Passage from Opua , New Zealand to Sydney Australia 20 – 28 October 2014

Setting off...

Well we've just done the last 720 miles of our circumnavigation of New Zealand !  We're now off to Oz (not doing a circumnavigation).  Funny how things stack up – we were intending on hauling out and antifouling at Whangarei but when we arrived, there had been some mix up and they couldn't haul us so we had a re-look at the weather and thought hmmmmm looks like it might turn out to be good for Oz.  So we're off – 10 am local time (19 Oct - 21 GMT).  We've got a new AIS (automatic identification system) so that any big ships can (hopefully) see us!  We're also in touch with ‘Metbob' who will give us warning of any nasties coming our way.  We know there's going to be ‘a bit of wind' over the first couple of days but after that it's looking good – so far!  We're anticipating around 8 – 10 days aiming for Sydney which is around 1200 nautical miles. Weather this morning in Opua: Sunshine, 0% cloud, light wind.


Day 1

Well it's been a bit of a mixed bag for the first 24 hours.  It wasn't long before the clouds came over and we had a spit of rain.  Not much wind to start with but then it gradually built up over the afternoon to around 25 knots.  Close reached on port tack with a reef in both main and genoa doing around 9 – 9.5 knots.  The sea got a bit boisterous for a while but then as we went round North Cape late evening it calmed down and the wind dropped.  At around midnight we had nothing so the engine went on for a couple of hours.  There was a cruise ship in Opua when we left which we picked up on the AIS as he set sail (also for Sydney ) – we took around 11 hours to reach North Cape – he took about 4!  Quite a few fishing vessels around the North Cape too but not a problem – do like this new AIS (our old one was just a receiver and was linked to the computer – this one is stand alone and is also a transmitter).  As dawn broke we were sailing close to the Three King Islands about 40 miles north-west of North Cape .  Currently there's about a 2 metre swell and around 10 knots of wind – sailing close hauled on port tack but quite slowly trying to put as much westing in as possible (but still having to go north of our course).  According to the grib files there should be a front coming through later today – followed by more southerly winds so we want to get through that as quickly as we can – it's not altogether clear exactly what it's going to do or where it's going so we'll just have to ‘play it by ear' and try to make the best of it.

24  hour distance:   153 Miles


Day 2

A bit of a ‘hokey cokey' day with put in a reef, take out a reef etc as the wind came and went.  Subsequently quite a slow day.  We've been hard on the wind for 24hrs on port tack apart from an hour on starboard to make use of a temporary shift of wind to the north-west.  So we're much further to the north than we'd like to be.  The front was not as well defined or severe as expected but came through with a bit of rain and a shift of wind to the south west, so are now just about pointing towards OZ. We had expected strong winds but these have not materialised though there's been a few rainy squalls during the night.  We're now waiting for the wind to go round to the south and then south east as the grib files promise but currently we're still slugging away to windward with 3-4 metre seas, pondering upon those intrepid single handed sailors who go round the world ‘the wrong way'.  Thank goodness I pre-prepared 7 meals in advance so minimum amount of time spent in the galley and of course for my new sea-sick remedy!  Only had one alarm on the AIS all day – a cargo ship which passed us about 5 miles away.  No sea creatures but a few sea birds. However we do have a bit of ‘company' as we chat to Michael on Astarte (currently in New Caledonia ) twice a day on SSB.

24 hour distance:   145 miles


Day 3

A bit of a wicked fairground ride for most of the daylight hours – and despite my pills being magic – they're not so magic as to allow for doing a killer suduku or reading on the big dipper!  Stayed hard on the wind until around 2pm when it started to go round more to the south so for the rest of the day we were fast close reaching (9kts) on port tack with boisterous seas for company but at least we are now pointing towards Oz instead of New Caledonia !  After dinner (which we didn't have) the seas did start to calm down a bit and the wind got up so we put a reef back in the main and had a comfortable and quite quick night.  Currently have fairly pleasant conditions with 2 – 2.5 metre waves and 10k wind from the south, not much chop, sun and about 20% cloud cover. Cruising along at around 7k.  According to the gribs, we expect to wind to die off as the day goes on, as we pass the north edge of the high to our south. We may lose the wind later in the day and have to resort to motor sailing for a bit. Expecting to emerge into northerly quadrant winds on the other side, and should be able to bear away a bit more southerly towards Sydney in a couple of days.  No sea creatures, 2 ships on the AIS (but about 20 miles away) and of course the usual sea birds and Michael at 6.30pm and both Michael and Rankin from Gypsea Heart (also ion New Cal ) for company at 9am today!

24 hour distance:   182 miles


Day 4

Well what can I say – a rather pleasant day with reasonable seas (2 metre swells but not much wind chop) and mostly fine weather.  Had a good feed of bacon butties and chicken curry (not together) to make up for the previous day. We were trundling along on port tack the whole day making good time until 2am. Then had a visit from our old Russian friends – enginonanoff and sailsoutanin – between 2am and 6am but the wind is up again now and we're back on course making good speed. Why do these guys always have to come in the middle of a dark night! We had expected the wind to be fairly constant from the south and gradually dying off as we approach the high, but we seem to be getting lots of little cells of convection coming through which are causing the many changes in direction and speed. Expecting to pass north of the high tomorrow so probably no wind but then looks like we should have strong northerly winds for a while. We passed the half-way point of 600 miles during the night, and all being well we are looking at a Tuesday daytime arrival in Sydney , though a lot of water to pass under the keel before that.  No sea creatures, no ships on AIS but the occasional albatross and a few shearwaters. 

24 hour distance:   173 miles


Day 5

Well, well, another very pleasant day with a  light breeze sailing on a beam reach up until around 6pm then zilch, nada, nothing, so on went the engine and we motor sailed the whole night.  The light winds had been expected as we passed through the northern tip of the high. We are now just west of this and the winds are starting to come round to the north. Right now they are still in the north east (behind us), and although we tried to pole out the Genoa to get sailing again the apparent wind is too low to make decent progress against a 1k counter current which we've picked up. Should be in good shape in a couple of hours! We had passed through an area which allegedly is rich in marlin but we weren't tempted to dangle the rod – didn't want to have to wrestle with one of those babies on board!  Got some sewing done – repairing the ensign so we don't disgrace the nation and sewing a bit of halyard string on to the Australian courtesy flag.  One cargo ship on the AIS, no sea creatures but the usual sea birds.

24 hour distance:   158 miles


Day 6

It's been a hard night's day!  All was running along smoothly with calm seas and a good breeze – on starboard tack all day but then about 5pm something must've upset the sea because it really started to have a tantrum!  All through the night it's been kicking up a fuss.  Doesn't make for a very comfortable ride – sleeping becomes hard work because you have to try to compensate for the rapid movements all the time.  Even sitting typing this I'm having to move around and I keep hitting the wrong keys!  The adverse current seems to have slackened considerably so we are currently bowling along on a close reach at around 9 knots!  The wind is due to die off a bit early afternoon and go ahead again then we'll have another small front to go through before we hit southerlies – no idea what the sea will do – let's hope it calms down a bit. Got about 300m to go, so still looking like a Tuesday arrival. Apart from that all is well – no ships on the AIS, no sea creatures but a whole family of albatross (albatrosses/albatossi?) sitting on the sea yesterday – a couple of adults and several youngsters just floating around (that was when the sea was calm) – cute!

24 hour distance:   181 miles


Day 7

Well we took a bit of a pasting over about 12 hours yesterday, as 007 says, shaken but not stirred – the sea conditions got gradually worse as the wind increased to around 25+ knots.  Matt said it's the ugliest sea he's ever seen – I'm not sure, we have seen some fairly ugly ones on our travels!  The waves were coming very close together (somewhere between 4 and 6 metres high, vertical with breaking tops) on the beam and we took several right over the bimini.  Despite having our full ‘conservatory' up we still got the cockpit totally wet at times, as it came in upwards, downwards and sideways.  The surf must've been up on Bondi!  We were close reaching on starboard tack the whole time with a tiny mainsail and tiny genoa but still doing around 8 – 9 knots – we covered 104 miles in 12 hours!  Dinner consisted of an orange, a banana, a bag of crisps and some chocolate biscuits! As per expected we approached a trough and the wind started to die off a bit around 9pm and the seas gradually flattened off a bit.  We sailed through the night with a couple of tacks and made good progress where the gribs were predicting little wind, thanks in part to a favourable current. We put the engine on at 6.30am as the wind died, and the batteries were hungry.  We're now motor sailing with lumpy seas expecting to go through a front around mid day bringing more wind from the north followed by a switch to strong south-westerlies tonight.  We have around 140 miles to go to Sydney so we're doing our best to try to get as far west to keep the worst of the southerlies behind us.  We experienced a weird VHF “hotspot” where about 12 ships appeared on the AIS and VHF was crystal clear with chatter from Sydney and Port Stevens. This was 230miles west of Sydney ! Normally VHF is good for 30-50 miles at best! We assume there must be an Aussie repeater station and its signals are “bouncing” out to sea. It's all gone quiet again now so they must be bouncing over our heads!  Only a few seabirds scooting around. Looking good for arrival Tuesday am.

24 hour distance:    176 miles


Day 8

G'day Sydney ,

Yep we're here – after a reasonable sail all day yesterday but with the threat of strong winds starting in the evening.  Matt had studied the gribs and worked out that we needed to be well west and south of the rhumb line to avoid a dead beat in the worst of the weather to come.  We were well ahead of schedule to arrive in Sydney and didn't want to arrive too early ( Sydney is 2 hours behind NZ time – GMT +11) so we only needed to do around 5 knots for the last few hours.  We had an early dinner, reefed down the sails and waited for the winds to kick in and waited… and waited.  With little wind we were being pushed further south by the current and were going nowhere in the little wind we did have with such a small amount of sail up.  At around 9pm there was no sign of any movement in the sky, and no wind so we were just thinking about taking the reefs out when wham bam…it didn't quite do 0 to 40 in 15 seconds but it certainly came in quickly – before we knew it the wind switched from North to West and we had 40+ knots true.  We were in the worst of it for around 4 hours as it gradually turned to the south – banging and clattering – and trying to keep the speed down.  At around 1am it started to calm down a bit until we had around 20+ knots and lumpy seas but were going around 5 knots so that was good.  The last few hours were very lumpy with hardly any wind and we finally got in to Sydney harbour just before dawn around 8am (6am local).  We were told to go and anchor in Farm Cove – right next door to Sydney Opera House (how cool is that) and wait for a call from customs.  It's now just about lunch time and we've just finished with customs, immigration and quarantine – all extremely polite and efficient – no hassle whatsoever.  The only reason we are here so long is that we've been using their water to hose down the boat and fill water tanks!  So we're now off to find an anchorage somewhere and get sorted.

Passage time: 7 days, 22 hours

Passage length:  1301 miles

Average speed: 6.84 knots

Engine running time: 32 hour