Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall charting our adventures as we sail around the world. We're sailing up and down the east coast of Australia after a summer back in Britain.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Planning the migration and reflecting on Fiji

October is the month when boats begin to start their seasonal migrations from this part of the Tropics. From November to May this area become susceptible to cyclones (the southern hemisphere name for hurricanes) so most of us don't want to be around for those! 

A few brave souls will book a 'cyclone mooring' in a sheltered creek here, where they can attach their boats to a very substantial concrete block on the seabed and hope for the best, but our insurers wouldn't cover us for that and we wouldn't want to be here through the hot and humid Fiji summer, anyway.

So the options are, broadly, head south to New Zealand or south east Australia or head north up to the Marshall Islands or Indonesia. For us, New Zealand has always been the plan so are now beginning to focus fairly seriously on the weather forecasts for the 1260 mile (8-10 day) passage south.

The latest NASA satellite photo - we're currently in the rain band at the top of the picture
The challenge for us is that a series of significant weather events roll from west to east from the south of Australia to New Zealand, squashed between the cold air of the Antarctic and the hot conditions in the Australian centre. So a big low pressure system will roll along, followed by a high pressure then a low pressure and so on, with about 5-8 days between each event. In the southern hemisphere the winds rotate clockwise around a low and anticlockwise around a high. There's a really nice website which shows animations of the current wind patterns across the globe; it really helps make sense of the weather wherever you are - you can spin the earth and zoom in - so do have a look at it here

Anyway, the theory goes that we should wait for a big high pressure to pop up north of NZ, moving east on the line from Fiji to NZ and then set off, riding the northerly winds on its western flank. The problem is that the next low pressure is likely to come along before we get to our destination so we'd hit a front (big change of wind and weather) then get south or south-westerly winds against us. It being the end of the NZ winter, those winds could be gale force if we were unlucky and, of course, the weather forecasts for 8-9 days ahead aren't very reliable. So the best we can do it to study the conditions, consult the experts and keep our fingers crossed; needless to say we'll have the boat set up to face heavy weather conditions so everything will be strapped down securely. 

We're aiming to leave towards the end of October and so have only a couple more weeks to enjoy this wonderful country. There are huge areas of Fiji that we haven't visited and other places we'd have liked to stay longer but we've done pretty well for a first visit. We are now back in Port Denarau and today made the decision to do a maintenance pit stop here; on Monday Maunie will be hauled out of the water for 2 days to allow us to service the folding propeller and other under-water fittings. The cost here is about two-thirds of that in New Zealand and it'll save us the job down there; a super-clean bottom might also give us 0.2 knots of extra boat speed and shave maybe 5 or 6 hours off the passage time!

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