Bye, Bye, Whangarei

Sad to see you go (for now).

The new, almost finished, drawbridge.

We had to leave by this weekend since they will be closing the bridge for five days starting Monday in order to put the drawbridge part in place.  Lots of other folks are scrambling to get out by the end of the week, so we opted to leave a little early and beat the rush.

We had a nice ride downriver and out to Marsden, which is just a half mile or so inside the bay from the ocean.  It was great to get Charisma back out and running.  I was a bit anxious at first, not having driven her in the six months we’ve been in New Zealand.  But by the end of the two hours it was back to business as usual.  I even managed to back her into the fuel dock to top the tank.  Backing is always a bit hit or miss on a full keel boat.  Went off nicely though.

As far as the top off, we got a bit of a surprise.  Charisma is supposed to have a 100 gallon fuel tank.  The previous owner expressed some scepticsm about that number, so I have in turn given it a healthy margin and planned as if she only held 75 gallons.  Imagine my surprise when upon filling up after completely emptying the tank when we cleaned it last week-when I found she actually only holds 70 gallons when topped off to the brim!  Wow. I’ve in fact had a couple times when I’ve used 65 or so gallons thinking I had a safe margin. Well, that’s why we carry an extra 10 gallons in jerry jugs.  They are my “just in case” plan for if our fuel economy changes or there’s a fuel leak or something. Looking in the log, I saw one post by the previous owner that they put in 69 gallons.  Talk about close calls.

At the dock in Marsden.

Under the category of “You’re never really ready to leave”-on the way downriver, we took the cover off the compass and found it mysteriously low in fluid.  There’s a bit of a bubble at the top.  I’m going to have to take it apart and fill it.  I imagine there’s a fill hole on the bottom, but since this is another project I’ve never done, we’ll see.  A boat-owner’s work is never done.

It's always something...

So…bottom line for now.  Looks like there might be a weather window opening up next Tuesday or so.  We’ll continue to track it, but it the low that’s coming across from Australia continues as advertised, we wait until it just passes over and leave with the southeast winds heading north.


People Make Me Smile!

Sometimes I think about how I am half way around the world away from “my people” and then a day like today happens.

We are getting ready to leave New Zealand. We are headed out of Whangarei tomorrow morning.  We arrived in New Zealand six months and two days ago.  Wow.  Where did the time go?

We sold our car back to the Cars for Cruiser guy yesterday and so are on foot today.  Bob and I walked into town to cash the check and run a few errands.

As we walked along the river we noticed an incoming sailboat-which is unusual because most people are headed out.  We took a closer look at the name and it is “Reality” from San Francisco!  Okay, just that is cool, but it is more fun than that.  I was alerted to watch for “Reality” by my friend Lynn Dunn.  This is her cousin who has been sailing for years and we are now set to cross paths!  How could we resist?  So Bob and I found “Reality” having just docked in Town Basin and introduced ourselves.  Very small world.  And we walked away excited to have met some new friends who we are pretty sure we will see again in Fiji!

We had lunch at a little café where we have become regulars after only five visits.  Matt and his partner own the place and are from the US.  Immediate friends when they heard our “accents”.  A great bowl of mussel chowder and a sincere good bye and good wishes and we were on our way.

We got back to Charisma and spent the afternoon packing up the dinghy and paddleboards and getting ready to depart.  And really trying to get stuff put away so that Janette and Alistair (of Riddlesden Bed and Breakfast fame) could see Charisma at her finest. (The first time they came aboard I had directed them to go say hi to Bob while I went to church.  Oops – I forgot the boat was a mess due to provisioning in progress). And Charisma is looking good!  Just in time for Charismas with our favorite Kiwis (imported from Scotland).  Heartfelt hugs and a promise to see them again in November ended our time with them.  What great people who really made our experience in New Zealand special!

And speaking of great people (see, it just keeps coming!)… we have procured extra crew for our jump to Fiji!  True!  Since Orcinius is still undergoing “construction” and unable to head to Fiji with us, John has agreed to stay here in New Zealand and oversee the project while Lisa joins us for our sail to Fiji! Poor Bob!  Ann and Lisa on the same boat for how long!  Stay tuned for many stories to come!

(From Bob:  OK, Ann and Lisa-Wow, I may be overwhelmed!  But, I’m looking forward to the company and camaraderie.  And this means John will fly up and join us for a while in Fiji.  Fun!  We’re still hoping Orcinius will make it back in the water in time to actually sail up there, but at least we’ll enjoy the company of our good friends for a while as we explore this new area.

Also, Lisa made a beautiful, handmade, cross-stitched, bookmark for Ann as a going away present.  Check it out).

John and Lisa with Ann

The beautiful bookmark Lisa made for Ann

OK, one last thing for the “boat geeks” who made it this far in today’s post.  What does it really take to finally be able to leave.  A bunch of boring, simple stuff like: deflate and fold the dinghy and paddleboards, fill the water tank and jerry jugs with fresh water while we have lots of it, tie the folded dinghy down with the 130 % jib onto the foredeck, secure the jerry jugs, do some final charging of electronic devices while we have dock power, secure loose stuff down below, do the last load of laundry–the list really goes on and on and you are never really ready.  Tomorrow, ready or not, we’ll leave around 10AM for Marsden which at least gets us back down the river we came up all those months ago.  From there we’re only a short mile to the ocean, so no worries about the tides, current and bridges that we have to deal with to go down-river.  We will be free to go out and do some “shakedown sailing” or if the weather opens, just leave.  Well, we still have to clear customs, but that’s another story…


Car Sold. Time To Go North

North into the tropics! Upside down from our usual US-Centric point of view, but geo-correct from down under (in Enzed).

We drove north in convoy with help from Orcinius John and Lisa to Opua to sell our car back. It worked as advertised and we got a nice check for the original cost of the car less $2000. Not too bad for six months use! Said denizens of Orcinius then drove us back to Whangarei and we were home in time for Charismas aboard Charisma.

Our next step is to find two weather windows. One to get up the coast for a shakedown cruise to Opua to test all our boatwork and new sails. It’s also where we will check out of the country. The second window needed is to get north from New Zealand’s winter weather pattern and into the tropics on our 1100 odd mile trek to Fiji.

Stay tuned as we’re getting close. Step one will likely be in the next few days.

Time for a hike and other distractions

Our days are winding down in Whangarei.  That means that I am torn between completing the provisioning / packing of the boat and enjoying the beauty of the area.  Fortunately the weather has helped this choice for many of our days.  That means rain. Lots and lots of rain.  And I am tired of it!  So when a sunny day came along and our friend Robin suggested a hike, I was all in!  (Bob needed to change the oil.)

So I grabbed Lisa (Orcinius) ) and off we went to Smugglers’ Cove with Robin. This hike ended up being the hike I saw from Charisma as we first tried to anchor as we headed toward Whangarei.

The hike we took started at Urqharts Bay, where we had been diving for Day 2 of our certification, up over the hill to the point that we rounded coming into Whangarei.  And the rain was gone and the sun shone!

Beautiful trees with a beautiful bench!

We hiked up to a point where we could see the Pacific Ocean and the infamous Smugglers’ Cove.  Glorious!

Lisa and Ann at Smugglers' Cove

No one would believe it rained all day the previous day.  Today we saw pukekos, the New Zealand purple swamphens and one of my favorite birds. Kind of a cross between a hen and a roadrunner.

And if you looked really close you could fine the Hobbit Holes.  We did!

We found a Hobbit Hole!

Okay, this is Ann writing this so I need to show you more views….

Smugglers' Cove

Kinda of looks like Petaluma, doesn't it?

Oh, and did I tell you about the cool mailbox we saw on the way to the hike?

Only in New Zealand does and old outboard become a mailbox!

As you can tell it was a fabulous hike.  But reality calls and if we are going to leave for Fiji we need to finish packing the boat.  See what is left to get put away?


Where is all this stuff going???!

Heck, let Bob figure that out, I hear there is a quilt show at the local Art Museum!  True! So I rallied Lisa and off we went again! The Reyburn House, right here in Town Basin is home to wonderful shows and this month it features quilts!  Look at what we saw!The theme was “Connections” and these ladies created some amazing interpretations. My heart sings!

The Challenge Theme was Connections and these ladies did it well!

The Reyburn House

I know it seems like I play a lot but after this fun interlude I did go back to Charisma and Bob and I finished sorting and packing the V-berth.  This is huge.  This is our garage and stores everything!  Paddleboards, sails, extra clothes and food!  Can’t leave for Fiji until it is organized!  Now we are a step closer and looking for that weather window!



Medical Clearance

This post is from Ann.
While Bob has been busy geeking out on the electronics (necessary though geeky) I have been busy with final provisions. Always seems to be one more thing to get.

Yesterday I scored a huge victory when our friend Robin, an ER Doctor, asked about our medical supplies and offered to review them with me. I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel for having Robin walk through all that we have and discuss our medical options based on these supplies. As a result I have a much better understanding of what medical steps to take in case of infections, emergencies, etc.

Wow! I thought we we in great shape and truly we were not in bad shape but based on Robin’s help and a trip to the local pharmacy we are set. I recommend every cruiser find this kind of resource. Thanks so much, Robin!

New Toy

A new toy for navigating.  Brookhouse Instruments makes a “box” that you attach your instruments, GPS and AIS to that makes all the data available via WiFi on your iPad!

What’s nice about this is when we’re under passage, we’re usually sitting under the dodger, not back behind the wheel where the instruments are.  Now with the iPad we can see windspeed, direction, SOG, etc as well as GPS info and AIS targets without having to run around between the helm and the cabin (where GPS and AIS reside).  Nice.

Was pretty easy to install.  You just have to wire the instruments into an easy to use bus on the outside of the box. for any of you “yachties” who are interested.  Here’s a couple pics of the iPad showing the instrument info and chartplotter.

Here's the chartplotter screen (click to enlarge). You can see Charisma (the blue triangle mid screen), the three AIS targets shown as brown boxes with boat names and the data boxes on top that show numeric data if you cursor over them.

Here's the AIS data block for the yacht "Arnamentia" when I clicked on them. The box scrolls down with more info as well.

Here's a partial screen showing the data screen. You can click on any of the boxes for more detail and in many cases a graphical depiction of the info.

We also bought a waterproof case to house the iPad in case an errant wave splashes as we’re using the device.  To use the chartplotter you have to purchase iNavX for the iPad and for charts, xTraverse.

Just nice to have redundancy.  This also gives us a back up chartplotter in the cockpit, since Charisma’s built in chartplotter is in the cabin at the nav table and not visible from the helm.

No Longer Just “Certifiable”

Morning of our third day. The final dive for the Open Ocean Dive Certification

Yup, if this day went well we would be “Certified”, no longer merely “Certifiable”.  We were headed for the Poor Knights islands-about an hour boat ride off of Tutukaka.   None other than the late Jacques Coustou has called this spot one of the top dive spots in the world.  It has been a designated marine sanctuary since 1981.  We were anxious to see if it lived up to it’s reputation-no, no, we were anxious period.  This was our final dive to get certified.  We would have to go down 30 feet under the water and prove that we could take off our facemask, remove our air regulator, then put both back on, blow out the water and not panic in the process.  Yeah, right.

Well, turns out it all worked out.  The boat was ready-an hour late due to a leak, but no worries mate as they say down here-and our “final exam” was a non-event.  So…we had time to explore one of the top dive spots in the world.  And it was.  Just stunning!  We really were almost speechless as we came out after our first dive of the day (there were two)  So, we hope you enjoy a bit of the experience through these photos-our first ones with the new Go Pro camera that we bought for Christmas.  Not too bad for a first try.

Here's Ann swooping down into the depths

Getting ready to drop into the depths

We went into a cave....

...and swam with a friendly sea turtle

One cave was large enough that the whole boat fit inside

The skipper took us through some of the arches (we went through the one in the background)

....and heading back to the mainland after a long but exhilarating day of diving-and we have our certificates!

This and That

So we’re still biding our time getting ready to leave to go north into the tropics again.

It’s getting colder here and the weather is getting “wintry”.  That’s the tricky part of getting out of here.  You have to wait for a “window” out of the wintry weather to get back into the tropics.  Kind of a Alice’s looking glass kinda thing.

So…today I played golf with Alistair and Orcinius John.  It was a glorious day and as I noted to Alistair-when you’re hitting it good off the tee golf is good.  I was.  My short game left a lot to be desired, but I was pounding the ball off the tee.  A really fun day.

Ann went paddleboarding with Lisa today and then hiked up the mountain (again).

OK John, now that YOU have a beer-making kit, you HAVE to buy Lisa a paddleboard!

Ann showing great form on here paddleboard

So…tonight was the Sunday BBQ and we were telling Lisa that our word for this season is “serendipity”.  After laughing hysterically, she said; “that’s a really BIG word!”  Well, that’s how we’re calling it.  Simple, no schedule and take what comes.  That’s this year’s plan.  Between May and November, whatever we see and where ever we go is up to the wind and waves.

Speaking of serendipity, we noticed that Saturday afternoon there was a French boat in the harbor that was putting on an acrobat/slapstick/circus show.  Basically they tie their boat up near the bridge and do a fun, funny, gypsy kind of thing with a hint of Circ de Soleil.  They call it their “circusnavigation”.  Hard to explain, but really fun to watch the show.  We have been paralleling them since Mexico and this is the first time we’ve seen the show.  Really fun.

The acrobats in mid-performance

So, time to get to work studying for this week’s Dive lessons.  Wednesday-Friday culminating with a two dive day at Poor Knights which is supposed to be one of the best dive spots in the South Pacific.  We’re looking forward to the week!

The full moon is shinning through the trees and the Southern Cross is rising directly behind us.  What more incentive do we need to cast off and once more head out into the blue?

Can’t wait.




Heading For Fiji…Soon

“Soon”. That’s the catch. We’re actually pretty ready, but we need to just set a date to go. Without a date to work against we’ll find many reasons to procrastinate and not go. We’ve made so many friends here, it’s easy to just stay, but that’s not what “cruising” is all about.

So, what about that date? We’re now aiming for May 10th. There, now we’ve said it. We’re committed!

In the meantime, we’ve signed up for dive lessons next week to get our PADI certification. Fiji is one of the best places in the world for diving. Would be a shame to miss that.

In other news, we had a great time last night at the weekly Sunday night BBQ in the boatyard. Lots of great conversation. But the memorable line of the night-from me to John on Arnementia, who is “veddy, veddy British” (a former tank commander in the British Army I believe) after he fired off a long unintelligible sentence; “OK John, say that more slowly in English and without the accent”. The look I got might have stopped a tank but was quickly followed by hysterical laughter from everyone within earshot! A fun night indeed.

Paddleboards and Provisioning

And some final boat work.  Yup, it’s Fall turning to Winter down here in the southern lattitudes and soon it will be time to heard north up to Fiji.  Warmer climes.  I was doing some research today and there are over 300 islands in the Fijian archipelago so we’re going to be busy exploring.

But first things first.  Number one, we need to work on our paddleboarding technique now that we each have one.  We’ve been paddling every morning before the wind comes up and makes it too hard to be fun.

"I want to go this way!" "Nope, we're going that way!"

"OK, you win, we'll go downriver today and see the new bridge".

Once we got our exercise, Bob did more boat projects and Ann went provisioning with Blue Rodeo Anne and Lisa.  On the boat project list we’re definitely down to the short list.  It’s nice to know that the big projects are behind us and Charisma’s ready to go.

On the provisioning front, Ann’s stocking six months worth of basic stuff.  Pasta, flour, toilet paper, paper towels, and lots of other stuff that we generally find hard to source in the islands (or really expensive).

"Hmmm...more paper towels, or more wine...?"

"OK Lisa, you get in the car and I'll start throwing the stuff to you."

So, right now between the last of the boat projects (which means all the tools are scattered everywhere and not put away) and the provisioning, there is barely room in the cabin to sit down.  I think tomorrow will start the “putting away stuff” project so we can move around.

About another week or so and we’ll be ready to leave Whangarei.  Then a short shakedown cruise up the coast or maybe out and back down here-we’re not sure yet. Then we just wait for a weather window.  Since it’s turning winter down here, the weather is getting colder and raining a lot.  Low pressure zones (i.e. crappy weather) are sweeping by every few days.  The trick to getting north is to wait until one is passing and then as it’s just about on top of you and it’s raining and windy, you leave.  That way you get the wind to push you quickly north away from New Zealand  and up into the tropics.  If you’re lucky you get far enough north (about 400 miles generally does the trick-or about three to four days sailing) to hit milder weather and the southeast trade winds that will take you to Fiji.

That’s the plan anyway.    😉