Published: July 27th 2010July 27th 2010
Well what can I say? How about - “We got here!”
• Sailed 1335 nautical miles (just under 2500 lm) in 10 days at an average speed of 5.5 knots (about 10 km/hour).
• Maximum speed of 15.5 knots (about 28 km/hr).
• Maximum 24 hours run (noon to noon) was 161 miles (twice) with the slowest being 109 miles.
We left the Town Basin Marina in Whangarei at 12:30 on Wednesday 14 July heading for Marsden Cove Marina to clear Customs the next morning. A quite night with a dinner of spinach and eggs.
An early start with a breakfast of porridge. Bruce from Customs arrived just after nine and we were cleared by 10. After a final clear up and watering we cast off at 10:45 and cleared out of the heads into a 2 m swell and light southerly and headed for the open ocean.
Oh shit we are actually going to do this.
Started sailing just off Bream Head and we were doing about three knots. The wind died about 15:30 when we where just northeast of the Chicks. On went the motor so that we could
get a few miles under our belts to start with before night.
At 18:05 Aileen called out that there where whales of to port. Yep, a pod of pilot whales (at least 15) where milling around a couple of spots and appeared to be repeatedly diving in the same place (same place as the false killer whales of last new year). We were able to get within a 20 metres of them. Strange!
Back on course and we motored till 02:00 when the northerly arrived. With eased sheets we were making good progress.
I managed my first “ET phone home” that is a radio call into Taupo Radio to give a trip report - location, speed, heading and state of crew.
Our first sunrise at sea was a nice one, however, by mid afternoon the wind increasing to 25 knots and from the Northeast - right where we wanted to go but now could not. Over the next few hours we reduced both the headsail and main (down to 2 reefs). We were making too much easting but the was where the wind was pushing us. Also the waves increased in size making it uncomfortable. This
sent Aileen to her bunk and Tom to visit the rail on several occasions. Thankfully Tom was able to stand his turn on the helm (called watches).
Due to the cold and wet conditions we did a 2 hours on 2 hours off system from 18:00 till 06:00 then 3 on and 3 off till 18:00. This meant a few long hard days ahead for Tom and I. Tom was great and I appreciated his arrival on deck. Not so sure about his calls to me to get out of bed, though.
Aileen mainly slept, or occasionally through up. Also, during this time the wind moved more to the north then northwest, thus we were able to hold a course of 35 degrees (northeast). We where heading in the right direction at last.
On the third morning we found a small squid on the windward rail. Most likely washed on board over night. This was to be the only sea creature to be found on board for the whole trip.
We increased and reduced the sail area according to the wind strength with a likely maximum of 25 knots, gusting 35. During one of the high
wind periods on the evening of the 3rd day (18 July) Hakura was hit by a gust when the sea was not too large a just took off for about 2 minutes. I was on the helm and it felt like a fast train ride with all the noise of wind, sea and Hakura pushing through the sea.
When I checked the GPS it was showing a maximum speed of 14.1 knots.
I was having a great time. Not so sure Tom, and definitely not for Aileen. They just did not seem to see the fun side of it!
At 24:00 when I came on watch I could see we were now heading towards McCauley Is (in the middle of the Kermadic chain of islands) right where we did not wish to be with a rough sea and night setting in, so it was harden up the sheets and for the next two hours Hakura took off towards the north to take us away from the island and its surroundings shoal areas. It worked and we could go back on our northeast course, however, we were now 70 miles to the west of island and unlikely to
get close enough to see them.
At 09:00, when we were 70 miles to the west of Rouel Island, we called up the DOC rangers and had a short chat. I asked Ian to pass on a message to my brother Scott (which he did, thanks Ian).
The big news of this morning was the arrival on deck of Aileen, and she stood her watch. It was great to have her back again. We all had lunch in the cockpit; a first since day one.
We were now able to move to a watch system of 3 on 6 off from 06:00 to 18:00 and 2 on 4 off from 18:00 to 06:00. More sleep for Tom and me. Boy did we enjoy that.
The wind died over night after a short change to the southwest. We took the 2nd reef out of the main and rolled out more headsail. Still making good progress. Wind died all together at 06:00 so on with the iron mainsail. This stayed on till 13:00.
During the late afternoon of the 4th day we were visited by an immature black brown mollyhawk. It stayed around for ages coming in
very close. I was at a lose to identify it as it had black underwings and none of the books mentioned such a pattern. It was the next morning when I noticed a picture of an immature black brown with almost black underwing and the same face/head patterns.
We had seen several shearwaters and cape pigeons plus a couple of mollyhawks or albatrosses.
The 5th day started as a great day’s sail and Tom took out the 1st reef in the main. Ton, well done. Until this point I had been doing all the work at the mast or on the foredeck. With Tom’s willingness to learn and my increasing confidence in our trip I started to let him do more of the work forward.
Early afternoon we decided to try the fishing line. I went for an arvo nap with no fish and wrote this in my notes. I was wrong cause a couple of hours later Aileen yell out that we had a fish. It was a 3 kg skipjack tuna.
Tom and Aileen wanted sushi and got to eat the world’s freshest tuna. We had veggies and pan-fried tuna for dinner. It was
The evening was a great nights sailing and at 22:00 we altered course to avoid an area of recent volcanic activity. Then I went off to bed and a few hours sleep.
At 02:00 as I came up (after another successful ET phone home) Tom said he had two really interesting things for me to see.
1. Some bright bioluminescence, especially if you waved a bright touch quickly over the sea.
2. A glow off to the northeast. This was the area where the recent volcanic activity had been in and could be such, so we took a bearing and I called Taupo Radio thinking that it was such activity. They of course had to treat it as a possible ship fire or such. Over the next hour we talked and took more bearings.
Taupo Radio called the Maritime rescuer centre to see if any vessel was in trouble in the area.
At 04:00 we called Taupo Radio to say glow still there and gave new bearing. A few minutes later we called back to say the glow was less. Aileen said the glow disappeared about 05:30, before sunrise.
What was the glow? I have no idea. It could have been volcanic activity or a squid jigging vessel or something else.
As the wind died at 05:00 on went the iron mainsail and we motored till 09:00 when the wind moved to a northerly and variable strength.
The next couple of days were a combination of 10 knot northerlies or no wind with more sail coming out or going away and the motor going on. We were still making good progress.
On the evening of the 7th day we came up on Ata Island, our first land fall since the Chicks. We were abeam of the island at 04:00. Aileen and I spent the rest of the day looking for the island around Tongatapu. It was only at 15:00 that I worked out the distance at which we could see the islands and it was only 40 miles and that would be after nightfall. We were hoping to get some cellphone coverage and send an update home. No coverage was found cause we didn’t get close enough.
I also worked out if we maintained a speed of 5 knots we would arrive at Vava’u on
Monday morning, just right for Customs. Thus the plan was to stay on 5 knots, even if we needed to motor some of it.
That night we passed up the west coast of Tongatapu without seeing any lights though a great night sail. As we moved north towards Vava’u we started to pass more islands, mostly off to our west though occasionally some on our east.
It was during the 8th day that Tom informed me that tomorrow was not Monday but Sunday. Oh shit I was a day out in my calculations. We would just have to find a quite place to stop for Sunday and arrive in Neiafu on Monday.
Another slow near windless night, which was good we were approaching Vava’u and its reefs. I did not wish to arrive in the dark.
Next morning there were lots of islands before us so at 08:00 all hands on deck was the call as we started to enter the waters of Vava’u. Just after 09:00 we saw our first humpback whales. A couple with a full display - tail waving, lopping, breaching, flipper waving and lots of blows. It only lasted a few minutes
but was great to see.
About 1200 we began to look for an anchorage so we could swim, clean up and sleep. At 12:36 we dropped anchor just off a small island.
The comment of the hour was “and I can sleep the whole night - this is the most beautiful part.” Aileen.
Shortly after we had stoped moving a guy from another NZ yacht came over and asked if we would like some fresh mahi mahi. Oh yes please. Fresh fish for tea and I will do it on the BBQ.
Well that was a good idea until we found that the BBQ was not working. The regulator may have rushed up.
After a great night’s sleep and a refreshing swim we were off to Neiafu and our official arrival.
On the way we saw another whale though it did appear to be a small whale without any adult nearby.
We finally docked in at the wharf in Neiafu at 13:35. The Officials arrived shortly after and we had completed the arrival formalities within 40 minutes and away from the dock. We anchored on the western side of the inlet (across from
Neiafu) and slowly got ready to head into town.
First job was the sun cover and then the dinghy. Both went up easily and even the motor fired up on the third pull.
About 15:30 we arrived on land. The crew were a bit wobbly on their feet; however, we made it to a local café and had lunch.
We have now spend a night and two days in Neiafu and have our laundry in for washing and started to stock up.
Overall it was a great trip with a Fab crew. We all did what we had to when it was needed and not problems.
Aileen and Tom are great people and will make fantastic crew.
How do I feel about ocean sailing and how did I go?
It is the bee’s knees. I really enjoyed the strong winds and speed of the start, though not the cold so much. I think I handled the work around the boat, the decisions on the sail changes and course well.
Yes there were a few times that I wished to be somewhere else or for the motion to stop through usually once I
was outside I would remember that lots of people have doe this before and that I can handle it and well I just did. Shortly afterwards I decided to enjoy it and off I would go being on the sea and sailing along.
Of course I could have done with more sleep, though you do get use to the hours and the wet. The main thing is that the next watch appears to take over and you can turn off below.
How did Hakura handle the trip?
She was great. She took on the waves and wind and just went. There was a lot of water in the bilge most of the time over the first days, which I think came in the cockpit lockers. No water came in through the anchor locker or the chain pipe at all. Another great job done by Tom. It also appeared to be easy for Tom to open the locker and the pipe.
It does appear that with the waves hitting squire onto the port side did allow water to enter through the bilge pump exit pipe on that hull. We decided to keep the seacock closed and hope
that that stop or slows the water. This plan is yet to be tested. Both bilge pumps worked well and removed the water quickly.
The only other issue was with the belts that drive the freezer compressor. They have stretched a lot and need replacing, however, I did not get spares before I left.
Would I do it again? Well I do need to go ocean sailing to get home though I suspect that after the trip across to Fiji and then down to NZ I will be hooked.
Overall, it was a great trip and Vava’u looks an interesting place to explore.
There are more photos below