28 February 2014

Our Navman Chartplotter, Fishfinder & Tranducer Set-up

We operate a really low-tech boat, but we do have two critical pieces of equipment - our Navman chartplotter and fishfinder. You might not think a fishfinder is a critical piece of equipment, but when you don't have a fridge and ready access to protein other than what comes out of a tin, fishing becomes quite important. Plus snapper is tasty and fishing makes Skipper Scott happy.

Our fishfinder isn't installed on the boat, we just take it out of its hidey hole in one of the lockers whenever it is time to go fishing and perch it up on deck. And then you sit back and stare at it waiting and hoping to see a swarm of fish swimming by. It is pretty cool - it gives you an idea of how many fish there are, how big they are and at what depth. Seems to be a clever gadget. Unfortunately, it lies sometimes. It will show you a gazillion fish right underneath your boat but for some reason you can never hook one. I think it likes to mess with our minds. You're thinking, "Yum - fish for dinner!" and Mr. Fishfinder is rubbing its flippers together cackling to itself, "Stupid humans, fooled again! They'll be eating pasta with tomato sauce tonight. Swim free my little fishy friends, swim free!"

Our fishfinder also has one other really important feature - it serves as our depth sounder. Knowing the depth of the water is pretty critical when you anchoring or when you're maneuvering along the coast, near a reef or in an area with shallow waters. I'm not sure if our transducer set up is bizarre or not. (By the way, a transducer is a gizmo that sends out some sort of super-sonic waves which bounce off of things and then the data is magically converted into a number which tells you how deep the water is. A highly technical explanation I know.) Our transducer is placed inside some sort of plastic ring attached to the bilge. Scott put some gravel inside the ring to keep the transducer in place and we pour water in the ring so that it is sitting in the water. We checked to make sure that the set-up works by cross-checking how deep the fishfinder says the water is against what our paper charts say. So far, they seem to match up. I imagine this isn't how most transducers are installed?

Our chartplotter is installed on the boat so that you can keep an eye on it while you're helming the boat. It is probably like most other chartplotters - you can see your boat's position on the chart via GPS, track how many nautical miles you've gone and follow your progress from your starting to ending point. Being able to go back and see your track is really useful when you're anchored in a tricky situation where the water is quite shallow all around you and you want to make sure you go back out exactly the way you came in.

The maker of our gear, Navman, is a classic example of Kiwi ingenuity. Peter Maire developed a fishfinder in his garage in Auckland, established a company and became a pioneer in marine electronic products. I think you would be surprised what gets developed in garages all across New Zealand - things like very cool jetpacks that look like they're straight out of the Jetsons. Kiwi ownership of Navman came to an end in 2004 when they were acquired by Brunswick Corporation and then subsequently chopped into pieces and sold off to other companies. I'm sure some people made a lot of money in the process. They always do. The marine division is now part of the Norwegian company Navico and I think the Navman marine brand has now disappeared which makes us owners of "legacy products", which is code for old equipment. But they still work and that's all that counts.

26 February 2014

Going For A Walk: Man O'War Bay, Waiheke Island {Or There Is More Than Wine Tasting Here}

Man O'War Bay is located on the eastern side of Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Captain Cook first came across the area in 1769 when he anchored in the bay during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand. He noted the Kauri trees along the shore and thought that they would make good masts for the Royal Navy warships, thus giving the bay its name - Man O'War. Today, the Man O'War Bay is home to the Man O'War vineyards and an access point to the road that leads up to the historic Stony Batter reserve. We went for a nice little walk when we were out there over New Year's.

There is a large beach that you can land on and leave your dinghy up on the shore. The beach is stony and full of broken shells and if you have delicate feet like me, watch out. There is a grassy strip that runs along the beach which is much more comfortable to walk on.

Cross the road that runs parallel to the beach and you'll see this old church. It is fenced off and marked as private property so you can only view it from afar.

Next to the church is the Man O'War tasting room where you can sample their wines and buy a few bottles to take back to your boat with you.

The Man O'War Bay is a popular area for picnics. Here is someone setting up for the day. Unfortunately, they were playing some really bad music which kind of took away from the idyllic nature of the bay. Next to the public barbeque is a place to leave your trash and recycling. Always important to know where these facilities are if you're living on your boat!

Nice mangoves near the wharf.

If you are interested in World War II sites, you can take the road up to the old Stony Batter historic reserve. It is a bit of a walk and I don't think there is public transport out on this part of the island., but sometimes people will stop and offer you a lift.

Much of the land is fenced off and private, but there are still some interesting views you can see along the way.

Even if you don't want to walk all the way to Stony Batter, wander along for the road a while and take the sights in.

24 February 2014

Back In The Barrier {Or What A Difference No Wind Makes}

Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.

We loved our time in Great Barrier Island last summer and were so excited to get back up there this summer. However, when we were there last, we were pretty much stuck on the boat for days in a blow which meant we didn’t get enough time to explore the island. So, on our way back from Great Mercury Island to Auckland, we decided to stop at the Barrier again and explore the western side of the island. And it was fabulous – because there was very little wind. It makes such a difference to be able to sleep peacefully at night, undisturbed by swells or wind, and to be able to safely leave your boat at the anchor and go exploring. We didn’t get nearly enough time to explore this part of the island before we had to head back to Auckland, but we’re definitely planning on heading back there this summer.
Monday, 3 February 2014

There is nothing Scott hates more than motoring, but when we left Great Mercury Island at 6:30 am there wasn’t even a hint of wind so we ended up having to motor the entire way to Great Barrier Island. We put the sail up a few times and it did give us a lift, but we still had the constant noise of the motor on the entire passage. Having to motor is a real drag because you can barely hear each other over the engine and you certainly can’t put any music on. But on a more positive, glass-half-full kind of note, we did get a chance to charge our portable DVD player and mobile phone during the trip without draining our batteries. 

Someone has built a cute little hut over the picnic tables so that you can enjoy your meal in the shade while looking out to Tryphena Harbour. There is a free, public barbeque next to the picnic tables that you can use.

And they even have barbeque utensils hanging in the tree for you to use. How handy is that!
25 nautical miles later, we dropped the hook in between Shoal Bay and Mulberry Grove Bay in Tryphena Harbour on the southwestern side of Great Barrier Island. Trypehna (or Rangitāwhiri, meaning “a day of welcome" in Māori) has three main parts to it – Stonewall Village, Mulberry Grove and Shoal Bay (site of the ferry wharf). After lunch, we got in the dinghy and headed over to Mulberry Grove and walked from there over to Stonewall Village. It is a relatively short walk between the two areas, mostly along the road and paths. Along the way, there are some nice views of the harbor and beaches. 

The cafe at Stonewall Village.

In Stonewall Village, you can find toilets, the post office, a café and general store. There is also supposed to be a pub near Pah Beach, but we didn’t see it. Instead, we got two bottles of Steinlager in the general store (NZ$3 each) and drank them on the beach. Much cheaper than a pub and probably a nicer view. You know you’re in a small town, when everyone in the general store knows each other and has a group discussion about whether Joe should go back on the dole or stay working in his current job. I'm not sure what he ended up deciding to do. We checked out the price of bread (NZ$6.50), decided to pass on buying bread there and meandered back to Mulberry Grove which also has general store and café, as well as a bar. 

Cafe and bar at Mulberry Grove. There are recycling facilities located nearby, but no dumpster for general waste.
Once in Mulberry Grove, it only seemed fair to try their beers too, so we bought another couple of bottles and, as they had a liquor license, we were able to drink them out in their very pretty courtyard complete with flowers, a duck looking for handouts and a sleeping cat. We also checked their prices on bread and decided to fork over NZ$6 for a loaf. All that comparison shopping to save 50 cents – it is amazing what lengths we’ll go to manage our cruising kitty. We then headed back to the boat and had grilled cheese for supper thanks to our new loaf of bread.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Yum - snapper for dinner tonight!
We both felt that we had seen what there was to see in Tryphena the day before, so we decided to head on out and visit some other bays on the western side of Great Barrier Island. But first, Scott did some fishing in Tryphena Harbour and scored a snapper!

Public wharf at Blind Bay. There was a guy there kayaking who has an ingenious way of hauling his kayak around. He basically doesn't have a rear window in his car and just sticks the kayak in through the back with it hanging over the trunk.
We first went to Blind Bay because our cruising guide said that there was a nice walk over stone bridges to be had there. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what we found. There are two very small stone bridges at Blind Bay, but certainly nothing to write home about or shout about in your blog. However, Blind Bay is a really pretty bay with some big pohutukawa trees, nice beach and a public wharf. We went for a little wander over the bridges, had some lunch on our boat and picked up the anchor and then headed off to our next stop – Whangaparapara Harbour.

Whangaparapara Harbour
Prior to the Europeans arriving in New Zealand, Whangaparapara was a center of commerce on Great Barrier Island for the Māori and protected by a number of fortified strongholds. The area later became a center for whaling and timber activity. Whangaparapara is a great base from which to do a number of walks. Unfortunately, we needed to be back in Auckland so we weren’t able to do more than briefly explore the harbor, but we do plan on heading back to take advantage of the trails soon.

Graveyard Bay
We anchored that night in Graveyard Bay, aptly named for the site of an old graveyard. After chatting with a guy from one of the other boats in the anchorage who came over to say g’day, we got in our dinghy and headed over towards the wharf to check out the Whangaparapara Lodge and their general store. The folks at the lodge pride themselves in having lower prices than the other general stores on the island and it does look like you can save yourself a few pennies on essentials like chocolate, bread and capsicums. We already had plenty of chocolate, bread and capsicums on the boat, so we opted to get some more beer instead. A word of caution, if you decide to land your dinghy at the lodge, consider the tides. When we left, the tide was on its way out which meant we had a really fun walk carrying our dinghy through the kind of mud which sucks your feet into the ground and won’t let go of them easily.

We managed to get our feet unstuck, into the dinghy and back to the boat to enjoy our beers and some Snappy, Snapper Chowder made with the snapper Scott caught that morning. It was scrumptious!


Nautical miles = 35 
Top speed = 5.7 
Number of snapper caught = 1
Number of beers consumed = we’re not telling

21 February 2014

Sweet As...

One of the boats in Huruhi Harbour back from a dive.
I’ve always loved the Kiwi expression, “sweet as”, but I’ve never actually used it in conversation or in writing. However, I think I have now had the perfect, quintessential “sweet as” experience involving scallops and the generosity of fellow yachties. And what makes it even sweeter is that Scott and I seem to be getting really good at mind control and ESP. Here is what happened…

When we were back at Great Mercury Island, we saw a number of boats in Huruhi Harbour go out for the day with all of their diving gear and come back in at night. We thought to ourselves, “I bet they’re going out diving for scallops and crayfish.” And then Scott thought to himself, “I wish I had a wetsuit and diving gear and could go with them.” Then I thought to myself, “I wish Scott had a wetsuit and diving gear and could go with them and bring me back scallops and crayfish to eat while I sit here reading my book.”

Not having a wetsuit or diving gear, we went walking on the island instead during the day and when we were in our dinghy heading back to our boat, we saw one of the diving boats come back in and Scott said, “Wouldn’t it be great if they came over to our boat and gave us some of their scallops?” And I said, “Wouldn’t it be even better if they had already taken the scallops out of the shells and had them ready for us to cook?”

Clearly, our powers of ESP are very strong and the magical powers of the Mercury Island enabled us to control the minds of others across the water because that is exactly what happened. The lovely lady from Dreamcatcher came over and gave us what seemed like a gazillion scallops out of the shells and all ready to cook. We’ve never talked to her before and we didn’t know her and yet she shared their scallops with us. I’m pretty sure they don’t read our blog, but if they do, thank you, thank you, thank you! They were delicious and sweet as!


19 February 2014

Back At Great Mercury {Or Some More Wind & Walks}

Sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright reserved.
When we left Whitianga, another blow was forecast, so rather than try to get all the way to Great Barrier Island in one day, we decided to head back to Great Mercury Island to wait it out. Our time in Great Mercury was what seems to be the usual mix for us this summer of either hanging out on the boat waiting out high winds and enjoying walks around the island once the wind dies down.

Tuesday, 30 January 2014

Given the strong tidal flow in Whitianga Harbour, we timed our departure with the tides, leaving around 12:30 pm. Prior to that, we visited with a guy who is in the process of lovingly restoring an old 1940's boat, the Juanita. He and his wife have been at it for years and they are almost at the finish line. I really admire people who take on project boats - I'm not sure I would have the patience for it (or the money).

We ended up having to motor most of the 18 nautical miles to Great Mercury Island and there was a bit of a chop which made the last part of the sail less pleasant than it could have been. We dropped our hook around 4:30 pm in our favorite anchorage on Great Mercury Island, Huruhi Harbour. We love it because if you get far enough in (which we can as we have a relatively shoal draft), you are well protected from any swell and pretty well protected from most winds.

Our temporary anchor light.
When we went to put up our anchor light that night, we found that the bulb had burned out. But even though he isn't a native of New Zealand, I think Scott must have some of that Kiwi ingenuity in him as he fashioned a temporary anchor light out of some weird light that came with the boat and attached it to the boom with some bungee cords. Wasn't pretty, but did the trick.

Friday, 31 January 2014

With the winds forecast to rise to 25 knots, gusting to 35 knots, we decided to hang out on the boat. We caught up on our reading, Scott did some fishing (but with no luck) and we watched the other boats in the bay. We had a possible sighting of Fatty Goodlander on a boat from Alaska anchored near us (the same one we saw earlier in Islington Bay) - but that may have been our imaginations getting carried away.

Later in the night, we saw a poor guy single handing his boat come into the bay and try to pick up a mooring ball a number of times in the strong winds. We felt so bad for the guy, but there wasn't much we could do to help. Fortunately, he ended up picking it up in the end by tying another line onto it. I bet he was relieved to have finally gotten it and be able to take a well deserved rest. I know lots of people single hand their boats, but it is at times like this I bet you really wish you had some crew on board.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Crashing waves at Rocky Bay
The winds really picked up during the night and continued through the morning. Fortunately, by the afternoon they had abated and we were able to head to the island and go for a walk out to Rocky Bay. The crashing waves were incredibly dramatic along the reefs and cliffs and although Scott took some great pictures, you can never really capture the intensity of the water. It is moments like this that you really realize that it isn't a bad thing to have a respectful fear of the ocean. Mother Nature is the one calling all the shots out there and we're pretty insignificant in the scheme of things.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The white cliffs near Coralie Bay
We went out for two walks during the day. In the morning, we went to Cathedral Rock Cove and then walked along the road towards some of the residences. In the afternoon, we walked out to Coralie Bay and got some great views of the white cliffs. Great Mercury Island has an incredibly diverse landscape. Scott says if you look at parts of it just right, it reminds him of North Dakota. If you gaze at the forested hills with sheep grazing on them below the treeline, you might almost be reminded of the Alps. And of course, if you look out to the ocean and at the native bush, you remember that you're in New Zealand. 

After our two walks, we ended up having a big dinner. The first course was spaghetti with red sauce followed by a completely unexpected course of scallops. More on that in another post...

17 February 2014

Going For A Walk: Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island {Or Make Sure Your Dinghy Doesn't Get Stolen}

Signs showing which way you go to get to Schoolhouse Bay (where we started our walk from) and which way to go to get to Mansion House Bay (our destination).
When we were out at Kawau Island in January, we went for a walk in the Department of Conservation reserve. Much of the island is private land, but about ten percent is public land with the largest reserve being at Mansion House Bay. The Mansion House is one of those iconic Kiwi sites and you’ll often see pictures of the bay in various publications. Sir George Grey bought Kawau Island in the 1800s and turned Mansion House into his holiday home. At the time, he stocked the island with exotic animals like wallabies and peacocks and established nice gardens around the house. The island was also the site of New Zealand’s earliest mining ventures and you can see remains of the former copper mines on the island. (If you’re interested in learning more rivalry over copper mining at the time, you can check out this post on the Kaitu Kala islands.)

Map of the Department of Conservation trails in the Mansion House reserve. We walked from the public wharf in Schoolhouse Bay along Schoolhouse Bay road up to the viewpoint of the old coppermine. We then headed down Lady’s Bay Track and then picked up Momona Point Track. Unfortunately, the track was closed towards the end due to erosion so we couldn’t get out to the point. (Might have been helpful if they signposted the closure a bit earlier on the track – just a thought.) So we backtracked and headed down the hill to Mansion House. On the way back to Schoolhouse Bay, we took the Redwood Track back up to Schoolhouse Bay road.

We tied our dinghy up at the public wharf at Schoolhouse Bay. The ferry comes into this wharf, so there is a shelter where you can wait. If you want to do the same walk, make sure you tie up at the public wharf. There are a couple of other private wharves in the bay and I don’t think they’re too happy when cruisers use their wharves.

We saw this sign on the notice bard at Mansion House and again at the shelter at the public wharf in Schoolhouse Bay. It warns you that your dinghy or kayak might go “missing”. We were glad to find that ours was still tied up where we left it. My favorite part of the warning, “It has come to Police attention that there may be a common practice to store found property at the finders address, not inform the Police and wait for the owner to collect their property. This is not acceptable and Police would like to advise people that it is a Criminal Offense to keep found property and not report it to the Police.” Such a politely worded way of telling people to stop stealing stuff.

A pretty track takes you into the Mansion House Bay reserve.

The gardens around Mansion House are really pretty. It is a pleasant place to stroll through and admire the flowers.

We stopped and had a picnic lunch on one of the benches. The bench was dedicated to a former worker at Mansion House and resident of Schoolhouse Bay.

After our lunch, we headed back to Schoolhouse Bay via the Redwood Track. At the point, there are nice views back to Mansion House Bay.

You take the track down to Two House Bay before heading back up the hill over to Schoolhouse Bay. As you can imagine, there are two houses in the bay.

The Redwood Track part of our walk was our favorite. We like the “jungle” look of the plants interspersed among the redwood trees.

Another “jungle” scene from the Redwood Track.

Along the way, you can see ruins of old dairy buildings. It just looks like a hole and bricks to me. Since Scott is an archaeologist, he finds it a bit more fascinating than me.

And back where we started, the Schoolhouse Bay wharf and our dinghy (which was fortunately still there).