Tuesday, October 23, 2007

October 24, 2007 - New Zealand Run, Day 1

With my tooth temporarily patched up, we were planning to leave Tonga on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. Then Tuesday morning we received notice that a strong low had developed, which would cross between us and New Zealand, and the following routing information from Bob McDavitt:

"Tonga to NZ. If you have left on Monday or are leaving Tuesday and do not stop at Minerva you should miss the strong easterlies near 22S on Wednesday and have just a day or so of squash zone near 33S on your way to NZ. The window then closes and really doesn't open again in Tonga until the squash zone weakens mid-next-week."

That is bad news for us. The 1200 mile passage should take us at least 7 days in perfect conditions, but up to 12 days if the wind dies or if we have to stop at Minerva Reef to wait for a better weather window. If we wait until the middle of next week to leave Tonga we would put ourselves in a jam trying to get the boat on the hard before catching our plane on November 19th. We pulled some more weather files over Airmail and made the decision to leave as soon as possible to try to out run the low coming across at 20-22S. I went into town to clear us out and pick up a few fresh eggs and veggies, while Sten stayed aboard and got Mata'irea ready to go. When I got back from town, I whipped up a batch of macaroni and cheese, while Sten deflated and tied down the dinghy and stowed the dinghy engine, fuel tank and anchor.

Customs required that we come to the dock, which was an adventure as Big Aaron, a large motor yacht, took up the whole front of the quay and we had to tie up along a side with large rubber standoffs. There was a good cross breeze and no one on the dock so it was an adventure. On our second approach, I called out to a local who came and grabbed one of our dock lines for us. Sten hopped off to secure the other lines while I repositioned the fenders. We gave the Tongan all the corned beef we had aboard to thank him for his help. After all the drama, customs didn't bother to come aboard. By 3 in the afternoon we were underway.

We have been reaching along with one reef in the main trying to get as far south as possible, to out run the low pressure system headed this way. At the 12 hour split we were averaging over 8 knots and on track for a 200 mile day, but over the past six hours the wind has backed a bit, and we are now averaging between 7.5 and 8 knots. We will pull more weather files when I post this blog entry. Then we will decide whether to alter course, once we clear the low, to stop at Minerva Reef to wait out the squash zone down near 33S.

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