Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hard Aground

On purpose! We have been lifted out of the water and are sitting on the stands in Docklands 5 boatyard in Whangarei, NZ. We will be here for about 6 weeks or so. The work began pretty much as soon as we came out of the water with a hard pressure wash bottom cleaning. Once settled with ladders and stands, we got into life “on the hard.” And it is hard. Climbing up and down the ladder dozens of times each day – who needs a gym membership.

In fact, if you want to get in shape, fly to NZ and help us out! Volunteers wanted. You too can look like this.

No that's not one of the old “ghost busters” it's Hawk in full regalia fighting layers of bottom paint! He puts in two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon with a scraper, vacuum (to collect all the scrapings) and back breaking, shoulder aching, hand hurting work.
Meanwhile, Barbara has been finishing the sanding and varnishing in the newly refurbished galley (new fridge and freezer are working great). From that project it's on to the the cabin sole (floor) and taking out all the boards and sanding. The main salon table will also be taken down to bare wood (redone two years ago but not looking very good). So lots of hard labor for all parties on board. Plus just the day to day stuff is more difficult on board – doing dishes means taken them off the boat in a bucket to a sink in the community room. Plus, just going to the bathroom is a ladder climbing project! With all that said, we're probably not getting many volunteers, are we?

We remind ourselves though that we have been out eight years and living aboard full time and cruising. So the wear and tear on the boat is expected and needs to be maintained. This is the price we pay for the enjoyment we get in all these exotic locations. The aching muscles don't seem to understand.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tutukaka and Beyond

After a night in Puriri Bay, we decided to move on to Tutukaka – a place we had not stopped at previously. We enjoyed a slow, leisurely sail there – turning the engine on after the wind died and the sails started to hang limp and bang. But it was easier than the previous day's run to Whangaruru.

We snuck into a good anchorage spot in Tutukaka. Getting into the cut is a bit tricky, but range markers (or leading marks as they are called here) keep you centered. There is a lovely marina here beyond a breakwater and a small island (Phillip's Island) in the cut. We chose to anchor though (trying to keep the zero dollar days going) and found a home near Phillip's Island in about 3 meters of water (10 feet). It got pretty shallow under the keel at low tide! But we were protected from most directions and the bay is a "gale force" anchorage with good holding and little swell.

The name Tutukaka is interesting. According to Dillon, the man at the marina, it means Snare the Kaka. The Kaka is a native parrot and on the endangered list so the snaring was obviously quite successful. There are few Kakas left in Tutukaka.

We went into the marina and the above mentioned man Dillon, was very, very friendly and helpful with information. He directed us to the walk we wanted to take to the Tutukaka Lighthouse at the entrance to the cut. It was described as a two hour leisurely walk. We have learned that the kiwis are much more fit than us. Leisurely to them is difficult for us! Or at least part of it was! It was actually a very nice walk – up to the ridge, along the ridge road, than down 180 plus steps to a beach (best walked at low tide) and then up the other side to the lighthouse. This "up" was more difficult but you are rewarded with a magnificent view. Of course a young boy and his dad ran past us as we were coming down (and then passed us again and ran up the stairs (twice!).

It was a good hike and we rewarded ourselves with lunch out, a beer and an ice cream cone! So much for the weight loss from the walk and the zero-dollar days!

Tutukaka is where many dive boats go out from to the Poor Knights Island group – a nature reserve that is supposedly one of the best dive spots in NZ. There are also many fishing charter boats out of the marina and they go for marlin and bigger game fish here. There is a large "Game Fishing Club" on shore. The board outside tells the story of many big catches of various fish (most tagged and released). There is also a good display of stuffed fish inside the club on the walls. Some giant blue marlin, plus just the heads and tails. Impressive creatures. There were also other fish from grunard to ocean sunfish and dorado on the walls. We wished they were open for lunch as they supposedly have the best fish and chips along with great fish stories. Some other time.

The lift at Docklands Five is repaired and we are now scheduled for a Tuesday haulout. It was Friday and the weather was about to turn sour so we decided to get out if Tutukaka while we could. We left bright and early to go the 25 miles to "the Nook" on the Hatea River. This would get us close to Docklands and in a protected spot with good holding. The predictions were for NE, then SW winds 20 to 45 knots!

We were surprised that the Nook was relatively empty with just a few boats and most of those were on permanent moorings. We snuck in quite a way and dropped 100 feet (30 meters) of chain in about 4.5 meters of water. At low we are seeing about 3 meters. We got in just in time as the wind started to pick up soon after we were in the river. We saw 20 knots regularly and it kept up throughout the night. We saw sustained winds at 25-30 for a long period from the N/NW (we had better protection from N/NE) and there were a few higher gusts. It wasn't a very restful night, but we held. By morning the wind shifted to W/SW which is the worst direction in here, but still better than most other places on the river. It is supposed to last until Tuesday – so we will just ride it out here. Hopefully the winds will settle a bit and the forecast is for offshore and not inland! There is a bit of a fetch here when the winds are in the westerly quadrant.

For now we'll just enjoy the last few days (as best we can in the windy conditions) before we head to the haul-out and non-stop work.

Sunday, January 22. 2017
The Nook: Lat: 35 47.44s
Lon: 174 27.76e
At 1/21/2017 10:55 PM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 35°47.44'S 174°27.76'E

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Whangamumu to Whangaruru

You gotta love the names! We went all of 15 miles from Whangamumu's former whaling station protected harbor to Whangaruru's Puriri Bay. We thought we could sail and gave it a good try, but the southwesterlies were stronger than we hoped and right on the nose along with the seas...so it was very slow going. It took about five hours to make that short distance.

We are settled into a bay that has a campground on the shore. There are lots of very fancy tents set up. Some look to be five room tents- tent technology has come a long way. So much for "roughing it." There are also lots of SUP (stand up paddleboards), kayaks, small boats and tenders near shore, so lots of activity.

We enjoyed our time in Whangamumu getting two good hikes in – though the "all uphill" climbs were tiring on the legs that hadn't seen much exercise recently! We spent some time socializing with old friends and made some new ones as well. We played some Sequence and "Settlers of Catan" with Sandy and Rankin and just enjoyed our time at anchor.

Puriri Bay isn't as pretty as Whangamumu but it is well protected from any swell. The wind has been changing direction 180 degrees every day so anchoring is an ever-changing proposition. We have been having South-west winds in the mornings and evenings and north to northwest winds in the afternoons. You just have to make sure you have good swinging room in the anchorage to go the various directions. The last day in Whangamumu was very crowded as boats are now making the move either south or north and this is a good stopover point on the North Island as people go between Auckland and the Bay of Islands. There were several quite large mega-yachts in the anchorage on that last day as well as the whole collection of very small to our size – both sailboats and motor launches. That made for good entertainment watching the boats come, drop anchor and then leave. Being there a few days, we had seniority in the anchorage.

Now in Puriri, there are not many boats (yet) – but a few. We'll decide later after checking the forecast again if we stay or leave here tomorrow. Another front is working its way across the island so some bigger winds are predicted for Thursday.

For now, we continue to enjoy our "zero dollar" days and time at anchor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2017
Lat: 35 22.01s
Long: 174 21.40e
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, January 15, 2017


We have enjoyed time in the Bay of Islands at a few different places before heading back into Opua for the last of our rigging work. We were lucky to get a slip for Monday and Tuesday and connected with the rigger who had the part for the roller furler. That got fixed and the rig got adjusted. Michael had also been spending a whole lot of time trying to connect, then trouble shoot the installation of a splitter to connect the AIS and the VHF radio to the same antenna on the top of the mast. When connected we would not be able to hear the radio. After putting on new connectors and trying everything he could, we ended up hiring someone to come with a VSWR meter to check things out. Then Michael put on all new connectors and still nothing. It seems the brand new splitter box we got isn't working. So now we have to return that to the manufacturer and wait for a new one. Bummer.

After we finished with the boat projects, laundry, a resupply of food, and mailing our immigration extension paperwork, we were off again. Now we are making our way south towards Whangarei. We spent a few nights back in the Bay of Islands and then headed to Whangamumu where we are now at anchor in a very pretty bay.

This used to be an old whaling station. The remnants of that place remain as a historical reminder. We took a nice hike up the hill to a pretty viewpoint and it reminded us that we had been lazy sitting on the boat too long! The uphill was tiring!

Our friends on "Gypsea Heart" sailed in as well and we met some other folks in the anchorage - which is always fun. Michael went and spoke with a few teenagers who were in the water the previous day for hours. It is cold here and they were free diving so he wanted to know what they were going after. People collect scallops, crays (lobsters), oysters and various other critters. Later that morning the two boys came over to Astarte with a cray for us (lobster). How great is that! They just made us promise not to tell anyone where they were diving. Lips sealed! We gave them a giant candy bar as a thanks, but we came out way ahead in that deal! Nice guys – so New Zealand.

It is sure nice being out at anchor and enjoying meeting new folks and spending time with good friends. Plus it helps the budget. We've enjoyed many game days on Gypsea Heart. Today, we'll take another hike and perhaps meet some other new folks. This is a really nice spot. The lift at Docklands is broken so our haulout that we originally scheduled for Wednesday won't happen so we have a few days to kill. We'll find out on Thursday if it is fixed and when we can get hauled. Until then and the major work time, we'll enjoy time along the north island coast.
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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