So, we left you last night, exhausted but happy to be tied up at the Q-Dock for the night awaiting customs, immigration and bio-security in the morning. Even though they work on Sunday checking boats in, we didn’t get here until almost 8 PM – they go home at 5PM on Sunday.
But, that was OK, since there were other boats we knew who also got in and we had an impromptu celebration on the dock. Beer and chips abounded. Then back on our boats to eat what food we could since bio-security would be taking all of the fresh goods from Fiji away the next morning. New Zealand is very serious about not letting any food-borne pests into this pristine island nation.
For our part, we made a four egg scramble with Italian sausage, tomato and cheese and washed it down with a nice bottle of Kiwi sparkling wine (i.e. Champagne) that we bought in Fiji to toast the completion of the voyage. It’s not every day you sail 1200 miles.
So, what about our last 24 hours?? You know we ran out of fuel, but that’s not the whole story.
I’m sitting in the cockpit at 0500 listening to the engine strain as we’re slamming into waves trying to keep some semblance of our course. Without the engine, we would have been 30 degrees further south and would have missed New Zealand. In a perfect world, we could have waited for a wind change and then tacked onto a better course. But…this would likely have taken another couple days and recall we were racing some storms. Anyway, about 0515 I’m thinking, hmmm, the engine has really been straining, maybe I had better recheck the time we’ve been running and do another fuel calculation. I checked the hours on the tach, got out our log book to see the hours at which we last filled the tank (70 gallons) and did the calculation. We’ve run 73 hours…rrrr, rrrr, thunk. Right as I saw the hours on the calculator the engine quit. As they say, the silence was deafening. Oh, Crap!
The good news at this point is that we always keep 10 gallons of fuel in two jerry cans tied on the deck. The bad news is that we are 50 miles from Opua and still have 10 hours of motoring since the wind is still smack on the nose. The other bad news is that the fuel lines are now full of air, not fuel. I won’t bore everyone with details of our fuel system, but it’s not easy to get fuel to go BACK into the lines once they are empty. Anyway, I looked at the Raycor filter and while it wasn’t that dirty, the fuel in the housing was filthy. Evidence that the last “slurp” was pure muck, but that it likely didn’t make it into the engine. So, change the filter and…now what? I knew I had to “bleed the air” out of the lines. I hadn’t done this before, so technically, we were exploring new territory. Out comes the engine manual. OK, there’s a bleed screw on top of the fuel filter. Unscrew that, blah, blah, pump the fuel lift pump until you have a blister on your finger, then gingerly cross said finger and turn the starter key. Started immediately. Whew! Now we just need to get closer to the coast.
At this point I did some more calculations. At the fuel burn we had been experiencing we didn’t have enough fuel from the jerry cans to make it in. BUT if we could get to smoother water and run at a lower fuel consumption (no slamming into big waves) we might just have enough. We set a new course that put us into the northern cape and the plan was to then motor sail south along the coast in the hope that the water would be smoother closer to shore. Turns out that worked. It took another 13 hours for us to get into Opua (at about 2000 hours). At our “passage” fuel consumption we should have run out, but since we were able to get into smoother water and even shut down the engine for a few hours and sail the final leg down the bay into Opua, we stretched what we had left – hoping we would not run out as we approached the Q Dock. I think there’s about one gallon the diesel left in the tank (Orcinius John, you should be proud of us for finishing with nothing left!) and we’re not moving Charisma at this point until we dump another jerry can into the tank in the fear that even running the engine just to get to the fuel dock we may run out.
So, that’s our adventure for the last 24 hours. We were in good company with about a dozen other boats who were doing exactly the same thing. One of our other friends also ran out of fuel and didn’t have any cans on deck and were fortunate to make contact with a boat who gave them a couple cans while they were still 30 miles out. Everyone agreed it was a tough ending to what started as a fairly nice trip.
All in all though this was our fastest passage at 8 days, 10 hours – of course due to running the engine. Previous trips with almost zero engine use went 10, 12 and 13 days. Other than really unfavorable wind angles, there weren’t any “scary” winds like we’ve seen in the past and only a little rain and lightning. The bottom line for everyone we’ve talked to was– “not a bad trip, but not a great trip”.
OK, we’ll take that and move on. Next up: Some car touring the north island above Opua (Keri Keri, Whangaroa and beyond), maybe a boat cruise up into the fjord-like passage inside Whangaroa Bay and then take some days to cruise south down the east coast to Whangarei where we’ll leave Charisma for a couple months as we journey home for the holidays to see family and friends. Stay tuned, we’ll have pictures up when we get a good internet connection and more stories between here and Whangarei.