Friday, December 30, 2016

Farewell to 2016

NEW photos on the "Photo Test" page. Shots of the transmission repair and new galley/refrigeration work.

We have enjoyed our time away from the dock and out at anchor in various spots in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. There are lots of anchorages to choose from based on the wind direction. Because it is "silly season" there are lots and lots of boats out here.

We snuck away from the dock on Christmas morning and met up with our friends Sandy and Rankin for a great Christmas dinner aboard "Gypsea Heart." They generously invited another boater to join us, a single hander aboard the boat "Blazing Shadz" a beautiful aluminum, 70 foot schooner. It was an interesting and fun afternoon. They do know how to entertain!

We reciprocated on Boxing Day with dinner aboard Astarte but unfortunately my back was hurting and I started to get a cold...and I overcooked the beef! The good news (at least from the writer's perspective) is that women rocked at "Sequence" beating the men in several games. They won a few.

We then went to a new anchorage and settled for a few days taking a nice walk one day. The wind switched to the west so we went in search of a new anchorage and went to crowded Motorua Island. We got another nice walk in on the island with great viewpoints and lots of tuis in the trees.

Next we needed to find good internet for some phone calls so we headed to Assassination Cove. We had the place to ourselves for about two hours and then were joined by about 50 other boats!

It is New Year's Eve here in New Zealand and we will continue our few year tradition of a sausage sizzle and games aboard "Gypsea Heart" with lots of champagne. It always proves to be fun and festive and who knows whom they will meet and invite for this occasion!!

Another year is gone and we are grateful to have had a good one though more repairs aboard Astarte than we would have liked. This year we replaced a few major things – the roller furler, the transmission, new anchor and chain, and the refrigerator box. All have been upgrades so that is good. New countertops make the galley have a fresh look. We had the engine carefully looked over and regained our confidence in the "Carl." We got an AIS, but are still working out the kinks to get it and the radio working at the same time without a lot of noise.
Plus lots of the small bits and pieces of regular maintenance and repairs.

We had three sets of guests this year which we really enjoyed. We were both relatively healthy (a few colds and some aches and pains in the joints and backs). We had decent passages (except for the turn-around in May) to and from Fiji and enjoyed our time in north Fiji and New Zealand. We saw a kiwi in the wild this year (that was a highlight) and Michael won "Best dressed" at an event. So we can't complain about 2016 – at least in foreign countries aboard Astarte!

We wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2017. May all your dreams come true.
At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Astarte Christmas 2016

Stuck at the dock
Workers on the clock
No cold beer
Where's the cheer?
With Christmas almost here.

Will the work be done?
Will we have island fun?
A new galley is great
but we still wait and wait
Holidays are in the hands of fate

In NZ its "silly season"
Called that for good reason
Everyone goes on holiday
it's summer so time to play
No work gets done for many a day.

No Christmas cookies this year
No decorations we fear
There's no room to cook
Or even read a good book
Astarte has an Un-Merry look

But we have each other
No need for another
Perhaps we can untie
From the dock that we're by
And an anchor spot we'll occupy.

So Santa please find us
On the eve of Christmas
We've tried to be good
As all people should
Come see us if you could.

We still have our hopes high
That all the work will be dry
A fridge and freezer with ice
Galley counters would be nice
And a dinner better than beans and rice

Merry Christmas to all our family, friends and log readers

Warm holiday greetings to you. We wish each of you a very happy and joyous holiday season. Our hopes are for your good health and unlimited happiness in 2017. It is a new year that promises some interesting times.

We are currently on the north island of New Zealand in the Bay of Islands where it is summertime. It is also what is known as "silly season" here where most businesses shut down for at least a week – some more like two weeks and people go out on their boats or in their caravans (motor homes) and enjoy the beauty of this island. It is a great and healthy attitude towards work and life. Of course, we are up against the deadline to get our major remodel project completed before everyone takes off. As we write this, we still aren't certain if we will have a completed galley or not before everything shuts down!

Our year has been a really good one aboard the good ship Astarte. Can you believe we are about to begin year eight of cruising fulltime!

We enjoyed some friends who visited us early in the year while in New Zealand. Sue came in February and we enjoyed visiting some of the Harauki Gulf islands. We went on wine tours, hikes, dinghy exploring, kiwi spotting, a Kawau Island music festival and city time. Barbara flew back to the states with Sue and had some special time with her family and friends which she really enjoyed. It included a presentation of our travels to Carol's school. Our friend Tom also arrived in New Zealand for several weeks and it too included some island time and city time. He even got into the kayak "Bob" at least once! It was a splash! Thanks to both of our guests for their time and visits.

In May after waiting and waiting for a decent weather window to depart NZ, we finally left for Fiji via Minerva Reef. But we only got out about 300 miles when we lost our head sail roller furler. We made the decision to turn back to facilitate repairs in New Zealand rather than continuing on to Fiji. We also made the decision to always forego a trip to Minerva Reef. It is now "taboo" for us. It seems every time we head there, something bad happens. The first time from Tonga to Minerva we had the very worst weather we have ever had. The next time to Fiji, we got another storm. This time, a major mechanical issue. So no more Minerva for Astarte.

We made it safely back to New Zealand after a night of heaving too for bad weather. There, we had an expensive new roller furler installed and within ten days were off again for Fiji. We lucked out with a quick repair and a decent weather window. The trip to Fiji was raucaous, but fast. We checked into Savusavu on Vanua Levu in June. We decided to do a circumnavigation of Vanua Levu, something not many people do. It was a terrific experience, but certainly not for everyone. We enjoyed lots of village time at various stops and met many wonderful local Fijians. We were welcomed into homes and made many friends. We took lots of pictures for our new friends. "We're Fijian, we love our picture taken" was the line we heard a lot!

Our route around the island took us to Rambi Island as well where we could have stayed for weeks! We had many stops on the northern side of island and went out to Kia Island which is a remarkable place. We wanted to stay longer but weather drove us away. When we turned the corner to the western side of the island and more stops, we spent some time in Numbawalu where we had the privilege of meeting a wonderful family and the Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr. Banimarama. It was a thrill.

Back in Savusavu after completing the island's circumnavigation, we prepped for our guests Kathryn and Mark making their fourth visit to Astarte. The weather was perfect with the exception of wind for sailing. They were in the water as much as aboard! It was a great visit to Rambi Island and then on to Taveuni where we left them in the hands of a "nice place" the dive resort Paradise Divers. Thanks to them for a great visit and the opportunity to cook goat curry! (The goat was procurred from Palmlea Farms on the north coast of Vanua Levu where we enjoyed some special time with Julie and Joe).

After dropping Kathryn and Mark off, we then headed to cruise the Lomaviti Group of islands. We made a quick one night stop at Koro Island then on to Ovalau. This is where Lavuka is, the original capital of Fiji was located and is a world heritage site. We stayed near the village of Rukuruku and enjoyed this village that was badly hit by Cyclone Winston the previous year. We saw a fair amount of damage from this devastating super cyclone during our travels but it really came to light in this village that was still holding school in tents five months after.

We made a few other stops than onto Suva for a dentist visit and some re-provishining. We went to Beqa Island, another nice stop where we spent a week. Then it was time to start thinking about leaving for NZ again – where did the time go. But the adventure didn't end. In Vuda Marina, we hauled the boat to do a quick bottom cleaning. During the process of getting into the slings, we discovered that the transmission didn't engage. After lots of stress and weighing the situation, Michael ended up flying to NZ to get a new transmission, flying back and installing it. We missed one weather window (thankfully in the end) and caught the next one which ended up being a decent passage.

The passage was long, more miles than the rhumb line, with the wind forward of the beam for most of the trip. We had a few days at the end of motoring when the wind died. We made it ten days to the Q dock in Opua in the Bay of Islands.

Once settled in our reserved dock space, the work began immediately on a few projects - the big one being the redoing of the refrigeration box. Removing the old one meant a major construction project in the galley There have been a few delays and hiccups along the way setting the two and a half week project well beyond that time frame. We are now simply hoping that before the shop closes on Wednesday, we'll have a working refrigerator and counter tops completed. The rigging project (a problem on the new roller furler) is still awaiting word from the manufacturer and the rigging shop but doesn't look like it will happen before the holidays.

So we are working to the last and that means no holiday preps aboard. It will be an unusual year but we are hopeful of going out to an island and dropping the anchor and at least enjoying some time away from a dock with friends.

Happy Holidays to all and thank you for being there for us.

Merry Christmas
Michael and Barbara

Currentlly at anchor. Got away from the dock on Christmas Day.
At 12/14/2016 2:09 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.95'S 174°07.22'E

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Neck Deep In Refrigeration

We had hoped to be done with the major refrigerator and freezer remodel by now...but we remain a construction zone aboard Astarte. We started in late November and now it is mid December. Many businesses in New Zealand start to shut down this week for the Christmas holiday. The company doing the work for us closes on Wednesday and we are not sure about the actual refrigeration man's scheduled shutdown. So the big question is: Will we be spending the two weeks Christmas/New Year holidays anchored in the Bay of Islands eating out of tins? We remain hopeful but less optimistic than at the start of the project.

So why the delay? We had to have a new “box” constructed when the old one couldn't be removed from the hole. We opted for a stainless one that we were told would be faster than building a fiberglass one. So we went that route and had someone contracted. After several weeks, hours and hours of conversation, design time, drawings, mock-ups built etc., the stainless guy decided he wouldn't build the lid. Now what good is a refrigerator box without a lid? If he had told us up front, we could have rethought the stainless tank...but no, he waited until well into the project and after a whole lot of hours spent working on the project thinking it would be a stainless lid. Now everything had to change.

This will be a very expensive lid. We have paid for all the time planning and designing the stainless lid and now, more time on planning and designing a fiberglass lid and lip. More construction time and not the box we had envisioned. Plus, we are now well into three weeks which is certainly adding to the cost of the project.

The good news is that the work done so far looks great. The box will be much better insulated than the previous one as we have lots more insulation than was previously in the hole. Michael had done as much work himself as he can, leaving the finish work to the pros.

We like the new counter tops we picked out and the sinks are all shined up and a new faucet installed. Now we wait and hope it will be completed before everything shuts down.

The marina is emptying out as everyone heads out to spend the holidays at anchor in some pretty spot. We hope we can join them, and most likely will, but it may be more of a “camping” trip than a more typical holiday time aboard Astarte. You certainly realize how much you depend on your refrigerator and freezer when out at anchor. We can't plan yet on provisioning not knowing if we will have a fridge or not. Do we buy all canned food and pastas or can we splurge and load up on meat because we'll have a way to freeze it?

The good news is that the water in New Zealand is very chilly so at least we can put a bottle of bubbly in a sack and toss it overboard and it will chill so we can toast in the New Year.

More when we know more!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Work Aboard Astarte

There was little rest after the passage from Fiji to New Zealand. We got started immediately on several major boat projects. The reason we are still in Opua in the Bay of Islands is to get our galley and refrigeration system redone. We had it all arranged, or so we thought, in Whangarei where we like to "headquarter" in NZ, but the carpenter we had organized in advance decided he couldn't do the job. That sent us scrambling to find a new woodworker.

Visiting with another boat while in Fiji, we heard about Craig in Opua and contacted him while still in Fiji. He agreed to do the galley and if we could get to NZ before December, he said he could squeeze it in before they close for the Christmas holidays. We have been working with one of his staff, Paul, who has been working hard and doing great work.

The project has involved removing the old counter tops (which also means wooden fiddles and trim). Then we tore into the old refrigeration/freezer box. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it out without cutting it. We had hoped to save the old box and reinstall after new insulation. But now we had to build a new box. That is being done out of stainless (quicker than fiberglass). Again, luck was smiling on us as Craig had a good stainless guy that could get it done within the time frame. It added a few thousand to the cost though (ouch).

We have been doing as much of the work ourselves as we can. Paul and Craig have been good about letting us do that – and it is saving work hours as two parties are working at the same time. Michael removed all the old insulation and we are glad we took on this project this year. The insulation was sopping wet and would have started to destroy the wood in the galley. We caught it just in time. The space then got re-epoxied and Michael put a barrier coat to seal the area. We selected new laminate for the counter tops, bought a new faucet for the sink, polished the old stainless sinks to a shine and Michael did all the plumbing.

We are doing all the sanding and varnishing of the trim pieces ourselves. We are now just waiting for the new stainless box to be done so we can check fit before installing the insulation, box, and then have a refrigeration person on stand-by to reinstall the evaporator plate and add refrigerant and test the unit.

Then of course, massive cleaning after all the work aboard.

As this project is in progress, some rigging work is also taking place. We had a crack in a piece of plastic on the top of our brand new head sail furler. Of course the bit had to be ordered from Sweden...and there is discussion as to who is paying for the labor to repair the piece. It is less than six months we feel it should be under warranty. Plus, the main sail furler has had a "thump" as we roll the sail in or out. We discovered the cause with the help of Rob from NSR, and of course, the part needed is no longer made (the joys of older boats!) So Rob had a new part manufactured that should work. It will hopefully be installed this week. We will then put the boom back on, the sail back on and hope that problem is also solved.

We finally have an AIS transponder as well. We got a used one from our friend Philip on "Bluebie" who replaced it with a newer model. Michael had to figure out how to get the information in the box changed and got great help from West Marine in the States and SRT Marine in Britain with the information and software needed to accomplish this. It still needs to be installed and things like antennas and splitters still need to be purchased.

New chain has also been ordered. We last replaced it in Panama in 2011 (thanks to our friend Tom) and it had served us well. Chain in salt water for about eight months a year (at least) does get mighty rusty – and it is a critical piece of safety gear. While in a marina, it is easiest to get it installed. So we pulled the trigger on that purchase as well.

It doesn't feel much like Christmas aboard Astarte. Usually at this time, the oven is running nonstop with Christmas cookies of many varieties baking. But with the galley in shambles, there is no baking going on. Instead of baking we are sanding, varnishing, polishing, deconstructing, reconstructing, buying bits and pieces, plumbing, running wires, taking down sails and booms, checking steering cables, and a multitude of other festive events! The goal is to be done by Christmas so we can be sitting at some idyllic anchorage enjoying Christmas and New Years before heading to Whangarei for the next big project – a haul out to deal with the underside of the boat!

Here's a bit of financial advice – invest in New Zealand. We are certainly supporting the economy!
At 12/9/2016 10:31 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°18.94'S 174°07.22'E

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