The longest passage

Coordinates: 31deg45S, 161deg15E
This is our longest passage of the whole trip, beating our journey from NZ to Vanuatu by some 200 miles. We’ve tried setting milestones to alleviate the monotony, the first of which is the official halfway point which we should reach in a couple of days’ time. An important psychological point, for a passage this long it tends to arrive at a time when everyone’s wondering whether we’ll ever get there and morale may be down, and it marks the start of the uphill leg. Not quite sure how we’ll celebrate this one, but Rebecca has suggested she might have a couple of treats stashed away, and we may break the dry-boat-on-passage rule and pass out a couple of beers that evening.

We’re logging our position daily with NZ Maritime Radio who keep a 24 hour radio watch, so we can call them in the middle of the night when radio reception is best. We haven’t done this before, but the length of this passage and the Tasman Sea’s reputation persuaded us that, on this occasion, it might be comforting to have someone know where we are. But there’s not a lot of comfort to be had on the radio with these guys they’re all business. Despite calling at the same time for the last four nights, they still start the call with a nonchalant Ahh, Tonga Moon, how can we help you? We dutifully relay our position, heading and speed and receive the entirely impersonal thank you for calling, Tonga Moon signoff. No sympathetic enquiries of all well on board?, nor how are you guys doing out there?. No, these guys aren’t sitting up in the middle of the night to provide spurious comfort to anxious sailors state your business and begone! Which is all fine, of course, and despite it we still like the thought that they’re tracking our progress. Either that, or pretending to jot down our positions and flicking the imaginary paper into the nearest bin, filed in the usual place! Who can tell?

Charlotte’s presence continues to provide a ripe field of anecdotes. She’s spent the first two days inspecting the anatomy of a bucket with the intensity only afforded a doctor of her standing. This, despite loading up on an impressive range of drugs designed to keep seasickness at bay. She’s a consultant anaesthetist, so has managed to put even the good Dr Starr to shame with the complexity of her pharmaceutical solutions, but sadly they haven’t really worked. She initially spurned suggestions of raw ginger (our own personal favourite), but two days of vomiting will break down the hardiest of non-believers, and at this stage she’s trying anything. Despite all this, of course, she’s shown true grit by determinedly doing her watches good on her.

James is his usual tower of strength. He’s a bull of a man with an impressive track record in managing building works and a can-do attitude that would overshadow the most ardent kiwi. The combined positivity of Bob the Builder (can we fix it?) and Barack Obama (can we do it?) has nothing on him. Incidentally, the correct answer to both questions was yes we can, although I understand that after Obama’s first term in office his campaign had to revert to the more pragmatic slogan can we do it, this time?. No job outfoxes him, which is handy for a skipper like Fred for whom many jobs don’t just outfox him but leave him completely bamboozled. No surprise to James then, to arrive to discover we’d quietly amassed a long list of head-scratching boat issues for him to puzzle out, our personal favourite being the perpetually-blocking holding tank. What better way to welcome your long-lost cousin on board than to give him your poo problems to fix?

Our progress has been slow. Yesterday we were becalmed for most of the day, and so motored laboriously with one engine ticking along on 2000 revs, ever mindful of the need to conserve fuel this early in the passage. It was a slow day, but the sea’s flatness helped Charlotte recover and even swallow an exploratory bowl of supper come evening. The wind returned around that time and gave us a lovely 15 knots on the beam. The seas were still flat, and for all her floating condo-like qualities Tonga Moon picked up her skirts and romped along for most of that night at over 7 knots, compensating nicely for the slow day. Today showed a similar pattern with a morning of slow motoring and the wind picking up late in the day. We’re determinedly heading South of our rhumbline in anticipation of southerly winds arriving in the next day or so, so we just keeping our fingers crossed that they’re gentle with us when they eventuate.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Richard Studholme
    Dec 25, 2012 @ 18:47:00

    Happy Christmas to all on board! Bit late, but here in Auckland we (Richard and Philippa) are staying briefly with Matt and Belinda, with Hamish and Will, and have had a wonderful Christmas, centered chiefly around the boys, Hamish was very concerned that Father X might forget about your three boys out on the Tasman, so he left him a note to that effect. The old man replied saying that he hadn’t forgotten, but that landing on a boat was no easy task (“the darndest thing”), so we hope that he made it all right. We fly home to Chch tomorrow night, so wish you all a safe landing in Opua, if that is where it is to be, and we will no doubt hear all about it in due course.

    Love to all Richard and Philippa



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