30 December 2013

Boat Chores & Life Chores

Since we got back on Christmas Eve from our trip out to the Coromandel, we've been working on getting various boat chores and life chores ticked off the list. And there is a lot to do to move onto your boat full-time and become official unemployed vagabonds!

As we've given up our apartment, our belongings have had to be dealt with. We've taken the last bits and bobs to the charity shop and moved the rest of our stuff onto the boat and arranged to put some other stuff in storage for the summer. Although, I'm pretty sure I still have way to many clothes on board and could have given even more to charity or put it storage. Time will tell. Scott of course seems to get by with just a few t-shirts and shorts so he really can't understand why I need more options to choose from. We've also organized for mail forwarding and a mail box at the nearby NZ Post Shop. I'll need to figure out what to do for a more permanent solution once the summer is over here and we head back to the States.

But probably our biggest life chore has to do with our passports. And it has proven to be a real chore. We went to pick up our new passports at the American consulate in Auckland yesterday. Then we headed over to Immigration New Zealand to get our permanent residency stickers transferred over from our old passports to our new passports which allows us come back to New Zealand to live whenever we want. (And who wouldn't want to - it is an absolutely fabulous country!) But of course, Immigration New Zealand turned out to be closed over the holiday period, as so much of New Zealand is. That actually turned out to be a good thing, because once we got back to the apartment and had a closer look at our passports, we found that they spelled our last name wrong despite the fact that they had our old passports and our application forms with our name spelled correctly. You would of thought they had systems in place that would have checked things like that before printing new passports. Apparently not. So we trudged back to the American consulate and now we have to wait at least another week for them to get reissued. {Sigh}

You kind of forget how expensive it is to have documents which allow you in and out of different countries until it is renewal time. It will end up costing us around NZ$500 for the new passports, passport photos and the New Zealand sticker transfer before we are good to go. Cha ching! We also renewed our Irish passports a couple of months ago (and that was another few hundred dollars), so we'll be set to sail around the world on a sailboat for the next ten years or so.

In terms of the boat, she has had a thorough cleaning and we've reorganized stuff in order to make everything fit. I have to say that I am surprised how much room there is on this particular 26' boat. We've managed to get everything on board and we still have room to spare. And of course, what would boat maintenance be without some shopping at your local marine store? We've crossed a number of things off of the list such as a new strap to tie down the battery, hardware to secure our propane tank, an extra diesel can, a hacksaw, some buckets and a headlamp to be able to see at night up on deck whilst keeping your hands free. Scott has also given the engine a thorough once over. (I just had a terrible feeling that I shouldn't have written anything about the engine as that is likely to jinx everything. She works perfectly fine now. Fingers crossed it stays that way.)

So it looks like we're all sorted for now. But of course, the thing about chores is that they're never truly done especially when it comes to passports.

Boat Chore - cleaning mud off the anchor

29 December 2013

Cruising to Western Coromandel {Or The Toilet Seat Slid Out From Under Me}

Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.

Three sure fire ways to know you're a cruiser...

1.  Stuff breaks.

2.  Your home often seems to be tippy.

3.  Stuff breaks in your home at a very inopportune time. Like say when you're trying to pee, the boat is heeled over and very tippy, you're desperately bracing yourself in order to stay on the toilet and the toilet seat breaks and slides out from under you and lands on the floor. While you're peeing.

Other than that, we had a great time on our latest excursion out to the Western Coromandel. Want to know more about the toilet seat? Read on.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

We left our mooring and headed over to the infamous X Pier at our marina to replenish our water. No one fell in the water this time. An excellent docking by all concerned. We headed out around 10:00 am under motor due to lack of wind. Skipper Scott (the coffee addict) asked if I could make a cup of java for him. Tragedy ensued when the propane wouldn't turn on. How could we possibly contemplate continuing our voyage without a way to make coffee?! Of course, we could go without food for days, but coffee, not even possible. We were too far from the petrol station near our marina to turn back so we headed to Putiki Bay in nearby Waiheke Island in the hope that we could find propane there. But before Scott headed out in the dinghy to Waiheke, he checked the propane one last time, fiddled with something and we had a bona fide miracle - the stove turned on. Coffee was had by all.

We left Waiheke around 1:30 pm and continued on our way under sail through the Ruthe Passage and out to the Firth of Thames which separates the outer islands near Waiheke from the Coromandel Peninsula. Beautiful sail on a beam reach, then a broad reach, then running. The tide and waves were in our favor and we hit a top speed of 7.5 knots with an average around 5.5 knots. It was a speedy passage across the approx. 10 nautical mile stretch of water and we dropped the hook in Deep Cove Bay at Whanganui Island at 6:15pm.

Deep Cove Bay, Whanganui Island

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The winds were gusting around 35 knots, so we stayed snugged up in our anchorage. We did some reading, played some cards and Scott tinkered with one of the electrical panels to try to fix the cigarette charger which had broken. We don't smoke, but the cigarette charger is essential to us in order to charge up our mobile phones. Our phones are our only source of internet access on the boat. But as we don't have very good data plans, we only check our email about once a day. However, our phones are an essential safety feature as sometimes you can get mobile coverage when the VHF reception is spotty. Good news is that Scott seems to have made it work so we can keep our phones charged. And as a bonus, we can also charge up our portable DVD player so we can watch movies at night. Although to be honest, we end up being so knackered at the end of the day, we often only make it through a couple of scenes. I guess the flip side of that is that we can make a movie stretch out for a week.

When it is too windy to go anywhere, reading is a great way to pass the time. I'm currently reading Michener's Caribbean.

Monday, 23 December 2013

We got off to an early start with the anchor up at 7:30 am. We motored around the southern point of Whanganui Island and anchored in McGregor Bay in Coromandel Harbour about an hour later. We hopped into the dinghy and spent some time wandering around Coromandel Town. And we got pies for lunch! Yummy, yummy pies from Coro Pies. We then headed back across the Firth of Thames and anchored up in Chamberlain's Bay in Ponui Island. The "silly season" is beginning in New Zealand so the anchorage was very crowded (at least by New Zealand standards) with a few boats even coming in after dark. We had some fun hanging about in our cockpit and watching everyone anchor up after us. The highlight was when one guy motored in front of us, dropped his anchor without even checking where our anchor was, put out no scope whatsoever and didn't even bother to back his anchor down. By some miracle, he didn't drag up during the night. Which was good as ours is the boat he would have most likely hit.

The main drag in Coromandel Town. It was a pretty overcast day.
Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve, or the "day of the broken toilet seat" as it shall be known from this point forward. The anchor was up early again around 7:30 am and we motored around the eastern side of Ponui Island and through the Sandspit Passage. This is a tidal stream, so if you want to go through, make sure you check the tides. Skipper Scott knows what he is doing so he timed our trip to hit the passage at just the right time.

Interesting rock formations along the eastern side of Ponui Island.
Once we got through the passage, we had wind against tide with winds gusting up around 20 knots. So, we just decided to motor along. I helmed the boat for a couple of hours while Skipper Scott had a well deserved break, reading and snacking below. If only he had know what would happen with the toilet seat later, he could have busied himself doing some preventative maintenance. It was a very cold day so I was bundled up in two fleece jackets and a blanket tucked around my legs up in the cockpit. We run a low-tech boat, so no auto-steering here. Someone needs to keep their hand on the tiller even while they're shivering and wishing they had gloves on. New Zealand ain't the Caribbean or the Med, that's for sure.

Going through the Sandspit Passage south of Ponui Island. Big marker - they really want to make sure you know to avoid the reef to the south.
Finally, Skipper Scott came up top to take over and decided that we would make similar time beating into the wind rather than motoring. So the tippiness began. I don't like tippiness. I tend to get a lot of bruises on my legs moving around the cabin. You get even more bruises when you try to pee and the boat is heeled over practically on its side. And that's when it happened. Mid-pee the toilet seat slid out from under me. It apparently doesn't like heeling anymore than I do.

It was a hard slog back beating into the wind and we got a lot of practice perfecting our tacking routine. Tack, tack, tack. Approx 15 tacks in all. Did I mention that we don't have self-tailing winches either? I think I found new muscles in my body I didn't know about previously with all of the tailing and pulling on the lines. Scott's original estimate had been a 1:00 pm arrival with a maximum of three tacks. But the wind direction changed so it was a long sail and we didn't make it back to our marina until 5:30 pm. 

Once we got back to the marina, we hit the X Pier again, cleaned off the anchor, topped up the water, took the trash and recycling off and Scott fiddled around with the roller reefing (it acted up a bit while we were out). Eventually we moored the boat back in the piles and headed back to X Pier on our dinghy. And that is when the next thing broke - the oar lock on the dinghy. When we least wanted it to break. With strong winds coming entirely the wrong way at us, with the threat of drifting out into the harbor and when we were very tired, very hungry and very ready to be back at the apartment. After a few attempts to fix it with the our handy Leatherman in the middle of the water (thanks Mom for the gift, see how it has come in handy!), Scott ended up rowing us with one oar back to the pier into the wind. He is such a trooper.

As I keep telling Scott, if stuff didn't break, we wouldn't be real cruisers. We've definitely joined the club.


Total nautical miles = 95
Top speed = 7.5 knots
Approx hours motoring = 6
Approx number of tacks = 15 (it may have been less, but seemed like 15 to me)
Number of things broken = 3 (cigarette charger, toilet seat, oar lock on dinghy)

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27 December 2013

Thank You Santa!

Getting ready to apply Santa's nifty sail tape.

Our letter to Santa Claus seems to have paid off as we got a few exciting presents for Christmas. I have to say, Santa seems a bit dodgy this year though as he seems to look a lot like Scott and charged our presents to our credit card. Not too sure what is going on there, but mother always told me to be gracious when you get presents. So, thank you Santa, we really appreciate the gifts!

I'm probably more excited about the solar shower as staying clean and smelling pretty is one of life's priorities for me. And what is even better is that having a solar shower means there is no excuse for Scott to be stinky. However, having a solar shower doesn't mean we can use it all the time as it still requires fresh water which is in limited supply on our boat. The one Santa gave us holds 9.5 liters of water and we'll fill it up each time we top up the rest of our water. Not sure how many showers or rinses we'll get out of 9.5 liters, but that's something we'll keep an eye on this summer as part of tracking our water usage overall. Santa seems to have bought this at Burnsco and charged our credit card NZ$14.99. I imagine you can probably find them cheaper in the States.

I also got some sailing gloves so my hands don't hurt when I pull on the lines. There was an ugly pair that was less expensive, but Santa was smart and splurged on the better looking pair for NZ$35. Santa gave us a very nifty headlamp - it has three levels of brightness and some weird red flashing lights which don't seem to have any purpose other than to make you look cool. We also got some boring but useful presents including an extra jerry can for diesel and a hacksaw. And of course the most practical present of all was some sail tape so that I could repair the mainsail. A bargain at just NZ$16.

Thanks again Santa for our pressies!!

25 December 2013

Happy Boxing Day

Via The Graphics Fairy
It's Boxing Day today so I gave Scott an old box to play with. Like a little kitten, he entertained himself for hours with his box. But then he got it stuck on his head and it all kind of went downhill after that. By the way, if you've never read our blog before, you might think that Scott is the name of a little kitten. It is actually the name of my human husband. Although, I guess you can't really legally marry kittens (which would be just plain weird), so saying that he is a "human" husband might have been overkill. Anyway, even though he isn't a kitten, he still likes to play with boxes. Men can be so simple and easy to entertain at times.  

If you aren't from a Commonwealth country, you might not know what Boxing Day is. It really isn't a day to celebrate kittens, husbands and boxes. Traditionally, it is when servants and tradesmen would get a gift in a box from their employers. Nowadays, it is just another public holiday which is great as it means you get two days off of work in a row at Christmas time. We're just two unemployed vagabonds on a boat so every day is like Boxing Day to us. People also tend to hit the shops and exchange the boxes of stuff they got at Christmas for stuff they like better.

On an unrelated note, our Christmas curry yesterday was edible if I do say so myself. If you eat it on a boat, it will even taste better. Here's the recipe if you want to shake things up next year and go a little less traditional.

Christmas Curry

1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 chilies sliced (we leave the seeds in to make it spicy)
1 red pepper/capsicum chopped
2 tablespoons oil (I used canola)
4 heaping tablespoons of Patak’s curry paste (or your favorite Indian curry paste)
1 can/tin chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock concentrate
2-3 cups water (more if you need it)
1/2 cup dried red lentils
Approx. 500 grams/1 lb diced and boneless chicken breast or thigh
Lemon juice
Plain, unsweetened yogurt

Sauté the onion, garlic, chilies and red pepper/capsicum in a pan in the oil until nice and soft. Add in the curry paste and sauté for several minutes until everything smells so yummy you can’t stand it anymore. Add in the chopped tomatoes, the chicken stock concentrate and 1 cup of water. Let everything simmer away for 30 minutes to an hour depending upon how hungry and desperate you are to eat. The longer you let things simmer the better it tastes in the end. Add in the lentils and chicken and top up with enough water to make sure there is enough liquid for the lentils to grow and expand. You can add in more water as the lentils and chicken cooks away to make sure the curry sauce is a good consistency. Let it all simmer away for another 30 minutes to an hour. When you’re ready to serve, stir in some plain yogurt to make it creamy and some lemon juice to give a zing. Serve with some basmati rice. Yum.

Variation – If you live on a boat without a fridge and no ready access to the grocery store, you can leave out the chicken, lemon juice and yogurt and it will still be delicious. Just not as delicious.

Super-Duper Variation - Marinate the chicken in yogurt, curry powder and garlic for hours and hours before you start cooking. Of course you should do this in a fridge, otherwise your mom might yell at you about inviting botulism to your dinner party. But if you use this method, guaranteed to make your curry super-duper. Fridge optional. If you don't use one, don't tell your mom.

Festive Variation - If you add in some peas then it becomes super festive as it is red and green in color and will remind you of Christmas even when it is 22° Celsius outside.

24 December 2013

Happy Holidays

Whatever holiday you celebrate during this festive season, we hope it is a wonderful and joyous one. We'll be having our usual Christmas curry and screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian and enjoying the New Zealand summer. Hopefully, your celebrations are just as magical and fun!

Via The Graphics Fairy

23 December 2013

Hauraki Gulf Cruising Notes: Motutapu Island

Motutapu Island - a lovely place to anchor up and go for a walk in pastoral landscapes and replanted bush
36°45′S 174°55′E

Pohutukawa trees on Motutapu starting to blossom in November.
Their red blossoms over the holiday period are why they are sometimes called the Kiwi Christmas tree.
Motutapu (Sacred) Island is a very popular place with local boaties as it is relatively close to Auckland and has some great walks and beaches to enjoy. It is also connected to neighboring Rangitoto Island by a causeway which means you can easily explore both islands while you're out there. If you don't have a boat, both Motutapu and Rangitoto have regular ferry service from Auckland and they're often teeming with day trippers on the weekends. The islands provide a real visual contrast sitting next to each other with Rangitoto being a younger volcanic island which erupted around 1400 CE. Compared to Rangitoto's rugged landscape and steep volcanic peak, Motutapu has a lower profile, is mostly pasture and has gently rolling hills. Motutapu was settled by Maori around mid-1300 CE and they would have experienced the eruption of Rangitoto and watched their island covered in volcanic ash.

Motutapu is a 1509 hectare recreation reserve administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Part of the reserve is leased out as pest-free farmland with around 3,500 sheep and 1,000 cattle roaming around. So when you go for walks on the island, sometimes you have to play dodge the droppings. It keeps you alert and on your toes though. Literally on your toes when you look down and notice you're about to step in something. Although you might think that allowing pastoral activity on one of the Hauraki Gulf islands isn't ideal, it actually has several benefits. By munching their way around the island, the sheep and cows are protecting the archaeological sites from regrowth and damage from roots. They also help keep weeds from spreading. And the military sites on the island can't be replanted with native plants, so pastoralism is a great way to maintain these sites for everyone to enjoy.

The other tenant on the island is the Outdoor Education Camp. When the WWII Artillery Camp was decommissioned it was handed over to be used by Kiwi youth and an outdoor education camp was established in 1966. It is located in Administration Bay on the northern shore of the island and you can see lots of energetic young people doing things like climbing poles, building rafts, doing rope courses and that type of thing. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

But if you're energetic, like these youngsters, then you might want to do some tramping on the island. If you're starting out from Home Bay (where the ferry service goes to), then you can walk from there to Northern Junction which is near some of the WWII site (approx. 2km). From Northern Junction, you can carry on for another 3.3 kms to Billy Goat Point at the northern tip of the island via the Wetland track across farmland. You can also access Mullet, Station, Waikarapupu and Sandy Bays from this track. If you have your own boat, these are great bays to anchor up in and enjoy the views.

Alternatively, you could try out the Motutapu Walkway which connects Home Bay to Islington Bay. Islington Bay is an extremely popular anchorage with yachties and well worth a visit. Because it lies between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands it gives you options as to which one you want to explore, if you don't have time to do both. The Motutapu Walkway is 4.2 kms one way and goes through farmland. Follow the poles as you go. There are some great vantage points along the way and you can see areas of native bush that have been replanted.

If you enjoy the Hauraki Gulf and are looking for a way to give something back, the Motutapu Restoration Trust is doing some great conservation work and have regularly scheduled volunteer days. Their restoration efforts help protect the world's largest pohutukawa forest (the Kiwi Chrismas tree) and native wildlife and plants. I went and helped out last month and spent several hours weeding the evil moth plant. The regular volunteers and members of the Trust are very knowledgeable, educate you on their conservation efforts and take you to parts of the island you might not normally find yourself. Well worth checking out and getting involved in.

You can find additional information and some useful maps of Motutapu, Rangitoto and the Hauraki Gulf at the Outdoor Education Camp site here, on the DOC site here and on the Motutapu Restoration Trust site here.

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

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Some of the cows on Motutapu. They're watching to see if you step in their cow patties. If you do, they giggle to each other. It sounds like they are saying, "Moo, moo, moo" but really they're saying, "Silly hoooman, silly hooman, silly hooman"

20 December 2013

I Almost Killed Scott The Other Day

The scene of the crime - the X Pier at Westhaven Marina.

The key word here is "almost" - there was bleeding and a few swear words, but Scott survived. Which is good because I've kind of grown fond of him. And he makes a really good egg and cheese breakfast burrito so he is a keeper. Here is how this little drama unfolded...

Take two people. Put them in a sailboat. Make sure at least one person knows how to sail because the other person probably forgot everything she learned the previous summer because her brain can't possibly retain information on sailing for seven months. There is limited capacity up there and the sailing information has had to be replaced with the plot details about who has done what to who in season 2 of Scandal. {Please, no spoilers about the second half of season 2 or season 3.} Then add in some wind so that you can spice up a docking maneuver. The docking maneuver should have been routine and had in fact been successfully completed just two days earlier. This leads everyone to believe that it will all be just fine. The fools.

Have your skipper head into the dock against the wind so that it slows the boat down. Get your least experienced crew member situated with a mooring line on the bow so that she can jump down to the dock and secure the boat. In the future, remember to tell your least experienced crew member to stop thinking about the next episode of Scandal during the docking maneuver because it might be a bit distracting. If you're the inexperienced crew member, start to feel somewhat clever because you remember reading somewhere that you shouldn't make a big jump onto the dock and instead just lightly hop down to it. Once you realize that the dock is too far away for your short little legs, tell the skipper that it is too far to jump. But make sure you do so in a normal tone of voice because you've been told you sometimes speak too loudly and your voice carries. Then wonder why the skipper asks you why you haven't jumped yet. Panic and jump. Panic some more then pull the bow line in smartly. While you're doing this, your skipper should put the engine in neutral and jump onto the dock with the stern line. Make sure to pull on the bow line just when he is over the water so the boat drifts off astern and he falls into the water. Such fun. Such entertainment for everyone that is watching the maneuver.

At this point, there might be some naughty words being said. You can't be sure about this because the water might be muffling what the skipper is saying. When the skipper yells at you to come grab the stern line, make sure you drop the bow line because keeping hold of it would be far too sensible. Then watch the bow drift away and the skipper swimming in the water. Thinking quickly and somewhat in a panic, grab the lifeline to pull the boat in so it doesn't completely drift off. Then panic some more that you are going to crush the skipper in between the boat and the dock. Good times.

Somehow, the skipper manages to pull himself onto the swim platform and back onto the boat. Then off the boat to grab the bow line sitting on the dock. The skipper restores order. The inexperienced crew member goes down below and wonders if it is too early for a gin and tonic. The skipper thinks this is the exact moment to do a debrief of what went wrong. Because doing a "lessons learned" exercise is really important. Except all the inexperienced crew member can think about is whether there is still some lemon for the gin and tonic and isn't listening at all to the skipper. Fortunately, years of marriage have taught her how to do the head nodding thing which gives the illusion that she is paying attention.

And just to put some icing on the cake, make sure your gears get jammed up and won't go into forward just when you're trying to get off the dock and back to your mooring. This provides more entertainment for bystanders while you try to make your gears work all the while you're drifting backwards because only reverse will work.

The good news is that the skipper was wearing swim trunks already, didn't have his wallet or phone in his pockets and the water wasn't too terribly cold. He does have some pretty cuts and nicks from the barnacles on his arms, legs, hands and feet as a lovely memento of the event. 

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18 December 2013

Back On The Water

Map of our outing earlier this week. Skipper Scott would like me to point out that the lines I drew aren't accurate. He does know how to sail in a straight line and he doesn't run over rocks. Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.

On Sunday, after we got the mainsail patched up and did some initial cleaning up of the boat, Scott suggested we head out for the night to get back into our cruising groove. The night turned into two nights and a long day, but once we ran out of coffee, Scott was happy to head back in. Overall, it was a good opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our boat, for me to (re)learn basic sailing skills and for us to think through some of the logistics of moving onto our boat full-time in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bean Rock lighthouse in the Hauraki Gulf. It began operating in 1871 and is the sole surviving example of a wooden cottage style lighthouse in New Zealand. You can read more about it here.
We headed out around 5pm after chatting with our new boat neighbor, Jeremy. Jeremy is Belgian and first came to New Zealand as a child with his family when they circumnavigated the world. He has since moved here permanently with his family. He thinks starting off cruising in the Caribbean, once we head back to the States to buy a bigger boat, would be a good way to go. We'll need to pick his brain some more on his experiences in the coming weeks.

Good weather when we headed out - sunny and warm, flat calm and wind out of the north around 10 knots. We put the main up right away once we got out of the marina and headed over to Islington Bay, a popular anchorage between Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands. A couple of hours later, we had the anchor down and a gin and tonic in the cockpit. I wasn't up for doing complicated cooking so we just had old fashioned spaghetti with sauce from a jar and then toddled off to sleep.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Sunrise in Islington Bay between Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands
After a good night's sleep, Scott got up and took the lovely picture above and made coffee for me while I slept in. His way of getting me to wake up is to stand over me holding a cup of coffee and stare at me until I feel his looming presence and smell the coffee. Our cats used to do something similar, but without the coffee and with sharp claws instead. Needless to say, Scott is a bit of a morning person and keen to get going early, early, early. To convince me that an early start was a good idea, he even made me super tasty breakfast of egg and cheese burritos. And he did the dishes too! I can get used to this type of room service.

Woody Bay, Rakino Island. That's our tiny boat out there anchored up.
We then headed off to Rakino Island under motor due to lack of wind, which is to the northeast of Motutapu Island. We hadn't been there before, but knew that it was the former home of the famous Great Ricardo so we were keen to visit. We pitched the hook in Woody Bay, had a nice picnic on the beach, did some reading and then Scott was eager to do some more sailing. By this time there was a bit of wind so we were able to put the sails up. We had a very pleasant sail, even though we were fairly close hauled, averaged about 5 knots and headed over the top of Waiheke Island. Then we went down the east side and through the Ruthe Passage between Ponui and Rotoroa Islands. We anchored up in Southwest Bay in Rotoroa Island for the night. More spaghetti and red sauce from a jar and some cheap red wine. I'll definitely need to jazz up my cooking repertoire.

Southwest Bay, Rotoroa Island. The island has recently been opened up to the public. It was the former location of the Salvation Army alcohol treatment program, along with the neighboring Pakatoa Island.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Scott made breakfast for me again this morning! I think he is afraid I'm going to chicken out on this whole cruising full-time thing so he is pulling out all the stops with coffee and breakfast each morning. Another beautiful day out, sunny and warm (even too hot at times), but little wind and what there was was on our nose. So we motored on out and headed through the Waiheke Passage to continue our circumnavigation of Waiheke Island.

Putiki Bay, Waiheke Island. That's the Sealink car ferry coming in.

We headed up to Putiki Bay on the southern side of the island to look for a mooring ball that one of our boat neighbors offered up to us to use. (By the way, he is a super nice guy who has anything you could possibly need squirreled away in endless jars in his boat. He is in "later" years and is one amazing guy, rowing out to the pile moorings himself and single-handing his boat all around the Hauraki Gulf.) It was our first time in Putiki Bay, which is where the car ferry comes into Waiheke Island. A really nice, sheltered bay, which is mostly filled with private mooring balls, although there is some room to anchor up. We ended up not picking up the mooring ball because we weren't sure of the number, or the bay, or really anything. Parts of the bay are really shallow so we took the dinghy out for a spin to explore. I was hoping that we could find some ice cream. Which was really silly because I should have known that outside of the main population centers on the island, you aren't likely to find roadside ice cream stands. But a girl can always hope.

In the middle of this picture, you can see a little house which floats in the water when the tide is up. Quite cute.
After our dinghy expedition, we headed back out to Westhaven Marina. We were out of coffee so we really didn't have any choice. A morning without coffee on our boat isn't one that anyone should ever witness. Once we got back out, we put the sails up and tried to tack our way back in. No fun. No fun at all. Going against the tide, beating into the wind (which was gusting up to 24 knots) and not remembering how to tack (me, not Scott) meant that we I decided the motor isn't a bad thing after all. We headed into Islington Bay on the way back to take down the main, anchor up to wait for the tide to change and have some lunch. After our bellies were full, we headed back out, Skipper Scott went down for a nap and left me to it. I got to bash into the wind and waves, get a bit of a soaking and my hand got tired holding the tiller for hours. Once Scott woke up, he took over, put up the headsail and got us back into our slip.
66 nautical miles
Top speed 6.9 knots
Approx 5 hours motoring

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16 December 2013

Everything Seems Ticketyboo (So Far)

We had beautiful weather the first day back on our boat, so we sat out in the cockpit and enjoyed the sunshine and the views. These are the pile moorings where we currently keep our boat. You can see Wynyard Quarter and the old siloes from our cockpit. Great views of Auckland and the city lights at night as well. And that's another Raven across the way - just like our boat.

Scott got back to New Zealand last week and, as predicted, the first thing he wanted to do was go check out our boat so we could make sure she is ready to move onboard and begin full-time cruising at the end of the month. We've started going through our list of things to check out and, so far, generally everything seems ticketyboo, which is great considering she has been tucked away out on the pile moorings all winter. 

When we got to the dinghy racks, we found that our dink was quite deflated but it was easy enough to pump her back up and, most importantly, she has stayed inflated. Our next task was to row out and make sure the boat was still there. And she was. So another tick off the list. And even better, no one had broken in and stolen anything! The engine started right off the bat and seems to be running okay. Which is great because the last thing we want to do is to have to put any money into fixing pesky little things like engines, especially as we'll be selling our boat at the end of the New Zealand summer.

We took the boat out of the water on Saturday to clean her off and make sure everything was okay down below. She didn't have too much growing on her, the sacrificial zinc didn't need to be replaced and we were in and out of the Floating Dock in no time. After filling her up with water, we then headed out and bended on the headsail and had a nice little sail. (Yeah, I didn't know what "bending on the sail" meant either. It is just Scott's fancy talk for "putting on the sail".) 

On Sunday, we patched up the mainsail, started moving some stuff on board and did a big clean outside and inside. We found that the boat smells a bit musty and there is some mildew inside. We were a bit surprised about that as we don't think the previous owners had a problem with that, but it isn't anything a good cleaning with vinegar and bleach can't fix.
We've still managed to find time for some fun - Scott has already been out rum racing and we managed to sneak in a pint or two at the pub near our marina. Fingers crossed, everything else goes okay and we'll move onboard in the next week or so and be off on our cruising adventure!


This is Swashbuckler's (or Swashies as some folks call it), which is a local pub and restaurant near Westhaven Marina. It is popular with boaties, marine industry workers and corporate types who work in the nearby office buildings. While Scott and I lingered over our Steinlager beers, the poor corporate bods looked uncomfortable in their nice work clothes and kept checking their watches so that they could scurry back to their cubicles on time. I must say this life of an unemployed vagabond on a boat sure beats the old corporate life!

13 December 2013

The Cynical Sailor Speaks On The Sailing Podcast

Well, the Cynical Sailor himself didn't actually speak on The Sailing Podcast as he was busy working in Scotland. But I did. The sidekick. The one who writes this blog. The Pollyanna, glass-half-full "yin" to Scott's cynical "yang" or "yang" to his "yin". I'm not sure which, but you get the idea.

If you aren't familiar with The Sailing Podcast, you should definitely head on over and see what it is all about. Scott has been a big fan for a while and first discovered the site when he saw they had an interview with Webb Chiles (the guy who has circumnavigated five times and was the first person to go around Cape Horn solo). Scott was keen to be able to hear what Webb had to say as he had previously "met" him through some email exchanges about a boat in New Zealand. I've checked the site out as well now and it is a really great resource to hear stories about sailing and cruising, as well as the voice behind people's blogs and books. There is a great interview with David Anderson from The Sailing Podcast on Sail Far Live Free which is worth checking out as well to learn more about David and his passion for sailing and podcasts.

So how in the world did this madness happen? Scott emailed David to say that he thought it would be great to hear a podcast from someone who is new to cruising or in the process of getting ready to cruise full-time. And guess who he suggested - me. But of course, he forgot to mention to me that he had emailed David. I think I've told you before that Scott is a crafty little devil and it pays to keep an eye on him. But it is so much harder to do that when he is in Scotland and I am in New Zealand. So surprise, David said yes, let's interview Ellen and then Scott "confessed" what he had done.

If you listen to the podcast, I ramble a lot and talk about some really random stuff and I can't stand to hear the sound of my own voice. Do I really sound like that? So I would really understand if you skipped over our podcast and checked out some of the others. From people like Webb Chiles, or Teresa Carey & Ben Eriksen at Sailing Simplicity, or Paul & Sheryl Shard from Distant Shores TV, or Bill & Judy Rouse from S/V BeBe, or Mike Sweeney from Zero to Cruising, or Jamie & Behan Gifford at S/V Totem. And the list goes on and on. Some really big names in sailing and cruising and then there is, well, me. Go figure.

However, despite the fact that I'm not the world's best interviewee, it was a fun experience. David is a really nice guy and I enjoyed chatting with him immensely. If you want to have a listen, you can find a link here to download the podcast.

And don't worry, Scott will pay for setting me up to be interviewed. Oh yes, he will pay. 

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11 December 2013

Going For A Walk: Wynyard Quarter, Auckland {Or Cute Stuff Everywhere}

Wynyard Quarter is one of the new hot spots in the Auckland waterfront area and is undergoing a 25-year urban transformation plan, the first part of which was completed in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup (which of course the All Blacks won). It sits on reclaimed land in the Waitemata Harbour and encompasses around 37 hectares of land and three kms of coastal frontage. There are all sorts of amenities for visitors to enjoy including a playground, public artwork, old siloes which have been jazzed up, a fish market and all sorts of cafes, restaurants and bars. You can see all types of vessels in Wynyard Quarter including fishing boats, the Great Barrier Island ferry, classic Kiwi yachts and mega yachts. Positioned between the Viaduct and Westhaven, it is nice area to have a stroll, visit and explore. 

The drawbridge from Te Wero Island in the Viaduct which you cross over to get to Wynyard Quarter.

View from under the pohutukawa trees back to the Viaduct and the drawbridge..

There is a lot of interesting street art scattered throughout Wynyard Quarter.

There's a fish market in Wynyard Quarter which is fun to explore. They sell good fish and chips there, but be warned if you want ketchup for your chips, it will cost you extra.

Yummy fish for sale. Although, I much prefer the ones that Skipper Scott catches for us.

One of the many fishing boats in the Wynyard Quarter.
They've repurposed old shipping containers throughout Wynyard Quarter.
You can get money out of the ATM at this one. There is a television screen on the other side showing videos.

At this one, you can buy some ice cream with the money you just took out of the ATM.

And you can even catch the bus from this shipping container.
At the end of Wynyard Quarter is Silo Park. It is full of siloes. The name kind of gives it away.

They've jazzed some of the old siloes up with colorful paintings.

Silo Park marina is where the mega-yachts berth. This ridiculous boat, the A, is owned by a Russian tycoon and worth $350 million. He has brought it into Auckland to be repainted. It is going to cost around NZ$30 million alone to repaint and take approx. 18 months.

These boats are much nicer.

 And the most important thing to know about the Wynyard Quarter is that they just opened a branch of Sal's Pizza there. This is the best proper American style pizza in Auckland. I think they import the cheese from Wisconsin. Getting a pizza from Sal's is a priority must-do for Scott this week now that he is back in New Zealand.

09 December 2013

Sail Repair: The Theory

We have an approx. 3 inch tear in our mainsail which I need to repair. I tried to convince Scott that sail repair was a manly, "blue" job but then he tried to tell me that hoisting the anchor and rowing the dinghy were girly, "pink" jobs. I reconsidered. Sail repair is now my new specialty. I have absolutely no idea how to do this and clearly no experience. Thank goodness for the internet. Not only can you find out how to repair a sail, you can also find some truly weird and random stuff. So thanks to the internet, here is the theory on sail repair. Check back in later and we'll see if reality is anything like theory. I've found that the two don't always align.

From what I can tell, there are two types of patches - a cut-away patch and a "bandaid" patch. The cut-away patch is where you sew on a new piece of sail cloth on one side and then cut away the damaged part of the other side. This is what your professional sail maker would do, for a price of course. I'm cheap and certainly not a professional, so I'm going to go with the "bandaid" approach. You basically apply adhesive backed cloth or tape on both sides of the tear - like a giant bandaid.

Step 1 - Buy sail repair tape. 

I'm thinking of getting this Seasure heavy duty sail repair tape (1.5mmx100mm) at Foster's Chandlery. It says it is suitable for all sails including heavy spinnakers and you can edge stich it for permanent repair. It will cost me NZ$16.01. Which is funny because they don't have pennies in New Zealand so where the extra cent is going to come from is beyond me. But that's where Swedish rounding comes into play.

Step 2 - Make sure your sail is dry and clean. 

The adhesive won't stick to damp cloth. This shouldn't be a problem as we took the main sail off when we put the boat away for the winter.

Step 3 - Apply the tape. 

You should make sure the tape extends beyond the hole by 2-3" in each direction so cut the tape accordingly. Make sure the area is flat, peel the backing off and then lay the tape on the sail and rub it down firmly. Turn over the sail and repeat.

Step 4 - Do some sewing. 

You should reinforce the patch by sewing a zigzag stich. You're supposed to do a zigzag as it allows the stich line to stretch with the cloth. The instructions I found on the internet (see link above) talk about using an awl to punch holes through thick areas of cloth. This doesn't seem like the dresses and pillow covers I'm used to sewing on my old sewing machine.

Step 5 - Figure out what sewing equipment you need. 

Based on what I learned in Step 4, it doesn't look my household sewing kit is going to cut the mustard. You can buy this super expensive sail sewing kit at Foster's Chandlery. Give them NZ$80.26 and in return you will get a leather sewing palm, assorted needles, waxed sewing thread and beeswax. Do I need this stuff? It seems like a lot of money to invest in sewing. Although to be fair, I've probably spent more on materials for my various arts and crafts projects in the past. It would probably be so much easier if I had a sewing machine like these folks, but buying one of those isn't on the cards for us just now. 

Step 6 - Admire your handiwork and go for a sail.

Have you ever repaired a sail? How did you do it? What sewing equipment do I need and it is really that expensive?

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07 December 2013

Going For A Walk: Te Henga Walkway, Bethells Beach {Or What's That Plant Called?}

After our last attempt to go for a proper hike in the Waitakares, my friend and I decided not to ask the park ranger for advice this time and instead we picked a trail ourselves. Smart move on our part - much better walk and we didn't get our feet wet. The whole wet feet thing might not be important to you, but it is to us. We headed out to Bethells Beach and took the Te Henga walkway past O'Neill Bay and then up to Raetahinga Point on the headland. Great picnic, sunny day, lovely weather (around 24°C!) and sea views. Overall roundtrip around 8kms. What more could you want. And we even had time to name the various plants we saw along the way. We're both pretty useless when it comes to knowing the "official" names of various plants, so we decided to give them new ones. You might want to get your New Zealand field guide out so you can cross out the old names and write in the new ones. We've got some pictures below so you can easily identify them.


You cross over the Waitakare River on your way to O'Neill Bay. Fortunately, they have a bridge so no one needs to get their feet wet.
The Te Henga walkway is part of the Hillary Trail (as in Sir Edmund), which is a four day 77km tramp. We didn't have four days, so we just did part of it.

Some folks have carved their names into the cliff, as well as some pictures like this cute smiley face. Not that you should ever deface nature, but if you're into the whole vandalism thing, then make it something cute like this. There are also some naughty pictures but my mom reads this so I'm not sharing those ones.
This plant is now known as "vanilla fingers". If someone calls if flax, they would be wrong. You should correct them.

From this point forward, this plant will be known as "snow angel". We think it looks very pretty, just like a snow angel.
This is the "kitty cat" plant. When you touch it, it feels soft like a kitty cat. There was some discussion about how we could save minks from being turned into coats if we made coats out of this plant instead because it is so soft. But then we realized that it falls apart if you touch it too much so we've told our R&D department to try to solve the whole falling apart problem so that we can make coats. They have a month to make it work or someone is going to get fired.

On a sunny day, it is good to stop and take a break in the shade.

We didn't know what to call these. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

We even renamed this one. It is now known as "yellow sunshine goddess".
Danger, danger...fortunately it was a very dry day.
This is what they meant. Erosion and landslides all over the place.
View from where we had our picnic lunch out to the "ditch" aka the Tasman Sea. And of course we reapplied our sunscreen. Because it is smart to be sunsmart.