Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gary's Account of NZ-Fiji Passage

Nz to Fiji aboard SV Twister (13th – 23rd April 2012)

After spending almost 6 weeks in the small town of Paihia, Bay of Islands, NZ we were ready to leave. I had been working at my Divemasters with a small dive shop there, and although I had been diving bitchen wrecks every day, small town syndrome still kicks in after enough time. Lars had been anchored off of Pahia beach for almost as long too, so when he dropped me a message saying we were going to leave in three days (Friday 13th) I was stoked.

Cruisers and sailors in general are a superstitious bunch, so we were prepared for the ‘your going to die horrifically at sea’ speech we inevitably got from our cruising chums (Especially our good friends Di and Wattie) when we let our Friday 13th go date public. However, Lars and I don’t conform to such tat., we had been waiting for our weather window and this was it. We’re going!

So, on a glorious Friday afternoon after stocking Twister with ample supplies of Beer, eggs and coffee we departed Opua Marina at approximately 13:00pm. Thrown off by an anxious Di and Wattie. we motored off of the pontoon and as soon as we had the sails set, shut down the engine and wouldn’t fire her up again until we were well into Suva harbor almost ten days later.

Sailing North through the Bay of Islands we had the sun on our face and 15knots of wind on the beam, we celebrated with a cold beer and Lars traditional start of the passage song ‘On the road again’. Within a few hours we had rounded the only island standing in our way of Fiji, we duly set our course to 013Degrees and settled in. Although not overly superstitious we always recognize a good omen when it comes along, and snagging a nice tuna right off the bat certainly counts.

It was also lovely to be aboard another boat than La Cueca. It is amazing how different a passage can be on a different boat. That said I was feeling a bit queasy for the first couple of days, probably due to being land based for over 5 months coupled with the fact that Twister has the same beam as my ankle!  And as such rolls around a bit. Lars graciously gave up his bunk for the first night whilst he took watch, after that however I was relegated to the galley floor like the Captains dog. I’m 6’2” and the galley is not! it’s also just wide enough for shoulders to fit in with the added treat of the hatch steps directly over your head ready to crack ya forehead every time you move. It was slightly comparable to sleeping in a coffin made for the 14 year old you, not the coziest sleeping environment yet. However, Twister is a dream to sail. Lars having single handed for so long now obviously has it down, but shes just so friendly to sail. You can whip the main up and down in a jiff, ‘Horny’ the wind vane would hold a course for hours to days at a time. And having the SSB radio keeps you hooked into the world so roll calls and weather can be grabbed each morning. Bliss.

For the first 5 days the conditions were pretty consistent at 15-20 knots from E-SE and we were making around 5-6 knots. On the second night when Lars was on an early hour watch we lost the wind, and dropped all sails and sat becalmed for around 4 hours, which we happily slept through. Other than that we were trucking.

Day 6 the wind and swell started to pick up and we were flying on reefed sails in 25-30 knot winds and the seas were picking up to 3-4 meters at times. Occasionally the waves would converge and slam us, knocking us on our side. Below it sounded like a freight train slamming into us, in the cockpit it would soak you and make you glad you were harnessed in, the compass would jam in a vertical position showing how far we got tossed over. Fun and games.

Days 6-8 the winds and swells stayed up and we were making great time. I would spend hours on end at my fake helm, standing holding the dodger. Horny was steering for us but it feels natural to me to sail at a wheel and watch the ocean and this was as close as I had. I still feel its an incredible luxury to have so much time in your own head, watching the ocean and compartmentalizing your thoughts, putting the world right in your mind, very meditative and therapeutic. It also helps that Lars has a pretty great stereo system so the music was rocking too.

Day 9 we reached Kadavu Island still under about 25 knots of wind, we decided to round it on the Westerly side and use the island to block the prevailing E-SE swells, although we lost an hour or two playing with the winds in the lee of the Island, it soon proved to be a great plan, we were back to 5-6 knots but on smooth ocean. The Island and the Astrelobe reef took the brunt of the swell giving us a great last day sailing up to Suva.

We arrived at the pass into Suva harbor at around midnight on the 23rd April on a moonless night, having both sailed into Suva before we were relatively confident of a night entry and after spotting the line up markers and trusting in the GPS we sailed slowly into the protection of the fringe reef. We fired up the motor and headed over to the quarantine anchorage where we would wait for the next 12 hours for customs and immigration.

All in all it was a perfect passage. Favorable winds, sunny skies (the rain clouds seemed to part for us as we approached) and shaved almost 2 days off of our expected 11 day passage. Turns out we hit probably the best window so far this year, and all those gloom and doomers who waited out Friday 13th missed it and had a tough time across


  1. Wow, that was awesome! I enjoyed this quite animated, detailed account of the passage! Again, thank goodness for the window of safe passage between storms. Who would have thunk it, Friday the 13th! Lovely stories ... thanks Lars & Gary!


    P.S. Lars, is there something particular you would like/need in a care package? Something special from California? Let me know, I'd be happy to send along another box of goodies!!

  2. Thanks, Stephanie. I'll let you know if I think of something. I don't think I'll be anywhere long enough to receive mail until Darwin, Oz.