I've been in Tonga for almost 3 months now, its been a good stay but its time for me to move along. When I first arrived I thought that I needed to be out of Tonga, to be safe from the cyclone season, by around the first of November. After talking to many people here, I've learned that the people who sail a lot between New Zealand and Tonga often wait until the end of the month, they sail in late November to New Zealand. However, I've been wanting to move along for a little while now, and I think my weather opportunity is coming up.
I was preparing to leave a little over a week ago, but watching the weather systems develop I didn't like the look of the weather window that was opening, and so skipped that one and have been waiting to see what the next one looked like. I like the look of this next weather window, and will make the final call on it tomorrow morning to either stay or go.
There is a definite feeling of the place starting to close down here. One of the popular cruisers hangouts, The Aquarium, has changed its hours from 7 days a week to 6, and from 9am to late to the new hours of 2pm to late. Whale watching boats are coming out of the water, the mooring field has thinned out dramatically. There is still the occasional boat that arrives, but more boats are leaving these days. I heard on a SSB radio net this morning that there are 13 boats currently at Minerva Reef waiting for a weather window to continue on to New Zealand. 13 boats are in Tongatapu, the southern most group of islands in Tonga, waiting for a chance to sail to Minerva. The exodus is clearly on.
Minerva Reef is a stop along the way to New Zealand, roughly 4 days from where I am, leaving roughly 7 days remaining. It can make a nice stop along the way to wait until the weather develops until you like it, and then continue. It sounds like a beautiful reef, with an easy, large, deep entrance and good anchoring inside. I may stop at Minerva, but also may continue depending on how the weather systems look. Minerva sounds a little like Beveridge Reef, which I enjoyed so much, although Minerva sounds more comfortable as the reef is higher and offers more protection that at Beveridge.
Weather between this area and New Zealand is a little tricky, as there are migrating highs and lows which come from the west over Australia, traveling east, in a continual stream. There is low followed by a high, followed by a low, then high, etc. Each weather system is slightly different, with the highs being higher pressure or slightly lower, and further north or south, or wider or narrower, The same with the lows, they can be deeper, in higher latitudes, faster, more elongated, etc. The trick is that the lows are roughly a week apart, and it takes me around that long to travel from Minerva reef to New Zealand. You don't really want to approach New Zealand and be slapped by a front, as that will leave you with SW winds afterwards, then S, making travel towards the destination rather challenging. There are different strategies I've heard, and I'll choose something that makes sense to me at the time, depending on what I'm seeing in the weather forecasts as I approach Minerva.
Sorry, no pictures this time.
My next post will likely be from sea, when I'm underway. As usual, if my blog posts while underway stop, please, nobody panic. There are lots of reasonable reasons why I may not be able to send my blog posts out.
New Zealand, here I come!
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