November 17, 2016 – #32 – Thankful

Checked In - Four very happy Batuligans hoist the New Zealand courtesy flag
Checked In – Four very happy Batuligans hoist the New Zealand courtesy flag

The pale blue light of the chartplotter reflects off my clammy, salt-coated face as I peer ahead intensely, sensing rather than seeing the waves breaking into moonlit heaps around us. We race them, moving fast as we have been for several days now, but tonight as we approach New Zealand’s coastline our speed has reached a fever pitch, averaging 8 – 9 knots. There is no time for thought now, only instinct, reaction and consequence remain as I hand-steer Batu through breaking seas in 35 knots of wind. The wind vane and the autopilot are overwhelmed and unable to keep us on a safe course.

We have been pushing the boat hard, really hard, for three days in hopes of avoiding this scenario, but it appears we’ve fallen a little short. Concern about this scenario has kept me from sleeping more than a few hours total over the past several days. This morning it appeared we might make Opua in time, but as we approached the 100 mile mark off of New Zealand’s northeast tip the wind backed 20 degrees, forcing us to sail to windward in building 25 – 30 knot winds. Although we still pressed hard, the shift slowed our speed down to 6 knots, delaying our arrival by a few critical hours. Now we continue to press and we hang on, unable to do anything more productive. By midnight, I have been at the helm for four of the most intense hours of my life. We have a little more than three hours remaining until we reach the Bay of Islands and the forecast is for still increasing winds. Worse, the adrenaline-connection between my instincts and my steering arm are beginning to dull. The steering is too quick and intense for me to feel comfortable turning the helm over to anyone else at the moment. We’re in a classic Catch 22; by pressing hard we have reached the relative safety of the coastline, giving us 4m seas rather than house-sized 6 – 9m seas farther out, yet we have too much sail out, so when the peak 35 – 45 knot winds finally arrive around 2am we have no way to tuck in a 3rd reef and we’re flying downwind, surfing at speeds around 10 – 11 knots. With the most intense wind comes a wall of rain around 3am and the utter blackness of a truly stormy night. We are barely more than 6 miles away from the entrance to the Bay of Islands, but with 2 reefs in the main, we’re carrying way too much sail to make the turn. Reducing sail in these conditions is simply not feasible, so we turn Batu away and heave-to. Surprisingly, this works well, allowing us to get an hour and a half of compressed rest before proceeding into Opua in the pale light of dawn. Fortunately by this time, the wind subsides and we arrive just before the reinforced clearing winds fill in to render the already messy sea utterly hideous.

Bay of Islands - Small towns with many, many boats - feels like home
Bay of Islands – Small towns with many, many boats – feels like home
My Girls - Looking downright civilized as we explore the surroundings
My Girls – Looking downright civilized as we explore the surroundings

At this time of year cold fronts cross New Zealand roughly every three to five days. As the fronts swing off to the East, they are typically filled in by high pressure ridges which reinforce winds behind the front. This creates a messy maelstrom of weather that is difficult to approach without getting into the thick of it. In our case, a strong front was reinforced by a 500-millibar shortwave and followed by a strong high, giving it some extra gusto. In retrospect, we fared alright. We know of several other boats who were well out to sea during this weather and each arrived with torn sails, one skipper had a concussion. As another front rolls overhead, we are thankful to be safe in port.

Cleat - It's not the cleat itself, but what it represents - safety & security in a sheltered port
Cleat – It’s not the cleat itself, but what it represents – safety & security in a sheltered port
Quaint Harbor Town - The Main wharf in Opua
Quaint Harbor Town – The Main wharf in Opua

In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so pleased to simply be tied to a dock. Over the last year Batu has been on passage or at anchor for about 290 days. That’s a lot of “going” and for now it feels luxurious just to stop and rest for a bit. The green hills and sheep-dotted pastures of New Zealand beckon, small island’s entice, quaint villages beg to be explored. These things we will discover gradually over the next 5 – 6 months, but for now we rest, thankful for our safety and the love of family and friends around the world.

Dockline - Gladly tied to the dock for the moment
Dockline – Gladly tied to the dock for the moment
Batu in Opua - Gathering strength for more adventurous cruising while in New Zealand
Batu in Opua – Gathering strength for more adventurous cruising while in New Zealand

15 thoughts on “November 17, 2016 – #32 – Thankful”

  1. Hello Friends, we can’t believe it’s been over a year and we haven’t been in touch but we’ve thought of you often and have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your travels, not to mention having breathed a few sighs of relief knowing that you’ve made safe passage to your next destination.
    I have family in the Auckland area, you really must connect if you happen to make to be in the area. My uncle and cousin live on the north shore they would happily welcome you all. My uncle Denis’ email is
    Love to all

  2. Dear Peter,karen, Sean and Sarah! Happy 50th Birthday to you Peter! Wear your 50 years with pride – 50 is when you become wise!!! even with the moans and groans!!! What an adventure you have had getting to New Zealand! We kept looking at the dots in the ocean to see your course/progress and could only wonder how the weather was treating you. The sights and ocean life are fantastic and pristine! LOL to hear your remarks about Bora Bora! They are on so many” bucket lists” and you poo-pooed them! Just shows you how many blessings your family is experiencing! karen you cut your hair and I love it!!! So chic! Frankly with all the wind you entail I would have cut mine all off!!!I’m glad the weather didn’t do any significant damage. Sean and Sarah, you have grown so much this past year and your faces look so radiant, you are blessed ! We are looking forward to connecting verbally with you all while you are in New Zealand. There are some estate issues we need to attend to. So Please at your leisure, give us a call. Love you all!!! Dean and Cindy

  3. Congratulations and it looks like Happy Birthday Peter. Your voyage was/is amazing and we are so happy for all your adventures. Do not fail to look up Pukeko and Andy, Jordan and Jade in Auckland

  4. Infinite LOVE from the home front. The photo of Batu’s line securely and professionally cleated to the dock brought Grandpa Herendeen to my mind immediately. He would be so proud of you guys. Keep GOING BIG!!!! Rio and I cheer you on.

  5. Peter, would you give that cute l’il wife of yours a big ol’ huge hug and a big fat wet kiss on the cheek for me. She’s adorable – always.

  6. Happy belated birthday Karen! I’ve been thinking of you guys, especially with the latest earthquakes in and around NZ. Your haircut looks super-cute and the kids look to be doing really well. Thanks for the updates Peter, & post more pics of you so I can say nice things about you too 😉

    Cheers to all ~ Sue

  7. Happy New Year my Friends.. Glad to see you all well and happy.
    The untying of the lines push starts in earnest and before long we will be crossing watery paths..
    hugs to all of you and yours , keeping your beers cold :)

    1. Hi Chris!

      Can’t wait to hear you plans – something tells me there’s a trip South in your future. My question is, Belize or Chilean channels? Drop us an update when you have a moment.

      Warm regards,

      PT, K, S & S

  8. Hi Karen,
    I’ve just finished catching up with the past year of your life and really enjoyed reading all of these blog posts. What an adventure! I’m impressed with how resourceful you guys have to be to deal with all the unexpected things that happen. It also makes me want to go to some of your favorite snorkeling spots that sound so incredible.

    I’m in Oregon visiting my mom and we had a nice dinner with your mom over New Years. Fun to make that connection and it has been a nice friendship between your mom and mine.

    Hope you guys enjoy NZ and good luck with the rest of the trip.

  9. That was a gripping post!!! You guys are so tough, so brave, so awesome!!! I certainly don’t want to rush your journey, but I look forward to when we reconvene over some wine and swap adventure stories. In the meantime, enjoy your rest in NZ.



    1. Thanks Stevie!

      Enjoy your European travels and pass the love on to Tree. Looking forward to swapping yarns someday soon.

      Warm regards,

      Peter, Karen, Sean & Sarah
      The Batu Crew

  10. Arpag family, we enjoy your posts! What an awesome adventure. Sounds like NZ is your home lately. Cathy and I send love to you all.

    1. Steve & Cathy,

      Hi! Thanks for your message and love. I need to post up something of our NZ explotations. We’re currently preparing to head back to the states via Tahiti and Hawaii – a long upwind sail! Hope all is well with you and the family. Please pass our hugs and love around back there as well.

      Peter, Karen, Sean & Sarah

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