Thursday, March 19, 2015

Progress...sort of!

First – this year's "Ocean Voyager" Magazine is out – it is the annual ocean cruising edition from "Ocean Navigator." Get your copy early as it will be a sell-out!!! The crew of Astarte is featured in the magazine. We haven't seen it yet – but are anxious to get our hands on a copy. It will probably be more interesting to read than our log from the boat yard! But you get that too!

Life in the yard on the hard is indeed hard! We are making progress, albeit slowly. Yesterday, we had the mast put back on the boat so we are no longer a trawler and back to being a sailboat. It went smoothly and has a new head stay, new VHF coaxial cable and all new wire for the lights. Plus all the stainless bits and pieces are bright and shiny after polishing. Mathew, the rigger here is incredible – and we hear quite the man in demand. He is a very understated, quiet guy but he sure knows his stuff. We heard that he has been the rigger for America's Cup Boats, Volvo Around the World racers and sailed on many himself. Can't ask for better experience than that!

The cockpit floor is making some progress as well. It is now installed and hopefully leak proof. Michael did a great job sourcing and putting together the new boom car and track set-up for our in- mast furler. It is just awaiting the new car being shipped from the states.

On the downside, we started to paint the bottom this morning, and after a short bit of painting, we noticed the new paint bubbling and not sticking. Not a good sign for bottom paint! We are using the same brand we put on two years ago...and the time before that. But there is something not working right. Michael had called the rep prior to purchasing the paint to make sure it was still okay to put it over the old paint and we got the okay! Now we have to wait until Tuesday (it is Friday here) until a rep from the paint company comes and takes a look So painting is on hold – and unfortunately it looks like perfect weather this weekend to get it done.

We continue to move forward on all the other little jobs – installing the new Pactor modem we just purchased; hooking up the new antennae for wifi; painting the cockpit table; installing the new bilge pump under the cockpit floor; re-installing the pedestal, compass and steering system; getting the throttle rehooked; remarking the anchor chain; and lots more little things. The painting is the last of the big projects.

Back to work....

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Cyclone Pam

Pam has passed the Northern part of the north island of New Zealand. Sunday night, we had some wind (though not as strong as predicted), lots of rain and a very low barometric pressure. In fact, we watched as the barometer dropped over the period of an hour as the storm approached offshore of Whangarei. We are up the river quite a way so we did not see the large surf that was part of the storm.

Today (Monday), the rain cleared and right now it is sunny outside and projects are again in theme process of getting done. We managed to get the stains off the hull this morning with some acid washing and that made the boat look great. All the rain did cause the new cockpit floor to leak – something we were hoping to repair – so that was a major disappointment, we are hopeful it can be resolved without entirely removing the new floor and destroying it. For now it will simply have to dry out.

Vanuatu, the island group we spent almost four months visiting last season, got badly hammered by this super cyclone. It was one of the worst ever and the destruction we are seeing on TV is awful. We feel for those really kind people. We were hoping to go back to that island nation again this May and visit some of the island groups we missed last year – but we will have to see if they want boats visiting or not. If we go, we know we'll have our work cut out for us helping on some of the islands.

Having spent time on these islands, we know how fragile the environment is and how difficult it is to get repairs made. Everything must be shipped into the country and when piers and wharves are destroyed, it only makes getting the needed supplies more challenging. We spent several weeks in Port Vila, the capital, and met many wonderful folks whom we know are suffering. We hear that the city is nearly destroyed. We saw pictures of many boats piled up against the dock where we would leave our dinghies to go ashore. It was a very narrow channel and we presume the storm changed that dramatically as well. We wish the best for really wonderful people and a lovely country very dependent on tourism in their economy.

Our friends on "GypSea Heart" headed out to Great Barrier Island last week before the storm showed its intentions. They luckily made it out of there in time to get to Gulf Harbour near Auckland safely. We are glad they weren't out there on Great Barrier which had much bigger winds and seas than we experienced here. We haven't heard of any boats being damaged here in New Zealand yet – so that's good news. The Volvo Ocean Race, scheduled to start the next leg of their race from Auckland to Brazil on Monday, was actually postponed. Cyclone Pam actually remained a cyclone for quite a long time off the cold waters of New Zealand – a testament to the strength she had.

Let's hope that's the last of all the cyclones this season for the islands and for here.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cyclone Watch

We escape to New Zealand for cyclone season – that is supposed to mean getting AWAY from the cyclones in a safe zone. We are "on the hard" (for non-boaters that means sitting on land – something boats usually don't like to do. We are set on our keel with hard stands helping to hold the boat up straight.) Everyone in the Docklands 5 boat yard is all abuzz with the news of a cyclone – actually two cyclones, that may be heading this way. They are currently reeking havoc in the Vanuatu/Fiji area. It looks like the pressure is continuing to drop in the center of the storm which means it is building. The current course has the storm heading towards New Zealand and close to the east coast of the North Island (where we are). There isn't much we can do but batten down the hatches, secure all loose objects and perhaps take off the bimini. Luckily our mast is down so that will give us less windage at the top and also means we have no sails to flail and tear. What's interesting, is that the news down here isn't making a real big deal about it. In fact, they barely mention it. It is still days away – the heavier winds are predicted to hit the area on Sunday night/Monday. (It is now Thursday).

Meanwhile, despite the buzz about the storm, work continues aboard Astarte. The three new thru-hulls are all in; new sink hoses are run in both heads; the mast is re-wired for lights and the VHF is re-cabled; new bearings have been put into the in-mast furler and it has been "checked out" The new bilge pump arrived and is being mounted on the new cockpit floor. The cockpit floor is getting there – though we now have to wait on Steve who has built it, as he is working on another job and "squeezing" us in (urgh). The old floor came out and everything is cleaned and prepped and ready for the new one to be installed. New batteries are in and working great and the old ones are off the boat and waiting for the recycling man. The bottom cosmetic blisters have been ground off, filled, sanded and ready for priming (Michael can hardly move his arms today after hand sanding all day yesterday with his arms above his head.). The bottom painting will wait until this stormy weather passes and the rains end. Stainless is getting polished all around the boat and halfway done. Parts have been ordered and are arriving...a new Pactor modem so we can get weather and e-mails while away fro internet; parts for the new boom car and track; a new wireless antenna; new sheaves for the mast; new headstay and the list seems to grow daily. No surprise today when we heard the news report that the economy is growing in New Zealand!!!

The work goes on as does daily living aboard – only with more challenges in the yard. Up and down the ladder is the new Astarte exercise program. We dine in the "community" room every evening which makes it a bit easier than cooking and cleaning aboard. There is a microwave and some grills for everyone's use. We now have a big enough group nightly we have enough dishes to run the dishwasher! That's a treat!

So we await what we hope will be a non-event with the cyclone – a little wind and rain will be okay – just hoping it won't be dramatic. We have enough drama in our life!

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Friday, March 6, 2015

On the Hard in the Yard

This is where we pay for the privilege of the cruising lifestyle. We made it back to Whangarei from Kawau Island enjoying a nice sail for most of the 40 miles. We anchored at the mouth of the Hatea River for two days getting up the courage to head back to town and what we knew would be non-stop work. We made it back and snagged a slip at a dock at the Town Basin Marina for a few days to get the boat ready for the haul-out. It seems that everything to do with boat repairs and improvements takes three times as long as it should. We got our new batteries delivered and after a few heartaches and many phone calls to make sure they were what was ordered (still not 100% certain they are!) they were installed. Phil from Doyle Sails came and looked at the mainsail again after our issues with the roller furling system during this past trip His explanation was satisfactory but he took it away once again to make a minor repair or something else that he saw. We are VERY impressed with the service we have been getting from Phil at Doyle Sails here in Whangarei. We had to re-send our newly repacked life-raft back to the place in Auckland as it arrived with some sloppy work (after costing us a fortune!) Michael got the outboard (Genny-san) into the repair shop for some major maintenance and a good check through. He does most of the outboard maintenance himself, but thought it would be good to give it a thorough look-over after 3 years of hard use. We did some major provisioning for being in the yard since the walk to stores is much further from the boatyard. We got the boom and vang off so the mast would be ready to be removed once we arrived at the boatyard dock.

On Wednesday (Feb 25), we got to the boatyard as scheduled and the crane arrived to take down the mast. It was expertly done with the help of Matthew, the rigger. Then Astarte was hauled out by Docklands 5 master travel lift operator Doug. The bottom was pressure washed and then she was put in her spot – just a space away from where we were two years ago! Must be our spot. It is a great location as we get a nice view if the river and pretty "fish hook" bridge and a good breeze. It is a bit further away from the bathroom though – a concession for the view.

The work has been non-stop: the mast has been re-wired with one small snafu; the in-mast roller furler is apart and getting new bearings; the new headstay is being made; a new radio antennae ordered and new cable for the radio ordered. Polishing is being done on all the rigging parts. The bottom has been sanded (a tough job because the yard no longer allows wet-sanding) and a few small blisters (cosmetic not structural) have been sanded, ground and prepped for fill and primer. The thru-hulls are being pulled and it took most of one day to get two of the skin fittings out! New hoses are being put in the sinks. Everyone in the yard is helpful and everyone pitches in to help one another with heavy lifting – well almost everyone anyone. Michael had a run-in over a barrel with one German lady. Barrels are much prized items in the yard!

The cockpit floor redo is another major project that is in the works. The entire pedestal with compass, steering and table had to be disassembled and removed. The bilge pump below decks had to be taken apart and that ended up being a major discovery. The builders who put it in must have missed the class on dissimilar metals. They connected copper elbows to the aluminum pump and when Michael went to remove it it crumbled in his hands. A new one had to be ordered. This was a good thing to find when we weren't up to our ankles in water in the hopes of this major "get out alive" pump working. Now, we await Steve to install the new floor.

In between all the boatwork and maintenance – life still must go on – only in much more difficult circumstances. We do most of our main meal cooking in the community room in the yard which does make it a bit easier. But going to the bathroom and showers means climbing up and down a 12 foot ladder and walking across the yard (not fun at 2 am). We haul our dirty dishes over to the community room each evening to wash. And the stores are a good hike away for supplies – though lots of people in the yard have cars so getting a ride is possible.

We did take a break on Sunday March 1 to celebrate Michael's 60th birthday. We invited a bunch of folks to a tradition NZ "Sausage Sizzle." We had about 25 folks enjoy beer, sausages and chocolate cake for his big day. He didn't take the day off though and worked on sanding the bottom most of the day. Not much of a 60th celebration. But it was fun to have friends here to celebrate with him.

Our guests Kathryn and Mark have made it back to the states after exploring some of the south island of NZ and seemed to have enjoyed their time in the southern hemisphere. We enjoyed their time with us.

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