Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Passage New Zealand to Fiji

10 days - 1200 Nautical Miles

Route from NZ to SavuSavu Fiji

After six months on land I wasn't so sure what to expect from our upcoming passage to Fiji.  Would we get right back into the swing of things or would it take us days / weeks to adjust?  I was also a little apprehensive about our next year of cruising.  New Zealand had spoiled us; cheap phones, fast internet, endless grocery stores, and let's not forget not a single day of sea sickness!  All of this in one of the most spectacular places I've ever been.  On the other hand I was ready to go.  I was tired of traffic, of "crowds" (any population over 100 now constitutes as a crowd!), and especially of spending so much money.  I was ready to relax again, swaying in a tropical breeze reading endless books.

Ready or not, we departed Opua, New Zealand on Sunday May 8th.  This passage would be different for us in that we also had two "crew" aboard.  Chris's cousin Andy and Andy's 14 year old daughter, Riley, had joined us from Alaska.  We hadn't yet cruised with other people on board and weren't sure how "small" the boat would get. We headed out of the Bay of Islands with two boats following (MagMell and Stardust) and a couple more to leave the next day (Ascension and Freebird).  It's always comforting to know we wouldn't be out there alone!

While the passage ended up being pretty unremarkable, there were a few days of nervousness at the beginning when Chris spotted a huge "bomb" on the weather fax to the East of us (Bomb = cyclone = high wind and large waves = YIKES).  It was far enough away that we were currently quite safe, but we had to keep a close eye to ensure it didn't move our way.  It also meant that we didn't make much Easting in our first days out as we didn't want to risk heading anywhere in the vicinity of the storm. By Friday we had safely cleared it and could head East (not to mention breathe easier).  Of course by then the wind wasn't fully cooperating, making it a struggle to get East.

This was Andy and Riley's first sailing ocean passage.  They handled it great.  Boredom being their biggest hurtle.  Riley would play hour upon hour of electronic Yahtzee while Andy would spend time staring out at the vast Ocean while listening to Music.  I loved it when Andy said to Riley, "Don't you want to stand up and look around?"  She replied, "Why?  It's just water!!!".  I couldn't agree more!

It was a bit strange for Chris and I as we tried to get into the cruising groove with two extra people aboard.  Cruising with four defiantly has its bonuses as well as inconveniences.  Andy was a superb helper; cooking, doing dishes, and providing us with an additional night watcher.  We had added entertainment with Yahtzee tournaments and Wheel of Fortune championships.  I'll admit though, that I missed the cruising rhythms and space of just the two of us.  Also I felt like Chris and I became huge nags - as so many things on the boat had to be done a certain way.  I hated constantly pestering and nagging about one thing or another - and I'm sure it got old with Andy and Riley as well (although they handled it like stars!).  In total it all worked out well and we enjoyed their company and were enjoying the added entertainment of viewing cruising through their eyes!

Basically, setting the sails and rudder such that the boat is not making way.
As usual we had radio contact with the other vessels making the passage.  We were all quite near though we never saw another boat.  The other vessels were making landfall in Suva (on Vita Levu), while we were heading to Savusavu (on Vanua Levu).  We had a few slow days; slow enough that Andy asked, "At what point do you start the engine?".  Ha Ha.  Basically, we have to be just about standing still to motor (or trying to avoid a weather system).  At one point Andy even offered to pay for the diesel if we would just motor!  They were able to take advantage of the light winds when we hove-to and Andy and Riley jumped over board for a swim and bath.

About three to four days out of Savusavu it started to warm up.  Ahh yes, to be back in the tropics - foul weather gear traded for shorts, beanie caps swapped for sun hats ... heading back to paradise.

About two days out Chris and I started talking about potentially having to slow the boat down.  This was a bit of a shock to Andy and Riley, who after 8 days on a bumpy sailboat were ready for land.  "What do you mean you're going to slow down?" Andy asked.  We tried to explain that if it didn't look like we could make it during daylight then we have to slow down so that we arrive the following morning.  As it turned out we did end up reducing sail to slow the boat.  Andy still wasn't convinced, trying to persuade us that speed was better.  But we couldn't have made it in  daylight on the 17th, so our best option was to slow and try to time it for a morning arrival on the 18th.  As Murphy's Law would go - just as we attempt to slow, the winds continued to rise, and we couldn't get the boat to go slow enough!  So, around midnight we had to heave-to outside the islands and wait for morning.  Because the winds had picked up so had the swell - making it an uncomfortable night as the boat rolled side to side in the swell and the main sail slammed and banged echoing through the entire boat.  In the morning I asked Andy, " So, after last night don't you wish we had slowed down earlier so we wouldn't have had to heave-to?".  He still wouldn't give in - he preferred making speed for the guarantee that land would be there when the sun rose!

It was a beautiful sail into the bay as we looked up to green hillsides scattered with palm trees.  We had to practically drag Riley on deck (from bed) to take in the sights.  I think that early in the morning she wasn't impressed!

At 8:30am on Wednesday, May 18th (1200 nautical miles later), we picked up a mooring ball in Savusavu Bay, immensely enjoying the now steady boat.  Chris and I got a great chuckle when Riley said "Is that the WHOLE town?" as we all stood on deck peering at the 4 or 5 buildings on the single road across the bay.  Savusavu is one of the bigger towns Chris and I have been to during our 1-1/2 years of cruising!!!

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