March 14 – May 1, 2014
Time to get a move on. The number of days delinquent in posting to the blog is rapidly growing. Regardless of how tardy I am, I thoroughly enjoy re-living our travels with every post.
Our final days in New Zealand were a blur of activity. We had just splashed after our haul-out, and Cyclone Lusi made her presence. This was the only time in all of our cruising years that our 40-kg (88-lb) Rocna anchor dragged. We were anchored in the Port Nikau Basin where the bottom is pure muck.
The anchor drills began at 3 o’clock in the morning when the winds went over 40 knots. While the winds remained severely gale force throughout the wee hours of the morning, the boat would gradually and constantly drag backwards. Once an hour for 3 hours, we had to re-anchor the boat in horizontal, storm driven rain. The conditions were too rough to seek safe anchorage elsewhere, so we needed to tough it out where we were. We sat in the main salon and watched the boat’s position on the iPad’s Navionics app. Each time we reached our pre-determined boundary within the basin, it was time to start the engines and hoist the anchor. Due to the tremendous noise from the wind and rain, this was one time when only hand signals could be used during each anchor drill. By 6 a.m. the winds began to subside to a more manageable speed, and we were finally able to get some rest.
Anyone who owns a building with a roof is constantly busied with trying to shoo away the Oystercatchers (Variable and South Island Pied). While they are beautiful birds, when they collect in large numbers on rooftops, the area not only becomes noisy, but also quite smelly . . . especially if you’re downwind from them!
The family aboard s/v Te Aroha were extremely warm, welcoming, and helpful during our stay in the Port Nikau basin. They are pouring their hearts and souls into the restoration of their 104-year old wooden vessel made from a single kauri tree, but the money is running out.
s/v Sueno and s/v Full Monty remained anchored together until it was time for our final good-byes. Before the sale of their boat and a flight back to Quebec, the Sueno family was headed to the South Island for some land travel and camping. After multiple rounds of hugs, we went our separate ways. They drove away in their van, and we moved our boat to Parua Bay for some much needed rest and preparation for the 2200-mile passage to come.
Our final two weeks in New Zealand were spent anchored in Parua Bay. We needed the down time to get the boat and our minds ready for what could be the toughest passage to date. Sailing northeast against prevailing winds from New Zealand to the Australs in French Polynesia has a nasty reputation, and we needed to be prepared to the best of our ability. I spent everyday, and multiple times a day, studying the 10-day forecasts from a variety of sources and watching for an acceptable weather window.
During this time, we were anchored near our good friends who had loaned us their car. They, again, opened their hearts and home to us. We were able to use their laundry facilities and showers, as well as their car for grocery and fuel provisions. We shared many special times together during our final week. These dear friends had become our home away from home, and we were going to miss them terribly.
s/v Yindee Plus also dropped by for a final visit. They had just splashed after a 6-month refit at Norsand, and they were on their way north to Opua where they would set up for their passage to Australia. They too had a lot of preparations, but we were grateful to see them one more time. They had also become great friends, and we’d known each other since our first season in Maine. While we know we’ll see each other again, the next time will be much farther down the road. They too will be missed.
Another issue I needed to tend to before our departure was my possible “grumbling appendix”. A friend felt sure it was my gall bladder, and not my appendix. He convinced me to go for another ultrasound, and we found he was right. My gall bladder wall was thickened indicating a condition that had been going on for some time, and there appeared to be a few small stones. On one hand, I was relieved that it wasn’t my appendix. On the other hand, I could still have a major gall bladder attack while at sea. My chances were better, but I still had to be prepared. We made sure that our ship’s medical kit had everything we could possibly need in the event my gall bladder decided to misbehave. In addition to a fully stocked medical kit, I provisioned with gall bladder friendly foods, as well as vitamin supplements and energy/electrolyte drinks. I was still nervous. This would be a long and tough passage, and if I went down for the count, life in the Southern Pacific Ocean would become complicated and unpleasant to say the least.
Once all was ready, and an appropriate weather window opened, we watched our final sunset over the land of Aotearoa. The following morning, we would depart early for Marsden Cove where Customs would give us our clearance papers and send us on our way. New Zealand will forever live in our hearts and memories.