2014 Overview – Tasmania and New Zealand

Dec 09, 2014| 0 Comment

During the past two years, Avante has traveled more than 3500nm up and down the eastern coast of Australia. Our goal for this year is to go further south in Australia and cruise around Tasmania. After that, we want to leave Avante somewhere while we return home for a longer than usual period of time.  There are only two countries in this part of the world where we feel comfortable leaving our boat for a longer period – Australia and New Zealand. While we considered Australia, we were mindful of the lifetime limit on how long we could keep our boat in Australia before paying a very expensive import duty. New Zealand also limits how long we can leave the boat there, but it resets the clock each time that we leave.  So, if we go back to New Zealand, we can leave Avante there for up to two years without having to worry about importing the boat. We have been to New Zealand twice before, but have only cruised around its northern end, and we have always planned to return for some more extensive sailing.  2014 is the year we will do that.


Year End Summary

Jan 15 – Mar 25Australia (incl Tasmania)1519
Mar 26 – Apr 4Australia to New Zealand1393
Apr 5 – Apr 24New Zealand716
Total Year3628


We flew back to Brisbane in mid-January, anxious to begin heading south to Tasmania.  While we were home, Avante’s mast had been pulled to have the rod rigging replaced.  Unfortunately, the work was not completed as promised, and we had to wait for two weeks before Avante had her mast back on.  We spent the time doing some land touring around Queensland and a lot of routine maintenance projects on the boat.  We were ultimately delighted with the rigging work, as the quality was good, and our changes worked well.  In addition to replacing the rod rigging, we painted the mast and boom, installed a furler for our staysail and made a number of other rigging improvements.

From Brisbane, we sailed down the coast to Sydney with a brief stop in Pittwater.  This time, we had to go around Moreton Island because the tides were not favorable for the inside route.  Our passage south was quite pleasant with no bad winds.  Timing was perfect, and we anchored in Pittwater just before a southerly came through.  We had only planned to spend about 5 days in the Sydney area on this trip, but we extended this almost a week to get a favorable weather window to head south.  Sydney is a great city to sail around, and we visited our favorite spots from the year before and explored some new areas around Sydney Harbour. 

We then headed south for Tasmania.  We had planned to stop in Eden before crossing the infamous Bass Strait, but while enroute, we realized that if we stopped, we would be stuck for several more days waiting for the next weather window.  We have never sailed anywhere where the wind can change as quickly and dramatically as it does on the eastern Australian coast.  Often the direction changes are 180 degrees, and we had learned to respect the “Southerly Buster” in prior years.  The forecast showed that if we kept on going, we would just make it to the northern coast of Tasmania before a strong westerly began blowing.  Unfortunately, the westerly arrived early. Our last 8 hours were spent tacking into strong winds, and we really appreciated having our staysail on a furler.  As one of our Tasmanian friends said, “Bass Strait crossings were never meant to be easy.” 

We had planned to circumnavigate Tasmania in a counterclockwise direction going down its wild and isolated western coast.  However, we had lost two weeks due to late rigging work in Brisbane and a little more due to weather on the way south.  Additionally, everyone told us that we had not budgeted enough time to properly cruise the west coast of Tasmania where weather is often an issue.  We also had some pressure to return home a little earlier, so we decided to modify our Tasmanian plan. 

Our Tasmanian experience was heavily influenced and enriched by friends. Because we had several friends in Launceston, we had sailed first to the Tamer River on the northern coast of Tasmania.  John and Diane Joyce hosted us for several days in Launceston and then lent us a car to do some touring in the northern region of Tasmania.  We then sailed around the east coast of Tasmania to Hobart in company with the Joyces on their boat, Allusive and with Tasmanian friends, Rodney and Chris Smart, who joined us on Avante.  It was fantastic having two Tasmanian couples show us the highlights and the best places to cruise.  We spent a total of three weeks in Tasmania and would love to return some day.  It is a great place to sail (during their summer) and offers some very interesting and challenging sailing.

After Tasmania, we had decided to sail across the Tasman Sea to Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island. We have found passages to and from New Zealand to often be rough (3 out of our previous 4 times), and our trip across the Tasman Sea through the Roaring Forties was challenging.  The weather forecast before we left was benign, and a friend quipped that he hoped that we were carrying a lot of fuel as we would have to motor a lot due to light winds.  The Tasman Sea had other plans, however, and a low pressure area deepened and expanded putting gale force winds in our path.  We were forced to detour over 100 miles to the northwest to go around this, and while we successfully avoided the over 35 knot winds, we had to spend a lot of time beating into 25 to 30 knot winds.  For almost the entire trip, we had winds forward of the beam with bouncy seas, overcast weather and light rain.  We were very glad to have one extra highly qualified sailor onboard, as one of our Tasmanian friends, Rodney Smart, decided to join us for the passage.  It was a wet and uncomfortable passage, and we were happy when we sailed out of the Roaring Forties.  We covered almost 1400nm on this passage, and it took 8 ½ days.

We sailed into New Zealand between the North and South Islands and cleared in at Nelson.  Nelson is a delightful place at the southern end of the Tasman Bay.  It boasts some of the best weather in New Zealand and is right next to the renowned cruising area in the Marlborough Sounds.  After a sunny weekend in Nelson, we headed off into the nearby sounds where the weather turned dreadful.  We were treated to rain, low clouds and lots of wind.  Gusts up to 50 knots chased us back into our anchorage one day.  With plenty of remote waterways to explore, this area would be spectacularly beautiful in sunshine.  Wind will always be a factor though, as it is right next to Cook Strait, which seems to have gale warnings most of the time.  We were lucky to get across Cook Strait on one of its few calm days, and then we sailed 600nm up the eastern coast of the North Island to Auckland.  There are several places where you can stop while going up this coast, but we had a decent weather window with wind at our back and a terrible weather forecast for the following week, so we did the trip non-stop in 3 ½ days.  We arrived in Auckland in mid-April and left the boat in Gulf Harbor Marina, north of Auckland, before returning to the States.

We had planned on leaving the boat a little longer than we usually do primarily because of a good friend who was ill with terminal cancer.  As it turned out, we had no idea how long we would ultimately be gone.

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