Day 388, Year 1: Passage to New Zealand, Day 1—Crossing the Dateline
Date: Friday, November 10, 2006
Weather: Overcast Day with Some Clearing in the PM, SE Winds 15-20 Knots
Latitude: 28 degrees 08 minutes S
Longitude: 179 degrees 44 minutes EAST—Yippee!
Location: Passage from N Minerva Reef to New Zealand
Miles to Go: ~700

We have now crossed the “official” Dateline-180 degrees. The Dateline, for time purposes, was moved to include Tonga in the same time zone with New Zealand. When we crossed that on the way from Samoa to Tonga, the time did change, but it didn’t give us the feeling of real accomplishment that we got today.. The longitude will now count down from 180 instead of building up to 180. In our voyage around the world, we are making progress.

And we are making progress on our passage to New Zealand, but not easily. As promised, we are bashing into head winds today. The projection was for us to pass into a cold front at about 0700 this morning, but at 0230 during the night we had an abrupt wind shift from NW to SW. The shift took about two minutes. I was just going off my first night watch when it happened, so the timing was perfect. I called down for Mark to come up and evaluate the sail plan and then we kept moving. We are having to run the engine at about 2000 rpm’s and are still using a full main and head sail. We are having to go a little more west than our rumb line, but Windbird is forging ahead like a Sherman tank. The seas aren’t too bad, but anytime you are beating straight into them, the comfort level certainly decreases. Sometimes we wish we had a lighter, faster boat, but in these conditions we are reminded of why we chose this boat. If I had the choice to make over, I’d still choose Windbird.

I feel like we are playing a real life board game on this passage. At each decision point, you either move forward or go back a few spaces. Commanders’ Weather reports are fantastic. John Leavitt at Commanders’ gives us quick responses and very thorough routing information. We emailed yesterday telling him of our decision to leave Minerva and continue on to New Zealand. We got an email back from his this morning saying, “From today’s vantage point it appears more clearly that you made a good decision.” Let’s hope he is right. Of course, it was his thorough information that led us to the decision, but we are feeling more confident in our ability to read through the mass of weather information and made decisions. This passage is still going to be problematic, but those who left before us are having challenges and information tells us that even if we waited in Tonga or Minerva for ten more days, we wouldn’t be assured of a smooth passage. There will be that perfect window, but the waiting game got the best of us. So now the strategy is to use the day by day information we get from Commanders’ and plan the best course from here. We have to balance the use of fuel against the distance and make sure we have plenty of fuel when we get close to the North Island. Nasty weather there is REALLY nasty and you want to be sure that you come into that part of the passage with a full range of resources. For now, the winds have come around enough that we are almost back on course and we are making better than our projected five knots, so all is well. And the sun is actually shining and I am hot. That is even better! The cold will come soon enough.