It’s difficult living in one world let alone two; or three. I’m a cruiser, a tennis player and a yacht maintenance guy. I don’t love everything sailing. Light air sailing is my absolute favorite. Ghosting along at 2-3 kts with flat water, the ocean a deep blue, and a rising Sun; that’s for me. A luxurious ride, minimal noise and nature’s overwhelming beauty seeping into every fiber of my being. But, those moments are rare and I cherish them. After a beautiful sail I love the harbors where I can see the anchor on the bottom. The water is so clear the boat appears to float above mother earth, fish swimming near by looking for a meal, a good book in hand, shade, and a cool drink to wet my whistle. That’s what I look for, I don’t always find it but I find it often enough to keep going.

Now however I’m tied to the dock. I’ve been here almost a year completing some major boat projects. Deck painted; check, hull painted, check, new batteries, check, bottom painted, check, seacocks lubed, check, mast painted, check, all rigging inspected, check, new spreader lights, check, mast back on, check, booms painted, check; etc. There are still some projects to complete but I finally see the end of the tunnel. And I look forward to ghosting along again and reading a few more good books.

While the majority of the boat work has been happening I’ve lived another life; one from years ago. Three days a week I play tennis. In NZ they play on an all weather court, quite different from the clay courts I loved in Florida. If it rains here; they keep playing. I’ve served a ball that looks like Saturn as it spins off water traveling to the other side

Middle Project Painting the boat.

We were in a tent to paint the boat.

of the net. Kiwis like to bemoan the heat here. Compared to Florida and 5 t-shirts a match this for me is nice warm weather. Most of my game is back but not all. I am still struggling; struggling to strike the ball like I remember, struggling to move as a fit club player, struggling to get the quality of match play I once had. But; for the most part I am coping.

Before visiting NZ other cruisers talked about the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people, and the quality of the workmanship. Those characteristics are what drove us to this place. No one bragged about the weather!

W/ and I were painting the booms the other day and 5 minutes from the final brush stroke mother nature sprayed us with a fine misty rain. It lasted a couple of minutes. . That amount isn’t enough to ruin the project but it worried us. More rain would add another day to the project putting us further into arrears. We finished painting and tented the booms. Worrying was for naught. They were fine.

The day before we were to play tennis and the weather looked gorgeous. The club is 5 minutes by car and the weather was perfect. Twenty minutes later the rain starts and within the hour it has stopped. We play tennis with wet; heavy balls.

Strengthening the Core

Strengthening the Core at Anytime Fitness

We joined a gym; Anytime Fitness. After a decade of living in a sailboat we were beginning to feel out of shape. The gym is a 15 minute walk and our fitness has returned. We walk to the gym on a clear, warm, blue sky morning. By the time we are ready to leave the gym the rain is falling in sheets. We wait. A bit later the sky is clear and we risk the walk back home. It doesn’t matter, wet or dry the people of NZ don’t seem to care near as much as we do. There is a wonderful 5k walk around the river harbor; across the fish hook bridge, through to the town docks and

Fish Hook Bridge

Fish Hook Bridge, Whangarei, Northland, NZ

back to the marina. Anytime of the day; any weather; rain or shine, there are Kiwis walking the loop often in bare feet. We are not as comfortable in the rain as they and never with bare feet out and about.

Locals laugh and say in Winter you have 4 seasons every day. In Summer you have at least 3 every day. And while those seasons are tolerable they are not conducive to

Viewing the Town Docks

From the walking bridge of Sails a view of the Town Docks.

completing boat projects nor indulging in outside sports. Not for us, often traveling by foot. For spoiled American cruisers a good part of our time here; at least for me, has been frustrating.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Shameless Plug


Infini a Westsail 43

A sweet WS 43 in pristine shape

I don’t often do this. There is an excellent deal out there for someone looking to jump into cruising. Friends of mine have finished their dream, their circumnavigation and are selling their boat. It is a sistership to ours. While we were upgrading and refurbishing Elysium I always looked to their boat as the gold standard.

And yet that is not the good news for someone looking to “jump”. IMHO this boat price is where you would get the best bang for the dollar. Yes, as in any boat nothing is perfect and there will be issues needing to be addressed. You would find the same needs in a brand new million dollar boat. At one boat show I put my hand in a dorade and removed it with a cut. There was an errant piece of cured fiberglass that wasn’t trimmed off. And this was on a $1.2 million vessel.

However with Infini’s owners I can tell you they were and are meticulous yachties. The pictures on their page are accurate. The boat looks as the pictures show. It sails well; I know because I have the same hull and rig setup. It is sea kindly. Again I know cause we’ve several thousand miles of off shore work on ours. It is easily managed by a couple… again I know! 🙂 Best of all; dollars / lb  you could begin cruising with most everything you need much sooner than you think. Good Luck in pursuing your dreams.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Cyclogenesis on da Boat

Cyclogenesis is a weather term describing a small insignificant Low Pressure system that spins up creating high winds and a great deal of trouble. Not a perfect definition of cyclogenesis but generally correct.

In November of last year we lost a brand new alternator. Here’s a link for the complete debacle. Luckily; last month I found it. It was well stored under a zip lock bag of 1,000 teak plugs. The low has began to spin up. Veteran cruisers say, when you get a new item put it on and use the old as the spare. Only then will you be 100% confident the spare works. Our old alternator worked. I had taken it to Snow Brothers Electrical; one of the most respected shops in Whangarei. Alternator was in fine shape. So I figured; ok… I’ll follow advice of those before me. I stored the old working alternator and began to install the new one.

My first discovery was that the old broken; modified alternator was in fact; broken. And as luck would have it, there is a metal fabricator on site. However I was remiss in not earlier deciding to use them. After a couple of hours and a great deal of verbal abuse directed towards our generator attempting to make it work. Finally I came to a rational decision and paid the price. I had them design and make two new brackets. Two! You bet. The surest way to guarantee that there is no problem with the first is to have a spare.

But; let me step back a bit. When I dug out the new alternator it didn’t have a pulley on it. I had neglected to order one thinking I would use the pulley on the original alternator. The down side is I have tried before to remove a pulley from an alternator without success. Without a serious impact wrench it is impossible, at least for wimpy moi! Into town we go… in search of a serpentine pulley. First place I check … nope. Second place bingo. They didn’t have one in stock but could order one. I left the alternator and would pick it up the following day. Shipping in New Zealand is awesome. Most shops that need to order anything for you will have it the following day.

Back to the boat with the new alternator, new pulley and new bracket. This time I didn’t need to talk to the generator… as much. I mounted it, installed the new bracket and needed to re- install the belt. Attempting to install the old belt let loose a new verbal dialog not fit for print!

Considering all possible avenues of problems I have several belts for this system. If the belt I had been using didn’t fit… try out the others. Now; please keep in mind, installing the belt is no easy task. I put a breaker bar ( a long ridged wrench) on the idler, pull so the idler provides some slack, reach over the engine and attempt to slide the belt on the pulleys. I make at a minimum two attempts for each belt. My arms receive numerous scratches and

Changing a belt on my Aquamarine Generator

blood appears where none ought to be. I am lucky, the engine is NOT hot. After trying each belt once; some twice I am convinced we don’t have the correct size. I am guessing the pulley on the alternator is not exactly the same size as the last one. One issue of cruising the world is that there is not near as much consistency, metric vs imperial ! (A pet peeve of mine is that the politicians a few decades ago had no spine and the US tried to remain an anachronistic island in the world continuing to use an outdated, difficult to learn system of measurement. Oddly enough; politically, not much has changed in the last few decades. End of rant.) While the pulley measures out to almost identical, in this case almost isn’t good enough. I take the belt that fits closest and head to the auto stores.

At the first one I ask for the next three sizes larger than what I have. The employee measures it and indicates it’s 1060. Actually on the belt the number is a 1065. However; they didn’t have any of the step up sizes but could order them. They would have them…. tomorrow. I know there are other establishments in Whangarei that have belts. I WANT IT NOW. 🙂 I am directed to two other places. I cross my fingers.

The next place I run to is PartMasters. The counter guy checked the belt size; 1065. Ok, I want one each of the next three sizes up. He has a 1075 and a 1080. I believe they are too big but I take them anyway. Just to have the right size on our run back to the boat we try a third place looking for a 1070. No luck. At the boat I perform my engine yoga. You guessed it. More talking to the generator. Neither fit. Head down, shoulders slumped I head back to PartMasters, returning those that didn’t fit and getting even larger sizes.

Our savior heads back to the stock to grab the next two sizes. I’m now close. Yet, not close enough. They don’t have them. Damn! The closest size he has is an 1100. That is 35 mm longer than the original one but hey; if it doesn’t fit I can bring it back. At least I’m narrowing the size down.

I return to the boat, perform my yoga, I chant…. and …. bingo. It fits. Hallelujah ! Another day I’ll return and get two more for spares. One can’t have too many spares.

Earlier in the week we were getting our refrigeration up and running. We had upsized one of the holding plates, replaced a compressor, and I was checking and reconnecting all the fittings. When I removed the old; 10 year old compressor I needed to remove the High Pressure (HP) and Low Pressure (LP) lines. The LP line came off fine, but the HP fitting tore out all the threads on the pump. I didn’t care about the pump, but I needed the HP hose with the fittings. No problem. Yeah was I wrong.

I took the hose to an hydraulic shop for new fittings. The first shop didn’t have the refrigeration fittings. It was at this point I realized the place where I was getting the new pulley from; Auto Tech, they most likely had the hose fittings. I am like a chicken with my head removed; running in circles! So back I went and indeed they could make a new hose. Or so they said and so …. I …. thought. The following day I returned to pick it up. They had examined it closer and discovered that on the other end, the Swedge Loc fitting they couldn’t replace. They didn’t have any and they didn’t know of any place in NZ that did. They could cut the hose and install a new end for the compressor. There weren’t many options at this point and worrying about the domino effect of micro changes I acquiesced and said …. “ok”. Cyclogensis must be winding down. Back at the boat with the old hose and new fitting everything went back together without any further need for modification. Now all that’s left is to leak check and charge the system. Oh happy day!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Overwhelmed: Shipping

Yep, I feel it; at times… quite overwhelmed. I then hide behind my Free Internet Chess Club (FICS), tennis, and computer solitaire games, like FreeCell, Spite and Malice, and Bejeweled. I’ll try to break some of the things we’ve been doing down into manageable parts. And to that end my first is shipping.

While New Zealand is a great country for boating they don’t have everything. That means that you often need to have supplies sent here. There are 5 ways to accomplish this. What method you choose depends on what you wish to bring, how much of it you want, and what size and weight it is.

The easiest, not necessarily the best is each country’s Post Office. For us we never used it. Quixotic had parcels sent by the Post and were charged $50 NZ / box. One box was so small customs let slide. Other cruisers recommended Youshop.

Youshop is a NZ post freight forwarder. They provide a shipping address (Currently in Oregon) to send your purchases to. Once purchased you input the Tracking number, the invoice and the price paid. There; if needed, they will consolidate your shipment, and forward them on to NZ by land or sea. You do pay before they ship it. There are size / weight limits on what YouShop will ship. They are fast. Roughly two weeks from order to door and they will ship right to the Marina or address you are staying at. They take care of all customs and quarantine paperwork. We’ve used them twice and been satisfied both times. One key element is to keep the order under $400.00 nz.  If over you involve at a minumum a $50 customs charge.

The final two are for heavier, bulkier, and more specialized goods. KiwiShipping from the US and Ocean Freight.

KiwiShipping too has a forwarding address in the US you ship your products to. Your goods arrive by Ocean freight. You load your pdf’ed invoiced goods to them, they advise when the item has arrived and when it will ship. They will hold the item until you have all your stuff there and pay them, then ship as a group. We were able to ship some specialized varnish with them . Varnishes are Hazmat and they had no issue with this nor asked for any special paperwork. We did ask them in advance about shipping paints and varnishes. They said as long as it was a small quantity there would be no issue. We shipped approximately 4 liters from one company and 2 liters from another. From front to back this process took about 6 weeks. Again they took care of customs paperwork and costs. Once here in NZ we paid Mainfreight to transport the goods from Auckland to Whangarei for a minimal fee.

And lastly Ocean Freight. We didn’t arrange the shipment, our supplier did. We shipped a group of batteries.


They arrived less then two weeks after departure from the point of origin. But; they were stuck in customs in Auckland. This necessitated travel to Auckland to pay the shipping company, (roughly $500 NZ) and then to locate the Customs Office. At customs we paid another $50 NZ to clear them for a “Yacht in Transit”, which we are. We needed the invoice, Passport, Temporary Import Permit (TIP) received when a yacht enters the country , and the receipt from the shipper to receive clearance for the goods. Once we had clearance we proceeded to another place,

Warehouse in Auckland

the warehouse where we could pick up the batteries. Luckily we have a car and with that, one tank of gas, one day’s time (no tourist stuff in Auckland); we were able to save the cost of a Customs broker. Another cruiser had used a customs broker for an almost identical shipment; his cost $500 NZ plus the extra fees.

Depending on what you want to bring into NZ there is a method that will assist you in acquiring what you need. With the shipping in and out and around NZ we’ve been immensely satisfied with the service.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long


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