29 November 2013

Boat Review: Catalina 36

We’re working through various options for when we buy a new boat next year. I imagine sailboat shopping can be tedious and a bit overwhelming, so we want to try to narrow things down to a few potential boats for our short-list. At this point our high-level criteria are (which I'm sure will change considerably as we do more research):
  • Cost – Despite our best efforts we haven’t won the lottery, so ideally we’re looking for something in the US$50-60k range. This is just a ballpark figure at this point and very much depends upon what the boat comes kitted out with and what work and upgrades it needs. We still buy lottery tickets from time to time so maybe this will change. Here’s hoping.
  • Size – We’re looking for something in the 35-38’ range for two reasons – cost and ease of sailing. We currently sail on a 26’ boat so I’m sure anything larger will seem palatial at this point. And depending upon budget constraints, we may even go with something smaller than 35'.
  • Configuration – We’re only interested in a sloop (only two sails to worry about) and we want a shoal draft as we’ll be initially exploring the Caribbean (at least that's our current thinking).
  • Interior – We want two cabins so that we can have guests come and visit and a U-shaped galley aft. Scott is on the taller side so we need decent headroom. Other than that, we’re not too fussy.
So first cab off the rank (or boat in this case) in our boat reviews is the Catalina 36.
The Catalina 36 is one of the most popular boats of this size with over 3,000 built between 1982-2006. The original version (MK I) was replaced in 1995 by the MK II which has has a larger cockpit and a more roomy and comfortable quarter berth cabin. With the MK II, Catalina also moved to using vinylester rather than polyester resins in the outer layers to reduce osmotic blistering. I have no idea what vinylester is (the term makes me think of some guy named Lester with a lot of tacky gold chains wearing a vinyl suit saying, "Hey baby, what's your sign?"), but anything which prevents osmosis is a good thing in my book.
Both versions are solid laminate with fiberglass and plastic resin – you won’t find any balsa or foam inside their cores which I find reassuring. (Balsa wood is what you make model airplanes out of and which a 4-year old child can easily snap in two. Intuitively, doesn’t seem like something structurally sound. I’m sure it is or else it wouldn’t be used, but I just can’t get my head around it.) The decks and cabin, however, are cores with balsa wood and plywood sandwiched between fiberglass laminates.
There are two options for the keel – a standard fin keel with 5’10” draft or a swept back delta wing keel with 4’5” draft. The wings are meant to make up for the shallower draft through some sort of “hydrodynamic” effect when the boat gets tippy. I don’t know what that means but I also didn’t understand how the AC72 catamarans flew on top of the water either in the America’s Cup. All I’m interested in is the shallower draft so we have less chance of running aground.
Up Top
The Catalina 36 has wide side decks, double lifelines and a molded toe rail. I like this set-up as it means you can easily move forward and do so more safely. There is an anchor lock and stainless steel roller at the bow. The mainsheet traveler is mounted forward of the companionway and the halyards are led to winches at the companionway so everything is kept out of the cockpit. The Catalina 36 is steered by a wheel at the stern. There are differences in the transom with earlier boats having a solid transom and later ones having a walk-through one along with a nifty swim platform.
The Catalina 36 is rigged as a simple masthead sloop which ticks one of our major requirements. You have a choice of two sail plans – standard rig with 555 sq ft of sail area or a tall rig with 601 sq ft (and which has a mast that is two feet taller and a boom which is a foot longer). I guess people who like to race in areas with lighter winds prefer the taller rig. I’m planning on taking things slowly so I’m sure we would be happy with the standard rig.
Down Below
Overall, the Catalina 36 has good set-up down below which ticks our basic requirements, including:
  • V-berth forward
  • Head with sit-down shower to port
  • Hanging locker and storage to starboard
  • Main saloon with U-shaped dinette to port and two seats separated by small table to starboard
  • Aft galley on the port side with double stainless steel sink, two burner stove and oven, top loading icebox and decent storage
  • Navigation station on starboard across from galley
  • Quarter berth cabin with double berth aft
In his review of a Catalina 36 in Sailing Today, Jake Firth describes the interior as well suited to Americans, “Without being too cruel or clichéd about America’s obesity epidemic, everything below on this boat smacks of being designed with the larger girths in mind.” I feel reassured that I can eat as many cookies and cakes as I want and still fit into the Catalina 36. Girth wasn’t on our original list of criteria, but maybe we’ll add it on.
Although I find engines boring, they are pretty important things (unless you are the Pardeys and can maneuver and anchor your boat expertly without one). The Catalina 36 comes with a Universal/Westerbeke marine diesel engine which can be three or four cylinder models ranging from 21-30hp depending on when the boat was built. Although they are supposed to be reliable engines, there was a recall in 2002 of some of the 1997-2000 model engines which affected a large number of boats. I’ll let Scott worry about this one.
What To Look Out For
Some potential issues to look out which are flagged up by Jack Horner in his 2012 review in Boat U.S. include:
  • A less expensive shoebox style deck-to-hull joint was used in the build instead of a more substantial flanged joint with heavy-duty rub rail. This makes the boat more vulnerable to damage from minor docking incidents. (“Minor docking incidents” has our name written all over it, so definitely something to watch out for. And I wouldn’t rule out “major” ones either.)
  • The fiberglass liners used for the interior compartments are tabbed in place in a way that is structurally sound but can be difficult to access for inspections or service.
  • The stainless steel steamhead fitting which the forestay attaches to can corrode so this needs to be periodically inspected and addressed if any corrosion or cracking is found.
  • You need to watch out for leaking deck-to-hull joints, windows and hatches in older models. (Although I imagine you need to look out for leaking in most older boats?)
  • And you may find some osmosis, particularly in the MK I version.
Jake Firth also points out that if you’re looking at a wing keel boat, you should look for grounding damage to the rudders especially the earlier versions where the rudders were deeper than the keel.
The Catalina 36 is a very popular boat with a proven design and track record. Overall, this is a plus as there is an active owner’s association who are happy to share their expertise and experience and resale may be easier as it is a well-known boat (although we know you don’t expect to make money selling your boat on). On the other hand, there are a lot of them out there, so if you’re hoping to be unique, this isn’t the boat for you. It is one of the more affordable options out there in this price range (they seem to be averaging around US$50-70k based on current Yachtworld listings), but affordability does mean trade-offs in design and finish. The set-up is good down below and relatively spacious, although in an ideal world, I would like a separate shower cubicle. The one big downside of the Catalina 36 is that it is a coastal cruiser and while I’m sure she has been taken out on blue water passages, it would probably require quite a bit of modification and that means money. So overall, the Catalina 36 looks like she meets our basic requirements and we’re putting her on our shortlist of boats to check out more thoroughly.

We may also check out the Catalina 34 as well. The folks over at Sail Far, Live Free just bought one and it looks great. They gave us some good pointers about the differences between the Catalina 34 and 36 in their comments section on their blog and it sounds like the 2' difference between the two boats might not be that big of a deal. I have a feeling it will be like this - constantly adding new boats to the list to look at and potentially becoming completely overwhelmed by choice!

We would love to hear from your thoughts on the Catalina 36, as well as any suggestions of other boats we should look at.
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.

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!  
Notes: If you're interested in finding out more about the Catalina 36, some good resources include Jack Horner's review in Boat US, Jake Firth's review of a Catalina 36 from a British perspective in Sailing Today, the Catalina 36 International Association and the Catalina Owner's Association. You can find the specs for the original Catalina 36 here and the MK II here. If you're a fan of the whole Tumbleweed tiny house movement, check out this video of living aboard a Catalina 36. You can also check out Catalina's website for info about the company in general, as well as their current models.

Via The Graphics Fairy

27 November 2013

Boat Buying Tips Without Too Much Salt (Pt 8) - Galleys, Heads & Beds

Ah...sleeping and eating. Two of my favorite pastimes. So, I'll be paying close attention to galley (or kitchen) set-ups and berths (or beds) when we go boat shopping next year. I'm not that interested in toilets, but if you're going to eat and drink, well then knowing something about heads is probably important as what you eat has to end up somewhere.

So, let's start off with galleys because it is usually easier to fall asleep in your berth when your belly is full and happy. Galleys are basically the same as the kitchens you have on land. The big difference is that they're smaller, which impacts on what appliances (white ware) and equipment you have. You also need to think differently about power consumption and energy sources. I've found the "Kitchen-Sink Galley Checklist" on the Women & Cruising site to be a great resource for learning what to look for when it comes to galleys. Here is what I'll be looking for when we go boat shopping:

1.  Layout - I want a U-shaped layout so that it will be easier to cook when underway by wedging myself in. We currently have a bench set-up with the galley running the length of the port side. It works fine as our current boat is small (26') and I haven't been really cooking underway. It will be interesting to see how it works out when we do move on our boat full-time this summer and cooking takes on a more real-life flavor, rather than feel like camping.

2.  Location & Ventilation - The key takeaway for me from the Women & Cruising checklist is to be wary of the location of the galley relative to the engine. If they're near each other, you want to make sure that you can still cook while engine maintenance and repair are being undertaken and you want to make sure it doesn't get too hot in the galley when the engine is running. We sail in New Zealand where is doesn't get very hot so ventilation hasn't been a critical issue for us, but as we hope to be sailing in warmer climates we'll need to pay more attention to making sure there is good air flow, venting etc. And of course, most importantly, we'll want to make sure the galley is convenient to the cockpit so we can snack while we sail.

3.  Counter & Storage Space - You will generally have less counter (bench) and storage space on a sailboat than on land. Unless you have a mega-yacht of course. But then, you probably have a chef preparing your meals for you and you never need to step into the galley. That's not us so we'll need to look for clever things like cutting board tops you can put over the sink to give you more space when needed and fold-down counters. And one thing to look for in counters on a sailboat are fiddles. These are railings along the edge which keep things on the counter when the boat gets tippy. Something you would never think about having on land. Fortunately (or not depending upon your perspective), we currently have a small apartment in Auckland (roughly the size of a shoebox) and it probably has the same amount of counter space (if not slightly less) as we have on our current boat, so I'm quite used to food prep in a confined space.

4.  Appliances - The three basic appliances I'm looking for in our next boat are a stove (hob), oven (cooker) and a fridge. As there are only two of us, we can live without a dishwasher (and did so for many years in Scotland) and while a freezer would be nice (think ice for gin and tonics) we can do without. Appliances in a boat the size we'll be looking to buy (somewhere between 35-38') will be smaller than those on land. The stove is likely to only have two burners (maybe three) and the fridge will be tiny (like something from those days living in a dorm at university). But Scott has been very cunning by getting me to live on our 26' boat this summer with no fridge and no oven so that I'll be thrilled to get an oven and a fridge, no matter what size, on our next boat. He is a devious one - it pays to keep an eye on him.

The other big difference in boat vs. land appliances is how they're powered. I imagine the stove and oven will likely be fueled by propane or something similar which adds that element of danger which makes cooking so exciting. The fridge will be likely be powered by electricity. I've learned that electricity is a precious commodity on a boat so no standing with the door open staring into it for ages trying to figure out what you want to snack on. Evidently, there is a game that boaties play called "Amp Up the Amps", which is apparently more addictive than Candy Crush (I am currently stuck on level 86 - help!). I worked in the energy sector for years but didn't pay enough attention during all those training courses and still don't really understand how electricity works. Fortunately, I found this - it all makes much more sense now.

5.  Water & Sinks - Water is one of the most important things on your boat. You need it to stay alive, brush your teeth, wash your dishes and cook your pasta. So when I'm looking at galley set-ups, I'll be checking out how the water is pumped into the kitchen (electric or manual), how many taps there are and what kind (hot, cold, freshwater, saltwater), if there is actually a hot water heater (assume I can live without one?) and how many sinks there are (two would be ideal). And I'll want to make sure there is sufficient headroom in the galley so Scott can comfortably stand and wash the dishes (hopefully he isn't reading this part).

6.  Safety - This is the scary part of the checklist. It asks questions like, "Can you safely get out of the galley if you had a flare-up at the stove?" and "Do you have a safety strap to hold you in place in rough conditions?" After reading this, I'm thinking we'll only eat cold meals that require no cooking and sail in calm seas. Probably not realistic though.

So once I've gotten over my fear of cooking on the stove while we're underway in rough seas and I've cooked us a fabulous, gourmet nutritionally balanced, edible meal, our full bellies will make us sleepy and we'll need to have a lie down. And that's where berths come in. If you have a larger boat, then your berths might be very similar in size and shape to that of your bed on land. But for us, we're likely to buy a boat that has those weirdly configured berths which you can't find ready-made sheets for. There are a number of different types of berths you'll encounter:
  • V-berth - This is named for its shape. It looks like the letter "V" and is located in the forward end of the hull where the boat gets all pointy and turns itself into a V-shape. We have one of these now. Works well for me as I'm short, but the only way Scott can sleep in it is if he turns himself into some sort of pretzel shape. And when the two of us are in there it becomes really cramped and people end up getting elbows and knees jabbed into them.
  • Settee berth - This is basically like falling asleep on the couch that runs the length of the boat. Depending upon your configuration, you might have a set-up where you can drop a table down and turn two settees that face each other into a large bed. If you're sleeping in these while underway, you need to have a lee-cloth which is basically like a railing made out of cloth that keeps you from falling out of bed when the boat gets tippy.
  • Quarter berth - This is a single bed which is located near the cockpit. We have two of these on our current boat. They are like sleeping in a little cave-like pipe as you slide yourself in with your head peeking out into the saloon. I find them creepy and claustrophobic. We use ours to store stuff. However, they are good if you're sailing at night and want to be close to the cockpit. You also won't fall out of them when the water is rough and choppy. I can see why people like catamarans, no tippiness and worries about falling out of bed.
For us, the important thing when considering new boats is to make sure the berths are long enough for Scott to sleep on and that I don't end up feeling claustrophobic because I'm cramped in some weirdly shaped bed underneath the cockpit.

In addition to galleys and berths, the other big consideration down below is the head. They're generally pretty compact on the size of boats we'll be looking at and might require some sort of contortions to move about in them, but that's one of the trade-offs when you're restricted in the size of your boat. Ideally, we would have a head which has a separate shower compartment. In many of them, you shower right there next to the sink and toilet which means water is splashing everywhere. When we're sailing in warmer climates, we would probably be happy showering in the cockpit and keeping the head tidy and dry, but when it is cold out I guess we may have no choice but to shower in the head or play the "stinky game" where we see who can go the longest without a shower. Scott will definitely win this one.

The other thing you have to think about when it comes to heads, is how the toilet works. Does it have a manual pump or an electric one? How does the holding tank work? Does your toilet have a macerator? It's all too icky to think about and I can't even begin to imagine how gross it will be if it breaks (or when it breaks as everything on boats appears to break all the time). So, I'm not going to think about it anymore.

Okay, I'm off to fix a snack and have a nap now. And, of course, dream about our next boat.

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.

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!  

This is our current galley. One sink with a fresh water tap (hooked up to the water bladder with an electric pump), two burner stove and a broiler (which is great for making toast). We usually have a jerry can filled with water with a spigot on the counter behind the sink  which makes that area unusable. The counter space to the right of the stove isn't huge but it works out okay with a bit of juggling around of things. And a fair amount of storage space for a relatively small boat. You can also see the tiny V-berth which is way too small for Scott to sleep in comfortably.

25 November 2013

Cruising Couples & Ways Of Sailing

This is what we could call our team-building event - "Hands Across The Sea." How very mushy and romantic. Somehow I don't think this is the way to get Scott on board. Maybe we should go with something like "Battling Together Through Monster Waves & Gale Force Winds (With Valium For Ellen)." That might do the trick.
Image via the Graphics Fairy
Back when I worked in corporate la-la land, we used to do all sorts of fun team-building activities. Well, they were fun for those of us in the HR team who “facilitated” the activities. HR people like to use the term “facilitation” in relation to energizing, productive activities which everyone gets to collaborates in and which improve business outcomes. Other people might call them “time-wasting” events made even worse by the lack of catering due to budget cuts. These naysayers clearly don’t work in HR. We have their names on file.

Since I don’t have anyone to “facilitate” anymore and I really need to keep my skills sharp, I decided that Scott and I should do a team-building activity. He is so excited. (That was sarcasm just in case you aren’t familiar with the concept.) I’ve decided we should think about our “ways of working” while out on the sailboat. If you abbreviate it you get WOW!!! Which makes it sound so exciting!!! And, if you use lots of exclamation points, your teammates can’t wait to join in the fun!!! At least that was our theory in HR. Scott isn’t really buying into this, so I’m calling it our “ways of sailing” or WOS which sounds rather dull but a bit more acceptable to Skipper Scott. I think he went into archaeology for a reason – most of the people he has to deal with are already dead and team-building isn’t really a priority for them.

But if you’re going to start cruising full-time as a couple, then you really should think through how you’re going to communicate, what each other’s expectations are, what each of you brings to the party and how you’re going to work together. Otherwise someone could end up dead. Literally. Or you could just end up getting on each other’s nerves. Not as bad as dead, but not so much fun either. After all, our boat is only 26’ and it is pretty hard to avoid each other. And as much fun as a mutiny sounds, it really isn’t all that practical. So instead, here are a few preliminary ideas of things we need to think about when putting together our “ways of sailing”. We’ll be spending this summer in New Zealand cruising full-time which will give us a good opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t so that we can establish some awesome “ways of sailing” before we buy our next boat in the States and continue our cruising adventures.


When I took my sailing course with Penny Whiting, a number of the women were telling stories about their husbands yelling at them. It sounded horrible to be honest. I guess that under pressure some of these guys get frustrated and take it out on their wives. You’ll be glad to know that Skipper Scott isn’t the yelling type. He has only yelled at me once and that is when I did something phenomenally stupid and almost lost a finger. And that’s probably when yelling is appropriate – to alert someone to danger. Other than that, it really isn’t useful. But I do think we need to work through how to communicate when the pressure is on (like mooring the boat in really high winds or anchoring in difficult situations when you can’t hear each other) so that we each know what needs to be done clearly and quickly. 

My very clever sister studied American Sign Language and while we’re not going to learn a new language, I think developing some sort of simple hand signals would be useful for shorthand communication in certain situations. The only sign language I know has to do with your middle finger. But that's never a nice sign to make so I’m going to ask my sister for some tips for more productive signs. [Side Note: I do have one sign language tip if you happen to find yourself in New Zealand. If you want to wish someone "peace" make sure you have the "V" you make with your fingers the right way around. Otherwise, you've just said something very naughty. I am always getting this one wrong. It's embarrassing.]

Learning Styles

One of the things we found when we chartered boats up in the Bay of Islands in previous years and then sailing on our own boat last summer in the Hauraki Gulf is that Scott and I have very different learning styles. Scott is by far much more experienced at sailing then I am, so he is often in the position of having to teach me things. He has taken the approach of telling me how to do something and then showing it to me several times. Over and over and over. I rarely learn the skill he is trying to teach me despite the number of times he tries to explain it to me. And that’s because that's not my ideal learning style. Things work better for me if I read about it and then try to do it myself until I figure it out. Which still takes me ages but I find it less frustrating to be experimenting on my own rather then watch someone do something. Scott learns differently so he teaches the way he likes to learn. It took us a while to figure this out. There might have been some tears along the way. But nothing some chocolate couldn’t fix. Something we’ll keep working on this summer as I have lots and lots to learn about this sailing stuff.

Sailing vs. Traveling

One of the things that seems to be discussed in the cruising community is whether you’re in it for the sailing or traveling. Some people love the sailing aspect of cruising, others see the sailboat as a means of transportation to exotic destinations. While Scott loves traveling, he also loves sailing. He thinks racing is exhilarating and big crashing waves and high winds bring a smile to his face. I am the exact opposite. I’m looking for a pleasant day out on the water, a chance to read my books, lots of yummy snacks and the opportunity to enjoy different anchorages. One of the things we’ll need to work through is the right balance of sailing vs. travelling for both of us. And maybe as I learn more about sailing, one day I’ll think that being heeled over at an extreme angle with water crashing into the cockpit is the best thing since sliced bread. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

Pink & Blue Jobs

In our non-cruising world, I would never expect or accept such a demarcation between “pink” and “blue” jobs that you can find in cruising couples. But it seems like many women gravitate towards more pink jobs such as provisioning, cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. whereas the menfolk have more responsibility for boat maintenance, the engine, lifting heavy things like anchors and dinghies etc. And I can see why. I would much rather do the shopping and make dinner than fix a toilet or figure out what is wrong the engine. But this isn’t probably sustainable in the long run. Sure, there will always be things that only Scott can do because he is stronger, but we probably both need to make sure that we have familiarity with all the different types of jobs on the boat. It just makes good sense in case one of us is sick or incapacitated. And I also think it would take the pressure off of Scott to be the “expert” in everything. And I know one day he would love it if we were co-captains. Personally, I think that day is a long way off. But that’s what our shake-down summer cruising is all about, to figure stuff like this out.

We would be interested to hear how other cruising couples work together as a team on their boats. What issues have you worked through and what ways of sailing have you developed together?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 

22 November 2013

Going For A Walk: Waitakere Park, Auckland {Or I Don't Want To Get My Feet Wet}

I went out to the Waitakere Regional Park with a friend the other day and we asked the ranger at the visitor centre for suggestions for a 3 hour hike. Our only criteria was that we didn't want to get our feet wet. He seem surprised. Apparently hard core trampers seek out opportunities all the time to get their feet wet. He suggested we try the Kitekite Track which would take us out to the waterfall. It turns out the track was only 1.8km and only takes 45 minutes tops. I guess he didn't take us too seriously since we didn't want to get our feet wet and assumed we could only handle an easy trail. I'm glad we ended up doing the walk though as the waterfall was lovely. And it turns out there was plenty of opportunity to get our feet wet as you have to cross the stream twice on the track. Fortunately, we did a good imitation of bunny rabbits hopping across the rocks and managed to keep our feet dry.

Graveled path - suitable for people who don't want to get their feet wet.

The Kitekite waterfall

Opportunity 1 to get your feet wet.

Opportunity 2 to get your feet wet

20 November 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Motuihe Island

Motuihe Island - The adventures and great escape of Count Felix von Luckner
36°48′S 174°56′E

Until I started looking into the backstory of Motuihe Island, the only Counts I knew anything about were Count Dracula and Count Chocula. Growing up, we weren't allowed to eat cereal with added sugar, so I had to learn about the magical powers of Count Chocula when I slept over at friends' houses. Whenever I was free of my mother's watchful eye, I ate as much of that chocolaty goodness as I could, as well as drinking tons of soda pop. My mom loved it when I came home all sugared up and hyperactive. Such fun for her. But Count Dracula and Count Chocula have got nothing on them next to the infamous and controversial Count Felix von Luckner, who was known as the "Sea Devil" as a result of his exploits as the commander of the sea raider the SMS Seeadler.

Depending upon who you ask, Count Felix was either a charming, cosmopolitan, swashbuckling captain or he was a Nazi collaborator and pedophile who exaggerated and took credit for others' accomplishments. Born in Germany in 1881, Felix dreamed of being a sailor, which his father forbid him from doing. So he ran away to sea when he was thirteen and signed up as a cabin boy aboard a Russian ship. Felix eventually jumped ship in Australia and held a number of assorted jobs over the next several years including kangaroo hunter, circus worker, professional boxer, fisherman, assistant lighthouse keeper, railway worker, guard in the Mexican Army and barman. When he was 20 years old, Felix headed back to Germany, went to navigation school and got his mate's commission. He then joined the Imperial Navy and served in World War I. During the war he was given command of a sea raider and sank 14 ships without any loss of life. The SMS Seeadler ended up sinking in the Society Islands. Either she was the victim of a tsunami (if you believe Count Felix's version) or she drifted aground while her crew was having a picnic onshore (if you believe the account of their American prisoners).

With his ship gone, it is at this point that Count Felix began an elaborate game of hide and seek. First he "borrowed" a 10 meter long open boat, rigged it up as a sloop and then headed off in the direction of Fiji with five guys from his crew. They made it to the Cook Islands where they pretended to be Dutch-American sailors crossing the ocean on a bet. While there, they resupplied and then headed off again and reached Wakaya Island in the Fijis. They pretended to be shipwrecked Norwegians this time, but folks became suspicious and they were captured and sent to Motuihe Island in New Zealand as prisoners of war. Count Felix wasn't too happy living the life of a POW so he pretended to be putting on a Christmas play and used the supplies that he was given for it to stage an escape and steal the POW camp's launch. Count Felix and his men took off for the Coromandel Peninsula where they seized another boat, the Moa, built their own sextant, copied a map from a school atlas and headed off for the Kermadec Islands. They were captured in the end and Count Felix spend the remainder of the war in other POW camps in New Zealand (including Motuihe) before being sent back to Germany in 1919.

After the war, Count Felix travelled around the world giving popular speeches about his adventures and exploits. He even visited New Zealand again with his wife when they sailed around the world in the late 1930s. During this period of this life, Count Felix was viewed as an apologist for the Nazi regime. Scandal later ensued when he was accused of incest and being a pedophile but he was never convicted. After World War II, Count Felix and his wife moved to Sweden where he lived until his death in 1966.

Today Motuihe Island is a well known recreation reserve in the Hauraki Gulf. Located 16 kms from Auckland, it has some lovely beaches, sheltered anchorages, walking trails and visitor facilities which makes if very popular with boaties. The Motuihe Trust is working on restoring the island in conjunction with the Department of Conservation. A number of native plants are being reintroduced and many different types of animals have been released onto the island including North Island saddleback (tieke), red-crowned parakeets, shore skinks, little spotted kiwis, bellbirds and tuatara. And little blue penguins even breed on the island. So if the history of Count Felix wasn't enough reason for you to visit Motuihe Island, then go for the penguins. After all, who doesn't love penguins?

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

Want to find out more? You can check out this article which explores whether the Count was a hero or a villain, see what his diehard supporters think at the international Felix Count von Luckner Society, read a "moving account" of him by the Freemasons, or get the book The Sea Devil: The Story of Count Felix von Luckner, the German War Raider. You can also find out more about New Zealand quarantine islands in Eileen McSaveney's article, 'Nearshore islands - Quarantine centres and prisons' in the Te Ara - Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Who knew Counts could be so interesting.

Who doesn't love a cute penguin?

18 November 2013

Going For A Walk: Motutapu Walkway {Or Please Cows, Just Get Out Of The Way}

If you're anchored up in Islington Bay, which is located between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, there are a number of great tramping options on either island. One that I recommend is to walk from Islington Bay to Home Bay on Motutapu Island via the Motutapu Walkway. Once you get to the start of the walkway, it is 4.2kms to Home Bay and the estimated walking time is 1 hour 30 minutes one way, although you can probably do it in less if you walk briskly and don't stop to take in the views. Which would be silly. Take your time and enjoy. Partway along the Motutapu Walkway, you have the option to take the Emu Point loop track out to the site of the old Emu homestead. Probably adds another 3kms or so to your walk, but you're not in a hurry, so why not. Unlike the approx. 600 year old volcanic Rangitoto Island, Motutapu dates back 180 million years and has a "Jurassic" feel to it in some parts. Much of the island is covered in pasture, but the native bush is being restored in parts through the efforts of the Motutapu Restoration Trust. There are also Maori archaeological and World War II sites which you can explore as you wander across the island.

Wharf in Islington Bay. You can tie your dinghy up here for the start of the walk or take it out of the water at the boat ramp further up in the bay at Yankee Wharf. That's what we do as it is a bit too far to row out to this wharf from where the boats are usually anchored up. There are toilet blocks at the wharf, so if you're middle-aged like me, stop now because you won't see another one until Home Bay.

It is a short walk from Islington Bay to the causeway which connects Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. Note the speed limit - there are a few vehicles on both islands belonging to the ferry company, Department of Conservation, the farm, the conservation trust and the Outdoor Education Centre.

View from the causeway out to Te Tauroa and Gardiner Gap.

The landscape on Motutapu is very different from Rangitoto with lots of trees and cleared grassy areas.

Not far away from the causeway is the start of the Motutapu Walkway. When you get up onto the path, go through the gate into the paddock and walk along the fence line. Do not go on the outside of the paddock. You might be deceived into thinking the path goes that way but before too long you are hacking your way through tall grass and prickly weeds and trying to decide whether to turn around, jump over the barbed wire or keep walking to the end of the paddock. Good times.

One of the advantages of going the wrong way and being on the wrong side of the fence line is that you can look out over to Islington Bay and Rangitoto Island.

Some of the pasture land. The cows and sheep do a good job keeping everything mowed and tidy.

The track is marked by these yellow posts. Theoretically. It isn't always clear and sometimes they're elusive. Or maybe that's just me. You can't go too far wrong though if you just keep heading eastwards towards Home Bay. This is a view over to the south towards Motuihe Island and the mainland. You can see the tip of Rangitoto Island on the right hand side.

Another yellow pole which indicates you are supposed to cross over into this paddock and carry on. Except the cows aren't having any of it. If you don't have treats for them, they don't want anything to do with you. So just carry on walking along the fence line in the adjoining paddock. It's the least you can do for the cows. After all, they give you cheese. And hamburgers. Even better - cheeseburgers.

Don't forget to look back from time to time. There is Rangitoto Island and its volcanic cone.

This is the trig station. I don't know what a trig station is but they always seem to be on the tippy top of things. I only remember the term trig from math class. Maybe this is some sort of calculator left behind by the aliens. This one is located at 120m. Great place for panoramic views.
You can see Home Bay now. You're in the final stretch. Just follow the yellow poles down the hill to the south end of Home Bay by the campground. That's the ferry coming in with trampers, campers and conservation volunteers.

This little fellow's name is Mint Sauce or Minty as the kids call him. He is wearing a bowtie and I think he has been adopted by the farmers. He runs after the little kids to play with them. Cute. I want one.
The end of the walk is at the Reid Homestead. The island was originally bought from the Maori by Robert Graham in 1857 who turned large parts of it into pasture. In 1869, the Reid brothers bought the island and continued to farm it. The homestead has been restored and you can go in for a look around. Just remember to take off your shoes to protect the floors. Kiwis don't really wear shoes anyways if they can help it, so it will help you blend in.

The beach at Home Bay. You might want to take a swim to cool down before you head back to Islington Bay. Personally, I wouldn't. The water is too cold for me. But that doesn't stop the Kiwis. Bless their cotton socks. I have no idea what that phrase means, but I thought I would use it.

15 November 2013

Living Without A Microwave

My microwave broke a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been too lazy to call my landlord to see about getting another one. I was starting to feel guilty about being such a lazy slug but then I realized I’m not actually lazy, my subconscious is getting me prepared to live without a microwave once we move onto our boat full-time. Not only will I not have a fridge, an oven, a washing machine and a dishwasher, I’m also going to be microwave-less. It is probably better to practice living without some of these things on land rather than go cold turkey all at once. My subconscious is so smart.

I’ve realized that I only actually use the microwave for two things – to heat up leftovers and to make porridge. Actually, I also use it to occasionally melt squares of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana chocolate so that I can lap up the chocolaty goodness with a spoon. Slightly weird, but oh so delicious. Not having a microwave, I’ve had to find new ways to do things. I tried “coldmeal” first. That’s where you take oatmeal and let it soak in milk for a while and then you eat the cold oatmeal mess. Well, you actually only eat one spoonful and then you throw the rest out because it is gross. So, I resorted to making oatmeal on the hob. I definitely much prefer the gloopy warm consistency of cooked oatmeal. What I don’t like is the mess – you get gloopy oatmeal on the pot and a bowl. With the microwave, you only have gloopy goodness on the bowl. I’ve started eating toast now.

The heating up of leftovers was really starting to perplex me but then I discovered a high-tech, new-fangled way to do this. It is a really radical idea but it actually works. I bet it will be really popular with the youngsters - they’re always so cutting edge and on trend with the latest fads. The days of the microwave may be over. Just three simple steps. If I can master this technique, you can too.

     1. Find a pot.
     2. Put it on the stove or hob (whatever you want to call it is fine).
     3. Turn the heat on and watch the magic happen.

Cutting edge technology - a pot on the hob.
We won’t actually be using this new method on the boat, as we don’t have a fridge. And without a fridge, you can’t really keep leftovers safely for the next day to heat up unless you want to play Russian roulette with your digestive tract.

I’ve heard that microwaves can also be used for more than just making oatmeal and heating up leftovers. Apparently, you can use it to store electronic devices such as a portable GPS and mobile phones during electrical storms. The electromagnetic pulse somehow is conducted around the microwave and avoids the stuff inside. No idea how it works, but it pays not to question magic too much. So maybe, when we buy our next boat we might end up splurging on a microwave given its magical protective powers.

I still haven’t figured out how to melt my chocolate squares without the microwave. Oh well, I’ll let my subconscious work that one through while I take a nap.

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 

13 November 2013

Speaking Ambriki (American-British-Kiwi English)

Via the Graphics Fairy

I think I've discovered a new dialect of English called "Ambriki". It is what happens when you take two Americans, move them to Britain and then ship them off to New Zealand. They end up speaking a strange version of English called Am(-erican)Bri(-tish)Ki(-wi). It is guaranteed to make the whanau back home laugh at you when you say things like tomahto sauce instead of ketchup, talk about having a wee lie down and fill up your car with petrol so that you can go to hospital (as opposed to the hospital). Or you say things like, "Aye, but she's a dreach day out today," which you pretty much say every day in Scotland as the sun rarely shines. Or ending every sentence with a rising inflection so it seems like you are constantly asking questions, even when you're just making statements of fact. Ambriki is a whole strange mix of a sprinkling of Scottish and Maori words, odd pronunciations, the superfluous use of the letter "u" in words, changing out the letter "z" to "s" (e.g., centralise vs. centralize), and when you do allow the letter "z" to be used, pronouncing it as "zed" instead of "zee". And then there is the metric system and Celsius. But let's not even get started on that.

I've been working and writing in British/Kiwi English for the past twelve years and generally only used American English when I emailed the family (otherwise they mock me). Since I started this blog, I've tried to revert back to American English in terms of spelling, vocabulary and idioms but quite frankly I'm finding it to be confusing and the spell checker (which I've recently changed to American English) is really getting on my nerves because it is constantly correcting me. I would prefer to think I'm smarter than an annoying piece of programming. Apparently I'm not.

Here are a few of my favourite Ambriki expressions:
  • Lolly (candy, sweetie) - You haven't seen anything until you've seen a "lolly scramble" in action. Take a bunch of kids and a bag of lollies. Throw the lollies into the air and watch the kids scramble to grab as much candy as they can. Kind of like a piñata but without the piñata. Complete, utter madness. Someone always ends up in tears. It is usually the parents.
  • Bangers (sausages) - It is just fun to say "bangers" and there is nothing better on a cold day than a plate of bangers and mash.
  • Tin (can) - Since we don't have a fridge, I'll be using a lot of tinned goods on the boat. (Hmm...so far everything has been food related. I guess that's just how my mind works.)
  • Box of birds (cheerful, happy) - If you're a Kiwi and someone asks you how you are, you can reply with "box of birds." I'm not really sure that birds are very happy if you stuff them into a box, but I guess they are in New Zealand. Maybe that's why the moa became extinct - they kept trying to stuff them into boxes and forgot to punch out air holes so they could breathe?
  • Half eight (eight thirty) - This one confused us for a while. People would tell us to turn up at half eight. Did they mean turn up at four which would be half of eight? No, they meant come at 8:30 pm. They always looked really surprised when we were so early. But oh so polite even with curlers in their hair and dinner not even started yet. The trick is when the Brits put half in front of an hour it really means half past the hour. 
  • Jandals (flip-flops) - Kiwis must have excellent blood circulation because they love nothing more than to go barefoot no matter what the weather. I'll be wearing two pairs of socks and boots and the Kiwi kids will be running around at school without shoes. When they have to wear shoes, you'll often see them in jandals. Jandals are also very handy footwear for boaties.
  • Mad (crazy, insane) - Here is an example of how this term is used, "You want to live on a 26' sailboat, which doesn't even have a fridge, permanently? Are you mad?" 
  • Knackered (tired) - At the end of a long day sailing, I'm often knackered.
So anyways, if you meet us out on the water, we're really not a pair of pretentious Americans who are speaking with some weird accent and using strange works and phrases to try to come across all posh. We're just confused. But if you buy us a drink and some hot chips, we're happy for you to have a wee giggle at our expense. We'll even tell you some stories about how things can go horribly wrong when you use the term "pants" in the wrong context in Scotland. Yes, we are indeed separated by a common language.

One thing Scotland and New Zealand have in common - lots and lots of sheep.

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!