There’s no passage like a speedy passage. We set off with a good deal of confidence in the forecasted winds, but were blown away (quite literally) by this run. It did take most of our first afternoon to get out of the wind shadow of New Zealand, but by nightfall we had 18 knots of southeast breeze that stayed with us nearly all the way to Fiji. After setting the sails for a broad reach were making well over 7 knots, and cruising right on the rhumb-line, to boot! Who was it that said Westsails were slow? It was shaping up to be a good start, and as we held our speed through the night we were two happy sailors ready for a picture-perfect cruise to the tropics. Of course, this is what everyone was ready for. We’d all waited so long and picked our window so carefully, but little did we know of what was to come.
A week in Northland. That’s about the best you can hope for when trying to make tracks. With a chance to make the Fiji jump coming together almost perfectly, that’s exactly the timeframe we were looking at and hit the ground running. On our downwind sail north the sun had revealed some minute tears in the main, and the gooseneck fitting had come unnervingly loose, so the morning after our arrival in Opua we had the main off the boom, the boom off the boat, repairs made to both and everything back on by lunchtime. Matt ran off to Cater Marine to order a new tiller pilot while I took apart the dodger and stitched a patch over the tear. We polished the tarnishing frame, washed the Sunbrella. Washed everything.
It was 6 degrees the morning we left Nelson. We’d returned the heater a friend had loaned us two days prior, giving Cavalo more than enough time to meet the ambient temperature. The plan was relatively straightforward; we would chase a gale up and out of the bay into the Tasman, move up the west coast and round North Cape, finally heading southeast to the Bay of Islands where we could catch the next window to Fiji. A front slowly making its way down towards the North Island meant we would have only four days to do this or we’d get whacked, but we were confident in the miles we could make and growing increasingly impatient.
It seems at the beginning of every season, when we’re finally ready to depart from wherever we’ve spent the Southern Summer, we find ourselves impatiently sitting in front of the computer, watching the weather as the weeks seem to slip by. The winds promise to take you swiftly and effortlessly offshore, in just the right direction, only to strand you days later or carry you off to where you never intended to go. So we wait. We’ve gotten pretty good at waiting. We imagine our entrapment this season is due to it being the tail-end of an El Niño year, or maybe it’s our lower-than-normal latitude, or poor timing, but either way we’ve become very, very stuck in Nelson. An unrelenting and uninterrupted succession of lows barreling in from Australia has all but shut down the Tasman, and turned the Cook Strait into a stretch of water that even the titanic ferries cross with caution. Lest you be fooled by Nelson’s sunny disposition, no one is going anywhere.