Day 2,361 - New Zealand (35° 18S 174° 07E)
09:16hrs - November 17th 2013
Our South Pacific Circle

We made it!

It took us eight hundred and ninety days, we sailed a total of nine thousand seven hundred and forty one nautical miles, but we have just closed the loop of our western South Pacific circle - a voyage that we began on June 6th 2011, and one which took us east, along latitude 35 south and back to French Polynesia for two of the best and most memorable cruising, scuba diving, beach combing, island exploring, spear fishing, kite surfing, kayak paddling, perfectly tranquil and adventure-fused years of our lives.

The last tack, with wind gusting to thirty knots, took us briskly and directly into the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, where we were checked into the country for what was our third time, by the friendliest most efficient customs and immigration officials we've come to expect in the world. Within half an hour Dream Time was relieved of any bio-hazard materials (honey, meat, veggies, trash), our passports stamped, our Q-flag lowered and a luxurious slip assigned, and we are now tied-up at Opua Marina on the very same dock where this portion of our South Pacific journey began over two years ago.

For us it has been a voyage of epic proportion, and certainly since we left New York in 2007, the highlight of our cruising lifestyle to date.

We're still processing everything we've experienced, but now that we're back, particularly because we returned to the same marina, our memories feel a little distorted and remote, like somehow they could all just be part of a wild colorful adventurous surreal dream sequence.

I guess in a way they are. But these memories are also a part of our reality - and we've got the photos and charts to prove it.


Welcome aboard
Tides Marine!

Click here to learn why we wouldn't want to raise our main sail without them >


Hot Off The Press!
Click here
to read our
article in the November
issue of Cruising World magazine >


The high pressure system finally arrived bringing the much awaited southeast winds - we're heading to Opua!

Quick Fix: 34° 01.7 S / 176° 39.7 E
November 12th
2013 (day 2,356)
Conditions:  Wind: 25/SSE  Spd: 7 Kts | Sailing 215°

The Last Tack
We've been hove-to today waiting for the long anticipated wind shift, and when it finally came, swinging from southwest to south, then with a relief that was palpable - to southeast, we un-backed our head sail, adjusted our main and for the first time in three long days went charging directly towards New Zealand in what we hope will be our final tack on this passage. The 245 nautical miles that we have remaining, a distance that, with strong head wind, seemed hopeless to navigate, is now counting down at a most satisfying rate. Even with seas crashing over our bow, swamping our decks and waves breaking on the beam, punching our hull and shaking Dream Time down to her keel, we're happy beyond measure, because we're finally going in the right direction. Next stop - Opua!


Neville handsteering and waiting for the wind to shift from southwest to southeast

Quick Fix: 33° 31.6 S / 178 40.5 E
November 10th
2013 (day 2,354)
Conditions:  Wind: 14/SSW  Spd: 4 Kts | Sailing 150°

Gambling With Big XTE
We're two hundred miles off the rhumbline - our direct course to New Zealand. We're heading in entirely the wrong direction, so much so that, depressingly, our distance to destination is actually increasing and we're beginning to wonder if we'll ever make it there. We've been forced to bear-off head winds in the hope that the forecast, which predicts a favorable wind shift to the east in a few days, will get us safely back on track. Our satcom is still down so we are relying on a three-day old GRIB and scratchy, incomplete and poorly relayed SSB weather forecasts to determine our best options. It feels like a gamble to be this far out, on the wrong side of New Zealand, and if the wind doesn't swing around to the east, it could literally take us weeks to claw our way back.


Dream Time cruising the Eastern Hemisphere again - in perfect sailing conditions

Quick Fix: 29° 19.2 S / 178° 21.6 E
November 8th
2013 (day 2,352)
Conditions:  Wind: 14/W  Spd: 6 Kts | Sailing 170°

Satcom Down!
All three sails, white against a clear powder blue sky, are flying high, catching fourteen knots of warm westerly wind, and Dream Time, perfectly balanced, is dancing and skipping over a rich sapphire surface in complete harmony with the sea. The conditions are perfect, however, it's not all smooth sailing. Regrettably our satcom is down which means we have no way to send/receive emails, make emergency calls or download daily weather forecasts. We're five hundred miles from our destination and will have to rely on the accuracy of yesterdays 5-day weather GRIB to see us down to New Zealand - not a very comforting thought considering the weather in these parts has a reputation of changing dramatically, unpredictably and without warning.


Left to right: us, Rick, Nicole, Kyra and Aaron - our North Minerva support dream team - thanks guys!

Quick Fix: 27° 21.3 S / 178° 51.1 E
November 7th
2013 (day 2,351)
Conditions:  Wind: 5/S  Sky: Clear | Motoring 190°

The Dream Team
Ohh sweet thumping reverberating diesel engine - you are music to our ears! Yep, we're back in business and the good ship Dream Time is steaming south/southwest towards New Zealand in light southerly wind. Our starter motor woes are behind us (the problem: a very dusty commutator and a battery that didn't perform under load), and New Zealand is just five hundred miles off our bow. THANK YOU everyone at Minerva: Aaron and Nicole on Bella Star for towing us in; Rick and Kyra on Nyon for troubleshooting our problem; and to the fleet of friendly kiwis who offered everything from sound advice, moral support, comic relief, cups of tea and homemade biscuits.
It was a real team effort, so thanks again guys, and we'll see you in Opua. First round is definitely on us!

Heroes of North Minerva Reef:
Thank you Aaron and Nicole on Bella Star for the tow!

Day 2,346 - N.Minerva Reef (23° 37S 178° 54W)
07:57hrs - November 2nd 2013
At The Mercy of The Wind

The Polynesians did it. Abel Tasman did it, too. So did Captain Cook, countless whalers, tall ships and privateers. Heck, Lin and Larry Pardy even chose to do it. I'm referring to sailors who didn't have auxiliary engines and who quietly circled the globe using nothing but the power of the wind to push them peacefully on their way. Even today, there is still a small but liberated fleet of sailing purists who, either by choice or circumstance, put themselves completely and unconditionally in the hands of Mother Nature.

While I both envy and admire these mellow mariners, I have absolutely no desire to join their ranks, I'm too impatient. During passages I find myself plotting our position, estimating and re-estimating our ETA, and if our speed changes, which of course it always does, against my better judgment I compulsively start calculating our arrival all over again. Yes, I'm a control freak, which I know doesn't compliment the cruising lifestyle very well, but doing one has made me slightly better at managing the other.

Why am I suddenly so preoccupied about sailing without an engine? Well, two days ago, en route from Tonga to New Zealand via North Minerva Reef, we discovered our starter motor had failed, leaving us almost a thousand miles from our destination and with no engine - no ability to motor at all!

Our reaction to this quandary was both immediate and profound: New Zealand suddenly seemed impossibly far away, reefs more sinister, the wind more fickle, and drifting in the middle of the South Pacific, never before had we felt more alone and vulnerable.

Attempts to troubleshoot the starter motor at sea have, to date, proven unsuccessful, and so to mentally cope with our predicament Catherine has rather heroically chosen to, 'harness her inner Viking', while I am busy studying weather forecasts and our old log books to help recall how often we motored on this passage in 2009 and 2010. To my relief, not much it turns out.

We have sailed over two hundred miles since we left Tonga, and earlier today, when the wind dropped to barely a whisper, we coaxed every gust to maneuver Dream Time towards the entrance of North Minerva Reef - a anchorage that will give us time to either fix our problem, or come to terms with the idea of being completely at the mercy of the wind.

Click here to read our November 2011 article about North Minerva Reef in Blue Water Sailing magazine [PDF] >