Sailing the Pacific Ocean from Fiji to New Zealand – Fat Susan’s Ocean Blog

Quarantine dock in Opua New Zealands

This was our second attempt at sailing Fat Susan to New Zealand.  After failing to sail there directly from Bora Bora in French Polynesia in May 2021, we spent four happy months exploring the incredible islands of Fiji during COVID times.  A unique experience.  No international tourists and very few sailing boats, but also many villages and whole islands closed to us due to the pandemic.  We loved Fiji and her people and we will definitely be back to experience more.

In October 2021, the weather gave us a window of opportunity to sail south from Savusavu in Fiji to Opua in New Zealand.  We would have to spend a full twelve days at sea in order to avoid managed isolation in a hotel in Auckland.  So we went for it….

This is the daily blog of SV Fat Susan, published while on ocean passages.  While out at sea on long passages, Fat Susan can be tracked using our Iridium Go satellite phone and PredictWind.  Friends and family (and anyone else who fancies a look) can follow our track while sitting in the comfort of their lovely warm homes.  And while we are on passage, we scribble down a daily blog, which is slowly uploaded to the internet via the satellite phone.


Fat Susan’s Ocean Blog – Fiji to New Zealand

Day Minus 1 – Pies and Passport Stamps

It seems like we’ve been talking about it forever, but it looks like the time has finally arrived for us to point Susan south and set the sails for New Zealand. Although we’ve been slowly working our way through the pre-departure job list for the last two weeks, the final day panic is in full effect. There seems to be an endless list of jobs that can only be done at the last minute. Susan’s hull has had its last scrub. The rig has been checked. Water made. Fuel tanks filled. And the lockers are bursting with food that’s bad for us. Sorted.

The four months we’ve had in Fiji have been an absolute gift. The disappointment of not getting to New Zealand in June has long been forgotten and replaced by the joy of exploring a truly amazing country and getting to know the beautiful Fijian people. They really are the friendliest, happiest and most welcoming people we’ve met. We’re sorry to be leaving, but are already making plans for our return…

So, there are about 1200 nautical miles between us and the quarantine dock in Opua. Ordinarily we’d be racing to get there as soon as possible, but we’re not living in ordinary times and are therefore looking to set a slightly more leisurely pace, and maybe stretch the journey a little. Every extra day at sea is a day less in an Auckland quarantine hotel. Of course that all depends on the weather. Any hint of something unpleasant, and we’ll be checking into Managed Isolation Quarantine faster than you can say “free WiFi, Netflix and room service”.

Customs opens at 08:00 tomorrow morning, as does the Hot Bread Bakery. Passport stamps and pies are the last two things we need to get, and then we’ll be on our way.
Absolutely love Fiji. Excited to be moving on. Looking forward to lunch already.

18 33.199s 179 06.089e

 

Good friends
Final nights out with good friends
Veg market, Savusavu
Provisioning for the passage at Savusavu market. Checking in and out on the Fijian COVID App.

Day 1 – Slipping the Lines

October 08, 2021

To my mind, one of the greatest gifts of the cruising lifestyle that we’ve lived over the last three years has been having the time and the freedom to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. For me, one of those pleasures has been waking up early and taking half an hour in the cockpit to eat breakfast, drink coffee and watch as the world slowly wakes up around me. Today is going to be the last time for a while that I get to indulge in this luxury, but what a cracking start to our run down to New Zealand it made.

The good folk of Savusavu are early risers, so there were plenty of people already buzzing about on the water when I staggered, bleary eyed, into the cockpit. (Note to self: Don’t go drinking the night before a big passage, you’re too old.). Half an hour of watching the sun rise and burn the early morning mist from the surrounding hills set me up for the day, and we were ready to get busy with the final list of pre-departure jobs:

Customs and immigration: Tick

Pies: Tick

Pay the marina bill: Tick

Stow Bob for the journey: Tick

Seasickness pills: Tick

Frantic Netflix downloading: Tick

And with that, the mooring lines were slipped, we pointed Susan south and motored out into the Koro Sea. Our previous experience of the Koro Sea has shown it to be pretty gnarly, hence the seasickness pills, but for the first 24 hours of the passage, it’s been idyllic. Flat calm, with a gentle swell and an endless horizon to aim for. But all with the added bonus of decent WiFi coverage from the multiple emerald coloured islands that lay scattered across our route out of Fijian territorial waters. In-cred-i-ble. Day 1 of this passage has shown once again why Fiji always managed to put a smile on your face. I’m missing it already.

Pie News: Disappointment early in the day when it was discovered that there were insufficient chilli chicken pies available to feed the whole crew turned into delight at dinner time when it was discovered that the replacement chicken quiches were absolutely delicious. Who’d have guessed that the Fatties would ever turn into posh-nob quiche eaters?

23 01.192s 175 07.310e

Day 2 – Dodging Islands

It’s been a day of contrasts.
The first half was spent basking in the glorious Fijian sunshine, loving the calm waters of the Koro Sea and generally being slightly smug about the whole thing. We even managed to play cards during afternoon tea. What’s not to love?
The second half was spent buggering about with sails and ropes and the autopilot and winches and everything, trying to avoid crashing into Kadavu Island as the winds and the current all got a bit frisky just as the sun was setting. In the end, our sailing pedigree shone through, and with a little help from the engine managed to skirt the coastline, avoid disaster and even scored a bit of WiFi access from the last piece of land we’ll see before we get to New Zealand. Result.

Teenagers with phones
Desperate teenagers grabbing every last bit of phone signal as we sail into the internet-free ocean…. Bless them.
Our PredictWind track as we left Savusavu. Bye bye, Fiji. Love you.

Pie News: Who ate all of the pies? We did! Another delicious pie-centred dinner was thoroughly enjoyed by the whole crew. No posh knob quiches today. Discussions have already started on the pie of choice for when we arrive in Opua. Steak and cheese is taking a strong lead, but peppered steak is a close second.

23 01.192s 175 07.310e

Day 3 – Bad Language and Uncomfortable Seas

Blasphemy and bad language have been the mainstays of conversation aboard the good ship Fat Susan today. After our skilful dodging of Kadavu yesterday, we’ve spent most of the day hoping that the horrible sea conditions would be a temporary aberration that would pass as soon as we got a decent bit of mileage between Susan’s rear-end and Fiji. Alas that hasn’t been the case, and we’ve been sailing in conditions more akin to the savage north Atlantic than the allegedly calm and tranquil Pacific.

There has not been a great deal of good humour onboard today. We’ve mostly been braced against the sudden lurches and changes in direction caused by the sea state. It’s a bugger really, as the weather has been lovely. Clear, cloudless skies, a steady 15 knot wind, and an ocean of such a perfect shade of blue that you could lose yourself in it. Totally Instagrammable, but impossible to photograph for fear of losing a phone into said ocean of perfect blue. It’s definitely been a day where we’ve had to maintain three points of positive contact with Susan at all times. And swear a lot.

Progress has been swift though, with nearly 160 nautical miles flowing under Susan’s hull. Which is handy, as there’s some weather due to arrive over the top of New Zealand next week, and we might need to get there before it does.

Bilge News: Stress levels were temporarily raised overnight when the bilge alarm sounded, alerting us to there being an excess of water inside Susan, when ideally all the water should be outside Susan. It was quickly pumped away, aided by more blasphemy and bad language, and the source tracked down to a minor leak from one of the fresh water tanks. Minor application of a hammer was all that was needed.

24 19.486s 174 29.965e

Day 4 – Always a Good Day on a Passage

Life onboard Susan has mercifully started to calm down following the treacherous conditions of the previous 36 hours. This has happily coincided with everyone’s body clocks adjusting to the [lack of] sleep regime, and day 4 has seen the crew on top form. There’s no clearer indication of the improved mood than the most junior member of the crew starting a discussion on the impacts and merits, or lack thereof, of sending cheese into space. Anyone who can answer these burning questions (we don’t have access to Google) needs to get out more:

Would swiss cheese explode in the vacuum of space?
Would cheddar melt, or freeze, depending on which side of the ISS it was exposed to?
Just how much would someone pay to buy a block of really good cheese that had been melted (or frozen) in the vacuum of space?
Do astronauts get actual cheese onboard the ISS, or do they have to poke up with a cheese substitute, such as Bega or Chesdale?
Would the vacuum of space kill the blue stuff in blue cheese?

Aside from the fascinating cheese based discussion, life has revolved around food, sleep and mopping up from the multiple new leaks that we’ve discovered since leaving Fiji. After three years without any real opportunity for proper maintenance, Susan is in need of some serious TLC.

Knobbling News: The temperature has dropped significantly since we left Fijian territorial waters. For the first time since February 2019 Susan is sailing through waters less than 25°c. Floss has started using a hot water bottle. The boys have put a tee-shirt on. Brrrr…

Toilet News: The calmer conditions have meant that we’ve been able to reopen the toilet for number 2s. A feature of Susan’s plumbing is that it becomes increasingly difficult to flush the toilet as winds and waves increase when we’re on a port tack, so much so that not even the fabled poo knife will help to shift a serious movement. With the reduced sea state, the toilet is now a happy flusher and the poo knife stands ready. Watch this space.

Pumpkin News: The oversized pumpkin that we were gifted in Viani bay, and which was named “Melon” by the kids, still sits waiting for a really calm day to be made into soup, curry, pickle, jam and probably more soup. He’s developed a personality of his own, as he’s lived with us for the past two weeks, but he’s not allowed into New Zealand so his days are numbered. It’ll be a sad but tasty day when he leaves us.

25 51.752s 173 37.854e

Day 5 – Cheese and Decisions

Thankfully, conversation today has elevated itself from the nonsensical cheese based ramblings of Day 4, and we have focused on coming up with a plan for our arrival into Opua. The big question is whether we should run to Opua as quickly as possible and accept that the cost of the covid hotel is a small price to pay for a smooth passage without experiencing any of the murderous southern ocean weather of yore. Or, should we slow down, rely on Bruce The Legendary Weatherman to route us around the worst of the weather, and then spank the price of a covid hotel on something useful, like a car and a road trip around New Zealand.

It’s a tricky call, as there’s a reasonable chance that if we run for it, we might still get clobbered by bad weather and then have to drop a kidney to pay for MIQ (Managed Isolation Quarantine). Whereas, holding back could make the last 8 days of the trip truly horrible, and we’ll end up having to drop a lung to pay for the therapy to help us overcome PTSD.

Hmmm… Maybe we should have stayed with cheese. Or perhaps tried to solve the question of pies vs quiche. Or just drawn straws to see who was going to give up said kidney.

On a happier note, now that our chief beardy techno elf is well on the case with the blogs, we’ve received a formal request from our nerdiest Ecuadorian nerd for some serious stat-based nonsense (you know who you are, but I won’t mention your name Emilia as you never know who’s reading this tosh).

Stats for Ecuadorian Nerds:

Distance sailed: 588 nautical miles Distance to go: 691 nautical miles

Hours motored: 30
Uses of poo knife: 0

Pumpkins butchered: 0
Pies / quiches eaten: 6 / 2
Current state of toilet: Open for business
Packets of biscuits eaten: 14
Loo rolls remaining:12
Water used: 200 litres
Showers taken: 0
Films Watched: 1
Episodes of Blacklist Watched: 22
Books Read: 2
YouTube Videos Edited: 1
Favourite Meteorological Phrase: Simplified Convective Parameterisation

27 33.687s 172 12.534e

Day 6 – The Incredible Internet and the Pumpkin gets it

There are days when the power of the internet stops you dead, and makes you catch your breath. Today was one of those days on Fat Susan. We’re at least 400 nautical miles (that’s 460 land lubbing miles) away from the nearest piece of inhabited land, and yet, today, we learned that NASA has a favoured supplier of cheese, a favourite type of cheese, and indeed, an official specification for an ISS Friendly Cheese. Who would have thought it possible? Search the internet for the following terms:

NASA cheese Houston Dairymaids Shannon Walker

and you too will discover what astronauts put in their sandwiches. A thousand thanks to our very special Ecuadorian cheese researchers, who may just have been locked down for too long in Quito. We’ve been wondering what to do with with poo knife once we get to Opua, and you may have just earned it as a prize for your most splendid cheese based efforts.
A consolation prize of the backup poo knife (yes, we have a spare) is awarded to our favourite Western Australian cheese lover, and indeed an accomplished purveyor of nonsense, for clearly pointing out that Wallace & Grommit cleared up all questions related to cheese in space during their Grand Day Out in 1989. Love you.

Meanwhile, back in the reality of life on Susan, we might be able to have our metaphorical cake, and eat it. Bruce the weatherman of legend may have found us a route down to Opua, which will avoid the storms and get us in late enough to avoid spending a kidney on a quarantine hotel. The NZ Customs sorts have clarified how they calculate the number of days that boats have spent at sea (like getting cheese to astronauts, counting days isn’t as easy as people think) and we are therefore aiming to make landfall late on the afternoon of Monday 18th. That’s a long way out, and many things can change before then, but it’s given us something to aim for. Which is always nice.

Closer to home is an unwelcome band of nasty weather chasing us down from the north. Observant stalkers will have noticed that we’re currently in the middle of a big blue patch of no wind, but are managing to keep up a remarkable pace. That’s because we’re motoring at speed trying to get far enough south to avoid the worst of it. Once this weather passes us, we’ll have around 540 nautical miles to go and 5 days to do it in, so we’ll be needing to slow down. A lot. Watch this space, it’s going to be exciting.

Pumpkin News: It’s been a sad, but tasty day, as Melon the Pumpkin was massacred, disemboweled and turned into a delicious curry. There’s at least 3 days of pumpkin curry in the pot, and still about 2 kg of Melon left to turn into soup. R.I.P. Melon.

Chart News: We have officially sailed off the edge of the charts. There is so little of interest out here that Navionics don’t actually provide chart details. Alas, they don’t have a big warning like on olden day charts that said things like “There Be Dragons”. The area is just greyed out. No more chart info for us until we get within 130 nautical miles of New Zealand. If we see a dragon, we’ll let you know…

27 33.687s 172 12.534e

Sunset at sea
Can anyone else see that pigeon??

Day 7 – Socks and Crocks

We’ve officially decided that once we clear the band of thunderstorms currently chasing us from the North, and bash through those coming at us from the south, we’re going to slow down, point Susan towards Norfolk Island, and then, once we get there, turn towards Opua. By this time next week, we could be tucking into pie and chips, with warm beer in a real pub. Words can’t describe how excited we are at the thought of that!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, how has Day 7 been in our current version of reality?

Well, first off, I’d like to say that “Melon” turned out to be an absolutely delicious pumpkin and potato curry. Just the right amount of spice to loosen off one’s nasal juices

Secondly, we’ve realised that there’s been a compete lack of wildlife on this trip. No dolphins, no flying fish, no boobies, no need to do an early morning deck patrol to clear up fishy and squiddy ming. I know the water is cold, but it’s not that cold. There must be something that lives around here. Anyone have any idea where all the wildlife has gone?

Thirdly, personal hygiene for the whole crew has taken a massive turn for the better. With all the motoring we’ve had to do because of the calm conditions we’ve made a tank full of sizzlingly hot water and have splashed out on a hot shower each for the whole crew; even the stinky teenagers. We’ve all cracked open a pair of freshies and are feeling much more better for the experience.

Fourthly, the moon is growing fuller and fuller every night. When we set off a week ago there wasn’t even a hint of the moon. Last night, it was bright and with us well into Sam’s watch. It’ll be very nearly full by the time we get to Opua, which will make night watches much more pleasant. As beautiful as the Milky Way is, I much prefer a ginormous moon lighting up the night sky and letting you see what the sea is up to.

Fifthly, we’ve not seen a single other boat since leaving Savusavu. There was a dim and distant light last night which was almost certainly a Chinese fishing boat, but nothing other than that. Where is everybody?

Sixthly, we’ve heard that it’s still snowing on the South Island. This has pleased Evan hugely, as he’s a sucker for the cold. The rest of the crew are less than impressed however. Let’s hope that spring really gets its act together by the time we arrive. Don’t tell the kiwi fashion police, but the cold weather has brought forth the revelation that socks and crocks are a surprisingly cosy, comfortable and practical solution to the problem of cold feet on a boat. And who knew that brown crocks with purple socks would be so pleasing on the eye? Posh nob quiches one day, socks and crocks the next. Is there no end to the Fatties’ sophistication?

Day 8 – Mood Swings and Awesomeness

October 15, 2021

One of the things I’ve learned about myself on this whole “buy a boat and sail around the world” nonsense adventure is that the weather has a massive impact on my mood. Today has been the perfect example.

It started grey, overcast and with that miserable cold drizzle you get in the UK in October. Chills right through to your bones, and sucks the joy out of everything it touches. It also blocks out the sun and stops the solar panels from generating any electricity. Which means you have to don your wet weather gear and stand out in the miserable stuff for 3 hours as there isn’t enough juice to run the autopilot. Depression sets in and you start questioning every decision you’ve ever made which brought you to this terrible point in your miserable life.

But wait, what’s that on the horizon? Is it a patch of blue sky? Is it coming our way? Oh joy of joys, could that the the actual sun I can see? My word, I love this lifestyle. It’s such a privilege to be here, to witness this, to feel the warmth of the sun, to hear the crash of the waves, to see the infinite colours of the sea, the unbroken horizon, to be free in nature in all its endless beauty. I’m so happy I must sing, and I can put the autopilot on too. Huzzah and hooray, let’s live like this forever.

Oh, hang on. Is that a squall coming towards us. Oh crap. Where’s my sunshine gone? Bloody hell that rain is cold. Is my coat leaking? Damn it, now my pants are wet too, and I only put these on yesterday. Christ, I hate living on a boat. I’m so tired, and cold out here in the wilderness. I wish I could make it stop and just live in a house like normal people. What were we ever thinking?

And then it got dark, and really rough and really wet and really, really cold. And bizzarely, my mood lifted and I ended the day loving the whole, crazy stupidity of everything Susan has enabled us to do. Random mood swings, damp pants and being told off for singing out loud in the cockpit included.

31 49.413s 171 54.562e

Day 9 – A night of Squall Dodging

Wow! We’ve not had a night like that since we crossed the Bay of Biscay with Uncle Adam, way back in 2018. It started calmly enough, and Evan had a lovely couple of hours on his early evening watch. It all started to go a bit wrong when Sam took control. What had been high, fluffy moonlit clouds for Evan soon turned into low, thick and darkly menacing clouds for Sam. He spent the first hour of his watch manfully routing us around the squalls that sat beneath each patch of inky blackness, but by 11 pm he could see no way clear and rightly called for help.

The next four hours were spent with Floss at the Nav Station, watching storms develop and track towards us on the radar, shouting out course changes to Sam and I who were tag-teaming it on the helm. We avoided the worst of the rain, but the squalls that did hit us were thick with rain, howling with winds and bitingly cold.

By 3am we were through the worst. The wind had calmed and if you tried hard enough you could convince yourself that you could see patches of clear sky ahead of us.

And as quickly as it had started, it all stopped. And we were left bobbing about with hardly enough wind to fill the sails with the sun creeping over the horizon. It’s feast or famine with the wind out here. It completely wiped us out for the day, and the small amount of wind that replaced the storms pushed us much further west than we wanted. We’ve had the double whammy of being shattered, and sailing further away from New Zealand than we were at the start of the day. Bugger.

The wind is forecast to slowly back around to the east over the next 24 hours which should allow us to start sailing towards New Zealand again. Let’s hope so as we’re feeling a long way away from the pie, chips and warm beer awaiting us in Opua.

Pumpkin News: Our favourite Western Australian Cannibal Nerd has provided us with an excellent recipe for some delicious pumpkin scones. Should the sea calm down enough, we’ll certainly be baking up a storm with what’s left of Melon

Fashion News: Not only do we have one crew member rocking crocks and socks. Another member of the sartorially challenged crew has been spotted in socks and sandals. Where will this all end?

Cold rain at sea
Oh good. More torrential rain. (This photo is really funny if you zoom in, and you’re not Dez)
Squalls on the radar
The radar. Oh look. More rain squalls. Not sure there’s a way around this one…

Day 10 – Buzzed by the NZ Navy

It’s been a very calm day weather-wise, with a gentle rolling swell, 10 knots of (cold enough to slice you in two and strip the flesh from your bones) wind and clear blue skies. A perfect time to get some jobs done:

Try sealing the newly discovered leak in the galley: Tick

Loctite the nut that holds the steering wheel onto the helm to avoid the wheel falling off: Tick

Put some diesel in the main tank: Tick

Fix the fridge lid door handle, again. Tick

We’d just embarked upon the job list when we got a visit from the Kiwi Air Force. They made a low pass and then circled a couple times before calling us on the radio and checking to see who we were and where we were going. All very lovely and exciting indeed. It’s great to know that the real world is still out there, somewhere, and that we’re not living in Water World.

However, the flip side of this very lovely visit was that in answering their questions, it now seems that I’ve somehow gained a day. Because today is Day 9, not day 10. I’m not sure which day I’ve written about twice, but it was clearly a good one that I enjoyed very much. Or perhaps I imagined a whole day somewhere. Is it my age, or perhaps just sleep deprivation?

Anyoldhow, given that we’re officially going to arrive in Opua on Day 12, even though we’ll actually arrive late on Day 11, I’m going stick with the numbering scheme and hope that I don’t add in another couple of days and end up arriving on Day 14.

Knobbling News: Holy cow, how much colder can it get? The sea temperature has plummeted to a baltic 20°C. We’ve had to dig quilts out to stave off night time frost bite (teenagers trying to put a quilt into a quilt cover is a fantastic spectator sport). And Evan has started wearing long trousers. Brrrr…

Fashion News: A squeal of delight was heard from one of the Fatties when her favourite merino wool slipper socks were discovered lurking in the bag of quilts. These beauties are not only breathable, wicking, 100% natural and pink with super grippy soles, they’re also superbly cosy and can be worn to bed. Unlike crocks, which suffer the mild inconvenience of having to be taken off before collapsing with exhaustion. Result.

31 49.413s 171 54.562e

Day 11 NEWS FLASH – We’ve Heave-Ho’d

Avid nonsense lovers out there will no doubt have noted the Fatties stellar sailing performance so far today. We’ve been screaming along, cracking out well over 7 knots for most of the day as the wind finally turned in our favour and urged us on towards Opua.

However, we now have too much wind to be sailing comfortably, and have therefore parked Susan for the night. Squalls and thunderstorms and all sorts of unpleasant stuff is forecast for the next 24 hours and we don’t like the look of it. Faced with a horrible 24 hours hand steering our way through 35+ knots of misery, we’ve decided to take the night off. We’ve got a scrap of mainsail up. We’ve backed the staysail. And are drifting with the current and the force of the wind pushing us sideways. Hopefully we’ll all be able to get some sleep.

As soon as this weather blows over the top of us well reset the sails and push on towards Opua. We hope to have a beautiful 250 miles of perfect sailing weather ahead of Susan.

The Fat Susan Crew – proud of their fairweather sailing credentials!

Day 11 – Abattoir Wellies and Dodging Container Ships

After an uncomfortably rolly but mostly restful night drifting with the current, the morning greeted us with heavy overcast skies, strong winds and a very unpleasant swell. We’d had one moment of excitement overnight when the AIS alarm went off warning us that we were about to get run over by a massive container ship heading for China. With the sails set as they were, we had practically no manoeuvrability, and even though we technically had “right of way”, 600 ft container ships have a reputation for ignoring such rules and ploughing on regardless. They also have a reputation for not responding to radio calls, so I wasn’t expecting any sort of response when I radioed them to make sure that they’d seen us. I was surprised and absolutely delighted to hear that they’d already adjusted their course to avoid us. Inverine is now my favourite container ship in the whole world.

Stylish.

The morning was spent with us mostly sat in the brace position as Susan lurched and rolled and pitched and bobbed about. Floss was delighted to discover that she can wear the boys’ abattoir wellies over the top of her slipper socks meaning that she was able to pop out into the cockpit without fear of getting her feet either cold or wet. Nice.

Soon after lunch, we received a note from Bruce the legendary weatherman containing the awesome phrase “fractured frontal band”, which was letting us know that the worst of the thunderstorms had scooted past us and that our way to Opua was clear. So we reset the sails, and got cracking on ticking off the last 172 nautical miles that stood between us and pie, chips and warm beer. The wind and swell were behind us, Susan was galloping through the surf and it was all very pleasant indeed.

Two more sleeps to go.
Next stop, Opua.
Can’t wait.

34 54.641s 174 03.778e

Day 12 – Dolphins, Whales and Albatrosses Welcome Us to NZ

Monday October 18, 2021

The day started with a smug belief that we’d avoided all of the forecasted thunderstorms. But that was soon washed away as we were clipped by the tail end of a storm and we spent half an hour in a biblical torrent of toe-curlingly cold rain. Floss assumed her usual position of tracking the rain on the radar and plotting a course to avoid the worst of it. I was on the helm, getting a royal soaking. The kids had breakfast.

It didn’t last long though, the skies cleared, we got back on course and we set to work drying ourselves out.

And here we are. Running almost dead downwind, directly at Opua. There are 72 nautical miles , and only one more sleep left to go.

We’ve written to the Kiwi Customs Lovelies to let them know we’re close by so that they can escort us into our quarantine berth early on Tuesday morning. There’s a radio call to be made tonight when we’re 12 hours away from the quarantine dock, and then I think that we’re all set. We’ve even managed to get a bit of wildlife spotting done.

Dolphins frolicking in the bow wave: Tick

Whales taking a breather then diving majestically beneath the swell: Tick

Albatrosses gliding effortlessly over the waves: Tick

There was a minor wrinkle in the day when we heard a distress call for a sailing boat approximately 40 miles away that had lost steerage. After half an hour on the radio discussing our options with the Rescue Coordination Centre, they advised us to proceed to Opua. Our thoughts are with the skipper and we hope that there are boats closer to his location will be able to help.

The wind is dropping, so we’re likely to be motoring the last few miles to Opua. Which is fine by me. We’ve had plenty of excitement on this passage, and a gentle night under a clear moonlit sky is just what we need. We’re back on the charts having avoided all monsters, and we can almost taste that steak and cheese pie.

Nom nom nom

Day 13 or 12 or something –  Who cares?…We’ve arrived!!

We motored down the Northland coast all night in pitch blackness and as the sun arose, we were greeted by stunning views of the Bay of Islands.  So many sea birds.  Petrels and terns and gulls everywhere.  As we motored, bleary eyed, into the bay towards Opua, everything disappeared as a heavy fog engulfed everything.  It’s very weird after a couple of weeks at sea, to have to navigate through a narrow channel using only our chart plotter.  Anchored sailing boats loomed mysteriously out of the gloom occasionally and the odd fishing boat trundled slowly past.

Our first human contact was with the Customs boat that escorted us onto the Quarantine dock, our home for the next few days until COVID tests were negative and lovely biosecurity people were sure we weren’t smuggling anything dodgy in.

We’re here.  In New Zealand.  It’s been a long, eventful and emotional journey.  But we’re here.

Our first morning view of New Zealand.
Fog
Boats at anchor, looming out of the fog as we motored through the Bay of Islands
Fat Susan crew
We’ve arrived. Just tied Fat Susan to the Q dock. The relief is real.
Q dock fun. Customs, biosecurity etc etc all done from a distance.
Bay of Islands marina, Opua, NEW ZEALAND.

So there you have it. Another epic ocean passage and I suspect our last for a while. The people of New Zealand have been fantastically welcoming and we are very pleased to be in this incredible country. It has taken a lot of determination to sail all the way from the UK to New Zealand over the past three or so years. But every second of our journey has been worth it.

2 Comments on “Sailing the Pacific Ocean from Fiji to New Zealand – Fat Susan’s Ocean Blog

  1. Hello,

    Firstly Congratulation on arriving in NZ. You may remember us when we were on an adjacent pontoon at Port Solent UK . Our names are Roger and Eleanor and we own a Sadler 34 called Vivace. This was soon after we had been launched that year and you were preparing for your trip. I remember you sanding the coach roof of the aft cabin and stopping leaks.
    I have only just caught up with your blog so don’t at this stage know what adventures you have had. I have a lot of reading to do.

    Well done with your epic trip and I look forward to reading all about it. My goodness how your sons have grown.

    Warm regards to you all.

    Roger Bonnett

    • Hi Roger and Eleanor! So lovely to hear from you! That must have been almost exactly four years ago. Our boys are much, much bigger now and we’ve had an amazing adventure on the boat. We have managed to sail all the way to New Zealand since we met you, but we are still fixing leaks. That’s normal for boats though, eh? I hope you are still enjoying Vivace. Lots of love from us xxx

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