Fiji to New Zealand
By lunchtime on Monday 17th October we were ready for the off, having completed all last minute tasks on shore such as buying fresh veg and bread, and having one last stationary shower. This time we also made sure that all items on deck were well tied down, and got out the storm staysail and refreshed our memory of how it fitted - the passage to New Zealand has a certain reputation, especially for a gale from the South West, so it was not a remote possibility that we would need to heave to in heavy weather at some point on the journey.
Having said our farewells we headed out of Musket Cove for the last time, and having navigated out of Wilkes Passage in the surrounding reef, we put up all we had and sailed close hauled to the southerly wind.
We were headed for a vague point about 750 miles away north of the Northern tip of New Zealand, with the intention of then making a dog-leg back to the south east, apparently the best way taking into account the normal weather conditions.
The fair wind stayed with us, even coming round more to the east so that we could steer our south westerly course until early in the morning of the third day, when it became light and variable, and we carried on under engine power. The only interruptions were a rip that appeared overnight in the staysail, which we took off and Jay sewed up, and a surprising double catch of Tuna on both of our fishing lines at the same time just after dawn one morning.
After motoring the whole day and night, the wind returned on the other tack and we sailed well again for another 24 hours, zooming past the Tropic of Capricorn at six knots - goodbye to the sunny warm tropics!
It was also time to say goodbye to something else - our faithful Aloe Vera plant, who had accompanied us all the way from England and despite many upsets and long periods of neglect without water, and dousings of salt water, was still alive and rendering assistance to sunburt skin. New Zealand has lots of quarrantine rules, one of which is no living plants allowed - so after trimming all the succulent leaves off to make a hideously healthy drink which tasted so bad it took her four days to drink, Merryn threw the poor plant overboard.
Going down to storm jib and double reefed main at one point with force 6 winds overnight, we were nevertheless disappointed when the wind left us and ended up being a light breeze out of the south. We were all missing the tropics that we had been spoiled with for over a year - the sea temp had gone down from the usual 26 degrees C to a chilly 19 degrees in just four days, and the southerly wind was not a warm one, everyone wrapping up well and trying to keep warm on the wheel.
Some of us, however, took the cold thing a bit far and were not spotted for days wearing less than a full kit of three fleeces, gloves, wet weather trousers, etc. There were even mutterings about lighting the diesel stove in the saloon, which hadn't been used since Northern Spain !
Two days of motoring directly into the light wind, and finally something we could use, this time from the North East, and we put up all the sails and were making a reasonable 5-6 knots when there was suddenly a loud pop and the mainmast running backstay popped ! (This basically holds most of the force put on the main mast by the jib and mainsail, ie. pretty vital in stopping the mast snapping). We immediately luffed up into the wind and dropped the jib and mainsail, then hove to while Rob climbed up the mast and replaced it, getting a good beating from swinging around against the mast in the process.
Backstay mended, we carried on merrily as before, with the fair wind staying with us until early the next morning, when it again disappeared as we spent the day in squalls of rain and variable winds.
Late afternoon, and the wind swung around to South East, where it stayed for the remaining 3 days of our journey, and we sailed close hauled into the wind and sea, most of the time with the engine helping a little, sometimes with quite big waves coming at us. We cursed (as usual) the weather forecast which had turned out wrong; we would have been much better off if we had gone directly for New Zealand from Fiji, rather than heading out to the west as advised.
The bumpy sea took its toll on Cees, and he found the best place for him was outside on the coach house roof, despite the frequent spray over the side from the waves.
Jack was having no problems coping with the bumpy sea, and even made some delicious apricot muffins one afternoon.
The only other event was the catching of a fat tuna just as darkness fell the night before we arrived, something that would have been slightly more welcome a few days earlier!
As morning arrived, we sighted land from underneath lots of dark rain clouds which we travelled through, getting a thorough soaking, much the same as the previous several days of squally and rainy weather.
Turning slightly so that the wind was on the beam, we had an excellent sail into and across the Bay of Islands, a fitting end to Cees and Jack's voyage on Lista Light.
Movie clip - panoramic view of the Bay of Islands all around as we sail across at 7 knots
Arriving at Opua at around 5pm, we caught the customs and quarrantine before they went home, and so after being checked into New Zealand and getting our passports stamped, and having all remaining vegetable and dairy products, plus any dried beans that had any remote possibility of sprouting (even including some popcorn!) taken away to be destroyed, we set about clebrating our arrival at the Opua Yacht Club.
The next morning, some people looked a bit pale …
and rumour has it that they may have over-celebrated their arrival.
A few days of hanging around and exploring the local towns and enjoying the odd cliff walk, and it was mass exodus - Jack and Cees left for good, headed to Whangarei and Auckland in Cees's hire car; Merryn and Rob caught the bus the next day to Auckland to hunt for a camper van to continue their travels.
They all found Auckland's centre to be surprisingly small, everyone independently managing to find backpacker accomodation within a two minute walk of each other - this of course led to us all meeting up at a local bar for Halloween.
Merryn and Rob returned empty-handed a few days later after walking along endless streets in search of garages and camper vans, but having climbed the Sky Tower and seen a few other Auckland sights.
All was not lost though, since they had seen a camper van in a local town before going to Auckland, which they now realised looked like a better bet - the next day saw a deal struck, and wheels acquired.
After only a few short days of van ownership, Rob and Merryn had to leave their new pride and joy Dory behind (we were told that was the van's name by the previous owners) while the three remaining crew (Jay, Merryn, Rob) took the boat down to Whangarei, a larger and more accessible town, with a travel lift large enough to accommodate Lista Light's beamy size and 35-ton weight.
Not quite managing to sail close hauled out of the bay, we skirted the famous 'hole in the rock' rock at the head of the bay …
…then carried on down to Whangamumu, a deep sheltered bay, for the night, where Rob and Merryn climbed a hill, only to find it very hard going with a strange springy grass carpet up to their knees to tradge through - the view was worth it though!
Another day's sailing the next day, this time anything between 3 and 7 knots into a gusty and variable wind, as we made our way down the coast, stopping overnight at Tutukaka harbour and then off again the next morning for Whangarei river, this time motoring straight into the wind - there was much more interest in a soduku puzzle rather than steering!
Rather than try to get up the river against the tide that afternoon, we decided to anchor at the bottom of the river in a bay for the night, and go up the 20 mile river the next morning with a fair tide - saving the small amount of diesel that we had, and having less chance of running aground in the narrow channel at the top of the river.
Once safely up the river with the tide the next day, we tied up alongside a pontoon in preparation for being lifted out of the water the next morning.
Then, it was up,
A bit of a clean on the bottom
then she was propped up and left to be re-painted.
We were amazed at the good condition of the bottom of the boat - especially after eleven months at sea, nearly all the seams between the planks were still good and there was still a good layer of paint over most of the bottom. The success of the epoxy holding all the seams together, that we had done in Antigua, was immediately obvious.
Jay got to work sanding and re-painting the topsides whilst Rob and Merryn prepared the van for their voyage off around New Zealand and re-painted the bottom of the boat with anti-fouling paint.
Merryn and Rob returned after a test run cruising around the North coast, in time to fit a new bottom rudder hinge to replace the rather worn out 1935 item,
and help complete the other important tasks, such as touching up the name boards.
All painting on the sides finished (including the bullwarks) in two weeks, and then it was back into the water and around up into Whangarei town basin to sit for a few months while we all do our separate things.
And so, Lista Light sits awaiting an uncertain fate, regrettably for sale after 20 years of ownership; here too ends the commentary of our trip, and the updates to the Lista Light website. I hope that you have all enjoyed living our voyage with us, it has certainly been a memorable year and a half that we will enjoy looking back on.
PS. Anyone interested in buying Lista Light, please contact Jay -
via Tel. 00447803 598122 or email email@example.com
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