Fiji to New Zealand - 1265 Miles Solo

The Fear

When I think of this passage my mind goes directly to images of the famous "Queen's Birthday Storm" which occurred the same month, in the same stretch of ocean, back in 1994. To sailors this storm is synonymous with the New Zealand passage and invokes fear in all but the foolish. It was what the New Zealand meteorological officials term, a "bomb". A rapidly forming sub-tropical low which drops 10+ millibars in 24 hours - in this case 16mb! A sailors nightmare - virtually no warning, hurricane force winds of 60 to 100kts and 35 to 50 foot seas. In the three days this storm raged, 18 yachts made mayday calls or set off their EPIRBS, 7 yachts were lost, 21 people were rescued, and three people lost their lives. This is what my nightmares have been made of the last couple months as I've contemplated this passage. Of course I don't think it will happen to me, who does? Although the occasional hero story is good to have - this is one I can quite happily avoid.

So why do it?

This is the most asked question of myself and from others. I answer "simple economics". Sojourner has overstayed her welcome in Fiji and customs are charging us import duty. The next question is generally "why not sell the boat there?". To that I usually answer "think of a boat as a wife, a freedom ticket, a home and a dream; would you give those up because of a challenge?" Then the final question - "why not get crew to sail her to New Zealand?". That's a complex one linked to pride, dreams on hold, and stubbornness. Jen and I sailed Sojourner 8000 miles across the Pacific, and some time in the future we'll eventually cross the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean and then to Europe. To wimp out on the New Zealand crossing would taint the entire journey. I have to face the fear head-on, and there's no better way than to do it solo. Jen has more sense - she has no interest in being a part of this. I guess she learned something from 3 years at sea - i.e. that's what 747's are for!

More recently one additional more convincing reason to do this has evolved. Much of my life is now spent in an office, 6 months of the year in a cube without a window in Denver. It's a necessary evil that comes with the otherwise exciting job of working in the Antarctic 6 months per year for Raytheon Polar Services. But the fact is that the most dangerous part of my life in Denver is papercuts, weight gain, eye strain and caffeine poisoning. It's time to inject a little adventure, to be in total control of my own survival, to be in awe of nature once again. So here we go on another crazy journey.......

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