Cruising NZ is an endurance test

 – We have to have a plan for a few days.

I thought we already had a plan?

Yes, but let’s see if anything changed from last night.

I flinch.

We have to do it. This is our life. 

This discussion takes place after 3 days of being anchored in Omaru Bay, on the SW coast of Waiheke, without access to shore. For us leaving Mehalah unattended in strong winds is a risk that we are not willing to take, unless in a marina.

Of course, risk like anything else, is a matter of perception. I remember the reaction of a French sailor who we met in French Polynesia when I said I was not a risk taker. He smirked replying : “How come you are not a risk taker when you are sailing around the world?”. He had a point, I get it. But, the risks we both take, as Mehalah’s crew, are calculated risks. We are not adopting the kiwi approach of: “she’ll be alright, mate.” It is just not us. Full stop.

The blow that led to the unfortunate event of total loss of the uninsured sailing boat belonging to international cruisers. In an attempt to salvage any residual value everything was stripped off the boat (third picture)

When onboard for too long tension gradually builds despite our natural happy disposition. At first, like a very light summer breeze, but with the potential of turning into a stormy blow! 

Living aboard our sailboat

The plan changes all of the time following the ever changing weather forecast that comes through every 12 hours. 

When at anchor, depending on the wind direction, we have to be tucked in a bay, behind a land mass. The waters in such protected anchorage are flat enough to host us comfortably. 

When ‘outwiththewind’, along with the wind direction and strength, we have to account for what the tide is doing, this pendulum-ing every 6 hours. 

In a perfect world, when on the move we would have the tide and wind with us. To some extent we can plan accordingly. However there are times when we do not have the luxury of choosing. If the wind shifts and starts blowing to any degree in the bay where we had dropped the hook, we just want to be out of there. The anchorage can become a ‘boiling pot’. We are forced to sail away to safety and comfort regardless of the wind direction and strength or tide.

Departing a bay ahead of the wind shifting vs. running from a bay a touch late! Spot in the 2nd picture the white crests forming in the bay at wind gusting 40 knots

Once we reach a protected anchorage and it remains windy everything runs like clockwork. Add the sun to the equation and everything runs like a Swiss watch. The wind generator and the solar panel produce enough energy for us to live afloat comfortably. However, we encounter the rare occasion when we have neither. This is when ‘the genie’ comes to our rescue. A generator is not the most environmental friendly approach but it is the only solution to have a reasonably normal life aboard without killing the boat batteries. 

The sailing life off grid is made possible by our permanent energy sources (wind generator and solar panel) and the tucked away Honda generator that comes to our rescue when the batteries run low

The other downside of a windless period is the ocean swell that creeps in the anchorage like a thief. It transforms the sea state in a giant swing that takes the boat from right to left and left to right incessantly. Everything has to be secured to avoid jumping out of our skins when something drops. This uncomfortable situation is also not bearable for too long. It the wind does not pick up to counteract it we have to sail away.

As you can see, the sailing life off grid is not plain sailing. Not only we have to adapt to the ever changing weather conditions, we also have to manage carefully the mood aboard Mehalah. Thus far we have been doing both successfully. Kudos to the Captain who is also the ‘cheer leader’ aboard our Oyster yacht.

In this game of chance, we have been running around in circles for the last month, trying to stay ahead of the wind. We already circumnavigated the island once and there is more to come. Christmas Day caught us moving from the north side of Waiheke Island to its south side in another attempt to hide from the shifting wind. However, we had the luxury of spending the Xmas Eve on the beach closing the day with a yummy barbie.

Our beautiful Christmas aboard Mehalah, anchored off Oneroa Beach on the North side of Waiheke Island

My biggest Christmas present from the generous Universe was my father coming out of ICU after a critical cardiac surgical intervention. Thanks to my brother for duly undertaking the children care duties in my absence🙏

Are we still enjoying the sailing life? Oh yeah, very much so. The flip side is ‘pure freedom’ (subject to wind and tide!). Long walks in beautiful nature through diverse and interesting ecosystems. Catching up with old friends on the water. Enjoying blissful moments aboard Mehalah, when the wind and tide are just right, the sun caresses our skin in the light summer breeze whilst sea birds ballet in the immense blue canvas. Pure bliss.

Until next time, have a beautiful end of 2021 and a safe and happy start of the New Year!

2 thoughts on “Cruising NZ is an endurance test”

  1. Great Post!
    I’ve spent a lot of time in and around Weiheke and love all the options for finding a comfortable anchorage.
    Oneroa Bay is wonderful when the winds are coming from SE. maybe I’m lazy but I like Matiatia Bay, which is one of the most protected bays, yes it’s the ferry bay and can get a little busy but the ferries are Big cats and don’t throw much of a wake. I also like the access to ferries to Auckland and the extensive Weiheke bus system that will take you right to the Countdown store, where provisions are plentiful!
    I also have a Honda generator and use it to charge all my 120V us tools etc. I’ve learned to keep it dry as the will succumb to rusty connectors.
    I also knew Ben on the boat on the rocks, there but for the grace of God go all of us, a local friend told me there was a huge 50+man wind gust and he was not on the boat and the anchor dragged! Very, very sad story.

    1. Very, very sad story indeed! Feel the owners’ pain and sorrow and seeing the stripped off boat was even more painful….We keep our fingers crossed for a timely and safe reunion with your vessel🤞🤞🤞Stay safe!

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