26 March 2014

Pooped & Tethered

Well, it’s official. I’ve been pooped and tethered. Two things I never really thought I would say about myself before we started cruising. If you aren’t a sailor, don’t worry, it isn’t what you might think it means. Being pooped doesn’t have anything to do with being exhausted or things you might do in the privacy of your bathroom. Instead, it means that a giant wave of water has come crashing down into the cockpit surprising you and completely soaking you. The first time it happened to me, Scott just smiled and said, “You’ve been pooped. Welcome to the club.” I thought it was an odd thing to say to someone sitting in a puddle of freezing salt water. I didn’t think a club dedicated to poop was one that I really wanted to join. Then he said, “Okay, it’s time to get you tethered.” That’s when I thought he was really getting weird.

It turns out he meant that I should attach a tether to my PFD (personal flotation device) and latch myself onto the boat so that if another giant wave came crashing over and I got swept overboard, at least I would still be attached to the boat. Well, at this point, I didn’t think sailing could get any better. Free cold salt water baths and a device that allows you to be dragged alongside your boat in cold salt water. Then Scott asked me to put in the washboards in and I asked him if he was kidding. I guess he wasn’t because if I hadn’t put them in, there would have been a lot of water down below when the next wave came over our boat.

So how did this happen? We had left Islington Bay super early in the cover of darkness in order to get through the Motuihe Channel with the outgoing tide. But this cunning plan meant we were going to be going against the tide once we hit the Colville Channel. The forecast was for 10-15 knots behind us, but by the time we got to the Colville Channel it was blowing 26 knots behind us. The channel is a bottleneck between the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island and has particularly long fetch. One might even say the fetch runs from Cape Horn through the southern seas before hitting the channel. We ended up with a fair bit of wind against tide so things had gotten rather lumpy. And when you have lumpy seas, pooping might just happen to you. And it did. Wave after wave after wave over the side. And while pooping seems kind of funny when it happens to Scott, it kind of loses its appeal when it happens to yourself one too many times.

I decided this was a good opportunity to point out to Scott that this experience didn’t resemble anything like the pamphlet he originally gave me when he was trying to convince me to move aboard a sailboat and cruise around the world. The pamphlet I was given had pictures of tropical islands, people swimming on beautiful beaches and peaceful sailing on flat, calm seas. Being pooped and tethered didn’t really feature as a key selling point. Hmm, go figure. {Note to self: read the fine print in anything Scott gives you very, very closely.}

24 March 2014

3 Things I Never Thought I Would Say

Ever since moving onto our boat full-time, I've found that things come out of my mouth that I never thought I would say. Living on a boat sure is different than living on land!

1.  "I better hurry up and wash the dishes before it rains."

When you live on land and it is time to do the washing up after dinner, most people clear the table, take the dishes to the sink, rinse them off using an obscene amount of fresh water and then pop them into the dishwasher. This isn't the way it works on our boat. We carry a limited amount of fresh water and try to conserve it as much as possible for important things like drinking and cooking. Wasting our fresh water on dishes just isn't in the cards for us. So when it is time to do the dishes, we grab a bucket and haul up some salt water. Then we wash the dishes in salt water out in the cockpit. After the dishes are clean (and salty) we then give them a very frugal rinse in fresh water. Just enough so that you don't taste salt when you're drinking your morning coffee. Dish washing isn't simple on our boat and when you're doing it outside, you sure as heck want to make sure it isn't raining!

2. "It's too windy to take a shower."

Washing ourselves is a lot like dish washing on our boat. We do it outside in the cockpit. There is no shower on our boat. There isn't even a bathroom. You'll be happy to hear that we do have a toilet, but it sits in an alcove which is open to the rest of the boat. (If you're going to sail with us, we all need to be really good friends as privacy is at a minimum.) Fortunately, we do have a solar shower which heats up the water quite nicely after it sits in the sun for a few hours. We hang it up on the boom and have a shower sitting down in the cockpit while wearing our bathing suits. Usually the whole process works quite well, although I do need Scott's help to wash my hair. But if it is windy outside, the last thing you want to do is sit in the cockpit and take a shower. So when it is too windy, I pass on the shower. I think my standard of personal hygiene has really gone downhill.

3. "Can you move the table? I need to go to the bathroom."

Our boat is 26' which is a bit on the smaller side than many we see out there cruising. This means that there isn't room to have a permanent table in our saloon. Instead we have a folding table (which hangs up next to the toilet when not in use) and we attach it to the partition between the saloon and the toilet and v-berth when we want to do things like eat. This means that if you suddenly decide you need to use the toilet during dinner, everything needs to get moved off of the table and put on the counter so that the table can be moved out of the way. These days, it pays to check if you need a bathroom break before eating.

21 March 2014

What Makes A Great Anchorage?

Scott and I were chatting the other day about what some of our favorite anchorages have been so far and I realized that there is no simple rule that defines what makes an anchorage great. Instead it really is the subjective, personal experiences that you have at a particular place in a particular point in time that create such vivid memories in your heart and mind.

It might be the rich, vibrant colors of the sunset or the silhouette of the hills against the water as the sun comes up in the morning that you can’t forget. Or it might be the incredible wildlife you had the privilege of seeing. For some, it might be the interesting characters you met at a cruiser’s potluck on the beach. For others, it might be the opportunity to enjoy the solitude of an anchorage all by yourself. Or maybe you just had so much fun that every time you reflect back on that particular anchorage, you can’t help but laugh to yourself about the craziness you got up to.

There are so many different reasons why you might say, “That anchorage definitely makes my list of favorites. If only I could experience it all again.”  Of course, unless you have a time machine, you can’t recreate those magical moments. But you can share them with others in the hopes that they have a chance to visit and create their own special memories at one of your favorite spots.

So in the interest of sharing, here are just a few of some of our favorite anchorages that we’ve experienced so far in New Zealand. We would love to hear what your favorite spots are and what makes them so special to you. Leave a comment or even better, head on over to the Monkey's Fist and contribute a post of your own!

Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands

This is one of the few times that we have ever had an anchorage just to ourselves. Even though New Zealand isn’t exactly the most populated country or cruising ground, there always seems to be more than one boat in any anchorage. And they often seem to park right next to you, so the opportunity for a bit of privacy can be limited at times. Usually it isn’t a problem – folks are friendly and you might have a bit of a chat to your neighbors. But sometimes, especially for an introvert like me, you crave a bit of space that is just yours. And that’s what we got in Paradise Bay (also known as Oneura Bay).

The bay itself is located on the west side of Urupukapuka Island (also known as Baker’s Island). It is what I think of as a typical, beautiful Kiwi bay with pohutukawa trees along a sandy beach. You can pick up hiking tracks from the beach and explore the island or just take it easy in the cockpit and enjoy the view. And the view is especially sweet when there aren’t any other boats around!

Peachgrove Bay, Great Mercury Island

When Scott first suggested adding Peachgrove Bay to the list, I looked at him like he was a madman (see here for a post on our roly-poly experience anchored there). He gets that look from me quite often, so he ignored me and explained why he thought it was so great. And it came down to the wildlife – sharks, penguins, stingrays and crazy bait fish. An odd combination of critters to be sure, but rest assured no one got hurt.

Scott first saw a cute little penguin that came rushing up to the boat. When Scott went up to the bow to get a closer look, the penguin dived into the water and, given the shallow waters, Scott was treated to a great view of him darting around undewater. I was washing dishes at the time by the way. I can only assume Scott is telling the truth.

The next creature up was the shark. I was doubting Scott’s penguin sighting so when he yelled out, “Look, there’s a shark!”, I was a bit dubious. But he was right – it was a bronze whaler prowling throughout the bay looking for something to munch on. Scott headed over to a launch that had just come in to warn them of the shark and they told him there had been a number sighted in the bay a couple of weeks previously.

And then there was the stingray. Scott glimpsed it heading towards folks out swimming and snorkeling in the bay. The first “fish” Scott ever caught in New Zealand on our boat was a stingray. Wasn’t exactly what he was going for (snapper was the intended target), so we were a bit surprised to find it on his hook. Don’t worry, it was released. I think ever since that moment, Scott keeps a close eye out for stingrays. And the stingray wasn't the only "fishy" experience he had there - he also got to see a "boiling cauldron" of bait fish

Peachgrove Bay is another one of those beautiful, Kiwi bays with a long sandy beach and shallow waters perfect for swimming in. So even if you don’t have a wildlife experience when you are there, you’ll still love it.

Elephant Cove, Motukahaua Island, Coromandel

This is another one that at first glance you would think, “Why would you put Elephant Cove on your list? Didn’t you almost choke on a snapper bone when you were there? Isn’t this the place where the winds kicked up and you were worried about smacking into shore? And, isn’t Elephant Cove known for being populated with giant rats?” Well, yes, that’s all true. But there was something magical about our time in Elephant Cove. Motukahaua Island (also known as Happy Jack’s island) is a small island which has steep sides and when you’re in Elephant Cove you feel like you are tucked inside of a tiny, submerged volcano which is open to one side. On the night we were anchored there it was absolutely pitch black. Having always lived in cities with all of their lights, I’m really not used to absolute, inky darkness. And it was deathly quiet. Eerily quiet. From time to time I put the flashlight on just to reassure myself that we were still in fact anchored in Elephant Cove and hadn’t been transported to some giant, dark holding tank on an alien spacecraft. Definitely a spooky evening, but very memorable and one of my favorites in a weird sort of way.

Rere Bay, Whangaroa Harbour, Northland

I actually didn’t think anything would surpass how much I love the beauty of the Port Fitzroy area of Great Barrier Island with its fjord-like scenery, but I think I found it in Whangaroa. Scott had been hankering to get to Whangaroa for a long time and for a while we didn’t think it was going to happen do the weather, but we made it up there and it was definitely worth the wait. This is one of those anchorages which you remember due the landscape and views. And which you know pictures can never do justice. It is a shame we didn’t get to spend more time exploring the area, but we had to head back to Auckland for the Classic Yacht Regatta, which, wouldn’t you know it, was canceled due to the weather courtesy of Cyclone Lusi. 

So there you go, a few of our favorites. Let's hear about yours!

Visit The Monkey's Fist to find other posts on this topic by clicking here.
The Monkey's Fist

19 March 2014

Cooking Without A Fridge: A Week On Our Boat

When we first decided to start cruising full-time on our 26’ sailboat, I thought one of the biggest challenges would be living without a fridge. Yes, that’s right -  we don’t have a fridge on board. We don’t have an oven, a dishwasher or a laundry machine either. This is a very low-tech boat and certainly a long, long way from living on land. But, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised that living without a fridge isn’t really a problem at all. And just to prove it, I thought I would share a week’s worth of our meals to show you the types of things we cook and eat.

One of my “inspirations” for preparing to cruise full-time has been Lin Pardey’s The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. In her book, she describes the meals she made each day on a passage that they took from Asia to North America, along with some handy tips and tricks. So, like all good idol worshipers, I decided to imitate her and I’ve been recording what we eat in our log. When I looked back to pick a week of cooking to share, I made a few observations:

  • We eat a lot of pasta. Which you might not think is a bad thing, but I only make it one or two ways. 
  • Tortillas are a godsend when you don’t have an oven and easy access to store bought bread.
  • Cooking experiments don’t always turn out. Some things that I’ve made, even a dog wouldn’t eat. Those are the days you think to yourself, “I wish we could order a pizza to go just now.” But you can’t. Because you have no cell phone reception and you are far, far away from a pizzeria. 
  • We could definitely do better on that whole 5 a day thing. But that was probably the case before we moved onto the boat.

Tuesday, 3 March 2014 (Bay of Islands)

Breakfast – nada
Lunch – rice & bean burritos and cheese quesadillas
Dinner – pasta

Usually, I’m a big believer in eating breakfast and demand to be fed pretty much first thing after I wake. But, since we’ve been out cruising, I find that we often eat much later at night then we did on land as we’re either anchoring someplace new or have been out exploring an island during the day. Or, I just can’t be bothered to cook until the sun goes down. So, I find that there have been quite a few days where we’ve skipped breakfast and quickly got the boat ready and headed out to our next destination. This was one of those days.

For lunch, Scott likes to play a little game I call “Salmonella Roulette”. I heat up last night’s dinner – which has been sitting out without refrigeration – and he happily eats it. So far, he hasn’t gotten sick. So while he had leftover vegetarian rice and beans burritos, I settled for a cheese quesadilla.

For dinner, I made my specialty – Ellen’s pasta with red sauce. Simple to make. You chop up an onion, a green bell pepper/capsicum, a couple of cloves of garlic and some sun dried tomatoes. Sauté them in pan with some olive oil. Add in a can of tomatoes, some olives, chili flakes and black pepper. (If you’re using a plain can of tomatoes, add in some salt and sugar too.) Turn up the heat and get everything talking to each other. Then turn off the heat for 10 minutes and let the pan sit. Turn the heat back on briefly, then turn off again. This is how we try to minimize how much LPG we use. Oh, the fun and games on a boat. Cook some spaghetti, add the sauce and voila – you have dinner. Even better if you add in some salami and cheese.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014 (Bay of Islands)

Breakfast – egg & cheese breakfast burritos
Lunch – nada
Dinner – chili bean spaghetti with griddle bread and pepper jelly

Even though Scott is our full-time skipper, he generally makes our breakfast. Technically, I should be doing that given my complete lack of useful contribution to sailing. But Scott is a real sweetheart so he does it. Either that or he is worried I’ll mutiny. His specialty is egg & cheese breakfast burritos. Another simple dish – make some scramble eggs with cheese. Heat up some tortillas in a frying pan with some olive oil. Combine. Yummo.

Tortillas are fabulous little creatures. They live happily in their plastic pouches for months until you’re ready for them. We use a lot of them as bread is hard to find or is way too expensive to buy and we don’t have an oven to make our own. Tortillas are a regular feature in our repertoire. Unfortunately, they are made with white flour so the nutrional value is probably negligible.

For some reason we skipped lunch. I was probably unhappy about this. But dinner made up for it as I made my only other pasta recipe – vegetarian chili beans served on spaghetti. At this point, we only had two tortillas left and lacked any other substance which resembles bread, so I made some skillet bread with rosemary and garlic to go with dinner. I found a jar of red pepper jelly in one of the cubby holes which we spread on it.

Thursday, 6 March 2014 (Passage from Bay of Islands to Whangaroa Harbour)

Breakfast – leftover skillet bread
Lunch – leftover chili bean spaghetti & crackers with peanut butter and smoked mussels
Dinner – pretzels, salami, cheese & crackers


We had an early start to make our way up north to Whangaroa so we got the boat underway and then ate leftover skillet bread in the cockpit. It was okay. Pancakes would have been better, but they didn’t seem to be on offer.

We stopped off at the Cavalli Islands at lunchtime to wait out the tides so that we could get into the Whangaroa Harbour (when you have a strong tidal stream vs. 10 hp engine, you wait). Scott played “Salmonella Roulette” again and finished off the leftover chili bean spaghetti. He offered to share. I looked at him like he was a madman and refreshed myself about what to say on the VHF if he got really sick and I needed to call for help. As usual, his tummy is made of iron and he was just fine. To top off his spaghetti, he had some crackers with smoked mussels. I was content to just have crackers and peanut butter – a meal which I personally think is a cruiser’s best friend.

When dinner time rolled around, I decided to call a general strike in the kitchen and said, “I’m not going to make dinner tonight!”  Scott looked at me, rolled his eye and said, “Fine, I’m not going to skipper the boat anymore.” We stared at each other for a good ten minutes and finally realized no one was going to give in. So we settled for a smorgasbord of pretzels, salami, cheese and crackers. I’m not sure there was any winner in this particular battle of wills.

Salami and cheese are a couple of our staples on the boat. I’ve found a great salami which doesn’t require refrigeration. Once you open it, you just have to eat it within 30 days, but that really isn’t a problem for us. It is a great little protein solution – we put a little in my famous red pasta sauce and have it for snacks. Cheese also doesn’t seem to require refrigeration but that might just be the New Zealand climate. It doesn’t get very hot here and we happily leave a block of Colby cheese in a container and put it in all sorts of things.

Friday, 7 March 2014 (Whangaroa Harbour)

Linner - grilled cheese

For some reason, the only think I marked down in our log was grilled cheese. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what we ate for breakfast. But I think we had them for a late lunch/dinner combo – what we like to call “linner”. When we were in Whangaroa town, we went to the general store. The thing about general stores in New Zealand is that prices are rarely marked on anything. Usually, I ask how much something costs. This time, I just took a load of bread up to the counter, the woman sized me and my American accent up and said, “$6.50, please.” This is the most we have ever paid for a loaf of bread here. I want an oven on my next boat so that I can make my own and not be held hostage to the general stores.

So with our very expensive bread, we had some lovely grilled cheese sandwiches with onions and garlic granules sprinkled in for good measure. This wasn’t one of our better days when it comes to getting your daily dose of fruit and veg.

Saturday, 8 March to Sunday 9 March 2014 (Passage from Whangaroa Harbour to Kawau Island)

Breakfast – eggs & toast
Lunch – grilled cheese w/salami
Dinner – peanut noodles

Breakfast – toast & breakfast burritos
Snack – pretzels and coke
Dinner - pasta

While I have done a teeny bit of night sailing before, this was my first official night passage – it took us 30 hours and 45 minutes to sail 119 nautical miles from Whangaroa to Kawau. We didn’t actually know that we were going to do it until later on Saturday when we realized that it was miles and miles from an anchorage and it was getting dark. And then Scott suggested we just carry on to Kawau.

I was glad that we had breakfast that morning, as it turned out to be a very long two days. Because we had bread, toast featured in our breakfast, along with some scrambled eggs. Lunch on the first day featured more grilled cheese with the added bonus of some salami thrown in. For dinner, I decided to make peanut noodles for a couple of reasons – it only requires one pan to boil the pasta in and it tastes just as nice cold as it does warm so we could eat it throughout the night.

On the second day, Skipper Scott made us breakfast using up the last of the bread for some toast along with some of his famous breakfast burritos with the last of our tortillas. Everything just tastes better when you haven’t slept. Once we got to Kawau, we celebrated with some coke and pretzels and then I topped off the evening with spaghetti and red sauce. One thing you have to love about Scott is that he will happily eat the same thing day in and day out. Which is fortunate as I make the same thing day in and day out.

Monday, 10 March 2014 (Kawau Island to Islinton Bay)

Breakfast – cheese & salami omelet & scrambled eggs
Lunch – peanut butter, smoked mussels & crackers
Dinner – pasta

Because we were out of tortillas and bread, we had a “low carb” breakfast of eggs. I had mine plain and scrambled while Scott went all out and put cheese and salami in an omelet. Lunch we the usual cruiser’s special of crackers with peanut butter for me and smoked mussels for Scott. And of course, what would dinner be without my usual spaghetti and red sauce pasta dish. I’m nothing, if not creative.

So there you have it, a glimpse into a week eating and cooking onboard Rainbow’s End. I’m guessing that job offers won’t be streaming in for me to be a chef aboard a super yacht? But in the end, as long as the skipper’s belly is full, that’s all that counts.

What kinds of things do you cook and eat when you’re out cruising? Any suggestions for easy to make recipes that don’t require refrigeration?

17 March 2014

Do You Know The Way To Whangarei?

Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.
Whangarei has a reputation in New Zealand as being a cute, quirky little boaties town and I had really been wanting to head up north and check it out. We've had some weather issues this summer, but were finally able to make a break out of the Hauraki Gulf and find our way to Whangarei. Whangarei (pronounced somthing like "fa-nga-ray") is the regional capitol of Northland and has a sizable population (by New Zealand standards that is). Apparently, when Captain Cook was up that way in 1769, they caught a lot of fish which they called "bream" and this led to the name Bream Bay. To make your way to the town of Whangarei, you start off at Bream Bay and fight your way against the current and tide (which is especially challenging if you have a 10hp engine), as well as the freighters to make your way into Whangarei Harbour. From there, you follow the channel down the river for about 16 nautical miles. For the last three miles, make sure you know your draft and the tides because things get very, very shallow and things might possibly get a little tense when your depth sounder shows a depth which is shallower than your draft. But the journey is worth it in the end - the town center is very cute, the marina is quirky and there are a lot of interesting boats and folks hanging about.

Here are a few photos on the way to Whangarei...

When we were trying to make our way into the harbor, this freighter tried to ram into us. Or at least that's what I thought it was doing. It kept going in circles outside of the harbor and at one point it turned directly towards us and seemed to be playing chicken with us. Just when I was starting to think that was the end of our cruising in New Zealand, the freighter turned around and a pilot boat sped up, the pilot boarded and the freighter made its way into the port to offload timber.

Having sailed up from Kawau Island, we stopped for the night at Urquhart's Bay. It seems to be a popular stopping off point for people making their way up and down the coast or heading into Whangarei. At first glance, it looks like a typical, pretty New Zealand Bay.

But if you turn around, then you get a lovely view of Marsden Point - home of the oil refinery and Northland Port. Not the prettiest view to look at while you're having your morning coffee.

Party happening on one of the docks! We waved in the hopes of getting invited over, but they seemed to be ignoring us.

Not too sure what happened here. One of the many boats we saw aground. It started to make us wonder exactly how shallow it would get at low tide.

There were a number of boat sheds along the way. Some of the boats seemed too big for their sheds.

And some more boat sheds.

This is Dockland 5 - a boat haul-out and hardstand along the river. The guy who runs it is pretty funny and a good bloke. And we know because we got to pay a "special" visit to get our boat hauled out there, courtesy of the Northland Council. A word of caution to boaties from Auckland - if you're planning on staying in a marina in Northland, make sure you don't have fanworm. Northland takes it seriously up there and it appears Auckland has put the whole issue in the "too hard basket" and has let it run rampant. More on the whole "fanworm incident" in another post.
This is Fantail, a very well-known Raven 26 (the type of boat we have), owned by Annie Hill. She has refitted it and it has a junk rig now. Annie moors her boat along the river and she might have thought we were a bit creepy, stalker like people when we slowed down to take pictures. She did come out and wave at us - maybe because she saw that we have a Raven 26 too.
Remember we said it gets shallow as you head towards the town center? It really, really does! You have to go slowly, keep an eye on your depth and hope you don't get grounded. I think it happens rather frequently here because whenever I mentioned how shallow it was, people just said things like, "Yeah, but is is just mud. Wait a few hours and then Bob's your uncle and you can carry on."
To get to the marina, you have to pass under the Te Matau a Pohe bridge. It is designed to look like a fishhook and refers to Pohe, the Maori chief who welcomed the first English settlers to Whangarei. I had to talk on the VHF to request the bridge be opened. It was a disaster - more on my embarrassing attempts to operate a VHF in a future post! If you do go to Whangarei, don't get caught out by the bridge closing times. If you are, you'll have to tie up and wait it out. So between figuring out when the tides are favorable to make it through the channel and coordinating with the bridge opening times, things can get a little complicated.

We finally made it! Rainbow's End tied up to the visitor's dock at the Whangarei Town Centre Marina. It seemed like most of the boats at the marina were huge and from overseas and practically dwarfed our tiny 26' Kiwi-made boat. Great marina with super friendly staff - definitely worth a visit.

15 March 2014

Can Wallabies Be Litter Box Trained?

Wallaby spotted on Kawau Island. So cute! They were introduced in 1870 by the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey, along with other exotic animals. Sadly, they are now considered to be a pest which negatively impacts on native flora and fauna and the Department of Conservation and other landowners are trying to manage their population. You can help by adopting a wallaby and having it live on your boat!

I’ve been trying to convince Scott for a while now that we absolutely need a cute little dog on our boat, but sadly I haven’t been very successful yet. Every time I bring the subject up, he gets all Mr. Spock logical on me with seemingly rational arguments such as the fact that there are lots of countries you can’t easily bring a dog into. But his biggest argument is that you have to cart your dog on to shore to do their business. His favorite refrain is, “Are you going to get in the dinghy when it is pouring down rain and blowing a gale and take the dog to shore? Hah, I didn’t think so! There won’t be any dogs on our boat because I’m sure as heck not going to get stuck rowing the mutt to shore every day.”

Fortunately, I’ve found an even better idea for a liveaboard pet – a wallaby! I figure if I can litter box train one, then Scott can’t possibly say no to having one on board. And because they can stand on their hind legs, when we get to a new port we can put clothes on our little wallaby and pass him off as a human crew member. Animal immigration problem solved! And the icing on the cake is the fact that wallabies can jump and they have a built in tool pouch. Something wrong up the mast? Get your wallaby to jump up there and fix it with the tools they carry around in their handy pouch. Much, much easier than getting a clumsy human to climb up there.

Last time we were at Mansion House Bay in Kawau Island, we caught a glimpse of the wallabies that live there. We’ve been there many times previously, but have never seen them before. It was amazing! They look so cute and their fur seems so soft and I just wanted to grab one and cuddle it. Unfortunately, they’re fast little buggers and they jumped away before I had a chance to say hi and ask them if they know how to use a litter box. Scott seemed really interested in the wallabies, so once I solve the litter box issues, I’m pretty sure he can’t possibly say no to having one on board.

I’m really grateful we had some wallaby sightings, because, frankly I was getting really tired of Mansion House Bay. We have spent far too much time there hiding out from various blows and desperately trying to escape. I can hear you saying, “Are you nuts? Mansion House is a beautiful, iconic New Zealand spot. I would love to go there!” And, yes, if you haven’t been there before, by all means you should head up there and spend a couple of days exploring the nature reserve and the Mansion House grounds. But, if you’ve ended up spending around eight days in a row there trying to escape (with only a quick run to Gulf Harbour to reprovision), then you’ve probably seen it all and done it all. But of course, every cloud has a silver lining and for us, it was when we caught a glimpse of the wallabies on the island.

I’m really grateful for things like wallaby sightings, because without these amazing moments, I think the setbacks we’ve had with the weather so far might do my head in. We counted up how many days so far this summer that we’ve spent hiding out from a blow (either in a marina or at an anchorage) and the number is quite depressing. Intellectually, I know that the weather really does dictate what you can do and where you can go. And, I know people end up waiting weeks for the right weather window to make a passage. But we’re just doing coastal cruising, so I never expected that the weather would have such an impact on us. If the wind isn’t blowing a near-gale or gale, then it is blowing from the completely wrong direction to go where we want to get to. And, then there is the swell – it either is way too high for our tiny boat and/or crashing into us beam on. And on those days when you can’t stand the weather or the boat anymore a cute little wallaby to cuddle sure would make all the difference.

So if you have any experience training wallabies to use a litter box and jump up to the top of the mast, please let me know. Also, feel free to email Scott and tell him that having a dog or a wallaby or even a cat on board would be a great idea! I’m sure he’ll listen to you!

Anyway, here is what our week up in Kawau looked like. Other than the wallabies, not too exciting.

Scott thinks that the wallaby fences are proof that they can't jump high enough to get to the top of our mast. Personally, I think they are just smart creatures who can read the signs and choose not to jump over the fences.

Monday, 17 February 2014

After making a run from Great Barrier to Kawau the previous night and getting in around 11:30 pm, we had anchored down near the Kawau Yacht Club. It is a big anchorage, which we know well, and we figured it would be easiest to park the boat there in the dark. But it turned out to be a bit roly-poly, so we decided to move the boat over to the more protected Mansion House Bay in the morning. The only other big event of the day was having a solar shower. Scott helps me wash my hair because the solar shower can be a bit fiddly to use. Honestly, I never thought it would come to this…I can’t wash my hair without my husband’s help. That’s living on a boat for you.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

We ran out of eggs and cheese. These are two essential staples in our diet and we ended up getting stuck with eating things out of cans we’ve been avoiding so far. And they tasted terrible. {Note to self: never, never, never try to make a pasta dish out of cream of mushroom soup and canned chicken again.} Fortunately, wallabies were sighted!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

We ran out of water in our bladder. Not our actual human bladders, but the water bladder under the settee that we use instead of a water tank. Hmmm….no funnel to get the water from the jerry can into the water bladder. But, no worries, Scott cleverly cut up a tonic water bottle and turned it into a funnel. Problem solved. More wallaby sightings.

Thursday 19 February – Monday, 24 February 2014

Nothing too exciting happened. And when nothing too exciting happens, you spend a lot of time looking at the other boats which are also stuck in the anchorage. Scott was particularly interested in an older couple living on a boat even smaller than ours. They seem to be a really fit duo – she even drops and raises the anchor herself by hand while he watches from the cockpit. Scott spent the rest of the day trying to convince me that if an old lady can manage the anchor, I can too. I ignored him and daydreamed about wallabies instead. Sadly, no more wallaby sightings.

Eventually, we got a brief break in the weather so we made a quick run to Gulf Harbour to reprovision – more diesel, water and food. And then it was back up to Kawau to wait for another break to be able to head up north which finally came on Monday. We said goodbye to Mansion House Bay and the wallabies and made our escape.


Total nautical miles = 32 (to Gulf Harbour and back)
Number of wallabies sighted = 3
Number of days in Mansion House Bay = too many

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13 March 2014

The Attack Of The Killer Kingfish

Empty LPG tank you don't know what to do with? Why not turn it into a mailbox?
The other night up in Port Fitzroy in Great Barrier Island, we were down below watching a movie on our portable DVD player when suddenly we felt a big thud on the hull. I was scared that a couple of guys with machetes had boarded our boat up by the bow, but then we remembered that this is New Zealand and that kind of thing doesn’t happen here. The only other possibility was that we had dragged and crashed into the nearby mussel farm. But that seemed really unlikely as it was a calm night and our anchor was well dug in. We scrambled up on deck to see what was going on and saw some creatures swimming around our boat. At first we thought they were dolphins playing near our boat, but upon looking more closely we saw that it was a swarm of kingfish circling around our boat and thumping into the hull and our dinghy. Thump, thump, thump - they really wanted to make sure they had our attention.

Kingfish are a very popular gamefish in New Zealand. They are apparently quite aggressive and put up a bit of a battle if you manage to hook one. The ones swimming around our boat were at least one meter long and seemed pretty intent on making sure we knew they were in town. Scott has had a hankering to catch (and release) a kingfish so he scrambled to get his fishing pole out, but by the time he got it in the water, they were long gone. I think they might have gone off to the next boat to wake the folks over there up. It was a pretty amazing sight – this is what cruising is all about!

Here is what happened during the rest of our stay up there…

Saturday, 15 February 2014 

We foolishly didn’t get our LPG tank refilled when we were down in Auckland and, wouldn’t you know, it ran out on us. Fortunately, Scott had already had the kettle on so we were able to have one pot of coffee while we figured out what to do. And believe me – this was very, very fortunate. A morning without coffee on our boat isn’t something you want to experience. We were at Whangaparapara at the time and remembered that you can get LPG up in Port Fitzroy. So, after a breakfast of cookies (which don’t need to be cooked), we got the boat ready to go and headed on up. LPG isn’t always the easiest thing to find in New Zealand, even at marinas (where you would think it would be). So, it pays to know where you can get your tank refilled and keep an eye on how much you have left. 

Once up in Port Fitzroy, we anchored near the wharf and headed up to the general store. If you find yourself in the same situation, keep in mind that the LPG hours are different from the diesel hours. You can only get LPG from 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm and diesel before and after that. One guy runs the two  operations and obviously can’t be in the same place at the same time. Thankfully, we got there around 11:30 am and didn’t have to wait too long. After we filled the tank, we had a couple of beers at the general store and chatted with the guy. Another friendly and interesting local character. You have to love the Barrier – it is chock full of them. 

After a cooked lunch, courtesy of the newly filled LPG tank, we headed out to Port Abercrombie to do some training. We did a man overboard exercise five times. The original plan was to only do it a couple of times, but I clearly need more practice picking up the fender out of the water with a boathook. Scott did just fine tacking back to where the fender was floating. Then I got a chance to practice reefing the mainsail – putting the reef in and shaking it out two times. For the non-sailors out there, reefing is a way of making your sail smaller. You do this when there is a storm and the winds are too strong to safely sail your boat with a full sail. Personally, I’m hoping to never find myself in a situation where we need to reef our sail, but it seems unlikely so practice, practice, practice.

And then it was over to anchor for the night in Kaiarara Bay where the swarm of killer kingfish came to say hi. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014 

A new day meant some more practice, so we sailed off the anchor and then headed back out to Port Abercrombie. This time, I got to practice helming the boat while we tacked it. So far, my sole responsibility when tacking and gybing has been to pull on the sheet when Scott says, “Ready about, lee ho!” or “Stand by to gybe, gybe ho!”, while he helms the boat and releases the other line. So it was time for some role reversal. I could probably use some more practice. 

The wind kept dying on us, so we decided to find a new anchorage for the night as the winds were changing to easterlies. We checked out Kiwiriki Bay and decided it just didn’t feel right and instead headed over to Oneura Bay (where we’ve spent way too much time before). Once there, I started cooking dinner and we chatted about the weather forecast. We had planned to spend more time in the Port Fitzroy area, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about sailing is that the weather is in charge and when it says it is time to leave someplace, you better listen. The forecast was for the swell to rise to two meters over the next few days which is never much fun in our boat. So we decided to cut and run for Kawau Island while the going was still good and headed on out around 4:00 pm. 

The ½ meter swell that was predicted turned out to be closer to 1 to 1-½ meters so I’m glad we left when we did as the swell would probably have been much higher the next day. It was a long haul and Scott helmed the boat pretty much the entire trip with his PFD and tether on and the washboards up in case any of the waves came crashing into the cockpit. Thankfully, Mr. Moon was up that night which made anchoring in Bon Accord Harbour in Kawau Island so much easier when we got there at 10:30 pm. 


Total nautical miles = 61
Number of killer kingfish = Too many to count 
Number of maneuvers practiced = 13 (2 reefing, 5 MOB, 5 tacking with me at the helm, 1 sailing off the anchor) 
Size of the swells = Bigger than forecast 

11 March 2014

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Whangaparapara wharf
When you’re out cruising, things are generally good. And why wouldn’t they be? You’re living a life of freedom on a sailboat, exploring new areas and learning lots of new stuff. Occasionally, there are some bad things, often related to weather or things breaking on your boat, and sometimes something ugly happens. Fortunately, the ugly stuff is rare, but it sure does help to have a wee vent about it on your blog. So here is the good, the bad and the ugly from our second trip to Whagaparapara on Great Barrier Island. 

The Good

Tiny bach (holiday home) in Whangaparapara - site of the "banana incident"
One of the best aspects of cruising, or travelling in general, is meeting and chatting with the locals and hearing their stories. We’ve met lots of nice and interesting people so far, but one that stands out is the postie who kindly offered us a lift in Whangaparapara after our hike out to the hot springs. We were walking back to the wharf on an unsealed road (which isn’t pleasant at best of times given all the gravel just waiting for you to twist your ankle on it) and had agreed that if someone offered us a lift, we would take it. Some might call us cheaters, not having walked the entire way back, but I was happy to be a cheater at that point. And just then our savior came along in his Rural Post van and told us to hop in.

We had an interesting chat with him about the fact that nowadays Great Barrier Island is split between ordinary folks, many of whom are on the dole when seasonal work dries up, and the multi-millionaires who own holiday homes on the island. Property prices used to be dirt cheap back in the day when the postie’s father bought land on the island, but nowadays local residents can’t afford to buy property and are either forced to rent, go to the mainland or family property is being subdivided (when the Council allows it, which isn’t always). It must be tough to be a young couple just starting out and not be able to buy your own home on the island you grew up on.

On the way to Whangaparapara, a guy stopped us and the postie yelled out, “You better not be shipping any more bananas to the Barrier!” Turns out he had shipped a few boxes of food over to the island which got lost in the post and when they did turn up, the box with the bananas had quite the smell to it. This time, the guy was ust looking to see if some oars he had shipped over had turned up. They hadn’t yet, but the postie said he would keep an eye out and leave them behind his house if he wasn’t at home. You certainly don’t get this kind of service in the big city – proof of identity and a signature required. 

The Bad 

Once we got back to the wharf, we moved our boat over to Graveyard Bay for the night. Some folks had told us previously that anchoring can be a challenge in Whangaparapara as garbage has been dumped in the harbor. We had to reset the anchor the last time we were in Graveyard Bay and Scott even found burlap on the anchor when he picked it up prior to dropping it again, but we didn’t think having to reset one time was too bad.

Well, it turns out anchoring was much more challenging this time. We went back near the same spot we had been successfully anchored last time but this time we ended up dragging five times while setting the anchor. We usually never have a problem with our ground tackle, having only dragged a couple of times previously, so this was quite a puzzle for us. I don’t know what is down on the ground in this particular spot, but we weren’t having any luck. On the fifth time, that’s when something ugly happened… 

The Ugly 

It seems like some people don’t have a clue about anchoring etiquette. We encountered one of those rare cruisers in Graveyard Bay. An overseas boat came in, watched us drop our anchor a couple times and just as we were in the process of trying to anchor for the fifth time, they swooped in and dropped their anchor just a few meters behind us. This meant we couldn’t let any scope out. And when you don’t have any scope, there really isn’t any point in anchoring.

So we picked up and moved to another spot in the bay, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Ugly to enjoy our spot. Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems setting the anchor on the first attempt in our new spot. And then, once we got settled, we had the pleasure of watching Mr. and Mrs. Ugly drag themselves. They ended up moving to another bay in the harbor. Which was absolutely fine by us. I’m not sure what is so hard about being courteous when anchoring especially when there is plenty of space available in a bay and there were so many other empty spots they could have chosen?

Anyway, enough of my “ugly” rant, here is the scoop on our time in Whangaparapara… 

Monday, 10 February 2014 

We had been back in Auckland at Westhaven Marina for a few days due to a previous commitment and headed from there in the afternoon and headed up to Islington Bay for the night. We anchored under sail for the first time when we got there, which went surprisingly well. (It was mostly me that was surprised, Scott was confident in our ability to do the maneuver.) We saw our old neighbor from the pile moorings anchored just ahead so we picked up anchor and moved closer to him so that we could have a bit of a visit with him. It’s fun to see boats and people you know when you’re out there! 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 

Since anchoring under sail went so well, we decided to sail off the anchor in the morning. Our neighbor watched us through his binoculars and shouted out, “Looking good!” when we left, so I think that maneuver went well too. We left Islington Bay at around 10:00 am and 45 nautical miles later we were anchored at Graveyard Bay in Whangaparapara at around 8:00 pm. It was a very long day and for some reason I decided to try a new recipe for dinner which turned out to taste something like canned dog food (or what I imagine canned dog food tastes like). Nothing worse than being tired and hungry and having canned dog food for dinner. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bridge to the Green campground
I was feeling fairly lazy the next day – a combination of a long day sailing and having had canned dog food for dinner – so I didn’t feel up to doing much. We went for a short walk from the wharf to the Green Campground and that was about it for me. Scott went out in the dinghy to try to get some snapper but sadly no luck. This time, I made one of my tried and true recipes for peanut noodles and cabbage salad. Much better then canned dog food. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The hot springs at Kaitoke
This is the day that we moved our boat from Graveyard Bay closer to the wharf and went for a hike out to the Kaitoke Hot Springs via the old logging Tramline Track, had a dip in the hot springs, took the Kaitoke Hot Springs Track back to Whangaparapara Road and got a lift from the postie. After he dropped us off, we headed to the general store at the lodge to get some bread. While there, we asked if they did showers for boaties. They used to offer the service when they had a backpackers on the premises, but now it something that is available on an ad-hoc basis if a room is vacant and hasn’t been cleaned yet. We didn’t take advantage of their showers, but goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to ask about things like this, as some things aren’t advertised. After our hike and bread buying, we headed back to Graveyard Bay for some bad and some ugly. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Start of the trail to the summit of Te Ahumata
We tried to escape from Whangaparapara to head up to Port Fitzroy, but ended up turning back as there was too much swell out there for our little engine. We were only averaging about 2 knots and were down to 1.6 knots at times. {Note to self, get a much more powerful engine in our next boat.} So we made the best of our additional time in Whangaparapara and went for a hike to the summit of Te Ahumata (398 meters). We got offered lifts there and back, but you would be proud of us, we said no each time. Nobody wants to be a cheater on Valentine’s Day. 


Total nautical miles = 59
Number of bad meals = 1
Number of lifts we were offered = 5
Number of lifts we accepted = 1

05 March 2014

History of Sailboat Racing in New Zealand {Disclaimer: This Might Be Boring}

Classic Boat Regatta in Auckland
Auckland is known as the "City of Sails" and has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. Sailing is an integral part of the Kiwi DNA. Even Kiwis who don't have their own boat could be found cheering Emirates Team New Zealand on in the America's Cup. As an expat in New Zealand, I thought I should find out a little more about the history of sailboat racing here. So I turned to my trusty book New Zealanders and the Sea and did some reading. You can also find a version of this book online at the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand site.
The first thing I learned is that there was a distinction between the types of boats that the rich and not so rich folk used in the early days. Yachts had multiple decks with some quarters down below and were owned and raced by rich blokes. Sailing boats were the domain of the working man and were smaller, without decks and open to the elements. Of course we still have a distinction today - there are the mega-yachts and then there are the boats the rest of us sail on.

Regattas became quite popular in the 1870s and both yachts and sailing boats participated in the races in various classes based upon length. Another boat, known as the mullet boat, hit the racing scene as well. Mullet boats were around 24' long with a centerboard (which provided stability) and had a broad transom for fishing nets. The mullet boats were rigged to sail fast back to Auckland with the prevailing westerlies in order to get the fish back to market. Mullet boats did so well in racing that they became exclusively racing boats by 1900. You can still find them racing with the Ponsonby Cruising Club today. They also have their own website which you can check out here.

With the passion for racing developing in New Zealand, boat building became increasingly sophisticated. Specialist yacht builders sprung up, especially in Auckland, along with chandlers, sail makers, riggers and other trades. The Kiwi boats were superior to those built by the British (whose boats were built according to the Thames Rule and thus deeper and narrower and more difficult to navigate). New Zealand even began exporting boats to Australia in 1875. Boats built during this early period were often made out of the native kauri trees which resist rotting in sea water. You can even find boats built before 1900 still safely sailing in New Zealand waters.

The golden age of keel yacht building took place from 1892 to 1905 in Auckland as a result of demand for "raters", which were yachts built to overseas racing rules (although international racing was really unlikely at this point in time). The Logan and the Bailey families were the principal builders with fierce rivalry between the two. Raters and other similar boats were built to a high standard with multiple skin construction and made out of kauri wood. And for that reason, you can still find a large number of these boats still sailing today with the Classic Yacht Association.

These weren't the only boats being raced at the time. Pātiki (meaning flounder in Maori) were small, fast unballasted centerboarders with hulls that could plane and were popular in Napier. Dinghies were also raced in parts of New Zealand. Motor launches emerged in the early 1900s, but true yachties dismissed them as "stinkboats" and remained loyal to the sailboat.

Racing continued to grow in popularity in part due to the new X class boat which was a 14-foot unballasted, open centerboard dinghy which hit the scene in 1916. Wealthy folks commissioned X class boats to be built, like World War I hero and New Zealand Governor General Lord Jellicoe's boat the Iron Duke, and raced them in the Sanders Cup (named after an Aucklander lost in naval action during the war).

Two other popular classes of boats developed during this time. The Takapuna Z class was a 12-foot square bilge boat which were raced by kids under 19 in the Cornwell Cup. The 7-foot Tauranga P class was developed in 1920 and used as training boats, as well as raced in the Tanner Cup. If you're wondering what's with all the letters, they came about when the Auckland Yacht and Motor Boat Association set up a system of registration. First, boats were given permanent sail numbers, but as the number of boats grew they changed to a system of letters in 1921 from A-class for keel yachts to Z-class for Takapuna dinghies. And my favorite, O for "odds and sods". After World War II, racing became even more popular as people found themselves with more money and leisure time at hand and centerboard classes continued to be the big thing on the racing scene.

Boatbuilding and racing continued to develop and change in New Zealand with the introduction of new materials. Plywood and various types of glues developed during World War II and were used to build cheaper sailboats and build them more quickly. Kiwis have a reputation for being do it yourselfers and making anything out of whatever they have at hand and this showed up in boatbuilding. Your average Joe started making their own sailboats out in their front gardens. Unfortunately, by the 1990s, the do-it-yourself boatbuilding tradition started dying out but you can still see many of the home grown boats, as well as the old Kiwi classics, out there sailing and racing today.

When I reread this I didn't laugh so it is probably a bit boring. But Scott takes nice photos, so maybe that will make up for any yawning you may experience.

Reference: For more information and some great pictures of old sailboats, see Harold Kidd's article 'Sailing and Windsurfing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12.

03 March 2014

Cruising To Herald Island, Waitemata Harbour

Auckland Harbour Bridge
Most people go east in the Waitemata Harbour to head out to the Hauraki Gulf. We're not most people, so one day we went west to check out Herald Island. For some reason, I think I was expecting our trip to be something like how I imagine going down the Rio Dulce is. It wasn't. It seemed more like what I imagine the ICW is like - sometimes a bit boring, sometimes interesting and sometimes noisy as you often need to have your engine on. (The ICW, or intracoastal waterway, is approx. 3,000 miles long and runs along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. It consists of natural inlets, bays, sounds and canals. If we buy our next boat on the East Coast, it is how we'll head on down to the Caribbean.) I can't say that I would ever want to go back, but I guess that is part of cruising - you try out new areas. Some are awesome and some are just okay. In any event, it was an interesting day on the water.

As you cross under the Harbour Bridge in Auckland, you'll note an unusual sign advising that you look out for bungy jumpers.

Here is one who just finished his jump. There was a lot of screaming.

Once you pass under the bridge you'll see the Chelsea Sugar Refinery on the North Shore. It was established in 1884 and is the main source of sugar in New Zealand. Looking at it just makes you crave a chocolate bar. It has a deep water port where ships from Queensland come in with raw sugar about once a month.

5.25 nautical miles from the Auckland Harbour Bridge, you come across the Upper Harbour Bridge. The chart shows that there lateral markers indicating the channel you need to take. We kept looking around for the usual lateral markers - you know the red cans and green cones on posts in the middle of the water. Eventually, we saw this triangle on the bridge itself.

And then we saw this red square on the other side of the bridge. A new type of lateral marker for us. If you aren't familiar with lateral makers, they are navigational aids. When you are entering a port, you keep the green cone to your starboard (right) side and the red can to your port (left) side. When you leave the port, you reverse things - green to your port and red to your starboard. At least that is how it works in New Zealand and much of the world. In the States, the system is the opposite.

This is the Herald Island Boating Club.

The tide was out so you can see some boats resting on their keels on the ground.

A view of the area around Herald Island.
Very shallow water in parts of the Waitemata Harbour so keep an eye on your charts. There are three marinas in the area - West Park Marina near Hobsonville, Bayswater Marina on the North Shore and Westhaven Marina (where we used to keep our boat).
Sourced from LINZ. Crown copyright reserved.