Heading south to Opua, New Zealand
22 October 2018
Photo: Minerva Reef Yacht Club Committee
We lifted the anchor at 09:00 Friday 12th October and after saying a quick goodbye to Blue Zulu, headed out of Nukualofa bound for Opua with a possible stop at North Minerva reef. There were several other boats heading out as well, including Josh, Sara and the boys on Rogue, Shawnigan and Pelizeno.
Day 1. The first day out was a real smorgasbord of sail combinations. We had the gennaker up for a couple of hours, 2 sailed, wing on wing and then motor sailed. Pleasant enough just frustrating not having very light air sails or more breeze. The weather update that evening continued to suggest going straight through to Opua, but every download seemed to change and multiple emails were swapped discussing the options.
Day 2 saw heavy rain in the morning and us still motor sailing, however once the rain cleared the sun came out and the breeze gradually increased allowing us to sail, even though it was a little close hauled. Once again the weather download seemed to be suggesting something different, and by 21:00 the decision had been made to go into North Minerva for a couple of days to allow the squash zone to pass below us and the stronger head winds at the top of New Zealand to ease. It also looks like the course from North Minerva with the forecasted weather pattern may be straighter with less westing required.
Day 3. Sunday morning, 14th October, at first light there was ourselves, Bajka, Anila and Rogue outside the entrance of North Minerva for enough light to enter. We were all safely inside with the anchor down by 08:00. Lisa, Peter and Zenon had left from the Ha’apai group in Tonga and were a couple of hours behind us, it is not often we get somewhere before them. That evening we all got together on Rogue for a Mexican night joined by Mirabella.
The wind blew up to 25 knots whilst we were in Minerva, the updates from Shawnigan who carried on indicated it was not “too bad” out there, Blue Zulu who arrived on Tuesday morning said it was lumpy. However, the weather window for a direct path to New Zealand was opening again on Wednesday 17th October, and according to the weather gurus it was the best they had seen for a while. We received an email from friends Paul and Gloria, Scallywag, also Josh, Kuan Yin, telling us they would be departing Fiji the same day heading home. With 10 boats leaving Minerva, sounds like a party next week in Opua. There was one final get together for sundowners on Rogue before we all headed back to our boats for last minute preparations for leaving in the morning.
We left North Minerva Reef at 07:30, Wednesday 17th October and motored across the lagoon. The winds were quite strong the first 24 hours and on the beam which made the going uncomfortable. However we knew this would get better the further south we got. By Friday we had the reefs out of the main and were sailing in company with 3 other yachts, Rogue, Anila and Counting Stars. As the breeze continued to lighten the other boats gradually pulled away from us and disappeared over the horizon. The motor was started at 22:00 on Saturday night as the wind continued to drop and the seas glassed off. We caught up with Anila and headed in to the Bay of Islands arriving at the Q dock, Opua marina at 00:30, with the guys on Rogue, Counting Stars and Mirabella waiting on the dock to take our lines, Anila arrived 40 minutes later. It was then party time on Rogue, with the guys not getting back to their own boats till 04:30 and rumour has it 6 bottles of rum consumed.
The following morning the Customs and Bio Security guys were down at the dock and had all boats cleared very efficiently, including Blue Zulu who had arrived at 06:30. It was great to see Paul and Gloria, Scallywag, on the dock as they had just arrived down from Fiji. The Customs guys loved seeing all the kids charging up and down Q Dock on their scooters. It was then into the marina and a catch up with Emily, Tom, Will and Sam from Bonaire and Christian, Nina and Taj from Shawnigan who had arrived a few days earlier. 14:00 saw about 50 of us drinking champagne on Pelizeno, followed by dinner at Opua Yacht Club, where Luca, Ella, Naial and Ilyian from Bajka joined us having just arrived. The yacht club was great and welcomed us all, including all the kids and family and friends who had arrived.
It is now time to head south to Auckland and back out to the house on Waiheke, reconnect with family and friends and settle back to life ashore. We will start heading south on Wednesday with the aim of being back home at the weekend.
So there it is, a very busy but extremely rewarding 11 months from Grenada to Panama via lower Caribbean islands, the ABC islands and Columbia to San Blas and on to Panama. Through the canal to Galapagos, Marquesas, Tuamotus and French Polynesia, Suwarrow Cook Islands, Niue Tonga and home. No doubt the most rewarding tropic cruise and passage trip of our 8½ years. The Pacific is truly a marvelous cruisers paradise.
Finally we are home, and a big thankyou to everyone who has read our blogs, we hope you enjoyed them as much as we did compiling them. We have made so many friends along the way, many will be friends for life.
Finally but no means least our good Ship Dol’Selene. What a fine yacht she is and yes we are biased. She never let us down once, we had very few, and only minor engineering issues to deal with in all the years. None of which put us in any peril. She deserves a nice rest and time to enjoy the much cooler waters of home. We will of course do local cruising in the summer.
So that is the final chapter of our blog. Thanks again for being with us.
We quoted in our original blog set up, a quote from Mark Twain which said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in you sails. Explore, Dream and Discover.” We think we have done that in spades and certainly have never regretted for a moment our decision to embark on the journey.
Brian and Gail