30 October 2013

9 Sailing Blogs I Have A Crush On

Via The Graphics Fairy
Editor's Note: These were the nine sailing blogs that were top of mind at the time when I wrote this, but there are many, many more that I have since discovered and follow. You can find a list with links here if you want to check them out.

Part of getting ready to set off cruising full-time is to read, read and read (when you're not sailing that is). And there is nothing better than reading other people's sailing blogs to pick up great tips, learn about the interesting places they have sailed to and share in their adventures (both the good and the bad). I love reading a wide range of sailing blogs - those written by people who are just setting out like us to those written by people who have circumnavigated the globe and have many years of experience under their belts. I read a lot of sailing blogs these days and I'm constantly finding new ones so its hard to pick just a few to highlight, but here are nine blogs that I have a bit of a crush on just now.

(1) More Joy Everywhere - This is the first sailing blog I ever got into. Scott pointed it out to me because he knew their sense of humor would appeal to me. And it did - you can't help but laugh along with Jane and Ean as they recount their adventures learning how to sail, buying their boat and setting off from the East Coast of the States all the way to Panama. Sadly, they've decided to call it a day on cruising and have put their boat up for sale, but I still love to look back on their adventures. They give me hope that even someone like me, who knows nothing about sailing, can take up cruising full-time and survive. And have fun doing it.

(2)  Bailey Boat Cat - Seriously, who wouldn't like something that describes itself as "the adventures of a maritime moggy", especially when the moggy is so darn cute. Despite my mom's efforts to pack a little duffel bag for her cat and send her to live with us on our boat, we won't be getting a cat onboard. The idea of the litter box flying everywhere and being limited as to what countries you can easily enter because you have a pet or two onboard means that we will be kitten and puppy free. So the next best thing is to follow along with Bailey Blue. He is a far better sailor then me anyway, so I am always hoping to pick up some tips and tricks.

(3) Just A Little Further - Marcie and David have been living onboard their Liberty 458 cutter-rigged sailboat since 2000. They've been everywhere in their quest to sail around the world including the East Coast of the States, the Caribbean, rounding Cape Horn and sailing to Australia, where their boat currently is. Before heading to Australia, they spent time in New Zealand and, as this is where we live and sail, I've particularly enjoyed reading about their adventures here. Their posts cover a variety of topics which are mostly written by Marcie, but David does do posts on the "Blue View" from time to time. I like their approach in taking each day as it comes and just going a little further. They didn't have a master plan when they set out, but, by just going a little further, they've seen some amazing places.

(4) Lin & Larry Pardey - Although probably not technically a sailing blog, the Pardeys have a great website and newsletter which I check out frequently. I'm quite a big fan of theirs, in part because they are rock stars of the sailing world and in part because it is nice to see other North Americans settle in New Zealand and love it as much as we do. Their August 2013 newsletter profiles the family of S/V Wondertime who have sailed over to this side of the world from the Pacific Northwest and settled in New Zealand with their children which is worth checking out if you think you might want to do the same. Whenever we're in Kawau Island, I keep an eye out for the Pardeys (some might call it stalking) in the hopes I can get one of my books autographed.

(5) Women & Cruising - In addition to regular blog posts written from the perspective of female cruisers, this website is a great resource with information on a whole range of topics including provisioning and cooking, communications, laundry, learning to sail, and maintenance, to name just a few. In an attempt to learn how to make magical meals from what we have on our boat (without a fridge I might add), I've tried out some of their recipes. I've also gotten tips on galley set-ups which will come in handy when we look to upgrade out boat next year (complete with a fridge this time I hope). But perhaps most importantly, reading about what these women have accomplished is a great confidence booster for a newbie like me. The site is a great resource for women and men alike.

(6) Plodding in Paradise - Back in 2005, Tammy and Chip started out with their 5-year plan to go cruising full-time which involved selling their wine shop, selling their house, selling their current boat and buying a new boat. They ran into a few stumbling blocks along the way in part due to a little event called the GFC (the global financial crisis). You can read about how they describe it here. We can definitely can relate to this one, as I'm sure many others can. However, they kept their noses to the grindstone and by 2010 they were off cruising full-time. You have to admire their perseverance. Their website is chock full of great tips and insights, in particular about cruising in the Bahamas. I know we'll be referring to their experiences once we make our way down there ourselves.

(7) The Monkey's Fist - This is a great collaborative site which collects posts from various sailing blogs on different topics. It is a great way to check out different views and perspectives from cruisers all around the world on topics such as energy management, food and drink, tips for freshman cruisers, rubbish and living on board during the winter. They are very open to including people in their collaboration and they've even let us share our posts on the site as well (despite our weird sense of humor).

(8) Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page - Matt and Jessica are a young couple from Michigan who sold everything and have gone off cruising for the next several years (or as long as their cruising kitty holds out). Until a few years ago, neither of them had ever sailed but they bought a small boat to learn on and then upgraded to a Sabre 34 Targa. They sailed down to the Caribbean and are now spending hurricane season in Guatemala and have some great posts about their time there. It's nice to see young people with the courage to go off on a sailing adventure early in their lives and not wait until they're closer to retirement age. Wish we had done it earlier too! 

(9) S/V Veranda - This is one hysterical blog! I think the crew of S/V Veranda and the More Joy Everywhere folks would get on together well based on how they both liberally use humor in their blogs. I especially like Veranda's new entries to the dictionary - words and phrases like "bitch wings". "Bitch wings" are an essential anchoring technique. Here's how you do it: "If you’re concerned about the new arrival into the anchorages obvious lack of anchoring skills you can go stand on the bow of your boat and stare. If your disapproval goes unheeded you put your hands on your hips with both elbows sticking out, these are your Bitch Wings. Upon seeing the Bitch Wings even the most oblivious weekend boater will become instantly aware of his boat handling shortcomings and remove himself and his vessel from your presence." I'm not sure why they didn't teach this on my sailing course. It is clearly a very important skill.

Of course, there are two really well-known blogs I haven't mentioned - Windtraveler and Bumfuzzle - which I read regularly as well. Although we don't have kids, it is fascinating to read about how their children are blossoming living a sailing life. I haven't put them on my list because I think most people have already come across them and there isn't much I can add that hasn't been said already about how great they are, but if you haven't seen them previously, they are very much worth a look.

So what are your favorite sailing blogs? What should I be adding to my reading list?

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28 October 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Motuora Island

Motuora Island - a great place to get involved in restoring native flora and fauna 
36°30'S 174°47'E

Motuora Island is an 80 hectare recreation reserve located about 5km off of Mahurangi Harbour. The island was farmed for over a hundred years and, as most of the original coastal forest and other native vegetation was cleared by Maori and European inhabitants, it is now mainly pasture. Today, the island is managed jointly by the Department of Conservation and the Motuora Restoration Society who are working to restore native flora and fauna by replanting the forest and introducing animals back onto Moturoa. Each year approximately 25,000 plants are grown and planted on the island, largely through volunteer effort. Most of the understory planting has been completed and work is now focused on infill and canopy planting, along with seed gathering, thinning out seedlings, weeding and general maintenance.

I was lucky enough to go out the island this weekend and volunteer. I spent some time repotting plants and shifted a lot of fence posts. I also got to see Kiwi ingenuity in action as everyone helped move a large plastic water tank (which had a crack in it and couldn't hold water anymore) to a new location so that it can be turned into a shed. We tipped it over on its side and then it was rolled down the path to its new site. It kind of reminded me of when Violet ate that chewing gum in Willie Wonka and turned into a giant human blueberry and the Oompa Loompas rolled her out of the room.

Lots and lots of native plants are being grown in the nurseries on the island before they are planted out. I helped repot a lot of these into larger grow bags. You can't see it in the picture, but the area behind the nursery if the territory of some dotterels and there were two cute chicks scampering about when I was there.
Motuora is one of the Hauraki Gulf's Treasure Islands, which is a conservation campaign to prevent the introduction of pests onto the islands. Moturoa is a great example of this and, despite the fact it was occupied and farmed for a long time, it does not have any rats, mice, stoats, ferrets, weasels, feral cats or other miscellaneous pests. This allows it to be used as a safe habitat for endangered species. The island has served as a creche for Northland brown kiwi birds and a number of animals have been released on the island including geckos, shore skinks, diving petrel chicks and wetapunga.

After our sausage sizzle and cuppa at lunch, one of the board members of the Motuora Restoration Society took us for a walk and showed us where the rangers and volunteers raised 70 Pycroft's petrel chicks. The birds were transferred from Red Mercury and fledged on Motuora with the hope that they will return to the island to breed after spending their first three years at sea. You can see some great pictures here of how they fed and weighed the chicks. Apparently they were fed a special diet of sardine smoothies - yum! We also walked up and had a look at the gannet colony. They have set up a bunch of gannet decoys along with speakers which play gannet calls in the hopes that this will attract gannets to nest on the island. Apparently, some of the real gannets are a bit confused and have paired up with the decoys rather than the kind of gannets they could actually have offspring with.

One of the burrows for petrel chicks. They all have numbers on them. I assume the numbering is for the volunteers' record keeping. But you never know, maybe when the original occupants of burrow #29 come back to the island to breed, they'll use that same site for their chicks.  
Given the importance of protecting theses animals and native plants, if you visit Motuora, there are a few things you should do to ensure it remains pest free.
  • Check your bags for stowaways. Did you know that rats can squeeze through a 12mm gap and mice through a 7mm gap? If you don't know metric, that is roughly the thickness of a slice of bread. That's small. So check your bags and other belonging to make sure you aren't inadvertently bringing one of these critters onto the island. And if you do find one on your boat, don't throw it overboard alive as they can swim for up to 1km and might make it to the island before you do. Other stowaways that can hide in your belongings include Argentine ants and rainbow skinks. Make sure you check for them too.
  • Clean any dirty gear and footwear, making sure you remove all soil and seeds.
  • Keep all of your food in sealed containers. No sense attracting those pesky pests onto your boat through the smell of tasty snacks.
  • Do not bring your pets onto the island. Sorry, I know they're cute, but they can cope without you while you visit the island.
Volunteering is a great way to see the island while helping out with the restoration efforts. You can also visit the island on your own and enjoy a picnic, walk, bird watching or swim off one of the sandy beaches. While there isn't much evidence of Maori occupation on the island, you can check out the pa site on the southwest end of the island. You can also stay overnight at either the campground or at the island's "bach" (Kiwi for cottage). Bookings required for either and you can find details on the DOC website. There is no ferry to the island, so you'll need to bring your own boat or arrange for a water taxi from Sandspit. (Note: It cost us NZ$20 for a round-trip ticket on the water taxi, but that may have been a special rate for the Motuora Restoration Society.)

View from Motuora Island - the tiny white specks on the Hauraki Gulf are sailboats. Labour Day weekend is the start of the boating season here and there were a lot of boaties out on the water enjoying the beautiful weather.
If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

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27 October 2013

Tall Ships In Auckland

The International Tall Ship Festival is in Auckland this weekend so I had a wee wander down to Queens and Princess Wharves to have a look. Fortunately, the weather has cooperated over the long holiday weekend (Labour Day) and there have been tons of people out and about checking out the tall ships. They left Sydney on 10 October and raced to New Zealand arriving into Auckland on 25 October. Dutch Bark Europa won the race, followed by another Dutch ship, Tecla, with the Spirit of New Zealand coming in third. The ships are amazing, but make me glad we only have one mast and two sails to contend with!


25 October 2013

Registering Your Boat (Pt 4) - USA & The 4th Ammendement

Back when there were less than 50 stars on the flag, our Founding Fathers put the 4th Amendment in place to protect against unreasonable search and seizure. None of them owned a sailboat. If they had, things might be different.
Did you know that the US Coast Guard has the right to board a US flagged boat at any time, anywhere and without probable cause? I've been looking into options for registering our boat in New Zealand, Ireland and the States and my focus had been on finding something low on cost and low on bureaucracy. It never occurred to me that I should also be thinking about my 4th Amendment rights. And as the 4th happens to be one of my favorite amendments, I've started to pay more attention to the powers that the US Coast Guard has.

I know a number of people who read this aren't Americans, so here is the Cliff Notes version of the 4th Amendment and why it is so important. The 4th Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights were intended to guarantee a number of personal freedoms - things like freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms, the right to a fair trial etc. The 4th Amendment is all about freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects." If you live on land, the police can't enter and search your house without reasonable cause and a search warrant in their hands. If you're driving down the road, the police can't stop and search your car without reasonable cause. However, if you live on a boat or just sail it on weekends, all bets are off and the US Coast Guard can stop and board your boat at will and without cause. And they can do it whether you're sailing in US territorial waters or just happen to be sailing off the coast of New Zealand. And before you start mumbling about them needing to protect our borders (which might seem like a reasonable argument...or not), bear in mind that they can board your boat if you're sleeping on it in a marina or if you're cruising along an inland lake or river which isn't anywhere near Canada or Mexico.

Crazy, right? How could our Founding Fathers have ever let this one slip through? I found a great article by Clark Beek on Sailfeed which explains the historical origins of this particular breed of craziness. Basically, way back when, there were these boats called "revenue cutters" which were allowed to board vessels to make sure that they had paid tariffs on their cargo. Kind of like the IRS and their power to audit. People didn't live on boats back then, so the whole personal liberty thing wasn't really top of mind. Times have changed, but the original Revenue Cutter Act of 1790 has continued to be upheld. As Clark Beek points out, a number of the challenges have been by drug smugglers and, as they aren't the most sympathetic of characters, the general public hasn't been all that moved. And although there are around 16 million registered boats in the States and 75 million Americans who go boating each year, people probably have other priorities than a grass roots movement to change this act. Although I don't do drugs, I almost refused to take a random drug test many years ago at work because I thought it was an infringement of my 4th Amendment rights. In the end I took the test because I decided I would rather have a job than fight the powers that be. I chose the road of less hassle. So I can see why boaties haven't made challenging the US Coast Guard's powers their focus either. It would be a real hassle.

So what do the US Coast Guard actually do when they board your boat? Although they don't have to tell you why they're boarding your boat, they'll often be checking your documentation, safety gear, making sure you haven't had too much to drink and that you're not dumping stuff in the water that doesn't belong in it (like oil, sewage and fuel). According to Clark Beek, they're also using your boat as a training exercise. It takes some skill to board a boat and the men and the women of the US Coast Guard need to keep in practice. So they sometimes practice on your average boat. You know, the kind which they have absolutely no reason to believe is smuggling drugs or engaged in other illegal activities.

There is a great thread on Cruisers Forum which was started by someone who was boarded for a safety inspection. The thread has the usual random tangents and rants, but it is a great insight into what it is actually like to be a boatie in the States. It sounds like pretty much everyone gets boarded at some point or another. Most accounts you read of Coast Guard boardings talk about them being polite and respectful and that your best bet is to just smile, nod and stand out of their way. It is especially important to smile and nod when they're carrying assault rifles and they have machine guns on their boats aimed at you. And I guess that's about all you can do unless you want to risk 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. You can read more about their policy for boarding here.

Based on all this, you might think we would go for registering our boat in New Zealand, but that won't really help us out when we're sailing in the States. And I wonder if it might possibly make us more of a target if we're foreign flagged. Plus there is the humongous hassle of having to report in every time you move your boat in the States. If you arrive by car into the States, you don't have to check in with the authorities as you drive from city to city, but if you're on a foreign flagged boat, it is a whole different ball game.

So on balance, I guess we'll go with registering our boat in the States. Nice knowing you 4th Amendment. I'm trading you in for less hassle. And it's cheaper than registering your boat in New Zealand so that's a bonus. After all, if you're going to sell out, there might as well be some financial benefit.

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23 October 2013

Keep, Stop, Start

Back when I worked in corporate la-la land, we used to use a little tool called Keep, Stop, Start. Whenever you got back from a development course, you had to sit down with your manager and talk through what you were going to keep doing, what you were going to stop doing and what you were going to start doing as a result of what you learned. I thought that since I've tortured so many people with this little exercise in my time as a manager, that it was only fair that I turn the tables on myself and do my own Keep, Stop, Start list. Because let's face it, moving onto a sailboat and cruising full-time is probably the biggest development course I'll ever attend.

As there are no paychecks from corporate la-la land anymore and we'll be living off of our saving as we head off on our little adventure, here is my Keep, Stop, Start list for getting ready to live a very frugal life. (All prices in New Zealand dollars, around .80 to the US dollar.)

Keep - well this list is a little embarrassing given what it starts with...

  1. Booze - If we stopped drinking completely, we could save a fortune. It costs around $10-14 for a glass of wine when you go out for drinks in Auckland. That's a lot of money. And if you wanted to save money by drinking at home, a 12 pack of Heineken would cost you around $30. But it is nice to catch-up with friends for a vino or two so I've decided to keep booze on my list. However, I just do it a lot less.
  2. Food - Yep, I'm not going to give up eating. However, I have set myself a budget for how much I spend at the grocery store each month and stick to it. It's kind of fun checking out what is on sale each week and tailoring what we eat around the bargains. I've turned it into a bit of a treasure hunt game.

Start - if you want to live on a budget, you have to start doing a whole lot of things differently...

  1. Tracking - I track every single penny that we spend so that I can see what we're spending it on and look for ways to cut back. I wouldn't have been able to cut back on our grocery budget if I didn't know where the money was going. And you make really different choices when every penny counts as you know exactly what you're spending it on. Scott thinks I might be a little bit of a control freak, but spreadsheets are fun! And he'll thank me later as we're able to stretch our savings.
  2. Selling My Clothes - I've been selling my old corporate la-la land wardrobe at a couple of consignment shops. And while I won't get rich from it, I have earned a couple hundred dollars which will definitely come in handy.

Stop - strangely, many of these things have to do with my beauty routine, or lack thereof...

  1. Coloring My Hair - I haven't colored my hair since June. For the younger crowd out there, this might not seem like such a big deal. But if you're middle aged, you'll get it. It has been fascinating to find out what my natural hair color is and how many gray hairs I actually have. The ones I have are mostly on the top of my head which I can't see, so I pretend they aren't there. And I'm saving around $16 a month on a box of do-it-yourself at home hair color.
  2. Hair Cuts - I haven't had a proper haircut in months. Unfortunately, it is starting to show and there are only so many ways you can creatively tie your hair back. But getting your hair done in Auckland can be pricey. I won't say how much it costs me as Scott might have a heart attack. Let's just say that I've saved a pretty penny ignoring this part of my beauty routine.
  3. Getting My Nails Done - I haven't had a manicure or pedicure in ages. I used to love getting these done as a little treat to myself. Now I treat myself with reading books on sailing. Not quite the same thing.
  4. Buying Clothes - I haven't bought any new clothes since June. Or shoes. Living on a sailboat means I won't need to keep my corporate la-la land wardrobe updated. And I have plenty of casual clothes already for living on a boat. So, no new clothes in months. Scott, I bet you're impressed with this one!
  5. Coffee - No, I still drink coffee. I just drink it at home. We had a great little coffee shop at work and I would get a trim, flat white coffee every day around 10:00 am. And often a little treat from the bakery case. Coffees can cost around $4-5 here, so getting rid of this daily habit has saved me oodles. My waistline thanks me too. But I do miss those banana chocolate chip muffins.

So that's my list. What's on your Keep, Stop, Start list? 

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21 October 2013

Tippy, Not Tipsy

This boat is really tippy. I'm worried someone is going to tip out and fall into the water.
One of the things that gives away instantly that I am not a born sailor is that I don’t like it when our boat gets tippy. The other thing that gives it away is that I call it “tippy” and not “heeled over”. This is just one of many examples of the differences between normal English and the idioms of the sea that sailors speak. I’m going to continue to call it tippy – it just sounds better that way. And a little bit more fun.

So what’s this tippy stuff all about? If you live on land, this might seem a bit alien. Your house certainly doesn’t lean from side to side when the wind blows against it, or at least it shouldn't. But sailboats do. They’re designed to heel over to one side when the wind pushes against the sails. Imagine a Giant Hand coming down from the sky (like something out of Monty Python), pushing against the sail and pushing it into the water. That’s what the wind does. Fortunately, there is ballast in the keel of your boat which provides a counter balance, making it hard for the Giant Hand to push your sail completely down into the water. You want wind to push into your sails as that’s what makes your boat go forward so you kind of have to accept from time to time that the Giant Hand is going to mess you about.

You can minimize the amount that your boat heels by:
  • Carefully picking which way you sail relative to the wind;
  • Easing the sails; and
  • Reducing the amount of sail area.

Points of sail - the big black arrow is the Giant Hand
via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license)

Talking about points of sail is how you describe the course your sailboat is taking relative to the wind. In the handy diagram above, you’ll see that there is a “forbidden zone” – Zone A. It is impossible for any boat to sail directly into the wind. It isn’t just forbidden, it is impossible. Trust me on this. Zone B is called “close hauled” – this is when you are sailing close to the wind, about 45°. This is when the Giant Hand is the strongest and your boat gets really tippy. Unfortunately, sometimes where you want to go is where the wind is coming from, so you don’t have any choice but to sail close hauled and beat into the wind.

If you find yourself in Zone B, you can reduce the amount of tippiness by easing the sails. When you are close hauled, you generally keep your sails trimmed in line with the boat as much as possible. When you ease the sails, you let them out to be more perpendicular with the boat. This makes it harder for the Giant Hand to push on the sails. You can also reduce the amount of sail you have by reefing your sails (basically making them shorter) which give the Giant Hand less to push against. These both mean less heeling, but it also means you go slower. It is all about trade-offs.
There are three other zones you can sail in. The first is a “beam reach” which is 90° to the wind. This is what we call “champagne sailing” and can be found in Zone C (C for “champagne”). The boat stays relatively flat and all is right in the world. Zone D stands for “broad reach” and can also be pleasant sailing. Zone E is called “running” and is when you have the wind directly behind you. You’re basically running away from the Giant Hand. This can be a dangerous as you can accidentally jibe your boat. "Jibe" refers to when you turn your boat through the wind. I don’t really get the physics behind it but your boom (the big stick your mainsail is attached to) can swing quickly to the other side. If it hits your head, it could be very painful. Even deadly. So that’s why I say, Zone C is the place for me.

When the boat is quite tippy, I feel a bit tipsy. Especially when I’m trying to move around deck or down below. I cannot tell you how many bruises I got all over my legs last summer from bashing into things or madly trying to catch things before they fell down to the floor (or what sailors call a "sole"). It feels a bit like those times when you’ve had a bit too much to drink and the room starts to spin. I sometimes wonder if I might enjoy the tippy feeling a bit more if I was actually a bit tipsy. Or maybe Scott should put valium in my drinking water.

And on a related note, one fabulous thing about New Zealand – no tipping! (And yes, it is related, tip-sy, tip-py, and tip-ping. They all start with tip.) It does my head in whenever I’m back in the States and have to do mental arithmetic to figure out how much tip to add when I’m out to eat. New Zealand makes it simple. People are paid a liveable wage and don’t expect to be tipped for the service they provide. Of course if you speak with an American accent, a few people might think that you won’t be familiar with the no-tipping Kiwi custom and hope for that little bit extra. But that’s very much the exception. So many reasons to love New Zealand, sailing and no tipping included.

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18 October 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Motokawao Islands

The Motokawao Islands – populated with menacing evil rats with eyes that glow in the dark
36º 41'S, 175º 23'E

There are three uninhabited island groupings on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula. The Motokawao Islands are the northernmost of these, lying between Papa Aroha and Colville, and include:
  • Motukahaua Island (also known as Happy Jack’s Elephant Cove)
  • Motukaramarama (Bush) Island
  • Moturua (Rabbit) Island
  • Motuwi (Double) Islands
  • Ngamoutukaraka (Three Kings) Islands

Last summer, we sailed out to the area and spent a night anchored up in Elephant Cove, which had been recommended to Scott by some of his racing buddies. They mentioned the stunning scenery in the area. They also mentioned the rats. Scott mentioned the stunning scenery to me. He neglected to mention the rats.

Well to be fair, he did mention them, but not until that night when it was pitch black and creepily quiet. “Do you see all those little red lights along the shore? Those are the eyes of all the rats that live on the island. I hear some of them are good swimmers. Keep an eye out in case any scurry up on to the boat. And whatever you do, don't let them bite you.” Rats on their own don’t bother me – I had two pet rats when I was a child. But those were the good rats, not the evil rats that bite in the middle of the night.

After trying to scare me by pointing out the rats on the shore, I thought of having the type of mutiny that occurs when the skipper "accidentally” falls overboard (see here for 10 easy steps if you want to stage your own mutiny). I decided against it as the winds were up high and threatening to turn south-westerly (which would not have been a good thing in this anchorage). The wind proved to be an excellent distraction from the immediate threat of the evil rats. Our boat kept swinging wildly back and forth on the anchor. I was scared we were going to break loose and slam into the rocky shore. The shore covered with evil rats.  There was also an incident with me getting a fish bone lodged in my throat which distracted me for a good 30 minutes. That was fun too.

Rats are a big problem on many of the Hauraki Gulf islands and there are programs in place to eradicate them. Besides having evil looking glow-in-the-dark red eyes, the rats also impact on native populations of birds and reptiles. These are the kind of rats that we’re happy not to have in our lives.

But don’t let the rats put you off sailing out to this area. It does have stunning scenery and Elephant’s Cove is well known as a great isolated anchorage in which to spend some time. It is probably an ancient volcanic cove which has eroded and flooded over time resulting in steep cliffs on either side of the cove. There is also a small stone beach at the top of the cove if you want to land your dinghy and take your chances with the rats. And ants. There are also supposed to be large ants living on the island. Fortunately, their eyes don’t glow at night.
While you're out there, head over to Motuwi Island, whish is also known as Double Island. This is due to the fact that the long narrow shelf in the center is submerged during high tide resulting in the appearance of two islands. Motukaramarama (Bush) Island has gannet colonies on the cliff tops and interesting rock formations and is well worth a look.
By the way if anyone knows who Happy Jack was, let me know. I'm curious to know why Motukahaua is called "Happy Jack's Elephant Cove". I can't imagine he was happy about the rats.

If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

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16 October 2013

Could You Live Without Your Electric Toothbrush & Hairdryer?

It is starting to dawn on me that when we move on to our sailboat full-time, I’ll need to give up a few things. There are some obvious ones like having a proper bedroom, separate bathroom with a shower and a refrigerator. I’ve known about these all along and think I should be okay doing without. Well, that’s the idea anyway. But I’ve just started to realize that we won’t have an electrical set-up on our boat which will allow me to use my hairdryer and electric toothbrush. They say it is always the little things that hurt the most. You think I would be more worried about a lack of refrigeration, but it is really the electric toothbrush and hairdryer that are keeping me up at night. After all, dental hygiene is important and my hair can get quite frizzy. If I had to pick one, I would go with the electric toothbrush. I have a feeling that my beauty routine is going to take a nose dive anyway living on a boat (especially not having a shower), so I’m not sure my frizzy hair is really going to be the biggest issue.

Most sailboats have two separate electrical systems – an AC system for shore power and a DC battery system when out sailing or anchored up. We don’t have an AC system, so we’re already a step behind most sailboats. So we rely on our DC battery system to power everything on our boat including our chart plotter (essential navigational tool), fish finder (essential to Scott), the pump which connects our water bladder to our sink (you need water to brush your teeth), the interior lights (which we rarely use) and the radio and CD player (sailing is better with music).  And of course the batteries are essential for starting the engine.

All of these things are wired in to the main electrical system and we also have a cigarette lighter adapter gizmo (I’m sure there is a technical term for this) that we can use to charge our mobile phones and iPad, as well as plug in our "anchor light" at night. But what we don’t have on our boat are those ordinary electric sockets like you find in your house. You know the ones where you can plug in your electric toothbrush and hairdryer. And unplug them. And plug in other cool gadgets like blenders and toasters and TVs and computers. Maybe even a DVD player if you want to get really fancy.

If you want to plug in these types of gadgets you need an AC system and a way to power it. There are three ways to go about this – you can hook up to shore power, you can install a generator or you can get an inverter. To hook up to shore power, you basically connect to a giant plug on the dock. Kind of like the ones in your house, except you’re essentially plugging in your entire floating house. If you're not able to plug into shore power, you could get a generator. Generators run off of fuel and produce lots of continuous power and you’ll often see (and hear) them on larger boats with big appliances, air conditioning etc. The downside of generators is that you need fuel to run them (which is expensive), they’re noisy, they need an exhaust system and they take up quite a bit of space. They are also one more thing to worry about breaking on your boat. The final option, inverters, turn DC power into AC power and operate something like a reversed battery charger. This allows you to have AC power without being connected onshore or having a big clunky generator in your boat.

As we’ll be selling our current boat at the end of the New Zealand summer (and buy a bigger one in the States probably with AC power), it doesn’t make sense for us to consider installing an inverter on our boat. It would be expensive and time consuming. Something I can’t really justify just for the sake of my teeth and hair. So I’ll learn to live without, along with no fridge, TV, computer or blender. It’s good to keep learning throughout life, isn’t it?

What electric gizmos and gadgets are a must have on your boat? What have you learned to live without?

Goodbye hairdryer, my hair won't be the same without you.

It was nice knowing you Mr. Toothbrush.
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14 October 2013

The Top 10 Most Interesting Boats

Top ten lists are so popular whether it is Prime Minister John Key appearing on the Letterman show to give the top ten reasons to visit New Zealand, the top ten things that make life better aboard your boat, top ten provisioning tips or even the top ten places to cruise. And like an angst ridden teenager in high school desperately wanting to fit in, I figure I need to have my own top ten list too. And here it is...the top ten most interesting boats out there. Well interesting to me at least. You be the judge. Just don't tell me if you don't like my list as I might lock myself in my bedroom crying uncontrollably like an angst ridden teenager. (Mom, I am so sorry I put you through all of that. I blame the fact that my frontal lobe was not fully developed at the time.)

1. The AC45

Rather than go with the obvious America's Cup boat, the AC72, I decided to feature her little sister, the AC45, instead. Little sisters are so often overlooked. The AC45 was the first of two new designs for this year's America's Cup. They are essentially smaller, practice boats so that the crews could get used to sailing on the new wingsailed multihull boats. The boats are powered by a wing that is 20 meters above the deck and they can go really fast and sail in all sorts of conditions. They cost around one million dollars each which makes them a very expensive way to try out a new boat design and technology. Interesting fact - one of the key design criteria for the AC45 was to make sure they could fit into a standard 40 foot shipping container. I'm not sure how you get a 45 foot boat into a 40 foot shipping container but I was never very good in math. (By the way, the outcome of the this year's America's Cup was so heartbreaking.)

2. Serrafyn

No list would be complete without mentioning Larry & Lin Pardey. I picked their 24 1/2 foot wooden boat Serrafyn which they built together in the 1960s and sailed over 47,000 miles around the world, documenting their travels in a number of books. Serrafyn is a Lyle Hess designed sloop which is patterned after an English channel cutter. Tiny and compact, Serrafyn is a solidly built boat that has survived almost anything the sea can throw at you. The Pardeys went on to build a larger cruising boat in Bull Canyon in the 1980s, the 29 foot Taleisin, but their adventures on Serrafyn just go to show you that it is possible to live well and see the world in a small boat.

3.  Kon Tiki

Kon Tiki was the balsa wood raft built by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl which he sailed with five other guys from Peru to the Raroia Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago in 1947. It took 101 days over 4,300 miles (8,000 kms) in the open Pacific Ocean to reach the Tuamotu islands. On a raft. With no engine. Made out of balsa wood. You know, the stuff they make model airplanes out of. This, some might argue, is the very definition of insanity. The guys did have knives, a radio, charts and a sextant with them. However, still crazy. And why did Thor do this? To prove, once and for all, that it was possible that people from South American could have settled Polynesia. However, the issue is far from settled and many anthropologists believe it just didn't happen this way. But points to Thor for testing out his theory in a very crazy, crazy way. It is the type of thing that happens routinely on reality TV shows these days but Thor did it first.

4.  The MS Turanor PlanetSolar

The MS Turanor PlanetSolar is the world's largest solar powered boat. And possibly the world's weirdest looking boat if you ask me. It was designed by a Kiwi, Craig Loomes, for a German entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs in Germany must be making good money these days as the boat cost a cool 25 million. I have no idea if that is in NZ dollars or US dollars, but when you're talking about that many dollars it probably doesn't matter. The boat is built out of a lightweight carbon structure and has 512 square meters of photovoltaic cells on it. It has already circumnavigated and now the University of Geneva are currently doing some scientific research on it. It will then be kitted out with six luxury cabins and en-suites. After all, it is important to blend in with all the other super yachts out there. And for all of you "Lord of the Rings" geeks out there, yes that's where the name "Turanor" came from. It means "The Power of the Sun".

5.  Tofi

Tofi was created by designer Hyun-Seok Kim and won first place in the 2011 "Dreamboat" Millennium Yacht Design Award. It is a sleek little minimalistic houseboat / yacht. It has main saloon with a galley, two bedrooms and a separate shower. There is a large deck in the rear and another deck on the roof. And for those days when it is raining, there is a hole in floor so you can fish no matter what the weather. And the best news of all, it is completely transparent so everyone can see how cool you look sitting inside. I'm not actually sure if one has ever been built or if it is just at concept stage right now. Is there a big demand for transparent spaceship-like boats? If you have one, let me know. Curious to know how you keep all that glass clean.

6. The Iguana 29

One of Scott's uncles is completely mystified as to how we will possibly survive living on our sailboat as we won't have a car. The Iguana 29 could be just the answer. It is an amphibious boat, comfortable both in water and on land. It is 8.6 meters long, can carry 8 people and reach speeds of up to 40 knots on the water and around 7 km/hour on land. The good people at Iguana will also sell you a smaller boat, the Iguana 24. Their website cracks me up with it's description, "Your first amphibious craft. You had never really thought about it before, but it is possible. Thanks to the Iguana 24, discover a new freedom, the ability to decide in a moment when and how to launch and recover your boat." They're right. Until I read their website, I never realized that I wanted an amphibious boat. Next time I have a spare $28,000 lying around in change, I'll definitely get one.

7.  HMNZS Te Mana

The Te Mana is one of the Royal New Zealand Navy's ANZAC class frigates. While I can't say that I find naval vessels terribly interesting, I've put the Te Mana on this top ten list as she is about to be deployed to Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean region to take part in international anti-piracy efforts. New Zealand's economy is highly driven by exports and, being an island nation, relies on shipping. Protecting shipping lanes from piracy is pretty important stuff and good on New Zealand for taking part, especially considering what a relatively small country it is (only 4.4 million people). Te Mana has a crew of 177, including 25 officers, and a bunch of weapons including guns, missiles and torpedoes. Plus a helicopter. Sadly, the pirates have pretty much the same stuff.

8. The Rooster Boat

I don't really know what to say about this boat except wow. How cool would that be to have your own giant rooster boat? You can check it out here along with pictures of some other really strange and interesting boats. I would like to make one that looks like a Narwhal. It would have that cool unicorn like horn sticking out of the front to poke all of the other boats out of the way.

9.  The Fennell Residence

The Fennell Residence isn't a very boat-like name, but then it isn't a very boat-like boat. It is on the water, however, so technically it is a house boat. Designed by Robert Harvey Oshatz, this "boat" can be found in Portland, Oregon. I don't think it would make it very far on the open ocean, but it would look cool trying.

10.  Rainbow's End

And of course the most interesting boat of all is Rainbow's End which is our boat and soon to be our permanent home. Rainbow's End is a Raven 26 and a Kiwi classic designed by Owen Woolley. There were about 400 of them built during the 1970s and 1980s and you can find lots of them still sailing around New Zealand. A few have even made it to the Pacific islands. You can find out more about her here.

She might be small, but
she is all ours!

11 October 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 7) - How Big Is Too Big?

Be warned - I am an unseasoned and not very salty sailor. Any tips I share about boat buying are of the low sodium variety.

How big is too big for a sailboat? I want a boat that is big enough to hold all of my stuff, but not so big that my bum looks big in it. All the ladies out there can relate. The worst thing in the world is to go jeans shopping. You try on pair after pair after pair desperately looking for the one pair that your bum doesn't look big in. It is all about getting the right cut which suits your shape. I imagine boats are a bit like that too. You want to get the right size for you and your family. Too big and you can't sail it without other crew members and too small and you're horribly uncomfortable and cramped inside. And, as far as I know, there are no sailing Spanx which can solve that problem. (Scott, don't ask what Spanx are. You really don't want to know.)

Well, Scott and I will be buying our next boat sometime next year, so I need to figure out what size will best suit our shape. We could go really big and get a mega yacht. If you have enough money to buy one of those, clearly buying diesel isn't your biggest concern so why not dispense with the sails entirely? The biggest mega yacht out there right now is the Azzam which is owned by some rich dude from one of the Emirates. Clearly, the price of diesel really isn't a problem for him. It is 180m / 590ft long and can reach top speeds of over 30 knots and cost a gazillion dollars. Have you ever seen anything more ridiculous? But I guess if you have this much money you never have to worry about your bum looking big in it because you have a whole host of fawning sycophants* who will tell you how great you look and how tiny your bum is. There aren't any sycophants in our neck of the wood, so we'll be going with something smaller.

So after checking that Scott doesn't have a gazillion dollars stashed away in some secret checking account, I'm now having a look at smaller boats. Although he is from North Dakota and there is a lot of oil to be found there, so who knows maybe the Dakotas will be the new Emirates in the near future and the oil money will come rushing in and we'll buy a mega yacht? However, I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, I'm thinking that we want something larger then what we currently sail on (26ft) but less than 40ft. Two reasons why - we're cheap and it is just the two of us. As you go up in size, your maintenance and other boat related costs go up. And obviously, just like with houses, the more square footage you have, the more the purchase price is.

Let me give you an example. We keep our boat in the piles in Westhaven Marina in Auckland. (The piles are the "cost conscious" option for mooring your boat there.) Our boat is small so we can go with the smallest mooring which costs us NZ$201.50 a month. If our boat was between 28-33ft it would cost us NZ$248.00, between 41-46ft it would cost NZ$294.50 and so on and so on all the way up to NZ$465.00 for boats between 61-66ft. The same principle applies when you haul your boat out for its annual anti-fouling. The bigger the boat, the more cans of paint you need. And as anti-foul paint is expensive enough as it is, who really wants to buy a lot of it? Every penny counts when you're sailing on a budget, so I want to go with the smallest boat we can comfortably live in.

The other big reason has to do with ease of sailing. I'm a really rubbish sailor and the last thing we need is to have a really big boat that is hard for me to manage. Ideally, Scott would single hand the boat and I could just spend my days reading and snacking and you really do need a smaller boat for one person to be able to single hand it. (Scott, I am just kidding. I'm there for you. In spirit anyway. In spirit from down below reading and snacking.) From what I've read, it looks like something between 35-38ft would be manageable for the two of us. So that's what we'll go for. One more thing figured out on our boat buying checklist. Next up I'll have a look at the different interior set-ups there are on boats. Since I'll be spending a lot of my time down below snacking and reading, this is an important one!

If you're interested in other slightly eccentric posts on how to buy a sailboat when you know nothing about sailing or boats, check out this page.

The Monkey's FistVisit The Monkey's Fist to find other posts on this topic:

*Yes, I realize that saying "fawning" in front of "sycophant" is probably unnecessary and a bit redundant. However, "sycophant" on its own is a really silly word which just sounds plain odd. If you add "fawning" in front of it then suddenly it has some oomph.

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09 October 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!

It is my mom's birthday this week and one of the great advantages of having a blog is that you can make sure everyone knows you remembered to wish her Happy Birthday! My mom is one fantastic lady and she has been so supportive of our plans to start sailing full-time and live on our boat. Only problem is that she doesn't like the water and worries a bit about hurricanes and our boat rolling over. She would much prefer if we stayed in a marina so that she can visit us from the dock. I'm sure she'll come around in no time and be out there sailing with us in all sorts of weather by the time her next birthday comes around. In the meantime, Happy Birthday Mom!

Once upon a time before computers, e-mails and blogs, there was this thing called a typewriter
that you could use to write letters with birthday greetings to your mother. My how times have changed.
Via the Graphics Fairy

07 October 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Browns Island

Browns Island - An archaeological wonderland!
36°49’S 174°53’E

Scott is an archaeologist, so he loves nothing more than looking at historic sites and really old stuff. I'm hoping that this bodes well for me as I get older. I figure each human year I age is like a century in archaeological years. That makes me well over 4,000 years old now! Archaeologists really "dig" old things, so he'll think I'm really hot once I get some more wrinkles and gray hair. At least that's how the theory goes. So this one is for you Scott - a post about the archaeological wonders of Browns Island (also known as Motukorea) in the Hauraki Gulf. You are so darn lucky to be married to me - not only am I getting old, but I write about old stuff for you.

Browns Island has been occupied for a long time by the Maori with the Ngati Tama Te Ra iwi using the island as a gardening and fishing base for at least six centuries. It is important to note that when I say a "long time", this is relative to New Zealand. Humans have only been in New Zealand from around 1250-1300 when a group of Polynesians sailed here and made it their home. Although some scholars argue that there were earlier arrivals between 50-150. Academics like to fight among themselves using scholarly articles as their weapons. Either way, if you're from other parts of the world, you may think this is really recent.

So back to the story...William Brown and John Logan Campbell bought the island from the Ngati Tama Te Ra in 1840. Brown and Campbell settled on the island and stocked it with pigs which they planned to sell to the Europeans in Auckland. Ownership of the island got a bit tricky when Apiha Te Kawau of the Ngati Whatua decided to gift the island to the Crown. Somebody forgot to tell the Crown that Brown and Campbell had already bought the island. Oops. They eventually got things sorted out. Phew. After that there were a whole series of selling and buying and transferring ownership going on between various people and groups. The end outcome is that today the Auckland City Council owns the island with it being administered by the Department of Conservation. So in the end, the government won out and the island is theirs. But their mothers raised them right so the island is actually everyone's and you can visit provided you have your own boat. There is no ferry service. You can ask us for a lift if you want. Bring snacks. Preferably freshly baked cookies. With chocolate chips.

Once you get to Browns Island, there is a lot of cool archaeological stuff to see. The archaeological landscape is considered to be outstanding due to its completeness and intactness. Archaeologists like when things are intact. It gives them more stuff to dig up. (Yes Scott, I know. You want me to point out that archaeologists are all about preserving cultural heritage and don't randomly dig up stuff. Disclaimer duly noted.) There are a lot of interesting archaeological sites that you won't always find in the greater archaeological region, including archaic middens (translation - old trash dumps), fish traps and stone structures. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Coastal midden site (R11/1100) - One of the largest on the island which indicates that most of the coast was occupied at some time or another. Moa bone was even found 20-25 cm below the surface. Moas are awesome birds. Too bad they are extinct. Or are they? Join the "Moa Preservation Society" and together we can bring them back from the dead. Scott and I are the founding members. For some reason, it hasn't really caught on yet. But with your help, that could all change. Annual membership is only $25 a year. A bargain.
  • Paa on cone (R11/39) - The term "paa" can refer to any Maori village or defensive settlement, but is usually used to refer to hill forts. The one on the cone on Browns Island is unique in the Auckland region as the settlement is entirely fortified and defended by transverse ditches and banks across the crater rim at both ends. Do you remember building forts as a kid? This one is way better. There is also another paa on the lower ridge of the cone (R11/123) and two more at the bottom (R11/124 and R11/125).
  • Other exciting Maori stuff - You can find remnants of stone garden field systems, fish traps and rock shelters on the island as well.  

If all that wasn't enough, you can also find the wrecks of old paddleboat steamers used by the Devonport Steam Ferry Company scattered about. And if you prefer flying to sailing, head up to the top of the cone and imagine the historic moment when the Barnard Brothers (the Kiwi equivalent to the Wright Brothers) made aviation history (in New Zealand at least) by flying their gliders off the slopes in 1909.

If you're interested in other posts in the "Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes" series, check out this page.

An Iron Age crouched burial from a site in England. Scott seems to have a knack for finding human remains on the sites he works on.
I wonder if this is a skill that will come in handy when we're out sailing?
This is what a day in the life of the Cynical Sailor looks like (this is from a site in Scotland).
Archaeologists think dirt and old rocks are exciting. Thankfully, they also think sailing is exciting too.

More holes and rocks. This is a drying kiln from a Roman site that Scott worked on in England.
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04 October 2013

Going For A Walk: Tamaki Drive In Auckland {Or There Is More To Auckland Than The Sky Tower}

Amid the pohutukawa trees, Tamaki Drive curves along the Waitemata Harbour.
If you want great views of the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, take a stroll along Tamaki Drive. Starting in downtown Auckland at the ferry terminal at Queens Wharf, walk along Quay Street and watch the container ships being loaded and unloaded at the Port of Auckland. After you pass by the heliport in Mechanics Bay, Quay Street turns into Tamaki Drive which curves along the waterfront all the way to St. Heliers Bay. You can admire the very expensive homes along the way and enjoy the various beaches at Orakei, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St. Heliers. 

For boaties, you can check out the Auckland Outboard Boating Club (OBC) and boat sheds in Hobson Bay, the Orakei Marina, the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and sailboats moored in Okahu Bay, and the Tamaki Yacht Club and Kohimarama Yacht Club further down the road. If you want to go for a swim, check out the largest salt water pool in New Zealand at the Parnell Baths. You can find public facilities, restaurants and cafes in Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St. Heliers. The walk is a little under 10 kms one way and if one way is enough for you, there are frequent buses along Tamaki Drive back into central Auckland. The best time of year to go is early summer when the pohutukawa trees are in bloom. They have red flowers and because they bloom in December they are known as the Kiwi Christmas tree. 

Check out Tamaki Drive - there really is more to Auckland than just the Sky Tower!

Port of Auckland - A small island nation, New Zealand is an export driven economy and its ports are vital to trade.

The old overpass from Tamaki Drive over the train tracks to the Parnell Baths. It has been replaced this year.

The Parnell Baths - it will cost you $6.30 to use the facilities for the day.

Tamaki Drive is a popular place to sit and enjoy the views of the Waitemata Harbour

The boatsheds in Hobson Bay.

Orakei Marina - there is a great walkway on the Nor-Eastern breakwaters

Boats moored in Okahu Bay. You can see Raingitoto Island behind them. It last erupted about 550 years ago.

Getting ready to race. They start them sailing young in New Zealand on Optimist boats.  

There are all types of boats to be found along Tamaki Drive.