I Spy Something Blue...
25 November 2019 | On passage from Fiji to New Zealand
I Spy Something Blue...
We�'re in the eighth day of what�'s usually a seven-day passage for us, and which will probably end up being a nine-day
passage. That�'s what happens, when you go a couple hundred miles west of the rhumb line: you have to tack back. We
knew that would happen, but decided when we left, that it was worth it to us, to have a nice nine-day passage, rather
than a sucky shorter passage. Or to wait around in Fiji to see whether that cyclone that was in the forecast would hit us
When we left, one of the models showed it making a direct hit on Fiji sometime this week. Since then, it has gone from
being an imaginary cyclone to a real cyclone �- Cyclone Rita, to be specific. It�'s taken aim at the island nation of
Vanuatu, about 600 miles west of Fiji, and is predicted to fizzle out in a couple of days. So our friends who chose to
stay behind in Fiji, hoping that the cyclone wouldn�'t come, and waiting for a better weather window, may just receive
that. Good on �'em. I hope they have a great passage. As for us, you may recall that our hurricane plan is RUN. So we
did. And it�'s been quite a nice passage, so far.
Out here, about 190 miles north of New Zealand, the sun is shining and we have blue skies above us. In fact, every day
of our passage so far has been sunny and blue, every night starry and clear �- except for yesterday, which was cloudy.
If we�'re going to be out here for a couple of extra days, it�'s good that the weather is nice. The seas have also settled
down, and are undulating slowly, like an expansive blue plain.
Every inch of SCOOTS�' exterior is covered in a thick layer of salt. Friends of ours, on arrival after a particularly
splashy passage, have a tradition of having a shot of tequila along with a dash of sea salt swiped from the hull. It�'s a fun
idea; we might do that when we get to Opua.
About a half dozen large, chocolate-brown shearwaters are flying zigzag patterns behind SCOOTS, scanning her wake
for tidbits. I may have thrown them some pieces of meat. I was going to tell you which species I think this is, but on
consulting my bird book I just discovered that there are four or five large, chocolate-brown shearwaters native to NZ,
so I�'m just going to leave it at that. An albatross also showed up for a slow, regal fly-by, the C5 to the shearwaters�'
C130. So I�'ve gotten to see my albatross.
We�'re in what I�'m calling Phase 3 of our passage: tacking back to NZ. You may recall that Phase 1 was: sailing SW to
stay ahead of the Low that was rolling in from the east, but not so far west that it would take forever to get back; a time
of some angst (on my part), partially relieved by obsessively studying the forecasts, trying to figure out where that point
was. Phase 2 was: squash zones; sailing in higher winds and seas; lots of heeling, pounding, seawater washing over the
deck. Each Phase is taking about three days. Phase 1 and Phase 3 have had comfortable sailing conditions; Phase 2,
not so much.
When I last wrote, I described the conditions during our first day of squash zone sailing. The next two days were
similar. We did end up far enough west, when the Low made its closest point of approach, that we never saw more
than 22 knots of true wind, or more than 29 knots of apparent wind. The seas never rose above about 8 feet, were
about 8 seconds apart, and most were rolling rather than breaking. The meter-high wind waves, however, added some
chaos to the mix, coming at us at a higher frequency, bouncing SCOOTS around a bit.
Yesterday we entered Phase 3. The wind slowly eased down through the teens to the less than 5 knots that it is now,
where it will remain for the next couple days. The seas have also slowly abated, taking on that slow, low, rolling that I
mentioned. After days and days of sailing, we fired up Yanmar the Magnificent yesterday. He�'ll provide most of our
propulsion from now on, until we tie up at the Customs dock in Opua, hopefully tomorrow evening.
When we were scanning the horizon for traffic yesterday afternoon, we spotted a sail about a mile away. This would be
only the second boat we�'d seen on our passage, the other being a cargo ship several days earlier. Our call on VHF
was answered by the boat�'s skipper, who told us that it was s/v Taliesin, Lin and Larry Pardey�'s second boat, which
they had sold. He was tacking to NZ as well, having left Tonga two weeks earlier. In case you�'re not familiar with Lin
and Larry, they spent decades sailing all over the world in their first boat, s/v Seraffyn, and later, s/v Taliesin. They
shared their adventures in several interesting and entertaining books, books that have been instrumental in recruiting
many people into the cruising life, yours truly included. Though we had no intention of cruising �"their�" way, which was
quite minimalistic - Seraffyn had no head (yes, they did �"bucket and chuck it�" for years), nor engine, and I believe that
Taliesin has a head, but is also engineless �- we were drawn to the mobile, self-sufficient, out-in-nature, exploratory life
that they described.
I made a roast chicken yesterday, an early Thanksgiving dinner for us. We have a tradition of eating a Thanksgiving
meal on this passage, except for last year, when we had Thanksgiving in Fiji. Since we�'ll have to surrender all our meat
and produce to the Biosecurity officials in Opua, I decided that we�'d better eat it sooner rather than later. Along with
some peas and carrots, I also made something like a cranberry sauce, out of dried cranberries (try getting fresh ones in
Fiji!), that I soaked in orange juice, and then cooked for a little while, adding sugar and spices. We were happy with
the result! And, the conditions on this first day of Phase 3 were reasonable enough that we were able to enjoy our meal
at the cockpit table, rather than holding our plates (or bowls) in our laps, for the first time on this passage.
Eric just reminded me that our bodies are going to have to start making their own body heat again, something they
haven�'t had to do, during our last six months in the tropics. He�'s right, of course. It�'s 68 degrees in the cabin, and
we�'ve been sleeping under a comforter for the past three nights!
I�'ll leave you now, with today�'s Numbers at Noon:
31 57S/173 44E
Speed: 6.7 kn motorsailing
Wind: 2.9 kn from the NE
Miles gone: 1104NM (the rhumb line distance from Denarau to the Opua Approach is 1040 NM)
Miles to go: 188.6NM
We are looking to arrive at the Customs dock in Opua at about 7pm tomorrow.