Leaving NZ

Over half way. And it wasn’t an easy half. Sailing in the mid latitudes is not fun. We had been informed by a retired meteorologist that if we made it N of 30 S we would be for the most part on the up and up. Not so. Here too is where not having an adequate shake down enters the equation.
 
We were N of 30. Listening on the SSB that am we were informed that we would have two fronts pass over us. For most of us tropical and sub tropical sailors that means an hour or so of crappy weather and then fair winds. Not here.
 
The first front wasn’t bad at all. I turned down wind, pulled the sails flat and ran with it for an hour. Once it had passed we came back on course. Four hours later a second front crossed our path. And it was nasty. Maybe; I ought to say NASTY !
 
We saw it coming. I reefed the mainsail and we furled some jib. The winds struck and if you ever heard of heavy air; that is what it was. The colder, dense air in the higher latitudes can be more problematic. Less than an hour later I reefed our main again. I couldn’t put the third reef in because I didn’t have the lines run. Remember: shakedown!
 
The winds kept increasing. Without the third reef heaving to in this stuff wouldn’t work. By now we had pulled in the headsail and I had up the staysail. Time to reef that. I went forward to reef it and I didn’t have it rigged right. I needed a snap shackle on the clew instead of a D shackle. I got the clew pulled down but couldn’t get the sail set right. Now this is where memory is sketchy. I didn’t ease the outhaul on the stay sail so getting it down and setting of the reef didn’t work. Frustrated and with the wind speed still increasing I furled the sail. We were moving faster than I wanted to go but with only the main up it was manageable. I’m glad we had the new main built heavier than the last and glad we had full battens. For the most part it was setting pretty and the wind vane was doing all the work steering.
 
I cleaned up around the deck. Some lines had freed themselves from the belaying pins and I secured them. After cleaning up the deck I hid behind the dodger. We don’t have a high latitude boat. We don’t have a “Florida room” as I like to call it. High latitude boats generally have an enclosed cockpit. Most of the NZ boats have enclosed cockpits I call…. “Florida Rooms”.
 
I use to laugh at boats with Florida rooms. Not any more. I understand the need. Th the cold wind, the wind chill can easily be deadly. This front stayed around for about 10 hours. Never in our 35k miles of sailing had we had conditions like that and as is often the case, a good part of it was in the dark. One improvement that worked awesome was our new spreader lights. The forward deck light and spreader lights made deck work quite safer. There was not doubt about where things were; what I could do even in the blowing rain. By midnight things had eased a bit and we pulled out some jib continuing our course N.
 
As a side note; the vessel Second Wind was about 60 nm from us and they didn’t have any of this frontal event. I say didn’t have any; I believe they said they had a slight wind increase but nothing memorable.
 
As the day wore on the winds slowly disappeared. W/ wasn’t happy because if we tried to keep sailing that put Minerva another day away. Once we were below 4 kts it was time to start the engine. Generally neither of us complain about sailing at 3-4 kts. But North and South Minerva can be dangerous sailing near them at night.
 
During high tide nothing above the water is visible. I doubt one would even see the breaking waves. There is a light on each reef but the chart doesn’t say how high it is. At least my three charting programs didn’t. Knowing the height of the light and the placement will guide you in how far away from it you are. After visiting Minerva I would say it is about 15’ above sea level and not all that bright. Tonga is responsible for the lights but I have a feeling they are maintained by the NZ Navy.
 
We needed to pass S Minerva in the day light. At least that was my wish and then enter N Minerva in day light. Attempting a night pass passage was not prudent even if one has a gps track. With the engine running we could manage our speed better and our entry time as well.
 
However; as mentioned in our previous post our engine temp was still a bit problematic. W/ was worried, knowing if we had to sail the arrival could well be dangerous. I started the engine and just as before, it rose to the correct operating temp and then kept climbing. I shut it down and waited 15 minutes. Once the temp fell below the normal operating temp I started it again and viola’ ! The operating temp moved into the correct range and we were off.
 
Now we switched from wind vane steering to our tiller pilot pushing the arm of the vane. We powered for a good half day and finally there was enough breeze to sail. A few hours sail, then back to powering. I ran through the starting method that worked and Minerva was our destination.
 
We passed S Minerva earlier than I wished but I did pick up the light on it. I stayed about 2 miles off the edge; closer than I wanted. By all appearances we were fine. 30 nm further N was N Minerva. Arriving in the late morning we could see some boats anchored. We tried calling Second Wind on the radio. We could barely hear them. We were using our hand held VHF as it seems our mast mounted antenna or the bigger boat VHF isn’t transmitting properly. Did I complain about a lack of a shakedown yet ! 🙂
 
As we got closer the communication was clearer and we could see the entrance and checked our charts for a match. . For the most part it was easier than some of the passes in the Tuamotus. I could see a few eddies as water flowed out of the lagoon but nothing enough to physically move the boat about. W/ powered right on in.
 
We had been told to drag a line entering the lagoon and the fish there will grab anything. Earlier in the day we had a small fish hitch a ride and ran a hook through it. Who ever told us must be a real-estate broker in Florida because it was a tall tale and we didn’t even get a nibble.
 
45 minutes later we were anchored in the lee of the S part of the volcano rim and ready for a good sleep. That was not to be. Art and Nancy offered to make lunch for us; and even to pick us up. W/ couldn’t refuse so we spent lunch with them sharing tall tales. . After, we returned to Elysium with the goal of counting stars from our berth. A great night sleep was honestly earned.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
ps  As mentioned earlier I will move this to the correct date after a day or so. It is out of order so anyone wishing to check up on our blog will see it first. Cheers….

Shake downs

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.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ps I will leave this out front for a week or two then put in the correct order. Cheers….

Auto Costs Cruising

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.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long