Life on the hard in New Zealand

Sunday evening we headed into the Cruisers Club for our roast dinner – pork with crackling and apple sauce this week. Was great! We had a few cold ones with Chris and wandered back to Morphie having said our farewells to him as he was heading south on Tuesday.

Monday morning we were up really early and were delighted that the wind was light. We radioed the boatyard to make sure they were ready for us so around 9.15 we slipped away and motored through the marina towards the haul out area.

We managed to drive straight into the area without being bothered too much by the tide which rips through here at times…. and the guys were ready with the strops and their hooks and we were pretty soon snug in the travel lift.  However, the front strop was on the sloped leading edge of Morphie rather than under the flat part of the hull – and to move it back would mean problems with the clearance of our fore stay. So having looked at the plans of our hull they decided to tie ropes to the front strop on both sides and we then winched them tight back to the cockpit to ensure that they wouldn’t slip whilst we were being hauled.   When they were happy they took us off in a dinghy from the transom and dropped off at the boat yard dock.

We watched nervously as she was lifted up out of the water – it was quite a long way – and then into the cleaning area. The guys were delighted with how clean our hull was and pretty soon they had cleaned off the thin layer of slime and we were ready to be moved to our spot.

The cradles here are pretty unusual and substantial and we were happy with our allocated position as it means that we will not have to be moved during our stay.

So Morphie arrived around the corner and they got her in position quite quickly. These guys move around 17 boats a day in and out and their experience showed. We were delighted that they also took the time to ensure we were level otherwise water would not drain through the scuppers properly.

Phew – nervousness over – we were safe and set. Hurrah….. We got our ladder sorted out and checked nothing had fallen over during her travels. All was good. Later on we headed out to talk to a few trades. Total Yacht Care came by and gave us a quote for cleaning, polishing and protecting the hull which they are going to do after Blue Fix have done our gel coat repairs – primarily the transom to properly repair the damage done in the Panama Canal. There are a few other bits and pieces we’d like touched up too….especially the stern helm seats as they have cracked along the rail. We then rubbed down in preparation for another coat of varnish. Whilst out and about we registered for the Opua All Points Rally as there were lots of social things planned that we could attend during the week. Having had a long tiring day we stayed on board for the evening and, out of the wind, it was actually quite pleasant and warm and we enjoyed our view. We slept well feeling very secure in our cradle.

Tuesday morning and Richard got on with the varnishing while I worked down below cleaning the oven and its surround which is always a fiddly job. He had almost finished varnishing when there was a light shower. So he stopped and then restarted again later. Finally we had a coat done and then, shortly afterwards, it drizzled again. Frustrating or what!?!  We’ll just have to see the results in the morning. We decided to go to the Cruising Club on Tuesday night after eating on board and had a few cold ones before retiring for the night.

Wednesday morning the weather was cold and grey and the forecast was not looking conducive to more varnishing. So we checked out Tuesday’s efforts. The varnish was a bit dull but the wood was well protected so we decided to call it a day and removed the masking tape. We also removed all the canvas and took it into the Opua Canvas Store who are going to wash, repair and re-waterproof for us in our absence. Richard also got the main sail over to the sail loft and we agreed a price for a complete valet and replacing the sunbrella UV protection on all three sails.

We then worked hard on the gel coat. We started with the non slip areas which we had previously cleaned so this time we used Woody Wax to give them a protective coating. This took a while. When that was finished we started cleaning and cutting the rest of the gelcoat to remove oxidisation and restore the gloss. This went on all day…..

In the evening we headed to the Cruising Club for the Rally welcome evening and had some great nibbles and received discounted beer / wine vouchers for the whole week so were pretty happy we had decided to sign up LOL!  We had a nice social evening to round off a busy day.

Thursday morning we got our refilled gas (LPG) tank back – the NZ company issued us with a temporary 3-month certificate to enable us to get refills so that was a relief as we were worried about that. And we still have some left in the other bottle….so all good for when we return after our trip home. We finished the work on the gelcoat and it was time to give it a protective coating using the locally-recommended product Mirage. So I applied it while Richard came behind me and buffed it off.   Have to say Morphie is looking pretty good!!!

Thursday night we went to pizza/pasta night at the Cruising Club and enjoyed some good food but the promised comedy / talent evening was a bit of a damp squib and fell flat after a particularly inappropriate joke!  The Gilbert & Sullivan type singing wasn’t really to my taste either…. Oh well, never mind.

As soon as the food stopped coming out most of the cruisers exited left but we stayed and enjoyed another social evening.

Friday morning we were up early again and we caught up with SeaPower and made arrangements with them for some engine maintenance – particularly injectors – for our return in March. That was the final thing to organise so we were feeling quite ahead of the game. The weather was variable so I headed off to the laundry laden down while Richard did some more laying up jobs on board. Later on we applied and buffed off the second and final coat of Mirage on the gel coat.

In the evening we headed over to Burnsco for the sausage sizzle and enjoyed chatting to other cruisers again. They had loads of sausages but very little beer so after a couple we headed to the Cruising Club….but not complaining about free food and drink!

We were sitting on our own just chatting when we spotted this boat arriving from overseas – the wind was blowing quite hard – and they had clearly had a bit of a difficult passage evidenced by the state of their genoa. Good time to arrive just before dark as they will get a chance of a good night’s sleep before they have to be ready for customs in the morning.

Saturday and it was raining cats and dogs. Luckily we had already designated this paperwork and packing day! We retrieved our bags from their hidey holes and started organising our clothes. We had laundered everything we wanted to take home with us so that was straight forward – then we cleaned out all our other cupboards and vacuum packed those items being left on board. The lockers were cleaned out and then it was time for paperwork and electronics. We worked out what was staying (removing the batteries etc) and what was going with us and that was another job ticked off the list. The final job of the day was to organise the food / cans etc and dispose of anything going out of date in our absence. Phew another job done!

Later on we went out to the Cruising Club for dinner and a couple of drinks before returning to Morphie for an early night. The relentless schedule was clearly catching up with both of us.

This morning, Sunday, and we are into the final push…. Everything staying is cleaned and stored, everything going is cleaned and packed. That just leaves us with some incidental items like another pile of laundry and topping up the water tanks…. The laundry is in the machine and we have both enjoyed long hot showers and are now in the cruisers lounge feeling satisfied if not a bit achy! We are going to head to the Cruisers Club for their Sunday roast later and then an early night.

I always have mixed feelings at this time of the season – especially this one which was tough on both us and Morphie. So feel sad to stay goodbye to her but we have given her lots and lots of tender loving care to ensure she enjoys her rest here on the hard in Opua with more upgrades planned for our return – particularly a complete electronics overhaul.

Monday morning, at 10.30, we are being picked up by a shuttle bus to take us to Keri Keri airport where we are catching a small plane to Auckland. Getting quite excited!!!

Bye for now


Prepping for haul out in New Zealand

Sunday early evening we headed to the Cruisers Club for our Sunday roast dinner. It was lamb – yay – with an unusual mix of roast squash, potato and green beans all topped off with mint jelly. Was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it. When it got dark we went out onto the verandah and watched the little firework display put on by the Club. Was a fun evening.

Monday morning we got the marina’s courtesy bus into Paihia to check out the local town which is a bit touristy but full of charm with loads of little boutiques to wander in and out of. We found new deck shoes for Richard, some warm socks for us both, a couple of tops, shorts and a handbag for me plus some groceries. We also found the Post Office so finally shipped the Iridium Go! Unit back to the USA for repairs but was a tad surprised at the £40 cost for the tracked, insured post. Afterwards we went to Jimmy Jack’s for lunch where we indulged ourselves in ribs and wings. Very tasty!  By now the sun had come out and, despite the chilly wind, we actually took our jackets off and enjoyed an ice cream while waiting for our return transportation.

Back on board and we realised that we had lost the fancy boutique bag with my three new items in.  Not funny….hadn’t spent any money on clothes for a while…..and these were for our upcoming trip to Hong Kong.  I was quite upset and to Richard’s annoyance actually started crying.    We racked our brains to remember our exact movements and started looking up telephone numbers. At this point my phone rang and it was the boutique letting us know that Richard’s ordered t-shirt was in stock as they had now unpacked their latest consignment. So I asked them if we had left the bag there – and the answer was no – so they asked us where we went next. We told them about Jimmy Jack’s and the girl said she would check with them. She walked down the street – recovered my bag that we had left on the seat – and called me back with the good news. OMG so grateful to these kind and honest people!

We then opened the envelope that we had found taped to Morphie on our return…which invited us to sundowners on Plan Sea a fellow Island Packet in the marina. We were also joined by the crew from Gigi, more Packeteers. We had a nice evening and were surprised to find that they had both also cracked their stainless steel arches on the passage across the Pacific.  Was all very interesting and we even took our fleeces off because Plan Sea have a completely enclosed cockpit so was actually quite warm LOL.  Oh yes and my head looks weird in this photo – must have been the angle as I pressed the button

Tuesday morning and Richard offered Dink to the first person who wanted him over the radio. We had failed miserably over six months or so to fix his numerous leaks and he is really too big and heavy. We’ll buy a new one when we return….there are quite a few options here. Within five minutes I had a mum and two children on the dock – so we were introduced to Callum. He is a local lad who had dreamed of owning his own dinghy for the last two years and borrows his dads to go fishing regularly. So we agreed that he could have it and we would let him know when he could collect, as we wanted to use it to tape up under the rail and clean the stainless. Felt good to make Callum’s dream come true!

Richard then hopped onto the courtesy bus to pick up his t-shirt and my lost items from Paihia. I got on with the stainless. Later on we had a message to call the NZ Post Office – what now?!? Apparently they are not able to send to a company without a specified addressee – the RMA department wasn’t good enough – so had to scrabble around to find someone to send it to. So that got sorted out thankfully, as I had thought it might be something to do with the complicated customs form I had had to fill out. Phew!

We had got really cold working outside during the day but were pleased to have got both genoa and staysail down and bagged – under the beady eyes of the local seagulls – so had long hot shore showers followed by an early night.

Wednesday I cleaned the freezer and finished the stainless steel. Richard taped up the whole of the boat while I started working on the textured gel coat to remove stains and oxidisation. Was surprised how good the local product Grunt Klenashine was as the result was pretty good!  By the evening we were both shattered so long hot showers again were followed by a movie night on board.

Thursday morning we popped out to the marina stores for a few things like more sandpaper and confirmed that the dinghy was ready for collection.  OMG the little lad turned up with his tiny outboard and wearing his life jacket within about 10 minutes. We formally handed it over and Callum was so excited I thought he would burst.

He also confirmed that he would keep the name – as he thought it was cool – and would fix him up, love and cherish him. We felt really good although quite emotional as he drove away waving madly… Who would have thought it, Dink has emigrated to New Zealand LOL.

We started rubbing down and by the end of the day we had got a coat of varnish on.

Later on we headed to the Cruisers Club and bumped into Scallywag who had just arrived from Tonga. We had a good fun evening although Gloria ended up a bit sozzled as, like us, they don’t drink on passage and she enjoyed a bit too much wine LOL. Was lovely to see them again.

Friday and the forecast was dire. There was a gale warning – with up to 50 knot gusts expected – and rain was supposed to come through in the afternoon. So there was no point varnishing. Richard got on with cleaning the cockpit cushions and the sun blinds while I carried on working on the gel coat – this time in the cockpit. Oh yes and Richard also managed to get the mould out of the grouting in the heads….. I had tried for a long time to do this and, with one wave of a toothbrush and another NZ product, it was banished. Absolutely amazing!

Later on we headed over to SeaPower who were hosting a sausage sizzle (BBQ). We chatted with other cruisers and enjoyed the hospitality – although it was freezing cold – and the locals (wearing shorts and sandals) were teasing me about my two fleeces LOL. Guess I haven’t acclimatised yet having been in the tropics for the last five years.  We then headed up to the Cruisers Club and were enjoying the views when Phil and Sarah came in so we stayed a bit longer. Another good evening. Oh yes, and of course, it didn’t rain all day!!!!

Saturday and the forecast had worsened – the gale warning remained – and more rain was forecast. So we got on with other jobs.  I carried on working outside and spent quite a lot of time on the coachroof and transom cleaning, polishing, cutting the gelcoat etc etc. Richard in the meantime started on the interior – he used water and vinegar on all the gelcoat down below to stop mould forming in the humidity as we’ll be leaving Morphie on the hard throughout the NZ summer. Then he started treating all the interior wood. By the end of the day we were pretty tired but satisfied that we are ticking jobs off the list. Oh yes and, of course, no rain again which was very frustrating.   We rounded the day off with a few beers at the Cruising Club.

This morning, Sunday, and we lay in bed realising that, for the first time, the wind had completely died. So we got up as it got light and swiftly took the main sail down and flaked it on the dock. We then went to the cafe for breakfast before we returned to Morphie. We rubbed down and escaped below decks as the rain threatened yet again. But it appears to have passed so Richard is now varnishing while I’m blogging. Then we’ll call it a day and head off to the Cruisers Club for their traditional Sunday roast.

Tomorrow, Monday, we are hauling first thing in the morning. A bit daunting as they have asked us to drive in forwards with no fenders or ropes, apparently they catch the boat with hooks!   We are hauling earlier than originally planned but we moved the date forward as much of the work we have left to do requires us to be out of the water. The boatyard were happy too as we are going into an outside space and they do not intend to move us – so once we are in and settled they can fill the spaces in front of us. So we’ll be living up a ladder for the next week…sigh….

Bye for now


Early days in New Zealand

Our passage to New Zealand was pretty good overall despite some cloudy wet days, grey days, and high winds.

But to counter that we also had some of the most perfect sailing conditions and some great sunrises and sunsets.

We also had some wonderful star-lit nights. We had some pretty feisty downwind sailing conditions towards the end when we arrived to a gale warning but our weather routing was spot on giving us a better ride than many others. And we mustn’t forget to mention the dolphin encounter.

The biggest challenge of the passage was actually arriving in the dark as finding and getting on the Quarantine Dock in the pouring rain wasn’t the easiest manoeuvre. It was freezing cold and I thought we would go straight to bed but Richard decided we should, after all, celebrate our achievement so we did have a couple of beers before retiring for the night about 4.00 am on Tuesday morning (31 October).

At 8.00 am on Tuesday 31 October I was awoken by a ‘hello’ from the cockpit – customs were on board already. OMG we asked him to give us five minutes while we got quickly dressed and cleared a space for him to sit in the saloon. We went through the paperwork and it was all very efficient including our temporary import licence which gives us access to duty free goods and services here in New Zealand for two years. That’s 15% off which is a great boost as we have a long list of things to do. Next was biosecurity which were the guys we were dreading – but they were pretty quick and apart from some horrid hotdogs we had left in the freezer, one tomato and some onions which were confiscated we were good to go even receiving praise for our clean hull.  There is a big customs presence here in Opua with head offices plus numerous boats passing through.

The wind was blowing hard so we helped a few other boats get onto the quarantine dock as they started coming in before we escaped to our slip. We had been allocated one based on 37 feet – which is the official length of Morpheus – but the marina girl wanted us to go into a 45 foot one as the rule here is that no boat is allowed to exceed the length of the slip and overhang.  This is because there are very strong currents running through at tide changes so boats often get caught out and the idea is that they hit the pilings and not other boats – providing they are side on of course LOL. Clearly it is a serious issue though as all the pilings have rubber rings around the bottom and the piers have ‘bumpers’ at each end.

Our slip was difficult to get into as we were being blown off in 25 knots and into the middle pilings that separate us from the boat in the slip next door. We got pinned a couple of times – hurrah for those rubber rings – but managed to sort it all out. It is not helped here by the ‘D’ type fixed rings rather than cleats on the dock – that makes tying up in a hurry or braking a boat difficult. Never mind…we got in….no one got hurt and Morphie didn’t get damaged so all was well.

And that was the end to our season – we sailed 8,920 miles this year through 10 countries, lots of islands and crossed an ocean! Woo hoo…. We are on the other side of the world from home and we did it in a little yacht called Morpheus. The reality of what we have achieved is still taking some time to sink in LOL.

We went to the marina office to check in, got our codes for the pier doors, the cruiser’s lounge and the toilets/showers and headed to see Paul who was at the Boatyard office to organise our haul out. Job done – 17 November it is – and then headed into the cafe on the way back to Morphie. We ended up having hot sausage rolls and coffee as we couldn’t stop ourselves being tempted by the delicious looking pastry. Yummmmm…..

Back onboard we had a bit of a tidy up and went to bed for a while. Later on we hit the cruisers lounge for hot showers and an internet fix before wandering down to the Cruising Club for a beer. We were joined by Chris at this stage as he had arrived in New Zealand just before lunchtime. When we got there we walked into a kid’s Halloween party which was pretty funny but we just sat in the corner, ate chips, and enjoyed being on solid ground. There was quite a crowd by the time we ended the evening and everyone was in a pretty good mood having arrived unscathed despite some boat and rigging failures. Lots of torn sails too…..

Wednesday morning we had a late start and did some general wandering around the marina site. We had been led to believe that there wasn’t much here in Opua but we found pretty much two or three of every type of service that we were interested in like sail makers, canvas guys, electronics, riggers, mechanical guys etc along with every amenity that we would need so pretty happy to stay here for a while.

We then had some lunch in the cafe and spent the afternoon in the cruiser’s lounge using the internet and sorting out flights.  New Zealand is a long way from the UK and, as we have arrived earlier than we expected, we are going to break the long trip home up by spending a week in Hong Kong which we have always wanted to do. So we booked: shuttle to local airport; local flight to Auckland; overnight hotel in Auckland; flight to Hong Kong; hotel in Hong Kong; flight to London; and taxi home from Heathrow.

Phew, was quite a task, but we are very excited to be going home to see family and friends.  It has been a long season.  So folks we’ll arrive home on the 29 November.  Of course all this planning and booking means that we have now put ourselves under pressure to get Morphie ready to be hauled.

We later on did the laundry in the spotlessly clean and modern marina facility – the cheapest for a long while too.

Wednesday evening we headed back to the Cruising Club, watched the racing out the window, and enjoyed another social evening. Oh yes and did I tell you how cold it is here?!?   We are wearing jeans and fleeces and have multiple blankets on the bed with all hatches closed and fans off and are still feeling a tad chilly when we wake up. And this is Spring in New Zealand!

Thursday morning the electrician turned up. Our systems have to be tested and certified to New Zealand standards before we can be plugged into shore power. Well, the first thing we found out was that we are not allowed to have our step-down transformer (240 volts to 110 volts) on the dock as it has, by law, to be on the boat. Well, our lead isn’t long enough so it became obvious we couldn’t go forward. Eric – lovely Dutch chap with lots of stories to tell – agreed to come back Monday while we went off to the marine electrical shop to get a longer lead made up.

Whilst out doing that we organised quotes. There is a lot to sort out, for example:

  • All three sails need their Sunbrella sacrificial strips replaced as there is some signs of wear, particularly on the staysail. They also need to be valeted.

  • The canvas needs to be checked over and repaired. There are a couple of spots of wear, some sticky zips and Velcro fastenings showing signs of age. Amazingly the guys thought that the acrylic glass in the dodger – which is nine years old – was still good for a few more seasons. The canvas is also going to be professional cleaned and re-waterproofed.

  • We swapped out the alternator and the direct drive autopilot during the course of the season so want the originals serviced, if possible, so that these then become our spares for the future.

  • We want the waterline raised so the Awlgrip strip needs to be removed and repainted higher up the hull. The anti-fouling will then need to be raised to meet this new painted strip.

  • As we are under time pressure we have asked for a quote for a thorough clean and protective coating of the hull once we are out of the water – we’ll do the topsides, the stainless steel and the varnishing ourselves. UV damage here in New Zealand is a much greater risk to the gelcoat than usual due to the depleted ozone layer and the products we usually use are not available here so very much a learning curve.

  • We are planning a complete electronic overhaul – dumping Garmin in favour of Raymarine. We have identified what we would like and have asked a couple of people to quote us for supply and fit (although we may pull the cables through ourselves to reduce some of the fitting costs).

  • Ink cartridges for our Epson XP-630 printer are available here in New Zealand so we purchased an entire set so we can print and copy onboard again.

  • We want a quote for gel coat repairs – especially to replace the temporary patch we had done in Panama to cover the damage we did to the stern in the canal.

  • We need to source six Lifeline AGM batteries – five house and one engine – as ours are now five years old and are almost at the end of their life.

  • We are looking for some spares for the engine, especially a new starter motor and a fuel lift pump as these are things that have failed on other people’s boats and we don’t want to get caught out down the line.

  • We also want our rigging inspected yet again and will probably replace the outhaul and the inhaul which have some chafe damage.

  • We also want to get the stainless ‘prettied’ up as the welding job we had done in the Marquesas on the arch was adequate to get us here but could look better.

So all in all we have a lot to organise in a very short period of time. The trades here are very responsive and we had all sorts of people crawling over the boat getting details – so we expect to get all the quotes in by Monday so we can go ahead and organise everything including the logistics of scheduling stuff. Most of it will happen on our return next year but at least we’ll be in people’s diaries and parts will be ready to go.

After all that activity we headed back to Morphie and I started washing the topsides after we got dink off the bow. The wind remains too strong to get the sails off so they remain in situ for now. Richard started on organising storage down below.

Thursday night we didn’t go out so had lovely long hot showers and had a movie night onboard instead. We also did some more catching up on the internet as all our annual insurances – house / travel / car / yacht etc are up for renewal in the next few weeks – obviously timed for when I’m usually at home. I also made the arrangements to return the Iridium Go! unit to the USA for the warranty repair or replacement. They are going to return the unit to us at home so that works out well as I can take time to get it all up and running again before we return to Morphie in 2018. Oh yes…and we have just found out that all three of our Kidde Fire Extinguishers have been recalled in the USA…so just trying to get in touch to find out whether there is a New Zealand distributor for them. Luckily this can wait until we get back too….

Friday morning we were up early and Richard carried on organising stuff down below while I started spot cleaning the topsides. It is really nice to work in a colder climate so that, actually, there are more hours in the day to work without keeling over from dehydration or heat exhaustion LOL. In the evening we went out to the Cruising Club – watched some more racing out the windows – and had a nice lamb shank dinner.

Saturday was more of the same – still too windy to remove sails – so I finished spot cleaning the topsides and moved onto the stainless steel while Richard serviced both the generator and the outboard. He also continued to sort out storage.

So we have not seen anything of New Zealand other than the views of the marina.

Check out the view from the Cruisers’ Lounge – could easily be somewhere in the UK don’t you think?!?

The marina remains under construction with new apartment buildings and more facilities being built – it is already an impressive size and beautifully fitted out. Best showers ever.  We are happy we decided to come here. The people are really friendly and the little on-site store has made me a very happy girl with recognisable brands products. Clearly provisioning here is going to be a dream as usually I carry lots of stuff like tea bags with me in the luggage but we won’t need to do that anymore.

So that leaves loads of room for essential things like more fleeces, thermals and sailing boots that we left at home not believing that we would need them down here LOL. It is nice to be in a first world country and an English speaking one too. So much easier getting quotes when you don’t have a language issue to resolve. Really excited about having the time to explore the country properly next year on our return as well as to give Morphie the upgrades that she needs to continue our journey in the future.

Sunday we awoke to pouring rain so had a bit of a lay in. Then the rain cleared and we realised that the wind had died down – the first day since we had arrived in New Zealand. So we quickly got Richard kitted up and I winched him up the mast so that he could fix the bulb in the steaming light and, hopefully, fix the main sail jam. Well it went perfectly – the sail was just caught up where the tension had eased whilst we were furling. Thank goodness, as we were both worried about that.

We then removed the genoa and the staysail and flaked them into their bags. We seem to have done quite a lot of our haul-out list already and there is still time to go….so fingers crossed for better weather so that we can tackle some more varnishing as the rail is looking pretty tatty in places.

We are in the lounge right now and later on we are heading to the Cruisers Club for a traditional English Sunday roast followed by fireworks for Bonfire Night. Really looking forward to it.

Bye for now


Passage to New Zealand – part 5

By 17.00 on Sunday (29 October) nothing much had changed – the wind continued to be between 17-25 knots and we were steaming along downwind under a single reefed genoa. The seas were large and we were sideswiped a few times by rogue waves breaking over us and sending us rolling wildly from gunnel to gunnel but most of the time we were surfing up and down the waves ahead. The sky remained gloomy although the sun did make the occasional albeit brief appearance. For the night we moved our shifts back – starting at 19.00 – as the sun sets now around 19.30. It is nice to see longer than the standard 12 hour days that we had become used to in the Caribbean….feels much more seasonal. We also double reefed the genoa in anticipation of the strong winds forecast.
The conditions remained largely unchanged throughout the night although we were getting pushed off course by a combination of the waves and current – so we had to tweak our heading to remain on our rhumb line. The winds strengthened during the night to 27 knots but only for a few hours – the rest of the time they were in the 17-25 range as before. Of course 27 knots downwind is actually about 35 knots if you were sailing directly into it and you could tell the difference by the white foam coming off the top of the waves….
Early Monday morning (30 October) and we’d broken through the 1,000 mile mark almost 36 miles ahead of our route schedule. Woo hoo! We saw 9.2 knots surfing on the waves earlier so are looking for a double digit one today if the winds pick up as forecast. We are expecting the wind to increase to at least 35 knots so will leave the sail as is. Interestingly the reefs are making little overall difference to our boat speed although they might if the seas continue to build and/or change direction. The temperature has dropped again to 19 degrees C so we’re feeling it! We have big fluffy clouds today instead of the gloom so there are patches of blue sky around although the sea remains grey and slightly menacing.
We keep resetting the AIS because we are sure there are other boats out here apart from us. So far nothing other than SV Sea Bear and SV Taranga who we left behind a few days ago after briefly being in company. Where are the fishing boats we have been warned to watch out for? Where are the commercial vessels or even cruise ships? What about other cruisers using the same weather window as us – or did they all stall at Minervous Reef LOL? Where are the sea creatures: the whales migrating south with their new born calves; the dolphins; the flying fish and the kamikaze squid? All very strange……
By 14.00 we had a container ship cross our bow 20 miles ahead and a large yacht crossed our stern. Another yacht signal turned up behind us doing about 5.5 knots but it went off before we could identify him. What a strange turn of events…. At 17.00 I’m cooking dinner and came up for a breather and we were met by a pod of dolphins! Fantastic….always puts a smile on our faces. Do you think they’ve been reading my blog LOL?!?
We had a couple of ships after that….and one actually changed course to go behind our stern. We approached New Zealand carefully in the pitch black night – and, of course, that was when it started to rain. We worked our way gingerly through the channel – assisted by two local fishing boats who gave us some useful hints and tips. During this night navigation exercise there was a gale warning issued by the NZ radio. Just in time – phew! Hope Chris and all the others are OK.
We finally found the quarantine dock to the Bay Islands Marina and got ourselves alongside and secured. So, at 03.08, we officially arrived in New Zealand!! We did it…..we crossed the South Pacific!!! Woo hoo….. Too cold for celebratory beers it’s time for bed.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 4

At 15.00 on Friday (27 October) we were heading south east as suggested by Bob the weather man. This was opposed to everything we have read and heard about this passage. Usually one sets a waypoint north of the tip of New Zealand’s North Island and then, as the wind and currents switch to the west as you get further south, you run downwind towards your destination also gaining some shelter from the island. So to go south east at this juncture – giving up our westing in effect – felt wrong. However Bob is warning of a large high giving strong ENE winds early next week and all four PredictWind models agree so the new course should allow us to ride these winds rather than having to beat into them. Although we do expect confused seas as the wind will be opposing the current. Only time will tell whether this strategy works.
The benefit of this course change was that we were running constantly on a broad reach, our fastest point of sail, and were eating up the miles. The weather was beautiful and crisp with blue skies and flat deep blue seas with a steady 15 knots of breeze. Wish all sailing days could be like this.
At 1.00 on Saturday (28 October) the conditions remained the same although a north element was creeping into the wind as expected but we held our broad reach despite being pushed further east. At 3.00 we turned south directly towards Opua and were running downwind under a full genoa only. In 15+ knots of breeze we don’t need to deploy the pole to keep the sail full and the main – which we could carry wing on wing – is safely furled back inside the mast. We don’t want to get caught out in stronger winds with the main tied down especially with its furling problem so we have decided to protect it from damage.
By 6.00 the sun had come up and it was really cold….bitingly so…under a cloudy grey sky. I’m now wearing two fleeces over a tee shirt and fleece-lined waterproof trousers plus socks and am still cold. May have to dig out the thermals soon. The temperature is actually 20 degrees Celsius – which would be a nice day back home in the UK – so it is not that bad but I reckon the wind chill factor takes it down to zero LOL.
We were making good speed so were hoping for a Tuesday morning arrival. At 10.00 the clouds had lifted slightly to give us a glimpse of sun but it had no warmth in it. The best thing about the cooler temperatures is that the fridge and freezer are more efficient as they are keel cooled and sleeping snuggled into blankets is so much easier than sweating in the tropics!
During the day the wind and sea started building along with the rolly movement from side to side. There were a few rogues out there bashing us up but Morphie did brilliantly and just pushed us along refusing to be intimidated by some of the huge towering waves behind her. Mares tail clouds dominated the blue sky and gave us an indicator of what was coming. By 18.00 the wind was pushing 23 knots so we reefed down the genoa and continued on. There was a spectacular sunset around 19.30 and the temperature dropped yet again. The wind remained steady in the low to mid 20s throughout the night.
At 6.00 on Sunday (29 October) the sun came up and the sky was red below the grey clouds. You know what they say….red sky is the morning….. Yep we’ve got all the warning signs thanks! The sun disappeared into the gloomy grey sky so it felt like sailing at home in the Solent. The conditions remained unchanged and we’ll have to see what comes next. Right now we are enjoying this sail and are comfortable in our shift patterns. I have noticed, however, that the ‘optional’ two hours set aside each per day in case we need to snooze, is now a regular feature of the day as we both rush to our warm blanketed beds instead of staying in the cockpit together LOL.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 3

Wednesday night we motor sailed in very light airs but, sadly, the wind decided to shift against us so we were slowly being pushed away from our rhumb line. To tack would be useless as we would end up head on into the waves – slowing us even further – and there are reefs south of our rhumb line to be avoided. So we continued pressing on.
By Thursday morning (26 October) we had a stormy sunrise but patches of blue sky around later gave us hope for brighter weather. The wind was still being difficult with too light airs and in the wrong direction so we continued motor sailing. Suddenly around 10.30 the wind kicked in at 16 knots but the cloud cover regrouped and it started raining again. And that set the scene for another cloudy rainy miserable day with the only bright spot being the 22 knot wind that the rain brought with it. The angle was pretty tight so we were close hauled and beating – but at least we were making good speed in an OK direction. When close hauled we like to utilise the staysail but this is out of action right now because the dinghy is on the bow and blocks the running rigging to the Hoyt boom. And leaving dink on the arch for long ocean passages isn’t recommended after our previous experience…. Never mind, it is what it is!
By 16.00 the wind shifted in our favour – hurrah! – and clocked around to SE so we were able to finally hold our rhumb line. We passed our last mid-ocean waypoint and it is now just one long straight shot from here to Opua so we were excited about reaching that milestone. Our speed had improved significantly and, at 18.00, was boosted further when the wind clocked to ESE. The sky was lighter ahead so hopefully we had finally got away from that trough…. Fingers crossed!
The sun set on a miserable day. During the evening and throughout the night, the wind remained steady at 15 knots from the ESE and the seas flattened. We sailed on a broad reach running parallel with our rhumb line and made good progress. Not sure we had completely left the poor weather behind us as the night was very dark and gloomy with the odd spot of rain. But definitely an improvement in sailing conditions although the temperature dropped by a few degrees so we might be forced to dig out the socks soon LOL.
At 6.00 Friday (27 October) the great conditions remained the same. We think the trough has finally left us as the skies are cloud free and we had a beautiful sunrise. To our starboard, on the horizon, is another yacht and we were delighted to see on the AIS that it was Sea Bear. The last time we saw Chris was off Big Momas when he left on Friday afternoon – in the Western Hemisphere – and we are both now in the Eastern Hemisphere. Another milestone ticked, not sure what it does to our Golden Shellback status but will check it out and let you know later. Oh yes it is even colder today so I’ve finally succumbed to socks!
By 13.30 the wind had dropped and was now behind us. Sea Bear remained off to starboard and we have been joined by another boat behind us. We have just received a weather update from Bob our weather guru…and he has advised us to head further east before then running directly towards Opua. We are expecting strong winds on Monday / Tuesday now so forewarned is good!
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 2

On Monday afternoon (23 October) the wind went up and down like a yoyo. One minute we were doing 5+ knots in 13 knots of breeze then we slowed to only 3 knots boat speed in 7 knots of wind. The pole helped the sail remain full but in these fickle conditions our speed was variable at best. We persevered all afternoon and at 18.00 we downloaded the latest weather. The good news was that our window continued to exist but the winds were much lighter at the earlier part of the passage than had previously been forecast.
We were expecting a trough to come through bringing squally conditions so put away the pole as we headed into our evening shifts after an amazing sunset. The sun went down and the clouds built giving us a pitch black gloomy night with no light whatsoever. All very spooky! The wind remained light and variable and we have slipped about 8 miles behind our passage plan – not much chance of making that up right now. During Richard’s evening shift he went wing on wing to boost our speed…..but I wasn’t happy to do that solo as I was worried about getting caught out in a squall so changed it back when I came on shift. Funnily enough we both clocked exactly the same average speed throughout the night so it seems to work both ways LOL.
By Tuesday morning (24 October) the sun had peeked through a very grey heavily laden sky. It remained gloomy and we were still waiting for the illusive squalls to bring us some wind. The wind died down to 5-6 knots so we motor sailed and made water at the same time trying to maintain our progress. I can hear you all wondering what does it matter if we are a bit slower, we’ll still get there, right? Well, yes, that’s true but the weather systems here come off the Tasmin Sea regularly like cars on a race track and the longer we are out here the more chance we have of getting walloped by one. So our focus is to try and keep moving as quickly as possible to make it to land in the current benign weather window.
By 11.00 we had resorted to wing on wing including a poled out genoa working really hard to keep our speed above 5 knots in the light conditions. We were still awaiting the trough so were keeping vigilant watching the skies for any signs. Thankfully the day brightened up considerably and we just had a hazy day with the odd glimpse of sunlight. It was even warm enough to take our jackets off LOL.
By 6pm we had gybed to a starboard tack with reefed genoa and mainsail. Still waiting for the trough to arrive wondering whether it had dissipated. But the latest weather forecast still included it so we continued being cautious and the barometer reading / wind direction was an indicator of rain within 24 hours. By midnight the rain had arrived….and then came the wind…with a steady 25 knots on a beam reach. We were screaming along at speeds clocking more than 8 knots. The seas built and the wind continued to blow…and it was the most exhilarating sailing ever! I could have done without the rain part though as I was pretty soggy by the end of my shift.
I handed over to Richard at 3.00 on Wednesday (25 October) and he enjoyed the same conditions. Sadly our fun came to an end by 6.00 when the wind shifted as the trough spun away and dragged behind it a very large, lumpy, and angry sea. The wind dropped to 6 knots and we made little headway despite tacking to a more favourable position. By 11.00 we were motor sailing in light airs under a gloomy grey sky into lumpy seas and was being treated to the occasional rain shower. We were waiting for the wind to swing more southerly – SE would be perfect! – so we can make up time yet again. Despite the huge gains made overnight we lost them to the grumpy sea later. Never mind…..
At 12 the wind filled in again and we were screaming along. The rain started again so looks like we may have found the other side of the trough?!? By 13.00 the wind swung around and we had to run away from our rhumb line…then by 15.00 we were heading back to our rhumb line until the next time the wind changed. Really good winds at 15-25 knots but fickle in direction so we are constantly changing course to accommodate them whilst keeping our forward momento. At 16.00 the winds died back to 7 knots – although in the right direction – so we are again motor sailing in the rain.
Just having dinner and we were contacted by SV Taranga – a Danish boat that left a similar time to us on Sunday so reassuring to know that 400 miles later we are making similar progress.
Been a strange sort of day but all is well on the good ship Morpheus.
Bye for now Jan

Passage to New Zealand – part 1

We picked up anchor as planned just before 10.00 on Monday 22 October. The wind was very light as we started motoring through the chicane of reefs, islands and cardinal markers that surround Tongatapu.
Around noon we were heading out the main shipping channel into deep water in 12 knots of breeze so we pulled out the main sail in readiness for our turn. OMG it got caught at the top edge folded in a strange way into the mast. We are not sure how this happened as it went in easily enough the other day. We decided not to try pull out any more as we risked tearing the sail so instead we furled it back in. This worked so we decided to continue on knowing that we can’t have more than a double-reefed main out at any time until we investigate further. That’s fine – we can live with that! We deployed a full genoa and starting running downwind in about 12 knots of breeze. Was a rollickingly good sail and we were grateful for such a pleasant introduction to this passage as we shook off the cobwebs.
By 18.00 the wind had switched to 120 degrees on the port side and the seas flattened as the sun started to drop in the sky…we were ahead of schedule and had seen 8+ knots of boat speed at times when the wind had increased to 20 knots. We reefed the genoa for the night and moved into our shift patterns. Jadean were behind us and radioed for a chat – wanting to know whether we were stopping at Minerva Reef or not along the way. We have named this Minervous Reef as everyone goes there to debate the weather yet again…. They wanted our weather info and I gave them a brief synopsis but, obviously, this passage plan is devised for a monohull not a large catamaran. We exchanged contact details and continued on. I forgot to tell them about our battery problem so they are probably cursing me for not replying to them by now!
We continued to sail along nicely through to about 21.00 when the wind became more fickle in both speed and direction. It swung from NE to SE and speeds have varied between 7-22 knots. So we played the ‘keeping my sails full at all time’ passage game to maintain our speed throughout the night. The night sky was fabulous with an amazing array of stars and planets shining through the pitch black shroud…only to be matched by the spectacular phosphorescence display behind the stern as we pushed our way through the water. Was a cold night and we sailed in fleeces and long trousers…but I refuse to give up on the bare feet just yet LOL.
At 6.00 on Monday 23 October we watched a beautiful sunrise and shook out the reef in the genoa. The wind is steady at 12-15 knots and we were doing well. By 10.00 the wind had eased so our boat speed had dropped below 5 knots but we remained pretty much on schedule at this point. Hoping for a bit more wind but we’ll not look a gift horse in the mouth with this beautiful crisp bright chilly day with flattish seas sparkling deep blue in the sunshine. Bliss!
At noon we calculated that we had covered 122 miles in 24 hours so we were doing fine. Sadly the wind dropped even further into single figures so we deployed the pole to see if that will lift our speed. So far so good….
Bye for now Jan

Vava’u to Tongatapu

We had a reasonable passage down from Vava’u to Tongatapu and enjoyed the sights of the perfectly-shaped volcanoes along the way plus, of course, the obligatory sunset at sea.

Wednesday afternoon Chris, from Sea Bear, came to say hi so we had a couple of restorative beers in the cockpit with him. Was nice to catch up as it was at least a week since we had seen him LOL! Later on we went ashore and got soaked in dink by the choppy waves. We admired the unusual signage for Big Mamas and enjoyed a social evening with a variety of other cruisers – some new to us like Paul and Gloria from SV Scallywag and others we had met before like Sarah and Phil from SV Serenity of Swanwick.

Thursday morning we got the little ferry across to the mainland to check in. Luckily we were with Sarah and Phil – who were checking out – so we found the relevant offices. They were a good 20 minute walk away through various car parks etc so not sure we would have found them on our own!  We completed our check in quickly and then walked along the waterfront towards the town. On the way we passed the small boat wharf and had views across to Pangiamotu where Morphie is anchored.

The banner across the main road reminded me of a long and distant past and I’m sure my BoE friends will enjoy this picture!

The walk to town was long…. Nuku’alofa is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga so the government buildings were to be expected.  What we didn’t expect was the opulence of the new empty building which had been commissioned but not occupied. However, the King had just sacked all his cabinet so maybe that had something to do with it?!?

What is interesting is the Asian influence here – with the extension to the main harbour being financed by the Japanese and the Chinese embassy being constructed (along with CCTV and electric fencing) was a sign of their permanence in the kingdom. All corner shops appear to be owned and run by Chinese too. When we have asked about this the main story is that the Japanese and Chinese are after the fishing / whaling rights to the area. Let’s hope that they don’t give in to that pressure, particularly on whaling, as this would kill their tourism stone dead!

We wandered around and enjoyed visiting the local market and were pleased to find that we didn’t pay pelangi prices here.

Walking through the warren of small shops and buildings we came across a garage sale Tongan style – and noticed lots of other second-hand clothing shops too.

The houses were pretty dilapidated and lots of people were showing respect by wearing their weaves and mats. The Tongans are quite shy people so taking photos of them is often refused – but I did manage to catch the back end of this woman chatting through a shop window with one of her friends. Check it out!

We had a coffee on the way to the main wharf and waited for the ferry to take us back. We returned to Morphie and downloaded weather again. There is a good weather window this weekend for New Zealand and Chris is taking off on Friday. We are not ready to go but don’t want to miss the window so will continue to watch it carefully.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on board doing various jobs in readiness for our forthcoming passage including some cooking, engine checks, passage planning, some admin things like annual insurances and so on. We went ashore – getting soaked again – for sundowners and had to resort to jackets as it is really chilly here. Had another social evening but were surprised by the weather debates committee – it is up to everyone to move when they are comfortable – and it is clear that most cruisers are extremely nervous about this trip and have resorted to group think. We are not going to get involved in this as we think it is a recipe for disaster or interminable delay.

Friday morning and the favourable weather window remained – confirmed by MetBob in New Zealand whom we have engaged as our weather router – so we went ashore on the ferry again to check out (as weekends are difficult). We paid our Port Authority fees (only £20) and then got our international clearance for New Zealand. Again the only subject of conversation on the ferry over was the weather and most are heading off to Minerva Reef to stage their passage. However, the window looks good all the way so we do not plan to stop unless the conditions are not as anticipated when we get out there.

On the wharf a guy sells BBQ chicken – but cooked over logs rather than charcoal.   All the rotisseries were automated too….smelt fantastic but a bit early for us LOL.

To avoid the long walk we got a taxi into town – a huge £1.50 fare – and visited the bakers for bread for the freezer. Was delighted to find proper pastry sausage rolls so got some of them for our trip too…. The streets don’t have names here so directions are given via landmarks – here’s the church school and the big tree near the market.

We had a coffee before we returned on the ferry and said our farewells to Chris who was leaving that afternoon. We spent the afternoon doing more pre-passage preparations and then had another chilly evening at Big Momas.

This morning, Saturday, and we continue to prepare for the trip south. We have finished our passage planning; we have done all the washing; the hull has been cleaned; passage food is in the freezer; fleeces, blankets and cold weather gear have been rescued from the depths of a locker; engine checks are complete; diesel tank topped up;  and we have just got rid off all our rubbish. The outboard is on the rail and dink is back on the bow and we’re now pretty much ready. We’re not going out tonight so that we are fresh for the morning. It is a shame to be leaving so soon after our arrival here as this is where the King’s palaces and tombs are located and I’d have liked to have seen them….but we can’t afford to let this weather window pass us by.

Sunday morning we are planning on picking up our anchor at 10.00 bound for New Zealand. This is a passage of about 1100 miles through an area renowned for unpredictable weather so we hope that the forecasts are correct but we have battened down the hatches tightly anyway.  We will set the tracker off once every 24 hours (6 am UK time) so that you have an idea of where we are and I hope to continue blogging throughout the passage so long as the Iridium Go! battery lasts. Fingers crossed it gets us all the way there if we are frugal with it.

Bye for now


Passage to Tongatapu

As planned we dropped our mooring ball at 21.00 hrs on Monday 16th October and worked our way through the anchorage to the channel. We were waved off by air horns which we presume was Ian to wish us good luck so we replied in kind – and other boats joined in. Was quite touching.
We motored slowly and carefully out towards the pass to deep water through the narrow chicane and between a couple of small unlit islands. In the very dark moonless night these were nervous times.
Thankfully by around 22.30 we were running alongside Hunga in deep water so we raised a reefed genoa and main and were hurtling along. As we came to the end of the island we realised we were over canvassed for the wind and sea state so reefed down further. The forecast was 15-20 knots decreasing through the night with moderate seas. So why did we find 25-30 knots plus higher in rain squalls?!? Never mind….at least it was a beam reach. The wind kept moving forward of the beam during the night and there were lots of rogue waves slamming our port side and breaking over us so we got wet a few times.
By 6.00 on Tuesday the wind had moderated slightly giving us a steady 20 knots still on a beam reach. But the skies were grey and heavily laden with the promise of rain. We have been going much faster than our passage schedule so have decided, at this early stage, not to shake out any of the reefs. We’ll evaluate that decision later – right now we were enjoying the more comfortable ride and I was hoping that Richard would manage to sleep as he had been struggling thus far.
At 10.00 the wind had moved to 60 degrees off the port bow and eased to about 16 knots. We shook out both the headsail and genoa reefs, pulled out the staysail, and hardened up. We were easily maintaining our target speed of five knots with an ETA for Wednesday morning so everything was going to plan although I would have preferred the promised beam reach as we hadn’t sailed upwind since we left the Caribbean LOL. Was a lovely day’s sailing.
This short passage meant that we could raise dink (without his outboard which was on the rail) onto the davits. But of course he is still leaking and if he deflates he might swing about causing stresses on the arch so every shift change Richard pumps more air into him – CPR for dinghies whatever next LOL!
By the time we went into our evening shifts, however, the sea state had got lumpy and the wind continued to clock more southerly and strengthened to 20+ knots again. We couldn’t hold our course – and with hazards to starboard – we needed to tack and get more easting in. We did this and went straight into the waves making very slow progress for a few miles. Then we tacked back and were making good speed once again. At 21.00 we had a cruise ship and a fishing boat sighting – no worries or concerns – but the wind continued to shift and eventually we couldn’t hold the course again. By this time we were running in deep water (5,000 feet) between sea mounts (rising sharply to 85 feet) and active (2016) underwater volcanos to both port and starboard. The seas around these areas are confused and lumpy and we started to lose traction. Eventually by midnight we had to motor sail to make any progress….and even at 1800 rpm we were still struggling to make 3-4 knots. What a difference a night makes!
By 6.00 on Wednesday we had passed the sea mounts and volcanos and were motoring directly into wind and waves towards the ship channel entry through the reef . It was a strange feeling though to be heading towards an island that we couldn’t see when only 15 miles away from our final destination.
We worked our way in through the reefs and little islands and finally, at 11.45, we arrived having sailed 181 miles and are now anchored off of Big Mommas Resort.
Bye for now Jan