31 July 2013

Don't Tell My Husband

Part of getting ready to live on a sailboat full-time is to downsize. The term “downsize” can refer to a few things:
  1. Large corporations laying off employees 
  2. Losing that weight around your hips and thighs so you can go down a dress size
  3. Getting rid of all of that crap that is filling every nook and cranny in your house
I have experience with number 1 – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I’m always hoping number 2 will happen, but it never does. When you start to read about sailing and look at sailing blogs, everyone seems to gravitate to tropical islands. Which sounds great (imagine drinks out of coconuts, moonlight walks on the beach, taking naps in hammocks) until you remember that all the girls seem to wear bikinis while they’re frolicking on the beaches in these tropical paradises. Yikes – downsizing to get into a bikini might actually be worse than being downsized by your employer! I’m beginning to think embracing my middle aged blubber and cruising up to the Arctic in search of the Narwhals might be a better alternative. You have to wear thick, warm sweaters instead of bikinis. And since whales have blubber to keep them warm, I figure mine will come in handy too.

So having accomplished downsizing number 1, given up on downsizing number 2, I have now turned my attention to downsizing number 3 – getting rid of my worldly possessions or at least reducing the amount of space they take up. 

I've started with my DVDs. I've had them stored in various parts of our apartment so I never fully realized how many I had. Does this look like a lot to you? 

If Scott ever saw this picture, he would start shaking his head and muttering things under his breath that don’t bear repeating. So because he is in Scotland just now, I’m being very crafty by taking all of the DVDs out of their cases and putting them into DVD wallets. Doesn’t this look much better? I’m sure we can find space on the boat for them. Scott will hardly notice. 

The bad news is that I have just as many DVDs in boxes in Scotland. Scott hasn’t seen them yet but when he goes to pack up our stuff he is going to discover my secret little collection. So I’m working up my “defense” for when his head explodes at the sight of all of my DVDs. It involves demonstrating to him how much worse it could be by buying the DVDs for the "Hoarders" TV series and having him watch them. Yes, it is ironic that I would buy more DVDs. But it is all about perspective. Once he sees how bad it could be, he'll think the DVDs that I've hoarded collected are nothing by comparison.

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29 July 2013

Narwhals - The Jedi Unicorn Warriors of the Sea

Narwhal via the Graphics Fairy

When my sister first told me about Narwhals I thought she was making it up. Unicorns living in the sea – can’t be possible. How would they breathe? In the forest, sure there are lots of unicorns playing in the meadows with the My Little Ponies, but in the sea, no way! Turns out they are real. I know because National Geographic says so and so it must be true. My sister wasn’t lying after all.

Now that we’ve decided to live on a boat full-time, we’ve been thinking about where we want to go next after New Zealand. I’m torn between going to Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables fans can relate) or going out in search of the Narwhals. Scott thinks this whole Anne of Green Gables obsession is a bit too girly for him, so I thought chasing down the Narwhals might appeal more to his sense of adventure. So, before I start to plan out our Narwhal expedition, I thought I should find out a bit more about them as right now my knowledge is limited to the fact that they have giant unicorn horns sticking out of their heads. So through my extensive research, I found out that Narwhals invented shish kebab, are the Jedis of the sea and can beat polar bears in a fight. It’s true – check this You Tube documentary out.

Armed with this knowledge, I decided to take this Narwhal quiz. It is intended for sixth graders, so I figure I can pass.

1.    What does Narwhal mean in the Old Norse language?

Ellen’s Answer – Jedis of the Sea

The Quizmaster’s Answer – the corpse whale (Sounds gruesome, I like my answer better.)

2.    What color is an adult narwhal’s skin?

Ellen’s Answer – pink and purple like My Little Ponies

The Quizmaster’s Answer – bluish-gray with white blotches (Yuck, who wants a sea unicorn with blotchy skin!)

3.    The long projection in front of the Narwhal is not a horn. What is it?

Ellen’s Answer – Of course it is a horn, a unicorn horn.

The Quizmaster’s Answer – The male Narwhal has a long, hollow, spiral tooth that grows from the upper left jaw. The tusk is about 10 ft (3 m) long. Tusking is a behavior in which male narwhals rub their tusks together - perhaps determining dominance in the group. (Yawn - what a boring answer!)

4.    Narwhals are found near which pole?

Ellen’s Answer – I don’t know what you’re talking about. They hang out in the Caribbean where it is warm.

The Quizmaster’s Answer - Narwhals are social whales that live in small groups in frigid Arctic waters. (If they’re so social why don’t they come down to the Caribbean where there are more people to hang out with?)

5.    An adult Narwhal (body plus tusk) is about as long as how many 5 foot tall sixth graders?

Ellen’s Answer – I’m 5 foot tall. Does this mean I’m a sixth grader?

The Quizmaster’s Answer - Narwhals can grow to be about 16 feet long (not counting the tooth). Their spiral tooth can be up to 10 feet long. 16 feet plus 10 feet equals 26 feet. 26 feet divided by 5 foot tall sixth graders equals 5 full size sixth graders plus one 1 foot tall sixth grader. (Too much math for me!)

6.    An adult Narwhal is about as heavy as a bicycle, a person, a car or a jumbo jet?

Ellen’s Answer – They can take a polar bear in a fight, so I’m going to go with a jumbo jet.

The Quizmaster’s Answer – Narwhals weigh about 1.8 tons. About as much as a car. (I don’t know how much a car or a jumbo jet weigh, so I’ll have to take their word for it.)

7.    Like other whales, the Narwhal breathes through what?

Ellen’s Answer – Through their noses.

The Quizmaster’s Answer – Through their blowholes. (That’s just a fancy word for a whale nose.)

8.    Narwhal tusks used to be confused with the horn of what mythical animal?

Ellen’s Answer – This is a trick question. There are no mythical animals.

The Quizmaster’s Answer – Unicorns (The Quizmaster is delusional. Unicorns are real. Just ask the My Little Ponies.)

After completing this quiz, I’ve now kind of gone off of the Narwhal expedition. I’ve verified the Quizmaster’s answer to question 4 with National Geographic and unfortunately it looks like the Narwhals do live in the Arctic and not the Caribbean. I don’t like the cold, so I’ll wait until the Narwhals come to their senses and migrate to warmer climates. 

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27 July 2013

Cruising in Aotearoa (New Zealand) - Let's Learn a Little Bit of Te Reo Maori

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I took an intro Te Reo Maori class. The first thing I learned is that the Te Reo Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which means the land of the long white cloud ("ao" meaning cloud, "tea" meaning white and "roa" meaning long). The second thing I learned is that "Te Reo" means "the language", hence "Te Reo Maori" means "the language of the Maori". You'll often hear it just referred to as "Te Reo".

I wasn't a very good student and I didn't retain much from the class (this is a theme for me, I like to take classes but don't remember anything), but I thought it might be helpful to note down some Te Reo terms and tips on pronunciation (not that I can pronounce Te Reo) to jog my memory. And if you ever find yourself cruising in Aotearoa, you can try to give it a go too.

It is important to note that Te Reo has traditionally been an oral language and the written form has just developed over the past two centuries or so. There have been different orthographies (fancy term for writing system) used and a standard written language continues to be developed. One of the most common ways I've seen Te Reo written is with "macrons". Macrons are short horizontal lines that are put over vowels to indicate a long vowel sound. Some people double the vowel rather than use a macron (e.g., "aa" would be a long vowel and "a" would be a short vowel). Things could go wrong in interpretation if you confuse a long vowel with a short vowel. For example, "pahu" (short vowel, no macron) is the word for "bark" and "paahu" (with a long vowel, I doubled the "a" rather then use a macron) is the word for "explode". Imagine if you were talking about a dog barking but it sounded like you were talking about a dog exploding. This might cause some confusion. People also might call the SPCA on you for being cruel to dogs by making them explode. It is possible that "pahu" actually refers to bark on trees and not the sound dogs make (I told you my Te Reo was poor), but you get the idea.

But I haven't figured out how to include macrons using the Blogger tool, so I've left them out and just doubled the vowels instead. I know this isn't ideal and I'm sure some people would say it is really, really bad to leave them out. Maybe some day, I'll figure out how to add them in and update this. In the meantime, I figure some attempt at learning Te Reo is better than no attempt. So here it goes, Te Reo 101 Ellen style sans macrons.

Making Te Reo Sounds

The Te Reo alphabet includes:
  • Five vowels - a, e, i, o, u (just like English - easy so far)
  • Eight consonants - h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w (fewer than English - see its not too hard)
  • Two diphthongs (two letters that combine to form one sound) - wh, ng (uh oh, this sounds complicated!)
Now if you've been paying attention, you'll remember about the short vs. long vowels. Here is how you pronounce them:
  • Short a - as in about
  • Long a - as in far
  • Short e - as in enter
  • Long e - as in bed
  • Short i - as in eat
  • Long i - as in sheep
  • Short o - as in awful
  • Long o - as in pork
  • Short u - as in put
  • Long u - as in boot
Practice listening to the vowel sounds by saying, "Hey you, that is about as far as you're going to enter into my house ever again! Last time you were here, you kept your boots on and farted in bed. It made an awful smell. Almost as bad as your mangy sheep outside. And I saw you eat up all the pork in the fridge and put the empty dish back. Get lost!"

The consonants are pretty much pronounced like they are in English. There are of course some exceptions to keep you on your toes.
  • The "t" changes depending upon what vowel follows it. When followed by an a, e or o, it is pronounced with little or no "s" sound. When followed by an i or u, it is pronounced with a slight "s" sound, but not as much as in English. I just ignore this rule as it is too complicated to remember.
  • The "r" is rolled. For those of you who speak Spanish, no problemo just say a Spanish "r" and that should be close enough. If you don't speak Spanish, pretend you are a cat purring.
  • The "ng" dipthong  is pronounced like the "ng" in "singer".
  • The "wh" dipthong is pronounced like the English "f". This one is always good for a few giggles when people pronounce "Whakatane". Yes, that's right it sounds just like "f***atane". Say it out loud. Yes, you've just said a naughty word. Now, go wash out your mouth with soap.
Have you finished practicing your sounds? Good, you're ready to learn some basic phrases.

How to Sound Like You're Trying

If you're American, throw in a few of these words and phrases from time to time and you can go a long way towards chipping away at our reputation as monolinguals intent on global domination who wish there was a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner and can't figure out why everyone else doesn't speak English (even when we speak very slowly and loudly to them).

Basic Greetings
  • Kia ora - hi, welcome, hiya, g'day (If you learn only one phrase, learn this one. It is commonly used by both Maori and Pakeha. Pakeha is the term for non-Maori New Zealanders, usually for those of European descent.)
  • Haere mai - more formal welcome, come here/in (If you fly Air New Zealand, you'll hear this one.)
  • Kei te peehea koe - how are you? (to one person)
  • Kei te pai - I'm well, thanks!
  • E noho raa - goodbye (from person leaving)
  • Haere raa - goodbye (from person staying)
  • Ka kite - see you again, see you soon (informal)
  • Whaanau - family (You'll often hear this one used by Maori and Pakeha alike.)
  • Wahine - woman, wife (If you've been to Hawaii, this will look familiar from the restroom signs. Te Reo and Hawaiian are very closely related languages.)
  • Taane - man, husband
  • Tamaiti - child
  • Tamariki - children
  • Tamaahine - daughter
  • Tama - son, young man, youth
  • Iwi - people, nation, can be loosely translated as tribe

Some Other Odds/Ends

You never know, these might come in handy...
  • Me aata inu koe - Go easy on the drinking
  • Kei ēnā tikanga hoki - Hey, you're a bit dodgy!
  • E aha ana koe ā te pō? - What are you doing tonight?
  • Hei aha māu? - What's it to you?

How to Talk About Water & Land

Here are some terms related to the water and land. You also use them decode place names in Te Reo.

  • Au - current
  • Awa - river
  • Iti - small, little
  • Kai - food, in a place name it refers to where a particular food source is abundant (e.g., Kaikooura - the place where there are a lot of crayfish (koura)
  • Maania - plain
  • Manga - stream
  • Maunga - mountain
  • Moana - sea or large inland lake (such as Lake Taupo)
  • Motu - island
  • Nui - large, big
  • O - put in front of a word it means the place of so and so
  • One - sand, earth
  • Pae - ridge, range
  • Papa - flat
  • Poto - short
  • Puke - hill
  • Roa - long (you remember learning this already as in Aotearoa)
  • Roto - lake, inside
  • Tai - coast, tide
  • Wai - water
  • Whanga - harbor, bay

Practice talking about sailing with some of these nifty words. Try saying, "Hey honey, I dropped the car keys in the whanga. Would you mind diving into the wai and looking for them. Don't worry the au isn't too strong, you won't get swept away. But not to worry if you do drift away. I just took a big insurance policy out on you."
So there you go, your first lesson in Te Reo. I don't guarantee results or the quality of the instruction, so use at your own risk! The worst thing that can happen is people laugh at you. It could be worse like actually dropping your car keys in the whanga or letting your mobile/cell phone go for an unintended swim.
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25 July 2013

Stalking Lin & Larry

Dear Lin & Larry,

I've become a real fan of yours and have been reading your books. They are super informative, full of good humor and honesty and I can see why the two of you are rock stars of the sailing world.

I read in your newsletter that you're living in Auckland during July. You said that you're "going to move into a tiny studio right in the center of Auckland for a month, to savor a completely different life style. There is a large selection of cafés only a block away, great bakeries and a top market within walking distance, a library, and to top it all a big international film festival is coming to town."

I live in central Auckland. I go to all the cafes and bakeries. I go to the market. I go to the library. How come I haven't seen you? I keep looking for you! I assume you mean the French market in Parnell. Have I been going to the wrong one? I even hung out near the sailing book section in the library for a few hours hoping you would turn up. You didn't.

Where are you?

We looked for you last summer when we were out on Kawau Island and we'll be back there again this summer so we'll keep an eye out for you again. We'll be at the Kawau Island Yacht Club having a beer and would love to buy you guys one too. If you could autograph my copy of "The Care and Feeding of a Sailing Crew", I'll buy you as many beers as you want and even throw in an order of hot chips.



PS I promise we're not the scary kind of stalkers you need restraining orders against.

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23 July 2013

Cooking with Cans

So far, the most interesting things I've been reading about sailing have to do with provisioning and cooking on boats. I especially love Lin Pardey's book "The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew" - she is one creative gal with cans. I don't really find detailed descriptions about how to fix engines, install marine toilets or figure out why the batteries have died very interesting. Instead, I've been fascinated by the idea of having to cook with just what you have stored on your boat for days or weeks or even months on end. Then imagine that you don't have refrigeration and all of your fresh produce has all been eaten up or turned rotten and all you have to live on is what comes in cans or other forms of long-term storage. 

You'll note I said I'm fascinated by the "idea" of this. I'm not sure I really want to experience it. But I'm sure the topic of making a long passage will come at some point and the ability to make something out of nothing may become an important skill in the future. So to that end, I've been experimenting with cooking with things that just come in cans, as well as the odd onion as they supposedly last a long time on a long passage.

The ability to cook from cans and other food storage items is also a good experiment in frugality as you may not always have the money in the cruising kitty to go out and buy fresh things. I've been doing some googling on frugal living and have found some fascinating ladies who are experts in living on very little money and relying on their food storage. Granted their lives are very different from mine (they have kids and home school them, know how to sew, have gardens, live in houses (not boats) and live in the desert), but I've picked up a lot of good tips from them. 

The first lady is Danielle whose blog is Blissful and Domestic. She and her family of four live on US$14,000 a year which seems amazing to me. The other lady is Brandy whose blog is the Prudent Homemaker. She has seven kids (seven!) and they lived off of their food storage (as in they didn't buy anything from the grocery store) for entire a year due to no income. That sounds like a lot of cans to me! Another interesting lady is Katy from the Non-Consumer Advocate. She is part of the "Compact" which is movement of people choosing not to buy anything - her motto is use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. She is from Portland, Oregon and if you know anything about Portland, you'll know that this is a very Portland thing to do.

So as part of my frugality experiments and getting ready to live on a boat, I've been trying recipes made solely from canned goods. My first one was Taco Soup and it tasted pretty good. And it was super easy too!

Taco Soup Recipe

2 tsp oil
1 medium chopped onion (leave it out if you don't have one, it should be fine)
1 packet taco spice mix
1 can corn (I used the kind with no added salt or sugar)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can kidney beans (rinse them first)
500 ml water

Heat the oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add in the taco spice mix and sauté for 1 minute. Chuck in the corn, tomatoes, kidney beans and water. Stir. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. So easy.

If you're not living off of your cans, you could always jazz this up with jalapeños, some shredded cheese, spring onions etc. Basically, add anything you would put on a taco.

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Cruising in the Hauraki Gulf - Summer 2012/13

We spent as much of last summer (December through March in the Southern Hemisphere) as we could cruising in the Hauraki Gulf on Rainbow's End. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about sailing and for both of us to see some amazing places, islands and anchorages.

The Hauraki Gulf is a Marine Park and covers more than 1.2 million hectares on the east coast of Auckland and includes the Waitemata Harbor, Firth of Thames and the eastern coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula. There are more than 50 islands and five marine reserves within the Hauraki Gulf. Many of the islands are public conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation and most of the islands are open to the public (some aren't for conservation reasons or require a permit).

On our first outing on Rainbow's End we took a day trip out to Motuihe Island and Islington Bay, Motutapu Island. Motuihe is one of the "Treasure Islands" (which means it is pest free and actively managed to keep it pest free). It has some great sandy beaches, clear waters, sheltered anchorages, a campsite and visitor facilities. Islington Bay is a very popular anchorage and lies between Rangitoto and Motutapu islands (they're connected by a causeway). Motutapu is mainly pasture, but there is a program to replant the forests and restore the wetlands. It was occupied by the Maori for hundreds of years and there are a number of archaeological sites on the island. Rangitoto is very different to Motutapu. It is much younger and one of the largest and least modified of the volcanic cones and craters in the Auckland region. It erupted from the sea about 600 years ago and is now thankfully extinct. It has some amazing walks through the volcanic debris and the views from the top are incredible. There is a regular ferry service from Auckland to Raingitoto so it is very popular with tourists and quite busy during the day. You can also get to Motutapu by ferry but they are seasonal and not as frequent.

Map of Rangitoto (left) and Motutapu (right) Islands. (Islington Bay is in the southern inlet between the two islands)
Sourced from Land Information New Zealand data. Crown Copyright Reserved.
On our second outing, also a day trip, we sailed out to Waiheke Island. Waiheke is a very large island between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula with approx. 8,000 permanent inhabitants. There are frequent, high speed ferries to Auckland and many people commute to work daily in Auckland. It is a very popular tourist destination and holiday home area for Aucklanders.

After two successful day outings (and after some work on the engine), we then went for an extended trip spending six days sailing up to Gulf Harbor, Kawau Island, back to Gulf Harbor and then over to Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island. We stayed at the Gulf Harbor Marina on our first night of the trip. Gulf Harbor is located on the southern side of the Whangapora Peninsula. It is near to a swanky housing development and golf course. Many of the homes have their own docks where their owners can leave their very large and expensive launches. If you find yourself envious and starting to drool over the big launches, just remind yourself how much it would cost to fill that baby up with diesel and run her. The advantages of a small sailboat will become instantly obvious. There are good marine services at Gulf Harbor and shops and restaurants nearby.

After Gulf Harbor, we then headed up to Kawau Island (where Lin & Larry Pardey live!) and spent 2 nights anchored up in front of a club house owned by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Kawau Island is an historic reserve and home to the iconic Mansion House. Sir George Grey, the Governor of New Zealand, bought the island in 1862 as a private retreat and built a mansion which is cleverly called "Mansion House".

Mansion House - it was being renovated when we were there
After the first night we rowed the half mile over to School House Bay to take a hike to visit the Mansion House. When I say "we", I mean Scott rowed while my job, since Scott's back is turned away from the destination intended when rowing, is to keep Scott on course. It is a job I take seriously, however, my mind tends to wander so in essence Scott gets to row 30-50% more then he needs to for a true rhumb line course - much to Scott's great pleasure.  

Mansion House was being restored so we didn't get to see inside, but we'll check it out when we're back there this summer. Kawau was also the site of one of New Zealand's earliest mining ventures and you can see remains of the mining industry on a series of tracks through the reserve. The island is no longer a private retreat - part of the island is now managed by the Department of Conservation and the rest is privately owned. We anchored our boat in Bon Accord Harbor conveniently near the Kawau Island Yacht Club which is a great place to have a few beers and look out over the harbor (and keep an eye out for Lin & Larry).

Kawau Island Yacht Club
During the second night at anchor the wind picked up to over 30 knots and I got to learn all about anchor watches (30 knots isn't something to sneeze at - see here for a handy wind chart you can use to describe fear in numbers). Anchor watch is when the crew of the boat takes turns staying awake to see if the boat starts to drag the anchor. With the boat and anchor being new to us, we (Scott mostly since I was blissfully unaware of such things) were not yet confident in our "ground tackle" (I learned later that ground tackle is pretty important stuff). During the day, after listening to the weather report, Scott had paid out more rode (the rope that is attached to the chain that is in turn attached to the anchor in aggregate called the ground tackle) explaining to me the more rode paid out the more secure the anchor will be. In response, I gave Scott my best cat like disinterested stare. Scott had wanted to let more rode since we first arrived but couldn't due to all the boats around us. During the day a number of boats left so Scott could do this. I just thought Scott was being polite by putting distance from us to the remaining boats due to his aversion to bathing but now I'm thinking Scott was taking advantage of his lack of personal hygiene to clear the boats out so he could put out more rode. Quite cunning he is and I have come to the conclusion I need to keep a more watchful eye on him. Anyway it was great fun staying up in the dark with nothing to do except listen to the wind howl and stressing out with each gust of wind that could cause us to ram another boat or put us aground. (Clearly, Scott was derelict in his duty regarding my sedation regime.)

After Kawau we headed back to Gulf Harbor for a night and I took a much needed shower at the marina. When I got back Scott said he was going to the "shower block" but, because of my aforementioned watchful eye resolution, I became suspicious when I noticed he didn't take a towel with him. This was coupled with Scott's curious use of the phrase "shower block" rather then "take a shower" as Scott likes to twist words and sentences to his own devices. I was on to him. No matter what he was going to take a shower! I don't care if he doesn't like to immerse himself in water! Not one more minute of that odious, odorous body on this boat! So I marched right up the pontoon, grabbed the nearest male marina staff and had him go into the showers and deliver a towel to Scott. When Scott got back he said he must have dropped his towel because some guy handed it to him in the shower. I just rolled my eyes and gave him a big whiff test. He passed.

The next day we sailed to Waiheke and anchored in Oneroa Bay which is a very popular and large anchorage in the town of Oneroa. Personally, I find it a little too popular and it can become quite crowded. However, you can find everything you need in Oneroa including a Four Square market, bars, restaurants, shops and even a small movie theatre.

After a day back at our apartment taking care of a few things (and another much needed shower!), we headed back out for a couple of days back to Motutapu Island anchoring in Islington Bay and Station Bay. Station Bay is on the eastern side of Motutapu Island and has a nice beach area. We met some people there that Scott races with for a barbeque which was great fun. I can see why rum & cokes are so popular with sailors. This is the night that we decided we needed a new dinghy. The one that came with the boat had a number of holes and was constantly deflating. This is not an attribute that you want in a dinghy. On our way back to our boat that night it really started to deflate and I started to wonder how cold of a swim it was going to be back to the boat. We made it back to the boat so I never had to find out about the water temperature. But when we woke up the next morning, we found our dinghy pretty much deflated and half submerged. We realized that the someone had been messing around with the bung hole the night before and hadn't screwed it back in properly (I think rum & cokes were to blame here) which caused the dinghy to take on water. Important lesson learned here - make sure the bung is screwed completely in before you leave your dinghy floating in the water overnight. Otherwise, bad things happen. Water is good for drinking and swimming in. (Scott - water is also good for keeping your body clean and smelling nice!) Water is bad inside your dinghy.

Unfortunately, the Christmas break was over and I had to go back to work so we were limited to weekend trips and some evening sails for a while. In addition to the usual stops at Islington Bay (it is really close to Auckland and a popular stop for weekenders), we also got out to Awaawaroa Bay, Waiheke Island (on the southern coast) and Ponui Island.

Our next big trip was a week's cruise out to Great Barrier Island and Kawau Island. Great Barrier Island was amazing! It is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf and there are approx. 850 people living there permanently. We only got to explore a little bit of the island as I had to be back in Auckland for work. But the bit we saw was great. We stayed around Port Fitzroy on the western side of the island exploring the various bays in the area. We entered between Selwyn Island and Red Cliff Cove through what I thought was an impossibly narrow channel. I closed my eyes at times as I was sure we were going to hit the shore. Scott kept his eyes open and managed to steer the boat and take photos at the same time.

Great Barrier Island
(Scott steering and taking photos at the same time right before we enter the tiny passage)
One of the highlights was hiking  the Kaiaraara Track up to the Kauri Dam and the top of Mt. Hobson (Hirakimata). Mt Hobson is 621m and there are a  lot of stairs to climb up to get to the top. Just when you think you're done with the stairs you turn a corner and there are more stairs. But it is worth it and the views are spectacular from up top.

Bush's Beach Trail Head to Mt Hobson (that's our shiny, new dinghy near the sign)
View from top of Mt Hobson
After the big trip to Great Barrier Island we did another weekend out to Oneroa, Waiheke Island and the Motuihe Channel.

We then did our final big trip of the summer spending a week sailing to Tiritiri Matangi Island, Kawau Island, Mahurangi Habor, Elephant Cove, Coromandel Harbor and Ponui Island. Tiritiri is a conservation island and bird sanctuary. They have gotten rid of all of the unwanted pests, replanted native trees and returned rare native birds and animals to the island. I would highly recommend a visit and if you do go, take one of the tours led by the volunteers. We had visited Tiritiri the previous year via the ferry so on this trip we just did a short walk before heading on to Kawau to anchor for the night. This was a third time in Kawau during the summer but still no sighting of Lin & Larry. They do sell autographed copies of their books in the Kawau Island Yacht Club store.

After Kawau, we headed to the Mahurangi Harbor and anchored near Scott's Landing (no it isn't named after our Scott). Mahurangi is to the south of Kawau Bay and leads into the Mahurangi River which winds its way up towards Warkworth.

We then headed over towards the Coromandel Peninsula and anchored in Elephant Cove which is on Motukahaua Island. Just before we arrived we were visited by some more dolphins including a little one that played for a few seconds around our bow. It is a beautiful anchorage with really steep cliffs on either side of a tiny cove. However, it probably wasn't the most restful night I've ever had. It was pitch black that night and we kept worrying about the wind changing and smashing us into the cliffs or onto the shore. Fortunately, the wind didn't change and we were able to stay there all night and our boat stayed in one piece.

We then headed into Coromandel Harbor and dinghied into Coromandel Town to restock on diesel, water and food and anchored in some of the lovely bays in the harbor.

That was our last trip of the summer. All in all 597 nautical miles and 30 days on board. We have now put the boat away for the winter as Scott had to head back to Scotland for work. More adventures to come this summer!

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20 July 2013

Dirty Bottom

Before we bought Rainbow's End, we had her taken out of the water at Orams Marine Services in Auckland to look at the hull. Scott had brought along a friend he races with to have a look as well for us which was a real bonus as he is a very experienced marine engineer and what he doesn't know about boats isn't worth knowing.

I had never seen a boat being taken out of the water before. Basically you drive her into this contraption which has two straps attached to it and then the big machine lifts the boat out of the water. Much like I can't quite come to grips with how planes stay in the air, I cannot get my head around how these straps don't break with a big heavy object in them or how the boat doesn't fall out. But it seems to work. Here is a picture of Rainbow's End dangling in the Travelift.

Because we were pretty sure we were going to buy her, we also had her bottom cleaned at the same time. Here is what she looked like before she was clean. Gross! 

Here is what she looked like half clean and half dirty. All that blue stuff on the ground is her anti-foul paint washed away by the water blaster. I'm sure it is delightfully toxic stuff. 

And here is what she looked like all clean and much improved. Of course now you can see that she is in desperate need of a new coat of anti-foul which Scott did do later in the summer. Basically, anti-foul paint is what it says on the tin - it keeps away the foul, nasty stuff from growing on the bottom of your boat. Unfortunately, it doesn't last forever so you have to haul your boat out regularly and slap on some more of the anti-foul paint. And it is very expensive because it is "marine" paint. Imagine paying NZ$75 for one liter of paint? I almost fell down when Scott told me how much it costs and I'm someone who can spend a lot more on a pair of shoes. One of the advantages of a small boat is less paint is needed. One thing I've learned is that if you take any normal, everyday household product and slap the word "marine" on the front of it you can instantly charge 10 times as much as you would for the non-marine version. I'm sure Scott will have something cynical to say in a future post about the cost of marine products.

The Big Experiment - Buying Our First Boat

We took the plunge at the end December 2012 and kicked off the really big experiment of owning our own boat in New Zealand. We bought a Raven 26 MK2 called Rainbow's End from a work colleague and her husband who after having a new baby found they weren't able to sail much anymore. And their baby is really cute so I can see why they chose her over the boat!

The Raven 26 is a real Kiwi classic. It was designed by Owen Woolley and approx. 400 were built during the 70s-80s. There were two versions of the Raven 26 built - the earlier ones with a ply sandwich construction and the later ones with solid fiberglass decks (we have the latter one). The Raven 26 was designed to be a high performance cruising yacht with what has been described as an "amazing amount of room both below and above decks". After learning to sail on a Davidson 20, I thought the Raven was huge when I first saw it. This may be part of Scott's cunning plan - he starts me off on a tiny boat so that I'm thrilled when we get a 26' one and then I'll be overjoyed when we upgrade to a larger boat.

Her length is 26' (pretty obvious given she is called a Raven 26), her length on the water (LWL) is 21' (I'm still not sure why you would want to know that but Scott tells me that it is so you know about the speed of the boat) her beam is 8'9" which makes her "beamy" (this is a good thing as it means the boat feels roomier down below), she has a flush deck (which means more headroom down below), her draft is 5', she has a 3000lb ballast and has a displacement of 25 tons. She has a 10 horsepower Yanmar inboard engine, tiller steering and two blade folding prop. There is an old tiller pilot which came with the boat but it hasn't been mounted and we haven't used it.

In terms of sails, she came with a Ligard main sail with four battens and two reef points and a Ligard headsail with a Reef Rite roller reefing system. For those that don't know (and I certainly didn't), Reef Rite is a New Zealand product and regarded as one of the best roller reefing systems made. The beauty of it is that the lower drum has holes in it where a pawl is inserted to reef the headsail. The pawl is attached to a wire that is led aft along the toe rail to the cockpit. This means that there is no tension on the reef line and you never have to worry about the headsail rolling out accidentally even when completely furled. Now that I've experienced a roller reefing set-up, I don't think I could ever have a boat without one. It makes life so much easier. We also have a snuffing spinnaker and a spinnaker pole but we haven't tried it out yet. There is a traveler located on the coach roof and a kicking strap.

Rainbow's End also came equipped with some gadgets including a Navman chart plotter and fish finder (with a chart chip for the North Island) and a CD player with two internal speakers and two cockpit speakers which means we can crank up the Bob Marley while out sailing.  There is of course also a VHF radio. Scott has taken a marine radio course so he sounds very official to me when he is on the radio.

And of course one of the most important things you need on a boat is an anchor. Ours is a 7kg Rocna anchor with 10m of chain and 50m of rode. I'm in charge of dropping the anchor (although Scott tends to come up front and finish the job off for me). Scott is in charge of pulling the anchor up while I steer the boat as he has bigger biceps. I'm thinking that we want an electric windlass when we upgrade our boat so that I don't have to rely on Scott to hoist the anchor.

Rainbow's End came with a dinghy but she had a lot of holes in her and didn't stay inflated for very long. These aren't qualities you want in your dinghy. So we bought a new Zoom slatted inflatable dinghy. We have a 2.2hp Mercury outboard engine for the dinghy which came with the boat.

We also have a boom tent on the boat which we haven't used too much as it doesn't really get too hot in New Zealand. But is it nice to have when we need it.

The main cabin has 6' headroom which means Scott can stand up, as long as he stands on one certain spot. I've learned that when they give a number for headroom that is the maximum and of course the walls slope down (unlike in a house on land) and therefore the headroom varies. Our Raven has a kitchen set up on the port side with a sink and two burner LPG stove and broiler. There is a bit of counter space to the right of the stove along with a small settee with a cooler underneath. A settee runs along the starboard side and you can set up a folding table between the two settees for eating. When not in use, we keep the table folded up and hung on a wall next to the toilet. Thankfully, the toilet is in a separate alcove and not under the bed (as it was in the Davidson 20 that we chartered in the Bay of Islands). So much easier to get up at night to go to the bathroom without everyone else having to get out of bed! Across from the toilet is a vanity area with sink. If we had plans to keep the Raven 26 longer term I think we would take the vanity area out and use it for something else as we have another sink already. We met another couple who has a Raven 26 (they were really cute in their matching Great Barrier hats) and they loved the fact that they had two sinks. I can't quite see the value of it in such a tiny boat but everyone likes different things. There is a double v-berth and two full length quarter berths in the stern and she technically sleeps five. The Raven 26 has been described as having "ample stowage which makes it ideal for extended passage-making." I'm not sure that "ample" is the word I would use but perhaps it is for a 26' boat. We don't live on our boat so haven't really had to try to maximize the storage but do plan on living on her for a few months this summer so we'll put that to the test! The Raven 26' has the potential for off-shore cruising (there are some that cruised in the Pacific Islands) but I can't quite get my head around taking such a small boat off-shore so I think we'll stick to coastal cruising in New Zealand with ours.

We keep Rainbow's End at Westhaven Marina in Auckland in the pile moorings. The pile mooring are much cheaper than the marina berths but it does mean that we have to row our dinghy out to the boat. Of course when I say "we" I mean Scott rows and I cheer him on. Unfortunately, they plan on doing away with the pile moorings as part of a renovation of Westhaven which means that people on a budget won't have that option going forward.  However, Westhaven is a really nice marina with good facilities and having a great location in central Auckland.

Rainbow's End - Starboard Side (ducks looking for handout)

Rainbow's End - Port Side

Rainbow's End - Interior
View of galley area to left, little settee to the right, glimpse of vanity sink in front of settee with toilet across from it (not visible) & double v-berth

Volvo Ocean Race Marshaling

Auckland was one of the stopovers on the 2011/2012 Volvo Ocean Race and we had the opportunity to go out on Paneca, one of the Stewart 34 boats that were marshaling the race (the Stewart 34s are the boats Scott goes racing on). The Volvo Ocean Race (used to be known as the Whitbread Round the World Race - on our marshal boat was someone who had actually raced in this with Sir Peter Blake!) happens every three years and is literally a race around the world. It has between 9-10 legs and takes about 9 months to complete.

Each boat has 11 professional crew members who race day and night for upwards of 20 days in a row on some legs. They don't have fresh food on board, they only have one change of clothes and I'm pretty sure they don't shower during the race. They are basically crazy people.

Auckland was the fifth leg of the race. The boats raced from Sanya, China to Auckland arriving March 8th and then left again on March 19th to race to Itajai, Brazil. While they were in Auckland they had an in-port race out in the Hauraki Gulf.

People in Auckland are mad about boats and sailing and almost 80,000 people turned up to welcome the boats and watch the in-port race. And while many people had to watch from the shore or at home on their TV, anyone who could got out on their boat and watched the race from the water. This is a recipe for madness which is where the marshal boats come in. Like the marshals in the Wild West, they're the law and everyone is supposed to do what they say especially when they say stay out the race course area. But these boats were like kittens who won't stay in the box with their momma cat and keep trying to escape. They just wouldn't stay back from the line. So the marshal boats spent a lot of their time patrolling up and down the course line trying to get the boats to stay back.

I wasn't sure what the big deal was until the Volvo boats came screaming towards us. They are big and super FAST. They can reach speeds of up to 40 knots. That's FAST. At one point the Telefonica boat came so close to us I thought they were going to crash into us. Fortunately, they tacked and I started breathing again. Thank goodness for those marshal boats who kept everyone safely back!

The Volvo Boats at the Viaduct

The Telefonica Boat. So close you could reach out and shake their hands if they weren't so busy getting ready to tack to keep from crashing into us
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18 July 2013

How to Turn a Picnic into a Race

In February 2012, we got an invite from Bill Miller to go out on his Stewart 34, Pionnier, to the Ponsonby Cruising Club picnic on Motuhie Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Bill is very well known in the Auckland racing scene and is a champion of the Stewart 34 boats. Bill is in his 80s but can still be found out racing every week. Nothing gets in the way of his racing. Scott has learned so much from racing with Bill and the others on the Stewart 34s.

The Stewart 34s are classic Kiwi yachts and the people who sail them are passionate about racing. I knew this, but for some reason I thought a picnic was a picnic. We had a nice cruise out to Motuhie. Bill is a lovely guy and has lots of really interesting stories to share and I had a great time on the sail out. The picnic itself was nice - great weather, delicious barbeque and a scenic walk around the island.

Then we headed back and Bill spotted a bigger boat ahead and it was on. He turned the sail back into an unofficial race. Before you knew it we were tacking one way, then tacking back but at the same time making it appear we were just sailing back to Auckland. Bill was working through all the tactics of the "race" to ensure we won. Bill had me grinding but I wasn't going fast enough so he "relieved me of my duties" and put Scott on point. And, although I'm not sure the other boat even knew they were "racing", I'm happy to report that we won.

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17 July 2013

Experiment Number 2 - Bay of Islands NZ 2012

My second experiment with sailing was back in the Bay of Islands. We chartered another boat with Great Escape. We went with a Davidson 20 again. But this time, we got not one but two Davidsons - the Kea and the Carnival! Unfortunately, this wasn't the result of some great two for one offer but due to some serious problems with Kea (and her crew), which meant we traded in the Kea for the Carnival. An experiment is intended to test a hypothesis. My hypothesis for this sailing trip is that it would be like our last one - calm, peaceful and uneventful. My hypothesis was wrong. Very wrong.

To start off with the forecast was for wind speed to be in the region of upper 20 knots. I think the forecast was wrong. Even though we didn't have wind instrumentation on the boat, I'm pretty sure the winds kicked up somewhere in the 30s. Seasoned and salty sailors will probably be laughing to themselves thinking, "What a silly girl. That's nothing, I've sailed in far worse!" But bearing in mind that this was only my second proper sailing trip, it seemed pretty darn windy to me.

For those who don't know, wind is measured using the Beaufort scale. In the olden days, British naval officers made their own arbitrary assessments of the wind. Because it was arbitrary, this meant someone's light breeze could be another's gale force wind. But in 1805, Francis Beaufort came up with a standard scale to be used by the navy which has evolved over time and is now used all around the world. They must have thought Beaufort's scale was pretty groovy because they eventually made him a Rear Admiral. I like it because if gives you a shorthand way of talking about your level of fear. So using the table below, my level of fear on this particular day was a 7 and it may have possibly gone up an 8. At times, it felt like a 12.

Wind Speed
Wave Height
Sea Conditions
What It Really Means
Either stay in port or at your anchorage or be prepared to burn up your diesel motor cruising.
Light air
Ripples without crests
Drop the anchor and hang out fishing and reading until the wind picks up.
Light breeze
Small wavelets, crests of glassy appearance which don’t break
Go ahead and put the sails up but don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to your destination.
Gentle breeze
Large wavelets, crests begin to break, scattered whitecaps
Great sailing! Kick back and enjoy!
Moderate breeze
Small waves with breaking crests, fairly frequent whitecaps
Still great sailing! Say hi to the dolphins as you pass by them.
Fresh breeze
Moderate waves of some length, many whitecaps, small amount of spray
Even better sailing! Although that spray in your face can get annoying sometimes.
Strong breeze
Long waves begin to form, white foam crests frequent, some airborne spray
Hmmm, not so sure about this. I’m much more of a fresh breeze kind of gal.
Near gale
Sea heaps up, some foam from breaking waves blown into streaks along wind direction, moderate amount of airborne spray
Okay this is no fun what so ever!! Any description that has the word “gale” in it can’t be good.
Moderately high waves with breaking crests forming spindrift, well- marked streaks of foam blown along wind direction, considerable airborne spray
Get me out of here!
Severe gale
High waves whose crests sometimes roll over, dense foam blown along wind direction, large amounts of airborne spray may reduce visibility
Never going to happen to me (fingers crossed).
Very high waves with overhanging crests, large patches of foam from wave crests give sea white appearance, considerable tumbling of waves with heavy impact, very large amounts of airborne spray which may reduce visibility
I think my mother is going to start worrying.
Violent storm
Exceptionally high waves, very large patches of foam driven before the wind covering much of sea surface, very large amounts of airborne spray severely reducing visibility
If you didn’t have religion before, consider getting some.
Hurricane force
Huge waves, sea completely white with foam and spray, air is filled with driving spray greatly reducing visibility
This is when my blogging stops.

 At the time, I didn't know about the Beaufort scale and I still have problems translating meters into feet in my head (don't even get me started on converting Celsius into Fahrenheit) and don't have a clue how fast a knot is (I thought you just tied them) so when the guy at the charter company told us what the wind forecast was I had no idea what I was in for. So off we went sailing into the Bay of Islands.
We headed out of Opua up towards Tapeka Point north of Russell with the aim of getting around the point so we could go explore the islands. We didn't make it. The wind was coming out of the NE so the fetch was a nightmare. A fetch is basically the distance of open water over which the wind can blow unobstructed until it reaches the observer. I was the observer in this particular experiment and due to the way the wind was blowing it pretty much had all of the Pacific Ocean to blow over and come at us. Nothing was slowing this wind down. This meant the waves were getting high and we had to keep beating into the wind. The waves probably weren't that high for other boats but ours was just 20'. This was unpleasant. Scott kept using encouraging phrases like, "What a great learning experience! Great tack you just did there! Doesn't it just make you feel alive?" There was a point where I thought I might push him overboard, but since I didn't know how to sail the boat or use the VHF radio, I thought it best to let him stay on the boat.
We were just turning at the point facing the highest seas and strongest wind when a pin backed out of the shackle that attaches the mainsheet to the traveler. This was not good. Not good at all. You need your mainsheet to sail and it really needs to be attached properly to do so. You also really don't need your boom swinging back and forth across the boat. I panicked thinking it was going to knock Scott on the head and he would fall overboard. Remembering that I didn't know how to sail the boat or use the VHF radio, I dived on the boom and held it down. I know it was really just an act of self-preservation but he owes me.
In the meantime, Scott was trying to quickly turn around to put the engine on when he hit his glasses into the backstay and one of his lenses popped out on to the deck and down through a hole of the partially open transom into the deep blue sea. Scott can't see without his glasses and only having one lens really wasn't going to work. He switched out his glasses for his prescription sunglasses (mind you there wasn't any sun out) so at least we were able to restore his sight.
So with a sighted skipper and our engine on, we headed back to the charter company as our boat was unsailable at this point. Scott in the meantime, headed down below and lo and behold spotted the pin that had fallen out of the shackle on the cabin sole. He popped it back in and then said, "Great! We can put the sails back up and do some more sailing!" Scott either has magical powers of persuasion or he puts valium into my drinking water because for some reason I agreed to head back out and try to round the point again.
I got some serious practice in with tacking - we must have tacked about 25 times. At one point the guy from the charter company was on another boat sailing nearby and took a picture of us. Although, I'm not really sure if a shot of a me doped up on Valium madly tacking into the wind would make for a good picture for their brochure.
Finally, we gave up on trying to round the point and decided to head back in. By this point I was getting a little cranky. Fortunately, a huge pod of dolphins (I counted 100 of them) started swimming and jumping and playing all around us. Between the valium and the dolphins, things started to seem better.
But then we noticed that there was a rip around one of the reinforcements on the mainsail. Sailing doesn't really work if you have holes in your sails. At this point we called the charter company and told them about the sail and about the problem with the pin staying in the shackle. They told us to use their mooring ball in Pomare Bay for the night and that they would switch out the boat for us the next morning. Basically, you have to cruise your boat up and down through hundreds of mooring balls trying to find one with the number you're looking for. It was getting darker and darker and we couldn't find the [imagine a naughty word being said here] mooring ball. After 45 frustrating minutes we called the charter company again and they found out that another boat who chartered with them had picked up the mooring ball (they weren't supposed to have) which is why we couldn't find it. They told us to just pick up any mooring at this point. So we did. But just as we did, across on the shore we saw a couple come out of their house and stare pointedly at us. It was clear it was their mooring and they weren't too happy with us. So we searched some more and picked up a mooring ball that looked really dirty and unloved which we hoped hadn't been used for a long time and whose owners weren't likely to come try to pick it up during the night.

After picking up the mooring ball, I demanded food and drink so we set off in the dinghy with Scott at the oars and tied up to the distant Russell Boating Club. We walked into Russell for a meal and drinks (I really needed the drink by this point) and then walked back to the Russell Boating Club for a night cap before heading back to the boat for the night. Scott looked like a rock star wannabe all night with his sunglasses on but it was a choice of either looking stupid or being able to see.

Russell Boating Club
The next morning, the guy from the charter company came out and we traded Kea in for Carnival. The winds were still up and after the previous day, we decided to spend our second day puttering around on the boat near Pomare Bay. It was certainly an eventful trip. Scott must have some really great manuals on how to convince your partner to embrace the cruising lifestyle because somehow later in the year I suggested we buy a boat

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