Yesterday, Whangaroa was quite nice and we did the climb of the Duke's Nose in calm conditions. The climb is only about 40 mins from the DOC hut on the shore but the finish is a cracker, with 20m of near vertical chains up a rock face to be negotiated. The hand and foot holds are reliable I am pleased to report. The views from the summit are outstanding. Today, our pretty bay is truly vile. A big NW front has been going through today. Barometer has fallen 1 Mb every hour this morning. Here in the "shelter" of Pekapeka bay we have had max wind of 45 knots! Huge williwaws coming down the steep gully nearby, landing "splat" on the water and then hammering straight into us, putting Diomedea over quite a few times. A pan with the remains of our Bonito-bake went for a six in the biggest knockdown. Fantastic "smoking" effects as the water is picked up and blown across the anchorage. The anchor system has been superb throughout. 36kg Manson Supreme with new 10mm hi-test short link chain. The snubber made by Sydney Rigging has excellent elasticity and eased away any snatching on the chain. Unfortunately we did not quite appreciate the strength that the wind would get to in the bay and left the dinghy tied up at the stern. It flipped and now the outboard needs an overhaul. Near us is a 30 footer which has been regularly dipping its gunwhales in the big gusts. In a nearby valley a waterfall was blown vertically upwards for an estimated 100m above the cliff top before flying away in a banner. Torrential, view-obliterating rain has just hosed the boat down. In the last 10 minutes, the rain and wind have backed right off, and the wind direction has gone into the NW, indicating passage of the front. We have been able to read without cabin lights now (2pm NZ time). All in all it has been a quite an exciting day with a very remote Patagonian feel about the place. The forecast is for continued NW flow in the next few days before the next strong front on Thursday, when the wind swaps to SW. We will stay in the harbour for now as there are plenty of bays as well as a marina and a pub. Also of interest is another Diomedea! This time it is a big charter game fishing boat. As I finish this blog entry a rainbow has appeared over the Nose and a patch of blue has come over. Yeehaa!
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14/06/2013, Whangaroa Harbour
Finally, we have managed to leave the Bay of Islands. Forecast was westerly 15 knots for a trip up the coast. Nice wind if you were sailing north from Pittwater but here it was more NW and almost right on the nose. And up to 25 knots across the deck. A long port tack up to the Cavalli islands and then lots of shorter tacks past Flat island to the extremely narrow entrance to Whangaroa harbour. The Cavallis are quite spectacular and home to the Rainbow Warrior, a popular dive site. We caught a Bonito just off Stephenson island on our approach to the harbour and will have him for dinner tonight. Whangaroa harbour is totally awesome. The narrow cleft between big headlands is very easy to miss from the ocean, but opens up into a gorgeous labyrinth of bays and islands. The surrounding hills are surmounted by stunning rock outcrops, many hundreds of metres high. Foremost is the Duke's nose, in which I most certainly could see Prince Phillip's features. However, as you pass to the north of it, it starts to look more like the head of sheep. The cliffs often come right down to the waterline but despite this we have good internet reception. Our chosen spot tonight is Pekapeka bay, in its NW corner. There is a low pressure system rolling in later tomorrow with lots of wind and rain, so this should be a good hidey hole. Perhaps we will have a short window in the morning for the climb of the Duke. I also tried my hand at fishing in the bay with what the locals call a "noodle" and a "Nuclear Chicken". More on this later.
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13/06/2013, Bay of Islands
We had a week on the hardstand at Opua at Ashby's boat yard. During this time the main thrust was to replace the leaking rudder bearing. The large and heavy rudder had to be dropped out of its top bearings, by releasing the bottom bracket on the skeg. It was the first time we had done this since owning Diomedea so quite an interesting process. Finally got to understand the anatomy of this part of the boat. We have now replaced or serviced every single component of the steering system. Seapower mechanics did most of the work and were very professional. Opua Engineering did the bearing manufacture on a lathe as well as fabricating a beaut SS top plate, a new addition. However several other activities were pursued, including redoing an old area of rust aft related to our previous foray in 2008. I ground it back with the remarkably useful Dremel tool and metal grinding head. Then painted with Altex Carboguard 635. If rust reappears I will probably have to cut out the hull plate and put in a new one.
Opua is a very damp place in winter, often holding fog or heavy moisture in the air. As a result condensation inside boats is very problematic and so it has been for Diomedea. I have spent a lot of time insulating areas of the boat left bare but it has not been enough. The forward cabin has had new headlining and insulation but not in the areas directly under the side decks. We have partly dealt with these by injecting polyurethane spray foam and packing with bits of polyethylene mat. It will need more work than this in the longterm. We also applied stickyback 10mm polyethylene inside cupboards in this cabin to keep clothes dry and this is working reasonably well.
To our horror we found the underneath side of our new custom-made latex mattress developing mildew. The mattress rests on a 12mm ply board which covers a large bilge space in which the hot water service resides. This has probably produced hot air and moisture condensing on the board and affecting the mattress. To deal with this, we put the 10mm polyethylene mat on the under side of the board for insulation and then cut a blue plastic lattice tube mat for the mattress to rest on. This should allow ventilation between the mat and the bunk board. Fingers crossed.
We also replaced an ageing seacock for the grey water system. This system has now been completely revised every inch of the way from tank inlets, lid, outlet, filter, pump and hose.
A relatively new cockpit locker lid was rusting badly so we got the local fabricator to make up a new one in stainless steel and then the chaps in the paint shop did a nice job of matching it up to the rest of the boat. (Thanks Chad et al) We reinstalled the old fittings and it is sitting very nicely.
The keel anodes had corroded badly, and had to be replaced even though they are only six months old. Presumably due to our extended marina stays in the that period.
The Superwind generator had developed a noisy bearing whilst we came across the Tasman. It was taken to Whiting Power in Auckland and they said it is the first time that they have had to pull one of these apart to replace the bearings. The German manufacturer apparently also expressed surprise. I am pleased to report that the unit is now back to its usual quiet self.
We got a quote to re-rig the shrouds as well and let me say it is very competitive. Worth sailing across the ditch just for that. We will probably do this in about a month.
It is interesting looking at boats in the yard. There is a gorgeous Van de Stadt Samoa 47 in alloy. Appears in excellent condition until you look underneath and find yourself staring through some corrosion holes in the hull up into the cabin. Not good.
Next to us was a beaut Kauri planked trawler style boat. Complete recaulking required and there were lots of seams. (A bit like when we had our house masonry repointed ). An excellent fibreglass yacht with a carbon stick had numerous areas of osmosis damage marked out awaiting repair. The owner of a Sweden Yachts 50 footer spent at least a week trying to get the rudder bearings of his boat out, the steel fittings have rusted, not surprisingly. Finally a sledge hammer was deemed necessary and the machinery yielded. A motor boat broke from its mooring in a blow and went on the rocks, torqueing the props. A Cole 43 look-alike was hit by a barge whilst it was on its mooring. An ageing IOR style race boat was having its keel bolts extracted, a bit like wisdom teeth. Very little progress was made in the week we were there. And so on...
Finally all was complete and we were relaunched. The rig was reinstated as the forestay had to come off for our Travelift ride. We cleaned up on the dockside for a day and finally cast off about midday today. Initially we plan to sail up to Whangaroa about 25 miles north of Opua. It was a bit late in the day to do the passage in light winds so we have just headed up the Te Puna inlet to the pleasant anchorage over the hill from the Kerikeri yacht club. (35 11.2S, 174 02E) It is quite similar to the D'Entrecastaux channel or Cygnet areas of Tasmania. We went ashore at the steep-to Ake Ake beach for a walk out to the headland and thence down to Opito Bay before returning. A lot of money is here from Auckland. The days of the "batch" seem to be long gone, replaced by expensive architect-designed piles, most of which are unoccupied in winter. Quite a long drive for a weekend, 4-4.5 hrs each way and the road is not open enough to use cruise control.
We were able to borrow a Nissan Narvara ute for shopping in Kerikeri whilst we were land bound (thank you to Wayne) and also stopped at the friendly Cottle Hill winery run by US sailors Mike and Barb Webb. We enjoyed and bought their Chardonnay and Chambourcin (www.cottlehill.co.nz). The wineries in this area are definitely boutique, selling locally. 700 cases of wine would be their annual output. A reasonable bottle of wine can be had for NZ$20-22. Often cheaper at the cellar door than in the wine shops, as opposed to the situation in Australia. Food however remains continuously expensive no matter where one shops. Petrol is NZ$2.17 per litre also. Ouch. Diesel is 1.40 or so at the gas station but 1.60 at the marina. The Vodafone wifi mobile broadband is expensive, $50 kiwi for 2GB of data. The network is not particularly well propagated either. Cannot get it here tonight and we are only 15 minutes from Kerikeri.
As I write this, the boat is barely moving in the gentle SW flow across the bay. The water is deliciously flat promising us a good sleep. The new moon is due out amongst the clouds and stars. A few lights have flickered on in the bay, some cows are mooing, but there are minimal other aural cues. Perhaps my greatest pleasure this evening is listening to the outstanding selection of music put together by our daughter Hannah for Andrea's birthday.
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At lunch in Mosman no less.
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Living on the boat on dry land is no fun. Especially at night when you cannot use the boat's toilet. It is a long ladder trip down and up to the marina loo, so a bucket became our de facto head. With no work being done for the weekend, we had to use the time with non-boating activities. OMG. What to do? A car was required and we set off up the coast, via Kerikeri. Firstly to Matauri bay. A sad place with feral caravans and humpys sullying the beachscape. The graveyard was worse with recent deaths at age sixty quite the norm. The child's grave was covered with beer bottles. There was a vaguely threatening and unpleasant vibe about the place so we left quickly. Next stop was the much more scenic Mahinepua peninsula with the splendid walk out the trig point. Pix hereFollowing this we had a ripoff apple crumble at Whangaroa before heading across the country to the west coast (only about 40km) via Kaitaia, to Ahipara on the southern end of Ninety Mile beach. A quick visit to the soon-to-close Okahu winery for tasting of their quality Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinotage. We stayed at the very nice boutique Beachfront lodge. Click hereHeavy rain overnight but this cleared away by morning. We drove south to Kohukohu on the northern side of the remarkably large Hokianga Harbour(previously visited by us a month ago). Had an excellent flounder at the cafe in the centre of this very historic but now quiet village. It was the port for logging in the 1800's and early 1900's. A ferry takes cars across to the southern village of Rawhene and from there we drove back to Kaihoe, Paihia and Opua. Stopped at the Haururu falls for excellent long exposure photos. In in all a great little trip. Northland is extraordinarily beautiful. Pix here
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11/06/2013, Ashby's Boat Yard, Opua
Well, it always takes longer. It has been a week since we hauled out, but tomorrow morning we should be back in the water with a new rudder bearing. The rudder bearing was leaking on the way across the ditch and as it was 14 years old it was time to maintain it. Just as well as the bearing was badly cracked and was going to fail. It has since been replaced. Here are some pix of us on the hard. We plan to sail up the coast for a while before heading south.
Quite cool in Opua now and remarkably damp.
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