Cyclone on the Rhumb Line: NZ to Tonga

pangaiamoto.jpgHi beautiful people!

Sorry for the delayed update, but this is more than likely going to be the pattern over the next 5 months when we’re in places with spotty wifi or none at all. Thankfully after 2 weeks at sea, we dropped the anchor off the island of Pangaimotu (the home of Big Mama’s Yacht Club) and finally stopped on Saturday, May 27th! What a relief to get to Tonga after a slow and sloppy passage. What have we been up to for the past 2+ weeks at sea? Well, we departed Whangarei, NZ on Saturday, May 13th after spending more than 3 weeks in the marina getting colder by the moment and making good use of our fireplace onboard. Now, we are sweaty, snorkeling and enjoying the sultry humidity…and fixing things that broke on the way or that decided to break once we arrived in Tonga where things are difficult if not impossible to come by.

Andy’s guesstimate for our passage to Tonga was about 5 days to Minerva reef and another 3 or so to Tonga, but being a bit overzealous at estimating, I guessed correctly that the passage would take 2 weeks and we didn’t even stop at Minerva on the way. We went all kinds of directions on our passage and veered so far from the rhumb line that I figured we’d get there when we get there as long as we could hopefully avoid the 40+ knot winds and the 4-9 meter seas predicted near Tonga if we continued on our course into a massive tropical depression over a week ago. We avoided the majority of the bad weather and the crazy seas, but we got to use the storm sail and the boat kept floating! Day 1: Departing through the Whangarei bridge

open bridge wander lustdepartwhangarei.jpgAll the days on passage seemed to have blurred together, but the highlights include getting drenched by a massive wave while ensconced in the cockpit with Andy immediately yelling “you’re wet, but the wave snapped the clamps off the port light”, then a day or two later the head sail ripping, then one of the furlers got jammed and a sail wouldn’t furl in, then we had to conserve fuel and most recently the charge on the batteries is dodgy at best. Cruising is not all pina coladas and sunsets as I had been warned before we set off on the trip. I am still happy to be on this adventure and only was a little worried when we were getting reports of gale force winds and 9 meter seas at one stage (far to the North, but essentially on our proposed route). We safely avoided all of that drama and hung down south for about 3 days going 1-2 knots overnight when the waves were 3-4 meters because we didn’t want to damage anything else in the middle of the night and waited for the tropical depression to go by far to the North of us.rainbowtotonga

Andy was especially fantastic at macgyvering everything that broke. For the port light, which is a window that can be below sea level when we are heeled over, he wedged a piece of the shelf against it to keep it closed and then took some sailor’s friend (sika-flex) and attached some timber to the outside of the window to dampen the force of future waves. This worked quite well surprisingly and no waves came flooding into the boat.  It also helped that the window was on the high side the whole trip and the swell lessened over time. The only casualty for the window drama was some of our clothes got soaked as they were on the shelves below the window with the broken securing mechanism. Nothing laundry service can’t fix. atseatonga

After the headsail ripped, we had a day of calm weather allowing Andy to take the sail down and sew it back together and it ripped along a seam making the fix less dramatic than it could’ve been. For the furler which we knew was dodgy, but worked just fine in NZ, duct tape and pvc pipe have “fixed” it once we got to Tonga. For the passage though, Andy had to go up near the mast in 3-4 meter swells and gently furl in the staysail while watching that the line stayed on the furler and didn’t come off and get wrapped around the stay or who knows where else.  Thankfully he was tethered on and he is a boat spider monkey who can balance no matter what. fixsail

As on the last passage to Nz, we spent this passage sleeping, eating, sleeping some more and checking the weather multiple times a day. I wasn’t especially bored, because I was asleep or on watch with a giant cup of coffee and if I had to do it again, I would. Getting to Tonga and having all the future island time to look forward to makes it worth it. After arriving on Saturday, we had to wait until Monday to clear into customs and that was a testament of patience. We’re on Tonga time now. Quarantine was quite relaxed and just said “don’t throw any fresh stuff over the side”. Quite the difference compared to the strict quarantine in New Zealand. Already I’m thinking we may have under provisioned on coffee and beer, but if all else fails we have a boat full of pasta, rice and tinned veg so we won’t starve.

The markets actually have a decent selection of fresh fruit and veg and we are looking forward to eating lots of tropical fruit for the next 6 months. We’ve met quite a few people off the other yachts anchored nearby and rafted up with 2 other boats clearing into customs which helped pass the time as we waited…and waited…. Generally people are heading up to the Ha’apai island group and or Va’vau to the North, so we’ll most likely see a few of these people again on the trip. We are especially enjoying the snorkeling, cold beers and delicious food that Big Mama’s has to offer, but we’re looking forward to getting things sorted again so we can continue the voyage to remote islands, white sand beaches and prime locations for kiteboarding. Keep an eye on us on (Wanderlust V) as we will update our location and activities via HF radio onto that site when we are on passage/away from wifi/ etc. If you’re curious about the exact route we took and the things that happened on passage, feel free to log onto the yachts in transit website and read all about it as Andy updated daily.

bigmama.jpgFor those that may come visit us, we’ll be in Tonga for probably 6 weeks-2 months as a guess and the humpback whales are coming end of June/ July. Then Fiji, then Vanuatu, then New Caledonia. We really hope some of you can make it. For those that can’t, enjoy the vicarious experience.

Until next time,

Andy and Bre



6 thoughts on “Cyclone on the Rhumb Line: NZ to Tonga

  1. Thank you Breanna for this exciting newsy read! You impress me with all your yachty language. You must have been a good student that listened when Andy was teaching you! Not like your sky diving experience. 🙂 I have a question about, what is a storm sail and how is used? I guess that is two questions but I bet others that are reading may wonder the same thing. Love the photo going through the bridge while it was raised. How was that picture taken? So happy for the technology of today to be able to know about storms so they can be avoided and the website to be able to follow you. I appreciate Andy for the daily posts and always ending with “All well on board”. I looked forward to those posts each day and the highlight of my day! The Rainbow photo is beautiful and I am sure a welcome site when saw it! To follow with the next photo of stormy seas and rain splashed screen a very dramatic contrast! Then a sigh of relief with the next photo of calm seas and Andy sewing the mainsail. I do think you should write a book about your adventure . This post really shows your writing flair! I am thankful to Andy for his cleverness and being a Jack of all trades to be able to act quickly to solve problems as they occur. Being a boat spider monkey helps greatly as well! Thinking of him up that mast gives me chills I can imagine what Teena and Peter were feeling! How exciting for you both to have the opportunity to see Humpback whales! Love to you both!


    • Hi Mom,
      Andy’s Dad is Colin Cain actually, Peter is his uncle. In answer to all your questions: The storm sail is a small sail less than 1/3 the size of the big main sail that we can hoist along a parallel track on the main mast. It doesn’t require any other sails to be removed, it goes up on it’s own track by pulling a halyard (lines that make sails go up and down) and then the sheet (the line that makes the sail go in and out/back and forth rather than up and down) can be secured to one of the cleats at the back of the boat. It helps to balance the boat, but doesn’t really provide much power. It’s better to have a sail like this up in high winds rather than making the main extra small by “reefing it” that way if something happens to the storm sail, it’s not as much of a problem as something happening to the main sail. Also it doesn’t attach to the boom (the metal part that’s perpendicular to the main mast) so it can’t strain the boom or the main mast as much. The photo of the yacht going thru the bridge was taken by a yacht behind us and onboard that yacht was someone that worked at the marina office, so she emailed the photo to Andy. Andy is really safe going up the mast and has extra safety lines etc. tied on. Anyway, so far so good and hoping to head up to the Ha’apai group on Weds or Thurs this week. xo


      • Oops on the mix up between Colin and Peter. I thought Andy’s Dad was Colin but than something was on Facebook from Peter that got be confused. Sorry Colin. I think I messed up on Facebook also but I will check that when I am done here. Thanks for explaining and answering all of my questions. I understand the storm sail now very well. I spoke to Paul for his birthday on the 31st. I asked him if he did anything with computers because I thought he would enjoy reading your blog but billowed out, “No, I’m old fashioned. I don’t do computers. I don’t even have a cell phone. Anybody wants to get in touch with be they can call me on my old fashioned house phone. (He did add). My friends think I’m crazy.” It was a great phone call and we had a wonderful hour long conversation. It was funny I called right when he got the mail with an envelope from me with his birthday card that he was just about to open when his land line phone rang and it was me! Coincidence? I think not! Paul turned 74 this year! Jeez time sure does go by quickly! Well after all time is going by way too quickly. I can’t believe that my girls have grown into 2 amazing women right before my eyes! Love to you and Andy. Of course always safe travels but I know you are and will be.


  2. Nice, took a look at the track, were you both drunk? Great to be reminded that its not all champaign and sunsets! Enjoy the islands and keep up the honest blog 🙂


  3. I love sailing vicariously! So many advantages.
    Wonderful update, thanks. I’m looking forward to future kite photos, too.


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