It seems like a *very* long time since I have sat at the laptop and sent out a note. I hope you have enjoyed all the photos Max has been posting in the meantime!
We left NZ early on Saturday afternoon, 14 May, with beautiful sunny weather. There were loads of boats out sailing in Auckland harbour, and it seemed a fitting way to depart the "City of Sails" after almost two months in the area. We even found ourselves passing through the fleet of a Saturday afternoon race! Our passage up through the Hauraki Gulf was smooth and fast, with our boat speed getting up above 7.5 kts. Although this passage will be slightly longer than if we had left from Opua (as originally planned), it was nice to have the sheltered waters of the Hauraki Gulf for Miriam's first day at sea with us. We even received a departure gift of a pair of Kawahai fish as we passed out of the Gulf. Our departure last year from Marsden Cove (Whangarei) straight into the open ocean was a bit less enjoyable...
The calm of the afternoon of sailing was in stark contrast to the intensity of the previous week. In addition to the hours of provisioning, stowing, equipment checking and passage nav planning that typically precede a voyage, we were also travelling back and forth across town for kite boarding lessons (which kept being cancelled due to lack of wind - it seems that "el Nino" was having some fun with NZ weather and it was unseasonably calm). In general, I don't mind spending hours at the beach watching for white caps, but it was hard to be in two places at once, and while I was out not-kiting, no one was buying and stowing the groceries! The funny thing is that all month long, I had a sense that the lessons would occur, that we didn't need to worry, but my optimism was tested, since after the first few lessons in mid-April, the next good windy day was the *very* last day before we left. On the bright side, it was a day that was well worth waiting for, and we both finished on a high note, with a fantastic day on the water. At one time, I counted a dozen kites in the air, and almost that many more in various stages of preparation in front of me on the grass. I found it particularly inspirational to be out in the same area where people were zipping by doing jumps and tricks while I was learning the basic skills; I have a long way to go, but I was holding my own and controlling the kite in gusty conditions (this was in stark contrast to my previous lesson where in similar conditions, I was totally rattled, and wondering if I might never try it again!) I was mostly practicing the beginner "body dragging" techniques, but Max had graduated to riding on the board and zooming across the bay :)
The sale of our van was another "last minute" detail that tested our both our optimism and our persistence. It turns out that the only taker for a 23-year-old minivan with almost 300K km on it (not to mention balding tires and duct tape holding some of the trim in place) is a scrap yard. I found one that would not only come to the marina and pick it up from us, but would pay us slightly more than the one to which I had driven to find out that our van had reached "end of life"; I arranged for the van to be collected at 5pm on Friday afternoon (ie the last appointment on the last day before we left). Somehow, there was a mixup, and at the appointed hour, the flatbed driver was across town and heading home to dinner; there was no possible way he would come back to get the van. With NZ Customs booked for 0730 the next day, his offer of coming on Saturday morning at 1000 didn't help! When I pleaded my case with their office, speaking with the rep who had made the original booking, I asked that, at the very least, he send someone to take my keys; he personally agreed to come on his own time later in the evening, as he would be in the area anyway. This seemed like a win-win situation - I would have the van for the last grocery run, saving a 10-minute walk with bags of fruit & veg, and it would be off my hands before bedtime. There was another wrinkle waiting, however: once again, the appointed hour came and went, with no sign of my new friend. I was starting to wonder how this would play out, but since he had given me his mobile number, I just started calling. It looked less than promising, as he had changed his plans, and not come to our area after all. I didn't much like the suggestion of leaving our keys and banking info so they could collect the car and send us the money after we had left! Fortunately, a few minutes later, I got a text that my friend would make a special trip across town, right then, despite the late hour, and sort it out. True to his word, he came straight over, cash and receipt book in hand, and by the time we went to bed, we no longer owned the van that had taken us to Bluff and back! Mistakes had been made, but this young man stepped to the plate and made things right.
Given all this excitement on our last day, we actually called Customs and left them a message that we would like a couple more hours in the morning; when we called back at 0605 to confirm that they had received our message (and would not be coming to the boat at 0700), the fellow was surprised that I was awake again: "Didn't you just call us at midnight??". It was nice to see a human face on a government institution. Every minute of the morning was spent stowing and lashing items into place. While we were kiting, Miriam, Victoria, and Johnathan had spent the day doing the pre-passage cooking that I usually do, so we had rice, pasta, muffins, and pancakes to take with us on the journey; these things all needed to be arranged for easy access in the fridge in case no one felt like being in the galley for the first few days. By the time the Customs folks came by in the late morning, pretty much everything was ready for our departure. For the first time, we had made a "passage planning" white board, and it was fun to see all the tasks checked off :) We even remembered to take a crew photo on the dock before our neighbours helped us to cast off our lines.
Everyone is adjusting well to being back on passage. Victoria and Johnathan have spent lots of time explaining various aspects of sailing to Miriam (we remind them regularly that she has taken a course and done many day-trips so it is not all new to her). Benjamin is totally at ease. He was less than enthusiastic the first time we put his harness back on him, but he has gotten used to it now, and doesn't complain when we make him wear it (which is good, as he wears it all the time, including when he sleeps below).
As usual, sleep is a key aspect of off-shore passage making. Apparently, we had a beautiful sail up through the Hauraki Gulf yesterday, but I didn't see much of it, as I went off-watch with Benjamin when he napped shortly after our departure from Pier 21. Max and I were both really tired going into the passage, so our night watches were a bare 4-hours each last night; these will get longer over the next few days as we get more rested, and accustomed to being awake at all hours.
By this morning, when I woke Max to go on-watch, the wind was really light (6-8 kts) so it turned out to be a perfect spinnaker day. We woke Miriam to tell her that we needed to take her sleeping companion (ie the sail) from the V-Berth, and by 0900 we were flying it. Again, I describe the glorious day of spinnaker sailing from a second-hand perspective, as I went to sleep once the sail was flying, and didn't emerge from my bunk until 1630. With the exception of a couple of no-wind motoring periods, Max, Miriam, and the kids had flown the spinnaker all day. As for me, I felt rested for the first time in ages!
By dinnertime, the wind had dropped, the spinnaker was stowed, and we were motoring. The sea is like glass, the sky is clear, and we are trying to remind ourselves that it is not always like this at sea!!
When we raced with Nirvana back in January, one of their other friends brought Kawahai sashimi, so we tried some with our fish tonight. We felt pretty spoiled with a first course of sashimi, and a second course of Kawahai cooked in butter served with brown rice and broccoli, all enjoyed in the moments after the sun sank peacefully into a flat sea. It was a tasty way to start the passage :)
The kids, Miriam, and I played "Who am I" for at least two hours this evening while Max was off-watch; she is a really good sport for playing their games with them :)
It seems that it will be a light-wind passage to Minerva Reef, then a trough will go over us, and we should have wind from Minerva to Fiji. Time will tell ...
Love to all,
At 2016-05-14 12:07 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 34°01.70'S 176°03.88'E
At 2016-05-14 1:12 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 33°56.26'S 176°06.81'E
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