04 October 2009 | Underway to Minerva Reef
Zen has cleared customs, filled the diesel tanks and said her goodbyes to the wonderful Kingdom of Tonga. After staying over 6 weeks, our 2nd longest visit behind 3 months in French Polynesia, a fair weather window opened, giving the green-light to make our long ocean passage to New Zealand via Minerva Reef. There was a wonderful dinner shared by s/v Dosia and Qayak in the harbor of Neiafu, lots of hugs and "see you soons" on the dinghy dock. Both boats will be reuniting with us in NZ later in the season. Zen left town and dropped the hook in a nearby anchorage where I could precook some sea-going meals and Tom could check and recheck all systems before our departure. Krista and Richard on m/v Karma would not let us leave without throwing a proper bon voyage party. They gave us the precious opportunity to spend the evening not only with them, but also with s/v Lovesong: Allen, Kathy and their two sons, Morgan and Wyatt. That was a more emotional goodbye. Lovesong will be staying near the equator, probably the Marshall islands, for cyclone season, never making it to NZ. Karma, fortunately, will see us in early November in Auckland.
It is customary for anchored boats to send off passage-making departing vessels with air horns and any noise-making devices. Sure enough, at 7:30a Lovesong and Karma were honking and snapping pictures while we anxiously waved goodbye and turned Zen away from safe haven and toward the big blue ocean. Mother Nature has been ridiculously kind to us thus far. This notorious journey has spawned many hair-raising novels and launched innumerable search and rescue missions. Our family is beyond grateful to the powers-that-be and to the many high-tech weather sites that help us make such safe family passages. Tommy gets big kudos. He's been studying Australian and NZ weather in detail for a month, watching for patterns. He contracts with a professionals, Commanders Weather Routers, to give us their opinion, before we lift anchor. And finally, other skippers traveling on the same weather window start daily communications and share info over the VHF and SSB radios. All that, and it still manages to change and shift our best laid plans.
Zen has been making 200+ mile days straight for North Minerva Reef, a sailors version of a highway pit stop. Minerva is a circular reef system in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, lying about 400 miles south of Vava'u Tonga and 880 miles north of NZ. It offers great protection from winds/waves, has a nice sandy bottom for anchoring, and boasts terrific diving and spearfishing. So far, the winds are steady from 15-25 knots out of the east, waves are choppy in the 6-9 foot range, and the skies are mostly clear. We even have a beautiful moon to light our path. Originally, Zen was going to stay two nights anchored in Minerva Reef, but it appears weather will allow for only one. The 2nd leg, Minerva to NZ, should be calm with winds clocking to the north, giving us a sleigh ride to our big destination.
On these passages, my body gives in to seasickness brought on by the constant washing-machine effect. Loads of suggested medications and remedies are whispered among first-mates everywhere. But in the end, it simply takes time to become accustomed to this crazy motion where your horizon line continuously bounces in and out of sight. Motion-sickness does not afford me the luxury of reading or even watching videos while underway. What the heck to I do for days on end? Pray. And daydream. I find myself saying the Hail Mary at any moment, for no reason, and without end. It calms me. The daydreams have me shopping in NZ for 'real shoes' (my family cannot walk around in the colder clime of NZ in our current flip-flop gear), redecorating many areas of my land home, and reuniting with family, girlfriends, and our family pet, Harley, many times over in my mind. Cole said yesterday, "I can't believe it is really over." When I asked him, "What is over?" He said, "Our big Pacific journey. New Zealand has always been our goal, and now it's around the corner. It's kind of sad." He's right, for over 10 years, Tom and I have dreamed of sailing our own boat to NZ. But fortunately for Cole and Cammi, we can continue with this family bonding session in the Bahamas and up the East Coast of the US over the next 6-8 months. For now, another chapter is almost coming to its close with NZ under 1,000 miles away.