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. 


  1. Wow! Very exciting ride there, Lars ... glad to hear you're safe & sound! What kind of whale did you see, do you know? Still love reading your blog & hearing all the news. Enjoy!

    Stephanie Riggs

  2. Holy moly! That sounds intense. Glad you made it safely and happy to hear you are a bona fide fisherman now. Hope to see you in a couple months. Have fun!