After my last blog update we sailed into the Bay of Islands under double-reefed main and 50% jib. Quixotic rose up and over the big swells as we slid into the expansive bay. The scene on the ocean reminded me of time spent offshore Monterey Bay in California and the rocks off the starboard beam were reminiscent of the Big Sur coast. It was rugged with waves breaking all around the rocks which had black mussels adhered to the bases. The water was cold and green and the skies grey and drizzling rain. It was freezing cold and no matter how many layers we put on we couldn’t get warm. As we sailed into the bay the hills came into view – lush, green fields and pine trees! Are those cemeteries? No, they were sheep on the green hills! We sailed deeper in the bay and the wind started picking up on the nose – 20, 25, 28! But the water was relatively flat and Quixotic took off at 7.8 knots upwind towards Opua. We dodged fishing boats, ferries and yachts out on a daysail. We drove hard up the channel actively managing our sails with each gust as they came roaring down the hills. The quaint town of Russell came into view off the port bow – with yachts anchored off its shores. Then Pahia to starboard with a white sand beach along it’s shores. Finally we approached Opua and the Bay of Islands marina.
Remember – we only have starboard engine – so the nerves started rising. We doused the jib then found a spot in the channel to turn upwind and drop the main. Once the main was down I bore off and kept our speed up with the one engine to keep steerage (we need about 3 knots speed before I can steer with the rudders). We passed a high wharf with fishing boats unloading their catch and ferries unloading their Kiwis (locals!). Then the Q dock came into view – game time Lew. Alyssa dropped every fender that we own over the side and ran dock lines. We managed to slide inside the marina and then drift down-wind over to the Q dock without too much heartburn and only a bit of a hard landing as the fenders took the bounce on the dock. We tied off lines fore and aft and spring – although we have yet to install our midship cleat – probably something we should attend to while here on the dock! We hugged eachother for making it into Opua safe and unassisted!! Then we readied the cabin for customs. They arrived about 30 minutes laterand they were pleasant and very professional. They took my pepper spray cans and much of Alyssa’s galley stores and her prized piece of coral she found at duff reef. Miss Mermaid did NOT like another woman in her galley who had the authority to take HER food. If there is one thing the Mermaid doesn’t mess around with it’s food, especially if you try and take it from her. It was especially entertaining for me to watch her subdued reaction to each item that was confiscated. The officials made off with a big trash bag on our food and we are planning a trip to the grocery tomorrow.
After clearing in we started all one of our engines and called the marina on the radio to send someone out to help guide us into our slip. A friendly Kiwi arrived named Don with a big RIB with 70HP motor – that will do! We were tied port-to the dock but only had starboard engine and the wind and current were pushing us onto the dock – ya, you try getting off that with only starboard engine! I put the engine in reverse and tried to spring off the dock. Well, I got the bow off but as soon as I hit the throttle on starboard engine we turned to port and back to the dock….fail. Luckily Don saw what happened and came to our bow to push us off. Once clear of the dock and making 2 knots I was able to drive down the fairway along the side-tie/breakwall and to the end of the marina and our assigned slip. Q is so beamy (25′) that we don’t fit into any catamaran slips so we are in what is effectively a mono end-tie for a 80-90ft boat. Luckily they only charge by the foot! Anyway, we made our way to the end of the marina and it was howling 30 knots out of the south – great. I reached the last finger, flipped a 180 and managed to get Q’s stern within 10 feet of the dock cleat. Alyssa threw the line to Don but if fell in the water – shit! Luckily he grabbed it in the water and tied her off. Now we were hanging precariously with stern tied but 30 knots pushing us away and wind chop just for effect. I put the engine in forward but she wouldn’t close the gap with the dock. We managed to get the bow tied as well but bringing Q’s stern to the dock took muscle and time. After 20 minutes we had her along side and spring lines run (we really need to drill holes and re-install our midship cleat!). We had made it and were safe….a little frazzled and very tired….but safe and we made it.
We then took our first walk in a whole week to the marina office. It was surreal to walk past marine chandleries, rigging shops, machine chops, laundrymat, etc. (all the services we will need to fix our port engine.) The marina office was extremely clean and professional and first-world, quite the shock to our third-world system. We tried to buy lunch but were politely informed the kitchen closed at 2:30pm. Huh? Get this – we even had our clocks wrong and thought it was 1:30. We went to the general store and bought some wine, cheese and we even found REAL AVOCADOS!! We are now back at the boat relaxing and trying to decompress from the past 24 hours of stress. We will head to the cruising club this evening for dinner and to catch up with our friends who arrived as well today.
We haven’t figured out internet service yet and I am too exhausted to try and do damage control on the port engine. It kills me that she is full of saltwater and corroding as I type but since she is going to get a full rebuild anyway, does one or two days longer really make a difference? Probably, but YOU crawl in there because I’m enjoying my wine. We will get quotes and advice on Monday when the mechanics are in. At least everything can be fixed right here.
One thing is for certain – we sailed to New Zealand. We fixed a wrecked catamaran in Fiji this year that was a total write-off. We fixed and tuned her rig and inspected and replaced every cotter pin on every turnbuckle. We oversaw all her structural repairs and made all the major decisions. We did her electrical wiring. We got the engines and generator running. We ran sea trials and worked out all her bugs. We sailed over 1,350 miles of rough open ocean to get here. We just sailed one of (if not the most) notorious passages you can encounter on a circumnavigation and the only casualty was the port engine – an engine that spent two weeks under water this year; and the only part that failed was one of the only components we couldn’t fix ourselves in a bush workshop on a beach in Savusavu, Fiji – the fuel rack and governor. We were planning to rebuild that engine anyway. To be honest I’m impressed it held up as long as it did. And in the end when you sum up the passage, it was a success. It proved that Q is now just as, if not more, seaworthy than she has ever been.
Here is a passage summery of stats:
Fiji to New Zealand – November 2016
Departure: Lautoka, Fiji, 04/11/2016
Arrival: Opua, NZ, 12/11/2016
Total Elapsed Time: 7 days 22 hours
Total Miles Sailed: 1,343 nm
Distance Between Points on Rhumb Line: 1,072 nm
Average Daily NM: 170.5
Average Speed: 7.1 KTS
Total Fuel Consumed: 105 gallons
Engine Run Time: ~3.75 days
Max Swell Height: 20 feet
Max Wind Wave Height: 14 feet
Max Wind Speed: 35 kts True
Water temp in Fiji: 86 F
Water temp in Opua: 54 F
Air temp in Fiji: 88 F
Air Temp in Opua: 60 F (feels like the arctic with wind chill)
Water Desalinated: 75 gallons
Fish Caught: 0
Booze consumed: 0
Breakages: Port Engine Fuel Control System (and then we flooded it with saltwater just for fun)
Thanks for following the voyage! We are proud of the boat and in what we have achieved this year. I’m proud of how we handled each challenge and Alyssa continues to impress me with her strength and ability – she’s one hell of a sailor!!
Now please excuse us while we go celebrate a successful passage across the southern ocean. btw – we have also now officially sailed across the entire Pacific Ocean. Today it feels like it.
Opua, New Zealand
p.s. In the next few days I will upload some pictures and video from the passage. We have some great footage so stay tuned!!