As the sun was going down.......
Michael replaced all 4 ports in the hull. He removed the old windows, fit, measured and drilled the new plexiglass , while I scraped all the old silicone off the boat. Then he caulked and screwed in the new plexi.
Painting the emergency rudder post.
Anti-fouling the wind vane.
Camping in New Zealand was high in the list of 'to do', as soon as we decided to come here. We had wanted to see both South and North Islands. Originally, we had wanted to spend February exploring the coast north of Auckland aboard Gromit and then do our land travel during the month of March. Well, we were a few weeks behind, so it wasn't until about mid-March that we finally left on our much anticipated 'explore New Zealand', camping trip.
In the end, we toured around North Island only. South Island was very tempting, but its distance from Auckland and ferry cost to cross Cook Strait, helped us to decide to stay on North Island. Of course, in this hemisphere, that is the warmer choice to have made. Really! The southern tip of South Island actually isn't that far from Antarctica!!!
It was a busy week leading up to our departure and the weekend before was jam-packed with activities and invitations. Friday was pretty hectic; grocery shopping for dessert ingredients and birthday dinner foods, laundry and then the anchor and chain!
We had taken our anchor and chain away for re-galvanizing. Before putting it back into the anchor locker at the bow of the boat, it needed to be marked, (so Michael knows how many feet are out when we are anchoring). We laid the 280 feet of chain out on the dock and with a 25 foot line we marked off every 25 feet with a piece of yellow, nylon 3-strand line by weaving it through the links of the chain: a 1 foot section at 25 feet, a 2 foot section at 50 feet, 3 foot at 75 etc. The chain was so long that we couldn't lay it straight down the dock. We ran it about 40 feet along the main dock in front of Gromit and then at a 90 degree angle along the side of Gromit on the finger dock. It was a huge 'L' shape with many lengths of chain running side by side, that inevitably crossed here and there. Well, that bit of crossing here and there and a bit of incorrect measuring ended up being our undoing!
Everything was going along fine and then we couldn't find our third two-foot sections of yellow line. It was then that we realized we'd put it in at the wrong spot fairly early on in the process and all other pieces following it were now incorrectly placed. It was mid-afternoon and we had to be ready by 5 to go to a friend's house for dinner. The stress was building!
We started to undo what we'd done and then realized that the line we'd been using to measure with wasn't a full 25 feet, so every piece of yellow line was incorrect. Back to square one. The configuration of the chain was proving to be too confusing, so we laid it out in a more straightforward way by dragging it along in front of Gromit in 50 foot lengths. With all hands on deck, we got the chain marked and back into the anchor locker just before 5!
Normally, I would have decided to leave it for another day and when Michael was around to help - he was off helping a friend, but we couldn't because we were moving the boat to another slip first thing the following morning.
With dessert, made by Maia, in hand, we blasted off to pick up Michael and head off to Christine's (Michael's Kiwi friend of 25 years) for a fabulous dinner and evening.
We chose Saturday morning to move the boat because both the tide and winds were low and the manager of the marina could help us navigate the tight spaces using his ding like a tug boat. Moving Gromit is always a stressful time for us!
Saturday afternoon, we celebrated Zoe's birthday with a BBQ dinner at a beautiful home in the country, that our friends, Randy and Jenny on s/v Mystic, were house sitting. Jenny made an outstanding fruit pie for Zoe and Randy was 'Grill-Master' at the BBQ. It was great friends, food and fun!
Sunday's plan was to go to a beautiful beach with some of Zoe's girlfriends, but the weather was nasty, so we had to cancel. Sunday evening, we were invited to a dinner with the family whose house we looked after at New Years. We brought dessert, made by Zoe. It was another fabulous meal and our first of lamb here in New Zealand.
Whew! By the end of the weekend, we were exhausted! So, needless to say, we weren't ready to head out on our camping adventure. It took us until Friday to pull it all together.
With the van packed to the roof, we finally got away around 10:30 in the morning, but of course, we still had about 4 stops to make before we got on the big # 1 highway; direction Taupo. We'd been told that there was a great campsite near Huka Falls, but we were getting worried that we might not make it in the daylight and would have to set up camp in the dark. We did make it though, just in the nick of time.
This first campsite was by far the most exciting and stressful. Yes, stressful! The first tent site we picked had a bit of a low area, so when we heard that rain and wind were coming, we decided to move to another site on higher ground. This site was certainly going to be drier but there were some trees nearby which concerned us, but we figured we were far enough away from them.
Our friends, from s/v Solara, came to spend a couple of days camping with us. Even though it was a blustery, rainy day, we had fun sitting under our tarp getting caught up. We hadn't seen each other since they left Auckland in January, sailing south along the east coast of North Island to Napier. We lit our two-burner stove to make tea, coffee and toast for breakfast and didn't turn it off until after dinner.
After toast and tea, Zoe made a triple recipe of scones, which she fried, three at a time, in our cast iron frying pan. By the time we ate those, over the span of a few hours, it was time to start lunch. Robin brought over some bacon, we pooled our eggs, cut up cheese and onions and Michael cooked us some really delectable omelets. There were 9 of us, so it took quite some time to feed everyone, one omelet at a time. Then it was time for another round of coffee and some hot chocolates for the kids. The whole time, the rain continued and the wind picked up, but we just kept on chatting, cooking and eating tucked in under our tarp.
About mid-afternoon, a backpacker named Michael came over to say hello and we invited him to sit and join us. By this time, we were starting dinner preparations. We cooked chili and Fijian curry with basmati rice. We told stories, riddles and jokes until about 9:30 at night. I was a really pleasant day despite the nasty weather.
The winds were still blowing hard when we went to bed and I gave another thought to those trees that weren't too far from our tents. Around 4 in the morning, I got up to check things out and held a flash light up into the trees and decided that the dead tree I'd noticed when we'd moved to this site, wasn't moving any more than the rest, so I crawled back into my sleeping bag, saying to Michael that I thought things were alright. Not long after, I heard and thump, went outside to see that a good sized branch had fallen near the tent.
The wind was howling even more, the tent was straining and I wasn't feeling at ease about our proximity to the trees. I said to Michael that I wanted to move the kids into the back of the van. We began pulling everything out of the van and loading it into their tent and within 10 minutes the three of them were squished in like snug, little sardines in a can. At the same time, we noticed a lot of commotion with camper vans driving away from their sites and into a treeless parking area. It was like when a huge wind hits an anchorage and boats drag and re-anchor! Michael and I got ourselves as comfy as we could in the front seats of the van and eventually dozed off. A sharp wrap on Michael's window around 7am woke us. Darin was pointing towards our tents. Behind them lay the dead tree I'd been worried about. It had fallen only 2 metres away. Yikes!
No surprise really. The wind was so strong that many live trees had been uprooted and in fact, the road out of the park was blocked. Around noon, workers arrived and cleared the road. Within 20 minutes, two huge trees got blown over and blocked the road again.
After seeing the two huge trees fall across the road, we felt that there were too many trees too close to our tents, so we began to relocate to another site. We ran into our tents to pull out stuff whenever the winds abated a bit. We moved everything into the middle of an open area, away from the flexing trees. A lovely couple invited us to have some coffee and toast in their camper van.
We were in the process of setting up in the new spot when the tree clearing crew told us that they were closing the park and we'd have to leave. We had planned to stay a few more days. We were pretty tired and somewhat shook up, so driving to a new campsite and setting up didn't sound too great, plus more rain and high winds were forecast for the next few days. We also had some tent repair to do. We called around to some backpacker places, but they were all booked up. Next, we thought of our friend Carolyn's parents Ron and Carol. We had met them about a month earlier and they had invited us to come and stay with them when we were in their area during our camping trip. We weren't really in the area, but when we called and asked if we could camp out at their place, they said it was no problem. Whew! We really needed some time to dry out, regroup and repair our tent.
Arriving at Ron and Carol's felt like coming home. They greeted us with hugs and kisses and welcomed us into their home like family. We settled in and told them about our adventure at the campsite. They filled us in on their news since last seeing them and then, after warm showers, we quickly fell asleep in comfy, cozy beds.
The next day was busy with tent repair and reorganizing our gear, which had just gotten thrown into the back of the van in our haste in leaving the campground. Carol was at a golf tournament - which she won!!! And Ron patiently answered all our questions and helped us out with everything. We ended the day with an incredible roast chicken dinner prepared by Carol and the girls baked a superb pie for dessert.
Saying good-bye the next day was hard. We wanted to stay forever! We did however, tear ourselves away by noon and hiked up nearby Mount Maunganui, before heading to our next campsite 2 ½ hours away, just south of a town called Opotiki on the road towards East Cape.
Boulders campsite turned out to be one of our favourites, partly because it was the only one which allowed fires. But mostly because it was a small, remote site, situated beside a beautiful river and alive with songbirds like we hadn't heard in years. What a pleasure to be woken up by bird serenades every morning!
After 5 days, we packed up our camp and drove to East Cape where the East Cape Lighthouse is located. It is the first lighthouse to see the sun in the world and it stands on the most easterly point on the North Island. We pitched our tent on a hill overlooking the ocean over the backs of cows peacefully grazing on the gently sloping fields.
Our next stop was the city of Gisborne, where we stayed in a Backpackers Inn called the Flying Nun - it was a former convent, and we went to see the movie 'The Hunger Games'. Farther down the coast we spent 3 days in the lovely town of Napier, also known as the Art Deco capital of the world.
Bad weather was on its way again, so we headed north through Auckland, picked up the keys to Christine's cottage, known as a 'bach' and waited out the rain for a few days. The final part of our trip was spent in the northern part of North Island seeing the amazing, giant Kauri trees, magnificent forests and stunning coastlines.
We saw a Kauri tree that was around 2000 years old. Standing in front of it, it was hard to get our heads around its age! We tried to imagine the world 2000 years ago.
Right beside our last campsite was a walking path through an old, old forest of Kauris. At night we could hear the Kiwi birds and despite the four nights in a row we tip-toed into the forest under a blanket of darkness, we were not able to sight even a single one! But, the kids did find a bunch of Easter eggs along the path on Sunday morning. Go figure! I wonder if that had anything to do with our dear friends', Cinda and Fred of s/v Songline, visit on Easter Sunday???
On our way home to Gromit, we bought some frozen pizzas and salad and then tackled the big job of unpacking the van and organizing everything aboard. All of us worked really hard and within a few hours all was ship-shape and we ate while relaxing with a movie. Ahhh, it was good to be home!
See pictures of our trip in the new album in the gallery.
I'm having trouble loading the pictures, so hopefully I'll get it worked out soon.
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'.