Friday, 15 June 2018

NZ to TONGA - Day 1 & 2 - A beautiful start to our northward migration


It is months since I have sat at the chart table, on watch, and updated you on our daily doings. We are back at sea, and our cruising season has officially begun. Starting this trip from New Zealand yesterday felt like a bit of a milestone, as it marked what we believe will be the beginning of our trip home to Canada. Over the next 18 months, we expect to continue northwards through the tropics to Alaska, and then down to BC. I am somewhat hesitant to put this in print, as all our plans are 'subject to change' but this is the current scenario.

We had a beautiful sunny day on which to clear customs yesterday morning. Weeks of preparation and weather delays had finally culminated in the only departure window for the whole month of June; if we had missed this window, we would likely have been staying in NZ until July, so we were pretty motivated to stow the last of the groceries, lash everything into place, and get going!

I find it a bit like playing the children's game of "Whackamole" when it is time to be ready to go, as every last bit of surface clutter that our family accumulates need to find a secure home for the passage (while making sure that important items are not stashed away in some obscure location never to be seen again). "How long does it take to be ready?" can be a tough question to answer!

Nonetheless, we moved to the fuel dock shortly after it opened, took on more fuel than we ever have at one time (we left carrying a total of 170 gallons, including our jerry cans), cleared customs at our assigned time (1100), stowed the last few things and had a quick lunch (I have learned not to leave when everyone is on the verge of an empty stomach), and left through the dredged channel at 1300 (exactly at low tide). It was rather surreal to have a beach close enough on either side that we could have judged a sand-castle contest as we motored by!

Once we were out of Whangarei Harbour and the sails were set, we went right into our watch rotation. Setting our sails seems to merit a bit of a mention, as we are going DOWNWIND. We can hardly even remember the last time we needed our preventer (the line which runs forward from our boom to the rail to steady the sail, and help to prevent an accidental gybe). We had almost forgotten how pleasant it could be to run downwind in a minimal seastate in 15kts. Even the kids commented on how much more uncomfortable it would have been to be doing what had become our usual close reach. This is why people go sailing!

Victoria was the chef for our first dinner :) We discovered simple grocery store meat pies when we were on the hardstand in Tauranga, and I put several trays in the fridge before we left, so all she had to do was turn on the oven and heat the required number. Everyone's tummy was cooperating, so we all enjoyed them at the evening watch change.

I came on watch after supper. What a dark night it was! We have a brand-new moon, so we had nothing but stars for company. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, so I had a spectacular view of stars and galaxies whenever I ventured out of the warmth of our enclosed cockpit (which I must admit took some motivation!). By midnight, I was getting foggy, so Max took the watch. This is pretty typical of our first couple of nights - we each stand watch as long as we are safely able, and over the next few days the night watches (and therefore the off-watches) get longer and longer.

The luxury of having growing children is that they begin to take watches themselves! Victoria is an early-bird, so she volunteered to come watch at 0500, which meant I could doze beside her in the cockpit. As dawn approached, she remembered to deploy our fishing lines, politely asking me if I could wake up long enough to watch her as she was out of the cockpit :)

Once we had enough light to see what we were doing, it was time to pole out our genoa, in order to point more directly downwind. We generally try to do our foredeck activities in daylight and with at least two people available; it was ideal today that we had three to set up the pole. It might be a little hard to picture it, so I will explain: we keep our spinnaker pole fastened to our mast when we are underway, and we can either use it for the spinnaker or the genoa. It has a line fastened to one end (the uphaul) and the other end is fixed to a track on the mast (with a pulley system to raise and lower it). Poling out the Genoa does the same kind of thing as putting the preventer on the main - it keeps the sail in position so it stays full of air, and minimizes the slatting and banging as the boat rolls. Victoria was in the cockpit controlling the uphaul and 'foreguy' (the line from the pole to the bow). I was at the mast lowering the fixed end with the pulley. Max was at the bow with the business end of the pole making sure that all four lines (fore guy, after guy, uphaul, and running genoa sheet) were routed through its jaws and clip points correctly. When everything was set, the pole ended up pretty much perpendicular to the mast and in line with the mainsail. Once the pole was in place, we unfurled most of the genoa to fly it in the space we had created. It took some patience (and re-work) to get the lines all routed properly, but we were much quicker when we gybed the pole to the other side just before sunset.

The main excitement this morning was the realization that we were not the only ones migrating north. Victoria noticed the water spouts of some whales at a distance. We believe she and Max saw Humpback whales, making their way north from Antarctica to have their babies in Tonga. We hope to see them there :)

We often joke about the 'tv' stations we have onboard: eg AIS TV lets us watch for other boats, FISH TV lets us see fish under the boat with our fishfinder, etc. We have added a channel back into our selection this season: TEMP TV lets us monitor the water temperature under the keel, and we have it on our display for the first time since Mexico (we replaced the speed/distance sensor this season). It has been great fun to watch the temperature climb since we left yesterday (so far we have gone from 14 deg to about 19 deg in 0.01 increments).

Sometimes the tricky thing about being a mom on watch is figuring out how to handle the bedtime routines. Last night, Benjamin played downstairs until he was tired then came up to the cockpit, arranged himself (wearing his harness and tether) under a blanket, and fell asleep on the floor; tonight, he insisted on doing his 'list' with me even though I had been off-watch for a couple of hours and wanted to be sleeping. Oh well, it is always interesting!

I'm about to go off-watch; I will wake Victoria for her 0430 start, and Max will be the duty parent in the cockpit. We are cruising along at 5-6 kts now; the wind picked up about an hour ago when I threatened to start the engine :) The forecast is for the wind to drop off sometime today, and then we will have to start the engine to motor for what could be a couple of days of calms. This is not the place to dawdle and wait for the wind to fill in, as another system is expected to move through here early next week, and we want to be well north of it!

All well on board - I hope this first-in-a-long-time note finds you well too.

Love to all,
At 2018-06-06 6:00 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 33°10.75'S 177°08.44'E

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