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The Big Blue
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.
updated map

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The day after

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. :)

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04/01/2013 | Meghan
She is SO grown up! Gorgeous gal.
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
No frontier
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.

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01/22/2013 | Richard Blakely
Great song, Mark. Thanks for sharing this.
Whirlwind Visit
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.

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01/21/2013 | Meghan
Magnificent photos from the Blakely's visit - what a spectacular place with fantastic company!
T'was the day before Christmas
12/23/2012, Opua, NZ

T'was the day before Christmas and all through the bay
not a critter was stirring, nor making hay

The yachts were nestled all snug on their moorings
while rain pelted down and sailors still snoring

The forecast called for merely a gale
Would anyone in their right mind want to sail?

I sprang from my bed at half past seven
To teach sailing in remnants leftover from cyclone evan

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
But two students decked fully out in boots and raingear

Emry and Oslo beamed and were ready
in spite of the weather that hung o'er the jetty

So off we set with a reef in the main
the jib no more than a kerchief came

we tacked and we gybed all through the day
dodging and weaving the yachts in the bay

our 20-foot Tiri screamed right along
and we wondered what might possibly go wrong

When all of a sudden I heard such a clatter
That I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter

The rain needled down on the backs of our jackets
And the wind in the rigging made quite a racket

The little yacht healed and the helm was hard over
45 knots ...and not a not lower

I let go the main sheet in a mighty big hurry
As the gods unleashed their full furry

Emry and Oslo looked quite concerned
But I reminded them of all they had learned

So we sailed on that day in the absence of others
And they passed their course with all flying colors

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12/15/2012, Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ

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12/16/2012 | julie ann
Where it all ends I cant fathom my friends
If I knew I might toss out my anchor
So I cruise along always searchin for songs
Not a lawyer a thief or a banker

Im just a son of a son, son of a son
Son of a son of a sailor
The seas in my veins, my tradition remains
Im just glad I dont live in a trailer

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