Goodbye New Zealand

 Little bit monumental! All things, right now.

I am typing this from the ocean after our first night on this voyage to Tonga. There is no land. There is no real sign of life at all in fact. The odd bird swooping low behind us to see if we might have created a fishy stir, but otherwise nothing except the sound of Fortaleza shhhhhaaaaa-schwiffing her way through fairly large swell and the odd creak of rigging. We seem to have managed to stow our belongings better this time. Our recent trip up the East Coast of New Zealand was a good lesson. Even the smallest thing can roll and bang and tap and drum in rolling seas and it is one of the most frustrating thieves of relaxation I have ever experienced. Especially when you can hear the thing but you can't find the thing. Anyway, so far to so good ths time. Of course it does mean we can't eat anything for the entire trip, because it is all so tightly packed that to remove one can of baked beans might mean the end of the silence. Starve but sleep well or eat and never sleep - it seems these are the dilemmas of sea farers. I'm going with starvation..

We left Marsden yesterday in glorious sun, really the most spectacular New Zealand day. I'm not sure what it is about it but the low sun in NZ in Winter is a magical thing. Something about the squint inducing goldenness. Checking out of customs was a relaxed affair, followed by a final NZ coffee (I could rant about this for an entire blog post but NZ coffee is a divine experience that I am going to miss deeply) with my Auntie Annie and Monica and Ad and then we finally untied the lines!  What a feeling! Not only is this my first ocean crossing but I am leaving the country I have called home for 25 years with no plan of returning any time soon. And Elliot is finally realising his long conjured sailing dream. I will confess to some silent tears as I stood at the helm watching NZ shrink away onto the horizon. I am unsure if they were from joy or sadness.  Like I say - a monumental life moment for us both at 11.30am on Saturday 10th June - which rather sweetly coincided with World Ocean Day. How about that.

We motored out of Whangarei Harbour in dead calm conditions, and pulled our sails up at 1pm heading North East. The plan is to try to make for Minerva Reef - google it - it's bonkers. If Tonga is a ten day passage, we should find ourselves in Minerva in seven. Minerva was first discovered when a British ship ran into it in the 1700s. Must have been quite a surprise, trucking along in a huge ocean and tripping over a lump of volcano spew. It's an atoll - a perfect doughnut - teeming with life - with lobsters and fish that offer themselves up without resistance to hungry sailors. There is nothing there - hundreds of miles from anywhere and not really even any land to speak of - I think it is entirely submerged at high tide - but it provides a safe and mindblowing anhorage, protected from swell in almost every direction. If the weather Gods deem it right we will try and stop there for some snorkelling and some sleep.

Right now we are zooming along in warm sunshine, north bound after spending 24 hours heading east. We've been seeing 9 knots regularly in 20 knot winds from the south west. Steve, our auto-pilot, just got a bit overwhelmed and tried to walk off the job which was an exciting moment. We've now taken some headsail in in an effort to take the pressure off him and he's back on the helm. Elliot is trying to get some kip after gallantly taking a very long night-shift and I am about to go and perfect my Dolphinese on Duo-lingo.


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