Day 418, Year 1: Four More Days in New Zealand

Day 418, Year 1: Four More Days in New Zealand
Date: Sunday, December 10, 2006
Weather: Sunny, Windy, and Cool
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

We have only four more days here before we head home to the US, so there was no rest on this Sunday. This morning we met with Fiona, the woman who will be making covers for our v-berth cushions. She is also going to make new fitted sheets for our strangely shaped aft-cabin bed. We went to her boat, what we would call a trawler but is called a launch here in New Zealand, and made a final decision on v-berth cushion material. We then went shopping for the sheets she will cut and shape to fit our bed. I guess I have never really paid attention to thread count before, but we found a good deal on 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets that feel like satin. Mark delivered those to Fiona, so she is now all set to do the sewing while we are gone. We didn’t have to return the rental car until 2:30, so we took advantage by doing a little grocery shopping as well.

Once we got back to Windbird, I made an Artichoke Rice salad to take to the Sunday barbeque and then it was time for me to get serious about sanding and varnishing the cap rail around the cockpit. It gets a lot of abuse as we use it as a stepping platform for getting into the cockpit, so the varnish wears quickly. I got it sanded and applied one coat of varnish. I’ll go another tomorrow and another on Tuesday. That should protect it until we return in February. Mark worked on the aft head replacing some parts so things will work more smoothly. And before we knew it, it was time to go to the Sunday evening marina barbeque.

What fun we had this evening. First, the Artichoke Rice Salad I made was quite a hit. Linda Stuart sent this recipe to me a couple of weeks ago, but this was first chance to try. Thanks, Linda. We talked with Jenifer and Campbell of Camdeboo and Yvonne and Bill of Windsong. We have really enjoyed getting to know both couples. And then we met Scott and Pam. They are from the US and both are legally blind. Pam has slightly more sight than Scott, but the fact that they are attempting to circumnavigate is just incredible. They do use lots of technology and their story of crossing to the Marquesas from Mexico with no engine is quite exciting. They started out from California in 2004 and lost their internal engine water pump somewhere in Mexico. There was no way to repair it, so they crossed to the Marquesas with no engine. They spent five or six days becalmed on the Equator, but finally got enough wind to continue. Once they reached the Marquesas, they got an external water pump installed, but this only allowed them to run the engine for five minutes at a time. So they made it all the way to New Zealand with virtually no engine. They are truly an amazing couple. Pam is from Southwest Harbor in Maine but I am not sure where Scott is from. They are spending their second season here at Riverside Drive Marina, but this year they are on a different boat. They had to sell their Valiant since repairing the engine seemed insurmountable and they now have a boat they bought here. It was just put in the water yesterday and their slip is just one away from ours. They tell their incredible story on their website-www.BlindSailing.com. I have not had a chance to check it out, but I’m very anxious to do so. In addition they were interviewed by NPR while they were home recently and the story about them should be airing sometime this week.

Tomorrow we will continue to work away on the items on our two page TO DO list. We’re getting there, but there is always more to do. That’s the way with sailboats.

Day 417, Year 1: Day Trip to Auckland

Day 417, Year 1: Day Trip to Auckland
Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006
Weather: Sunny, Rainy, Sunny, Rainy, Cool
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

We got up early this morning and headed for Auckland. We had rented a car yesterday and decided to take advantage of it to go to Auckland to inquire about campervan rentals for our NZ tour in March. And we are SO glad we did. We have been researching on the internet, but this is one case where seeing the product and talking to someone who knows all of the ins and outs of island travel was really helpful.

It takes about two hours and fifteen minutes to drive from Whangarei to Auckland. About half way there I said to Mark that I felt like I was in Scotland. The rolling hills go on forever and are so very, very green. There are vineyards and sheep and cows everywhere and from time to time you get glimpses of the ocean. Although I have never been to Scotland, the drive fit my image of that country. When we returned, I decided to do some laundry. While in the laundry room waiting for the clothes to dry, a woman named Liz came in. She is from Scotland and her husband, Hans, is from Switzerland. She was telling me about their recent tours of the North Island and she mentioned that she is as much at home here as in Scotland. She confirmed my image.

When we reached Auckland today it was pouring rain. That might have tainted our image of the city, but somehow we were not as impressed with Auckland as others. It is a clean city, but it didn’t seem to have “character”. I’ll have to visit on a sunny day and see if I have a different impression. We drove south to the airport to check out the campervans. The airport is about forty-five minutes south of the city and by the time we got there, the rain had slacked off. We were very lucky to get a most helpful young man and he gave us the short course in Campervan 101. He was unbelievably helpful and really knew his stuff. And for that, we are very grateful.

When we had come in to the campervan lot we saw a sign for Villa Maria Vineyards. This is one of our favorite wines, even though we aren’t big wine fans, so we decided to check it out. The vineyards are in a volcanic crater on the edge of an industrial park. It doesn’t sound like the perfect setting, but it really is beautiful. We were given a tour of the processing plant and I was most impressed that there are 180,000 bottles worth of wine in just one the tanks . . . and there are hundreds of tanks. So much wine!

Having accomplished our campervan mission and having the added attraction of visiting the Villa Maria Vineyards, we decided it was time to find our way back to Whangarei. It was a great day with beautifully scenery and we were able to get the information we needed and still had time to visit a vineyard. Perfect day.

061209 Day 417 New Zealand–Tour of Villa Maria Vineyard

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Days 415 and 416, Year 1: Doug and Sylvie of Windcastle Visit

Days 415 and 416, Year 1: Doug and Sylvie of Windcastle Visit
Date: Thursday and Friday, December 7 and 8, 2006
Weather: Warm, Sunny Spring Days; Cool, Rainy Weather On The Way
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

Yesterday we completed the cleaning and drying of sails that are stored under the v-berth, polished more stainless on the boat, and got ready for Doug and Sylvie of Windcastle to arrive. They got here around 1:30 pm and we spent the remainder of the day exploring Whangarei together. We had dinner in town and got back to Windbird in the evening. We stopped at the New World supermarket on the way home and bought vanilla bean ice cream, fresh strawberries, and Belgian chocolate dessert sauce. We fixed these incredibly delicious ice cream sundaes when we got home and then decided to watch a DVD. As a bon voyage gift, our daughter Heather had given us a new copy of Fiddler on the Roof, one of our very favorite movies of all time, so we watched that one last night. Or at least we attempted to watch it. We got half way through and it was 11:30. That’s later than any of had stayed up in ages, so we decided to stop there and go to bed. I didn’t get a chance to write my daily log, so I am combining yesterday and today’s log in one.

We started this morning with a big breakfast and then Doug and Sylvie took us over to Town Basin to see George and Barbara of Gdansk. They arrived in Whangarei last night, so Doug and Sylvie wanted to see them before heading to Auckland. We found them on the town dock and we all said our farewells. We have become close friends with Doug and Sylvie and we will miss them. Doug will return to New Zealand in February, but Sylvie is not sure when she will be returning. George and Barbara have decided to stay here through most of January and then they will return home to British Columbia and then on to Poland to visit with family. At this point, they don’t think they will return until next September or October. We will see them here before we leave, but after that we are not sure when we will see them again. After the farewells, Mark and I walked into town to the Plastic Box Store. We have been measuring spaces where we need plastic box storage and we bought those today. On the way home, Mark stopped by a boat in Town Basin to get a quote on making new cushions for our v-berth. A woman named Fiona on the boat Waimarie was recommended to us and after this initial contact, she came to Windbird this afternoon to measure and give us an estimate. Fiona didn’t have an exact match for the Ultrasuede covering that we have in the main cabin, but she and I are both going to look around town this weekend and see what we can find. While Fiona and I were discussing upholstery, Mark decided to rent a car for this afternoon and tomorrow to do some necessary shopping for our trip home and for running around to check on prices of rental vans and camper vans for our tour of the South Island in March. He got the car, and we did the shopping this afternoon. In the process, we think we found a match for the v-berth cushions. We’ll run that by Fiona tomorrow morning and then go on to do the rental pricing.

Cool and rainy weather has been forecast for the weekend and it began today. The weather change started with howling winds and this evening it has started raining. If it rains tomorrow, that won’t keep us from doing our running around in the rental car, and if it continues to rain on Sunday, we will use the time to do some sewing projects that have been on hold waiting for a rainy day.

Just before we left the boat this afternoon, Mark was up in the cockpit checking email. While he was online, he got a Skype phone call from our daughter Heather. She and Jed are having a holiday party this weekend and she needed our family recipe for Spinach Balls. Sometime before we left Boston, she had called wanting that recipe so I had typed it up and sent it to her via email. This evening when she looked for the recipe, it was nowhere to be found and she was bummed because she was sure she wouldn’t be able to reach me half a world away. But she turned on the computer, just in case we might be online, and there we were. I was able to send the recipe to her via email and she received it while we were still talking. Certain recipes are a holiday tradition in our family, and Spinach Balls is one of those. “Tradition . . . Tradition . . . without tradition our lives would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof.”

Day 414, Year 1: Almost Summer

Day 414, Year 1: Almost Summer
Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Weather: Blue Skies, Sunny, and Warm
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

I’ve been getting emails from home saying that it is starting to feel like winter. Well, today it finally felt like summer here. It is still officially spring, but today was warmer than usual and just gorgeous. Everything is in bloom here and it is beautiful. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to get cooler again this weekend, but today was a special treat.

I love it when my computer “rings” and I can answer the call and talk to someone back in the United States for free. That’s Skype and we continue to love it. I had the computer on this morning because my sister Patsy has just installed Skype on her computer and was going to call today to try it out. But before she could call, my friend Linda and her son Garrett saw that I was online and they called first. While we were talking, my sister called, but I couldn’t remember how to put one call on hold while you answer another. I just let it go and called Patsy back after Linda and I hung up.

I had long, wonderful conversations with both Linda and Patsy while the Yanmar engine guy was here doing the 1,000 plus engine hour check-up. I’m not sure he had ever seen anyone talking on the computer before, but he just stared and didn’t say a word about it. Mark was not on the boat when the engine guy arrived and he had questions that I could not answer. So I just called Calibre Sails where Mark was spending the morning installing the new jacklines he made up into the Doyle Stack Pack that holds our main sail. I could have called Mark using a cell phone, but we don’t have one that works here, so we use Skype for our local calls as well as long distance.

In the afternoon, I met Mark in town for lunch and we went second hand store shopping. We were looking for a couple of suitcases to bring things home and we found them in the first shop we visited. And they only cost $2 each! They are the old hard suitcases, but that is what I wanted to protect some of the things we have purchased and want to bring home. There are lots of second hand stores here and the prices are certainly right.

It was then back to the boat to continue working on that TO DO list. The list looks something like this:
Sail Repairs-Done
New Jacklines-Done
Rigging Replacements-In Process
Roller Furler Repairs-In Process
1,000 Mile Engine Check-up-Done
Solenoid Valve in Propane System Replaced-Done
Propane Tanks Updated to Pass NZ Inspection-Done
Cap Rail Around Cockpit Varnished-Not Started
New Covers for Cockpit Cushion-Not Started
.. . . and on and on and on for two pages.

I won’t bore you with a two page list, but it is amazing to me just how many things there are to do at the end of a cruising season when you have traveled over 13,000 miles and put on more than 1,000 engine hours.

Tomorrow we will continue to chip away at the list while we wait for Doug and Sylvie of Windcastle to arrive. They are spending tomorrow night with us on their way to Auckland to fly back to the US. We look forward to the visit.

Day 413, Year 1: Visiting with Friends

Day 413, Year 1: Visiting with Friends
Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Weather: Cloudy, Windy Morning, Clearing in the Afternoon
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

Today was supposed to be sunny and warm, but it didn’t start out that way. It was cloudy, windy, and very cool in the early morning. Mark worked all morning making new lazy jack lines. These are lines that hang on either side of the main sail. When the main is lowered, the lazy jack lines guide it into the sail cover and keep it from falling over on the deck. Our current lazy jack lines are made of a very thin line and have broken twice during the past couple of months. Mark made the new ones out of thicker line and hopes this will solve the problem. While Mark did this, I started going through all of the things that we plan to bring home with us. We have loads of memorabilia, lots of gifts we bought in the islands, and just stuff that is on the boat that we now know we don’t need here. I know we are going to exceed our weight limit on bags, so I am trying to sort through things and eliminate as much as possible.

Before we knew it, it was afternoon and time to get ready for our friends Randy and Sheri of Procyon to arrive. They were driving up from Gulf Harbor Marina with Rick and Robin of Endangered Species. They arrived shortly after 1:00 and we headed to downtown Whangarei for lunch at Shiraz. This is an Indian restaurant that we had heard serves great lunches, and that they did. After lunch we walked through the downtown shopping area and found some really great shopping spots. One was a kitchen store that had the best array of kitchen gear that any of us has ever seen. We went to Arthur’s Emporium which we were told is a must stop for sailors. It is hard to describe, but I will say that it has a greater variety of buttons and wrapping paper than anyplace I can imagine. It also had paint and paint supplies, sand paper, rope, and tools at “dollar store” prices. Rick, Robin, Randy, and Sheri love Auckland, but they found Whangarei to be a great little town with some wonderful shops. It’s much, much smaller than Auckland, but has a lot to offer. They also got us excited about touring in Auckland when we return here in February.

After exploring downtown, we headed to the waterfront. We went to Stanley’s Marine, a used marine supply store. It has a great variety of things at reduced prices. The guys and Robin then drove south to see a new marina that is being built about 40 kilometers south of Whangarei while Sheri and I went to the Plastic Box store to do a little shopping. We came back to Reva’s to wait for the gang. Reva’s is the restaurant on the waterfront that has a cruiser’s happy hour on Tuesday nights with $10 dinners. But the highlight is not the food, but the crowd of people. Procyon and Endangered Species are down at Gulf Harbor Marina with a thousand boats–but most are locals and not cruisers. They were amazed at the gathering of international cruisers at Reva’s. Rick and Robin visited with Bill and Yvonne of Windsong, friends they first met in Trinidad. We saw Idunne and Runae of Blue Marlin (Norway), Ute and George of Miami (Switzerland), our German friends from Pleite, Felix and Monica of Makani (Germany), and Cynthia and Tim of Arctic Fox (West Coast, USA). Felix and Monica are leaving in two days for Germany and Idunne and Runae and their twins will be flying home to Norway before next week’s happy hour. We said tentative farewells to all as we are leaving next Thursday and might not see them again until next March. We realized tonight just how many wonderful friends we have made from all over the world and we cherish each of those new friendships. That’s what makes cruising such a wonderful way of life. It’s all about the people.

061205 Day 413 New Zealand–Friends Come to Visit

Day 412, Year 1: Sails and Rigging Day

Day 412, Year 1: Sails and Rigging Day
Date: Monday, December 4, 2006
Weather: Partly Sunny Day, Rainy Evening
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

Calibre Sails arrived at 8 am this morning just as promised. Dave is the person we deal with at Calibre, and he came with Bill of Windsong. Windsong is a boat that came here last year and stayed and Bill got a job with Calibre. Bill will do most of the sail repair work under Dave’s direction. All three sails came down quickly and the repairs will be done and sails back on tomorrow or the next day. Whangarei Sails and Rigging arrived before Calibre left, but unfortunately their visit was not as quick and easy. They were able to quickly replace and/or tighten the set screws on both of our Profurl roller furlers, but there is a problem with the staysail furler that is going to require drilling out screws and retapping to replace them. The bigger problem, however, is that they discovered that one of our 18 month old lower stays was frayed. The stays hold up the mast, and frayed stays are very dangerous. They cut it down and took it back to the shop to dissect. They need to figure out why a relatively new stay would fray. There are three other stays that were replaced at the same time and it is possible that all will have to replaced. We are very impressed with the caliber of workmanship here. Everyone responds quickly and all seem very competent. This was not always the case when we had the boat in Boston, so we are very impressed so far.

The rest of the day was spent continuing to clean and dry out everything from under the v-berth and working on polishing stainless. Right now the work seems endless, but it will end next week, done or not, when we fly home. We can’t wait.

061204 Day 412 New Zealand–Repairs Needed