Its been a good stay and I've enjoyed the country, but after four months I feel like its time to move along and am looking forward to being back in New Zealand for a while.
I've been watching the weather lately, trying to find a good opportunity to leave - and while the opportunity with my leaving tomorrow is by no means perfect, I think its reasonable. This departure is a little unusual for me though.
Normally before departing on a passage, I like to study the weather and develop a strategy for how I'll play what I'll see - trying to time my departure so that I at least have a good initial sail with an expectation that what follows will be reasonable. So far, this has paid off for me - I've sailed all of my passages so far, only motoring for very short periods. This is the first passage where I'm leaving and basically just hoping for the best. I don't see anything to worry about in the forecast - no strong weather systems, no cyclone. Rather, the wind looks very light and this could end up being a very long passage.
Normally, the systems between Australia and New Zealand are migratory - there is a steady stream of high followed by low, followed by high, etc, over and over. Last year when I sailed between Tonga and New Zealand that was the pattern - and I played the game where I tried to time my departure so that I arrived on the back side of a high, took the following front above 30S (where its not as strong) and then sailing into New Zealand on the back of the front. It worked out pretty well.
This year, there is a large area between the tropics and New Zealand where a large high has basically filled in and is not budging. For those that know him (or of him) Bob McDavitt describes this as:
STR= Sub-tropical Ridge
It looks to me like I can either leave now, or wait until the middle of the month or so - and then take whatever comes. i.e. there is no guarantee that I'll like what I see after the middle of the month any better than what I have now.The axis of the STR is strong along 30S from north of NZ to south of Pitcairn Island. Strong enough to provide a zone of light winds for yachts heading to NZ from the tropics. Nothing much can be done about this except for motoring in light winds. The pattern seems to be in place until at least mid-month.
Leaving now looks like it may be annoying, slow and long, but it should be nice to be out on the big ocean again. I hope.
So for this passage, basically I'm going to launch myself hoping to clear land before the wind runs out, bob around in calms for a while and then sail where ever and whenever I can, making the best time possible toward New Zealand. I have lots of food and water. I'll find out what the limits of my patience are: do I end up motoring and burning most of my fuel or taking a long time to get there, having sailed most of the way... stay tuned to find out
Right now, it looks like I will have ok wind for the first 36 hours, and then pretty much nothing for at least 24, and then it'll be scrappy, sailing here and there looking for pockets of wind to fill in. The first 36 hours should see me clear of all land, and after that, I can bob around until my patience runs out or wind arrives. If the forecast changes in the morning such that I won't be able to sail out of where I am, I'll probably delay - as I don't want to start an 1100nm passage by motoring for the first 24 hours...
These are the types of problems I have to deal with these days. I wait around in a beautiful and friendly country hoping the weather systems south of me get organized. A cruising friend of mine has a category for this type of thing: high class problems.
As always, I'll try to blog along the way, from time to time. If the blog updates stop - nobody panic. Things happen with fragile electronics in marine environments.