Every passage is different, even ones that you’ve made before. We’ve just completed our third passage south from the tropics to New Zealand. During this passage we motored more hours than we’ve ever done before, a choice driven by the conditions – very light to nonexistent wind from the south as well as several days pushing through a north-setting current* – and the need to make port before a forecast of strong south winds. But it wasn’t all frustration: We had some great sailing, too.
Rand was running fuel consumption calculations daily to ensure that we had enough to get in. We arrived with 8.3 cm of fuel in the tank, or about 15 hours of motoring available. Closer to the bottom of the tank than we have ever been. By way of comparison, we used about that much fuel in 2010 on the thee month voyage to Hawaii from Astoria, around the islands, and back to Astoria.
Last year, we made this trip a month earlier, arriving on November 6. Some of the differences in wind and current conditions between the two passages may be due to seasonal variation. Or simply to the unusual regional weather pattern in the SW Pacific that has been happening over the past several weeks, having nothing to do with the changing season. We speculate, but don’t have enough data to hazard a guess.
In any case, we arrived in good shape on Thursday evening, December 6. We had some of our most boisterous sailing while rounding Cape Wikiwiki and into the Bay of Islands in the late afternoon. Strong headwinds and heavy chop at the cape and in the outer bay made it most efficient to hand-steer the last 10 miles under motor, with only the double-reefed mainsail up. Halfway up the bay, protected by the surrounding hills, the conditions began to moderate and by the time we glided up to Q dock the water was glass-smooth and the wind a mere vesper. We were happy to be able to dock at 9:40 pm while there was still some light left in the sky. A small celebratory whiskey to mark our arrival was followed by a quiet, uninterrupted night’s sleep – the first in nine days.
Some statistics for this passage –
Passage duration: 9 days, 9 hours, 15 minutes
Time under motor: 114 hours, 30 minutes (51% of passage)
Time under sail: 110 hours, 40 minutes (49% of passage)
Fuel used: 242 liters or 64 gallons
Sail changes: 44 (includes tucking in & shaking out reefs)
Average time between sail changes: 5 hours
Unauthorized passengers: 1 gannet that circled overhead one evening, scouting for a perch before landing on the crane; it stayed 3 hours, leaving its calling cards on deck, and then disappeared.
*As a result of our experience with currents on this trip, Rand is now obsessing about understanding ocean currents and their computer models available to sailors, such as OSCAR.