Passage to Tonga: Departure

At noon the wind lightened a bit. So we raised the Storm Trysail

The trip from Whangarei downriver to Marsden Cove was uneventful. We had a great send off Thursday at Riverside Drive Marina what with a gang of fellow yachties helping Velic off the dock. As we approached Bream Bay, Ruth commented that it is so similar to Astoria Bay in topography: A wide estuarine river flowing between rugged mountains, with a winding channel flanked by sandbars. Following the channel markers is essential. Nosing our way into Marsden Cove reminded us of entering Ilwaco or Warrenton, a narrow cut in the sand banks that ends by threading through two stone jetties leads into the marina. But in this case it’s all brand new and flash. The marina is surrounded by new houses and buildable lots, many with private piers ready for your custom dream home and yacht. Even the vacant lots have mown grass.

Marsden Cove was full of cruisers waiting for the right weather window to clear out of NZ and head north, scattering now amongst French Polynesia to the east, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Indonesia, and Australia to the west. It had been wet and blustery as a low pressure system passed over NZ. Just what I wanted: To depart on the back side of a low, bringing SW winds to blow us NE towards Tonga.

The voyage began by setting sail in Bream Bay and heading out between the two groups of Hen and Chicken islands. It was fairly windy so we started with the yankee (80% jib) and a deep reefed main. That worked well for a few hours, but the wind built as we left the lee of North Island behind. At 6:30 pm we dropped the main altogether, running under the yankee alone. That worked well until noon Saturday, when the wind and seas were up into a near gale. We then dropped the yankee and set the staysail, running under the staysail alone overnight. Then today, the wind lightened up a bit and backed to the SSW. The boat was wallowing in the seas from the prior two days of heavy winds that were still blowing. Needing to make a more easterly course meant broad reaching, not running. We needed more sail area aft. So, with the wind easing a bit but still blowing a fresh gale, we set the storm trysail. The two sails balanced the sail plan for reaching, allowing the windvane to keep steering and Velic moving, right along on the desired NE track.

It’s cold at 34°S latitude. We’re bundled up in fleece and looking forward to the turn north into the tropics in a few days. The route plan covers 1,300 nautical miles, or about 11 days if all goes well. We made 138 nm in the first 24 hours, and 130 nm in the second. So far, so good. But there is a long way to go yet and the wind may go light, or cause us to hunker down more. We hope to arrive in the first week of June.

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2 thoughts on “Passage to Tonga: Departure

  1. Yee haa!. Sounds like great passage making; a good way to get clear of NZ at this time of year. Looks like you may be in some light easterlies at the moment, so possibly some close-hauled to be done. Best wishes. Ian

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  2. Glad to hear you are off. I was surprised to receive this update as I thought I would not hear until Tonga. Love, Mom

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