"Arctracer" Letters

"Arctracer" in New Zealand, Dec 2002

We arrived in Opua, New Zealand Monday Dec 2 at about 10:30. The last day at sea we motored into a light headwind to finish the last 100 miles of our 12 day 1270 mile passage from Noumea. We cleared with the officials and then refilled our diesel tanks. We burned 250 liters of fuel on this trip, which was a lot for sailors who prefer sailing slowly to motoring at any speed. We are presently anchored near the little town of Russell, in a very peaceful, sheltered bay, getting rested.

This passage was remarkable for its weather. We had no strong winds and did not pass through any fronts, but stayed near the east side of a high pressure area for the entire time. This gave us consistent light to moderate headwinds from the southeast. We never considered using our spinnaker, because that is good only when the wind is more behind us. We never even eased our sheets for a reach. At no time during those 12 days were we able to sail directly towards our goal. We would have made fairly good speeds if we had not lost our daggerboard and roller-furling jib on the second day. While we never had any dangers, we were frustrated by the wind conditions and our equipment and are glad this long slow passage is over.

As we approached New Zealand we saw several albatross, many petrels, prions, shearwaters and gannets. Entering the Bay of Islands we passed many Little Penguins swimming on the surface. The bay also has many big, ugly jellyfish, which make the idea of swimming in the cold water even less enticing. We are looking forward to picking mussels off the rocks, and catching some fish. No palm trees sway along the beaches here, and no corals grow. We are certainly out of the Tropics now!

We will spend some days in this Bay of Islands area, resting, visiting friends and getting some groceries. Then we will move to the Auckland area where we will probably spend much of the season. A boatbuilding friend knows where we can get a mooring convenient to his shop, a good chandlery and other suppliers. We will work to get everything repaired, modified, and ready for longer periods of cruising and relaxing in remote areas. If we get the boat ready before the cyclone season ends, then we will relax and enjoy NZ more and perhaps fly back to the U.S. for a visit.

New Zealand is chillier than New Caledonia, and we are using two quilts and long clothes now, but it will warm up as the southern summer advances. People here are planning their traditional beach holidays and outdoor barbecues for Christmas.