Wednesday, February 8, 2017

EIGHT YEARS

We left the dock in St. Petersburg, Florida on February 9, 2009. Today in New Zealand, we celebrate eight years of full time cruising and living aboard SV Astarte. We have had the pleasure of visiting 31 countries (several multiple times). More than 120 islands within those countries where we have met amazing people on land and on other boats. We have made some lifelong friends from around the globe. It has been an amazing time for the two of us.

There are times it feels like only a short time ago that we left the US and at other times it feels like decades. Some days are filled with great memories and others are ones we want to forget. But there have been definitely more of the good times in our years afloat.

Now we have to pay the price of those eight years of full time cruising. Like anything that gets well used, you have to do repairs. We have been great about taking care of our boat with regular maintenance and upgrades. But this year we've had some really major ones! We've had to replace the head sail roller furler in June. We now have a new transmission that Michael installed in November. There is a new refrigerator/freezer box with all new insulation and upgraded systems. This also meant new counter tops and a refurbished galley area. Now we are in the boatyard doing a major bottom job and interior varnishing. So this will be a big year for Astarte as we enter year nine of cruising.

The great news is we have been healthy, happy and still enjoy this lifestyle. We are grateful to the many family and friends we have who have helped us in big and small ways. We can never fully express how much your help means to us. Thanks also to everyone who stays in touch through the time and distance.

We are grateful to have had eight great years of cruising aboard Astarte together. How many more? Who knows!
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At 1/28/2017 7:04 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°44.37'S 174°20.32'E

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hard Aground


On purpose! We have been lifted out of the water and are sitting on the stands in Docklands 5 boatyard in Whangarei, NZ. We will be here for about 6 weeks or so. The work began pretty much as soon as we came out of the water with a hard pressure wash bottom cleaning. Once settled with ladders and stands, we got into life “on the hard.” And it is hard. Climbing up and down the ladder dozens of times each day – who needs a gym membership.

In fact, if you want to get in shape, fly to NZ and help us out! Volunteers wanted. You too can look like this.




No that's not one of the old “ghost busters” it's Hawk in full regalia fighting layers of bottom paint! He puts in two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon with a scraper, vacuum (to collect all the scrapings) and back breaking, shoulder aching, hand hurting work.
Meanwhile, Barbara has been finishing the sanding and varnishing in the newly refurbished galley (new fridge and freezer are working great). From that project it's on to the the cabin sole (floor) and taking out all the boards and sanding. The main salon table will also be taken down to bare wood (redone two years ago but not looking very good). So lots of hard labor for all parties on board. Plus just the day to day stuff is more difficult on board – doing dishes means taken them off the boat in a bucket to a sink in the community room. Plus, just going to the bathroom is a ladder climbing project! With all that said, we're probably not getting many volunteers, are we?

We remind ourselves though that we have been out eight years and living aboard full time and cruising. So the wear and tear on the boat is expected and needs to be maintained. This is the price we pay for the enjoyment we get in all these exotic locations. The aching muscles don't seem to understand.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tutukaka and Beyond

After a night in Puriri Bay, we decided to move on to Tutukaka – a place we had not stopped at previously. We enjoyed a slow, leisurely sail there – turning the engine on after the wind died and the sails started to hang limp and bang. But it was easier than the previous day's run to Whangaruru.

We snuck into a good anchorage spot in Tutukaka. Getting into the cut is a bit tricky, but range markers (or leading marks as they are called here) keep you centered. There is a lovely marina here beyond a breakwater and a small island (Phillip's Island) in the cut. We chose to anchor though (trying to keep the zero dollar days going) and found a home near Phillip's Island in about 3 meters of water (10 feet). It got pretty shallow under the keel at low tide! But we were protected from most directions and the bay is a "gale force" anchorage with good holding and little swell.

The name Tutukaka is interesting. According to Dillon, the man at the marina, it means Snare the Kaka. The Kaka is a native parrot and on the endangered list so the snaring was obviously quite successful. There are few Kakas left in Tutukaka.

We went into the marina and the above mentioned man Dillon, was very, very friendly and helpful with information. He directed us to the walk we wanted to take to the Tutukaka Lighthouse at the entrance to the cut. It was described as a two hour leisurely walk. We have learned that the kiwis are much more fit than us. Leisurely to them is difficult for us! Or at least part of it was! It was actually a very nice walk – up to the ridge, along the ridge road, than down 180 plus steps to a beach (best walked at low tide) and then up the other side to the lighthouse. This "up" was more difficult but you are rewarded with a magnificent view. Of course a young boy and his dad ran past us as we were coming down (and then passed us again and ran up the stairs (twice!).

It was a good hike and we rewarded ourselves with lunch out, a beer and an ice cream cone! So much for the weight loss from the walk and the zero-dollar days!

Tutukaka is where many dive boats go out from to the Poor Knights Island group – a nature reserve that is supposedly one of the best dive spots in NZ. There are also many fishing charter boats out of the marina and they go for marlin and bigger game fish here. There is a large "Game Fishing Club" on shore. The board outside tells the story of many big catches of various fish (most tagged and released). There is also a good display of stuffed fish inside the club on the walls. Some giant blue marlin, plus just the heads and tails. Impressive creatures. There were also other fish from grunard to ocean sunfish and dorado on the walls. We wished they were open for lunch as they supposedly have the best fish and chips along with great fish stories. Some other time.

The lift at Docklands Five is repaired and we are now scheduled for a Tuesday haulout. It was Friday and the weather was about to turn sour so we decided to get out if Tutukaka while we could. We left bright and early to go the 25 miles to "the Nook" on the Hatea River. This would get us close to Docklands and in a protected spot with good holding. The predictions were for NE, then SW winds 20 to 45 knots!

We were surprised that the Nook was relatively empty with just a few boats and most of those were on permanent moorings. We snuck in quite a way and dropped 100 feet (30 meters) of chain in about 4.5 meters of water. At low we are seeing about 3 meters. We got in just in time as the wind started to pick up soon after we were in the river. We saw 20 knots regularly and it kept up throughout the night. We saw sustained winds at 25-30 for a long period from the N/NW (we had better protection from N/NE) and there were a few higher gusts. It wasn't a very restful night, but we held. By morning the wind shifted to W/SW which is the worst direction in here, but still better than most other places on the river. It is supposed to last until Tuesday – so we will just ride it out here. Hopefully the winds will settle a bit and the forecast is for offshore and not inland! There is a bit of a fetch here when the winds are in the westerly quadrant.

For now we'll just enjoy the last few days (as best we can in the windy conditions) before we head to the haul-out and non-stop work.

Sunday, January 22. 2017
The Nook: Lat: 35 47.44s
Lon: 174 27.76e
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At 1/21/2017 10:55 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°47.44'S 174°27.76'E

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whangamumu to Whangaruru

You gotta love the names! We went all of 15 miles from Whangamumu's former whaling station protected harbor to Whangaruru's Puriri Bay. We thought we could sail and gave it a good try, but the southwesterlies were stronger than we hoped and right on the nose along with the seas...so it was very slow going. It took about five hours to make that short distance.

We are settled into a bay that has a campground on the shore. There are lots of very fancy tents set up. Some look to be five room tents- tent technology has come a long way. So much for "roughing it." There are also lots of SUP (stand up paddleboards), kayaks, small boats and tenders near shore, so lots of activity.

We enjoyed our time in Whangamumu getting two good hikes in – though the "all uphill" climbs were tiring on the legs that hadn't seen much exercise recently! We spent some time socializing with old friends and made some new ones as well. We played some Sequence and "Settlers of Catan" with Sandy and Rankin and just enjoyed our time at anchor.

Puriri Bay isn't as pretty as Whangamumu but it is well protected from any swell. The wind has been changing direction 180 degrees every day so anchoring is an ever-changing proposition. We have been having South-west winds in the mornings and evenings and north to northwest winds in the afternoons. You just have to make sure you have good swinging room in the anchorage to go the various directions. The last day in Whangamumu was very crowded as boats are now making the move either south or north and this is a good stopover point on the North Island as people go between Auckland and the Bay of Islands. There were several quite large mega-yachts in the anchorage on that last day as well as the whole collection of very small to our size – both sailboats and motor launches. That made for good entertainment watching the boats come, drop anchor and then leave. Being there a few days, we had seniority in the anchorage.

Now in Puriri, there are not many boats (yet) – but a few. We'll decide later after checking the forecast again if we stay or leave here tomorrow. Another front is working its way across the island so some bigger winds are predicted for Thursday.

For now, we continue to enjoy our "zero dollar" days and time at anchor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2017
Lat: 35 22.01s
Long: 174 21.40e
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At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Whangamumu

We have enjoyed time in the Bay of Islands at a few different places before heading back into Opua for the last of our rigging work. We were lucky to get a slip for Monday and Tuesday and connected with the rigger who had the part for the roller furler. That got fixed and the rig got adjusted. Michael had also been spending a whole lot of time trying to connect, then trouble shoot the installation of a splitter to connect the AIS and the VHF radio to the same antenna on the top of the mast. When connected we would not be able to hear the radio. After putting on new connectors and trying everything he could, we ended up hiring someone to come with a VSWR meter to check things out. Then Michael put on all new connectors and still nothing. It seems the brand new splitter box we got isn't working. So now we have to return that to the manufacturer and wait for a new one. Bummer.

After we finished with the boat projects, laundry, a resupply of food, and mailing our immigration extension paperwork, we were off again. Now we are making our way south towards Whangarei. We spent a few nights back in the Bay of Islands and then headed to Whangamumu where we are now at anchor in a very pretty bay.

This used to be an old whaling station. The remnants of that place remain as a historical reminder. We took a nice hike up the hill to a pretty viewpoint and it reminded us that we had been lazy sitting on the boat too long! The uphill was tiring!

Our friends on "Gypsea Heart" sailed in as well and we met some other folks in the anchorage - which is always fun. Michael went and spoke with a few teenagers who were in the water the previous day for hours. It is cold here and they were free diving so he wanted to know what they were going after. People collect scallops, crays (lobsters), oysters and various other critters. Later that morning the two boys came over to Astarte with a cray for us (lobster). How great is that! They just made us promise not to tell anyone where they were diving. Lips sealed! We gave them a giant candy bar as a thanks, but we came out way ahead in that deal! Nice guys – so New Zealand.

It is sure nice being out at anchor and enjoying meeting new folks and spending time with good friends. Plus it helps the budget. We've enjoyed many game days on Gypsea Heart. Today, we'll take another hike and perhaps meet some other new folks. This is a really nice spot. The lift at Docklands is broken so our haulout that we originally scheduled for Wednesday won't happen so we have a few days to kill. We'll find out on Thursday if it is fixed and when we can get hauled. Until then and the major work time, we'll enjoy time along the north island coast.
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At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Farewell to 2016

NEW photos on the "Photo Test" page. Shots of the transmission repair and new galley/refrigeration work.

We have enjoyed our time away from the dock and out at anchor in various spots in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. There are lots of anchorages to choose from based on the wind direction. Because it is "silly season" there are lots and lots of boats out here.

We snuck away from the dock on Christmas morning and met up with our friends Sandy and Rankin for a great Christmas dinner aboard "Gypsea Heart." They generously invited another boater to join us, a single hander aboard the boat "Blazing Shadz" a beautiful aluminum, 70 foot schooner. It was an interesting and fun afternoon. They do know how to entertain!

We reciprocated on Boxing Day with dinner aboard Astarte but unfortunately my back was hurting and I started to get a cold...and I overcooked the beef! The good news (at least from the writer's perspective) is that women rocked at "Sequence" beating the men in several games. They won a few.

We then went to a new anchorage and settled for a few days taking a nice walk one day. The wind switched to the west so we went in search of a new anchorage and went to crowded Motorua Island. We got another nice walk in on the island with great viewpoints and lots of tuis in the trees.

Next we needed to find good internet for some phone calls so we headed to Assassination Cove. We had the place to ourselves for about two hours and then were joined by about 50 other boats!

It is New Year's Eve here in New Zealand and we will continue our few year tradition of a sausage sizzle and games aboard "Gypsea Heart" with lots of champagne. It always proves to be fun and festive and who knows whom they will meet and invite for this occasion!!

Another year is gone and we are grateful to have had a good one though more repairs aboard Astarte than we would have liked. This year we replaced a few major things – the roller furler, the transmission, new anchor and chain, and the refrigerator box. All have been upgrades so that is good. New countertops make the galley have a fresh look. We had the engine carefully looked over and regained our confidence in the "Carl." We got an AIS, but are still working out the kinks to get it and the radio working at the same time without a lot of noise.
Plus lots of the small bits and pieces of regular maintenance and repairs.

We had three sets of guests this year which we really enjoyed. We were both relatively healthy (a few colds and some aches and pains in the joints and backs). We had decent passages (except for the turn-around in May) to and from Fiji and enjoyed our time in north Fiji and New Zealand. We saw a kiwi in the wild this year (that was a highlight) and Michael won "Best dressed" at an event. So we can't complain about 2016 – at least in foreign countries aboard Astarte!

We wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2017. May all your dreams come true.
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At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Astarte Christmas 2016

Stuck at the dock
Workers on the clock
No cold beer
Where's the cheer?
With Christmas almost here.

Will the work be done?
Will we have island fun?
A new galley is great
but we still wait and wait
Holidays are in the hands of fate

In NZ its "silly season"
Called that for good reason
Everyone goes on holiday
it's summer so time to play
No work gets done for many a day.

No Christmas cookies this year
No decorations we fear
There's no room to cook
Or even read a good book
Astarte has an Un-Merry look

But we have each other
No need for another
Perhaps we can untie
From the dock that we're by
And an anchor spot we'll occupy.

So Santa please find us
On the eve of Christmas
We've tried to be good
As all people should
Come see us if you could.

We still have our hopes high
That all the work will be dry
A fridge and freezer with ice
Galley counters would be nice
And a dinner better than beans and rice






Merry Christmas to all our family, friends and log readers

Warm holiday greetings to you. We wish each of you a very happy and joyous holiday season. Our hopes are for your good health and unlimited happiness in 2017. It is a new year that promises some interesting times.

We are currently on the north island of New Zealand in the Bay of Islands where it is summertime. It is also what is known as "silly season" here where most businesses shut down for at least a week – some more like two weeks and people go out on their boats or in their caravans (motor homes) and enjoy the beauty of this island. It is a great and healthy attitude towards work and life. Of course, we are up against the deadline to get our major remodel project completed before everyone takes off. As we write this, we still aren't certain if we will have a completed galley or not before everything shuts down!

Our year has been a really good one aboard the good ship Astarte. Can you believe we are about to begin year eight of cruising fulltime!

We enjoyed some friends who visited us early in the year while in New Zealand. Sue came in February and we enjoyed visiting some of the Harauki Gulf islands. We went on wine tours, hikes, dinghy exploring, kiwi spotting, a Kawau Island music festival and city time. Barbara flew back to the states with Sue and had some special time with her family and friends which she really enjoyed. It included a presentation of our travels to Carol's school. Our friend Tom also arrived in New Zealand for several weeks and it too included some island time and city time. He even got into the kayak "Bob" at least once! It was a splash! Thanks to both of our guests for their time and visits.

In May after waiting and waiting for a decent weather window to depart NZ, we finally left for Fiji via Minerva Reef. But we only got out about 300 miles when we lost our head sail roller furler. We made the decision to turn back to facilitate repairs in New Zealand rather than continuing on to Fiji. We also made the decision to always forego a trip to Minerva Reef. It is now "taboo" for us. It seems every time we head there, something bad happens. The first time from Tonga to Minerva we had the very worst weather we have ever had. The next time to Fiji, we got another storm. This time, a major mechanical issue. So no more Minerva for Astarte.

We made it safely back to New Zealand after a night of heaving too for bad weather. There, we had an expensive new roller furler installed and within ten days were off again for Fiji. We lucked out with a quick repair and a decent weather window. The trip to Fiji was raucaous, but fast. We checked into Savusavu on Vanua Levu in June. We decided to do a circumnavigation of Vanua Levu, something not many people do. It was a terrific experience, but certainly not for everyone. We enjoyed lots of village time at various stops and met many wonderful local Fijians. We were welcomed into homes and made many friends. We took lots of pictures for our new friends. "We're Fijian, we love our picture taken" was the line we heard a lot!

Our route around the island took us to Rambi Island as well where we could have stayed for weeks! We had many stops on the northern side of island and went out to Kia Island which is a remarkable place. We wanted to stay longer but weather drove us away. When we turned the corner to the western side of the island and more stops, we spent some time in Numbawalu where we had the privilege of meeting a wonderful family and the Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr. Banimarama. It was a thrill.

Back in Savusavu after completing the island's circumnavigation, we prepped for our guests Kathryn and Mark making their fourth visit to Astarte. The weather was perfect with the exception of wind for sailing. They were in the water as much as aboard! It was a great visit to Rambi Island and then on to Taveuni where we left them in the hands of a "nice place" the dive resort Paradise Divers. Thanks to them for a great visit and the opportunity to cook goat curry! (The goat was procurred from Palmlea Farms on the north coast of Vanua Levu where we enjoyed some special time with Julie and Joe).

After dropping Kathryn and Mark off, we then headed to cruise the Lomaviti Group of islands. We made a quick one night stop at Koro Island then on to Ovalau. This is where Lavuka is, the original capital of Fiji was located and is a world heritage site. We stayed near the village of Rukuruku and enjoyed this village that was badly hit by Cyclone Winston the previous year. We saw a fair amount of damage from this devastating super cyclone during our travels but it really came to light in this village that was still holding school in tents five months after.

We made a few other stops than onto Suva for a dentist visit and some re-provishining. We went to Beqa Island, another nice stop where we spent a week. Then it was time to start thinking about leaving for NZ again – where did the time go. But the adventure didn't end. In Vuda Marina, we hauled the boat to do a quick bottom cleaning. During the process of getting into the slings, we discovered that the transmission didn't engage. After lots of stress and weighing the situation, Michael ended up flying to NZ to get a new transmission, flying back and installing it. We missed one weather window (thankfully in the end) and caught the next one which ended up being a decent passage.

The passage was long, more miles than the rhumb line, with the wind forward of the beam for most of the trip. We had a few days at the end of motoring when the wind died. We made it ten days to the Q dock in Opua in the Bay of Islands.

Once settled in our reserved dock space, the work began immediately on a few projects - the big one being the redoing of the refrigeration box. Removing the old one meant a major construction project in the galley There have been a few delays and hiccups along the way setting the two and a half week project well beyond that time frame. We are now simply hoping that before the shop closes on Wednesday, we'll have a working refrigerator and counter tops completed. The rigging project (a problem on the new roller furler) is still awaiting word from the manufacturer and the rigging shop but doesn't look like it will happen before the holidays.

So we are working to the last and that means no holiday preps aboard. It will be an unusual year but we are hopeful of going out to an island and dropping the anchor and at least enjoying some time away from a dock with friends.

Happy Holidays to all and thank you for being there for us.

Merry Christmas
Michael and Barbara

P.S.
Currentlly at anchor. Got away from the dock on Christmas Day.
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At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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