After being blown out of Minerva Reef in a froth of wind and waves, we few, nearly the last of the class of 2015, headed southwest for Kiwi Land, home of the silver fern and the long white cloud. We were all so sure we would be taking a pasting somewhere along this passage, known for its frequent nasty weather, that we had only rolled out what we call the “logo reef” which exposes barely enough sail to just show our Manta graphic at the very head of our mainsail. We all had our strategies for dealing with too much wind and waves, some of us were more cautious than others but we felt that seven knots was fast enough in these conditions. Having lost a mast will do that to you.
After a day and a half that nasty trough had blown itself out and somehow the morning Magellan SSB net found all five of us roughly in a line spread out over about thirty miles of South Pacific Ocean. With fronts and troughs, feel free to insert your preferred arcane descriptive weather related terms here, rumbling off New Zealand every four days or so, conventional wisdom says that you want to leave at the tail end of an uncomfortable front so that the front that you inevitably run into isn’t too bad, just as one arrives in New Zealand. So I feel we can tick that box. Sailing in fairly close proximity to several sailboats all heading for the same destination made me a little apprehensive but I found Macushla’s green masthead nav light, twinkling over on the horizon, somehow reassuring.
Day after day we Escapees found ourselves sailing full and by or even motor-sailing in blue skies and flat seas searching for more wind while zig-zagging around the Pacific’s meandering but powerful currents. Ironic that our morning Magellan Net became a version of a “where’s the beef” kind of thing.
I saw the long white cloud appear and before long I had the pleasure of calling out,”Land Ho!” as Whale Rock, a rocky spire, pierced the clouds and then Black Rock and Rangiate Island slowly revealed themselves. Opua, the Bay of Islands, was dead ahead.
Marce made me slow up because we had heard that our cheese, which was destined for a celebratory or Thanksgiving pizza, might be confiscated so we had no intention of showing up while the authorities were still open for business. Our chart plotter refused to read the New Zealand chart compact flash card so I had to make do with the iPad to navigate us up the Veronica Channel. There’s nothing like a little last minute drama to make you feel right at home. I fear it’s becoming a habit.
Quarantine at the Opua Marina is a curved floating dock isolated by water and a fence from the actual marina, so when we pulled up at 1800 hrs. there was no one to help with the docklines but we managed to corral Escape Velocity in the stiff current and wind. Marce had to jump for the dock and had a turn around one of the few cleats just in time before things got pear shaped. In ones and twos boats began to arrive, to the extent that I spent the next few hours dreaming of pizza and helping late arrivals tie up to the quarantine dock.
Marce held the pizza and soon the dock was filled, nuts to butts with sailboats of all descriptions, with the lone exception a small spot right behind us. In the morning our friends Mark and Sue on Macushla were tucked in there.
It’s good to be home.