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
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