Day One Back to New Zealand – Slow Going

So far, anyway, it hasn’t been a very fast trip. But we expected that.

The weather forecast for the coming week shows a lot of “holes” – meaning holes in the wind, patches where the wind would be nonexistent. It’s not ideal, but we left anyway.

In a perfect world, you leave on a fresh breeze and the breeze stays moderate, constant, and from an easy direction, giving you a nice easy and face passage. Engines don’t leak oil, things don’t break, and the wind doesn’t die or swing around on the nose. Sometimes, rarely, this happens. But usually you pick the best looking “window” and you go for it.

Sometimes you have more time to pick a window. A month ago we had our choice of windows, but we weren’t ready to leave Fiji yet. We’d met some new friends, we were having fun and it wasn’t time to go yet. We had a good window, but had to turn around. Now we have another “good” window, but it’s a slow one and we expect a lot of motoring.

One priority in picking this window was looking for an easy passage. As in uneventful, weather-wise. This is the first time the three of us have sailed off shore without Will, so we really didn’t want to have unpleasant or difficult positions for this new experience.

So far we’ve got it, but it’s not going to be exciting. That, as far as I am concerned is a good thing.

Good excitement is catching a nice fish. Bad excitement is nasty weather. We’re good with fish, bring ’em on. But we’re content right now to watch our fuel carefully as we motor through the holes.

Fuel Capacity

And for those wondering, if we have to motor the whole way or most of the way to New Zealand. What is Evenstar’s range? Here are some quick numbers.

We carry 1,000 liters of fuel in our main tank. This was full to the top when left. Literally, full to the top. The day before we left I overfilled it and made a small mess. We also have a reserve tank of 300L, and we carry an additional 80L is yellow jugs tied to the rails. We don’t count that last in our powered range totals though.

According to our owner’s manual, our approximate consumption at “cruising speed” is about 10 Liters per hour. This can vary wildly with sea state, conditions, and how hard we push the engine. There is a substantial difference in fuel consumption between running the engine at top speed versus backing off a few hundred RPM’s and slowing it down a knot or two.

With 1,300L of rule on board that gives us about 130 hours of run time on engine alone. If you are motoring only, there’s little need to use the generator. But if we’re sailing we will need to run the generator for 4-5 hours every day or two. Again, it depends on our consumption. The most power hungry operation for Evenstar is sailing at night, since all of our instruments, autopilots, radar, etc. are all on in addition to the refrigeration and lack of production from the solar panels.

Our “cruising speed” is roughly 7.5 knots. We can push it fast, but it burns a lot more fuel to run at 8.5 knots or more, so we rarely push it that high.

The math:

130 hours X 7.5 knots = 975 nautical miles at the rated cruising speed, which we rarely use. Or roughly 1,000 miles – if we take it slower we can extend that.

Our jerry cans give us another eight hours of run time (60 miles), but realisticaly we view that more as “generator time” since that’s not really a significant amount of travel distance. It will give us maneuvering capability when you make landfall if we’ve used the rest of the fuel.

The new generator uses 1.4L/hour at half load, 2.7L/hour at full. We only hit close to full capacity when we run the air conditioning which we don’t generally do off shore. That eighty liters of diesel can keep the generator running another 40-50 hours. We need 4-5 hours of run time roughly every other day. So in the unlikely event we completely exhausted all of our fuel in the tanks we can still have instruments, autopilots, lights, and refrigeration for another 10-20 days on those jerry cans, with a small amount of fuel for anchoring.

The trip from Savusavu Fiji to Opua New Zealand is 1,146 miles as plotted. 7.5 knots is 180 miles per day, so the trip should take about six and a half days at that speed. If we are sailing aggressively in light air it will take longer. If we have great wind like we did crossing the Pacific we could do the trip in less than six days, but that isn’t likely.

What We Need for Weather

From the above, it’s clear we can’t just motor all the way from Fiji to New Zealand. Well, we could, if we kept the RPM’s down and motored slowly, but that would still be risky with regards to running out of fuel So what we need is a couple of days of good wind.

We sailed yesterday and until about midnight last night, then sailed four more hours today before the wind died again. So that will be the pattern – every time we get wind we’ll sail on it as long as we can. We expect to see some breeze over the weekend where we may get up to two solid days of sailing. Unfortunately, by Monday we expect to run out of wind and see very little for the remainder of the trip. So we want to reserve out motoring until as late as we can, but the 3.5 knots of true wind we have right now isn’t exactly helping that!

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