Day 8, Year 2: Canning, Painting, Chain Plate, and Windlass

Day 8, Year 2: Canning, Painting, Chain Plate, and Windlass
Date: Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Weather Today: Another Foggy Morning, but Sunny Day
Location: Opua, New Zealand

Today was a day of canning and painting, continuing to check out the stress cracks in the headstay chainplate, and reinstalling the windlass with the new motor. There was some drama, but all ended well. Mark started the day by heading out in the fog as thick as pea soup. He was supposed to be at Opua Engineering by 8 AM to pick up Michael Scott, the marine engineer, and bring him out to look at those stress cracks in the headstay chain plate. Yesterday we took pictures as recommended by David Laux, so Mark also took in the camera with those pictures. Michael was there when Mark arrived, but he said he didn’t even need to come out to see the cracks. He was absolutely sure that what we have discovered are not stress cracks, but simply cracks in the metal from the original bending process. He said stainless doesn’t develop stress cracks. Rather, if it cracks, it breaks right away. He did look at the pictures Mark had taken, and this further convinced him that we really don’t have a problem. He said that if we really wanted to do something, it would be good to seal the cracks by welding over them. With that information, Mark came back to the boat and emailed Dave Laux back in Delaware and attached the pictures. We really trust Dave and wanted one more opinion before heading out tomorrow. Dave emailed back by the end of the day and said he agreed with the opinion from Opua Engineering. He recommended grinding down the cracks to get rid of them, but he said he thought we were just fine for now. So we are going to leave for Fiji without doing anything about the issue and either grind down or weld the cracks when we reach Fiji. Again, thanks to Dave Laux for coming through with expert opinion in a timely fashion. We really appreciate it.

Around 9 AM Ranger called and wanted to know if we needed any last provisions. Their crew for the trip to Fiji arrived yesterday, and they were all going to Kerikeri to shop. I did have a couple of small requests, but what I really needed was to borrow Marie’s pressure canner. That was fine with her, but we needed to go in to get it before they left for the shopping trip. So we got in the dinghy and went in to the marina. We picked up the pressure canner, Mark went to Customs, and I took a shower. Then it was back to Windbird. I had made arrangements to call my friend Linda Stuart from Concord on Skype at 10 AM, and it was already 10:20 when we got back to the boat. Linda and I had a great conversation, and then it was time to get to work on canning the spaghetti sauce. While I was doing this, Mark was working on installing in the windlass with the new motor. As instructed he used lots fo chaulk to make sure no water could seep in from the mounting. He made sure all the wiring was correct and then stepped on the button to engage the windlass. Immediately, the breaker blew. This is exactly what had been happening before the installation of the new $1200 motor. Needless to say, he was not happy. He checked all electrical connections and found no problems, so he got in the dinghy and went into Opua Engineering to see if they had any ideas. They said that it couldn’t be the motor. The problem must be in the electrical system–probably a breaker too small for the new motor. Mark returned and by-passed the breaker. Still nothing. so he had to uninstall the whole thing. All of that chaulk made a really great mess, but we got it cleaned off with mineral spirits and he loaded it back in the dinghy and went back to Opua Engineering. While Mark was gone, I called Justin. He and Jo seem to be doing really well. We had a great conversation and Mark made it back in time to join in.

Meanwhile, Mark met with the guy who had connected the new motor to the gear box. He realized that he had removed the springs that hold the motor brushes in place and had forgotten to put them back. He replaced them and Mark returned and reinstalled the windlass. It does now work, but there was a time in there when we were pretty shook thinking we had bought a new motor for no reason. Everything is installed now and we are ready to go.

Canning the spaghetti sauce took longer than expected and painting the shower stall and under the aft bathroom sink were messier than I remembered from a day or so ago, but that is all done now. By the time all of this was done, it was time to go in to the Cruising Club for happy hour and dinner. We also took in one last laundry load. We had a nice time talking with good friends and sat with Ranger and their new crew members for dinner. A few boats left today–Moorea, Zafarse, and Shoestring. More than twenty boats are leaving tomorrow, so tonight we all said farewell, fair winds, and “See you in Fiji.”

070502 Day 8 New Zealand–Windlass Installation

Day 7, Year 2: Still On Track for Thursday Departure

Day 7, Year 2: Still On Track for Thursday Departure
Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Weather Today: Foggy Morning, Mostly Sunny Day with a Few Showers
Location: Opua, New Zealand

One thing about keeping a daily log is that it is a constant reminder that we only ‘think’ we know what we will do tomorrow. Things change–constantly. Last night I said I would be finishing the sanding and painting in the aft bathroom, but somehow I never got there today. We did get up bright and early and were able to make successful Skype calls to our health care provider and my former employer to check out the Medicare situation for Mark and to find out why every health claim that has been submitted for us in the past few months has been rejected. Somewhere along the line there was a survey we were supposed to fill out, but since we only get mail about every six months, it must have gotten lost in the shuffle. Without the completed survey, no claims could be processed. The young man we talked with was very helpful and said payments would be sent out in two to three weeks. Since we had every possible kind of health appointment while we were home in January, there are many offices that will be very happy to see those payments.

I then started cooking spaghetti and taco sauce to can and freeze. About that time, Mark decided we should take the boat into the dock to fill up our water tanks. We were at the dock at the same time as Cynthia and Tim of Arctic Fox, and Cynthia asked if I would like to go to Paihia with her to do final grocery shopping. She was borrowing a car to take her son Cameron in to get a new pair of shoes. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so as soon as we got the boat back on the mooring, it was off to Paihia. I took one of our two propane tanks to fill (the other one is full) and filled a grocery cart. Cynthia, Cameron, and I ate lunch at a little Chinese restaurant and then returned to Opua. By the time we got back and I got all of the groceries out to the boat and put away, it was time to fix dinner. No work on the bathroom today, but at least the major shopping is done. Note that I didn’t say that all of the shopping was done. There’s always something else we need.

Sylvie and Doug of Windcastle came out for dinner. We had tacos and spent time catching up on each other’s lives. Sylvie and Doug are beginning to think that they might not get all of work done on Windcastle in time to cruise this season, so this might be the last time we see them for quite some time. I’m not even going to venture saying what we might do tomorrow. If we are definitely leaving on Thursday, we will say some goodbyes and then we’ll do what needs to be done. We do have the windlass back and need to install that tomorrow, and if we are going to take showers on our passage to Fiji, I guess I’d better finish painting in the bathroom. Oh, yes. Then there is the huge pot of spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator. That will have to be processed. And who knows what else might pop up on the radar screen?

070501 Day 7 New Zealand–Opua

Day 6, Year 2: B-O-A-T

Day 6, Year 2: B-O-A-T
Date: Monday, April 30, 2007
Weather Today: Overcast and Rainy
Location: Opua, New Zealand

B-O-A-T–Break Out Another Thousand. The verdict is in on the windlass. It was not the gears or bearings that was the problem. It was the motor. The armature, which is the shaft that connects the motor to the gears, simply snapped in two. So we need a new motor to the tune of $1200. This is the cost of the cruising life. Ranger was luckier with their watermaker problem. They simply took out a valve and put in back in and the whole thing is working just fine. We had one of those fixes today as well. I wanted to sand the aft cabin shower stall and when I plugged in the sander, nothing happened. I checked the inverter and it was on, but the voltage meter was showing no power. Strange. Our first thought was the the inverter was gone and that would be a really expensive fix. Mark got out the manuals and started reading, and then he asked me to try the sander again. Instead, I tried the toaster. That is always my test to see if the power is on. I tried it, it worked, and the reading on the voltage meter showed power. I turned it off and the meter went back to zero. Even stranger. I tried the vacuum cleaner and the same thing happened. Then Mark remembered that he had reset the inverter to be on idle or standby even when it is turned on unless there is power draw. I don’t quite understand the whole thing, but I am very grateful that we don’t have an inverter problem. That would have been another thousand and that would have made this a very, very expensive day.

Mark got back from taking the windlass to shore around 9 AM and we tried to call Heather and Jed using Skype. In case we leave this week for Fiji, we wanted to see that grandbaby one more time. It is so much fun to talk with Heather and Jed and just watch Sam doing whatever he is doing. He was happy just sitting in his mom’s lap at first, but then he got a little fussy. He stood up on Heather’s lap, with her help of course, and he looked so tall. Jed got out a tape measure and a rough measurement showed that he is about 25 inches long. He is a big baby. We had a frustrating time with the Skype connection as it kept dropping and we would have to reconnect to the internet each time and call again. But the frustration was worth it. When we see him we really feel like we are watching him grow. When that call was over, Mark needed to go back to land to check on the windlass, so I went in with him and called my brother using a phone card. We bought a phone card a couple of days ago when we were having no luck with wireless on the boat, and since we might be leaving this week, I might as well use up the time. I had a nice conversation with my sister-in-law Conda and my brother. My sister was at my brother’s house, but she asked that I call her later at home via Skype. I did and we also had a great conversation. Since our son Justin lives on the West Coast and I didn’t expect him to be at home early in the day on Sunday, I decided to delay calling him until we went back in this evening. That was a mistake. Unfortunately, the weather turned really nasty and when we went in for a late afternoon seminar, I decided not to walk the distance from the Cruising Club to the marina phone in the pouring rain. I will try Justin again tomorrow.

We attended two seminars at the Cruising Club this evening. The first was a seminar about sailing around South Africa. Peter from Shoestring is from South Africa and I think he said he has sailed around the Cape seven times. He has also crossed the Indian Ocean a few times and his insights were most informative. The bottom line is that rounding the Cape of Good Hope is very tricky and timing is most important. And although the weather can be really challenging, after sailing through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean twice, Peter says he will never do that again. He recommends circumnavigating around South Africa and visiting Madagascar on the way. Peter said you really can’t call yourself a world cruiser until you have visited the Galapagos Islands, visited the active volcanoes in Vanuatu, and been to Madagascar. We’ve been to the Galapagos, will visit the volcanoes in Vanuatu this season, and suppose we will be going on to South Africa in another year or so.

After the South Africa seminar, it was time for a medical seminar with Dr. Geoff Kivell, Raewyn Kivell, nurse, and pharmacist Dick Meldrum. We have talked with Geoff a number of times in Whangarei, but it never hurts to review those important points about staying healthy in a tropical climates. At the end of the evening, we felt like we have the health bases covered, at least in terms of medicines we have onboard.

Tomorrow I will finish my sanding and painting in the aft cabin bathroom. Mark is going to do a little research on Medicare. He turns 65 in July and there are Medicare decisions that are time sensitive. He is also going to take care of processing the paperwork for leaving New Zealand and our visas for entering Australia. Wednesday will be a shopping day, and very possibly we will leave for Fiji on Thursday. We really won’t know for sure until the weather reports on Wednesday morning, but we have to be prepared just in case.

Day 5, Year 2: Maybe A Weather Window

Day 5, Year 2: Maybe A Weather Window
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007
Weather Today: Temps in the Mid-60’s, Some Rain, Some Sun
Location: Opua, New Zealand

Just last night we thought we might have a three week wait for the right weather for the passage to Fiji. And then this morning we went to the marina for showers and to do laundry and we found out that actually a weather window is being forecast for leaving this Wednesday or Thursday morning. the German cruisers have their own weather guru, Winfred, and this morning on his net he announced the window for this week. Our German friends tell us Winfred is spot on with the weather, and he is saying that we should leave on Wednesday with gentle northwest winds against us, and that by Thursday the winds will turn southwest and then eventually southeast, making it a great passage. The winds will be light, so we will probably have to do some motoring, but it does sound like a good window. Many boats are thinking of leaving, so if we can get our windlass problems solved, we will probably be leaving with the first migration of boats to Fiji. We also have to buy a new starting battery, but that is an easy thing to do from here. Early tomorrow morning we take the windlass in and we will hopefully know sometime tomorrow just what needs to be done to fix the problem. By tomorrow afternoon we hope to know if we will be able to leave with this first migration.

Today was a lazy day, yet we were busy. The marina area was buzzing with activity this morning. Roger and Jane of Wings and Strings arrived this morning from Whangarei and they were on the dock with Susan and Laura of Mystic Traveler. We met Laura and Susan last November when we arrived here. They hail from Massachusetts and are the only other boat out here that we know from the Northeast. We also talked with Felix of Makani, and it was Felix that told us of Winfred’s weather window recommendation.

After showers and laundry, we walked up to the Opua Elementary School for their monthly Sunday morning market. I bought some red peppers and cilantro and then headed back to the marina. We tried to call our son Justin from the pay phone, but we could only leave a message. We then went back to Windbird. We moved our boat to an available mooring closer to the marina and are hoping that we will have more reliable wireless internet from here. Mark worked on the “technical” problems this afternoon and I worked on downloading information from the internet on our destination spots for this cruising season. We have no idea what kind of internet capability we will have in Fiji and know that we will have very limited access in Vanuatu, so I am trying to download critical information now so that we will have it available when needed.

We spent a delightful evening aboard Procyon with Sheri and Randy. They will be heading to Tonga by week’s end and it is unlikely that we will see them again this season. Tomorrow night we have invited Sylvie and Doug to Windbird for dinner. We hope see them in Fiji, but they are not leaving here for at least another month, so it is possible that our paths will not cross again this season as well. We will know tomorrow just how much work has to be done on the windlass and whether or not we will be leaving this week. If we are leaving, Tuesday will be a final fresh food provisioning day and then off we go.

Day 4, Year 2: Weather, Weather

Day 4, Year 2: Weather, Weather
Date: Saturday, April 28, 2007
Weather Today: Temps in the Mid-60’s, Rain Overnight, Sunny Day
Location: Opua, New Zealand

Life slows down just a bit when you are out on a mooring instead of on a dock with other cruisers. We had rain and wind during the night, but nothing as heavy as we expected. By 8 AM it was bright and sunny. Mark spent his morning getting the windlass removed so we can have it checked out. For those of you who don’t know what a windlass is, it is the mechanism that allows you to push a button to raise your anchor. Without it, we would have to pull up by hand a 65 pound anchor plus anywhere from 100 to 300 feet of 3/8 inch chain that weighs 1.5 pounds per foot. In other words, it is heavy and very hard work, so the windlass is most important–and gets more important the older we get! Mark was pleased that he was able to remove the windlass, but he was not successful in getting the insides out so he could examine the gears and bearings. We will take it into a machine shop on Monday morning and hope that they can help us check this out. We are hoping we can fix what we have instead of having to replace it, but we shall see.

I spent my morning working on cataloging the new charts we acquired in Whangarei–charts for Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomons, and Australia. I’m not sure if I am just slow or if Mark is just fast, but somehow he can accomplish a major task while I am still working at what seems like it should be a minor task. I was still cataloging when Mark was finished removing the windlass, and it was time to head into Opua for a noontime weather seminar with New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt. I think I am slow.

The weather seminar was very informative. Bob McDavitt looks like Santa Claus and is quite an animated but and knowledgeable speaker. He makes very complicated weather information understandable to all. That is quite a talent. He’s the kind of teacher that we all wish we had had in college for those really challenging classes. He taught us that the “horse latitudes”, 30 degrees above and below the equator, were named back in the days when ships crossing the Atlantic at about 30 degrees North would become becalmed and run out of water. If they had horses onboard they would release them when they neared an island in order to conserve water onboard. Thus, the Horse Latitudes. We got a little primer on La Nina and El Nino and learned how they were named. We are in a La Nina cycle this year and will have reinforced trades and probably more rain than normal in Vanuatu. That is because the Convergence Zone will hover there instead of over Samoa. Maybe we should just go back to Samoa. McDavitt reviewed with us how to interpret a weather report and gave some tips on trip planning for this year. A rally will be leaving here next Saturday for Tonga and he says they are not going to have great weather for their start. He is predicting a two to three week period before we will get the southwesterly wind we need for a great passage. That might be longer than many are willing to wait, so many of us might make the passage to Fiji in less than perfect conditions. McDavitt’s byline is that weather is a mixture of pattern and chaos. We’ll hope that the chaos in the next week or so will alter the pattern so that favorable weather will come sooner.

At the end of the seminar, Mark and I left quickly, but then I remembered that I needed to give a message to Marie of Ranger. I went back in the Opua Cruising Club to find her and saw that she was talking with a couple very intently. I waited and then saw she was taking out her camera to take pictures. I couldn’t figure out who it was she was talking to, but then Paul told me that it was Fatty Goodlander and his wife Carolyn. Fatty writes regularly in Cruising World and he and his wife are currently doing their second circumnavigation. I met Fatty and Carolyn, got a quick picture, and then talked to Marie. Mark and I then walked back to the marina to get in our dinghy, but on the way we saw Jonah of Araby. Jonah is a young singlehander and we always enjoy talking to him. It was then back in the dinghy and out to Windbird.

Jonah met our son Justin when he was visiting in Samoa and asked us to say hello. I decided to try and call Justin via Skype from our wireless connection out here in the hinterlands. The signal is strong but it is not consistent. The connection kept dropping as we talked, so I told Justin I would buy a phone card and call again tomorrow. Before I do that, I will take my laptop to shore and see if we get a stronger signal there. I have to find a way to make Skype work for us so I can see that grandbaby. The telephone just doesn’t quite do it. Last night I talked with Linda of Dutch Touch and she agreed that Skype video is a must when you have grandchildren. She and her husband Peter just returned from Singapore and Holland where they visited with two brand new grandbabies. Their Skype connection down at Gulf Harbor was fantastic, but they are also having trouble here. I’m sure we’ll work out something to get those video calls going once again.

This evening, I finished the chart cataloging and got most of the charts stored away. I also did a little clean-up on the hull. Evidently after a season of sitting still, there was some carbon burn-off that blackened the hull near the exhaust outlet. After all of the cleaning and waxing we did a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t let the black stay on there long. Otherwise, it has been a quiet evening on Windbird. Hopefully tomorrow will be more of the same. Mark and I both need time to catch up on lots of correspondence. It is time for a lazy Sunday.

070428 Day 4 New Zealand–Weather Seminar in Opua

Day 3, Year 2: Moored in the Hinterlands

Day 3, Year 2: Moored in the Hinterlands
Date: Friday, April 27, 2007
Weather Today: Overcast–Morning Rain Squall, Nighttime Temp, 64 degrees F
Water Temperature: 62 degrees F
Location: Opua, New Zealand
Latitude: S 35 degrees 18.57 minutes
Longitude: E 174 degrees 07.82 minutes

We are back where we arrived in New Zealand in November and it is like old home week. We saw some friends that we haven’t seen since we left here in November and others that were in Riverside Drive Marina just a couple of weeks ago and are now here. We had not called ahead for a reservation for a mooring and we got the very last one. There was one slip left in the marina, but we really didn’t want to pay for that luxury. It costs $7.50 NZ per day for a mooring and $24.00 NZ for a slip. You get the same amenities either way–bathrooms with showers, laundry room, and garbage disposal. We just have to get in our dinghy to get to these things instead of walking down the dock. Weather with strong winds is coming in tonight. That means that the dinghy ride to town tomorrow might be a wet one, but we’ll survive. The temperature here feels much warmer than Whangarei. We were having nighttime temps in the 40’s and 50’s where here the nighttime temp is 62 degrees F. It will be interesting to see how low the thermometer goes tonight. It is 70 degrees inside the boat tonight where we haven’t seen anything higher than 68 degrees in the middle of the day in Whangarei. We have always heard that the Bay of Islands has its own micro climate and I now believe that. The few extra degrees of warmness really makes a difference.

Ranger and Windbird pulled up anchor in Whangamumu Bay at 8 AM this morning. It was partly overcast but still the sun was shining through. We rounded Cape Brett and were able to sail for about an hour as we entered the Bay of Islands. We got hit with a squall about the time we needed to turn into the Veronica Channel leading to Opua, so we rolled in the headsail and reefed the main just in case of strong winds. The squall was short-lived but we decided to continue motoring on in just in case of more squalls. Marie on Ranger had used her cell phone to call the marina to make reservations. There was one mooring left closer to the marina and one further away. We took the one further away and looked for over an hour for mooring ball #21. We never found it, so we finally called in to give them our postion and to ask for further directions. Either #21 doesn’t exist or we are really lousy at following directions. Anyway, we ended up on mooring #30. It is about as far away from the marina as you can get on a mooring, but we like the hinterlands.

After getting settled, we got in the dinghy and went to the marina to check in at the office. We then went to the A dock to visit with Randy and Sheri on Procyon. It was great to see them again. I think Procyon was built in 2001, so it is one of the newer boats out here. New as she is, however, she had a “face lift” while spending the summer in Gulf Harbor Marina down near Auckland. The new dark blue leather interior cushions are beautiful and the new cockpit enclosure is to die for. We love our enclosure, but the people at Gulf Harbor that made this one did it with an unbelievable eye for detail. Looking through all new plastic windows really gives one a whole different view of the world. Procyon’s neighbors, Linda and Peter on Dutch Touch and Bill and Jean on Pelican Express, came over to say hello while we were on Procyon. They also spent the summer at Gulf Harbor and just arrived in Opua. We then wandered down to the E dock to see Doug and Sylvie on Windcastle, but no one was at home. The “West Coast Gang” was on the lawn playing a game, so we got to see many of them at one time–Kelly and Kelly of Moorea who just came in today in front of us, Barry from Surabi, Paddy from Safarse, Bruce of Ohana Kai, Dave of La Vie, and others. We then walked to the Opua Cruising Club for Happy Hour and dinner and saw so many other good friends. Rick and Robin of Endangered Species came in just after we did. It was great to see them and Rick had actually read our log about the stress cracks in our headstay chainplate. He had a couple of really great recommendations for which we were most grateful. Lynn and Dick of Windpony were there, as well as Felix and Monika of Makani, Marie and Paul of Ranger, and Doug and Sylvie of Windcastle returned from their shopping trip just in time to join us for dinner. The Opua Cruising Club has moved into a brand new facility and it is really nice. We will be going back in tomorrow at noon to hear New Zealand weather guru, Bob McDavitt, speak about the weather, and I know we will see even more old friends. It is great to be here and I know we will enjoy the next few days of visiting and preparing for our passage to Fiji.

070427 Day 3 New Zealand–Whangamumu to Bay of Islands