Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013!

We have already entered the New Year of 2013 here in New Zealand. So "Happy New Year " to you all as you cross over to 2013 soon. We did it quietly in Orakawa Bay at anchor. This is a large bay that gets packed almost every night with New Zealand boats - both power yachts and sailboats. Then in the daytime, many leave and they or others come back late in the day to anchor up again. It is quite entertaining to watch the comings and going of all the boats. Well yesterday, all 100 boats left because the wind shifted to the south - though it was a relatively light breeze and still quite protected in the bay. Many of the boats left for a day of fishing, scalloping, sailing or visiting another spot in the Bay of Islands. Others simply headed just across this bay to Opunga Cove where, by evening, we could see over 60 boats in a tight area. In the cove nearby there were another dozen or so boats. We were alone with one other sailboat in Orakawa and the wind died so it was very pleasant. As midnight approached several fireworks were set off from the boats. It looked like a city - with all the boat lights. Then at midnight, horns blared and fireworks lit up the sky from the beaches and the boats. It was quite a display and we had front row seats. So welcome to a New Year and we hope that it will be a great one for each and everyone of you.

The weather finally has changed to "long periods of fine" as they say in NZ. The remnants of Cyclone Evan are gone and the "ridge" that followed it, has also passed over our area. Now the skies are sunny and clear though the southerly breeze is a bit chilly. Through Christmas and the following several days it was very windy, very rainy and quite grey and dismal. We were locked in and doing a fair amount of internet work and calling trying to help as much as we could with Michael's mom's death. Thanks to Derek and our relatives in Eugene for handling the major portion. We will head back at the end of January for the memorial. It was a sad end to the year.

Now we prepare the boat for the arrival of our most frequent boating guests Dave and Lorna. They come loaded with parts and bits. It is a long flight for them and we appreciate their coming. So we are cleaning the boat top to bottom inside, out and underneath (though that is a cold endeavor in these chilly waters). It will be nice having them here. We also are in the process of finding a place to leave the boat for our trip back to the states at the end of the month. This is still what is called "silly season" here - the NZ summer and holidays - so finding a marina is near impossible. Most are filled and they tell you to call closer to the date of arrival - which makes planning quite difficult.

We are in the New Year and we wish health, love and adventure for each of you.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere

We wish each of you a very happy holiday season filled with warmth and surrounded by your family and friends. We miss our families and are especially saddened this holiday with the loss of Michael's mom to our lives! It makes for a sadder holiday for us but we do wish happy times during this season for all of you.

We are lucky to be surrounded by our new cruising friends and it is quite the international tribe so we get to share in interesting traditions from various cultures and nationalities.

It is hard to believe it is the holiday season here in New Zealand because it is summer! We have spent the last three Christmas seasons in tropical climates so you would think we would be used to it. But here, we arrived in colder weather and it felt more like a traditional Christmas season. Now, the days are quite long, the sun is out more, and temperatures are warming up with each passing sunrise.

We are currently experiencing some bad weather - the remnants of tropical Cyclone Evan that hit Somoa and Fiji, but it should pass just after Christmas and we can continue exploring the Bay of Islands.

We continue to be amazed at how far we have come aboard the good ship Astarte. It has been quite the ride and an incredible experience that we treasure. Though there have been some passages that have not been perfect - we try to forget the bad and remember only all the great sailing, incredible places and amazing people.

To each of you we wish a season filled with health, love, happiness and kindness. Be grateful for each other and treasure each day. We do!!!

Michael and Barbara
SV Astarte

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nestled in Omakiwi

We left the dock FINALLY and are now enjoying the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. It is a group of lovely anchorages, islands, and bays on the North Island of New Zealand near Cape Brett. We left the dock on a rainy Tuesday morning and headed to nearby Russell where we anchored for the night. It was great to be anchored again. The good news is that the steering was so smooth, Michael thought it came undone again. There was definitely a problem and it has been resolved. The engine also was very smooth and the old vibration we had is also gone thanks to the new motor mounts (thanks again Richard). So Astarte is running well and happy to be off the dock. Michael did get in the water at the dock with the jellyfish to scrape the prop clean before leaving. Ick.

After a nice night in Russell, we left the next morning for a well protected anchorage. The low that was formerly Cyclone Evan and went over Fiji, is headed this way with a predicted Saturday and Sunday arrival. It is supposed to bring a big swell (3-4 meters) as well as heavy winds from the SE (30-40 knots). So we found a bay protected from the easterlies with "nil" swell. We were the first to get here and drop the anchor in less than 20 feet of water on a nice sandy bottom. After we got here, the boats started to pour into the place and now there are 13 boats here! It is a little bay, but it seems everyone has enough room to swing. One boat told us they were here in 45 knots once and all that happened was their anchor chain stretched out fully.

The bay is very pretty with hills on three sides covered with all types of trees including the Pohutukawa tree which is also called the Christmas Flower - a bright red flowering tree that blooms in December. So we have our Christmas decorations nearby! There are lots of bird singing in the trees as well, including the Tui which supposedly gets drunk on the nectar from the flowering trees. It is supposed to perform some acrobatic feats while "intoxicated" and make lots of noises along with its normal song. That could be entertaining! There is a nice beach and we'll probably go Pipi hunting one day. More on that if we catch any!

Yesterday we went on a hike. A boat here claimed they knew the trail to go over the ridge and see Whangamumu and a great view. They led us on a walk but they never found the trail to Whangamumu. It was a nice walk on a nice day. We'll explore more if the weather holds over the next few days. We're settled here through the storm and perhaps through Christmas. It is just nice to be on the boat at anchor and away from the dock. The weather is warming up a bit and we have lots of cleaning to do aboard after the many projects and being at a dock so long. So we'll tackle a few projects each day and then relax, explore, meet some folks and enjoy our time doing what we love. Oh, plus there will be some baking of Christmas cookies as well!

We hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and have a safe, happy time with family and friends.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Still at the Dock

We are hoping to untie the lines that keep us in the Opua Marina so that we can start exploring the Bay of Islands area here on the North Island of New Zealand. The good news, is that Michael did a FANTASTIC job getting the steering back in order. After much heartache with getting all the cables, conduits and ends for the job to us in Opua: some parts getting here, others not getting here, the wrong lengths, the right lengths, the right ends, ends not attached quite tight enough etc., the job is completed! It was a big multiple day project with lots of crawling in and out of small spaces, bruised knuckles, bad language and tools borrowed, the job is done. The steering is so much smoother (at least sitting here at the dock) and it was something that - once all the old pieces were out - was a project that definitely needed to be done. So another big one off the list - and off the Santa list as well. The other good news is the engine seems to be in order as well. The injector pump was pulled, shipped to Whangarei and repaired (there was a problem) and shipped back and re-installed, along with the tested injectors, and after much non-starts - the old Perkins coughed into life and is humming nicely. It was a costly project but again, one that was critical to get done. The new ignition and tach are also now installed so that project is also done. Again, while at the dock, all things seem to be working great - we hope we'll be able to say the same once under load!
Before we leave the dock though, Michael has to go into this cold, icky water (with these very large dark colored, long tentacled jellyfish and not much visibility) and get the prop scrapped and the thru hulls cleared so we can be on our way without causing any new damage with overheating.
Now it's time to leave the dock. We have done some last minute grocery shopping to get the boat stocked up for the holidays. Our goal for the next few weeks is to find a great place to drop the anchor and settle into a nice spot for the holidays. Unfortunately, most of our good friends have headed elsewhere this holiday season, so we'll hope to be in an anchorage and meet some new folks, hopefully some local New Zealanders, with whom to share the Holiday spirit. We're actually looking forward to that.
We also are now looking forward to having guests Dave and Lorna who will arrive in early January. Spare parts, new computer, camera and things like fuel lines are already being shipped to them. Plus, Carol has sent on some boat paperwork and our new rain gear. So we'll have Christmas aboard Astarte when they arrive for sure!
For now, we are getting the final bills paid, showers taken, water tanks filled, boat prop scraped and we'll hopefully be off the dock in the next day, We are also keeping our eye on the cyclone that is damaging Fiji right now. It is predicted to then head towards New Zealand as a Tropical we'll want to find safe anchorage to snuggle into as that passes.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Our Christmas List

Dear Santa,
We have been good this year – or at least we think so!  We hope you can locate us this season as we are in a whole new hemisphere and covered a lot of ground over the last twelve months.   The good news for you is that it is summer here and you can warm up a bit while traveling the world.  Plus, because we are a day earlier, you can get rid of a lot of the stuff and lighten your load for the remainder of your visits.

Our Christmas list is quite long this year – but we'll understand if you can't fit everything in your sleigh.  We are having trouble getting parts and pieces delivered here anyway – so we sure understand if you too have problems.   It seems to be the norm not the exception. 
So here's the list …
A new mainsail – The old one is just that – "old."  It is so old that when we try to heave to or sometimes tack, the sail shape (or lack of shape)  makes it quite a challenge.  It certainly got tested on the latest trip across the Pacific.  But we've made use of her and stretched her use to cover us these past few years.   This is a pretty critical piece of equipment on a sailboat…and it is the first priority on our list!
Engine parts – or if you're feeling very generous a new main engine!  It seems the old Perkins is in need of some major repairs (injector pump, redone injectors, a few fuel lines, some oil leak repairs (you know how these Perkins can be)  and some new spares – lift pump, filters and new belts).   We try to take good care of it with frequent scheduled oil and filter changes and we always filter and treat the fuel.  We just put new motor mounts on as well.  So we'll take whatever you can give us and be very, very  grateful.
Steering cables – it seems though we have ordered these weeks ago – you'll probably get here sooner than the DHL delivery!
Solent Stay – This would allow us one more option when picking a suit of sails for various conditions.  Plus it would be a place to run our storm sail in those really bad conditions.  Nothing fancy here - just sturdy!
Cockpit Sole – There is a lot of soul on this boat – but it seems our cockpit sole has some broken planks and we are getting some water below – so a bit of teak and some woodworking would be handy – surely you have elves capable of expert woodworking!
Galley Counters – We cook and bake a lot aboard and the old galley formica is starting to really show its wear.  It's lifting off the counters and even with lots of elbow grease, the stains just won't budge!
Steering Handle – We love people aboard but the big steering wheel seems to get in the way of folks knees and moving around.  And asking for a folding wheel is just plain greedy – so we'll settle for a cheaper option of a handle that could be put in when at anchor so we could still steer the boat if we removed the big wheel.
Cabin Cushions – Okay, we'll admit this is a pure luxury.  Our cushions are getting a bit worn after four years aboard (and they are the originals with the boat and Astarte is 25 years old. )  But it is a Christmas wish list right?
Underwater Camera – We try to put pictures on our web page for the enjoyment of our readers – and underwater pictures are particularly nice – especially for the marine scientists n our family.  But the Panasanic Lumix we bought drowned.  It wasn't supposed to and it seems the company wouldn't honor its warranty – so we'd suggest a different variety.  One with a housing seems to be the way to go!  We promise to take lots of pictures of the marvelous underwater environment in all these exotic locations.
New Camera – we try to write articles and send pictures with those articles as well as putting many on our log page…but our camera sometimes just won't focus.  That can be a problem – but if you have a spate one, we'd love it – otherwise we'll make do.
Wind Instruments – We've had a bit of wind on this last passage and the electronic wind indicator sometimes just goes beserk and won't tell us the correct direction…that can be a problem.  And at night, its simply too hard to see the top manual windex windvane.  So a replacement would be nice.
Gutters – We make use of rainwater – but we seem to have sprung some leaks in the gutters and they need to be replaced.  We've already replaced all the fittings!  So a bit of vinyl that is UV protected would be nice! 
Varnish Worker – Seeing it will be "off season" for your elves after Christmas, could you spare one  to help us with the interior re-varnishing?  He can stay aboard and we'll feed him well!  We have lots to do and if possible could he bring his own sandpaper, mineral spirits and varnish?   We won't just watch, we'll also work hard to get the job done.
Netbook Computer – We don't need or want the latest, newest or most tricked out gear – just something that will allow us to send and get our e-mails (including that most important weather!); skype calls to our moms, family and friends; and do some internet searching for parts and maintenance information; and do some writing including keeping our log page and a few articles …we really don't use it frivolously.  Ours has been repaired a few times and we get the "blue screen of death" way too often lately.  We think it's on its last legs.
Haul-Out – The boat will need to be pulled out of the water at some point before we leave here to check on a few things like the rudder.  Plus, we'll most likely need some new bottom paint by that point as well. 
Genoa ReCut – Talking to the local sail makers here, it seems that our genoa is not exactly cut properly.  The leads to the sheets are all wrong and it frankly is a bit large.  It is about five years old and has some miles on it (but so do we and we don't need to be replaced!) – So perhaps a bit of a nip and tuck? 
Okay – the list can go on and on but these are the most urgent (and a few not so urgent).  They really aren't too many luxury items on the list (those would be things like a new watch for Michael, new hiking shoes and new MP3 players).  We'll have fresh, boat made cookies on board for you and we should be in an anchorage (hopefully) in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  We'll have the Christmas lights on for you! 
Cheers , Merry Christmas and Giant Thank You!
Barbara and Michael
SV Astarte

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Touring In the Northland

Sunday is a day of rest and for the last two weeks, a day to explore some of New Zealand. Last week we went to Russell. This week, with our friends Mike and Karen from "Chapter Two," we took another road trip. They have a borrowed car, and being Brits are used to this left hand driving thing, so we took off for some exploring along the coast.

The roads were quite empty, but the surrounding hillsides were filled with sheep and cows. It is a very green and rolly landscape. Lots of hills and valleys. The coastline is quite rocky and rugged with many islands and varying shades of blue water. First stop on the tour was Mangonui (meaning large or many sharks in Maori). This is a pretty little coast town on Doubtless Bay, famous for its fish and chips. Which we, of course, tried for lunch. We then did a pleasant walkabout the town stopping by the many historic (or heritage as its called here) signposts. The gardens are lovely and the older homes quite scenic. The bay is filled with fishing boats as well as a few pleasure craft.

From here, we continued along the scenic road to Whangaroa, Tauranga, Te Ngaere and other small bays and scenic stops. There was a stop for ice cream and many photos along the way. See some that are added to the photo page!

Our last stop was the village of Kawakawa. The little town is quite charming and known for its public toilets. The building housing the facilities was designed by a famous architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. They are quite interesting with colorful ceramic columns, old bottles as glass, tiles made by the local schoo lchildren, metal work in elaborate designs, and bricks from old buildings. It is quite the marvel. The town also has many murals of tiles, interesting lights, a ceramic sofa and a vintage old steam train that runs through the town (we didn't see this). It was a great and full day of sightseeing and we much appreciated being taken along for the ride. At least every so often we get to see something and not be stuck doing boat projects non-stop.

Saturday was a full boat project day including taking down the mainsail, putting on the new "remanufactured" car for the roller furling, and cleaning the bilges (yech!). So we did earn our Sunday off.

Check out the pictures and enjoy with us the beauty of this island nation.

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