Day 1,272 - Enroute to New Zealand (31° 00S 175° 12E)
11:52hrs - November 23rd 2010
Feeling a Little Weather(ed)

I haven't had a shower in three days, I haven't had a full nights sleep in six, and I haven't shaved in over a week. The toll of the last week at sea - sailing very close to the wind, is beginning to show. And unless the conditions change for the better, New Zealand customs and immigration, who will board Dream Time in a few days, may well decide judging by the state of my appearance, to put me into quarantine.

The agreeable easterly-southeasterly winds that we had for the first few days out of Fiji have been replaced by a fresh south-southeasterly flow, and for those of you who don't have an atlas handy, that means we're close-hauled, and for the landlubbers out there, that basically means more thumping, pounding and crashing into seas than we would prefer. In fact the conditions are so unfavorable that last night I had to vacate the forward cabin where I usually sleep, and migrate aft to 'the sling' - a leecloth we've rigged in the main cabin, sort of a one-sided hammock that prevents the occupant from unexpectedly being flung out of bed. The excessive noise in the forward cabin and occasional moments of levitation as we fell off the backs of ten-foot waves, made sleeping in the v-berth almost impossible - imagine trying to sleep on the back of a mechanical bull (with the dial cranked all the way to the 'crazy buckaroo" setting), and with a wrestler flinging large sacks of potatoes against a thin wall of fiberglass right next to your head.

However, even though our ride south is a little sporty - making the most mundane and casual chore, like brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea a battle of endurance, where you discover stabilizer muscles you never knew existed, Dream Time is taking good care of us. And even with water rushing along our leeward deck, waves crashing over the bow and dodger, and heeling over at a steady twenty to thirty degrees, the years of replacing gaskets, rebedding deck hardware, installing hooks, toggles, bungies and locks, have paid off - the cabin remains perfectly dry and not a single item is out of place. Yes, our boat is in fine shape, her crew - perhaps not so much.

But with only 260 nautical miles to go, and with the weather GRIB files predicting lighter southeasterly winds in the next few days, I'm confident we'll survive the last few days. And who knows, we may even get a lull in the weather just long enough to afford us a proper shower - what a luxury!



Hot off the press!

Click here to read our
new article in the October
issue of Boating New Zealand magazine >


Day 1,269 - Enroute to New Zealand (25° 29S 176° 43E)
12:17hrs - November 20th 2010
Enjoying the Ride

After almost five months of island hopping in Fiji, it feels good to be on the open ocean again - passage making. We're three days into our scheduled nine day passage down to New Zealand and now that our bodies have adjusted to a world of constant motion and noise, Catherine and I have settled in to our routine of 24-hour watches in relative comfort.

Unlike the failed departure last week where Dream Time was driven back to the Fijian customs and immigration office by 30 knot winds and Catherine's first ever experience of seasickness, this passage,
to date, with a steady 18 - 20 knots of easterly wind, is just sublime. Dream Time is charging south at an enthusiastic seven knots, we've covered almost five hundred miles in 72 hours, and at this rate we could raise Opua in just four more days. We've already notified New Zealand Customs of our arrival, but I suspect, based on the most recent weather GRIB files I've downloaded, that the forecast south-southeasterly winds that we can expect Monday and Tuesday will delay our arrival until Thursday.

But for now we're not in a hurry. The South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) - an area of unsettled weather of squalls, thunderstorms (and which is known to spawn cyclones this time of year) is well behind us, and we're just enjoying the ride. We have the ocean, or at least to the horizon in every
direction, completely to ourselves, and we feel lucky to be out here.



Day 1,263 - Port Denarau, Fiji (17° 46S 177° 22E)
08:11hrs - November 14th 2010
We're Ready! (again)

I’m not a glutton for punishment, but I can’t wait to get back out on the open ocean again. You would think that after our experience four days ago, sailing practically headfirst into squalls spinning off the South Pacific Convergence Zone, that perhaps I might want just a little more time on dry land to lick my salty wounds. But the truth is, now Dream Time has been provisioned again, I feel ready to go.

We cleared back in to Fiji easily enough, the Customs officials simply tore-up our clearance papers and instructed us to remain in the Lautoka area until we're ready to leave again. I suspect this is not the first time cruisers have returned due to bad weather.

It appears that turning back to Fiji earlier this week was the right decision. A few boats chose to return. Those who decided to tough it out, however, unfortunately are having a very rough time. We’ve heard reports of gear failure, kayaks being swept off decks – not fun. The low that was supposed to stay north, promising nice sailing conditions for those who persevered, has been slowly migrating south, following the cruisers on their passage. If they’re lucky, they might have three days of fair weather as they approach New Zealand, but right now many are west of their rhumb lines, beating into 20 – 25 knot winds, with swell averaging 10 – 12 feet. And when (if) the wind does shift more to the east, they’ll have to follow it around to remove their XTE (cross track error) - forcing them to keep the wind close to the nose.

But another, more civilized window is opening up this week, either a Wednesday or Saturday departure looks likely with winds in the 15 – 20 knot range from the NE – ENE (on the beam), and gentle three - six foot swell, lovely!

Perhaps it’s because we’ve spent the last five months exploring Fiji with our average sail being a mere twenty-mile hop between neighboring islands, and unlike last year, where we crossed the South Pacific and sailed over eight thousand miles, we’ve actually spent very little time underway in 2010  – and I’ve missed our passages. So before we settle-in for a another summer in New Zealand, I’m looking forward to our passage south – eight to ten days at sea. That is, just as long as pick the right weather window.

Day 1,260 - Yakuilau Island, Fiji (17° 38S 177° 23E)
15:14hrs - November 11th 2010
...And We're Back!!

I'm not one for giving up. Usually I persevere, dig my heels in, and with a dogged determination endure until I reach my goal. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not bragging. Sure, my determination has helped me accomplish a few things in life, but this 'quality' originates mostly from an unhealthy dose of bone-headed stubbornness, and usually not enough calculated planning and measured endurance. And yesterday, after starting our passage south to New Zealand, I'm happy (and quite relieved) to report that we gave up and sailed back to Fiji.

The weather window we had watched so carefully, along with half a dozen other cruisers who also departed the same day for New Zealand, did not live up to our expectations. Rather than a manageable
20 knots of SE winds we had 25 - 30 knot winds and 15 foot seas - all on the nose. Not only were we charging, crashing and slamming into weather, with waves regularly breaking over the coachroof, our leeward side heeling so severely that the ocean poured over the deck and into the cockpit, but we were going in the wrong direction, heading to Australia, Sydney to be precise.

Now I have no problem with a little challenging weather - a stiff breeze and some lively swell, after-all, you can't expect every passage to be smooth sailing on calm seas under blue skies, especially when sailing down to New Zealand. But when you start an 8 - 10 day passage in 30 knot winds, with the promise of at least another four more days in similar conditions to follow, conditions so rough that cooking, eating, sleeping and, well, all necessary movements require a combination of endurance, strength and flexibility that I'm sorry to say we don't posses, well, then I'm happy to throw in my soggy towel and call it quits. Our boat's name, after-all, is Dream Time, so if we're not enjoying ourselves out here, then what's the point?

So we've cleared back into Fiji and we'll spend the next day cleaning off the salt, unpacking the dinghy, stowing life jackets, leecloths, harnesses, jacklines, oilies - all the post-passage chores we would of performed if we had made it over a thousand miles to New Zealand, rather than a paltry 55-mile day sail.
It is a little demoralizing, but after a warm supper last night, a few cups of tea and a calm, peaceful nights sleep, it's a decision we can comfortably live with.

Day 1,258 - Yakuilau Island, Fiji (17° 45S 177° 22E)
19:35hrs - November 9th 2010
And We're Off...

Our hard to pin down weather window has been, how can I say, a little hard to pin down. But after moving up from a comfortably distant Saturday to a day earlier, Friday, and then to a tentative Thursday, it became apparent it was fated to be Wednesday, otherwise known as tomorrow!  So luckily with all our pre-sail checks and chores done ahead of time thanks to Neville’s fastidious early preparation, he’s very efficient that way,  we still had time for a leisurely breakfast before sailing the 12 short miles to Lautoka to check us, andDream Time, out of Fiji ready for our 1,000 mile Pacific passage south.

Thankfully we are much better at these passages, and the preparation for them, than we used to be.
We are not blasé by any means, but we are much more relaxed about the process.  Pretty much every worst case scenario has been discussed and prepared for, we are realistic about how much sleep we might not get, and how wet rain really is at night on a watch.  But we also know that our planning includes avoiding wet weather sailing as much as possible, and that the worst case scenario’s almost never happen.  So what we are hoping for is a dry, warm, relaxing and incident free passage south to New Zealand, and if we’re lucky the weather and assorted other gods will oblige. We’ll keep you posted.

Dream Time: Changed engine oil (total hours 2,287). Replaced diaphragm on manual bilge pump in cockpit and repaired flap valve on electric bilge. Cleaned watermaker filters (20 and 5 micron) and replaced charcoal filter in General Ecology Seagull drinking water faucet.

Day 1,254 - Monuriki, Fiji (17° 36S 177° 02E)
11:49hrs - November 5th 2010
Our Watery World

For 1,254 days now, Catherine and I have been living on the ocean, suspended atop a watery world, the majority of which is undiscovered and unknown. Literally not a day passes when we don't recognize just how fortunate we are - fortunate not only to live on the water, exploring the world by sea on our own little sail boat, but how privileged we are to be able to experience a part of the word that many never get to see.

Since we left the stability of New York behind in 2007 we've traveled over fifteen thousand nautical miles
on the ever changing surface of the sea. No two passages have been alike, and as our average speed is a mere five knots, our relationship with the ocean is intimate - we've experienced all of her moods and witnessed a spectrum of life hidden in her depths so diverse, that it can only be described as magical.

We've seen dolphins in their hundreds marching across the South Pacific in one continuous swimming, jumping, somersaulting line that stretched to the horizon. We've shared anchorages with humpback whales and watched mesmerized through our masks as they swam past just feet away, seemingly studying us with an equal level of fascination and curiosity. We've swum with sting rays, eagle rays, nurse sharks, blacktips, whitetips, silvertips, greys and lemon sharks. Spotted sea turtles with their heads stretched high out of the water as though straining to watch us as we've sailed past. Sea lions have slept in our dinghy, sea snakes have tried. We've spent thirty unforgettable minutes free diving with giant manta rays, watching them make endless slow-motion underwater loop-to-loops, mouths wide open as they feed, close enough to see through their gills. We've snorkeled for hours over vibrant cities of coral - home to every size, shape and color reef fish imaginable. We've shared the ocean with creatures we never even knew existed, and we feel connected to them all.

As the ocean supports Dream Time on our voyage around the world, we thought the very least we can do is support her, but we need your help! Please join our crew - buy a Dream Time World Tour CREW t-shirt (they're made from 100% pre-shrunk ComfortSoft cotton), absolutely 100% of all profits go to Oceana - the only foundation completely dedicated to the conservation and protection of our ocean and marine life.


Day 1,250 - Mana, Fiji (17° 41S 177° 06E)
17:26hrs - November 1st 2010
Cyclone Season

Not much to report this week other than were still in Fiji, and today is November 1st  which means it’s
now officially cyclone season in this part of the world, and just to get us in the mood, it’s raining.  It's rather nice though as it's warm rain coming into summer, and heavy too with a satisfactory tropical feel.  Most islanders are still dashing about in their open skiffs getting on with their day to day business, but the tourists seem to mostly stay indoors waiting for the sun to come back. We are waiting patiently in the rain for the weather to open up with a nice fair winds and calm seas sail for us back to New Zealand where
we can be a safe distance from the dreaded cyclones and where, as we speak, the weather is shifting from winter to spring, and by Christmas it will be summer. 

Fortunately after years of fastidious leak detection and repair we are happily snuggled up dry and warm
in our wonderfully leak free home with the rain falling for hours in great fat drops all over the boat.  We
also had the lovely canvas guys in New Zealand make up a zip-on rain canopy and side windows for the cockpit so we can sit inside watching the weather do its thing from our cockpit ‘conservatory’ and don't have to dash below in a downpour, all very civilized, and dry yahoo.  We’ll keep you posted on when we can get going to NZ but in the meantime we'll be catching up on sleep ready for our passage south.