Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Passage to NZ: finished!

I arrived on the customs dock in Opua, NZ, at 4:30pm, Nov 10th.  That makes this passage 10 days 7 hours in length, from start to stop.

In my previous post I was writing about the sailing conditions turning slowly lighter and lighter.  By around 12:30 on Nov 10th the wind was blowing at around 6 knots and the boat was making between 2.5 and 3.5 knots.  I was still happy with that as I would be at dock the following afternoon.  Then the wind started to veer (clock) around and I was no longer able to sail to my destination.  I was something like 30 degrees too far toward the west of my destination.  I could have continued, but then I would need to tack at some point in order to get there, and that would add time, and I was sooo close!  Anyway, I turned on the engine while 40nm away from Opua and started motoring at around 1am.  I like to sail but I'm not a sailing purist.

I was motoring along comfortably, the seas light.  I saw one set of navigation lights behind me and to my port, a second set ahead and to my port, but they were each at least 3 miles away and so I was comfortable going through my sleep cycles.

The sun rose in the morning and it was a beautiful blue sky day.  I could see NZ clearly on the horizon and in fact had been seeing it for hours as there was close to a full moon lighting the night up.

At around 8am I was hailed on the VHF by a cruiser that I had met in Mexico over two years ago.  They were coming in from Fiji and had been motoring into the wind for three or four days and finally ran out of fuel.  I said that I had a full fuel load onboard, including 15 gallons on my deck in gerry jugs and volunteered to head over toward them and drop it off.  They were sailing slowly toward Opua and as I headed their way the wind finally died off.  Luckily they had a dinghy on davits and they were able to lower it into the water to make the transfer easy.  I arrived at their location within 45 minutes and we were able to get the fuel onboard their vessel by 9am.  I said I would wait around to make sure their engine started before continuing my voyage.  After 1/2 hour the engine still wasn't starting, and the owner started working the problem by taking the fuel hoses off one by one trying to find the problem.  He was able to contact a friend on shore for some advice, followed it, and still the engine wouldn't start.  By 11am we had to make a call.  The coast guard doesn't tow vessels around here, but they were able to supply contact information to a service which did this - at $250/hour with likely a 8 to 12 hour charge.  Yikes.  I thought I could tow him at around 3 knots toward our destination, and that it might take up to 6 hours to get there, so by 11am it was time to get that started.  I arranged a bridle, he arranged a tow line and we started the tow.  This was my first time towing another vessel and the conditions were perfect for it.  There was almost no wind by this time and the seas were pretty calm, maybe a two foot well spaced swell.  I was surprised how difficult it becomes to maneuver when towing, it probably doesn't help that the other boat was around twice the displacement of Luckness.  Luckily the owner of the other vessel was continuing to work the problem and around 2 hours later he got his engine started!  Yay!  We stopped the tow, and I followed him into Opua.

The final few miles into Opua were beautiful.  Its a busy place with lots of boats enjoying their waters.  It felt a bit like rush hour after the sailing I had done in Tonga, where there just weren't that many boats around.  I arrived at the customs dock at 4:30pm and was able to talk the customs officers into letting me stay on the dock that night and be checked in the following morning - score one for NZ hospitality!  They came by the following morning, checked me in, I spoke with the marina and arranged a mooring, went over, got settled down, ate a little food and went back to sleep.  Wonderful.

There is currently some weather moving across the area, I've had gusts up to 35 while on the mooring.  I've been to shore once, and will head in again tomorrow when the forecast is for the winds to start dwindling.  I have wifi on the boat and am seeing download speeds in excess of 1MB/sec.  I haven't seen this type of internet since leaving Seattle.  I bought a month of internet for $40NZ ($30US) with a limit of 6Gbytes and have already burned through it updating the software on my computer.  As a tech-geek, this was one of the things I missed.

The anchorage in Opua is surrounded by absolutely beautiful green rolling hills and I'm looking forward to getting out and exploring the trails (tracks.)  On my trip into the Marina I met a lot of sailors I knew from earlier in the season.  There is a week of festivities planned next week as part of the All Points Rally, which was a loose knit rally for people sailing to NZ.  That should be a social and fun week - the start of many I think.

That's about it for now.  Its so nice to be here.


  1. Nice to know you are there. Sounds like a perfect place to start another round of cruising life in NZ. I think it is very beautiful there and it will be fun to explore it. You good Samaritan. Nice of you pull a cruiser twice your size. Did you get pictures? I hope the guy bought you a beer. :-)
    I'll email you! yeah!
    xo Mum

  2. Nice for you,,, really great, alsmo me looking for pictures,, greetings from >spain

  3. Congratulations Craig, quite an accomplishment. Looking forward to future posts from NZ and more of your great photos.


  4. Congratulations Craig! You've reached your goal (not that I ever had any doubts you would).

    I see that you are close to Paihia. This is the place where I found those miraculous sea sickness pills (called "Paihia bombs"). They were invented by the pharmacist at the Paihia Pharmacy and are only available there. They're so good I order them through email and get them shipped. Maybe you should get some in case you ever have passengers who get sea sick!

    1. Thanks Marie! I'll got get some of those Paihia Bomb's, they would be handy to have onboard. There is a coast walk between Opua and Paihia which looks exceedingly beautiful, I'll walk it in the next day or two.