Crewing aboard Raven to New Zealand
Written by Cathy Siegismund
During the winter, our friends Jan and Signe aboard
Raven had asked us to
help them sail Raven from Tonga to New Zealand. Not being a big fan of passages,
I normally would not have signed up for a superfluous passage, but it was going
to be a fast one on Raven, a Sundeer 64, and with four people the watch schedule
was not going to be difficult.
We flew to Tonga, and were met by Jan at the wharf in Nuku'alofa. Raven was
anchored just off the town. We were welcomed by Jan and Signe and a cocktail
party aboard Raven. A number of this years puddle jumpers who were in Nuku'alofa
attended. It was pretty funny, as they all knew us from "our guide" the
First-Timer's Guide to the Coconut Milk Run we wrote and posted on our Web site.
We arrived on a Saturday and the following Monday was a Tongan holiday; so we
had at least two days before we could check out and head for New Zealand if the
weather looked good. The following day Jan and Signe had arranged for an island
tour. Jan and Signe, John and Ariana on By Chance, and Ken and I were met at the
wharf in the morning by a Tongan fellow in his van for our half-day tour.
. The tour included some interesting historic sites on the island. Our first
stop was at a plaque indicating where Captain Cook first made landfall on the
Ken and Jan at the site where Captain Cook made landfall in
Tongan burial site several hundred years old
Our next stop was at sort of Tongan Stonehenge. It was built in the 13th
century, and each stone weighs approximately 40 tons. There are a number of
theories about its purpose, from indicating the summer solstice to an entrance
to the royal compound.
Ken and I at the Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon
After a few more stops, we were about halfway around the island, and ready
for lunch. Our driver took us to a beautiful rocky stretch of coast were we
enjoyed the blowholes and ate our picnic lunch.
Jan and Signe
Mapu'a 'a Vaca blowholes
As we continued our drive around the island we saw the fishing pigs of Talafo'ou.
This is quite a site, the local pigs have learned to search out shellfish at low
Another interesting local creature is the flying fox. We pulled off to the side
of the road, and in the yards of two houses we saw hundreds of the nocturnal
fruit bats hanging upside down from the trees. The bats are sacred (tapu) in
Tonga, and one of the few places in the Pacific where they are not eaten, except
by royals who can hunt them for sport.
Flying foxes hanging from the trees
Our last stop was at the Tongan royal palace in Nuku'alofa. The Royal Palace on
the waterfront is arguably the most impressive building in town. The white
Victorian timber building was prefabricated in New Zealand in 1867. The palace
is closed to visitors, but we did peer through the gates.
Ken at the palace gates and the Tongan Royal Palace
We returned to Raven and motored over to a motu a short way from the main
harbor. There the water was clean for running the water maker and little more
peaceful for doing last minute boat projects. We where surprised to see Marc and
Teri from Tauranga anchored at the motu. We went ashore to the small beach bar
for a sundowner, met some new cruisers, and caught up with old friends.
Sundowner with friends at the beach bar
While we were at the bar, we watched a group of Tongans pile a tiny boat to head
back to town. The boat looked like it would be swamped at any moment. We
were sure the US Coast guard would have had an issue with this behavior, but
none of the Tongans gave it a second glance.
Group of Tongans heading back to town after a day of swimming and playing at the
We had a quiet dinner aboard Raven with Jan and Signe, followed by a game of
Mexican Train, which we hadn't played in a while. The next day we set out do
some last minute boat projects aboard Raven, and passage prep.
Ken volunteered to go up the mast to inspect the rig and look for chafe
Cath mending some torn canvas
We had the blessing from the weather routers to make a dash for New Zealand.
They had actually said we should leave Monday, but with it being a Tongan
holiday, we couldn't check out of the country until Tuesday. We were advised,
that as long we went fast we should be able to make New Zealand before being
pasted by a low. This was allowing for a 5-day passage and no stop at Minerva
Reef. This isn't something we would not have considered on Felicity, but with
possibility of 200-mile days on Raven (versus our 120-mile days) we were going
to go for it. The following morning, we had a game plan to run final
errands, check out, and be underway by midday. We got up early, and motored back to the
town anchorage. Jan stayed aboard for radio nets, weather info, and finished
last minute projects. Ken went to check out, and Signe and I did last minute
Singe at the market
Everything went to plan, not a given when cruising, and we were underway by
midday. We motored out through the reef, and once clear had a great afternoon
sail on a beam reach.
Cath sheeting in Ravens enormous mainsail
Much like our passage the previous year, before long the wind died and we were
motoring. To make our 200-mile days we had to stay above eight knots. This of
course cracked Ken and I up, that anything below eight knots was too slow! Ken
and were enjoying the extra 30+ feet of waterline and of course the extremely
cushy watch schedule. Jan, Ken, and I were on three-on and six-off. Signe did
all the cooking and cleaning and took the 1200 to 1500 watch. This meant that
every three days, each of us had 15 hours off! We didn't know what to do with
all the time. I ended up reading 4 books 5 days. I thought this was a terrific
deal, since when it's just Ken and me we are three-on three-off and I do all the
cooking and cleaning!
Cath on a night watch in the pilot house
Another feature of Raven we learned to love was the pilot house. We agreed that
the "next boat" will definitely have of those.
We motored several days, and found ways to amuse ourselves. Ken had another
unique birthday. Last year, he celebrated at Minerva Reef, and this year we were
about halfway between Tonga and New Zealand. Singe and I had decorated the pilot
house and Signe baked an outstanding carrot cake.
Ken with his birthday haul in the decorated pilot house
Preparing to cut the delicious carrot cake
One night there was hardly a breath of wind, so during an evening of motoring,
Jan pulled the big LCD monitor into the pilot house and we watched DVD
movies and ate popcorn - that's passagemaking! Before you think we're
completely irresponsible, we were still checking the horizon and watching the
Movie night on Raven
Passages often are filled with tedium, but compared to the alternative most
cruisers are happy to accept this. We do however, usually find ways to amuse
ourselves. One is the ongoing mystery of the flying squid. Since our passage on
the Baja Ha Ha, we've been trying to figure out how 2-4 inch squid launch
themselves high onto boats to dry in the sun in hidden crevices to become smelly
squid-jerky. We spotted another suicidal squid that somehow managed to
propel itself at least six feet in the air to be stuck onto Raven's reefed
The great flying squid
Another source of amusement is hiding little items around the boat for fellow
crew members on the passage. We told Jan and Signe that you know you are nearing
New Zealand when you start sighting kiwi's and you're getting really close when
you start seeing sheep. We had brought about 20 little clip on kiwis and sheep
which we would strategically place around Raven each night.
Nearing New Zealand, we had a flock of sheep show up one night
Mother nature also always seems to treat you to at least a few breathtaking
scenes on each passage.
Beautiful sunset at sea
The last couple of days of the passage the wind filled in and the temperature
began to drop. We continued our dash to New Zealand keeping Raven above eight
knots and had some great sailing where we saw consistent ten knot speeds.
Jan bundled up at the navigation station
The passage on Raven ended up being a shortened version of the one Ken and I had
done on Felicity almost exactly one year before. We left New Zealand in good
wind, motored for a while in flat calm seas, had some more wind and fronts towards
the end of the trip, and motored into Opua, New Zealand at 0200 in calm winds
and starry skies. Of course our passage on Felicity included a stop at Minerva
Reef, and took 11 days instead of five. We were also thankful, that we managed
to avoid the last two days of beating on Raven that we'd had the previous year.
However, it seems consistent that on the passage from the tropics to New Zealand
you get a little bit of every sort of weather.
Raven tied safely to the quarantine pier in Opua and a very happy Jan and Signe
Signe, who was the reluctant first mate for this passage, was really happy to
have made it to New Zealand.
Signe kissing the quarantine pier
You'd think after arriving you'd be so tired you'd collapse into your bunk.
However, there's always an adrenaline rush when arriving after a longer passage.
We were all a bit wired, so Signe made us omelets and fruit salad - this of
course also used up items quarantine would take from us. We took hot showers,
and then did have a great uninterrupted night's sleep.
First morning in Opua awaiting the customs and quarantine officials
New Zealand Customs official, checking us into the country in Raven's salon.
As soon as we were cleared into New Zealand and moved Raven from the quarantine
pier out to the anchorage, we were all busting to get to shore. We put clean
clothes on and headed for lunch, ice cream, and to see who else had recently
arrived in Opua.
Cath preparing for a wet dinghy ride to shore with a stunning plastic trash bag
We had a nice lunch, I got a latte fix, we feasted on wonderful New Zealand ice
cream and hit some of Opua's tourist shops. We also were delighted to see Paul
and Suzette from Altair, whom we had not seen since last fall in New Zealand, had
arrived a few days earlier. We also saw Bob and Leslie from North Road, some
Canadian cruisers we had met and not seen since Mexico.
Despite only a few hours of sleep the night before, we ended up killing a
fair number of beers and bottles of wine and catching up and telling stories
into the night on North Road.
Bob from North Road
Ken and Paul from Altair
Jan and Signe had decided to spend a few days in Opua with friends and then
day-hop down to Auckland. Having done that the year before, we decided to rent a
car and drive back to Auckland the following day.
Not being a lover of passages, the one on Raven was about as good as they
get, especially crossing a stretch of water with an ominous reputation. The
extra people aboard made the watch schedules easy, and it was interesting for us
to make a passage on a large boat with different systems from our own. We don't
have any plans to trade Felicity in yet, but sailing on other cruising boats
does add to our experience and when we are ready for the "next boat" we'll
probably add a few of Raven's features to the wish list.