After a week at sea we have made landfall in NZ – well this according to our instruments as all we can see is driving rain and salt spray. So given the conditions it is highly likely that we are in fact in New Zealand. Our GPS says we are only 10 miles offshore and 25 miles from the opening to the Bay of Islands and Opua, where we will clear into the country.
This has been one hell of a night (and it’s not over)! The cold front just passed over us and its very apparent by the icicles on the stainless – OK no icicles but they are so freezing! The action starting building yesterday afternoon while just off North Cape. We lashed everything very well and stowed anything loose in the cockpit. We secured the main in the stackpack. We reduced jib to 1/3 and tied backup sheets. We rigged a drogue on a bridle and made it fast to the stern cleats. Then we put Q on a course of SE which presented her stbd stern quarter to the building seas. We were both extremely impressed and immensely relieved when Quixotic took over from there. The seas built to 10-15 feet and started breaking. The apparent wind was 20-25 but we had such little canvas up that she gracefully rose and slid down each wave at a relatively gentle 5 knots. Not once did she surf out of control and having her stern quarter to the sea made the cat and life inside surprisingly stable. It was quieter and calmer than when we were bashing to windward for the past week. Waves would break under the boat and crumble under the bridge-deck – a very cool feeling. We shut the sliding door and it became calmer and it was surreal watching the boisterous seas through the glass. We shot some video that I am definitely going to have to upload.
This is how she rode out most of the night. The conditions built but just as the wind was topping 30 and the seas growing even larger we managed to sail into the lee of North Island, which completely blocked any seas from the SW. We had the wind waves and swell from the north but Q handled them no problem. Again – we are so impressed with how well she and her autopilot handled those seas. The big skeg-hung rudders kept her in the correct angle to the seas and she maintained her course. If she started to surf our plan was to put the saildrives in neutral to get the autoprops spinning in reverse – this would slow us 2 knots. If that didn’t do it then we would throw out the drogue – luckily we didn’t have to deploy either tactic.
The tough-as-nails Mermaid took her licks out there in the driving rain to pull in the jib to a handkerchief and also fine tune our course on the autopilot. She was a soggy wet girl in her foulies – not her most comfortable state but if I’m not mistaken I caught a little smile from her when I told her we made it through the worst of the storm and it would only improve.
Our good preparation paid off. We came through the storm unscathed. We now have our one working engine cranking as we make our way to Opua. We should be in by mid-day. We will try and write again either this afternoon or tomorrow. But know we are safe and we made it.
- The exhausted crew of the good catamaran Quixotic -