by Salty Green
This is the third installment from Salty who has been sailing in the South Pacific this winter with an old friend. Last we heard, he was enjoying his stay in Tonga.
With the exception of leaving Big Mama, we were anxious to leave Tonga and head south to our final destination, New Zealand. An almost eerie sound resonated from the jungle like motu. It seemed like the hundreds of birds singing in low tones were saying good bye as we pulled the anchor at first light and headed out through the pass to far away Auckland.
If we had wished for wind, we soon got it as we cleared the numerous small islands surrounding Tongatapu, and hit the open ocean. Our wind speed went from a steady 10-15 knots to 18-20 with gusts close to 30. This coupled with heavy southeast seas made it rough going. Nonetheless, our daily average increased and we twice approached 200 daily miles.
When doing 8-9 knots, our deck was awash even though our freeboard was 5 feet. Yet somehow, with all this, our shipmate and chief cook Els managed to crank out terrific meals, while still doing her solo 4-hour watch twice each day.
Not since late August had any fish been taken, but as the sea temperaturedropped close to 20 degrees less than in Polynesia we began to see more bird action and lost a couple of jigs to blue marlin. Finally, on November 19, we caught our first tuna and two days later, a second. Imagine having your fill of fresh sashimi, hot rice and wasabi, washed down with ice cold Hinano beer. Yum!
When I came on watch at 4:00 am, looking at the stars was like being in a planetarium. The clouds of Magellan are the Southern Hemisphere's answer to our Milky Way. On a clear night it almost lights up the darkness and of course, there is always the Southern Cross fairly low in the sky.
After close to 1,400 miles and approaching North Cape, we were greeted by a large school of dolphins which delighted in darting to and from our bow and putting on quite a show. It was as if they were welcoming us to the Island and leading the way to Hauraki Gulf and the pathway to Auckland, the country's largest city.
Once we arrived, it was time to say good bye. Looking back over a month's time, it had been mostly sunshine, fair winds, smooth seas and one hell of a lot of fun.
As for our home at sea, Double X will remain in New Zealand for more than two months for a re-fit, bottom job, and a new main sail. Sometime in February, she'll head back East, stopping at the Marquesas, Panama Canal and Ft. Lauderdale before returning to Europe.
As for myself? Well, that's another story.