New Zealand: Part 4

Cruising in New Zealand.

It has been nice again to experience the New Zealand spring first in Opua and later in Whangarei.

Christmas and New Year was celebrated in Auckland with the boat based in Westhaven Marina.

New Zealand, from Auckland to Nelson (January – July 2010).

After a short pit stop in Gulf Harbour Marina, we visited Great Barrier Island, Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, and continued to Wellington. After an interesting visit here the Cook Strait was crossed. This is a demanding trip and has to be made at the right time due to the substantial tide currents, and it is very valuable to learn from the local sailors and study pilot books before crossing. I enjoyed a little cruising in Marlborough Sounds and went through the French Pass on the way to Nelson. Again local knowledge and experience is good to listen to before passing through, because it is very narrow and two vessels cannot pass at the same time, so signals must be given before passing.

Nelson with its big harbour was reached in good weather. The town is very beautiful well settled between mountains to the East, South, and West and out to the calm Tasman Bay. It is the most sunny town in New Zealand and it does not rain much either. It is a lively town with a very good market and many tourists. Outside town you will find many of New Zealand’s good wine fields.
Nelson has many good service facilities for all kinds of vessels, and Dana Felicia made use of the slipway and prepared the bottom for the next season.

However due to unexpected urgent business in Europe Dana Felicia’s stay in New Zealand has been extended, and the planned visit to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands has therefore been postponed.

Tasman Sea passage New Zealand to Australia (5th – 13th of November 2010)

The passage of 1261 Nm from Port Nelson to Coffs Harbour in Australia took us 8 days. At departure we headed for Bundaberg. Both crew and boat had not been sailing for 9 months. The boat was in top condition; however the crew knew that we would have to earn our sea legs again. We began with high hopes without wind and had a few hours sunny motoring. On the way we heard on the VHF about a gale warning for the Cook Strait and Stephens. The gale soon hit us and turned into a storm with gusts in the mid 50 knots. That combined with the confused short and steep waves at Separation Point, where the Cook Strait to the full extend lived up to its bad reputation hit us hard. It first brought us somewhat rusty sailors into seasickness after treating the boat as a nutshell, and then constantly threw green water on the deck. The pilot house was almost converted into an aquarium. We were sailing with 2 reefs in the main and the engine going in order to better penetrate the short waves which were spoiling the normal continues movement of the boat. At times the propeller went out of the water.

At that time one drawer, though locked, was shot out on the salon floor, where it was secured with rope for the rest of the voyage. The remaining potential “missile drawers” was secured with rope as well. By the time when the navigational lights were turned on the alarm for malfunction showed that our position lights were out of order. Also the forward deck light went out of order. Then the starboard winch at the mast stopped working on power. OK we could still work it manually. During this time we were much occupied with attending these problems and all kind of violent noises were heard around us.

Then, exhausted as I was in a short rest period managed to hear that a new sound had come to the main engine, and I went into the engine room to check and saw to my horror, that the 400 kg diesel generator had fallen down on the side and hit the running main engine and cut a water hose, so salt water was spraying out in the engine room especially on electrical engine connections and our two alternators. Soon all sorts of alarms and readings could be seen on the engine panels, so I stopped the main engine. It later turned out that all the flex mounts on the diesel generator except one which I had modified myself a couple of years ago had departed and let the whole unit loose.

After several stressful and exhausting attempts and bruises we managed to push the diesel generator back on the foundation, so I could tie it “in position”. Many connections were cut or ripped loose, and the metal exhaust pipe destroyed, so this source of power was disabled for the rest of the journey. I stopped the salt water leak and cleaned and dried the main engine the best I could and got it started again, but it did not charge the start batteries. The other alternator could still charge the main batteries, and in an emergency the main engine can be started from them, so it looked a little better now. Later in the journey the charging of the main batteries also failed to work. We were happy with our solar panels and wind generator which were installed in NZ and they proved to be most valuable. Then we got a leak in the hydraulic pipe for the boom wang but could still operate the aft stays (thanks God).

In the meantime the high pressure over the Tasman Sea, which we had hoped to sail on top of, had moved much faster north than expected, so for most of two days we had no wind after which time the wind were now coming from the North and North West. Due to this and another gale from this bad direction and the technical problems experienced, we decided to head for the nearest entrance harbour, Coffs Harbour instead of Bundaberg. The westerly wind and the strong current pushed us south; however after days with 35 – 45 knots of head wind we arrived 10 Nm south of Coffs Harbour in the early morning hours Saturday 13th in a NW gale with 45 knots of wind and a 2 – 3 knot south going current. I followed the pilot recommendations by not attempting to enter the harbour at night under these conditions unless familiar with it. Instead we hove too and went in at noon time, both very exhausted. Altogether the main engine had been in use for 91 hours.

Map Location