Friday, January 6, 2012

Nuku'alofa and on to New Zealand.

David even managed to catch two Tuna en route!

Once we arrived in Nuku'alofa, we tied Puddytat up in the small boat harbour, med moored to the breakwater, David climbed into the dinghy and went ashore to clear us in, and to tell them that we were here to apply for the NZ visa and that we'd be leaving soon.
One of the fish we caught.
Brilliant sunset and great sailing weather! for a change.
We found the NZ immigration office and filled in forms, got photo's taken and finally they said all was in order but they had to send it to NZ for processing. We should wait for an email. This was a Friday. On Tuesday I walked into town to an internet cafe and checked my emails...oh oh I saw that the immigration dept. had sent me an email on Friday afternoon requesting that I please come in, they needed some more paperwork to be filled in. We went around straight away and filled them in. Two working days wasted! :-( They were really nice people and they promised that they'd push it through as fast as they could. I checked my emails every day... On the following Friday we were still waiting so we planned on some sightseeing and decided to check my emails first, nothing.. sigh... I dropped them a line enquiring on the progress of it all and lo and behold a few minutes later I had a reply... Come in later today and collect your passport, the visa was approved! YAY! I went in straight away and asked what time I could collect it as we still had to clear out of Tonga, they said between 12 and 1 p.m.. Needless to say I was not late, I sat and waited patiently. After a few last minute questions I was called in to collect my Passport. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Main street with the huge rain tree on the left, near the post office.
Under  the Rain Tree.
This mat skirt is worn by men and women. This one is elaborate though.
Young Ladies.
School uniforms.

A local sight seeing boat..
The Kings Palace.. garden needs work.
We caught a bus and went to see the flying foxes... they're about 12 inches long. 
Tau'olunga Komipiuta. Fast Internet $1 for 15 mins.
On Salote Rd before Tupoulahi  Rd. Almost at the T of Fasi-moe-afi Rd.
Inside the place.
Ros and David paying for their internet usage.
The Owner. Always with a smile.
During the week my Parents on Kudana had passed by Nuku'alofa, we'd chatted on the VHF when they'd been in range and since then they'd been waiting for us at Minerva reef North. On the Wednesday they decided not to wait for us and to head on out to NZ.

Ros, getting some air and a lot of water.. ha ha the rogue
waves keep breaking over her, she's soaked!
Later on Wednesday when we got back from town, Evi, our friend on the boat next door, told us that they'd heard from my Dad and the news wasn't good. She said they'd hit Minerva reef south. Landed right on top of it at the top of the tide and were stuck there. This was a disaster! How were they, how badly was the boat damaged, were they taking on water? These thoughts tumbled from my mouth at top speed. Evi said they were okay, just shook up, one rudder was badly bent and as yet they were still dry. The plan, she said was to wait for high tide and try and motor off the reef. Now I haven't seen Minerva reef south, but if it's like the North reef it would be wide and flat. I wondered how far in they had landed, if they'd make it off without damaging the boat further. Next morning the news wasn't good. The keels were both destroyed so there wouldn't be much in the way of steerage from them. They'd slide sideways and lose direction whilst sailing. During the night the waves had constantly smashed them and this had caused the keels to deteriorate even more. BUT they'd managed to get off. It had further cost them both the props and half the remaining rudder. Heck, so now they had hardly any steering, no keels, no props, so the engines could only be used to charge the batteries and nothing else, AND they were taking on water! Apparently one of the engines had dislodged it's seal and the water was coming in there. David and I had made sure to fit the yacht out with extra powerful pumps and thank goodness we had because now the boat remained dry and the pump on that side worked like a charm.
They'd decided to carry on towards New Zealand 800 nautical miles away. They asked us to follow them as soon as possible.
As you know I had to wait for my passport. Nothing we could do about it, so we filled in the time as best we could.

Once I got my passport back and cleared out with customs and immigration, we spent a quick Saturday morning shopping for fresh fruit and veg, also filling up with fuel and water. At 11am we left the fuel dock did a motor-by Evi and some other yachts and headed on out towards NZ and Minerva Reef.
When we were getting near to Minerva North reef, our initial plan was to stop there, as there was really bad weather forecast and we didn't want to chance it, and clean our hull, but we had 30 knot winds and 15 ft seas. David was hesitant to attempt the entrance into a reef we'd never visited before and it was directly downwind, so he decided we'd pass it by and continue on, maybe look at Minerva reef South and stop there. But the wind had other ideas and it headed us, forcing Puddytat to head directly for the reef. Then it suddenly dropped to 13 knots. We could clearly see the entrance to the lagoon shaped reef. It was nice and wide. David changed his mind and said ''we're going in.... under sail''. We swooped through the entrance into lovely calmer water, and just then, the wind turned from beam on to head on.. what timing! We dropped the sails, turned on the engines and motored to a spot at the north end to drop the anchor. It was Monday afternoon. I was worried sick about my parents. We didn't have a SSB transmitter on board. We had a receiver and Evi had promised to relay their position at 4.30 every afternoon. We'd heard two positions and plotted them on the chart, then when we got a third we discovered it was exactly the same as the second, which was very weird, two plots 24 hours apart cannot be the same we thought... Later we found out what had happened. At the time though, we were not sure whether my Dad had made a mistake and plotted East instead of West so now we weren't sure where he was. Very very worrying. There were a group of Ham radio bods in New Zealand where were trying to keep in contact with Dad and sometimes we'd hear them wondering why they hadn't heard from him. One chap said that it was obvious, that they had gone down and were dead. It shocked me to the core, my blood ran cold. David looked at me and told me not to worry, they were fine, just out of radio contact for some reason.

In the reef it was the weirdest feeling, to be anchored out in the middle of the ocean, no land or trees in sight, just some waves breaking all around us showing us that there was something there. Ros and I jumped into the water and cleaned the hulls. David was working on something inside the boat, I can't remember what now, but it was a far hotter messier job than we had. The next day, after he'd completed some other work on Puddytat, David had his turn, he wanted to give the props a good clean so in he went. It was late afternoon when he finally finished and the wind was still too southerly and still very strong. Soooo frustrating, it was hard for me to relax.  We stayed another night and early on Wednesday morning we left Minerva reef North. We were almost a full week behind them.

We had a totally uneventful sail to New Zealand, the winds were alternatively stronger and then lighter as the sailing goes on long trips. So some days we had all the sail up and others we reefed down sometimes to two reefs. I must say that I do prefer to sail on the Atlantic ocean as against the Pacific. The Atlantic is a much smoother sail, much more comfortable and has many more dolphin that come and play around the bows of our boat. Puddytat flew over that water, we made the best use of the wind and clocked an average of 9 knots. We sailed, listened to the radio and after two days got another position, I plotted it and couldn't find the x. So I plotted it again, still no x. I'm standing there looking at the chart plotter thinking, what am I doing wrong? Then something made me zoom in, or out, I can't remember now and there it was a beautiful red x right under us.. YAY!!!! We were exactly where Kudana had been 14 hours before. Now to try and find them, a tiny yacht on a HUGE ocean. David said that logically my Dad would be trying to make as straight a line to Opua as possible, so we'd do the same. It's what we'd been doing the whole time and it had paid off so far. He instructed Ros and I to call Kudana on the radio every hour. So we did this through the night on our watches. Morning came and we hadn't heard anything. A tad worrying as we knew they were only doing about 3 knots at most, we should have caught up with them by now. After breakfast David got up and went to the radio, he'd decided to call again. Oh Joy of joys my Mom answered the radio and we started to cry. I hadn't realised how tense with worry I'd been. It wasn't much later when we spotted her and we sailed up to say hi. We were 400 nautical miles from Opua. Still a way to go, but we'd found them and that was all I cared about.

We asked about the two positions, how'd they been the same. Dad said that during that storm, we'd been sitting out in Minerva reef, they couldn't steer and had sailed in a huge circle and ended up where they'd been before. A very strange thing to happen, but it did. We also asked why we hadn't heard regular position reports. He told us that his SSB had gone on the fritz and he worked on it trying to repair it and managed to get it working long enough to hit send on an email to my brother, Kevin who lives in NZ, and then Kev sent it on to the radio ham guys to transmit to us. At the time he didn't know if it had gone through. He just had to hope that it had.
Kudana, 1.5 miles away.. even though she's on top of a wave she's hard to see.
Down in the trough and she's almost impossible to see.
Ros and I were ultra busy, what with keeping the skipper fed with hot meals, (and us too,) we were also involved in making a courtesy flag for New Zealand. This proved to be an entertaining and interesting pastime. It was also fun to be in constant contact with Kudana. We spent Christmas day playing Christmassy music to each other and chatting, it would have been fun if the seas were nice and calm that we could raft up together and have a huge lunch.... as it was I'd cooked up the last of our fresh meat, a roast chicken, for our main meal that day. Boy did we ever pig out.. YUM.. ;-)
We don't ever buddy boat with anyone so this was a new experience for us. It was now only 105 NM to go till Opua, we thought we'd get there on the 27th Dec.
Making our New Zealand courtesy flag...
Dad insisted that he wanted to sail Kudana all the way to Opua. We wanted to take them under tow. So we sailed as slowly as we could with a tiny bit of sail up so that we didn't leave them behind. But now Dad said that the wind wasn't playing nice and he just couldn't control the boat anymore. We sailed up and started the long process of passing tow ropes etc. It took 2 hours to get the boats tied properly. My Dad was exhausted. We set our genoa and started to sail, pulling them behind us and our speed was already up to 5 knots. Dad radioed and asked what they should do, we told them to get some sleep, leave the radio on and if there was a problem we'd wake them up. They were so exhausted they slept for 12 hours solid. Shame.
Under Tow for the next 100 nautical miles.
A few days later we were almost there. I started to cook up a huge meal, kind of like a Lasagne, with the layered lasagne pasta, white sauce and corned beef out of cans.. I've never done it that way before, but I didn't have any fresh meat left and I needed to be able to feed all of us. I used dried crumbed Parmesan Cheese, the stuff in a shake out bottle, and the last of our cheese and it turned out rather well.

When we  came into the sheltered waters of the Bay of Islands, we dropped the tow and came alongside Kudana and rafted up with her. From then on we had to motor. Customs and Immigration were well aware that we were on our way in. All the sailors in the area were aware as well. When we arrived at the Q dock, where all newcomers to NZ have to go to clear customs and immigration, there were loads of people at the yacht club watching our progress.

The space between the fuel dock and the Q dock isn't large and David had to maneuver both yachts in and dock us. I was in charge of tying us up he said... He first turned us around so that it would be easier to get out and then docked. As simple as that. He made it look so easy. Many of the sailors came to us afterward and said that they hadn't seen seamanship like that in years. Made me so proud of him.

The Customs guys were great. We couldn't have asked for nicer treatment, even though they had to relieve us of some fresh veg and such, it was all done with a smile and a joke. They came down and attended to us even though we'd have been happy to spend the night on the customs dock. They told us there was bad weather coming and they thought that we'd need to get out into the anchorage and get our anchors in well and good and this was the time to do it. How nice is that! Thank you guys.

Once we were done with them, I slipped the lines and we went off to find a spot to drop the anchors. First we dropped Dads anchor and pulled back on it hard with both engines at 1800 rpm, to dig it in nice and deep, then we went and dropped ours, did the same, switched off the engines and looked at each other... Time for a drink we all said at once.. LOL what a relief to be safe and sound, to have my folks safe and sound. I slept really well that night.


  1. Great pix! Love reading about your journey.

  2. The blog is absolutely fantastic. Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need. Thanks.
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    1. Really happy that you enjoy the read. I did enjoy writing it. :-)