After six months of enjoying all New Zealand has to offer (and it’s amazing how wonderful this country is!) we are more than ready to leave. Tracy wrote ￼￼an article about our experience here. New Zealand will always have a warm spot in our hearts as we met so many wonderful people here, so enjoyed touring around and seeing the specular scenery and loved the food, wine and cheese. Someday, we’ll be back for sure…
A special call-out to Duthie and the team at Asia-Pacific Superyachts. They have taken such good care of us and our needs while in New Zealand. If you are heading here, please contact them and let them help make your visit as effortless and they made ours. Thanks Duthie!
However this brief post is about us beginning our winter sailing season in the tropics of the Pacific. Specifically, starting with Fiji. It’s about 1100nm away from us and, for the past few weeks, has been inaccessible. The winter weather has arrived in New Zealand bring fierce cold fronts across the Tasman Sea one right after another. Only 6-12 hours in-between one low and another. We feel bit like the migratory birds who have waited a little too long to go south (or north as it is in our case being in the Southern Hemisphere). Our excuse is that we’ve been sorting out some last mechanical issues that cost us a couple extra weeks. Weeks that, unfortunately, have allowed the winter season to set in.
However, our patience will be paid off this coming weekend as we see a good weather window that will allow us to escape the evil clutches of winter (I always wanted to say that!) and flee north to the warm Fijian paradise. We are prepared, provisioned, stocked with spirits, wine and beer and have our swimming suits standing by for arrival in Fiji by this time next week. Between now and then will be a week of cold night watches and ‘full-on’ ocean sailing. Should be fun (not the cold part…)!
If the winds go as planned we will have a rather boisterous start to our passage with 4m+ seas and 20-25kts of wind for the first day or so. The forecast calls for this low to pass off to the east and a short period of reasonable weather to set in before the next low blasts into New Zealand. All we need is 48 hours to get 400-500nm north and we’ll be clear of the storms.
We have a new passage crew member, Bryce, who comes to us from Doyle Sails in Auckland. He’s an experienced coastal sailor looking to get some serious offshore experience and I think this trip will fit the bill for him (!). He’s been invaluable so far is running all over Auckland picking up parts we’ve ordered or have shipped in over the past few weeks. Tomorrow (Saturday) he arrives to integrate with us all and we’ll have one last crew dinner at The Duke of Marlborough here in Russell to get use all in the 'passage mood'!
So, come Sunday we clear out from Opua, Bay of Islands, and head north. Follow along on our first passage of the winter season in the Pacific and our second year along our world circumnavigation. Lot’s of fun ahead! We’ll have the YellowBrick tracker on so you can see what we’re up to. Fishing gear will be out and our resident ‘Samurai Fisherman’ (Andrea) will be working hard with me to get us a nice tuna or mahi mahi.
Yeah baby, we are heading north and Feelin’ Great!
We have arrived! What was projected to be a four and a half day passage stretched into a full week of grueling physical, mental and psychological tests for everyone on board. We lost two full days while we waited for wind and floated in near total stillness with a crippled engine out in the middle of the Pacific. For those of you who were watching the Yellowbrick GPS track and wondering why we suddenly slowed to three knots of boat speed, well, now you know why! Carmen kept everyone's spirits lifted with classic Neopolitan lasagna con pomodoro, formaggi e polpetini- molto buona!
We could smell the fragrance of the islands before they came into view. A coconut floated by and we took it as a welcoming sign- we were nearly there. Once the trade winds returned, we were cracking once again as crew on deck eagerly took turns on helm riding big seas at awesome speed. We still have no engine of course, so captain Giamma was forced to plan our approach through the coral pass leading into the Fijian islands under sail alone. Old school sailing folks, and Giamma sailed her like the master sailor that he is.
For the final eighteen hours of the passage, we had to slow FG down and rein her in so that we didn't arrive in the middle of the night. The guys reduced sail and forced her to putter along at six knots until dawn. A brilliant sunrise framed the islands as we approached. It just so happened there was a professional surfing contest taking place near the pass and everyone got an eye full of this beautiful Italian performance yacht navigating the narrow opening under sail. We had current against us coming in and very light winds. At one point we only had four and a half knots of apparent wind but due to the fantastic design of this yacht, we still made four and a half knots boat speed- thank you Bruce Farr!!
Once inside we still had several miles to go before we would be able to anchor, and of course, this is exactly the point where the winds died completely. So the guys launched the tender, tied on a tow line, and Giamma tugged us along for the next three hours. He donned his big straw hat and Bryce brought him a cold beer. Once we got close enough to the harbor, we had to anchor without the engine, a pretty neat trick, so Giamma sailed with only the Genoa as Andrea stood ready at the bow. He waited for just the right moment then Andrea dropped anchor, we tacked, allowed the wind to fill the Genoa in reverse and push us backwards to set the anchor.
We have finally arrived in Fiji safe and sound. Now we wait for the customs office to open so we can clear in. Next we wait for the mechanic to come out and tell us how bad the engine repair bill we be- mama mia... Word is, the mechanic may be on holiday, so we are not sure when this will happen, but we will keep this post updated. We are Feelin' Good!!
by Tracy, 'Becalmed in the South Pacific'
Becalmed...it started at four in the morning yesterday when the engine refused to run. A load of bad fuel from Opua, a sharp, stabbing parting gift from a country we had come to love and now feel has betrayed us...ok perhaps I sound a bit dramatic, but when you suddenly find yourself floating in the middle of the Pacific with no wind and no motor, believe me, you do feel betrayed.
So now we all have time to sit and think about our predicament. Mostly we are reminded of our true place in the world: tiny. We are reminded of what really matters: caring for the people you love. And we are reminded of how small our current world actually is: eighty-two feet. Planet Feeln' Good has a population of six and we have lots of time try to find new ways to be kind to each other.
Our dear Carmensita has just pulled freshly baked Sfogliatella from the oven. Bryce eagerly looks on as she dusts the Neapolitan pastries with powdered sugar. So now I sit comfortably in the saloon, coffee in one hand and delightful yummyness in the other. Not a bad way to start an otherwise bad day. This is my point: Carmen, armed only with her wonderful heart and her oven has just turned planet Feelin' Good into a very happy place to be, and alternatively, she has managed to create an authentic Neapolitan pasticceria and coffee bar in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a pretty amazing feat.
Our fabulous Italian carbon fiber cruiser/racer drifts along at a staggering three knots while we wait for wind. I write this knowing that it can't be posted until after we reach Fiji. We lost our internet connection as well as our diesel engine. Giamma and Andrea worked tirelessly- exhaustively- to get the engine going again- they did everything possible- they also worked nonstop for the better part of a day. The good news is that we have the generator working, so we have power, refrigeration, and an oven to bake wonderful Sfogliatella.
Ingenuity to the rescue. We have a full load of diesel that was pumped from commercial tanks contaminated with water. What we also happen to have are spare fuel bladders strapped to the deck and filled with diesel that was purchased at another location, a good clean load of diesel from Russell. So Art and Giamma had their task set in front of them- get the bad fuel out of the day-tank and replace it with the good fuel. The mission required hard thinking and hard work but they got it done. We wait for wind and in the meantime, we enjoy Sfogliatella and coffee and each other's company- we are Feelin' Good!
by Tracy, 'Halfway to Fiji in the South Pacific'
Still bouncy though gradually getting better, winds currently twenty-five gusting to thirty and skies mostly clear. Last night's pasta al forno was a huge hit with the crew, especially given the fact that hardly anyone felt well enough to eat the night before. The first twenty-four hours turned a fresh crew into a seven day old crew overnight. During the night, the sky finally cleared revealing stars from horizon to horizon and even twinkling phosphorescent ones whipped by in our wake. Today the sea is deep blue for the first time, we've left the dark grey-green New Zealand sea behind, we've left winter behind, we are halfway to tropical paradise.
Squalls come and go. They appear on the far horizon then brush up on top of us in rapid succession. Winches woke me around five thirty. I hear the rain rush over the deck and the guys going to work: first the traveler to ease the main, then to change from the Genoa to the gib. The winds come up fast, we pick up speed, waves wash over the bow and the rig sings then howls then settles back down again. Today there is a lingering hum in the rigging, winds are strong, seas are still big though not like yesterday, my god it was rough! Today the watch schedule is "rain roulette" nobody knows who will get a squall. The crew just coming off watch is happy to be dry just as the crew going on deck get wet right from the start.
Bryce is enjoying the helm, he is in love with the Italian lady..he he..she always likes to seduce the new guy. We are still on third reef and gib and still doing ten knots, not bad. Happy birthday Simone! Yes, all of the crew here know it's your birthday- aguri! Bryce called his sweetheart by satellite phone to wish her well. Today's lunch is Spanish Tortilla and salad, tonight we are having vegetable lasagna. We are sailing hard in big seas on high spirits, we are feelin' good!!!
Currently the mainsail is reef 3 and the staysail is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is rough. Wind is 18.2 kts from 204°T, the air temperature is 22°C while the sea temperature is 22°C. Our SOG is 8.4 kts with our COG 330°T.
by Tracy, 'South Pacific, heading north'
Third reef and a storm gib, winds over forty knots, do I need to say more? The battle started not long after we lost sight of land and continued through the night. Everyone fighting back fatigue and seasickness but nobody gave in. All crew are safe and well, the boat is safe and well; she is a champion in these conditions. It was bloody tough on deck. Winds increased sharply so the guys were out in this wet, crappy cold pulling down another reef and then again. I don't think Giamma, or anyone, actually slept at all last night. This morning finds us still inside a nasty sea state: ragged, rough, crossed seas hit from all sides. The good news is skies are clear and we were greeted with a lovely rainbow this morning. So as I sit here in the saloon and watch towering waves swirl past at coach-roof height and I am indeed encouraged that it will slowly get better the farther we get from New Zealand and the closer we get to glorious Fiji. I have seen my savior and its name is Stugeron. We are Feelin' Good!!!
by Art, 'Wild South Pacific, night'
The New Zealand 'Laundry Machine'. The describes the conditions we're in on our first night on passage to Fiji. This area of the world has a reputation for bad weather and it's giving it all to us tonight! 5m seas crossed with current and gusting over 40kts. Squalls all around so rain and no stars or moon to use for guidance. Oh, and it's our first night passage since last November so we're all a little rusty. We started out from Opua expecting bad weather and had the 2nd reef in with the staysail. By 21:00 we had to put the 3rd reef in as the helm was too hard to control. Andrea and Bryce worked for 20 minutes in these conditions to get the reef and and finally we got back a steerable yacht. The sea state continued to rise and so did the winds but with the 3rd reef and staysail FG handled herself well. IN three years, these are the worst conditions we're had to seal in and we'll be glad to get further north and away from this part of the South Pacific!
Currently the mainsail is reef 3 and the staysail is out. The sky is thunderstorm, we have ok visibility and the sea state is very rough. Wind is 42.0 kts from 254°T, the air temperature is 13°C while the sea temperature is 17°C. Our SOG is 10.1 kts with our COG 354°T.
by Art, 'Russell, NZ'
Tomorrow we resume our world circumnavigation. We'll be departing from Russell, NZ where we first arrived in November 2015 and all of us are looking forward to getting back into swimsuits and bare feet again. Fiji is calling and we will soon be on our way!