Monday, 16 September 2013

Off and away

So we're away! Finally. We've said our goodbyes to Wellington and are moving up the east coast to Whangarei, where we'll wait for a good weather window, pick up our babysitters and clear customs before heading to Fiji.




Wellington gave us a beautiful spring day on which to depart on, with a perfect weather forecast - we were going to have a southerly breeze of 15 - 25 knots up our backsides to push us quickly up the coast. That didn't happen. We had some decent wind at first, with 2 reefs in, but it quickly died and we had to motor for a while. Then after it picked up we were cruising under full sails which were quickly downgraded to a double reefed main and no headsail. 

The lovely breeze we were expecting never showed up and we were hit with about 50 knots from the south, maybe more, maybe less, but it was full on. It came up fast and caught us by surprise - we dumped the main, managing to wrap the halyard around every step, lazy jack and stay it could find whilst still attached to the sail. God knows how it did that. 

Then Garth tried to launch our smallest jib but it got caught up in the wind and started wrapping around everything so he had to make a split decision to cut the halyard to save the sail. He made the right choice. Todd and Dave, if you're reading this we're sorry for killing your rigging! We saved both halyard and sail though, and should be able to rethread it. It was only our tiny one for the spinnaker pole anyway so we'll be ok without it for a few days.

So we motored for a while, until we realized we could do 7 - 8 knots without the engine and with just bare poles. We were downwind surfing the waves, which would have helped our speed a lot, but that is just crazy. We never used to get up to 8 knots no matter how many sails we had up or where the wind was coming from, so there was a lot of wind. We did a night sail for a sailing course on a slightly smaller, lighter boat than this one and we were going 4 knots under bare poles when it was gusting at 50. So there was wind on Saturday.

We just hung on for the first day - cold, wet and tired. I had my head over the side on average once every half hour, trying to hold the wheel with my feet while Garth did everything else. That sucked. So I didn't eat anything for almost 2 days and was pretty sure I was in hell. I always get queasy on the first day and often sick, but never continuously for a whole day. I've learned 2 things for sure - never try to go downstairs to sleep for the first 2 days of a trip, and always start an offshore journey with a Piahia bomber regardless of the forecast. From now on for the next few years, if you're wondering what to get me for my birthday or Christmas, the answer will always be Piahia Bombers and sunscreen. I've managed to keep 2 down over the last 2 days and no more seasickness. Yet.


Other than the crazy wind and wanting to die it's been pretty uneventful. We haven't eaten much because of the effort eating requires - our last meal was baked beans straight out of the pan with one spoon between us and some bread to soak it up. We devoured it like animals and my wet weather gear is covered in baked bean remnants.

We rode a giant wave yesterday, in amonst all the huge swells. It crept up behind us when I was on watch and we ended up right on top of it as it broke. We went flying down with it for about 10 seconds. Which doesn't sound like much, but it was a giant wave and a freaking boat, not a surfboard. The bow cut through the water as we rode it, kicking up a huge spray evenly on each side. It was like watching a giant ship cut through the water as it chugs along at high speeds. It made so much noise Garth woke up thinking I had broken something. So that was pretty cool.



There's been dolphins and sunsets and such, and we are currently in calm water with hardly any swell. Which makes for pleasant sailing involving the autopilot, a beanbag and the stars. There's another front coming through, bigger than the last one, so we're finding an anchorage to wait it out. Which feels like cheating seeing as we're practicing for offshore passages and there wouldn't be a conveniently located bay to hide in offshore, but we've got lots of stuff to fix and it seems unnecessarily dangerous to willingly throw ourselves into a storm. It will also give us a chance to rescue our running backstay lines from the propshaft... an unfortunate incident that has led to a new rule - people just coming off watch and people just coming on are no longer allowed to make decisions by themselves, seeing as they're both half asleep. 

Garth was about to go to sleep when he mentioned we were dragging a line and that we should grab it when we launched the jib. I'd just opened my eyes and wasn't paying attention when he said he was going to start the engine instead about 5 mins later, which led to us cutting another line and temporarily losing use of the engine. It was a shitty old rope that we never use though, so not a big loss, but both Ian and our sailing instructor Nick would be disappointed in our seamanship skills with that one. I can't remember how many times we've been told not to drag lines. Hopefully a mistake we'll only make once!

I'm actually very grateful to have met Ian - his head is full of experience and knowledge, and he's thrown a lot of it our way. He got everything together for us in a very short time, and made sure our boat was safe. The last thing he did was come down to the dock to see us off, with presents no less. He wasn't happy with the way we had our anchor tied on, because it would be hard to release in an emergency. He ran off and came back with some turnbuckles, securing it tightly in a way that we could release it fast if we had to. Then the first thing we do is wrap a line around the engine, so pretty soon we'll have to anchor under sail, in the dark with no engine, and quickly. If he hadn't fixed it we might have been in trouble. 

Our tricolour light has a short in it somewhere, so we'll have to fix that up north. At the moment we're using the bicolour, which is lower down and looks awesome on the sails.


So we'll anchor in the northern part of Hawkes Bay for a day and fix everything while we wait for the crazy wind to pass, then be on our way again, hopefully with no more drama! I had a few dolphins circle me last night when I was on watch, then just stay by the boat near the cockpit for about half an hour. They did the same tonight, except it was a giant pod and they stayed for hours. Just hanging around keeping us company and leading us safely to our anchorage. It's nice to know we're not alone out here! 

Xxx Monique 

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