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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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Splashed!

Astarte is back in the water on Friday morning and in a slip at Whangarei Marina (Town Basin) for about a week. It was a bit less than two months out of the water at Docklands 5 and lots and lots of work done to Astarte. We worked just about everyday, so we are knackered and looking forward to taking it easy for a few days. We still have to get the boat reorganized – getting tools and supplies re-stored and the dirt from the yard cleaned up. The boat is mighty dusty!

On Friday, we had a visit from a former colleague of Michael's. "Hoagy" and his partner Mary are in New Zealand for some exploring and they were nice enough to come by Whangarei. We enjoyed a few bottles of bubbly and wine and a nice dinner out. Michael and Hoagy caught up on the work gossip and we enjoyed their company. It is great to have visitors we are just sorry the timing was such that we couldn't take them for a sail.

So in order to share the pain of all the work we accomplished in the yard...here's the list.
Bottom paint scraped off by hand and sanded to the hull. Blisters ground out and dried and then re-glassed, faired, and sanded. Hull washed then waxed. Anchor dropped and chain cleaned. Anchor locker cleaned out. Thru-hull replaced. Prop removed and cleaned up with zirc fittings installed. Shaft and strut cleaned and polished. New zincs put everywhere. Inside sole (floor) removed and refinished (4 coats) and re-installed after major cleaning of floor areas. Salon table removed and refinished (5 coats) and re-installed. Hydraulic centerboard ram sanded and painted. Major stove cleaning. Four coats of two-pot barrier coat on bottom. Three coats of anti-foul/four coats at high impact spots. Greased centerboard pin. Checked all thru-hulls. Re-installed prop and treated prop/shaft/strut with "prop speed." Removed air conditioner unit from boat (haven't used in eight years)- giving us some additional storage and removing about 25 kilos of weight. Rebuilt wooden wall where AC was hidden. Installed new VHF radio (after testing many possible issues with the radio problem). Fixed water heater problem by replacing a hard to get at hose.

All this along with the day to day chores of living in a yard. That means climbing a ten-step ladder hundreds of times to get on and off the boat. Using the bathrooms on land and doing most of the cooking and dishes off the boat. Grocery and supply gathering was a few miles walk away...and we needed lots of supplies for all the projects so the walk back meant we were loaded down. Laundry still needed to get done.

Tired? We are!
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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, March 7, 2017

Still At Work

It's been more than a month in the yard at Docklands 5 with "Astarte" on the hard getting lots of care. That means hard work for us but progress is being made.

It took a whole month of seven days a week of hard work to take the bottom paint off by scraping, sanding and grinding it down to "no paint." Then repairs on some blisters we made, by re-fiberglassing the ground out spots, filling and fairing them. Once that was completed, the paint layers starting going back on. We put on four coats of barrier coat. And as of this writing, we have two coats of bottom paint. The rain has now started, forecast for five days – so no more painting for awhile.

The hull has also been washed and waxed – more hard arm and shoulder work for Michael! The interior floor has been sanded down to bare wood and four coats of a new finish put on them. The main salon is all completed with the boards reinstalled after a good cleaning of all the areas under the boards. It looks great and no shoes are now allowed below decks! Our carpet from Michael's mom has been cleaned as well so we are sparkling fresh on the floor!

The SSB radio has been sent out for repairs and we are waiting for that to reinstall once fixed. Today's project on this rainy day in the boatyard is to clean out the anchor locker which means clearing out the V-berth and reaching into the anchor locker for a serious clean-out. Not a pretty job. We will also "work" and grease all the the thru-hulls and the centerboard pin.

It really has been non-stop work along with still getting the daily chores done (cooking, laundry, cleaning, shopping etc) – none being easy while on the hardstands in the yard. The good news is the yard has a nice community area with a microwave, toaster, grill and big sink so we do our main meal in there daily. This was particularly convenient when the floorboards were out of the boat. It was hard to move around.

We will both need to sleep for three straight weeks when this big project is done. At this point the plan is to get launched hopefully in the next ten days or so and head to Whangarei Town Basin for about 5 days and then off to Great Barrier Island or Kawau for some R&R. After a few weeks out it will be time to return to Whangarei and provision up for leaving the country and heading to the islands (still TBA). We have to be out of NZ by May 24.

So lots to still do and time is ticking away.
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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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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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