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We pulled into the Q dock in Opua, New Zealand Saturday morning at 8 am, 167 hours (one week minus one hour) from when we left Fiji.
We had been hanging around Vuda Point waiting for a weather window. We’d had over a week of flat calm, so when a window opened up, we were keen to get moving.
Fiji to New Zealand is a tough passage, as you have to point slightly east against the tradewinds. Our first few days were a bit rough, sailing as tight into the wind as we could in 20-30 knots of wind.
Thankfully, though, conditions calmed down. The wind clocked a bit more from the east instead of SE and died down to 10-15 knots. That’s ideal conditions for our screecher, so we got it out and absolutely zoomed!
The temperature started dropping too. We were breaking out sweatshirts and socks.
WInds died just before our approach into Opua, so we motored into the Bay of Islands.
When David woke me up we have about 20 minutes before the Q dock, so I made a quick breakfast using the last of our bacon and eggs.
Opua is TINY – not what I was expecting since this is THE clear-in port for cruisers. The town is literally a school, a general store, and then a rather large marina with many marine stores. Paihia is 6 km away and slightly bigger. Russel is a ferry ride away from Paihia, and a bit bigger than that, or, you can drive for a half-hour and wind up in Kerikeri, a fairly decent sized town. The marina here is really big – 300 slips – and parts of it are still under construction for their most recent growth.
The Q (quarantine) dock is fenced off from the rest of the marina, but easily accessible them rough the channel. When we arrived there were several boats already there, waiting for customs to start up for the day. We had brownies and beverages lined up to offer the officials (always good to have ready!)
We were visited by four officials. The first one was customs, who gave us paperwork to fill out and stamped our passports. Next was Immigrations and Biosecurity. They took our paperwork from customs and inspected the boat. They went through all our foodstuffs with me and took all meats and fresh produce – even packaged Fijian meats (thankfully I only had two servings of chicken and minced beef). They also took all our honey, which I knew was going to happen. I was low on produce, so they took the garlic, bean sprouts, and a lone lime.
What they didn’t take: any nut products (nut butter, almonds, cashews, peanuts); seeds (chia and alfalfa); dairy products (UHT milk and butter).
The guys also inspected our tent and camping gear, and our bikes. They asked for a full history of what countries we had been to on the boat – all 22 of them!
After those two guys left, we were told we could leave, so we made arrangement to move to the marina for a slip. A few minutes later though, a woman came through with a dog to sniff around. I feel like it was not required since we were told we could move, but of course, when asked we didn’t say no. The dog was super friendly, giving me kisses and sniffing out the brownies and bacon.
We moved to the northernmost slip at the marina, the last one available for a cat. Once we got the boat settled, we took off for the marina office, which turned out to be WAY down the other end. It just happens to be the day for a cruiser’s festival and the end of the All Points Rally, with people selling items off their boat and the local stores having booths set up. Everyone was out and we quickly ran into friends. Here’s who all we know on Opua:
- Blowin bubbles
- Gypsy Heart
- Blue Summit
- La Vagabond
- My Dream
- Blue Summit
Quite the party, right? We’ve booked our slip till Thursday, and are getting settled into marina life. Fortunately, this is the cheapest marina we’ve ever been in – $45 NZD a night, roughly $33USD. It’s quite chilly here, but beautiful. It reminds us a lot of our time in Nova Scotia. There are a VHF net and lots of activities, plus all these friends to catch up with. It would be easy to just stay here, but we’ve got to be mindful of the time – our flight is December 10th, so just under two weeks to get Starry Horizons tucked in for cyclone season.
Written by David
The passage down to New Zealand (from Fiji) has a certain reputation among cruisers, and it’s generally not for being an idyllic, downwind sail. So far, it’s been living up to its reputation.
The first day and a half had apparent winds in the mid 20’s to low 30’s range and in order to sail to NZ and not Australia, we’ve been sailing at 47 deg apparent wind angle. The seas have been fairly rough, I’d estimate anywhere from 2-4 meters, and coming out of the SSE. We’re having to sail almost straight south (187 deg heading down to Opua) so that means we’re bashing through some pretty big waves. It’s not what Starry Horizons was built for and it’s frustrating to see our autopilot heading and actual course over ground vary by up to 10+ degrees as we get pushed around by the waves.
As frustrating as this may be, however, this weather window was the first one in quite a while that didn’t have wind coming directly out of the south for several days at a time. At least we’ve been able to sail, and with the waves flying over the bows, we have an unlimited free supply of salt. Anyone need some authentic South Pacific Sea Salt to top up their salt shakers???
Written by David
Well, it’s been a rough passage, but hopefully, that is behind us. Today the wind calmed down significantly! In fact, it’s near-perfect sailing weather. The winds are still ahead of the beam, at about 70 degrees to our port. But, instead of being 20-26 knots, the winds are between 10 –
18 knots. At this speed, we have both our full main and full genoa up and MAN we can fly! Of course, it’s all relative. We are reaching between 9-10 knots when the wind is around 15 knots, but then I just heard on The Sailing Rhode podcast about a guy who sailed (I think) the northwest passage on a performance trimaran at 460 knots a day! Yowza.
With the wind calming, the waves have calmed down too, and the passage is much nicer now. I’ve got my giddyup again! Since it’s calmed down and my seasickness has lessened, I’m going to bake us a special treat for Thanksgiving tomorrow – brownies! Sadly, that’s our only observation for the holiday, since, uh, I’m sure a whole turkey is hard to come by anywhere in the world except for the states. Nevermind the fact that my oven won’t fit a turkey!
It’s hard to believe that for Turkey Day last year we were on the hard in Nanny Cay having dinner at the marina, and the year before that we were in La Rochelle!
We’ve heard from a few of our friends who are already in NZ, and while some have moved on past Opua already, it looks like we will get to see Margansie and Quixotic when we arrive. We’ve decided to do something we hardly ever do – come into port at night. Opua is well marked and lit, and we know exactly where we are going – the quarantine dock.
With the speed we are going, it’s most likely that we will arrive sometime late Friday evening. The wind is forecasted to shift to come from the north, but not increase, so with winds coming right behind us this light we may be forced to motor. There is a system rolling through northern NZ Friday afternoon and evening, which may bring rain, but will bring slightly stronger winds to give us one last push into Opua.
Since I’ve been a bit seasick I haven’t been reading at all, which is so strange for me! David’s been working on our videos and on another passage we did, about this length, I had read a dozen books by the end! That is not the case here – I checked out 8 books from the library before we left Fiji but they are being neglected. This also means I’ve been using music nonstop as entertainment, and I’m in need of some new tunes! I haven’t updated podcasts in a long time, something I’m looking forward to doing in the states when we get some unlimited wifi.
New Zealand border patrol is really strict about foods you can and can not bring into NZ. I gave away a few items before we left Fiji, but we are running pretty bare in our cupboard – which is a good thing! I’d like to have an empty freezer when we clear in, and once we leave SH high and dry on the hard we will need to have an empty fridge too. I know for sure they’ll take away honey and non-commercially packaged meats. We will see what else I have to part with.
My goodness, it’s getting COLD too! We are both wearing pants and t-shirts now, with a fleece jacket at night. If we are sitting at the helm at night, we have a designated salt blanket – which I’m going to have to wash when we arrive! We’ve also pulled out the blankets for our beds, and are no longer sleeping with the fans on. I’d love to be wearing my slippers around the boat, but like everything cloth that’s not used regularly, they are moldy. Plus, I don’t want them dragging salt everywhere!
We know there are other boats out and around somewhere – two boats cleared out of Vuda bound for Opua the same day we did – but we haven’t seen any other sailboats. However, last night we had to adjust course to avoid a ship named Forte – they passed 1.5 nm from us. I say plenty of room, David says pretty damn close for the middle of the ocean.
I just did our 10 pm log, and in the last 3 hours, we’ve averaged 8.66 knots. If the wind kept up for 24 hours that’s almost 208 nm a day.
Ah well, it’s the journey, not the destination, right? I think that sounds better when you look at the big picture; it’s not a circumnavigation, it’s all the stops along the way. The open ocean is a little less interesting!