Thursday, May 25, 2017

TOMORROW

After fits and starts, stress over "to leave or not to leave" and looking at weather four times daily...tomorrow (Saturday, May 27) looks like the departure date. We aren't alone, there will be a flotilla leaving over the weekend heading to the warmer latitudes. From Marsden Cove where we are, there are at least a dozen boats waiting for the right passage weather. In other parts of NZ, more are chomping at the bit to take off. We had two other dates we thought looked good – but this one is the best so far so we'll take it. The last two ended up being quite boisterous runs for the boats that did leave....big headwinds and monstrous seas. So we are glad we waited...and are hopeful this will be a more pleasant run. We did have to apply for an extension for our visitors' visas...for what will end up being be two days! This extended wait also meant provisioning, cooking...re-provisioning, re-cooking and baking.

We have enjoyed the time with all the other waiting boats – we've had two sausage sizzles (one tonight), two rounds of Mexican Train dominoes games (one with nine boats) and pizza night. Michael took a tour of the nearby oil refinery with a group. He also finally spotted the leopard seal (see last entry) and it was chomping on a dinghy! His description was it was huge with enormous teeth.

So we leave – please send all your best thoughts for a safe and easy passage. We will keep up with position reports on the YIT site as long as all systems work on board. So feel free to follow our progress. There will probably not be many entries during the passage unless it is flat calm.

Finally...
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At 5/15/2017 8:41 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.22'S 174°28.12'E

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Departure in Sight

Well at least we hope it is! It is now Wednesday in New Zealand and we are anticipating getting away from the dock in Marsden Cove on Saturday morning. Some boats are taking off on Thursday and some on Friday and Saturday. The winds are still pretty strong with big seas on Thursday – and Friday is … well it's Friday. There is the old superstition about not starting a passage on a Friday. Our two experiences of leaving on a Friday have been the two worst trips we've had... so we'll go on Saturday.

Here in the Marsden Cove Marina we are hoping to see the Leopard Seal that has been spotted here. It has come up from her home ground in the Antarctic. It isn't exactly your friendly ball-tossing seal. This one seems keen on chomping inflatable dinghies. She has gotten four so far – one was up on a dock finger, one was hanging on the side of the boat, one hanging on davits (that's quite a leap) and one floating (but not now!). She also has taken a bite out of a few fenders as well. Perhaps they look like food or she is just a juvenile delinquent. They are a protected species so nothing can be done – though the marina has told the Department of Conservation that they probably should do something to protect her because there are four pretty mad people in the marina. We just hope to see her – keeping our distance from her mouthful of sharp teeth.

We have the boat pretty ready and if the weather holds over the next few days we'll be on our way to Fiji. It should take us ten to eleven days. So if anything big happens in the news – you'll have to e-mail us as we won't be able to get online! Remember, you can track our progress on the YIT site. www.yit.co.nz and look for Astarte. If the radio works we'll send a daily position report to them.

So now just the last minute off shore cooking, baking, tidying and securing the decks and below decks.

Fingers crossed for a great passage – and before our visas expire!
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At 5/15/2017 8:41 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.22'S 174°28.12'E

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Friday, May 5, 2017

The Same Old Story

Waiting for weather. That is the mode aboard Astarte right now. Waiting and watching the ever changing weather patterns. We were all set to leave this weekend for Fiji – but then this late tropical cyclone "Donna" kicked up between Vaunuatu and New Caledonia. And because these systems can change their minds without a thought to the cruising sailboats out there – we chose to not take that window and wait. We are in good company as the boats are piling up here in Whangarei as well as in Opua – all waiting for the weather to dash north out of what is getting to be a very cold New Zealand.

We awoke to 45 degree (F) this morning and winter is definitely coming here. Have to go and buy an extra blanket today! Hopefully we will be able to leave next weekend but with the systems changing so quickly – we can't make that call yet. We are pretty much ready to go – fueled and provisioned up – just the last minute breads and veggies for the passage. We may head down towards Marsden Cove later in the week to be ready to check out and leave.

For now we are just getting little projects done.

Buy your May/June copy of "Ocean Navigator" today. We have another article in it!

Start wishing for good weather for us.
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At 4/18/2017 9:33 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°50.88'S 174°31.86'E

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Whew...

Other than the start of ulcers from the stress of waiting...all is good aboard Astarte after Cyclone Cook passed.

We kept listening to radio warnings, "All ships. All ships. Cyclone Cook will approach the southern end of Great Barrier around 1300 hours Thursday. Make sure you are in a safe place and let someone know where you are because there will be no rescue quickly. 90 knots of wind are expected near the center of the cyclone." That's enough to get you scared to death.

We were well prepared. We found what we thought was the best anchorage – protected from three sides for the clocking winds. We put out lots of rode on our main anchor and then put our second anchor out and had a third ready to drop. There were six boats in this anchorage – three sailboats and three motor launches. All were pretty spread apart so we had safe room between each other.

Then we waited...and waited. We saw some squalls as the morning wore on – perhaps mid 20 knot winds and rain. Noon came...1300, 1400. We tracked the barometer and it dropped as expected, but not dramatically. We went from facing east to southest to south to south west and then west – but quite slowly. We saw blue sky to the north and figured that was the eye. Then the blue sky was south. Around 1600 the barometer started to slowly rise. It was passed. We believe from listening to reports from other boaters that perhaps the center stayed further offshore and away from Great Barrier. A later report said it was to go ashore in the center of the the Bay of Plenty which would have it put it further east.

Needless to say, we finally got our appetite back and had our first meal of the day around 1800 and felt we were both lucky and prepared and we picked our spot well. We could see more wind above the tree line.

Today we now get try to get the anchors up and stored again and the boat back in order. Thanks to all who sent us phone texts and e-mail and provided us some extra weather info especially David and Patricia from Gulf Harbor Radio via Tony's Maritime Net.

All good aboard Astarte. Hope the rest of NZ fares as well.
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At 4/7/2017 10:01 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 36°11.04'S 175°21.59'E

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cyclone Cook Approaches

Well, at least the remnants of what is Cyclone Cook! After hammering Vanuatu and New Caledonia, the cyclone hit the colder waters but is still heading towards NZ. We remain out at Great Barrier Island in what we hope will remain a protected anchorage. The major part f the storm should hit us on Thursday (early afternoon) – and hopefully pass through quickly. It all depends exactly where it hits land in NZ. As of this writing it's course takes it over the Coromandal Peninsula and across the country to the south. If it goes anymore west, we are in the eye. Predicted winds are 70 knots with higher gusts. Not pretty. We put out a second anchor yesterday in a lull of wind and rain. We have plenty of fuel to keep the engine running should we need it to take pressure off the anchors. It at least is moving a bit faster than originally predicted. We thought it would pass over us in the dead of the night – so at least the daylight is some consolation. We've been seeing lots and lots of rain already and 20 knots. The storm is supposed to pass with the winds clocking (so depending on what quadrant of the circulation we are in- will depend on what we get hit with. The storm didn't dissipate in the cold waters but they are saying it could be the worse cyclone to hit NZ since 1968 NZ has had so much rain in the last few weeks, flooding is predicted. That's the good news of being on a boat. It is Thursday morning so we have at least two more days of this mess. It's too bad because it's Easter weekend and normally a very busy time for the Island. Not sure many people will be crossing from Auckland or Whangarei to get out here in what is predicted to be six meter seas (20 plus feet). WE should be protected from any swell in here.

We have enjoyed our time out here up to the storm. We took two long hikes while anchored in Kaiarara Bay. The first, we went to at least seven bridges on the way towards the lower Kauri Dam. That was about a three and a half hour walk mostly uphill. The next day we decided to walk to the town of Port Fitzroy – it took a bit longer and was up and down along the shore. It was about an 8 mile trek – one of the longer ones we've done in awhile. We were pretty tired on the return. We were all disappointed because we had hoped the Port Fitzroy Boat Club would be open for a "cook's night off" - but it is closed on Monday and Tuesday. So we settled on ice cream bars from the general store (along with some bread, eggs and onions) and made the trek back. We met some interesting folks on the walk. They are from Hamilton, NZ and building a home on GBI. It is a nice piece of property with an incredible view and nice folks.

We left Kaiarara Bay and came back to Kiwiriki to sit out the predicted winds and rain. We should be pretty protected from the swells. Last night was calm but we awoke this morning to gusty winds in the low 20 knot range. We are sitting in a small inlet within the bay but it is pretty swirly in here. The boat faces one way and the wind hots us from a different direction. So we swing a lot. It will be a long few days - but we'll have full water tanks. The winds are predicted to get to 30-35...but we hope not!

We have gotten lots of small projects done while here – winches have all been cleaned, internal cleaning done and lots of baking to take the edge off the cooler evenings. We are enjoying the time out here. If only the internet was better and the storms were already over – it would be perfect!
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At 4/7/2017 10:01 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 36°11.04'S 175°21.59'E

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Great Barrier Island

Finally! We made it to Great Barrier Island (GBI) or "Barrier" as the locals call it. We really like this place. It is about 45 miles off the mouth of the Hatea River that leads to Whangarei. We had to motor / motorsail the entire way on Thursday to get here unfortunately – but it was a beautiful, sunny day with just a half meter swell. We had expected it to be cloudy and drizzly so we were pleasantly surprised. We left at 0645 – in the dark and made it to Smokehouse Bay anchorage about 1530. There were 11 boats there already – we had thought we'd have the place to ourselves.

On Friday, we launched the dinghy and Michael went ashore to check out the facilities. Last time we were here the water tank had a leak so hot showers were not available. He cut some wood and checked things out and it looked like we were in luck for a nice hot shower! We took advantage of it, followed by two more boaties who did the same. It is a great place that is maintained by volunteers and the property donated by a family. It's fun to watch the comings and goings of this very popular anchorage or "bay movies" as we call them.

It's Saturday, and we decided to move across the way because of the predicted NE winds that would pick up as the day wears on getting to about 15 knots. We aimed for a new anchorage for us – Kiwiriki Bay. It wasn't very far (you can still see Smokehouse from here.) As we entered the bay, we were greeted by two dolphins - a very large mother and her calf. They followed us all the way into the anchorage playing in the bow wake and really checking us out with rolls and eye contact. It is always a warm greeting. We had a pod on Thursday greet as we approached Great Barrier as well.

We are enjoying the place – doing projects and relaxing. Some major cleaning and reorganizing of the forward head yesterday and Michael is cleaning the mast winch this afternoon. We may try our hand at some fishing for snapper here as well. We got a book from the "Gypsea Hearts" called "How to Catch Fish and Where" and we'll see if it helps!
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At 3/30/2017 7:10 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 36°11.89'S 175°19.86'E

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Let the =?ISO-8859-1?Q?=93zero dollar days=94?= begin!

After eleven days in the Whangarei Marina, we untied from the dock and headed down the river. It is too easy to stay in that great marina and keep spending money and tackling more projects. Plus the social times are tempting! We got a whole lot done while at the dock – cleaning the boat inside and out from all the yard dust; doing tons of laundry including all the blankets, mattress cover and curtains; getting the engine blessed by Tim who discovered a worn fuel line so that got replaced (oh the language!); fueled the boat (jerry jugging cans from the petrol station); had our propane tank inspected and filled; replaced a raincoat; re-installed the repaired SSB/ham radio; made new dock lines and a new snubber line; re-provisioned the boat; and enjoyed lots of social time with friends. We also celebrated our 20th anniversary in style with dinner out at the "Love Mussel" (perfect eh?). It was a very busy eleven days....and costly.

Today. it was a foggy morning when we headed out of the Town Basin area – pretty unusual for here. As we made our way down the river the fog got thicker and thicker. We had a bow watch the entire way. It didn't clear until we were close to Marsden and our anchorage in Urquharts.

We will make our way over to Great Barrier Island in the next few days. Tomorrow the winds look to be in the wrong direction so we will most likely wait until Thursday. Rain is expected for this afternoon and tomorrow as well.

It is nice to be at anchor in a pretty place. No place nearby to drop any kiwi dollars which is a good thing. We kind of have been going crazy with the spending! Now we have to remember how everything works, how to sail and anchor and get our sea legs back. This is a good test of the boat systems before we head back to the islands in about five weeks.
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At 3/25/2017 12:56 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°43.40'S 174°19.53'E

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