Total frustration trying to leave N.Z. for Hawaii over the last two weeks or so!!!

Thursday 3rd June

Talk about a see-saw of emotions and stress...!! So many times over the last two weeks I've thought I was going to be able to leave (friendly) New Zealand - and so many times the winds have been strong and unfavourable (i.e. heading me on my proposed passage...). The winter so far has seen mostly strong southerlies, with corresponding large seas, in the narrow Cook Strait with its horrendously uneven seabed and resulting upwelling of cold water. Against tide, a sure recipe for disaster..!

Initially, I thought I'd be able to sail away directly from Nelson - simple, I thought: I just need to sail through French Pass at slack water and then keep on going, south through Cook Strait and then NNE to Hawaii once I'd rounded Cape Palliser.... Simple?? NO!! That was the first time I became aware that the short distance south through the Cook Strait was likely to become a major obstacle. So with winds not in my favour just then, I made a sudden change of plan ... get through French Pass from Tasman Bay and then make for Mana Cruising Club, a short distance north of Wellington & on the Cook Strait northern entrance approach, so as to be poised ready for transit through the Strait, to continue on as before..... Simple?? NO!! Mana C.C. was a great little place to stop in but the weather gods were not on my side - this was definitely winter weather and it seemed I'd never get S through the Strait. 'Weather windows' have seemingly appeared, only to disappear on the day. Monday 31st May had looked fine for getting through the Strait - but I would have then found myself headed by 30-35 knots of SE wind.... So I got through the worst part of the Strait (finally!) only to have to decide to 'hole up' at anchor in a tiny deserted bay in Port Underwood - 'one of the safest anchorages in the Southern hemisphere' - in order to avoid gales due the following day and night....

I was forced to anchor well after sunset in pitch darkness - in a totally strange, uninhabited little bay, bounded on the north side by a line of unlit rocks, with a fish-farm close by where it there should have been none, and with the chart-plotter showing a totally different picture from the radar (calibration problem?, I wondered)... An absolute nightmare... both when rounding the rocky promontory at the SE point of the Port Underwood entrance and on the final approach, heart in mouth, into tiny Pipi Bay ready for anchoring!! Fortunately, having decided to use the radar image as more relevant, and also. of course, using my recently-calibrated (TG!) depth display to keep in a safe depth, I was relieved to find us anchored right in the middle of the little steep-sided bay come morning - having small lights on one or two of the fish-farm corners helped me to avoid getting too close to them also - but they weren't that far away... (My previously plotted anchoring position, at the end of my proposed track, turned out to be well on shore....!!) It's been an excellent, well-protected place.

So now I'm waiting, yet again, to sail off around Cape Palliser tomorrow around midday, having thought I'd be starting that at noon today (but today's forecast gave 30kt SE headwinds for this afternoon) .. and then midnight tonight... but delayed due to a deepening Low headed SE from Vanuatu - the next item to avoid as I head north over the weekend... The good news is that Bob McDavitt is keeping an eye on the weather for me - I couldn't want for more experienced S. Pacific weather knowledge ... and he thinks I should get to Hawaii in early July... so I may even make the SHTP10 Finish Line before the last of the racers - even if from NZ rather than from San Francisco, as I should have been...

Dare I hope for an uneventful passage to Hawaii?? That would be a first..!!

Written by : Mike

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