Happy New Year...
14 January 2020
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
R TUCKER THOMPSON, OFF CAPE BRETT, BAY OF ISLANDS, NZ.
...Though to be fair, at January 14th, it’ getting a bit ‘used’ by now; when I turned up the last blog (from mid-December) as a draft, I discovered it’d never been posted, or in fact even finished, so I’m well behind the game; even worse, I’ve just been advised by our good friend Barry, a well known and almost professional ‘Vlogger’ (Search U-Tube for ‘The Old Seadog’) that there are apparently quite a large number of people who actually read my Blogs – I’d assumed that it was just my parents and a few friends with nothing better to do once the pub’s had closed – so I’m now feeling that I ought to take it a bit more seriously? Nah, sod it, if you don’t like it like this, stop reading and go for a beer.
So what have we been up to since arriving in New Zealand at the end of November? Well, primarily we’ve been turning the joke which we made to the Immigration Officer on arrival at Opua into reality. In response to her comment of: “I’m assuming that your reason for visiting New Zealand is tourism?”
I replied: “Well that’s what we’d planned, but I suspect that we’ll be too busy doing boat repairs, to manage much beyond the odd weekend of sight-seeing.”
Our first week or so in New Zealand seemed to set the pattern in many ways: Having slept-off the trials of our passage to New Zealand and got the larder replenished in Paihia, we returned to Opua to finally resolve – we hope! – our engine/propeller shaft/transmission problems; ever since we’ve been in the Pacific our engine’s usually started and run perfectly, but having engaged gear at tick-over, we needed to delicately ‘tickle’ the engine-revs up to cruising speed, or suffer a vibrating judder through the boat? One of the local engineering outfits ‘Seapower’ had been recommended to us from way back, so we decided that it was finally time to sit back and let the experts resolve it. Their engine-man said, ‘nothing wrong with that’ and sent out the transmission man who diagnosed movement/vibration due to knackered engine mountings, frustratingly, that’s what I’ve been suspecting from way back in Curacao more than two years ago, but every preceding ‘expert’ has decried the suggestion; perhaps because they’ve not had any engine mountings in stock to sell us?
One of the good things about coming to New Zealand is that spare parts are either already in stock, or available within timely shipping distance; no concerns about how long the Customs Dept. will sit on the package, or whether it’ll get loaded onto next week’s or next month’s’ inter-island ferry. As a result, we’d new feet installed and the engine much improved within a week and whilst the invoice was hefty(we’d been pre-warned of Seapower’s prices too- ‘quality costs’), even that was tempered by the fact that transient, foreign-flagged yachts are exempt from GST (the local equivalent of VAT/IVA) on most all things yottie, so it could’ve been 15% worse.
With the engine sounding better we returned to Paihia to replenish the larder once again – there's very little in the way of groceries to be had in Opua, but a really good fish’n’chip shop, so who cares! The chippy seems to be one of the few things that hasn’t altered since we were here thirty years ago, sadly the same can’t be said about the pie situation. I had fond memories of NZ being the only place other than the UK (OK, the little-Englands of Malta and Gibraltar too) where you could get a ‘real’ pork pie; not any more it seems. Other varieties of meat pie and Cornish pasty can still be found, but they’ve all been ridiculously over-priced and after almost a month, I’ve yet to find a really good one either; indeed I’ve given up the search for now.
With the fridge, water tanks and the drinks locker all replenished – reasonably priced beer for the first time since Panama, and reasonably priced wine for the first time since the USA, on the down side the rum’s horrendously priced, so it’ll be back to beer and wine instead. I’m off cigarettes for the moment too as they’re £14; no that isn’t a misprint, a pack of 20 cigarettes is £14/NZ$28/US$20 in New Zealand! The city of New York was similar, but these make the Pacific Island’s price of £5-7 a pack look reasonable and leave me yearning for the £4 a CARTON price back in Panama! – we headed out to explore the Bay of Islands. The first (or perhaps second?) time that we ever ventured out to sea on a sailboat was 12th February 1989 – it was my birthday present – for a sail around the Bay of Islands on recently but traditionally built square-rigger called the ‘R Tucker Thompson’ It’s still sailing here now, though other than the topsails, the square sails have all gone in favour of a fore and aft gaff-rig set-up; knowing a lot more about sail boats than we did in ’89, I can appreciate that change of sail plan's made things a lot more user-friendly for day-sailing around here.
The islands and indeed mainland bays too were very cute and provided some fantastic walking tracks – all impeccably maintained and signposted – and a good job too, as we’ve already learnt that we’ll not be revisiting any of the ‘big name’ walking tracks around New Zealand. When we visited in 1989 you needed to pre-book well in advance to do the Milford Track (we managed to blag a last-minute permit after someone had cancelled) but otherwise you just turned-up at the trailhead and set-off; nowadays, unless you walk all the way through non-stop, you apparently need to pre-book and get a permit for the refuge huts/campgrounds along all of the top 10-15 ‘named’ tracks and to get said permit, you need to be applying ‘nine to twelve months in advance’. Friends who walked the North Island's Tongariro Trail last summer (admittedly on a holiday weekend) reckon they shared the trail with 2000+ people – ‘a constant stream of people, with people-jams at the narrow spots’ – when we went through we probably saw less than 100 people over the whole three days which we took to cover the 25-30 mile walk.
When we we've been out walking was when we most enjoyed the weather too, as whilst it’d be unfair to describe New Zealand as ‘cold’ – I guess it’s the equivalent of mid-May in the south of England – after three years in the Tropics, it’s definitely 'not warm'; jeans and sweatshirts during the day, with the long-buried ‘big duvet’ dug out of a locker at nights. We’d been looking forward to having long evenings after so long close to the equator (full daylight to black dark’s never more than 20-30 minutes) but have found ourselves scurrying below and crawling under the duvet to keep warm rather than sitting out in the cockpit enjoying the twilight. It could be worse, many (most) of the cruising yachts sailed down here during October at the insistence of their Insurers and have been telling us of daytime temperatures of 12-14 degrees and single-figures at night, I guess we’re getting 18-20 (warmer in the direct sunshine) and low/mid-teens at night, whilst the water temperature is around 20C which the locals seem quite keen and eager to swim in but I suspect we’ll not be venturing in unless it’s to fix something under the boat?
Our time in the Bay of Islands was going to be a ‘holiday’ and though we were already compiling a definitive list of ‘parts needed’ and ‘jobs to do’, we were going to enjoy ourselves here first, then head south about 80 miles to the town of Whangarei for Christmas – where we’d booked a berth in the marina for a fortnight, to enjoy Christmas/New Year and be safe, secure and comfortable the following week, whilst we sorted the jobs out. The jobs-list was longer than anticipated and continued to grow as we spotted/remembered/thought of a few more minor items each day, nothing particularly significant, but enough for us to extend our marina booking to a month. Then, on about our third day amongst the islands, our windlass broke, fortunately we were generally anchored in 3-4m of water around here rather than the 15-20m depths of Fiji! We could manage – just! – to haul it in by hand, it took some of the fun out of things, so when we saw a forecast promising weather better suited to sailing south than sight-seeing (A bit damp, but northerly F3-5 winds) we upped anchor and headed for Whangarei early – the marina promised us they had a space which they could ‘squeeze us into’ a week early.
16th December: We timed our passage up the Whangarei River and under the lifting bridge – like being back in the USA’s Intra Coastal Waterway – for high tide (we’d have run aground otherwise) and arrived at slack water to find not a breath of wind; much like our passage down from the Bay of Islands, the promised wind died off as we rounded Cape Brett, so we had to motor 60+ of the eighty mile passage, at least it was a test of our much quietened transmission. Perhaps fortunate that the conditions were benign for our arrival, for we have indeed been ‘squeezed’ into Berth B2; it’s a lovely spot to be: Handy for the showers and laundry and perhaps the best sheltered berth in the whole marina, but given Moon Rebel’s recalcitrance in reverse-gear, I’ve no idea how we’ll ever get her back out of this cosy corner.
Once settled we made a few enquiries about some of the jobs that we need doing, though by the time we arrived most businesses – other than the retailers – were winding-down for Christmas; being early summer in NZ and the start of the year’s long school-holiday, there were few of the businesses whom we needed re-opening until 6th January and a significant number are still closed even now, but we’ve made some progress. Whangarei’s the regional centre for pretty much everything – there’s nowhere else close as big to the north/east/west and nothing south until Auckland - in addition to which, it’s seriously geared-up (once Christmas is over) to service the liveaboard & cruising yacht fleet. It seems that whatever you need fixing, there’s someone local who can do it and a shop that either has the necessary spare part in stock, or can ‘get it from Auckland in 24-hours’; impressive in itself, but after two-years in the boondocks of the eastern Pacific, you just keep thinking ‘Wow!’
The city’s business plan’s certainly working and we barely seem to be able to go anywhere without bumping into yotties that we know, many we’ve met in the Pacific Islands, but a few whom we’ve not seen since Panama/Ecuador, or even back in the Caribbean and we’re all telling the same story: We’ve kept the boat patched-up and running across the Pacific and are here primarily to get the boat overhauled and refitted before returning to the islands, or continuing west to Australia and/or SE Asia. We’ve also met a surprising number of yotties who having got this far have stopped and now spend their time sailing back and forth between New Zealand and Tonga/Fiji/Vanuatu/New Caledonia each year; I guess they’ve had better luck with the Pacific’s ‘sailing weather’ than we have?
The concentration of friends old and new certainly made for a sociable Christmas, with a Christmas Day barbecue/pot-luck hosted by one of the marina’s office staff at her home about 15 miles away – there must’ve been 30-40 of us. We and several others hosted boat-parties through the following week, then on New Year’s Eve we all reconvened for a drinks party at the marina itself at about 17:30, when that began to wind down, a half a dozen of us moved on to Colin’s yacht ‘Burmese Breeze’ and continued partying there until well after midnight. I’m sure that we weren’t the only ones to be a tad de-tuned the following day, though having dragged ourselves out of bed for breakfast (OK, it was lunchtime) we went for 6 or 7 mile walk through the Kauri forest to the Whangarei Waterfall to shake out the cobwebs.
With the official party season over, we finally turned our minds to fixing Moon Rebel and as expected, just as we found back in the USA, Lewmar don’t sell the individual part of our windlass which broke and I was damned if I was going to buy another complete motor/gearbox unit off them. Lewmar undoubtedly make great winches, but their windlasses whilst looking pretty, are much too fragile for our lifestyle and there are no spares available, just a pathetic service kit and the two major component units, each priced at about 80% of the price of a complete new windlass – if you’re going cruising, buy a Lofrans windlass! That’s what we planned to do this time, until we came across Simon & Hadley on ‘Ouma’, whom we’d last seen in Panama, a local friend of theirs, Adam – it seems Simon grew up in just up the road in Paihia - offered us what looked to be a decent second hand ‘Quick’ Windlass which would do the job on Moon Rebel and didn’t look like it’d require too much alteration work on the foredeck to fit, though we were a bit unsure as we’ll be heading back to the boondocks come May and didn’t know exactly how good it was. We took it ‘on approval’ and I stripped out and replaced the tired looking oil/water seals and a notchy bearing, flushed and replaced the gear oil (no metalic bits in it!) and with those done it seems fine, perhaps in better order than out Lewmar? We really need to pay him for it.
Before we’d got around to installing that however, someone suggested that we should enquire about getting a replacement for the broken gearbox/windlass coupling on Lewmar windlass made up as a ‘one-off’ by one a local engineering firm. It looked like needing a lot of very accurate machining especially at the gearbox end where it needed to precisely house the top bearing, spacer-ring and oil seal but it wasn’t heavy, so we wandered the couple of miles down to Rob Haddon’s workshop (several people had recommended him) and four days later we had a bright shiny new coupling that appears to fit everything back together perfectly; I’ve no idea how he managed it, particularly not for the £120 he charged us, my expectation had been a quotation of twice that price at best and possibly 3 or 4 times as much. As with Adam’s Motor, I opened the gearbox, replacing seals and one of the bearings, the gear-oil flush produced a few more metal bits than we found in Adam’s, but it seems that rather than spending £1500 on a new windlass, we’re now the proud owners of two working windlasses (I wonder how long before the Lewmar spit the dummy again, my bet’s on about 18 months?) for under £300.
We’ve also bought a new Samsung pad for navigation back-up in the January sales for £125, a somewhat better deal than the same one which we looked at in French Poly for almost £300 – actually, Lesley tells me this one’s better as it has a 32 something memory and the one in Tahiti was the ‘old model’ with only sixteen thingies. It’ll probably last longer than the Tahitian one would’ve too: In conversation just a few evenings ago, it became apparent that an awful lot of things that we and others had bought in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific Islands had failed/died much earlier than might reasonably have been expected; the consensus was that when manufacturers ‘grade’ their products through quality control, that’s where the ‘seconds’ are sent, whilst the very best are distributed to the USA, Europe and hopefully New Zealand, it’s not easy to return or complain about a product when you’re on an island fifteen hundred miles away from the real world.
10th January: I knew things were going too well – we picked-up our repaired sprayhood this morning (new windows a new zip and completely re-stitched and reinforced) collecting yet another first class piece of work for what seems a bargain basement price and it’s even beginning to get properly warm too. Then we’ve received news that two good friends have died and that my Mum’s gone into hospital – we held off on booking flight tickets for our planned trip home (February) just in case we needed to rush back a bit earlier. Thankfully not, Mum’s back home again and judging from today’s (14th) telephone call is probably recovering as she’s complaining bitterly that she’s being ‘smothered’ by everyone coming around to make or deliver mountains of food and the like and that she and Dad just want leaving in a bit of ‘peace and quiet’. With that scare past we’ve now booked flights back to the UK on 20th February and a lift out and storage ashore for Moon Rebel whilst we’re away. Whilst MR’s ashore we need to fit yet another new cutlass bearing – because of those crap engine mounts - and more significantly need to renew the rudder seals and bearings, hence her coming ashore before we leave. We’ve been pumping the bilge every day for the last few months to remove the water that’s leaking in and didn’t fancy trusting to the automatic bilge-pump switch whilst we were away for a month. I have a suspicion that the rudder work might well turn into a bugger of a job, which is why we didn’t touch it when we hauled in Raiatea, at least here we can if needs be fall back on the resources of the New Zealand yachting industry with a degree of confidence that we didn’t have in the French Polynesian equivalent.
Land of the long white cloud
25 November 2019
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
Wednesday 7th November: We’ve finally made it all the way to the Customs and Immigration Quay at Port Denerau, with fuel and water tanks filled, the larder replenished and ready to go; actually, the larder was quite sparse as New Zealand has a long list of things that can’t be imported – fresh fruit/veggies and meats in particular – so no point storing-up for much beyond the 10-12 days we expected the passage to take.
Unlike our more usual Tradewind passages heading generally west, the route to NZ takes us a thousand miles south, out of the Tradewind belt and into the very edge of the low//high pressure systems which circulate the globe in an unending succession, below the great capes. It was the requirement to mess with this potentially heavier weather, which seemingly since forever has had us saying: “No, we’re not going down to New Zealand.” Even today as we set sail, I’m still trying to recall what/why/when we changed our minds? Though lots of advice/local knowledge on how to deal with the weather systems has no doubt helped: Accepted wisdom seems to be that in a small/slow yacht, you will have to deal with one low pressure system, so ’time’ your passage so that you rather than it, chooses where you meet each other; north of latitude 30*S and just west of New Zealand saw us setting sail and aiming for ‘John’s Corner’ a notional point in the ocean at 30S/173E, some 350 miles NNW of Opua, our final destination.
We made reasonable progress for the first couple of days and we’d come up with a cunning plan, to run around the back/west end of a high pressure system where we could pick up the tail of a low-pressure trough and ride that down to at least 25S, perhaps even further (departure in Fiji was at about 18S and Opua’s at about 35S, so 17-degrees/1000 miles) where we should be able to run into the next system rolling through. We had of course missed the single flaw in our passage plan: What to do if we lose the wind from that low pressure trough? That’s what happened early on Saturday 9th; the trough had perhaps moved east faster than predicted, we’d set a course perhaps a little too far west to maximise our period in the trough? Whichever, the result was we were completely and utterly becalmed with no prospect of any wind where we were for at least a couple of days, and even further away than that to the south, so no point our burning precious diesel in ’chasing’ the wind and so it began:
Two days completely becalmed – we actually drifted NNW by about thirty-odd miles on a foul current – and the wind when it did finally arrive blew F2 from almost due south; as the alternative was to just keep drifting the wrong way, we hoisted sail and did the best we could: In the next 24-hours we covered eighty five miles, but for the most part were going across the wind and current, so by the end of it we were only fifteen miles further south. Progress remained dire, but we were at least going in the right direction.
Tuesday 13th: Finally got a decent ‘sailing breeze’ after the last few days we didn’t care that it came from a little too far south for comfort nor that it arrived along with some nasty seas rolling up from a southern ocean blow; we were on the move at least. It was frustrating though, having to reef/slow the boat down and ‘waste’ some of that precious wind once we started bouncing and slamming into those north-going seas; they were ‘boat-breakers’ though and our rule number one on offshore passages is ‘protect the boat’. Whilst sticking to the rule we worked the breeze as best we could and when we parted company with it come the weekend – does the wind only work Mon-Friday around here? - we’d clawed our way down to latitude 25S.
Becalmed once again, but via our own weather downloads, the weather reviewing/advising which John Boyle once again supplied us from the UK and messages from the boats just leaving Fiji, we knew there was once again, no wind to the south and what was due would appear from the north – still no point in our motoring anywhere. This second becalming was a little less frustrating, perhaps we were now just inured to it? Then again, by Monday morning we did get to move just a bit, albeit in a ‘hurry-up and wait’ sort of way: The winds were ’filling in’ from north of us – the bigger faster boats who’d just left Fiji yesterday and today were all making 150-180 miles a day in 15-20 knot winds! – we meanwhile would get 6-8 knots of breeze on the very southern edge of that same weather system, on which we’d edge steadily forward for 8-12 hours, until we had once again ‘outrun’ the wind and floated around for 8-12 hours whilst it caught us up once more. We’d hoped/expected to be arriving around now, but still have almost 500 miles to go!
We continued working the breezes as best we could, with John keeping a close eye on the weather further afield as we approached and finally passed below latitude 30S; we’d now reached the area where we didn’t want to be meeting any deep low pressure systems, the aim/intention being to cover this last 300 miles just as fast as we could; that in part was one of the reasons we’d been so reluctant to burn diesel without a positive gain earlier on, we wanted the ‘run for it under engine’ option available to us now; except of course, it didn’t work!
Weds 20th November: The wind picked-up a solid F4/5 southerly last night, we knew it was coming so just reefed well down and rode it out sailing back and forth across the wind and wicked seas that they’d kicked-up, we did get a bit further south, but not by much. Come this morning the wind had settled down to just F2/3, but it stayed resolutely from the south and now seemed the time to start that motor and just force our way south to Opua. We tried, but not for long: The wind had dropped substantially but not the seas, they were down a bit, but not to the extent that we’d have expected. In noting this anomaly in our next set of emails we discovered (albeit a bit late in the day) that southerly winds off New Zealand, even light ones, invariably kick-up nasty short, sharp, steep seas and that’s just what we had now, we could –after a fashion – sail into/across them, but if we tried to use the engine (Moon Rebel’s not a great boat under engine, especially into head winds or seas) we could barely make 1.5 knots and the motion made even me feel ill.
With the southerly winds/seas forecast to continue for a week (what happened to ‘weather systems across NZ are always on the move’?) we were at no immediate risk from a low-pressure ‘blow’ but neither could we make much progress; a couple of ‘experts’ even suggested that we bail out and instead sail west to Norfolk Island, but that was over 700 miles away and Opua, albeit up wind/sea/current was now barely 200M to the south. We decided to give it one more try and spent Wednesday and into Thursday working as hard as we’ve ever done, keeping the boat absolutely hard on the wind, carrying all the sail we safely could (it was still ‘sea state’ that dictated) and tacking back and forth to best suit any slight changes in wind direction; it was boy-racer stuff and thanks to finding a favourable current giving us negative leeway and holding us nearer to the rhumb line course, we managed to force ourselves a further 70M to the south. With less than 120 miles to make, we weren’t backing-off now!
We never found such a helpful current, but we continued working the winds as best we could, when the wind dropped right off for a period on Friday we got something from the engine – still too lumpy & bumpy directly into the short confused seas, so treated it like sailing and tacked across them. We didn’t make much progress, but got sufficient that by the time the wind returned in strength (F4/5) come the evening, instead of having to reef down/ride it out, as we had on Tuesday, we could close the New Zealand coast and get sufficient lee from that to keep punching forward.
Saturday 23rd November: Not more than an hour after dawn and the wind once more just stopped, not eased, faded, or settled, but just stopped like a tap had been turned off. Well wind-Gods, that’s just too little too late, we can see the entrance to the Bay of Islands, we’re close enough under the NZ shoreline that the seas can’t reach us – we needed to move offshore to clear the entrance shoals – and we still have loads of diesel left. Battered, bruised and absolutely knackered (both us and Moon Rebel) we dropped the sails and motored steadily into the Bay Of Islands and down the Veronica Channel to Opua, arriving at the Customs and Immigration Dock about 1235, almost exactly seventeen days after leaving the Fijian dock at Denerau.
Crossing the Atlantic (1900M) took us 18 days whilst the eastern Pacific (34 days/3600 miles)too, we also deemed ‘slow’ and ‘light winds’ passages, but 17-days for less than 1100 miles from Fiji to NZ sets a whole new standard for slow and this was the one where we were anticipating getting strong winds, perhaps even having to heave-to and sit out a gale! But in seventeen days, the wind never reached/exceeded 17 knots for even seventeen hours, indeed I suspect it didn’t blow F5 for even seven hours!
We had great plans for cleaning/preparing Moon Rebel for the rigorous New Zealand Department of Agriculture arrival inspection, but after almost five days of beating to windward we were just knackered and Moon Rebel too was showing the strain. We managed showers for ourselves and a quick clean-up and wipe around on Moon Rebel as we motored in, but by the time we arrived we still couldn’t have made a very impressive impression; not least with the fore-cabin cushions and bedding hauled out and tied down on deck to try and dry them out; perhaps unsurprisingly beating to windward in big seas has unearthed a few leaks we didn’t know that we had.
Whether we were cleaner than we thought – relatively at least, as I gather that we aren’t the only ‘damp and battered’ looking yacht to arrive in the last day or so – or perhaps the Officials just took pity on us, but the whole clearing-in exercise went without a hitch and took less than an hour, whereafter we moved a couple of miles back up the bay to anchor off the town Paihia (that’s Pie-Here) I guess that the half hour run back to Paihia wasn’t really necessary, but when we arrived in Northland NZ coming eastabout in 1988, our first stop was at a campground just north of Paihia, which we could see from the anchorage. A couple of celebratory beers, a can of cassoulet (it didn’t get confiscated?) and a handful of crackers, then we fell into our berths for a solid eighteen hours of sleep!
Finally leaving Fiji?
03 November 2019
Bob & Lesley Carlisle
AT LAST, AN ‘INTERESTING’ BUILDING IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS!
Having checked-out and changed our minds for a second time in mid-October (A good job, as a couple of boats at least that went when we cancelled took a hammering en-route to NZ) we’ve spent the last few weeks floating around the west end of Fiji, but returning to Musket Cove each weekend to watch some of the Rugby World Cup matches. Watching England’s semi-final surrounded by over-confident Kiwi’s was a highlight and the final, surrounded by optimistic South Africans was the nadir c’est la vie, there’s no question that the best team on the day won both matches.
Fortunately there hasn’t been much in the way of decent weather for making passage to New Zealand this last couple of weeks, so it wasn’t necessary to have to decide between going and staying to watch the rugby, but now there seems to be a suitable window? We’ve once again submitted our departure paperwork and telephoned the local Customs and Immigration Officer to arrange a check-out inspection (after three attempts, we’re almost on first name terms!) so we should be good to go on Wednesday 6th November and are hoping to get there in 10 or 11 days, unless we slow down, stop, or even backtrack a bit. The current forecast is promising (winds a little too light perhaps?) for the whole passage, but given the passage’s length, the current forecast for the period when we'll be approaching NZ is little better than a guess and that's where the worst weather is likely to be encountered. We've been warned that not to go below latitude 30*S if it doesn’t look promising for covering the last 300-odd miles, wait until it improves rather than try racing it into New Zealand so that’s what we plan to do.
We are at least back up to full strength steering-wise: Under sail/offshore we try, indeed prefer to use The Lizard our Monitor windvane and whilst it’s worked perfectly since Tonga, it has broken twice on passages sine we reached the Pacific – it’s getting old and tired like Lesley – so we’ve had to call on Arthur our electronic autohelm to shoulder the load. A couple of weeks ago that too stopped working – perfect one day, completely dead the next, but being an electric motor controlled by a selection of electronic boxes, there wasn’t a lot we could do. After a couple of days of circuit testing, advised via the internet from an ‘expert’ in the USA, we confirmed that our problems were ‘probably’ in the control head and though we’ve been carrying two old/spare ones for years, neither of those worked either. Finding spares for a new/modern autohelm unit in Fiji wouldn’t be easy, but getting them for a 20+ year old one was a non-starter; it seemed we were going to have to sail to NZ reliant on the Lizard, hoping that it didn’t break and that we didn’t have too many light/no wind days when Arthur’s the only option – well, we can hand steer, but that smacks of hard work!
Just as we’d given up hope on any resolution, Colin & Than Tzin sailed back into Musket Cove and were surprised to see us: “I thought you two were enroute to New Zealand?” We told him of our weather window closing and subsequent autohelm troubles, to which Colin promptly replied: “I’ve got a spare 7002 control head and that should work with your system; I don’t want to sell it, but you’re welcome to borrow it and return it in New Zealand.” Result, three hours later we’d got it fitted, powered-up and commissioned, so all’s looking good once again; thanks again ‘Burmese Breeze’.
Monday 4th: Sat in Musket Cove, writing this at least, but otherwise we’re just sort of sitting around waiting for our departure. Normally we’d be checking all the boat’s systems ahead of departure, but having done so twice already, there’s not much left. Then there would be a few shopping expeditions to replenish the larder, but since there is a long list of stuff that we can’t take into New Zealand, there’s no point stocking-up on stuff that may get confiscated on arrival. I have given the hull another clean/scrape, but again, it’s only been a couple of weeks since I last did it, so less than an hour and that too was good to go. I guess it’s time to fall back on the tried and tested: I’ll wrap up and post this, then head ashore for a couple of beers.