Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008—We have been pretty busy for the past week, but our boat projects are coming along nicely. Our sails are being cleaned, our chain plates are being replaced, the mast is all sanded down (there were four coats of paint on it), our large port lights will be replaced, and Steve will finish the anchor locker tomorrow.

The car that we purchased—I never thought we would own a Mercedes-- has made life easier when hauling heavy items or grocery shopping. It is still a challenge to drive on the left side of the road, but we are getting better at it. It has been raining pretty heavily for the past two days, so having the car has been really nice. We promised ourselves, however, that we would continue to walk to town as much as possible in order to get some exercise.

Chris, Marcia, and I had a very nice day shopping this week. We found a store named Farmers that is similar to Macy’s. Everything was on sale, and we found some nice items to buy. We also went to The Warehouse, which is similar to Target, and a store that is very much like Linens and Things. We enjoyed a Subway sandwich for lunch. By the time we returned to the boats, we were pretty much “shopped out.”

On Wednesday we attended a “Meet and Greet” held at the Whangarei Cruising Club and hosted by the local marine businesses. Door prizes were given out, and we won two white t-shirts from Doyle Sails. The buffet dinner was excellent plus we once again had a chance to visit with the cruisers who are staying at Opua.

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving with Alan from sv Charisma, Jack and Marcia from sv Tracen J, and Jamie and Chris from sv Morning Light. We had the traditional turkey (pretty expensive here), stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry, gravy, green bean casserole, and cole slaw. I baked dinner rolls and an apple pie, and Marcia baked a pumpkin pie. We all met at the BBQ area at 5 o’clock to share the meal and reminisce about our sailing season. Since today is Thanksgiving Day in the states, we wish all of you a wonderful holiday with your families.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mastless in Whangarei

November 21, 2008—Our exciting week began on Monday morning when we were supposed to pull our mast. Tom the rigger came by and said that it was supposed to blow as well as rain, so we postponed until Tuesday at noon.

Well, as things usually go, the winds were calm and it only drizzled a bit on Monday; however, on Tuesday, we did have wind. Why pull out of the slip on a calm day when you can do it on a windy day! The wind was blowing over our stern and slightly to starboard, which meant that we had to watch sv Charisma on our starboard side. We enlisted a few cruisers to help make sure that we got out without any problems, and then we proceeded up the river to International Yacht Services.

The company has two pilings right on the shore so we had to pull up to them to tie off. Even though it was high tide, we ended up slightly stuck in the mud, but the boat was positioned just fine for the crane. The crane was supposed to be there at noon, but it was closer to one o’clock when he arrived. Once he got there, he got the crane set up and the hoist was connected to the strap that had been placed just under the spreaders. Tom and his crew, along with Steve, had already done much of the prep work at the marina, so it didn’t take long to get the mast pulled and laid out on the drums.

We left and headed right back for our slip, where everyone was gathered to help us get back in. The wind was still blowing in the same direction so that meant that it blew us right into our slip. Steve just had to put her into reverse to stop her, and we were tied up in no time.

When we went the yard later in the day, they had already removed the hardware and were beginning to sand the mast. They told us that they had found one of our insulators for the SSB radio was cracked so that will need to be replaced. We hope to find our problem with our VHF radio as well. It is being checked to see if the wiring down the mast is the problem.

With our anchor and anchor chain off the boat, as well as having the mast out, our boat is now angled down from bow to stern. When I got out of bed the next morning, I felt as though I were walking down hill.

Yesterday Steve undertook sanding the anchor locker. We have been putting off this “fun” chore for some time, but we decided that it really needed to be done. Our anchor locker is only accessible from inside our boat. The access is right in front of our bed, and this meant that we had to take all our bedding out and put it on the coach roof. Doing that was good because it allowed all the mattress pads to air out, and it gave me a chance to wash the mattress case and put it in the sun to dry.

Steve had bought a grinder so we hung a plastic tarp to try to protect the bunk and the rest of the boat. Well, that did about much good as doing nothing. The fiberglass dust was everywhere. Steve was wearing a respirator and goggles, as well as long pants with socks. After about an hour he emerged looking like a ghost and stood on the dock in his clothes while I hosed him down with water. Then he went to the cockpit, stripped off his clothes, changed into other clothes, and went immediately to the showers. Meanwhile, I went to work trying to clean up all the fiberglass. For those who have worked with fiberglass, you know what a nasty job it is (but not as bad as the sanding). I vacuumed up all that I could, and then I wiped down all the walls. After several hours, I thought I had gotten all of it; however, when Steve lowered our anchor locker door, we found a huge amount on it. So we had to wipe that down, as well as the ceiling above our bed.

Steve was exhausted last night and fell asleep early, but I wasn’t far behind. It had been a long and tiring day. Now we just need to let the locker dry out, and then Steve can paint it. Doesn’t that sound like an exciting week!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We're Living the Kiwi Life Now

November 17, 2008—It has been a good week for us. We have gotten quite a bit of work done on cleaning up the boat and getting everything washed out. We have also become well acquainted with the downtown area and all the shops that are available. Steve has spent a lot of time finding every shop that he needs for boat work or boat parts. We have also opened a bank account here so that it will be easier to get cash.

The people here are amazingly friendly. Every time we stop people and ask for directions or help, they have been very helpful. A man named Keith Oaks that Steve talked with at a gas station for just a few minutes offered him a ride to a store and then told Steve that anytime Steve needed a ride, he should call him.

On Saturday Christine and Jamie, Jack and Marcia, and Steve and I went to the Growers’ Market. We arrived around 8 a.m. and were thrilled by the beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables that people had for sale. Local honey and gorgeous flowers were for sale as well. The best part was the crêpes for breakfast. A man and his two sons had a booming business going. They had an old Volkswagen bus, and they set up their crêpe cooker in front. We had a choice of bananas with cream, bananas with honey, butter and syrup, three types of jams along with cream, or a local fruit that I can’t remember the name of. All six of us ordered one—Steve had bananas and honey, and I had black currant jam with cream, and they were absolutely delicious. Steve and I ended up buying fresh strawberries, blueberries, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Next we went to the art festival in the park next to the library. There were booths set up with local foods as well as foods from other countries. There were also crafts, art, jewelry, clothing, and flowers for sale. There was a stage set up for performances so at 10:45 we stopped to watch a Pacific Island dance group, and they were followed by a ukulele orchestra comprised of 10 women, who turned out to be very good.

After that we headed for the food booths. Steve and I ordered a Coney Island hot dog with everything. The rest of the gang had pizza. We then made a quick trip into the library to see what it was like and found a large selection of books as well as DVDs and CDs so we will need to join the library soon.

Sunday we worked hard to get rid of the clutter on the boat because on Monday we were supposed to take the boat just up the river in order to have the mast pulled so that it can be painted. We have wanted to do that for a long time, and we got a very reasonable quote to have the work done here. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was for wind and rain so we postponed until tomorrow. The sails have been sent in to be inspected and repaired if necessary. The new head (toilet) that we ordered should be here soon. The engine work will begin soon as will the stainless steel work. There is still quite a bit to do, but we are trying to balance work with pleasure.

Last night we went to dinner in town with sv Tracen J and sv Morning Light. We really enjoy Dicken’s Pub because they have wonderful food and even better desserts.s

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Whangarei, New Zealand

November 12, 2008—We have been in Whangarei for a week now, and we are enjoying it very much. It is hard getting used to the cars driving on the left side of the road, and the other night, Dennis and Janet from sv Shilling, Gary, and Steve and I were all walking to have dinner at Amici Restaurant. I stepped off the curb, but Steve suddenly pushed me back because a car was coming that could have hit me. I told them all that I had survived crossing the Pacific Ocean only to be killed by a car in New Zealand. We are much more careful now—looking both ways twice before stepping off a curb.

Marcia and Jack on sv Tracen J arrived at the marina on Thursday, so we again went out to dinner at Dicken’s Pub. I could get used to this. We had seafood chowder and a pork roast, both of which were delicious. The best part was the apple pie for dessert—it was wonderful. We were all still pretty tired from the crossing, but we had a very enjoyable evening.

Ray Roberts Marina is a small marina about 10 minutes from downtown. You can see our boat just to the right of the power boat in the picture. Ray is very helpful and will be doing some of the boat work for us. The good thing about being here is that we have certainly gotten our exercise over the past few days as we find ourselves in town just about every day.

Town Basin Marina is closer to downtown and much larger as you can see from the picture. There will be many cruisers staying there as well. It has been fun seeing some of them after several months, and more will come in over the next month. Last night we went to have dinner at Reba's, which is a restaurant right at the dock. They had a cruisers' special of ribeye steak with potato for $10 NZ which is about $6 USD, and it was quite good.

Steve and I took off this past weekend and stayed in a motel for two nights. There was a hot tub, which made Steve very happy. We watched movies, took very long, hot showers, ate in town, and just relaxed for two days. It was nice to get off the boat and away from the clean up for awhile.

Our sails are off the boat and will be cleaned and inspected. Steve has also lined up some stainless steel work, as well as engine work. Our list is not too bad, and we keep working on it slowly. I have been doing a lot of laundry because everything got wet and salty. Luckily, there are washers and a dryer on the premises, so I don’t have to lug it into town.

The scenery here is lovely; however, the weather has been a bit cold and overcast. The locals all say that it is unusual for this time of year, so we hope that it will clear off in the next few days. We plan to take a drive up north to Opua to visit some of our cruising friends who are staying there, and we will, of course, continue on our boat projects.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November 7, 2008--Well, we arrived in Whangarei, New Zealand, early Wednesday morning and pulled up to the Customs dock to spend the night.

Tuesday was cloudy most of the day, and the winds were blowing around 23 knots with gusts up to 30. We also had rain squalls throughout the day, and the seas became confused later in the afternoon, which made for an uncomfortable ride. The line on our radar reflector chafed through so it came down and was dragging through the water until we retrieved it. One loss that we suffered was the peanut crème Oreos. Gary was eating them during his watch when they fell onto the cockpit floor and got soaked, so over the side they went—he was bummed.

Night was coming as we rounded Poor Knight’s Island to parallel the coast just a couple of miles off in order to minimize the fetch from the approaching cold front, which we expected at any time. Steve went to check our engine and found an oil leak (the head seal has finally started to give out). We turned off the engine just long enough that he could check to see how bad it was (not bad at all) and to add more oil. The wind and waves were coming from our stern, and at one point we saw over 10 knots of speed over the ground—we were surfing!

We made our turn around Bream Head and began working our way up the buoyed channel. The red and green lights were everywhere so picking out the ones that we needed was very difficult. Steve was using the GPS to find the buoys and I was using the paper chart. I thought that I had finally spotted the next red light that we needed. As I looked at it, however, I realized that it also had a white light, and it was moving past us. Turned out it was a tug boat leaving the harbor. Soon there was another tug leaving. I decided to go up on the bow to keep a lookout while Gary stayed in the cockpit to help Steve. We were making progress through the winding buoys when I heard Steve give an exclamation--we had a large cargo ship coming up the bay close behind us. Those two tugs had gone out to bring it in.

Making our way around the bay and over to Marsden Cove Marina was a challenge to say the least. We slowly made our way to the GPS waypoint for the entry. There were boats anchored along the route with no anchor lights on, so we had to find them with our spotlight. There were no real channel lights at this point, but I finally spotted the red and green lights leading into the marina; however, finding the right point in which to make the turn was more difficult. At one point we found ourselves in shallow water with the tide going down. The three of us finally agreed on our course, so we made our turn and proceeded through the dredged channel to the jetty entrance and then continued to the docks. We located the Q dock for Customs, and Steve decided to make a turn so that he could pull in with our port (left) side to the dock. When he was half way through the turn, the wind came up and caught our bow, but Steve was able to complete the turn, which was good because we were getting awfully close to a boat tied up at the end of that dock. When we beside the dock, Gary and I jumped off and secured the lines. We let the boat settle in, made sure the lines and fenders were all in place, and gave one another "high 5’s." It was now 3 a.m. and we were all exhausted, cold, and wet. We all crashed quickly because Customs would be at the boat in the morning.

We got up around 7:30 and picked up the boat as best as we could. Brian from Bio-security arrived around 9:30 (why had we gotten up so early!) to collect meat and vegetables and fill out the required forms. Right after he left, Anita from Customs arrived and filled out those required forms.

We now needed to make our way 12 miles up the Whangarei River with the wind still blow up to 30 knots. When we left the marina the wind and waves were right on the nose so we were struggling to move forward. Actually, a couple of times we were stopped dead in the water. Once we got into the river channel, the ride became better, and we were able to appreciate the beautiful countryside. When we arrived at Riverside Drive Marina, we had to hold our position while sv Shilling pulled into their slip. This was not an easy task since the winds were still gusting. The dock hands were tying up Shilling when there was a lull in the wind, so Steve yelled to them asking if the one open slip was ours. They answered that it was, so Steve just gunned the engine and headed into the slip because we wanted to get in before the winds came up again. A couple of guys did come over to take our lines. Steve came in pretty fast and then gave the engine full reverse to stop her. The dock lines were pulled in, and she settled in just fine. We had arrived!

Whangarei is a lovely town, and I will write about it in the next blog as this one has become quite long-winded. Gary was able to book a flight out on Thursday morning so on Wednesday evening Janet and Dennis from sv Shilling joined us for dinner and to celebrate arriving here. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and then headed back to crash—we were all very, very tired.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Race to the Barn

November 3, 2008--During my watch on the evening of the 1st, I was treated to a clear sky and a very, very calm sea. There was a new moon, and I believe it was Venus that was very close to it. The water was so calm that even the stars and planets were casting reflections onto the water. It was hard to believe how beautiful it was. We were motoring because the winds had dropped down again, and we need to continue moving forward.

On Sunday we had pizza for lunch. The day was mainly overcast, but we didn't have any rain, and the seas were moderate. I served some wonderful pork with green beans and fresh tomatoes for dinner. It has definitely cooled off. The water temperature during the night was down around 60 degrees, and we are all wearing our foul weather gear and boots during our night watches. Steve had rain during his whole watch last night from midnight to 4 a.m. I made plenty of coffee during the day, and quite a bit of it was gone by this morning.

When Gary came on watch at 4 in the morning, he and Steve decided to reef down the sails. Gary had cranked the line on the reef down, and Steve was on the coach roof tying down the reef points in the main sail when he realized that a bird, who had been on the deck of the boat for several hours, had had his tail pulled into the turning block during the reef. He was squawking like crazy as Steve grabbed him and pulled him loose--minus a few tail feathers. He flew off and did not come back.

Today we had cloudy skies with some rain showers. There have been squalls all around us, but, luckily, the winds have been moderate. One particularly ominous looking squall had us putting in a third reef, but the winds never developed as it passed over us. The seas have built somewhat, and we are now on more of a reach, which in turn heals the boat over making cooking and sleeping a bit more difficult. The weather reports that we are getting indicate a cold front approaching New Zealand that will have higher winds so we are pushing very hard to arrive before it does. This has meant running the engine and motor sailing to get the best speed that we can for the conditions. Right now it looks as though we will make it in time. Tracen J, who is 35 miles behind us, may have to deal with worse weather; however, out here you can never tell what will happen. It looks as though Scarlett will make it in just fine since they are about 100 miles ahead of us. They were able to leave early last Monday so they got a heard start. They have, however, had worse conditions than we have experienced so far.

Because we thought that we would have a longer passage, we are madly trying to eat the fresh meat and vegetables because we can't take them into New Zealand. I don't think that we can finish everything, but we are certainly making a valiant effort. I am sure that we will all be a few pounds heavier when we get in!

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