Merry Christmas from the tropics

We’ve been especially busy since leaving Tonga almost 6 weeks ago, although in many ways it feels like we only left yesterday. We set sail to New Zealand with a stop off at Minerva Reef. We were expecting to wait at Minerva for just a few days for an appropriate weather window to continue our journey to New Zealand, but ended up staying for a whole two weeks. It turns out that being stranded in such a remote location (no shops, no buildings, in fact – no land at all!) was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had!

Minerva Reef – no land but the protection from the seas made it a good place to anchor.

A view of our friends boat ‘Local Talent’ from the top of Bob’s mast with reef in the background

 

Here are a few shots from various snorkel trips. The reefs are amazingly healthy and host a wealth of diversity – it’s the best snorkeling either of us have ever done!

Alex did an excellent job of hunting and gathering and brought us back this fabulous lobster for dinner. Another day he brought back an octopus. Fine dining on Bob even in the remotest of places.

 

At low tide the water is shallow enough to take a walk on the reef. We put on the crocs and went for a wonder to the outer reef – here are some shots of our walk on water.

We made it to the outer reef

 

One of the highlights for me was diving with a 10-foot tiger shark in North Minerva. We had heard there was a resident tiger shark lurking around the pass of the atoll and a group of us were keen to check it out. I would have been seriously freaked out if one came along unexpectedly when Alex and I were diving on our own, however, we planned the expedition with some friends in the hope that we would actually get to see this magnificent beast and I felt like we had safety in numbers. During the dive I was busy recording all the small fish species around me when I looked up and saw the stripy grey sheen of something huge about 10 meters from us. The tiger shark made a slow, wide circle around us and was followed by about 20 grey sharks – she made the grey sharks looks like insignificant fish bait. Our friend Gail (who was snorkelling at the surface and had a birds-eye view of the whole thing) must have thought we were about to face a mutilating and gruesome death. Fortunately we survived and it turned out to be another amazing wildlife experience that I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about when I’m old and wrinkled.

Our passage to New Zealand was wonderful! There was no drama, no breakages, no storms – just relatively smooth sailing for the whole journey and we made a safe arrival in Opua in early December. We picked up our new campervan ready to explore the country by land in a few months time. Otherwise, we spent most of our time preparing the boat and the camper van to be left for a couple of months while we’re in Thailand (and Alex in Australia for a few weeks) visiting my parents.

Sailing into the sunset – leaving Minerva and heading for New Zealand

Land-Ho! Arriving in New Zealand

Alex giving our new camper van (Jacangi) a wash

Bob on her pile mooring in the Kerikeri river. What a lovely home for her over the coming season.

I’ve been in Thailand now for almost two weeks and it’s so wonderful to be in this colourful and vibrant country with my family, some of who I’ve not seen in almost two years! Alex is enjoying the festivities in Australia with his brother and other family members. He will fly out to Thailand to meet me on the 27th of December ready for tropical New Year celebrations on the Thai island of Koh Mak.

Drinks at the Vanilla Sky Bar

The stunning view of Bangkok at night

The family having Christmas eve drinks in a bustling Bangkok street bar

Christmas morning with presents under the ‘tree’

Finally, I’ll leave you with some festive wildlife. Believe it or not, there’s an underwater species known as the ‘Christmas tree worm’. They are a type of tube-building worm that lives in coral reefs and get their name from their Christmas tree-like appearance. Each worm has two brightly coloured crowns that project from its tube-like body which are used for respiration and to catch food. They are about 1.5 inches in length, come in a variety of festive colours and recoil quickly into their burrows when they detect movement by a large creature in their vicinity – it makes them good fun for snorkelers.

Merry Christmas.

Fun, cute and colourful Christmas tree worms – Spirobranchus species

 

 

New Zealand Arrival

Hello everyone,

I’m just posting a quick one now to let you all know that we had a stonking run into New Zealand -155 miles in the final 24 hours – and arrived just before dark on the 28th. Sarah has some wonderful pictures and we intend to do a proper blog in the near future. South Minerva Reef was particularly spectacular.

 

Since we arrived we have spent far, far too much money buying all sorts of boat bits that we have been denied for the last couple of years. We even invested in a major luxury -a water heater! (It’s freezing here. Well………. 16 celcius really, but it might as well be freezing after two years in the tropics. We’re bundled up like the Michelin Man)

 

Bob is tucked away on a pile mooring up the Kerikeri river. The anchor has been removed, the chain reversed, the water maker ‘pickled’ for storage, the main engine flushed with fresh water, a float switch installed on the bilge pump and over the next week or so we’ll remove the sails and put her to bed. We have picked up our camper van, Jacangi, but even she will be abandoned for the next two months as we fly (shock/horror! Flying is cheating!) to Thailand to visit Sarah’s family.

Nearly There

As of noon today, Sunday November 26th, we are 200 miles from Opua, the most northerly customs port in New Zealand and our destination. It’s a lovely day – the sun is shining for the first time since we left Minerva. We shook out the 2nd Reef this morning and are plowing along at nearly 6 knots under a single-reefed mainsail and full 110% working jib on a lovely beam reach. The seas are considerably diminished compared to what they were a few days ago and the motion is gentle and agreeable. Despite Sarah’s scopoderm anti-seasickness patch having expired beyond it’s 3-day lifespan two days ago she’s bounding around the cabin doing such productive things as making bread with the last of our flour and has even hidden the last of our olives in the dough. We’re down to our last half a courgette, a third of a cabbage, two small potatoes and two small onions as far as ‘fresh’ provisions go, so it looks like we got it just about right and won’t have to relinquish too much to the New
Zealand biosecurity officers upon our arrival. Maybe a coconut or two. Then again maybe we should make the effort to eat them before we arrive. After all, we might not see coconuts again for quite a while.

We’re looking at a night-time arrival in Opua, perhaps some time around midnight tomorrow (Monday) night. Subject to the winds of course. We have been exceptionally lucky on this passage not to have needed to motor at all. The mast is still pointing up. Spirits are high. It’s been almost three weeks since we saw land and we can almost smell it.

Bob’s Progress Report

As of 1000, Friday morning, November 24 (UTC+13) Bob is at 28 17 S, 177 37E heading SSW at about 4.5 knots under deep-reefed mainsail and a sliver of jib. Conditions have been considerably rougher and windier than forecast. Our friends aboard ‘Local Talent’ to the South reported sustained winds in the high 20s and ‘Serengeti’ to our North reported high 30s gusting into the mid-40s two nights ago. We are somewhere in the middle of those two – I was estimating about 30 knots sustained. Bob has taken a bit of a beating from having to crash her way through Southerly swells but is performing admirably. Spirits are good on board. The motion is much better today with the swells diminished and on the beam, and the wind is showing signs of reducing permanently rather than coming in fits and lulls as it is at the moment. We’ll be able to shake out a reef then and speed up a bit. Sarah is making bacon and eggs for breakfast, with chips and beans. Yum 🙂

We’re finally on our way to New Zealand (again)!

We ended up staying at the Minerva Reefs for much longer than expected (9 days in North Minerva and 3 days in South Minerva) waiting for a suitable weather window to New Zealand, but we’re now finally on our way (again)! We set sail from South Minerva yesterday afternoon and have been enjoying wonderful sailing conditions since then. As I write this we have just crossed over into the Eastern Hemisphere, which is quite exciting. Alex tells me he has never sailed in this half of the world before.

I think we made the right decision not to leave in the potential weather window last week. The low pressure system that everyone was trying to beat sped up and hit New Zealand a day and a half earlier than forecasted. Two boats were lost in the heavy winds and whilst we don’t know the exact details, we heard all the people on board were rescued and there was no loss of life. Unfortunately, our late departure means that we’ll miss out on the various events of the All Points Rally which are held in mid November in Opua. But most unfortunately it means we’ll miss out on seeing our friends, Eileen and Alex, who were visiting New Zealand recently. Sorry guys, I really hope our paths cross in the not-too-distant future and we hope you had an amazing time exploring New Zealand.

The current weather window is being described by meteorologists as ‘as good as it gets’. So hopefully it’ll be pleasant sailing from here to Opua where we expect to arrive in just under a weeks time.