Thursday, November 01, 2007

October 31, 2007 - Opua, New Zealand

After nearly six months of trade wind sailing, the passage to New Zealand marks a return to the higher latitudes, with their changeable weather. For months leading up to the passage, cruisers fret about it. For good reason. See, eg. Rescue in the Pacific, by Tony Farrington. In the weeks leading up to the passage, weather and routing become the main topics of conversation anytime you get two or more cruisers together. Many people hire professional weather routers. We know one guy who is paying both Commanders and Bob McDavitt for routing advice. After our disastrous experience with Commanders last year, we were hesitant to hire anyone. We availed ourselves of McDavitt's free weekly forecast, daily synoptic forecasts out of Fiji, and GRIB files. We crunched the data and decided when to depart. We knew our window had some problematic features - namely the low we tried to outrun the first few days and the squash zone we were in these past few days. But we also know ourselves and our vessel. We are more than a little proud of ourselves for how well we handled the changeable conditions on this passage. We've come a long way in this past year, in terms of miles, skills, and confidence.

Our first New Zealand vineyard

We motorsailed the last 18 hours of the passage. On the way into the Bay of Islands the water was flat calm. We were so full of anticipation about this landfall. We both had a lot of nervous energy. To kept ourselves busy we washed down the cockpit, dodger and bimini, stowed the jacklines, and dropped the main and put on the cover. We arrived at Opua around 2 in the afternoon and pulled up to the Quarantine Dock.

Mata'irea at the Q Dock

New Zealand is very concerned about BioSecurity. The list of items that they confiscate is as long as my arm. We have been getting ready for customs to come on board for about two weeks. While in Tonga, I gave away lots of things that were likely to get confiscated - canned meats, soy products, dairy products, spices. We ate very well on this passage as we tried to consume the best of our stores. Grass-fed beef for dinner anyone? How about pecan sticky buns? Or pasta tossed in Boursin? During the passage, we also jettisoned lots of stuff from our freezer - a tenderloin, rib eyes, sausages, carne asada, several racks of lamb, shrimp, tostones, and raviolis. All of it was at least six months old. Some of it was from our original provisioning, ie, before Sten worked out the kinks with our refrigeration system. I never knew that rotten meat actually turned green.

Customs confiscated all of our weird French sausages, a package of prosciutto, everything made out of turkey or pork (but not canned chicken, tuna, oysters, clams or mussels), all of our fresh veggies, several containers of honey, nuts in their shell (but not shelled nuts), wild rice (but not long grain), and eggs (including powdered) and egg cartons. We fully expected them to take our French cheeses, milk and butter, but they weren't interested in them. The same deal with all of our spices - no interest. They did take a canister of protective spray (probably a good thing - I never figured out if it was pepper spray or tear gas).

In the land of the long white cloud

After clearing customs, we pulled into a slip in the marina - for the first time ever. Sten did an excellent job maneuvering the boat against a swift cross current. We tied up and headed into the marina office to fill out some paperwork and give them some money. The lady behind the desk said a whole bunch of stuff to us, of which I managed to catch 3 things - location of the laundry machines, time that the shuttle bus would depart for town the next day, and location of the cruising club bbq that night. The Opua Cruising Club has a beautiful brand new club house, and they put on a bbq in conjunction with the Wednesday night races. Over some steaks and many glasses of tasty local beer and wine we caught up with Pheonix and Barbara Ann, whom we last saw 4 months ago in Fatu Hiva. It was really fun, but by 9pm we were running on fumes. So we called it a night and crashed for a good, uninterrupted 12 hours of sleep.

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