Departure for New Zealand!
Tomorrow morning (20 November) we’ll depart for New Zealand, a journey of just over 1,000 miles on the rhumb line, though we’ll actually sail a longer course whose exact length the waves, wind speed and angle will determine. Emotions on board are a mix. They include tiredness from the last three days of work to prepare for the passage, a bit of edginess, perhaps due to the possibility of challenging weather ahead and maybe the cumulative challenges of all four of us living in a relatively small space for so long, exacerbated by the limitations Devon’s experienced since fracturing his wrist, sadness as our amazing time in tropical latitudes comes to a close, and happy anticipation of our longish visit to New Zealand and the wide variety of activities we are looking forward to (including a trip through the South Island with Kim’s parents and before that, visits with our friends Kathy and Yannai). We are among the last of the boats leaving Tonga for New Zealand this season, though our plan all along was to leave sometime in the third week of November and arrive New Zealand around the end of the month. Hurricane season officially began November 1, and while they almost never hit Tonga this early in the season, our weather router Bob McDavit did tell us that the chance of one doubles in December (relative to November). So we’re hopping on the current weather window, not waiting around for 2-3 weeks for the next one to open up.
Preparations for the passage have included the requisite customs and immigration office paperwork, taking on extra fuel (80 extra liters in 20-litre palm oil containers from Indonesia) in addition to full tank and our usual 6 decktop jerry cans, provisioning (this one word contains many hours of shopping, transporting, and stowing), food preparation to make cooking meals en route a bit easier (especially important as we’re minus our crossing cook due to his cast), rig check (Anson goes to the top of the mast and works his way carefully down looking for any problems – none found), bottom cleaning (was started a couple anchorages ago and Anson finished up here), general nuts and bolts tightening (especially of the mast, boom, gooseneck, windvane, etc.), engine preparation (oil and filter change, disconnect coolant hoses from engine to galley water heater to avoid catastrophic coolant loss if water heater blows, fixed return fuel line leak, identified and mostly fixed fuel pump fuel leak, top up transmission fluid level – fingers crossed that Mr. Perkins will be happy all the way to Opua as this trip requires motoring when necessary to keep up target speeds and get into port before nasty weather from the south causes problems), checking the steering cables, airing out warm cloths and blankets, exhuming the drogue and attaching it to the stern pulpit for easy deployment if necessary, collapsing the inflatable dinghy and stowing it below, plus lots of other stowage including transforming the v-berth where Kim and I sleep into equipment stowage, and organizing three berths (two in aft cabin and one pilot berth), navigation and weather analysis (thank goodness Kim is so good at weather analysis, and we have the support of Kim’s father, the Gulf Harbor Ham net, and weather router Bob McDavit (whose services we’ve contracted for). In addition to this, Anson has gone kiteboarding a couple times with a young person on a nearby catamaran, and went into town last night with her and a young Tongan man. Whew – no wonder we’re a bit tired at the moment.
Prior to our arrival here in Nuku’alofa Thursday evening (after a fabulous 40 mile spinnaker run with Anthea performing splendidly), we enjoyed many great days cruising in the Ha’api group of Tonga. We buddy-boated with Steve and Michelle on their home-made, performance cruising catamaran Citrus Tart. Anson enjoyed many kiteboarding sessions with Steve at Lifuka and Tofanga Islands, and they both helped me get to the next level (up frequently with many short runs but not yet consistent) while at Tofanga. We enjoyed snorkeling at Limu Island, and there Anson, using Steve’s spear gun, shot and killed two large Trevelli. The fillets he cut fed Anthea’s crew four delicious dinners. Anson’s kiteboarding has improved by leaps and bounds and his excellent diving skills contributed to his successful hunting trip.
Many of the islands we visited in the middle and southern Ha’api group were among the most picturesque of our entire cruise. Tofanga and Limu are small (20 minutes to walk around), uninhabited islands, the epitome of the South Pacific deserted isle. The snorkeling at Limu was extraordinary, with incredible water clarity; Kim and I dinghied across the shallow reef to the ocean side, near the pounding breakers, and then drift dove back across; the diversity of coral and the tropical fish was fabulous. The last island we visited was Kelefesia. We were the only boat in the small anchorage, enclosed by reef and beach. Booming south swells crashed just outside the anchorage and indeed made getting into the anchorage a bit hair raising. The island, another small uninhabited isle, conjures up images from childhood readings of Treasure Island – something about the palm fringed beaches and the steep cliffs and bluffs (unusual around here), sparked the imagination regarding places to seek shelter, find water, and generally subsist if marooned. Throughout all these activities and travels, Devon’s fractured wrist has severely restricted what he could do. While in the big picture all is well and soon enough his cast will come off, in the meantime it has really limited his range of activities. Throughout it all he has maintained a consistent positive attitude and upbeat perspective – far better than what I could probably muster and so hats off to Devon for putting up so cheerfully with the break.
In the meantime, here on Anthea (anchored off Big Mama’s Yacht Club at Pangaimotu, Tongatapu), Anson has been making cookies and it’s nearly tea time, after which Devon and I plan a game of chess. He usually beats the pants off me, but last time I would have checkmated him except he managed to turn it into a stalemate – so all bets are off.
And tomorrow we depart.