We, (especially Ian) said we’d never do it. We’d heard so many horror stories of friends crossing the Tasman, that we decided it really wasn’t something we needed to tick off our bucket list.
We’d flew to NZ as soon as Jacinda Adern opened the trans Tasman ‘bubble’ between NZ and Aus. Our intention was to sail north to Fiji. Unfortunately the Covid outbreak there changed our plans. Options were to either spend a few weeks in New Zealand cruising before winter set in and then leaving Sea Cloud, once again, until the weather warmed up in October. The alternative was to bring Sea Cloud home to Australia to cruise the Queensland Coast for the winter. We chose the latter as Sea Cloud had already had far too long on the hard in NZ to spend another winter in the yard.
After a frantic 10 days of preparation, sea trials (in little or no wind) in the Bay of Islands and a few precious days anchored in the beautiful bBay of Islands, we said goodbye to our good friends and to the Bay of Islands Marina. Bruce Buckley, our fabulous meteorologist/weather router from Perth identified a weather window to depart 8th May. The longer we stayed in NZ, the more tricky this crossing would become.
If crossing the Tasman isn’t hard enough, Covid-related logistics further complicated our departure plans. We found out very quickly that the ‘bubble’ was in fact, only an air bubble. Despite flying in from Aus, spending 10 days in Covid free NZ and then spending 8 or 9 days at sea, we might not be exempt from quarantine.
Unfortunately, our first 100Nm out of NZ was sailing upwind giving treacherous Cape Reinga a very wide (40Nm) berth to the East. With much green water over the deck we discovered several hatches and portlights weren’t as water tight as we’d thought! It also Sea Cloud’s crew, who after nearly 2yrs away, had no sea legs and felt pretty seedy the first 2 days out. Thank goodness for Travacalm Original, Saltines and Vegemite!
With Cape Reinga was safely behind us, we headed NW towards Norfolk Island giving us good speed and a comfortable beam reach. We duct taped up the offending leaking portlights – Sea Cloud was watertight again.
The aim was to get north to 30 degrees South as quickly as possible so as to avoid a couple of rather nasty frontal systems working their way across the Tasman towards us. Using the waypoints Bruce had given us, we managed to squeeze north of the first front. Although we had a few hours of winds to 40kts with the “pre-frontal” winds, we passed just to the north of this frontal system with its embedded thunder storms.
We had a few days of relative calm and pleasant sailing.
Between us and our destination of Southport we had to first cross of string of sea mounts and just west of these mounts, the strong south setting (3kt) East Australian current. Both of these are fine in calm weather, but we knew another low would hit us bringing strong southerlies against the current on day 7. Although we knew the southerly would hit us, we really needed to skirt south of the sea mounts, try and get across the (50Nm wide) East Australian Current before the southerly hit and then ride it northwards to Southport. As predicted the system hit at 3am as we were still amidst the East Aust Current. The strong winds (max gusts 50kts) against the current predictably threw up a very confused steep sea which gave us a very uncomfortable night. With storm jib and heavily reefed main, Sea Cloud was coping well and reached 9kts at one stage with us sitting dry and (relatively) comfortable under the hard dodger while waves washed over the boat.
How good was it to see Cape Byron! Now out of the current, we hove to 40miles off Cape Byron for a rest. The big disappointment was that we had to wait off the coast for almost 20hours before we could safely cross the bar into Southport. An 8 day passage turned into 9.
The bar crossing was a breeze (apart from dodging the surfboard riders and jet skis) and the Broadwater blissfully calm. We tied up at the friendly (and calm!!) Southport Yacht Club Marina for a very easy check into Aus. Border staff were welcoming and our request for quarantine exemption had been granted! Great news.
Both of us experienced a serious case of jet lag – the lack of sleep, 9 days of 3hr watches and rocky seas had really disrupted our circadian rhythm. Our appetite slowly returned and we stopped rocking.
Would I do it again? NO!! However, we are loving having Sea Cloud in Aus!!
Now that the leaking portlights are fixed and everything finally dried out we are looking forward to sailing north to the Outer Reef followed by some relaxing weeks in the Whitsundays.