KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Nine
New Zealand - Fiji Passage, Part 1

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GoBackTo 2003 Cruise Chapter Eight
11 September 2003#1 & #2, First Thunderstorm
13 September 2003#3 & #4, Spinnaker Flying
15 September 2003#5 & #6, Bumpy Seas and Second Thunderstorm
Go To NZ-Fiji Passage Part 2

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This webpage covers the first part of our New Zealand to Fiji passage, between September 9 and September 15, 2003. It is comprised of our SailMail e-mails complemented by photos taken along the way.

[Map Australia - New Zealand - Fiji]We are heading almost directly north from New Zealand to Lautoka, on the west coast of Viti Levu. About 1000nm as the crow flies.

11 September, 2003 -- Reports #1 and #2, First Thunderstorm

Passage Report #1
Date: September 10
Time: 0000hrs (midnight)
Position: 35deg00minS x 174deg06.4minE
Course: 320degM
Speed: 4.5 kts (motorsailing)
Distance to Lautoka, Fiji: 1034nm
Last 24 Hours: n/a
WindSpeed: 9kts
Wind Direction: 209T
Waves: minimal

Hi! Just a brief note to let you know we departed New Zealand this evening and are heading for Fiji in a rather circuitous route because we expect headwinds on Saturday and Sunday so we're heading significantly further west than we would otherwise in order to have a good angle for Fiji when the headwinds hit.

Right now, trying to avoid some nasty lightning and ugly clouds. Also, it's COLD.

We're doing fine, and happy to finally be underway.

Passage Report #2
Date: 9/11/03
Position: 32deg44minS 173deg41minE
Course: 340degM
Speed:4.1kts (motoring)
Distance to Lautoka entrance, Fiji: 905nm
Last 24 Hours: 112nm (incl stopping & reversing for squalls)
WindSpeed: zip
Wind Direction: round and round
Waves: negligible on a 1m swell

What a day of contrasts: during the day, it was simply beautiful sailing, with a light beam wind, flat seas, and bright sunshine. The evening, with its full moon, was lovely. Then all hell broke loose - exactly as predicted, a front moved through a little after midnight. On the radar it was intimidating, and I misjudged the speed of one particular huge thunderstorm and drove us right into the middle of it. Interesting... thunder and lightning all around, with horizontal rain and a peak windspeed of 36.2kts. I had removed the radios and stuffed them into the BBQ (Faraday Cage)together with the backup GPS and compass. Happy to report, we didn't get zapped. KatieKat did just fine, as I had furled the sails early and we simply motored through the yuck, nice and dry inside the closed-up main saloon and steering with the autopilot remote control. Kathy, wisely, curled up in the bunk down below with Monkey and kept the pillow over her head. It lasted about three hours, and I can do without this kind of excitement, thank you. A companion boat (Altair), about 40 miles ahead of us, missed all the fun.

This morning it is a gray dreary day, with showers and negligible wind as we slowly (to conserve fuel) motor along.

Nuff for now - all the best from the middle of nowhere.

[Radar Screen] [Radar Screen]

The first picture shows us trying to escape from the thunderstorm that's engulfing us. The second photo shows we didn't make it. I went the wrong way... (should have gone 180-degrees the other way).

[Kathy and Monkey in Bed]This is how Kathy dealt with the thunderstorm. On the right side of the photo you can see two handy additions: the flip-down drink holders and the spice rack above for odds and ends.

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12 September, 2003 -- Reports #3 and #4, Spinnaker Flying

Passage Report #3
Date: Friday, 12 September 2003
Time: 0800
Position: S31deg00min x E173deg15min
Course: 330degM
Speed: 4.5kts (motoring with jib up)
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula), Fiji: 812nm
Last 24 Hours: 112nm :-(
WindSpeed: 7kts
Wind Direction: SE
Waves: negligible (right now) on 1m swell

Yesterday started out awfully, but ended up being a beautiful day, with a lovely tailwind in which we flew spinnakers for over 8 hours. Downwind is NOT the fastest point of sail, as we do about 1/2 apparent windspeed, which means in a 15-knot wind we go at five knots in an apparent wind of 10 knots. Gotta get more weight off the boat... When flying the spinnaker dead downwind, I take down the mainsail (to avoid chafe) and simply sheet the chute to each bow. Peaceful, lazy, and decadent. We have three spinnakers onboard, the smallest being my heavy-weather chute off the Telstar which is little larger than the Seawind's jib and which I put up if the wind gets into the 20's, which it did for a while yesterday. Unfortunately for our boatspeed, the wind was around 13 knots for most of the day.

By evening we ran out of wind and ended up motoring slowly (to conserve fuel) all night long and even now as I write this. If the wind picks up a couple of more knots I'll put the mainsail up as then in won't slat (not good for it).

Kathy's getting her sealegs, we're eating healthily, haven't listened to the news at all, and wish y'all could be here to enjoy this (but not all at once).

[Blue Spinnaker] [Red Spinnaker]

Great when we can fly the spinnakers all day long. These are both off the Telstar so are too small for KatieKat, but make for comfortable cruising. The small red one I put up when winds are over 20 and the blue one is for winds 12-20. For light airs, I have the BUS (big ugly spinnaker) which we didn't fly.

Passage Report #4
Date: 14 Sept. 2003
Time: 0900
Position: S29deg17.6min x E172deg17.9min
Course: 321degM
Speed: boatspeed 5.5kts, GPS speed 4.7kts (adverse current)
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 732nm
Last 24 Hours: 114nm (light winds)
WindSpeed: 10.2
Wind Direction: NE (changed dramatically in last couple of hours)
Waves: minute (reeeeeeeaally nice)

Yesterday was another gorgeous day of sailing, broad reaching in very light winds throughout the day and into the moonlit night. Had to motor again throughout the night.

Change is coming, as expected: a low crossing the Tasman into New Zealand will buck up against the high to our east and will give us headwinds for the next few days. Hopefully we're far enough north by now to escape what would be quite strong winds further south. Shouldn't see more than about 25, but it'll be on the nose :-( We've very consciously been heading NNW, recognizing that we'll have to tack and thus head NE up to Fiji. We'll see if this pre-planning scheme worked...

It's getting warmer :-)

[Cappuccino] [Cappuccino] [Cappuccino and Crumpets]

Specialty of the house: Cappuccino a'la KatieKat. The battery-powered frother does the trick as long as the milk is non-fat. Actually, there is a practical side to this: the froth keeps one from spilling the coffee when going up the steps to the main saloon, and it also acts as a thermal insulator to keep the coffee warm. Cap 'n Crumpets with ginger marmalade finishes off the porridge breakfast (yes, preceded by orange slices). Note how everything sits on rubber non-skids (even the computer's mouse has its own pad when not in use).

The offshore nav-station setup uses the main saloon table and may appear cluttered, but is actually very functional and usable. This computer can also display all the sailing instruments, charts, and weatherfax if I wish, but is primarily used for SailMail. From left-to-right we have the radar, VHF, SSB front panel mounted on the table lamp support, autopilot remote control, GPS, and computer. Behind the SSB are the 110vac inverter to drive the computer, speaker for the SSB with Pactor modem on top of it, a separate small 12v rechargeable battery for the speaker (to avoid ground loops), and a myriad of timers. I subsequently moved the computer over to the left and put the autopilot and GPS to its right because we sometimes want to have the GPS face aft and also take the remote control either aft or forward through the hatch. Not shown in this photo are the boat's sailing instruments (compass/autopilot display, wind direction and speed, knotmeter/depth/log) which are rotated to be visible from this nav-station position. Also not shown but located under the forward window above the radar is the primary battery voltage and current monitor (a couple of $5 DVMs and a $15 current shunt do just fine) and the barometer, and off to the right under the window is the windgen ammeter and a multi-colored LED battery voltage monitor conveniently visible at night. As soon as we get to port, all this stuff gets disconnected and put away with nothing showing. The yellow bag contains the red spinnaker and makes a great headrest - and you can see the sheepskin we sit on. Hey, if you're going to be on watch, you may as well be comfortable!

[Solar Panel]The solar panel I had brought out with me was immediately put to good use since the sails obscured the main panels for over half the day. Properly aimed, this panel puts out 3.2 amps. Nice.

[Solar Panel] [Solar Panel] [Ammeter]

Never realized how much I would need this auxiliary solar panel. The situation is the result of our sailing northwards - that's where the sun is, and at the wind angles we've been sailing the sails obscure the normal aft-mounted solar panels for much of the day. When passagemaking, the primary power consumers are the refrigerator, running lights, and computers. Average current drain by the autopilot is minimal (maybe 1/2amp) because the boat is so well balanced. The windgen is only effective when beating on starboard tack (on port tack the main blocks it), or when we're hove-to.

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15 September, 2003 -- Reports #5 and #6, Bouncy Seas and Second Thunderstorm

Passage Report #5
Date: 14 Sept. 2003
Time: 0600NZST
Position: N28deg33min x E172deg34min
Course: 041degM
Speed: 0.6kts (knotmeter) 1.7 kts (GPS) (hove-to)
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji: 685nm
Last 24 Hours: ouch, I didn't want to look.... 84nm
WindSpeed: 18-22kts
Wind Direction: 358degT (about as close to true north as you can get)
Waves: jumbled on about a 2m swell

All good things must come to an end, and our lovely sail of the past four days is history. (Sigh) As predicted, the winds clocked around. After heading NW for a while (the wrong direction, but tactically the correct way to go in anticipation of the future NW winds), I finally couldn't stand going so far away from the rhumb line to Fiji that we tacked and headed NE. At first, it was fine - the boat pointing well and moving very nicely in the still-settled seas. Then, inexplicably, the seas became, uh, "confused" with a number of different swell patterns intersecting with the wind-induced surface waves. Having a relatively short boat in this stuff is no fun, and we spent the afternoon bumping along in the mess at 4-6 knots, reefing/unreefing the sail as the winds varied. Finally settled on the third reef for the night, as the winds had occasionally period gusted over 25 knots. Still not having overloaded the boat means that the boat rises quickly to the waves and we have very little water on deck. The downside of this is that we have a sharp jerking bumping corkscrewing motion that was so unpleasant that I decided to "heave-to" for the night (not to be confused with heave). Do this by sheeting in and backwinding the main and pulling out the traveller and locking the boom in place with the preventer. The boat just slowly forereaches at about a knot and the motion becomes very tolerable. We both just had a good night's sleep (haven't seen a boat or ship at all in the last four days, but regularly checked the horizon visually and on radar). Now that it's becoming daylight, we'll try sailing again. I wonder if the seamounts under us also contribute to the confused seas?

Other than that, we're doing fine - eating well, Kathy's reading, and I'm catching up on upgrades (boat and computer). Did a noon sight sextant position check yesterday, just to keep the GPS honest (it was within five miles).

[Joe Using Sextant]Another obligatory photo-op. Have to keep the GPS honest!

Passage Report #6
Date: 15 September 2003
Time: 0800
Position: S27deg48min x E173deg33min
Course: 025degM (want it to be 004degM
Speed: 4.9kts
Distance to Lautoka entrance (Navula Passage), Fiji:624
Last 24 Hours: (do I have to tell you? - we hove to again)66nm
WindSpeed: 18-22 kts
Wind Direction: 338degT
Waves: yes

First a correction to what I wrote yesterday: I heave-to by backwinding the JIB and pulling out the main traveler all the way and then socking down the mainsail with the mainsheet and preventer, and then turning and locking the rudder slightly so the boat wants to point up. The boat just quietly forereaches at about 1.5knots.

The sailing conditions yesterday were not nice, and last night was worse. We're trying to beat northwards into the most godawful confused choppy sea you ever saw. Problem is, if I bear off ever so slightly, the boat just takes off (speeds up dramatically) and wants to go flying (and then crashing) over the waves - so I have to work hard at going SLOW. End up sailing on the third reef and pinching the boat to keep the speed in the 4-5knot range.

Had a front come through during the night - nasty winds (25-33kts) accompanying the large squalls with lightning and thunder. Not pleasant. Hove-to and then tried sailing repeatedly for the last 12 hours, but mostly hove-to. The boat actually took the violent squalls very nicely while hove-to.

This morning we're pounding away, with a forecast of more of the same for the next couple of days. (Sigh) Kathy is reminiscing over the low-cost flight packages to Fiji that Qantas was offering...

[Backwinding Jib] [Backwinding Jib and Moon]

The problem I had with backwinding the jib is that if sheeted too tightly the leach rubbed against the radome on the lower spreader. Just looking at these photos made me realize that I could move the windward jib traveler car outboard a little more and perhaps that would provide better clearance - have to try it.

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