Friday, May 03, 2019

Last Few Days in New Zealand

[Kyle]Our visas are soon to run out and the cooler weather of Autumn is on the way. The time for us to head north to the Tropics is approaching. Each day, I dive into various forecasts, looking for what might be a possible window of acceptable weather for the passage. Over the last few days, most have settled on about a week ahead. Time to get busy again.

First on the list was a visit to the town of Paihia, where we took up Enola’s offer to use their mooring while they were still down in Marlborough. Paihia has a grocery a medium distance from shore. It was a bit too far for any long term provisioning, but we decided we could use a nice dose of fresh produce to get us through the next week or so. We had to make a point of remembering we were only buying for a few days, like regular people. That helped keep our packs from getting too heavy.

Since the provisioning wasn’t going to take too long, we made a point of going to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds as soon as they opened so we could spend the whole day there if necessary. It turned out to be. There is much more to see and do there than you’d guess from the ticket lobby. We saw cultural displays and films and plenty of artifacts, including the various versions of the treaty document itself, laying out the terms between the Maori and the new European arrivals.

A full day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds - site of the signing of the first accord between the British Crown and the Maori people
Lots to do including a fantastic museum, a guided tour of the grounds, and a cultural performance

The merging of the two cultures has had some of the expected bumps in the road, but seemed to have gone off better than most. The main cause of friction seems to have been caused by the fact that the Maori and English versions have a couple of clauses with slightly different wording. The problem was caused by the translator. I think he probably really thought he was being helpful, but rather than make an accurate word for word translation, he changed some of the phrasing to versions he thought would be more acceptable to the Maori. “We will govern you” became “We will govern with you”. “We will have your land, thank you very much” became “We will share your land. Thank you very much”. The Maori make a very good point that the treaty they were presented with and then signed should be the one in force. To their credit, the current government concedes that this is true, although that has not been their position since the day of signing, so there’s still a bit of a mess to sort out. Hence the protests go a little like this:

Maori: “We want our land back NOW!”

Gov’t: “Would there be a chance you have a second choice in mind so that we don’t have to relocate everybody out of the houses and businesses they have already built there because they thought it would be okay at the time?”

Maori: “We’ll think about it and get back to you! But don’t think you can pull anything like that again!”

Gov’t: “Right-o!”

We noticed Ganesh anchored on the other side of the harbor, near Russell. Maryanne messaged them to invite them over for a cup of tea and we were quickly invited over to their boat the next day for tea and a yarn. Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn were going through their own pre-voyage list of things to do and seemed glad to get a break from it. Their job is made harder than ours by the fact that their dance card is pretty much always full, which leaves them less time in which to do it all. I was pleased they made time for us. They are heading for New Caledonia and then Southeast Asia.

If they hang out in New Caledonia long enough, we may see them again, but it’s probably not likely. Our orbits may fall out of sync and we may not get a chance to see them again as one of us gradually pulls ahead or falls behind the other. It was marvelous to enjoy their warm hospitality and the pleasure of just hanging out in Ganesh’s cockpit having a meandering conversation about whatever comes to mind. I still can’t believe we sometimes just hang out like a couple of boat couples. Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn are my Hank Aaron, whoever the hell that is.

We booked into the marina at Opua for provisioning and clearing out. We also had a car rental booked, so we knew we would be in for a long day of errand running. In light of this, we decided to go and anchor in a more remote location in order to remove some of the more immediate distractions of the “city”. That way, we could get Begonia fixed up and ready for the passage without one thing or another pushing important stuff further and further down the list.

We even got lucky with the weather. It rained pretty much the whole time, so there was no incentive to go kayaking or hiking. I did go for a swim, but only to the extent necessary to make sure Begonia’s underbits were providing the least impediment to smooth water flow. It’s still too cold down here for recreational swimming. We organized and tidied everything and then immediately ruined it all by digging out all of our offshore safety gear. We had one last lie in and one last movie night and then we headed back to Opua for our last big push.

The engines were still tick, tick, ticking away their warmth when Maryanne and I separated for our respective jobs. She took all of our backed-up laundry to wash and I started cleaning the boat and filling our tanks and jugs with all of the water we would need in the coming weeks. She came back via a couple of boat stores and the marina office, where we had mail backed up. That pile of stuff kept us busy for the rest of the day. When night came, we were too tired to cook and clean up, which was fine, because there’s a fish & Chip shop nearby!

We were up early to collect our rental car the next morning. Maryanne was clutching a whole fistful of lists. It was going to be a long day.

Cleaning, Fixing, Shopping
Preparing for a passage and some time away from mainstream grocery stores

There were hardware store lists and auto parts store lists (they have 12V electrical stuff and engine oil). We had stationery store lists and clothing store lists and three grocery lists.

We know from experience that people in the world’s remote places get by okay with what they can get and they generally also have plenty to eat, but supplies in these places can be a bit erratic, to say the least. So…if you think you may need batteries sometime within the next six months, you’d better buy lots of them now in case you can’t find them later. Same with the “good” engine oil, bottles of Tabasco sauce, dehydrated peas, jars of olives, pretty much all spices, tortillas and decent chocolate. Also, not all island stores are close to the harbor, so having a car means buying all of the heavy stuff we won’t want to carry on our backs later. This pretty much guarantees that every one of our trips to the store is an ordeal.

Opua and Paihia don’t have the really big stores we were needing, so we drove the forty miles down to Whangarei for our day’s errands

We load up shopping carts with beer and canned food and crates of milk until there is a definite lag between pushing them and moving them. It’s like pushing a railroad car. When they start overflowing, we get another. Since it’s impractical for us to push and guard more than two trolleys each, we often have to check out, go to the car, unload and pack it all in, then return to the same store for another hour and a half to repeat the whole thing all over again. This still counts as only one visit.

Grocery stores are especially wearying. Maryanne has a system. Her system is well thought out and logical, but can be tough to implement in only one day. Her three grocery store lists require four visits to the store. Not all stores have the same inventory or the same prices. Our first store is the one that is generally the cheapest and with the best selection. We load up there and then proceed to store #2 for stuff store #1 doesn’t sell. After that, we go to store #3 for anything we couldn’t find at #1 & #2. Then, anything we had hoped to find at store #2 & #3 but couldn’t, we went back to store #1 to find the closest available approximations to any uncrossed-out items on our three lists. Even by then, we still have enough stuff to warrant the store opening a special checkout just for us. Often, one of the staff will look at us and say, “Weren’t you two in here this morning doing the same thing? What, did you run out of food, already?” Oh, very droll.

Once the car was loaded from store visits #1,#2 and #3, we took a break to visit Rob and Muzzi at Norsand Boatyard, where they had their boat Lalamanzi hauled out. Oh, Norsand, we hope to not see you again for a little while.

Some 'catch up and farewell' time with boating Friends

They were in the last grubby stages before going back into the water before heading to Fiji. We hope to see them there, but at any rate, it was good to take a break from our respective grindstones to share a pizza before getting back at it again. We left feeling the warm glow of a meal with good friends. It was hard to say goodbye, but we still needed to complete grocery store visit #4 before they closed.

The drive back to Opua seemed a lot longer than the one there and every single bump in the road was announced by the scraping noise of the rental car’s rear struts bottoming out. When we got home, we really just wanted to crawl in bed, but of course we had to return the car without our haul. This meant we had to load up the dock carts and haul it to Begonia first. I did most of the back and forth, while Maryanne got as much of it as she could inside the cabin. Then it was just a matter of climbing over it to get to our much sought-after mattress. We’ll deal with that tomorrow…

The night seemed to last about thirty minutes before daylight started coming through the hatch. Whatever pliability our muscles and ligaments had had the day before had vanished. During a fitful night of sleep worrying about where we were going to put everything, all of our soft tissue congealed like drying glue.

Maryanne did her magic trick of getting all of the stuff from yesterday’s shopping expedition stowed out of the way. While cleaning the boat on the first day, I noticed that our starboard stern rub rail needed to be re-bedded. It couldn’t be put off since it would let water in at sea, so I had to do it right then, so the sealant would have time to cure. That kept me out of her way for the process.

Just as we were both finishing up, Dave and Lyndon arrived. They had driven up from Auckland to check out a boat Dave had been offered a position on and carved out enough time to have a farewell lunch with us.

It was funny. Maryanne had all of the salon cushions up (we have some of our food stored underneath) and I was surrounded by tools and covered in a spider web of stringy sealant which gave them both the impression we were knee-deep in last minute jobs before the passage. They apologized for interrupting and offered to come back later. We said it wasn’t necessary, but they decided to go for a short walk. Two minutes later, we had put everything away, I had switched shirts and we were off in search of them. We only had two more tings on our list: Clear out with Customs and have lunch with Dave and Lyndon. I was looking forward to that last one as our fun reward for finishing all of the other ones.

Dave’s amazing. The first thing he did was congratulate us on our NZ circumnavigation, even though he had beaten our time by something like 153 days, did it in a racing boat with few creature comforts and had to sail in the weather he got instead of picking his moment like we did. Now he was being recruited to captain a boat to Fiji. If he does, Lyndon may meet him there. Who knows? If it all works out, we may get to see them there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Figure Eight-igator Statistical Roundup

[Kyle]We did it! We were sailing fast on a starboard tack across the entrance to Opua Harbor toward the town of Russell when we finally crossed our outbound track. We have now completed a clockwise circumnavigation of North Island and a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Stewart Island and that one in the middle.

Our track (with a few gaps - we clearly didn't sail over land!)
Track sourced from Cruisers Sat

Here’s the numbers:

We left Russell 156 days and 3,230 nautical miles ago. Of that, our North Island loop took 97 days and 1,550 nautical miles. Our South/Stewart Island loop took 59 days and 1,680 nautical miles.

We have made a total of 60 stops in New Zealand. 34 so far on the North island, 21 on South Island and 5 at Stewart Island. Of these, we had 15 stops where we did not leave the boat, mostly because of bad weather and my sore back. We had 5 more stops where we left the boat to explore by dinghy/kayak, but didn’t land, mostly because the terrain wouldn’t allow it, but occasionally because there was no way to get inland past Private Property signs.

The moment we crossed our incoming track - New Zealand Circumnavigation complete!

Our longest stops were in Dunedin (11days), Norsand Boatyard (10 days) and Napier (6 days). We had 17 stops that were only for one night. The shortest was at Whangaruru on the way between the Bay of Islands and Whangarei in November. Our shortest shore excursion was at Barrier Island, where we climbed the hill behind the beach, realized my back was killing me and then limped home. Our longest time ashore was the 2 ½ day trip off the boat to drive the Southern Scenic Route on South Island.

Our longest sails without stopping were Onetahuti Bay in Abel-Tasman to Milford Sound (462 miles, 3 days), Ship Cove in Marlborough Sound to Ahipara Bay, North Island (397 miles, 3 days) and Napier to Wellington (230 miles, 2 days). Of the 156 days total, 78 of those days were sailing on at least some part of the day.

The longest we spent aboard without leaving the boat was 7 days between Ship Cove, Marlborough Sound and Maitai Bay, North island. Second and third were six-day ties. One in December in the Hauraki Gulf because of my back, the other between Lake Cove in Fiordland and Adventure Cove in Stewart Island. That one was because of weather.

And, finally, the coldest water that we recorded was 8.3°C (47°F) at 46°30’S on the passage between Stewart Island and Dunedin, South Island. We were in the deep ocean far from the coast, which generally had 13°C (55°F) water. The warmest was 29.7°C (85.5°F) at Town Basin marina, Whangarei, North Island. They are at 35°43’S. Mostly, the water at the northern end of North Island is about 21°C (70°F).

So there you have it, one more thing to tick off of the list of random goals. We have been surprised to find that very few people attempt such a trip, even the Kiwis, so I think there’s going to be plenty to talk about at the Opua Boat Club when someone asks, “What did you do all Summer?”

New Zealand Memories - in no particular order

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Return to the Bay of Islands

[Kyle]It was still raining in the morning when we left Motukawanui. I raised the mainsail and sheets of trapped water came pouring down on me. The wind was only strong enough to keep the sails filled about two thirds of the time during each wave-induced roll. That made us pretty slow, but at least we were moving forward and heading in almost the right direction. The forecast had been for direct headwinds, but they were actually off to one side, so we only needed three long tacks and three short ones to get to Tikitiki Island off Howe Point, at the northern entrance of the Bay of Islands. As the day went on, the wind picked up slowly until it was just below our reefing limit for full sail. Once we got to Tikitiki, we let out the sails and had a fast downwind reach the rest of the way.

After spending months seeing at most a handful of other boats, suddenly they were everywhere. It was Easter weekend, which in New Zealand seems to be a four-day holiday, and the weather was brilliant sunshine. It seemed everybody was out on their boats for the last hurrah of the season. It was like Chesapeake Bay on Labor Day weekend. It was time to dust off our knowledge of the Right of Way rules, not just the one about “Always give way to lighthouses”.

We were on port tack. Another boat was coming up on our port bow. They were on a starboard tack. We had to give way. We wanted to go starboard, but there was another boat there on port tack who was downwind of us. We had to give way to them as well. What to do?

Easy! Point to Old Glory flying proudly from astern and barge right through. They’ll be expecting that! {Kidding!}

After a few more miles of racing every other sailboat going our general direction, we finally wove our way through a few fishing boats and dropped our anchor right in the middle of the Te Pahi Islands. Te Pahi is a group of four islets, each surrounded by rocky outcrops, all lying within a larger bay. Our route into the Bay of Islands had paralleled our arrival route from Tonga five months before, but so far has not crossed it. Even though we can see many of the places we left in November from where we are, we still haven’t officially circumnavigated the North Island. Soon, though. We could almost cross the gap with the dinghy now.

After a night’s sleep, we inflated the kayak and paddled over to adjacent Rangihoua Bay to a trailhead we saw on one of our maps. It turned out to be the Marsden Memorial Walk. The walk meanders through the hills adjacent the bay and has many signboards telling the story of New Zealand’s first missionary settlement, led by Samuel Marsden. For the most part, it seemed like a peaceful transition, although there was some mention of a few neighboring Maori tribes who were a little hostile to both the Europeans and the tribes they favored.

After the one-way Memorial Walk, we used our map to find an alternative route back, which took us past the Pa mound of the old Maori settlement. (A Pa is a fortified village) The view from up there was amazing! The whole Bay of Islands could be seen from on top, as well as the adjacent valleys in the other direction. It was a very picturesque and eminently defensible position.

From the Pa, we scrambled down to the beach along a trail that seemed to vanish a little more with each step. It seems few people do the whole loop.

We got back in the kayak and returned to Begonia to drop Maryanne off. She had a million little scratches on her legs from the gorse we had to occasionally push through on our walk. Once her legs hit the salt water while launching the kayak, she decided she was too distracted by the stinging to enjoy any more time out.

I went back out and did a big circuit of the Te Pahi group, stopping at the end to land and scramble up the islet nearest to Begonia. I had got it into my head that I wanted to get a photo of the boat from the top.

Exploring Te Pahi Islands & Rangihoua Heritage Park

There was no trail up there, per se, but I managed to claw my way up through high grasses and skirting patches of gorse. The grass was so thick that I couldn’t actually see below my knees. I kept finding mini mounds or holes to trip me up and ended up stumbling my way up and down more than gracefully climbing.

When I got back to Begonia, I was pretty much done for the day and ready to start winding down. We were planning on spending one more night at Te Pahi and then moving across the Kerikeri inlet to Moturoa Island in the morning. The forecast was for rain all day the next day, so we decided to move now, so we could hide inside during the rain and not go out and get wet.

It did rain hard all night, but we were surprised to wake to blue skies and sunshine! The rain had apparently not stopped for the day, but it looked like we would have a few hours before the next wave arrived. We decided to get out the kayak and have a paddle around the islets near our new anchorage.

Around Moturoa Island - among other things we found concrete gannets!

Moturoa has pretty different geology than Te Pahi. The hills here seem to be frozen pyroclastic flows that have since been worn by erosion into big, rounded boulders. They are fascinating to kayak around because of the way even the smallest swell magnifies, reflects off of them and then churns through the gaps.

We played around, ducking in and out of them until the wind picked up and it started getting genuinely rough. Maybe that rain is finally on the way. We hadn’t avoided getting wet, but at least we weren’t paddling around a floating bathtub yet. Time to get back.

{Maryanne: While exploring we were amazed to hear a colony of gannets (and it isn't even nesting season?). As we got closer we found a solar plane, loud speaker and some concrete(?) gannets - presumably part of a plan to attract them to the areas that have been cleared of predators hence making nesting safe. Every time the noise started up, I couldn't help but chuckle.}