After exactly four months in French Polynesia it was time to leave. Although we both felt a little sad to be leaving such a beautiful location where the sun almost always shines and the sea is the most amazing blue, anticipation and excitement for what lied a head made the departure an easy one. Plus we definitely know we are going to return to these beautiful distant shores again.
We departed the last barrier reef of Raiatea in the Society Islands just before noon on Tuesday 7th October. It was a beautiful hot sunny day with just the slightest of breeze. We knew from the forecast that the first 24 hours was going to be a motoring one, but starting the first day out lightly is always better than going out into a raging wind and sea. The colors as we exited the lagoon was just amazing, the most amazing aquamarine blue. The sun was fierce and outside in the cockpit it was sweltering in the afternoon heat. The fishing lines went out just after we left and it was just three hours later that surprisingly enough one of the lines began to sing. Happily we bought aboard a nice big 15kg Mahi Mahi that was to be dinner and lunch for quite a few days to follow.
The first night at sea was a memorable one as it was Octobers full moon. The special thing about this full moon was that we were also going to be privilege to a full eclipse of the moon. A full eclipse of Octobers Blood Moon the news had mentioned. A rare occurrence for sure and made even more special when seen from the middle of the ocean. Just after mid night when the eclipse was in full swing all hands were on deck with a pair of binoculars. We had a few clouds around but otherwise the total eclipse of the moon was pretty awesome to watch from the darkness of the ocean.
The next day the wind began to full in slowly and by sunset we were sailing along nicely with a good breeze. Morgan had been watching the weather closely for the last few weeks and it all looked pretty favorable and consistent weeks before. Now that we were actually out here things were not the same.
Thursday 9th October and we were passing right through the middle of the Cook Islands. We could see two Islands during the day from just over five miles away. Its strange to be so close to land with no intention on stopping. Early hours the next morning on Morgan’s watch he passed Rarotonga to our beam just eight miles away. He could clearly see the silhouette of the Island and the lights from ashore.
By the third night at sea the air had started to cool slightly. The days were still mostly hot and sunny, but the nights became a little more pleasant as appose to sweltering hot. Night five the fans went of and the bed sheets were finally in use. We all felt the drop in the temperature. Strangely enough it was welcomed.
Saturday 11th October another beautiful day and we are sailing along nicely. Today marks our 10th Anniversary since we first sailed away from St Helena on little Noa. As I sit on the stern of Louise thinking back to that day its amazing to think how much we have done in the last 10 years and yet it seems like we want to still do so much more. I remember the 11th October 2004 our official departure and my first Atlantic crossing and real sailing experience as if it was yesterday. I remember the feeling of fear, excitement and anticipation as I watch my little Island fade away as the sun started to set.
The weather has been all over the place the last few days and the low pressure systems that would normally be much further south was directly in our path further north. Keeping on the right side of things we were forced back into a patch of no wind again by Sunday the 12th. Motoring a long with a swell is never much fun but a good excuse for a full on Sunday Lamb roast. Over the last few days the sunsets have been much later so today it was time to change the clocks back another hour.
We have been playing the guessing game that men so seem to Love. Guessing our arrival in Auckland. Of cause progress is slower than anticipated but we are officially half way there as of early hours on Monday 13th October. We need wind.
Our prays were answered and as Monday morning progressed a light breeze started to full in. The sails were up and out and once again we were moving. The day was cloudy and overcast and cool. It was almost too chilly to be outside too long. The sea temperature was 21 degree’s so a 7 degree drop since we left the Islands less than a week ago. Also today an Albatross was sighted a sure sign that we have moved further south. Life on board seems to tick by and everyone is in their comfortable routine.
Monday evening we crossed the date line from East to West so have jumped forward a day. Monday evening all of a sudden became Tuesday evening. Its a little strange to miss a day. Monday is also night seven and our bed covers are out and welcomed. Our Yankee decides to go for a dip in the middle of the night, so activity on deck in the middle of the night kept everyone on their toes.
Thursday 16th October, It feels like days since we have last seen the sun and the dull grey overcast sky has meant the temperature is dropping faster. Daily we see it go down. The sea temperature is now 19.5. Everyone is fully dressed during the day and foul weather gear is starting to appear at night. We have seen very little life out here apart from the odd bird. No dolphins, no whales and we haven’t really been fishing anymore so no fish. The upside of things is that we have had a good wind since Monday (which became Tuesday) and have been clocking in the miles once again. We have just passed the 600 mile mark and amazingly enough still making a bee line for New Zealand. We’re on the final count down now and I am struggling to contain my excitement.
We have been told that New Zealand has strict regulations about what can be bought into the country. So when fresh provisioning I have made a conscious effort to just have bare minimum. I didn’t even buy any more meat for this trip as we were well stocked up from Tahiti. So stocks are dwindling fast right now and the fridge is starting to look a little empty this is making lunch and dinner ideas a little more challenging.
Friday 17th October the sun comes out and the wind drops again. So with a blue sky and the warmth of the sun we motor on slowly. At least with motoring it gives us a good opportunity to fish and this we did. By mid afternoon a skipjack tuna was landed. By far not our favorite fish but I guess at this point we will take what we can get. This will probably be our last freshly caught fish for a while. Whilst the fish was being clean and filleted whales started to appear all around. Spouts could be seen pretty much everywhere. Quite a few birds have been sighted the last few days as well. We can feel land is near. At 9pm on Friday evening we crossed over from the western hemisphere back into the eastern hemisphere.
Saturday 18th October and the wind slowly comes in as the day awakes. At 10am we are just over 200 miles away. The day remains dulls and overcast but nothing can shake the excitement of being this close to our next destination. Mid afternoon and we are greeted by a pod of common dolphins. They play of Louise’s bow for a while providing quite a spectacular show. It great to see life out here again. The wind is slowly starting to build and we are moving along nicely clicking away the miles once more.
Saturday night, our last night at sea for a while and I can’t sleep. Excitement has gotten the better of me and it feels like I am constantly watching the milage counter count down. At mid-night thirty we are twelve miles of shore and officially entering local waters. Lights were few and far between and the night was dark. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for an approach the skies opened up and it really started to pour with rain. The night seems to drag on as the sails are constantly adjusted to coincide with the constant wind shifts.
Sunday morning the 19th October everyone was up early to watch land approach. It was hard to believe that the second half of our Pacific crossing was coming to an end. This was by far one of the easiest passages we have done in a while. The weather had been good with the exception of a few light days and our almost direct route meant that the two thousand two hundred miles were completed in just under eleven days.
Auckland New Zealand ‘The City of Sails’ was a wonderful sight.