Saturday, 30 June 2012

NZ to Tonga passage, day 8 and 9

Yay, we're finally having really warm weather! It's now consistently about 25 degrees during the day and still over 20 at night time, so clothes are getting much more scarce now. Yesterday we even took down the sail and took turns holding onto the ladder and dipping ourselves in the ocean. At 21 degrees water temperature it wasn't warm, but nice and fresh. We're in the middle of the Tonga Trench, so it was pretty mindboggling to 'swim' in 8-9 km depth!

Day 7 and 9 continued to be very light and a bigger swell developed (possibly from a big low around the South Island, glad we're not there...). The swell together with 3-6 knots of wind from all over the stern quarters made for very slow speed (under 2 knots) and the main sail continued to pop and bang, very frustrating, so we gave in and finally motored throughout the whole night. This morning the wind finally filled in and we are having a lovely 12 knots SSE breeze (tradewind!!!) and are doing 6 knots. Today we also saw our first ship since Gisborne. Saw and saw, our AIS told us a freighter was 12 miles ahead of us, too far to spot with our own eyes. It was the most excitement that happened all day and we both jumped up when the AIS alarm beeped.

We have decided on going straight up to Vava'u and then hopefully visit the Ha'apai group later on.

Position: 22,26,1 S and 175,00,6 W
1040 miles so far. (103 miles daily average the last 2 days, again exactly the same as last report!!) 240 miles to go to Vava'u (only 60 to Tongatapu, the bottom of Tonga). This means we might get to Vava'u on Tuesday, of course depending on the weather.
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Thursday, 28 June 2012

NZ - Tonga passage, day 3 to 7

We missed getting day 3 and 4 update out last time we downloaded the weather, so this little update will cover 5 days. They are actually really hard to distinguish from each other and it's hard to believe we have already been out 7 days.

We have had almost all westerly winds, ranging from 15-25 knots almost close hauled (and waves splashing over Sophia) to southerlies. Overall it has eased more and more every day, the last two-three days we have been bobbing along to a 3-7 knot WNW'erly and our speed has ranged from 2 knots to 7.5 knots. There's soft rolling ocean swell, but it's not bad at all. It did take us at least 3 days before we both felt fine and had all our appetite back.

The sea temperature is now 21 degrees. When we remembered to check a day out of Gisborne, it was 18 degrees, so it's a good improvement. It's 20-25 degrees during the day, so we're still wearing clothes, but increasingly less. We have worked out a good watch system starting at 8pm, where we each get 3 hours sleep twice during the night, supplemented by day time napping. We have gorgeous sun sets and sun rises and I (Astrid) am taking way too many photos.

All in all, we're very happy out here in our own little 'bubble'. We're a tiny spec on a massive ocean (still haven't seen any other boats), at the mercy of the weather and winds, and we have no idea what's going on in the rest of the world, but we're content without the knowledge.

By day 4 this was our status:
522 miles so far (262 since last report), so amazingly steady speed! 575 more to go
Position: 30, 48, 0 S and 177, 41, 7 W. Parallel to but about 50 miles west of the Kermadecs

Now, day 7 it's:
807 miles so far (day 5-7, 285 miles, daily average 103 miles (corrected for the 6 hours missing to make up exact 24 hour slots). 290 miles to go.
Position: 26, 13, 3, S and 176, 02, 2 W.

We actually haven't decided where to clear in yet, we have the options of either Nukualoafa, Lifuka (Ha'apai), or right up to Vava'u. We'll make the decision when we're closer and it will depend on weather among other things. The 290 miles to go is to Tongatapu. Vava'u is obviously longer than that.
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Saturday, 23 June 2012

NZ - Tonga passage, day 1 and 2

Thursday 21 June we finally got our weather window and left Gisborne and we have now been 48 hours underway. So far all is good. We started out in a 10-15 knots southerly, which build to 25 knots when we neared East Cape and stayed around the 20-25 knots the first night and day. This has been typical of most of our other trips, so we're fine, although the bouncy sea means we're both a bit green and mostly just sleeps when not on watch. This second night the wind eased and we even had to motor a few hours. We know there's some NW coming so we're trying to get as far north as possible, as it should be lighter there. All today a westerly has slowly been building in strength and is now close to 20 knots.

It's very exciting finally to be underway and on such a big passage. We haven't seen any ships since Gisborne, just endless blue waves. We were visited by a pod of dolphins yesterday and we still have some sea birds around us. It's surprisingly warm, well, compared to our Stewart Island trip in February, so we're quite content just wearing one or two layers of wool when below.

This post is an email sent via our satellite phone, and will hopefully automatically post itself on the blog and our facebook page should also be notified. We will not be able to see any emails or comments until we find internet in Tonga (except emails to our sat phone email address).

260 miles so far (average speed of 5.4 knots) , 837 more to go to the bottom of Tonga.
Position: 34,49,4 S and 179,40,9 W

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Christchurch to Gisborne

29th of May we finally left Christchurch! Only about 2 months later than planned!!! And three weeks after our farewell party. It truly is an enormeous effort getting ready for departure (closing down a sail loft at the same time does not make it any easier), despite how ready we thought we were when we came back from Stewart Island early March. But we are as ready as we'll ever be now and even finished some less important jobs while waiting for a weather window.

It didn't look like a super good window so we didn't make the finaly call to leave until two hours before, pretty much just when the southerly front hit and it was hailing! But, as usual, the worst passed and two hours later by 9pm it was not raining, though it sure was cold! We're extremely impressed that a good bunch of our friends turned up to wave goodbye. Thanks so much :-)
Un uneventful trip and 27 hours later we arrived at Wellington around midnight. Phil had been through with Sophia on the delivery trip and we had both been there a few months earlier for the Wellington-Nelson race on Krakatoa, so it wasn't a problem arriving in the dark. Thanks to Gordy and Matty G at Duffy's Rigging for letting us stay at their berth. That warm showers was priceless! Wellington is such a cool city and we were right in the middle of it. One of the best things about the North Island is Burger Fuel. Four different kinds of veggie burgers and the BEST kumera fries, yummy!
We left at 9pm that same day we had arrived, the tide happened to be pretty perfect and a new southerly front was due to hit at 3am, so hopefully we could make it round the courner of Cape Palliser and get up the coast a littel bit before then. Of course the reality didn't quite work out that way, as the southerly was weaker and slower to arrive. That was totally OK though and we had a great first day out with beautiful weather and only 10-15 knots! 30 knots southerly arrived just after dark (of course) and lasted most of the night, but eased a little bit later on. We arrived around 7pm in Gisborne Friday night, almsot 48 hours after departing Wellington. Again a dark entry, but we had been shown by several people on charts and googlemap how to enter and it was quite straight forward. Only one big wave shoved up out of nowhere and scared us a bit (well, Astrid...), but that was it.

Well, it's now 2 1/2 weeks later and we're still in Gisborne! It takes a lot of patience to get a good weather window. Well, as least one that doesn't involve up to 55 knots headwind! Two lows (first one a really big one) have passed, and we're now fairly certain we got a decent window tomorrow, but we'll are yet to make the final call, we might wait a few more days and let some of the northerlies pass. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

About Sophia

Sophia is a Davidson 35, designed in 1981 by Laurie Davidon, a New Zealand yacht designer, most famous for being one of the designers for New Zealand's America's Cup boats, which successfully challenged and defended the Cup in 1995 and 2000.

The Davidson 35 is a New Zealand built production boat, designed as a fast cruising yacht with no concession to rating rules. It is thought that it was the first production yacht built with a walk through transom. Dave Blundell (builder of the Davidson 28) built the first 10 in solid GRP, and then Export Yachts Ltd brought the moulds and built the next 30 or so in GRP Balsa Core.

LOA: 10.66 m (or 35 feet)
LWL: 9.14 m
BOA: 3.31 m
Draft: 1.8 m
Displacement: 4727 kg
Ballast: 1955 kg
Sail Area Upwind: 54 m2

Sophia is one of the later ones, built in 1986. She was commissioned by an Auckland architect who named her Sophia, the explanation being something about beautiful Italian curves. The SY means sailing yacht. Also commonly used is SV for sailing vessel. We actually bought Sophia directly off that first owner, but she had been owned by someone else for a few years, before he bought her back again.

We bought Sophia in late October 2010. We had been looking for a cruising boat for over half a year (and fallen in love with a fantastic Swan S&S 36, which unfortunately turned out to be a total dud, so we had to let her go). After that experience we (well, mainly Astrid) tried to keep much lower expectations and feelings for boats. It actually even took some convincing by Phil to get Astrid into the Davidson 35’s. She has totally come around to liking them now though, especially Sophia.

The furthest Sophia had ever sailed was to the Bay of Islands and her set-up was very basic (the architect would probably say minimalistic), so it took a bit of work getting her ready for the trip to Christchurch. Some of the bigger jobs were cleaning diesel bug out of the tank, fitting an auto-pilot, changing engine mounts and adding a spray dodger. Phil sailed Sophia from Auckland down the east coast of the North Island to Picton with a couple of mates, as Astrid couldn’t get off work. The combination of the boy trip and Sophia being very light with not much gear, meant that she achieved her so far unbeaten record speed of 16 knots surfing downwind.

Sophia stayed in the Marlborough Sounds until February 2011. Phil’s parents live in Waikawa, so almost each weekend we did the four hours drive up to Picton. We did more work to her, but also just enjoyed cruising the Sounds.

It was when she came to Christchurch that the real work started! She spent 4-5 months on the hard over the winter and we worked non-stop! Overall she was in good condition, but as already mentioned quite basic. Below is a massive list of all the work we have done in roughly a year’s time. We did all the work ourselves, with the exception of very few things such as stainless steel jobs and difficult wood work.

But first a bunch of photos. When I read boat blogs I usually miss photos of boats, especially the interior. Not sure if people either forget it, or don't want to show their 'personal home' (which is what cruising boats really are).  Here is Sophia, of course very tidy for the occasion.

Sophia during one of the races in the winter series before she got all the work done to her, looking very bare...
Above deck:
Replace halyards
New rigging
Bigger wire lifelines
Install roller furler
Fix bent stanchion
Service winches
Wires for open transom
Make new washboard and teak surrounds for it
Make new teak hand hold rails
Make teak handholds for cockpit lockers
New anchors and chain
Rearrange nav lights
Fix gas locker
Bigger gas bottles
New Sophia graphic
New red stripe
Install hand bilge pump
Fix mast leak
Anchor locker modify floor level
Make bimini
Make spray hood
Make arch for radar, solar and wind

Below deck:
Add engine insulation
Change engine mounts
Change engine rubber couplings
Replace alternator
Replace thermostat
Replace fuel pump
Add hatch to saloon
Add solar went to head
New vinyl floor instead of carpet
Rail in front of stove
Make insert for double v-berth
Organise port quarter storage
Make book shelf & lockers in saloon
Make shelf in v-berth
Make shelf in quarter berth
Make extra shelves in galley
Teak skirting on bottom around saloon for old water damage
Make new instruments box
Change mast drainage system
Change to LED lights
Close off locker opening to cockpit
Painting all interior and lockers
Replace all hoses, add water filter
New water tanks
Install holding tank
New toilet seal and change pump location
New bathroom faucet

Install anchor windlass
Install water maker
Install wind instruments
Install depth/speed transducers
Install electric fridge
Install radar
Install VHF
Install AIS
Install solar panels
Install wind turbine
Install float switch for bilge
Set up sat phone

Out of the water jobs
Soda blast anti-foul to vinylester coating and build up new layers
New anodes
Take off rudder
All new through-hulls and sea cocks
Cut & polish
Sand and varnish tiller

Sewing jobs:
Main sail
No 1 head sail
No 2 head sail
No 3 head sail
Code Zero
Try sail
Storm jib
Squab covers
Spray dodger
Sail cover (lazy cradle)
Stove bum strap
Cockpit squabs
Rain catcher/deck shades
Wind scoop
Fitted sheets for mattresses
Covers for horseshoe buoys
Winch covers
Mosquito netting