Sunday, 2 November 2014

Fiji to New Zealand

 Going to New Zealand is a complicated business, as you have to first cross a high pressure system just below Fiji , and then catch the end of a low just as it passes New Zealand and the wind turns Northerly. If you get it wrong and cop the beginning of a low, you could be battling into a South Westerly Gale as you approach New Zealand. There are some good weather web sites, a daily discussion at 7am on Gulf Harbour Radio on the Single Side Band Radio from New Zealand, and a professional weather routing service by Bob McDavitt.
In harbour the SSB doesn't work because of interference, so we asked Bob McDavitt for advice. He advised Thursday or Friday for a weather window so we got our act together and made preparations to leave on Friday 3 October.
Lautoka's undercover market

We took the bus to Lautoka city where we vegetable shopped in its enormous market. Everything in Fiji is very reasonably priced. Provided it isn't imported it costs about a third of the UK price. On the way back the bus was invaded by schoolchildren of all ages. They were all impeccably turned out, laughed and chattered and were looked after by and polite to the other passengers.
On a sunny Friday morning we said goodbye to our cheerful and sociable crewmate Sally, who wants to go diving in Vanu Atu and had a musical farewell from the marina staff who sang a song as we were towed off the mooring.
We're Leaving. They were very pleased, so sang out loud!

 We've had a lovely time in Fiji with happy friendly people who were unfailingly courteous and helpful. I'm sure the place has a great future.
A final wave from Sally

We exited the reef via the Navuka passage at around 4pm and found ourselves in a big sea and 20-25 knot SE winds .We needed to do be close hauled for a course towards New Zealand, so with two reefs in the main we had a bumpy old time of it. Both Col and I felt sick the first night , so our old standby corn beef hash was as much as we could manage. Only 1,100 miles to go!
The heavy weather continued for two days, but gradually the wind  came round to the East and eased and Kika did well on a fine reach. Its now Tuesday morning and Kika has been doing splendidly, bowling along at 7 knots overnight. Our daily average distances have been 135-145 miles. We listen to Gulf Harbour Radio at 7am manned by two volunteer enthusiasts Patricia and David who monitor your position, and provide a half hour of discussion about the weather all over the SW Pacific. A brilliant service, much appreciated by long distance yachtsmen. Gulf harbour is in Northern New Zealand where the weather is currently bad with South Westerly gales from big depressions down South. We're just hoping its going to calm down by the time we get there. Apparently the yachts to the North of us are having a bad time with 30 knot Easterlies.
However so far Bob McDavitts advice has been spot on for us. We hit the centre of the high on Tuesday afternoon for a brief period with very light winds, and they have now backed slightly to the East enabling us to set a course direct for the tip of the North Island which is 570 nautical miles away. Our distance run today was 140 nautical miles. Not bad for the Morris minor of the seas!
Wednesday 9 October was an eventful day for us. The winds dropped so we started the engine, only to hear a odd rattling sound after a while. On lifting the engine cover one could see salt water in the engine tray spraying from the water pump pulley wheel. Sure enough on stopping the engine we could feel that the pulley wheel had play in it which meant that the raw water pump bearings had gone. After a bit of breakfast we rumaged around and found spare bearings for the pump supplied by Jabsco. We took the pump off the engine and then disassembled it with some difficulty on the saloon table. The bearing that had gone with a lot of mangled metal and spring was the one next to a rubber seal just next to the pulley wheel. When we finally got the pulley wheel off the shaft and tried to fit the beating supplied there was too much play between the bearing and its housing. The bearings supplied had been for the other end of the shaft. It wasn't going to be possible to repair the pump which meant only being able to run the engine for a minute or so before we needed to switch it off due to the danger of overheating.
The water pump is located bottom right.

We were effectively a sailing vessel with no auxiliary engine. We had got a forecast through from Gulf Harbour Radio that morning that in two days there was a front coming through , behind which there were South to South Easterly winds. Normally with wind on the nose in the final stage of a passage you can just motor it. However without that option we need to sail East so we can lay Opua close hauled when the South East winds come through and we spent the day on a reach clawing back in a South Easterly direction.
That evening the wind slackened and went round to the North so we could only do 3 knots, but to our surprise the full moon began to disappear and we witnessed a full eclipse of the moon, the second one we have witnessed on this voyage. We knew it was an eclipse when we saw a sickle moon with the sickle sideways on. In the southern hemisphere you only see the sickle underneath ,like a big smile. The moon was totally obscured for around one hour.
Thursday 9 October has been a lovely day. The nights are getting colder as we are going South. Those thermals have come out of storage and we use sleeping bags at night. We were greeted with a lovely blue sky and gentle Northerly winds taking us in the right direction. The day warms up pleasantly like an English summers day, and because the sea was calm I was able to do a few repair jobs on the boat, and bake some bread which turned out very well. Once you've been at sea for a while everything steadies down, you get into a relaxed routine and you stop worrying about when you are going to get there.Opua lies about 340 miles away almost due South as the crow flies but we are continuing to sail SE to get a better angle on the wind when it changes.
We may well pull into an anchorage in  bay of islands and wait for a flood tide to help us get up the channel to Opua as we will need to tack up it with no engine. Gulf Harbour Radio have kindly offered us extra time to discuss our local weather tomorrow.
Overnight on the morning of 10 October there was very little wind with the sails banging. We have moved on at about 3 knots. Overhead in the upper atmosphere the mares tail clouds are curved indicating changeable winds. I think we must be fairly close to the front. lnterestingly in the whole week we have been at sea we have not seen a single other vessel or light. It just shows that once you are out of the shipping lanes, you are truly alone and without an EPIRB you would stand no chance of being picked up.
We went through the front early in the morning with heavy rain and wind from all directions . At 7am we talked to Gulf Harbour Radio who told us the forecast had changed and that instead of South East winds ,we were going to get a SW gale as two new depressions had formed either side of the North Island. Going East with the retrospectoscope had been the wrong thing to do as Opua was now 200 miles away dead into the wind .We had a long struggle ahead to windward.We progressively reefed down to 3 reefs with a scrap of genoa. The wind got up to gusting 40 knots overnight and the boat was being tossed around. It wasn't possible to sleep off watch and there was so much leeway we could only go at 60 degrees to the wind. Everything on board was wet and cold, and corn beef hash was the most I could manage to cook. When the gunnel is under water and the bow sends over a huge drenching of water every third wave as you hit a breaker doing anything above or below decks is an enormous struggle.  Cup a soup comes into its own!
In the morning(Sunday12 Oct) the wind had moderated to 25 knots. We hove to for Col to cook breakfast, which improved morale(bacon and corn beef hash leftovers) and rigged the No 2 Jib on the inner forestay. This reduced our leeway by at least 10 degrees . Overnight we had almost gone backwards. By Sunday afternoon we had only made 20 miles in the last 24 hours and were still 190 miles NE of Opua. On deck as well as the usual storm petrels there was a beautiful huge albatross come to say Hello
With the No  2 rigged we were able to tack and lay a decent course just off the North Cape of New Zealand and gradually made progress. By 6 pm we were 160 miles North East of Opua. We had reported our late arrival and engineless state to Maritime radio on the SSB. They were very helpful and will pass the message on to customs who apparently get interested if you don't turn up when you said you would.
Monday 12 October can be summed up by the phrase, "what a difference a day makes"
At 7 am we had very poor copy on Gulf Harbour Radio and but got a relay of the weather from Harry on Melua in Vanu Atu. The forecast was Southerly winds being variable then calm. Not good as with no motor we might be adrift for some time. A boat called "Per Ardua" behind us said Saturdays storm was the worst conditions they had ever been in. We then dereefed the main ,only to create a large tear where the edge of the stack pack batton ripped through the sail ( with no motor it was impossible to get Kika right into the wind) spent about 2 hours taping the sail up which was difficult because there was still considerable swell from the previous days storms. Just a get you home repair really. We were getting our heads round being stuck out here for some time, however then things started to pick up .
Kika punched on at 4.5 knots on course for Opua under full sail, the sun came out and with the sea moderating I was able to dry some kit out.
I rumaged around in another box looking for sail tape and came across an unlabelled bag of what looked like water pump bearings that Nick Ager the previous owner had left.
So in the afternoon Colin and I got the water pump apart again. Although the bearing we wanted still wasn't there, these were a much better fit. After a bit of a struggle with the pulley wheel we fitted the new ones and packed the pump with grease. We fitted it back onto the engine and the result was a functioning pump with a slight drip underneath . It looks like it might just work for a couple of hours or so, enough to get us up the channel and into Opua- we hope!
The wind has also kept up for longer than we expected. At 1.30 am on Tuesday 13 October as I write this it has moderated to 8 knots and we are ghosting along at 2.5 knots and the good news is we are only 65 miles North West of Opua. The 65 thousand dollar question later today when the wind goes entirely will be whether to chance it and use the engine
Some wind kept up all night leaving us 45 miles off the bay of islands at 7am in the morning. An easy run you might think. With the wind variable and down to 4 knots we are making progress towards the bay of islands at a tantalisingly slow 1.5 knots. We can see the mountain off Cape Brett which looms ever so gradually nearer. At 2pm we are 26 miles out from the bay. We are resisting the temptation to motor it as we may need the water pump bearing to work if we are fighting the tide in the bay with no wind.
In the evening at 13 miles out of the bay, the sails were banging about and we were drifting. I was sorely tempted to go for it, but Colin wisely recomended waiting for the morning. At 1am on 14 October we started the engine with some trepidation as we were drifting backwards with the tide off Cape Brett. The pump leaked but the pulley wheel looked good and sounds OK. We have baled sea water out of the engine tray every 2 hours and kept going at 1400 revs which gives us just under 3 knots.
Sunset as we approach New Zealand after twelve days at sea.

Sunrise entering the bay of islands is beautiful. Its quite cold first thing at about 8 degrees and a low mist just shrouds one or two of the islands. A couple of bottle nosed dolphins have already said hello and welcome to New Zealand. Seabirds swoop all over the place including gannets with special red caps on their heads and we've seen the first other boats since leaving Fiji. The bay is a verdant green and we have a 360 degree panorama of rocky outcrops, partially wooded hills, rather like rather like Devon coombes and a few scattered dwellings ; as we head up the channel to Opua marina and the quarantine dock. We are very relieved to be here!
The approach to Opua Marina

We arrived on the quarantine dock at 9.30 am under engine and stepped onto the dock. Col and I shook hands. Kika has come a long way and looked after us. The customs and immigration people were very decent. We had to throw away some food, but that had been expected.

We showered, changed had lunch and took the water pump off to Mike in Power Marine, who thought we had done quite well with the sea repair. He made a beautiful job of reconditioning the whole pump, which is now working perfectly after we had reinstalled it.
Mike has our water pump in hand.

Opua yacht club is just down the road. Its full of friendly people, many of whom are from the UK originally. Its a great club , with regular racing, a German beer evening which we attended ethusiastically, and they do a very nice steak and chips.
We took a couple of days off to walk to Russell on the forest track. The tracks here are all beautifully marked, pointing out different trees and animals. In some ways everything is very familiar and then you come across beautiful flowering tropical plants and bushes and hear parrots and other tropical birds that remind you we are somewhere else. The more familiar herons, kingfishers and gannets have different plumage, but are the birds we would recognise at home.
A lovely Spring day. Easy going across the mangroves..

in this sub tropical climate...

with great views into the bay.

Russell is now a twee little tourist town, however in the 1830s and 40s it was the original capital of New Zealand, when the total European population of all New Zealand only numbered  some 2,000 souls. It was the R&R facility and sin city for whaling boats whose mainly American sailors came ashore for prostitutes and liquor. Disorder was so bad that the local Maori chiefs wrote to King George of England . He duly sent out a resident in the form of James Busby who set up house in Waitingi over the other side of the bay. It was a good opportunity to get in before the French who were showing definate interest and had even sent a frigate down.
Christ Church in Russell

James Busby got things together and invited all the Maori chiefs to a treaty signing at Waitingi in 1840. The English and Maori documents differed subtly on the question of sovereignty ,however the treaty contained important safeguards about land and control over Maori affairs by the chiefs as well as a guarantee of protection against other foreign powers ie the French.
The chiefs weren't stupid. They didn't like the French who had behaved badly. They were having a musket driven arms race with the Southern tribes and they fancied a bit of law and order especially to control those drunken European louts in Sodom and Gommorah( Russell) over the bay. They could also see that European technology and know how was worth having. So they signed up.
Of course, once settler numbers were up, perfidious Albion reneged on most of the treaty , the most significant betrayal was to confiscate large amounts of land from the Maoris. It was no wonder that the Northern Tribes rebelled in the 1890s and gave three regular British regiments of the line a good pasting before they were finally subdued. The Maoris countered artillery by digging a sophisticated system of fortified dug outs with zig zag trenches and subterranean tunnels, well before Trench warfare had been thought of.
A local Maori chappie
and his lady friend!


In the 1970s a big Maori protest movement sprang up, calling the Government of the day to honour the Treaty, especially as so many Maoris had fought bravely for the Commonwealth in two world wars. Today's settlement with the Maoris is based on the Treaty with a restoration of some land rights and a formal apology by the Queen. As a result the Maoris and pacific islanders form a dynamic part of New Zealand society, so different from the poor old Aborigines across the Tasman sea.
In Russell we visited the bible printing press, set up with enormous energy in the 1840s by bishop Pompallier of Lyon, France. He spoke excellent Maori and had a chart of his own genealogy and that of the catholic church that made sense to the Maoris, whose concept of ancestry and ancestral home is very strong. In 8 years using very old fashioned technology he produced 48,000 leather bound Catholic bibles in the Maori language an extraordinary achievement.
When disorder broke out and a Maori war party came into town, the good bishop and his brothers were left alone, printing out those bibles. The Maoris had declared the premises "tapu" (sacred untouchable ground). The brothers would have been unlikely to get any protection from James Busby across the water with a French flag flying over the premises. The bishop was next sent off down South by his Cardinal to tend to the thousands of Irish Catholics pouring into Auckland. He eventually went back to France in ill health and was buried in a paupers grave. His remains have only recently been returned to New Zealand where he is held in great regard
In the grounds of the Treaty estate we saw the most enormous Maori war canoe powered by 120 warriors. On the Queens visit it got up to 20 knots in speed and she asked if it could be named as Her Majesty's Ship( HMS). The locals agreed and are ready to paddle off any time there's any local bovver in the South Pacific.
A rather large canoe under cover- should have packed the wide angle lens!

On Monday 20th October , we cast off our moorings and anchored up in the bay of islands overnight, and then motored down on a calm day to another anchorage at Tutukaka bay where numerous dolphins frolicked around the boat. 
Dolphins at play

Our journey from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei took us out again to Cape Brett

The Cape Brett lighthouse

Wednesday saw us coming up the Whangarei River with the tide, past ship repair yards and all sorts of marine industry. We tied up at a lifting bridge. At 5 pm when rush hour had stopped we went through and were welcomed to Whangarei by the bridge controller. We were helped onto a berth by long term liveaboards at Riverside marina and were told that we were the first international cruising boat to arrive.

Lifting the bridge at Whangarei
Its great to be here. Everything you could want is to hand, and folk are very friendly. We are planning to haul the boat out here for antifouling and there are numerous skilled craftsmen at hand to help us out with some of the more technical jobs such as welding the boom and canvas repair. Our plans are for Bridget to come out in 2 weeks for a camper van holiday. Colin and me have bought one, cheap off the gum tree web site. Colin's daughter Jenny is coming out in December when Bridget and I go home at Christmas, so Bridget and I will hand over the camper van to Colin and Colin will also sail the boat to Tauronga Port where we've had a very reasonable quote for shipping Kika back to Holland on an onion ship. I will pick her up at the other end in time to see the tulips.
So dear readers this represents the end of our sailing journey. We will publish one further blog of reminiscences from friends and family who have come out for legs and made this trip such fun. One of fellow cruisers favourite topics of conversation are the disasters befalling other boats from sinking on reefs to having amputations as a result of flesh eating bacterial infections . My favouraite is a single hander on an American boat who got seriously ill two months ago.  He was taken off with a Mayday call and rushed to Hospital. Before leaving ,he set up the boat on a windvane with a tracker. 3 weeks later when he had recovered, he chartered a fishing boat, picked up his yacht in mid ocean and continued on his voyage.
So Colin and I are jolly pleased to have arrived here relatively unscathed . Kika has proved a safe comfortable passage maker. We have learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, become more practical and pragmatic people. However, when I asked Colin about this he said quite emphatically that he hadn't changed a jot ! Without doubt we  take home a fund of wonderful memories of the generous warm hearted people we have met and the places we have been privileged to visit. If you are considering a trip of this nature we can highly recommend it !

We sailed half way around the world, not a problem. The really amazing thing is that we are still good friends!
and a word from the bird!.....
Kika's voyage from Wales to New Zealand took 15 months.
The journey was logged with 3,691hours at sea
and with a total travelled distance of 15,312 nautical miles
and that is definitely not how the crow would do it!


  1. Well done boys!! What an adventure you've had. Look forward to hearing all the stories. Cat x

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Congratulations on your arrival in New Zealand. We have really enjoyed your blog - what an amazing adventure! Ian and Jackie, Yacht Rivalady

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