In our seven plus years of cruising, we never have had to turn back after leaving a country. We research and ponder and stress over finding the right weather window to leave and then head on to the next destination. We would have already gone through our offshore checklist and stowed everything away.
On Tuesday, as the last log entry indicated, we headed out of Marsden Cove in Whangarei, New Zealand with SavuSavu, Fiji as our destination. The wind was brisk as we headed out of Hatea River. We were able to shut the motor off soon and under headsail we were underway. We were going to head north for awhile to avoid a low that was coming behind us and try to get as far north as possible to avoid it. Then we would start our way more northeast. We had a good sail through the night though it was a bit lumpy with a swell. We still had some protection in the southwesterly wind from New Zealand. A few squalls came and went and it was COLD! Michael's newly built side-curtain was put up and that made a world of difference keeping the splashing waves out of the cockpit and the breeze off us. It also made it much quieter without the howl of the breeze.
Because of the squalls and changing wind conditions, we were doing a fair amount of sail changing. Putting the head sail in more when the wind picked up to 20 and easing it out as it passed. We made 110 miles on day one and then started to turn towards the east as the low changed and now the goal was to get more easting in as soon the wind would pick up steadily out of the southeast. At one point, we had to turn the engine on as the wind died so we had to motor sail with main and motor. As the wind picked up again, we killed the engine and pulled out the head sail. When we tried to put it in when the wind died again, it wouldn't go in. There was a jam on the roller furling line around the drum. So, we pulled it all out and had to drop the sail on the deck and un-jam the line. That was sorted out and the sail was raised again – all this in a lumpy sea. Luckily it was daylight and the wind was benign at this point. So we had the sail back up and then rolled it in and we were motoring again. The wind picked up so we pulled out the sail but it didn't come out very easily. We were happy to be sailing again and saving fuel. We don't carry enough fuel to motor forever – so whenever we had enough breeze to at least move the boat 3.5 knots we would sail. But because the sail didn't come out smoothly, Michael went forward to take a closer look at the furler again.
It wasn't a happy trip forward. Besides getting a soaking from the waves crashing aboard, he came back with two bearings in his hand that he found rolling on the deck. The furler drum started to work its way up the stay. It was broken. Not repairable underway.
Decision time. We had about 200 miles behind us. Weather ahead was "boisterous" with 20-25 southeasterlies. Seas were building. We had at this point enough fuel to make it back to NZ. Not enough to make it to Fiji. Repairs we thought would be easier in NZ...and perhaps a bit less expensive. We turned around and headed south.
We checked in with several of the radio nets to let folks know and we started to head right into the winds and seas. We rigged our storm sail with a spare wire halyard to the deck(why we have the wire halyard in the first place) and hanked it on. After several tries to get the sheets led correctly, we were sailing south with a small main and storm jib. We couldn't keep the course line and were about 60 degrees off, but making slow progress. As the winds picked up over Thursday night, we dropped the storm jib and motor-sailed into 25-30 knots and 4 meter seas. Then it got even bigger...30-35 with gusts to 40 in 5 meter seas. Waves were coming into the cockpit regularly so we decided to heave to – in a modified way without a head sail. Michael did a great job. The boat settled...no more crashing waves and we slowly (2 knots) rode out the night. We actually even made 5 miles to the good by the time the night was over. Friday morning came and the winds settled to 20 knots and that felt calm! As the day progressed and we made our way towards Opua, the seas and winds continued to moderate allowing to gain speed. We had to add some fuel to the tank – another bit of a challenge in rolling seas – but that went smoothly.
At 1400, we were tied up to the Q dock in Opua. Then moved to a slip at the marina. We were tired and chilly. A nice hot meal, a bottle of wine and a good night's sleep was in order.
We weren't the only boat forced to turn back. Our friends on GypseaHeart noticed a big tear in their mainsail as they were heading out. Folks on another catamaran "Whistler" are on their way back in with reefing issues and a leaking escape hatch. So we are all again, waiting for repairs ...then weather.
We woke up today (Sunday) to a sunny day and lots of tidying, cleaning, washing off the decks, taking apart the roller-furler bottom drum and generally getting organized. Washing all the wet and salty clothes was a high priority.
Now we wait until Tuesday (Monday is a holiday in NZ) to see when the roller furler will arrive and get installed.
Next entry: Some exciting things we saw on the short adventure!
Sunday, June 5, 2016
At 6/4/2016 4:44 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.88'S 174°07.30'E
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