We have had a wonderful summer here in beautiful New Zealand. We came here to seek shelter during the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season and perform some much needed maintenance work on TIGER LILLY. Actually, we stayed well into the winter since our projects took longer than we anticipated - which is usually the case. We chose the little town of Whangarei, some 17 miles up the Hatea River, as our New Zealand maintenance destination. Whangarei is one of the world's crossroads for bluewater sailors; they have most everything a sailor needs to fix or improve a boat. The harbour is well sheltered from inclement weather, and it is conveniently located in the middle of this little town of some 50,000 hospitable Kiwis.
Each year the Whangarei Marine Promotions Association sends a delegation to Vavau, Tonga to put on a dog and pony show for the yachties getting ready to sail south for the cyclone season. This year they will be in Tonga during the last week of September. Sharon (the manager of the Town Basin Marina) and Phil (manager / owner of the Whangarei Doyle Sails loft) will be there. They will make a presentation, answer questions, and hand out information packages. Phil told us that the folks representing Opua and the Bay of Islands will also be there. The information booklet has a good list of vendors, but includes principally members of the Association. Our vendor and services list below includes many non-members who have services we need.
LILLY sez: The best part is that Whangarei is a crossroads for the world's bluewater sailing community - you never know who you're going to see on a stroll down the boardwalk. The hiking is just superb, with trails that come right down to the harbour. There is a lovely River Walk around the Town Basin, and we enjoyed being members of the very affordable Aquatic Center. New Zealand has one of the highest quality food supplies we have seen anywhere, including the United States. Kiwis enjoy a very high standard of nutrition, and fresh wholesome food is always available in the convenient supermarkets. For you early birds, there is a really nice Farmers Market each Saturday morning up in town. I particularly enjoyed cruising the aisles at the Red Cross and Salvation Army Thrift Stores, always on the lookout for treasures and bargains. Of course, Tom-Tom the Sailor Man is always complaining about additional weight, and he calls my treasures junk - but I am sure that my new-found Tupperware collection weighs a whole lot less than the boxes and boxes of his heavy flippin tools! There is a summer morning cruisers net conducted by the Whangarei Marine Promotion Association, but it is pretty lame - it starts at 08:00. New Zealand is famous for dairy products - this means GREAT ice cream; so save up your unused calories until you can get here. Hokey Pokey is definitely my favorite flavor!
ARRIVAL AT WHANGAREI HARBOUR:
MARSDEN COVE MARINA CUSTOMS DOCK - is located at the mouth of Whangarei Harbour just past the oil refinery docks on the south shore. The approach channel has 3 meters at low water. As soon as you enter the basin make a sharp left, and the Customs Dock (fenced and locked) is at the end of the marina floating dock. Call the marina on VHF Channel 64 as you enter the approach channel. There is a potable water tap and a trash bin available on the Customs Dock.
HATEA RIVER - After clearance, it is about 10 miles further up the Hatea River to the Whangarei Town Basin. Seagoing sailboats will need the tide to proceed further than the commercial docks and slipways and on up to the Town Basin. The charts do not show many soundings beyond Kissing Point because there is only about a meter or so of water in the channel at low tide - but the 3 meter tide will easily get you up the river and to the Town Basin.
HATEA RIVER BRIDGE - This bascule bridge has won awards for its innovative design; it looks like a Maori fish hook. Call "Bridge Control" on VHF Channel 64 for an opening. 1800 is the last lift of the day without an appointment, and it is closed during morning and afternoon weekday "rush hour" (which is really a joke in this little town - there is no rush hour). If you need to wait for the bridge, there are convenient mooring pontoons right at the bridge out on the edge of the channel. Each day at noon they make a test lift to check-out the systems, and they welcome visitors to come up to the control room and watch.
TOWN BASIN MARINA -The staff (Sharon and Brian) are most helpful. You can call the marina on Channel 64 before you depart Marsden Cove to announce your arrival. They have slips at floating docks, pile-sets, and a long specially constructed floating catamaran dock where they keep the multihull people sequestered. It is a Regulation on New Zealand that catamarans are required to rig their rat guards backwards. (LILLY sez: Behave Tom-Tom, most of them are very nice people!) The Town Basin is maintenance dredged annually to keep sufficient depth in the boat berths.
MONEY - The NZD-USD exchange rate was about .7 x NZD = USD for most of the time we were in New Zealand - very favorable for most international visitors. (LILLY sez: It doesn't matter - they got all of our money anyway!) BOAT - Bring On Another Thousand. There is a 15% GST Goods and Services Tax on most items, however marine related purchases are exempt. Make several copies of your Customs Entry form and register at the shops and vendors to be GST exempt. There are several ATM stations around town, and our American VISA bank cards were accepted everywhere we shopped.
VENDORS and SERVICES at WHANGAREI:
AA - There are meetings most every night of the week (except Thursday) at 1930 at the Municipal Building located at 71 Bank Street. The Sunday afternoon Twelve and Twelve meeting is at 1630, and on Thursday at 1930 there is an AA social hour at the McDonalds on upper Bank Street. If you want to drink, that is your business; but if you want to stop, and can't, that is our business.
ALTERNATOR REPAIR - Auto Tech, 2 Herekino Street, phone 0274767064, we had our Balmar 200 amp alternator rebuilt, bought a new Lucas 70 amp alternator, bought digital hour meters, bought refrigeration oil.
AUTOMOTIVE SUPPLY - Repco (across the parking lot from Wynn Fraser Paints). Bindons, located at the corner of Water and Walton Streets.
AQUATIC CENTER - Riverside Drive at the Town Basin bridge, 25 meter pool for lap swimming, kids wave pool, sauna, hot tub (not very hot), gym, very nice facility - and affordable.
BUTCHER - If you intend on sailing to New Caledonia when you depart New Zealand, they have rather strict Customs and Agricultural requirements for bringing food into this French island (as does Australia and Vanuatu). Any fresh or frozen meat aboard must have a certificate of export quality from New Zealand or it will be impounded. The Mad Butcher, located at the corner of Dent Street and Walton Street (in front of the large yellow Pak N' Save supermarket) sells export quality meat, and they provide the necessary certificate with your Bill of Goods. Additionally, they will vacuum pack the meat to order, and freeze it. Prices, availability, and selection are better in New Zealand than the popular cruising destination of New Caledonia, so check out the Mad Butcher - which is really a misnomer, the Friendly Butcher would be more descriptive.
CANVAS - Palmer Canvas, 141 Lower Dent Street, Dan, phone 094388343, not the cheapest, but we think we got good value and good quality on our dodger, sun fly, and mast boot.
CHURCH - We divided our time between Calvary Chapel and the Salvation Army. Calvary Chapel is held in an education center on the edge of town, and the best way to get there is to call Kristen Montgomery (Pastor Mike's wife) at 6421464088. They are affiliated with the Calvary Church back in the US, and we enjoy their omni-denominational services. The Salvation Army is located just up the hill from the Town Basin on Aubry Street (off upper Bank Street just past McDonalds), an easy walk to the 10:00 Sunday worship service. We are always blessed by worshipping with the folks at Salvation Army; and they are all over the world.
COMMUNICATIONS - We bought an El-Cheapo cell phone for 30 NZD. We used a month to month pre-paid plan from Vodafone (Camron Street mall) for the cell phone and 4G access for our iPad. The Whangarei Library on Rust Avenue has WI-FI. The Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina has WI-FI.
CUSTOMS - Officer Bruce Cooper, cell phone 0292509305 or [email protected]
He is a good guy and we actually enjoyed having him aboard TIGER LILLY. The marina office will have some Customs departure forms that need to be completed prior to check-out. Once you have emailed your Intent of Departure form to NZ Customs, call Bruce and make an appointment for him to meet you at the Marsden Cove Customs Dock and process you out.
ELECTRICAL MOTOR REPAIR/REWIND - Snow Brothers Rewinds, Paul, 106 Roberts Street, phone 094381922. This is a really good shop; they do quality work, at reasonable prices. We had our anchor windlass motor rewound, and the refrigeration motor armature repaired.
ELECTRICAL SUPPLY - J. A. Russell, 118 Cameron Street, phone 094381107. Large contractor supply house. Good selection, ask for a discount. We bought a heavy-duty Kiwi 220 VAC electrical cord which we used for power in the yard and at the dock.
ELECTRONIC REPAIR - INFRACOM, Port Road, Rob, phone 094384644. They repaired our 10 year-old Furuno navigation plotter at a very reasonable cost (used a no cost part off a junked-out unit they had). We bought a new Icom SSB from them at about the same cost we could have bought one off the Internet and had it shipped to NZ. These folks are really good electronic repair technicians, and they charge reasonable rates - but you must make it clear that you have alternative sources of supply.
DIESEL ENGINE REPAIR - Whangarei Marine Services, at Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina, Geoff and Sue, 094383296, all brands of engine repair, we did major engine work with them, very good shop. DML, fuel injection shop, 45 Port Road, phone 094389092.
FIBERGLASS REPAIR and FABRICATION - We had a cockpit hardtop fabricated for TIGER LILLY while we were in Whangarei, and it was the only NZ project with which we had difficulties. The boatbuilder who built the top had a sterling reputation, unfortunately he had a medical situation arise which required him to hire another worker to help build our hardtop. As with many individuals working on the waterfront, our boatbuilder was a great craftsman, not very good at project management, and not an effective people manager. They got about two-thirds of the way through our fixed price project when they started making noises about being "short on hours" - and of course our response was this is a fixed price project, there is no limit on the hours. They went into a hurry-up mode and finished the hardtop: the structural elements were satisfactory, but the finish was unsatisfactory. Additionally, it took them 8 weeks to complete a project which was quoted at 2 weeks, putting us into New Zealand's wet winter. We had the top looked at by no less than 5 maritime professionals, all experienced in yacht building, and the assessment was unanimous - the top had to be repainted. With the agreement of the boatbuilder we held back the final progress payment on the project, which was almost exactly the amount of the quote we received to have the hardtop repainted. The fellow that the boatbuilder hired to help build the top got very irate and threatening, as he did not get his final payment from the boatbuilder. As soon as it became apparent that there was a problem; we immediately notified the Whangarei Marine Promotions Association, and Management at the boat yard we were hauled-out at. (Although the boatbuilder was not a member of the Marine Promotions Association, we reported the situation to them anyway.) The only way this situation was resolved to our satisfaction was: A) We had an email from the boatbuilder stating the cost, specifications, and the estimated time of fabrication for our project; B) We had the boatbuilder sign a copy of that email as a receipt for our initial deposit (in New Zealand, that is considered a contract); C) We had the boatbuilder sign and date that same email when we made progress payments; D) Once it was obvious we had a problem, we got as many outside parties as possible involved in our situation. Our advice to anyone with a major project is to get the terms and specifications in writing up front - and get a signature.
FUEL - There is diesel fuel available at Marsden Cove Marina at the mouth of Whangarei Harbour. We had diesel delivered to us while we were on the hard at Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina by Mini-Tankers, phone Tony at 0212795862. The cost to have fuel delivered to us in the yard was actually a bit cheaper than the fuel dock price at Marsden Cove. Mini-Tankers main business is fueling the Northland dairy farms and the logging industry in the bush.
GALVANIZING - Avon Industries, phone 6494351033, call Judy for a pick-up, they batch process when they get a sufficient amount of boat chain and anchors, Craig is their driver his cell is 0212319577. They do not have a chain shaker, but they did a good job, and our chain has an even coating of zinc.
HAUL-OUT - Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina, Karl yard manager and Donna office manager, phone 094382248. We think that this is the best boatyard in Whangarei, and it is within walking distance of town. They have All Marine, Alloy Stainless Steel, and Whangarei Marine Services on the premises. The haul-out prices at the various boatyards are not that much different, but this is a superior boat yard.
INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY - Saeco Wilson, 28 Port Road, phone 6494300105, bought Gates industrial belts. Arnold Franks, 112 Lower Camron Street, good selection of plumbing supplies, they provide the dairy industry with all types of industrial supplies, good place to cruise the aisles and see what they have.
INSURANCE - The Marina Shop, phone 094026093, they had the best price for Third Party Marine Insurance which is required by the Town Basin Marina.
LIBRARY - Rust Street just past the railroad bridge, they have WI-FI available. The new library building is behind the old restored Library. There are interesting presentations and concerts put on in the old library building.
LIFE RAFT CERTIFICATION - All Marine is the Whangarei rep for Wilco Marine Services in Auckland, the company which actually does the life raft re-certification. All Marine will pick-up and deliver life rafts at the Whangarei docks. Our Avon life raft failed inspection (seams were leaking) so we bought a new Zodiac life raft from Wilco Marine through All Marine. The cost was just about the same as we would have paid back in the States - just let them know that you have alternative sources, but would rather buy it locally. All Marine will match prices if possible. Our EPIRB battery needed to be replaced, and it was cheaper to buy a new unit from All Marine than replace the battery in our ACR EPIRB - so check out battery replacement costs and battery life when buying an EPIRB. ACR is clearly not the best choice for an international cruiser.
LPG FILL - OnGas, 22 Powowini Avenue. ELGAS, 31 Porowini Avenue. TANK MUST BE NZ CERTIFIED (see Pressure Vessel Testing below). NZ uses the same fittings as we have on American LPG cylinders.
MOORING - Whangarei Marina, Sharon and Brian, phone 6494382033, [email protected]
, slips, alongside, pile-sets. Riverside Drive Marina, Donna, phone 094382248. There is nowhere to anchor in the greater Whangarei area. Those boats that anchor at Kissing Point are run off by the Harbour Master. There is no shortage of environmental nut-jobs living around the Town Basin. If you need to grind, spray paint, or make dust, you will have to move your boat down to the Riverside Drive Boatyard and take a working slip while such work is in progress. The pile-set moorings in the Town Basin are more isolated than the floating docks, and if you keep a low profile some work can be done out on the pile-set moorings. We much preferred the privacy of the pile-set moorings, and the cost was half of being alongside or in a slip. (LILLY sez: Hey, speak for yourself Buckwheat. I LIKE it when people can just walk up to the boat and visit - just like a home! Mister Personality, on the other hand, would build a moat and keep crocodiles as pets if it was up to him.)
OFFICE SUPPLY - Office Max, 21 Okara Drive, phone 094385657. T and D Print, 85 Walton Street, phone 094381194, we had a boat stamp made here. Printing.com, Evan, 15 Reyburn Street, phone 094387596, we had boat cards printed here. It was cheaper than buying the business card stock, and printer ink, and printing them ourselves.
PAINT - Wynn Fraser Paints, 8 Okara Drive, phone 094381624. Ask for Bryce Gibson, he is an excellent source of technical information regarding paint systems.
PAINTER - Simon Kristensson, phone 02108420275, scraped old antifoulant off the UW hull, sprayed barrier coat, sprayed antifoulant, painted PU boot top, hard worker, nice young man. Due to NZ environmental regulations regarding dust, overspray, and antifoulant waste, we had Simon do most of the UW hull prep and paint work. NZ has lots of strict environmental regulations, and no shortage of Eco-Natzie private citizen enforcers. The only pollution they tolerate is the hundreds of thousands of large dairy cattle which have polluted nearly all of the rivers down here. God forbid that a 200 pound international yachtie would pee in the river - but it is OK if old 1200 pound Bessie the Holstein does! Cha-ching!
PROPSPEED, Brian Oliver, phone 0274968845, the locals report good results for keeping propellers and running gear free of marine growth, so we are trying it. In the States, you can buy PROPSPEED and apply it yourself, but here in NZ you must use a "certified" marine painter.
PLASTIC SUPPLY - Metro Direct, 22 Porowini Avenue, Plexiglass and Lexan, sealants for windows, good source for expert advice and first-rate products for sealing boat windows. Para Rubber 32 Porowini Avenue, phone 094377710, Neoprene, rubber, plastic, seals, stripping.
PRESSURE VESSEL TESTING - T and L Testers, Unit 2 at 43 Porowini Avenue (around the back, next to the badminton courts). Tank testing is a real racket in NZ. All foreign bottles have to be hydro tested and checked on their master list to see that they are approved. Without being tested, or without the right pedigree, you cannot get an LPG cylinder filled; but the cruiser decanting method works just fine down here - just keep a low profile.
REFRIGERATION - Chill Out Marine Refrigeration, Dwayne, cell 0276883458. Dwayne is a good guy, understands marine refrigeration, is experienced on many different types of systems. Skilled Kiwi craftsman.
RIGGING - C Spar, Matthew, unit 3 at 211 Port Road, 094381556, good rigger, rebuilt 20 year-old PROFURL, replaced head stay and inner forestay. Very experienced big-boat offshore rigger - Whitbread and America's cup veteran.
SAIL BUILD and REPAIR - Doyle Northland, 1 Finlayson Street, Phil, phone 0212223902. Good sailmaker, but stay on top of your project or it will get lost in the pile. The squeaky wheel gets the grease! We had our jib acrylic suncovers replaced, and they allowed Lilly to remove the old ones (in their loft) so we could save some money. (LILLY sez: But it certainly did not save my FINGERS - they were rubbed raw and HURT for weeks after that job!
SCUBA GEAR - Saltwater Connection, 24 Port Road, phone 094388727, rebuilt scuba first stage regulators, hydro and visual inspect tanks, fill tanks, bought diving gear. They also sell fishing gear.
SEWING MACHINE REPAIR - Rob Weenink 0274531048, he did a good job getting our Sailrite walking-foot sewing machine sorted out, and he picks-up and delivers to the Town Basin.
STAINLESS STEEL and ALUMINUM FABRICATION - Alloy Stainless and Marine, Terry, Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina, phone 094380252. This is a first class marine fabrication and machine shop. Northern Marine Machining, 223 Port Road, 6494382403. This is an industrial shop which principally serves the dairy industry. ONLY deal with Mike at NMM, he is a fair man.
USED BOAT GEAR - Stanley Marine, 6494384479, on the Town Basin behind the kid's playground. When we (that would be Tom), blew up our 110 VAC microwave oven by inadvertently applying 220 VAC to it, Lilly found a nice Magic Chef 110 VAC unit in Stanley's junk shop.
UPHOLSTRY - Palmer Canvas, Glenn, 141 Lower Dent Street, Dan, phone 094388343, not the cheapest but we think we got good value and good quality.
YACHT CHANDLERY - We used All Marine as our principal supplier, phone 094384499, 231 Port Road and also a satellite store at the Riverside Drive Boatyard and Marina. Once Bob (the owner) got the message that we had alternative suppliers available in the US, he usually was able to match prices on comparable gear. Kiwis do not seem to deal very much (not part of their make-up), but Whangarei has seen enough Cheeky Yanks to know that we want a DISCOUNT on everything! Bob is quite well informed and knowledgeable about a wide range of marine products. (Lilly sez: I didn't know that Bob sells satellites, is he an astronaut also? I thought he seemed really smart.)
If you are looking for a good place to work on your boat - and stay safe during the South Pacific cyclone season - consider Whangarei, New Zealand. You will be glad that you did! Nice people, good maritime craftsmanship, and a beautiful country - what's not to like about New Zealand?
Tom and Lilly
S/V Tiger Lilly
Whangarei, New Zealand