big yellow moonrise and seeing our first albatross (K), getting here (G) and seeing how well Barracuda performed with her new Zoom sails
Worst bits: plugging 2 knots of adverse current with 21 knots of wind on the nose for 24 hours (G and K)

Days 10 & 11 to NZ

14 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
We have just realised that we did not blog yesterday. Sorry: rest assured, all is well on Barracuda. It was a fairly rough day and we were probably just trying to hang on without doing too much extra.

We now have about 24 hours left until we get into Opua in North Island, New Zealand. We are motoring forward in fairly calm seas as the sun goes down. It's an interesting time for reflection. This may be our last night at sea for quite a while.

Today we saw our first ever (wandering?) albatross, effortlessly flying close to the waves; what a massive bird. I guess that means that we are not so far from the Southern Ocean.

We are now trying to work out how much of our fresh food we will be able to eat before the bio security people take it away. There is a whole long list of what we are not allowed to take in with us, from rice and porridge through to dairy, fruit and veggies - but we think it's ok if we eat it during quarantine, before we get off the boat. I guess we will find out in due course.

We are feeling the need to put into NZ for some TLC for us and for Barracuda. It's time to stop and give everything a good going over. The soles are falling off our sea boots - it's a thing that happens when they are stored in the heat. Our loo pump is really in need of a service and we are trying to wait until we get into port before we do the deed. The engine is right up against its hours for an oil change. Our steering is making a strange noise when the autopilot wants to make a rapid course correction - think we have worn out some of the joints again. Our chart plotters need a software update to correct a few gremlins. We would benefit from a full night's sleep. You get the idea.

We haven't been able to hear the news for the last few days. As far as we know, Northland (the district we will be landing in) is still in Level 3 COVID lockdown so we have the added uncertainty of not knowing what happens next. Hey ho!

Day 9 to NZ

12 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
We are beginning to home in on our arrival time in NZ - subject to all the normal caveats, wind gods, etc... We have confirmed that, to avoid being carted off to managed isolation, we can't arrive before 3:30pm NZ time on Friday 15th Oct. We have just over 300 miles to go and three days to cover it. So 100 miles per day on average. It looks like we may be able to sail some but will have to motor some as well. But at least we have a plan.

Arriving late on Friday may present us with a problem getting our COVID tests done. This may not happen until after the weekend. So at this point we are expecting to arrive and to then be isolated on the boat for two or three days until we pass fourteen days, including sea time, and get tested and processed.

Around mid day today we reached a waypoint that was deemed to be a good place to be when the cold front came through, which it did. It is always interesting to watch these things come through at sea. A great big dark line in the sky passed over us, the wind immediately backed about 90 degrees and the temperature dropped. We reefed and started making best course to windward.

We are currently 233 miles from the closest point of land on New Zealand.

Day 8 to NZ

11 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
When Bernard Moitessier single handed round the world in the 1970s, he would catapult a canister containing film, notes and letters onto the deck of any passing ship, trusting that they would be popped in the post at the next port. He yearned for information about his fellow competitors. Weather forecasting was based on eyeballs and a barometer. And here we are in 2021- a blog at our fingertips via the Iridium satphone, and unlimited short messages via the Garmin InReach.

Our daily comms routine starts on the satphone at 0700, sending our position and weather conditions to John (who is doing our passage routing from Fiji) and downloading the morning PredictWind weather forecast. Then at 0740 we fire up the SSB radio to check in for our morning sked (Scheduled check-ins). This gives our mini fleet the chance to share any problems, as well as check in with position and condition reports. For the last few days we've been joined by Venture Lady, Fat Susan, Jubilate Mare and a very faint Enola and Perigee, and there are probably one or two lurkers listening in, too. It's good to feel connected with others out there, and useful too to compare weather conditions and passage strategies with those ahead and behind.

At 0900 we sometimes tune in to RNZ on the SSB, to get the Pacific news, but we don't have a great thirst for news beyond our immediate horizons just now. Around the same time we usually check for a reply email from John, to confirm whether there are any changes in the passage plan. He can access much more detailed and wide-ranging weather forecasts than we do. We have a separate ‘at-sea' email account for these boat-specific comms; we don't check our ‘normal' emails when at sea, as with all their attachments they are too data-heavy to process.

The middle of the day is usually quiet but on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1715 Fiji time we tune in to Gulf Harbour Radio on the SSB. This station is aimed at sailors in the area, and gives a regional weather outlook, local news for NZ and a rundown on the boats making the crossing from Fiji or FP - ie, us! Any boat listening can chip in, so on Friday we had a chat with them updating them on conditions and our plan. They record the broadcast and publish the recordings on YouTube (search Gulf Harbour Radio).

During the day we check for messages on the Garmin which gives us short text messages, as and when, but the VHF is silent as we haven't seen a boat for days. All told, it's just as well we aren't relying on catapults and passing tankers.

Day 7 to NZ

10 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
Day 7 has been a little frustrating. We are now motor-sailing directly towards the northern tip of New Zealand. We are still heading for a particular waypoint that will allow the next front to pass south of us, and then allow us to continue on in better weather. We need to keep the pace on now so we are motor sailing into light headwinds. By tomorrow we should reach the centre of the high pressure system and things should get easier, but progress right now is a little slow as we push into wind, slight waves and north-setting current - all right on the nose.

These are changed days on Barracuda as we start using things not seen here for a couple of years. It is getting progressively colder as we head south so we have our long trousers, fleeces, socks and sea boots for night watches and today we even dug out the duvet. It is strangely refreshing to be a little cooler.

Day 6 to NZ

09 October 2021 | Between Fiji and New Zealand
Day 6 provided a good day's sailing. We have now put in our turn to the south and are making best coarse to windward. We have been sailing round a high pressure system that is moving slowly eastwards. The HP systems rotate anticlockwise in the southern hemisphere. As we turned south we are now working towards its centre so we expect the winds to soften a bit over the next 24 hours. We may end up motoring across its centre. We are now aiming for a point on the water that we need to reach by Tuesday midnight. A front will pass there around than and after that we expect to get our instruction to head straight for NZ.
Vessel Name: Barracuda of Islay
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go
Extra: One day at a time
Barracuda of Islay's Photos - Main
41 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
29 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
Starting in the Chesapeake, down the ICW to the Bahamas and onto Puerto Rico and the Caribbean
24 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
Barracuda's trip from Scotland to Europe, the Canaries, and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean followed by a trip up to the Bahamas and on to the USA East coast.
26 Photos
Created 11 February 2021
81 Photos
Created 30 April 2016
60 Photos
Created 16 September 2015
a pre-retirement holiday
19 Photos
Created 21 June 2015
some shots from our lovely trip around the Aegean with Ailie
8 Photos
Created 16 January 2015
9 Photos
Created 19 July 2014
2 great weeks with Steve and Bibi Rainey.
11 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
A long weekend with Catherine and David.
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
4 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda, K & G head south to a new home.
14 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Barracuda does the Western Isles of Scotland.
12 Photos
Created 18 July 2014
Kate and Graham Chillin'
7 Photos
Created 18 July 2014

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