Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The New Zealand to Fiji Crossing

Last min stuff- talked to customs, they’ll be here Sat to check us out.  Both visas all good.  Laundry, last shopping, celebratory buffalo chicken and cheesecake, and too much rum. 
Marquesa burns about 8 gals/day to motor.  Good day = 120 miles, calc with 100 miles/day

Day 1
Left Opua.  Last breakfast eggs benedict, checked out with customs, and presented paper to Fullers Marina for gas rebate -> diesel came to $300 NZ for 200L  yikes.
Going out the bay took a lot less time than coming in did- almost no wind, and only large long gentle swells coming in towards us and making some good surf against the islands.  No farewell dolphins, though Cpt says you get them sometimes.  Called dad from mid-Bay.
Once out on ocean the breeze picked up a lil to mabe 15 knots and we did 5.5 knots.  Outpaced three or four other sailboats during day.  Then sunset and wind shifted and we turned more NW.  Funny lights on horizon - red and green and white, seemed to separate and then come together, then speed off suddenly over the N horizon.  Guess they passed sorta close to appear to be moving so quick.  In the midst of this, the Am couple we saw at customs, Pursuit starts calling to a cat on the radio “this is pursuit, calling the catamaran at 34S 175E, calling the catamaran with no running lights.  So I was much more concerned about the potential that some idiot was sailing out there, asleep below with no lights on.
Stood watch for about 4 hrs on and off, til around 0100.  Felt ill a couple times and had to lay down briefly.  The first of 13 days of seasickness. 

Day 2
Made about 100 miles yesterday
Sun just set, sitting writing this at desk with headlamp while Cpt sleeps.  He didn’t get much past two nights. 
Really weak and shifty winds all day.  Cpt did 8 sail changes and trimmed dozens of times, to little avail.  We did about 100mi yesterday, today prob less.  Motored for just a lil while.  Cpt says this is his worst 2-day run ever.

Day 3
About 90 miles yesterday.
Feeling a bit more seasick, but wearing patch.  Not as bad as last time.  Wind picking up to around 15 knots. Sunny, but still cold and spending most of day below.

Day 4
About 120 miles yesterday
Coldish today, feeling sick and slept most of day.  Cloudy, motion fairly violent and winds around 20 knots.

Day 5
70 miles yesterday
Winds were too strong yesterday, and swell and current= only about 70 miles over ground.  Sky cloudy, cold, feeling quite sick and stayed below sleeping.  Hard to focus my contacts now after so much day sleep.  Bad day for Cpt - I slept midships on floor, about 0800 got up to go to the head, and hear a shouted curse.  A hard wave stuck the main hatch and water came pouring in- inexplicably, to me, as its sealed tight with new silicone.  Rough and nasty irregular seas today- like giant fist hitting side of boat.  Cpt says all crossings this year have been nasty like this.  He left companionway open til water came thru the skylight, then put running boards in.  Sailing on genoa aone with 20-30 knot winds.  Cloudy.  Ramen noodles.  Cpt has sore ribs from sleeping on narrow settee on side, et al.  Boat has lots of leaks- flowing in by the cupful from under galley port.  Old ceiling leak from main hatch, books on port side wet, lots water coming in over bookshelves on starboard… it’s lots worse than on the way south to NZ.  Cpt worried it’s getting under deck/under paint and flowing in, rotting wood…I think it was dry in rain, but under these sorta heavy seas its coming in big time.  Cpt really seems to hate ocean crossings.  Possible the leaks are all just coming from stanchions and chain plates.  Have asked Cpt to go through survival bag with me and teach me to operate SSB radio, but he's not keen.  "Lets just assume nothing's going to happen"  I'll just do it when he's not looking.

Day 6
90 miles yesterday
Not on computer for long time while sick and catching up now.  Nice clear skies after midmorning, woke to noticeale temp change and mugginess. Slept on floor again- pretty comfortable but easy to get  an achey back. Had towel over me in case of 4th wetting incident, woke up a some of the bigger crashes and the mirror attacking me unexpectedly at around 4am.  Wondering what to do in event of a knockdown.  Felt better around midday, cereal for bkfast, cheesy noodles lunch, pb sandwich dinner and a couple carrots. 
Hungry all day, but feeling pretty good.  We’ve had a lot of trouble making any easting- had 30 miles at first, then strong SE and E winds pushed us back to 174 40’E by 26S.  Suva is roughly 19S 180E, so we are around 400 miles west of where we need to end up.  McDavitt says window next is 10 June, gribs show strong easterlies up to 24S, then a day of weird shifty light winds, then northerlies and easerlies, light.  Going to Vanuatu is always an option, but a sucky one as you have to sail halfway up the country to check in.  Personally I would stop at New Caledonia, though mbe fees make it not worthwhile.  Waiting anxiously for wind to start clocking around to the south more- but that s not shown til 24S,  gtibs are changing a lot every day, so running NNW and hoping for a change in forecast.  Might be 11 days altogether or more now.  Cant focus contacts sleeping in them too much.

Day 7
96 miles yesterday
Surprise in the form of a flying fish in the cockpit today.  Strangely, after I handled it I touched my eye and this resulted in a good deal of pain and several mins rinsing.  A couple hours after that I broke out in hives on arms and some on chest and back.  Not sure if this was fish, or eye drops, or wet salty cushions, or stopping the eardrops, or what.  Don’t seem to be getting worse at least, applied hydrocortisone.  Tossed fish.  Also figured out that the blurry vision is from scopoderm - thank god for the read-book-aloud function on the kindle.
Had a bath and changed outside.  Will see now how I do without patch.
Sunny today with some intervals clouds, warm - 75F, reading Stephanie Plum to pass time.  We’re still heading direct NE and were at 174 40’ by 25 30’S this morning-  very far west.  Raised ZaZu and they are also off, but are a degree north and west of us.  They lost their self-furling- so obviously Cpt did the right thing in reducing sail when he did, even though it slowed us down.  Getting new gribs now
B showed me radio some- press clear-cler-#-enter.  Stuff over 1000 or so tends to skip over us.  ABC is aussie channel- some news there.

Day 8
70 miles yesterday
Most awesome lightning storms all night- incredibly active, about 1 flash/5 secs, tho there were systems on the horizon with one/sec= like a heartbeat.  Most of it was to the west, off towards new Caledonia at first.  Dark clouds coming about a thumbs width up off the horizon.  I noticed the flashes from inside and mentioned it, then came up to watch.  I ooh-ed as a large ball of lightning traced a bright snaking path sideways along the top of a high cloud.  We watched side flash after side flash, so bright and dangerous. Cpt  gets out lightning monitor and fastens it to the main sheet under the dodger.  It flashes 8-12 miles, then a 0-6- Definitely close, since we can hear its loud crackle.  None of the rest is audible- its downwind.  We’ve got maybe 10 knots or so, light stuff, and we’re moving almost parallel but slightly away from the system at around 3-4 knots. 
The storm keeps up its amazing display for hours before we go to sleep, and it doesn’t slow down for the rest of the night.  Cpt talks about how lightning can destroy your electric system and antennae, and blow out your through-holes.  I go below and take a note of our exact position, time, and heading on paper, just in case.  Then we tack, hoping to head away from the storm and get some easting.  Unfortunately Marquesa only sails within 60 degrees of the wind, and we weren’t tight to it before or after tacking, so we only achieve a 160 degree turn.  The storm covers half the sky, so we arent headed away from it much more than before, but that’s the best we can do without motoring, which apparently might also attract a ground strike.  I can’t believe how much sideways movement there is to this storm- all north to south.  We are in an area of light and variable winds, the gribs show sudden shifts n-s, so apparently this is why.  This area extends a degree or two Fiji-ward away from us, and is supposed to last several days, so I wonder if we will be in for the same thing tomorrow night.  Cpt says this is the most active and sideways system he’s seen- too bad, guess it’s unlikely I’ll see many more like this one.  One of the most beautiful and terrible sights ever.
At one point I’m standing in the main hatch- not the safest place, but can’t help it, and I see a flash, then a green light starts flashing along the side of the solar panel, self-steering, and backstay.  I look around, trying to figure out what blinks green on this boat and could reflect… can’t find anything.  After awhile it stops, then starts again.  At a loss, I wonder if this could possibly be st elmos fire?  Pulsing like that?  Seems unlikely… then I show Cpt and he says it’s the green light on the solar panel that comes on when daylight approaches- its being set off by the lighting.

 Day 9
90 Miles yesterday.
For a few days we had almost no wind, and made almost no headway.
I was OK first day off patch, but second day started feeling shitty and at end of day gave up and put it back on.  I’m taking it off at night now, and so far no blurry vision or hives.
Cpt not happy about how much decks are leaking, and no wind.  We’re still out at 175E 25S.  I’m very hungry but can’t stomach much.  Eat salad like a wolf then lay down.
Nice crescent moon setting big and orange on the western horizon tonight.  Water is full of little phosphorescing-when-disturbed critters, show as white blurs in torch light.  There are millions upon millions of them in the upper layers of the water- spread out across the countless miles of big, seemingly empty Pacific.  Very cool.  Cpt says their out for the moon.

Day 10
60 miles yesterday  22 50S by 175 30E at 10am
  Felt better for a lot of the day- pretty golden in am and afternoon.  Cooked some spaghetti with sausage and peppers, wolfed it down with green beans.  This and cereal sated me for the day.  In evening discovered some of my hard candy were actually chewy toffee bonbons, and these were quickly dispatched.  Prob actually made cal quota for day today.
Almost zero wind all day, sea calm with long low Pacific swells and little wind ripples.  Lay out for an hour to work on base tan. 
In PM Cpt fished, caught 12” tuna, got a second hit.  He gutted it and put it in fridge to fry/BBQ.  Looked in water for my little white glowing buddies, but they were all in hiding.  Cpt worried about fuel, decided to motor til we couldn’t anymore then sail in with a lil reserve kept for the reef/shore area.  We've finished the front tank and the back one is at 3/4.

Day 11
 80 miles yesterday, roughly 21 00’S by 176 00’E at 10am
Only a couple hundred miles to go - exciting.  We could get in tomorrow.  Cpt not bothering with gribs anymore.  Not surprised these areas of light and variable winds are hard to predict; the gribs seems to have been fairly accurate when it comes to 15 kn and higher areas.
Reading the Warded Man - very good, passes time excellently.  Got on glasses and sunglasses together.  Haven’t bothered with contacts in several days-falling asleep at random too much, it would be uncomfortable.  Woke up to nice dawn to write this.  Actually it’s a red dawn - sailor take warning!  Getting pretty tired of laying down all the time and napping, so it will be good to get in tomorrow or the day after.

Day 12
105 miles yesterday
Motored all day til eve, when a wind came up and carried us into the Kadavu Channel.  10-15knots all night, brief lull to 4 knots when we came into the lee of Kadavu.  Island visible as dark hill on S end outlined against cloudy sky.  Brief shower in the straight.  Did a 2 hr watch, then later a 4 hr one.  Winds a lil shifty but not bad.  Zero boat traffic seen, other than a green diffuse glow on the horizon at the start of my 2nd watch.  Slept heavy down below. 
Freeze dried beef stroganoff for the meal.
Saw a turtle 20’ off the boat, and a beautiful jellyfish.

Whats left of the NZ courtesy flag

Leaving NZ behind

Open ocean, the first night

Catching dinner


Hundreds of miles of empty ocean

Hot, still, empty ocean
Day 13
Amazingly, still sailing, to the east- wind 10-15 pretty much right into Suva.  Some dark clouds ahead of us looking pretty unfriendly for a time.  Occasional showers, very rare moments of sun.  Sea very calm.  Passed pretty much right over a skull and crossbones on chart off Mbugga Reef - reef or rock I’m not sure, no change in water color and quite a ways out from the barrier reef.  Suva is in big river delta with yacht club at north end of town- prob we’ll anchor there, less chance of thieves. 
Fired potato slices for lunch.  Looking forward to some good food now- I got real hungry at a couple points midvoyage, but too nauseous to eat, think I’ve lost a bit over the past 2 weeks.  Best diet plan ever.
Saw a sea turtle last night- 20’ f boat, 3’ long.  Took off at a surprisingly quick pace when he saw/heard us coming.  He was out in the middle of nowhere.  Spent all eve yesterday hoping to see Fiji, but didn’t till dark last night when the hill was visible behind Kadavu, with a lighthouse on the S point flashing.  Would have been nice to stop at Kadavu anchorages incl Astrolabe Reef, but apparently they are pretty strict about checking in.  Cpt is worried about interracial issues and crime here, thinks maybe he won’t enjoy Fiji.  Lots to do on boat still - windlass links, sail repairs, rain cover repairs, depth sounder, pull stanchions and seal them and chain plates…
Checking in process is supposed to be pretty complicated…
But we're here!!!

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