Ready, Set, Go

We were at one of the Riverside’s cookouts when it struck us. We had purchased a car 3 weeks ago. We opened a bank account to use for our boat projects, we’ve played tennis and been getting back in shape. And we forgot about seasons.

In the tropics there are two seasons rainy and dry – otherwise known as the cyclone season and not the cyclone season. Here in NZ we have 4 complete seasons with a significant change in the weather. And that change means we will need to see the South Island now or face a cold trek in the middle of winter. After having spent the last few years in the tropics neither of us Bolooked forward to a cold adventure. We had enough of those cold outings coming of age in the midwest US.

So…we began to plan. Bob and Linda had made a similar trip last year and we invited them over. We want to pick their brains and hear of their adventure all the while taking notes and looking for ideas. A few hours later we had enough info to turn a few week trip into 6 months.

With brochures in hand and an idea of what to do W/ began to put some dates down and make reservations. Two ideas were foremost in our thoughts as we started this road trip. First we would circumnavigate the S. Island counter-clockwise. This sets our car on the inside lane of the highway, away from the cliff edges. Driving in this lane around and through the Southern Alps is much safer. Second, we would make reservations up to a week in advance allowing us to change and adjust as needed.

We left Whangarei heading to Auckland. Matt was there. After college and sailing with his family he moved to NZ. He’s sailed across the S. Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and made the trek from the S. Pacific a couple of times back and forth. He had kindly offered to be our evening’s tour guide in the “City of Sails”.

Sometimes, things don’t seem right!

We are still getting used to driving on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car. The trip to Auckland was uneventful in general. Specifically, it was a bit o’ a pain. The weather was not pleasant. A Nor Easter was soon to arrive. We were racing it to Auckland hoping to beat it there by a few hours. Settled in at our AirBnB we decompressed waiting for Matt to finish work. I say decompress but for me I was setting up a NZ tollway account.

There are few toll roads in NZ. Actually there is only one and it is in Auckland. There are no toll booths. New Zealand uses cameras to record auto license plates on the toll road and sync that with who owns the car. Then the car owner is either billed or pays on line. Billing costs more if one fails to pay on time. Failure to meet the deadline escalates the toll 1000%. Thus the need to set up an account.

While the setup is pretty straight forward the log in requirements are not. It’s the little things that can frustrate me. OK, I’m use to PIN numbers. But this PIN needed Letters as well as numbers. 🙁 OK, most everything has a User name. However, with user names you get to choose it. This account gives you a User Name and it’s several numbers long. Finally after jumping through the site’s hoops I have the account setup. I added money, the easy part. Now I just need to wait for the bill and pay. I checked it the next couple of days and never saw a bill. Finally a week later I noticed that money had been taken from my account. I checked the history and they did see the car ( I never doubted it for a minute) and they did then bill the car. A week later our account NZ debited the account. Check that off the list.

After a good dinner Matt took us on a tour of the city. With not a lot of faith in our driving yet, he drove. 🙂 That was fine by us. But Matt informed us to get out of Auckland with minimal traffic we needed to leave at; get this, about 5 am. YUCK! And he needed to work in the am so we cut the evening short. Auckland is a unique city and we will return. Luckily, it is not far from Whangarei.

By 5 am we were on the road. The Nor Easter had blown through but the tail of it was still around. Fortunately an auto isn’t effected as much by the wind and rain as a boat. We soldiered on. For the most part the views here were same ol’ same ol’. The mountains and forest while majestic had no majesty. We were using Waze to guide us south and soon discovered while NZ is a first world country the cell connections are not country wide. Throughout NZ the Department of Conservation (DOC) parcels we had no reception. No reception did not mean nothing to look at.

We came across the Makatote Viaduct. It was a railroad bridge spanning a gorge. And WOW! While it would have been cool to walk out on it I wouldn’t want to face a train coming down the tracks. You could save your life by jumping but that then would shorten your life by the landing. This railroad track opened up settlement to the south end of the north island and while the new European immigrants took advantage of that day I am sure the Maori (local residents) might well now curse it. To complete the bridge the company actually built a steel mill on site. They found the production and transportation of the steel beams to be more problematic than building a mill locally. I can only imagine how one might think today of our international manufacturing and shipping now!

We stopped in Bulls for lunch at the Mother Goose diner. An avant guard restaurant stepped back in time; all except for the prices. The food was satisfactory and there was one surprise. I’ve had egg on pizza; in the Caribbean, but never had egg on a steak sandwich. Here I had an egg; sunny side up on my steak sandwich.

After switching drivers several times we arrived in Wellington. We changed for the most part because; driving for us on the wrong side, was tiring and we needed to stay ultra alert. Too when I am included in the equation that means more driving for W/. Driving seems to put me to sleep faster than any other means, and sleeping is not advisable on any roads.

We arrived in Auckland during rush hour and wove our way through the streets to another AirBnB. Discovering the AirBnB residences are a challenge for us. But Waze has no difficulty as long as we are connected to the internet. And in most cities and towns in NZ we’ve had internet. Our Wellington host is gracious and directs us to pick up some items we’ve neglected to buy and need. Additionally she tells of a great place to have some chow.

In NZ we now have a 3rd connection for wall outlets. In FP and Fiji, the wall outlets were double post. In the US they are parallel blades and NZ has angled blades. I needed some angled blades for our computer / tablet / phone chargers. Luckily we found the Apple connections at a Harvey Normans store. We did bring most of our electronic gear. We snap and back up hundreds of pics of out travels hoping to have a few memorable ones. And too, the technology tools enables our bragging to the rest of the world of our adventures south.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Whangarei

In many ways Whangarei has been; un-eventful, in others the events are more personal. We’re settling in here. We’re getting use to the “big city”, many restaurants, plentiful boat parts, a plethora of services, and all the necessities life has to offer. We bought a car, joined a gym, joined a tennis club and I have ended up with tendinitis in my knee.

Summer at Riverside Marina in Whangarei, New Zealand

Riverside Marina, Whangarei, New Zealand

 

The car came from another cruiser and previously from the used car place in Opua “Cars for Cruisers”. It’s a ’99 Camry which for the most part we are happy with. And the differences between the US and countries we visit are fascinating. In NZ to transfer a car title you go to the Post Office. The seller filled out a form (free) and the buyer (us) filled out another

Wrong Way, Wrong Side, Correct Pedals.

Wrong Way, Wrong Side, Correct Pedals.

with a fee of $9 NZ. Boom. The car is now ours. Every 6 months we need to get a service check called a WOF (Warranty of Fitness) and we are good to go. We have third party insurance for a year at approx $250 NZ. Of course this does not cover any damage to our car but it does protect others and by extension us. The car has a key lock where even with the right cut dime store key the car will not start. Yet, I am sure there are ways. The car has some minor issues we need to address. But it sure is nice being able to travel farther, faster, and carry more than we can on foot. Our US drivers license is good for a year. We expect to sell the car next Dec before our license expires. Hopefully to the next generation of NZ sailors.

 

Somewhere in our extensive walks I felt a little pain in my knee. I followed the recommended procedure RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression -lax

On our walk, a view of the town basin, Whangarei, NZ

On our walk, a view of the town basin, Whangarei, NZ

on that one, and Elevation). All was going well, too well as a matter of fact. I was feeling good and at the gym which we walked to I did a full body work out including jumping rope. My knee was a little sore. We tried a massage therapist there and it was W/s turn. My knee felt good. I figured I could walk back to the boat, ice my knee, drop off our gym bags, and return to pick up W/. About 1/2 way back my knee was talking to me. I slowed down and strolled on. On the boat I grabbed the ice and elevated it for 10 minutes. Time to return. I was in mild pain but hey! I am strong, I can handle it. Again at the 1/2 mark my knee started talking to me. Well, more like yelling at me. I actually took one step and sat down the pain was so bad. After rubbing it for a few minutes and figuring it was as far back to the car as it was to the gym I could make it. I was a man with a limp. But I made it. And at our fitness center an employee had some anti inflammatory meds. I took two. I would live. W/ appeared much too soon and I would need to walk again. But I hobbled to the restaurant where we met Lewis, Alyssa, and her mom for lunch. Had some more stories to share and then returned to the boat. I was now reduced to the speed of a crawl. Stupidly I didn’t want W/ to get the car. I could make it. Almost an hour later (normally a 15 minute walk) I was on board with ice on my knee. We got the IBProfin out of our medical kit and I began the descent into a pain free world. It was not to be. While I’m sure the anitinflammatory helped keep me from self amputating my leg I was NOT pain free. That night for me was miserable. My sleep would be best described as almost passing out. Finally the dawn broke and I returned to my rehab routine. Ten days later I am almost back to full motion and 90% of the time pain free. I look forward to Tennis this coming week.

The day before this major faux pas we joined a Tennis club. We had walked to Kamo, a nearby town that was only about 8km away taking about 20k steps to get there. That is where my knee began talking to me. But then it was in quiet whispers. We didn’t find the club but found the address of the club secretary. After a brief introduction she offered to give us a ride back into Whangarei. On the way she showed us two closer Tennis clubs. Anyway, we joined Mairtown Tennis. Five all weather courts (astro turf) with 12 tons of sand brushed in each court. Tennis balls they have, a ball machine they have, hoppers with balls they have; and all those included in the cost of our membership. They don’t have any clay tennis courts in NZ. The good news is that it doesn’t get slippery when wet and it is easy on the body. Not as easy as a clay court but much better than asphalt. W/ was able to play right away and I expected to play in two days as my knee was almost healed. That was until I abused it further. Now a week later I’m finally able to feed some balls to W/ and volley some. But running was still problematic. So I wait. I hope, hope, that this Tuesday I will be able to play with the Veterans (retired players) that play in the morning. Some things just don’t change. At Innisbrook and River Crossing (our old clubs) that was the situation also. (I have a problem here) One characteristic of NZ is our language differences. The language of the country is English but the words often have slightly different uses. W/ and I chuckle with every new one. Minnow; not a fish, a young boy or girl. Cheers! A way to say hello or goodbye and sometimes thank you. Kid Sharing; when separated parents have custody of children and they live with one one week and the other another week. Jandals; we call them flip flops. Stomping; more of what W/ does when hiking. Bach; a summer cottage and we don’t know where this permutation came from. Driving; we drive on the wrong side. Take away, a doggie bag.

With our car the most egregious thing we’ve done is hit the curb- twice. The turning ratio on the Camry is so different from our other cars I ran over a curb once and another time W/ brushed a curb. We tell each other to look right and stay left. That is our mantra driving. When entering any roadway; traffic from the right will nail us first and we need to stay left to avoid head on collisions. When leaving one place we had visited in the country I naturally took the right side of the road only to come upon a resident driving on “my side”. Fortunately neither was traveling at any speed and all I got was a smile and a finger wave not to drive on the wrong side. Whew! While we drive on the wrong side the steering wheel and driver is on the “wrong” side too! This makes life a further challenge adapting to the new perspective. Fortunately the accelerator and brake are in their correct positions but the indicator blinker lever and windshield washer lever is reversed. More than a few times have we indicated a turn by turning on our wipers. We are getting better at everything. Luckily we are not in the big metropolis of Auckland and the traffic isn’t hazardous to our driving, nor visa versa. I look forward to the time when while driving I can see a little more of the country side. Now I am focusing only on staying centered in the left lane.

Ah…the boat. Just to be clear we are NOT moving here. A few years ago immigrating to NZ would have been easier. Now the bureaucracy makes it quite difficult for retires to become permanent residents. Not that we would want to, we’ve not experienced a winter here and from what we understand Winters are not fun. Winter fun is in the S. Island. Thus we’ve been looking for a Home Sitting experience. During the winter months we hope to watch someones pet(s) and take care of their home while they travel. House sitting will solve our “freezing butt” issue. Thus if the water is close to 0º C (32º F) the boat will be ….. FREEZING! and if anyone has stayed on a boat during cold weather knows, it gets damn cold inside a boat. While you can warm the air up some, the water temperature becomes a huge heat sink. The boat temperature moves steadily towards the water temperature. Additionally we can leave the boat a mess while completing a few needed changes. We expect to haul the boat out of the water during this time.. staying on board then is not our cup of tea.

 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Heading South

Oddly enough I seem to mix up my directions in this hemisphere. In the US I always knew N from S, E, from W. Even in Panama and the top of S. America. But here, W/ often asks me to confirm if I mean S. Some times she’ll even want confirmation of Port and Starboard. More than I wish to admit; I point to Starboard and say Port. So far we’ve never been in a situation that the extra minute or so for her to check and confirm my direction has not created any issues. But I do feel weird about it. Maybe the magnetic field in my brain hasn’t adapted yet.

And so we head S. In this hemisphere South is where it is colder. For the most part this will be our Summer / Winter home as we expect to do some major projects on the boat. Thus we go S, where it is colder.

As I mentioned in our last entry the oil pressure alarm went off as we left the marina. For whatever reason I don’t know but am guessing it has to do with some diesel dripping on the wire running to the oil pressure sensor. The diesel dripping occurred while I re -bled the engines fuel. For now, all appears to be working. I didn’t do anything. The pressure switch started working again. We leave Russell and head out the Bay of Islands with plans to anchor at the abandoned whaling station or at the bay on the edge of this island group.

Nearing the first anchorage we noticed that it wasn’t as described. A ground swell ran through the anchorage. Since the winds were calm we thought it best to keep motoring and we headed out and

Cape Brett Lighthouse

Cape Brett Lighthouse

around Cape Brett. With light winds we were able to navigate through the narrow opening. For a powerboat it would not be a problem. However, on a sailboat with any sea I wouldn’t have taken a chance. With water smooth as glass we had no difficulties. The light house on the side of the mountain was spectacular! We had heard there was a hiking trail to it from the harbor we were heading for. Being on a bit o’ time schedule and the hike to the

The outside Rock for Cape Brett

The outside Rock for Cape Brett

lighthouse and back was about a 5 hour trek, it looked like a skip this time. We can make excuses with the best of them. First: our dinghy wasn’t in the water and would take time to put everything together, and second, we expected to move the following day – if the wx was cooperative. The only down side of the harbor was lack of internet. Ironically years ago we wouldn’t have cared. But in the Pacific 90% of our anchorages have had internet availability. We have gotten use to it and begun to expect it. The up side is that the anchorage was completely calm and the bottom excellent holding. Without internet we would use the Ham – Pactor setup for weather information.

The following day’s wx prediction had a tad bit of wind which was to increase as the day wore on. We left after breakfast and had a lovely sail to Whangaruru Harbor anchoring in Puriri Bay. Again we had great holding and the guide book indicated that this anchorage was good for gales. We hoped to avoid staying that long but it was nice to know. Too, we had internet here so getting weather, updating our family, all was good.

A local marina in Tutukaka, NZ

A local marina in Tutukaka, NZ

Two days later we motored out the entrance and turned south. It was another luxurious sail averaging about 2.5 kts with little to no seas. There we contacted the Marina at Tutukaka and were lucky enough to secure a berth for a couple of days. While this is summer here in NZ it seems we have one nice warm day with NE-NW winds and then 3 days or so with winds howling out of the south. South winds bring cold weather. There was a storm a brewing and the marina looked inviting. We were also running low on goodies as we had only expected a week for this trek and we were at the end of that time now. With the dinghy still stowed on deck and neither of us wanting to set it up, as well as having no gasoline for the dinghy engine the marina looked inviting. Eric (the marina manager) was a wonderful guy telling us what was where and we made ourselves right at home. This is not a transient marina so we were enjoying the NZ boating atmosphere. Two days ashore was enough. we motored out to the anchorage and anchored for one more night. In the near frigid water (for me) I dove in and checked the bottom of the boat before making our final trek to Whangarei. Again in two days wx was to be nasty. We planned on leaving in the later am as the winds predicted would be a lovely 15-20 kts from the stern by the afternoon. But, neither of us wait well.

We left after breakfast and the winds were light. Averaging 4 kts we made the entrance to Hatea River in about 3 hours and turned to head for our final anchorage, the Nook. I hauled in the jib and a minute later the winds clocked around to the NE nearing 30 kts on the nose. Howling! It was a wet ride up the river. Local knowledge is that the Nook is a nice quiet, beautiful anchorage. But with the winds out of the NE it would not be comfortable. We anchored on the other side, in the lee of the peninsula in calm water with the winds blowing over the top of the trees. The following am was a different story.

The winds had switched to the S and SW and blew like hell. We were having up to 1/2 meter chop coming into our anchorage. If that wasn’t enough we had some odd currents swirling around, pushing the boat side on to the chop. There were times we actually had spray on the boat at anchor! It was Sunday and the marina said they would have a slip for us Monday. While we were able to tolerate this for 24 more hours the anchorage was NOT fun. The gribs indicated that the winds were to ease off as the day lengthened. But Mother Nature does not like being told what to do. She blew all day long. By evening, as seems to be the case in NZ the winds eased off and we were able to get some sleep.

In the am life was again good, We filled our biological gas tank with a great breakfast and cleaned up. And as not predicted, the winds began to blow again. However now we would leave. The tide was flooding and we needed to pass a shallow spot of about a nautical mile before entering the channel to Whangarei. We wanted to cross that bar near high tide. We motored out across the bar into the channel and headed up river with a the wind singing in the rigging sometimes and others the wind was as quiet as a night in doldrums. I was fascinated by our speed in the river with the various currents and winds. With constant engine rpms we went from 3- 6 kts. We finally decided to slow down after calculating when high tide was for another shallow spot near the marina. We only spotted one other anchorage we would have been better off in had we continued up the river two days ago. The chart wasn’t clear and we didn’t want to head up the river and take a chance we would need to head back down. Now I know, we can hide from most all winds up near Whangarei.

The best kind of bridge to travel under with a sailboat.

The best kind of bridge to travel under with a sailboat.

By 3 pm we contacted the bascule bridge and crossed our last barrier. With the marina up ahead we were ready to give the boat a good wash and sleep like babies. The dock crew assisted us in tying up. In many marinas here in NZ they don’t use cleats. They have rings driven into the docks and you need to either tie a line to the ring or run it through the ring and back to the boat. With several people assisting the process went

Our seasonal home.

Our seasonal home.

without a hitch. Soon we felt like back home, at our old marina in Tarpon Springs, Sail Harbor. There people were always around to assist. They had dock parties every week, and advice is worth what you pay for it. 😉

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

The New Zealand Passage

Leaving Momo bay and traveling out the main channel we had an issue. I didn’t think the channel would be all rough as we had an incoming tide and a light breeze in the same direction. Was I ever wrong. We travel about 6+ kts when motoring in calm waters. In this pass the current slowed us to 2+ kts and we had a short steep chop. So much so that we knocked another board off the bowsprit platform. Concerned a wee bit about potential damage we diverted to Robinson Crusoe Island. There we’ll check for any damage. We can always leave the following day.
Other than Elysium’s ego damaged we did leave the following day. The pass to Robinson was easy to navigate and shortly we had our sails up and were heading towards New Zealand.  Well, almost towards NZ.
As in my last post the idea was to head SW on a reach and then once we made our Westing turn SE and reach to NZ. We could head SW but it wasn’t a reach.  At times maybe, but for the most part we were close hauled. Not our preferable way to sail, at least not in the ocean. We started out with a single reefed main and a reefed Jib.  At the time we were making 6 kts +/- . The seas were; rough.  We had multiple swells rolling in from the S quadrants.  Swells out of the SE, S, and SW.  This made the rides at Disney feel bland and boring by comparison. There were often times when we would fall down one wave just to have the bow crash into the next. Over the next few days we lost two more teak platform pieces off the bowsprit. The anchors are now cleaner than when new from the constant pressure wash.
For the first few days this was not a comfortable trip. We set up one of the dinette seats inside the boat to wedge ourselves into and that place was a saving grace. The weather turned chilly with the winds out of the S.  Yep, in the Southern Hemisphere winds from Antarctica are from the South.  We would do our watches in the “rocking chair” and every so often stick our head up and check the horizon. While we needed to know what was going on outside we never saw another ship until we sighted NZ.  For the most part this area of the world appeared to be devoid of life.  Some days we never even saw a bird!
I checked the GRIBs twice a day. The (High) that was to fill in shrunk a bit and stayed stationary for a bit. This meant we stayed on the wind for longer than we would have liked. Finally we hit the (H) and turned on the motor. Motoring in the calms sleep came easily and our watches went smoothly. We motored S traveling  up and down some nicely spaced swells. We  motored through the tail end of a stationary front and then the (H) just seemed to evaporate.  Again we fought a new onslaught of winds from the S and some new southerly wave trains. Notice the plural!  A new (H) had reformed to the SW of us giving us more wind out of; you guessed it, the S.
The motion of the boat went from comfortable to “Holy Crap Batman”!  With the iPhone sitting on the table I noticed every so often the gyro in it thought someone was picking it up to use it. It would come on and sense that indeed no one was using it and promptly shut off.
One may wonder why we had the phone sitting on the table in the first place. The iPhone is NOT a satellite phone and there are NO cell towers in the middle of the ocean. Before we left Fiji I spent some time downloading podcasts. We like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”,  Freakeconomics, Snap Judgement, PBS News

Sleeping Offshore

Catching some Shut eye offshore.

Hour, Politics Monday, and a smattering of others.  That and books kept us entertained for most of the trip. The rest of our time was eating, sleeping, and caring for the boat.  We never had the large drifter out but we finally used the staysail. I believe this was the first time in the Pacific I actually had it out under sail.
On this trip we ran with a double reefed main, Yankee Jib heavily reefed to all the way out and the staysail. Winds were never over 30 kts and for the most part in the 20’s. We used various combinations depending on the the sea state – current winds and the winds we anticipated coming. We never hove to although I watched for a time when that might be to our advantage.  One boat that left the same time we did hove to for two days waiting for the Westerlies to set in.  Personally, I never looked two days out.
I was a wee bit concerned when Dirk (part of our shore support team) said a Tropical Depression popped up in Fiji.  By then we were 3 days S and for the most part well away. We were heading S too but depressions and cyclones  can move faster than we do.  Luckily for us it fell apart.  But in Fiji they received enormous amounts of rain and the resultant flooding. We just squeaked out of Fiji in time. Four boats left within a day of each other on this passage. Yet with those four only one (us) checked into the Pacific Seafarers net at 14300 mhz at 0300 zulu.
Golden Age left the day after we did and arrived on the same day as we did with a broken head stay. He had secured the mast with two halyards and the rigger I spoke with later said his baby stay too had about half the wires broken. He was lucky to have arrived with the mast still standing. Herbert is a single hander and it appears he did a lot more motoring than we did.
Serge on Spirare; another New Zealand veteran, had said to maintain a minimum of 5 kts and “burn that diesel”. We averaged well over 5 kts and burned about 500 l of diesel. motoring close to 100 hours. Some of the motoring was motor sailing but for the most part if we could sail we did.
A Fuji 45 ketch left the same day we did and arrived without an engine. He is the boat that hove to for 2 days. Pedro (the owner) had picked up two crew in Vuda for the passage and for the most part he had reported a rather nice trip. He headed farther West than we did and parking the boat for two days may have made it more comfortable. Our track worried me that we were getting too far west and I didn’t want to beat E to get back to NZ. As it was we were about 150 nm more West than I had planned for.  In this part of the ocean no one says to just “hang out”. Three bodies of water and three weather systems met here creating a “mess”. We were in that mess.
The last boat that made this transit during the same period was Hello World. Sailed by a single hander who has already circumnavigated she did not do well. We had been in about a week when we received the news. While close to land she had a safe course set with the wind vane and thought she could get some shut eye. As she slept the winds shifted and as a wind vane steers to the wind the boats course changed. While asleep the boat ended up on a reef just S of Opua. Rona ended up in her dinghy rowing and rescued by some fishermen. She’s fine but the boat is no more.
Just off the Northern coast of NZ the winds lightened up. Then they started heading us up, forcing us to take a more easterly course. Once we were heading farther from, not closer to our destination, we tacked.  Now we are  heading back towards NZ but not on our rhumb line to Opua.  Late in the am we made our first sighting of land and by late afternoon the winds had died enough that we needed to again run the engine.
Before we left Fiji I serviced the engine, changed the Racor Fuel filters, checked the transmission fluid level, changed the oil. All was looking good. The engine was purring like a kitten.  However, I neglected to change the final fuel filter on the Perkins.  That filter is a PITA to change. The engineers that designed it need to seriously suffer! That said I also had bought into the idea of a cascading filtering system. My Racor was 20 micron and then the Perkins filter was whatever it was …..finer.  Now after 50 hours or so bouncing and running the engine it was acting as it did two years ago, starved for fuel  every so often. Damn!  I will be switching  back to my old style of running a 2 micron in the Racors and extending the life of the Perkins filter. It is much easier to change the Racors than the Perkins filter. Much easier. So we are running the Perkins and every so often the engine revs a little. When the engine ever miss behaves it creates anxiety.  We do count on that getting us into harbors and out of tricky situations.
I am constantly amazed that with a 12 hour daylight target in which to make landfall I seem to miss that daylight more than I would like. We could motor like hell and maybe arrive at our harbor entrance an hour after Sunset. If we putt along as slow as possible we will be entering the harbor at Sunrise. We choose the later and with the engine ticking over we scratch our way to Opua.
When 12 nm from land as requested by NZ I call on SSB NZ Maritime and inform them that we are in their waters and expect to be at the custom dock tomorrow.  Later that evening with a better understanding of when we will arrive W/ calls on VHF and gives them a more accurate time.
I love making landfall in daylight. We make our way slowly up the river and the smells and sights are refreshing.  Not realizing there was current at the marina I tried to tie up to a midship cleat and use the engine to pull the boat to the dock.  The current was not having any of that.  We ended up doing a 180 near the dock and docking the opposite way we intended. It was a lousy landing at the customs dock. I feel like we are boating for our first time.  Oh well! Any time you dock and there is no damage and no injuries is a good experience docking.
A couple hours later Customs/Immigration and Biosecurity came.  NZ is “extremely cautious” with diseases and pests of all kinds. First we had our wrist slapped because they didn’t have the “pre arrival” form.  I had emailed it from Fiji but neglected to check my email after I had sent it. It didn’t go through.  Fortunately I had it on my phone to show the Customs officer. She also informed us that upon receipt they send out a confirmation email.  Fiji didn’t do that. I wasn’t expecting to receive a reply  believing this was just another hoop or formality they want, but they never check. I guess I was wrong.  🙂  While we’ve had the iPhones now for a few years I need to be more aware of how some things work.  I heard the “whoosh” of an email sent but the whoosh occurs when it is sending, not when it has been sent. Live and learn.
After the wrist slap Customs and Immigration went smoothly. Some forms to fill out and more forms to fill out, stamps in the passport and then we were legal. The boat was still another story.
The Biosecurity officer came and he had fun. We had two dozen eggs and had hardboiled some believing that killed anything dangerous. He said “Oh the hard boiled egg trick, nope those go”! 🙂  The eggs went, then the frozen meat, after that it was into checking lockers.  He had the flash light out to find things we didn’t know about but he did.  Popcorn- gone, fruit- gone, fresh vegetables- gone, honey- gone.  He checked other lockers wanting to see one that opens to … the bilge. There in sits a 200 l diesel tank. Ok! He checked other lockers asking about do we have this or that.  Finally, as an after thought he asked about vacuum bags. Yep, we got rid of our vacuum bag and all that was in it. All told, we lost about $100-$150 US in food supplies. Other boats we had talked to didn’t have quite the same loss. Some boats had frozen meat that the officer let slide, others not.  It appears our guy followed the letter of the law and we don’t fault him for that.  He actually presents some of the seminars in Fiji and Tonga for cruisers. Those attending know what is allowed and what not. We never seem able to be in the right place at the right time and have missed every seminar presented.
I asked him what now happens to the items he removed. He indicated they go to incendirator.  The contents are heated to 1000º C destroying everything.
Once he completed his tasks we were good, free to go. Monica from the Marina stopped by to let us know what slip we were heading to. We like to clean up the boat and rest as soon as possible. However, moving the boat to its final Opua resting place we heard one of the engine alarms sound and then silence. Uh-oh!  The good part is it did not remain on, the bad part is I didn’t know which alarm it was. I just thought it was the water alarm and I would investigate it once docked.  By the way, it turns out it is the “Low Oil Pressure” alarm.  A big “UH-OH” !  Once secured W/ and I look forward to doing…. nothing. With the lack of boat moment after 10 days at sea we have a new experience and need to adjust…by doing nothing.   Tomorrow we will wash the boat and begin the process of identifying what will be repaired / improved after 3 years crossing the Pacific.

Fiji…You Will Be Missed!

We Checked out of Vuda Marina. What a wonderful place. While the marina is not really a traditional marina, as it is a hurricane hole the people there are extraordinary!  Like Cheer’s they know you by name and are always glad to see you.  Even after being away months; when we show up “Dave! Wendy!, Welcome back”! Places like Vuda make Fiji hard to leave. But we must. Bureaucrats  don’t tolerate us boaters hanging around long even though we pay for boat work, pay for food, eat at local restaurants, do tourist stuff, and share / learn in their culture. However officialdom pushes us on. That and the wx. It is time. So we cleared out from Customs and have our passports stamped from Immigration.  We are moving on.

Leaving any country always seems to be difficult. We miss the people and the experiences, the familiarity and the routine.  We were leaving via Navula Passage which is the ships channel to Latoka and  Cruise ships to Denarau. What a ride.  The current was up to 3 kts against us.  The winds were against us but that was ok for a bit. Wind with current helps in keeping the waves flatter. So we had no standing waves that we could “bang” into…there. Once out of the pass the waves changed.  A two hour move added up to 4 hours and one we never want to repeat.

We left early in the am to  arrive at our final departure point before the enhanced sea breeze kicks in. With W/ at the helm (she is a much better helmsperson than I am) we dipped, slipped and scooped up more water than we have seen aboard in years. The last place we had that wild of a ride was a storm off of Trinidad. We had the boat moving at an average of about 3 kts. With the engine at cruising RPM’s we would normally be doing 6.2 kts.  The water would slap the bowsprit jostling the anchors making a racket we didn’t like hearing. Twice; once I saw it happen, we hit the next wave so hard one of the teak slats through bolted on the bowsprit ripped right off. Fortunately, the one I have needed to replace for a bit I never replaced. Now I have three teak pieces to replace.

Tough as it was, W/ kept us on course.  Her only point of wavering was when we were about an hour out of our final staging point she said “We could go back”. But realizing then that we would need to go through the same mess tomorrow to get off shore both of us said “no way”.  As we made our new harbor entrance our boat speed increased and we made harbor, anchoring in 4 m of water.  With the winds now blowing 20-25kts and the river current pushing us back the way we came, the anchor is keeping us where we wanted, the boat sat for the rest of the day sideways to the wind.

We finished stowing our gear realizing that we really left this am a wee bit unprepared. All awnings are now stowed below, poles in their deck bag, halyards where they belong and run true. We’ve pulled one solar panel off, tied in all the misc gear in the engine room, picked up and secured all gear below deck.

At roughly 8 am we’re outta here!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Due Diligence

We studied, we talked to the sailors that have completed this trip often. We watched the wx and we prepared the boat.

Our goal was to avoid a spanking on this trip. What Mother Nature told us often was  “go to your room” !

Some sailors said they simply go when they are ready.  We didn’t give them much credence although one of them has made the trip close to  30 times!  But then again, if you are  constantly abused then the abuse seems normal. They were not our gold standard.

The traditional  passage route is thus:  Watch the wx and look for the (L), (H), (L) ’s marching across the sea between Fiji and NZ.  When there is a large gap between them (you can see them ahead of time from Australia) you want to leave on the back side of a L.  Sail S and SW from Fiji with a nice reach.  This ought to bring you into the forward center of the H in a couple of days.  The center of a H has little to no wind. Crank up the Iron Genny (the diesel motor) and motor S  passing through the center of the (H). As the High moves off you will now have SW to W winds in which to sail on another reach to NZ.

That’s the idea. We watched and waited for about 3 weeks. We needed to have a good idea of what was happening because to check out of Vuda one needs a days notice.  After the notice we would do the final prep another day.  In the end  we need to see the weather roughly three days to time our exit just right.

We had the window, checked out of Vuda, did the final prep, and left. And what a trip it was. We weren’t spanked but we were definitely scolded.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Click your heels three times…

Click you heels three times and say “I want to go to Nz, I want to…”

That’s how we feel. We’ve been waiting, and waiting and then waiting some more. Things are looking better and better now and we hope this coming week we can head S.

While the wx itself hasn’t been that bad, the seas were problematic.  The swell was coming straight from where were were heading. Two meters at say 10-12 seconds between them sounds great. That is until you are heading straight into them. Then the 10 seconds become 2 and the boat is throwing up ocean all around, covered in salt and slowing down a knot or so.  For us, it was not looking all that enjoyable.

And since we had actually thought ahead this time we were not being told we needed to leave. The boat is cleared into the country until about February and we are good till I believe next September. Thus, the only thing effecting our choice of time is….the weather and the ocean. So we wait. Why bang our head against the wall if we don’t need to.

Now we know there will be times we will be uncomfortable out there. For us, there is no sense starting out uncomfortable.  We wait. We will turn the lights out when we leave. There are two other boats looking to go. I’m not a betting man, but I wouldn’t surprise me if we are the last to head to NZ from Fiji this season.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Lost

In academia 97% is a great score. On a boat, sometimes it’s not good enough. We keep quite a few spares aboard. You never know what you will need and where. Since we have over XYZ of spares we keep an inventory of them. The inventory is; I would guess 95-99% accurate.

Preparing to leave Denarau from Musket for our prep to NZ W/ noticed our house batteries were low. I didn’t understand how that could be since we run the generator twice / day. We use it to primarily to keep the refrigeration / freezer at the proper temperature. The by product of this procedure is the batteries stay close to fully charged.

In the am I checked the battery charge as the generator was running. Oh-oh! There was no charge! Damn!

No big deal just a PITA. I’ll pull out the spare and put it on, then get the older one rebuilt in NZ. We check the inventory. We carry over 1,000 different items on our boat spares inventory. This does not count tools, or fasteners. Nor does it count daily supplies for living such as food, clothing, books, etc. I ought to have two spare alternators listed (the 200 amp for the generator and the 100 amp for the Perkins. Neither are in the inventory! Damn! Now it is time to hunt through the spares in our lockers. We locate the smaller alternator we purchased in American Samoa. I have included an example of inventory one-locker in that locker in this post. We correct the inventory by adding the alternator and keep looking for the larger one. We have not yet found the alternator. I remember ordering it and paying for it. I can not for the life of me remember putting it on the boat and storing it. Oddly, I have believed for the last three years we had it as a spare. But I (we) can’t find the alternator. We pulled out, cleaned and replaced gear from most every locker in the next two days. and we still can’t find it. Plan B.

So… fortunately we are where there ought to be a place to repair and rebuild them. I took it to a shop in Lautoka recommended by another cruiser. The windings needed replacing, it needed new brushes, and a couple of other little things. Cost is about $200 ish US. Well, At least we will have it working for our trip to NZ! Once there I will get another replacement and make sure it ends up in my dirty little hands and stored on the boat.

Monday I take the alternator to Lautoka for repair. By Wednesday I have it back on the boat. Thursday it is on the generator and working…. not as it should. The shop indicated that the alternator needed to be rewound. Ok, rewind it. They had a machine to rewind it. Great. When I went to the shop I had him show connect the alternator up to make sure it worked. I didn’t want to make the trip for nothing! But the shop is not what I am use to. The employees were pleasant. The equipment was marginal. They didn’t have a dummy load to dump the current into. All they could do was connect it to a battery with a small light to act as regulator and a battery to read the voltage. The shop didn’t have the equipment to tell me if the alternator could put out it’s full amperage. There was charge and the battery voltage rose to 14 v. It took me a 1/2 day to get to the shop and return to the boat. In the end I have paid for an alternator that isn’t 100%. But, it is easy to reinstall and will keep the batteries up as we make our way to NZ. Hopefully soon. We are getting itchy feet.

And yeah, the database has been updated. Now it might be 99% accurate. What is missing? I don’t know. An old friend liked to say “You don’t know what you don’t know”! I believe the same applies here.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ovalau – Toberua – Suva


After snorkeling the Giant Clams we left early to Ovalau. We were sailing inside one of the barrier reefs and it was still quite bumpy. Winds were 15-20 kts and the seas were all over the place. What created them, where did they arise from? I don’t know, but the trip wasn’t comfortable.  We reminded ourselves that this move was only for a couple of hours. After that we would be in the lee of Ovalau.  I wanted to visit this island as it was the original capital of Fiji and a world heritage site. We had chosen a well protected harbor on the SW corner.  I wasn’t disappointed with the anchorage but I didn’t get to see the island and didn’t even get to shore. Most everywhere in Fiji we’ve had internet and in the harbor we had nothing. Yet the harbor was one of the nicest, safest we’ve been in here. Four to five meters  of water with a nice mud bottom, protection all around and a mangrove lined shore. In all honesty, I would think in a storm this would be much safer than the creek at Savusavu. The trees knocked down on the shore from Winston demonstrates how much damage a real storm can do anywhere it makes landfall. Rumor had it there was a resort here and it was cruiser friendly. Had we gone ashore we might have discovered it. but we didn’t see an easy route through the mangroves to the resort nor was the wx kind during our visit. We never left the boat!  In the harbor was an extremely weak cell signal and loading any internet pages were nigh on impossible.  Keeping abreast of the weather is a key element of safety for us sailors. 100 m out of the harbor we had good internet and easy wx updates. In the harbor – horrible.  We left Ovalau a day later. I was disappointed.

Ovalau Anchorage
We headed to Toberua. Friends on Quixotic had told us about this stop and it breaks the trip to Suva into two days as opposed to an overnight or long, long, lucky day.  We anchored in front of the resort in 60’ of water. During the last step of securing our anchor chain a boat from the resort came by.  They said we would be better off anchored nearer and to the side of the resort. It was shallower there and in the end we discovered we had been in their transit path.  Anytime; day or night, they received or delivered guests they would have to have gone around us.

 

View N from the comfort of the Resort

View N from the comfort of the Resort

Safely anchored we hopped in the dinghy and went ashore. There we met the Managers; wonderful people who invited us to use the facilities as we wished. They offered to setup an account for us to use the bar and restaurant if we liked. We liked.  A couple of cold drinks later we had met two other Sunset at Toberau, Fijivisiting couples staying at the resort. One from Australia, and the other returning from Comicon in Australia but residing in California.  Travelers we met seem to have enough in common

that instant bonds form.  We had  lunch and dinner with them sharing the lives of 3 couples from 2 continents. We were the spice -true vagabonds.  All too brief, we needed to leave and

Golf at Toberua Resort

Golf at Toberua Resort

head to Suva while they were flying back to their homes.
Exiting Toberua was nail biting. Channels are not well marked in Fiji and rescues far away or non existent.  We traversed a shallow section said to be about 2 meters deep at low water and

We didn't travel over land but our track and the most current chart puts us there.

We didn’t travel over land!

remember: our draft is 2 meters. Plus, in these areas charts are nothing like the US or even French Polynesia. This is 3rd world.   Once across the skinny water there was a run out to sea with a little deeper water and  a wider channel. The channel was made up of  some large coral patches in the middle with knee high  shallows near the edge.  Those we must avoid.  We left an hour after low tide on a flood. The current was against us but the rising water would assist should we “touch” bottom.  An hour later with nails shortened to the quick we finally made deep water. Seeking some sea room from a lee shore we motored a bit more and I began adding sail. The day was looking to be a good one but Noah had other ideas.
Mid morning  a small squall appeared on the horizon. Damn! Reduce sail, check our position, bring in the fishing line, get the foul wx gear and prepare. We don’t want to be dealing with a fish on the line with extra wind in our sails. The dangerous part is not the fish, it is a fish on the line if we start the engine. Getting monofilament line in a prop is a sure way to lose the use of your engine. All that and being on a lee shore brought my finger tips to my mouth again.  In the end we doused all the sails, fired up the iron genny (the boat engine) and motored towards our destination. Luckily it was a brief squall and 30 minutes later we had the sails out, fishing line out, and the Sun was out.  We were heading to Suva.  The ol’ saying was correct, “Wind before rain, soon to be sailing again”.

Sweet Mahi-Mahi

Sweet Mahi-Mahi

An hour out of the Suva Harbor entrance our fishing gear started screaming!  Maybe, finally, hopefully, a fish we can land and eat. And; it was. A nice young bull Mahi-Mahi.  We dragged it up to the boat and using Lison-Life’s method swung the fish over the lifelines into the cockpit where W/ tossed a towel over it and held it down.  After ensuring that neither of us could impale ourselves with the hook I cut the Mahi’s gills. This  allows him to bleed out and die in peace.  Even dead we could lose him. We tied him to the life lines to ensure that any boat movements would not find him sliding back to the sea. Cleaning would be later, once we had secured our place in Lami Bay.
Suva is a good size harbor and we were heading off to Lami bay next to the Novatel in the NW corner.  Tony; who owns Vuda Marina, has a home here and put in a few moonings that as a courtesy he provides to any sailor. Once there we settled in and cleaned up the boat. There is always work after any passage; even if the passage is just a few hours. We cleaned the fish and froze 90% of it.
The following day we put the dinghy in the water and headed over to the Novatel.  Quixotic had given us a Novatel employee to contact. We checked with the reception on tying the dinghy up by the pool and as so often we heard in Fiji,  “Siga Na Liga” – No worries.  We wandered around and then found Sami who was an extremely pleasant young man. He said on his day off he would help us with the laundry and getting supplies. We tried to beg off saying he didn’t need to go that far but he in the calm, relaxed Fijian way insisted.  In the end -we in the obnoxious, upfront American way paid him for his time and services.  He had insisted that his family would do the laundry!  While it is great to make new friends we didn’t feel that it was fair to accept his kind offer without renumeration and again we made sure his family was compensated.  What wonderful people Fijians are.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Even the Best aren’t Perfect

For some reason our water alarm stopped functioning. It is an Aqualarm and for the most part a real engine saver.  We added it in Panama. When the water flow stops the alarm screams at us. The light quit working after about 100 hours of use. So what. We never stare at the panel anyway and I don’t care about the light. But the alarm screaming definitely informs us the cooling water has stopped. We count on the alarm to let us know that the engines heat is removed. The water alarm sounds well before any engine over heating alarms and that saves the engine.  But, the alarm quit working.

I contacted Aqualarm and asked for advice. They indicated removing and cleaning Aqualarm Sensorwith WD-40. I don’t carry WD-40 on the boat and I can’t find any in Savusavu.  I will do my best to inspect and clean the sensor. Working with plumbing is not something I love. This is an adventure in how few curse words it takes to complete the repair.

Luckily, the removal went ok.  I shut off the seacock. We don’t want to flood our home and sink. Then I removed the switch emptying  the water from the hoses into a catchment container. W/ disposed of the salt water back into the sea.  Once removed we check over the hose clamps and replaced one that was suspect. Out of the three clamps, the one that looked in the best shape is one that failed.

W/ Cleaning the Aqualarm Sensor

W/ Cleaning the Aqualarm Sensor

We cleaned the sensor with Vinegar and Q tips.  There is a piece that slides back and forth on a spindle. As the water pushes down the piece moves indicating that we have positive water flow. We cleaned around it, moved the disk up and down several times and soaked it in Vinegar.  When the vinegar wash was clear I made sure the disk on the spindle moved freely.  Back together it goes.

Once I connected the sensing wires we checked to ensure the alarm was “screaming”. It did.  I finished the plumbing and tightened the hose clamps. Two small drips. I tightened again. One small drip.
I left the little drip hoping the older hose would snug up a little more over time. I am always concerned about over tightening clamps. One drip every minute or so will not sink the boat in one night.  Maybe a couple of months but not one night.  I left a paper towel under the drip to gauge the amount.  That evening we ran the generator and the alarm worked like new.  It screamed when the key switch was activated and once the engine started the alarm went off. Sweet!

The next morning I went in the engine room before running the generator. Working in the engine room after a diesel has run is like working in a sauna.  The paper towel was soaked. In the sump under the main engine exhaust there was about 10 liter of water.  Normally there is one or two liters underneath the Aqualift exhaust. This is due to the daily condensation of our refrigeration system.  The end result is we added 5-8 liters of water.  We clean the sump and I  attempt to fix the drip.

I identified again the drip off the pump. The other drip was no more. Good. One clamp worked and the other never closed the gap. The shields hose I am using is showing its age and getting stiff. That is why I was hoping with  a tight clamp the hose might adapt and close up any gaps. While the hose may have adapted some it didn’t seal any gap. The next step is to tighten a wee bit more.  And that is exactly what I attempted to do.

I tightened, then tightened some more, and finally tightened more until I realized that the clamp is broken. I can tighten all I want and the drip will not stop.  W/ digs out our box of clamps. We carry almost a 100 spare clamps sized for a 1/2” up to a 3”. One thing that surprises me is how many clamps we seem to replace in a year, every year.

Practical Sailor had a clamp evaluation in Feb of 2013 (page 18) that gave AWAB clamps the best score.  On a  boat when life depends on small things we take no risks. Our last purchase of replacement clamps were all AWAB.  The clamp that Failed AWAB clampjust failed; AWAB. It goes to show, even the best isn’t perfect. The screw piece that attached to the band let go.

I replaced it with, you guessed it, another AWAB.  I screwed it down. I still had a small drip. I tightened a bit more. Still a small drip. I went to my clamp bank. I found a narrow 3/4” clamp (not AWAB) to add to the hose. I was able to clamp it just inside the ridge at the end of the fitting. I tightened it.  No noticeable drip but a wet spot when I touch the towel to the fitting. I tightened both just a little more. Finally, dry. Bingo.  I leave my wrenches in the engine room. I will check later today and check the tightness tomorrow ensuring we have no leaks.  As a reward, W/ and I have massages this afternoon at Una’s.  Life in paradise. Can it get any better?  🙂
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long