Auckland Adventures

So, we’re in Auckland for a few days before our flight home for the holidays.

Yesterday, we had a nice time walking down to the waterfront and people watching.

Today we had the very good fortune of being shown around by our friends on Mariposa (the ketch, not the cat), Kerri and Andrew. She the Kiwi, he the Brit/South African and now living in NZ. They picked us up at our hotel and spent the day showing us some great places we would never have found on our own. In particular the extraordinary views from Waitakere Ranges and the Gannet rookery at the Muriwai Beach. Gannets are similar to the Albatross. They are huge and graceful (in flight) birds. Quite a bit less so when landing. The rookery was amazing as was seeing these great birds glide along just a few feet away from us standing on the cliff. Spectacular.

We finished the day at my favorite pub downtown, the Belgian Beer Hall. Great Belgian beer on tap as well as dozens more available in the bottle. Amazing food as well. As a bonus, Ann and I also learned some of the nuances of Cricket. There was a test match between Australia and GB on the TV and Andrew, having grown up in GB, was able to take us through the game. We learned about how to score, defend, bowl (that’s the same as pitching for us yanks-sort of) and how the most vicious players wear masks so they won’t be able to bite anyone. Tough sport, Cricket. There would probably be a lot of blood if it weren’t for those masks. And I thought rugby was rough!

Tomorrow, we tour the Aukland Maritime Museaum, then it’s off to the airport in the afternoon for our evening flight. We’ll be back in the US Monday morning local Calif time.

Home For The Holidays

Packing and getting Charisma ready to “rest” for a couple months.

Doing stuff like getting the sails to the sailmaker for maintenance, emptying the on-deck fuel and water jugs, pickle the watermaker, service the batteries, and more last minute stuff to go on a checklist for when we leave.

One of the folks who live here on the dock is going to watch Charisma, start the engine weekly, check the bilge, etc while we’re gone.

We’ve had a great week transitioning from cruising to touring as we wait out the tropical cyclone season in New Zealand. I can’t think of a better place to be. We’ve hiked up Mt Parahaka twice (Ann did it thrice) and caught up with friends we’ve met here (too many to name).

At the end of the week, we’ll take a bus to Aukland where we have a hotel for two nights before getting on Air New Zealand for the ride back to SFO. A couple months in California, then back to NZ to “land cruise” the south island for a month, followed by boat work (can you say “varnish”?) and we’ll be ready again to set sail. Not sure where yet, but probably back up to Fiji to revisit some of the wonderful people and places we met and found this year.

We’ll keep the blog going because we’re used to doing that and no doubt will have some fun to share, so come back! It just won’t be every day. More like weekly.

A Nice Sunday

One of the fun things about being at Riverside Marina is the Sunday night BBQ.

Everyone who is living on a boat in the marina or the boatyard shows up as do a few other folks who know about the secret. It’s just a good time. There were probably 25-30 folks present from more than a half a dozen different countries, all up for some camaraderie. The deal is – you bring your own main course to BBQ as well as a shared dish. We BBQ’d fresh corn in the husk from the Saturday Farmer’s Market and I made turkey soup that we shared. Ann also made her famous chocolate brownies. There were a lot of “oohs” and “ahhhs” when she showed up with the still warm brownie dish.

Afterwards we retired to Charisma and had a game of cards with Ken and Beth from Eagle’s Wings. Aside from being severely beaten (but not at all bitter) I am very embarrassed to say that Beth exposed herself at a particularly emotional part of the game as she was beginning to lose her (substantial) lead. It was, I’m sure, a very stressful moment as she watched her lead dwindle to a bare few points. Did I say “bare”? Well it was a close call. Bob gave her the dreaded tattoo “mana” by pulling up his sleeve and showing the magic Tiki on his arm to jinx Beth’s game. Beth, not a shrinking violet in any case, lept to her feet, ripped her shirt apart at the buttons with both hands pulling at each side, shouting something like; “Well, take that big boy!”.

Looking across the table in disbelief I noticed that Ken (her husband) had closed his eyes tightly in shock not yet completely comprehending the chaos that may have ensued. However, and much to the relief of all concerned, Beth (the aforementioned almost stripper) in fact had another shirt on under the one that she so wantonly pulled out to its furthest extent.

All present were greatly relieved by the concept of layers to provide warmth and as it turns out protection from exposure. Too much giggling by all…

Post-Thanksgiving Review

It was a stunning success. Kind of strange to have Thanksgiving in the southern hemisphere since that means its almost summer here right now, but we had rain squalls and a thunderstorm today, so that kinda worked.

Thanksgiving in Whangarei (Riverside Marina)

...and the other side of the dinner.


Anyway, the brined turkeys turned out brilliantly with the help of our chef friend “Rand” (of Leluvia, Aitutaki and Rarotonga fame) who happened to drop by right as we were putting the birds on the grill. Rand offered moral support and some good tips on grilling. The birds turned out perfect. Juicy, not dry and with a slight smokey flavor. I’m always going to do them this way in the future. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, string beans in chopped garlic, bread rolls, pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookie/brownie things.

24 hours in brine and grilled on the BBQ. Yum!

Everyone brought something and we had full plates of great food.

Gary came through with possibly the first ever pumpkin pie make by a Kiwi.


All the dishes were fantastic as was the company. You could hardly ask for more. Although all of us missed our families, we all agreed we also are a family. The family that comes from shared experience (sometimes terror) and we know that each of us would do anything to help the other. That’s what it’s all about.

Happy a Thanksgiving to all our other family and friends and we’ll look forward to seeing you soon.

ExPat Thanksgiving

So, here we are in New Zealand, missing Thanksgiving with family and friends. What do we do? Make our own!

Can't do Thanksgiving without cranberries!

Tomorrow (we’re a day ahead of the US) will be our Thanksgiving. It will be Thursday, November 28 in New Zealand. Perhaps the experience will be a little different than when we’re in the US. We’ll be thankful for all the things we usually are. For being from the country that we are from (Congress, the Senate, etc notwithstanding) but also thankful for surviving our 1200 mile each way voyage to and from Fiji and deliverance from coral reefs, vicious squalls and other natural disasters during the sailing season. There is a wonderful relaxation being back here in our “home away from home” in Riverside Marina, Whangarei, New Zealand.

So, what do we do for our home away from home Thanksgiving?! Ann has organized (who else!?) a Thanksgiving feast among the local American cruisers here. Well, sort of. We also will have a couple from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) who were at our wedding and a local Kiwi who seems without immediate family and who we all adore, but who’s counting? It’s sort of a last minute deal when one of our dockmates said: “What are you doing for Tnaksgiving?”

Actually, I’m counting. I’m in charge of cooking the turkey. That’s probably the first mistake. Hopefully the only one for the day. You see, I’ve never cooked a turkey in my life. On the other hand until a mere six months ago I’d never overhauled a fuel injection pump either, so, whatever…

Anyway, Ann and I went to the “Aussie Butcher” to procure said turkey. Well, first off, they only have 7 pound turkeys here and 30 hours before we need to cook those suckers, they are frozen harder than a bowling ball! Ann not to be deterred: “Would you cut them in half?”. (We bought two, plus four extra legs – I don’t even want to think about the math of how they do that!)

So now we have a bunch of half turkeys so they will thaw faster. They are being brined as we speak in a large cooler full of salted, spiced water (sorry John and Lisa, we promise to clean the cooler out really well). But, having never cooked a whole turkey in my life, how the hell am I going to figure out how to cook a bunch of half turkeys!!?

Go ahead and Google a half turkey and see what YOU get! This might not be too pretty. Did I say, I’m doing it on the gas BBQ? At least I had the foresight to ask the marina manager to put out an extra tank of propane.

So, stay tuned to find out how this part goes. OK, so beyond that Linda from Bright Angel is bringing the mashed potatoes and gravy, Beth from Eagle’s Wings is bringing chocolate dessert, the Kiwi (his name is Gary) is bringing kumara, which is Kiwi for sweet potato, Dave and Mary are bringing (not sure yet) and we’ve assigned the Rhodesians to bring…(drum roll) pumpkin pie!

I’m pretty sure it will be a feast to be remembered. We’ll see what that means once we’re on the other side. At the very least, it will be a great time among friends even if the turkey goes up in flames, the pumpkin pie looks like fried wildebeast and we have to order pizza “to go” to complement all the wine we’ve bought.

Because at the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what you have and what we realize we are fortunate enough to have is lots of great family and friends! Both here in our travels and back at home. And we’re looking forward to seeing all our stateside friends as well very soon.

How lucky are we to have friends in so many places.

Thank You!

Back in Whangarei

It is unusual to feel like you’ve come home when we are half a world away from our families, but today felt like that. We made the trip upriver with the rising tide from Marsden Cove to return to Whangarei, specifically to Riverside Marina where we hauled out last year. We spent a few hours in Marsden getting the bottom scrubbed by a local diver, cleaning the anchor chain and storing it, washing and packing away the kayak, flushing the watermaker, rinsing and storing the snubber line, doing a load of laundry and cleaning the oven and ice box. We were almost exhausted before we left Marsden!

The new bridge at Whangarei. Bright Angel is in the foreground and U.S. yachties will notice that "Red, Right, Returning" does not work here. Waterway navigation is the opposite.


This year’s trip included a passage under the new draw bridge that was under construction last year when we came this way. We buddy-boated upriver with Bright Angel in the lead. Bright Angel Bob called channel 64 to inform the operator that we were both nearing the bridge when we were 1/2 mile away. As we turned the final bend in the river before the bridge the bridge was descending! Yikes! The bridge operator called and told us he was just letting some traffic go and we could be on our way. Fortunately we were able to slow down enough and with relief saw the cross traffic stop and the bridge begin to rise. You have to report your required mast clearance so he will open the bridge far enough. Sure would hate to screw up that conversion! On Charisma we checked with each other before replying. Never can be too sure.

Bright Angel going under with Charisma close behind.


So the bridge opened and we went through and were immediately at Riverside! It is always tough to back into a berth, but with some wind and a current it is even more interesting. Thanks to a near perfect throw of a stern line by Bob to our wonderful friends from Eagle’s Wings on the dock, Charisma was gently backed into her new berth. Nice to be back.

"Whew, that was almost fun". In this pic I'm calling the bridge operator to thank him. His response? A hearty; "My Pleasure!" What nice people around here.


It is wonderful to return to a place with such great memories and especially when it puts us one step closer to “Home for the Holidays!” We will quickly clean up Charisma and head to Aukland to return to the US! Yay!

View across the Hatea River in Whangarei.


Stalking The Elusive Kiwi

We left the Bay of Islands today, a day earlier than planned. The weather made it feasible to get a head start on our trip south, so we took it. After three glorious days, we weighed anchor from aptly named Paradise Bay and headed down the coast to a little bay called Whangamumu. We stopped here last year for the night and have always regretted not going ashore for a hike in this beautiful, rugged country. Well, that’s exactly what we had a chance to do today.

Once securely anchored we dropped the dinghy and rowed ashore. It was about 1600, but it stays light now until past 2000 so we still had plenty of time. Once on the beach, Ann found a trail and I followed. We were looking for the shy, elusive Kiwi and had a reasonable chance to see one since this is a pretty inaccessible area with tons of dense foliage.

Whangamumu's hills beckon...

It didn’t take long while hiking up the trail before we heard one off to our right and down the hill. Hiking a little further we could see a meadow down the hill and through the trees, but it was way too thick to plunge through so we continued on up the hill hoping we might surprise another one further on. Alas, no Kiwi and after reaching the summit (with breathtaking views that we will post later in the week when we have a stronger connection) it was time to turn around. Charisma time was near and we still had an hour of hiking to get back to the boat.

As we neared the spot where we earlier heard the Kiwi, we both were on high alert. Coming out of the trees I realized that we actually had a good view of the meadow below. We slowed down and quietly moved forward-just then I saw a shape move at the fringe of the meadow. We froze, but it saw us and we saw the Kiwi scamper off into the bush. Wow, we actually saw one! But we kept looking and sure enough two more stuck their heads from the tall grass and then they too scampered off. Too quick and too far for photographic proof, but the shape and size were unmistakable. Success!

In case anyone thinks we made up the name of this place!

Whangamumu Cove


Perfect end to a great day.

Tomorrow we have a long day-about 45 miles-to Marsden, which is at the entrance to the river that leads up to Whangarei where we’ll stay for the Kiwi summer. Ideally we stay Monday night, then slide upriver on Tuesday before the big rain on Wednesday. Ahh, the best laid plans…we’ll see.

Hiking and (brrrr) Swimming

OK, we have a plan. The weather is due to change soon. We’re going to have to make a mad dash for Whangarei, 60 miles down the coast, before a new low (with associated high winds and rain) comes blasting across the North Island on Wednesday. So…scrap the part about leisurely cruising down the coast. It’s not practical at this point. In the mean time, we’ll just enjoy this magic spot we’re in!

So, today, we had a picnic. We hiked an hour out to a spectacular point with a stunning view (island, trees, green field of grass, cliffs, ocean, etc-kind of like putting Big Sur, Point Reyes, Petaluma and Channel Islands together in one spot) you would be hard pressed to exceed anywhere in the world. And we sat down for a picnic. And enjoyed the view for all it was worth!

You couldn't find a more beautiful spot!

Lush growth with huge ferns...

...and views that just won't quit.


Then back to Charisma for a little boat work. Ann cleaned the hull at the waterline. Up and down both sides in the dinghy scrubbing the gunk that accumulates off both sides. Up 37 feet and down the other 37 feet.

I got to dive on the propeller. There is a zinc there that protects Charisma from corrosion. It’s attached to the propeller shaft about two to three feet under the stern. Zinc corrodes faster then stainless steel, so this is called a “sacrificial” zinc. Stray electrical current (largely from other boats in marinas) tries to corrode metal parts. The zinc corrodes first as long as there is some there. Our zinc that we put on from last April was about two thirds gone. When I started taking it off, most of it fell apart and sunk. It wouldn’t have lasted the six months we’re going to be in a marina in New Zealand, and was important I replaced it. But, it was coooollddd. It’s not yet summer here. Brrrr. But Charisma’s happy now that she has a clean hull and a new zinc, so we are too.

Bob braves the cold water to change the zinc!


Bob dives under to change the zinc. Brrrr!

Oh, yeah…back to the plan. Instead of cruising down the coast, we’ll spend one more day (mañana) here-do some final hiking and fishing, then Monday morning our time, we’ll leave at “oh dark thirty” and motor sail down the coast. Whatever it takes to maintain six knots. If there’s enough wind, we’ll sail, but nothing less than six knots and we’ll do the sixty miles to Marsden in 10 hours. The plan then is have dinner there with Bright Angel, who are doing the same thing, then move on upriver to Whangarei the next day following the high tide upriver where we’ll tie up and stay until May of next year when the tropical cyclone season is over and we can head north again.

At least that’s today’s plan. 🙂