Diary of a passage.
Day 1. Tuesday 1stMay. Departure time 12.15pm.
It all feels like some weird dream that I am in, or a movie, but not my actual life as we head out of the Harbour into the open sea.
Can’t actually believe this has happened. The weather is nice at the moment, a bit of wind and some waves but nothing crazy. I have to say that a tear or 2 was shed as I sat out the back watching us sail out of New Zealand for probably the last time for a couple of years.
We have a general plan to head out of the Harbour and go West to get a bit of an angle on some not so good weather that we are expecting to arrive on Thursday. Head W for a while and then turn North to get a good run up to Fiji as per weather predictions we are getting at the moment. With the wind behind us we put both sails up set off goosewing style with one out each side to get the most of the wind direction.
The kids were all happy, playing in their rooms and having a good time making huts and generally creating havoc in the boat.
Fast forward a couple of hours and both Noah and Emelia are both feeling sea sick as the sea had turned lumpy and they had been downstairs, which is not the best place if the waves become uncomfortable. Gave them both a sea legs and told them to sleep which they did for hours. Libby was fine. She’s rugged that kid.
I’m also not feeling 100%. Should have put the seasick patch on yesterday before bed like you are meant to, not the hour before we leave…. Amateur mistake
We sailed for the day and then wind dropped a bit so put the engines on for the night. Got dinner sorted and all sat down for a meal together.
First night shift for me and it was lovely, motoring along on rolling gentle waves and hardly any wind. Sat up there and enjoyed the quiet with everyone asleep.
Day 2 – Wednesday 2ndMay.
Woke up this morning to wind and waves that had picked up. We know there will be a bit of a rough day on Thursday, and hoping that it will shoot through and get some nice sailing afterward. Downloaded a new weather file from PredictWind, still showing the same system coming our way for Thursday, but it seems like we might be getting some of it already. Waves that were predicted to be 4 or so m max are already at that height. Both sails are up and we are flying along in around 25 knots of wind this morning.
It is getting worse as day goes on. I’m still feeling really yucky and this wave situation is not helping either.
Kids are all feeling much better. Libby seems to enjoy the rough. She named the big waves Bob. To be fair I wish Bob would leave. He’s around 4 to 5 m and pretty freaky for me. Almost like my worst nightmare to be honest… how things have whipped up in such a short time.
When you sit at the helm you look around and find yourself inside a hole between 2 waves, your horizon is gone and there is nothing but a wall of water around you that keeps on coming up. The strength and power of the ocean is not to be trifled at.
Night watch tonight was not so enjoyable, I was feeling quite anxious about the waves and how the boat was surfing on them, Chae had explained that this is the way that Waterhorse handles it, but man it feels weird.
Day 3 – Thursday 3rdMay
Don’t know if it’s seasickness or anxiety of the state of sea and waves today but I feel really sick. Clearly the seasick patch has not done its job.
Kids have been great. Waves and wind not. We’re hoping to wake up this morning and see a calmer sunny day but my dreams were foiled… it has almost got worse. Wind is 25 knots gusting 35. We have had to turn more West to try and get away from the system that is moving up from East coast of NZ. Running with the wind and waves on our quarter and trying to find a good angle to keep it as comfy as possible, which I don’t even know that it is a possibility in these conditions. Waves are more like 6 m here and watching them come up the back of the boat and us ride down them is crazy. I sit in the saloon and watch it out the back in disbelief! Sails reefed right in.
Hardly eating. In fact, everyone has lost their appetite a bit so far.
Ended up giving the laptop and hard drive to the kids and saying go to a room and watch whatever. I don’t think they could believe their luck. Best day ever for Ball children. Wanted them in a room on a bed as the boat is all over the show. Stuff that I never thought would move is flying from one side to the other, we walk around like crazy drunk people (and no one has had any alcohol!) holding on is life!!
Day 4 – Friday 4thMay
Wind and waves still here am. I did 5 to 7am shift as was too scared to do usual last night. Got to watch sun come up that was pretty.
Been rocky and rolling all day. Big Bob’s again. Did sit up in the helm for a few hours this morning until around lunch so got a bit more comfortable with the motion and what Waterhorse can handle. Sails both out and getting good speeds as the wind is more 20 to 25knots so manageable with the waves. Still both coming on the quarter again, and have headed a bit more N today.
Kids had to lie down and sit everywhere they went as things still sloping all over the place. Downloading weather each day to make sure we are making the right choices in the directions we choose. All is saying this system that has followed us is set to pass fully soon. At least it has been a super fast trip so far I guess!
They are doing well for so long in boat. They haven’t even complained and none of them are feeling unwell which is amazing.
Chae took them up to see flying fish at the helm one at a time. Even with their life jackets on and wedged into the corner of the helm seat is scared me as it was rough. I am a wuss clearly.
Chucked out new game rod for a bit. Caught a bird around its wing, brought it to the boat and let it go, thankfully it wasn’t hurt, just had the nylon around a wing. Put both sails back up. Got some crazy speeds, surfing down the waves can get up the 12 or 14 kts for a time.
Still feeling sick. Put a new patch on and took more sea legs. The noise that is created by the weather outside is amplified to crazy levels when in the cabins especially. The creaking and banging and crashing and rolling is unnerving.
Doing normal night watch at the moment, 9 to 12pm, and a bit scary as no moon up yet tonight and confused waves. They are a bit smaller which is good. I’ve got the iPod with me and earbuds to try and drown out some of the noise and keep my mind elsewhere. It has smashed screen and so it’s lucky dip. Rolling with some Mariah at the mo…. don’t know if she is helping though…
Passed halfway Mark today thank goodness.
Wore a t-shirt outside in helm tidy instead of full wet weather gear. It was sunny and nice and the winds feel warmer.
Then it all turned terrible for me. I became terrified of the waves and wind and the surfing speed motion of the boat. Due to the messy waves the occasional slam of them breaking under the bridge deck made me flip, along with all the other noises, creaking groaning, moving of the boat flexing is a crazy combo of noises. Went to go to sleep and spent a basically sleepless night in the saloon trying not to lose my shit. Literally terrified. I tried to sleep in the cabin, but the noises are so much more extreme and amplified in there. The couch is thrown around less, due to being up in the middle of the boat and out of the water! The darkness is completely disorientating for me.
Day 5. Saturday 5thMay
Seeing the sun come up and being able to make sense of the ocean situation around us was so relieving for me. The waves and wind hadn’t changed but my perspective had slightly now I can see what is going on.
Have around 420 nautical miles to go so around 2 and a half days. We have been going so fast doing around 180 miles per day which is pretty good. Hoping for a Monday arrival at this stage. Got to head a bit more N for a while before the wave direction changed slightly again and had to change course a few degrees back W to get the waves off the beam.
Kids wanted toast for breakfast so that was another entire loaf of bread gone with that sit down. Wil have to start making it soon as were almost out of what I brought with us.
Sun is shining and waves are very slowly seeming to be lessening. The noises and motions of last night don’t seem quite as terrifying in the daylight. I just don’t think I’m cut out for rough night time sailing. It’s quite the experience.
Realised we have a ton of fresh fruit and veg to eat before we get to Fiji and they take it off us. Made a super thick veg soup/stew with as much as I could put into it. Holding the pot and cooking is an experience…the side to side motion and then the swing of the stern down larger waves is a lot to deal with! Everyone has a bit more of an appetite today.
Managed a small nap after lunch. Still feeling ill if I am in galley or concentrating on anything for too long. No reading either! Here I was thinking I would read a ton of books and get lots of little chores done…ha ha. Nope.
Kids watching School of Rock for about the 10th time. New favourite movie for them. Thank goodness we met an American boating friend in Whangarei who gave us a ton of movies.
Chae is on the helm loving the fast sail. He’s so much more suited for passage making than me! Renamed him Mr. Volvo.
Nice afternoon sail and then went to make risotto for dinner and got seasick again. Cooking is not good for me, something about being in the galley gives me the stomach turn!
Tried to do the early couple of hours night shift but would you believe it the wind and waves, which had been settled all day basically, decided to pick up! Chae came up to see if I was ok, which I wasn’t so he did my 2 hours and sent me back inside to bed. Noah came and jumped in for a snuggle so that took my mind of the motion and noises going on.
Ended up being a bit of a rough night – again.
Day 6. Sunday 6thMay
Just woken up for my 5 to 7am shift. Things have dropped in the weather department again which is nice. Chae left a mix on the laptop for me to listen to. So much better with tunes flying along in the darkness not being able to see anything. It is a really weird feeling.
Sun should be up soon. Around 289NM to go!! Basically 2 days hopefully!
Amazing sunrise. Not long after the happy kids were up. Can’t get over how well they have adapted to this lifestyle change.
Sails fully out and humming along 8 to 10 kts. Worked out if we want to get to port in the daylight we need an 8 kts average for the next day and half. Super big rolling confused swell again so lurching all over. At least it’s fast. At least I am getting used to it too!
Chae was ruined from his watches last couple nights and so he’s slept till midday finally. Hard to sleep with these loud kids around.
Sun’s out and the goal is almost in sight.
Chucked out 2 rods before when going over a sea mount (higher area of ground in damn deep ocean) got strikes on both almost simultaneously. One ran and took all the gear and the entire line, with a jump to show us it was a marlin. Not what we wanted!! Then the big game rod lost its lure and some line too. Must have been a pair!
Re rigged and put the game rod out again and hooked a Mahi Mahi. Good fight but at the boat it swam under and round the propeller and the line broke. No fish for dinner tonight….
Have re rigged again and it’s out, hoping for a manageable sized tuna or Mahi.
I’m also hoping for this darn swell to chill out as don’t think I can cope with another night of speedy darkness. Have had to be adjusting sails in and out as random gusts of wind will come through for a period of 10 or 15 mins where it’s really strong and so have to reef genoa back in. Main still set at 2 reefs.
Day 7. Monday 7thMay
Another early morning watch for me 5 to 7am. I quite enjoy watching the different sunrises each day dependent on the clouds.
Moving along today trying to make good time to get in before dark.
Had a very refreshing shower and even washed my hair which was interesting. Wedging yourself into a corner of the shower while being lurched around and bumping along and trying to get the water in the right direction. Fun times.
It’s like constantly walking around like you are drunk, when it couldn’t be more opposite! No drinking on the open ocean on this boat.
Tried to get some sleep but that’s not easy with 3 kids who are getting over being on a boat all together. They have been a bit ratty today and I think it’s just the confined space and repetitive days. I know I am.
Came up and rinsed all the salt off the cockpit area again, sat down and both fishing lines went off!!! Full sails up and big rollers again so Chae drove into the wind and Chris and I grabbed one each. Well….what a battle…. over an hour later I landed one of the biggest fish I have even seen. A 60 kg yellowfin tuna!!!
When it finally came to the surface we were shocked at its size. It was caught on the small rod too and the whole thing was broken and bent out of shape by the time it was landed! The drag on that rod was not strong enough to fully stop the line so pulling it in was a real hard job!
At one stage during the epic battle, the fish took off under the boat and got the braid wrapped around the rudder. Chae the mad bugger tied a rope to his waist and jumped in to unwrap it! It was that or loose the fish, and when I told him he was crazy to do that he looked at me like I was the mad one not wanting to get this fish in! He is truly a mad fisherman!
Chris maneuvered the boat when needed and I reeled the beast in. Chae and Chris brought it up on board.
It was stunning and it always makes me feel sad to catch such a giant monster, but we figure if we are eating it and not wasting then it is ok.
Took around 3 hours for Chae to break it down and ‘fillet’ it into chunks.
We had sushi for lunch!
Afternoon was spent hooning along toward the destination while Chris and I vacuum packed a full fish bin of giant hunks. Both freezers and fridges are full. We have 2 other boats that we know arriving at the same time so it will be well shared.
Have been messaging on our iridium phone with our new Canadian friends on their cat Nahoa who are a day behind us. Quite cool to be able to message and chat with others doing the same thing as you. Some outside perspective on life and what is going on and a connection with people beyond the boat. There was a fishing contest challenge set…but I think we won it!
Afternoon cruised on with more big rollers and wind to get us going well. Only a few more hours to get to the main passage into Fiji proper.
We will end up getting there around dark but it is apparently well lit and signed the way in so should be fine. Were hoping to be a bit earlier but the mucking around with the fish has set us back several hours. Still, that was a pretty epic delay!
Customs clearance is booked for 8 am tomorrow and we can’t leave the boat until then.
Chae has been studying the passage entrance through the reef all afternoon to make sure that he knows all the markers and light sequences for the channel markers seeing as we are going in during the dark. Usually coming into a new port, you would time it for daylight but we are so done with this motion and need to be still!
ARRIVED! CHECK IN TUESDAY MORNING, 8AM 8THMAY.
We anchored up in front of the Denarau channel around midnight Monday, and we were SO relieved and happy to be still. Chae and I had a cheers of some voddy to celebrate that we made it. WE MADE IT!!!!
Crossing an ocean was nothing like I had imagined. I think we got a bit caught up in the weather that we got, and it made it all the more challenging.
I wasn’t expecting it to be so rough, or so much motion constantly, or so challenging and confronting on how I feel about the ocean. All I can say is that I am so glad that I have a Captain that seems to be so unfazed about the weather and what it throws at us. Having his dad with us was life saving for me especially. He is also a fantastic and very experienced sailor and so when I fell apart they were there to keep it all going.
We have been amazed at how the kids have handled it all. They were uncomplaining and happy. They took all that was thrown at us with patience and just got on with life as if this was something they had done all their lives.
There have been major highs and super lows on this first passage, yet sitting here in sunny Fiji, drinking a beer to celebrate our achievement makes it all worthwhile.
Wow! Wonderful, vivid, storytelling! So exciting! Pls send my love to Chris (from his London cousin!) I’m looking forward to reading the next installment! xx Jennifer
Amazing passage, amazing family, amazing mama!
Thinking of you xx
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