Published on September 9th, 2014 | by Moore 24 Class0
Neiafu, Tonga to Opua, New Zealand September 2014
September 9, Tuesday
1100 Dropped mooring Neiafu. Sailed off under mainsail alone. Raised jib just beyond harbor entrance. Sunny day, but wind blew all night and may be stronger than I wish out in open water.
1300 I hand steered until we exited the Vavau Group through the same passage I entered.
Wind gusted strong. Lots of white caps. We stayed with a 44’ boat that had her sails reefed. I partially furled the jib when I could and then put a reef in the mainsail as we turned downwind. I furled the jib further and put in the second reef which is at third reef level. Also ate lunch of cheese and crackers. All while in the lee of Hunga. We’re under canvassed now, but I don’t know that we will be in a mile or two when we are in clear wind. If so, I can quickly add sail.
The course to my waypoint at the entrance to the Bay of Islands is 210°T and distance 1171 from our mooring. The Quarantine Dock at Opua is fourteen miles farther. This is a passage from 19°S to 35°S and 174°W to 174°E. New Zealand summer time is the same as Tongan time. (New Zealand wasn’t on summer time.)
I didn’t bother to put in a noon position which would only have been five miles from the mooring. I am also not trying to steer 210° today, but about 225° to clear Kao and Tofua, two Tongan islands off which the mutiny on the BOUNTY took place. As I recall Capt. Bligh first headed to those islands where upon landing one of his men was killed by locals. Bligh then headed west making land at what he named Restoration Island off the far northern Queensland coast and continuing to Kupang on Timor, the closest European outpost.
1500 Conditions in the open ocean are better than I expected. The wind has decreased to about 16-18 knots. It must have been accelerating as it funneled between islands. We are making 5 to 6 knots relatively comfortably considering that wind and waves are forward of the beam as they have been almost constantly ever since Honolulu. We could carry more sail and I might remove one reef, but we’re heeled 20° and that’s enough. Water is coming over the foredeck, but not much is making it as far as the companionway.
Before leaving the mooring I extended the tiller pilot push rod as far as it can go, then cut a piece from a trash bag, cut a small hole for the push rod, duct taped that to near the end of the rod and duct taped the other end of the plastic to the body of the tiller pilot. It can accordion back and forth as the rod moves and should prevent some water from entering the body. Thus far it is remaining in place.
As I was moving around the cockpit I caught my shin on the traveler bridge. Blood ensued. When I had time, hydrogen peroxide, Polysporin and band aid.
Later coming below I hit the very same spot on the companionway. I was wearing foul weather gear which when removed exposed a lot of new blood. Two band aids this time.
The volcanic cone of Late Island is visible to the west.
1730 I’m sitting on the port pipe berth facing the centerline, looking out through the companionway and slightly down at the ocean speeding past, sipping boxed white wine and until I started to type this listening to Yo-Yo Ma play Piazzolla tangos. GANNET is making her way effortlessly across the seas. This is the first pleasant sailing in a long, long time. Even inside GANNET’s Great Cabin it is not too hot.
I removed one reef and we are now seeing 6s and 7s. Although not many waves are coming aboard, I wore my foul weather gear on deck and one wave did reach me sitting near the stern. Sunset is nearing and I need to heat my dinner while there is still light.
September 10, Wednesday
0915 My Garmin Quatix has reset us to zone time and is showing 8:15 on Tuesday September 9, which is geographically, if not politically, correct. However I’m going to keep ship’s time as it was in Tonga and will be in New Zealand.
I thought I slept well, but after awakening at 0530, looking around, drinking some juice and taking a vitamin pill, I dozed off and on sitting at Central for two more hours.
Last night was blissfully easy with a full moon rising at sunset and still in the sky at dawn.
At 0100 we were eight miles off Kao and Tofua. I could see their outlines in the moonlight.
The wind lightened during the night and the seas, never high, flattened. I expected to remove the reef in the mainsail at first light, but we are making 6s and 7s pretty much in the right direction and heeled over far enough, so I haven’t.
Low and mid-level clouds covering most of the sky with rain ahead of us. So far GANNET has stayed dry down below.
I was chilly early this morning. I knew I’d be changing from shorts and t-shirt to Levis, long shirts and Polartec as I near New Zealand, but may dig them out earlier.
Two days ago I cut myself shaving with my electric razor. The metal head had rusted and one sharp corner lifted. In Neiafu the only blade razors I could find were Bic disposable. Yesterday I cut myself using one of them. Today I’m not going to shave.
20°10’S 175°46’W Bay of Islands 1041 208°T
SOG 6.6 COG 207°
day’s run 136 (25 hours)
Sky completely cloud covered, but no sign of rain. We did not get any earlier.
GANNET is mostly on a beam reach or with the wind slightly ahead, and moving easily across the waves. Good sailing, though with enough water coming aboard so that I can’t remain standing in the companionway.
Last evening a large bird, I think a boobie, was sitting on deck near the stern. I yelled at him. Nothing. I dipped the piss pot over the side and threw water on him. Nothing. I threw the end of the jib sheet at him and hit him. Nothing. Finally I took a winch handle and pushed him off GANNET. He took flight and did not attempt to return.
I continue to be tired today and don’t know why.
1700 Sky clearing in late afternoon with the first patches of blue of the day.
I took the Autohelm tiller pilot on deck to extend its rod so I could tape a plastic bag over it in case it is needed. The deck connection, which is not the same as the Raymarine is corroded. I finally got it to work and the plastic bag duct taped in place. However, if I do need it I’ll cannibalize the plug from the broken No. 3 Raymarine.
We’ve averaged 6.5 knots since noon and will have less than a thousand miles to go in the next two hours.
I spent some time on deck this afternoon in foul weather gear to guard against the odd wave. My clothes stayed dry, but I got boat shoes full of water. GANNET is moving well, mostly over the waves, occasionally slicing off a crest that washes aft. I saw SOG mostly of 6s and 7s, but a few 8s.
1900 Sitting on the pipe berth watching water flow past very quickly. GANNET dips and rises, dips and rises, dancing with the ocean. This is fine sailing. I’d gladly have this wind last all the way to Opua. But it won’t. I hope we don’t get hammered at the end.
Sky again cloud covered . No sunset. No moon yet.
Shades of gray: slate; iron; pewter; lead. Absorbing rather than reflecting light. A sense of moving into a colder ocean. We’ll leave the tropics late tomorrow or the next day.
September 11, Thursday
0845 GANNET is under full sail.
The wind decreased again last night and we had easy sailing. For a few hours after twilight and before moon rise, GANNET moved through almost total darkness except for the hissing pale foam of her bow wave. Sky and sea were seamless.
I did see a loom of light to the northwest for a while that I assume was a ship beyond the invisible horizon.
This morning I woke at 0530 again, had a box of juice and a vitamin pill and fell asleep again sitting at Central. Not for as long as yesterday.
After a cup of coffee, I went on deck in precautionary foul weather gear that was not actually needed and removed the reef from the mainsail and unfurled the jib. Our speed had been dropping below 6, now it is back to 6 and 7 and the occasional burst to 8. The wind is on the beam and the sky partly sunny.
I shaved with my broken electric razor, having removed the metal mesh foil from one side. It works well enough and is better than butchering myself with the Bic blades. Although GANNET is moving smoothly through the ocean, not bashing into or leaping off waves, she is in constant quick motion, up and down, fore and aft, side to side, changing angle of heel. I don’t have enough bandaids to shave with a blade.
At sea I’m usually charging eneloop batteries or some device. The Velocitek, which uses three AA batteries, and the Raymarine tillerpilot remote, which uses two AAA, need to be changed every other day. The Velocitek goes through batteries in about 12 to 14 hours, but is not on all the time.
22°08’S 177°13’W Bay of Islands 900 208°
SOG 6.8 COG 204°
day’s run 144
Sunny. Fine sailing under full main and partially furled jib. An hour ago it was even better. Full jib then and on a broad reach. First time in a long time I’ve been able to stand unconcerned in the companionway as GANNET slid down 4’ dark blue waves. Wind has increased and returned to the beam, so water is again coming aboard. I should be safe in the stern.
The day’s run was an exact six knot average. We’ve been making more than that today, so I conclude we were in the 5s during the night.
Instead of colder, with the sun today is hotter. Low 80sF/28C.
1700 A glorious afternoon. We’ve averaged 7 knots since noon and I was able to sit on deck and listen to music.
GANNET makes a lot of noise at 7 and 8 knots, her bow wave and wake hissing and roaring.
I just put a reef back in the mainsail. We were yawing too much as we came off waves. Still making about the same speed. Most of the sky is powder blue with scattered puffy low clouds, but off to the southwest is a line of rain.
After being on deck this afternoon, I wiped myself down with soap and fresh water. Far too much motion for a solar shower.
Minerva Reefs are less than a hundred miles away. We could easily be there tomorrow. But I knew that once I got to sea, I’d continue to New Zealand.
1830 Lovely sunset turning the clouds peach and gold.
We will probably cross the Tropic of Capricorn and leave the tropics tonight. We won’t cross the 180° Meridian and leave the Western Hemisphere for another day or two.
For whatever reason, the Navionics charts in iNavX end at180° longitude, so I can’t see our entire intended route without scrolling all the way around the world east to reach New Zealand.
September 12, Friday
0830 I had trouble getting to sleep last night and when I finally did I had to get up again.
A few minutes after midnight the jib began collapsing and filling. I concluded that the wind had backed to the northeast and the main was blanketing the jib, which was the case.
I got up and from the companionway without bothering with foul weather gear furled the jib. The moon was hidden behind clouds, but provided enough illumination. Behind us was a darker band of cloud that looked like rain.
I went back to my berth but there I began to worry about an accidental gybe if the wind continued to back. As I twisted from my berth again, heavy rain began beating against the deck. I slid the companionway slat in place and pulled on foul weather gear and headlamp. When in a few minutes the rain eased, I went on deck, lowered the main and set part of the jib.
Probably I could have left the main up. The rain didn’t last long, and the wind veered again to the east. But I was tired and dosed on and off and let GANNET continue under the jib until 5:30 when I got up and raised the main. I had left the reef tied in.
Back in the Great Cabin, I drank my orange juice and fell asleep sitting up at Central. Still pre-dawn and I was slightly cool. I woke up enough to crawl back onto the pipe berth and pull the sleeping bag over me and slept another hour.
From noon to midnight we covered 82 miles, just short of a seven knot average. During the night our speed must have dropped below six, and at present our SOG is lower than I think we are sailing so perhaps an adverse current.
A bank of white cloud to the north and west. The sky otherwise mostly clear. Waves 4’ to 5’.
24°11’S 178°36’W Bay of Islands 756 208°
SOG 6.0 COG 204°
day’s run 145
After averaging seven knots noon to midnight, we averaged only five midnight to noon. GANNET certainly has seemed to be sailing faster than five knots this morning under full jib and reefed main.
I discovered that the Kermadec Islands do not appear on the Navionics charts. I recall having sailed close to them on my last passage to New Zealand from Bora-Bora and thought they might still be ahead. They do appear on the C-Map 93 charts I have in my laptop and are already safely east of us. The words ‘Kermadec Islands’ appear on the Navionics charts, but that’s all and they are not even in the exact location. The Kermadecs include several small islands and exposed rocks which would be unpleasant to run into at night. How, I wonder, do the people at Navionics decide what to leave out? And what else have they?
Were this any of my previous passages in GANNET, I’d be counting down the days until arrival. But not this one. Today continues fine sailing, but from here on anything can happen.
1545 I’m waiting for my freeze dry sweet and sour chicken to steep, listening to Mary Martin Stockdale play the piano, and occasionally sipping white wine.
I’m sitting on the port pipe berth and as GANNET dips and rises can intermittently sea the gray ocean a bit more than an arm’s length away. The sky is also gray. High solid cloud with a lower approaching layer of low smoky cloud. Were I in Evanston in winter I would expect snow. That is not going to happen here; but change is in the air. I’ll deal with it when it occurs.
I stood in the companionway for a while this afternoon, but didn’t sit on deck. GANNET’s gyrations were significant. She was being tossed around by 8’ and 10’ waves, accelerating to 8 and 9 knots down them, then slowing to 5.
In the Great Cabin I changed the plug on the Autohelm, not wanting to do so while hove to if the Raymarine unit fails. I took it on deck and tested. It works with the new plug.
I also dug out a Polartec, long-sleeved shirt and Levis.
I applied epoxy putty to a hull/deck flange bolt that was leaking.
An hour ago before my glass of wine, I donned foul weather gear and went on deck and lowered the mainsail; but we slowed too much under jib alone so I raised it again. Not hard work on GANNET.
Waves are smaller now.
I just remembered that I saw a good size flying fish on the foredeck caught beneath the bow sprit. I meant to remove him but forgot.
Dinner is ready
September 13, Saturday
0845 Light rain pattering on the deck.
I went out a half hour ago planning to set the asymmetrical. The main had been blanketing the jib during the night. Not often enough or the jib refilling hard enough for me to get up and do something about it. But when I stood in the companionway I found the sky too unsettled for the asymmetrical. Black clouds to the west and north of us. The sun shining to the east. It is no longer. Clouds have covered it. So I lowered the main instead and we are sailing at 5 to 6 knots under full jib alone. The asymmetrical is the right sail, but I’m going to wait and see what happens before setting it.
While on deck I removed the flying fish from beneath the bow sprit.
26°15’S 179°59’W Bay of Islands 611 208°
SOG 5.4 COG 223°
day’s run 145
I’m about to sail off the edge of the world—Navionics’ world. Because of their division at 180°, I’ve never been able to see all of this passage at once. GANNET is a mile east of 180°. Hopefully once we go off the edge, we will reappear on the New Zealand charts.
I was incorrect that Navionics does not include the Kermadecs. They do, but on New Zealand charts, not South Pacific charts which a navigator would be using sailing these waters. To see all local hazards such as Minerva Reefs and the Kermadec Islands one would have to load one chart, then the other and scroll all the way around the world. It is not possible to see both at the same time.
Light rain continues through most of the morning.
The wind backed to the north, so I gybed the jib to port and changed our course more to the southwest to keep it filled. Waves are rolling GANNET side to side. Sun is shining through a break in the clouds at the moment.
Daily runs remarkably consistent. We’ve averaged six knots since the start and covered almost half the distance in four days.
Sun still shining, but light rain resumed. Companionway slat in and out all morning. Presently in.
And we’re in the eastern hemisphere. 179°59.8’E.
1530 After several days great sailing, we now have lousy sailing.
I set the asymmetrical after lunch. It is the right sail for the lumpy seas coming from a different direction than the light wind; but I brought it down because numerous thunderheads formed around the horizon which are likely to bring sudden rain and strong wind. Directly overhead the day is sunny with blue sky.
I raised the main, which made little difference even when I bought us twenty degrees closer to the wind. Both main and jib were slamming around, collapsing and filling; so I’ve opted for sailing under the full jib alone as being least irritating and damaging, though we are still rolling severely and making only three and four knots. Presumably better wind will fill in from somewhere eventually.
I washed myself and changed clothes and am about to drink an air temperature Heineken.
1800 As sunset nears we are almost becalmed. We’ve made only 21 miles since noon. Seas diminishing, but still rolling us around and collapsing the jib. What little breath of wind there is comes from the starboard quarter; swells and leftover waves from the port quarter.
Easy to get hurt in these jerky conditions with at times lines, boom, mainsheet traveler slamming side to side. And for that matter on GANNET being thrown overboard. At the speed she’s going I can probably swim fast enough to catch her. I did smash my knee into the traveler bridge. Painful, but no harm. A broken finger would be serious.
The masthead Windex is stuck again. Will certainly be replaced in NZ.
The port side on which I’ve been sleeping is now technically to leeward. However, we are rolling so much it doesn’t really matter so I expect to sleep there tonight unless there are dramatic changes.
Thunderheads did not reach us, but are still lurking on the horizon. I’m tempted to set the asymmetrical again anyway, but conditions are too unsettled.
September 14, Sunday
1015 It has been a busy night and morning.
GANNET is presently sailing at 5 knots on a course of 250° close-hauled on port tack under single reefed main and partially furled jib with the tiller tied down. We would like to be sailing 207°, but that is directly from where the wind is blowing. The wind is about 12 to 14 knots and GANNET is not working hard. Water over the bow, but none as yet making it back to the companionway. The day is sunny and the sky looks like a trade wind sky, but isn’t.
I was right last evening not to set the asymmetrical. When wind returned at 2100 it was from ahead and would have plastered the sail against the forestay where I probably couldn’t have furled it.
The wind was accompanied by moderate rain. In foul weather gear I went on deck and got us sailing with the tiller pilot steering; but soon the jib backed, setting off the off course alarm and effectively heaving GANNET to. I turned off the tiller pilot and left her that way until the rain ended. Back on deck. Back on course. Sailing again. That the Windex is stuck is irritating because illuminated by the masthead tri-color it is the only wind indicator I can see at night.
At 2000 the off course alarm went off again. On deck I found the moon had risen revealing a glassy sea and no wind. I tried unsuccessfully to get us back on course. Gave up. Furled the jib and lowered the mainsail and went back to bed.
I got up every hour. Still no wind at midnight. But at 0130 the sea was very lightly ruffled and I raised sail and got GANNET pointed in the right direction until the wind headed us again. And the jib backed again. And I went on deck again, decided there was nothing productive to be done. Went back below and turned off the autopilot switch, leaving us again hove to, and tried to get some sleep.
This morning before breakfast I went on deck, put the second reef in the mainsail, tacked a couple of times, found port better and got us slowly sailing west. Also brought the tiller pilot down below.
Just now I’ve been on deck for an hour and have us sailing as noted above, hoping for the wind to back or veer.
Our day’s run is going to be about 60 miles and not all that in the right direction.
26°59’S 179°12’E Bay of Islands 553 206°
SOG 4.0 COG 171°
Day’s run 61
Wind backed slightly, so I went on deck and tacked to starboard. Now sailing 170° to 180°, but slower and rougher. Wave just reached companionway. Heeled 30°.
I’m wearing Levis and socks. Also sea boots as well as foul weather gear when I go on deck.
1700 On deck again. Tacked back to port. We were heading 150° to 160°. On port we’re sometimes getting into the 240°s.
The wind may have decreased slightly and the sky has clouded over. Nothing threatening. Today was nothing like the sailing from Apia to Neiafu. It would have been a good day if the wind had not been, and still is, on the nose. I hope it moves soon.
September 15, Monday
0810 We are without tiller pilot steering, but for an unexpected reason, and it doesn’t matter anyway because we are still close-hauled and not able to point toward Opua.
The sequence was that at about 0100 the wind went very light and we fell off until GANNET was pointing north. I felt the difference in the motion and went on deck where I was unable to get tiller tied steering to work, so I brought up the Raymarine tiller pilot. When I plugged it in it made a constant beep and didn’t work. Pleased that I had changed the plug on the Autohelm, I brought it up and plugged it in. It worked. I left it steering us slowly and went back to my berth. At 0400 I heard the off course alarm and knew that the jib had backed. I went on deck and found the Autohelm disconnected from the tiller. The cause was that the bronze post which screws in the deck and raises the pin end of the tiller pilot level with the tiller had sheered off at deck level. After a long while I was able to remove the sheered end from the socket, but was not able to get the remaining part screwed into the socket. I’m not sure there are enough threads left anyway.
The head wind has continued longer than I hoped, but has backed and we are sometimes able to steer into the 230°s. Overcast sky. 500 long miles to go.
27°42’S 178°15’E Bay of Islands 493 204°
SOG 4.0 COG 224°
day’s run 66
Removed reef from main. Put reef back in main.
Wind has continued to back and sometimes we can point the bow at Opua, but usually sailing around 225°. Heeled farther than I like and pounding some.
I tried to send an email to Carol via the Yellowbrick, but can’t make the bluetooth connection to my iPad. I’ll try again.
Sun has just broken through clouds. Probably briefly. Air temperature 66°F.
1445 We again have tiller pilot steering.
The sun continued its breakthrough and by 1300 the sky was blue and clear of all but scattered low white clouds, again like a trade wind sky.
I went on deck and tried to get the tillerpilot support threaded without success. I then decided to install a socket in the deck. Each Raymarine came with one, so I have spares. It would only be a small hole and easily filled if a failure. It wasn’t. I bedded the socket with epoxy putty. The Autohelm is at an angle, but less of one than I expected. I have it’s body tied to the folding padeye and the tiller arm tied to the tiller.
We’re making 4 and 5 knots under full main and almost full jib almost toward Opua. The Autohelm is steering because the wind is inconsistent and when it goes light with the tiller tied down we fall off to beyond 270° and I have to go on deck and bring us back up again. Water is coming over the bow, but not reaching the companionway. If it starts to reach the Autohelm, I’ll bring it in and tie the tiller down. I’m hoping the wind will continue to back and we’ll be on a reach rather than close-hauled.
While I had it out I also used the epoxy putty to renew a repair to one of my pairs of eyeglasses.
1910 A beautiful sunset seen through the companionway hatch from the port pipe berth. Wisely. Spray just splattered over the hatch. Ship’s time being NZ summer time, +13 Greenwich, sunsets are late and so are dawns. This sunset has turned the clouds lavender.
At sea, particularly in bad weather, dawn is the best time of day. We are creatures of the light. In port for me sunset is. As is well known I love that last hour of light, sitting on deck, sipping a libation, listening to music, watching light and shadows change, and birds, GANNET is named after handsome birds I watched from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring. That there were birds in the sky and on the dock at my slip in San Diego was a pleasure. A bird, perhaps a shearwater, was hunting near GANNET a while ago.
We are making progress, as apposed to the past two days when we didn’t. But my hope that the wind would continue to back has yet to be realized. We’re still close hauled on port tack and not quite pointing at Opua. I have food and water aboard for months. That should be enough to cover that last five hundred miles. But I really would like to ease sheets.
September 16, Tuesday
0900 From around midnight to a few minutes ago we were becalmed. I thought I had us sailing southwest a few minutes ago, but we’ve come to a stop. What slight wind there is comes from ahead.
The Autohelm kept our bow pointed in the right direction until 0300 when it couldn’t and I lowered the sails. I got up every hour and looked around and got up for good at 0600 even though there was still no wind. Saw a beautiful sunrise at 0700.
We left Neiafu a week ago today. For a while I thought it likely that we would reach Opua tomorrow. We’re 433 miles short.
On the Sony transistor radio I heard an Auckland AM station this morning. Auckland is having rain and northwest wind. I’d gladly take that.
It is not unpleasant here. The ocean is almost flat. Like being at a fairly good anchorage though I guess this one is a couple of miles deep. It is disappointing and frustrating not to be making progress. That is more about the quality of the experience than time. One or two more days don’t matter. But I know that the longer we are stuck here, the more likely we are to be hit by bad weather.
28°37’S 177°25’E Bay of Islands 425 202°
SOG 4.2 COG 200°
day’s run 71
Noon finds the day pleasantly sunny and GANNET sailing at 4 and sometimes even 5 knots toward the Bay of Islands. The wind has veered to the west, though not all the way yet or we’d be on a reach. We are close-hauled on starboard tack. The barometer is rising. During most of this passage it has stayed within a narrow range of a few millibars. I don’t bother to give the numbers because I haven’t been able to check it for accuracy since Honolulu. What is important aren’t numbers but the direction and speed of movement. Fast down is bad news.
I spent most of the past two hours on deck hand steering in almost imperceptible wind. I tried to tie the tiller down, but there was too little and too fickle wind for that to work. I was saving the Autohelm, which is steering now. Full main and jib set.
That we made 71 miles in the past 24 hours surprises me. I expected less than 50.
1600 We are definitely under or on the edge of a high pressure system. Sky almost completely clear. Rising barometer. Almost no wind. GANNET’s wake is a ripple, gurgling, not hissing and roaring.
We had pleasant sailing earlier this afternoon, making three and four knots, rarely and briefly even five, sailing at wind speed. I bathed, changed into fresh clothes, and sat on deck drying and airing myself and sleeping bag and pillow, shoes, foul weather gear, floatation cushions, towel, while drinking a Heineken and listening to fifteen versions of Pachebel’s Canon and the film score from THE PIANO, appropriate for someone sailing to New Zealand. Or trying to. There were no waves, only tiny facets on the water, but there were some long low swells. GANNET is remarkably dry inside and out. Not a drop of water on her deck.
I have fellow voyagers. The sea is littered with these small creatures that set a tiny translucent half-circle sail an inch or two high and wide and sail who knows where, but definitely downwind. The species has yet to invent mast and jib.
Wind from the southwest tending west would be on the lower forward edge of a high in this hemisphere. Wind from the northwest in Auckland would be on the upper forward edge of a low. So a high north of us and a low south of Auckland. I have no idea how far in each direction. There could be a squash zone where millebars are forced tight together resulting in strong wind.
Somehow the Autohelm is keeping GANNET pointed more or less in the right direction. I have the forward hatch open as well as the companionway to let fresh air in. This going to windward. I guess I’ll go back on deck with a plastic of boxed wine.
iNavX currently projects our arrival to be 10:47 a.m. October 10.
I don’t think the box wine and bottle of South Seas Rum are going to last the passage.
1830 The barometer has dropped slightly. Probably a good sign. Sails are collapsing and filling, but so slowly it doesn’t matter. I just stood in the companionway and couldn’t feel any wind. GANNET is easing forward at less than a knot perfectly level. No angle of heel.
September 17, Wednesday
0915 I was awakened at 0300 because GANNET was actually sailing rather than ghosting. Very few boats would have been able to do even that yesterday. I had remained on the port pipe berth even though it was technically to leeward and now found it difficult to pull myself up from the depths as suddenly we heeled even farther.
From the companionway I eased the main traveler and the jib sheet. The masthead Windex was still stuck, but I felt that the wind had backed. I turned my head to and fro through it and felt the change on my face. We seemed to be on a beam reach. I reached down for a small flashlight that I held in one hand on the sails while easing the sheets. GANNET was making seven knots. A dark line of cloud ran north to south above us.
Boat under control, I withdrew to the Great Cabin—in other words I sat down and put on clothes. I didn’t expect this wind to last and that I’d soon be up again. I lay down on my berth and fell asleep. Then awoke forty-five minutes later when we came to a stop and the sails were slatting. By the time I got on deck, slight wind had returned and we were moving again. So back to the berth.
A half later the off course alarm woke me. The wind had backed, heading us and backing the jib. On deck I got us pointed 180° which was the best we could do. I was not happy.
At 0500 I was up for good. The wind had increased and we were again heeled beyond 30°. I furled part of the jib. Then went aft and tying to preserve the Autohelm disengaged it and tied down the tiller. When I went below I took the Autohelm with me.
I drank some juice and fell asleep sitting at Central. In a little while a change in motion woke me. The wind had weakened and we had fallen far off course. Back on deck with the Autohelm, I found that the wind had backed more to the west and we could again sail 202°. I engaged the Autohelm, trimmed the sails until we were making five knots on a close reach.
The wind has continued to back until we are almost on a beam reach making 5.5 to 6 knots across 2’ seas in about 7 knots of wind.
I had felt something odd about the port pipe berth when I stepped down on it during the night. With the coming of light I saw that the forward end of the pipe has come off the wood fitting that cradles it. I’m not sure how this happened. A bolt may have sheared off. I can’t repair it at sea and it doesn’t matter. I can probably use the berth anyway, but barring a major wind shift will be sleeping to starboard tonight.
GANNET has done 6,000 miles in less than four months and is starting to come unravelled. I want to get in before something serious breaks. Time to rest and restore. Both of us.
When I checked the tracking history on the Yellowbrick this morning, I discovered that I seem only to have sent up one position yesterday. Nothing was wrong. I was busy at times keeping GANNET moving and just forgot.
29°56’S 176°54’E Bay of Islands 341 203°
SOG 5.5 COG 198°
day’s run 84
Wind has been variable all morning. At one time we were making 7 knots on a beam reach. Later we were partially headed and forced to steer south, but are now again pretty much back on course.
Clouds this morning, some ahead of us with rain, have mostly cleared. The rain moved off to the south before we reached it. Presently mostly sunny and the barometer has been steady since yesterday.
A soaring and swooping bird crossing GANNET’s wake caused me to realize how few I’ve seen. Fish, too, except for flying fish. But then I’ve never seen much out here. A reader of my journal asked whether I am seeing less life and more debris. About less life, bird and sea, I’m uncertain, but have a sense that there is less. Of debris, I’ve been surprised to see so little. Only one big cylindrical pole on the passage from San Diego to Hilo and very little else. The ocean along GANNET’s track has been empty and pristine.
1400 I have grown a horn.
Straightening up after rolling a few wraps in the jib, I hit the side of my forehead against the solid boom vang mast attachment. It hurt, but I wasn’t moving that far or fast. Nevertheless it has raised an impressive lump.
I just shifted stuff from the pipe berths so I can sleep on starboard to windward. I have this better organized and have to move only three items from the side previously to leeward: the Avon RedStart, the Jordan drogue, and the day food bag. From the other side, my sleeping bag and pillow, computer case, and usually some clothes.
Other than its awkward size there is no reason for the Jordan drogue to be accessible and I will try in New Zealand to find room for it in the stern or bow.
The wind has backed enough so that we are again able to sail directly toward the Bay of Islands. We’re across 30°S. Five more degrees of latitude to go.
1730 GANNET is making her way smoothly at 5.5 to 6 knots on a close reach in 9 or 10 knots of wind. The sky is covered with hazy cloud. The barometer has dropped a millibar. We have parted company with the high. iNavX has moved our estimated Bay of Islands arrival from October to Friday night or early Saturday morning. That is what I think too if we don’t have head winds and nothing crucial breaks. I hope we don’t and nothing does. I would gladly carry this wind the rest of the way.
I looked back in my journal to see when I was last in Opua. I rowed ashore from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA during a brief lull in a 50 knot gale in March 2012 and rode the bus south to Auckland for my flight home. In an entry I wrote at the time I wondered if I would ever see Opua again.
1915 Oh, my! As predicted the South Seas Rum didn’t last the passage. I am left with a little left in a box of white wine, a few cans of Heineken, and about ⅔ of a bottle of Laphroaig. I’ve been saving the Laphroaig and just had my first taste in a long time. Oh, my!
Beyond Laphroaig there is such beauty out here. Before the pour I stood in the companionway to adjust sails. The wind has backed a bit more to the west. The sun is setting dramatically. There are rewards.
September 18, Thursday
0740 A beautiful dawn and early morning, but a storm is coming.
I heard the marine forecast on Radio New Zealand. If we don’t get in by Saturday morning, we may not get in until Monday or Tuesday or whenever. Wind is due to go northwest, then Saturday afternoon southwest at 30 to 35 knots. We are 241 miles from the Bay of Island waypoint. Five knots on the direct course will have us there Saturday dawn. Unfortunately the wind has backed and we are only making four knots on 190°. Hopefully we can sail fast enough on the northwest wind, if it ever reaches us, to get in before the change to southwest. If not, we may end up hove to until it passes.
I also learned that New Zealand is not yet on summer time. I’m not going to change ship’s time. Just my watch when we reach Opua.
The Autohelm draws more power than the Raymarines. Each morning our batteries are lower. In part this is due to the failed solar panel at the stern being one of those most exposed to sunlight on this passage.
The Yellowbrick battery is at 71%. I deactivate it after every manual position transmission.
1010 We’re making five knots on the direct course to the Bay of Islands in six knots of wind. Sunny and pleasant. Barometer steady. Whatever is coming is still far away.
31°50’S 176°05’E Bay of Islands 220 miles 205°
SOG 6.3 COG 205°
Day’s run 122
The wind has veered and we are now making 6 knots directly toward the Bay of Islands on a close reach. Still sunny. Sky mostly clear and blue. Barometer high.
1400 The wind has weakened and our speed has dropped below five knots. A very nice afternoon, except for knowing what it is probably letting me in for.
I bathed and changed clothes.
Earlier I filled out the New Zealand entry forms which I obtained in Neiafu, but left them undated.
1600 I thought the wind had moved far enough aft, so I set the asymmetrical, but it slowed us. I played with the sheet for a few minutes, then lowered it and unfurled the jib. We’re making about 4.5 knots on what looks like another high pressure sky.
1730 Boxed white wine in a plastic tumbler sitting on a floorboard. Eva Cassidy singing. Outside a lovely blue sky and sea across which GANNET hardly heeled sails at 4 knots.
I’m not going to bother listening to the marine forecast tomorrow. All I can do is sail GANNET as well as I can and deal with whatever weather I encounter as well as I can.
We have less than two hundred miles to go.
Once in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I was six miles from Papeete and took four days to enter the harbor.
1900 I was standing in the companionway, listening to music with a plastic of Laphroaig at hand. That’s all that is left: less than a half bottle of Laphroaig and a few cans of Heineken. If we get stuck out here I’m going to regret not having another box of wine and bottle of South Seas Rum.
The sun sank behind a layer of cloud to the west. GANNET was gliding along as few other boats would have been. In itself lovely. In context of what might lie ahead, not. I try to forget the context and enjoy present beauty.
September 19, Friday
0810 Becalmed. Drifting northwest at a knot or so, Light rain. Complete overcast. Cabin very wet. Not from waves, but rain coming through the companionway when I open it to go up and down as I have often in the past four hours, and water I bring on my foul weather gear which I am wearing continuously. This being handwritten in a water resistant notebook. I don’t want to risk taking computer from its Pelican case.
We were sailing well until 0400, averaging five knots with 146 miles to go. Then rain came, heavy at times, and the wind headed us. With the forecast for the wind to go northwest, this was unexpected and disappointing.
I’ve brought the Autohelm below and put a precautionary reef in the main. The jib is backed, so technically we’re hove to, but really just becalmed. I can’t get GANNET closer than 150° and 265°, neither of which is any good to us.
We’re losing precious time. I hope useful wind returns soon.
Bay of Islands waypoint now 135 miles distant.
33°18’S 175°12’E Bay of Islands 122 miles 203°
SOG 4.6 COG 202°
day’s run 99
Close reaching with reefed main and partially furled jib. Tiller tied down. Saving Autohelm for tonight. I’ve been in the cockpit most of the time either hand steering or adjusting the tiller line. Getting little solar charging. I think another panel has failed, but have no time to check wiring.
Sunny. Sky mostly clear. Wind 15-16 knots from the west. Not northwest yet. Barometer dropped sharply all night, but has been steady this morning.
1300 Wind has just backed more. GANNET is making her way more smoothly. I was on deck for the past hour and she was laboring. Waves still forward of the beam. Put a second reef in the main and deeply furled jib.
Have used no electricity today after turning off the masthead tri-color at dawn. Hope to have the Autohelm steer from 1800.
On deck most of the day. When below, eat and doze. Lunch a protein bar and water.
1530 The port floorboard just cracked its full length along the edge upon which I was bracing my feet, not able to do that as usual on the broken pipe berth. GANNET’s cabin has never been wetter, messier or more damaged.
I changed into my heavier and warmer foul weather gear. Also put on Columbia Omni-Heat reflective pants.
While going in and out of the companionway last night and this morning while reefing the mainsail, I was aware how much a dodger would have been in the way.
1600 Wind and waves still ahead of the beam. Definitely not northwest. If it were, the ride would be smoother, drier and faster.
Just on deck to add some jib to give us more power to push through waves.
Autohelm steering. I don’t want to risk coming in south of Cape Brett and having to try to beat back. I hope it can make it through the night.
2100 Autohelm died.
Just after I fell asleep the jib backed and we came about. I went on deck and got us back on course. Autohelm was working. Went below. Climbed into berth. We gybed. Went on deck. Autohelm not working.
Much worse: we’ve been headed by strong wind. Only able to sail 170°-180°. Long dark night and it may not be the last.
September 20, Saturday
0700 A rough night. We’re not close-hauled as between Apia and Neiafu, but still becoming airborne with resulting tremendous crashes. Everything in cabin is wet. CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE wet. I slept last night in full foul weather gear and sea boots with sodden sleeping bag over me as a quilt. No dry surface anywhere.
We’re thirty-two miles out. Making 5.5 to 6 knots. Wind is north of west.
0900 Barometer dropping steeply.
Solid low overcast. Steep waves. White caps. Breaking crests.
The wind has backed to the northwest and with the tiller tiled down we’re heading 220°-230°. Twenty degrees higher than we need to be and taking waves at an unnecessary angle. I’m going on deck to try to ease us off. May have to hand steer the rest of the way.
Twenty-four miles to go.
1700 Tied to Quarantine Dock Opua.
After I went on deck at 0900, I seldom left. As soon as I climbed out, I realized that the wind was much stronger than I had realized down below. GANNET was being overpowered. I let the main halyard go and lashed the sail to the boom. The running backstay was already in place, as it usually is when I expect the wind to be on the same side of the boat for an extended time. Even the remaining scrap of jib was too much. I furled it down to t-shirt size.
Taking a flotation cushion with me, I made my way to the tiller, untied it, eased the main sheet and turned GANNET to a course of about 200°.
With GANNET heeled 30° and 40° and more, I braced myself with my left sea boot on the far side of the cockpit and my right on the post through which the backstay controls run up to the mainsheet traveler bridge. GANNET was not hard to steer, but waves were coming from my blind side and slamming unexpectedly into and over us. Hard blows, as though being tackled in open field. Several knocked me from my seat, lifting me so that I started to fall forward down into the sea. I couldn’t possibly leave the helm long enough to go below to get my safety harness, so steering with one knee, I looped a sail tie though the slotted toe rail and tied a bowline as a strap for my right wrist.
I estimated the wind at 35 to 40 knots, but at times the dark sky darkened further, rain hissed down, and the wind increased by another five or ten knots. I couldn’t see the numbers on the mast-mounted Velocitek and steered by feel. When visibility returned I often saw speeds of ten and twelve knots. GANNET may have been going faster when I couldn’t see. I don’t know the ocean temperature, but the rain was colder.
Surely we were averaging at least seven knots. I couldn’t see my watch, but surely I had been on deck for more than an hour. I keep looking for land. Cape Wiwiki off the starboard bow. Cape Brett off to the south. But found only cloud.
I had to turn my head a long way to see the oncoming waves. On our course they were dangerously on the beam. I turned down some and we surfed. I turned up into others. Some caught us and rolled GANNET almost to 90°, until feet braced, tiller in left hand, sail tie strap around right wrist, I was almost standing straight up. Wave passed, GANNET dropped onto her keel. And another wave approached. I have good foul weather gear and despite rain and solid waves, my clothes remained dry on the inside except for the cuffs of my sleeves. My hands were cold.
My left leg began to feel the constant strain. Pain in the knee. I tried to ease it, change position slightly, take more weight on my right foot.
I subtracted seven from twenty-four. No land. And when I thought another hour had passed, another seven. Something should be visible. And then off to the south, clouds thinned and Cape Brett materialized and the ridge of land leading west from it. Pleasure flooded over me, as well as water, at seeing the familiar landmark and because it was the first solid indication that we were probably going to make it. A little later Cape Wiwiki could be seen. I steered more toward it, wanting to stay to windward as much as possible. I knew that even within ten miles, if the predicted shift to the southwest came hard we would still be in trouble.
I expected the wind and seas to diminish as we
neared land, but they remained at strength until we had Cape Wiwiki abeam.
As we entered the partial shelter of the nine mile wide mouth of the bay, I was able to tie down the tiller and duck below to grab a protein bar and use the piss pot.
GANNET’s bilge has a narrow sump. Usually in rough weather a couple of inches of water a day collects there and I pump it out with a hand pump that has a hose long enough to go out the companionway and reach overboard. Now heeled only 10° or 15°, the bilge was overflowing. I got the pump and emptied it. But when I went down later it was full again and I began to wonder if I had a problem. (I didn’t. Once GANNET was tied to a dock the bilge pumped dry and stayed dry.)
From the Bay of Islands waypoint, we had fourteen more miles to reach the Quarantine Dock at Opua.
While the water was smoother, lee rail burying squalls hit us as we sailed deeper into the bay, until finally after making the dog leg turn south near Russell, the wind moderated. Without a tiller pilot to steer, I turned GANNET into the wind and hove to so I could fit the outboard bracket, Torqeedo, fenders, dock lines and ‘Q’ flag. Then turned us again and continued south under sail.
I knew the way. I was in familiar waters surrounded by familiar green hills and houses.
Just north of the car ferry crossing, within sight of the Quarantine Dock, I furled the jib, turned on the Torqeedo and lowered the main. Misty rain began to fall as we covered the last two hundred yards.
I had GANNET prepared to go alongside either port or starboard, depending on wind. There was no wind, but the tide was running out fast. I Torqeedoed GANNET alongside the long dock that serves as marina breakwater, stepped off and tied the dock lines. No other boats were there.
I stepped back aboard and ducked into the cabin where I got the bottle of Laphroaig in which I had saved a few inches and poured into a plastic tumbler, stood in the companionway in the rain and took a sip. Then another. Deeper.