Sunday, November 15, 2015

Passage to New Zealand: Day 7

28° 5' S 172° 39' E
Water Temp: 67
Distance to go: 385nm

Well, here it is, the evening of my sixth day out from Fiji. I'm writing this note in the evening, trying to avoid hastily typing something up quickly tonight when I make the SSB connection to send/receive my email and weather GRIB data. I've found that for this trip, if I connect to the Australian Sailmail station at around 5am I get a fantastic connection, and that's what I've been doing.

At the moment Luckness and I are sailing along, downwind (we sailors call it 'running') in seas pretty suitable for the conditions, with the winds at 12-15 knots and no real squally activity. Its a bit rolly, as you would expect, but I'll take that over pounding into the waves. I've only eaten one meal out of a can so far this trip, which was on the morning of the day I was sailing hard on the wind into a rough sea - sometimes its just easier to open a can (spaghetti in this case) than try to organize a hot meal (which, for breakfast, has been onion, bacon, green pepper, beans, eggs, cheddar cheese, and a little hot sauce. yum.)

Aside from food, the other big topic onboard is weather. Actually, weather is the big topic, food is a necessary inconvenience - if I could be fed via an IV all trip, I might go for it (more on this later as I think I may have found my 'perfect passage food' which I want to try out on my next passage...)

We (Luckness and I) are currently sailing down the western edge of the high, where I have been aiming since leaving Fiji. There is a little more west in my course than I was hoping for at the moment, but that should be fixed overnight as the winds become more northerly, and I think that my ending up a little more west will work out well for the weather I expect in a few days. Tomorrow we should be making our way more southerly with still some west. Tuesday will bring the front which is behind the high (and in front of the next one.) Todays forecast for the local Wednesday (Tuesday for many of you, three days from now) is roughly the same as yesterdays, which gives me a little more confidence in it. The two forecasts disagree about the following day, Thursday, which is unfortunate, as that is the forecast for the time when I am hoping to be approaching my destination. If I can know, reliably, what happens with the weather on that day, I can work backwards to place myself in a favorable position to take advantage of it. Doing that requires knowing the previous days weather so you can plan a day ahead for that - that's the game. Work forward and backward along the forecast, trying to make the best decisions about which direction to sail in order to have favorable winds all the way into your destination. The trick, to make the game harder, is that close forecasts are fairly reliable but anything three days and further start to become much more unreliable. Fun eh!

Today's forecast for the 19th (the questionable Thursday mentioned above) is fairly similar to that two days ago. Yesterday's forecast for that time is different - I'm hoping tonights forecast will be similar to todays, and then remain consistent. (Although I've found that my 'hoping' for some weather to play out the way I want, doesn't always make it happen. Weird, eh.) Another part of the positioning-yourself-with-respect-to-the-weather game is hoping that you don't plan for a move several days in advance, only to see the forecast change in a way which makes your current position unfavorable. (when this happens, you lose a turn and have to go directly to jail. You get out when the weather lets you...)

The current forecast is showing the winds behind the front, in two days, at around 15 knots briefly from the SSE and then the S and following over to the SSW where they stay for a little while. I'm hoping that by being further west I'll be able to take advantage of this SSW to approach New Zealand.

The other weather related topic is temperature of course. The water temperature keeps falling, however the air temperature today has been quite nice. When there is some more north in the wind, as there has been today, it brings in warmer, topics air. Yesterday the east wind was bringing colder winds and I was wearing a toque and three upper body layers. Today I've shed the toque and its been a short and 2 t-shirts day. I expect tomorrow to be quite nice as well, as the winds are again from the north. Once I cross the front, I'll be adding layers quickly - south winds bring winds from the antarctic - brrr!

One last topic - the first few days of my trip were pretty much along the rhumb line between Fiji and New Zealand. I came across four freighters in those early days. I saw them all on AIS at least 20nm away and the closest approach was 8nm. Their speeds were: 14kts, 12kts, 14kts, 19kts. Now that I've moved off the rhumb line, West, I haven't seen any traffic at all. This will probably change as I approach NZ.

Its too early to make a prediction on when I'll be arriving - the forecast is showing that a ridge may be forming on Thursday, four days from now, which will bring light winds to a large area around where I want to be. Depending on my progress, I may get stuck in that ridge, or I may be able to make my way around it and sneak into Opua.

Sailing between the tropics and New Zealand is certainly not as predictable as some of the downwind sailing I've done getting here, but I'm enjoying my passage. Although, its much easier to enjoy this passage today (downwind) than a couple days ago (hard upwind.)

All is well aboard.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:


  1. Ah, yes, the weather game. It sounds like you have it down pretty well, as best anyone can with the unpredictability of the outcome of all the factors involved. I'm looking forward to hearing about your great idea for the ideal passage meal. Take care!

  2. We'll leave the lights on.