Tuesday, November 14, 2017


We are back in New Zealand. This was our ninth passage to or from NZ. Number nine will go down in Astarte history as the worse passage yet.

We left on Thursday, November 2 just after noon from Vuda Point Marina. We sailed, then motor sailed until we cleared out of the Navola Passage reef. We finally were able to sail but seas were extremely rough in 18-22 knot SSE winds. Day one we made 120 miles and were eating seasick meds like candy.

Day Two: Not having much fun with winds picking up to 22-28 knots SSE. We were hard on the wind much of the time so we would bang incessantly into the 2 meter sea swell and wind waves. Progress was only 115 uncomfortable miles in cloudy weather. The only good news is that it is still warm.

Day Three: a better day (or we were finally getting our sea legs back). The seas settled some and the wind was down to 15-20 knots with more east in the direction so more of a beam reach – less crashing into the waves. We made good progress, the sun was out and we ate something other than seasick pills. Day three was 120 mile day. Still warm outside.

Day Four: Watching the low start to form off NZ. Changed or destination to Opua instead of Marsden Cove to save 30 miles. We need to get into NZ by Saturday morning or get hammered by the big bad low. Luckily we still have a good easterly component to the wind and the seas have remained more settled so we are making 6 plus knots most of the time and even seeing 7 knots on occasion. Go fast. That's the goal. 135 mile day.

Day Five: 125 mile day – motor sailing and sailing and motor sailing and sailing. Engine on. Engine off. Engine on. Added fuel to tank with relatively flat seas – but still an adventure offshore. The weather is getting cooler at night but the sun is nice. We can't motor the whole way – not enough fuel. But still trying to maintain 5.5 knots to get in ahead of the storm.

Day Six: Lots of engine time but making good progress. We are hopeful that we can get in before the low. Lots of help and support from weather guru David of Gulf Harbour Radio. He and Patricia are being very encouraging and sending us lots of e-mail weather info. Made 130 miles.

Day Seven: Winds have died making slow progress against bigger seas. Add to that a current of probably 1 to 1.5 knots against us. We need to get miles under the keel to make it to Opua. By late day, the winds are building quickly along with the seas. David's late evening forecast is not good. "Can you get to Opua by Friday?" That's 190 miles to go in one day – in great conditions not a task that Astarte has ever accomplished. In these conditions simply impossible. The low has sped up.

Day Eight: We can't beat the low...we are just about in it. Seas are now easily 3 meters along with chop from all directions. Winds are well over 20 knots and very southerly. We can't make much progress and we are tired and the boat is getting pounded by the seas and wind. We make the decision to "heave to" or "forereach" as best as we can. Astarte is not an easy boat to heave to and get her bow into the wind and seas. We can slow her down to about 1.5 to 2 knots, but end up with the seas more on the beam than is desirable. We spend several hours trying to get the best and safest ride we can. Progress is stopped – and we start slowly heading more west. Winds are a steady 35-40 with higher gusts. Not happy campers.

Day Nine: Friday is bad and Saturday is worse. We are taking a lot of waves on deck and into the cockpit. Thank goodness for the wind curtains Michael built last season. A game changer. The winds are now 40 plus steadily and occasionally at 50. Around 0230 we take a huge wave over the side that just about knocks the boat over. Michael is on watch. The cockpit is full of water. Barbara is thrown out of bed below and everything is everywhere. She gets to the deck to make sure Michael is still aboard (we are living in our life vests and buckled in when in the cockpit.) Luckily he is there. But the bimini (cockpit shade) which has very sturdy stainless tubing has been torn and the actual stainless tubing has been badly twisted. It is flapping in the breeze. Our wind instruments no longer are working – neither direction nor wind speed. The wind generator has started when in the off position and burnt itself out (sounding like a helicopter landing aboard in the process). We look back and also see that the solar vent in the aft cabin hatch is also missing so we manage to quickly cover that hole before too much water gets below decks. We can't wait for daylight. Luckily it is only a few hours away. We manage to get lines around the bimini to keep it and the two attached solar panels from taking flight in its weakened state. We deal with the flapping canvas after daylight. It is exhausting and frightening. The winds and waves don't seem to be settling at all and we continue to take water over the sides. Add to that the chill factor – we are now at 33 degrees and it is downright cold. We are layered up but as clothes get wet, we have to change.

Day Ten: Just waiting in the awful weather for it to pass. Finally we turn back on course and start to make our way back south and east. The promised south westerlies never materialize so we sail, motor sail, tack, sail, tack...etc. The wind dies a bit and we even see some sun. We change our course back to the original destination of Marsden/Whangarei. No need to go to Opua now.

Day Eleven: We are now rechecking our fuel and counting hours, miles and wondering of we can make it. We decide to put the last 20 liters from deck into the tank. But for safety sake we also tack back and forth until we are less than 60 miles away. It is like staying in place. We can barely make a mile an hour toward our destination. We finally turn the engine on and motor sail into the Hatea River. We have notified customs multiple times about changes on our destination and arrival time.

At 1810 (6:10 pm) we tie up to the Q dick in Marsden Cove. As we enter the marina we are greeted from the docks by friends from "Avalon" and "Barefoot" which was really nice. We called customs to let them know we were tied up and they told us they would come at 0800 the next morning - "get some rest." That was great. We could clean ourselves, the boat and get a good night sleep before the formalities. We ate a great meal, opened a bottle of wine and went to bed early. We made a huge breakfast the next morning to use up some bacon and some eggs before having to give them to the biosecurity officer – so that was treat as well.

By 1030 we were all cleared in with customs and biosecurity. They are very efficient and do it in a polite, friendly way. We had planned to stay in Marsden but had the opportunity to get some estimators aboard the next morning so we motored up the river to Whangarei Marina.
We are now on D dock. Ready for hot showers and another good night's sleep.

We broke our cardinal rule of booking plane tickets in advance of being in the country from which you will be departing. We tell everyone not to do it … and we did. Rookie mistake. We paid the price. By saving a few dollars by booking tickets earlier, we ended up taking a weather window that was bad. Now we'll spending more on repairs than a later booked ticket would have cost. When will we learn to take our own advice!

We are glad this trip is over. The new bimini we put on in May is trashed so that needs to be replaced along with the stainless frame. We have electronics to replace. We have fiberglass repairs to make. A wind generator needs to be repaired (hopefully it can be). We need a new solar vent for the aft cabin hatch and some side hatches to reseal or replace.

Thanks to all our friends who sent notes of encouragement (though we didn't see them until we got in) and for all the help and "watches" from Gulf Harbour Radio, YIT, and Tony's Maritime Net. We are safe. Astarte is a magnificent vessel that kept us safe through some very nasty weather. The damage we got was not structural to the hull or rig. She stayed wonderfully dry below decks. After all that water, there was very little in the bilges. We're grateful for such a hearty boat.

We made it – it just wasn't fun.
At 11/13/2017 7:42 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.21'S 174°28.12'E

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us. We have decided to take off from Vuda Point Marina today to make the trip south to New Zealand. It is not a great weather window – so we are rolling the dice a bit. So as much positive thoughts, prayers and help will be much appreciated. Two different weather models show two different scenarios and our weather guru David has warned us off a bit as well – but if we don't go today, we fear we'll have to wait another week or ten days to leave. That then may force us into a worse scenario of having to go in something even worse.

We ALWAYS tell people, when on a boat, never book plane tickets before you are in the country from which you are departing. We have broken our own rule and have plane tickets from NZ booked.

So we will take our chances and hope for the best. We can always heave to and wait for something to pass if it becomes untenable. We have lots of food aboard that we may end up giving to biosecurity in NZ because it will probably be a good weight loss passage. Lots of seasick pills and no dinner!

Wish us luck...off after we clear customs. At least we're not leaving on a Friday!

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Vuda Marina: The Waiting Room
At 11/2/2017 2:41 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 17°50.12'S 177°16.40'E

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