The passage from Bundy to Lord Howe Island took 6 days and we arrived safely in LHI on 27th December. The NE’lies came in later than predicted so we had to motorsail into the wind most of the way, but at least on the last day we finished with our customary flourish. Christmas Day on the high seas was one to remember. The blue skies and fluffy white cumulus promised a good day’s sailing but the wind strengthened and was as usual on the nose so it turned out to be one of our longest days. During the passage seasickness had really reduced our appetites and it was hard work to eat anything and keep it down. You can imagine after 6 days of little food we were starving! Once moored we cracked open a bottle of bubbly and feasted on biltong and Christmas cake!
The Chief of Police came out in a Rib to guide us over the reef and on to our mooring. It was quite an awesome experience with high breaking surf on either side of the narrow passage in. Anyway we got there and tied up to a secure mooring with very little of the 3m swell making it across the reef. We were both tired after the stress of the journey so it was great to be in the peace and quiet of the lagoon with the boat lying still and at last no engine noise.
Once we got the dinghy pumped up and in the water we were ready to go exploring. The island is truly idyllic. It is green and verdant with some excellent walks, good surf, beautiful snorkelling in the lagoon and numerous great diving sites. It is a World Heritage site and is home to a large number of seabirds. The climate I suppose is sub-tropical but with a fearsome windswept element to it! The islanders were really friendly and welcoming to yachties. We went to the Met Office and introduced ourselves to Doug the weatherman who was only too keen to talk about the weather and the island and he was also helpful with passage planning.
Unfortunately the news wasn’t good. A tropical low was stationary about 500 miles to the north of us and likely to stay there for at least the next week. The 35-40kt winds it brought with it had us pinned down in Lord Howe for ten days. In fact we couldn’t even get off the boat for a couple of days – going ashore was like setting off on a Norwegian whaling expedition! (so much for the peace and quiet of the lagoon!) We celebrated New Years Eve on board Bon Accord with Anne and Issac who were sheltering here also bound for NZ.
We were looking forward to the last leg of our voyage and finally got a break in the weather on 6th January. The first day we had a great sail then the wind died and we were stuck in fog for a couple of days. Of all the things we’d predicted for the Tasman Sea fog had not been one of them! Once the cold front passed the southerlies kicked in, the fog soon disappeared and we started eating up the miles to NZ. The wind behaved pretty much as predicted and the passage was much more comfortable than the previous leg.
On the eighth day we passed the welcoming arms of Farewell Spit and into the sheltered waters of Tasman Bay – or so we thought. We bore away, put up the stay sail – only 40 miles to go until we reached Nelson. As we were crossing the bay the wind suddenly picked up and before we knew it it was blowing 40kts and was pushing up a steep, choppy swell. Great – on the last day we hit the worst weather we’d sailed in in the entire trip! We rushed to take down the stay sail and for two hours struggled to keep the boat on course. Eventually we found shelter from the wind and managed to anchor in a bay behind a small island in the famous Abel Tasman National Park.
The next day we finally reached Nelson and stepped ashore to a joyful welcome from Maya. We finished our voyage on January 15th, almost a year to the day since we left Phuket. Yippee!!!!
Happy New Year!
Suzy and Neil