12 Nov Minerva Reef to Opua, NZ passage
Wednesday, Day 1
We are on our way to The Bay of Islands and will be checking into New Zealand in Opua. How exciting! We have been looking forward to this for a long time. We had anchor up at 10:10. Six boats left the reef this morning, with this “Minerva Flush” cycle. Only three boats are still in the anchorage. We had a great 11 days in Minerva and now that our weather window arrived, it was easy to say TTFN …ta ta for now 🙂
It was fun motoring out of the reef, thru the pass. We saw 9 knots of speed over ground (the overall boat speed), with 5.6 knots thru the water (which means the water was rushing out of the lagoon with us thru the pass). It looked like a river with a big tongue, leading us out. It feels great to be back out on the water and sailing! Finally we have wind and mellower seas. We expect a 5-7 day passage.
We have about 14 knots of wind and are currently speeding along at 8 knots with a full main, full genoa and staysail! Seas are around 2 meter (six feet) from the SE, but feel fairly comfortable. (I did take a Meclizine HCI for sea sickness and am feeling good!)
Our mileage on day 1 – 170 nm, a record on Maia!
Thursday, Day 2
It’s a beautiful day, with a few clouds about. We are having a fun time sailing at 6-7 knots. The swell continues at about 2 meter, but we have some wind waves today, so it has become bumpier. Last night, we had one small squall that kept us on our toes. We have not seen any other boats, it appears we are on our own at the back of the pack.
It was nap time and I was trying to sleep! Ugh! BANG… drift off to sleep…. BANG… (waves hitting hull). Drift off to sleep…. Creeeeak, creeeeeak… (sails being adjusted). Rocking and rolling…. Am I truly longing for a ‘quiet’ night with the motor running????
We started an informal SSB net at 1700 local (utc 0400). We are checking in with other boats who are also on their way to NZ. The boats who are participating are a couple days ahead of us, so we generally have a light copy (hard to hear) on the others, luckily sv Pauline Claire has a strong signal, so they are able to “relay” to the others.
Mileage on day 2 – 148 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Friday, Day 3
I woke up from my evening nap and Dick said “look quick”! I was just in time to see the new moon set, it was a beautiful orange color and was going down just after the sun. Thinking ahead, this means that we will have moon glow at beginning of evenings for rest of passage! This will be during the beginning of my night shift. We are doing six hour nights shifts. This seems to work well for us as we get a good sound sleep during our time off. I am on from 2100-0300 and Dick from 0300-0900. During the days we take turns at the helm, both of us generally take a couple naps.
Currently light winds are blowing 8-10 knots, we are sailing along at 4-5 knots. This is my favorite weather, calm seas, quiet night. Stars all around, the constellation Pleiades (where Maia gets her name) is playing hide & seek 🙂 Orions belt is out, big & strong.
We are feeling good!!! Excited with the great weather we have had so far. I am drinking my first cup of Green tea on the passage, and opened up our last dark chocolate bar (from Carefour in French Polynesia). Yummy! This should help me stay awake until 0300, when Dick takes over.
We are sailing with a full genoa, staysail and full main. Our plan is to turn on the engine when our speed slows to 3-4 knots. At 2300 (11:00 pm) our speed is 4.5, the true wind speed is 10.3. Our estimated arrival is 3 days, 15 hours.
During the day today, the swell had calmed, and Dick took a 3 hour nap! It really helps our sleep when the sea quiets. Both the boat noises and bumpiness settles down. This afternoon the current was 2-3 knots against us, our speed over ground was 6 knots and the speed thru the water was 8. It is always a little frustrating, when this is happening.
As we have not seen any boats on AIS or on radar, it appears we are on a slightly different course than most of the others. We know other’s boats are nearby. Besides the radio net contact, we have been communicating vis sms messaging and email. When we receive other people’s positions we mark them on our mapping program. This afternoon we heard the NZ Air Force on the VHF radio with sv Goldina confirming their last port and when and where they expect to be checking into New Zealand.
Mileage on day 3 – 142 nautical miles, another good day!!!
Saturday, Day 4
We had a beautiful day today. Winds around 3-5 knots all day. Calm seas with a big rolling swell. The engine has been on since last night at 0100. Temperatures were in the 70’s! Enjoying the warm while we have it. (Currently we hear it is around 60 degrees in Opua.) Feeling blessed to have this amazing weather as this passage has a reputation of being difficult.
We had a lovely dinner with sautéed eggplant and onion with fresh ginger, garlic and turmeric. We also had a cabbage salad. We are using up the fresh food as we will not be able to take it into New Zealand. This was the last of the eggplant, garlic and turmeric.
The sunset was gorgeous and then I was able to enjoy a sliver of La Luna for about an hour before she set. Again she was orange, I thought I had seen the last of her as she disappeared behind a cloud on the horizon, but there she was again, gone and then back again. It was quite a light show.
We have another beautiful clear night. Sparkly luminescence is gracefully dancing off the hull of Maia as we glide through the peaceful sea. The stars are bright all around. There are a couple of large star clusters up above that have appeared the last couple nights in the dark sky. They remind me of the black holes in the movie Interstellar.
Mileage on day 4 – 156 nautical miles. It is looking like we may arrive in Opua on Monday!
Sunday, Day 5
We had a gorgeous day, with just a few clouds. Late last night (or should I say early morning) we had our first boat appear on AIS, her name is Gioel. She was 9.2 nm away, she has sailed our way and was 2 nm away at 10:00 am. She looked beautiful with her sails on the horizon.
The winds have remained calm, so we are still motoring. However, the seas have become a bit bumpy. We are wondering if we are getting swell wrapping around the North cape!
We heard from sv Sedna who is 100 miles from Opua that they had chilly, cloudy weather this morning, with some rain, fog and mist. We are about 100 miles behind Sedna, in this gorgeous weather! Yeah!!!
At 5:20 pm, we turned the engine off and sailed while we prepared dinner. The last of our sweet potatoes, butternut squash, onion and ginger sliced and diced with a few herbs, then put in the oven for roasting. We added our final 4 potatoes to the oven for baking. Now that the weather is cool enough we have been using the oven regularly.
By 1900 the engine was back on, speeding along at 7 knots with our sights on arriving on the dock in Opua tomorrow! I crawled in for a nap while dinner cooked. Once we were both in the cockpit we lit our “Fireboats” and watched them drift behind us. It was fun seeing the flame and occasional sparks as they would go up and then down out of site, then up again, sometimes seeming like they would stall for a moment before continuing on. We were amazed at how long the first flames lasted as it drifted further and further behind. (For our Fireboats we saved a few wine boxes, paper towels filled with bacon grease and a variety of other discarded paper products (no plastics, of course!) to smash into the boxes for this occasion.)
The night felt cooler, La Luna disappeared a little early behind a large low lying black cloud on the horizon. The stars, star clusters and luminescence are as beautiful as ever. We were leaving a beam of luminescence behind as we speed towards landfall.
Mileage on day 5 – 155 nautical miles. We will arrive in New Zealand tomorrow!
Monday, Day 5.5
At 8:00 am we had only 50 miles left to the coast of New Zealand! We have 100% cloud cover and some drizzle. By 9:00 the sun was peeking out and the drizzle was gone.
We begin hearing more chatter on the VHF radio. Between the radio and messaging our friends, we realized that most of them would be arriving early afternoon to the Quarantine dock in Opua. You are required to stay on the dock until you are cleared and at which point you proceed to the Marina dock, mooring or anchorage and then you are free to move about the country!!!
Our plans were to arrive around 5:00 pm, stay on the quarantine dock overnight and get checked in the next morning. However, knowing our friends would be on land inspired us to put the pedal to the metal! We increased our rpm’s from 2200 to 2500, which increased our speed from 6.2 to 7.4 knots. Our estimated time of arrival was 4:00 pm. Hopefully, early enough to get checked in.
Land Ho at 1042!!! We can begin seeing the outline of the shoreline and craggy hills just above the horizon. We are seeing more boats on AIS and hearing more radio chatter.
At 1:45 pm we are entering into the Bay of Islands, a moon shaped bay. The coastline appears to be jutting up out of the ocean floor. Rocks of all different sizes and shapes abound. White foam appears as the swell smashes up against the coastline.
Sails are in all directions, Begonia 3.0 nm behind; Giocel 0.6 nm ahead, Mazu 4.2 nm ahead, we assume that all are sailing to the Quarantine dock at Bay of Islands Marina.
I become a photographer, shooting pictures with our 3 “cameras”. Usually, none are able to express this natural beauty seen by our own eyes. Hillsides and cliffs covered in many different colors of green. Lush rolling multi-colored green hills, some adorned with carpets of a bright, almost fluorescent green. Brush and trees of dark green growing all over the rock. One tree is growing sideways off the hillside. When it lets go it will plummet down into the sea below. The sky has now cleared with a few low lying clouds about.
Dick is navigating through the bay. We can see at least 5 sailboats around and as we get in closer you can also see a variety of power boats, most appear to be fishing. We prepare for arrival, setting up our fenders and docking lines.
At 4:00 pm we arrive at the “Q” dock! We see Laurel and Leo from sv Summer motioning us in to the open dock in front of them. Then Scott, sv Muskoka and Henk, sv Harlequin appear to take out lines and tie us up! We have landed in New Zealand and our friends are here to greet us! Woohoo! As Laurie, sv Muskoka and Lisa, sv Harlequin arrive there are hugs all around, I hand Dick the camera to take a picture with my girlfriends! He snaps a quick shot, before the officials break us up and ask us nicely to get back aboard. We have arrived!!!!!
Our bio-security and customs clearances were quick, efficient and convenient. We had been to a talk in Tonga about entering NZ and had picked up a packet with the forms, which we had filled out and ready to go. Brian, our bio-security officer started the process by getting our approval for using a camera to check the bottom of Maia, then asked for our paperwork on bottom paint and cleaning which we had ready to show. Dick pulled out his computer to show him pictures of the bottom cleaning, he remarked about the clear blue water in Tonga and how great the photos were. Brian took a quick look around the boat, and had us open a few storage spaces. Then he began asking us questions about food. We we aware of the foods that were not allowed, so we had eaten them up or put them in the trash. Brian began his questioning, “Do we have…”, we would say “no”, “Do we have…”, “no…” He made a comment that “we were making his job redundant”. He quickly noted that our bicycle tires had been cleaned, when we asked if he wanted to see the hiking boots, he said he already knew that they had been cleaned and there was no need for us to get them out. 🙂
Next up was Customs. While Dick worked with Gary on our clearance, I asked if I could be excused to call the marina to see about a berth on the dock. Gary said sure and that I could contact them on VHF channel 73. Within 10 minutes, Sariana had set us up with a berth. As the office would be closed by the time we moved to our new home, she said she could give us a temporary code access number. She wondered if we had a phone, she could text the number to us. I said no, how about email? Gary overheard and said to just have her text the number to him! Voilà, we were all set. We were cleared to move about in New Zealand!
Final mileage from Minerva Reef – 806 nautical miles
Total time – 5 days, 6 hours