How To Sail From California To New Zealand

How To Sail From California To New Zealand | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Sailing from California to New Zealand is a long journey, but anyone can do it with the right experience and careful preparation.

You can sail directly to New Zealand from California or stop along the way in Hawaii, Fiji, or other locations. The shortest distance is 6,800 miles (5,040 nautical miles) and usually takes between 26 and 50 days. Be sure to stock 30% to 50% more provisions than you expect to use.

In this article, we’ll give you an essential step-by-step guide on how to sail from California to New Zealand. We’ll give you some useful planning recommendations, estimate distances between stops, and cover a few of the best islands to visit along the way. Additionally, we’ll cover some of the key supplies to stock up on prior to your journey.

We sourced the information used in this article from the recommendations and experiences of long-haul sailors who’ve made the trip, along with some basic rules of safe long-distance sailing.


Table of contents

Distance from California to New Zealand by Sea

It’s a long way to New Zealand from virtually any part of California, but it’s a straight shot if you decide to do it in one go. No need to go through any canals or check into any customs station until you get to your destination. But that may not be the best way to go about it.

The distance between California and New Zealand on a direct route is about 6,800 miles or roughly 5,040 nautical miles. On a sailboat that makes 8 knots, that’s about 640 hours—or 26 days—of constant sailing. A month at sea is nothing to sneeze at and requires very careful preparation and provisioning.

Provisioning for the Voyage

It will take you about a month to get to New Zealand from California on an average-sized monohull, and that’s with good wind conditions all the way through. The reality of sailing a big ocean like the Pacific is that you’ll encounter all kinds of conditions—including extended periods of calm.

You should make calculations of how long it will take and provision for between 30% and 50% longer. That way, you’ll have enough supplies to carry you through an emergency or an extended period of calm. Additionally, don’t overestimate the speed of your boat—and plan on where to stop if you encounter difficulties.

Emergency Supplies

Emergency supplies are key on a long voyage, especially a month-long sailing excursion through the South Pacific. You should invest in a real emergency life raft—the kind used on larger ships—and make sure it has shelter from the sun. Also, a locater beacon is an extra expense that’s well worth it.

Also, make sure you have an adequate supply of flares, emergency water, and a survival kit for your life raft. A well-stocked emergency kit always includes drinking water and fishing equipment, along with food rations and a large first aid kit.

Electronics and Navigation

Navigation is paramount. Without high-quality navigation equipment, experience, and redundancy, a simple error can steer you thousands of miles off course. You wouldn’t want to steer for New Zealand and end up off the coast of China because navigational errors of this magnitude can and have happened.

A modern, high-quality marine GPS is a mariner’s best friend on a long voyage. When paired with physical charts, a GPS can keep you on course within a few feet of your actual position and constantly in the know. But electronics can and do fail, so you’ll need traditional navigation skills and equipment as a backup.

A satellite phone is another tool that you can benefit greatly from. You can use a SatPhone to communicate with friends and relatives on shore, connect to the internet, and also report your position to someone on shore once or twice per day for safety.

Radar is not imperative, but it can be an extremely useful safety tool on the open ocean. A marine radar system can automatically alert you to the presence of other vessels and commercial traffic and help you navigate through shipping channels. It also alerts them to your position in case you’re unable to react.

It goes without saying that a tested and working marine VHF radio is a necessity, as you’ll need to communicate with ships and shore periodically throughout your trip. Communication lights and signal flags are also helpful as a rudimentary backup.

Food, Water, and Medical Supplies

Always overstock food, water, and medical supplies, and use them sparingly when onboard. It’s always better to have a surplus when you arrive than to run out early. Stock additional food based on the extended provisioning recommendations listed above.

A marine desalination kit is a good companion on long journeys, as it allows you to shower in fresh water and replenish stocks. But you should never rely solely on equipment for water production and always store enough on board to drink.

Preparing the Boat

First, make sure your boat is large enough and safe enough for offshore sailing. Ensure your sails are in good condition before you go, and stock a storm sail and a repair kit if possible. Also, stock plenty of extra lines in case it gets frayed or snaps under strain. Also, test the boat in key areas for water tightness.

Replace all wear parts and corroded fittings and bolts, and make sure your stays are properly tensioned and tightened. Have a professional boatyard inspection performed prior to departure for that extra peace of mind and preparation.

 Stock all the tools you’ll need for rigging and engine maintenance. Make sure your steering is tight, hydraulic fluid topped-off and leak-free, and your electrical system is solid. Don’t forget spare fuses, navigation light bulbs, and wiring in case you need to make repairs.

Bring grease, oil, and spare fuel and oil filters for the engine, along with some hoses, full fuel canisters, and other miscellaneous parts. If you can’t find a replacement part, you’ll need to jerry-rig something with the supplies at hand. Also bring a spare battery if you can, and keep the charge topped-off.

Also, stock fiberglass and fiberglass repair equipment, along with resin and sealant to stop minor leaks. A spare bilge pump never hurt, and carry a manual backup in case the power fails, and you need to bail the boat.

Scrape the bottom before departure to increase your efficiency and speed, and have it painted with red lead or a similar non-toxic marine bottom paint. Don’t skimp on paint unless you want to carry an entire ecosystem along with you.

The Route from California to New Zealand

There is more than one way to get from California to New Zealand, and many parts of the trip benefit from reliable trade winds and generally fair weather. The majority of the trip routes you through the South Pacific, which sometimes deals with bad storms.

When to Avoid Sailing the South Pacific

Tropical cyclones are a threat in the South Pacific, especially as you get closer to Asia and Australia. Typhoons are the Pacific version of hurricanes, and they’re an absolute nightmare to sail through. Bottom line—you don’t want to get caught anywhere near one.

Luckily, typhoons usually only occur during a few specific months in the South Pacific. According to Wikipedia, the 2021 South Pacific Typhoon season started November 1st, 2020, and ends April 30th, 2021, and this is when the majority of typhoons occur. Sometimes, typhoons happen during the summer, but not usually.

How to Avoid Tropical Storms

In 2020, there were six tropical cyclones in the region, and three were severe. If you want to avoid typhoons and tropical storms, make the trip sometime during the early summer. The trip can be warm and favorable during this time, and you’ll avoid the highest probability of severe storms.

But the best way to avoid encountering a tropical storm is to monitor marine weather reports. Storm prediction for typhoons and hurricanes can give you days of advanced warning, and conditions that favor them are known even earlier. Just be smart and don’t hesitate to change your sailing itinerary if threatening weather looms.

The Route from California to New Zealand

The shortest route from California to New Zealand is a direct route that spans about 6,800 miles or 5,040 nautical miles. This route takes you on a diagonal course south of Hawaii and Fiji and directly to Auckland, New Zealand.

But you don’t have to make a non-stop trip to New Zealand. If you can spare some extra time, there are plenty of excellent and scenic stops along the way. Pacific islands are numerous, and several are in your (almost) direct path. Here are a few possible routes.

California to Hawaii to New Zealand

A simple route with a lot of benefits starts in San Diego and makes a stop in Honolulu. The first stretch of the journey, from California to Hawaii, is a calm 2,600-mile (2,260 nautical miles) stretch through fairly safe waters.

This leg of the trip is well documented by other sailors and benefits from direct trade winds. It’s a great way to get your footing and iron out any technical problems without getting too far off from American resources.

You can resupply and make virtually any repairs in Honolulu, and you don’t need to go through customs or show a passport to get in. Plus, it’s a fun tropical stop with a large sailboat community and plenty to do, and there are modern medical services available.

From Honolulu, the distance to New Zealand is about 4,400 miles or roughly 3,820 nautical miles. With the CA-HI route, you’re about a third of the way done with the trip, more experienced, and resupplied for the long journey.

Hawaii to Fiji to New Zealand

After leaving Honolulu, you can make a direct trip or stop in Fiji for rest and resupply. There are numerous other islands in the region to choose from, but Fiji is one of the largest.

Fiji is beautiful and has stunning tropical scenery, though it’s not quite as safe as Hawaii or New Zealand. That said, most sailors enjoy the stop and have absolutely no trouble on the island.

The distance from Honolulu to Fiji is about 3,100 miles, or just shy of 2,700 nautical miles. This stop further splits up the trip and gives you extra time for repairs and resupply. From Fiji, the distance to Auckland, New Zealand is only 1,315 miles or 1,140 nautical miles.

Travel Preparation and Paperwork

Don’t forget to have all your paperwork in order before embarking on a sailing trip to New Zealand from California. This includes a passport, backup identification, and anything else listed in customs requirements.

New Zealand is an English-speaking first-world country with good customs and friendly officials, and they rarely give American sailors any major headaches.

But the situation in the surrounding island nations is a lot more unpredictable, so you need to make proper arrangements or talk to a trusted agent before just appearing at a random marina.

Make reservations at a marina in New Zealand ahead of time, and see if you can start the customs process ahead of time.

This may just consist of reviewing the required documents or writing down what you plan to declare, but you should always contact them ahead of time to see if you can streamline the process.

If you get in touch with a marina that caters to international sailors, they can help you through the process and reserve a dedicated slip or dock space ahead of time, and save you the headache.

How To Sail From California To New Zealand
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

Read more articles

by this author

Home /

How To Sail From California To New Zealand

How To Sail From California To New Zealand
7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat >>Can You Live On A Sailboat Year Round? >>

Most Recent

Important Legal Info

Similar Posts

Popular Posts

Get The Best Sailing Content

Welcome aboard! Check your email...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

(866) 342-SAIL

© 2024 Life of Sailing
Address: 11816 Inwood Rd #3024 Dallas, TX 75244
DisclaimerPrivacy Policy