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

Day 411, Year 1: The V-Berth

Day 411, Year 1: The V-Berth
Date: Sunday, December 3, 2006
Weather: Sunny and Windy
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

Yesterday was spent cleaning out the anchor chain locker and today we moved to the adjacent v-berth. This is our “guest bedroom” but it has secret compartments. Underneath the v-berth beds there is a big storage area. Because it is always closed up tightly, it is the one place on the boat that gets damp and mildewy. So today we dug into that area taking everything out on deck to be cleaned and dried. We didn’t find a way to get to the local country fair, so we just worked all day. Mark keeps his tubes of charts in the v-berth, and they needed to be totally reorganized. That job alone took about over three hours.

We started early today by moving the boat to the slip we will be in for the season. We had lots of help and we really needed it. We had to back into the narrow space and Windbird is just not a “backer”. But with all of the help, we made it in without any major issues. We are much closer to the ramp leading into the marina now which means we are closer to the bathrooms. This is a good thing. Our neighbors to starboard are Marie and Paul on Ranger, a fairly new Island Packet. They are leaving for the States tomorrow, so we won’t see them again until we return in February. To port our neighbor is Maggie Drum. Cindy flew to Colorado this past week where she will be working in Denver until April. Joe will be leaving this week to join her. Bob of White Swan flew home today, as did Ron on Rontu. His wife, Cynthia, went home a couple of weeks ago. Diane on White Swan is staying here to work on the boat while Bob is visiting with his brother who is ill. Slowly everyone is headed home for the holidays.

We stopped working at 5:30 so we could attend the Marina Sunday night barbeque. Most of the people here attend, so it was a great time to get to know people a little better. We met Roger on Wings and Strings. He has a Tayana that looks just like ours-same green stripe, same anchor, same wind generator, same black docklines, etc. Since we have so many things that are the same, we figure we must have other things in common as well. He and his wife have been here since this time last season. She taught in the school system last year and he teaches paramedic classes. His wife is already back in Florida for the holidays and he is flying home on the 14th, the same as us. He has offered us a ride to the airport, so that will be great.

Tomorrow morning Calibre Sails arrive at 8:00 to take down all three sails for repairs. And then the v-berth cleaning will continue. Fun, fun, and more fun.

061203 Day 411 New Zealand–Sunday Night Barbie

Day 410, Year 1: Anchor Chain Locker

Day 410, Year 1: Anchor Chain Locker
Date: Saturday, December 2, 2006
Weather: Sunny and Windy
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

Our day today revolved around the anchor chain locker. First we pulled the 300 feet of anchor chain and 50 feet of anchor line out of the locker and onto the dock. This is what we use with our main anchor, a 55-pound Spade. This left the anchor locker empty as we had already taken out the 75 feet of chain that goes with the back-up anchor, a 45-pound CQR, as well as the 225 feet of ¾ inch line that goes with that anchor. We had that line on the deck for our crossing to New Zealand. We were going to use this with our sea anchor if we had needed that to stop us in very heavy wind. Next we hauled out all of the extra line that we store in the anchor locker. The next step was to clean all of the anchor chain and line. It took us most of the morning, but finally everything was cleaned and drying. It was a perfect day for drying things as it was very sunny and very, very windy. I also hauled out all the dive and snorkel gear and gave it a good freshwater wash down. By late afternoon we had the anchor chain and line all tucked back into a clean anchor chain locker. The extra line is still drying and will be put away later.

We are supposed to move from the space we are currently in to the space we will be in for the season this weekend. The space opened up this morning but since this has to be done at high tide, we had to wait until 6:00 this evening. Unfortunately, it was just too windy so we will try again early in the morning. It will be nice to be in our permanent slip–one more thing we can check off the list of things that must be done before we head home on December 14.

We heard from Randy and Sheri of Procyon. They are staying in Gulf Harbor Marina near Auckland but are coming north for some sight seeing next week. They will stop by on Tuesday and probably spend the night here before heading up to the Opua area. It will be great to see them.

Last night we went from polar fleece blankets to down comforter. It was only 60 degrees inside the boat this morning, but the sun was shining and things warmed up quickly. Last night was probably as about as cool as it will get as summer is coming on quickly, but on the days when it is cloudy, it still feels like late fall to me.

Day 409, Year 1: New Zealand Weather

Day 409, Year 1: New Zealand Weather
Date: Friday, December 1, 2006
Weather: Temperature Hovering Around 60, Rainy Periods Mixed with Sunshine
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand

The weather here fascinates me. One minute you are burning hot and then the sun goes behind a cloud and you are really chilled. Today there were periods of rain and then we would have beautiful blue skies and sunshine . . . and still it would rain. I kept looking up into that blue sky trying to figure out where the rain was coming from, but I think it is truly just liquid sunshine. The only dependable thing about the weather here is that it certainly will change in the next couple of hours. And even with all of the weather uncertainly, I see why people fall in love with New Zealand and never leave here.

I spent the first half of my day today doing laundry. I had gathered every possible cloth item on the boat to wash and it took five hours of loving labor to complete it all. Riverside Drive Marina has two washers but only one dryer. I had all of the wash done in an hour and a half, but the drying took almost four hours. So now everything on Windbird is clean and I can start on the next cleaning project.

While I was doing laundry, Mark was working on our propane system trying to get me back up and running with a stove for cooking. He also installed the new battery charger that he bought yesterday. We are hoping this charger will keep things running while we are away visiting in the US. He was successful in his installation of the battery charger, but not as successful with the propane system. In the afternoon, we walked all over town looking for a new solenoid for our galley stove, but there was not one to be found. Tomorrow we will work on ordering one of these, but in the meantime, Mark has rewired things so that I can use the stove for cooking.

This weekend there is a country fair in Whangarei. It is on the outskirts of town and a little too far to walk, so I’m not sure we will get there. But I’m hoping a cruiser with a car will give us ride. We were told that there are lots of animal exhibits. I would love to get a closer look at the New Zealand sheep.