Learning to Sail in the Salty Waters of the South Pacific

catamaran bow in lake superior


Introduction to Sailing in the Salty Waters of New Zealand

The transition from sailing on Lake Superior’s fresh water to the salty waters of the South Pacific took a little bit of adapting. There are many factors that come into play when sailing on the ocean. Salt corrosion, tides, swells and currents are examples of the most common differences between salt and fresh water boating. These variables are especially important when anchoring. The rule of thumb for anchoring is to let out at least 4-5 times the water depth in anchor line at high tide. Throughout the day, the water depth can vary greatly in ocean conditions. Therefore boaters must be informed of local tides, time of day and weather changes.

All the new variables associated with ocean sailing was very new and exciting to me. The majority of my sailing experience had always been on fresh water lakes, specifically Lake Superior. Which in many ways can display the same types of weather changes and waves that you would expect from an ocean.

Waiting out Cyclone Hola

When I arrived in New Zealand in March, Auckland had already been hit by two cyclones: Fehi and Gita. Cyclone Fehi plummeted local temperatures in some regions by 20 degrees and created massive storm swells. Less then a month later, Cyclone Gita hit sections of both the South and North Island, resulting in flooding. A state of emergency was declared for various parts of New Zealand.  As the South Island continued to repairing their infrastructural damage from cyclone Gita, the North Island was preparing for Cyclone Hola.

Not only had I never experienced a cyclone before but I was going face cyclone Hola while anchored on a sailboat. However, Cyclone Hola only lasted a day and wind gusts didn’t reach over 90km/h. Luckily enough no-one got sea sick and the only belongings lost were my bathing suit bottoms. The remainder of my trip was sunny and filled with long days of 5-30km/h winds that carried our 37 foot sailboat up and down the coast of New Zealand. 

Overall my experience in New Zealand allowed me learn more about boat safety and how to read weather conditions. Which will come in handy, on Lake Superior, with my new position as Captain for Sail Superior. So make sure you check out the variety of breathtaking tours provided by Sail Superior this summer.