Sailing around New Zealand

Emily is sailing solo around New Zealand on her 32 foot yacht Honey, from Lyttelton south down the east coast, around the bottom of Stewart Island, up the west coast of the South and North Islands and down the east coast back to Lyttelton. The whole adventure is expected to take 3 months. This blog will provide updates as I travel (when I have mobile reception to upload).

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Dream Run up the West Coast (26-27 February)

I did hove to in the night, or at least Honey spun round in circles as the wind had almost completely died by this time, while I had a reasonably good sleep for four hours north of Jackson Head, drifting about 2 miles in towards the coast over that time – that was no problem as I was many miles out to sea. Back going again at 5am, and it was motor sailing until about 9am when the SW that had been forecast kicked in and I was sailing without the motor. It was a beautiful day for sailing – winds of 10 knots, which built up to a maximum of about 18 knots, directly behind me, a straight run up the coast (and quite a way west of the coastline), and another lovely warm one. There were few waves or swell, and this built to no more than 2m by the end of the day – enough that my spare autohelm could handle the pace, my main one having a few behavourial issues at present. I was sailing with a preventer on the main sail (to stop me from jibing unexpectantly), and with the genoa poled out. I don't usually pole out the genoa when I'm on my own – it is a spinnaker pole and super big and heavy, and if the weather is anything but light seas it careers around quite dangerously until I manage to get it all attached. But with calm seas, this made for a good chance to get the pole out so Honey could be efficient and balanced as she sailed up the coast.

I was far enough out to sea that with the haze I could not clearly make out the coastline, but the white capped Southern Alps behind looked so big and close – it was a stunning view, spotting all the mountains as they appeared – Mt Cook and Mt Tasman, and then trying to work out the others. It was another beautiful day. I cooked up a good feed in case the sea conditions strengthened, so I had food that I could easily heat up if it got rough. Filling up the fuel tank, I had only used about 25 litres of diesel so far – great, no issues of potentially running short at this rate! And I got stuck into reading Pippa Blake's book about her life with Sir Peter Blake, very fitting reading I thought as I was sailing up the coast, as it was very soon after I went to her book launch that I had the idea of sailing around New Zealand solo.

I made good progress and with the winds not forecast to abate I decided to continue through the night without hoving to, taking small cat naps when I needed to. By this point the swell had built up to 2m and Honey was surfing the waves, cruising along at 6.5 – 7 knots and maxing out at about 9 knots on the back side of the waves. All good and fine, but I wasn't sure how much more of this the little autohelm could take. So I put a reef in the main and partially furled in the genoa, and we were much more balanced and still making 5.5 – 6 knots. This meant I could relax a little and not jump everytime I thought we were going to do an impromptual jibe! It was an absolute dream run. And with a full moon it wasn't dark at night, more like a whole night of twilight, just as it had been the night before. As Tim said, I could have waited a month to get a great run like this, but I had only to arrive in Milford and it arrived!

There were still reasonable winds in the morning, and I carried on sailing until about 1pm when the winds gradually faded out and the swell reduced to little more than a ripple, perhaps 1m max. In the morning a fishing boat came alongside, the first boat I had seen since off Jackson Head, and we had a chat. They came over to find out if I was by any chance the missing yacht “WeiWei” that has been at the start of the marine bulletin for several days now. When they realised I was on my own, they thought that was “legendary” and were very impressed by how fast Honey was sailing – about 5 knots in winds that had abated to about 10 knots. They were out fishing for tuna and were heading back into Westport and back up to Nelson for the weekend before they came back on Sunday night to go back out fishing. As they headed away I heard a “wahoo”, they landed another fish. A milestone for this morning was to get cell phone reception – last time I had it (except when I picked up reception for a few hours from a cruise ship in Stewart Island) was when I was sailing past the Nuggets just south of Balclutha almost 7 weeks ago. So back into communication, I have spent much of the day sitting out in the sun on the cabin top, motor sailing with the wind dropped off to too little to just sail, talking on the phone, texting, checking emails and looking for whales. The fishermen this morning had said that I should see some whales up the coast, but unfortunately none were there or perhaps I didn't have my eye in and missed seeing them.

It was another absolutely beautiful and warm day, with “zero-eighths” cloud cover. Being well out to sea meant I could not see the coastline, but I have been able to make out the line of the mountains all day – the Paparoas and the mountains to the north. It has also meant that I have been able to take cat naps without concern of running aground and less likelihood of colliding with any other vessels. Most vessels travelling up and down the coast seem to be running in closer to the coast, and the tuna fishermen are on the banks further out to sea.

I spoke to Mum and she has been following my progress closely and has arranged to take the day off on Friday, and her and Kai will come up from Blenheim and spend the weekend with me in Tasman Bay – fantastic! This means I may potentially have a change of final destination on this leg – perhaps Totaranui or one of the bays further south in Abel Tasman this evening. It will depend on my timing and the weather conditions there, as I don't want to be negotiating around an area that I don't know and that has many rocks in the dark! Still with the progress I'm making, I should have time to find a reasonable anchorage in Tasman Bay during daylight hours.

At about 11pm the winds from the south west picked up again, so I have been able to sail without the motor, which makes a nice change from the droan of motor sailing. But then as I approached Kahurangi Point at about 1.30am, leaving sea area Grey and entering sea area Stephens, the winds dropped off completely with my speed dropping from 5 knots to 2.5 knots in the time it took for me to heat up the jug. So back again motoring. The winds have picked up a little now from the south east, enough to get perhaps 1 knot of sail assist, but it is still motor sailing. I am now running about 3 miles out from the coast towards Cape Farewell, about 15 more miles and I will be on my northern most point on this leg. By this time it should be light so I should be able to see all of Farewell Spit. Having never seen it before except from a seat on the plane, it will be great to see it up from relatively close out to sea. Unfortunately with it being dark, I have not been able to see the beaches of Kahurangi which I am told are beautiful, just the sillouettes of the hills visible. Running only 3 miles out to sea I don't plan to sleep at all – too little margin for error. But at this rate I should be able to drop anchor in Golden Bay or Tasman Bay by about 6pm, and then curl up for a good long and relaxing sleep!


  1. Awesome! Safe travels today. Have a lovely time in Golden Bay
    Viki xx

  2. Em's it's just delightful reading your blogs and you are so lucky to have this amazing weather, it must be beautiful out there sailing with Honey at present.
    We had the Parker's (Charlotte, Cam and kids) up to Wellington this last weekend and I told Charlotte about your adventure...she was very impressed too!
    Enjoy Golden Bay and have a much deserved rest. Big hugs and look forward to seeing you when you get to Wellie.

  3. Sorry above update by Sandra....but am sure you will have worked that one out Ems xx

  4. You are legendary Emily! What a dream run up the west coast. Thanks for the blog updates, enjoyable reading and great escapism from our ordinary city life.