Friday, March 08, 2019

Dunedin (Part 1 - First Few Days)

[Kyle]As soon as we were tied up, Barry (the Marina Caretaker) disappeared and then came back bearing an armload of packages that had been awaiting our arrival. There were boat parts, which ensured our stay in Dunedin would not be all fun. We also got a very well-travelled care package from Mom, which included a giant tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies, most of which were helpfully broken into bite-sized pieces by the various couriers involved. The flavor hadn’t leaked out, though, and they were surprisingly not the least bit stale. The ironic thing is that with my mother on the other side of the world, my mother isn’t here to tell me I can’t have my mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies for dinner. (I didn’t, but perhaps dessert was a bit larger than normal)

Our arrival had messed up both of our circadian rhythms by denying each of us our last off-watch. We were both sleep deprived and needed an extra-long night’s sleep to get caught up. The thing is, the Otago Yacht Club’s bar is only open four hours a week and now was the only time we would likely get to attend, so we popped in and met some of the locals before retiring. Luckily, it was windy and horrible outside the next morning– the weather we had been trying to beat in – so we didn’t feel like we were missing too much by sleeping in.

We had a warm welcome at Dunedin Yacht Club - and were amazed to met Allan
A sailing buddy of Rene (who we met in Chile) - small world!

Once we were up, I tried unsuccessfully to diagnose some of our mast wiring problems and decided to call it a day. My next step was to go up the mast, which would require less wind and rain for me to even think about. We were just about to turn in when our neighbors arrived back to their boat after a two day road trip by rental car.

Rich and Cyndi were also Americans ("but they were okay"). They have had the same boat for sixteen years and have spent the last few bouncing back and forth between New Zealand and Australia. They had already been in Dunedin for three weeks and seemed to have the whole place figured out. They were going round the South Island in the opposite way to us, so we were all keen to hear tips and advice from the other boat that had just been there. We also wanted to do a road trip by car, so their advice was welcome there, too. They invited us to the local brewpub for dinner, where we got a good meal and a generous taster tray of about 5% of their varieties.

We did manage to eat (and drink) out a few times

We were up and at ‘em the next morning. Our plan was to make the short walk into Dunedin to see the city center. We got a little distracted by a symbol for a nearby viewpoint on our handy-dandy map.

It turned out to be pretty meh, but once we had climbed the hill, we decided to take a detour into the enormous Botanic Gardens. We could have easily spent a week just in the gardens, so we did our best to try to focus on the section of endemic plants. We somehow ended up going through a whole Mediterranean section, which spat us out at a bunch of Giant Sequoias, Coast Redwoods and Monterey Cypress. I couldn’t help giving my old friends a big hug!

Dunedin's Botanic Gardens was quite the gem

We tried to find our way out and ended up taking a path through a bunch of Himalayan shrubbery. At the back of that, we found the aviaries!

Oh, Joy! There were giant enclosures with parrots galore! I finally got to see some Kakas and their cousins the Keas up close. Several recent studies have hinted that the Kea is even smarter than African Greys and a few have even suggested they may be the world’s smartest birds. We watched several for a good long while and they do seem especially clever and playful. I was pleased to see that all of the park’s birds were well cared for with large enclosures with plenty of toys and things to chew. Their diet also seemed to be a good mix of all sorts, instead of mainly seeds, like you see in so many places. <

Both the Kakas and the Keas were gorgeous birds in a very distinctly New Zealand way. From a distance, they look like big, brown birds, but when you get up close to them, you see that their plumage is made up of thousands of multi-colored, iridescent feathers. Instead of having all of the green in one patch and all of the red in another, they have a whole bunch of colors everywhere, which looks brown from a distance.

The Aviary was an unexpected find

The aviary had plenty of other examples of traditionally colorful parrots from other parts of the world. I particularly liked a Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo Named Cookie. Cockatoos are very lovey, cuddly birds, but they can also be crazy loud and they have the energy and ability to shred a sofa in a day. They can be great pets if they are given plenty of attention and lots to do, like avian Border Collies, but they aren’t a good choice for a workaholic apartment dweller.

Cookie had clearly been someone’s pet once, because she was especially friendly and she could speak English. Now she has a giant enclosure, but she still clearly misses human company. Every time I tried to move on, she would start telling me what a pretty bird she was and asking if I wanted Cookie.

We tried to leave. We really did, but we couldn’t help but make another pass on our way out. We must have passed a happy two hours, just in the aviary.

We did finally pull ourselves away and headed towards town. We had almost made it out of the park when I noticed the most magnificent Chestnut tree and just had to go see it. It was wonderful and old and had the most amazingly long branches sweeping out horizontally, just grazing the ground, before curving upwards in an explosion of green. It was THE most perfect climbing tree with gentle slopes and lots of choices of where to go. The one tree must have covered a whole acre!

Okay, town. Are we there yet? Yep. We did finally emerge at the University of Otago and had a stroll though their leafy campus with all of its old stone buildings. We went through more parks and several shopping districts and the grand old train station before we finally curved a path back towards the marina on achy feet.

Around Dunedin Town itself the University dominates, but there is plenty else to see

We were pretty hungry. It was hard for us to pass by all of those nice restaurants and food trucks full of tasty offerings along the way, but we had somehow been invited to dinner by one of the people we had met at the Yacht Club bar the first day.

Allan and Alayne have a steel boat hauled out at the yard, which they are giving a complete refit, stripping down to a bare hull and starting all over again. They drove us to a wonderful Italian restaurant on the waterfront at St. Clair beach, Dunedin’s main surfer’s hangout.

The food there was amazing. Our waiter, Snoop Dog’s Mauri doppelganger, was gracious, paid just the right amount of attention to us and never forgot one single thing any of us told him. Allan and Alayne are marvelous and entertaining company and we easily whiled away the evening laughing and listening to each other’s stories. What nice people!

Afterwards, they took us on a bonus drive (a tiki tour) to the viewpoint at the top of Signal Hill, where we enjoyed the stars above and the city lights below.

Alright, fun’s over!

For my next trick, I climbed up the mast to rewire our hailer horn and to replace our old busted anemometer with the brand new one Barry had handed to us when we arrived.

I spent four hours up there. When I got back down, we reconnected all of the instruments, turned on the power and….

Drum roll please…..Nothing!


Maryanne pulled everything out from under the settee and I squeezed myself in there. We checked every one of the little sensor wires in the bundle and just for good measure, I redid all of the connections. Still nothin’, but we now had definitively narrowed the problem down to the long wire that runs the length of the mast. Oh, I was really hoping it wasn’t that.

I was exhausted, but I probably would have pushed on, to my own detriment, had Maryanne not previously invited Rich and Cyndi over for dinner. It was time to tidy the boat so we could pretend it always looks like that and get ourselves cleaned up before they arrived.

We all picked up our conversation and sharing right where we left off. Since Begonia was docked next to Legacy, we all had a short trip home to bed.

I had a terrible night of tossing and turning, worrying about our damn wind indicator. I knew I couldn’t safely leave it half-installed, so I had to finish the job before we left. Between the weather and our other plans, that meant I had to have a successful outcome TODAY.

I ended up spending five hours up the mast that day. Making all of the connections and snaking the wire when you can’t actually see what you’re doing turned out to be a lot harder than I had hoped. I cut off the connector to the old wire and fastened it to the new one so we could use the old wire as a mouse to get the lead right. It kept getting jammed up partway and no amount of fiddling seemed to get it to run freely. We tried rerunning it four or five times, but it kept jamming. In a couple of places, we were able to get through with Maryanne pulling through from the bottom as hard as she dared. On one last try, she got the free end of the old wire and a whole ball of tape, but not the new wire. Damn. Things just got a lot harder!

I tried several times to feed in the wire by gravity, but it was obvious it wasn’t making it all of the way down to the bottom of the mast. Just about then, Rich came by and asked if he could be of any help. We had a little back and forth about it. He went to his boat, Legacy, and returned with a big coil of bendy wire and a 10m fiber optic scope. That was a tremendous help! Now I could see just how hopeless it was!

It seemed the wires that branch off halfway up the mast - the radar, the deck and running lights and the hailer horn – were keeping the wire from the top from making it through. I removed our running lights to use the wiring hole to get access to the mast. Then I ran Rich’s scope through the hole to find the issue. Using all four of my hands, I managed to operate the scope, hold my phone (the video screen), find the cable and snag it with the bendy wire, all without dropping anything, including myself.

Once I had done that, Maryanne used our scope (what, you don’t have a scope?) to lead me to her at the bottom once I fed the cable back in. We got almost there, but the thing kept heading for a corner at the mast step instead of going for the little hole with the other wires. We fed our scope in further and found the problem: One of the PVC conduits had split and jammed when the previous wire was run. It was now completely clogged with a ball of twine. Okay, go back up and start over again, bypassing the conduit entirely.

More fixing aboard - it took way longer than we planned too.
Using Facetime, and 2 endoscopic cameras, with Kyle on the top of the mast and Maryanne at the base - we FINALLY cracked it.

It took us another thirty minutes to hook it, but we finally got the new wire threaded through the hole. I reconnected everything and then decided I wanted to install the shiny new control head we had bought way back when we were thinking our old one was the problem. That would give us a brand new system top to bottom.

When we got done, we turned on the instruments and…. Nothing! Ah, My bad, I forgot to plug the little transducer wires into the back of the gauge. Try again…. IT WORKS!!! YAY!!!

I had been slowly getting used to the idea that I was going to be up until Midnight fixing the problem. Instead, it was early enough that we were able to go out with Rich and Cyndi to one of Dunedin’s premier Mexican restaurants. They had already been to the other one before. They did a pretty good job on what is a difficult genre down here. Even restaurants have a hard time getting the right varieties of chilies and cheeses to make most traditional Mexican dishes. For example, I’m pretty sure our salsa was spaghetti sauce and when I asked for a REALLY hot sauce, instead of getting Habanero something, I got Buffalo chicken wing sauce. It wasn’t too sweet, though, so it actually went pretty well on my chimichanga, which was indistinguishable from something I could get in California. Yummy!

I could have easily slept in until Noon the next day. Well, that is, if Maryanne weren’t around trying to get me up. We had a car! Maryanne hates paying for a car she’s not using.

So off we went, not to go to a million boat stores chasing up needed parts, but to have fun!

View from the top of Signal Hill

Our first fun was to drive down the Otago Peninsula, which encloses Dunedin Harbor. There is a “castle” about halfway down and the rumor was there was a discount if you could get there before the cruise ship busses.

We just made it, but only because we forced ourselves to ignore so much of the amazing scenery along the way.

Larnach castle (Photo from Self-tour app)

The “castle” was Larnach Castle. That’s what they call it now. It did not belong to royalty, just a really really rich guy, who to be fair, never called it a castle himself, although it was clearly built to mimic the style. It was grand and beautiful and its location at the top of its hill gave it a commanding view of the whole region. Best of all were the extensive gardens filled with giant trees and pretty flowerbeds.

Exploring the Castle and gardens on a beautiful day

After we were done at the castle, I was all for meandering slowly back to Dunedin, taking in the sights along the way. Maryanne hates the idea that she may be missing something, so she suggested going to the point. Before I could say no, she hit me with the puppy-dog eyes and I involuntarily turned left.

We made it to the penguin/fur seal/albatross colony at the end at Taiaroa head, but we only had enough time for a cursory look to determine no penguins were present at the moment and had to leave. Maryanne kept stalling, trying to look at “one more thing”, but I finally had to be the Heavy and herd her back to the car. We had places to be.

Fur seals or Sea Lions - I find it so hard to tell.. Apparently these are Fur Seals

Enjoying the Coastal Road scenery (and Black Swans)

Our trip back was tough. I caved on making a couple of viewpoint stops, but mostly, we kept moving. That was until we hit road construction with delays for one-way traffic. We made it to Dunedin and pulled into the parking lot at the train station ten minutes before our train left. We had booked an afternoon tour on the Taieri Gorge Railway.

Taieri Gorge Railway had some great scenery to enjoy

We made it and found our seats. Since there was no cruise ship in town that day, we only had to share the car with six other people, which allowed us all to stake out a table on each side so we could swap back and forth with the views.

There wasn’t much to start. We started off going through the industrial part of Dunedin and then climbed up into hills that had been denuded of their forest with clear cutting. We were starting to feel a little bit robbed, but then we got past that section and entered the beautiful Taieri Gorge, which did a pretty good job of making up for it all. We took a gazillion pictures of the scenery going by, hoping for a handful of good ones. The conductor let the people in our car stand on the outdoor platform on the end of the baggage car. It got a bit crowded, but it was nice not to be shooting through windows. I only took one unexpected leaf in the face.

When we pulled back into Dunedin, we were tired, but we still had the whole night ahead of us. Allan and Alayne had invited us to dinner at their house. Alayne had made a roast! {Maryanne: We eat just fine on the boat, but some things are a little beyond my patience and lack of counter space, and tiny oven. A full roast dinner with roasted veggies and gravy to boot is a REAL treat and I was especially touched at the kindness of our new friends who know just what to cook}

They have a great house on the lower reaches of Signal Hill with a view of all of the harbor except the yacht club, which is obscured by trees. It was only a six minute drive from the station. We had a splendid evening to top a wonderful day.

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