Auckland, Nz  -  Sydney, Australia

    After a trip back to the states and seeing some but not near enough of New Zealand, it was time to
    ready Free Spirit for the passage to Australia.  In order to get into Australia, you have to be able to
    prove to the officials that your boat has been hauled out of the water and had a fresh coat of anti
    foul paint within six months of arrival.  In order to comply, Amy came up from touring the south island
    and helped take Free Spirit a few miles north of Auckland to Gulf Harbour Marina where we had her
    hauled out and bottom painted.  During this time we checked all the systems onboard and did some
    provisioning at the local grocery.  In addition to bottom paint I had the sail drives serviced, rudders
    aligned, as they were pretty far off, and the folding props serviced.  After four days out of the water
    everything looked good and we were off for the Bay of Islands about 120 miles north of Auckland.  
    Opua in the Bay of Islands is the final customs clearance port in Northern NZ.  Since we arrived on a  
    Saturday afternoon late, everything was closed until Monday, leaving us to hang out in the cool little
    area for the weekend.  Monday morning we topped off the fuel tank along with all the extra tanks I
    had onboard, final couple of items from the local grocery and we were ready for the 1,200 mile
    passage to Sydney.  Originally we had a friend, Kurt, that was going to make the passage with us,
    but he backed out last minute and then with a little luck, Amy picked up a local New Zealand girl that
    she had met, Angie, and we had our extra crew.

    As we pulled out of  Opua, the winds were light and we were already burning fuel motoring.  I felt as
    though the winds would pick up in a couple of hours since that seemed to be the pattern… light in
    the early morning and increasing as the day went on.  With some luck this was the case again and
    we were sailing nicely right away.  The first big problem occurred when we shut the main engine off to
    sail.  The autopilot now decided to quit functioning properly.  It kept wanting to turn us and would not
    hold a course.  I felt like it had to be something simple and hoped to get it working.  In the mean time
    we had to hand steer most of the first day.  I was totally puzzled!  I just couldn’t figure why it was
    doing this.  I got the installation and instruction manual out and decided to read it page for page and
    try to come up with some kind of idea as to what to do.  Finally it occurred to me.  The rudders had
    been realigned at the ship yard.  It had to be something to do with the rudders being realigned.  I
    found the section pertaining to  rudder calibration and followed the instructions on how to recalibrate
    the autopilot rudder function.  Success!  Bring me a beer!  Autopilot is working again!

    As the first night approached, with the autopilot doing its job, we decided on a watch schedule.  Amy
    would take the 9-12 shift, Angie 12-3am, and then I would finish up with the 3-6am.  With the sunrise
    taking place around 6am, I didn’t mind giving the girls an extra hour of sleep in the morning.  This
    worked out great and is exactly why we really wanted that extra crew member for what was expected
    to be a 7-10 day passage.  With this schedule it meant a good night of sleep.  

    The nights previous to our departure, the wind would always drop to almost nothing shortly before or
    after sunset and not return until late the next morning.  Well, call it luck and we always like some, the
    wind kept right on blowing all night and we were off to a great start.  What we didn’t realize is that the
    wind pattern had just reversed on us.  Windy all night and then dropped to nothing for the entire next
    day.  Oh well, it was flat calm seas, sunny, and we were motoring along nicely.  Dozens of dolphins
    came up and swam along side us for at least half an hour and then later we spotted a family of
    whales blowing their spouts close by.  All in all, a very nice relaxing, lazy day!  The Tasman Sea has
    a reputation for being a bit unpredictable and nasty and so I was overall pleased with the conditions
    even though some wind is always nice.  We were headed in a westerly direction with a very slight bit
    of south in it.  My fear all the way across was that we would get a big strong southwesterly blowing
    right at us, which is not uncommon.  In fact, one of the reasons why I was anxious to get across the
    Tasman Sea now rather than waiting any longer was just this fear.  The winter months would be
    approaching soon and it is said that it is almost impossible to cross the Tasman in the winter months
    without experiencing at least one southwesterly gale.  No thanks!  This calm light sea was just fine.

    The next couple of days were beautiful but we were still motoring.  We had now used most of our
    reserve fuel.  Oh well, it was nice having warm sunny skies and calm seas for a change. Most of my
    recent passages and sailing had been in fairly rough windy conditions and this was a relaxing
    change.  The nights were spectacular with stars from horizon to horizon…bright and clear!  The sea
    was full of phosphorescence sparkling in the water and leaving bright trails behind the boat.  
    Dolphins swam with the boat at night and you couldn’t see them but you could see their trails lighting
    up.  It looked like missiles going through the water along with us.  Beautiful!  This was to be the
    pattern all but the last day of our 9 days at sea.  Light wind, calm seas, sunny skies, dolphins and
    whales everyday, motoring some, sailing slowly for a while and then back to motoring, clear bright
    star lit nights, a growing moon each night, and just overall a very pleasant passage.  Well not quite
    that nice.  With 700 miles left to go, the autopilot quit working.  This time no fixing it!  Before we left
    Auckland the drive motor had stopped working and a B&G service rep came out and discovered that
    the drive motor needed a new set of brushes.  He had to order them and last minute showed up at
    the boat with only one new brush instead of two which is what was really needed.  Well with one new
    one and using the best of the two old ones it was working and the technician said this will get you to
    Australia where you can get another one no problem.  Wrong!  With 700 miles to go we had to hand
    steer the rest of the way.  At this point we were really glad that Angie had come along!  With three of
    us it really wasn’t too bad.  We did at this point set up a day schedule as well with a two hour rotation
    for the day and the same night schedule as before.  The early evening from 6-9pm we each took one
    of those hours.  This worked out fine but it gave us a real appreciation of just how valuable the
    autopilot is.

    For the entire crossing we were battling a head current.  It started out not too bad but around the
    half way point it became a bigger problem.  We had to sail some because obviously we didn’t have
    enough fuel to motor all the way.  Trying to sail into a strong current with light wind was not a pretty
    site!  Finally the last 24 hours of the crossing the current let up and the wind blew.  We were now
    making 8-10 knots of steady boat speed right on course.  We arrived into Sydney harbor late in the
    afternoon of the 9th day and it was beautiful.  We went into the customs dock in Neutral Bay and
    were met by four officials who came onboard for paperwork and a quick look at the boat and we were
    checked in.  It was a very hassle free experience.  The customs guys were very friendly and just
    really wanted to chat about everything and nothing of any serious importance.  They issued me a 12
    month cruising permit for the entire east coast all the way to Darwin in the far north.  

    Once checked in, we motored over to Little Manley Cove and dropped anchor.  Settled for the night,
    we took the dinghy in to the beach and had a nice dinner at the main wharf in Manley Beach.  The
    next morning we motored all through Sydney Harbor site seeing and taking pictures, cruising by the
    famous opera house, Sydney Harbor bridge, and then over to the Rushcutter Bay Marina for fuel
    and to drop Angie off so that she could catch the bus up to Byron Bay to meet her boyfriend who was
    waiting anxiously for her to arrive.  For the next few days we anchored in different parts of Sydney
    Harbor and walked around the city for a little exploring.  The anchorages around Sydney are really
    amazingly nice.  There are great anchorages everywhere.  You just decide what part of town you
    want to be in and there is a good place to drop anchor!  Nice!  

    Now we await the arrival of Kristi and her friend Lagen, coming in from San Diego for a week of
    spring break.

Updated: May 03, 2008