Monday, December 15, 2008

Two thousand year Kauri tree

this guy didn't make it

sand sand and more sand

Cape Rienga

wine tasting in style

Beautiful New Zealand


Well, as is the norm for sailboats little repairs become bigger repairs and so our hope of sailing to Wellington for Xmas is no longer a reality.
The keel damage was complicated by a poor fibre glass job in the past and we needed to wait for it to totally dry before we can repaint it.
The quick paint job of the anti fouling under the boat we had anticipated turned out to be major as well. The painting we had done in El Salvador turned out to have been poorly done—they had put too much thinners in the paint so it did not adhere to the paint underneath. This meant we had to strip everything off right down to the gel coat. A messy yucky job but hopefully after we have recoated the boat with epoxy and new antifouling paint it will last well.
We had sail damage repaired as well as some work done on the engine—each of these things turned out to be bigger than anticipated and although it is all nearing completion now has been more expensive and taken longer than we had hoped. The only saving grace is that the NZ dollar has fallen even lower than the Canadian and we are able to purchase parts and supplies cheaply. When NZ has to import new things with their lower dollar the price will rise but in the meanwhile we are at least getting some relief.
We bought a car—a small Subaru wagon with low mileage—we have a sunroof, 8 speakers, mag wheels and it is turbo charged so we feel as though we are having a post mid life crisis in our zippy little car. Cars and insurance are cheap here and it works out cheaper to buy than to rent.
We have been boat bound doing boat projects for so long we decided to take a few days and drive up to Cape Reinga—at the north tip of NZ. It is a lovely trip going up the east coast and coming down the west. The north of NZ has many lovely sandy beaches and we discovered many pretty harbours which we will visit later with our boat. The little towns are very picturesque and we had a lovely trip.
At Kaitaia, the northernmost town we left the car and took a bus for the day up to the lighthouse at the top. The bus then drives back down 90 mile beach which is actually 65 miles of white sand which you can drive the on at low tide. As cars are uninsured on the beach and many have not made it we decided to catch the bus. The half buried cars were testament to our smart decision.
The whole area is made from huge sand dunes, many have been planted with pine forests and grasses which have stabilized and changed the original character of the area. However there are some massive sand dunes left and they give you a toboggan and you slide down taking care not to put your feet down as you will get a mouthful of fine white sand!!! It was fun and only regulated by how many times you wanted to climb back up.
We also drove through the kauri forests which were awesome with huge trees about 2000 years old. They are protected and beautiful wooden products are made from the tree stumps which are being recovered from the swamps.
We are now back on the boat trying to tie up a few loose ends and will leave to drive to Wellington on Saturday.
We will have Xmas with my mother, brother and sister and their families and then fly back to the boat on the 4th to finish the painting and get into the water and sail back to Wellington. It will be a relief to be back in the water—boats in boatyards are definitely not to be desired.
We hope you all have a wonderful Xmas season and are looking forward to a great New Year.

Our underwater pictures

Thursday, November 27, 2008





Opua to Whangarei

We have had a wonderful first two weeks in NZ at Opua.
Opua is the closest port of entry to NZ from Tonga and Fiji so many boats stop here for some welcome rest before heading to their final destinations. There are often 6 or more boats waiting on the quarantine dock—where you wait for customs to clear you—each morning with more arriving as the day goes on. Up to 250 boats each year clear in here. Our check in was easy as the girls were ready to go home so whipped through our check in at record speed. They confiscated our mayonnaise and our wild rice mix but we had already eaten all of our meat and popcorn—we knew they were prohibited.
Northern NZ generally is known throughout the cruising world as one of the best places in the world to have boat work done. It offers quality work, where they speak English and the prices are very reasonable. This is a multi million dollar industry and many of the small towns are vying for the cruiser dollars.
Opua is a small village consisting of a small grocery store, a couple of restaurants and many marine repair businesses and is realizing the value of this. It is managing to persuade many boats to linger a while and do some work here while they are lingering. The week we arrived was sponsored by local businesses and every night there was an event with free food. We along with all of the fellow cruisers had a busy week and were almost glad when the week was over—too many barbecue sausages!!!! We did appreciate the pig roast though as after the gristly meatless pig roasts in the islands we had wonderful thick slabs of pork. It was fun to meet up with many of the other boats we knew already and meet others we had just heard on the radio.
We along with everyone else fell in love with the area and stayed two weeks having some sail repairs done and Ken did many other small jobs which had been put off. Poor Ken seems to have a repair a day and I get to go shopping!!
They run shuttle buses to Pahia (the nearest town) daily and weekly to Keri Keri, a pretty artsy bigger town. We had a great 2 hour walk along the beach to Pahia one day and back. Another day some friends who had rented a car took us to Russell which is yet another pretty small town in the area.
The weather was sunny and warm with the nights cooler than we had had in a long while so we had to dig out jeans and jackets.
On our last night there was a blues band and barbecue at one of the local restaurants. The band was great and was enhanced by several of the talented cruiser musicians who joined in and jammed with the locals as the evening went on. A great end to our stay in Opua.
During the time we were there many friends came in and it was fun to welcome them. Some we had lost touch with for some time so it was great to see them again.
We sadly had to leave before Mr John, our friends who had been traveling with us since Rarotonga was in as we had arranged to have our boat hauled out in Whangarei on the 24th. We actually passed them we were leaving and they were arriving. We will catch up with them later I am sure.
Our boat was to be hauled to check the gouge we had put in the keel on the reef in Aitutaki and we appear to have a leak coming in somewhere near one of the back steps. We will also repaint the hull with more antifouling paint. It is still pretty good from Panama but if we are hauling out anyway we will redo it.
We left for the 70 mile day passage to Whangarei when the winds had been forecast to be 25 knots from the north—perfect for us as we are going south-- only to find the forecast was wrong!!!! We had 10 knots and had to motor sail as we needed to make the anchorage before sunset.
In the morning we were happy to be safely anchored and the winds were 20-30 and forecasted to blow harder the next day.
We had a 2 hour motor up the river to get to Whangarei, a much larger city where they have a great haul out facility for our catamaran.
We had our boat hauled in Whangarei on a hydraulic vehicle which goes under between the hulls of our boat and drives it on shore.
We are at present doing a few minor repairs and will redo the antifouling under the hull.
The paint we had in El Salvador is not holding well so we are having to strip all of the paint off and start again. At least it is one of the easiest places to do this as everyone is very professional and helpful. We are still hoping to get the boat back in the water in time to sail to Wellington for Xmas.
Whangarei is a very pleasant small city with all amenities and very friendly people—the norm here in NZ. We are dodging showers and little bitey sandflies as we sit on the riverbank trying to do our work. We cannot complain as the temperature is warm and there is no snow in our lives.
Hope that it is not too cold where you are.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


our martian travelling companion

Minerva to NZ

The passage to NZ is renowned as being difficult and we would see how deserved this reputation is.
We spent three days at Minerva Reef exploring and getting our best possible weather window.
Minerva Reef is a barren reef of several hundreds of yards wide and very flat. It has ankle to knee deep water depending on the tide which you can walk on. As it always above the water it provides a safe anchorage and many boats go there for the welcome break before heading on to NZ. While we were there were always 5 or 6 boats coming in and leaving. We went walking on the reef which was a little like walking on the moon. It is very barren and we were wondering if a cyclone had hit it in the recent past as there was very little living coral and not a lot of fish. Ken tried wading on the reef at night looking for lobster but saw no signs of them anywhere---his lobster hunting has become an obsession which has not been fruitful since the Marquesas months ago.
Our last night there we weathered a squall which came through with winds to 35 knots and were happy we were secure on our anchor and not at sea—several boats had left that day and had to suffer through it.
We are in touch with a weather routing man in NZ who specializes in giving safe passage schedules as much as is possible, he said we would have a window the next day with not too much expected before we would get there.
We set off the next morning in light winds and slowly drifted our way south. We along with the probably 50 or so boats currently on passage to NZ were flown over by the NZ air force jet Orion. It appears to fly the route from Minerva to NZ checking on boats en route. They ask for your details and estimated date of arrival in NZ and we must look very funny from the air as we are all in a line over the 800 miles. It was pretty cool as they fly low over you—they pick up your boat name and call you individually. What they do for exercises the other 10 months of the year I am not sure. It is a strange feeling to know that they cover the distance in a matter of hours and we are taking days—are we crazy or what!!!
We had an uneventful sail the first two days and then prepared for a small low pressure area which was going to create winds from the SW for a few hours—no big deal!!
Hmm--- around the forecast time of 8pm—why this always needs to be in the dark I am not sure—we spotted some squally patches on the radar. The wind was behind us which means it is not as bad as ahead of us so we had one reef in the sail when it hit. We got blasted for an hour and had speeds up to 11 knots and winds up to 30 knots. After that had gone through we thought we should reef some more to be safe as they were saying the centre would be at 1am. Precisely at 1am the wind started to build again but this time in our face. I had been on watch so Ken came up to help and we were buffeted again and were once again flying along at 7 or 8 knots with very little sail up. We had another boat buddy boating with us who had brought in all of their sails so it required a lot of focus to watch for them so we wouldn’t run into them.
We were being driven more and more SE—our course is SW so after a couple of hours of flying off in big winds and seas decided to “heave to”. This involves back winding your front sail so you just sit into the wind and do not go anywhere and can take a break. It was something we had never done before in these conditions but many boats do. It was immediately calmer (relatively) and we rocked around stalled in the water—we were also conscious of the other boat and now were afraid they would hit us.
After an hour of this with neither of us able to sleep and the winds not abating we decided to reduce the front sail even more and go where the wind would take us at a slower speed and perhaps be able to sail through the weather.
Finally at 6am and 10 miles off our course it calmed enough to turn and sail back towards where we had wanted to be. By 8am we were then able to turn on the engines and motor straight along our course line for NZ. We knew that the winds would be in our face all day at about 10 knots and it would be impossible to sail, tomorrow the winds are forecast to drop even more so were prepared to motor for 2 days. The seas had built up so we rocked and rolled as we motored into the wind and sea at 5 knots.
By night the seas had calmed a lot and the winds dropped and we continued to motor with both of us taking easy watches as the other one got some much needed sleep. As we are motoring in relatively , calm conditions we each were able to watch a movie on our DVD during our watch as we have excess power—when we sail our power is stretched just to be able to run the electronics and automatic steering.
We have a radio schedule on single sideband each day with a lot of the other boats on passage and record each others positions and exchange information. At this time there appeared to be some concern about new weather fronts and we all pooled information and our best guesses—nice to not be all alone out here. We understood winds would come up in the next day and are all waiting eagerly, if not a little apprehensively to get sailing.
After motoring for 2 days with a knot or more current against us we felt we were going nowhere very fast and were feeling frustrated .We were also concerned how long our fuel would last as we still have hundreds of miles to go.
Well on this NZ passage what a difference a day makes!!!
The winds started to come up in the morning and we sailed slowly till 4pm when the wind started to come up and up and up!! Pretty soon it was constantly 25-30knots and we started doing 8 knots. It was steady not squally and so the sails are at less risk.
The winds blew all night at 30 knots gusting to 35 and our speeds were steadily in around 8 to 9 knots reaching over 10 knots at times. The seas also built and it was a very rolly rocky ride. The noise is something that cannot be imagined—the sound of the sea swishing past and the wind howling makes everything tense and uncomfortable. Waves periodically washed over the boat flooding the cockpit. Sleeping became almost impossible and we are so happy our autohelm holds so well and we are able to do most of our watches from within the salon. We are more stable than the monohulls with us and do not heel over so can sail faster than those of our size. They need to reduce sail to be more comfortable so we pulled ahead considerably from the other boats we had been with previously. We did 200 miles one 24 hour period which is a record for us but have decided we would prefer to go slower in quieter conditions.
Finally 30 hours later the wind abated to 20 knots and the seas calmed somewhat which seemed so smooth and quiet and we both got some much needed sleep.
By morning we were only 50 miles from Opua--what a great feeling.
We came in later in the afternoon and it was an emotional moment for me to finally have our boat in my “other home”.
We are now safely tied up alongside and will write again about our experiences in NZ—we are in for a very social week as the local businesses all put on free dinners every night to welcome the cruisers so we will enjoy trading passage stories with the other boats who have arrived here.

stormy weather

stormy passage

Minerva Reef