Passage Diaries, Fiji to New Zealand

On previous passage we’ve posted daily about our current status and state of mind. This passage was no different, we thought, until we got “real” internet access again and realized that our email->post system had broken, and none of our posts had gone through. So here they all are, unedited except to sprinkle in some photos.

Nov 18 3:51pm: Left Fiji for New Zealand

We checked out on Wednesday from Vuda Marina. Our appointment was for 10, but we still needed to pick up spare oil, and the customs guy informed us that we would have to leave immediately on checkout. Ok, fine: we arranged to check out at 12:30, and left for our errand. When we got back, the officer had left for lunch. The marina called him, and he agreed to come back at 3. When he showed up, at 3:30, Jazz cleared space at our table and offered him a seat, and he pointedly ignored her, sat down at the next table and called Andrew over. We frequently do paperwork together, or alternate who’s Captain, and it was clear that this was another of the many officers who was not going to let Jazz participate without a fight. Jazz was fuming at the snub, but we needed the paperwork. He asked, three times, whether we were ready now, as in now, as in right now, with impressively hostile body language. He asked whether we’d cleared with biosecurity, then called her to check anyway. But Andrew managed not to bite back, and he signed the papers and stamped the passports.

So we were aggravated, the afternoon winds had kicked up and were blowing right in our faces, and to add injury to insult, Andrew was just starting to suffer from food poisoning. So we decided to yellow-flag it for the night outside Denerau. [edit: and we saw a ton of bats!]

In the morning, we headed towards the barrier reef, stopping at the last anchorage to clean the boat bottom. You can’t clean your boat in the marina in the water, we can’t haul for a wash because the cat can’t come to shore, and Fiji wanted us to leave immediately on checkout — at least according to our friendly customs agent, though every other boater we’ve spoken to reports being told they had the standard 24 hours. But the catch-22 is that NZ wants you to arrive with a clean bottom. So we compromised on a yellow-flag stop; a little safer than trying to scrub in the open ocean. 

And then we headed out to sea! We raised the main immediately, but it was just decoration for the first few hours as the wind was dead. We got a respite from dinner through almost all of Jazz’s night shift, but had to motor again in the early hours. By nine, though, we finally had enough wind to put up the spinnaker, and have been making reasonable time since. Long may it hold: the story of the forecast is light wind, and our diesel tanks will carry us less than halfway there.

Food poisoning has caught up with Jazz, and is not quite done with Andrew. We’re also in the early part of the trip where sleep schedules are still adjusting, especially Jazz’s, so nobody’s at their best. Despite that, the waves are light, the sun is shining, and spirits are reasonably high.

952 miles to Opua, New Zealand.

Nov 19, 2:00pm: Sailing, For Now

We flew the spinnaker through the day yesterday. The wind died just in time for Jazz’s shift, and then came out again in time for Andrew’s. By the time Jazz woke up again the wind was getting a little feistier, so we’re now sailing with the main and genoa.

Seas remain reasonably calm, enough so that Captain is up to his usual hijinks instead of hiding and death-glaring.

The food poisoning situation is improving: yesterday was rough, today Andrew is ok and Jazz is merely uncomfortable.

Jazz finished reading Sean McGuire’s latest October Daye novel, while Andrew is passing back through Terra Ignota.

833 miles to Opua.

Nov 20 5:24pm: Weather is Confused

We sailed most of yesterday afternoon, but the engine went back on at 9pm. The wind came back at 6am, and we’ve been sailing since, albeit with many different wind directions and intensities. We had our first squall of the trip around 10, gusting in the high 20s so nothing dangerous but Andrew still had to wake Jazz to reef the sails. She swears that that’s why she slept until 2. 

By the time we are willing to wake the other person up to reef, it usually means it’s time to reef NOW. Grabbing gloves and a hair tie are non-negotiable safety standards, but time wise, finding clothes and dressing are not. In response to this continually occurring issue Jazz has begun sleeping in at least a light weight brassiere to manage in the, and of the, bouncing. Side benefit is it’s faster to dry off and fall back into bed after and not have to deal with all the wet clothes. The whole experience, if done right, can get her back in bed in well under ten minutes, smallifying both sails. 

This is also about the amount of time it takes Captain to decide that this is Not Okay, and come to the bed to make reassurance-biscuits on the comfort-parent. Normally he prefers Andrew’s company, but when the boat gets rocky… Well, any armpit in a storm. Jazz, starved for cat affection, will take what she can get. And therefore probably likes stormy weather sailing more than the average sailor. 

The wind was supposed to shift south in the morning, but it held off until almost 3, a small mercy on a long list of weather-mercies that are taking us south sightly faster than planned. We are not complaining. Well, we’ll complain a little bit! The south wind is taking its time becoming southeast, so we’re currently headed more west than we would like. And the seas are confused, so we’re at defcon hold-your-teacup.

Both of us spent our solo shifts cooking, so now we’re well supplied with snacks and treats: Jazz made cabbage salsa and pasta salad and muffins and brownies, and Andrew made hummus and has bean stew on the stove. It may be days before we cook again. Or we’ll just keep at it; we have lots to eat before it’s taken away at quarantine.

692 miles to Opua. We shaved 35 miles off by changing waypoints, so don’t get too excited for us if you’re doing the math. And as always, a reminder that we can’t receive your replies until we get back to land.

Nov 21 3:33pm: Light Winds, For Now

We motored half the night, ran the spinnaker in the wee hours, and are now motoring again. Hopefully this is just a fluke, as we’re passing a rain shower that could be blocking the wind.

The cabbage salsa is delicious.

In the great attempt to continue the snack making during the night shift, Jazz decided more protein would be positive. Deviled eggs, that’s where it’s at! One dozen hard boiled eggs, how hard could it be? The evening started with only a slight bobbing of Villa’s bow. The gentle, but not fully agreeing, nod of the young city professional coming home for the holidays, unable to escape the conversation with the conspiracy theorist uncle they were seated next to for Thanksgiving dinner. Two eggs in, the bow had started more of a lift and dip. The young city professional has been spared as uncle’s attention has now been grabbed by an aunt, a truly active audience. The nods are now from both and are getting larger. The bow of the boat follows. Two eggs later, (that’s only four eggs) and thanksgiving dinner is now several bottles of wine in and the nodding of the conspiracy theorists has been countered by head shakes and arm waving by the other half of the table. The boat follows in all this movement. Eight eggs in and egg shells are flying. Jazz holds the table with one arm, trying to peel one handed. One of the previously peeled eggs hits the floor. There were no tears, not really. Probably only as many as in the fictional Thanksgiving example. But as is healthy in both situations, Jazz barely finished the peeling and shoved the eggs in the fridge and walked away. Deviled eggs are a devil of a time to make in that amount of wave action. 

The rest of her evening was split between watching the instruments and Marvel’s Loki, horizontal. 

602 miles to Opua, now thankfully in calmer seas.

Nov 22 3:21pm: Spring Cleaning Begins

We ran the spinnaker until evening, then dropped it at Andrew’s bedtime in expectation of a bit more wind. The days are lengthening, so his bedtime is now just after sunset, with the sky still bright and the water cycling through metallic colors. In the late afternoon, for several hours we’ve been seeing purple water, which is wild. As we don’t have internet access, so no pantone or free knock off, we are taking true emoji purple. Jazz checked. Then as the evening rolls in, it darkens and gradually adds silver and gold reflections, before everything fades to black.

As the night deepened, the expected wind appeared, and Jazz had another rocky night, though not as bad as yesterday. Notably, on the positive side, the skies have cleared enough to see the milky way again. But it’s gotten cold enough at night that putting on her ‘fuzzies’ (fleece) is necessary, and leads to short sessions of night sky watching and seeing only one shooting star. Most of her time is spent hiding inside, reading and finishing Too Like the Lightning (Palmer) or listening to Blitz (O’Malley) while attempting to do boat work. 

The wind gradually faded though Andrew’s shift, and now that we’re both up the boat is comfortable, so it’s work time. New Zealand not only objects to fresh vegetables (literally ‘Food’ is listed as a possible dangerous item, confusing what’s allowed in, thankfully there are blog posts and friendly boaters who arrived earlier this season for clarification. A catch-22 as we are required to sign a paper saying we have enough provisions for several weeks after arrival in case we have to be held as sea for any reason) in the fridge, but also apparently needs us to arrive with clean shoes and anything that’s touched soil. [NZ Government left, blog right.]

So we’ve started the process of cleaning all the things, in the hope that we can have a nice easy inspection. Once the cleaning starts, it can be hard to stop, because once you’re in the mindset all the dirt just jumps out at you.

Jumping in a different direction, i.e. overboard, are all the eggs Jazz painstakingly peeled two nights ago (2.5 hours of work because of the conditions leading to lay-downs to manage the sea motion). It turns out that they weren’t quite cooked enough. Andrew constantly ‘undercooks’ (Jazz’s words) hard-boiled eggs, preferring soft or gelatinous yolk, not a thing Jazz enjoys. Or certainly if not consumed immediately in a soup (hot soup can finish cooking the uncooked white part and let the soft yolk integrate into the broth). Whereas Jazz likes her eggs ‘overcooked ‘ (Andrew’s words) with the yolks powdery and confirmed fully dead. This means after all that work, Jazz discovered that Andrew made the eggs softer than even he intended, and therefore useless past a day in the fridge and certainly not suitable for deviled eggs. That means deviled eggs are off the menu, which is sad. Jazz is annoyed. In the future the cooker of the eggs will be the peeler of the eggs and the dish-maker of the eggs. One person with the kitchen crown at a time.

488 miles to Opua.

Nov 23 4:15pm: South Winds Blow

We’ve gotten so used to being in the trade belt, these past four years, that it’s almost hard to accept the idea of wind that doesn’t have a consistent direction. On the way to French Polynesia, the wind came and went, but it always came from roughly the east. Last night we had wind from the northeast, perfectly “normal”. Since then, it’s circled counterclockwise almost all the way to south. So if our track looks less straight than usual… Yeah, tell us about it.

Trying to make progress against badly pointed wind makes a rougher trip. So do the stronger winds we had overnight, gusts in the high twenties bringing their accompanying big waves. Between the two, it’s been a little less comfortable, though Jazz still somehow managed to wash the dishes and bake muffins on her night shift. With one truly heroic midair save of the just-filled cupcake tin. Jazz is very proud.

Speaking of foods, the large amount of cabbage salsa, hours in the making, was consumed in only two days. Another big part of our diet has been the 13 bean turkey soup, which made multiple same-day menu appearances. All of this delicious fun has resulted in a deep appreciation of the separate sleep shifts. Due to the rougher weather, and on this particular tack, all bedroom windows must remain closed. As in sealed. And by bedroom I mean a sleep space smaller than a tent with very low ceilings. 

Now the (outside) wind is slowly dying, and the forecast calls for some motoring in the evening. When we left we were worried about gas (as in diesel), but we’ve had enough extra sailing time that we should arrive, if not with full tanks, at least with plenty of reserves. 

401 miles to Opua.

Nov 24 2:46pm: Temperature is Dropping

As expected, the wind died down around 5pm and we found ourselves motoring. It’s weird running the watermaker at night; we usually run it during “free power o’clock”, midday when the solar panels are killing it. But the engine also makes power, and waste not, want not… [night sky, followed by surprise-we-still-have-an-avocado breakfast burritos]

As is ordained by fate, the wind came back just in time for Andrew’s shift, and we’ve been sailing ever since. Fingers crossed the forecasts hold, and we’ll be sailing the rest of the way in. Although that wind also comes with some swell; supposedly the peak will be about 15 feet, sometime tomorrow; we shall see.

The swell already started, and we’re bouncing a little as we climb up and down the big rollers. There have been several close calls with the breakfast tea. Last night, Jazz almost made dinner rolls, but after finishing the dishes, thought it would be safer to sit. And then Captain Cat came to join her, and it was suddenly hard to get up. For most of his life Captain has not been much of a lap cat, but now as we finally leave the tropics it’s getting cold, and he’s discovering the joys of body contact. We are not going to complain.

This morning, in preparation for filling out customs forms, Andrew inventoried our alcohol, and discovered that we have… an unreasonable amount. This is likely because nearly everyone we met in the Caribbean was an I-don’t-have-to-work-today,-tomorrow,-or-ever-again drinker, so entertaining meant lots of sharing, and we provisioned accordingly. Then in the Pacific, we’ve met more light or non drinkers. This has lead to the eventual discovery of actually delicious sugar-free mocktails. Our present favorite is red tea chilled and carbonated. Or mint tea (not many leaves, light here is key), real mint leaves only, chilled and carbonated or not. That one’s good with bourbon, too. We’ve managed to keep mint good in the fridge for several weeks, unlike most herbs. 

The sun is sort of out, but with the patchy cloud layer we’ve had for days that blocks our view of the stars. Enough sun for some last butt-browning? We shall see… Normally this activity goes with audiobooks, but yet again Jazz has failed to download the latest in our current series. Fortunately we only have a couple of days to wait.

305 miles to Opua.

Nov 25, 702pm: The Dirty 30S

Entering our 30s, our forbearers warned us to start expecting things to get hairier. As this proved to be true, so did the warning we received from forerunners that at about the 30°S latitude line, the weather also gets hairier. We’ve felt it as a slow buildup, with the rocky swell coming and going, but today is the day it caught up with the boat. Jazz spent the night shift alternately making .8 and 8 knots, as the boat crashed into the waves and the squalls passed by. 

So Jazz went to bed pissed at the weather. Andrew woke up, went to take a piss, only to find the toilet had pissed itself. When he came in the bowl was empty, so he filled it up with water, and noticed the water running right back out across the floor. It turned out that three of the bolts clamping the bowl to the base had vibrated loose, and one of these had sheared off entirely. It seems to be holding for now with the three remaining bolts tightened up, but we’re shaking our fists (and raising the appropriate finger) in a direction that feels like it’s towards Raritan and cursing them for assembling this thing without thread locker. This is not the first time we’ve found a stupid problem with a simple fix, where they just didn’t seem to have done any shock and vibration testing at all on their _marine_ toilets. Where exactly do they think boats go? So we are also pissed off at them.

Then right as Jazz woke up, the wire holding up the back of the dinghy snapped. That’s really on us, that’s a known wear point and we should have inspected it before leaving on a thousand mile journey. We figured it would be easier to fix it if we weren’t making six knots, so we went to furl the jib, and discovered a knot in the furling drum. Presumably we let it out too fast, so it wound up loosely, the loops tangled in the bounce, and then we pulled it tight trying to furl. Anyway, we decided to tie Dinkus back up first, and then had a party on the front deck as we unwrapped and then rewrapped half the furling line. And only then did Jazz receive breakfast and tea.

Since then we’ve been cleaning and purging, trying to find all our “risk items” for New Zealand’s biosecurity. Happy Thanksgiving! Goodbye, canned beets from 2020, may you provide a proper feast for the creatures of the deep.

186 miles to Opua.

[category Travel]

Nov 26, 3:41pm: Home Stretch

“I feel it in my fingers, I feel in my toes, the COLD is all around us, and so the feeling goes [numb]…” Well, today marks the first day of Christmas season in Jazz’s mind, and for the first time in years she’s actually freezing (and not putting up the tree, too much work to do). Andrew has even put on a sweater over collared long sleeves and long pants and Jazz has found it seriously weird to watch him so ‘formally’ clothed changing sails. Jazz is wearing yoga pants under sweats with layered coats and slippers and is feeling much less attractive as she slowly bundles up into a marshmallow-monster human. This trip started with Jazz  going to sleep with ice packs, to manage the daytime heat, and she’s now using a hot water bottle so her feet don’t freeze.

We continue to sail further south and are closing in on New Zealand. 

Once again, Jazz had what turned into a rather rough shift overnight. We were making almost seven knots around sunset, which put us on pace for an evening arrival. We weren’t excited about doing laps outside the bay entrance. And we have to arrive during business hours as the first stop has to be the Quarantine dock (also, we aren’t stupid enough to do dark arrivals in new harbors). Given New Zealand has an active cost guard, we felt that waiting outside the harbor, doing laps back and forth in the dark, might have a suspicious look to it. So we figured we should take a couple of wraps on the jib to slow down a bit. It’s a good thing we did, because the night was squally. We only had one hour of doing 4 knots before things picked back up to 6-7 and stayed that way. 

Side note.

Despite the frigidly cold evening, the swell that wouldn’t stop, and the speed that slammed us into the waves at just the right speed to make even her miss the pleasures of a floor that doesn’t move, she would like to mention her joy of being at sea and the stunning stars. Watching the Milky Way glide across the sky is always a beautiful sight. The moon right now is an orange sliver, up for only enough time to remind you it’s still there and then gone again, leaving no extra light to block the radiance of the night sky. The stars, out far enough to sea, have always seemed to have more color to us. But this far south there’s no denying the incredible colors. So red as they rise from the horizon that it appears as though there’s a fleet of ships with their nav lights passing us on their port. Blue and yellow and white sparkle and flash, each color perfectly distinguishable from the others. Better than any Christmas lights, and a wonderful way to enter the season. 

Back to sailing. Andrew got up too late to see stars, but right in time for the wind to moderate a bit, and we had smooth sailing and even a bit of motoring — just enough to get the watermaker started early and give us some hot water. Hot showers, to meet customs with clean hair! We are such respectable sailors! Please let us check in fast so we can buy eggs, butter and phone cards! Speaking of cleaning, Andrew spent the morning scrubbing shoes, and might have gotten slightly sidetracked into cleaning one of our outdoor cushions when it “looked too green at him.”

Captain continues to enjoy the cold weather. He fights and chases The String and The Stick with bounding enthusiasm, and then curls up for a nap with whichever human is currently warming the bed. With his purrfect interior clock he was even impatiently waiting for Andrew in bed when reefing sails made him 15 minutes late. Time zone changes wreak hell on the Captain. So Andrew had a warm spot in bed waiting for him, and when he woke for his shift Jazz had a prewarmed bed to climb into; this is the first time she’s been happy to be literally hot-bunking. We’ve been spoiled by the tropics, and have some adjusting to do.

Today is the last day for cleaning, so we have our work cut out for us. This is our time to reckon with the reality that buying spices and cooking with them are two different hobbies. We will arrive with empty fridges, and are mentally prepared to surrender most of our perfectly good stores to appease the gods of Biosecurity. We’re not bitter, you’re bitter. 

96 miles to Opua.


Our last full day of sailing was lovely. We put the spinnaker up when Jazz woke up…

And a few hours later, we were joined by a small pod of dolphins! This is a new species for us; all the ones we’ve seen before have been gray or blotchy, but these had big bright white patches. We tried to get Captain to look at them, and he did come out on the deck, but he wasn’t going to risk leaving the center of the boat. Wise cat.

We left the spinnaker up all day, as we finished scrubbing out the cabinets, bleached our vegetable bags, and said goodbye to the last of our fresh veggies. We kept the stuff we thought might pass, but we knew we’d lose everything that grew in the ground: garlic, potatoes, onions, popcorn…

Everything remained smooth until Andrew’s morning shift, right off the coast, which produced rapid wind direction shifts that had us jibing back and forth. We were alternately smooth and pounding as we turned relative to the waves, and we lost a jar of pepperoncinis that we, in our hubris, had left on a counter-top. But we made it in, pulled up to the quarantine dock, and had a reasonably painless inspection in which we were allowed to keep way more stuff than we expected. Then we just had to wait for the cat to be picked up, so we moved down to the “checked in” side of the Q dock, a detached dock ruled by the local birds that mostly serves as the marina’s breakwater.

And since we were allowed to go to shore, we did, and we happened upon live music at the marina’s cafe! So we stayed for a nice dinner, and wrapped ourselves up in the provided blankets: that’s right, we’re in a country where cafes have blankets. Oh Fiji, we miss your warmth! But we see mountains in the distance, and everyone tells us it will get warmer soon. New adventures await.


  1. Love, love, LOVE reading your journal and don’t don’t DON’T ever want to live on a sailboat. So romantic in the vision, such a PITA in the hearing. Have fun in NZ, stay warm, semi-sober and happy.

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