Voyage 13

Tonga to New Zealand
November 10-18, 2017

Day 1 – Friday, November 10, 2017

tonga-newzealandtnI’ve had an enjoyable stay at Nuku’alofa, but it’s time to move on.  There is a storm system that is north of New Zealand, which is forecast to move southeast, putting it to the east of New Zealand in about 5 days.  The winds are forecast to turn from the south in a few days, then they should return to the normal easterly trade winds.

I decided, since I was packed and ready to go, that I would head out for New Zealand this afternoon.  I will be heading, initially, for the Kermadec Islands, and then sail southwest to Aukland.  I expect this voyage to take a little over a week.  The total distance to travel is a little over 1,100 nm.

At 11:45 AM, I raised anchor, set the sails, and sailed north away from Nuku’alofa.  It was 77º F, partly cloudy, with wind out of the northeast at about 10 knots.  The winds were perfect for my departure.

In about an hour and a half, I was clear of the reef on the northwest side of Tongatapu and I was sailing down the west coast.  My first waypoint is ‘Ata Island, about 85 nm southwest of Tongatapu.

As I got to be south of Tongatapu, it was clear that I did not have a great wind angle for sailing in the direction I wanted to go.  The wind was coming from almost dead astern.  With the wind speed at less than 10 knots, my boat speed was only about 4-1/2 knots.  It was kind of slow going.  I tried tacking to port and starboard, checking to see if other angles gave me a better speed to ‘Ata.  I ended up returning to a course that had me aimed directly at ‘Ata.  As of 6:25 PM, I had 12-14 hours before reaching ‘Ata.  It will be a peaceful night at sea tonight because the light winds are giving me calm seas.

11/10/2017 0525 UTC – 21º 25.86′ S 175º 29.07′ W

Day 2 – Saturday, November 11, 2017

I was awake at a little before 5:00 AM.  I don’t know whether it was the calm night or the new cat toy I picked up in Tonga, but the cats slept all night for once in I don’t know how long.  When I got to the helm, I found that last night continued to be a slow sail.  I still had 15 nm to go before reaching ‘Ata and it should take me a little under 3 hours.  At least I should be able to see this small island because the sun should be up by the time I arrive.  I’m not out of the tropics yet.  It was 76ºF this morning.

11/10/2017 1602 UTC – 22º 9.54′ S 176º 1.6′ W

At about 7:15 AM, I arrived at ‘Ata.  It looked like a rock sitting on the ocean.  As far as I can tell, there’s no one on the island.  This island is definitely out in the middle of nowhere.  I passed about 1/2 nm off the east coast of ‘Ata, then turned more south, headed for Raoul Island.  It is the first island I will arrive at in the Kermadec Islands.  The GPS reports it is 425 nm to Raoul, which will be about 3 days of sailing.  I should arrive there on Tuesday.

The wind has increased to about 15 knots and the sky is overcast now.  I think I’m starting to feel some effects from the storm that is north of New Zealand.  I checked the wind forecast this morning and it looks like the winds will be increasing today, but should stay mostly out of the north.  Time to get another cup of tea and enjoy a book.

At 5:30 PM, the wind speed had increased to about 18 knots and the ocean swells were getting taller.  I expected that tonight would not be as smooth as last night was.  The wind forecast showed that the winds would continue to blow out of the north for another 6 hours or so, then the would turn from the west and decrease in strength.  Sometime around 24 hours from now, I will likely be facing a head wind for a while.  At that point, I’ll need to decide whether going east or west is best.  For now, my boat speed is about 7.5 knots on a dead run.  I’m making good time, for now.

11/11/2017 0515 UTC – 23º 34.4′ S 176º 29′ W

At 6:45 PM, the sun was still above the horizon.  I mixed a cocktail, while I set the helm to stay on my course for the night.  I imagine I will be up once or twice during the night to check on the wind direction.  The wind isn’t forecast to come around 180º for about a day, but that could easily change overnight.  Once the sun had set, I headed below for the night.

Day 3 – Sunday, November 12, 2017

I was awake at about 4:15 AM.  As was forecast, the wind was now coming from the east-southeast and had decreased to 8-10 knots.  I turned the helm to almost directly south to get more wind angel on the sails.  I was sailing a close reach on the starboard side.  My speed was still a respectable 6.5-7 knots.  I checked the forecast again and it shows this wind will continue for about 24 hours.  That means the storm to the south of me is moving slower than was predicted yesterday.  Depending on how the wind goes, I may have to miss Raoul Island if the wind doesn’t shift to the south by tomorrow afternoon.

I didn’t have to wait long for the wind to shift.  By about 7:30 AM, the wind had shifted to the south-southwest.  The wind speed decreased a bit more and the sea turned calm.  My choices were to sail east or west until the wind direction changed.  I chose to sail east because the forecast suggested, once the trade winds returned, I would be in a better position being a bit farther east than west.

For the rest of the day, I set the helm to follow a sailing angle of about 45º on a close reach.  The wind direction changed sooner than the forecast had suggested.  The best I could do was to rely on the new forecast to put me in the best area to catch favorable winds.

As it got to be afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t recorded my morning position report.  One report today would have to do.

11/12/2017 0646 UTC – 25º 40.07′ S 176º 29.26′ W

Once the sun had set, I set the auto-pilot to continue following a close reach starboard tack.  The wind forecast was for these winds to continue into tomorrow.

Day 4 – Monday, November 13, 2017

I was awake at about 5:00 AM.  When I checked the helm, I found that the wind had shifted more to the south-southeast, which was sooner than was forecast.  I didn’t want to get too far off course to the east, so I made a turn to a close reach port tack.  I was still not on course, but I was pretty sure that would change over the next 24 hours.

11/12/2017 1807 UTC – 26º 33.77′ S 176º 30.85′ W

I’m clearly leaving the influence of the tropics.  It’s time to break out my jacket.  This morning, it was 69ºF.

At about 11:15 AM, I checked the wind forecast again.  The shift to a more southeasterly wind is still 6-8 hours away.  I was concerned that, on the port tack, I would end up too far west to be able to pass Raoul Island.  I decided to swing around to the starboard tack for a few hours to keep me closer to my desired course track.  Basically, I’m just killing time for the next 24 hours because the wind angle is not favorable for me to make any good progress toward New Zealand.

At 1:40 PM, I was close to my course track and I steered back to the port tack.  The GPS reports that I am 150 nm from Raoul Island.  Normally, on a direct course, I would be there in less than 24 hours.  However, I’m still having to tack because the wind is basically coming directly from Raoul Island.

11/13/2017 0525 UTC – 27º 15.73′ S 177º 14.77′ W

At about 6:30 PM, the wind was still mostly out of the south.  I left the helm set to follow the wind on the port tack.  I figured I’d check it sometime during the night, hoping for a shift in wind direction.

Day 5 – Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I awoke at about 2:30 AM to find that the wind had indeed shifted to the southeast.  I was pointed almost directly toward Raoul Island.  I switched the auto-pilot to follow the course instead of the wind.  The GPS reported 86 nm to Raoul.  If the wind holds, I should be there late this afternoon.  I headed back below for a bit more sleep.

I was back up at about 6:00 AM. The clouds were clearing and the wind was 8-10 knots. It was 69ºF and it seemed like it was getting cooler. I looked foward to an easy day of sailing.

11/13/2017 1730 UTC – 28º 15.94′ S 177º 42.92′ W

By 1:30 PM, the sky was mostly clear and the temperature had dropped to 65ºF. As far as the temperature is concerned, I prefer the weather in the tropics. It looks like I’ll be wearing my jacket a lot from now on. The GPS reports 23 nm to go for Raoul Island. I should be there around 5:00 PM this evening. I’m seeing sea birds again, so land is not far.

At 3:45 PM, I was 8 nm from the western-most point of Raoul Island. I have had sight of the island for about an hour. In another hour and 15 minutes, I’ll be right along side.

As I approached Raoul Island, it looked like I would pass about 1-1/2 nm offshore. I tried turning more to port to get a closer look, but the wind angle just wouldn’t allow it. I turned back to the course track and continued my approach.

At about 4:40 PM, I decided to set the auto-pilot to follow a wind angle of about 45º. This would allow me to get closer to Raoul than my plotted course track. When I was within a mile of my waypoint, I switched the auto-pilot off and took the helm. Even though I was a mile offshore, it was nice to pass by land after having been at sea for 4 days. At 5:10 PM, I passed the northwest point of the island. I turned to a heading of 201º toward Macauley Island, my next waypoint at 64 nm. The GPS estimate was 9-1/2 hours.

11/14/2017 0522 UTC – 29º 21.86′ S 178º 3.42′ W

At 6:25 PM, Raoul Island was fading into the distance.  The wind speed was continuing at about 10 knots and my boat was traveling about 6.5 knots.  It was just about time to close out another day at sea.  My passing of Macauley Island will likely be early tomorrow morning, so I’d best be off to bed.  I set the auto-pilot to follow my course track and I headed below.

Day 6 – Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I was awakened by the helm alarm at 2:15 AM because I was about 10 minutes from passing Macauley Island.  At 2:25 AM, I turned toward my last waypoint before the long stretch to Auckland.  The next way point is a pair of islands, Cheeseman and Curtis Islands.  They are not far to the south and I should be there around 5:30 AM.  Once I was sure the helm was set, I went back to bed.

At 5:15 AM, I was along side Cheeseman Island.  I could also see the outline of Curtis Island, but it was still dark out.  Once I had passed Cheeseman Island, I turned to a heading of 220º and set the auto-pilot to follow the course track to New Zealand.  My next waypoint is 451 nm at the barrier islands northeast of Auckland.  The GPS reports that I should be there in 2-1/2 days.

I checked the weather forecast while I had my tea.  It looks like there will be a storm forming north of New Zealand in a couple of days.  At my current pace, I should arrive at Aukland just as the storm’s influence is reaching there.  This would be a near miss.  If I had left one day later from Tonga, I would have had the storm right in my path.

11/14/2017 1711 UTC – 30º 37.46′ S 178º 39.63′ W

As I watched a beautiful sunrise, I reflected on the fact that I am not far from the 180th meridian.  This is the same longitudinal line that runs through Greenwich, England on the other side of the globe.  I reviewed my navigation chart and found that I was about 100 nm northeast of the 180th meridian.  I set a waypoint at that spot and the GPS reported 13 hours travel time.  It’s another milestone to celebrate.

Today was a peaceful day at sea.  The wind speed and direction were pretty consistent. At 3:45 PM, I was still 32 nm from the 180th meridian.

11/15/2017 0407 UTC – 31º 35.09′ S 179º 41.55′ W

At about 5:10 PM, I still had 22 nm to go.  I decided to set the auto-pilot to follow my course track and then I retired below.  The auto-pilot is set to sound an alarm right before I reach a waypoint, so I will be able to come back up on deck when I cross into the eastern hemisphere.

Since this simulator is still being developed, it still has bugs.  At the pace I was traveling, I should have crossed the 180th meridian at about 11:00 PM.  It didn’t happen that way.

Day 7 – Thursday, November 16, 2017

I was up at about 1:00 AM because I had an early assignment IRL.  I checked my email and there was no updates, which was odd.  When I went online, I found the Tahiti Dream stopped at 179º 59.999′ W.  Apparently, there is a bug that doesn’t let the boat cross the 180th meridian.  I teleported the boat to the east side of the 180th meridian and let the boat sail while I was at work.

At 1:30 PM, I was back on board.  The GPS reported that I have 265 nm to the barrier islands in New Zealand.  It looks like I will arrive sometime Friday morning.  Wind speed is consistent at 10-15 knots and the boat’s speed is about 6.5 knots.  It hasn’t gotten any warmer or colder.  It’s still 65ºF.

11/16/2017 0458 UTC – 33º 8.9′ S 178º 33.01′ E

I headed below just after sunset.  There’s not much to do except watch the navigation chart to ensure that I’m on course.  The wind continues to blow out of the east, so I have the auto-pilot set to follow my course track.

Day 8 – Friday, November 17, 2017

I was up at about 4:45 AM this morning.  The wind is blowing about 13 knots and my boat speed is 7.5 knots, so I’m making good time now.  I should be to the barrier islands early tomorrow morning and will probably arrive at Auckland at sunrise.

After checking the weather forecast again this morning, I was thankful that I am as close to New Zealand as I am.  The storm to the north will develop some nasty winds in the next 24 hours.  The spot where I am right now has winds approaching 15 knots.  Tomorrow, the same spot is forecast to have 40 knot winds.  The wind speed should continue to increase today, but should not go higher than 30 knots as I approach Auckland.

11/16/2017 1722 UTC – 34º 13.57′ S 177º 25.91′ E

Throughout the day, the weather continued to deteriorate.  By 6:00 PM, the wind was blowing steady at 20 knots and it was now overcast.  The ocean swells were also much taller.  I figured that I would not get a good night’s sleep tonight.  Thankfully, I should have only one more night at sea before reaching New Zealand.

11/17/2017 0510 UTC – 35º 22.27′ S 176º 7.29′ E

The increase in the wind speed has affected my arrival time at the barrier islands.  At 6:20 PM, the GPS reported that I was 56 nm out and that I would arrive in about 6 hours.  That means I should be at New Zealand just a little after midnight.  I expect I’ll be at anchor at Auckland before the sun comes up in the morning.

I considered my options and decided that the prudent decision would be to stop at Great Barrier Island tonight, then continue on to Auckland during the day tomorrow.  I’m not crazy about the idea of sailing into an unfamiliar port in the dark.  At least, once I get to anchor, I’ll get a good night’s sleep.  I chose my intended anchorage as Mohunga Bay.  Only 60 nm to go.

Day 9 – Saturday, November 18, 2017

11/17/2017 1320 UTC – 36º 8.77′ S 175º 19.78′ E

At 2:20 AM, I dropped anchor in Mohunga Bay at Great Barrier Island, New Zealand.  The wind was gusting up to 25 knots and I’m glad I’ve got a somewhat sheltered anchorage.  I’ll get a good night sleep and then head for Auckland around noon or so.

At 11:40 AM, I had everything that was loose tied down on board.  The winds were at 35 knots, gusting to 40.  It would be a rough crossing, but I figured I was prepared.  I put 2 reefs in the mainsail and left the Genoa furled.  Once I was under way, I was making over 10 knots.  It should be a fast trip with very little sail.

Considering that it is the middle of spring in New Zealand, the weather is not very nice.  The swells are so high that they block my view of the horizon, unless I happen to be on the peak of a swell.  The wind is blowing 25-35 knots and I have a boat speed of around 9 knots on a port beam reach.  The skies look menacing and the temperature is 60ºF.  At about 2:15 PM, I was about half way between Great Barrier Island and Auckland.  I have about 15 nm to go before I reach Motuhoropapa Island, which is the first island I will pass as I sail into the harbor at Auckland.  I’m cold and wet and am looking forward to reaching Auckland.

As I approached my first island off the North Island of New Zealand at about 4:15 PM, I found that it was not Motuhoropapa that was my first encounter, it was an island called Takapu Rock.  There are 4 islands in a group that are privately owned and Takapu Rock is one of them.  The group is referred to as The Noises.  I passed Takapu Rock and headed for Rakino Island.  I don’t know whether it is the influence of being close to the North Island of New Zealand, but the wind speed has dropped to a steady 20 knots.  I removed the reefs in the mainsail and the Genoa is out again.  As I get closer to Auckland, the sky is not quite so menacing anymore.  It’s still cold, though.

I passed the southeast coast of Rakino Island at 4:35 PM.  The next waypoint would be Motutapu Island and Motuihe Island, where I pass between the two before turning west into the North Island.

At 5:10 PM, I reached my next waypoint, where I turned more west and headed for the entrance to Commercial Harbor.  My intended destination is the marina at Westhaven in St. Mary’s Bay.  The GPS reports that I have 9 nm to go.  The wind speed has dropped to just over 15 knots.  The ride is smoothing out and the temperature is up to 64ºF.

At a little before 6:00 PM, I passed through the mouth of the harbor and turned nearly due west to head down the harbor.  The wind speed was down to 13 knots.  I have 2.5 nm and about 25 minutes before I turn south into St. Mary’s Bay.

At 6:30 PM, I was docked in St. Mary’s Bay.  I look forward to exploring Auckland tomorrow.  As for tonight, I plan to have a cocktail and get a good night sleep on board Tahiti Dream.  Welcome to New Zealand!

11/18/2017 0529 UTC – 36º 50.427′ S 174º 45.108′ E