Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Countdown to Fiji

New photos on the site...check 'em out.

We survived the low from the Tasman and had an enjoyable few days in Orakawa following the storm. Our friends, Jean and Matt from "Superted" were nearby and we enjoyed a few nights of social time. One night it was "curry night" aboard SuperTed V with Monique and JanBart from "Victory." We all got to admire the newly remodeled galley on SuperTed – very nice! Everyone contributed to the feast and we had lots of laughs.

JanBart and Michael went fishing one rainy afternoon, Matt worked on his battery calculations and Monique, Jean and Barbara played MahJong. "Victory" left the next day in some stormy weather. It was a cold and rainy day – perfect for chilli and homemade bread – so we invited the SuperTed crew over for an early evening chow before what would be another windy night at anchor. After a day, the weather settled a bit and Michael and Matt went fishing (scoring some nice snappers) and Jean and Barbara played MahJong (along with invisible partners "Mini Jean" and "Mini Barbara"). Michael is getting a bit nervous about these "invisible" friends who are adopting their own personalities! It is kind of sad that we have to make up friends just to play MahJong.

Then, Mike and Karen aboard "Chapter Two" arrived in the anchorage and it was time to celebrate Mike's (of C2) birthday – he joined the "sexy 60" club. Astarte hosted a feast and the party went on well past Cruiser's Midnight (and even the real midnight)...with way too much wine, chocolate cake and dinner consumed. It was a very fun evening but everyone felt a tad "fragile" the next morning.

Off we went the next morning, back to Opua! We are now back at the marina and our new mainsail has been picked up by the sailmaker for a re-fit. The fit wasn't perfect – so it is back at the loft. Plus, the oil leak in the old Perkins still needs to be solved – so a new set of gaskets were ordered and, this time, all six of the gaskets will be changed, not just five. And something always seems to break or wear out – and that was our propane "sniffer." We ordered a new one and Michael has already got that installed as well. Better that it broke down here rather than Fiji!

On Saturday night, we had a big cruiser potluck and birthday party for 7 year old Natalie from "LaFiesta." It was a fun evening with lots of folks.

The last provisioning needs to be completed along with some "pre-cooking" of offshore meals. Then, its waiting for the best weather window to leave. There is a good one this week it looks like, but we won't be quite ready as the sail won't be back until late in the week. The meat order will be picked up from "Central Butcher" in Kawakawa on Tuesday morning (all packed, labeled and frozen); and, hopefully a last big provisioning run will also be made this week. We keep getting more info about what is and isn't available in Fiji. Luckily some of our friends still have their cars here – so we are hitching rides whenever someone goes to one of the nearby towns.

It feels like we still have a bit to do – but much of it can't be done until the last minute (eggs, bread and fresh fruits and veggies). But we still need to pick up some additional staples.

But stay tuned – a new country soon!

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Monday, April 15, 2013

A Low from the Tasman Sea

At anchor now in Orakawa where we decided to hide out from the predicted storms. Forecasts, due to a deep low crossing New Zealand from the Tasman Sea, were predicting winds of 40 knots with gusts to 50 knots! Eeeeck. The winds were supposed to be from the northeast at first and slowly shift towards the west over a several day period. We had been watching the barometer drop steadily in the last day – from 1020hPa to 1010hPa.

Last night, it blew. And blew. And rained. And blew some more. It was gusty and Astarte was dancing on her 125 feet of chain and snubber in 20 feet of water. The holding is good here and there were eight sailboats in the bay along with one power yacht and a giant overnight tour boat. Around 2200 (10 pm), the gusts got stronger and we did drag probably 50 feet and re-held. We still had good room around us from other boats. The wind continued and we determined we should put all our chain out (it wasn't doing any good in the anchor locker) – so we figured out a plan to do it safely. Michael motored up as Barbara let out more chain. Then, as we got close to the end of the chain, we switched positions and Barbara took the helm and Michael went forward to let out some rode (rope) and tie it all off. Now we have 225 feet of anchor chain/rode out in 20 feet of water! We also prepared a second anchor, ready to deploy if needed. This entailed getting the Danforth anchor off the stern mount and carrying it up to the bow along with the chain and rode. This sounds easy, but remember it is blowing 40 knots and raining non-stop...oh, and dark! The barometer was now reading 1001.2 (and still dropping).

We did anchor watches all night. Everyone in the anchorage had anchor lights on and other boats had to re-anchor. There was a "Mayday" call on the radio – a 60 foot catamaran broke away from its mooring in Pahia and didn't have engine power to handle the wind. It ended up, luckily, on a sandy beach at low tide. It at least kept us awake with something to listen to. It all ended up well – as he safely sat on a sandy beach all night. This morning, lots of radio chatter as they are organizing a tow to get him off the beach at the high tide around 1130. He is 60 feet, aluminum and weighs 25 tons – so not a small feat in shallow water.

The wind has settled a bit this morning though we are still in gale warnings and it is supposed to be coming and going all day. A day of naps, perhaps bread making to keep the cabin warm!

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

From Paradise Way to Paradise Bay

50 months ago we left Paradise Way in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today we are anchored in Paradise Bay on Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands, New Zealand,. That's a lot of sea miles under the keel.

Paradise Bay is a really lovely bay deserving of its name. There is a long sandy beach, rocky ledges, lots of trees and hillsides and a beautiful clear bay with a sandy/muddy bottom providing good holding. It is protected from any easterly component winds, though we've had pretty sunny, mild days since we've dropped the hook here.

We continue to tackle our interior varnishing project and see an end in sight. We will have completed the main salon/chart table area / galley and entryway by week's end. We still have a few more coats of gloss on a few areas that gets lots of wear and then we'll call it done for now. We'll tackle other areas after we leave New Zealand. The next project is getting the boat ready and checked out for the passage to Fiji. We have started to do a lot more "homework" on Fiji – reading cruising guides and getting paperwork in order for entry into the country. It sounds like a fascinating culture and we're looking forward to seeing it. Plus we can't wait to get back in the water to snorkel again!

But for now we are enjoying cruising the Bay of Islands. Today, after a morning of sanding and varnishing, we rowed to shore and took a hike on Urupukapuka Island. It was nice to get off the boat and move around and we were rewarded with lots of incredible views and musical entertainment from the birds. It seems the Tui (a black bird known as the Parson Bird) is a karaoke machine – filled with a variety of musical scores – all quite different and interesting. We kept thinking it was a bunch of different birds – but to our surprise – all the sounds were coming from the few Tuis we were watching.

It is getting chillier here as the days turn to autumn in the southern hemisphere. More cruising boats are heading back to the BOI area and Opua to prepare, like us, for the next leg of their journeys. It's been fun to start reconnecting with old friends. We enjoyed time with our Dutch friends JanBart and Monique from the sailboat "Victory." They provided a lovely snapper dinner one night – fish that JanBart had caught. This was followed by a good game of Mexican Train dominoes and a Barbara apple pie. Another great night.

50 months – still enjoying the adventure – well maybe not all the boat projects and varnishing.

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