Msc…

You know I always write behind. I like ideas to foment and percolate for a bit before I put electrons to a screen. And now, for me this is hard. I don’t know why. I feel like a man without a country. While I understand day to day existence in the US for most of my friends has not changed much, the feel we get from international news and US news is that the US is no longer the land of Lady Liberty. That and the two hurricanes: Harvey having already laid waste a large portion of Tx and Irma rearranging many places we’ve been and creating damage and havoc to the people we love and care about. My feelings are best described in another post written by a fellow cruiser who has followed us across the Pacific and is now in Australia (Escape Velocity).

As a child I was never effected by the cold. Skiing, tobogganing, hiking, hunting, etc all provided adventures during the winter months. As an FYI, in NZ it is winter now. And while boat work continues this is not an adventure.

All suspect paint removed.

Simon is our painter. He’s been doing an excellent job but I do find some things don’t go as I foresaw them. In the end those may well be to our benefit as he is the expert and I a lay person. He and his crew removed all the paint from the deck. He removed much of the hardware from the deck. YUCK! Some primer remained and then he re-primed everything and sanded. We had a mis-communication which may result in our new non skid not looking the way I envisioned. We’ll see. W/ and I now have a new process to deal with contractors. W/ will take notes. I will send the key points to the contract check to ensure they are in the contract. In the end, nothing effects the integrity

Deck Primed and Sanded

of the paint or the work. It is only an esthetic change and most likely I will be the only one noticing. But; when you pay a bucket of $$’s to a contractor you want it done right first and if possible your way second.

We’ve ordered new LifPo Lithium batteries for the boat. I do hope they will be delivered this month. BJ on Evenstar has a thorough discussion on them. Along with that we’ve contracted for an arch on the stern. Here we will add solar which will free us up from needing to run the generator day and night in the tropics. When helping Quixotic with their refrigeration I was able to secure a larger holding plate for the freezer. I hope I can get 24 hour hold over but will be satisfied with 18. We will have two of the largest hold over plates Seafrost makes in the freezer. In the cooler waters of NZ I expect we will get 24 hours. In the tropics we’ll see.

Clew Ready for New

We’ve contracted with Calibre Sails to repair our sails and make a new main. Dave looked them over and felt the Yankee Jib and staysail just needed some repairs, a new Sun Cover a couple of patches and stitching replaced. We did order a new Tanbark main sail. It will be flatter, have full battens, a loose foot, and hollow roach as well as being a 40 cm shorter in the foot. To do this we’ll cut the main boom down. This will protect my head as well assist in balancing and driving the boat better. Besides a sail maker Dave is also a sailor. He built new sails for Serge and JoAnn on Spirare. Serge is a pickier sailor than I am so with his recommendation at this point we are quite satisfied. And too, remember we tore up our mainsail track coming down here. We have the replacement track and after painting the mast will install it.

All of this work is occurring while we are off the boat. W/ has been great finding house sits for us using Kiwi House Sitters. We’ve had 4 sits so far and I doubt we’ll do more. We plan on moving back aboard in 2 weeks. We’ve cleaned and inspected the rigging of Elysium. We’ve painted the spreaders. We sewed about 2/3’s of the new dodger. Here I screwed up and didn’t order enough fabric from the states. None was available in NZ. Now we wait while I order and have shipped some more. However, it is all coming together and I am looking forward to getting back on a bed that rocks me to sleep.

Old Dodger ready for replacement

While much of this is going on we’ve worked hard on getting fit. We’re members of Anytime Fitness; one of the best gyms we’ve been associated with… ever. There are 2 caveats: 1) I miss the Nautilus machines and 2) having all the weights measured in kg makes fine adjustments especially for W/ difficult. As we get stronger we’re to increase the weights 5% but often the 10 kg or 22 lb’s is way more than the 5% increase needed.

We’ve worked in a comfortable tennis schedule too. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. For the most part our games are back on track and the play for W/ is excellent. She fits right in the middle of the play and it provides her a lot of opportunity to grow and learn. I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to join a mens group having been playing mixed doubles. Finally I’m about 100 % healthy, and slowly losing weight.

I was up to 230 lbs once back in the states and that SCARED THE HELL out of me. Currently I’m at 205 and still want to loose 10 more lbs. I think 195 will work fine. 🙂 Just think how much faster the boat will be with all that weight gone. 🙂

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Pack, Move, Pack, Move, repeat…

Pack up, move, unpack. Pack up, move, unpack. Repeat. That’s our life recently. Winter has arrived and with it our quest to run from the chill. Before we crossed to New Zealand we did our due diligence. We spoke to cruisers that had wintered over in NZ and searched for their secrets. Two of them; Spirae and Kiapa said the key was “house sitting”. With Irene’s recommendation, we joined Kiwi house sitters.
 

House sitting has provided us with two great places on which to hang out and yet get boat work completed. The first in Onarahi we played some

Our first charge, a 12 year old Dalmation.

and walked often a 12 year Dalmation; Elle. While in NZ Elle is considered a “Veteran”. She is in great shape and on walks she received praise from passerbyers. This sit was closest to the boat and doing any project we could leave our tools out and the boat a mess. When aboard we have a soft rule; clean the boat up before eating our mid day meal. Neither of us wish to live in a sty. Leaving tools out and the boat cluttered speeds up what ever project we are working on.

 
Onerahi Harbor View, NZ

Onerahi Harbor View, NZ

The Onarahi house had a great view and the owners are wonderful people. The sit went well but like most good things the end arrived. We had a 3 week time between this one and our next sit in Ruikaka so that required a move back to the boat. As luck would have it one of our tennis friends here needed a short home sit. Here we took care of a 16 yr old Golden Retriever, a few chickens and kept our eyes on the sheep. They had a fire place that was mesmerizing and warm. Down the road in Piruea Bay we were still only 15 minutes from the boat and tennis. Here we collected eggs, feed and walked the dog. Or I ought to say tried. Sparky wasn’t always up to the walk being a shade long in the tooth. But what

What a sweet farm dog.

a sweet dog. I’m sure in his day he was one of the best farm dogs one could have.

 
Pack up, move home, and ready for another sit. In Ruikaka we were going to get our cat fix. We enjoy dogs, owned a wonderful Afghan hound years back but cats now steal our hearts. This sit will burn some serious petrol. But it’s for almost 2 months and we hoped to get the boat painted and some stainless work completed. Snoppy is the cats name and how sweet he is. Nothing like out cat was, mildly demanding and always loving. Snoppy sits with W/ or I and enjoys massages and petting. Now we’re getting use to the new place and settling in. Weekly we’re traveling to the boat and tennis 5 days / week.
 
At this point in time we’ve pulled the mast and are removing the rigging. We move the rigging to Ruikaka for cleaning and inspection. We are on the schedule for hauling later this month. Sails are off and at the sail makers. A new mainsail and repaired suncover on the jib as well as some minor repairs to the stay sail. We’ve some more sewing to do so the machine is set up. We’ve ordered some new lithium batteries for the boat and are looking at a dri-fit of an arch for the stern. All in all, things are beginning to move and while it is cold out for us; by all appearances the work will keep us….. warm? Hopefully. 🙂
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Headin’ Home

We drove like hell getting to the Ferry. We thought we might stay in Blenham for the night then drive onto the ferry the next am. It wasn’t to be. Using Priceline we discover all reasonable motel rooms were full. I had thought we could look for a place to stay an hour or so before we arrived. I was wrong…. again! 🙂 Fortunately the place we had reserved a room that was full helped us locate a reasonably priced room in Picton. It meant another 30 minute drive, checking in and food for our weary bodies. We arrived in rain.
 
A lot of wind and rain. The night wasn’t looking peaceful. Fortunately hiding in a motel room behind layers of cement we are insulated from the real world. The following am we woke to the same conditions. Miserable wx; with a great deal of wind and rain. We packed up, gassed up, and headed to the ferry.
 
There we pulled up in line buffeted by wind and rain to wait yet again. An hour later we were told the trip across Cook Strait is canceled. Come back for the afternoon crossing. They compensated us with some free food on the trip. Yippee! NOT. The wx indicated a gale was brewing out of the south. Crossing in our boat would have been rougher than we ever would have liked, in the ferry it was quite doable. On the board at the ferry dock they display when they won’t go and when they won’t take passengers but will take cargo. Today was a one step away from not taking passengers. For W/ and I, it would still be more comfortable than some days we’ve experienced aboard Elysium.
 
Close your eyes and walk down the aisle on the ferry and you would look like a drunk. Open the eyes and hang on to the rail – all was good. I didn’t see any passengers sick. Most passengers stayed in their seats and as travelers anywhere many were lost in their world of music, videos, and podcasts.
 
We arrived in Wellington to the same wx except dark. We drove off the ferry and with Waze we were able to locate our evening’s lodging. We wanted to do the tourist thing in NZ’s capitol before heading further north. We hit up their national museum, Te Papa, which was hugely awesome and we highly recommend. That visit took up most of the day but we had a few hours left. We tried the Planetarium – closed. We came to the idea of visiting their Parliament. I figured they would want to seek my deep pool of wisdom. I was disappointed! 🙂 But we were lucky. We arrived just as a tour was beginning. From the basement to the top of the building we were able to see how New Zealand’s government worked. We watched one session on the floor. Our guide pointed out one American was elected by Kiwi’s and sits in the general assembly.
 
Gail and Tony Sneaking up on US

Tony and Gail Sneaking Up on Us.

From Wellington we headed north. Stopping in Taupo; a resort community on the Great Lake Taupo. The lake exit had an exciting fall of water we had to see. That was what Cetacea told us. We’ve not seen Tony and Gail in 3 years. Not since we left French Polynesia. They had recently returned to NZ and were starting their auto adventure to the S Island. We would rendezvous here, share some places we stayed and visited and hear of their adventures. The sailing community is akin to a small US town with the only difference being we’re spread across the globe.

 
After Taupo we headed to John and Penny’s farm. We met John in Fiji and he’d invited us to spend a few days with him and his wife Penny. They lived near Hobbiton where we hoped to see Frodo and met Gandolf. With directions on the Waze and guidance from John on navigating the farm roads we arrived early afternoon. Penny was a hoot. Full of vim and vigor she rolled with my subtle acerbic comments and even threw some of them back at me. John is quiet and unassuming. He chuckles and thinks upon my crazy comments. Penny is right there with me, never missing an opportunity to point out how snarky I may be. We toured their farm, spent some time at their son’s high tech milk cow farm, visited a predator safe Kiwi sanctuary, and shared great food and stories.
 
Years ago, John had a cow with a bad eye. The vet removed the eye and the cow seemed none the worse. A year later the other eye became infected and she became blind. John needed to bring three of the cows up to the barn, one of them the newly blinded cow. In bringing the cows to the barn she (the blind cow) had to cross a stream and walk along a narrow ridge. At a stream the two with sight crossed easily while the blind one balked. She wasn’t going to cross the stream. And a 100 kg man wasn’t going to move a 1,000 kg cow. As John thought about what to do, one of the two cows that had traversed the stream turned and “talked” (moo’ed) to the blind cow. The blind cow didn’t move. A few seconds later the cow with good vision, walked back across the stream and began nudging the blind cow across. None of this at John’s urging. Soon the blind cow was across the stream. As they began their trek along a narrow path on the mountain side John noticed the blind cow again hanging back, unsure if she ought to go forward or not. The cow that had helped her across the stream nudged and spoke to her, walking beside her, outside of her on the path. Do animals have empathy? You tell me.
 
To ensure we don’t end up smelling like fish visiting longer than three days we spent one day visiting Hobbiton. Hobbiton is the movie community where Frodo and his friends lived in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We met the owners in Fiji and hoped to connect with them but it didn’t turn out that way. However we partook of the tour and discovered more movie magic. If you look at some of the pictures from W/’s gallery you’ll see in one how tall I look. Yes, I will admit Gandolf was a distant relative! 🙂 In other photos I’m not as tall. They fabricated the Hobbit homes to different sizes and while they look alike they are not. Some are smaller meant to make individuals next to them look larger and others are larger to make the actors look small, a little like Hobbits.
 
We returned to John and Penny’s for a final evening before the drive back to Elysium. There we met a young man; Simon,  from Europe wanting to work in NZ and as John and Penny were friends of his parents they offered to house and help him in his job search. If they are indicative of Kiwis it is no wonder the country is often thought of as a paradise. For us the people and the vistas represent nothing short of paradise. The temperatures… not so much.
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 

A Wish to Come True

Heading back to the Glaciers. W/ and I wanted to hike on one. We’ve lived in the tropics and sub tropics for so many years, glaciers were an oddity. But, 70% of the flights / hikes on the glaciers have been canceled this year. We’re going to take one more chance, two more days. It wasn’t that far out of our way. The road north from Christchurch was closed by an Earthquake a few years ago. This closure ensure we needed to cross Arthurs Pass to Greymouth anyway. From Greymouth is was a short days trip to Franz Joseph.

Arthurs pass was an easy adventure. A hundred years ago traveling across the Southern Alps was a true adventure. Each trip risked life and limb taking upwards of 10 days to 2 weeks. That time schedule was only once the route was known and the weather clear. Today; for us, it

How to Die hiking Arthurs Pass NZ

required less than one days drive to clear the Summit and see the Tasman Sea. We stopped near the peak at the Department of Conservation (DOC) station and did the tourist thing. The DOC station actually tells people how to die: 1) Don’t tell anyone you’re are hiking up here, 2) Avoid checking on the weather, 3) Take minimal gear/supplies, and finally 4) die in a lower elevation. The fourth note is to ensure that they can find and return the body to next of kin! The blunt language is refreshing.

The Kia Parrot is said to the be smartest of all parrots. However they may also be the riskiest! :)

The Kia Parrot

The Kia Parrot inspecting our Car

On the way down we came across the ever inquisitive Kia parrot. They too know very little fear and will pick at and destroy most anything they come across. We spent a few minutes enjoying their boldness but neither of us wished to test our fortitude. Offering them an arm to climb upon or even the car to walk on. They might well have decided a piece of our skin or clothing, or worse even our ear lobe was something to be picked at and absconded with.

We arrived in Hokatika early afternoon. The tourist station; an iSite, was open and we hoped to make a new Heli-Hike reservation. I-Sites are a wonderful asset to traveling NZ. They assist in reservations and information. With reservations made we set out to find a new accommodation and some jade. Yep; W/ hasn’t forgotten. Our AirBnB host in Nelson had suggested a Mauri artist that had a shop by the river. Andrew grew up in Hokatika. That shop / store / artist studio would be the place to eliminate the middle man and find a piece that “spoke to” W/. Jade is said to find you, not the reverse.

I don’t know if W/ heard the jade or just decided on a a couple of pieces. But we left Hokatika with more goodies and less money than we had arrived with. On to the glacier.

By now the tourist season was winding down and we were able to score a nice motel just outside of town. The two restaurants we came across in Franz Joseph were AWESOME. One in town; the Blue Ice, and the other at our motel: the Franz Joseph Oasis, a short drive out of town.

The following day with baited breath we entered our Heli-Hike headquarters. No guarantees…yet. We did receive a verbal list of the fine print: If we make it to the Helicopter pad but don’t go – full refund, if we fly but don’t land, 50% refund; if we land but don’t hike, 10% refund. Were we alright with that? What choice did we have if we wanted to hike… on the glacier? Ok. But; we still waited. Around noon they called us up and gave us our final clearance. We filled out more forms. Next of kin. Dr’s numbers. Meds we might be on. general medical issues, height, weight, etc . Then the final interrogation; can you walk with gear for a couple of hours. Duh! We were lead back to the changing room. They provided all the supplies, water proof jacket, pants, warm gloves, and the most important; cramp-ons. The clothes were designed to aid in surviving a night on the glacier should the weather turn to crap. We changed and then moved at a fast walk to the heli pad. Time to get going. W/ was a wee bit nervous never having been in a helicopter before. As expected I was re-assuring…. It’s easier than an ocean passage, smoother than a car in a parking lot, etc. She worried until we lifted off. Then I was vindicted and found correct. A man of experience. 🙂 I rode in a helicopter once as a kid! 🙂

 

Our Fellowship of the Glacier

On the glacier we looked down on the world. We entered a Lord of the Rings universe when the fellowship had crossed the mountain heading to Mordor. Here too; we could see the Tasman Sea 40 km away. Only a few 1,000 years ago the glacier had stretched all the way there. Now with Global Warming it was receding every year, the face only a couple km away from our landing pad.

Eleven of us were in this group, eleven and a guide. After donning our crampons we received walking instructions. Away we went competing with the average snail. Footing must be solid and the crampons driven into the ice. To make it through the crevises we needed to walk foot to foot.

The Crevasse Squeeze

Our guide called it pin stepping. One crevasse was so narrow and had a slight bend I thought I would get stuck. I wiggled and turned, moved up and down, at last able to get my legs through the opening. I could feel panic wanting to rear up. Patience, deep breaths, and the saving thought was that our guide carried a pick and most likely he could enlarge the opening allowing me through. Yet I was still fearful. I didn’t like the idea of a pick swinging close to my knees. I love my knees! Minutes later I and the rest of the group made it through. An hour or so of walking and sliding along the blue ice we took a break in front of a mountain cliff. I say in front but we were still an hour hike away. We filled our water bottles with ice cold glacial run off and zero contamination. No life lives up here. We are intruders.  W/ put together a short slide show of our trip to Franz Joseph.

We moved back down the 100 meter thick sheet of ice witnessing some of the magic of mother nature. She creates caves and crevasses as water turns from a solid to liquid state. Back at the helipad we remove our spikes (helicopter pilots are not fond of having them inside the bubble) and prepared for the descent. Another smooth ride and we’re back at Franz Joseph returning our gear. Everyone is full of smiles.

For our post mortem W/ and I head to our favorite Franz Joseph restaurant, the Blue Ice. We forget how many calories burn hiking in freezing temperatures. For me a succulent lamb chops awaits and W/ looks forward to salmon. We return to our lodging and sleep well. The following day we head north. North to home. North to warmth; for it is getting a mite chilly here on the S island. With one long days drive we expect to be in Picton and the following day cross the Cook Strait to Wellington . There we will visit John and Penny; Frodo and Pippin (Hobbiton) before finally reaching our floating home.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ps  I know it has been awhile since I last posted. I am sorry. I hope it’s only the cold weather here in NZ that is causing my body to want to hybernate.  Once we return from the trip I will mostly be posting once / month untill we are out on the water again.

Across the Bottom

The day was overcast. We were hungry. We had just returned across the lake. Time to move. Time to head north.

Our trip across the lake.

Leaving Fiordland.

But; first things first, get the car, find food and then drive. The trip was about 5 hours. We hoped the roads would be a little easier on the East coast. We were leaving the southern Alps and heading to Dunedin, NZ. The only restaurant we could find was a smallish cafe. Entering where half the crew we just travel with had already arrived. Not fancy, no china, no silver, good down home filling food. We stuffed our faces and left contented.

The drive was uneventful. Arriving in Dunedin was eye opening. A big city,  a University town. Traffic lights and yes; traffic. We climbed up the side of a mountain to our new digs. AirBnB’s have been the main source for our overnights. Here we would spend a couple of days to explore this Scottish settlers town.

The following am we began walking into town. Our host said it was about 45 minutes. NOT! By the time we got down the hill (mtn) we were already 15 minutes into it. The wind was brisk and right in our faces. 15 minutes later we came upon a sign indicating that the town center was 7 km further. We turned around and took the car.

Parking in Dunedin was a challenge. We drove around several blocks and 20 minutes later found a spot, parked and paid for our time. We grabbed a snack and wandered to the train station and checked out the day trips.

At Dunedin station we took a step back in time. Beautiful brick, mosaic floors, and stained glass windows. All this with the passing of trains just outside. We picked a 4 hour tour for the following day. Out and back through some of the most remote scenery in NZ. We would travel over huge trestle bridges, hug steep mountain sides, and cross multiple rapids. We enjoyed the trip and were glad it was only a few hours. It would have been wonderful to cross the entire S. Island by train; but, we didn’t know what to do with the car then.

Wendy attempting to show the pitch of the road: Baldwin Street, Dunedin

Baldwin Street, Dunedin

Back in Dunedin we wandered around. There we discovered beautiful murals painted by graffiti artists. There are close to 30 of them around the town center. We came close to seeing 20 or so. We hiked what is said to be the steepest road in the world: Baldwin Street. We’ll miss this city, vibrant, energetic, and beautiful. But we must continue on; winter is coming and the S. Island is much colder than the N.

We drove to Christchurch. Home of a most recent “big” earthquake”. While it was close to a decade ago, people talked about it as if happened last year. And for them and their experience it may have seemed so. Having lunch in a local restaurant our neighbor started up a conversation with us. Asking about America and then telling us of his experience during the quake. Some people lost everything. Others with insurance came out ok but had a lot to deal with. Some businesses that had replacement insurance came through smiling. But the people, they were still affected. On NZ’s public radio station they discussed some recent earthquake research. The results indicated that problem solving skills years after the event were often deficient. In other words; they were not yet back to “normal”.

In the afternoon we headed up the gondola for a panoramic view of this coast. Rising up through the clouds we were lucky enough they cleared in time to provide a perfect view of Littleton and Christchurch. While on the mountain peak, some parasailers came up the gondola. They walked out to the side of the mountain and ran till their sails filled. They made the trip down to Christchurch at speeds up to 100 km / hour. A couple of minutes later they landed, packed up their sail, and headed back to the gondola ready to go again. They purchased year passes for the gondola. Whenever the weather is right they ride to the top, flying like the birds back down. Not a bad way to adventure. But on this day there were no women and one member told me that there is only one in the club. Not sure if the women were too smart for this adventure or simply; cautious.

Afterwards we drove to Littleton where the earthquake epicenter was closest. A large part of this town’s center is now comprised of holes in the ground. Holes where the buildings had stood. We played tourist and walked the local marina. Marinas on this coast are small to non existent. We’re so far S, that the weather is getting to be rather extreme and the boating season short. We still find pleasure in seeing other boats and talking to other “yachties”. After a simple lunch on the water we headed home to our evenings rest. Tomorrow we head back towards the glaciers. We haven’t yet given up on the heli / hike. That and W/ hasn’t found a piece of jade that speaks to her. She’s hoping; in Hokitika she will.

Wendy has put together a photo essay of our time in Dunedin and Christchurch.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Glacier Country and Fiordland, NZ

We left Blackball having had a wonderful three days rest. Blackball is home to one of the worst coal mine disasters in recent history. and is often described as the birth place of the labor movement. Here coal laborers fought for a guaranteed 15 minutes to eat their lunch during the work day. About the same time educators have today to eat lunch! 🙂

We drove S to Hokitika; jade capitol of New Zealand. W/ was planning on acquiring a new piece of jewelry here. Elysium has physical limits on the nicknacks we purchase. To compensate W/s conned me into accepting jewelry. It is small and stores in the smallest places. As with anything purchased in exotic places we still have stories for each item. Luckily this time we were moving through the Jade capital

Blue Pools, South Island – NZ

and not stopping. But I knew, somehow a new piece of Jade (or two) will make it’s way on the boat. 🙂

The trip form Hokitika to glacier country had grandiose views, narrow roads, mountain climbs and drops, all with hairpin turns. Luckily W/ consumes enough caffeine in the am to remain alert for most of the drive. As it wears off I am called to the driver’s seat for the rush to the finish line.

Glacier country was inspiring and disappointing. W/ had scheduled a helicopter glacier stomp (hike in

Franz Joseph Sunset

US terms). We were to fly up to the glacier in a chopper and with a guide wander around the area for a couple of hours. We arrived at the desk: No flights this morning! We rescheduled. We drove the few minutes to the Franz Joseph car park and walked to as close as we could get to the base of the glacier. We walked past beautiful glacial water falls, over freezing cold creeks, and small glacial moraines. The hills of rock would often be a

Fox Glacial Face Walk

challenge stomping up and down. My activity app for the day ended up indicating we had walked up and down 50 floors and strode 20k steps.

Returning to the heli/hike office we tried to check in for our rescheduled afternoon flight. Cancelled! Damn! We put ourselves on the list for the following am and then drove to Fox. The Fox glacier stomp brought one closer to the glacial base. We walked the entire way engulfed in a cloud of

Fox Glacial Face

white. Yeah, it was misting all around us. At this point we didn’t have high expectations but being stubborn we stomped on. We arrived at the observation platform 400 m from the glacier’s base. Hidden by clouds very little of the glacier is visible. Another hiker said 10 minutes ago she could see nothing of the glacier. Now a few parts were showing. By all indicies the clouds were clearing. We waited. We chatted others up and we waited.

An hour or so later the majority of the cloud had moved off and we had a

Fox Glacial Face Walk

great view of the massive ice sheet. So massive that in places it is over 100 meters thick. So heavy that chunks of mountain are ripped away and

The Glacier View on the trail.

carried for km. Thousands of years ago the glaciers reached all the way to the Tasman sea 40 kms away. In recent decades the glaciers had been static. Near the end of the 20th century they began to recede further; a result of global warming .

That evening we stayed in Fox and planned for one last chance at a glacial hike scheduled the following am. Sadly it was not to be. No helio flights for the last two days. Disappointed we drove on. But first a

Lake Mathison, NZ

stop at the Lake Matheson. If you are lucky the snow covered Southern Alps will show as a backdrop. We met Frank on the lake stomp (a Kiwi) who has been here dozens of times over the years still looking for that perfect picture.  We enjoyed the hike and the views. We did not get the “perfect” picture.  Milford and Doubtful Sounds were next on our list and several hours away.

Fiordland is a World Heritage Site. Both Milford and Doubtful are listed as must-sees by world travelers. While most days I feel I’ve seen enough water and mountains W/ had a real hankering to visit here. We arrived in Te Anau after two days of driving. We passed other tourist places like Queenstown and Wanaka but stayed only to rest. In Te Anau we would

Fiordland, NZ

be the farthest S. we’ve ever been…in our lives. Closer to the S pole than the equator. The temperatures seemed to reflect that position. Most evenings I had on all the warm clothes I had brought. Well too, all the warm clothes I owned.

We signed up for a day trip to Milford and an overnight to Doubtful. Both fiords have an abundance of National Geographic views and waterfalls. Overhanging cliffs created by ice freezing in cracks and breaking huge chunks of rock away. Water depths were in the 10’s of meters right up to the shore line. Anchoring is only possible in a couple of the bays. In one such bay they have created an observation barge dubbed the “Discovery Center”. There is a mini museum atmosphere with a viewing deck 20 meters below the surface. As well as for tourists

Discovery Center-Millford Sound, NZ

this platform is used by scientists to study the underwater environs of the sounds. To populate the trays with life they filled them with sand from the sounds bottom and left the trays on the bottom for a couple of years. There the local life forms found a ready environment to inhabit. After established they raised / moved the trays to the Discovery Center. I loved being able to see the underwater world without donning a wet suit and jumping into 15º C water. A wee bit too cold for my bones.

Two days later we were on a trip to Doubtful Sound. People described the sounds (actually fiords) as being dramatically different from each other. To my untrained eye they are quite similar. Again the high cliffs, overhanging ledges, cold water, various bays and numerous waterfalls (all dependent on the amount of rain). This was an overnight cruise; a smallish boat with 11 guests and two crew. We would motor out to the fiord entrance, fish for Blue Cod, Kayak, dive for Lobster (not us), and marvel at the scenery. In our group were three traveling physicians from England who felt the need to bring a case of wine. With everyone well lubricated via alcohol, conversations and stories flowed. Real or imaginary the stories were fun. Much of the food we ate had come from our day’s fishing and diving adventure. Fresh sashimi, baked cod, and steamed lobster ruled the evening. On a mooring for the evening, bug free we slept till the crack of dawn. We awoke when the captain started up the engines to begin our journey back.

Oddly, while I found this leg of the trip interesting I’ve most missed the tour of the Manipouri power station. The power station is underground. The lake is 400 m above sea level and supplies a large percentage of power to NZ. But the station is closed for repairs / maintenance and would be for few months. Once we reached the dock we returned across a mountain divide and then had another boat ride across Lake Manipouri. There we located our car and hit the road ….again. Heading this time up the coast to Dunedin (not the Fl city).

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Road Trip: South Island

We left Wellington in the early am to reach the car / people ferry in time. We joined the queue and

Loading on the InterIslander Ferry, Wellington, NZ

waited for directions. The ferry was expect to be full. Full of cars and people. Today we would cross from the North Island of NZ to the South. The trek would take about 4 hours by boat. There are no bridges nor tunnels from one to the other. As this is an active tectonic area I doubt either would last long. The previous major earthquake a few years ago moved the S. Island 5 meters (about 18‘) closer to the North Island. I imagine a tunnel or bridge would have become non functional and resulted in many deaths. As it was, Highway 1, one the NE coast arteries on the South Island became impassable and six years later it is still out of commission. The community it feeds remained isolated for quite some time. It required a couple of months of work to open a smaller service road.

We parked as if Tuna in a can. Getting out of the car was a squeeze even for us and we made our way to the passenger decks. There we discovered more tuna, oops people. After walking the decks looking for a place to lounge we were a wee bit put out. There was no comfortable looking place left. However, we came across a ticket upgrade that allowed us access to a lounge with plenty of seating. And for only 15 bucks! The upgrade gave us a $10 commissary voucher. We would have indulged in food anyway, so for 5 extra bucks we could travel in comfort.

Wendy’s new friend!

We arrived in Picton ready to roll. Squeezing back into the car we left the boat and never turned back. Like a line at Disney one doesn’t leave feeling that getting back into it would be easy. Leaving Picton we flowed with the other vehicles all heading to the S island and never stopped.

Passing vineyards after vineyards, some with grapes covered in 1,000’s of square meters of netting we navigated tight turns and narrow bridges to Nelson.

The bridges in NZ are of two types. Those we are all familiar with and those not; one lane bridges. For one lane bridges the roads approaching narrow and one side has right of way. Signs are posted before the bridge and directions painted on the pavement. If two cars approach at near the same time one car can continue while the other waits. I know it sounds a bit confusing but the system works well.

We arrived at our AirBnB mid afternoon. The weather wasn’t looking good. We were planning on hanging here for a couple of days anyway and schedule more of our trip S. Luckily; Rena and her partner Andrew our, AirBnB hosts, was born in the South Island and offered suggestions for our stops. First on our list was the Center of NZ hike. It was a smallish mtn in Nelson. While W/ and I huffed and puffed our way up the hill for a sweet view of Nelson, Andrew put together another 20 some stops we might enjoy on our way S. As we only planned three days at a time he suggested stops for the next 3 days.

Pano from the Center of NZ, Nelson

Returning from our hike (called a stomp in NZ), we cleaned up and Andrew made a presentation using Google Earth and Apple TV. He pulled up the route he worked on and talked about the various stops with a few Google Earth Images. Then we copied them to a thumb drive and the following am set about for the drive S. Oh how sweet technology is.

Pancake Rocks, South Island, NZ

Using his routes as a guide we made our way to our another scenic overlook. New Zealand if famous for it’s variable weather. At one iSite (NZ tour guide information centers) the booking agent told us NZ has every season every day. The comment is not quite fair. We’ve not yet had snow on a daily basis but I would agree we often have had all three seasons in a day; rain, fog, Sun, cold and warm. Our first scenic view was all white. 🙁 A cloud had settled in around the lookout.

Wendy having a Swinging Good Time

Dave over the Gorge

Never daunted we drove on. And as predicted by the iSite agent the day began to warm and the clouds cleared. Not wishing to do a blow by blow of our stops I will say we had plenty to see and do. For our three day journey we walked a swing bridge and I rode a wire rope crossing a river. (W/ decided not to try that adventure.) Later; Seals were abundant and the vistas with emerald colored water artistically inspiring. There were rocks stacked like Pancakes and huge chunks of the Earth pushed upward over 2 meters. We stomped a few trails and witnessed the ever continuing results of tectonic activity.

We found some rest from the daily grind in Blackball. There we hung with some Kiwi friends we met in Fiji. Lauren and her partner Neil live here. Lauren has cruised extensively with her family in the Caribbean and crossed the Pacific with them. Neil is a Caver, photographer, and they publishing a book Cave Exploring New Zealand. I do believe they offer some discounts yet for pre – orders! Currently I understand it is being printed now.  They worked and we played. One day we took the sweetest Black Lab (Kaha) on a stomp to a waterfall; which we never found. Of course Kaha didn’t care. He was happy to be out nosing through the brush as opposed to lying in wait on the back porch. Before we smelled of aged fish we moved again. Saying goodbye is never easy and cruisers are always saying good bye or in the french version; Au Revoir….until we met again.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Playing…

While there is some downtime in our car trip, I am working on the display of the blog. Looking for one theme I am satisfied with and presents “my way”. 🙂  Thus in the next few days or weeks; depending on how fast or lucky I am, you will see changes in how and what I say is presented. Not to worry. I know, and I guarentee; it will not be perfect! – Cheers

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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