On passage to Opua, NZ, Day 3

Getting the weather window correct for this 1100nm passage is vital, as a succession of high and low pressure systems are created off the eastern seaboard of Australia, and traverse east across New Zealand and across the Pacific. The winds rotate in the opposite way to the Northern Hemisphere, so with a high they are anti-clockwise, low pressure clockwise. The secret is to leave Tonga as the top of a high pressure passes by, and if a low pressure is following, head for the north of N Island, so as to pick up the westerlies and be in the right position to make landfall. If the pressure is too high, 1030+ the winds created by the squash or squeeze zone will be too strong, so stay at anchor!

Leaving Tonga has its advantage in that Minerva Reef provides shelter and an anchorage 250 nm SW of Tonga, in the event of bad weather forming over N Island when one plans to arrive. As we passed the reef at midnight the night before last, the low pressure following our high was following a track south of S. Island, so poses no threat. Consequently we carried on, not that a night entry would have been possible anyway!

The winds, or “breeze” as Bob’s son Andrew calls it, have been boisterous! Most people would term them as strong! We have not had less than 17kn from just forward of the beam, and last night we had a constant 24-25kn, gusting 28.5kn. We were sailing with one reef in the mainsail, and a number of rolls in the staysail. The 2nd reef in the main (we only have two, the second being deep) we would normally put in as the wind approaches 30kn. Happily as midnight approached, with spray flying everywhere, as well as green ones breaking over the bow, the wind started to ease. Now we are back to 20kn, which is forecast to continue for at least the next 48 hours. Whilst hardly comfortable sailing, we are achieving good daily runs, 174nm yesterday, looks the same or better today. You can see our position on the home page of the web site, ‘Where are we now?’

We download Grib files, computer generated weather maps, just after 1800 each evening, and from these we can see the weather systems from the east coast of Australia and Tasmania, across NZ and to the north and east of Tonga, for a 10 day period, so encompassing the complete area we need to watch.

As we approach NZ, it is becoming noticeably cooler, and winter clothing has been extricated from deep storage, as well as the duvet, as nights are very cool, even where we are now.

Based on our current position and speed, we hope to arrive late on the 31st (no Halloween party this year!), or during the 1st November.

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