Saturday, October 24, 2020

Life on the Hard….. and then the World Changed ! 

3rd February to 25th March 2020. 

Once Liam arrived back in NZ at the end of January we only had a couple of days to get our ducks in a row before our haul out at Harbourside Boatworks here in Whangarei. 

GWTW having a power wash before the work starts

    Months ago we’d done the ground work and had lined up the services of Glenn, who owns Maconaghie Marine, along with his workmate Alister who builds America’s Cup Boats. We knew we had struck the jackpot with this dynamic and talented duo. GWTW would be in excellent hands for her fiberglass repairs, one of which in our anchor locker manifested itself while in French Polynesia, and was exasperated last year on passage from Fiji to NZ.

We figured perhaps two to three weeks work and we’d be back in the water and cruising again. Well as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men….

After consulting with a structural engineer and agreeing with his plan the work began. At this stage I'll mention that we also decided to undertake some work on  a beam on the topside of cockpit roof as well.

 This “beefing up job” would be quite technical due to the fact that multiple layers of unilateral carbonfibre strips  needed to be laid which in turn meant for long curing times to finish the job. This would then be  followed by sanding, fairing and ultimately painting.  We also had to build a tent over the back half the boat to give relief from the wind, hot sun and rain and that would take a few days to build before the job could start.

                                             Above and Below : Our tent starts to take shape

   Above : The original area of delamination needing repair & below the completed job before painting.

            Above and Below : Glenn and Alister building the new beam on the cockpit roof.


On the odd occasion mother nature brought the boat work to a standstill as the weather was too wet, too windy or just too hot. She was not always in our corner. But sunrises like the photo left made up for the bad days.

Most of the time though the work was coming along nicely and while the boys toiled away with sanders, vacuums and resins, we being mere bystanders improved our golf  by playing twice a week whenever we could as well as having the odd social day out in town and on the water

    Above : GWTW is the cat on the left. The photo was taken from Julie and Lee's boat Stray Cat.

As the weeks rolled on news of Covid 19 was increasingly being reported in the media but at this time  we felt it was no big deal being as far away from Wuhan as we were. 
Our PM Jacinda Ardern and the Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, had the reigns firmly in hand. They were on the front foot when it came to keeping everyone in New Zealand safe.

But over the coming weeks as we now all know, the sky was about to fall on this planet we call Earth.

Our work on GWTW was moving at a good pace, however the news of a growing pandemic was niggling at the back of everyone's minds. Would the tentacles of the virus reach to the shores of Aotearoa and what would happen if it did. That was the million dollar question.

We didn’t have have to wait long to find out. By this stage we had been out of the water for seven weeks and one day

On Monday March 23rd the PM announced that all of NZ was to translon to Alert level 3 and within 48 hours would move to Alert level 4 lockdown ( the highest level in NZ). That announcement set the nation on edge as well as making for mild panic as everyone pushed the stocks on the supermarket shelves to the limit.

For us, we needed to make a huge decision. Do we stay on the hard for who knows how long or reluanch with GWTW’s work unfinished. We contacted our car rental company saying we may be returning the car in the next two days and they offered  us a fab deal to keep the car during lockdown, from $30 to just $10 per day. I guess any money is better than none for them. But what was the point of keeping the during car during lockdown when you can’t go anywhere. To their dismay we declined the offer.

During the last few hours of freedom we ummed and ahhed re staying in the boatyard but figured the smart call was to make a bee line back to the marina. The remaining work would have to wait and the rental car would be going back.

Above : Last chance to change our minds about splashing.

                              Above : Committed and on the trailer, back to the water we go.

At midday on March 25th we were relaunched with all our tent scaffolding insitu. Motoring back to the Town Basin Marina we definitely got a few odd looks. 

                     Above : Safe and sound back in the marina with our unfinished beam.

At 11.59 pm on March 25th 2020 life as we knew it changed. The entire country went into lockdown and an eerie silence settled over New Zealand.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Where Does the time Go

December – January 2019 / 2020.

It seems like just yesterday I turned 60 and now another birthday had rocked around. Our friends here at the marina put on a late afternoon party aboard Dave’s boat Rewa and then we all adjourned to the ‘Barge Inn”, a floating platform at the head of our dock, for pizzas and cake. What a fun evening it was and I really didn't feel any older.

                                                      Sixty One and still looking good

Over the previous months our trusty dinghy of 15 years slowly developed a terminal air leak and sadly the time had come to retire  our floating car and buy a replacement. 

We would have liked to  have  been able  to purchase the same brand, however ‘Swift’ is not available in NZ, so we opted for another popular brand, a Highfield. As it had to be shipped from the USA it was touch and go whether it would arrive before our flight back to Australia.

Luckily it was delivered the day before our departure. The commissioning would have to wait until our return in January.

Dinghy fleet owners for a short while and Liam taking the fittings off our old faithful.

Our direct flight from Auckland to the Gold Coast went without a hitch and we spent a fun week with long time friends Susan and Nick. Though I’m not so sure that our hard working livers would agree. Amongst other activities we had a great night out on Susan and Nicks boat for the local Christmas parade of boats around the canals where they live.

           Above : Getting into the Christmas spirit & Below : Lunch by the beach at Burleigh Heads .

From the GC it was down to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, catching up with friends and family. 

                                   Spending time with Liam's grand kids is always a hoot

On the spur of the moment we spent the week from Boxing day to New Year living in our apartment that we've had continuously rented since we bought it 1997. Our current tenants of eight years were holidaying on the NSW south coast and kindly agreed to let us house sit in their absence.  It was so nice to spend time there and finally enjoy the views over Sydney Harbour, which was the very reason we bought the apartment in the first place. Maybe one day we will actually retire there ourselves.

        The view from our apartment  on Boxing day for the start of the Sydney - Hobart yacht race.  

          Sydney Harbour fireworks NYE 2019 & below sharing the night with friends Sue and John

                                            Above : Aquatic Yoga Class at Manly beach.

Below : The anchorage off Manly beach harbour side and looking out towards Sydney Heads

                    Beautiful Balmoral beach clouded in  smoke from the devistating bushfires

As the days rushed by my condensed Aussie visit wrapped up and before I knew it I was boarding an Air New Zealand flight and winging it back to Whangarei. Liam was set to join me back on GWTW two weeks later. In the meanwhile I had lots of jobs on board to occupy my alone time.

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Exploring the Bay of Islands New Zealand.

20th November – 6th December 2019

Our clearance into Opua, NZ was as seamless this time as it was last year. The NZ Customs, Immigration and Bio Security personnel are the best we have come across worldwide. Regardless of the fact that there were 18 boats at the dock eagerly waiting for clearance, the officials were all smiles.

Once our turn rocked around and we were done and dusted we moved GWTW into her allocated berth in the Bay of Islands Marina, the place we’d be calling home for the next couple of days.  Having exhausted our freezer supplies we figured a meal out was the order of the evening. The local yacht club  which we remembered from last year, had a good menu at cruisers’ prices so we strolled on up. Sadly it was closed for a private function, a wedding. Bummer.

Ok, that’s when plan B came into play. We knew the General Store next to the YC did a good pizza, but sadly they had just sold the last one and were now closing up for the evening. Double bummer. The fish and chip takeaway was next on the list, can you guess, yep closing too. Sounds like alfresco canned food dining on the good ship GWTW tonight. Oh well.

Good deed of the day
 So as we strolled a bit further down the road a pale blue convertible came buzzing around the corner complete with bride and groom. The car, a beautiful old Triumph Herald, coughed and spluttered, stopping just across from us, what a way to start married life.

Liam and another passerby came to their rescue pushing the car along ‘till it burst back into life and the happy couple were once again on their way. Good deed done for the day, it was time to go crack that bottle of bubbly and celebrate our arrival back into New Zealand.

The next few days were filled with meeting all the folks from the boats we’d heard over the airwaves on our journey south from Fiji, as well as re-provisioning, washing  down GWTW, doing laundry and generally soaking up all the mod cons of first world living.  We also bought a cruising guide named "Spot X Cruising" which covers the Three Kings Islands and the east coast from North Cape through to East Cape in the Bay of Plenty.

The Bay Of Islands is located in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, and is comprised of 144 islands and rocky outcrops. Some islands are privately owned, some are national parkland with numerous hiking trails and others  have the odd house surrounded by rustic farmland with stone walls. The drawcard towns on the bay’s edge are Kerikeri, Paihia and historic Russell, the original capitol of New Zealand way back when.

The first European to visit the area was Captain Cook back in 1769, and this was also the first area in NZ to be settled by Europeans in the 18th century. The missionaries arrived in 1814 and they were followed by whalers toward the end of the century.
These days this area is extremely popular with boaters as well as tour operators, and we were about to go out and see the place first hand.

Our first stop was in Orokawa Bay on the peninsular of the same name. It was a lovely spot, tranquil and very sheltered from the north which is why we chose to anchor here. With only two or three houses ashore there was not a human to be seen. Apparently dolphins and a pair of Orcas frequent the bay, although the only wild life we saw were a few ducks who came a calling several times a day. Our internet provider, “Skinny”, had an excellent signal in this bay so we were well connected to the outside world.

The following day we moved around to the opposite side of the peninsular to Parorenui Bay for a change of scenery as the wind was forecast to come in from the west.
There are no homes here and we were the only boat anchored.

 A pebble beach complimented by a vast expanse of grass greeted us on arrival.
 A stroll ashore in the afternoon provided wonderful views across the bay and islands beyond, as well as a good phone signal from the highest point.

Checking for a cell phone signal

Pebble beach with icy water to dip the toes in

It may seem that we were rushing through the anchorages, but to be honest, when we moved from one to the next it was usually only a stones throw away. We’re talking a few kilometers at most and anything over five or six would be called a long passage, requiring a G&T after the anchor was set!

And so moving on we plopped the anchor down in pretty Omakwiw Cove. Backed by a pine clad shore  and a vast drying expanse of sand at low tide there were a few interesting walks ashore. One path on the left side of the bay led up steps to a trail which brought us out at a very old and interesting cemetery, “Te Rautawa Urupa” perched on the headland. 

The graves were adorned with trinkets, plastic and glass flowers as well as fresh ones and curios from the deceased’s past.

One headstone had a guitar etched into it while others had children's toys encasing the site. Some of the graves dated back to the 1800’s.

 It was an interesting way to spend the afternoon.

Our next stop on the agenda was in cozy Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island. We’d read in our guide book that a decent sized cafĂ© / bar sat at the head of the bay, so we jumped in the dinghy to check it out. A meal ashore would be a bit of a treat if they were open and lucky for us they were.

The Explore tourist ferry, we were told arrives at 1240  and it was suggested by the friendly staff that we should put our order in asap, which we did. We chose a table overlooking the lawn with GWTW sitting quietly at anchor as a backdrop.

Right on time the ferry arrived and a goodly number of patrons disembarked. This place is popular with hikers, kayakers, cruisers and the tourists, so it seems. We had a lovely lunch complimented by a chilled bottle of Matua Sav Blanc.  The menu was very good and the prices quite reasonable given the remote location.

Here comes Scoots

The same afternoon our friends onboard S/V Scoots were arriving back from their passage from Fiji and we decided to surprise and intercept them, and escort them into the marina.

We’d been tracking them via our AIS system on board so we knew where they were and how fast they were sailing.

It was a great moment when we saw Vandy and Eric’s happy smiling, but tired faces. They had had a long passage in less than ideal conditions but they had arrived safely home. Now all our ducks were back in a row again.  We too had booked into the marina  so we could catch up and have dinner with V&E and it was just like old times. We love you guys!

Over the coming week we mooched around a few more islands including beautiful Roberton Island, Hahangarua Bay on Moturua Island and Paradise Bay back over on Urupukapuka Island.
By now it was early December and time to start nudging our way down the coast towards Whangarei.  Hoping to catch a nice Kingfish or two on the sail down it wasn’t long before all hopes were dashed as we lost our last Rapello lure when the knot joining the line and trace parted ways.

Above & below the view from the lookout at Roberton Island

This is how the "well to do folks" get to their holiday homes or Batch as they call them here

 We had three more stops before arriving in Whangarei, the first being at the old whaling station in Whangamumu Harbour.

We originally planned to stay the night here but the wind had increased and the bottom holding was rock and shale and that’s not great.

After our mini explore of the whaling station ruins  we decided we weren’t really comfortable staying the night here. So after a bite to eat off we went again, this time heading for Sandy Bay in Whangaruru Harbour, four hours away.

Remains of the whale oil vats

This turned out to be an excellent choice due to the predicted gale force northerlies arriving at zero dark thirty. We put out 130 ft anchor chain in 12 ft of water and we didn’t budge an inch. Hands down, nothing beats anchoring in sand or mud.

As the wind was still blowing dogs off chains the following day, we figured there were worse things to do than just staying put and waiting for the elements to calm down.

On our last ocean passage of the year the fish gods came to the party and just before rounding Whangarei Heads Liam landed a nice size Tuna. 

So fresh sashimi with sundowners that night as sat at anchor tucked up in Urquharts Bay beneath the stunning headland.

All smiles as we head into Whangarei, the headland entrance in the background

Sunset at Urquhurts Bay

Next morning we had a quick haulout at Marsden Cove Marina as we were planning to change our insurance company from Pantanius USA to Pantanius Australia. To do that we needed to have a surveyor come along and inspect the boat and tick all the boxes.

Unfortunately, once the hydraulic trailer pulled us out and it leveled off on the flat of the haulout ramp, there was a almighty bang accompanied  by the odd “what the f*%*k was that?”

It turns out the the repair to the anchor chain locker that Liam had done way back in French Polynesia in 2017 had slowly been delaminating and today was the day it let go. 

There was no gaping hole or anything light that,  the repair area had just kind of gone spongy like a wedge had been pushed in between the layers of laminate. It was a sickening sound and a sickening feeling to say the least. Still,  its nothing that time, money and good tradesmen couldn’t fix. And New Zealand is definitely the right place for that to happen.

My dream house

Our last night at anchor was spent in a little bay called The Nook, a few miles up river from Whangarei Heads.

It’s a delightful spot with a
“If I could buy it I would” waterfront house sitting pretty as punch just behind GWTW.

That evening we toasted our good health, a great six months of cruising Fiji and our safe passage back to New Zealand.  There was no reason to dwell on the day’s events ‘cause sometimes shit happens.

Next morning we toddled further up the river to the Town Basin Marina and slotted back into our normal berth as if we’d never left.

It was great to be home again.

Cruisers Info :  “Spot X Cruising NZ”, available online or from Cater Marine Opua or Burnsco  Chandlery Opua and Whangarei. $44.99 NZ.

Catamaran haulout yards in Whangarei : Marsden Cove,                           
Harbourside Boat Works & Norsand use trailers and Port Whangarei Marina uses a travelift.

GWTW has hauled at Marsden, Harbourside and Port Whangarei.

Marinas in Whangarei: Town Basin Marina is the popular choice for catamarans and can accommodate up to 65 feet in length on floating docks.
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