Sunday, January 25, 2015

NZ Sporting Events

Between lots of boat projects, we've been enjoying some of the sports in the area – as spectators that is (except for "croquey"). It has been a beautiful summer here in NZ after what we hear was a particularly harsh winter. The sun is very hot because there is no pollution here to give you that added layer of filter. Temperatures have been in the high 70's and low 80's.

We do most of the projects in the morning and errands or a fun-activity in the afternoon. So far, we've enjoyed being spectators at "Blind Cricket." This was fascinating to watch as players who are legally blind play the sport of cricket. The game was New Zealand vs. Australia (an ongoing grudge match no matter what the sport). The teams are equally visually impaired. Speaking with another spectator, we learned that one player's sight was too good so he had to wear goggles that blinded him further! Some players were profoundly blind. The cricket ball they used had a rattle sound to it – so the players could "sight" it by hearing it. They "bowled" underhanded rather than the traditional overhand throw. The players that were profoundly blind had to have help getting set-up in the batter's position. It was amazing to watch and they played quite well.

The next event was football (or soccer for those in the States). This was a match between the New Zealand under 20 team and a professional team from Wellington, NZ. The FIFA "Under 20" World Cup is being held here in NZ later this year so they are trying to get the NZ team some experience. We went with Dee and Eric from "Sirena of Oare" who are hard core football fans. It was at the stadium here in Whangarei and we enjoyed the match-up. The U20s won by 1 goal in a 2-1 match
We already wrote about our croquet outing (or "croquey" as its called in the club). Next up we'll give lawn bowling a go as well as the upcoming professional rugby game we'll hit later this week.

Today (Monday) is a holiday here in NZ. We did a major provisioning run in order to score a 40 cent off per liter of fuel voucher. Spend $200 and get the voucher. Because we have to fuel up the boat – it'll come in handy. After our shopping spree – we did a test run of the boat engine. The Gypsea Hearts helped us as it's quite windy and if the engine died in these tight quarters, it would be helpful to have extra hands to fend off. The good news is that the engine after all its work and repairs that Michael has done all worked well. Now, we feel confident to take off for Auckland on Sunday.

It's been a busy month with boat work and getting all our doctor's appointments, blood work etc. completed. Thank goodness the US dollar is doing well against the NZ dollar!

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Horses. Hare Krishna and Hoops

It's summer in New Zealand and the weather is certainly heating up. So are the activities in the area. There is a lot to do and we are trying to experience some of the fun.
Last Sunday, we were invited by Dee and Eric (who have a car) to join them for a trip to the Mid-Northern Rodeo in Maungatapere. Rankin and Sandy also joined us and being from Texas they were true rodeo aficionados. It was Dee and Eric's first rodeo. The rodeo was celebrating it's 50th Anniversary and it's in a great setting. Folks brought their chairs, blankets, tents, and umbrellas to sit on the hillside overlooking the corral and the action. It was a warm, sunny day and the crowd was a great mix of local families. The events were the traditional mix of rodeo fun – bronc (bareback and saddle) riding, steer wrestling, roping and tying, barrel racing, calf riding (for youngsters) and bull riding. There was a great announcer and blaring music, food and beverage concessions giving the event a great atmosphere. We spent the full day enjoying the competition which also featured the New Zealand vs. Australia High School competition. There was one young girl competing in the barrel races (person on horse, races around three barrels in a cloverleaf formation in a timed competition). This girl was probably only ten years old and so small her feet almost stuck straight out over the large horse. She was an amazing rider – very fast and daring and fun to watch. We had a great day – though got a tad too much sun!

We watched the Oregon/Ohio State National Championship football game (it was on a Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 here). Not a big crowd for that event! Sorry the Duck's didn't win – we think it was the uniforms.

Next on our agenda for fun was participating in the Jagannath's Ratha Yatra Festival. This is an ancient traditional festival from India that involves pulling a colorful 7 meter (25 foot) high cart through the town with much singing and dancing around it. It is a Hindu celebration of the gods in their highest state of happiness and ecstasy. So it is a very happy, colorful and jubilant celebration and we were made to feel very welcome. The street is ceremonially swept before the cart which is pulled by all the participants. Treats were handed out throughout – snacks as well as roses. The singing of "Hare Krishna" and the playing of drums, accordions, bells, cymbals, and tambourines added to the festive feeling.

Today, Sunday, we went to the Whangarei Croquet Club to try our hand at proper "Croquie." Unlike our backyard version, this is quite the challenge as the "hoops" are much smaller, barely the width of the ball. The mallets are also rectangular and weighted. We played a few rounds after getting lessons and coaching from Trevor, President of the 100 year old Club. We had a lot of laughs and Michael was on the winning team for the two rounds we played.

Between all the fun, we continue to check off boat projects. The main sail is back after a re-cut; the engine starter, heat exchanger, and fuel filter are all repaired and re-installed. The exhaust mixing elbow is replaced. The propane locker has been painted and new propane hoses installed. The cockpit sole job has been "started" by contracting with a repair person and getting the measurements and design completed. Battery research is well underway.

We've also completed some health checks on us. We've had a doctor's appointment, blood work, x-rays and various tests and so far the results are saying we are still in good shape! It's good to get all of that out of the way as it's been a few years since we've done any of that. We still have to update a few vaccines and get some prescriptions to update our med kit.

It's been busy but we've enjoyed our time here. There are several nice walks around here and town is close by. We are walking everywhere and it isn't a problem. We've booked a marina in Auckland in February to meet Mark and Kathryn – so they don't have to play "where in the world is Astarte."

Still to come on the list of fun things to do: cricket, rugby and football (soccer).

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy 2015!!!

Another year is under the ever-expanding belts – welcome to 2015. We hope you all celebrated in the way you most enjoyed – an early bedtime, watching the incredible fireworks over Sydney like some of our friends, or like us, in the company of good friends sharing stories, laughs and many glasses of bubbly. We actually all made it to midnight – and not cruisers' midnight but the real one – and enjoyed the time aboard "Gypsea Heart" with a dozen folks (thank goodness for catamarans!). We also cheered in a new year for Michelle from "Citrus Heart" who had a birthday just past midnight!

The next day was a slow one aboard Astarte – bubbles on the brain! But projects began again in earnest with Michgael tackling the exhaust mixing elbow. He had already completed the re-wiring of the starter and battery runs with better wire. The problem with the starter seems to have come down to a bad starting battery – so it looks like we'll be replacing all our batteries. Ouch! We also worked on our answers to some questions from Ocean Navigator for their upcoming annual "Ocean Voyager" issue (look for it in February).

We bought a new computer on "boxing day" (the day after Christmas – and big sales here). So getting that up and running and all the programs installed has been a big project as well. It has eaten up lots of data (which we buy by the byte!) We got the new computer just in time as the old Acer has finally packed it in. Not bad though after it was diagnosed as "on its last legs" two years ago!!!!

We enjoyed a movie night as well this past week – something we haven't done for a VERY long time. We saw "Water Diviner" which was appropriate to see in NZ.

We continue to load down Kathryn and Mark with stuff to bring us...and are looking forward to their visit. We are hoping now to meet them in Auckland to save some travel time for them – and are keeping our fingers crossed that a marina spot will open up. We're certain they don't want to play "where in the world is Astarte" when they arrive!
Happy New Year to all – we wish you a very happy year ahead filled with health and joy. Remember to have some adventure in your life – of the good kind. Love each other. Peace.

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