The Storm Before the Calm

I’m staring out the tinted plexiglas window through smears of rainwater streaming down the outside. I’m lining up the outmost post of the little private jetty with the white doorframe of the house it belongs to, set back a couple hundred yards from the beach. It lines up. Good, Aluna’s anchor is holding! Grey swaths of drizzle shoot by in front of the forested hills behind the house. The forecast had warned of forty knots wind gusting to fifty. After having had the anchor jump and reset twice on me I believed it, every bit of it. I was by now dangerously close to the bottom of the bay. If the wind shifts a bit more East and the anchor gives way, Aluna will sail onto a maze of wooden stalks that compose a mussel farm behind us. It should not. It should back now and slowly move through North to Northwest. New Zealand’s winter is saying goodbye with a vengeance!

It all began in the morning. I had just wrangled myself out of bed after doing my stretches, trying to calm the aches of yesterday’s six our hike through the Bay of Island’s backcountry. It has become a little bit of a ritual by now. Before heading out to sea it’s nice to give the land a good walking. Of course, I didn’t mean to trek for six hours, but that’s what it turned out to be. Up and down a narrow mountain ridge from little Opua, which is a giant yachting service conglomerate at then end of the Victoria Channel that funnels in from the vast expanse of the Bay of Island, to Paihia, which by road is 7km away to the North at the entrance of that same channel. Once there I had of course to come back, which I did on a trail that meanders along the winding and rocky shoreline. There’s no way to make the blisters go away with stretching, but I’m hoping it will alleviate the muscle aches coming at me in the next couple days.

I had just finished relieving myself in the old and trusted pee bottle originally inherited from my friend Thomas, the Viking blooded project management genius, who offered his invaluable help during the frantic days of launching Aluna and then crewed with deep dedication on her brazenly fast maiden voyage from San Francisco to Hilo, Hawai’i. I had checked the position of the boats around us every half hour since the crack of dawn. I heard that the wind had picked up over night and knew from experience that where I was at the holding was miserable. Already a couple days ago a Southeasterly blow had made me get up and move in hurry. And here we went again. We were happily gliding away from our neighbors and sliding over slippery mud covering a hard clay bottom. No time for breakfast, relocation was the first order of the day!

Once settled down in the little inlet across the bay we were exposed to the wind but the holding was good. Well, at least for a while. There was one more scare two hours later. Again that sudden feeling of something’s wrong and the stern confirmation when looking out, then the rushing on deck, open the motor well, pull the cord, but wait, let’s try something else first. It looked like the anchor had dug in again. I put down the second anchor at as much of an angle to the first one as I could. The dragging had stopped. Sight ranges on either side of the boat confirmed that we were steady.

The rest of the day was waiting out the gale. A constant watch of the alignments confirmed that the anchor this time had dug in for good. Listening to the VHF weather channel with life updates from the weather buoys off shore I was able to track the progress of the storm as it passed over us with a fury. But wait! My friend Nephi who will be my crew for the trip to Fiji was coming up from Warkworth on the Naked Bus and I had to arrange for him to be picked up from the bus station in this crappy weather. Thanks to ever-helpful Ted that one got taken care of too and my first mate is now happily enjoying the warmth and comfort of the house Ted and Karen are looking after up on the hill, while I continue to stare out through the portholes, where my landmarks are being swallowed up by the falling darkness.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with the preparations for our imminent departure from the feisty claws of the austral winter. It’s right after this kind of crappy weather where you’ve got your best chances to make it away from New Zealand’s North Island without getting hit with nasty weather while you’re out and about. The day after tomorrow continues to look perfect for a slingshot start to Aluna’s next blue water venture. Let’s hope that the waters will actually live up to their splendorous color and not show their grim, grey faces!

I did manage to get a couple posts together to keep you entertained while we’re out there. So, stay safe in your armchairs!

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4 Responses to “The Storm Before the Calm”

  1. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    Stay safe you both. Espero muy pronto, muy pronto, saber de ustedes. Cuidate un monton. With love. Beatriz

  2. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    Espero verte muy pronto. Cuidate mucho.

  3. Thomas Nielsen Says:

    Speaking of my Viking blood, l flew a square sail off Tsunamichaser with Scott Veirs (square poly tarp just like the Vikings would have if they could have gotten petro-global poly at their local Viking Depot or Harbor Freight ). It worked brilliantly so now I’m weaving up my own Viking sail from my poly sheep. I figure if I cross the sheets to opposite tillers I will have a very nice self-steering down wind set up to sail down upon the unsuspecting!

  4. rudy Says:

    Great update… Glad to know you are with crew for now … And yes. I am grasping my armchair with both hands and both butt chics as if your life depended on it…
    Have fun…

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