01/16/2012, Fiji to NZ
This morning we are off on our 3 day sail around the top of the North Island (Cape Reinga), then down the Tasman Sea, and to Golden Bay at the northern end of the South Island. The weather window looks good, and we are looking forward to a few days of offshore sailing (although we are never more than about 100 miles offshore). Gloria and I figured out that the last time it was just the two of us on an offshore passage was on an overnight sail from Vavau to the H'ai Pai group in Tonga! Since then we have always had another crew.
On this trip we are traveling with two other boats - Visions of Johanna, and Jackster. Winds will be somewhat light - will probably have to motorsail on the second day. We expect to get to Golden Bay on the morning of January 20th local time.
take care, Michael and Gloria
01/15/2012, Whangaroa Harbour and north, North Island, New Zealand
One of six stream crossings on the Totora North Stream Track, trail head at DOC hut at Rere Bay
After the blustery Tall Ships Race in Russell, we started our trip up north, in preparation for rounding the top of North Island at Cape Reinga. The weather has improved,and summer is definitely back.
Flowers frame sweeping views on our climb up St.Paul's Mount high above the Whangaroa township
Our days have been filled with beautiful hikes past towering water falls, kayaking through inlets and mangroves and up rivers lined with draping Pohutakawa trees. At night we have been feasting on fresh oysters gathered at the seaside.
Gloria shows off the catch-ready for appetizers on Visions of Johanna
We are now in the idyllic fishing village of Mangonui, where we enjoyed a total artery lining feast of fish and chips last night from the "World Famous" Mangonui Fish and Chips shop.
Gram, Johanna and Bill look a bit guilty digging in to their piles of fish and chips!
Today we are making our final preparations to head to our last stop on the east side of North Island, heading for Houhora, a small anchorage about 30 nm north. This will have us as far north as we can safely anchor before heading out early the next morning for our 450 nm passage down the west side of the North Island to Abel Tasman, South Island.
01/08/2012, Russell, New Zealand
As Kastaway powered into the gust, the rails disappeared under a torrent of water, flooding around my boots where they clung to the now submerged holding. We were on the final blustery leg of the Russell Tall Ships Race. The race has taken place every year since 1976. This year for the first time the race coordinators actually considered postponing the race, but in the end the race was ON! With winds predicted to be gusting to 35-40 knots only the hardiest racers were left in the running. Many of the Classic Tall Ships bowed out of the race. The fleet was still a surprisingly healthy size, with about 50-60 boats competing in two divisions.
As luck would have it mutual friends Ralph and Sharon were enthusiastic and up to racing their beautiful American ketch Kastaway in the Classic Division, and invited us along as crew. Ralph managed to pick up an assortment of crew at the skippers meeting in the morning, including two barefoot young Aucklanders, a local Maori man and a couple from San Francisco who were in the process of moving to New Zealand. Up from Auckland to enjoy holidays in the "Bay", Jamie and Mark really were barefoot and were each sporting surf shorts and a rain jacket. Their mission had been simply to find a morning coffee before they found themselves onboard as Kastaway crew. Both were hardy, low key and very experienced sailors. Roger was born across the bay near Waitangi and had recently moved to Russell. With a woollen cap to shelter his head from the deluge of rain, his long greying hair framed his dark Maori features creating a certain seafaring look. He stood at least six foot tall and wore rainsoaked jeans and loafers under his black rain slicker which hung down to his knees. He had never been on a sailboat in his entire life, but he was dead keen to give it a go. Jay and Sandra were excited to crew for their second time in the Tall Ships Race, bringing their racing knowledge from the other side of the Pacific to the mix.
Despite the predictions for high winds, the first leg of the race was light enough that we shook out all the reefs in both the main and the genoa. As we sailed out of the protection of Russell Harbour, the swells began to grow. Although the race was to take place through and amongst an assortment of islands in the Bay of Islands, the course was exposed to the wide open Pacific on both the start and finishing legs. We raced along closely with our competitors as we watched boats with local knowledge trimming corners off the course by coming shockingly close to rocky points where the ocean swells crashed and tumbled into huge crashing surf. The rain was heavy and constant making it difficult to look up from under the large hood of my rain jacket, but Kastaway took the swells in hand, making a comfortable ride, and giving us all a chance to find our sea legs.
As the race progressed the winds intensified, and two larger Classic style boats blew by us with every stitch of rag out.
Everything out to the wind off Urapukapuka Island
Overall winner- SV Nina works her way past Kastaway
Although we were all busy handling lines as Kastaway surged powerfully along, we all marvelled at the pure beauty of these old boats to handle the heavy seas. The next delight was catching up with a smaller old time open sloop, manned by three crew, as it rocketed along the course heeled at an alarming angle to the water. The helmsman leaned his weight backwards as he expertly guided her along with the tiller. If it wasn't raining so hard I would have tipped my hat to these salty dogs!
In the groove
Down the third leg a tremendous bang suddenly broadcasted itself from Kastaway's rigging, and I looked up to see the mainsail tear at the first reef points under the force of a heavy gust. As crew sprang to the sail to bring it under control and into the second reef, Michael kept the boat moving along at the helm. With the momentary confusion of the shredded sail, we temporarily lost vision of one of our close competitors behind our sails. As I looked forward, the competing yacht had tacked in front of us and was screaming a half boat length across our bow. I shouted with alarm to Michael who quickly steered Kastaway from the collision, passing the boat so close we could see the eye popping expressions of the crew on the other boat.
Tidying up the ripped main sail
Behind the huge bluffs of Roberston Island winds were less predictable, and by staying further off the island we managed to catch up to a fast moving sloop which was leading its division. As we rounded the corner reef off the island, we were in a cat and mouse fight for position, with only a boat length separating us. The reef was at most 50 meters off our port side, with our competitor nestled between us and the hard. The ocean spray shot several meters into the air as it met resistance with the rocky shoreline, all to collapse down and drain in powerful waterfalls back into the ocean. With the wide open Pacific on our starboard side, she was by now offering swells in the 3-4 meter range, making boats we were competing with disappear behind walls of waves, with only the sails and masts exposed. On board Kastaway we all found a way to brace ourselves as we managed our particular jobs of grinding winches to trim the four different sails. Despite his lack of experience Roger caught on quickly to his job of trimming the mizzen sail. Throw in two soggy bare foot Kiwis, and the picture was perfect! At the very least, the whole scene would have served up a marvellous poster for the race!
Throughout each twist and turn of the race Captain Ralph remained stoically calm, even with the damage to the main sail and the near collision. His wife and sailing partner Sharon was equally amazing as she even managed to cook some delicious chocolate croissants mid race for the crew. Enthusiastic, encouraging and ever calm, owners Ralph and Sharon are simply wonderful people to be out in this sort of an adventure with.
Altered horizons- holding on
When it came down to the final leg the wind intensified to its previously predicted speeds. Michael stood at the wheel, water pouring from every angle of his body in steady streams, as the heavy rain , whipped up by the fury of the wind pelted his body. We were a soggy crew as we buried the rails through several more gusts, causing a splashy mix of salt and rain water to crash upon our already thoroughly soaked gear. Kastaway crossed the line in fine form, fourth overall, and placed second in the Tall Ships Division!
After bringing the party below decks, we all started to dry off as we wetted ourselves in a different fashion with hot and cold drinks. When I asked Roger, the never been on a sailboat local Maori what he thought of the race, he summed it up nicely. How did you find the race Roger? "It was fun, but the difficult part will be in describing my adventure to my family!" I can only imagine!
The Tall Ships Race Day wraps up with a huge Hangi celebratory meal. This is the traditional feast of the Maori people- all in all 900 meals were carefully prepared, wrapped in tin foil and cooked in a massive underground pit. After the race prizes, several men uncovered the oven, deftly digging away the hot, water soaked earth. The heat generated a huge billow of sweaty mist as the covers were lifted off the food. On the top were hundreds of huge mussels, slowly smoked to perfection over the course of the day. Wrapped in the individual tin foil meals was a generous assortment of beef, chicken, and root vegetables, all deliciously moist and fragrant. Despite the rain, the crowd spread out across the grassy hillside and using a half of the mussel shell as their sole utensil, dug into a well deserved meal.
The crew digs in using the mussel shell as a spoon
But the fun wasn't finished with the Hangi. In the 1800's Russell was a bawdy, rowdy whaling community, known as the wildest corner of the entire Pacific. It seems these Kiwis in Russell still remember how to throw a party! As the last morsels and mussels were enjoyed, a live band cranked out dance music under a huge tent where copious amounts of beer and wine flowed. Dancing barefoot through the night, the crowd finally dispersed sometime after midnight. We eventually poured ourselves into our dinghy to make our way back across the windy and wavy bay to Paikea Mist, exhausted but perfectly satiated under the cloudy night sky. We had just sailed a magnificently exciting Tall Ships Race aboard a beautiful yacht with a crew from all walks of life, ate amazing food and danced ourselves silly to good old rock and roll. Life is good, and cruising life is simply divine.
Check out photo gallery for more photos - all photos courtesy of Sharon and Sandra
12/28/2011, New Zealand, North Island
The last heading I saw flashing on the screen in front of me was 212 degrees, heading on a southwesterly course into Auckland, New Zealand. Our speed was unusually high, about 850 km/hour, and with landfall closing in 350nm away, touchdown was a mere 56 minutes away! Down below, through an opening in the rain soaked clouds, white fisted waves slapped their late spring prowess across the not so pacific Pacific Ocean. As we made the rhumbline to Auckland, my mind was slowly making its rounds to the world of adventure awaiting me below, back on board Paikea Mist. The flight had served as a welcome transition between my northern and southern hemisphere lives.
Almost a month had passed by since I stepped onto the plane in pastoral Keri Keri and flew home to bustling Vancouver, leaving Michael to his long list of boat projects. Now, as the first signs of New Zealand lay on the horizon below I felt a mixture of pure joy and lingering sadness all jumbled together in a turbulent package of emotions. By choosing to spend Christmas 'down under', I left behind our much loved 'kids' to celebrate Christmas with the 'other' side of their families. My thoughts wafted through many of our Christmas's gone by, revelling in the details. The candles alight on the tree Christmas Eve, stockings stuffed to the brim and skiing Christmas day. In Vancouver, friends and family alike had hugged a mutually reluctant goodbye, but now I could barely wait for Michael's embrace.
The morning I left Vancouver the weather was sunny and cold, and as I stepped off our daughter's boat early in the morning, the frost glistened snowy white on the docks. It was still dark enough that the Christmas lights adorning the boats were just visible, glistening softly as if to wake up the world slowly. This was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It was pitch dark long before my plane took off at 6:45 pm that evening. As if to emphasize the change, I would fly back to New Zealand to one of their longest days of the year.
I happened to arrive on my birthday and after enjoying a lovely dinner with live music at the local cafe, we walked back to the dinghy at 9:30 pm, with easily enough ambient light to see our way. At home my favourite birthday evening is to relax in front of the Christmas tree sipping eggnog with rum!
Rather than spending my hours pining for all those little things that 'make' Christmastime special at home, I was determined to enjoy the Christmas differences between Southern and Northern Hemisphere, and went about looking for signs of Christmas in New Zealand.
Christmas in New Zealand is definitely a low key family affair. The live duet playing at the Marina cafe did not venture into a single holiday tune. No Dreaming of a White Christmas here I guess! On Christmas Eve we drove down to Whangherie for a wonderful dinner onboard S/V Rutea. In the afternoon, we enjoyed walking through an outdoor craft market where a young woman sang and played the yukelele. Her songs were wonderfully local in flavour, but not a mention of candy canes or mistletoes! On the waterfront of Whangerie's Town Basin, a lively local dance club consisting of kids from 1 to 92 (well almost anyways) kicked up their heels to 50's music. Toddlers to Grampa's were swinging and jiving in the sunshine. No Santa Claus knees to sit on here, although the city had dumped a melting pile of snow in the parking lot which the kids enjoyed. The search for Christmas went on as we drove through Whangerie back up to Opua late Christmas Eve. The night drive revealed no Christmas lights aglow- that is unless the red and green traffic lights counted. We've since been told that there are a couple of blocks in Auckland that traditionally put on an amazing Christmas light show that brings hordes of people through. With the sun going down so late though, youngsters have a hard time staying up late enough to enjoy them.
After unwrapping our presents Christmas morning we unfurled our rather large mutually exclusive present, our brand new genoa! We sailed out into the warm sunshine to the Bay of Islands in hopes of mingling with the holiday crowds. Perhaps here is where we would find the true Kiwi Christmas spirit! The bay was fuller than we have ever seen it, and boats continued to arrive until the bay was packed like a Walmart on a Boxing Day sale. Even still, I know where I'd rather be! A boat in front of us had a small Christmas tree tied to its stern. On the beach, kids shrieked as they ran through the brisk wind with fistfuls of sand and water. Dinghies zipped here and there and families joined each other to enjoy freshly dug scallops and other delights from the ocean. Walking the trails of Urapukapuka Island the huge yet graceful Pohutakawa trees set the tone for Christmas spirit, Kiwi style. Their deep red flowers glistened in full blossom, fantails and Tui birds flittered through their branches, providing the picture perfect frame against the green hillsides and seascape views. A truly magical sight: Family, fun, and Christmas in the Bay of Islands.
After fruitlessly searching for a turkey to cook a traditional Christmas dinner, I had also settled on a sea fare focus, with barbequed prawns and salmon on the menu. Friends from S/V Jackster joined us for a smashing boxing day dinner- complete with an aperitif (thanks Jacquie) of bubbly, fresh scallops(dug that morning by Jacquie and David), salmon with ginger, sweet potatoes baked in orange juice and a delicious apple crumble for desert. When we could finally turn our Christmas lights on (sometime after 10 that night), Christmas was complete!
Christmas, it seems, comes in many packages.
12/15/2011, A world apart
Canine comfort- Gloria and her 'granddog' the magnificient Kyber
After two and a half years of being connected at the hip, Michael and I have gone our separate ways. You may be wondering why you haven't seen a blog post for a while, but the past month has just been so incredibly intense. Now almost an entire month has gone by, and it is finally time to tell you what is going on.
I flew back to Vancouver in late November and have been working again- Michael, he stayed with his second wife and did all sorts of crazy things to her. It has been a tough month, but change is always a bit of a curve ball.
So by now you are probably wondering....and so am I- what are you guys thinking?
Before we left, so many people (women especially) asked me how I would ever stand to spend so much time with my husband on a small boat on such a long trip. One friend was apparently so concerned that he came right out and quoted divorce rates for cruising couples, which apparently is pretty high. Well, if you are thinking these thoughts you are waltzing down the wrong GPS track.
Yeah it can be a challenge to be 'together' so much. But usually Michael and I find all sorts of amusing adventures and misadventures to occupy our time together. We continue to have very common interests and share a deep enthusiasm for what we are doing. Both of us are independent and when in port have no trouble with separation anxiety. I enjoy my walks and talks with my girlfriends and Michael and the guys love to talk shop (which amounts to who fixed what how). Although we both own identical Paikea Mist shirts AND jackets we almost never wear them on the same day together. A little autonomy goes a long way on a small boat and a big ocean!
So by now I hope you have exhaled a sigh of relief. I came home to work (I am an Occupational Therapist and I have been able to continue to see some of my previous clients each time I fly home to Vancouver). This puts a little extra money in our pockets and keeps the cobwebs from fully entrenching my cerebral cortex. Michael and his second wife, (who I truly am absolutely convinced he loves just as much as he loves me) stayed in Opua, New Zealand. Michael started by shining her sides until they were blue, bringing back her sparkling youth and beauty. This created quite a stir on the docks where lots of men informed Michael that they wished he wasn't doing that- it made them somehow uncomfortable- usually because it meant their wives put "boat polishing' on their honey do list. From there Michael got very serious, replacing rigging and lines to keep his beauty strong and faithful. He even had the chain regalvanized only to find the anchor windlass motor fried. Sadly this unfaithful item was a brand new Lofrans 1500 which was installed just before we left. Corroded and useless, apparently not water proof or salt resistant even though it is made for A BOAT!! (Fine print actually reads "do not install in wet environment"- go figure). Michael now has his new motor purring reliably so we can lift our heavy chain and 100 lb Spade anchor up effortlessly. Even I love the sound of a purring motor- I would imagine it would take from here to next year to bring it up by hand.
One of the more expensive items Michael bought for his second love (I am still the first- so I do wonder how he is going to one up this for Christmas) is a new head sail. Just after arriving in New Zealand, our 144% Genoa split down the side of a repair we had made in Fiji. A couple of days ago Michael took the sail maker (from Doyle) and his beloved PM (well I love her too if I tell you the truth) out for a test sail with the new canvas. The sail maker saw that I wasn't onboard, and was initially concerned that Michael was by himself. Michael assured him that she was used to being handled by two and would have no problems sailing for a couple of guys. And off they went! All went fantastically well as he tested the sail tacking up wind in 25 knots, PM steaming along, the new cloth flying well with great shape and no flutter.
Michael's attention to Paikea Mist is never ending- he also continued with a number of small upgrades like installing lights in cupboards so that we can find things inside at night. Who knows, I might even have a few surprises when I get back.
I fly back to Opua next week. Although I've spent most of my time working, I also managed to include some fun time too. Our South Pacific cruising buddies Allan and Alison (SV Fly Aweigh) came up to Whistler for a few days to experience the Great White North. We got in a fabulous day of skiing and a great walk through the snow covered valley before they had to head back to their pilot jobs.
Alison, Allan and Gloria on a bluebird day up Whistler
Now that I have finished by 'paid' work I am running around Vancouver with the ever present list clutched in my fist, in collection mode, picking up this and that for Paikea Mist. If you are a fellow cruiser, I'm sure you can relate.
I've been enjoying staying on Asunto, the 50' Catalina Morgan my daughter and her husband call home here in Vancouver. (Check out their new blog at http://www.svasunto.com). She really is a great liveaboard, and even has a guest cabin for Michael and I. Spruce Harbour Marina is a beautiful place at this time of year, all the boats sparkling like magic in the spirit of the season.
walking in a winter wonderland
Michael and I are looking forward to reconnecting at the hip (or thereabouts) and spending our Christmas down under in the Bay of Islands. There are lots of cruiser friends around to share the holiday spirit with. I only hope I can find some decent Egg Nog. In the New Year we plan to head up the northeast coast and park ourselves at the top of North Island where we will wait for a decent weather window to sail down the west side of New Zealand to South Island. This will be our first venture out of the Pacific Ocean since leaving Vancouver- into the mighty Tasman Sea. We will spend a few months exploring Abel Tasman and Marlborough Sound before heading back up the east side to Auckland around March or April. From there we will head back into the South Pacific to explore the islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
Our plans (loosely written in something equivalent to Jello) continue from there- Australia via Lord Howe to Sydney for Christmas and New Years 2012. From there we will push off to Tasmania and then back to New Zealand by March 2013. It is entirely possible that in April 2013 we will be looking at the long sail home. We'll see, but we will see it together!
Looking forward, looking back
We invite you to continue to follow along as we make landfall, explore the islands from reefs to mountaintop, and meet the islanders that call these fascinating places home. Two Thousand and Eleven has been a fantastic year for us with fond memories of adventure and exploration, friends and family.
To you and yours, we wish you a very merry holiday season and smooth sailing in 2012! Stay in touch- we love hearing from you!
Lots of cruisers are in Opua this past week enjoying the atmosphere and events of the week long All Points Cruisers Rally. The week has been action packed with seminars, outings to local wineries and cultural centers, as well as the requisite comedy and talent nights. Tons of fun, and people from all over the world to meet! Some are brand new to us. Other folks we've already met in our travels across the Pacific and enjoy catching up as we share our stories of exploration and adventure. Many of the boats this year are from Canada- making Canadians the most represented group at the Rally, at least a dozen boats from Oh Canada! Hardy bunch we are- and loud too!
Last night was a free event- barbequed hamburgers and cold beers in the giant tent they have set up for the Rally in the parking lot here at the Marina. Food, especially that advertised for free is always a big hit and brings out lots, hmmm...well let's just say "all "of the cruisers. The tent was bristling with activity as people loaded up plates of hamburgers, coleslaw and potato salad, all while juggling beer and chatting with the fellow cruisers in line. The early evening was blustery, with a cold so'westerly wind bristling through the large tent. The crowd mingled and intermingled as people do when they have friends to introduce, acquaintances to reacquaint with and passages, cruising plans and equipment to discuss!
After our delicious burgers (topped with pickled beets in the true New Zealand fashion), Michael and I wound our way through the crowd, until we finally settled into seats at a particularly lively table on the 'windward' side of the event. The crowd gathered round at this cold corner were of the aforementioned hardy bunch, adapting to the cold weather after a long hot season in the tropics without complaint. Perhaps this had more to do with our country of origin though than anything else...at a single table there were 3 Canadian cruising couples comparing cruising life and adventures. That wasn't such a coincidence except for the fact that all three couples previously lived literally within blocks of each other. Now you might not think this is such an amazing happenstance? Well add to that yet another Canadian boat who had just hours earlier left for Auckland. Yup, this couple was also from the same neighbourhood of Ocean Park! Its completely true, all four couples previously lived within a square mile of each other! Four boats from our little neighbourhood of Ocean Park here in Opua at the same time! Is there anyone left in Ocean Park? Is it something in the tap water that makes people store all their worldly belongings, say goodbye to friends and family and move onto a small boat only to venture out across the biggest ocean on the planet? Needless to say, with so much in common we had a riot discussing all sorts of stuff Canadian- although the conversation quickly turned to skiing and Whistler's early opening! It seems that skiing and sailing go hand in hand in the Pacific Northwest and we were all salivating over each other's planned trips home and opportunity to get in a few turns at Whistler. If our cruising paths don't cross in the future, we are all pretty likely to see each other at the local Safeway store, or maybe even the local ski slopes in the years to come - once our cruising adventures are finally tucked into bed.
Perhaps instead of six degrees of separation we might want to start talking about 6 blocks of separation!