We are fine; safe in Vava'u Tonga after diverting from Fiji due to weeks of pretty bad weather.
On our passage we have two intense lows pass to our south and then a nasty gale on top of that. It was probably our most unpleasant passage to date, but we are recovering.
This time of year you can't make the trip up from New Zealand without having at least one of the periodic lows that travel east off the Tasman Sea hit you, but we lucked out and got two. The first was quite intense. We had 5+ meter seas (8 to 10 second period) and 30 to 35 knots out of the north for 2 1/2 days. Then after we were in a trough and dead air - with enormous residual swells - for a whole day. We motored 10 hours out of the trough, found the trades and sailed north again for 4 days.
Then the second low came. It was nearly as intense as the first, and lasted the same time, and also had a following trough with dead air afterwards. The toll for those two lows was some new leaks, a big splash of water in the hatch onto the nav station (read on our SSB radio), and mom & dad very tired.
When we were within 160 miles of Fiji, entering into the triangle described the the two main islands to the west and north, and the Lao group of islands (with its hundreds of islands and thousands of reefs) to the east, just then - a fierce 25 to 30 knot headwind developed out of the NW, with a big 4 to 5 meter swell that was pushing us relentlessly towards the Lao group. After trying all kinds of sail configurations, motoring, and motor sailing, we couldn't even hold station.
We had to bail, and bail we did - heading SE around the southern end of the Lao group (we cut between some islands) and then swung back up NE toward Tonga. We had a good sail until our last day, when the wind backed just as we were 30 miles off Vava'u. Big swells again, and 25 knots. A 50 foot Australian boat broke up on the rocks in that blow. We motored in the last bit, and tied up at the pier at 10:30 pm local time.
Sorry that our time out of communication was so worrisome to our family and friends. Madrona is a very solid boat and she was never in any danger. Our SSB radio choose this passage to stop working. We think we've got it back working now, but radios are always chancy due to reception and atmospheric conditions.
Thanks to Mike M. in Fiji for offering encouragement and council to family. It turns out that a lot of boats diverted away from Fiji. We are getting laundry done, and putting away our cold weather gear. We are also fixing a few things that gave us trouble on the way up. In a week or so we plan on jumping to Fiji. It should be a four to five day trip (weather dependent).
So all are well. We went snorkeling yesterday!