05/16/2013, Bay of Islands
As the wave receded, I noted a large clump of green mussels. "Danny, we have to be really careful here not to get caught by these waves." This was my son's first and likely only trip out in the Bay of Islands before we leave New Zealand and we'd stopped at Army Bay to collect fresh mussels for dinner. We'd both worn swim trunks in anticipation of getting wet, but I took off my vest and t-shirt as it seemed prudent now. We watched the waves for a bit, then I moved forward, squatted down and quickly began pulling the larger green shells from their hold on the rocks. 1,2,3 mussels... and suddenly I was awash in frothy sea. But this wave surged with such unexpected volume that I immediately found myself swimming where I'd just been standing. As the turbulence pulled me toward the sea, I reached into the rocks and held fast with my fingers. There was no time to stand before the next rush of water pushed me, face first toward the rocks. I held tight with my fingers as the forces reversed again then scrambled to my feet and out of the water. We both laughed as I examined myself for any major lacerations. Save for a few small cuts, the worst injury was to my pride. We quickly gathered enough for our dinner and headed back to the boat. After a quick jaunt over to Paradise cove, we set the hook and I started dinner. Friends on LaFiesta had hooked us up with ingredients for their excellent version of Indonesian curry laksa, and fresh green-lipped mussels were the perfect addition. It was interesting cooking with unfamiliar ingredients such as shredded lemon grass, lime leaves, palm sugar and fried shallots which Angelina had procured for us at an Asian specialty shop in Whangarei. With a bit of jasmine rice, the end result was awesome and we have some mussels left over for tomorrow too. Hmmm...maybe Italian style with pasta and garlic bread!
The nav station tipped first one way, then the other as I sat at the computer putting the final touches on our 2012 tax return. I glanced at the wind speed. 38...40...43 knots. It was April 15th - tax day, and we'd have to e-file by end of today. We'd been out cruising in the bay of islands, spearfishing and enjoying the weather and had planned to be back to Opua or Russell within wifi range to finish our taxes. But the weather took a turn for the worse as the forecasted gale intensified in both strength and duration. And so April 15th found us hunkered down in Assassination Cove, (without wifi) riding on twin anchors as violent gusts of wind buffeted our home and sheets of rain poured from the sky. We'd have to figure out a way to file from here or head out into the torrent. I'd loaded and updated TurboTax on the boats main computer before we left and was almost done with our taxes. We'd been waiting on one piece of information that I'd hoped would save us some hard earned cash, then we could e-file. We had cell service and Lolo had occasionally been using it for Internet from her iBook, but the phone and cable needed drivers to work with the boats Windows PC. While we could get slow Internet from her Mac, it did not have TurboTax. Hmmmm? Sleuthing around, Lolo found a way to share the cell phone Internet connection using the macs wifi adapter. After some fiddling and a few failed attempts using a USB wireless adapter for the boats PC, we finally got the shipboard wireless antenna/bridge to see the relayed wireless signal from her Mac. Internet from the boats computer, through lolo's mac, through our cheap cell phone! it was slow, but worked. We were able to successfully get our e-file codes and I hit the "send" button in TurboTax. Transferring... The rig shook and dodger frame rattled as a 50-knot gust roared overhead heeling the boat over. We crossed our fingers, holding the cell phone as high as we could and waited what seemed a eternity until finally "your return has been successfully transferred." Checking our email just to be sure, we noted the message confirming the acceptance of our tax return. Whew! Not your average tax day. As the darkness covered us and the wind howled outside, We celebrated with fresh Cajun blackened yellowtail kingfish, quinoa tomato salad and wine.
03/30/2013, Northland, New Zealand
There's been a nip of autumn in the air in Northland lately, especially when the South wind blows. I like it. We've been playing music, getting back into some boat projects, and I've doing a bit of "real" work here and there. The water's warm, the anchorages are empty, and there's a feeling of change. I get homesick in autumn, and it's sort of funny that it's Spring where I'm homesick for now. Spring's pretty good too! Anyway, the autumn nip has us looking northward and we're starting to firm up some of our destinations over the next several months, so I thought I'd share some of our thoughts.
So far, we haven't deviated much from our original plan. We still plan to leave mid-May - ideally before our visas expire on May 15, but if we have to ask for an extension because of weather, we'll do that. We'll sail to Fiji and spend perhaps a month and half there, starting in the Lau group and finishing in the Yasawas. Fiji sounds really big. We hope to have Piper join us there for a bit. From Fiji, we plan to sail to southern Vanuatu and then start making our way north through the Vanuatu island chain. We'd to spend a month near Luganville doing some work with Oceanswatch while we are in Vanuatu. I think we should leave Vanuatu by October, so we've got time to explore both Fiji and Vanuatu, hopefully.
From Vanuatu, we might hit the eastern Solomon Islands - reef, duff, Santa Cruz, perhaps, and from there to Micronesia (Pohnpei, Kosrae). If we don't go to the Solomons, we'll probably sail from Vanuatu to the Marshalls, going through (maybe) Tuvalu and some of the Kiribati atolls - Tarawa, Abaiang, Butaritari ... I'd love to check out other Kiribati islands after our visit in Fanning. We'd want to be in Majuro in time for Christmas, and then explore the outer atolls. At some point, we'll head West through Pohnpei and Kosrae, then to Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Japan. And from Japan, well ... homeward bound I guess! Looks like we'd want to leave sometime in June. The end is still a bit vague, but we do feel pretty certain about Fiji and Vanuatu! We'll keep you posted.
Well it's been a pretty busy couple months with parents and my lovely daughter visiting. We've done and seen some great things and its been a bit of a whirlwind. When we arrived here in New Zealand it seemed like we'd be here for an eternity compared to everywhere else we've visited. Six whole months! But - as we all know, 6-months goes by in the real world in a blink of an eye. Perhaps being here has been a lot more akin to real life. Though we've been on vacation per say, we have a car and we go to the grocery store and even work some... we are more busy I guess which is what we all do in real life. Saturday we dropped off my parents and my sweet daughter Piper off at the airport after a nice 3-week visit. But it was one that went too fast and the boat is quiet again. It's nice in ways, but I miss family and especially Piper who really didn't want to leave. That to me was important, but she had to go back to school and mom. She's eleven now and still loves hanging out with dad. She is precious to me and I know my days with her are numbered. My sweet angel.
As I usually do when I'm torn with a dilemma I can't do anything about, I began yesterday to channel my energy into the list of waiting boat projects. Got the compass rebuilt, and today lolo helped me to replace all the chain plate bolts, a project that has been looming over my head since we replaced all the standing rigging last May. It was the weak link (at least in my mind) and there were many a night I lay in fear not knowing just how bad they might be corroded after 28 years. If they failed, we would lose the rig. Now I know for sure they are good and we only had to replace one. They are all re-bedded and the rig is mostly back in tune again. Now we can start looking at normal maint projects. Lolo has been great about getting and comparing costs for boat yards and we'll pick one to do our bottom paint and rudder bearings. By May we'll be able to head to Fiji and beyond.
There is a new chill in the air here. It's nothing compared to Alaska fall, but I know it just the same. Time to get busy as we know to do.
Lolo and I are starting to miss home a bit. Been catching up with old mates and listening to "60-Watt Ave" by the Whipsaws - which sounds like home to me. That is about the best compliment I can think of if your music sounds like home. :)
01/21/2013, New Zealand
I've had this song going around in my head for a while now. It brings me back to about 1981. I was 21. A few years before, I had bought a most impressive "laser cut" LP by the Split Enz and revelled in watching it spin around on my Techniques turntable as the rainbow colors flashed off the otherwise black vinyl. My second Split Enz record included this song - which garnered my immediate favor for obvious reasons. What I didn't know then was that the Split Enz were from New Zealand. Being well before the age of Google, I also had no idea what the word Aotearoa meant. It is the New Zealand Maori word for New Zealand. Strange that it took me 31 years to exerience these lyrics for myself.
Six Months in a Leaky Boat - by the Split Enz.
When I was a young boy
I wanted to sail around the world
That's the life for me, living on the sea
Spirit of a sailor, circumnavigates the globe
The lust of a pioneer, will acknowledge
I remember you by, thunderclap in the sky
Lightning flash, tempers flare,
'round the horn if you dare
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Lucky just to keep afloat
Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl
At the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance
Didn't stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me
I'll conquer and stay free
Ah c'mon all you lads
Let's forget and forgive
There's a world to explore
Tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat
Ship-wrecked love can be cruel
Don't be fooled by her kind
There's a wind in my sails
Will protect and prevail
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Nothing to it leaky boat.
01/14/2013, North Island, New Zealand
A few days ago we dropped Lolo's parents back off at the airport after a 2-week visit. We cruised the Bay of Islands, dove for scallops, collected green mussels and rang in the New Year at Motorua Is. with our friends aboard Moonwalker. We hiked and swam in the beautiful, but refreshing turquoise water and enjoyed some pretty nice gourmet meals aboard Radiance. For the second week, we parked Radiance on a mooring (graciously offered by our Soling race friend Barry), packed all four of us into the Alpha Romeo and motored around the North Island visiting as much as we could manage. Our trek took us south and west to Hellensville where we stayed at Malolo House, a charming old building that once was the town's hospital and maternity ward. We enjoyed fine dining and decent beer at Hallertau Brewery - which labels their beers in the most benign manner - #1 through #4. We next continued on to the thriving metropolis of Hamilton - visiting the excellent museum, a beer at "The Bank", the amazing Hamilton Gardens and then enjoying good Indian food at the acclaimed Indian Star Restaurant. Next morning we were the first customers at Westbrooke Winery and picked up a few bottles of their excellent Pinot Gris before visiting the Kiwi Birdhouse Zoo where we got to see several Kiwi's and many other native birds and animals. We stopped for lunch while ordering her "toasty", Annie heard the options "ham, cheese and eek" to which she replied "eek?" before realizing it was egg. We then visited the Waitamo Glow Worm Caves and took a tour underground to see the stalactites and stalagmites before drifting via boat on an underground stream to see the glow worms. They really looked just like stars in the night sky and were quite impressive in spite of the crowded tour. Next, our drive took us to the coast where (after asking permission) we visited a traditional Mauri Marae, or ceremonial meeting house. It was decorated in the customary manner with red painted wood carvings. As we drove along the windswept coast, we reached stopped at Mikes Brewery and sampled perhaps the best beer yet encountered in New Zealand including a Belgian strawberry sour. Mmmmm! Unfortunately we had only 15 minutes there before they closed for the evening - so continued on to the large town of New Plymouth for dinner, then on to Stratford for the night. Next morning we made for the "Forgotten World Highway" and wound our way to Whangamomona, a section of New Zealand that managed to secede from the country. We stopped at the local watering hole, had a local beer and got our passports stamped before heading on to Taumarumanui Holiday Park to stay for a few days and celebrate Lolo's 35th birthday. We enjoyed a lazy lay day on Lolo's b-day, swam and inner-tubed down the river and cooked her birthday dinner in the crowded communal kitchen, but all turned out great. We all enjoyed a bottled of Champaign and chocolate fondant birthday cake - ending the night with a fireside chat. Next morning, we continued on to Rotorua to visit the geysers, hot pools and boiling mud of the extremely geothermic area. A highlight was attending a traditional Mauri greeting and dance show at a Marae inside the park where dancers performed in traditional dress in dance and song. They were most gracious posing for photos with all who were interested. Next day we continued back up the east side of the north island along the Coramandel Coast, hiking to Cathedral Cave and enjoying a beach picnic. We parked the car and took the ferry over to Whitianga for a visit and ice cream. On the way back we stopped at Mercury Bay Winery before heading to Coroglen Tavern for what was to be pretty bad hamburgers and a long game of really bad pool. The Sea Breeze Holiday Park was our last accommodation before heading north again to Auckland. But we managed to squeeze in one last attraction on the list - a Kauri Grove walk where hiked in the forest to some very old (and now rare) Kauri trees. The trees it seems were exploited across the country for their excellent straight timber and also for their gum - which is essentially like amber. The term "gum boots" is often used here in reference to rubber boots or sea boots, but dates back to the days when rubber boots were used by the kauri gum collectors. After the short hike, we headed to the airport and said our goodbyes, thus completing a successful, if a bit harried whirlwind visit.