Crew: Geoff and Graciela
Forecast: Wellington Marine: Northerly 15 knots. Rising to northerly 20 knots gusting 30 knots by late morning, and to 25 knots gusting 35 knots about the south coast this afternoon. Morning cloud, then fine spells. NIL warning for COOK.
We had a couple of relaxing days in Picton during which Geoff was able to do planning for the Cook Strait Crossing. The goal for Easterly Crossing is to leave Tory Channel two hours after tidal stream commences setting East. The NIWA table shows the tidal stream begins setting East at 1122 so we needed to be heading out of Tory Channel at 1322 hrs. Based on previous trips we should allow 3 hours to sail from Picton to Tory Channel Entrance. The weather forecast for Thursday was strong northerlies, not much swell but rough seas. It was predicted to get worse over the next few days so the decision was made to go for it. Geoff changed the mainsail rigging for number 1 and 3 reefs, checked the storm jib was ready, checked the dinghy was secure, fuel tank full and we were good to go!
On Thursday morning after final checks of the forecasts (and a final coffee!) we set sail from Picton at 0950 hrs, logged our trip report with Maritime Radio, and motor-sailed into the headwind up Queen Charlotte Sound avoiding the ferries, then turned right at Dieffenbach Point into Tory Channel. We arrived at Okukari Bay near the Tory Channel entrance and waited for a while to be sure the tide had turned. After calling ‘All Ships’ on ch. 16 to announce our intentions we motor-sailed through the entrance at 1300 hrs with the mainsail triple reefed and #3 jb rigged but not hoisted. The turbulence was manageable and the tide had obviously turned east as our speed over ground was over 11 kts as we passed the gap between West Head and East Head.
After clearing Tory Channel we hoisted the #3 jib and set the course to 130 degrees (true) aiming to be about 3-4 miles from the coast when passing Karori Rip to avoid the worst of the rip. Two other yachts left Tory Channel just ahead of us and I was curious to see they sailed on a course much further south than us. I even wondered if they were going to Cape Palliser.
The northerly increased to around 25 kts and with the possibility that it could keep increasing, we dropped the #3 jib and hoisted the storm jib. Even with just the storm jib and three reefs in the mainsail we were ripping along at 9-10 kts in a broad reach. The boat felt good but we were pleased not to be over powered.
As we approached the southern edge of Karori Rip the sea become very rough. It was manageable though, as the wind and the tide and the seas were all running more or less in the same direction as the boat. Also the swell was not as big as we have experienced on previous crossings.
Once we passed Sinclair Head at 1530 hrs and turned NE towards Barrett Reef Buoy it was a different matter as we crashed our way though the waves at around 5 kts motor-sailing through the Heads into Wellington Harbour. We noticed the two other yachts which were heading towards Baring Head had now tacked into the Heads well in front of us.
We arrived back in Chaffers Marina at 1815 hrs, elated to have completed another Cook Strait crossing safe and sound, although rather wet!
Total trip distance 52 nautical miles, elapsed time 8.5 hours.