Just before the sun sets, we find a reasonably sheltered anchorage near the airport. Yet the next morning the wind direction is predicted to change, so we call the marina. “You first need to send pictures to prove that you cleaned the hull”, the harbourmaster orders. Floris quickly jumps into the kayak, cleans some spots, and shoots a few blurry photos. He sends them by email and asks if we’re clear to come into the marina. “We are already on our way, because the wind has just shifted,” he adds.
“All good, please come in”, is the redeeming answer two minutes later. “But you are not allowed to sleep on board because of the strict COVID rules.” There’s no point in protesting, so we call our friend Kerry. Fortunately, he is happy to have us stay at his wonderful apartment. It’s a treat to see him again. A week flies by. We visit museums, blog and vlog, have dinner with old and new friends, do the laundry, and pay a much-needed visit to the hairdresser.
A new challenge presents itself for the continuation of our journey: Cape Palliser. It forms the south-easternmost tip of the North Island. We’ll have to get around it to sail further north. We time our departure so that we can sail to the cape with the last bit of northerly wind. There is still a strong breeze when we leave, so we race out of the harbour. We follow the coast eastwards for about 30 miles until the wind dies down completely. As we drift towards the cape, a south-westerly wind picks us up. Our plan worked! The new wind increases quickly, as does our speed.
Taking a Beating
For two days we whiz north along the east coast of the North Island with the wind in our back. We check the weather forecast for the East Cape that lies ahead of us. The map with gribs turns red around the cape, a high landmass that extends well into the sea. “About 30 knots of wind. From behind, so that should be doable”, Ivar estimates optimistically.
We decide to sail on and pass potential stopovers Napier and Gisborne. Yet when we get close to the cape, the wind is much stronger. The meter regularly clocks above 40 knots, while we’re flying with eight knots boat speed. Water gets blown off the tops of ever-increasing waves. The howling of the wind is deafening. It is no longer possible to turn around. How bad is this going to get? Should we have stopped sooner?
Uncertainty takes hold of us, but Luci does her best to take it away. Despite the forces of nature, she is holding up fine. With only a reefed mainsail we go only slightly slower than the waves. She calmly lifts her stern as another breaking wave passes below us. There isn’t a splash of water that reaches her well-protected centre cockpit, and the autopilot keeps us nicely on course. Rounding the cape seems to take forever, as we are giving it a wide berth. After a few hours we finally get out of this washing machine. Soon after we are to the north of the cape and have the landmass to port, we get into its lee. The wind abates and later even dies down completely. That’s how much of an influence the East Cape’s landmass has on the local weather. We are relieved that we survived this beating unscathed.