Kia Ora, New Zealand
We made it! After a final eight days and 22 hours at sea, we finished our voyage across the Pacific Ocean, a journey that began last January in our home port of San Francisco Bay, and tied up to the quarantine dock in Opua, New Zealand at 10 am this morning.
We've had a few rough nights since our last post. As it turns out, the front we had to pass through was pretty miserable. We had some of the most intense conditions we’ve experienced to date. Monday evening brought sustained 30 knot winds with gusts to 35. Under the staysail and triple reefed main, we made as many miles south as we could while we had northwesterly winds behind us as the front approached and passed overhead. The early morning brought rain, the trailing edge of the front with final gusts to 45 knots, a dramatic wind shift to the south, and confused, sloppy seas causing us to stall in the water. We eventually got Helios sailing again to the west to get away from the front. Then we made a quick tack to the southwest, and after two days of beating into southerly winds and seas, conditions calmed enough for us to motor-sail the last 100 miles to Opua.
In other words, we spent three days feeling like we were in a washing machine mounted to the back of a bucking bronco, and things gradually got calmer until we docked. Hallelujah.
As has been the case in the past, the challenges of our passage were quickly dwarfed by those of other boats arriving at the same time. One yacht spent 17 days making the passage from Savu Savu, Fiji to New Zealand (roughly the same distance as the passage from Tonga), because they ran out of diesel and spent four or so days bobbing in doldrum-like conditions, waiting for the winds to build. Other boats we know had major mechanical breakdowns: broken forestays, jibs washed overboard, and propellor failure making motoring impossible. We’re feeling satisfied, like our provisioning, preparatory work, and good luck made for a safe and relatively fast passage—1000 miles from Tonga to New Zealand in nine days isn’t too shabby for a boat of our dimensions.
The quarantine and biosecurity officers were on and off Helios within an hour, and we splurged and decided to spend a few nights in the marina. Dominic and I treated ourselves to a scrumptious lunch at the local cafe, featuring champagne, craft beer, and succulent Kiwi burgers topped with bacon, beats, potatoes, and fried eggs.
And now, we nap.