In late October, we left Vuda Point (pronounced Vunda) on the west coast of Fiji, headed for NZ. Four other boats had cleared the same morning so we had company. Our weather router okayed the departure “window”. We had strong south winds and rough seas as we rounded the western side of Fiji to turn south. On the second day, we had hit the middle of a high pressure system. A “safe” window, but motoring was the name of the game. We ran one engine at a time to conserve fuel.
With such placid conditions, Monty decided it was time to pull down our Fiji courtesy flag, now in shreds.
One of the boats on passage had arranged a daily check-in on the SSB radio. It was nice to have some contact with other cruisers when you don’t see another boat for days and days. Taking my ham license was not a complete waste of time! We were all experiencing similar strong head winds and strong currents against, so it was hard to make much progress.
About 250 miles north of NZ, the temperature gauge for the port engine rose and an alarm light came on, telling us the engine was overheating. Monty quickly shut it down and started up the starboard engine. Within an hour, its temperature gauge also gave us an alarm! We shut that engine down. It was time to raise the main. It was blowing 20 knots from the SSE so we had to fall off about 30 degrees west of our waypoint to get sailing. Our router told us to expect the winds to back to the east but that had not happened yet. Short steep waves were on our bow, so it was very uncomfortable.
We were sailing at about 6 knots, though not with the best heading for Opua. As we were eating our breakfast in the cockpit, the boat speed dropped to 4 knots. First we thought that the halyard must have slipped. We turned to look at the winch and saw the main halyard was in the jaws, so no problem there. Then we looked up and saw the main had dropped down to the boom. Upon further inspection, the main sail had ripped into two pieces just below the head board. We had a flag at the top of the mast.
The former owner had been quite apologetic about the main, saying he had been very upset with the sailmaker. It was not a well-made sail and, though only a couple years old, would only last about 2 more seasons. We were 200 miles off NZ, just short of this 2 season estimation, so he was pretty close in his assessment!
In the meantime, Monty had been texting a friend boat also on passage. He said to check if the exhaust manifold was hot and neither were so the problem with the gauges had to be electrical, not with the engines.
With no mainsail, we decided to restart one engine. The engines ran fine, with no overheating alarms this time. Monty added some fuel to our tanks, as they were getting low. As I sopped up spilt fuel from the deck, I wished he had done it a few days back when the conditions had been flat calm! Lessons learned!
The night before we arrived, we were treated to a nice sunset, like the beam of light was showing the way to heaven.
We approached Opua at dawn on November 1st.
Some fog awaited us as we got closer.
Monty, dressed for the cold damp NZ morning, tidied the lines.
And got the fenders ready for docking at the customs dock.
The fog was thick, so we slowly crept in through the channel markers with another foreign boat, with a somewhat braver skipper.
Suddenly, they were doing a 180 as they got on the wrong side of a channel marker. Using our charts and radar, we made it in safely.
The clearing in process went fairly smoothly, but we had an unexpected visit from a dog, brought in (randomly) from her normal Auckland airport screening duties. Was the visit due to Monty’s long hair?
After clearing, we filled up our diesel tanks and, boy, were they close to empty after all that motoring from Fiji!
Our allocated berth was G2, on a new finger, just opened that morning.
We were all alone on the long dock for a few hours.
Mid-day, Whistler’s sister boat, Blue Summit, arrived and were conveniently allocated the dock next to us!
We were looking forward to spending some time with Steve and Kate on Blue Summit!