Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Minerva Reef, Tonga to Opua, New Zealand

Minerva Reef, Tonga to Opua, New Zealand

Noon Position: 23* 37' S. 178* 54' W at Minerva Reef
     Cloud Cover 80% except over Confidence
     Course 285*
     Speed 5.5 knots
     Anchor up at 1300 hour and motor sailing until we clear the reefs
     Sails: single reefed main and stay sail at 100%

Confidence is a little slower than most of the other boats and we knew that we would have to sail a bit NW before the winds would come around to our charted course so we decided to leave a day early. Seas were a bit choppy but manageable.

It took me til Monday to start writing in the journal. We had over 900 nm to go and we were crossing a part of the South Pacific that has a wicked history. It took me a few days to settle into the routine - no sea sickness - just a lot of apprehension. Relatively speaking I guess the conditions are pretty good for the South Ocean. I hope I never see them when they are bad!

We are constantly monitoring the weather. Due to the positions of the various highs and lows we are unable to maintain a rum line (direct line from MR to NZ). Wind direction is also changing. Dave from Gulf Harbor Radio has been very helpful - looking at all of the weather models and weather information and relaying it on the morning radio net.

So our plan to date is to head west with as much of a southerly slant as we can manage, keeping the sails full and the motor off, until we can line ourselves up with the North Cape of New Zealand. Another low is supposed to pass over the North Cape by Saturday so we need to get in there, or at least on the lee side of the land by then.

The winds were initially pushing us west with no southerly component at all. Fact is we were actually going a bit north - wrong direction! Then the winds started to slowly fill in and we were able to alter course, without tacking and gradually come around to our intended course. The sky is very grey and the seas are a bit confused with swells of 1.5 to 3 meters. No rain! Winds remained constant at around 18 knots and we were able to maintain a speed of 6 knots. Things were looking good!

It was quite evident that we were moving out of the tropics, however. I had to pull out our full sailing gear for the cool evenings along with leggings and fleece during the day. We can tell that the water temperature has also dropped as the compressor refrigerator/freezer only turns on a couple of times a day instead of every 6 hours and only for a very short time. This is good as this is the largest draw on the batteries. 

22-Nov-2016 Noon Position 29* 31' S 175* 13' E
     Speed Over Ground: 7.0 knots!
     Course: 200* True
     40% Cloud Cover
     Winds: 15-18 ESE
     Miles to Go to Opua: 346

The distance travelled and the distance to go is not that accurate as the crow does not fly in a straight line. The rum line puts it at a distance of approximately 750 mm but we will probably cover over 900 nm. 

The sun is out and the dark, grey Southern Ocean has finally turned a gorgeous azure blue. Confidence broke a record today covering a distance of 156 nm in 24 hours! We estimate our progress using an average of 5 knots and 120 nm. So 156 is out of the park!!! Way to Go Confidence!

23-Nov-2016 Wednesday 
     Noon Position: 30* 43' S. 175* 01* E
     Speed: 5.5 to 6 knots
     Course: 189 T

We are still managing good speed. The seas are starting to settle down a bit and I am finally starting to settle down. We could not ask any more out of Confidence. All systems are working beautifully especially the wind vane. And the predicted winds also performed as expected so we were sailing on our rum line. Winds were coming around nicely from the SE and we were on a beam reach. We have been managing more than 150 nm per day for the last three days! Awesome!

I took the evening to midnight watch as usual and was entertained with another wonderful sunset 

and a light show of phosphorescence - more evident now that we are in cooler waters. It was a very pleasant evening. The wind vane system was steering the boat so I was able to sit back and enjoy my book. I was feeling pretty comfortable so I let the Captain sleep until 0100.

23-Nov-2016 I woke up to a beautiful morning. The seas have calmed down but that also means that the winds have calmed down. We were able to continue sailing at 5.5 to 6 knots til about 0930. And it did warm up to 25C.

Then the winds swung around to the east. The sails were not doing us any good so we furled the Genoa and the stay sail in and turned on the motor. We engaged the autopilot and gave the wind vane a rest. Over time we have found that the wind vane works better at the higher wind speeds and the auto pilot works better in lighter winds with the motor running.

Noon Position: 31* 47' S.    174* 51' E
     Speed Over Ground: 6.0 knots
     Course Over Ground: 203*
     Miles to Go: 205 nm
     Distance in 24 Hours: still a respectable 141.2 nm 

This is the last day of the Gulf Harbor Radio Net. Patricia and David are on vacation. It is amazing to develop such a relationship with two people who we will probably never meet. They quite liked David as he was able to relay between them and other boats during the morning check in. He always gets complements on the clarity of our broadcast and his professionalism. No one is aware that his very first career was as a radio officer! When I met people at anchor or in town and introduced myself as the silent (yes - silent) voice on Confidence they all wanted to meet the  man behind the "Voice"!

1500: I am enjoying this day of calm seas. I have been reading and knitting - two things I find difficult to do in rough seas. It is a good thing that we will be in port soon as we are getting down to the dregs when it comes to provisions. We just site the last eggs, bread and canned Sockeye salmon. But I still managed to come up with a few treats like the last two portions of Lasagna! One particular find made me think of my brother-in-law, Stuart. He is a Yorkshireman and has a soft spot for Cadbury Chocolate. I was cleaning. The fridge and found one of the large chocolate bars that I had forgotten about. This one was Cadbury chocolate with coconut so it was like eating a macaroon! Mm good! It is amazing what simple pleasures you get when you find a taste from home!

24-Nov-2016 Starry Starry Night and as much phosphorescence in the sea as stars in the sky. But it does play havoc with the psychy when you are having trouble making out the horizon and the stars are so close to the horizon as there is no land for them to hand behind. Is that a star or a boat?

We are getting to a point where we are expecting to see more boats as we are all converging on the same harbor. And you would think that with 25 of us out here that one would see the odd boat. NOT. 

Midnight Position: 32* 48' S. 174* 42' E
     Speed: 5.0 knots motor sailing and bucking a 0.5 current
     Course Over Ground: 203* T
     Distance to Go: 152.9 nm 
     Winds: SE at 5 knots
     Seas: 1 meter swell with a slight chop

Good thing we have slowed down so that we can time our approach to Opua for sunrise. I am supposed to wake up the Captain but I felt a bit guilty as I had to wake him up after just two hours due to a small steering issue. So I will let him sleep til he wakes u on his own.

0130: Captain is up, coffee is made and goody bag has been filled. He had a good night and I had a good sleep. David saw one bulk carrier and had a pod of dolphins come and play in the bow.

0730: I take over the helm as David is the Net Controller for today. Some of the boats from Minerva have made it to Opua. Four them have completed their circumnavigation so a party is being planned at the Yacht club to celebrate their accomplishments along with ours!

0938: I see a sailboat! First boat since leaving Minerva Reef. We called on the VHF and confirmed that it was Privateer. We were wondering why they were trying to sail in these lite winds. Their motor is giving them some grief so they decided to give it a rest, sail as close to the quarantine dock as possible and hope that there was 
enough power to get them secured. It took them 12 hours move than us but they made it safely!

Noon Position: 33* 46' S. 174* 26' E
     SOG: 5.6 knots
     COG: 195 T
     Winds: E at 7 knots
     20% cloud cover
Distance in 24 Hours: 135 nm

1430: I had a great visit from a family of dolphins. They played with us for abut a half he - welcoming us t New Zealand.

2000: I am sitting here in the cockpit watching the next front move in from the west. It is supposed to reach the North Cape by 10 am tomorrow. We should be there in about 5 hours. It is a race to the finish!!

New Zealand

0700: secured on the quarantine dock in Opua, New Zealand!!! Along with 10 other boats. We are a happy group. Everyone arrived safely.

Confidence exceeded our expectations. We travelled approximately 924 nm in 162 hours (6 3/4 days) averaging 5.7 knots with three days averaging over 150 nm. Our best day was 156 nm . We had t slow down on purpose for our last 12 hours in order to time our arrival for day light. Winds ranged from 7 knots to 25 knots. No rain! No squalls!
All systems working. 

I never thought that I would make it to New Zealand let alone sail here! Today is a Happy Day!


  1. Have a photo of you at Robinson Island. How can I send it to you? This is Eva from Portland Oregon. We met over the holidays at the laundromat in Opua. Hugs and Happy New Year! evahuntsinger@msn.com

  2. Hi guys! Have enjoyed your adventures from afar and wish you both continued godspeed. How can I get an email through to you?
    Steen Jessen