Monday, 23 October 2017

We've made it halfway round the world!

Hooray! With the help of various crew, we've successfully brought Calliope to New Zealand. In fact we have had 32 guests on board since January, including the two Kiwis who came with us from Fiji to New Zealand. That includes Pippa and Annemie who came twice! It has been a pleasure to have
you all on board, and we don't have any moments of thinking ugly crew thoughts. It is interesting to remember how you all almost self-selected which legs you wished to do, and we managed to fit almost everyone in! We are glad and proud to have done it all on our own without pro help except
for the last leg - see below.

Leaving Fiji was hard. We knew nothing about Fiji in advance: that it has 300 islands, delightful people, some of the best diving in the world, white sandy beaches, beautiful reefs, a great hinterland on the two larger islands. Even the touristy bits were good, but that made the remoter places superb. We spent six weeks there, and hardly scratched the surface. Put it on your list of very special places to come to.

So we arrived in Opua, New Zealand, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, nearly seven days after leaving Fiji. It was 1150 NM and, as advertised, tougher than anything since Bonaire to Cartagena and Cartagena to San Blas. But this time it was into the wind! A bit bumpy for the first 36 hours, then good sailing - both we and the Kiwis were probably thinking "do we need them/us on board?" - and then on the third day as night was coming on beating into strong winds and taking water over the bow, coach roof and up over the spray hood, the foil on the genoa broke. That doesn't mean the forestay broke, so the mast was safe, but it meant we couldn't furl away the genoa. We had been sailing in about 20 knots of wind, almost close-hauled, with about two reefs in the genoa, and then it just broke. Why? Probably just wear and tear, maybe we had furled the sail away with a bit too much load on it on many occasions so it weakened. So lifejackets on, Logan, Fraser and Nicky to the foredeck, engine on, Charles on helm. Sail down went well (it is huge), tied up on the rail and the lifelines, back to the cockpit. Then staysail out, start sailing again and thinking about what to do next (is the sail ok there until the morning?). Waves over the bow, funny noises, and there is part of the sail in the water, and a stanchion gone. So foredeck crew back up there, and a long struggle using halyards and winches to get the sail back on board, and then down the hatch into the forward cabin. It took two hours to do that, and we tacked back towards Fiji to get the sail on the upwind side to make it easier to get her back on board. Which is what we should have done in the first place - get it down,
sail off-wind, down-the-hatch - job-easier-said-than-done, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Crew all safe the most important thing and everyone always tied on and lifejackets on. Logan, Fraser and Nicky were all great. You don't want to go forward in those conditions, but all three were coordinated, calm, and worked as a great team. Proud of the first mate as ever. Damage all fixable - those foils are a known problem and maybe we haven't always been as gentle as we could. How would Nicky and I have coped? We would have had to let the sail go I think once in the water, and letting it go, undoing three points of contact to the boat and keeping control of half a tennis court of sail, would have meant even more damage, and potentially danger, to Calliope and its crew. Is that an argument that we are sailing too large a yacht with systems that are so powerful it enables two people to sail her, but means that, when something breaks, you have created problems squared? Maybe, but I don't think we would have made this trip in a 30 footer, and we certainly wouldn't have had room for 30 friends, and the wine wouldn't have been chilled, and the freezer full of goodies bought months ago! As ever, yachting is full of compromises.
Nicky at helm approaching Opua


Two days of light winds but good sailing cost us maybe 12 or more hours which was fine except it meant we had to go straight into the wind for the
last 200 miles and hit the Tuesday weather we had hoped to avoid. So we motor-sailed the last 48 hours and the last 12 hours we motored straight into 20-25 knots of wind: "bang, slam, did Oyster build this boat properly? Could we have damaged the rig?". No sleep so plenty of time for those thoughts. So finally, we tied up on the customs wharf at 0600. The Kiwis persuaded Charles into a few Rums and Nicky had a good sleep.

Charles arrriving in Auckland


Opua marina in the Bay of Islands is everything a marina should be: clean, modern, efficient, welcoming (our goody bag had loads of information and a tot of rum in it) and staffed by friendly and thoroughly competent people.
The café does great breakfasts and supper in the yacht club was good, too. After being cleared in by customs and bio-security, we motored across the bay to Russell and anchored there - an interesting little town which was New Zealand's first capital and has attractive streets and houses with flower-filled gardens. They were preparing for the arrival of hundreds of yachts which were racing up from Auckland. On Saturday we watched the first arrival, a huge red catamaran, which had taken six hours (the record is just over five). Other boats straggled in for hours and post-race celebrations apparently continued through the night.

Our own celebrations, combined with swapping horror stories about the Fiji-NZ passage, were tinged with sadness: this is the end of the rally for some boats, while others are losing longstanding crew. There is a huge sense of achievement but also, I think, a bit of a blank feeling: what next? As we begin to pack up Calliope, we keep meeting stuff/pieces of paper that shows how much thought went into our preparation. Something that has taken so long in the planning and the fulfilment of a long held dream must, we suppose, lead to a such feelings. A remarkable sense of satisfaction of having done this together, having worked as a team, with separate responsibilities but developing the abilities for each one of us to sail Calliope on our own and to manoeuvre and handle her as a team. Enormous
enjoyment from having shared the experience with all of our children and so many friends. So new challenges to seek, maybe some more circumnavigating?

In the immediate future, what's next is getting to Auckland, where Oyster are putting on another party. I know we'll like Auckland: there's a Calliope Wharf in Calliope Basin. Sadly it's for commercial ships, not us. Our plan is to spend a couple of nights in an Auckland marina and then to
leave the boat for the next few months in a marina 12 miles north of the city. We had a great sail from the Bay of Islands to Cape Brett and south along the Northland coast. It's not living up to its reputation as the 'winterless north', however, and we were very glad of our newly purchased merino and possum sweaters (Australians introduced the possum to NZ and it's now regarded as a pest) and jackets. In Paihia we found a farmer's market and bought avocados and our first strawberries for a year! We combined our little shopping spree with a visit to Waitangi, where the Maori-British
treaty was signed 150 years ago - a well-presented museum and exhibition about a subject which is still controversial. Thanks so much to our ex-skipper Tom Kiff's parents who lent us a car so we could get around - they still remember arriving in Opua from the UK when Tom was only 7 years
old and deciding to stay. Winds increased and the forecast was poor, so we've taken shelter in Bon Accord harbour on Kawau Island and much enjoyed the hospitality of Kawau Boating Club, as well as a rainy walk in the grounds of the 19th century governor's Mansion House - there used to be a
thriving copper mining industry here. The governor was a bit eccentric and introduced wallabies, various exotic birds and even zebra to pull his carriage. Wallabies have since managed to destroy many of the native trees - you can see why New Zealanders are so protective of their shores. Nicky
has just been doing an inventory of foodstores on board (those of you who've been with us know her precious Book) and is quite pleased with her planning. There are still lots of cans under the sole (floorboards), but they can stay there. We've got too much pasta and rice, but again, they have long use-by dates and will keep. The freezer is EMPTY, thanks to the bio-security officer whose heavy-duty bin liner received lots of ready-cooked meals, sausages and ham!

Like most of our posts on this blog, this is a mixture of Charles's and Nicky's input. Our children claim they can always spot who wrote what! But Charles has actually written about emotions here... even in our sixtieth year, we can change and have changed!

2 comments:

  1. Charles and Nicky. Have been seeing your Facebook posts but have not thought to look on here for a couple of months. Dramatic last leg, always known as a bit of a nightmare. Really quite an achievement and as you say not to be contemplated in a 30 footer. Amused to note your observation of the possum as an Australian introduced nuisance. Most Kiwis seem to think the same of Australians themselves!
    As I write the boat is tied up in La Coruna, in the centre of town marina, inner basin, right next to the very posh yacht club. Loved N Spain. Now on brother’s big motor yacht in La Paz, Baja California. Boating but not as I know it - who knew a boat needed heated towel rails. Looking forward to catching up next month when you are back in London.

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