18 November 2015 - Opua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
We finally left Fiji on 2 November, bound for NZ. We were expecting an 8-10 day passage, but with these things, there are always “other issues” like weather or technical problems. While on passage, two days South of Fiji, the weather started to become noticeably colder. It was cold enough at night that we needed long underwear, socks and warm clothing. During the day, even if you were in the shade of the cockpit, the wind was a “chilling winter wind”. It seemed illogical, since we were headed “South”, but South of the equator, this actually makes sense, because we’re headed to Antarctica!
During the trip, we initially had moderate winds and seas for the first 5 days, making mileage of 140-150nm per day. One day the winds were above 25 knots and we wanted to roll in a bit of the jib, but then noticed a HOLE IN THE SAIL, so we rolled it all up, and continued sailing just with the mainsail and staysail. Then, a high pressure system set up over the North of NZ. This is normally where people start up their engine, or pull out their “light air sails”. Well, on the journey from Galapagos to the Marquesas (back in May), we tore up our spinnaker (the only light air sail we’ve ever had), and then sold it (to get rid of it) when we were in Tahiti. While in Tonga, I ordered a new Code Zero sail to be built in Hong Kong by Far East Sailmakers and delivered to Fiji. The sail arrived in Fiji alright, but I just couldn’t get together all the bits and pieces necessary to fly it. The one “long pole in the tent” was the Wichard MX-10 shackle. This, I found on an Australian online chandlery, ordered it a few days after arriving in Fiji, but after three months it was never delivered - or at least not on time to meet our departure date. Therefore, we had a “brand spanking new” Code Zero in the bag, but couldn’t fly it!
Therefore, we had to either MOTOR or lie ahull through that high pressure system. Lying ahull means just that, lying there bobbing around with no sails up.
The sea was remarkably calm.
You can’t have the sails up because even the slightest wave action will cause the sails and the boom to flop around driving you crazy with the noise. Unfortunately, we’ve been having problems with engine vibration over the past few months, changing 3 engine mounts when in Tahiti and then a fourth in Fiji. With the engine rpm between 1000 and 1900, the engine will just vibrate in a terrible, rocking and threatening fashion. We were really scared to break something expensive. Therefore, we could either motor at 2000 rpm, or 1000 rpm. At 2000 rpm, the engine consumes a lot of diesel. At 1000 rpm, the boat hardly moves forward enough to justify the effort. Therefore, we decided to just lie ahull for 3 days, waiting for the wind to pickup. During this 3 day period, we listened to music, read books and watched season 5 and 6 of The Sopranos, an HBO production (that we really enjoyed) that we had never seen before.
Here, Diane is polishing our clock.
We were entertained one afternoon with a three-some of mahimahi who were curious. They hung around for at least four hours checking us out. I tried to entice them to bite one of our lines, but our plastic squid lure looked way too fake for them.
We tried to repair the hole in the jib, laying out the sail on the deck and then hoisting it again, but even in light air the repair let go, so we took it down and bundled it up. One day, the wind was hardly perceptible, but it was there, maybe 4 knots on the beam - but it was enough. We were able to sail along at about 2.5 - 3 knots with the rudder holding the boat on course, without even using the autopilot. Better than nothing!
Finally, when the wind returned, we were moving again and back in the swing of things. We found our wind, sailing SW and S and finally directly into the Bay of Islands area. We came in through a 24 hour cold front, with steady winds of 20-25, then 25-30, then 30-40 and gusting to over 50. Several gale warnings came out over the radio, cautioning boaters to “stay at home”. We got within 1.5nm of the marina, turned the engine on, and “idled” onto the Quarantine dock - ready for clearances the next day. When we were 10nm out, we called Customs to suggest to them that with our engine vibration issue, we “just might need a tow in” for the last 30 minutes - we were told “in no uncertain terms” that it was strictly forbidden for anyone to come out to lend assistance, to give us a tow. We had to get to the Quarantine dock “on our own steam” or just anchor short of the dock, getting as far as we could. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??? Unfortunately, this left a very foul taste with us, and we (and other cruisers we has since spoken with) feel that when it comes to “safety and security”, this Quarantine stuff is taken too far. If we really needed a tow, maybe, just maybe - the Customs officials “could” have come out in one of the MANY boats that they operate and are berthed in the SAME MARINA. Why not? It was a Monday, between 3 and 5 pm.
OK, enough said, we’re here now, safe and sound. From the perspective of the actual clearances, the next morning - it was uneventful. We have 3 month visitor visas, extendable when the time comes. The boat has a temporary Customs Import Exemption for 24 months and anything we buy for the boat will be exempt the 15% GST.
Over the coming days, we’re going to have a specialist look at our engine vibration issue. Is it the engine mounts (maybe these Vetus mounts are too soft), the alignment, the shaft log or hanger bracket bearings or the propellor bearings - or some combination of factors? We’re going to get this fixed, and then move South to our next destination, the town dock at Whangarei.
We’re here now, and it looks like a beautiful country. All of the people we’ve met (except one woman at the marina office) are warm and welcoming. It is spring-time and the trees and flowers are in bloom. The night-time temperature in the aft cabin is about 19C (while its about 12C outside) and day-time temperatures are in the range 14C-22C. We’re not in the tropics anymore where we would sleep in the nude, without even a top sheet on the bed, with fans cooling us!
This is where we are, at the Bay of Islands Marina.
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SV Joana is listed for sale at this site (in case you're wondering why, we're not planning to give up the cruising lifestyle or our home, but most things are for sale and since we've met many cruisers who have listed their boat, we figured we'd do it too).
Countries Visited So Far: (Departed Canada: May 2009)
Antigua: May 2011
Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014
Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011
Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: Oct 2014 -
Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014
Dominica: May 2011, April 2013
Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
Fiji: September/October 2015
French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti and the Society Islands): April-July 2015
Galapagos: March 2015
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
New Zealand: November 2015
Niue: July/August 2015
Panama: December 2014 (San Blas Islands), (Portobello and Canal) January/February 2015
Puerto Rico: April 2011
St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013
St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011
St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013
Tobago: March-May 2012
Tonga: August 2015
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014