Thursday, March 14, 2019

Passage to the Banks Peninsula

[Kyle]Barry, the Otago Yacht Club’s jolly Caretaker was there at high tide to help us cast off from the dock. The wind had not yet made it this far into the harbor and the basin was a flat calm mirror. He gave us a shove, we drifted sideways a couple of meters, and then I used forward on one engine and reverse on the other to pirouette around until we were facing the exit. Then it was both engines in forward and we started our slow getaway. Barry stuck around to give us hand signals if we needed them to negotiate the narrow entrance. When he realized we were okay, he waved both hands anyway and bid us fair winds.

About five minutes later, a northwest wind came screaming up the harbor and hit us head-on hard enough that it cut our speed by a third. We were both glad we hadn’t been trying to leave the yacht club just then. It would have been much harder to keep from bouncing our way out through the other boats while the wind had its way with us. Currently, we still qualify for a warm welcome should we ever return.

Once we left Otago harbor, we faced the full brunt of the winds and waves. As seems to be usual, our weather window was a bit shorter than we needed, so we had little choice but to put up with tacking into headwinds for a while. I tried my best to keep the noise down while Maryanne went off watch, but it’s hard to tack quietly, especially alone, because it takes time to run to the other side of the boat to finish the job (more so since we still have the enclosure on around the cockpit). Plus, there’s all of the wind noise and wave motion. I’m amazed she got any sleep at all.

I usually get her up for dinner and her night watch at 1600. I try to be especially quiet during the last hour of her off watch, because I know that’s when she’s likely to be sleeping the lightest and have the hardest time getting back to sleep after a disruption.

At 1540, right when I was in full tiptoe and whisper mode, I spotted our wind shift coming from behind in the form of an ominous shelf cloud that stretched from horizon to horizon. At 1552, I decided I couldn’t hold out any longer and made a bunch of noise bringing all of our sail down as a precaution. We coasted to a stop, and then the wind died and left us bobbing in confused leftover seas.

I woke her up just as the shelf cloud arrived overhead. By the time she came up the stairs at 1602, we had thirty-seven knot tailwinds and were accelerating. I unrolled a tablecloth worth of jib and we were soon going seven to eight knots directly on the course we wanted.

Oh... not sure I like the look of that!

Maryanne spent her watch grateful for our cockpit enclosure, because it spared her from most of the dousing she would have otherwise had to endure. The seas were a sloppy mess as the old southbound wave train collided with the new northbound one and she spent much of the time just trying to hold on.

When she woke me at midnight, the wind was still around thirty knots, but the northbound train had won, so the motion was generally fairly gentle surfing down a following sea. By morning, when I got her up, we were down to a gentle rocking in winds that hummed instead of howled and I was flying the spinnaker to keep us moving at a good clip.

We were doing so well, in fact, that it looked like our planned second night at sea may not be necessary. This was especially important to us because it was our sixteenth wedding Anniversary and we were both secretly hoping we could do more than exchange a high-five at watch change and go to the bed the other one had just vacated.

Sights from the passage - still plenty of albatross around

We had originally been headed for Lyttelton, the main port near Christchurch. There was no way we would be able to beat a wind shift there, so we briefly considered going to French Bay in Akaroa harbor. It was not looking like we would even have time to get that far up the bay before dark, so Maryanne did a little research and suggested we go into Flea Bay, the first bay to the east. Oh, Maryanne, I do spoil you. Flea Bay it is!

It was actually very nice. I had hoped it wasn’t named Flea Bay for a reason, like Sandfly Point in Milford. There turned out to be no fleas in evidence and it was nice to open a bottle of wine and toast sixteen amazing years and another successful passage together.

Arrival in Flea Bay - 'greeted' by a White Flippered Penguin

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