Rapturous!

09 July 2021 | Westhaven marina, Auckland
20 June 2021 | Marsden Cove Marina
20 March 2021 | Mt. Cook Village
04 March 2021 | Queensland
24 February 2021 | Bay of Islands Marina, Opua
26 January 2021 | Bay of Islands marina, Opua
13 January 2021 | Marsden Cove Marina
26 December 2020
23 December 2020 | Otaio Bay
23 November 2020 | Opua Marina, NZ
20 November 2020 | 180 miles to Opua
19 November 2020 | 300 miles to Opua
16 November 2020
15 November 2020
14 November 2020
13 November 2020
12 November 2020
05 November 2020 | Port Denarau Marina, Fiji
22 October 2020 | Viti Levu, Fiji
18 October 2020 | Musket Cove, Fiji

Trip down the coast

09 July 2021 | Westhaven marina, Auckland
Susan Wells
Rapture undergoing surgery
With her clean bottom, Rapture was ready to leave the dirty boatyard and stinky marina. Okay, the boat didn't care but we were more than ready to leave the marina and head down the coast to Auckland. It had been all work since Rapture splashed down. The boat had not had a thorough cleaning for months. There was still sawdust between the louvres of the cabinets and now in the winter, the humidity translated to condensation and turned sawdust into mud and mould. The boat stank (sorry Rapture); it was cold and dank. When we turned on the heat, the warm interior next to the cold exterior seeped drips from hatches and portholes. So for days after she splashed down, I was washing down every surface with Simple Green and vinegar, using a scrub brush to get into the corners of the louvres. And then, our rental car was stolen.

It was a Mazda Demio with 150,000 km on the odometer. These cars have no theft protection, no alarm, no key cue, so all that's needed is a screwdriver to hotwire it. Apparently, an international tictock challenge was issued of how many Demios could be stolen. In our neighborhood two disappeared that night. Here's some gratuitous advice: Never rent a Mazda car.

The police and the rental car company were very helpful and accomodating. The rental company drove another car out to us at the marina and charged us nothing extra from the insurance. The police found the car three days later absolutely trashed with licence plates and all identifying decals scraped and ripped away. For us, the greatest loss was Greg's brand new prescription sunglasses that were left in the car. They were never found.

So we were happy to leave Marsden. We had a weather window with winds from the South West predicted at 20 knots. We would be sailing for once, on a close reach, double reefed, putting the new rigging to the test. The sun was shining, waves negligible since the wind was coming from the land. The boat sprang like a filly, heeled over, straining jib and main and our speed over ground kept rising 6.5, 7.0 7.5 knots. She seldom reaches those speeds but she felt so light and the new fairlead travellers made for easy trimming. When we lose the 600 lb of battery weight in the stern we will really fly.

Of course, it couldn't last. By noon, the wind was gusting to 30 knots and it was time to reef the jib. Our speed barely dropped and we were no longer burying the rail. I could even make lunch down below. By 2:00pm we turned into the wind as we rounded the headland into Hauraki gulf. We furled the jib and fired up the engine. Kawau island was our destination but now we were bashing into the waves with wind on our nose making barely 3 knots at 2800 rpm. Biting cold squalls passed over us with gusts and horizontal rain. Our safe harbor seemed never to approach. When the inlet finally opened up, the wind seemed to be funneling straight in. We wondered if there would be shelter. Entering the inlet we turned beam to the wind, as it hit 31 knots. Five minutes later it was 17, then 10, and 5 knots at our anchor point. We were safe.

Kawau to Auckland is 5 hours sailing. Now we had to be close hauled trying to make way into the waves. Our trimming skills need work! Tankers and huge cargo ships line up outside the port making tricky obstacles to sail through. In the channel, speedy freighters don't suffer yachties gladly if they stray into their way. Reluctantly, we furled the sails and motored the rest of the way.

Docking is always stressful. In New Zealand many of the marina docks do not have cleats. Instead, they have rings through which you have to thread the docklines before the boat takes the slack. This time we had wind from the stern which should have pushed us onto the finger pier but which only pushed the bow down making it impossible for me to get off. Fortunately, our slip was longer than needed so I just got the spring line snagged in time. There, done.

We will be in Westhaven marina for two months but we plan to go out sailing (and practice that trimming) whenever the weather is favorable. It's great to be able to walk everywhere with chandleries, stores and restaurants close by.

Here are three videos of the improvements to the boat so far.






Plans or dreams?

20 June 2021 | Marsden Cove Marina
Susan Wells | Wet!
Susan has found an audience

It is now the middle of June and the refit on the boat is almost complete. At the moment the boat is in Marsden Cove Boatyard having the bottom sanded down to the gel coat, then painted with anti fouling. It's the first time since new that all paint has been removed. We noticed when we had the bottom repainted in Fiji that there jwere bubbles and flaking occurring because of the many layers of paint. It was time to scrape it all down and start afresh. While the boat is on the hard we'll also have the shaft seal examined and check the rudder.

One last project will be done in Auckland in July. We will convert to lithium batteries. Instead of 6 AGM lead acid batteries we will have 4 lithium batteries saving considerable space and reducing the weight of the boat by 300 pounds. The lithium will provide greater charge capacity and will last longer because they can be discharged much lower and can be cycled 4 times more than the lead acid. The catch? They are much more expensive although amortized over their lifetime, the cost is not much greater than the AGM.

Anyway, then we will be finally done, until something else breaks. The boat is ready to cross oceans, but as always, there's nowhere to go. Fiji, the most accessible place to go, is in the midst of a major COVID outbreak, The whole of Viti Levu is in lockdown. Boats are still allowed in through their "blue lanes" (a procedural sequence of regulations) but once cleared they are not allowed to move around. Fiji is also suffering from COVID related trade restrictions and recovering from the 2 cyclones that hit the islands earlier this year. It's not the place to be right now.

The best place to be is New Zealand. Our visas were renewed so we can stay until November and since that is back in cyclone season, the visas would probably be renewed for an additional 6 months. By then we're hoping that vaccines will have been distributed widely enough for countries to open up. THEN....

Fiji, Australia and West with the World ARC. This is a rally of sailboats that circumnavigates each year starting and ending in Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. We would be joining the rally halfway through in Australia in May 2022. The organization handles all the paperwork (phew) and provides some security in their numbers. Usually there are about 20 boats on this rally. The route would be from Australia to Lomboc, Indonesia to Caicos to Mauritius to Reunion to Richards Bay, South Africa then on to Brazil and ending in Saint Lucia in August of 2023. I will not be on the leg across the Indian Ocean. Greg will have crew to join him for that.

All these grand plans depend on COVID. If none of the countries open up by March of 2022 we have to think of different alternatives. We could sail East back to French Polynesia then to Hawaii and finally to the American West Coast. We could ship the boat to Ensenada, Mexico or Fort Laudadale, Florida. We could join our friends, Peter and Banu and sail up to Japan and East near Alaska before ending in the Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile we will continue to enjoy this beautiful country. Check out the gallery for more pictures and soon we will post a video tour of Rapture fresh from her refit.

Escape to the South Island

20 March 2021 | Mt. Cook Village
Susan Wells
One of the many valleys in the Southern Alps

It was 10:00pm on Saturday night, the 27th of February, when we were startled awake by our phones alerting us to another lockdown in Auckland, this time for 7 days! A 21 year old boy with symptoms had taken himself in to be tested and then had gone to the gym, the supermarket and a fast food joint while he waited for the results. He tested positive. Taking no chances, the lockdown was declared after most people had retired for the night, set to begin at 6:00am the next morning. We had a flight the next day from Auckland to Wellington which would probably be canceled. Greg looked at me blearily and said, "We've got to go now or we wont be able to get around Auckland!" We were already all packed with our luggage in the car. We just needed to pack toiletries and lock up the boat. By 10:30 we were on the road.

Of course, it was raining and it seemed as if everyone in Auckland was fleeing North before the lockdown deadline while we were trying to get South of the city. We faced a long drive on wet, narrow roads with headlights blinding us expecting every moment to encounter a roadblock preventing us from transiting. If we got stopped we wouldn't make the reservation to hike the Milford Track. This track has been on our bucket list for over 20 years. We had to cancel once already last year when we realized in French Polynesia that we would not get to New Zealand in time. Once again, like we did in Chile getting back to the boat just in time and in Tahiti when we fled to Fiji without knowing whether New Zealand would let us in, COVID required us to make an instant decision based on incomplete information. We were determined to achieve this goal at all costs. And it ended up costing us a lot!

We arrived in Hamilton, comfortably south of Auckland at 3:30am, still in the rain. Since we hadn't stopped at all in the COVID positive region we felt safe. We pulled into a truck stop for two hours of sleep in the front seat of the car under the glaring lights of the gas station. Greg couldn't sleep. He was finding out if we could get a refund on our plane ticket and investigating what the penalty would be for not dropping off our rental car. Air New Zealand was wonderful. They gave us a credit for the full amount of the plane ticket to be used any time in the next year. The rental company was just the opposite. We were supposed to drop it off at the airport but then we would have been trapped in the city and would have had to stay there for at least 7 days. No! Our only recourse was to drive the rental car to Wellington, 325 miles so we could catch the ferry to the South Island the next day. The penalty was almost 3 times as much as the cost of the original 4 day rental contract. To add injury to insult Greg got a speeding ticket on the empty highway over the volcanic plateau. We arrived in Wellington in the mid afternoon and gratefully checked into the Travelodge for a well deserved nap.

We picked up our campervan in Picton as scheduled. It's about half the size of the boat and drives like a bus. While it has everything we need to be self-contained for several days, the systems are not as sophisticated and it is not as comfortable. However, it works. We took 3 days to get to Queenstown stopping in at Christchurch to see Peter and Banu on their boat Denise II on the way. Too rushed, but we had a schedule to keep and we will explore more after the hikes.

The Milford Track lived up to its reputation especially when it's done as a guided walk staying in the lodges at night and having someone else cook plentiful meals with wine or a beer at the end of the day. We were very lucky with the weather, experiencing the McKinnon Pass in clear, but cold, weather. It is 33.5 miles for 5 days but the main hiking is only three days. You walk into the U-shaped valley through old growth forests and wetlands. Then you climb 17 switchbacks up over the pass, and then knee-achingly down into the Milford Sound valley. Finally, you walk down the glacial valley again through forest and past hanging waterfalls to the sea. What struck me most is how empty the country is. There are no native mammals so no wildlife. No chipmunks or squirrels. It's eerie, like being in a ruined abbey. The introduced species are nocturnal so we never saw them except an occasional rabbit. This is a country of birds but they have been decimated by the invasive species. Even the Kea, the mountain parrots, are scarce. Check out the photos, below.

















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In my opinion, not shared by many, the Grand Traverse Routeburn Track was more interesting. Again we took the guided option with a smaller group and again, we had exceptional weather. Perhaps this was why I preferred the track. In bad weather all you see is cloud. Very seldom do you get to take pictures like this. Here a a short video clip at Harris saddle on the Routeburn courtesy of Martin Bird, one of our hiking companions on the trek:



Here are also some photo highlights of the trek:





















Along every track in New Zealand there are rectangular box traps to catch stoats or possums. Only occasionally have I seen or smelled a dead animal. Far more are killed on the roads. In the early morning, great Australasian Harrier Hawks come to grab the carcases often becoming road kill themselves.

We went to the Mt. Cook area recovering from the above mentioned treks. Instead of walking we took a helicopter flight to see the glaciers. Here is Mt. Cook in all her glory.























We will continue exploring the South Island until April 7 when we will return to the boat. The cabin sole should be finished and Rapture will be livable again looking beautiful with her new floor and new upholstery. There are still a few projects to complete but we should be able to do a little sailing before the winter rains begin.

We did one last note worthy hike in Wanaka. The trek up to Roy's peak; a 4200 feet vertical climb, but the views were amazing.









Check out more photos on this post in the gallery from our excursion of the South Island.

Earthquakes

04 March 2021 | Queensland
Susan Wells | Raining again
For those who are concerned, we are fine. We are on the South Island in Queenstown. The boat is in the Bay of Islands in Opua on the North Island but far enough into the Bay that the tsunami couldn't affect it.

There was a swarm of quakes, the first at 2:30 in the morning registering 7.3 near the East Cape of the North Island. The largest, registering 8.1 was in the Kermadec Island about 1000 miles North of NZ. That last one was supposed to trigger the tsunami but there were only mild wave surges. No damage has been reported from the quakes.

North Island Exploration

24 February 2021 | Bay of Islands Marina, Opua
Susan Wells
Mount Ngauruhoe from the crater wall of Tongariro
Our North Island trip started, of course, in Auckland. Every major road South from Northland goes through Auckland which is why, when there's a lockdown in New Zealand's biggest city, the whole North Island is affected. Auckland is all set up to host the America's Cup races. Each team competing has its own hangers next to the docks where the boats are pulled out of the water at night because not a speck of algy can settle on its hull to slow them down. We saw one boat, maybe 60 feet long, hanging from a crane having its hull power washed. This boat is much bigger than Rapture but it looked like a toy hanging in its cradle. Posters and bunting hang everywhere and TVs in bars and restaurants blare ads featuring the boats that fly. They are truly amazing. However, the pandemic has cramped the excitement. The expected crowds have not arrived. Between races, the hotels are almost empty. It was eerie at our Travelodge being the only guests on our floor. We could not find a coffee shop open at 7:30 in the morning. The traffic in the city was silent by 9:30pm. And then, four days after we left Auckland a family came down with Covid. These were the first community cases in New Zealand since August last year and it has had ripple effects throughout our trip.

After Auckland we drove to Hamilton where we absolutely had to visit Hobbiton. Again, it was not overrun by tourists; there were just 10 people on our tour bus. It is a lovely place, peaceful and bucolic and easy to visualize Frodo,Sam and the Sackville Bagginses running around. We also visited the Hamilton Gardens, highly recommended, and the Waitomo caves where we had just three of us in the group. Having the place almost to ourselves to marvel at the glow worm galaxies on the cave roof was just magical.


In the Surrealist section of the Hamilton Gardens





Frodo's hobbit hole

Perspective studies for the little Hobbits and Giant wizard

Outside the Green Dragon

The ale only come in half pints

Now was time for the big adventure. We met with John and Janet (from Tango) to climb the Tongariro Crossing trail. This trail is 19.4 km across an an active volcano steaming and smoking where the footage for Mount Doom was filmed. It's a day hike so no packs necessary and the trail is well maintained with steps and boardwalks. There are three parts to this hike. First the Devil's staircase 697 steps up the side of the volcano. From the top we could see the string of volcanos marching West tracing the hotspot on this edge of the tectonic plate. Then we walked across the crater surrounded by lumpy piles of pitch black lava where Sam and Frodo hid from the Orcks in the movie. The last part was sliding down the talus slope and then walking endlessly down switchback after switchback until we slipped gratefullly into the Podocarp forest at the base. It took us 8 hours to walk the twelve miles. We were relieved that we still can do this after all the sitting around on the boat. Normally it would be very crowded with large groups and a continuous stream of hikers strung along the whole trail but we experienced only one large group. All the hikers were going the same direction so we hardly noticed the company.


Greg with a ranger cut-out

Crossing the Central crater of Tongariro


Emerald Lakes
The Covid case in Auckland broke out just as we came off the mountain. John and Janet had to skedaddle back to Tango in Marsden Cove before the 3-day lockdown went into effect at midnight.Only the city was affected so we spent the time nursing our sore feet and muscles at a lovely Airbnb where Anne, the proprietor, made us a delicious home cooked roast chicken dinner with two huge bowls of vegetables (You know how you miss vegetables when you're traveling!) and visiting the open air geothermal features around Taupo. Day three was a long drive all the way over to the East coast to Lake Waikaremoana (Why-curry-moo-ana) for our next adventure.There was a front expected and we wanted to get there before the rain.

It started raining just as we showed up at the Holiday Park (camping/caravan park) after a windy, bumpy drive over mostly gravel roads. We'd booked into the Fisherman's cabin, a tiny one room hut with a microwave, an electric frying pan and a kettle. What more could you want? We nabbed a half dozen eggs at the local general store and cooked up a scrambled eggs on toast with Chipotle in Adobo sauce bought at a fancy import store in Hamilton. With a bottle of Chianti (corkscrew required) we were set for the night while the rain fell straight and heavy outside.

And it was still bucketing down the next morning. Rather than head out in the deluge, we changed our reservations to stay an extra night in the Fisherman's cottage. In normal times we would never have been able to get a vacancy at such short notice but once again, there was plenty of availability. We spent all day in our little hut, without internet, watching the rain and reading, gearing up for the climb the next day.

The trail starts by climbing 2000 feet in 5 miles. It was still drizzling and the mud was thick but most of the climb is through thick old growth forest, so we didn't have to deal with the wind or horizontal rain. This climb is made worthwhile by the magnificent views but all we saw was cloud. We enjoyed the huge trees covered with epiphytes and lichens and the gloomy tangle of undergrowth smelling of wet earth and humus. Bats are the only native mammals in New Zealand. Possums, for their fur and stoats to control rabbits, (and rats and cats and dogs) have been introduced and they are decimating the bird population. These old growth rain forests are habitat for rare Kiwis, flightless parrots and green pigeons but the rain was keeping most of the birds undercover so the forest was very quiet and still. The good part was that the trail was short and that there is the hut Panekire at the top. Well, the hut was dry at least, and had mattresses on the bunks. When we arrived, it was cold and dank with wet clothes hanging everywhere as people took shelter for the night. Fortunately, one of them was a hero and went out to find semi dry wood to start the fire. Soon, the hut warmed up and people started cooking on their camping stoves and talking to one another. Billy, the outdoorsman from Invercargill in the extreme South of New Zealand even produced gin and a plastic soda stream device to make tonic which he very kindly shared with us. After a dinner of reconstituted freeze-dried "food", we retreated to our warm sleeping bags to rest our sore muscles. With ear plugs, we were soon asleep.


The next day was downhill all the way. Fortunately, our knees held out but the toe nails took a beating again. It was only a three hour hike so we were the first to arrive at the lake level hut by lunch time. This hut was much cleaner and in better repair than Panekire. It had stopped raining and the sun was out. We spent the afternoon basking on the beach, watching the black swans and coots and sleeping in the quiet. People started arriving at around 4:00pm and immediately stripped off and went swimming. I really regretted not bringing a swimsuit. This time Greg performed fire duty and made everyone happy until bedtime.


Into the wild

Old growth forest

Our rewarding view from the Panekire Hut


What the view would have been like on a clearer day

The map showed that our next leg was 17km over flat terrain next to the lake. Huh! Not so much. The trail was a constant up and down over ridges with rocks and streams and muddy patches to negotiate. The big rivers had suspension bridges and the swamps had boardwalks but the infrastructure is starting to show wear. Although this is classified as a Great Walk, it is not maintained as well as some of the more famous hikes (that we will do on our South Island adventure in March), Being day three, our feet and shoulders were sore, but our packs were lighter as we ate through our supplies. The Waiharuru hut was awesome and (or because) it had a warden. He greeted arriving hikers and showed them around, enjoying the conversations and interactions. In the evening, he patrolled, looking out for Kiwi birds and showing anyone who was interested the nature in the area. The sleeping dormitory is separate from the dining shelter so it is much quieter except when people come back from dinner forgetting that someone might be sleeping. Earplugs are a necessity.


Suspension bridge over the river
Finally, we walked out early the next morning. We only had two hours to walk to meet the water taxi that would take us back to the Holiday Park where we had left our car. We were able to take a quick shower before driving to our next Airbnb in Napier where we found out that the lockdown in Auckland had been lifted because contact tracing and testing had discoved a cluster the high school. The whole high school was closed and all students told to self isolate. We treated ourselves to a late lunch at the Mission Winery, hence the need for a shower. After all the freeze dried food, the rich lamb chops and wine was delicious but a bit of a shock on the digestive system.

Our last stop was Wellington. What a great city. It is compact enough to walk to all the sights, including the National Te Papa museum and the botanical garden at the top of the funicular. On the last day, a new cluster of cases was discovered and we spent a nervous 24 hours wondering if Auckland would lockdown gain and cut us off from the boat. There's much more to discover and if we're not trapped in Northland, we will have that opportunity when we go through Wellington on the way to the South Island in March.

Check out the gallery for more pictures from this recent excursion away from Rapture

Refit

26 January 2021 | Bay of Islands marina, Opua
Susan Wells
Refit

Playtime over, we went back to refit in Opua. This is no fun. Imagine living in a remodel of the whole (tiny) house inside and out with the mess invading every space. There's no privacy; people are banging and sanding and spraying noxious chemicals that get on my herbs and fruit and potentially our lungs. The good news is that it is happening fast and in two weeks we leave for a road trip around the North Island so not much longer.

This round of refit is to the standing rigging, the brightwork, and the upholstery all at the same time. The mast had to be removed, the cushions in the salon are gone and we have to step carefully on the deck.










Pulling the Mast

If you can't beat them, join them. I uncrated the sailrite and sewed the cushions for the princess seat and next, I will repair the dinghy chaps.



Meanwhile, we walk in the hills, make short trips in our rental car to surrounding towns and watch the antics of the racing boats who have invaded the marina during race week.



Vessel Name: Rapture
Vessel Make/Model: Caliber 40 LRC
Hailing Port: Berkeley, CA
Crew: Greg Newman, Susan Wells
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Photos of the boat, people and places in the Bay.
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Created 24 June 2017
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July 25 to August 15 San Franciso, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Morro Bay, Cojo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Barbara Island, Catalina.
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Created 23 August 2015
The Food Saver vacuum sealer is a really useful device. The aluminum packs contain a 2 person serving. They just need to be defrosted and thrown in the oven - no prep work required. We could bake all 3 at once, or the crew that is sleeping can bake theirs when they wake up.
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Created 24 June 2014
Memorial day cruise from San Fran down to Monterey, but we turned West at Santa Cruz for about 50 miles before tacking North for a direct beam reach back to San Fran.
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Created 18 June 2014
The second overnight cruise. San Fran North West to Pt. Reyes, then south cutting east to Pillar Point and back to San Fran.
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Created 6 May 2014