Noumea to Whangarei

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November 1st 2016
Published: November 5th 2017
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Noumea to Whangarei

Additional maps: Homeward bond . Noumea to Whangarei

Again, this blog covers an ocean passage that took place just over a year ago.

Heading from Noumea to Whangarei

Captain’s log

The passage covered 1176 nautical miles over 8 days at an average of 6.1 knots. The best noon 24-hour run was 159 nautical miles and the slowest was 130 nautical miles. Overall, the voyage was a very smooth quick passage.

Well this is the final ocean passage for the Great Cruise that started way back in 25 May 2014. There was some 900 nautical miles of Open Ocean between Hakura and our homeport of Whangarei on the east coast of Northland, New Zealand.

Steve d’Yank was continuing on and John, who has done two other passages with me plus several coastal trips around New Zealand, Fiji and Australia, joined us. So this time I had an experienced crew, which was a change.

Now, as in all the previous passages, the big issue was when would there be a good weather window to take us southeast to New Zealand. Around New Caledonia the usual winds were the southeast trades. The Trades usually extend to about 200 nautical miles south of New Caledonia and are then replaced by a region of variable winds. This region is were the pattern of alternating high and low pressure systems pass from west to east. My aim was get a period of moderate trades followed by the end of a high with it’s easterly winds that are going northerly and then westerly as the next low pressure system moves across.

The general plan is to run across the trades by heading west of south towards Norfolk Island (part of Australia) that is about halfway, then heading south-easterly towards North Cape, the most northerly point of the North Island, followed by a south-easterly run down the east coast of Northland.

To aid in the development of the passage plan, we again contacted the sailing weather guru in New Zealand, Bob Macdevett. Bob came up with a complicated cruise plan with us starting out heading southwest for about two days, then almost east for about 3 days then south for a couple more, another easterly leg followed by the southerly run of a day or so down to Whangarei. This plan was to take nearly 2 weeks and travel about 1500 nautical miles, nearly twice the direct route. When asked why, Bob said he was taking us around a period of strong easterly winds off northern New Zealand. Well so be it. Unlike pervious passages, we had use of a Satellite phone and would be able to text Bob for some up dates.

So after a couple of visits to the supermarkets and fresh food markets, we had our food. Next was the skipper’s visit to Immigration, Customs and the Harbour Master to get all the official paper work done. Our final stop was the fuel wharf for fuel, water and final ice creams.

So at just after 11 am we headed out of Noumea and after a couple more hours we passed out of the fringing reef into the open ocean. The wind was not as strong as predicted and to maintain boat speed we headed just west of south rather than the planned southwesterly. We were making good speed around the 5 knot mark.

Whilst we were not directly following Bob’s plan, we did have very pleasant conditions to get our sea legs and we were heading more toward home rather than away from it.

This continued for the next two days with a steady light southeast trade wind. At the agreed point we texted Bob for an update. The period of strong easterlies had gone from the forecast, so we could continue on a soothly course. We were now following the more usual plan of south till near Norfolk then southeast to North Cape.

The wind remained moderate thus the sea was slight enabling Hakura to maintain a steady 5 to 6 knot pace. Not bad in a wind of about 10 knots.

One of the many jobs I do on passages is to the make regular radio contact. I do this with Maritime New Zealand through Radio Taupo. The radio masts that receive and broadcast for Taupo Radio are positions near Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand, though the operators now days are sitting in a building in Lower Hutt, Wellington. The usual radio conversation goes “Taupo radio this is Hakura ZMT 4714” (that being the call sigh for S/V Hakura), and they answer and request we go to another channel (one of the working channels assigned to Taupo Radio). I then give them a trip report which in the initial call has destination and ETA, plus course, speed, POB (People on Board) just the number and their state _ well, seas sick or any issues.

I usually make the call either before coming on watch or after my watch at either midnight or 03:00. This is because there is usually less traffic then. In this passage (as with several others) I have had some difficulty in getting through. Not sure if its my method or the gear. As noted above, on this trip we had a Sat phone so were able to ring through or send texts (the latter are supposed to be free). So I made contact e via either the radio (only three times while offshore) or more frequently via the sat phone. This way family and friends are kept informed of our progress. I usual have one person contact Taupo Radio every couple of days for an update, or this time I texted the information through. I then hope that person passes on the updates.

The list to be passed onto includes family of the crew, though I have noticed that some crew are reluctant to let their families know too much. I think they are working on the basis that less information leads to less concern, particularly if the information flow stops. Also, some might not wish to set patterns that they don’t wish to continue with.

We passed well off Norfolk Is during the 4th day and changed our course more easterly to head for North Cape, which we would sight 3 days later.

As we approached New Zealand, we had light winds from behind so we were able to use Big Red, to great effect. One morning Big Red went up before 09:00 and stayed up till 19:00ish, maintaining about 5 knots in 5 knots of wind.

We did have two periods of rain, one heavy and one light, but this was no problem to Steve and I as John was on watch both times. Boy did he get wet the first time. Both Steve and I thanked John for taking one for the Team (well two actually).

As we got closer to New Zealand the air and sea temperature dropped. This was as expected but hard for me as I had been in the tropics or sub tropical Australia for the past 18 months. Also, the daily bucket washes became harder as the sea became cooler, so it became more like “every few days bucket washes”.

Another change was an increase in sightings of sea birds, including several magnificent big albatrosses. Truly wonderful birds to watch as they circle the boat check us out. They really don’t like the light winds. They are grounded, or should I say “sead” as the wind dies.

Another spices of wildlife seen and captured were the By-the-wind-sailors. Called Velella, they are pelagic hydroids. They float on the surface of the sea being blown around with the aid of their inflated sack that acts as a sail. I was able to capture a few though once you had your eve in they where very common. Occurring in large patches. If the sea was medicate or above you don’t see them within the waves.

As I had predicted (mainly because I was following our progress on a navigational app on my tablet), we sighted North Cape around 0915 on day 7 and we began the run down the east coast to Whangarei. There was still some 150 miles to go with a failing wind. So we motor sailed and were able to make good progress.

As evening came on I decided to reef the main sail (make it smaller) and showed Steve how it is done. It turned out to be not a great time to show him as the bolt holding the boom onto the mast (called the goose neck) decided it was time to come undone. Luckily, the wind and sea were slight and none of the bits went over the side. With a bit of effort we got her back together and were back to sailing, or more correctly, motor sailing.

We rounded Cape Brett at 01:15 on Friday 28th of October and began the final run down the Tutukaka Coast to Whangarei. My watch started at 03:00 and it turned into one of the nicest watches of the whole trip. Slight to flat sea with very light winds and a clear star studded sky. The sun came up as we passed inside the Poor Knights Island and I watched the chart boats head out from Tutukaka Harbour for the day’s diving at the marine reserve of the Poor Knights.

Shortly after this we started to meet large flocks of several spices of sea birds that appeared to be chasing schools of fish that were breading at the surface. Whilst circling one of these schools, just off Tutukaka headland, John noticed a whale blow in the background. It took us a few minutes to relocate it. It was a largish baleen whale, possible a Bryde’s whale. I suggest this species, as there is a feeding ground for these whales in the outer Haraki Gulf, very close to where we were.

As we headed south we were meet by a school of bottlenosed dolphins, though they were not really interested in us. We rounded Whangarei Heads and headed into the Quarantine Berth in Marsden Cove Marina.

After tying up, I had a quick shower, but maybe I should have done the paper work first because the Custom officials where coming on board just after I had dried off.

This time there were no problems and we were quickly out of Marsden Cove Marina and beginning the last 2 hours up Whangarei Harbour to the Town Basin. We finally tied up back in the Hatea River at 14:25 and were safely home. Nearly 29 months since I had left to begin the overall voyage.

This was a very pleasant voyage with a great crew. No bad weather or strong winds, just sufficient for a great sail.

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 29


5th November 2017

Nice one
Thanks for a nice passage and good times in New Cali Doug! Congratulation also mate on a well completed major sailing adventure. May the tar not stick your jandals, may the sun not burn your bits, may the wind be ever at your back and you never ever quit :)

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