Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Life in the New World

May & June 2020

Even the animals wore masks

After lockdown finished the celebrations began. 

The marina staff who had entrusted the running of the our marina to three trusted souls in their lockdown absence orgainsed a fancy dinner out at Sails, Whangarei’s poshest restaurant for us, Eric and Vandy from Scoots as well as Dave from Rewa. 

The boys had taken charge of all things requiring maintenance over several weeks

Thankyou dinner at Sails 

Liam was in charge of general maintenance issues, Eric was postmaster, parcel delivery and electrical breakages technician and Dave ran the finance side of things which included washing and sorting laundry and shower money.

Our new three hole putting green

Many upgrade projects were hatched during this time and included a major upgrade to our floating party barge to replace the current flooring and turn it into a putting green complete with pro grade AstroTurf. That was a win win for we golfing sailors.  

June 19th clocked around and it was a big day on the social calendar.  Pretty much all the boats at our marina from 19 nationalities were “Dressed’ for the occasion .

Boats dressed with GWTW below

On GWTW each country’s flag that we have visited since leaving Australia in 2006 was hoisted and that totaled 69 flags. Good thing we have a tall mast!  The creative people in the marina painted giant “Thankyou Whangarei” banners which were strung up between the yachts and the scene looked very festive indeed.

From that day on many a party was organised and yes we cruisers know how to party to the max. The kickoff event was essentially a big  “Thankyou” to the people and the city of Whangarei for hosting the community of International cruisers based here during the lockdown period, and for not throwing us to the wolves when the world was being ravaged by Covid.

Held on a drizzly Saturday morning under the shelter of the canopy bridge which spans the Hatea River, the Mayor of Whangarei Sheryl Mai, along with NZ Customs & Immigration officers, several of the boys and girls in Blue, members of the public and the local press turned up for the occasion.

One of the  beautifully painted banners now hangs in city’s Council Chambers.

Above & below the Cruiser's Band

Customs officers said it was a pleasure to have us all in NZ

Once the speech’s and blessing of the fleet by a Maori Elder were done and dusted the ‘”Cruisers Band” aka “Riverside Drive Marina Band” filled the air with a string of catchy tunes that even the diehard toe tappers couldn't resist and there was dancing in the streets, well on the bridge to be more correct. It was a great couple of hours.

Liam showing his style with manager Sharron

Dave and me hitting the floor at the dinner dance

Later that evening  the neighbouring marina organised a pot luck dinner and BBQ and the band once again preformed . Sunday night the fun continued with the Whangarei Cruising Club being the venue of choice for the celebratory Dinner and Dance night. With over one hundred in attendance we partied hard and danced the hours away.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Covid 19 edition. 2020 the year that wasn’t

Living through Lockdown and whatever else came next.

March 25th – October 8th 2020

Foggy Covid morning

It’s just over a year now since Covid 19 engulfed planet earth and consequently reshaped our lives and the way that everyone has lived since Adam was a boy.

As you all know we are still in New Zealand and to be honest we can’t think of a better country to be in to sit out this pandemic.

Backtracking just a little I'll fill in the gaps of how NZ has got to where we are today. 

 NZ’s first case reared it’s ugly head on February 28th. As of January 29th 2021 this island nation has recorded 2,305 cases with 1950 confirmed cases and 355 probable ones. 

RV's lined up at ASB stadium to be used as self isolation units for NZ returnees

To date 26 people have died from the virus. The pandemic here peaked in early April with 89 new cases per day and a total of 929 active cases.

On March 19th the entire New Zealand border was closed with the exception of returning citizens and residents.

Birthday boy Liam
March 20th was Liam’s 69th birthday so a few of us got together at a local Thai restaurant to celebrate. It was a really fun night but little did any of us  know this would our last night out for a very long time.

A four level alert system was introduced on March 21st to manage the outbreak in New Zealand. Two days later the nation was put on notice that we were now entering Alert Level 3 and that within 48hrs would move to Alert Level 4.

This announcement  sparked mass panic buying in the supermarkets as every man and his dog raced against time to stock up for the foreseeable future. Roads were clogged and carparks overflowed. 

Within a day the shelves were  pretty much stripped bare. There were no paper products left at all nor disinfectants, hand wash, sanitizers or face masks.  Stables such as rice, pasta and canned goods as well as meats, vegetables and long life products were no where to be seen except in overflowing shopping trolleys stuck in snaking checkout queues. It was madness.

And as the clock struck 11:59 pm on March 24th 2020 New Zealand plunged down the rabbit hole head first into a nationwide lockdown.

Empty roads
We awoke the next morning to deafening silence.

 There were no cars on the normally busy roads, except of course for essential workers, no planes or helicopters zoomed across our Whangarei skies and no chatter from early morning walkers as they strolled past the marina.

 Well there actually were no walkers to hear.


Empty playgrounds

The sound of happy kids squealing in the playground just meters from our marina berth was also silent. 

The playground along with many other public spaces had been roped off with “Danger” red tape.

Overnight the New Zealand we knew had changed. We were now in our own little world, our bubble along with the occupants of thirteen boats who also shared our dock. Our dock is gated and only assessable to those who have a key. Believe me it was kept it kept firmly shut to the outside world during  Level 4.  

The day before lockdown commenced our marina appointed Liam, Dave from Rewa and Eric from Scoots as the interim managers. Liam would be in charge of everyday maintenance, Dave looked after money laundering from the communal bathrooms and laundry facilities while Eric was the receiver of mail and parcel deliveries as well as all things electric in nature.

 As you would already know online purchases soared during lockdown and here in the marina was no different. So Eric was a very busy guy. It was quite a responsibility on the three boy’s collective shoulders given the size of the Town Basin Marina. It was also quite the honour for the three of them to be chosen as part of the “Trusted Trio”.

Tuesday "Happy Hour "
So how did we spend our time during five weeks of lockdown? Well we felt it went pretty fast. We just kinda thought of it as a long ocean passage. On our dock there were 27 people and we were a close knit bubble. 

We socially distanced but still managed to have fun. The usual “Happy Hour” on Tuesday evenings had a different take. 

We all either sat on the bows or stern of our boats chatting to our bubble buddies next-door rather than the usual get togethers on communal area at the end of the dock fondly know as the Barge Inn.

Boat projects flourished as chores that had been on the list for eternity finally made the “might as well do it now” list. Potted gardening became a big thing. Our normally bare dock sprung to life with veggie gardens and potted colour. At least once a week our sails were unfurled to dry out from passing rain showers. The last thing we wanted were moldy sails.

Virtual sailing during lockdown
Those way more talented than me with sewing machines  took on tasks such as fashioning new sun awnings, re-covering cushions and couches and tailoring professional looking dinghy covers. 

The interest in musical instruments increased two fold with many finding talents they never knew they had.

As birthdays and anniversary's rocked around our now extended family all celebrated, socially distanced of course.

 Baking became the new norm with enticing smells wafting through the air. And as the internet providers advertised endless data plans at very competitive rates streaming  became a big part of everyone’s life here in New Zealand.

During level 4 exercise was allowed but only in your local neighbourhood. So the majority of our dock took up walking “The Loop”, a pathway which follows the  banks of the Heatea river and covers roughly 6 klm, at least once and sometimes twice a day.

Lockdown birthdays on our dock. Above Eric  From "Scoots" and below Lisa from 'Argo"

The message from our government was to stay safe and be kind.

There's a bear in there.....

The nation was encouraged to put toy bears in front windows to make both children and the grown ups smile  as they walked for their daily exercise.

Bears were to be seen not only in household front windows but on hedges, attached to letterboxes, in shop fronts and pretty much everywhere. 

The "Be Kind" message  really took off and was advertised across all media platforms ..and it worked a treat.

Both Easter and Anzac Day came and went but even so the Easter Bunny left baskets of goodies for each boat on our dock. 

The note inside our basket read ...

Good Morning and Happy Easter!

The Easter Bunny and team would like to assure you that they are Covid aware and appropriate measures were employed during the preparation of your basket. Assembly took place with the utmost care, in a sanitary burrow, far below ground. All bunnies involved used appropriate PPE ( Personal Protective Equipment)

So please enjoy these goodies knowing they were prepared with your health and safety foremost in mind. 

Your ever caring, Easter Bunny.

Anzac Day toast with Bernice & Grant on Sea Flair

As there were no traditional services for Anzac Day the nation was asked to stand, candles in hand, at the end of their driveways as the dawn broke. For us that meant standing on our deck. 

Later in the morning Liam related to our non Kiwi / Aussie dock family the meaning and the importance of the day and played the last post over the loud speaker. 

And of course this was followed by a thimble of rum for any fellow dockers who wished to imbibe.

On April 27th the nation moved to Alert Level three where we stayed for two weeks. Many rejoiced as fast food outlets like McDonalds and KFC reopened. The queue of cars at the drive throughs had to be seen to be believed.

At Last ..on the golf course again
NZ entered Alert Level 2 on May 14th and we once again hit the golf course for a much needed round or two 

On June 8th the Ministry of Health announced that there are no active cases of Covid 19 in the country and at 11.59 pm the country moved to Alert Level 1. 

Restrictions on work, school, sports, domestic travel and gatherings size were lifted, however the borders remain closed.

This photo is of all our "Bubble Buddies" on our dock during lockdown. We had shirts made up to mark the one  period of time in 2020 that we will never forget.

Life for New Zealand  had essentially returned to normal. However there were a couple of hiccups in August for those living in and around Auckland and on August 12th  the city moved back to Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country went back to Level 2 as a precaution. Auckland remained in lockdown until August 30th. Because of various clusters that popped up in the city the Alert Levels for that area yoyoed between Levels 3 and 2.

Then finally on October 8th Auckland joined the rest of the country at Alert level 1 . And that pretty much sums up the how, the when and the why New Zealand crushed the virus so well. The whole nation has their collective fingers crossed that  it stays that way for a very long time.

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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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