Vanuatu to New Zealand 2017

By Art on (with 4 comments)


Distance (nm)
Average (kts)

We may finally have a weather window that will allow us to make the passage from Vanuatu to New Zealand. At this time of the year, NZ has wild Spring weather with storm after storm coming in off the Tasman Sea (from the West). The storms are about 3-4 days apart so we have to time carefully to be able to do the passage and arrive in time to avoid running into the next storm coming into New Zealand a week from now.

At this point, the weather looks like we should be able to clear out of Vanuatu on Monday morning and begin the passage. I'll make another post before we leave (assuming the weather forecast stays as it is...) or another post telling you we decided to stay. Either way, tune in on Monday (Sunday to you in Europe/US).

Passage Position

Log Entries

by Art, Opua, Bay of Islands, NZ

While planning for this passage, Andrea and I expressed wishes to have a nice passage without having to deal with the events of our previous passages to/from New Zealand. For those not aware of this part of the world, this stretch of ocean, between the Tropics and New Zealand is notorious for catching sailors unprepared for the huge sea-state and big winds that can come barreling out of the Tasman Sea.

The distance from Vanuatu to New Zealand is about 1100 nm. By the time you tack and gybe your way down there, you can easily put on another 200 nm. Taking into account that no matter what the climate alarmists tell you about future weather events the reality is the forecasters cannot tell you anything with certainty more than three days out. So, forecasts for a passage like this one have a high degree of uncertainty starting on the fourth day and getting progressively worse as the days go on.

We do have the ability to get weather (GRIB files) at sea using our Fleet Broadband Sailor 250 unit however once you are half-way to NZ all it can do is confirm that you made a good choice in launching or make you wish you were somewhere else!

However, watching the weather for a number of weeks before we decided to launch allowed us to see a pattern in the storm systems that seemed to indicate that, at this time of the year (early Spring), the storms seemed to have about 3-4 days of decent weather in-between systems. When one particular window of opportunity came up that seemed to have 4-5 days in-between systems we decided to go knowing that both Feelin’ Good and crew could handle a few days in ‘challenging’ weather on the beginning of the passage and the end.

As it turned out, the decision was a sound one. We departed Vanuatu and used the 20 kt winds from the southeast to give us a nice wind angle toward the southern Loyalty islands of New Caledonia. Twenty-four hours later (240nm) we arrived in time for the wind to shift more to the east which gave us a nice wind angle to head south. As a side note, our New Caledonia SIM cards still worked so we were able to get good internet for about 6 hours or so and update our weather information!

We took advantage of the easterly wind as long as it held out but eventually had to do some motor sailing across the high that had built in behind the previous storm system. All this was as forecast so we were pleased it worked out so well.

This was a great opportunity for everyone to rest, relax and save up energy for the final push into NZ. We knew that eventually the next storm system would start approaching from the southwest, out of the Tasman Sea, and we’d need to be sharp to handle the higher seas and stronger winds that were coming. Embedded in this next system also was an intense cold front that was forecast to provide 40 kts winds and stronger gusts.

As the new low approached, the winds shifted to the north and we had a nice downwind sail in 25-30 kts and 2.5m seas. Clear skies ahead of the low gave us a brilliant sail for about 36 hours. Then the front came and brought about 4 hours of strong gusts and heavy rain before it passed and the winds started shifting to the northwest. We made a gybe and headed west for while before they shifted more the west and left us in our planned position to do a nice final downwind sail the rest of the way to the northern tip of NZ.

We arrived at 02:30 on a Sunday morning at the quarantine dock at Opua, Bay of Islands and cracked open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the spectacular passage.

The statistics for the passage were 1298nm sailed in 120 hours for an overall average speed almost 10 kts and a top speed at one point of 18.5 kts. Like I said, a really fast passage!

With great weather planning and leadership by Andrea along with expert helming by the rest of the crew we had a fantastic passage that proved once again what a magnificent yacht Feelin’ Good is. Out here in the wilds of the South Pacific she performs like a thoroughbred easily taking whatever Mother Nature sends her way.

Congratulations to everyone on making the final passage of our 2017 sailing season the best one ever!

by Tracy, about 15 hours from landfall

Fifteen hours, at the time of this writing, that's how much is left in this passage, and yes—we can't wait to get there. There’s the other part though, the reason we came this way, the reason we chose to sail, and seeing that part end always brings a bit of sadness. It's a test to come out here—to venture a twelve-hundred miles out to sea; not everybody is up for the challenge.

At this late stage everyone is exhausted—we’re all dreaming of standing still under a hot shower, and actually sitting down to eat. We all want this washing machine world we've been living in for the past week to stop constantly tossing everything around—especially us. Yes, these conditions bring us closer together, yes, we see the best and the worst of us on display, but the way you deal with it is what will ultimately define who you are.

On the open sea, this yacht becomes a crucible of the human spirit, the sea boils you down into the essence of yourself, and all of the stuff you thought you were turns to vapor, and then what is left looks you in the eye and says hello.

The storm front passed over us yesterday afternoon with heavy seas, winds near 40 knots, and a frigid, pounding rain. The helm was a challenge. During the night the clouds dissipated, the sky cleared and just before dawn a bright crescent moon rose with Venus to light the way. Strong winds returned with the rising sun, and now we are racing along on a beam reach. Seas are still heavy, but tapering somewhat from yesterday.

Lunch today will be a lovely pasta al forno that Tea made, and by Neptune’s graces, perhaps we will all share a pint at a pub on shore tonight, but if not then the bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge will have to do—we are feeling good!

by Tracy

I've just been told that we are currently crossing by “Three Kings Ridge”, an undersea mount that rises to within 300 meters of the surface; significant given that the ocean bottom is 3000 meters beneath us. We also happen to be just over 300 NM away from Opua, so if three is our lucky number today—we’re doing well.

A bold sunrise glittered off a churning sea, and at first light it was obvious that conditions had shifted considerably. Yesterday we were motoring across a flat, blue plain, the wind was in front of us, but not today. Big following waves rise off the stern, the wind is now at our backs, and on helm? It's a rodeo. It won't last though, so we’ll gybe and head West in order to get ahead of the next wind shift, the plan is to be in a good position to ride another downwind rush. The rain we expected has begun in earnest and will continue with us all night as a cold front passes over us.

Tea’s baked Quiche for lunch today, and tonight we have Asian stir fry beef. Our average speed has ticked back over 10 knots again, we have the third reef in the main and the full genoa out, but in 30knots of wind, we’re moving—we are feeling good!

Currently the mainsail is reef3 and the genoa is out. The sky is rainy, we have poor visibility and the sea state is moderate. Wind is 31.1 kts from 264°T, the air temperature is 17°C while the sea temperature is 20°C. Our SOG is 11.4 kts with our COG 118°T.

by Tracy, about half-way to NZ

A clear night brought us a blanket of stars above, phosphorescent sparkles bellow, but it was brisk out there—we’re definitely heading south. This morning’s briefly beautiful sunrise has now clouded over, and the resulting overcast is nearly complete. The guys have all switched from the lighter, grey Slam foul weather gear, to the much heavier, red Musto suits—Andrea is wearing his stocking cap. It's the midway point and the fatigue has set in. It’s quiet on board, and mostly—we all just want to get there.

Taisha wasn't feeling well the first couple of days, but now she’s on the Sturgeron (finally) and feeling much better. I haven't figured out why this is, but we’ve found it's quite common for new crew, or even guests, to stubbornly resist taking the meds—no amount of experienced advice on our part seems to convince them otherwise. Then they get sick, and mostly they just end up suffering horribly until the passage eventually ends. We have a large stock of medical supplies, with a variety of seasick meds to choose from, and they really do work.

There’s no shame in going to sea and feeling ill—it's perfectly normal! I've sailed nearly 40,000NM and I take a Sturgeron at the start of every passage, it's part of my routine; gets me going on the right foot, and later that day, when I’m down in the galley getting dinner going in heavy seas—I’m grateful that we live in an age with great meds that actually work! The other thing that happens is that once someone starts to not feel quite right, not only do they refuse medication (why do they do this??)—they won't eat either— a really bad thing to do!

When you're at sea—Eating Well Is Feeling Well. And if you're smart? You’ll take the advice of experienced crew and forget about adhering to that low-carb-gluten-free-vegan-vegetarian-regime and just EAT. That tutti-fruity fashion diet you're on won’t hold up out here. If you want to sail oceans, and not be a liability to your crewmates, then you need to eat what real sailors eat: Pasta Bolognese, Texas chili, lasagna al forno, baked quiche, mashed potatoes with sausages and onion gravy, bacon and cheese breakfast burrito— to name but a few faves—now we’re talking real passage food!

In between you’ll need real snacks to keep you going—hot toast with Nutella or peanut butter, cookies, chips (crisps if you're from the U.K.) pretzels, nachos with cheese and hot sauce—Bounty bars! Carbonated sodas help a lot—a good standby is ginger-beer, or plain old Coke. Drinking lots of water is essential but out here? Your body is begging for real energy—feed it!

Okay, off my soap box 😉… The sun has broken out again, the upper level cloud cover moved out fast, and by the angle of the boat, I can feel that we’re making good time—not much wind though. Seas have nearly gone flat calm, we have sails up, but the motor is running too; we’re currently averaging 9 knots. At this rate we’ll be sailing into Opua in about 60 hours, which is awesome. We still have that front closing in, but if we've timed it correctly, we’ll soon pick up a brisk tail wind and perhaps pick up a good ride to the finish line—nothing to do now but wait and see and just keep sailing—we are feeling good!

by Tracy, South of New Caledonia, direct course to NZ

Ah, that's better…Yes, as you can see we've finally turned south. In the past 42 hrs, we've sailed 406NM—not too shabby. We sailed past the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia yesterday—thought seriously about popping in and dropping anchor for a rest, but if we did, our weather window would close, so we’ve pressed on. Winds have fallen off to around 10knots so we’re now motor-sailing across rolling blue hills.

We’re still in a beat but it's a soft one. The waves coming at us head-on being low, and rounded, and gentle enough that we hardly get a splash when we top them. The sky is bright with sun, the sea the color of lapis. We've got the puff-chairs out on the aft deck, and for breakfast I made a ham and cheese omelet. Last night the moon was bright, and I looked out to see something massive, sparkling and twinkling like a socialite’s wedding cake—another cruise ship. Then flashes of silver shot through the glow of our navigation lights—flying fish! They streak past like bullets, one hit Ciccio in the shoulder at the helm.

We are crossing a great wilderness and doing our best to make the journey as comfortable as possible. So far there's been no drama, nothing worth complaining about— hoping to keep it that way, and to keep our speed up, and stay ahead of a closing front coming in from the Tasman Sea, but confidence is high, we are feeling good!

Our location is 24°15.744′S 167°46.247′E. Currently we are motoring the mainsail is full and the foresail is furled. The sky is clear, we have good visibility and the sea state is smooth. Wind is 4.3 kts from 119°T, the air temperature is 23°C while the sea temperature is 23°C. Our SOG is 8.1 kts with our COG 129°T.

by Tracy, On passage to New Caledonia

No wait…Yes, you may have noticed we are not quite heading in the direction of Kiwi Land, well folks, that's the wind for you. Good wind though—excellent sailing conditions have prevailed since we left Port Villa. In the past sixteen hours we've been averaging 10.2 knots, our maximum boat speed was 16.4 and we've already put 170nm past our keel, too bad it's in the wrong direction! No worries, soon we’ll tack and put it all right again. Our newest crew member ‘Taisha’ has been crackerjack on the helm, and considering that her sail training took place on a wooden tall ship, she’s been having a lot of fun in the FG fast lane, “I’m in love with how this boat feels on the helm,” yes indeed Taisha—we all are! Last night’s dinner was Art’s famous chili, for lunch today we have veggie curry with brown rice. We are still heeled hard and sailing fast. We departed in heavy rain with fog, but during the night the clouds parted and the moon appeared. Today 2.5 meter seas, and partly cloudy with bright sun—we are feeling good!

by Art, Departing Port Vila for New Zealand

The weather reports this morning show the 'window of opportunity' is still there however the final forecast data, for when we are close to NZ, is the most unreliable. Usually 3-4 ays of forecasts is pretty accurate, anything further out becomes less reliable. In this case, we have to go based on what we see and be prepared to deal with anything that comes up.

Our location is 17°44.310′S 168°18.561′E. Currently we are motoring the mainsail is down and the foresail is furled. The sky is cloudy, we have good visibility and the sea state is smooth. Wind is 4.5 kts from 61°T, the air temperature is 26°C while the sea temperature is 27°C. Our SOG is 6.0 kts with our COG 250°T.

by Art, Still in Port Vila

Just a quick update to let you know its' Sunday here and we are still monitoring the weather for departure tomorrow most likely mid-day. The weather window still looking pretty good with some wind/sea state to begin the first few days followed by several days of light winds/sea state and then getting more wind/sea state a day or so before arrival in NZ. Not too bad but things can and do change quickly in this part of the world so we'll take a final look tomorrow morning and make the final decision.

"We look forward to your comments on this Passage!"

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Comments so far

  • comment from Alberto Alberto on September 16, 2017

    Welcome in NZ Port Opua ! Fantastic crossing. Very good Feelin' Good!

  • comment from Sue Sue on September 13, 2017

    Love reading your journal I feel like I'm on the journey with you🤗 Hope it's smooth sailing ahead⛵️ Thanks for taking time to share

  • comment from Rudolf Berglehner Rudolf Berglehner on September 11, 2017

    Great to read you Art and Tracy and you are in a beautiful area now - one day more or less :-) I am getting much better now after the back bone surgery, it was a long way to go. When you are back in Switzerland - lunch or dinner !!!

  • comment from Cristina Van Roomen Corsi Cristina Van Roomen Corsi on September 11, 2017

    Ciao !!!! siete partiti ??? aspetto nuove notizie ..... continuate a tenerci informati , siamo curiosi ... un grande abbraccio e prestissimo!!cristina Gusty e timo