Monday, February 25, 2013

Work. Work. Work.

It is a four letter word! It's been non-stop work aboard Astarte here in the Docklands 5 boat yard and haul-out in Whangarei, New Zealand. But we are accomplishing quite a lot.

It's now been a week in the yard and so far we've got the bottom of the hull cleaned, taped and two full coats of new bottom paint on her (with an extra coat along the waterline). Michael has also managed to wash and clean the hull, getting off some nasty rust stains. Unfortunately he had already taped the hull for the bottom painting, but decided it would be better to clean the hull prior to painting the bottom as he would be using a harsh acidic cleaner. So he had to tape the boat twice. He has also started to wax and buff the hull. He can barely lift his arms.

Barbara has been on varnishing duty (as well as the daily activities of keeping the crew fed). So far the salon table is just about done with perhaps one more coat on the tops and the edges. The ladder-steps have also been sanded down to bare wood (all by hand) and have a first coat of varnish. This piece is taking a long time as its quite large and has lots of nooks and crannies to get sanded.

The yard is located a bit out of town so when we need parts and bits, it is a walk. Michael has walked all over town between paint coats – sometimes with the ship's wheel in hand! He's searching for a way to make a smaller version of the wheel so we have more cockpit room when at anchor. He's also brought our mirrors in to be re-made; has had to buy paint and varnish and the supplies needed to apply these products; got the "dry cleaning" in (his sports coat and nice slacks); brought our large duvet to be laundered; and, the longest walk was to find a plumbing bit and was sent from shop to shop to shop to shop. He's definitely put some miles on his feet. We went in together for a few food items and then Barbara caught a ride with a fellow cruising couple for a bigger grocery run which included the much deserved end of day beers.

It's been long days and we go to sleep quite exhausted only to get up the next day and start all over again. We hopefully will be out of the yard by week's end.

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Critter Attack!

We returned to the boat one evening after enjoying a great "clean out the fridge" dinner aboard Superted V with Jean and Matt. They were heading off for some inland travel and we were the lucky recipients of a dinner invite to help empty the contents of their fridge and freezer. Upon climbing aboard Astarte, Barbara saw an animal aboard on the deck. There are some cats in the we presumed it was that. But NO! It was definitely not a cat! It sat on its haunches, had larger ears a very long furry tail and very large eyes. Michael tried to get it off the deck as Barbara went below to close the hatches (something we learned years ago in Panama when there was a snake aboard!)

Michael never saw the critter leave the boat, so we turned the outside lights on and he went in search under the dinghy and coverings. He did manage to also get a photo of the critter first! Below decks, the animal had obviously made himself at home. He ate a whole apple, took a bath in the pan that was filled with water in the sink (splashing water everywhere on counters, floor and stove) and started on an orange. He also decided the floors were his personal bathroom! Yech!

Later that night (with hatches all now closed) he did return in search of another meal...but was thwarted in his attempts by Micheal. This time he was clearly heard climbing down the ladder. This is a tall ladder!

The animal we determined was an opossum (Trichosurus vulpecula), an introduced species in the mid-1800s that are considered major pests. They eat the native vegetation, break eggs of indigenous birds, pose a threat to cattle by being known carriers of a cattle disease and eat cruisers' fresh vegetables! It is different looking than the possums in the states because of its furry tail. The pelts of these animals though are valuable and in the shops they sell opossum fur made socks and sweaters at quite hefty prices. Perhaps we should trap this one – he is well-fed!

Another critter adventure aboard Astarte.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Photos

There are some new photos and two relatively new entries (though they are out of order). We are currently "on the hard" in a boatyard in Whangarei, New Zealand. The bottom (of the boat!) has been washed, sanded and is getting ready for new paint. More on the projects later...gotta get to work.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Change in Plans

We are nestled in Mansion Bay on Kawau Island. Instead of the 50 miles to Great Barrier, we opted for a shorter, and better, sail to Kawau Island. This will also shorten the trip to Whangarei on Monday in case the weather gets bad. We spent a lovely Valentine's Day with champagne and a nice dinner aboard. There were about 13 boats in this small anchorage, but this morning, many have departed and there are only five boats left. Now the sailboats outnumber the power boats!

Today we'll go ashore to the mansion. There is supposed to be nice hikes around it and the island. This is a Department of Conservation historic site. The mansion is an 1845 wooden manor that was owned by Governor George Gray who bought the island. The manor is now opened and houses a collection of Victoriana once owned by the old Gov. It also has the original "exotic" gardens that you can roam through. There are hikes to an old copper mine,beaches and a lookout. We'll see how ambitious we get. A ferry comes through daily – it is actually a mail boat that delivers the post to 75 different wharves in the area and you can ride it!

We may settle here for a few days or move on as the mood decides. This is fun because it is a popular anchorage and its fun to watch the comings and goings of the boats. Yesterday a bright fuscia pink boat (with matching dinghy) came into the bay. It was quite a racing machine powered only by an old seagull outboard motor to get to its anchor spot. It sailed off anchor this morning.

As New Zealanders would say, the weather is "fine." Which means quite lovely and sunny. We'll enjoy a few days to relax after all the work and more to come when we haul out.

Happy Valentine's Day to all on the other side of the date line. Enjoy your day – we enjoyed ours!

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Four Years Afloat

We've been so busy over the last few weeks that we missed celebrating our fourth anniversary cruising aboard Astarte on February 6, 2013. That's right, it's been four years since we left the dock in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In those four years, we've visited numerous countries (some multiple times) and anchored near many wonderful islands. We've crossed off a few things from our personal bucket lists – including taking our own boat through the Panama Canal; crossing the equator where we turned from "polywogs" to "shellbacks;" made it to the "South Pacific" and to New Zealand. A lot of nautical miles have passed under Astarte's keel in these past four years and we've been so lucky to explore some amazing places. We're often asked what our favorite place or experience has been and we still struggle with an answer. We loved the wonders of the Galapagos. Going through the Panama Canal was an amazing experience. The long ocean passages were something we dreamed about for decades – and though not what we thought they would be – when they were completed, we felt like we had really accomplished something. The French Polynesian island groups were all different and offered so many incredible experiences: diving with hundreds of sharks in the atoll of Fakarava; experiencing Polynesia culture in Moorea; exploring the Marquesas; swimming with mantas in Bora Bora. Suwarrow in the Cook Islands was a magical, remote place that we didn't want to leave. Nuie, the smallest independent nation in the world, was simply fascinating and friendly. Tonga was a very special group of islands that provided great fun participating in the Vava'au Regatta, watching flying foxes and surviving big winds. The passage to New Zealand was something we hope we don't experience again to that level – but we survived it intact and together.

The people we met, both locals and other cruisers, have been remarkable. Put out your thumb and get a ride and meet incredible individuals. Invite the rangers from Suwarrow aboard for dinner and learn more than you could imagine. Let a young woman do your laundry to earn some money and meet her entire family. Visit a local school and experience the warmth and joy of a world made smaller. Other cruisers are also the heartbeat of our lifestyle. We always look forward to reconnecting with friends after we've gone our separate ways. Meeting a new boat is always fun. Playing dominoes aboard or sharing a meal is always a special occasion when shared with our cruising pals. Brits, Dutchies, Aussies, Austrians, Kiwis, Belgians, Scottish, Irish, Germans, Canadians all are now part of our extended cruising family.

Visitors have graced us over the four years. Often loaded down with "stuff" for the boat or us, these guests have added so much joy to our years afloat. As we've gone further away from the northern hemisphere, the guests have had to travel much longer distances. Richard "Soby" and Dave and Lorna have trekked across the equator for visits this past year and we really appreciate the long plane rides they had to endure. We hope they had as much fun aboard as we did having them with us.

After four years, Astarte has served us well and since being in NZ, she's been the top priority getting some much needed work done. After four years of taking care of us – now its time to pay her back. Though several things have had to be repaired underway, most of the work has been routine maintenance. Now, its time for some replacements and repairs. We've already accomplished a lot (replaced steering cables, major engine repairs, new mainsail ordered, headsail repaired/recut, main roller furling track wheels replaced, some new line...) but starting tomorrow we get hauled in a yard for a rudder repair and new bottom paint. Hopefully we won't see anything else.

The downside of this lifestyle remains the distance it puts between us and our family and friends. We often don't have access to good phone coverage or internet to stay in touch as often as we'd like. And the cost of frequent travel back to the States is not in our budget. We've managed to get back for big events and that's been great...but it is still hard. We're lucky we have family and friends who understand.

Bottom line: It has been a great four years. We still love the lifestyle. We still love each other. And, we're still very, very lucky.

Thanks for sharing the adventure with us though this log.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Auckland Adventure and Back at Anchor

We have untied from the Bayswater Marina and are now nestled in between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands in a lovely spot called Islington Bay. It is less than ten miles from Auckland and our marina, so a good first stop to get "re-acquainted" with anchoring! We had to fuel up after leaving the marina, something we hadn't done for awhile and we forgot how long it takes to put diesel into the tank when using a baja filter.

Yesterday we did spend a nice day in downtown Auckland. We took the ferry from Bayswater and it drops you right into downtown Auckland. From there we walked two blocks to the US Consulate. Barbara needed to add more pages to her passport – and they did it while we waited. Michael also needed to get his license renewal paperwork notarized so we accomplished that there as well. It was easy – just handing over lots of our favorite US dollars!

From there we hiked around town exploring some of the sights and finding boat chandleries along the way. At noon, we met our friend Jean from Superted V who bussed to Auckland to pick up her car. We had a great reunion and lunch together and then parted ways. We returned on the ferry after a bit more exploring and then had the "post" adventure. We were in search of a post office so we could mail Michael's license renewal paperwork to Florida. While in Auckland we got the proper envelopes and learned what the best way to post the envelope was. So we walked about a mile to Belmont only to find out the little "post" outlet didn't handle that type of international postal service. It was 4:20 pm – so with the help of lots of locals giving us info, we caught a bus to Devonport to the big "post." As we boarded the bus, we asked the driver to let us off near the post office – he didn't know where it was, so stood up and asked the entire busload of people where it was. Several volunteered to "walk us" to the "Post" as it was near their stop. They really are incredibly kind people in NZ! We managed to find it and get there before it closed and posted the envelope.

Auckland is a really neat city with lots of waterfront and lots of boats. We watched the New Zealand America's Cup catamaran get launched with a giant crane. We've seen the Italian "Prada" boat also out in the bay practicing. These are giant, very fast boats. It is great to be in a city, known as the "City of Sails," that loves boating. At the marina, folks were very friendly and helpful with local knowledge and enthusiasm for boating, their country and the islands. Each had a favorite to share and great places to visit.

We'll hopefully head out tomorrow for Great Barrier Island so we can explore that even further. There is a trek we want to take to a conservation area. Perhaps we'll get even more ambitious and trek up Mt. Hobson as well....but we'll see how fit we're feeling!

On Tuesday of next week, we have a haul out scheduled in Whangarei for a rudder check/ repair and bottom paint. Hopefully the rudder won't need repairing and the bottom paint will get on quickly and without issue so it won't be a long time "on the hard."

We'll report from Great Barrier later.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

We're Back!

We're back to the boat. And back to the log. Sorry about the long break in entries. Hope everyone on the east coast of the US is surviving what looks like a big bad snow storm. Barbara was just there a week earlier and is glad it waited until she left!

We did a quick trip the states to attend Michael's mom's memorial service which was really a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman. Michael stayed in Oregon to take care of some business and Barbara made a quick trip to the east coast to see her mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephews. We both enjoyed spending time with friends in Oregon.

The trip back was long and thanks to children in the row behind us, the twelve hour flight was REALLY LONG! We each watched a few movies but got very little rest. Upon landing though, everything was easy. Immigration, customs and the food sniffing dog was a breeze and we were back in New Zealand. We caught a bus back to Auckland and then a ferry to Bayswater where Astarte was tied up in the marina. All was good aboard. We took a nice long walk that afternoon to a little superette to pick up some bread and walked further to a small Thai restaurant for a tasty meal and back to the boat. It was good to stretch the legs and body, stiff from sitting for almost 20 hours!

Thanks to Karen and Larry, also in the marina, we got a lovely brunch the next morning and a ride to the large grocery store to re-provision the boat which had been emptied before leaving for the states. $600 later, we had some supplies to re-fill the fridge and freezer. Michael has started projects already – including the leaky pump for the water-maker. We're also getting the boat back to two person living arrangements – taking back the V-berth (garage) and forward head (laundry room/hanging locker). It was great having Dave and Lorna aboard and they safely made it back to the states as well.

We'll spend another few days in the marina to get the boat bits and pieces stored and travel clothes and bags put away. Thanks to our friend Sandy, we got an old suitcase to carry all our purchases from the states back to NZ. She'll be glad to know that we left the bag up near the recycle area and it was "recycled" into someone else's hands within minutes. So her old suitcase has another round of travel in the southern hemisphere! Better than in a landfill!

Next stop – more exploring of the islands around Auckland and make our way towards a haul out somewhere at some point soon for new bottom paint, some interior varnishing and rudder repairs. We hope to reconnect with our cruising gang soon.

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