Tai Mo Shan

27 November 2015 | Bucklands Bewach, Auckland
11 July 2015
16 June 2015
30 May 2015
19 April 2015
12 April 2015
08 February 2015 | Brusbane
29 January 2015
19 January 2015
17 December 2014
04 December 2014
26 November 2014

Christmas 2015/ New Year 2016

06 February 2016
Christmas Eve dawned with strong winds and the threat of rain. Paul had to work until midday, so Helen was left to prepare the boat. So just past midday, Paul raced back from the office in Parnell to the yacht club. Once arrived, the 240 Volt equipment (dehumidifier, kettle, heater etc) along with a couple of large bags of winter clothes (not required in an Auckland summer – even if it is wet and windy!) went into the car boot. A quick change to boating clothes and at 1330 we cast off, destination Great Barrier Island.

Now the wind was 20 to 25 knots, which was actually in Tai Mo Shan’s useful sailing range. The prevailing wind at Auckland is South West, and Great Barrier Island is usually a bit of a down-wind blast. Of course, Christmas Eve and the wind was, well pretty much East with a bit of North. This meant we could sail pretty much direct to Port Fitzroy on a tight reach. Our speed would mean the effective wind was more like 25 to 30 knots, and pushing into the wind blown chop. Ah well, at least we did have a sailing angle and so could head direct to our destination. We set off and held a good speed of 5 to 6 knots smashing the chop. Ah, yes, and as we left the rain started. Fortunately we have the hard top and our clears are still pretty good so we stayed dry sailing in the rain albeit with reduced visibility. So, pushing hard into wind, with a reasonable heel angle and a fair bit of movement as we hammered the chop we blasted past the Noises clearing the inner Hauraki Gulf. A couple of hours later and the wind started to swing a bit more Northerly. The forecast was for the wind to swing Westerly in the afternoon, and it was now late afternoon, so for once the forecasters could claim they got it right – nearly! Anyway for us this changed our sailing angle and we would have to tack to get to Port Fitzroy. So, a longer sail with a tack and still hard on the wind. A quick look at the chart and Kawau Island here we come – ah the ability to change plans; wonderful! So a course change of 90°. Now that changed things and. we were now on a broad reach, cross and down wind. An easier ride with the chop, and Tai Mo was unleashed at over 8 knots! Even the rain let up, and a small pod of dolphins came to say hello and then carried on chasing the tuna (we saw those as well!). Of course this could not last. Some 5 miles off the gap in the reefs near Kawau the wind dropped, pretty much completely. One minute a good 25 knot push, the next 5 knots. We were in flat water, with dark water flecked by white spume all around us. The clouds were speeding around us, but above us they were just being ripped apart. It felt like being in the eye of a cyclone! Sure enough a few minutes later and the wind was back; a Westerly. Well full marks to the forecasters. Of course, Kawau was pretty much, well West of us. So back to hard on the wind, but only for a few miles, soon covered. Around the corner to the calm water Kawau Bay, drop the sail, past Mansion House Bay (pretty full with anchored boats) to a nice sheltered spot deep in Bon Accord harbour. So, not Great Barrier Island, but to Kawau by 2030, the long way at 39 miles, but at a reasonable speed.

Christmas Day was bright with a gentle breeze. Nice, and Santa had called. So Christmas decorations, Christmas Trees on the table, and lots of presents. A full fried breakfast, with champagne, and then the ducks went into the oven. More wine, cold duck sandwiches, food, wine, food, wine, food, wine, oh and some rum. Christmas Day was, well good for the winter padding!

Boxing Day was another bright day with light Southerly winds forecast, and dying off. So 0900 and we were underway motor sailing slowly downwind past Kawau, then catching the 2 knot current as it flowed through the North Channel, a nice boost. Even better, as we cleared Kawau the wind was enough for the motor to go off and we were doing what Tai Mo Shan does best; sailing. All sails up and 5 knots through the water then 6 as the wind filled. We had our hand lines off the stern and just off Little Barrier Island got the ‘click’ as something took the lure and pulled the line through our bite indicator (OK, a clothes peg). Helen slowed the boat by turning into wind Paul pulled the line in. On the end was a Kingfish, a sleek fast predatory fish renowned for the fight it puts up. As it got closer Paul could see it was comparatively small and so decided not to gaff the fish. This meant that the fish could be returned alive, but it also meant pulling up 12 Kg of seriously upset strong fish on the steel trace – race gloves were in order. And there it was, Paul wrestling the 65 cm long 12 Kg lump of slippery skin surrounding muscle and teeth. A quick phot and back it went to grow a bit more. Yes, the legal limit for Kingfish is 75cm – that’s why it is a Kingfish! Excitement over and it was back to sailing until the wind died as we passed False Head. A nice sail across, and then a gentle motor in through the Man O War passage (which is a good 20m wide with big rock (well islands) either side. Helen felt at home as we glided through a calm Port Fitzroy to drop the anchor in our old haunt, Ghost Bay, at 1455. Great Barrier Island, better late than never! And as the tide dropped we found a dozen nice juicy Green Lipped muscles.

The next day, the 27th, saw light winds and a chance to catch lunch. Which we did, 9 nice ‘pannie’ Snapper, from 30 to 40 cm. Several smaller fish went back along with a Red Snapper (colourful, bright red but not as tasty a proper Snapper!). Light winds and Great Barrier is a joy to drift fish. That night we met up our friends with Pete and Linda from West Park. They had sailed up in their small yacht ‘Bill’. A good social evening followed.

The 28th saw us meet up with other friends, Dave and Linda, on their 35 foot motor boat, ‘Fair Catch’. A trip ashore to meet up with old friends Sven and Patricia; it was great to chat and catch up. Even better, Sven was more than happy for us to wander on his land, which is a fair chunk of the Island! Dave and Linda have a couple of dogs so we relocated to a small bay just off Sven’s old cowshed, which had better access to let the dogs ashore. With the two boats close together, we had a social evening with fresh mussels and fish on the BBQ.

On the 29th Paul decided to walk on Sven’s land. First up was to 360 Hill. Sven had cut and maintained a good path through the bush, so the walk should have been easy. Of course, it started at Sven’s house by the water and zig zagged up the hill a little way. The Sven had obviously got bored and so driven his bulldozer (the subtle way of making a path) straight up the hill. So, a nice straight path at about 30° up. OK in places it was a bit … steeper. Still the top is mostly clear of tea tree, so the view, from 204m up (according to the chart), is worth the climb. It was a nice sunny day so all of the peninsula was clearly visible. Perhaps even better, the top of the hill was in a small breeze; so a bit of a cool down as well. After that was the stroll down, not so easy at such a steep angle. And then along another track Sven cut a few years ago right along the peninsula. This was a good track right thorough the tea tree, with occasional patches of pine and other trees. Now Sven’s land, like all of Barrier is quite steep and dotted with small hills. Most are covered in bush, so are not worth the fight through the tea tree as the view from top is very limited. However, a couple have rocky tops. One, Walter Hill, has a rocky top with steep sides. Paul has looked at it on past visits, and even tried fighting the bush to get to the base of the rocks. Each time the thick bush has proved just too much. Not only is Tea Tree 5 to 20 feet high, but it grows as a really thick bush and is near impenetrable. However, a few Km down Sven’s track and Paul spotted an old side track, fairly overgrown. It did seem to head to the base of the hill, so Paul followed it. As the track climbed the bush seemed to thin, still difficult going, but thinner. Then a bit further, and there was grass between the Tea Tree as the slope steepened. Now that can be scrambled up, and so Paul did. 100m in and the tea tree and grass turned to rock slabs at about 45°. The rock was rough with a good grip, so the scramble continued and hey, presto, the summit was reached. Paul had conquered Walter Hill (charted at 218m). The view was great, blue sea, green bush, blue sky and brown rocks. Most of the rock around the summit was precipitous, always makes the view better! A good look around, breather and time to go down. A look at the way Paul had come up showed a steep rock face, a bit tricky to go down. Um. But there were sheep on the top of the rock, and they cannot go up steep rock slopes. Another look around and there were the sheep tracks it the grass. It was still a steep scramble, but beat the rock slab! Down at the base and back on track (literally). The walk finished at the South of Sven’s land, just past a set of his beehives (yes, quality Manuka Honey!). Onto the cliff, a sit down and admire the view. Again, wonderful. The steep cliff drops away to the green bush and then the sea. The clarity of the water is outstanding, so the colour of the sea ranges from turquoise, through azure to a deep blue. There were a couple of boats pushing though the water leaving white wakes. Off on the horizon Little Barrier Island was a dark lump with a cap of white cloud, and South the huge lump of Coromandel sat dark in the distance. And then in the mid distance, sea birds started diving into the water, a fish work up. And then to cap it all, dolphins started playing a few 100 m off shore, jumping, diving and generally having a good time. Can it get better? Well, yes, it was nice getting back on board Tai Mo Shan and having a nice warm fresh water ‘solar’ shower – followed by a rum!

The 30th saw us sail a few miles North to Katherine Bay in very light winds. As we arrived the wind dropped to nothing. Ah well, it was a nice sunny day, so it was out with the fishing gear. We had a gentle drift down the coast, motoring slowly between the fishing spots. The fish were equally lazy, still at 3 pan sized snapper (lots went back as undersize) we had dinner sorted.

The last day of the year continued the strange weather of all year – thank you El Nino! - easterly winds and the threat of wind and rain. So it was back to our usual spot in Ghost Bay, anchor deep in the mud and lots of chain out. Securely anchored we decided to explore the small river at the head of the bay. We had previously pushed up the river as far as the first houses hidden in the bush. This time, emboldened by the high tide we pressed on up the small river. What a treat! A small slow flowing river, clear water, grass and bush on the banks, trees and bushes overhanging the water, sun shining though the leaves, with the sheer walls close to the sides showing rock bluffs as they rise up 50m or so. We pushed on gently 500m or so until the river got too shallow for the outboard to clear the stony bottom. And there, tucked away from the world, a shack. We didn’t see the occupants but a certain banjo tune was evident – in our minds anyway! (For those who do not recognise it watch the film ‘Deliverance’!). On the way back we had a look at the graves from which Ghost Bay gets its colloquial name. The grave is old, one of the early settlers Annie Sanderson who died in 1893. The poignant thing was that she is buried with her infant daughter, aged 2 months who died 2 days after her. The grave is well tended, with a clean painted white picket fence and rose bush struggling against the elements. There was an addition since our last visit. A small stone to the side of the main stone remembers Verley Clyde Flint, who died in 2010, aged 90. He was the grandson of Annie Sanderson! The evening saw us on board with Dave and Linda playing cards, drinking and putting the world to right. As the New Year approached we went back onto Tai Mo Shan. The bells ring out at midnight, well the single deep ringing bell from on board – the AC/DC track Hells Bells, at full volume – Helen wore headphone unplugged and still complained! (Later during the week we kept running into people who swore they had heard church bells at midnight!)

And the New Year started as we hope it didn’t continue with rain and wind. A day on board. Still the next day was social as we met up with Sven and Patricia; some rum evaporated!

The 3rd of January saw Paul back up Walter Hill, just because he could. The view was great, especially as the clouds were low, and scudding along at the level of the top of the hill. The 4th saw us back in the dinghy in the wet and wind. This time we went up the river at the end of Twin Island Bay. This one saw us push up the head of the bay through the shallow water, dodging the mangroves to the start of the river. The river was not navigable, so we tied off and started walking up the side of the river. This was a small river, but there was evidence of some significant floods with deadfall piled 10 feet high! Still it was only drizzling gently! A little way in and we came across the DOC track. This was well maintained and started a very pleasant walk through the bush up the valley, gradually leaving the river as it climbed up. At the head of the valley the path got steeper, and steeper. Paul pushed on to see the view; an interesting decision as the path got even steeper and steeper. Still, a few hundred metres, the top of the ridge and a nice view. There was then the very steep step down, lots of steps down! Perhaps Helen was sensible to have taken a breather!

The 5th saw rain, lots of rain. Nice to fill the water tanks, but it kept us on board. We headed out the next day to go fishing but the wind was strong enough to drift us too quickly to keep the bait on the bottom. So bigger sinkers and a couple of pan sized snapper later we headed back in. We decided to have a change and anchor in Red Cliffs Bay on the edge of Port Fitzroy. However, the flat bottom on the depth sounder proved to be sheet rock and stones, so no grip for the anchor. Ah well, back to Ghost Bay.

Thurs 7th January saw a clear day with a nice North Easterly wind set in. So a full reversal; we are used to down-wind to Barrier, and into wind back. The NE wind meant a nice down-wind run to get us to Waiheke. A slow start got better as the wind increased; 46 miles in 7 ½ hours, a nice pace. Along the way we saw some whales blowing a few hundred metres away. The only problem was that our Furuno GPS had broken. No great problems apart from the fact that the autopilot used the speed input from the GPS to trim its output. The autopilot worked, it just set off an alarm every couple of minutes. Annoying, but solved using a boat hook to allow the correct button to be pressed whilst one was comfortably sitting in the cockpit. So, overall a nice trip to Huruhi Bay. As this bay faces South West we do not normally anchor there. With a North Easterly though it offers good shelter and is very pretty with Surfdale village at the head, and reserves to the side.

And on Friday, the wind swung South Westerly, the prevailing wind at last. Unfortunately Huruhi Bay got choppy, so time to move, around to Oneroa a nice 10 mile sail to the other side of Waiheke. This is another stunning bay with a wide sweeping beach of yellow sand with small white breakers. The west side has low rocky cliffs with bush and a few houses. The East sees more small bays with yellow sand nestling amongst the small rocky cliffs. The South and East are fairly well developed (for NZ) with several houses. Indeed, the village of Oneroa offers some of the best shopping on Waiheke. In our case this meant ashore for a nice Greek Mezze lunch, and an Italian dinner. It wasn’t cheap, but the food was very good and, well civilisation is nice after a spell in/near the bush!

And Sunday saw us heading back to Bucklands Beach Marina, a nice push into a moderate South West wind with the sun shining. Not too bad, just it was work the next day!

The picture – the view form the cliff towards Coromandel – a picture!

Back to Reality

27 November 2015 | Bucklands Bewach, Auckland
1 Jul to 26 Nov 15

Well time flies when you are having fun, or back to reality and working! Our last Blog was way back on 1 Jul!!!

So we went into West Haven Marina. They were the only marina that could offer us a live-aboard berth, and close to the city. Paul got his job – he is now a Risk Management Consultant. It sounds a bit special, Risk Management, but then as an Engineer, Paul has spent his professional life doing just that, so he has slipped into the role easily. OK, no one to order around, but apart from that …

We found West Haven a bit impersonal. It is, after all, a very big marina, over 3000 berths! We were in the new section, at the town end. That said, it is still some 3km to town, and at least 1.5 to the nearest supermarket. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it is! Auckland CBD is like most cities, not car friendly. Parking is expensive, if you can get it. We also only have one car, so for Helen it is case of walking when Paul is at work.

However, Helen is a Howick lass, and has been boating all her life. She has a few contacts. Half Moon Bay Marina on the East side of town is a fair size, with a very good marina village of shops and services. However, does not allow live-aboards – we don’t know why. Buckland Beach Yacht Club (BBYC) is next door to the marina, and has a small marina of its own. It is small, and popular, so getting a berth there is like finding the proverbial rocking horse s**t! Still Helen checked contacts and, yes, we got a short term berth whilst the berth master’s boat was out of the water; 3 months – thanks Brian. Even better, a couple of months later Brian had found another berth which we could have long term; now that’s worth a bottle of rum! So we are now home at BBYC, on the pier, about 100m from the clubhouse. And we know a few people here, so our social life is pretty busy. Nice!

And we have been sailing, with the wonderful Hauraki Gulf on the doorstep of course we have! That said we did have a very nasty surprise. We had been sailing around the gulf in fairly windy conditions, 30 gusting 35 or so; nothing really bad and of course we reefed accordingly. We got back into the marina berth fine. The next morning (Monday) we happened to look at the front of the boat, and there in the stainless steel fitting connecting the forestay to the bow of the boat was a crack! Now this is a big, heavy duty fitting, and the crack was on the corner, and about 3 inches long. This was a serious crack – not least because the forestay holds the mast up. Fortunately there is a boat builder in Half Moon Bay, so it was a panic call to him. Paul was at work, so Helen hosted the boat builder, Joe. Helen told him that we had sailed across the Tasman with no problems at all – we would have noticed the crack quick enough – and that the conditions had been a bit gusty but not that bad. Joe declared that the fitting needed replacing and that we should not sail Tai Mo until it was fixed - fair enough. He then said that we should call the insurance assessor as it could be an insurance job. So Helen took photos, and sent them to the insurance company. The insurance assessor came and looked at the repair. And, yes, the insurance would cover the repair – QBE are a good insurance company! You may recall they were ready to insure us back in the Bay of Islands before we left NZ after the previous company (who will remain nameless) let us down at the last minute. And here they were, covering us again – great!

So, Tai Mo Shan came out of the water. Fortunately we were house-sitting for a couple of friends, Victoria and Michael, so we had a place to stay. Even better as the repair took some time, Victoria and Michael kindly let us extend our stay past their return from the UK. As ever, with Tai Mo Shan out of the water we were busy at the weekends. So first weekend, clean and sand the bottom of the hull, repair the ding in the keel from the coral at the Ha’apis, service the prop, replace the anode and a coat anti-foul. Next weekend, another coat of anti-foul and prepare the bootstrap. Next weekend, paint the bootstrap and polish the hull. And the next weekend, more polishing! Unfortunately the stainless steel welder thought the fitting could be repaired, 3 weeks later, and it couldn’t! So a replacement was made and, some 5 weeks later Tai Mo Shan was back in the water, forestay repaired and the underside fully serviced.

A couple of weeks later and off we went again, an easy sail to Motatapu on the Saturday, with the Sunday morning spent pulling dozens of undersize snapper out of the water, only to put them back in again. Still any day on the water is a good day!

And since then, well the weather has been typical Auckland spring weather; i.e. very changeable! And the wind can blow; our first cruising race with BBYC was cancelled. Now it is hot and sticky, and no wind! Still summer is coming. And we have got out on the water once since the Motatapu trip. And the fishing was better, a nice feed and then meet up with some friends. We are getting back in to cruising mode. Roll on Christmas!

Crossing the Tasman!

11 July 2015
17 Jun to 1 Jul 15

First we picked up Leo, our third crew member on Tues 16 Jun. Leo was hoping to get a good view of Brisbane and Moreton Bay from the plane, but low cloud put paid to that. Unfortunately the express car ride from the airport also didn’t give him too much of a tour, even the view from the Leo Hirschler bridge was misty! Still Leo was happy to be on board and help with the preparations. Even better he had bought a couple of bottles of rum which proved useful in our planning that afternoon and evening. John from ‘Zero’ had declared that he had launched Zero 18 years ago and that night would be the birthday party; how could we not go?!
So the morning of the 17 Jun started with Paul and Leo declaring that too much coke was not good for a person, and how the rum had evaporated!
We had already been in contact with customs and agreed to meet them to clear on Tai Mo Shan at 0700. Sure enough, 0658 and there was a tap on the hull. Peter and his colleague from Brisbane Customs were really friendly, polite and helpful, even filling in some of the many forms for us. As a result, clearing was quick, easy and filled with laughter.
After customs it was back ashore for a long shower (our last for some time), and a farewell to everyone in the office (and along the dock as we walked back to the boat). So, 0915 we were ready to go. Pulling out the dock was clear of everything, as is the norm we took our own mooring lines, electrical cable and water hose. The only thing to show we had been there was the turbulence from our propeller as we reversed out, and that soon dispersed.
The forecast was for Northerly winds, 15 to 20 knots, swinging Westerly the next day and holding there for a couple of days; very good for us. Actually the Northerly wind proved to be light so we motor-sailed across Moreton Bay. Again this was useful as we were pushing North to Calundra Head, some 40 miles, and into wind most of the way. We were keen to catch the outgoing tide, hence the need for the motor to maintain progress. As it was we did get a useful boost from the tide as we went along the shipping channels. Brisbane is quite a busy port and we had several large ships pass us on the way. From a distance these are reasonable; however when they pass 50 metres from us doing some 15 knots they do seem huge!
We exited Moreton Bay at Calundra Heads at about dusk. The sea round the heads was busy. In addition to the large ships there were many fishing boats, presumably trawling. These boats have normal navigation lights and very bright stern lights so are quite easy to make out. However, we did have to puzzle out one; a fishing boat being towed back into port – a challenge with red lights, white lights and yellow flashing lights. Still we successfully avoided them all through the night, despite the light winds meaning a slow sail.
Thurs 18th saw the wind steady to a nice moderate Westerly. The sea was a little confused but we still made a good 6 knots, helped a bit by the famous Australian east Coast current flowing North to South.
Friday saw us further off the coast and clear of the shipping. The wind increased through the afternoon and night leading to several sail changes as we reefed down and reduced sail area to retain control. Of course, the sea gradually got rougher as the wind increased. Eventually we were left with a deep reefed main in 30 to 40 knots of wind, but still able to keep reasonable progress. Of more import, the sea got that confused with the strong gusty wind that our autopilot could not cope. It was working that hard that the actuator risked overheating. We therefore resorted to hand steering which required some concentration and was quite tiring, so we reduced our watches from 3 to 2 hours.
Dawn Saturday 20th saw the wind abate a bit, but gradually swing to South South East. Of course our initial plan was to head South of Elizabeth reef and then turn to NZ, a South South East course! The result was that we headed between the reefs, a reasonable gap of over 25 miles, on a more South Easterly course. We were sailing nicely close to the wind, able still to hold a good speed on our course. Even better, we could trim the boat well so the autopilot could easily hold course again. However, Sunday saw the wind harden up to the South East, just where we wanted to go. Worse, the wind was gusty, varying from 10 knots right up to 30 knots. Sail trimming was very difficult and we ended up trimming for the gusts and being underpowered in the lulls. The sea was sloppy with a lot of motion. Again, the autopilot was having trouble but at least we could largely balance the boat so she would maintain the same course to the wind, minimizing the steering input from us. We were back to 2 hour shifts. Helen’s precooked meals were now a real boon as normal cooking was dangerous if not impossible. But we had a hot dinner, and a full belly really helps. Unfortunately our course was more North of East than we would have liked.
Monday saw a drop and steadying in the wind. As a result we could get our full Main and Yankee up and really power into wind and wave. We could aim pretty much for our next waypoint (Three Kings Island) and keep a reasonable 5.5 knots. All was good until about 2000 hrs when the Yankee suddenly dropped down the forestay. Of course, minutes later the wind increased to 30 knots! We got the Yankee fully down and secured to the lifelines after a bit of a struggle (there was still quite a sea running, and it was very dark!). Still in 30 minutes we had the Yankee secured and the Staysail out, and we were maintaining progress. But the wind continued to increase pushing through 30 right up to 40 knots. The poor staysail is quite old and simply could not hold its shape. 2200 hours saw us putting the staysail away and attempting to sail into the strong wind on just a reefed main. This was not really working so at midnight it was a case of using the motor to keep as least some progress into wind.
Dawn Tuesday 23rd saw Paul up front seeing what had gone wrong with the Yankee. He quickly realised that the stainless steel shackle had broken in two. The foresail halyard was stuck at the top of the mast, and we were not going to retrieve that in any kind of sea! The solution was to replace the shackle and use the Spinnaker Halyard to rehoist the Yankee. This was not that easy, but in a lull (i.e. only 20 knots of wind!) we managed to do so, and were sailing effectively again by about 1000. And then the Port Snap Shackle holding the foresail sheet to the toerails broke! Ah well, more effort, but we replaced the shackle within half an hour and were back sailing again.
Tuesday night saw another increase in the wind and subsequent shortening (reefing) of sail. We were sailing close hauled to the wind, but still making some 4 knots. The sea was rough, with some 5m swell and wave, so we were back onto 2 hour watches and, as a precaution, hand steering. There was little moon and cloud cover so it was very dark.
Wednesday about 0445 saw Leo on watch at the helm. Tai Mo Shan dived into a trough off a steep wave and buried her nose. The result was a wall of green water some 2 feet high moving right over the hull. The force of this wall was immense; the painter holding our dinghy on the front deck was 12 mm polyprop rope, and that just snapped. Fortunately the other lines held the dinghy in place. The wall of water hit the spraydodger and simply blasted right through it. Leo found himself having an impromptu bath, sitting knee deep in water. Several gallons flooded down the open companionway into the main cabin.
Paul was up into the cockpit quickly and he and Leo hove the boat to. This turns the boat through a tack without altering the sails. The sails then operate against each other and effectively parks the boat in the sea. The boat motion steadies markedly but, of course, the boat then drifts across and down wind, back were we came from, at one to two knots. The water cleared from the cockpit and we could mop up below. It was then a case of putting the lights on, radar with guard on (to hopefully detect ships), and going to sleep for a couple of hours to await dawn.
First light showed surprisingly little damage, just the dinghy painter and the spraydodger. We quickly replaced the painter and resecured the dinghy. The spraydodger had split at the seams at the bottom of the clear section. Paul and Leo spent the next 3 to 4 hours steadily stitching this back up. The repair was not pretty but it was strong and would hold. 1230 saw us sailing again.
The sailing was incredibly difficult in a rough confused sea with a strong extremely gusty wind. Worse, we the wind was blowing from where we wanted to go. We simply could not point high enough and had tacking angles in excess of 140 degrees. It felt we were being held in this part of the sea. As night fell we decided we had to use the motor to push on. We were still some 460 miles from our way point (which was the uninhabited Three Kings Islands, some 50 miles from, uninhabited, North Cape and which is about 30 miles from the fuel jetty at Whangapara!) and mindful we had to be economical with our fuel. 1750 rpm would normally push us along at 4 knots or so; into wind and wave we could make just under 2 knots! Still, it was progress. Helen later admitted she had heard beautiful voices singing, some six voices singing six different previously unheard songs. We believe this was the part of the sea where the yacht Nina went missing, but are not sure. Paul, ever the unpsychic, simply calls it a very nasty patch of sea.
Daylight meant we could at least see the waves and sails, so we could sail effectively again. It was still tricky in gusty swinging winds and large seas. But we had gained an escort in the form of a large black-backed sea bird, possibly an albatross; we took it as a good omen.
The rest of Thursday saw the wind steadily dropping and becoming fitful. To keep progress we had a mixture of sailing, motor sailing and motoring. Progress was slow with our 24 hour log showing us moving some 90 nm, but only getting 48 hours closer to our waypoint.
Friday 26th saw us push through the High pressure and get into the South Westerly winds on the other side. These were light but at least we could sail close to, if not actually towards our waypoint. We were only making some 3.5 to 4 knots, but at least it was in the right direction and not using fuel.
Saturday saw the South Westerly winds increase to a pleasant 15 knots, and our progress improve dramatically, 110 nm, with 109 towards target. Our escort was still with us, along with assorted shearwaters swooping effortlessly amongst the waves.
Sunday 28th saw more good progress, albeit with some nasty 30 knot gusts in the wind. Our LPG gas bottle ran out and needed changing over. This is a comparatively easy job at the dockside, but a fair bit more fun in an active sea.
And at 1517 we saw some blue grey lumps on the horizon. Land ahoy! The Three Kings Islands were there, still some 25 miles or so away, but visible. The islands are uninhabited and not even lit with navigation lights, so they faded into the dusk. Still, they were there, and even better, exactly where we expected them to be (!).
Monday 0550 was a beautiful clear morning. And there on the starboard side, some 5 miles away was the big bluff cliff of North Cape. It looks pretty desolate with only scrub growing there, and the small white automated lighthouse on a small island near the cape. There may not have been anyone there, but it was still the NZ mainland. We had a brisk Westerly breeze finally blowing, and the land stopping the swell, so we skipped along at some 7 knots; very nice.
Of course, this didn’t last, and the clouds grew, and with each cloud either a nasty squall (rain and wind) or just wind. We were back to winds of 15 gusting 30 knots by lunchtime; nevertheless, we made good progress. Even better, we were now in range of VHF shore stations, and able to get a good weather forecast. That showed Westerly winds of 30 knots, dropping and swinging South Westerly on Wednesday.
Tuesday dawn had us just off the Hen and Chicks, still making good progress in gusty Westerly winds. Each cloud seemed to herald stronger wind, so we at least had some warning. As the day progressed the wind swung more South Westerly, so as we passed between Kawau Island and Flat Rock at midday we were having to actively sail upwind to avoid drifting too close to the rock. As we got close to the gap between Whangaparoa Peninsula and Tiri Island it was clear that the wind had swung enough and set up a sharp enough chop that we could not hold the heading. So 20 miles shy of Auckland and we had the choice to tack upwind, or start the motor. So the trusty Yanmah roared into life.
We entered the Auckland shipping lane at dusk and despite Auckland being a smaller port than Brisbane we still headed to the side of the shipping channel to let a couple of cargo ships, the Pilot Boat and barges past. Just at the entrance to the harbour we called up Harbour Control to ask permission to go alongside at the customs dock. This was duly given. Now the Customs website gives good GPS coordinates for the customs dock, also described as on the West side of Marston wharf. However, whilst the wharf was clearly lit (it is a restricted are), the water level was not; indeed, it was in deep shadow. We therefore meandered amongst the piers for a few minutes until a couple of tugs called us up on the VHF radio. They had heard our call to Harbour Control and happily gave us directions, not least so they could go behind us into their berth. So we found the floating pier. It has a nasty surprise as the columns supporting the wharf were black steel and extended beyond the wharf; not the best thing to tie a white fibreglass boat to. A quick bit of warping the boat along soon saw Tai Mo Shan clear of those and at 1805 Australian time (2005) local we stepped on the dock.
We called customs when we arrived; a laminated A4 sign not only declared that this was the customs quarantine dock, but also gave the phone number to call. Customs very sensibly suggested we clear in at 0900 NZ time the next day. So there we were, a big sign at the top of the steps warned us that we could not go ashore, and Leo still had a bottle of rum left … we slept well.
Sure enough the next day at 0900 Customs and Bio Security came aboard. We lost what was left of our vegetables, eggs and unsealed frozen chicken meat in the name of keeping pests, disease and other nasties out of NZ. The officials were, as always very friendly, polite and made the process easy. By 1000 we had cast off and were motoring the mile or so to Westhaven Marina. We called ahead by radio and were met by the marina runabout and one of the security guards ashore. With plenty of hands to help docking was easy despite a brisk South Westerly wind.
So that was the trip. Not the best weather, but we had crossed the Tasman safely. The direct route was some 1365 nm, we had been pushed off course somewhat and so had travelled a total of 1513 nm to the customs dock. That had taken us 13 days, 8 hours and 50 mins making an average speed of 4.7 knots, or 113 nm a day.

The picture? Well, we did have some fairly flat days which allowed for a proper breakfast!

Nearly Off

16 June 2015
1 to 16 Jun 15


Well, the big news is that we have made the decision to head back to NZ. The Australian jobs are simply not coming, and we seem to be getting more interest in the quick queries we have made in NZ. So back we go, across the Tasman.

On the jobs front, Paul had a second interview on 11 Jun. This was unusual as it was done over Skype and, as connection not too good, mobile phone. The technology worked and everyone could see and talk to each other; it was much easier than over the mobile phone only. Did it go well; well a little after we arrive in Auckland, Paul will be a Risk Management Consultant!

Paul had been sailing on Hasta La Vista. Sun 14 Jun was a combined clubs race, well two races around a ‘triangle-sausage’ course in the bay. The day started with a wet drizzle and light winds. Still we put wetties on and headed out to start of races. In the bay the wind increased to 10 knots or so, so good for racing. The course set up and was, well as I said ‘not how I would do it’. The others on board were not so complimentary, especially as there was not preparation signal and flag for us on the first race (well we did not see or hear it!). Instead there was a countdown, and the other multihulls were off! Ah well, we crossed the line a couple of minutes late. The course itself was fairly short (1.6 nm legs), which did not allow much to catch up. Still it did help with spotting the marks. The organizers had opted to use orange buoys a good 50 cm diameter; not easy to spot in any conditions. So all crew out looking and trying not to give the location away to the opposition! There were some minor course changes for the second race (still short legs), but at least we were ready for the start (mainly by being very close to the other two multihulls!). We went around the course pretty quickly, typically making 7 to 12 knots (and this was in light winds!); unfortunately the others were a bit faster. So, we lose a few bragging rights and ‘Frequent Flyer’ regain some honour after we trounced them in the Around the Bay race; that’s racing!

Social life continues. A great BBQ at Matt and Debs, followed by a really good meal at Lyle and Jan’s. Yes, good life does centre on good food and good company. Of course we have also had a few leaving drinks and a celebration for the ‘18th’ Birthday of a friend’s boat.

The rest has been getting ready. The to-do list is pretty long (Paul uses an Excel spreadsheet to keep track). It includes important things such as contacting Customs, selling the car, passage planning and picking up Leo (luckily Leo was happy to fly over and join us; the third crew member makes life much easier), as well as the more mundane of sorting out mobile phones and cancelling insurances.

We also cleaned the bottom of the boat. A clean bottom equals speed! We did not have the time (or funds) to lift the boat out of the water, so it was a case of tying a fender onto the end of our broom and scrubbing the bottom. This seems to work fairly well, at least down to the soft chine, as most of the dirt is the soft algae that grows in the marina. It seems most of the sea weed grows in this algae, and so is protected from the antifoul paint. Of course, a good scrub and the algae (and most of the sea weed) comes off, and the antifoul paint is exposed to do its job. Sounds easy, well it is still a good shoulder work out as one lies in the dingy or on the dock and pushes the broom up and down for a couple of hours.

Another aspect of retuning to NZ is that we head south and the weather gets cooler. Now Auckland is not cold as such, but is it cooler than Brisbane, and mid ocean, early morning gets a bit nippy as well. So, it was a case of digging out the warm clothing hidden in the hold since we left NZ. This had been stored in plastic bags and so was in good condition, apart from the stale ‘boat’ smell. The result was a couple of big washes and dries, and we will now be toasty warm!

We also managed to have another look around the CBD on Queen’s Birthday Monday. The plan was to look around the old parliament buildings in Brisbane. These are open most days apart from Sunday and, as we found, Queen’s Birthday! Rather than driving into the centre with the attendant traffic and parking problems (even on a bank holiday) we had opted to use the Park and Ride and take the river ferry in from the outskirts. This proved a great idea. The park and ride was free, had spare spaces and was close to the ferry landing. The ferry itself was cheap ($3.60 each way), regular and offered excellent views of the city from the river. The central gardens were pleasant and the CBD less crowded than usual. We ate lunch in one of the food halls. As usual there was an excellent choice of meals from around the world; Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, European Salads, Turkish etc. Helen was hanging out for a KFC, so …

As it happened the next day the power connector to our computer screen died. This is a fairly standard 12V DC attachment, but to buy it one would normally have to buy a charger, cut the wire and use just the connector; an expensive waste. Fortunately there is a chain of electronic retailers called Jaycar that offer just about every electronic bit on the planet. There are a few ‘Jaycar’ shops in Brisbane, the closest to us being at Woollongabba. Now the sports fans will immediately recognise Woollongabba as the home of the famous ‘Gabba’ sports ground. And yes, driving there was did go around the Gabba. Like all stadia it is a large concrete bowl, but still pretty impressive as a large concrete bowl. Electronic bits purchased (the connector, good quality wire and a new cigarette lighter attachment came to about A$6!) and it was time to head out to Matt and Debs, to the North of the city. Our satnav said the best route was to use the Brisbane tunnel. Now we thought the tunnel was just under the river. Well it does start one side of the river, and goes down, under it, and then continues under Brisbane city to the East, for about 5 km! It comes out in a maze of roads, flyovers and underpasses. Just as well we had the Satnav. Still it was certainly quicker than going through the city, and really quite an experience.

Leaving we have mixed feelings. We really like Brisbane. It is a nice environment with plenty of open spaces and parkland, and the weather is generally pretty good (OK so the summer can be hot!). We have also made some great friends and will be sad to leave them. But, a key requirement was to get a job, and that has not happened. Still, the adventure continues with a crossing of the Tasman Sea. Then hopefully Paul will get a good, interesting job in NZ and, in due course we will continue cruising. We are also looking forward to catching up with friends we left in NZ. Onwards.

The photo – to clean a hull take one broom, one fender and a dinghy …

Still in Brisbane

30 May 2015
20 Apr 15 to 31 May 15

Wow, time flies, six week since the last post!

The job hunt continues, Queensland is very conservative but we are now starting to understand the jobs market. Paul has put in multiple applications to a range of companies including airlines, forklift maintainers, and state government. He came very close with one company that maintains lighthouses and similar installations but missed out on a shortlist of two! We are also talking with another company, with another shortlist of two! So, there is still hope!

The Weather, well Australia and especially Queensland is known for extremes. And has it been! We had cyclones in North Queensland. Mid April it was still very hot (typically 30 to 36 deg C) with fairly high humidity. Then it suddenly got colder as a dry air mass came across QLD; a comfortable 23 to 25 during the day, and a chilly 11 to 13 at night, and a lot lower humidity. Apparently Queensland is hot and fairly humid/wet in the summer, and colder/dry in the winter. We seemed to have missed Autumn; the season changes quickly. Anyway, the winter is meant to be dry. Our water tanks were low, and getting lower, down to the last quarter of the main (last) tank, so only about 100 litres left. We were having to consider the unpalatable; filling up with Marina water. Now this Marina water is the same as the Manly town water supply. It comes from bore water, apparently from reservoirs on North Stradbroke Island, which apparently comes underground naturally from the great divide near Toowoomba, and of course is treated. We can tell as the water has a chlorinated, muddy taste. It is safe to drink, but just about everyone we talk to either boils it or has a good filter in their system. So, dry weather and low tanks … the hose was attached to the taps then, the miracle. SE Queensland would be hit by cold, wet and windy weather; this is not usual! So the first day it rained, and we completely filled our tanks. Being Australia the weather then made a point, and continued to rain heavily with strong gusty wind for the next day or so. Ah, well at least the water in our tanks tastes good! That was the end of April. May has seen some beautiful weather; blue skies and cooler. The nights can be a touch chilly; the heater has been used! However, the days are pleasant. There is one huge drawback, more and more of the days are practically windless, so sailing can take a hit.

We continue to chat with and meet people, including having people around for meals. We have been chatting to Peter ‘Jonesey’ Jones, a venerable chap who lives on a house boat in the marina and, having bad legs, gets around on an electric scooter. Inside his houseboat is tidy, and unusually for a boat, the rooms are square; everything fits normally! Jonesey’s scooter is quite impressive. The battery power can easily get him from Manly to Wynnum Plaza, a good 5 km up hill and down dale (well suburb), and back, and at a reasonable speed, at least jogging pace. Mind you it did have a malfunction. The headstock is just like a push bike with a double ball bearing. This gave way a few days ago causing a steering lock up (and very nearly a wet Jonesey!). The manufacturer quoted a mere four weeks delivery for new bearings! Initially the bearing were not available locally; however, some research by a friend showed that the bearings were obsolete, imperial sizes, used on old push bikes. The manufacturer had gone cheap and used end of stock line! Worse, they had used an incorrect size for the top bearing, leading to chatter and the eventual break up. Still the correct parts were sourced and all is fixed now.

And we could be famous, well a bit. Helen penned a quick article on cruising for the Marina newsletter. And, lo and behold it is on page 52 to 55 of Australian Boat Mag; ‘Cruising the South Pacific’ a ‘heartwarming feature from ECM’. We got a free pdf version but at 30 Megs it is a bit large to e-mail (I am sure the magazine would declare this is due to the high quality of the pictures rather than stopping emails!).

And sailing. Well, a combination of things on, light winds and rain meant we have been away in Tai Mo Shan only the once. That was a weekend away at Peel Island. We had a very slow trip in light winds; 12 miles in nearly 4 hours, and that was with the Genneker up a good part of the time! Coming back was equally fast. The autumn brings not only light winds, but also a lot of South West winds and Moreton Bay has surprisingly few good anchorages for that direction. That said, Paul has been sailing on the racing trimaran Hasta La Vista a fair bit. The ‘Sunday Afternoon Go Sailing’ series of trips around Green Island has been supplemented by a couple of more serious races. He did the ‘Sandgate Race’ which covers all boats from small ‘trailer sailers’, through larger monohulls to multihulls; with faster boats sailing a longer course. The course for multihulls started at Manly and went out into the bay before heading North past the Brisbane River/Port entrance, and then West to the marina at Sandgate. The day saw a 15 knot or so Southerly breeze. Peak speed downwind was 25 knots, yes, a boat speed of 25 knots! The across wind final reach saw us consistently above 20 knots. That is fast for a sailing boat and Hasta La Vista is built for speed rather than comfort. The result was an adrenaline fuelled, very wet ride as the water rushes over the hull and jets up through the trampoline with fire hose-force. We certainly needed the post race rums! The boat over-nighted in Sandgate marina. The marina entrance is … interesting. In essence, come through the narrow channel which, to be fair, is well beaconed with visible sand banks either side and then, in the words of one of the crew ‘line up on the leading marks, and turn right just before you hit them!’ He wasn’t kidding, it is tight, and shallow. Paul made the mental not of only taking Tai Mo Shan in there at high tide, if at all! The race back was the next day and saw a push into a mostly light wind just about all the way. Still the boat averaged some 10 knots boat speed. The other main race was the ‘Great Bay Race’ by the Multi Hull Yacht Club. This was an interesting course of essentially 3 triangles, one around Peel Island, one past Redcliffs and one out to Moreton Island, totaling some 65 miles. It is interesting as the racers have a choice of which way they sail the triangles, furthermore the Peel Island one is sailed first, and then the racers decide the order they sail the other two. So, it is quite a strategic race with the way the course is sailed a major decision. The day saw extremely light winds, which unfortunately meant some boats pulled out and only 6 boats started. The start itself was delayed by 25 minutes due to a dead calm. Then off went the racing boats, pushing one to two knots in close drifting! The wind did built a bit, but still the top wind was only about 10 knots (for a short time at night), the rest was pretty much 5 knots and a variable direction. Still, we coaxed the boat around with large sails set and completed the course in some 14 hours; not fast but then with light winds we often exceeded wind speed. We are still waiting on the results, but suspect we have a very good win.
Helen’s note; she does not sail on Hasta La Vista as it is too scary!

We have continued to explore the Brisbane Area. Of note, we finally got to look around Fort Lytton. This is the historic fort that guards the entrance to the river. As with many sites, it is only open a limited time; Sundays. People are encouraged to take the free guided tour, and we did so. This proved to be very good, with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide dressed in World War II army uniform walking the group around. The fort is ruined (it fell into disuse and was neglected for many years), but the guide bought the talk of Napoleonic era muzzle loading cannon through to World War II 6 pounder guns to life. The bright weather helped, as did the excellent view of the Brisbane river and large ships passing very close by.

And social life continues with a variety of meals out and in with friends. We also joined the Multi Hull Yacht Club Queensland for their ‘James Bond’ themed ‘Casino Night’. It was a chance to get the DJ/Suit and long dress out, and was good fun with lots of play money being won and lost.

Photo: The repairs go on. Paul stitching up the Yankee.

Brisbane and about

19 April 2015
10 Apr to 19 Apr 15

Sat 11 Apr we went to Murray and Glenis to see them and Matt and Debs and boys. The youngest, Sammy, was going to be two years old on Tues. Murray and Glenis live in Waterford, quite a new development a little way to the South of Brisbane. Sat was an excuse for Sammy’s birthday (complete with decorated cake) and more eating.

We decided we needed to have a gentle tour after Sunday’s barbeque bacon and eggs breakfast so off we went to Wyralong Dam and then Boonah. The dam holds back an artificial lake providing drinking water to South Brisbane. It is quite recent, being completed in 2011. There is limited access, with good parking and views over the dam-end of the lake. Several people were kayaking, and some even swimming; even though it was warm with little if any breeze, we did not take the plunge. The next stop was the small town of Boonah. This is a classic rural small town, complete with at least three hotels/pubs! We found a reasonable café selling ice cream, so an excuse for more eating! The drive was interesting. To the West Brisbane gets fairly rural quite quickly. Having said that though there are also several significant new developments springing up. The housing development policy seems to be to create new villages complete with new infrastructure such as shops and schools rather than infill. This does create pleasant environments but, according to Murray, is stressing the roads as people commute to the main centres for work.

Thurs 16 saw Paul visit the library at Wynnum, and then Brisbane. This was part of the job hunt strategy the aim here being to research companies, find suitable ‘targets’ and then hit on their senior management; daunting but apparently often successful! The libraries were different, largely in scale and showed interesting differences in government; the Wynnum library is run by the Brisbane City Council, the library in Brisbane by Queensland state, and never the two shall meet! The Wynnum library is comparatively small with limited books, but several computer terminals. The room is linked to the civic centre and is light and airy. The Brisbane State Library is an impressive building with lots of space and light. In particular there is a big central lobby/atrium which really emphasises space and light (and to an extent echoing footsteps!). It is an architectural statement, although I am not too sure about efficient use of volume!

Fri saw Paul and Helen going sailing on Rob’s boat, a 29 foot Columbia yacht called Piscean Dream. The winds were light but still allowed for a pleasant sail around Green Island, complete with ‘heave to’ lessons. On Sunday Paul went on Lyall’s trimaran, Hasta La Vista, for the local Sunday race. This trimaran is fast! The wind was very light, 6 to 10 knots. Still we completed the 12.5 mile course in one hour 50 minutes to come fourth out of about a dozen. The race encompasses all manner of boats from small ‘trailer sailers’ to full on race boats. To make things fair the race is handicapped with the slower boats starting first. In this race we started one hour 20 minutes behind the first boat, quite a chase! The sailing allowed a good contrast between boats. Rob’s is light, gentle, easy to handle, and plods along gently. Lyall’s is a race thoroughbred; twitchy with a narrow ‘groove’ for good handling, but fast, very fast. And Tai Mo Shan is built strongly and so is heavy (our keel weighs almost twice as much as Lyall’s whole boat!), a bit slow to turn and takes some skill to sail efficiently. However, she is comfortable with plenty of living and storage space, she has a pretty good turn of speed and handles big seas like a dream. With boats it is very much horses for courses, and Tai Mo wins for cruising!

Sunday evening ended with Lyall aboard for a Thai Yellow Chicken Curry. Paul cooked and used Lyall’s home grown Aubergine and Chillis; delicious!

The photo; horses for courses!
Vessel Name: Tai Mo Shan
Vessel Make/Model: North Cape 43 (Ed Brewer)
Hailing Port: Auckland, NZ
Crew: Paul and Helen Dickinson
Helen is Auckland born and bred; she has salt water in her veins. Her father, Bob King, was a keen sports fisherman and Helen spent her first night aboard at the age of 3 weeks! She has been involved in boating ever since and has sailed to Sweden. [...]
Extra: Tai Mo Shan was built in Hong Kong in 1980 by Emsworth Ltd of Athang Hau. Her name translates to 'Big Hat Mountain' which overlooks the boat yard. We prefer 'Tai Mo Shan'; something is lost in translation. Tai Mo Shan has a proud tradition of cruising the Pacific, and we intend to continue that.
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Tai Mo Shan's Photos -

Who: Paul and Helen Dickinson
Port: Auckland, NZ