Day 369, Year 1: Back in Neiafu—Ready to Leave for New Zealand
Date: Sunday, October 22, 2006
Weather: Windy and Cloudy with Intermittent Rain Showers
Location: Port of Refuge, Neiafu, Vava’u Group, Tonga

We started today with me on Windbird listening to the two radio nets and copying everything I could about weather. Mark went to Quantum Leap for another Captain’s meeting with Dick on Wind Pony, Tom on Quantum Leap, and Arni on Jade. Jade was slated to leave today, but a decision was made that they will wait one more day. The rest of us decided to go ahead with our plans to fuel up in Neiafu on Monday morning and leave immediately, dependent on weather reports.

Today was a drizzly, cloudy day. I had so hoped to have a sunny day for snorkeling, but that was not in the picture. It was also still very windy, so we figured that if we went snorkeling, it would be a repeat of yesterday. I have to admit that I made the decision not to snorkel with tears in my eyes. This would have been my very last chance to snorkel in Polynesia this season, but it made more sense to decline. I really didn’t want to get all of gear wet and not be able to dry it out before leaving on passage tomorrow morning. Sometimes being logical is just no fun.

We spent our morning and early afternoon getting the boat ready for passage.

1. First off, bicycles that are normally on deck when we are in port had to be brought down to the v-berth. That required a lot of rearranging.
2. We got out the sea anchor and rearranged rope anchor rode for our spare anchor to be used for the sea anchor in case we need it. We now have 350 feet of line on our aft deck ready to go over with the sea anchor. You use this to slow you down when you are getting extremely heavy winds. It will head the boat into the wind and slow it to almost a stop.
3. Mark checked and tightened the rigging.
4. I cooked and cooked and cooked. I made granola, salmon cakes, marinated and grilled beef, made chicken salad, and just generally got all the food stuffs ready to go.
5. Mark topped off the battery water and changed the fuel filter. He changed the oil in American Samoa, so we don’t need to do that again until we reach New Zealand.

And the list goes on. But finally we felt like we are pretty much ready to go. Then we got online and tried to download our “paid for” weather report. By this time we were coming back into Neiafu, and just before entering the harbor we made a connection. I was able to download our recommended routing from Bob McDavitt out of New Zealand. His recommendation was to leave no later than tomorrow and to get to New Zealand as quickly as possible. We need to get there by November first to avoid a storm coming up from the southern ocean. That means we need to do 1200 miles in nine days. At first we thought there was no way, but after the second Captain’s meeting of the day, Quantum Leap, Wind Pony, Procyon, Windcastle, and Windbird decided to go for it and leave tomorrow. Quantum Leap and Wind Pony are both catamarans and will move faster than the rest of us, but if we play it smart, we might make it. Staying here is a little chancy as there is actually a tropical depression with cyclone-like characteristics headed this way. No one thinks this depression will really develop into a cyclone as it is way too early for that, but with the kind of sailing season we have had out here, none of us that decided to leave tomorrow is willing to take that chance.

Tomorrow morning very early, we will all head to the dock to check-out and get duty free fuel. I will write a much more comprehensive log tomorrow describing our plans for the passage to New Zealand.

061022 Day 369 Tonga, Vava'u–Last Supper at the Yacht Club