Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Itinerary

The end of the South Pacific cyclone season and the time to sail back to the tropics are approaching. As you may remember, I had originally planned/hoped to reach South Africa by December of last year. It certainly would have been possible to do so (Laura Decker, the Dutch teenager who recently completed her circumnavigation, and I were in Bora Bora at the same time; she reached South Africa around that time), but a more leisurely pace turned out to be more to my liking. Now my goal is to reach South Africa by December of this year. When departing NZ for the tropics at the beginning of the cruising season (ie the winter when cyclones/hurricanes usually don’t happen), the idea is to depart NZ before the winter gales but after the tropical cyclones are over. I guess there are various ideas as to when the cyclone season ends. I plan to on my way to Fiji by mid-April unless the forecast dictates otherwise.
So, a rough itinerary:

April 15: Depart NZ
April 26: Arrive Fiji
May 26: Depart Fiji
May 31: Arrive Vanuatu
June 15: Depart Vanuatu
June 27: Arrive Papua New Guinea (PNG)
July 15: Depart PNG
July 27: Arrive Darwin, Australia
August 25: Depart Darwin
September 10: Arrive Christmas Island
September 17: Depart Christmas Island
September 22: Arrive Cocos Keeling Islands
September 27: Depart Cocos Keeling
October 20: Arrive Mauritius
October 27: Depart Mauritius
October 29: Arrive Reunion Island
November 15: Depart Reunion Island
November 22: Arrive Madagascar
November 30: Depart Madagascar
December 7: Arrive Durban, South Africa
December 24: Arrive Cape Town, South Africa.
So there will be a fair amount of sailing but also some time for R&R.

In the meantime Twister remains moored off Paihia in The Bay Of Islands (BOI). Sunday and Monday I had a lovely sail around the BOI with 5 friends of mine. I was a bit apprehensive about having so many people aboard, but it went well and everyone had a good time. We spent Sunday night anchored off Urupukapuka Island (two rowed ashore and camped on the beach while the rest of us slept on the boat). Monday we sailed to Deep Water Cove and enjoyed some snorkeling on a rocky reef. Deep Water Cove is a Marine Conservation Area, so there is a lot of underwater wildlife. We sailed up to the mooring off Paihia just as the sun was setting Monday evening. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back In The Bay Of Islands

Twister has been anchored off Paihia in The Bay Of Islands (BOI) for about a week. I've been doing some boat projects in preparation for sailing back to Fiji in April but also some relaxing. I put some miles under her keel the last couple of months, so it's nice to stay put in one place for awhile.
I had a nice visit with my friend Kurt. After a couple of days in Auckland, we did an overnight passage from Auckland to Whangarei. The passage started out very calm, but was pretty bumpy by time we reached the entrance to the channel/river leading up to the Whangarei Town Basin. We had hoped to time our arrival with the low tide, so we could ride the incoming tide up the river. We arrived earlier than expected but it was blowing sufficiently hard for us to sail up the river against the outgoing tide. We tied up to the Whangarei Town Basin and were met by an friend of Kurt's from Texas who now lives near Whangarei.
After a short visit we sailed back down the river two days later. After another overnight passage, we entered the BOI and anchored off Moturua Island and caught some Zs. We then continued onward to Paihia where Twister has been anchored since then--well, not anchored anymore. Yesterday there was a good breeze and just after I had rowed ashore, I noticed Twister was not where I left her. The anchor had dragged and she glided past a big aluminum catamaran. The anchor caught again just behind the cat. So I rowed frantically back out. The owners of the cat were onboard, were very gracious (fortunately Twister did not make contact with the cat), and pointed out a brand new, free mooring nearby. As the winds are forecast to increase today and tomorrow, I thought it prudent to use the mooring. So after that excitement, the St. Patrick's Day beer tasted extra good.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Passage From Nelson To Auckland

I departed Nelson knowing there was a gale warning for the area between Stephen’s Island and The Taranaki Peninsula where I would be sailing at the beginning of the passage. I figured if it was like the weather I experienced sailing into Tasman Bay, I could handle that for a day. It turned out to be more intense. I remember thinking when it was blowing the hardest, a day out of Nelson, that I wish I had delayed my departure a day (I was also wishing I was back in tropics, sailing in the tradewinds). I didn’t know it then, but if I had waited, there would have been an even nastier gale waiting for me in the Hauraki Gulf as I approached Auckland. I don’t know how hard it was blowing because my anemometer (wind meter) is kaput, and I won’t try to put a number on it because I’ll probably exaggerate. I’ll just say it was the most intense weather I have sailed in (the ocean was in an impressive state, with more white water and spray than blue water) and I was pleased with how well Twister handled the conditions (despite not having a proper storm jib, just furling the genoa down to a tiny patch). We were still sailing close-hauled (sailing about as close to the direction the wind was blowing from as possible) and making headway. I also remember thinking if it blows any harder, I would have to decide on a plan B—heaving to (maybe with sea anchor—basically a parachute for the water to slow the boat down) or running downwind back towards Nelson. The wind gradually eased, so no plan B was necessary. We continued sailing close-hauled through the field of offshore gas platforms off the Taranaki Peninsula when the wind suddenly backed from northwest to southwest and we could sail comfortably downwind the rest of the way to Cape Reinga. A day before reaching Cape Reinga I decided it was calm enough to contemplate catching and filleting a fish. The line was in the water less than 15 minutes when I pulled in another Tuna (Albacore or Skipjack? My friend John, the Ranger from Suwarrow, tells me the previous Tuna i caught was actually an Albacore). I seared two big slabs and had them for dinner. The rest I cut into thin strips planning to dry it.  After rounding Cape Reinga, we were becalmed for the better part of a day. The sun was out, and it was lovely. I ate the rest of the tuna. Washing my tuna-stained dishes attracted several petrels and a black-browed albatross who hung around Twister awhile hoping for a handout. A whale also decided to swim by and say hi. I took the opportunity to go for quick dip in the pond-like ocean (I still get a little freaked out swimming in the open ocean).
The wind picked up after a day but forced me well north of North Cape then changed to shifty westerlies as we passed The Bay Of Islands and Cape Brett. The last 100 miles to Auckland we had the wind on the nose again and the forecast was for 30-40 knots which feels like about what we had. No question, the toughest passage I have had so far, but I was still having fun tacking back and forth to get into the Waitamata Harbor (that’s the name of Auckland’s harbor). Around midnight I tied up to a fuel dock and went to sleep. It took seven and one half days to sail from Nelson to Auckland. I had hoped to sail back to Auckland via The Cook Strait and up the east coast, completing a loop around the North Island, but since I had a schedule, the weather dictated going back up the west coast. Next time…

My friend Kurt arrived Auckland March 3 for a 10-day visit.  We have been enjoying what Auckland has to offer. Tomorrow we plan to sail up to The Bay Of Islands, perhaps stopping in Whangateau Harbor on the way. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Back In Auckland

Arrived back in Auckland late last night after a 7-day passage from Nelson.