Racing to Fiji

We loosed the docklines, filled the fuel tank and jerry cans with diesel and motored out of the Bay of Islands in a dead calm. Once off of Cape Brett, the wind picked up to a sweet 12-14 knots from the west. Devon and Anson raised the sails and trimmed them like racers, so we’re slipping through the water at 7.3 knots, a glorious start on what very well may be a challenging passage to Fiji.

It hardly seems possible that we are sailing again, as we’re squeaking out of NZ on a weather window that is shutting down by the hour. Sweet reaching winds are soon to be replaced by winds on the nose – a game stopper for a 1000 nautical mile passage. The next weather window is at least 10 days out, and early signs are not promising. Ideally we would have left a week ago, or even yesterday morning, right after a low pressure system blew across NZ. We were still “on the hard” (the boat hauled out and resting on land) for that first opportunity to jump north, and yesterday the essential “to do” list was still a meter long and we had a car to sell. Frankly, while it feels like a miracle that we left the dock, it is the result of team work, tremendous effort, and the kindness of strangers.

A time lapse video of our last four weeks would show the four of us in constant motion, working non-stop on Anthea to get her ready for this new sailing season in the tropics. We had planned on scraping off decades of built up paint off her bottom; that job would have taken us 10 days from scraping to repainting. Instead we encountered blisters on the hull, which we opened with each scrape of the blade. Once opened, we had to treat them or new paint wouldn’t stick. Mark is the hero of this story, painstakingly drilling out 2300 small blisters over 3 long days. We all jumped in and applied a coat of epoxy and filled each hole with filler; Mark and Anson then power-sanded the hull, we re-filled low spots, sanded again and then painted 24 liters of barrier coat and 12 liters of anti-fouling to restore her hull. We painted a new boot stripe above the waterline and Mark polished the hull. Anthea looks stunning! The windlass motor was serviced, a seacock replaced and others serviced, the outboard motor handle replaced, the steering system’s bearings replaced, the steering pedestal scraped and painted, and the work went on and on and on for 30 long days on the hard! Once splashed, Devon and I took off all the cushions and steam cleaned them, while Mark varnished the interior and Anson played “Q” and re-rigged our whisker pole, spin pole and main traveler. His designs and splices are a work of art. While living onshore for four days during the cleaning/varnishing, Devon baked the most divine German chocolate cake perhaps ever made.

The time ashore was a bit of respite for everyone but Mark. I took most of a day off, as I was at a breaking point from long hard days of work on the boat, culminating with a late night of scraping, fairing and painting the bottom of the hull while hanging in the slings. Then I got back in the saddle and attacked the to do list. Yesterday we moved back onboard, finishing up essential projects, and then dashed off to Kerikeri to do our provisioning. Devon, Anson and I arrived at the boat at 8:45 pm with $600 worth of food and a car filled to the brim. We woke up, and after consulting with weather guru Peter, decided to leave. The massive stowing job was interspersed with final bill paying to the marina and chandleries, the passing off of the car to the caretaker of the air bnb who will sell it either to her grandson or someone else, and a drop-in visit to customs who generously cleared us out without an appointment. We finished the final stowing and cleaning just as the wind filled in and the boys raised sail.

Since starting this blog, the wind has now backed to a beam reach, and with 10-11 knots of wind we’re still slipping along at 7 knots. The sea is slight so we’re spoiled now. Our challenges ahead are sailing into a high pressure zone and hitting the doldroms, slowing down, running short of fuel, and being caught by northerly winds. We’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find the wind and stay ahead of the curving isobars. It’s a race against weather, so who knows how this will end. Kim
35 degrees 00 minutes south; 174 degrees 24 minutes east

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