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The crossing between the islands and New Zealand can be a tricky one, especially the return trip south. This was our 5th time doing the passage from the islands to New Zealand and dare I say one of our best trips!
We left Fiji on the 13th of November after the usual weeklong checking of weather forecasts and running weather routing on PredictWind ;-) Since this is a trip of about 1100nm that takes anything from 6-10 days, weather forecasting is mostly accurate for the first half of the trip and becomes more tricky for the second half of the trip. Nonetheless we pay utmost attention to anything that the models predict could potentially form up to the west of NZ towards the end of the trip and turn into a nasty welcome into the southern latitudes! Along the way we keep in touch on the various SSB nets and download weatherfax to keep updated on the weather.
As customs opened, we completed our clearance, downloaded the latest forecasts and lifted the dinghy aboard ready to lash down and get going. We lifted the anchor and were sailing just 15 minutes later enjoying the last few miles of lagoon sailing before we ventured through the main pass and out into the ocean.
It‘s always fun leaving out the pass, especially as we were rocketing through at an impressive 11.4kts! The seas were a bit lumpy and we had a steady 20kts southeasterlies but as always we are impressed with how comfortable Camara is.
We started off with southeasterlies before we enjoyed ESE and easterlies for the next few days. Camara absolutely LOVED the conditions - flat seas and winds on the beam which bring the apparent wind to about 60 degrees which is her sweet spot. Much to our delight we kept sailing at 6kts in 6kts true wind speed during the light wind patches when everyone else was motoring, catamarans included! Needless to say, boat, captain and crew were delighted! Such easy and comfortable sailing!
We did have to motorsail during a patch of really light northerlies before we encountered wind again to sail in on. The joys of sailing in and between two highs. A period of southerlies and SSW saw us head west for a few hours just north of North Cape in preparation to catch the SW and W winds in towards the Bay of Islands.
The weather gods really were kind on us this trip. No bad weather and no issues of any other kind other than going too fast at times to keep the fish on our bungees :-) But we won’t complain, we did the trip in 7 days and sailed most of the way so we are happy even if we lost a few fish along the way! The tuna we did catch, about 8 or so are still keeping my freezer well stocked ;-)
Arriving in Opua was probably the scariest part of our trip! We opted to clear into Opua rather than Whangarei as we thought it would be easier for our boat to go on the dock there rather than at the smaller quarantine dock in Whangarei, especially with a multitude of boats en route to NZ. Wow - what a mistake!
Night time arrival is supposed to be no problem at Opua, however we arrived not only to find an entire mooring field without anchor lights on nor did the dock have any lights set up. Luckily we had our spotlight charged and ready! The biggest issue we faced was very limited manouvering space between the dock and the mooring field for a boat our size and with our draft.
We found that out very quickly when we made our approach to the dock on our starboard side when the force of the pushing tide grabbed our rudder and pushed the stern out. We both realised our dilemma and what was happening and while Peter worked his magic at the helm with absolutely no space to really manoeuvre, I had enough time to flick one of the fenders to the port side and grab the mooring line just in time to throw it over and make my exit jumping off the bow onto the dock to tie her up. All on the opposite side of where all our fenders and lines were set up and of course in the middle of the night...OMG what a mission!!
While we waited for customs and biosecurity to arrive the next morning we were treated to a couple of orcas in the bay - what a welcome! Formalities were completed quickly and after stocking up on a few essentials we were off to explore the Bay of Islands while waiting for some northerlies to push us down to Whangarei. But that’s a story and pictures for another blog post soon. Here are some pics of the trip: