Tonga to New Zealand 2015

By Art on (with 2 comments)


Distance (nm)
Average (kts)

After almost two months in Tonga exploring the archipelagos of Vava'u, Ha'apai, Nomuku and finally Tongatapu we are ready to begin our passage to Port Opura, New Zealand. It'll be about 1100 nm depending on if we stop at Minerva Reef or not. The weather will be the guide here as this passage has a reputation among sailors as being a tough one weather-wise. In anticipation of this we have secured the services of Bob McDavitt (aka Meteo Bob, famed retired meteorologist from New Zealand to provide us with his specialized knowledge of the weather in this area.

Minerva Reef North as seen from Google Earth We also are taking along another crew member, Mink, a nice Dutch fellow we first met in Antigua and have been seeing on various boats all across the Pacific. He's been excited to get on-board Feelin' Good and sail with us for some time now so we are pleased to be able to have him join us! We are also doing this passage as part of the All Points Rally, the seventh edition of this rally which starts at various locations around the Pacific and culminates are Port Opura for a week of fun and festivities. They also provide a consolidated solution for easily handling NZ immigration, customs and quarantine once we arrive in Port Opua. A number of nice people from these offices also came up to Vava'u last month to give talks on how to make the NZ entry painless.

We are all looking forward to getting some amenities that have been lacking a bit in our travels. First-class supermarkets, fresh produce, meats, etc. along with the lovely wines of New Zealand are in our dreams these nights. Oh, and internet speeds faster than 50kb would be wonderful too!

Anyway, follow along on the passage as I'll be updating on-board activities once we are underway and be sure to take a look at the overview map at the end of this article for the weather we are experiencing as well as where we are on the passage. Our tracker will post our position every four hours until we arrive.

Passage Position

Log Entries

by Art, Port Opua - New Zealand

Of course the last 80 miles had to be some of the worst. Pounding through the swells, 20 kts of wind right on the bow and a very tired crew (not to mention it was 02:00!). However, once we spotted the coast of New Zealand all that tiredness washed away and we became rejuvenated and excited to be so close to the completion of this passage.

Once we pulled up to the quarantine dock and completed the (very easy!) clearance into New Zealand we found a nice anchorage close to the village of Russell where we all took a welcome sleep until dinner time. It's so good to be here and enjoy the wonderful hospitality of New Zealand. More adventures ahead for all of us on Feelin' Good!

by Tracy, What a difference a day makes

What a difference a day can make. From massive rollers forming a formidable frontal assault, waves crashing over the bow, deck crew in full storm gear, and the most basic of meals eaten huddled on the galley floor during the nightly squalls, we now have a complete reversal. The sea outside is glassy flat, no wind, as in zero, but onboard the atmosphere is quite festive. The sound track from Le Fabuleux d Amelie Polain is playing on the sound system. Carmen has just pulled a large chocolate caramel cake from the oven, the smell is intoxicating as the crew all gather around. Giamma is the first to cut into its rich yumminess, and soon a good portion has disappeared. Under the clear sky and bright sun, T-shirts and bare feet have returned to the deck, but most important, so have the smiles.

The fishing poles have come out. Art and Mink went to work rigging them up this morning. Ivan has made sure we are fully prepared for success however. Retrieving a coin from his cabin, he had Mink make the "payment" to Neptune in order to assure a good catch. So we wait and see. More smells from the galley, but these are lunch or perhaps dinner it's hard to say. Carmen is in full chef mode now, she started this morning making a Russian salad, fresh bread, then the cake, and now something with onions, peas, and wild rice. With luck maybe it will go with the fish? Hmmm, we shall see…

Ah so its lasagna tonight, no fish, although the guys did have one hooked on for a bit. Perhaps Neptune is also aware of the decline in value of global fiat currencies...As for our lack of fish, nobody is disappointed, Carmen is pulling homemade lasagna out of the oven as I write. Lasagna's gone. Wow, that was quick! Dishes are done too, my goodness dinner was a flurry and then it was just a memory. I think Mink ate half and we all shared the rest, Pitiou! You have a serious challenger for largest appetite onboard! :-)))

One more day and we reach New Zealand. The calm flat seas of the day have turned back into a bumpy beat as night falls. Temperature has dropped, the clouds have returned, Giamma's low looms. Two more nights at sea, then we arrive midmorning on Thursday, everyone is counting the hours, watching the miles, judging the affect of the current, and trimming, trimming, trimming to gain best possible speed. Tonight is looking like more squalls, the storm gear is ready, it's already cold and damp out there.

A grey cold sky greets us as we wake to another day, the last full day of the passage. For breakfast I made pancakes for everyone. Carmen is busy using up the last of the fresh vegetables for a baked cheese gratin; yes, it's that sort of weather. Last night was indeed wet and cold. For the final push we are expecting conditions to worsen. We will arrive tomorrow morning a bit earlier now that we gained some speed. The winds picked up yesterday which helped. We're at that point in a passage, a period of fatigued optimism just before arrival. Everyone is tired, everyone is trying not to be crabby, hating the watch schedule, fed up with the lack of sleep, but then Carmen pulls something wonderful out of the oven and the whole mood changes. Her kitchen makes us all happy, brings us back to ourselves, we are cheerful again, we are Feeln' Good :--)

Our location is 32°49.362′S 175°59.571′E. Currently we are motoring the mainsail is reef2 and the foresail is furled. The sky is overcast, we have good visibility and the sea state is slight. Wind is 5.2 kts from 194°T, the air temperature is 22°C while the sea temperature is 21°C. Our SOG is 8.0 kts with our COG 211°T.

by Tracy, Puppies are so much fun

It's quiet for once..the sea that is..motor's running, droning on and on. We all miss the real sailing, but we don't miss the nasty seas that went with it. I'm sitting out on the aft deck, it's just after five when Giamma looks down at the plotter. The 180th meridian is passing, we are official, we have now gone so far west that we are now heading east- yes, half way around the world.

Giamma picks up a glossy guidebook for the Bay of Islands, and Opua, "You see this?" He is pointing at the pristine cover photo showing a lovely sailing yacht anchored In an even more lovely bay, "We want to be here", he points at the boat itself. "This is where we want to be. But first we must come through this shit up here." He points at the dark sea beyond the lovely bay. "So we go up a bit, we tack, we get around this shit low, and then we can be here."

We have until Thursday to get around the "shit low". Until then, we sail our balls off. Or in this case, motor, but the wind is building back in the further south we go. We have the main at the second reef, and the staysail out, but the motor is still running to get us over the beat. The waves coming at us head-on want to steal our speed and rob us of all forward momentum. So the motor is the push, to get us over the waves so we can keep moving forward.

Earlier we received a radio call from sailing yacht Athos. The massive spirit of tradition super yacht had passed us by, yes, it does happen. Anyhoo...Athos lost us on AIS and was just checking in- very kind indeed. Of course we're all good, we're Feelin' Good! Carmen just arrived with a steaming basket of cheese balls right from the oven. Very nice to have with apertivi. As we crossed the 180th meridian, I happened to have a glass of wine in my hand, so Giamma gave some to Neptune, and a bit to himself, then the cheese balls. Not a bad evening actually. so later I pull out the good rum, an eighteen year old fine spirit, and we have a small toast. Giamma and I being the only ones on board who have been on board since we left Spain. Half way around the world, yeah man, pretty cool.

Mink springs out on deck. Yes Mink is a person, our fresh young crewmen actually. So he springs out onto the aft deck as puppies do, leaping about, then he climbs the back stay- about halfway up actually, he's quite frisky. Then he proceeds to do a set of push-ups, then pop some cheese balls. Giamma looks on, he is in full Moitessier mode: French styled stocking cap, sweater, water-proof coveralls, and boots. His grizzled beard showing a bit of grey. He watches Mink bounce around the aft deck, his thumbs hooked into his suspenders, and like me, we ponder for a moment what it was like to have that much spare energy. Ah well, a bit more rum then, and a few more cheese balls. Carmen has home made pesto tonight: a passage favorite. So we will sail-motor-sail until we reach Opua, New Zealand, and Giamma's glossy photo will be real, and we will have snuck past the shit low, and then we will pop the Procecco, we are Feelin' Good.

Our location is 30°12.080′S 177°53.068′E. Currently we are motoring the mainsail is reef2 and the genoa is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is smooth. Wind is 0.0 kts from 5°T, the air temperature is 23°C while the sea temperature is 22°C. Our SOG is 8.4 kts with our COG 204°T.

by Art, Halfway from Tonga to Opua

It's rough here behind the low, the winds are not that bad (highest we've seen was 26 kts) but the sea state is big at 3.5m and the occasional 'really big one'. During the day you can see them coming and anticipate to smooth the ride out but at night, it takes a really skilled helmsman to sense when they're arriving and react in time. So we end up bashing and crashing a bit which takes away our forward speed. I think this is one of the slowest passages we've had to make in the last two years and certainly one of a handful that we've had to beat against the wind. But, we are making progress and have reached the half-way point to Opua. We expect to arrive there on Thursday afternoon our time (Wednesday afternoon for those of you in the USA and Europe).

Our location is 28°00.447′S 179°35.768′W. Currently we are motoring the mainsail is reef2 and the foresail is furled. The sky is overcast, we have good visibility and the sea state is moderate. Wind is 11.0 kts from 193°T, the air temperature is 24°C while the sea temperature is 23°C. Our SOG is 7.1 kts with our COG 236°T.

by Tracy, "The beating will continue until we reach New Zealand"

The beating will continue until we reach New Zealand...unfortunately. Yes, this passage is living up to its reputation. I'm currently, at this moment, attempting to write. Waves crash over the bow, nobody dares go forward, we are reefed, our sails stay as they are. I'm sitting at the back of the boat and yet the vibrations reverberating through the hull shake my iPad nearly out of my hands. The carbon rig is howling, the mast making that familiar Zing! As the bow plunges down into heavy seas with its rhythmic Boom!

Upwind in heavy seas, what many sailors dread, yet these guys are grinning as they take the helm. Art and Ivan are out there now, each watching the clock to be sure the other doesn't cut into their time. While Mink, the new guy, is clearly relishing the experience when his turn arrives.

As rough as it is, I can't imagine what it would be like to be stuffed in the bow, I don't see how anyone could function frankly. Even for us, with our galley and crew cabins in the stern, even for us it's tough. Just brushing my teeth this morning was a serious challenge, sitting on the toilet, leaning over the sink, while trying to hold on. Forget the shower! Sorry Carmen, but there will be no shower today, if I stink so be it, better than a broken bone.

Ha ha! We are making good time though! She's quick, and we have skipped past Minerva Reef, no stopovers for us. We sailed due west until we cleared the vicious low, we have since turned south, our heading on a perfect course for Opua. Carmen has steak and tomato sauce thawing from the freezer, last night it was pasta al forno. We are New Zealand bound! We are Feelin' Good!

Our location is 25°27.665′S 178°06.650′W. Currently the mainsail is reef2 and the genoa is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is rough. Wind is 20.0 kts from 235°T, the air temperature is 24°C while the sea temperature is 24°C. Our SOG is 10.1 kts with our COG 208°T.

by Art, 250 nm southwest of Tonga

We had a nice start yesterday from Nuku'alofa as the winds allowed us to take our planned route toward the west. They were coming from 320T at about 16 kts and we had a nice sail for most of the day. Overnight the winds started to swing more to the west and, in order to keep a decent angle on the wind, we had to sail more south. Finally early this morning we pulled in the genoa and started the engine so we could maintain a better heading to the west. This afternoon the wind forecast proved correct again as the winds moved more toward a southerly direction allowing us to put the sails back up and (hopefully) sail overnight. At some point the winds are forecast to die off as a huge high will move in from the west pushing this low to the south-east. From then on, we'll have to motor the rest of the way to Opua. Everyone is is good spirits and getting a nice break in-between watches. Adding in Carmen's fantastic food for the passage we'll arrive in Opua rested and ready to take on the challenges of the All Points Rally Sail Week festivities. Woo hoo! More parties!

Our location is 22°35.423′S 177°48.615′W. Currently the mainsail is reef2 and the genoa is out. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is moderate. Wind is 16.4 kts from 223°T, the air temperature is 25°C while the sea temperature is 25°C. Our SOG is 8.2 kts with our COG 205°T.

by Art, Nuku'alofa, Tonga

OK, we'll be departing this afternoon and expect to make a fairly fast passage to NZ as we will be riding the backside of a low that is in between us now. We expect it to move off to the southeast as we go south and hope to arrive in NZ before the next big low arrives on Thursday. We have plenty of time so I think it will all work out well. So, follow along as we take this last big passage of our Pacific season!

by Art, Nuku'alofa, Tonga - Big Mama's Bar (where else??)

OK, we've been watching the weather and several lows have developed across the path to New Zealand from here. We don't want to wait until they have all passed and a high builds in as then the winds would drop off to nothing and we'd have to motor the entire distance. On the other hand, we have squally conditions (thunderstorms, gusting winds, lightening, etc.) on the back side of the low that we are not keen to enter either so... we will wait a bit more before we depart.

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Comments so far

  • comment from Vickie Vickie on November 10, 2015

    Glad to hear the worst of the rodeo is over and you near the end of the passage. Followed updates from Arizona and now in Seattle.

  • comment from Alberto&Patrizia Alberto&Patrizia on November 6, 2015

    Have a good passage! We follow you as usual. Hugs to you both and crew.!