February in Auckland
Well, it's been quite a summer here in New Zealand; cold and rainy. Almost every Kiwi we have talked to, has told us apologetically, that this has been the most extraordinarily cold summer they can ever remember. Usually, they told us, the days are so hot that you just want to stand in front of a fan all day!
Other than the rain, we haven't minded so much! Unless the sun is out in full, and the sun here is burning hot, we wear our fleeces. When we first arrived, we dug out our sleeping bags because we were so cold at night. This was also due to the fact that we had gotten used to tropical temperatures. I guess we aren't the hardy Canadians we used to be!
At the end of January, we had to leave the slip at West Haven Marina, because the owners came back. How fortunate we were to have had so much time in a marina so close to downtown. We could bike to the skate park, the grocery store and the main area of downtown. We tried to get another slip there, but none was available. We anchored out for a few days while we checked out some other possibilities. Now we are at Bayswater Marina across the bay from downtown Auckland. The ferry comes right to the marina so we are only a 10 minute ferry ride away from the main street downtown. It is the best of both worlds!
So, what have the 'Gromiteers' been up to?
Little bits and pieces of things like visiting the Art Gallery. We'll be going again this week to see the 'Degas to Dali' exposition. It is an exposition of the major movement of modern art. We will be able to see 79 paintings, sculptures and prints of 62 international master artists such as; Bacon, Magritte, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, Rodin, van Gogh right up to Warhol. It's very exciting for us to be able to see an exhibit of such magnitude with so many famous and important artists.
We went to a Chinese New Year Festival and saw martial arts, dance and heard beautiful singing. The girls had their faces painted in the most vibrant and artistic styles I've ever seen face painters do.
Another piece of news is that we bought a van. It's a 1989 Toyota Townace with a full bench seat in the back that folds forward, so the floor of the van can be used for sleeping when we start our camping adventure next week. Between this and the tent we brought along from Canada, we'll have enough sleeping space so we won't be cramped into our tent that used to fit us all, before the kids grew so big! Zoe is only an inch or so shorter than me!!!! Yikes!
A few weeks back, we had lunch at an incredible house that Caroline from s/v Riada II was house-sitting. The form of the house is simply an arched roof from ground level at both ends to about 25 feet in the middle. It has windows on both sides. The walls within are curved and almost everything is completely white. When we sat down to lunch, most of us had to put on sunglasses because of the brightness. It was a stunning piece of architecture with an equally stunning view of the ocean from high atop the hill it was built on. We could see the outline of Great Barrier Island and other smaller islands in the bay.
We hadn't swum since we left Great Barrier Island in December, so with our friends on s/v Rhthym, we decided we'd like to go to a beach. We drove to the west coast, about an hour, and spent the day on Piha beach. It is a famed surfing beach due to its large waves. This also makes it dangerous because of its many rip tides. It was surprising to see how many life guards with 4-wheelers and rescue dingys we saw watching closely over the swimmers. Since that outing, we've been told that there is a reality show on TV called 'Piha Beach Rescue', which showcases the weekly, yes weekly, rescue of surfers and swimmers. Oh, boy! Or should that be: Oh, throw me a buoy!!!
Piha Beach is in Wairakere Ranges Regional Park. It has an impressive Visitor/Interpretation Centre, which we took some time to look around and found really great displays and carvings. We also learned the meaning of the names of Piha beach and area: 'the bay of boisterous seas'. So true!
Bruce, our friend from s/v Farfetched, returned from the Philippines where he'd done some land travel to check out places to sail to and marinas he might stay in when he gets there. He stayed aboard Gromit for a night and then we took him to our good friends, Randy and Jenny, who have their boat moored at Herald Island. It was a quick visit with Bruce and only a few minutes to see Randy and Jenny, but we are hoping to connect with them all again during our camping trip.
So this week and weekend promise to be busy with Zoe's birthday coming up and all our camping preparations. We also have to get everything ready for leaving Gromit while we are away. We'll put him on the inside of the break wall here at the marina. At present, we think we might just explore the north island, but we are still considering south island, too.
So, that's it for now!
New pictures - in the gallery under 'Auckland in February'.
I've just posted lots of pictures of our time in American Samoa.
08//01/2012, Smoke House Bay, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
When we were in Smoke House Bay, Dave (s/v Riada II), taught my mom how to fish. One early morning, my mom took my dad and me fishing.
We got up early and dingied to the mussel farm that was about a 20 minute ride from Gromit. I drove the dingy, while my parents trailed fishing lines. We didn't have any luck fishing like that. When we arrived at the mussel farm, we tied up to one of the floating buoys and my mom started chopping up 'kinna' which are sea urchins, and throwing them into the water. This puts out a scent for the Red Snapper.
Red Snappers swim near the bottom, so my parents put their lines down there hoping the Red Snappers would smell the kinna and bite. And you know when you have a Red Snapper because it's not a little nibble, nibble. He chomps down in one big bite. I was fishing near the surface, between 4-12 feet down with little tiny hooks baited with mussels off the the mussel buoys. It is ok to take the mussels off the buoys, but not from the vertical lines that hang down.
My parents just sat there waiting for fish, while I brought in tons of them. I bet I must have had 13 or 14, but some got off the hook. At first, mom was baiting my hook with mussels, but then I started doing it myself. As soon as I put my line in the water, all the fish, about 10 or so, came around my baited hook and in about 30 seconds I had a fighting fish. Then I brought my rod over to where my mom could grab the line and put the fish into the boat. After about two hours, of me pulling in fish and my parents getting nothing and I mean nothing, we went back to Gromit to eat breakfast and then into shore to clean and fillet the fish 'I' caught!!!!!!!
Smoke House Bay pictures now posted in the Photo Gallery. Click on the small pictures to make them larger.
Fishing at Great Barrier Island
After a couple of days at Great Barrier, Michael and I still hadn't caught the amazing Red Snapper that Dave, our friend of Riada II, had been telling us existed somewhere in the murky depths. But, Dave continued to assure us that they were in fact swimming around down there, so I asked him to teach me how to hook them - in other words, put his money where his mouth was!
I'm an early riser and so is Dave, so we agreed to head out around 6 am. The morning started out sunny and almost warm. We dingied to a mussel farms not too far from the anchorage and tied up to one of the many buoys. Mussels here are grown on rows and rows of large barrel-like buoys strung together and held in place with horizontal ropes. From these buoys, vertical lines hang down into the water, on which the mussels grow. The mussels that grow on the buoys and on the lines that hold the buoys together, are free for the taking.
While we were tying up, Dave pulled off a cluster of mussels to use as bait and as 'burly'. Burly is a local word for bait that is thrown into the water to attract fish. Dave told me, that the key to success when fishing is the 'burly'. The whole time we were fishing, Dave was throwing bits of tuna; preserved in salt, mussels, shells and bits and pieces of raw fish into the water around the dingy. This paid off!
Now, I have to say that I'd never really fished before. Maybe, I'd cast a line or held a rod with some bait dangling in the water off the side of Gromit. I'd last about 5 minutes and then give up bored. But this was different, this was the real deal!
In the beginning, Dave baited my hook and he cast my line and I sat holding the rod. I didn't feel like I was really fishing. I told him that I'd cast the next one and he asked me if I knew how to and I said yes, because I had cast the fishing rods we have aboard Gromit. Well, it was all in the wording! If he had included the words 'this kind of reel' when he asked if I knew how to cast, I would have asked what the difference was and avoided the rats nest of fishing line bunched up on the reel. Feeling rather silly and apologizing sheepishly, I tried to untangle the mess, to no avail. We ended up cutting it off and I tried again, this time keeping my thumb on the reel so it wouldn't spin out of control. Success!
Next was the whole bait issue. Now that I was at least casting my rod and feeling a little more like a fisher-person, I thought I'd better take the next step and bait my own hook. I'm not usually 'ick' about things, but mussels and raw fish...... And it's not even the feel of these things, but rather the smell on my hands. Well, I bit the bullet, so to speak, and had Dave teach me how to securely attach a chunk of tuna and very gloopy mussels. Success again! I had my first bite.
I began reeling in and I was surprised that this wasn't so easy. I thought I must have a hundred-pounder on my line! I knew to pull up on the rod and then reel in as I lowered it toward the water. I'd seen it done so many times, but seeing and doing are two different things! I was finally kind of getting it, but concentrating so hard, that I misjudged how close the fish was to the surface and gave another mighty pull upward, yanking the fish right out of the water and giving him the advantage he needed to spit the hook out of his mouth and disappear, right before my eyes, down into the depths, probably with a smug smile on his fishy little lips!
Dang, I yelled as I wacked the dingy seat with my hand. I knew not to pull the fish out of the water like that, but it all happened so fast! Another piece of bait and couple more minutes and again I had a bite, but this time it felt like a two hundred-pounder. I did it right, though and brought a really nice sized Red Snapper to just under the surface. Yahoo!! I kept it just under the water until Dave got it into the net and we pulled it into the dingy - all amid squeals of delight coming from me! I was so excited. I'd baited, cast and reeled in my first fish!
I caught another one, a bit smaller than my first, and then Dave pulled in two. I got one more and we called it a day. It was now 9:30 am and we headed back to the Gromit. I showed my catch to the 'mouths-hanging-open' crew of Gromit and Michael and I headed into shore to begin preparing the fish for the smoke house.
Dave had generously given us the fish he'd caught, and Michael and I gutted and butterflied them while Dave prepared the fire in the smoker. I sprinkled them with salt and sugar, put the hooks through their top edges and hung them in the smoker. Six hours later, with a little tending of the fire, we took out our golden brown, tender, succulent fish.
(Photo album to follow.....soon!!!)
Our poor flag got completely tattered on our passage.
We thought we should replace it before arriving, so we didn't
look like riff-raff!
Holiday Greetings from the Gromiteers!
As we left Huahine Island in French Polynesia last July, we had a plan to spend the cyclone season, which starts in November, in a country near the equator where cyclones don't go. Some options we were considering were, 1) the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea, 2) the Kiribati and Marshall Island Groups which span the equator north of Fiji, 3) Fiji, even though it is not outside the cyclone belt - it has some fairly secure cyclone holes (safe spots) and 4) the much lobbied for by the kids, New Zealand.
In the beginning, the Solomon Islands were the number one choice, but, of course, we were keeping our options open! Over time and after some research, we decided that the Solomons were not where we wanted to go. Next, we seriously considered the Kiribati and Marshalls, but decided against that direction, too. Fiji posed too great a risk, as many of the cyclones originate in or around Fiji. And New Zealand was too far in the wrong direction for us, who want to sail to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand next spring. What to do??? Well, as usual, we flip-flopped many, many times, but in the end, New Zealand won out. But we only made our decision about 1 week before we left. Yes, just a little last minute! So here we are in the land of the Kiwis! Our last few months reads like a good mystery novel; lots of twists and turns and suspense, but not for the purpose of knowing "who dun it", but rather, to find out where the Gromiteers were going to end up!!!
We left Fiji on Michael's birthday , with the strongest winds we've ever sailed in. In the first 24-36 hours we saw winds up to 52 mph (75-88 km/h), but mostly the winds were in the 35-45 mph (50-70 km/h) range. It was very bumpy and uncomfortable sailing, because we had to sail close hauled, which means the bow of Gromit was pounding up and down into the waves. Most of our sailing so far had been more or less with the wind behind us, not on our bow. The winds eased and the next 5 days of sailing were the most beautiful, 'doesn't get better than this', kind of sailing we've ever done. But, in the end, during the last two days, we got slammed again. I've dubbed this passage the "hearty whole grain peanut butter sandwich" passage; hard and crusty on the outside (beginning and end), and smooth as silk in the middle!
So, we've been in NZ for two weeks now. We arrived in the town of Opua on North Island. Check-in was quick and easy. NZ is very strict about what is brought in, so we lost all our fresh food and any meat in the fridge and freezer. We didn't have much of either. They also took away our popcorn, dried beans and anything that can sprout, as well as our honey.
We left the quarantine dock around 2pm and anchored and tidied the boat a little before going to s/v Riada II for dinner. We had been sailing with Riada II and Solara since Makogai Island in Fiji and we all left Fiji together. Riada II arrived in NZ a day before us and as soon as they were finished checking in, they headed out into the Bay of Islands to go fishing. They had emailed us a dinner invitation while we were still out on the ocean. We marvelled at their energy, because we are usually exhausted after a passage and take a day or so to rest up. Not the crew on Riada II!
What a dinner! Mussels in oil and vinegar, a huge plate of sashimi, mussel fritters, scallops cooked in their shells with garlic and butter, fish soup with scallops and then came the main dish; two pans from the oven! One, with tender, white fillets of fish topped with a breadcrumb-cheese crumble and the other, a whole fish dressed in lemons. Rice. And pumpkin pie (made by Zoe), for dessert. Oh!My!Gosh! Every bit of seafood was fresh from the bay, that day. What a feast! I can't even find the words to describe how delicious everything was. Thank you, Dave and crew!
The next days were spent getting the boat back into order; organizing a surprise belated birthday get together for Michael, with Solara, who arrived a day after us and a bunch of our friends who had also come to NZ; organizing a birthday party for Maia's 11th birthday and going shopping for some FRESH food! The highlights in the 'fresh' department were the strawberries and whipped cream and lettuce. We hadn't had strawberries in years. Boy, were they delicious!!! Not complaining though, because we've had mangoes, papaya and pineapples!
Maia had her biggest birthday party ever! There were about 20 people there, all friends we've met since leaving French Polynesia. Zoe baked Maia's birthday cake; chocolate with mocha icing and we had snacks and juice and fun and games. We celebrated at a large picnic table at the marina with lots of room for the kids to run and play and the adults to chat and get caught up on all their adventures. We hadn't seen some of our friends since Suwarrow and American Samoa! It was a great day and one of the few where the sun came out!
Way back in August of 2010, when we sailed into Huahine, we met a family, Phillip, Unilda and their daughter, Mishell, on their boat called Xtazy. Our plan was to sail to NZ with them, but of course, that didn't happen as we decided to stay in Huahine. On one of the evenings we spent together on Gromit, fishing for dinner, Phillip said to us that he had a business plan that he wanted to run by us. So we listened. He wanted to offer cars to cruisers arriving in NZ, with a guaranteed buy back when they sailed away again in April/May. It sounded good to us, so we gave him a 'thumbs up'! We met up with Phillip in the first few days after arriving in NZ to find his business thriving and him exhausted. October, November and December, when most of the cruisers arrive, are his busiest months. He and Unilda invited us to their beautiful home overlooking the rolling green hills of NZ. We ate a fantastic meal and enjoyed hours of 'boat talk' and New Zealand news. It was a great evening! Thanks, Phillip, Unilda and Mishell!
We left Opua last Tuesday with Solara and Mystic, on our way to rendezvous with Riada II at Great Barrier Island. We arranged with Dave on Riada II, who is from Auckland, to meet here on the 17th to do some fishing and mussel and scallop collecting. Dave has been coming to the Barrier, as they call it, for years and he knows 'all the good spots'. Yesterday, we went out on Riada II and did some drift fishing, Michael and Liam speared some fish and Dave dove with scuba tanks and found some crayfish, which are just like lobsters, but without the claws. He also got some scallops and abalone. Can you imagine the feast we had!!!! Oh!My!Gosh! Again!!!!!!
Today we were going to set up 'long lines' to catch fish and fish with bait to see if we could get some snapper. The weather has turned cold and rainy again so we aren't sure if we'll do that today.
After Great Barrier Island, we are going to sail to Auckland - about 80 km away, and celebrate Christmas Eve in our usual way on Gromit, with a chicken or turkey dinner, and all the fixin's. Then we'll open presents and go to bed in hopes that Santa finds us sometime in the night! On Christmas Day, we have a Christmas Day lunch invitation in Auckland from a long-time friend of Michael's, whom he hasn't seen in over 20 years. We are all looking forward to that.
So, that's the update.......cold but happy in New Zealand!
We wish you all a very peaceful and happy holiday season.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!