Location: 34°38.261S’ 173°43.365E’
Date: Nov 7 – 8, 2015
Day 10 – 11 at sea.
Winds from the south-southeast imposed a westward course upon us for two days as a trough blew over, pushing us more west than we would have wanted. Velocity Made Good (VMG) is a nautical measure of how fast you’re going in the actual direction of your waypoint based on speed, distance to target, and a little trigonometry. It doesn’t particularly matter if you’re rocketing at eight knots heading east if your destination is west, right? For two days our VMG oscillated between 0.5 and -0.7, meaning that we were going places, but often it was away from New Zealand. Yikes. Our wayward westing allowed us to later catch the favorable southwest winds which would zip us in to New Zealand after the front muscled through. Long story short, we’ve been pretty happy in the recent days sailing a beam reach southeast at a rejuvenating clip and enjoying our last days offshore.
The temperature has been dropping steadily as our latitude increases and is especially notable on night watches. Even curled up in the salon with a blanket and a mug of tea while keeping a lookout through the windows, the damp of the sea can put a chill in one’s bones. I’m becoming convinced that we’ve sailed right past New Zealand and are quickly approaching Antarctica. Miranda and I have been layering all the long pants, sweatshirts, and socks we can find. With our patchwork garb, stumbling locomotion about the boat, and itinerant living habits we might not be out of place on a New York City street with the folks screaming at passing cars. It’s a glamorous life on the sea.
The morning of the 8th dawned clear with light winds. In the late morning the jagged spine of North Cape rose slowly out of the sea to the west. Almost as if on cue the wind kicked up to twenty knots on our beam and we hurried the last hundred miles at a happy clip as sea birds swooped welcome loops around the boat. The scent of land greeted us forty miles out, light but distinct to our noses, acclimatized to the olfactory-neutral open ocean. At twelve miles out we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag, which indicates that you need to clear in with customs and aren’t trying to sneak in like bandits in the night. And night it quickly became. The sun dove behind the bulk of New Zealand spattering the cloud layer in reds and golds. As we approached the entrance to the Bay of Islands the conglomeration of pummeled seashore and rainy sheep pasture wafted over us and invoked memories of a year of bivouacking on the windswept coast of Ireland many moons ago. A young seabird hitched a ride in to port, plunking himself unceremoniously on deck for some shut eye.
The moonless and overcast night offered no aid in ducking the few freighters, navigating the ten miles into the bay, amidst the shallows, and up the Opua River to the customs dock. Land, sea, and sky blended together in charcoal gray and wood smoke hung in the air. Though dead tired, an hour nap before pulling into the bay and a cup of tea renewed us both, and picking our way through the beacons proved straightforward with a lookout on the bow. Moored vessels slid past in the mirrored water like specters as we motored up the river in a glow of blue-green seafire. On the 2AM slack tide we sidled up to the Q-dock, Cowgirl Miranda lassoed a cleat, and we wrangled Tayrona into her berth. I don’t even remember going below to rack out. Happy to be in New Zealand!