diagram. Our boat is / was mostly old school. All charging and load sources were brought to individual power posts. Whichever battery bank I wanted to use were switched at the panel and run to the power post. That was NOT what I needed to do with the lithiums. ( Side note on Orion: I’ve needed to communicate with the company via email a couple of times and they have been excellent in responding in a timely manner and answering my questions completely)
Once completed I called Scott and scheduled a time that we could actually bring the system online. One item I was missing was a cable that connected the Orion BMS to my computer. Well, that and the BMS configuration file. Scott had both. I had ordered the cable from TradeMe; the eBay of NZ and was waiting for it’s arrival. But I still needed / wanted Scott to check everything and have the system functioning right the first time. He checked the wiring, checked that all the connections to the Lithium cells were correct, checked that the load and charge switches worked and then made the final connection. After that we checked to make sure my Ample Power EMON read the same voltage that the battery pack indicated, ran the charger and bingo… we were up and running. He advised us to run the charger up to where we had set the batteries for full and then I would be all good to go.
Now I’m depressed. Keeping this blog going is not an easy task. Not easy for a cruiser that has no job and no desire to acquire a job. Keeping the boat functional is work enough. I had written this blog only to have somehow deleted it, or saved an empty file or restarted the computer. So… here I go again.
We were tired of waiting. Minerva isn’t our cup of tea. Maybe if we had planned on hanging there for a month and had everything functioning on the boat it may well have been better. Six to ten hours a day of bouncing around was not our concept of comfort. Not having the dinghy inflated and powered up limited our mobility; not that there were many places to go. Thus, daily we were watching the weather.
We download GRIB files twice a day hoping for that magic forecast. We listen to Gulf Harbor Radio (GHR) every am. David is a retired meteorologist that is also a sailor. He broadcasts his take on the sailing conditions in this area of the world from NZ 6 days a week . To date he has not indicated a perfect window for heading where we wanted to go. We wait.
With no great sailing window we began looking for a motoring window. Neither of us love motoring. However we both prefer motoring to sailing in storm conditions. The sky didn’t look great this am. There was a rain mass west of us and a little to the north. The winds were….. ZERO. We knew we would have to motor to Fiji if we left today. Fiji was not where we had intended to go but we loved Fiji, the people, the anchorages, the food, all were to our liking. So we would change plans and head there; then on to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
We pulled anchor and motored out of Minerva. Exiting was a non event. The eddies and currents generally in the pass were not there today. We kept motoring.
We pointed the bow north right into the dark mass of clouds. While dark it wasn’t worrisome. Ahead the rain appeared to come straight down indicating either wind against us, with us, or non existent. It rained some. The wind was nothing. The autopilot that we connect to the wind vane worked flawlessly. Heading north we listened to the iron gennie (diesel) pound away at the break neck speed of 6 kts.
For three days and nights we expected this. Sailboats are not motor boats. We don’t do well when motoring because we roll across the vertical. We lean 5 degrees one way and 3 degrees the other as the waves roll by. Sailing, we heal but the angle stays quite consistent so our bodies adapt quite well. Power boats and especially large powerboats have stabilizers that work to keep the boat from rolling one way and then the other. Our stabilizers are the wind and sails. No wind, no sails, we roll.
It was uncomfortable enough I didn’t drag a fishing line. We motored along, reading, sleeping, keeping the boat on course. All was well in our micro world. Everything worked as it should. Close to Fiji things started to change. The water became bluer, there was more life in the sea and the air. We saw birds and of course every once in awhile trash. Two nights before we arrived in Fiji one large storm cell loomed off to the west. W/ was off watch – asleep. I watched as lightening struck everywhere in the Western sky. For the most part we’ve been lucky or I’ve wired the boat correctly. We’ve not yet been struck but with lightening it is always a gamble. I knew strikes have occurred as far away as 60 miles from the storm center. Even when we are a good bit away from the storm the strikes cause concern. I timed the difference between he lightening strike on the ground and the thunder clap. The nearest strike was 10 miles away. Not a comfortable distance but not the worst. After that close strike the storm moved off behind us and we kept getting further and further away. W/’s off watch was over and I updated her on the situation. I went below to sleep.
The following day we spoke with sv Second Wind. They left a couple hours after we did and were not as lucky. The storm moved right over them. Yet as most often the case they had no damage. Both of us were heading to Fiji. The following day we hoped for a good night’s rest; one without the constant boom, boom, boom of a diesel running. And as in Minerva, offshore I check the wx every day. There was to be a glob of 35 kts of wind between Fiji and Tonga that we wished to avoid. While we had 3 potential landfalls; Denerau, Suva, and Savusavu the nearest safe harbor from this “crap” was Suva. We choose the nearest option.
The day dragged on as we were closing in on Fiji. We could now hear VHF communications and we were too fast. I know that is an oxymoron considering we travel about the speed of an average jogger. But at the speed we were going we would be arriving at Suva in the dark. While Suva is a commercial harbor we don’t want to enter a developing nation’s harbor at night – the first time. Any navigational marker broken would be a problem for us. The smaller fishing boats used by individuals in Fiji often don’t run or even have lights. Given the possibiliity of arriving earlier then we want we try to slow down. When I feel a little puff of air on my face I said “Let’s sail”.
What a joy it is to turn off the engine and let mother nature move our boat. The calm serenity of Elysium moving through the water under the power of the wind is what our soul desires. We weren’t going fast, 3- 4 kts but we were moving. And move we did for about 3 hours. Then the breeze died and the sails hung like the dead. The sails furled we start the engine. We motored slowly towards Fiji but we would still be too early. As night descended and as we closed on Fiji we decided to lay ahull. We shut the engine off and floated for a few hours. I calculated the time we would need to arrive in Suva in light and we waited. We still keep watch even though we are not moving. You never know what can happen out here. I am always amazed at how many times on the open ocean we’ve had to change course to avoid another ship. In many cases we would have the right of way. But, we never play chicken with ships. NEVER. Late night we start up the diesel; again, and motor into Suva Harbor. We arrive at dawn.
Anchored; we call the Suva Yacht club. They provide the service for the officials to come to the boat. They then inspect the boat, check us over (visually), and provide the paperwork for us. We are now legal to be here. Before noon we are legal. Oh do we look forward to a good night’s sleep. Little did we know.
Three o’clock came and he showed up! I was ready. We headed out and I explained my new thinking. I showed Charlie where I thought I was anchored and the way we were when the wind was blowing. We started dragging the grapnel. Overboard the grapnel went and line paid out. We towed it from the bow, slowly moving backwards while iSailor charted where we were. Charlie watched the display and we picked up a couple of chunks of plastic. Stop, haul in the grapnel, clear the flukes and keep going. After we were far enough away we picked it up and moved again to where we could drag across the expected lay of the chain. Our main anchor system has 300’ of 3/8” High Test chain.
Prelude: This post is out of sequence. I want to write it while fresh in my mind. As I add the offshore posts I will date them correctly but post in front of this before correcting the dates.
We arrived in Fiji. The GRIB’s showed off shore winds in the 20-30 kt range and we were happy to be here and anchored in Suva. We arrived in the am and by early afternoon we had received 5 individuals to formally complete the paper work. They were, Health, Biosecuirty, Immigration, Yacht Club launch driver, and what seemed like two trainees. All were very professional and all went well.
Second Wind offered to dinghy me to shore. I bought a small amount of petrol for our dinghy engine and disposed of our garbage. Very little of our trash is tossed overboard and we avoid carrying gasoline on passages. Gasoline is highly flammable and it’s one less safety item to worry about . While in harbors or day sailing we store it in proper plastic fuel containers on the aft deck.
Late afternoon we spent some time with Second Wind. We talked about the passage and discussing Fijian formalities. We talked about our trip around Fiji and what we were going. On our list is attending the wedding of friends, massages at our beloved Una, Kakonda (the best in Fiji) at Surf and Turf in Savu Savu, and completing the varnish.
Some of that has now changed.
We heard some thunder off shore and the breeze had increased a bit. Art from Second Wind returned us to Elysium. W/ was concerned about being to close to the super yacht Encore and with her provications and my acquiescence, we moved deeper into the harbor away from the super yacht. We were also in shallower water which improves our anchor scope. We moved, we got settled in for the evening and then the winds picked up.
And the winds increased more than we expected. It was later revealed to us that even Fiji Meteorological services missed this weather event. (A discussion on the event from an Aussie Meteorologists perspective) W/ wanted to pull down the forward awning. Up we went to the bow and removed it all the while the winds kept increasing.
I began to untie the bow lines and W/ untied one of the side lines of the forward awning. At that time a gust picked up that side of the awning and knocked W/ on her derriere. Luckily she wasn’t hurt and came forward to assist on removing the awning. As we completed the removal I looked out and a 120’ steel ferry (Princess Civa) was being blown sideways by the wind heading
right for us. My eyes lit up and a rush of adrenaline surged through me.
Scooping the awning up (no folding now) I dumped it in the cockpit and told W/ to start the engine. While she started the engine I went forward to deal with the anchor. The side of the ship was closing in. For a few seconds I thought the ship would slide off to our stern. It appeared that the stern was moving past us and we would escape in front of it. I let the anchor pendent go and W/ was now powering forward to clear the bow of the steel vessel. I am worried and scared. I saw that I needed our anchor and chain go. I let it go! The chain was flying over the pawls. I had a light safety line on the end of the chain so I would loose it to the bottom. The safety line I had attached blew apart when it reached the bitter end. The anchor and chain were gone taking with it two of the teak slats on the bowsprit. We were free from the bottom but the 150’ by 20’ side of the steel boat was now only meters away. I looked behind as the Princess Civa slammed into the bow of Sahula.
Sahula was another steel sailboat and we heard a huge bang. Seconds later the steel boat collided with us. We were about 30 degrees from perpendicular. First mv Princess Civa hit our bow pulpit bending it then collided with the bow sprit turning us immediately sideways. Next our hull was bouncing on the side of the steel motor vessel. We were now side on being pushed towards the shallows. But; we are still moving forward and I screamed above the wind noise to W/ to keep us going forward as fast as possible. We slid along the
steel hull ruining our brand new paint job. But; we were saving our boat and ourselves. As we slid along the side of the steel boat our rigging came in to contact with parts of the steel hull and sparks were flying off. I was concerned that if something sticking out of the ship was secured enough our rigging could catch and pull the mast down. 55’ of Aluminum crashing down on us was nothing we needed right now. Not now! Not ever!
Seconds later we cleared the bow of the steel boat. We were lucky they didn’t have a bulbous bow sticking forward underwater that we could run into. We were clear of the worst and now dealing with the winds, waves, and unlit obstructions in the harbor.
Attempting to motor into 40 kt winds with gusts of 60 and waves washing over the bow and me, is not an adventure I would wish on anyone. We motored by super yacht Encore who had blown aground by a shallows marker. They had their 800+ hp diesel running in full reverse throwing up water all around and screamed at us to “STAY THE FUCK AWAY’! No duh! Like that was our goal to hang out by them. W/ kept trying to keep our bow pointing in the wind but it would blow off to one side and then the other sometimes pushing her to gybe to gain steerage and the ability to make way. We kept seeing that shallows marker slide by the stern of the boat and we were spending too much time in the same place all the while feeling like we were going forward. I wanted to anchor and W/ wanted to power into the wind until the storm abated. Not knowing how long it would be and fearing that we didn’t have the energy (not accounting for the adrenaline) I wanted to anchor. We tried once to anchor once. I got our secondary anchor to the bottom and we settled down … for a few minutes.
I can’t believe when I see a cursing yacht with only one anchors on the bow. Our primary anchor is a Spade 80 with 300’ of 3/8” HT chain. Our secondary anchor is a 60 lb CQR with 130’ of 3/8” HT chain and 200’ of 3/4” braid on braid line. We were anchored in about 40’ of water and I put out roughly 200 feet of rode.
Our position on the chart plotter didn’t hold. It is still blowing the hair off a dog. I leave the protection of the dodger, W/ takes the helm and I begin the process of retrieving the anchor. 10 minutes later we have it up out of the water and we’re moving again. Not always in a good way. Our new arch and solar was only seconds from being destroyed. I’m trying to watch
the big picture and W/ is manning the helm. Above the wind I yell “FORWARD AS FAST AS WE CAN”. I see the marker pass feet from our stern. We motor into the wind into deeper water. We pass the bow of another steel vessel anchored and go up wind of Pebbles (the only yacht in our group not effected by the steel ship) We drop the anchor again. After paying out the 200’ of rode I’m afraid we are too close to Pebbles. We watch for a few minutes and I try to gain some rest. In this break from working W/ digs out my foul wx pants. I’m cold. I’m beginning to shiver. Adrenaline is keeping me going. W/ has a moment of being overwhelmed by emotion and starts shaking and crying. We’re safe. I hug her and we’re both thankful that we’re both here and alive; thankful Elysium on the bottom of the bay under the steel hull or pushed way up on the reef. Ten minutes later we decide that we are too close to Pebbles and pick up the anchor again. We’re both frightened enough to keep going.
I have a spot picked out on the charting program we use and we work our way up to it. There I anchor again. We fall back on the anchor, the line stretches and it holds. We begin to swing to the wind. I hide from the wind and rain behind the dodger and watch our track on the electronic chart. Ten minutes or thirty minutes later W/ shuts down the engine. Time hasn’t much meaning here. We go below. I bring up another program on a different device to watch our anchor position. I have two programs running. I watch our track on iSailor and we are filling in an Etch A Sketch area. We are staying in place.
Now almost 4 hours after it all began it appears the winds and seas are slowly abating. The gusts are not coming as frequently nor is the song the rigging is making as high pitched. We seek some solace in the land of dreams. Electrons screaming through our electronics are keeping watch. We sleep the needed sleep from a passage but the uneasy sleep from a night of horrors. Tomorrow we we see the damage not just of us but of our friends who we believe ended up in the shallows on the reef.
What a fascinating place. Cruisers everywhere love to talk about it as if they’ve reached Nirvana once there. Nirvana; it is not. Fascinating it is.
We arrived in the early am. The only entrance for boats is on the W side and quite easy to transit. I wouldn’t do it at night, even having a gps track. There are no man made navigational aids in the channel. In daylight you can see the reef shallows. At night not. Further; at night you don’t see any of the eddies from water flowing out of the lagoon.
And water is always flowing out of the lagoon. Slower during High Tide and faster during Low Tide. That’s because while the volcano rim acts as a fringing reef it is not high enough above the surf break to keep water out. Twenty four hours per day waves are breaking against and over the reef all the way around.
And for us; anchored anywhere in the lagoon provides plenty of slop. Generally there are 2 High Tides and 2 Low Tides per day. With the low tides the wave breaks on the outer rim of the volcano washing over the top. There is constant flow of water over the top but limited wave action gets through. This flow of water reaches the inside lip and there we have a constant 1-2’ water fall. The sounds of the waves against the reef or the water fall is 24/7. Not what one would think of as … peaceful!
During High Tide the waves and seas break against the outer rim still. The main energy is taken away and spread over a larger area. This energy continues with the smaller waves inside the lagoon. The smallish waves create a constant washing machine. The motion wasn’t bad enough to keep us away but it was down right annoying.
Remember – I complained about no shake downs. Three of our items never checked are; the dinghy, the 15hp engine and the 2 1/2 hp engine. There are more items still not checked but here those are the ones important. Besides that; we prefer to not travel off shore with gasoline on board. This left us at the mercy of other cruisers. Fortunately Art and Nancy from sv Second Wind were kind enough to share their dinghy ride to the top of the volcano rim and to do a day’s snorkeling.
They day after we arrived we were lucky. Those in the lagoon were lucky. The Tongan Navy arrived and said they had planned to do some war games here. Every yacht would need to move to S. Minerva. Yuck! They never told us. South Minerva is 30 nm S of where we are and not as well protected from the seas. Moving there requires motoring into the winds and the seas. I said we were lucky. One of the yachts here was a leader in the rally from New Zealand to Tonga. The rally had planned a stop in North Minerva and they had permission from the Tongan King! Whew. When they informed the Navy of the Kings permission they asked the sailors to clear the change with the Tongan King. Wisely the sailors might be in their interest to play the war games at South Minerva. Sometimes we are lucky. Sometimes.
The top of the rim was wider than I would have guessed. We arrived; secured the dinghy and stepped up to a river of ocean water flowing into the lagoon. Depth; about 1-2 feet. In reality Lewis (Quizotic Charters) told me to look for lobsters under the coral bommies on the volcano rim. We all were hoping for a nice haul. All were disappointed. I looked, Art looked, W/ looked. Nancy and Keith (sv Sadiqi) were smart enough to not be too enamored with looking. We were snookered. None, Nada, Zip.
We had always heard how abundant lobsters were here. Ha! You could fool me. I guess it’s like land in Arizona or Florida; how wonderful and “cheap” it is. That is …until you try to live there or build there.
We didn’t find lobsters there. What we found was a world of constant motion. Water flowing over the rim as a stream over shallows. At low tide the waves broke on the outside of the volcano rim and wash atop of it. The flow was continuous to the lagoon. During high tide it was rougher and a bit deeper over the rim. Yet the reef broke up the seas to a barely tolerable action such that one could hide inside in relative safety. We’ve friends that have stayed anchored in winds up to about 40 kts. I wouldn’t want to be there then. That however doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Uncomfortable maybe, not unsafe. The winds were changing to the east so we moved from the S lee to the E lee. There we would spend another couple of days watching the weather and looking for passage N.
After returning to the boats another fellow cruiser stopped by. They gifted a HUGE Lobster each to sv Second Wind and us. How sweet it is. They are lobster fishermen from the S. Island in NZ and I guess they mostly have had enough anyway. That evening everyone arrived at our boat to share in the feast. Yum!
Daily we looked for weather window heading to New Cal but Mother Nature was having none of it. Time and again we would think this was it and prepare to go. Time and again, David from Gulf Harbor Radio and the GRIBS would say “oh-oh”. A Low is forming between New Cal and Fiji or there is a mean frontal system that is arriving there in the next couple of days. We waited.
After being in Minerva for over a week, limited on what we could do, looking for a way out, we made a sacrifice. We decided we would burn the diesel if need be and motor to…. Fiji That opportunity to motor came and we left. Fiji it is.
Don’t skip shake downs! No matter what. We thought we could. We spent a year on multiple new projects. Yet, because of immigration constraints we headed off shore with no shakedowns. None for the new systems nor the refurbished ones. Well, one might say using the solar / lithium setup the last month at the dock counted as a check. Dock usage was only part of the solar / lithium / charging system functioning.
We motored down to Marsden Cove from Riverside Drive Marina (RDM). I say motored but really the engine idled most of the way. With the current we were flying and there was no rush. We would get a berth that night, check out and leave the following day. The wx prediction said there would be a little light winds for the next few days. We were happy with that.
We’d dealt with immigration 3 times during our stay here. Immigration surrounds itself with paperwork and bureaucracy. NZ provides our boat a two year grace period to visit, have work done, moor, and be a tourist. All without paying import duty. We don’t want to live here! We are cruising here and refurbishing Elysium. Immigration limits the boat owners, captain, crew, etc, to three months. After three months each individual must to apply for an extension.
Some people apply on line. Steve and Kim on NorthStar did the online route. For Steve a proficient tech guy the process required about 2 days of frustrations and effort. Simply getting one of their photo ID in the system required many retakes and uploads. First it was the eyes, then the face was too big, then to far away, then the background wasn’t right. Even though Kim’s picture was taken with the same conditions as Steves. In NZ the web application is said to be easy. NOT! In the electronic version there isn’t anyplace to identify we are visiting by our own vessel. This is odd considering that Auckland is the “City of Sails” and they have a huge number of yachts every year. I’ve not met a one boat owner that hasn’t spent a bucket of money in NZ completing repairs and upgrades. The immigration categories didn’t include us. After a frustrating couple of hours trying to work my way through the various screens I gave up. Only completing taxes in the US is worse! We had the name of an agent in Wellington and we contacted him. We explained to him what we wanted to do, explained the boat work we were doing and he took care of the rest… for a fee. We paid the immigration costs plus approx $500 NZ to our agent each time. In the end, our costs to stay in NZ averaged about $150 NZ / month.
We cleared out, received our depature paperwork, filled up with fuel and set off. We motored out of Marsden and about 30 minutes later set sail. We knew the boat and didn’t expect any issues. The weather predictions suggested for the most part an off the wind sail N at least to Minerva Reef. We took that route believing that it would give us a break if Mother Nature didn’t follow the play book. We passed the Heads and aimed for a few miles off of Cape Brett. In settled weather the cape is ok but Cape Brett is a dividing line between weather on the northern part of the N Island and the middle part. Cape Brett can be nasty. As evening approached we settled in. We began our offshore watch schedule a few miles off of Cape Brett. All was looking fine, cold but fine.
In the middle of W/s watch; the first watch, we heard a metal on metal clicking sound. She calls me up on deck; I was already awake from the noise and we began to search for the causes. It ought not be there. With our torch shining on everything it could be, I soon discover our upper spreader lift on the port side is flying free! Damn. It’s not a big deal but it is a deal. We decide to change course and head in to calm waters, fix it and continue. We furl the sails and start the engine pointing the boat towards Opua. Ten minutes later the engine high temp alarm goes off. DAMN!
We shut the engine down and begin the arduous task of tacking in light winds to Opua. Fortunately before we left I joined the NZ Coastguard Aux. I called them to let them know of our situation, no engine and a rigging issue. They had no boat in the water by Opua but if needed would ask other boats for assistance. I informed them all was well and we were at the moment fine but I wanted to apprise them of our situation.
The NZ Coastguard Aux is one of the best deals in the country. Unfortunately they don’t take out of NZ Credit Cards. To sign up you need a friend in NZ or a NZ account to pay them. But I would strongly suggest anyone traveling by boat around NZ join the Coast Guard Aux. The waters of NZ likes to eat boats. The day after we made Opua a catamaran flipped off of Cape Bret. We personally know one yacht that lost while we were there and heard of 4 others. If one needs on the water help from them and is not a member, the cost is hundreds of $$’s / hour… from their point of departure. If you join them it is roughly $125 NZ / year.
We’re tacking back and forth all night long. At this rate we will not even make it in to Opua the following day. Hourly the winds are getting lighter and lighter. And all night long I am thinking what the hell is going on with our trusty Perkins. As daylight arrives I explore in the engine room. It seems there is plenty of coolant in the header tank but when I actually start to fill it I add about 2 liters. I need to stop using my finger as a gauge! With coolant added we start the engine up and watch the gauge. It climbs to temp and then climbs some more setting off the alarm. We shut it down.
I’ve been here before. In Tahiti we had an issue when I replaced a thermostat. It boiled (no pun intended) down to a vapor lock in the cooling lines. Ok, I check the coolant and it’s down a bit, add some more and try it again. Finally the temperature settled in at the normal operating temp. I don’t want to gamble by going faster, we’re able to move along at 1100 rpm and head straight in. I apprise the CC Aux of our new situation and for the most part we are all happy. Mid afternoon we’re approaching the docks.
W/ calls the marina for a slip informing them of our situation. They say we need to call Customs since we had already cleared out. W/ calls Customs and then calls the marina. Customs said to take a slip and bring our paper work the following am. We’re not sure what will happen as we’re checked out and our visa had expired.
We shower, rest, and expect to begin diagnostics the following day. We take our paperwork to the customs office and for the most part we’re ok. He indicates there may be a slight issue because our visa had expired. . He would let us know. We may have been lucky that it was now Friday and at the speed of most bureaucracies we will be ok. IF we get things fixed and are on our way quickly. Back at the boat W/ hauls me up the mast. I reattach the lifts and this time put in the cotter pins- on both port and starboard. When we stepped the mast I remember telling Matt (our rigger) not to worry about them- I need to adjust them anyway. He didn’t worry and neither did I. I forgot. Shame on me. Now that they’re reattached and secured we’re much better off.
Next is the engine overheating issue. My shore support team in Tahiti had said I need to get all the air out of the cooling lines. That’s accomplished by running the engine at high rpms. I run it till it’s warm and then increase to 80% of full rpm for a few minutes hoping that pushes any air out of the corners of the cooling system. I let it cool down, add coolant and do it again. After three times it runs up to temperature and stays where it ought to. Bingo. We’re again ready!
The following day we head to customs asking for our clearance papers. He’s as relieved as we are that we’re leaving. He hadn’t yet asked immigration about us and he hands back our clearance papers wishing us a good trip. Off we go.
Ten minutes out of the marina the high temp alarm goes off again. We shut the boat down and float. When the gauge drops back below it’s normal operating temp we start the engine up again. It goes up to temp and stays there. We can live with that. We’re ready to say goodbye to NZ. It’s cold and we don’t want to piss off the bureaucrats. David (a retired Meteorologist) on Gulf Harbors Radio says this weather window isn’t perfect but ok. If we can get north of 30 degrees S by Wed we’ll be in the clear. That’s our goal. We’re heading N and a bit E in case Minerva would be a smart stop.
I would like to stop there. Minerva is a two coned underwater volcano that the rims just rise to the surface of the ocean. It provides protection from most of the ocean swell and is a place to “get some lobsters”. I hope.
ps I will leave this out front for a week or two then put in the correct order. Cheers….
There are many ways to cruise. By private yacht isn’t the only way. Some people fly to various locales and stay at luxury resorts. Others, house sit their way around the world. Some are strictly land based and buy a motor home (called a caravan in NZ or Aust) for seeing the sites. Then there are those that mix it up. We fall into that latter group.
While it is wonderful seeing the harbors and experiencing different cultures from the water, land too has many 5 star views. With that in mind, in NZ we bought a car. It wasn’t a new car. No matter what some of my cruising friends like to say; we are not “high rollers”! 🙂 It was a good solid car, one with low km/miles, reliable, and for the most part comfortable. It was a Toyota Camry; ’99 model.
Driving on the wrong side of the road required some practice. Fortunately with this “not new” car curbs and small road side structures didn’t scare us off. The fenders already had some minor scratches and dents. We liked the 6 cylinder and that would easily handle the roads in the Southern Alps. It served us well for the 14 months we had it. But, Elysium is not large enough to stow the Camry until we reach the next port. So we sold it.
Most people want to know what it costs to cruise. Most cruisers will tell you what they spend and not where they spend it. If you want to see a wee bit more of the world than harbors and anchorages you will need to expand your horizons. There are land tours but for this horizon we wished for more freedom.
We purchased the car for $3800 NZ. Insurance costs in NZ are much much less than in the states due to the ACC which is their national fund to cover any accidents any tourist or resident has while in the country. Key word is accident. For 18 months of insurance we paid $337 NZ .
We had the car serviced twice. While we have all the gear for servicing the boat, being an auto mechanic was no longer in my job description. We got a recommendation of an honest / reliable shop from our Anytime Fitness center staff whose partner loved to refurbish/rebuild/restore autos. Before we left for the S. Island we wanted to ensure there would be no problems. The S. Island of NZ has some rather remote places. When we returned and about 6 months further down the road we had it serviced again hoping that the Camry would last till the end of our needed use. Servicing was $190 and $213 NZ.
We did have a couple of surprises. The windshield had a nick in it that was repaired by the previous owner. We weren’t informed of it nor was it visible. Somewhere during the countries 4 seasons in a day weather the repair popped out. I wasn’t worried…but then. Driving to a home stay in Ruakaka we had a good stretch of Highway that 100’s of logging trucks ran on daily. We were a wee bit to close to one and a few chunks of bark flew off and smacked the window, one of them right at the nick. Now we had a crack in the windshield. Generally insurance will cover one windshield a year from what I understand. But with our liability only car insurance we weren’t covered. Cost of Windshield $350 NZ.
And to keep insurance costs low and increase road safety NZ has a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). Since our car was pre year 2000 we needed a new Warrant every 6 months. Cost was about $50 NZ. There are cheaper places but this was an all above board / fair place. The first warrant passed without any issues. However; the second warrant noted the car for a frayed seat belt. If only I had thought. I ought to have taken the hair clippers to the belt and trimmed the fraying off but who knows if that would have worked. I tried to find a new seat belt on TradeMe; NZ’s answer to eBay but had no luck. We found an after market one for about $250 NZ. In this instance, I did the work and installed the new belt.
One last surprise arrived in the mail during our first house sit. A yearly registration. To transfer the car license and vehicle to us we paid a whopping $5. But two months later we got the bill for using it in NZ of approx $250 NZ. Compared to cost in the states for owning and licensing a vehicle this bill was very reasonable!
Of course; we used up quite a bit of fuel on the bigger 6. But each car is different so it is rather pointless to say how much we spent on gas. To be up front however fuel costs in NZ are higher than in the States. Currently a liter of fuel is $2 NZ and this includes their road taxes. Diesel is much cheaper but then you must purchase a road tax tag usage sticker. And from most companies you can reduce the cost a wee bit by getting one of their cards. We often saved 10 cents / liter when filling up. Todays average for US gallon is $4.15 NZ, in NZ the same gasoline is roughly $9 NZ .
And finally, the cost to list and sell the car on TradeMe came to roughly $100 NZ. This gave us more exposure and included the final cost for the sale. I paid nothing to transfer the car from my name.
Now lets break it down to cost of ownership. And to compare there are small cars you can rent here from RAD; called Rent a Dent. They are quite nice and quite small and yes they may have some scratches and nicks but they are not junk yard cars. They rent / day at $30 NZ and if you wish insurance coverage you will add $20/ day to the price. They have longer term contracts but I don’t know how much the cost is reduced for them.
That said; our total up front cost was about $5290. We sold the car for $1700 leaving a cost to own (again not counting gas) of $3590 plus or minus. We owned the car for 14 months yielding a cost of about $256 NZ or $9 NZ / day.
Things we learned.. First practice driving in not so busy areas. Driving on the left side is quite disconcerting for US drivers. Many of the deadliest accidents here involve a US driver. They’re tired and end up in a head on collision because they are on the wrong side of the road. A couple of times I found myself on the wrong side. It was when no one was around or on a country road where one women shook her finger at me and smiled. I’m lucky, that was the worse case. And NZ has many “roundabouts”. Practice and learn the rules. Driving here is slower than in the states and there is little to no leeway on the speeds. Be cautious and practice out of the cities.
Second. We used NAC insurance; but while they were very reasonable they wouldn’t cover damage to the car. I would suggest getting a quote from the AA Insurance. (Not related to AAA in the states). They have a very good plan and some bonus’, one of which is a free eye exam from Spec Savers. Spec Savers provided us one of the best exams W/ and I have ever had. So at a least; compare. Other companies might have had a higher up front cost. By the time we paid for the windshield and the eye exams our method could have easily been higher.
Third, we knew that cars pre year 2000 required a WOF twice a year and this was a bit of an inconvenience. We almost received a ticket once when we didn’t notice our WOF was due and we were stopped for a breath test. They have drunk driving stops in various places and every car stops and they check all the drivers. They take safety very seriously here. Safety trumps rights.
Yes. I have IWS. Wendy; although not a Physician has diagnosed me with “Irritable Weather Syndrome” !
The Kiwis like to say that in Winter they have 4 seasons every day. And in truth it seems to be most of the year they have 4 seasons. A cold rain / mist, bright Sunshine, cloudy gray, and overcast with cold nights. Yep, they have adapted to it over the decades but not I ! When the Sun is out and shining I’m doing fine. I can play tennis, work on the boat, walk into town, do what ever. But! when it is to my way of thinking crappy out I want to hibernate.
Now the Kiwis are not even bothered by the weather. It is raining. Not hard, not cats and dogs, not a frog strangler, but a good steady down pour. We watch as groups of locals are out walking the “loop” as they call it.
The loop is a 4 km stretch that runs from the Town Basin; where most of the boats are moored, past our marina to the fish hook bridge and then back to the town basin. It is a nice scenic walk along the water front. But in the rain? Nope, rain doesn’t seem to bother them.
Not me. I guess I’m a bit of a fair weather outdoors person. A few months ago we were at one of
the tennis clubs playing. it started to rain and I waited for them to clear the courts. In Florida a little rain made the courts slippery. Rather liking my bones and limbs remaining in fine shape, myself and everyone else retired to the sidelines. Nope, not here. The Kiwi’s kept on playing. The court surface here is all weather. It is much like an astro-turf, a very short fabric with fine sand mixed in. The court holds a lot of water before it puddles. We served heavy wet tennis balls. When the ball struck a heavily wet spot on the courts it slide instead of bounced. When anyone struck the ball water flew off looking like the rings of Saturn. If the Sun was shining; yes the Sun shines often when it rains here, you had a rainbow!
In that scene I soldiered on. However, on most rainy days I crawl into a berth in the boat. I then do research on something; what more to buy, play chess, or just read the news making life even more depressing. Nope I’m not a person in love with the 4 daily seasons in NZ. I’m a fair weather person, I am an individual with IWS.