Day 408, Year 1: A Rainy Day in Whangarei (fon-gar-ay)
Date: Thursday, November 30, 2006
Weather: Rainy, Turning Cooler
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
What do cruisers do on a rainy day in Whangarei? For one thing, we clean out those well hidden storage spaces that we haven’t gotten into for awhile. We found a minimal amount of mildew for which we were grateful. And now Mark is working on little indoor projects while I am writing the log and organizing pictures for the website. We had a rental car until noon today, so we started the day by touring the town. We drove to one end of town to see the New World supermarket that is supposed to be the best, and then we drove to the other end to visit the Tourist Information Center. I had gotten a lot of information pamphlets in Pahia, but I have been reading and now know more about the specific places we plan to visit when we do our land touring here. This center had volumes of free information for us. They were also very helpful in terms of informing us about various ways to travel around the country. They gave us the locations of the local places that rent and sell cars and camper vans, so we also visited those. We went to The Warehouse which is like a huge Walmart and realized just why we decided to go cruising. It took what seemed like forever to find a parking place, and then when we walked through the pouring rain to get inside we were greeted by Warehouse “greeters”, just like Walmart, and crowds of people inside. I don’t think I’ll be going back there!
At the information center, I bought a travel book entitled, “The Lord of the Rings Location Guide Book”. It takes you through scenes from the three films and gives you information on visiting the various film locations. It even gives GPS coordinates, so I guess even cruisers will be able to find these spots. I bought the “Lord of the Rings” DVD’s before leaving home, so if this rain persists, we might just kick back and watch a movie as we study the travel guide. That sounds like a great way to spend a rainy evening or three in Whangarei.
Day 407, Year 1: Whangarei Welcomes World Cruisers
Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Weather: Still No Change–Blue Skies, Sunny, Temperature in the 60’s
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
Today started with calls to the US to make appointments for physical exams, eye exams, dental appointments, and every other kind of exam you can imagine. Since we have been gone for over a year, we knew we needed to make these appointments. I called using Skype and it only cost two cents a minute. You know how you have to wait when calling doctors’ offices, so I was really glad I was using Skype rather than a regular telephone. Mark decided to rent a car today to do some of the running around he needed to do, and I stayed aboard Windbird and did a long overdue cleaning of the inside of the boat. Before we knew it, it was 3:00 and time to go to the Whangarei welcome dinner for cruisers. It was held at the Whangarei Cruising Club and started early so we could be introduced to the mayor and all of the major marine businesses in town before dinner. Over a hundred cruisers attended, with over half coming down from Opua on a bus. It was a very nice event with great food and it gave us another chance to connect with lots of people we have met over the past few months. Bob McDavitt, the New Zealand weather guru spoke and gave us the news that tomorrow bad weather returns to New Zealand. Bummer. It has been so beautiful, but I guess we will have to endure a few bad days before sunshine returns once again.
We sat at a table with Richard, Marilyn, and Barrie of Lady in White from England. We met Richard and Marilyn back in Moorea, but we hadn’t met Barrie previously. Barrie and Marilyn have spent time in the US and they were talking about touring California. Barrie mentioned that Marilyn Monroe was once the Artichoke Queen of California, and that brought on the artichoke stories. It was great fun.
We have the rental car until tomorrow afternoon, so tomorrow morning will be a whirlwind of shopping and information seeking stops. When we return here in late February, we plan to do some land touring with our friends Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg from Concord, so we want to do some price checking on car rentals versus car purchasing. This will also give us the chance to see where things are in town. Since the weather is supposed to be stormy, I’m sure glad we will have the car to do these explorations. Walking in the rain is not my favorite activity.
Day 406, Year 1: Happy Hour at Town Dock
Date: Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Weather: No Change–Blue Skies, Sunny, Temperature in the 60’s
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
The weather has been incredible. I guess summer really is coming to New Zealand. It is still cooler than we are used to in the early mornings and evenings, but the sunshine during the day warms things nicely. We started our morning with a quick visit by Calibre Sails giving us a quick estimate on getting our sails off and repairs made in the next two weeks. Next Tom, the local Profurl representative came by to talk about repairs to both our head sail and stay sail furlers-again to be done by the time we leave here to come back to the US. Somewhere in there we had breakfast and then Mark took off to find the guy who does boat paint estimates. In just a few minutes he was back with Gavin from Pacific Gloss. The fiberglass on our topsides, the white sides of the boat, have developed some strange crazings. Gavin thinks there was a problem when the fiberglass was first applied, but it has taken 26 years for the problems to make themselves known. We can either heavily sand the hull and then apply epoxy and paint, or we can have the sides shaved professionally followed by several coats of epoxy, lots of fairing and then paint. If we decide to have the sides shaved, the work will have to be done professionally and I’m not sure I want to see the price tag. If we go with the heavy sanding alternative, we could do the sanding piece but it will take time and energy. We would have to do this in April and by that time it will be fall here and the weather will be cooler again. We’ll have to find out how this would affect painting. I guess the other alternative is to ignore this for another season and return here next November with the intent to do this work during the New Zealand summer. Once Gavin gives us an estimate, we will decide what to do.
While Mark was out gathering more information, I cleaned the bottom of the dinghy and washed the boat down with fresh water. It was then time for lunch and soon after, Mark took off with one of our propane tanks in search of a propane dealer who could help us with a problem that developed just last night. We have propane in the tank, but we can’t get our stove to light. That means no cooking, so we need to get this fixed ASAP. Mary on Kismet, the boat just across from us, offered to take Mark to the “gas man”, so off they went. I stayed on Windbird and worked on getting the last pictures from Tonga labeled so that they can be sent to the website. By the time Mark returned, it was time to get ready to go to Happy Hour at Reba’s at Town Docks. There is only one Happy Hour night here and it is Tuesday. So off we went. Reba moved here from the US over 30 years ago and has built her business from a small pizza place to a very nice restaurant overlooking the Town Docks. There are many boats on the docks and that means many cruisers at Happy Hour. We sat with the crew from Riverside Drive Marina-Maggie Drum, Ranger, Oz, and White Swan-and visited with others that have settled in other locations here in Whangarei. We saw George and Ute from Miami who are temporarily at Town Docks and Steve and Toya from Cheers who were just taken out of the water today and are on land at Dockland 5. We haven’t seen Tom and Bette Lee of Quantum Leap and think they must have headed further south getting ready for their flight back to the US next week.
We learned from other cruisers today that our first impression of drivers here was correct-stay out of their way. Pedestrians absolutely do not have the right of way here. Joe of Maggie Drum was almost hit when he first arrived. When he reported this to the police, they just asked him what he was doing in the road. The fact that you have to cross it is your problem!
I met Yvonne of Windsong today. She and her husband are from Utah, but have been out sailing for about five years now. This is their second season here at Riverside Drive. Mary of Kismet that took Mark into town has been in the Pacific for about seven years, and she and her husband have finally established residency here. It seems like this is a very comfortable place to spend the Pacific cyclone season-so comfortable that some never leave.
Day 405, Year 1: At Home in New Zealand
Date: Monday, November 27, 2006
Weather: Blue Skies, Sunny, Temperature in the 60’s Again
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
Unbelievable. We have traveled almost half way around the world, and when we got into Riverside Marina today, we knew way more than half of the people here. We haven’t known these fellow cruisers for long, but I found it strange to feel so much at home when we are so far away from the United States. World cruisers are an interesting group of people, and once you have met, you feel like close friends. Marie and Paul of Ranger are here. We first met them on a LeTruck bus in Papeete, Tahiti, when Mark’s sister and brother-in-law, Lee and Mary Ellen were with us. Paul was actually on the dock ready to take our lines when we arrived. Our next door neighbor is the boat Camdeboo. Jennifer and Campbell are the people we met in Minerva Reef that took us out in their dinghy to the reef. Bob and Diane of White Swan are here as well as Joe and Cindy on Maggie Drum, both from the West Coast of the US. There are others that we know, but I won’t list them all here. We are not in our final docking space, but for now we are in a space reserved for Eagle’s Wings. That is a boat owned by Beth and Ken, the couple we met in Bonaire who helped us with our little creature problem. The owner of the marina, Ray Roberts, told us that Eagle’s Wings is still in Fiji, so we might not see them before we fly back to the States, but I’m sure we will see them when we return. So coming into our home for the next few months was like “Old Home Week”.
It took us almost three hours to come the 13 miles up the Whangarei River from our last night’s anchorage. The upper part of the river is very industrial, so the banks are not picturesque, but not as bad as we had expected. After being in such beautiful anchorages for a year, the thought of coming into a city dock in an industrial area didn’t sound very inviting. Actually, however, it is not bad. As soon as we got the boat secured, we walked the 15 minutes into town just to see it. On the way, there is one marina business after another. Mark was like a kid in a candy shop. Just before we crossed the bridge into town, we passed Town Basin Marina. We saw our friends Hanoah from Brunswick, Maine, in a slip there, and we also saw Fatty Goodlander’s boat, Wildcard. Some of you might know him from his articles that he has published in sailing magazines. He crossed to New Zealand from Fiji at the same time we crossed from Tonga, so we were on the same net each morning. His articles are very funny. We also saw the boat Miami at Dockside, but we didn’t see George or Ute. I’m sure we will catch up later. Crossing the bridge into town was like going through a time machine. All of a sudden, we were in a city with big trucks, fast moving cars, lots of stop lights, and stores for as far as you could see. The population of Whangarei is only 50,000, but it seemed like a much larger city to us today. We went into the closest grocery store and almost got lost. We couldn’t find the dairy section, and when we asked, we were shown into a whole room that was refrigerated. It was surreal. I guess we have been away from civilization just a little too long, or maybe we have really never seen anything like this before.
Tomorrow we start getting the boat ready to leave for a couple of months. Mark has a worklist that is about two pages long, so I’d say we’ll be pretty busy from now until we fly home for Christmas!
Day 404, Year 1: At Anchor in the Whangarei River
Date: Saturday, November 26, 2006
Weather: Blue Skies, Sunny, Temperature in the 60’s
Location: Urquarts Bay, Mouth of the Whangarei River, New Zealand
By 0700 this morning, we had pulled up anchor and were well on our way out of Whangamumu Harbor. Mark wanted to get an early start in case we did decide to make it to the Whangarei River today. After listening to the 0730 weather report, we decided that we should go for it today as the weather report for the next few days sounded uncertain. We had wind today, but it was variable. Sometimes it would blow 10 knots and the next minute 20 or 25 knots. It was behind us, so we put up our full sails. We motored sailed for part of the day, and then had a delightful sail for a few hours. We passed Whangaruru Harbor just south of where we stayed last night. We could see three or four small towns in that bay. Next we passed Tutukaka where we could see a small marina and town. But mostly we saw green hills and craggy, rocky cliffs along the shore. Finally we rounded Bream Head and found our anchorage in the mouth of the Whangarei River. It was a beautiful day and we were glad that we got to sail at least part of our last passage of the season. Tomorrow we will motor the 13 miles up the Whangarei River and will be in a slip at the Riverside Drive Marina in Whangarei by tomorrow night if all goes well. That will officially end the first cruising year in the voyage of Windbird. Wow! That doesn’t seem possible.
It feels like late fall in New England here tonight. There is a southwest wind and there is a definite chill in the wind that we haven’t had since we first arrived. The winds are supposed to turn northerly again tomorrow, so maybe that chilly edge will go away.
Day 403, Year 1: Opua to Whangamumu (fon-ga-moomoo)
Date: Saturday, November 25, 2006
Weather: Blue Skies, Sunny, Temperature in the Low 70’s
Location: Enroute from Opua to Whangarei, New Zealand
After listening to the morning weather report and going to shore to say farewell to some good friends, we left Opua around 10 am. When we arrived in Opua ten days ago, it was cloudy, rainy, cool, and windy. Today it was sunny and warm with very little wind. All of the islands that were only shadows when we entered came to life in living color today. There was not enough wind to sail, but we motor sailed quite comfortably. It took about two hours to get out to Cape Brett and make the turn south toward Whangarei. Just off Cape Brett is an island with an arch that small boats can go through. Locally, this is referred to as the “hole in the wall” and we enjoyed seeing it up close as we rounded the Cape.
Our destination today was going to be weather dependent. If there had been good wind, we would have gone further south. But since there was not, we stopped just south of Cape Brett in Whangamumu Harbor. There was only one other boat when we arrived, but tonight there are four of us tucked into this snug anchorage. The area is totally uninhabited and is quite beautiful. We rowed the dinghy to shore late this afternoon to see the ruins of a whaling station. The people who ran this station actually caught the whales in nets strung between huge rocks just offshore. What is left is quickly being assimilated into the environment. The huge steel tanks are rusting away, and the concrete basins are filling with soil and water and will eventually erode away.
Our destination tomorrow will depend on the weather. If there is good wind, we will probably sail all the way to the Whangarei River and anchor at the mouth for the night. If there is little wind, we might go about 20 miles south of here to a harbor named Whangaruru. It is nice to have the time to just go where the winds blow us.