New Zealand, Landfall – by Gary Dawson & Colby Lawrence

After 7 days and 1100miles of Ocean, we made landfall in Opua New Zealand (latitude 35 19’ S, Long. 174 07’E). That is 5000 miles south of Charlevoix, MI. Colby will tell you about the passage.

Now that I am here I am a little apprehensive. First off we are coming from were the temperature has been 85 to maybe a low of 75 at night. Here it is 72 for a high and down to 60 at night and this is summer here. Today I woke up and there was fog on the water. The water temperature in Tonga was 78 and here it is 55.(no diving for me in New Zealand). I am going to have to go out and buy a pair of shoes, socks and long underwear.

Then there are the number of boats 100’s, just in this anchorage. There are not going to be to many, if any anchorages were we are 1 of 5 boats. In addition we will be here for 4 months. I think if I had my way I would take my chances with the cyclones in the Islands.

O.K. so you say, what the heck is he complaining about. For many of you winter is just around the corner. Who knows, maybe I will be pleasantly surprised

So anyways the adventure continues

Love Gary

Hello all,

This is Colby. 174 hours of traveling on a boat with 2 other people! Not something many people experience. We started off at about 8am, which was nice because we got to get up, have breakfast, take a last shower with a motionless boat, and tidy up a bit. Nicole took the first “shift” from 0800-1200. During the day we were doing 4 hour shifts 8am-12pm, 12pm-4pm, 4pm-8pm. Then we would do 3 hour shifts at night, 8pm-11pm, 11pm-2am, 2am-5am and 5am-8am. With there only being 3 people, this allowed for the shifts to change for everyone daily, which could get very confusing after the 3rd or 4th day when you start to get tired. It was nice though because it created a since of change instead of monotony.

A shift would basically be sitting at the helm for the 3 or 4 hour period, making sure we were still headed the correct direction, weren’t going to run into any other boats, and probably the most important thing, making sure the sails stayed full of wind. That sounds easy enough, but for a power boater like me it took sometime. All the other passages I have made were on a power boat where you set your course, turn on the autopilot and away you go, no matter what the wind direction. Very different on a “blow boat.” You are constantly looking at the top of the mast to check the wind vane, and looking at the “tell tails” on the sail. It got easier as the days went on, and I feel much more comfortable. Now I have made this sound pretty easy so far, but I did not tell you about the night shifts. First of all, you are probably tired, but NO SLEEPING at the helm, right Gary? Now that is a bit difficult because the boats moving right along, the swells are gentle and all you can here is the water passing by with the wind, but you have to keep a look out for other boats and to ensure you moving the right way. I may have fallen asleep a few minutes here and there (don’t tell Nicole). We did not see another boat until we were 30-40 miles from New Zealand so that made the travels a lot easier.

For the first 2.5 days of the trip we experienced 15-20 knot winds out of the SE, which made for great sailing. We were making about 8.5 knots on average and thought the trip was going to be great. We made the first 500 miles in those three days, then the wind switched direction and died quite a bit. We ended up motor sailing at about 5.5 knots, going in directions that were sometime 60 degrees off from the point we were aiming for, which is part of sailing I am told. This was the part that was new to me. Needless to say the last half of the trip took us 4.5 days, which, on the last two days, seemed like it would never end. Gary, Nicole and I started to get a little anxious at that point, but then on the last morning, land was spotted of the Starboard bow, and we all got excited.

As Gary said, the passage from Nuku’alfoa, Tonga to Opua, New Zealand was around 1100 nautical miles. That means when we were in the middle of our route, we were 550 nautical miles from the nearest land. Now that is not completely true, there were a couple of islands out there that the charts said to stay away from because there is so much Volcanic activity that they don’t know how big the islands are and how many may have formed since the last survey. Besides those little volcanoes there was nothing, not another boat, no dolphins or whales, just the 3 of us and a whole lot of water. It is an experience I wish everyone could have. The sea is a beautiful thing and on those watches you have time to look at her with open eyes. You get a real understanding of how small and insignificant we really are. We had great weather for the most part, but one night the wind started blowing and the seas picked up. We were in about 30 knots of wind with 10 foot seas, nothing compared to the night Mike, Marnie and Gary had a while back, but it still showed us how strong she could be at any given time.

It has been a great time here with Gary on board the “Shellette.” We are sad to be leaving but are excited to take some time to see New Zealand, on land! If you are ever afforded the opportunity to spend sometime on board I would suggest it with out any hesitation!

Thank you Gary, and Mike and Marnie, even though we missed you both!!!

Love Colby

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