Roaring South

Author: Mark
Date: Nov 23, 1:30am NZT
Location: 25 03 S - 179 59 W
Conditions: 16-18ts @ 135 TWA, 210T COG, 8.3kts AVG SOG, 2m swell with 8s period

There's a lot to get everyone caught up on regarding our trip from Fiji to New Zealand. I've been delinquent on updates so far with our trip. I promise, I'll do daily updates until our arrival to New Zealand!

We've been having a great time. Onboard we have James Garbacz and Carlos Diaz. James is the husband of my business partner Laura and Carlos is a good friend and sailor from Argentina. Reminiscent of last year's trip, the crew arrived to Port Denarau, Fiji - with the expectations that we would be patient for weather, and leave when it was time to go. My hope - find a window that we could stomach to sail SE 420 NM to Minerva Reef. This is not an easy request as the trade winds typically come from this same direction. It was a long shot, and we were not holding out hopes.

We began by a brisk provisioning the day James arrived. While waiting for Carlos to arrive from Argentina, James and I jumped in a cab and headed for the local markets in Nadi. He and I roamed the isles, grabbing as much fresh produce as we could carry. We did not have a list, we just stacked our bags full of produce. We'd figure out what we were going to eat based on the food we had onboard. This was clearly not the well organized process I have been used to with Sarah's meticulous and well thought out lists...but hey...this was a 'guys trip' and we were going to wing it. James said he was expecting SPAM every day...so I figured with such low expectations, anthing was better than a daily ration of SPAM.

We left the marina as fast as possible. It was hot, and we wanted to be at anchor with fresh breeze. Friends on another boat needed some assistance with some electrical challenges at Musket Cove - so we headed in that direction to assist. Carlos and I spent a couple of days helping the best we could while James was able to log 5 dives with the local dive shop. It was a good place to stage ourselves as we waited for weather to head south.

At the suggestion of our friend Kerry we decided to use a new weather guy - Bruce - to keep track of our trip. In short, he's been excellent. I told him our plans and that we would like to head SE to Minerva. I thought the weather looked as good as it could be for the trip SE, and he agreed. One caveat - Bruce said we needed to leave 'NOW' or the window would close and we would get hammered with 25kts on the nose prior to arrival at S. Minerva Reef. YIKES. We scurried around the boat as fast as possible to get ready to leave. I had to arrange a special 'after hours' check out with customs and immigration in Lautoka, Fiji in order for us to leave that evening. It was stressful, but we were successful in making arrangements and we were off!

The sail from Fiji to South Minerva Reef was good. We were close reaching with mild seas and everyone onboard did great. In fact, it was one of the best close reaching sails I've had in a long time. We caught fresh Mahi Mahi, had plenty of fresh product to eat - and everyone settled into their individual routine of 4 hours on watch, 8 hours off. We arrived just before the frontal system approached, anchored in the same location we were earlier in the year, and settled in for the 25kt - 30kt winds. James and I jumped in the water at 6.30pm to check the anchor. I was stunned by the water clarity. I forgot just how clear water can be in a remote location like this. We were anchored in 10m of water, with visibility easily over 70 meters. We could clearly see our anchor from the stern of Field Trip 60 meters away. WOW.

The next two days we dived, dived, dived. While having a couple of challenges with the Brownie Compressor, we were able to get this resolved and get plenty of time in the water. I had two tanks onboard I filled at Musket Cove allowing James and Carlos to also get a nice tank dive through the pass.

Today, our final day in Minerva, we did a final dive to 18m through a pristine labyrinth of coral and fish. We spent a total of 2.5 hours under water - half of that diving, the other half scrubbing the bottom of the boat... :)

We left Minerva at 2pm today. Conditions are excellent. We've had 15-20kts at 130T since we departed. Our average SOG is 7.8kts with a top speed of 11.8. The ride is comfortable, fast and fun! The forecast is for a broad reach to reach the entire way to Opua. I expect we will be able to sail almost the entire way based on the current forecast models.

That's it for today. More to come as our journey unfolds...

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