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).

Friday, 27 January 2017

Holing up in Port Hardy (20-23 January)

I got away early in the evening on Thursday 19th waving goodbye to Dad and Di, and motored out to Yncya Bay in the mid Pelorus. My friend Sandra had visited earlier in the afternoon, and I had coaxed her kids into agreeing to be my crew – they quickly retracted the offer and I motored past Hopewell where they were staying to wave as I went past. The kids were already in bed out of fear that I might really take them with me!

About half an hour from the anchorage, the NW had completely died down and the SE picked up. I unfurled the headsail and motor sailed up the second half of Hikapu Reach, rounding into Yncya Bay and picking up the Pelorus Boating Club mooring by about 9.30pm. After stowing the remaining provisions and setting up my bunk, I turned in for the first night on Honey bound for the North Island.

I was up in good time the next morning to take advantage of the southerly and the outgoing tide, but the southerly had all blown through leaving conditions of variable 5-10 knots. With the mainsail up, I motored out through Pelorus Sound, with a good pace with the ebbing tide. By 10.30am I had stopped at one of my favourite fishing spots at the Chetwode Islands and caught my dinner of blue cod. I fished a little longer in glassy calm conditions at the turn of the tide, and then headed for Stephens Passage (the passage between Stephens Island and D'Urville Island). There was very little wind, about 5 knots northerly so I motored on past the Trios and Rangitoto Islands, with the flood tide now also in my favour, passing through the eddies of Stephens Passage. After I rounded Hells Gate and the Sisters, I cut the engine and put up the genoa, gently drifting into Port Hardy. The day breeze picked up once I had passed Victory Island, and I sailed into South Arm and picked up a mooring in Philante Bay. This looked to be a good place to hole up while the next weather bomb passed over and until there was a weather break to make for Taranaki.

                                          Fishing spot at the Chetwodes
                                          Stephens Passage - rounding Hells Gate and the Sisters

The next day I was hoping to have a swim and a warm shower – I had put out my solar shower to heat up. But it was overcast and cool, but a calm day, so I opted to complete the remaining small jobs on my to-do list, and curl up with a good book, something I hadn't done for months. I started reading Graeme Kendall's “To the Ice and Beyond”, about his remarkable solo circumnavigation of the globe via the North West Passage. With the day passing I checked out the other moorings in South Arm to see where I wanted to be when the forecast storm blew up the next day. I opted for the 40 South mooring on the north side of Philante Bay, and another yacht shortly arrived and moored up in sight in Skeggs Bay. It was a relatively calm, albeit wet evening, and I put up the rain shelter that zipped between the bimini and dodger.

                                          Port Hardy anchorage (after the storm)
The next morning started wet but relatively calm, and the storm for Abel and Stephens areas was downgraded to a gale. But at about 11am the storm kicked in, sending willy-wars down South Arm and into the bay – it certainly was a good 45 knots plus, and Honey was heeling one way, then spinning around and heeling the other way. There was no sea in the bay, just gusty wind, and as Tim had reminded me before he left, it is the sea state that does the damage not the wind, but I still needed to ensure everything was securely stowed and tied down (as anything not secure was skidding across the cabin). When the 1333 weather came through on the VHF, it recorded 58 knots at Stephens Island, storm force, that figures! Shortly after I heard a tearing sound and berated myself for not taking down the bimini. The bimini was actually ok, it was the zip connecting the rain shelter that had pulled out of the dodger, a relatively easy fix for a fine day. I removed the rain shelter section and bimini and made sure everything else outside was secure.

The wind carried on blowing at storm force until about 4pm when it started to ease. I finished reading my book, and Graeme's escapade through the 65-70 knot Bering Sea after he had completed the North West Passage – madness! But also very awesome!

I kept an eye on the other yacht in Skeggs Bay which seemed to be moving around less than Honey, which surprised me as the bay is meant to have limited shelter in west to NW winds. With the forecast for winds easing overnight, it looked like there may be an opportunity to carry on my way the following morning, Monday 23rd January. I should be able to reach Port Taranaki within a day, my estimate 23 hours, so if I can leave in the morning I should be tucked up well before the NW of 30 knots forecast for late Tuesday.

The Preparation Continues

I now had a rather lengthy list of items to attend to before Honey and I could start on our North Island trip. The main items were to sort the genoa, the autohelm, mount the wind direction vane and the solar panel, but there were still many other items to sort – some breakages from the trip up from Lyttelton, and others that I had made the decision to delay until I was in the Sounds. Hopai Sports Day, a fun day out for many families in the Sounds, was on 7th January and I hoped I would be ready to leave soon after this date or at least within the week following.

Tim arrived in the Sounds on New Year's Eve and with Dad and Tim assisting I worked through some of the to do list. By the time Hopai Sports rolled around I had the spare genoa on the furler, and Tim had lent me his working gib from Treasure. The spare genoa is the original, dating back to when Honey was first built – it even has a South African sail number. It has a lower foot than the genoa that blew out, meaning I have no or very little view under the sail. Dad and I had also installed the solar panel – my wind turbine no longer worked and I had opted to install a larger solar panel in place of the smaller one instead of a replacement wind turbine.

With Hopai Sports passed, and the time I planned to leave fast approaching, I still had a heap to do so it was time to step it up a notch. The wind was not being kind – with several strong northerly winds bringing a large chop into the bay, making work on the boat difficult. One calm morning, Tim, Dad and Sam winched me up to the top of the mast to tap and screw in the wind direction vane.

Then I turned my head to the autohelm. The ST1000 had stopped working again and there appeared to be no power getting to the main autohelm controller. After identifying that power to the units was not a problem, we pulled both apart. Sea water had got into both units, corrosion to the main controller rendering it beyond repair (that would explain the beeping as I motored into Kenepuru Sound – I guess salt water was frying the unit). After considering options, Dad located an identical second hand controller on Trademe which I bought. While I waited for it to arrive, Tim and I cleaned up the ST1000 as best we could, took it for a test run, and it worked again. Great, this will make a good back up!

By the time the replacement main autohelm controller had arrived, I had worked through almost all the other items on my list – engine checked over with impeller and diesel filters changed, broken sail slides replaced, replacement bulkhead compass installed, hanks for stay sail freed up, bimini fixed, and the list goes on. I receievd and installed the main autohelm controller and it powered up, great! Now to test it... but the drive wouldn't work. After some nervous moments, we found the drive was working and although all connections looked fine Dad and I replaced them and after a test run I concluded that I finally had a working autohelm. Now I felt Honey was ready to go, what a relief!

It is true what they say that the preparation for sailing takes as long as if not longer than the actual trip. That has certainly been true for me and Honey, despite having already completed a circumnavigation of the South Island with her. It was now Wednesday 18th January and I had hoped to be on my way several days earlier. Tim had returned to Lyttelton and I was itching to get underway.

A quick trip to Blenheim to complete the final provisioning, and an overnight stay with Mum (my last night on terre firme for a while I hope) and I returned to Kenepuru to stow the boat, with the aim of getting away late in the afternoon after the weather bomb had passed.

Lyttelton to the Marlborough Sounds: The Shakedown Trip (28-30 December)

Finally Honey and I are ready enough to make the short hop up from Lyttelton to the Marlborough Sounds. There are still several things not done, but they can wait until we are safely moored in Kenepuru Sound.

It's Wednesday 28th December. The final provisions are stowed, and Tim and Brett (Tim's dad, my father-in-law) are at the floater at Dampier Bay in Lyttelton to see me off. It has been such a busy time to get ready that I'm not in the head space for sailing. There is a north east blowing down the harbour, and Tim suggests I motor out to Little Port Cooper and get myself sorted there – great idea! Little Port Cooper is where I spent my last night aboard Honey when I completed the South Island. As I wave good bye at the floater, I find out that Colin Lock on Legacy II is also heading up to the Sounds today, so I should have company on the water.

A short motor out to Little Port Cooper, tucked in behind Adderley Head at the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour, and then I got busy with checking over the boat. Passage plan completed and main sail raised I was ready to leave. Then I noted my house battery was almost flat – I had left the fridge on with the engine off, and with my solar panel not yet installed and a proper catch missing on the fridge, it had drained the house battery in a very short time. First note to attend to after this shakedown trip.

Honey and I headed out of the harbour, past Godley Head, motoring with the mainsail up into the NE wind. I could see no sign of Legacy II, perhaps she passed me while I was moored up at Little Port Cooper. As Banks Peninsula receded behind me, the winds veered east and south east, and soon the headsail was out and motor off and we were underway. It felt great to be with Honey back on the open water!

Sailing close to the solstice meant for long days and short nights. By 11pm it was pitch dark and I decided to head down for a 20 minute sleep – I know its best to catch sleep when you can. I had been running the engine (to recharge the house battery and keep the fridge cool),so I turned off the engine and flicked off the fridge circuit breaker. But the fridge circuit breaker is right next to the DC mains, and I accidentally flicked this off too. Whilst I flicked it straight back on, the auto pilot didn't seem happy about it and stopped holding its course. I was using my lighter weather ST1000, and the winds had moved more to the east – perhaps it was struggling with this, so I pulled in the headsail and started motoring.

It was now a very black night and with the auto pilot down, I was at the tiller – no sleep for me. The light on Honey's bulkhead compass wasn't working – it hadn't worked since Stewart Island, I hadn't had time to yet install the wind direction vane and it was too dark to see the woolies that Tim had tied to the side stays as an interim measure to get me to the Sounds (and I had broken my head torch earlier that evening). I was also having issues with the GPS chart plotter that was restarting approximately every 15-20 minutes, taking about 5 minutes each time to refind our position. So I steered using the Point Gibson light that flashes every 10 seconds.

About midnight and the rain set in – this meant that very quickly I lost sight of the Point Gibson light, and the black wet night closed in around me. I glanced at the chart plotter when it was going, but in the end needed to rely on the easterly rain driving on my right cheek and the feel of the motion of the boat to keep myself on course. Everytime I went down below, to check my position or grab something to eat, Honey would turn in a large circle, and it would take a minute or so to get back on track. Whilst wet, the winds weren't that strong and I was a long way out to sea so there was no land to hit. But what about ships? The phosphorescence that night was amazing – Honey's wake left a green glow and every wave that hit the deck was green and glowed for a second or two after it had landed. And when I looked around the boat it was glowing in every direction – was there a ship out there or was it phosphorescence? I turned on the radar to check, but with the scatter from the rain it would have been difficult to pick out a ship.

It felt like a grim long miserable night – I was pleased that it was actually a short night and at 4am the first hint of dawn was showing. But by then I was wet through and cold to the bone. I didn't want another night of hand steering and was thinking of making for Port Underwood. It was at this stage I thought to myself, “that's enough, someone else can take over from here” and “is there anything else that can go wrong?” Ah, no, I am 12 miles out to sea, sailing solo – it is just me, dig deep and keep going. That's one of the great things of sailing solo, no point in feeling sorry for yourself, you just need to get on with it. And there was plenty that was going right – the engine had not skipped a beat, there were no wild winds, and the modification to the drainage on the bath was working well. (Yes, Honey has a bath under the cockpit floor – great for storage but on my South Island trip it would invariably fill up with water, adding a lot of weight to the stern and my boots were constantly awash with water). With the dawn breaking, my spirits lifted and I unfurled the genoa and cut the engine. I tried the autohelm again and it was now working, great! But I did not want to move too far from the helm just in case. At this rate I would stick with my original plan to head for Pelorus Sound rather than stopping in at Port Underwood.

All of a sudden a large gust of wind hit – the southerly front, I hadn't seen it approaching. It was too much for the autohelm and Honey gibed whilst I dived for the tiller. All ok, but then I heard a tearing sound and looked dumbly at the genoa that was flapping wildly whilst still sheeted in. A split second later and I realised I had blown out the genoa. I did my best to furl it up, but it kept flapping. I hoisted up the storm gib and turned into the wind attempting to get the genoa down, but it was stuck and I couldn't get it to budge. With the front now past, Honey was very underpowered with just the storm gib and main, but I couldn't do much about that with the genoa stuck. So I started the engine and thought again about heading into Port Underwood for the night.

Finally the rain eased and then stopped, and the clouds lifted so I could see the Kaikoura coast from Cape Campbell to the Clarence. I could get out of my very wet wet-weather gear, and clamber into my sleeping bag to try and warm up. With the sun out and my bones drying out, and what looked like a fine evening and night ahead, I made the decision to push on. As I headed into Cook Strait with favourable currents I was getting on at a fair speed, up to 7 knots, even without the genoa. It was about 10.30pm when I passed the entrance to Tory Channel. All the navigation lights in Cook Strait were clearly visible, as were the red lights on the wind turbines on the coast of the North Island. I motor sailed past Wellington, and then past the Brothers and took the long route around Cape Jackson, passing outside of Walkers Rock. I now had the tide against me and was tired – no sleep since the night before I left Lyttelton, but as I was now sailing close to land I needed to stay vigilant.

The last two and a half hours from Cape Jackson to Alligator Head seemed to take forever. I kept having to push out the voices in my head telling me to lie down and have a sleep, that someone else would take over. When the Ninepin Rock light disappeared from view, I knew it was being obscured by Titi Island and I was almost there. I came around Alligator Head, dropped the sails and noting that all moorings were occupied I dropped anchor just off the beach of the Punt Rails. It was just after 4.30am and finally I could allow myself to fall asleep.

I slept for three hours and woke to an unusual sound – ah, it was the flapping genoa, but Honey was all ok so I slept for a further one and a half hours and woke feeling refreshed. The lady from the yacht that was moored close by came by to check if all was ok, and if they could help with getting my genoa down – she said they would have been happy if I had rafted up next to them and they would have even helped getting the genoa down at 4.30am! Being keen to get through Allen Strait as the tide had just changed I decided to carry on with the mainsail up, genoa flapping and motoring, on to Kenepuru Sound. Late afternoon I pulled up in the bay outside the family holiday bach. Shakedown trip over, and now a lot of things to attend to!

The Preparation Starts

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Part 2: The North Island

After almost 4 years since Honey and I had completed our circumnavigation of the South Island and Stewart Island, it is time to take on the North Island. Over the first three months of 2017, I intend to circle the North Island, up the west coast and down the east, and spending time along the beautiful coast of the far North, Great Barrier Island and the Hauraki Gulf. As it was for the first part, this will be a solo trip, but I do hope to be joined by family and friends along the way when I reach some of the magic destinations.