Friday, October 31, 2008

The 500 Club

November 1, 2008--We are now 500 miles away from Marsden Cove Marina. This marina is approximately 7 km inside the Whangarei Harbour entrance on its southern side. Customs has just opened an office here so that when we arrive, we will be able to check into New Zealand here before going up the river and into Whangarei.

Yesterday was a good day. The day was mostly overcast so the temperature was mild all day long, and the winds continued at around 16 knots with moderate seas. It was early afternoon when we heard the New Zealand Air Force calling Tracen J on the VHF radio. They were verifying Tracen J's position, how many souls on board, and if a pre-arrival form had been submitted. A few minutes later the P3 Orion was circling us. The name of our boat is difficult to see on the transom, so they hailed us by our position. Steve responded to the call and gave them the information they had requested. We really enjoyed hearing the Kiwi accent over the radio. When they were done, they wished us a good day, and Steve wished them one as well. We had heard that they would be out here keeping watch over all the boats making their way to New Zealand for the cyclone season.

Last night we enjoyed chicken stir fry for dinner, which created a real challenge of getting everything cut up since the boat was a bit bouncy. The seas were bigger, but the wind was still between 16 and 19 knots. After dinner I told the guys that because it was Halloween, they had to say, "Trick or Treat." When they did, I produced two chocolate bars for their treats.

At 8 o'clock that evening Steve got on the SSB radio for a radio net with Scarlett O'Hara and Tracen J. Twice a day at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. we check in and give our position and also find out the weather conditions that each boat is experiencing. Scarlett is ahead of us so his information last night was helpful. He said that they were in 30 to 35 knots and that it was very rough. He sounded very tired (just two crew on board). Tracen J is behind us with somewhat similar conditions. They also sounded tired (a crew of two). Steve from sv Elusive, who is a retired airline pilot, has been listening in on our net from Nuku'alofa. He was very helpful with analyzing the weather that was showing up on the weather faxes. Our net has also been joined by sv Iris with John and Janet and additional crew on board. They had spent a night at Minerva Reef to get out of bad weather, so they are now behind us by a few miles. We are using Commander's Weather and Tracen J is using Bob McDavitt for weather routing on this passage. We are not sure how helpful this has been so far. We will have a better idea when we get to New Zealand.

As soon as Steve got off the radio, we went ahead and put in the triple reef so that if we did run into the higher winds, we would be ready. Steve was in his full foul weather gear so that he would stay somewhat dry on the foredeck. It has definitely cooled off, and we are now wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts. The water temperature has dropped to 69 degrees so we are wearing our boots in the cockpit. The water and air temperatures aren't all that cold, but we have become used to the warm tropical weather, so it is cold to us. Steve stayed in the cockpit during my watch from 8 p.m. to midnight because there were some ominous looking clouds up ahead. He tried to sleep but wasn't too successful. At midnight I went below to get some sleep. Gary was scheduled to come on at 4 a.m.; however, at 3 o'clock he got up and told Steve to go below and get some sleep. Gosh it is good to have him on board with us.

This morning the sun was shining and the seas had calmed down. We took a reef out of the sail and then a few hours later took another one out. The high winds never developed for us last night, and for that I am grateful. Unfortunately, the winds have now dropped to the point that we decided to motor for awhile in order to continue making way to our destination. We have only so much fuel, and it has been recommended that boats have two days' worth at the end of the trip so that it is possible to make land before bad weather sets in. Therefore, we will have to watch carefully how much fuel we consume.

Well, that all for now. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we get some wind--but not too much.

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